Friday, June 12, 2015

How to Tour Italy with a Four-Year-Old

A little over three weeks ago our little family set off for Venice, Italy. I'd never been, and Italy was at the top of my list. You could say I pulled the cancer card when planning our family vacation. I may have said something along the lines of, "You've been three times. What if I never make it there at all?" Cue the violins, right? And so Chris indulged me, with the caveat that he gets to choose the next trip (which very well might be camping in Utah's canyon lands. Our vacation choices pretty well sum the two of us up.)

We toured between Venice, Florence/Tuscany/Sienna, and Rome over the next thirteen days. It was every bit as awe-inspiring as I'd hoped. Everyone keeps asking me what my favorite part was, and to be honest, I have to say the absolute sense of community -- the life lived in squares, enjoying the company of friends and family, lingering over dinners and a bottle of wine, the lack of smart-phones. It gave me a lot to think about with regards to how we live and interact with our neighbors and friends. The focus on togetherness -- without rush or to-go cups -- left me longing for more of that in my own life.

Also, I am deeply in love with Rome, especially its food. Next time, I might just do a culinary tour and forgo the museums entirely. Yes, I believe there will be a next time.

We'd been nervous about taking Quinn -- who turned four just three months ago -- to Europe for almost two weeks. Because how would he do on the plane? How many museums would we have to skip because he wouldn't have the patience for them? How much gelato would we have to bribe him with each day? These were the pressing questions we asked ourselves, never mind my energy levels or health concerns.

Tangent, sort of: I did get my doctor's permission to leave the country for two weeks. Since I'm on an every-three-week infusion schedule, it didn't interfere (much) with my treatment, and since my blood work has looked relatively okay for two years now (as long as I've been on Kadcyla), my oncologist wasn't concerned.  I will say that traveling for this long made me realize I probably can't ever live in another country, or even leave here for more than a couple of weeks, tied as I am to my infusion chair and the insurance that pays for it. Small gripe in the grand scheme of things, but it's just one more way cancer limits your choices.

But I can't complain, not right now. We just got back from Italy, after all. And as for our concerns about Quinn?

We clearly forgot who we were dealing with. 

Here's how to tour Italy with a four-year-old. Step one: make sure he's not on a nap schedule (ding ding ding!) We had that one down like two years ago.

Step two: Show him incredible views.

And put him up to the task of spotting all the lions in Venice. He will want to count them. In every language he can think of. "Mom, how do you say three in French? How do you say five-hundred in Italian?" "I'm not sure, honey," I had to say more than once. Or: "Let's ask Google."

Step three: Carry him in a backpack if necessary (walking six to seven miles a day is exhausting, after all, even for the energizer bunny himself).

Find more lions.

Let him go at his own pace once in awhile.

Show him extraordinary beauty (and make sure he knows he's part of it).

Look at the world through his eyes.

You might see incredible sights!

Let him slide on the bridges (so long as he promises not to fall in the water).

Take breaks.

Let him do some of the navigating.

Try not to have a heart attack as your husband picks him up higher than the railing when you're on top of the world (or on top of Il Duomo di Firenze).

Let him find some magic.

And chase some pigeons.

And more pigeons.

Take more breaks.

Carry him some more. Hey, he's a cute forty pounds!

This might be the most useful tip (and I've lost track of my steps): give him his own camera.

If all else fails, ply him with lots of gelato.

And pasta.

And hugs.

We are settling back in to life where we aren't saying, "Ciao!" at passers-by out our windows in the evening, where we don't have prosciutto and pasta and prosecco nearly every day, where we have doctors appointments again, and scans on the horizon, and temperatures in the triple digits.

But we'll always have Italy.


  1. This was a fun post! Thank you for sharing your experience and providing tips. I don't have kids but I often hear people say that once you have children, you can't travel. It looks like your son had a lot of fun -- you all did.

    I decided to go to Spain after treatments were done and I too had an awesome time. Europe is just amazing: the food, the people, the air. I miss it and would love to go back. Would love to visit Italy some time, too.

    Your son is such a sweet and handsome boy. Loved all the photos you took of him. Each image tells a story. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. I think if you get them used to the idea of travel early, they are so adaptable. We saw museums at lightning-speed and I wouldn't have wanted to do this big of a trip when we were still tied to a nap schedule, but travel with kiddos is infinitely doable.

      Spain is on my list! And so many other places. Fingers crossed :)

  2. How lovely that you took this trip! Beautiful cities, pasta, gelato, hugs... sounds great. And yes to "next time"s.

    1. It already feels like a dream. I'm trying to convince my husband to do Greece in 2017, and then I think I'm a little crazy for trying to plan two whole years in advance like someone who was never diagnosed with mets!

  3. E' favoloso vedere il suo bambino con moltissimo leone di venezia!