The plan had been to leave Layla behind with my mother and attend my girlfriend’s wedding in Urbino with my husband: a handsome and groomed couple. This was going to be the one wedding where I didn’t have to change into my dress in the car, hastily wiping my underarms with some old kleenex. Eh, ya. Because you go your whole life being one way only to discover that you can be another way? No, of course not.My mother’s business in Athens is suffering so she had to return. I was happy to have Layla with me because the two weeks I spent travelling without her, I felt that there was a glowing piece of coal sitting heavily on my heart. Then the chaos of traveling with a child began, Air Berlin issued her an ‘infant’ boarding card even though she is over 2 and we had paid full fare. The onboard stewardess made us produce every single document, receipt and paper we had to prove we hadn’t smuggled a child on in the cheaper fare ‘baby’ tariff. The luggage handler broke her pram, I filled out the paperwork and was told I would have to sort out any future compensation with Air Berlin which I am pretty sure is never going to happen because there is no way a scatter brain like me can possibly gather all the correct paperwork, from the right people and speak to the designated department. Europcar didn’t have the baby seat we booked. *Shrug* was all they had to say, until my husband said that he would walk on broken glass, barefoot, to avoid his wife’s wrath so they better magic up a car seat and fast like! Which they did. I didn’t book any of the hotels the bride recommended and instead, picked the only ugly hotel to be found in Urbino. Which had zero hot water, not even a drop: so I didn’t wash my hair, the whole time I was there and spent the entire trip crusted in dried soap because I couldn’t get my body to stand under freezing water.
On the day of the wedding, I laid Layla’s pretty dress out on the bed so it wouldn’t get crumpled, (and that is where it remained by the way) and got ready. On the way there, we got lost for one hour and a half, in a town no bigger than my street in Berlin and couldn’t for the life of us find the house perched on the hill. Getting desperate, we turned into a farm where an old lady sat, knee-high panty hose hanging loosely around her ankles, behind her, two-story high bales of hay. I motioned at my ring finger frantically, “Marrido, Marrido?” I asked. She shooed us away probably thinking, “what do I care your are married, get off my property!” Until, her daughter saw us and started laughing “Wedding?” she asked, looking at her watch as if to say “You missed it!”, pointed us in the right direction.We arrived in time for canapes. Layla dressed in a t-shirt and jeans when all the other children were in pretty dresses with flowers in their hair. I had to ditch the high heels because it was a garden wedding. And Hrabi decided that was the right time to tell me he found my dress too low-cut, which made me paranoid enough to put on a bulky sweater, rendering my well thought ensemble from chic to frump. I was mortified when Layla kept repeating “Mommy it’s hot! Take off your sweater!”
The bride, meanwhile made you tear your eyes away from the undulating hills and gape at how lovely she was. Ivory dress, low heeled gold peep toe shoes, slender legs, effortlessly elegant and charming as always. We ate fried calamari in paper cones, two courses of pasta and instead of a tasteless cake, she had the local ice cream shop set up a booth. It was dreamy.
With our flight back to Berlin being from Verona, which is a four and a half drive away, we decided to leave Urbino on Sunday morning.To break up the drive, we stopped in Bologna. A city I first visited when my sister, Sylvie was studying there 10 years ago. It was Sylvie who introduced us to Scacco Matto, a restaurant owned by two brothers; one in the kitchen and one on the floor. I remember being enamoured with the place and wondered if they might still be open? It was! And it was just as I remembered it although Enzo, the front of house brother, now dyes his hair (how very Berlusconi). We struggled with the Italian menu but didn’t want to be ‘those’ people (the ones that want everything in English) so my husband ended up with veal liver, instead of just veal. We quickly switched, I love any liver. And this was tender and topped with some tousles of gently pickled onion and sat on a bed of homemade cracker crumbs. When no one was looking, I used my finger to squeegee off the last sticky sour goodness that was left on the plate. We had a plate of pasta each, ordered dessert and espresso (if you can manage 4, even 5 courses, the menus at €43 and €48 are excellent value) and then went out into the arched walk ways of Bologna in search of gelato.In Piazza Maggiore, hundreds of plastic seats were set out for the cinema ritrovato festival. Thinking it was better to avoid chocolate for our (by now) very tired and testy Layla, I got her Stacciatella. Big mistake, we sat idly by and watched her for 40 minutes as she fished out all the chocolate pieces from her melted vanilla ice cream. That’s what motherhood comes down to really: being in a city, full of historical sites and culinary delights, seeing none of it and watching your child dribble sticky melted ice cream on every item of clothing and still feeling like a winner. It’s a conundrum. It must be chemical.
After such a special lunch we wanted something easy for dinner. “Pizza”! My husband shouted! I typed pizza into my Qype iphone application (it’s easy to be a food tourist with all these iphone apps), found a place called Paolo Pizzeria con Cucina nearby that was so full, they had hired a guy just to direct the cars onto the gravel at the back of the restaurant. Our thin,crusty pizza arrived shortly and we immediately saw what all the commotion was about. All around us, families ate and laughed together, the older men in suits and the women with good jewellery and thick heeled pumps, children dressed like miniature grown ups: although that didn’t stop one little boy from coming over and licking Layla, much to her and our horror.We drove a little further into town to a neighborhood ice cream parlour, Oasi. The people were different here, coming down in their slippers, the men with their shirts unbuttoned to reveal hairy man boobies, sitting on the benches and watching their children and grand children play with the miniature plastic furniture.
It was all so romantic, I was utterly seduced. “Imagine, being able to walk out in your slippers to get ice cream at 10 pm.” I told my husband pointedly. Or having a summer-house perched on a hill with striped chairs overlooking the tousled hills below. I resisted going all Liz Gilbert on him and decided that I will spend more time outside in sunny Berlin, swap espresso for cappuccino after 11 and make granita instead of ice cream because it is infinitely more refreshing!Seeing as I am playing ‘what if’, I wonder who would play me if they made a movie about my life? Janeane Garofalo?
Via Broccaindosso, 63
40125 Bologna, Italy
Paolo Pizzeria con Cucina
Via Cavour 13,
37062 Dossobuono, Italy
Via Ottavio Caccia 2,