Travel and baby sleep schedules

I’m going to be honest here, Eleanor is a horrible sleeper. She has only slept through the night twice in 11 months. On average she wakes up three times from dusk until dawn for 30-40 minutes each waking. If you’ve noticed a few extra wrinkles around my eyes since this little bright eyed monster arrived now you know why.

Before we packed up and headed for Italy we had her on a pretty tight bath, milk, bed routine and she was starting to improve, slightly. Fast forward six weeks and it all feels like it was a waste of time and tears. Daniel and I have officially thrown in the towel and slapping on the ‘bad parent’ badge.

Our little night owl refuses to go to bed until we do. We figure we might as well take advantage of her nocturnal ways and take nighttime strolls, enjoy a vino in the piazza or dine out. Perhaps she is just a little European baby at heart, they don’t seem too bothered to be up past 11pm.

For daytime naps we turn her to face us in the Ergobaby 360 4 position carrier and she sleeps for 45 to 90 minutes but she refuses pram naps.

The only downside to having a possum for a child is that she likes to sleep in until 10am. If we try and wake our little teenager up any earlier she is a nightmare during the day, so we can’t really plan any morning activities. I almost miss the jetlagged baby that woke us up at 5am 8 days straight.

If you’ve managed to get your traveling babe to bed at a reasonable hour please tell us how you did it!

Our favourite hilltop towns in Tuscany

There is something so liberating about jumping in the car and exploring; and regional Tuscany is the perfect place for it. Vineyards, olive groves and sunflowers for miles, you feel like you’re driving into a postcard. Not even driving manual on the wrong side of the road could put a damper on the freedom we felt cruising around.

Every day we ventured somewhere new but these hilltop towns deserve special mention (don’t bother visiting the lake though, it looks pretty from a distance but radioactive up close).

Cortona

Perched high in the hills of Chiana this charming town invites you to linger. Cortona, the cultural and artistic centre of the Val Di Chiana region should be more showy than it is. It lacks the dirty ‘tourist trap’ vibe we’ve experienced in neighbouring towns; it felt authentic and calm.

If you’ve been following along you’ve probably come to expect us to feature food in some shape or form at each location we visit, so here it is. We started our tour of Cortona with Pecorino Pesto pasta (they had GF pasta and it was amazing), followed by coffee and a custard filled pastry.

We strolled the streets and stumbled across the most beautiful church with a timber raked ceiling. A refreshing contrast to the ornate, embellished churches we’ve come to expect in Italy.  Like the rest of Cortona it seemed paired back and modestly beautiful, which drew us in even more.

Art lovers can explore the free art exhibits on display from local artists and admire the sculptures that are scattered around town.

The drive down from Cortona offers stunning views of Tuscany. Just hope you don’t meet a car coming the opposite direction, the road has a sheer drop off a steep cliff.

Sarteano

Oh Sarteano you gem. We loved this sleepy little town. Boasting a medieval castle, charming streets and amazing restaurants you would expect it to be filled with hoards of tourists but when we arrived at lunchtime it was empty. It felt like we had stumbled on a deserted village, so we explored and sticky-beaked around, we could have been in the town completely alone except for the wafts of pasta sauce we could smell drifting out terrace windows.

As we made our way out of the town walls we heard the revving of a car, we turned the corner to see an old Italian man reversing out of the smallest garage we’ve ever seen. He jumped out of the car at started screaming at the wall behind him. Such an angry little man, it was hilarious; how dare that fucking wall get in his way.  Ah the Italians, never change.

Pienza

The home of Pecorino Cheese and UNESCO World Cultural site is the reason we came to explore Tuscany after we saw the town feature in Master of None. The town is gorgeous but either we built it up too much in our minds or the number of tourists turned us off but it didn’t meet our high expectations.

Pienza is beautiful, the views from the town are stunning but it’s filled with foreigners carrying big cameras standing in the way of every cool photo you want to snap.

We gave up being tourists and defaulted to what we’re good at – eating. We ordered an antipasto platter from Salumeria Bernardini Laura and tried four varieties of Pecorino and I’ll give Pienza this much, they make damn good cheese!

I know I’ve said this before BUT we had the best gelato ever at Buon Gusto sure I may be fickle but mate this creamy goodness way to die for and I would go back to Pienza purely for another scoop.

