When I originally made our travel reservations, I purposefully, mentally minimized the amount of exertion involved with transporting 4 suitcases, 3 children, and 2 adults thousands of miles, via three flights and four airports. Sort of like getting pregnant without really thinking too much about actually birthing that baby. Good thing. I have to confess, the trip to Italy was completely draining - the drive to JFK in traffic on the last day of school, the flight to Geneva in an Ambien-addled blur, the trek from Heathrow to Gatwick in a hired car whose driver, while pleasant, had a decided aversion to a/c and then the ridiculous clusterf*ck that was (not)EasyJet. By the time we hit Pisa airport the sun was setting in a glorious burst of color and we had been traveling for more than 24 hours. And, here's where the real fun began...
In an attempt to freshen up, I brushed my teeth (finally) and we loaded up our rental car and started towards the villa. Now - have you ever driven in Italy? I'd have to say it is on par with driving in Ireland - the side of the road is certainly more familiar, however, the roadsigns are a bit lacking and, I did mention it was getting dark, right? Somehow we missed the sign for the highway and found ourselves stuck on some smaller roads, generally heading in the right direction but certainly not directly. After about an hour of fumbling around, we found ourselves on the correct road, traveling in the correct direction and our confidence grew - we were going to make it. This point, in retrospect, was reminiscent of the moment before transition in active labor. We were feeling pretty good, (other than my screaming migraine), we knew where we were going and thought we knew how long it was going to take. And thanks to all things being measured in kilometers, the distance was ticking off quite rapidly.
The roads became increasingly more winding, I'm talking second gear winding. But, it was okay because we were actually on the map and practically tasting that first refreshing glass of vino bianco. We continued. After about 15 more kilometers we arrived at the described location to meet the owner but...we weren't meeting the owner since our friends had already arrived earlier in the evening which meant we were done. No further directions were available, nor was cell phone service. Yikes - now what?
We started driving up random driveways looking for our friends. We stopped this exploring after I was nearly brought to tears when our car would not go up a stone driveway because the incline was so steep that the car could not make it. And then we almost couldn't turn the car around in the infinitesimally small area available. This may have been the low point. You know, when a laboring woman just can't possibly push anymore. I'm getting palpitations just remembering... Finally, we stumbled upon a social hall, a place we came to learn is open exclusively on Saturday nights where the residents of Lanciole prepare and eat food together. They follow the feasting with traditional music and dancing, and these weekly events seeming go far into the night. Lucky for us since it now approaching 11 p.m. We asked for directions with gestures and a document showing the villa's address and were directed to continue up the road even further. Which we did, until we got to the point where the road forked and we again found ourselves lost. We headed back down towards the village. Our next move revealed the degree of frustration and panic which we found ourselves completely enveloped with - we knocked on a door. And the lovely people who answered the door spoke English!! Despite their being visitors to the area rather than locals, they were quite helpful and together we went to the social hall and miraculously enough, we met the caretaker of our villa, who hopped in her car, and led us up the road and through the woods to our home for the week.
We were greeted with tremendous relief by our friends (who had been nearly as frantic as we were), I popped a couple of Excedrin Migraine tablets and tucked in to some pizza and vino, before tumbling into our canopied bed. We woke the next morning after 11 a.m. and, just like the memory's failure to recall the physical challenges (great euphemism, huh?) of childbirth, the efforts expelled to arrive at this magical place were already fading.
Nighttime view from our terrace of a neighboring village
Easyjet photo from http://ganes.co.uk/italy/easyjet.jpg