26 June, 2015
So one of the perks of being in Italy for an extended period of time was the opportunity I had to be with my maternal family. When the university semester had ended and it was time for me to move back down to Rome to stay with my family, two of my uncles (precisely, my mother’s cousin and their uncle) decided that they would come to Pavia to pick me up and help me to move out of college.
It was close to midday when I received the call to say that they had arrived – and it is important to note at this stage that they had woken at 4am to leave Rome and drive north towards Pavia. We met in an Irish pub near my college and ate a big lunch of risotto, salad and beer – which was of course completed with a coffee. They had booked a hotel for the night, so we had the day to ourselves. We tossed a few ideas around and suddenly decided – we would go to the EXPO. I had been the previous day but was keen to go again, and my uncles were unlikely to have another opportunity to visit before the event finished, so after a quick stopover to show me their cute B&B room, we set off.
Destination: Milano. So we stepped out into the sun and I led them through the principle streets of Pavia as we made our way towards the train station. I felt quite the tour guide, pointing out university buildings, churches and gelato bars. Within no time we were at the station and then on the train, my uncles snoozing as we raced towards Milan.
Stepping off that train in Milano, I had the distinct feeling that we were kids on an excursion. The excitement of being together again and of being in Milan on an improvised day trip was so much that we immediately made our way to buy celebratory gelato, taking photos and sending them to everyone in Rome to make them jealous. We wandered around Milan for a little while, purchased the cheaper evening Expo tickets, and then stopped at another bar (whether it was for coffee or alcohol, stopping at bars was becoming quite a theme of our trip).
When we arrived at the site of EXPO Milano, my uncles were fascinated by the amount of people and once again I felt like a tour guide, showing them my favourite pavilions and wandering through the streets of the Expo site. We stopped for sausage rolls and beers in Holland, listened to music at Germany and admired the Tree of Life in the Piazza Italia. Watching night settle and the pavilions come alive with light was mesmerising and added to the sense that we were living out a magical night.
Three very tired travellers sat on the train back to Pavia, so tired that we caught a taxi back to the B&B rather than choosing to walk through the city centre. Though that didn’t stop us from revisiting the Irish pub for a coffee and a chat. So it was past midnight when my uncles finally walked me back to college and we said goodnight. The two had been up since 4am and still insisted on ensuring that I had a nice coffee and was then delivered back safely to my college door!
At 9am the next morning, they were ready to take me back to Rome. We packed the car, I signed out and said my final goodbyes, and then we were gone. I wish I could describe the car trip, but I pretty much fell asleep at that point, only to be awoken when we reached Florence. One of my uncles had lived in Florence for many years and he spoke at length as we drove through the city. He drove up to Piazzale Michelangelo, a spacious piazza atop a hill which looks out over the city of Florence. There we grabbed a few panini alla salsiccia to munch on in the shade and then wandered around the piazza to soak in both the warm Italian sun and the captivating Florentine views.
When we were sufficiently revived, it was back in the car, this time destined straight for Rome. Although horrible traffic and a draining week of travelling left me tired once more and I was fortunate enough to snooze for most of the unusually long (due to the traffic) journey and was awoken only when we arrived in Rome to the great delight of all my aunties and cousins. Needless to say, my poor uncles were exhausted and we all spent a very relaxing evening loudly recounting stories of universities and Irish pubs in Pavia, and all the excitement of the EXPO, and ice-cream by the Duomo in Milan and panini overlooking the beautiful expanse of Florence. To share all of that with my uncles was without a doubt one of my favourite experiences while overseas and one which all three of us, three generations of family, will treasure.