Montepulciano

Pretty, yes. Overrun with tourists, you bet! Montepulciano was the first hilltop town we visited so we thought it was amazing…Charming, great food, good photo opportunities. It had the lot. Until we explored more of the region and discovered there’s better. Kind of like my relationship with gelato.

We will be back in Tuscany tomorrow, so if you have any suggestions on amazing hilltop towns let us know.

Sea, sand and city in Sardinia

Sardinia was a complete surprise to us. We booked a week here after seeing some beautiful beach shots on Instagram (I know, how millennial of us).

We stayed in Cagliari, the Capitol and loved the historic charm of the city. Laden with alfresco dining, cobblestone streets and cosmopolitan high streets, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in Paris or Prague but a short drive from the city you’re reminded you’ve stumbled upon an island paradise.

Top spots in Cagliari

Bastion of Saint Remi and the Castello

Cagliari’s hilltop citadel is the perfect vantage point to see a picturesque sunset. The walled medieval city within a city transports you to a bygone era as you wind through the narrow lane-ways and peer through ancient windows into dark little terrace houses. The city’s protective Torre Dell’Elefante defensive tower make you feel like you’re on the set of a movie with their iron gates.

Botanical Gardens

Eleanor loves crawling around in the great outdoors and the Botanical Gardens in Cagliari were a nice break from the hot city. We threw together a picnic and chilled out under the palm trees for a few hours.

Roman Amphitheatre of Cagliari

Unlike the famous stand-alone Collusium in Rome the Cagliari Amphitheatre is carved into the side of a hill. With seating for 10,000 spectators this ancient structure now hosts concerts, which we would have loved but everything was booked out. Still amazing to see, even if you aren’t a history buff.

The Markets

We couldn’t skip town without letting Daniel run loose in the market. We hung out with the locals eating cheese, downing a coffee and eating cannoli. We stocked up on lunch for the week for 40 Euro. Not bad.

Beaches We Loved

We hired a car and cruised the Coastal Road. You could pick any beach along the way and be in awe, each one is more spectacular than the last.

Porto Giunco Beach 

Distance from Cagliari: 62km

First stop, Flamingos… Yes, those delightful Pink birds roam around the Stagno Notteri lagoon. Although, you can’t frolic with these gorgeous feathered creatures, which was disappointing, Ellie really fancied making a Flamingo friend.

Mari Pintau Beach

Distance from Cagliari: 36km

This gorgeous beach reminded me of one of my step-mother, Gail’s watercolour paintings (check them out here). Although it was a stunning beach we didn’t stop for a swim, it was so busy.

Costa Rei

Distance from Cagliari: 64km

We had grand plans of continuing up the Coastal Road but we couldn’t pass the beauty of this beach and lazed around in the crystal clear water until the sun set. This beach was paradise, perfect white sand, an amazing contrast between the sky and the sea. Take me back!

Poetto Beach

Distance from Cagliari: 5km

Only 5km from Cagliari , this 8km stretch of yellow sand is as much a spectacle because of it’s popularity as its beauty. We have never seen that many people pack out a beach before. It was 40 degrees celsius and fighting the crowds down to the sea was tricky with a little one, so we sat in a bungalow and sipped ice cold Aperol Spritz with all the other pastey white tourists.

 

 

Treating a sick baby in Italy

Besides a few snotty nose episodes, Eleanor has been the picture of good health. We took her to the doctor before we set off on our big adventure and packed her little first aid kit feeling like model parents. Thinking we had everything covered.

I tend to be a worrywart by nature and Dan is the level headed one telling me to stop overreacting every time Eleanor sneezes. So, when Daniel started to panic about Eleanor’s fever I was sure we had a problem.

Our happy little lady continued to smile and wave at everyone despite a fever of 39 °C, so it was hard to determine how sick she really was. Doctor Google said wait five days before seeing a doctor, the local pharmacy in Sorrento reiterated that recommendation so we waited it out.

Day five happened to coincide with a flight to Sardinia and Ellie was burning up. She was so hot she was burning my skin as I held her. She babbled in her sleep as though she were delirious. She looked bad, so bad that the Italian lady sitting next to us on the flight told us in broken English to take her to a doctor. To say we felt like the worlds most useless parents is an understatement.

