My most recent outing was as a participant in the annual gita organized by my little boy's nido/scuola materna. I was enthusiastically hesitant from the start--large group, long bus ride, equals potential nightmare, but extremely curious to get a closer look at how my son behaves in a school environment (even though it would be an atypical school day) and have a chance to meet some of the other parents.
We would be visiting the agriturismo, the Casa del Laghetto. The only thing I knew about it was that animals would be involved, we were to meet at the school by 8, I should pack a picnic lunch, and we would be back by 1.
Being the ignorant American that I am, I followed the instructions and dutifully got myself together and out of the house with plenty of time so that I even arrived at the school 10 minutes before the designated meeting time. To my dismay, other than the teachers, we were among the first to arrive. And there we waited for close to an hour!!! While the other kids were mostly happy to play in the playground with or without the involvement of their parents, my little rebel wanted nothing to do with it and was looking for his chance to escape the compound! This was not what I had in mind as a prelude to the trip and the words 'what have I gotten myself into' flashed through my brain more than once.
Fortunately, as soon as we had boarded the double decker bus and started on our way, my son's fascination for large vehicles of any sort quickly changed his mood. This was one fun bus ride (what a concept, fun + bus in the same sentence? ). It was a joy to see my little guy squeezed onto a seat with three other kids all screaming with excitement over the trip, the bus, looking out the window, etc.. Meanwhile, I got to sit next to my bilingual mommy friend and couldn't have been happier.
The bus slowly wound its way to the vicinity of Mt. Etna, and finally we arrived at our destination. Just one more itty bitty shuttle bus ride (thank goodness the under 3 nido children got to go first) and we had arrived in a patch of green heaven. The trip was long, but at this point it did seem worth it.
This agriturismo is gorgeous! The old pink farmhouse is surrounded by a lovely cool lawn, also home to benches and a great playground. And as far as the eye could see was spectacular rural scenery of rolling hills, terraced vineyards and of course Mt. Etna, all exploding with life on this hot spring day.
From there the visit was pretty informal and involved a lot of time running around on the grass, free play, chasing the baby turkeys that had also found their way onto the lawn. My son, never one to follow the crowd, couldn't help but notice the chickens and donkeys who lived down a path and beyond the lawn. This was the start of the animal visit, and for anyone with kids, this place could qualify as a farm zoo. We hung out with and even petted the chickens, we petted the donkeys, we pet and fed the goats and cows, we fed the ducks, we waved to the pigs and deer, we pretended to ride a tractor and push some kind of lawn mower device. This was pure toddler fun and the little guy was oh so very happy.
While on the bus he had been engaged and happy to be with other bimbi, at the agriturismo he was much more interested in tracking down his favorite teachers and sharing with them his discoveries. He did to them just what he does to his mom and dad at home--yell out their names whenever he wanted their attention. To their credit the teachers did seem genuinely sweet to him even though I could see how this behavior could get annoying. At home I have been a bit slack on teaching him that yelling like that is not so nice (mainly because we find it kind of sweet and funny, and since our house is kind of big, the adults resort to yelling at times as well), but now I know it is something I need to work on.
After the animals, some more down time and a chance to sample the farm's freshly made ricotta.
And, yes, we were late, too, leaving the place. By 12.30 group 1 was on the shuttle bus but it wasn't until close to 1 that we were on our bus heading home. So much for being home by 1! The place was great, but my guy was tired out, didn't really want to eat anything and was one of the few seated around me who didn't doze off on the ride home. Instead he hollered, needed my undivided attention to be distracted into something resembling calm, and eventually hurt himself (another bump on the head to add to the growing list of boo-boos).
Conclusions? I'll be thinking long and hard before I decide to go on the trip next year, but, despite some nightmarish moments, it was a very special day for me and my little guy. And I will be wanting to share this wonderful place with my hubby, too, sometime in a more relaxed future outing.
(one look at these pictures and I'll be back on that bus next year like the sucker that I am!)