Some of this week's highlights:
Both Monday and Tuesday, Giovanna (mom), kids, and I spent half the day at the military beach just 10 minutes from home. While I say "beach," it is much more like a mini resort, complete with two swimming pools, dressing rooms, showers, playground, and even a bar.
Please notice the blue swim cap Giullio is wearing in this picture. To my great shame and disappointment, this unfortunate fashion statement was protocol for all swimmers. Since I had no choice about swimming in the pool (Virginia and I had our many jumping routines, handstands, and dolphin kicks to practice after all), I was forced to join the rest of the human turtle heads. Virginia and I made the executive decision to be photographed sans caps, despite Giovanna's threats to capture (pun intended) the evidence.
We spent both mornings building castles with dark, mineral-rich Mediterranean sand, cooling off in the pool, catching lizards, and playing Neapolitan cards. Always ready for lunch time, we escaped the heat under bar umbrellas and enjoyed grilled focaccia with prosciutto and cheese followed by coffee and gelato.
Pictured above is the centerpiece of Wednesday night's dinner: buffalo mozzarella. A staple from Naples (the hometown of both Giovanna and Benito), the Vitolos frequently place special orders for this precious white blob. Your standard mozzarella is made with cows' milk in factories, while buffalo mozzarella is handmade with buffalo milk as well. At dinner, Benito served each of us a generous slice, just as if he were cutting a loaf of bread. They shared with me that the Italian nickname for a slab of buffalo mozzarella such as this one is something like "big boob," for the shape, color, and well, milky discharge. Gross. It was delicious, though, with a potent milky flavor. What I didn't expect was that the texture would be so dense and spongy. I may have accidentally told them that chewing it sounded like waxing a car. They laughed, I think.
When asked what my family members like to order at our favorite Italian restaurant, Pucinella, Giovanna responded with equally humiliating and terrible news: neither our chicken parmesan nor veal parmesan are Italian dishes--eggplant parmesan is the only authentic Italian cuisine from the "X parm" category. I could have cried and thrown up at the same time. I felt like a child that's just been told that Santa Claus doesn't exist.
This week also marked the beginning of my English "lessons" with the kids. As a 9-year-old Italian native, Giulio is impressively working on a 4th grade English language book and Virginia (6) is flying through one for pre-K. I have been amazed by their level of concentration, long attention span, and willingness to learn. I told "Ben" and "Jo" that I only wished my high school students last year could have stayed focused on Spanish material like this. I am thankful I still get to teach this fall, albeit in a vastly smaller and different capacity. I think I am seeing now that it is in my blood...I get just a little too excited when Virginia recalls the few English words that she learns during our playtime.
Each afternoon, Virginia and I have kept busy with lots of art projects. Everything is glitter for VA: from painting on paper, clay, or even our nails, no project is complete without glitter glue or sparkly stickers. Benito and Giovanna have labeled the little princess as my "cozza" (mussel). Describing someone as a "mussel on a rock" is the Italian version of being a "leach on someone" in English. After my experience in Madrid, I'd much rather "deal" with a "mussel" than the alternative. I am extremely thankful that Virginia and I get along so well despite the language barrier. I already see a lot of improvement in her comprehension and her parents agree.
This weekend, the Vitolos and I (honorary Vitolo) will head to Circeo, a beautiful beach town just one hour's drive from Rome. Jo's parents have a vacation home there where we will enjoy one of the last weekends before Virginia and Giulio head back to school.