The fear that comes with a sick baby is intense. Factoring in the whole ‘don’t speak Italian thing’ and you’ve got yourself one shitty, stressful situation! When we arrived at our hotel we asked the reception for a doctor but tourists in Italy must go to emergency so we rushed to the local hospital. No one spoke English. No one would see us. We’d walked 20 minutes in the heat to be turned away.

We found a pharmacy with English speaking staff and they directed us to a children’s emergency hospital 5km away. Once we figured out where to go, the experience was much more positive. The doctors were so kind and patient with us as we tried to explain what was wrong in extremely broken Italian (compliments of Google Translate) all we needed was Eleanor’s Australian passport, thanks to the reciprocal agreement.

Poor Eleanor has Bronchitis, an infected ear and an infection in her throat and we are lucky that a dose of antibiotics will have her better within a week.

We have learnt a valuable lesson, there is no such thing as too much preparation when it comes to the health of your baby. We should know how to call for help when something happens. In this instance we had time on our side but in a true medical emergency our fumbling could have had big consequences.

Who to call

  • Your travel insurance company can direct you to a doctor
  • The Australian Embassy (39) 06 85 2721

Praiano, Amalfi Coast

I’ve always wanted to be one of those fancy people that go on week-long health retreats, the ones where they force you to workout and eat healthy food and you come home looking and feeling amazing.

Our trip to Praiano, on the Amalfi Coast was sort of like that. Minus the personal trainer and healthy food. Our Hotel, the Locanda Degli Dei had spectacular views, literally breathtaking thanks to the (no exaggeration here) 1200 steps you had to climb to reach it from sea level.

Daniel and I were super excited to visit Praiano, this beautiful part of the world is where we spent our honeymoon and holds fond memories sipping cocktails and lazy beach days overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Bliss.

Our return didn’t disappoint but it was a very different experience this time around. Not only because we have a miniature third wheel but also because our location was difficult to get to and definitely a bad choice for a family with a small baby. Dan and I have shed about 4kg between thanks to those freaking stairs.

Praiano is 10km up the coast from Positano. During the summer months Positano is overrun with tourists which slightly detracts from its beauty. Praiano is less well known and quieter than its neighbour and in my opinion, holds more authentic charm.

Amalfi Coast holidays force you to slow down. Everyone here is on Italian time and in no rush to do anything or get anywhere, so if you don’t go with the flow you might find the experience frustrating. Heading to the beach on a roasting hot morning our bus driver decided to pull over for a cigarette mid-route, one of his mates popped over for a chat and ten minutes later we were on our way again.

We loved spending time with Aussie friends who happened to be in the area and enjoying the coastal lifestyle. Relaxing on the beach in Italy is very different to Australia. Sections of the beach are owned by cafes and restaurants so you have to pay for the luxury of hanging out there. There are public sections too but you have to share the small space with hundreds of other people ughhh. So we paid because we’re snobs.

Day trips from Praiano

Sorrento

Sorrento is 1.5 hours on the bus. This gorgeous city is full of cobble stoned alleys and handmade boutiques. It’s more family friendly than the Amalfi Coast. We spent our day here eating.

We started with coffee and cake at Monna Lisa, where the owner was kind enough to entertain Eleanor while we ate. Next we snaked on Dutch style hot chips at Queen’s Chips, followed by dinner at Meating before heading back to Praiano.

Positano

Positano is 20 minutes from Praiano on the bus. A very scary, packed bus ride where I had to hold on squished next to the windscreen with Eleanor strapped to me.

Once off the bus our day started with a Lemon Granita, a quick walk down to the beach, followed by lunch at Max. Max is amazing, you should definitely visit for amazing pasta and seafood. It looks way to highbrow to bring a baby but they were so sweet with Eleanor.

After lunch we headed back to Praiano to do our favourite stair walk.

Amalfi

Amalfi is 30 minutes by ferry from Positano. We love this town and wished we stayed here this time. It’s much flatter than Positano and Praiano so would be more suitable for families and less mobile travellers.

We visited a couple of local delis for supplies and had a picnic by the water, followed by the best Gelato I have tasted in my life.

Our tourist activities are more skewed toward eating and less about culture. We should work on that.

 

Bella Roma

This is our third visit to Rome and third time is a charm. Perhaps it’s our old age or being here as a little family but we fell in love with Rome after not liking it so much after our last visit.

We arrived to our quaint little hotel called the Tritone Top House located between the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Everything was on our doorstep and when you’re travelling with a small human that goes from cheery and delightful to psychotic and scary in 0.60 seconds location is key.

We spent most of our time exploring cobble stone alleyways with Eleanor strapped into the Ergobaby. We saw hordes of tourists struggling with prams on crowded, uneven footpaths and thanked the good lord for baby carriers.

Rome was extremely hot so we took Eleanor out of the sun during the hottest part of the day by having a siesta or visiting some fun indoor attraction or eatery.

Some of the highlights

Explora Children’s museum – Explora has a Powerhouse Museum vibe but aimed at a younger audience. The section for babies is soft and filled with interactive games and musical instruments. Eleanor loved it.

Dawn Sightseeing – Part of the reason we weren’t sold on Rome when we visited in the past was the millions of tourists standing in front of everything cool you wanted to see (ughh how annoying are tourists). At 21 years old waking up early to beat the crowds was unimaginable so thank you miss Eleanor for being such a foghorn we have had to get up before sunrise.

Picnic’s in the park – Staying in Italy for four months means we need to eat on a budget. For us sitting in a park eating cheese and bread has been one of the highlights.

Food we loved in Rome

Everyone knows the real reason you visit Italy is for the food. Yeah, the scenery is pretty but c’mon this is the home of pizza, pasta and gelato!

If you know us you, you know that we are massive foodies. So much so that when we worked out our household spending we found that 80% of our disposable income is chewed up by our love of edible delights (we are those knobs that spend 20 bucks on avocado toast). So naturally we have spent a large chunk of our time in Rome hunting down and eating delicious food.

These were the favourites; So far…

For CoffeeTrecaffé Via dei Due Macelli, 107, Fontana di Trevi, Roma 187

This place has amazing coffee. It’s also one of the only cafes we could find that was open at 6am, a god send with Eleanor’s early starts. We usually grabbed a couple of cappuccinos to fuel our morning sightseeing and a quick espresso macchiato on the way back to the hotel for Ellie’s morning nap. The café was far busier after 9am, so expect to wait a little.

For gluten free treatsSans de ble Via Gabriello Chiabrera, 58, 00145 Roma RM

This bakery was a little out of our way but after reading the reviews we had to visit and Sans de ble didn’t disappoint. My gosh, you don’t understand how much I have missed eating cinnamon scrolls, delicate little tarts and tiramisu (I have coeliac disease which means that I can’t eat anything containing gluten). When I walked into this 100% gluten free bakery my eyes grew ten times larger than my stomach; I bought way too much food and I stuffed my fat face until I had a stomach ache. It was worth it.

For dinner – Eataly Piazza della Repubblica, 41, 00185 Roma RM

We’ve been to Eataly in New York so our expectations were high. There’s no denying this place is targeted at tourists but we are suckers and love the wankiness of it all. We started off with drinks on the terrace then headed up to the second floor for appetizers and main meals, followed by dessert on the ground floor. Daniel had what he described as one of the best pizzas he’s had and I had a mouth-watering parmigiana, which was definitely delicious but not to the standard of Nonna’s (I am on a mission to find one to rival hers).

For baked treats – Panificio Panella Via Merulana, 59, 00185 Roma RM

Daniel’s Aunty and Uncle recommended this place. They obviously know him well because the look on his face when he walked into Panella was pure joy, followed by gluttony. He sat there in front of me eating this delicious smelling custard scroll commenting smug statements like “wow, this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten. You’d love this”. Luckily for him Sans de ble had somewhat satisfied my craving for baked sweets otherwise it could have turned into an awkward domestic.

We are stopping in Rome again in a few weeks, so if you have any delicious recommendations we’d love to hear them.

Feeding your baby while on a trip to Italy

We are consciously attempting to start Eleanor on a path to good nutrition. We do our best to steer clear of overly processed, sugar laden crap and when we are at home we cook real food for her.

When we’re out of the house it’s a different story. We rely on those handy little on-the-go food pouches, organic baby snacks, baby yogurt, anything that makes life more convenient. But convenience doesn’t seem to exist in Italy.

We had a small panic when the only baby food-esque products we could find in the supermarkets or pharmacies here in Rome were jars with questionable ingredients like fish or rabbit (poor bunnies). We tried the fish jar but it smelled like cat food and Ellie spat it straight out, I offered Dan 200 bucks to eat it but he refused, yep it smelt that bad! There goes that option.

Baby food, or as the Italians call it – food, can be a little tricky to prepare in your hotel room (we should have booked an apartment) but this is what we’ve come up with on the fly.

Breakfast

  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Oats cooked in boiled water in the hotel room

Lunch

  • Mashed avocado
  • Bananas
  • Cruskits with Laughing Cow cheese
  • Canned Lentils with tuna
  • Hummus on bread

Dinner

  • Semolina cooked using boiled water in the hotel room with thawed frozen vegetables
  • Couscous cooked using boiled water in the hotel room with thawed frozen vegetables
  • Pasta napolitana when eating out at restaurants

Can anyone give us some more ideas?

 

Baby travel essentials

Face it, travelling with a baby means you have to carry a whole bunch of extra crap.

When we travelled to Ireland in March we brought 20kg of baby ‘must haves’; Google, you can expect a bill from my physiotherapist. Learn from our overpreparation, this is a list of essentials you really shouldn’t travel long haul without.

A compact baby changing mat finding baby change facilities in Europe can be tricky.

Phil&Ted’s Traveller Portacot This travelcot is so compact (just like Italy’s tiny hotel rooms) and weighs only 2.8kg. For us this is perfect, four months on the road changing beds every few nights would be too much inconsistency for Eleanor. This cot has allowed us to keep some familiarity to our baby routine.

Ergobaby 360 This baby carrier is amazing. We can wear Eleanor in this bad boy all day without getting a stiff back. The carrier can be worn in for positions, front-facing, chest facing, on your back and on your hip.

Mountain Buggy Nano We wheeled this pram right up to the airport gate and took it onboard as hand luggage.

Minimonkey Chair Harness Cafés and restaurants in Italy are super small and highchairs are scarce. This nifty little product turns any chair into a baby safe chair.

Ziplock bags We use these for everything, storing food, spare clothes and bibs, really whatever fits. They are so handy at keeping your backpack organised.

Do yourself a favour don’t overpack. You won’t need as many baby clothes as you think, just buy washing powder and do a quick hand wash before bed every night. Leave the baby bag at home and use ziplock bags to store wipes, nappies, a changing mat and spare clothes in your everyday travel backpack.

We brought two suitcases and two backpacks. That’s it. The Ergobaby 360 Baby carrier and the Phil&Teds Traveller Portacot fit inside our suitcases. Travelling light has allowed us to use regular public transport and get around without too much stress.

What is your long haul must have?

 

 

 

Travelling around baby’s schedule

That horrendous 5am wake-up call your baby insists on giving you makes for a perfect start to your touring day. No, seriously, to get a local’s perspective in a busy city like Rome it’s best to explore at sunrise.

Start your day with the most popular tourist attractions. You will get the best travel photos before 7am, when very few tourists have hit the streets with their selfie sticks. Plus, the morning sun warms your photos with perfect lighting; after your early start good lighting is your friend.

Daniel and Eleanor infront of the Trevi Fountain, Rome Italy

Keep an eye out for busy cafes, local Romans’ know good coffee. This is not a lingering affair in Rome. Get in, drink your coffee at the bar and get out. Perfect for those of us with babies attached to our torsos.

Ruth and Eleanor, Spanish Steps Rome

When your baby starts getting grizzly stop by the supermarket to pick up breakfast and lunch. On the menu for us this morning is a ham and cheese panini. Head back to your hotel for baby’s morning nap and enjoy your store-bought brekkie (unless you have kid like ours where you’ll eat to the sound of a small banshee protesting nap time).

Lunchtime is a picnic in a local park to give baby some space to roll around on the ground and connect with nature. This is a calming meal for mum and dad too, who get a break from carrying/pushing your little tourist. One restaurant meal a day is enough for our little lady, who doesn’t enjoy being strapped in.

Afternoons in Rome are hot during the summer. To protect baby from the burning sun head to a museum or indoor attraction. It’s best to carry baby in a baby carrier as prams are restricted in some museums. Galleries and museums are nice, quiet hosts for baby’s afternoon nap.

If you subscribe to the ‘dinner, bath, bed’ routine like we do, you might want to continue this with a twist. Feed and bath baby in the hotel, dress her in pyjamas and pop her in the pram. Book dinner at a restaurant for around 8pm, arrive to your dinner location with half an hour to spare and walk around the area until baby is asleep then pretend she isn’t there and enjoy a grown-up meal. Bliss.