The Showdown – Italy vs America: 7 Quick Takes VIII

by | Apr 19, 2013 | Italy, Pilgrimage, Pregnancy, Travel, Travel With Kids | 12 comments

So here we are back the the good ol’ U. S. of A., and after spending every waking hour with my kids for ten days in Italy (and more non-waking hours than I’d prefer with them since we’ve been home) maybe I’m starting to embrace my boys’ philosophy that everything should be a competition.

So I bring you the showdown: Italy vs America.

— 1 —


This is how my kids sleep after traveling TO Europe:

From our 2009 trip.

This is what my kids look like circa four am for about a week after we get back:

Even though they’re exhausted, whether or not they nap.  They also are only hungry at off times and not at all hungry at mealtimes.

And it doesn’t happen AT ALL on the way there, they just bounce right on to Italian time like they’ve lived there all their lives.

So we’ve been home since late Saturday night and the kids all slept until six am for the first time this morning, hooray!

But, clearly . . .

WIN = Italy

— 2 —


I’m about to talk toilets and laundry.  To spare you a photo of an actual Italian toilet, here’s one the husband took of me as we were trying to decide whether I was cool enough to use this toilet:

I’m thinking probably no, but I went in anyway.

They still seem to favor gravity-based toilets with the big tank hanging over your head, which I just find disconcerting.  And I’m a little uncomfortable with their dual flush options.  You’re supposed to push the littler flush button for number one and the bigger flush button for bigger jobs.  But I’m like, “Hey, that’s none of your business Italian flush pad.”  But maybe that’s just me.

The bigger issue is laundry.  We always stay in houses or apartments because it’s cheaper but also so I can do laundry.  But gracious, doing laundry in Italy is an ordeal.  Jenny has already documented her struggles with it here, but honestly I think she is greatly UNDERSTATING how lousy their laundry technology is.

If, for instance, one of your kids on the first night you are in Sorrento, barfs all over all the sheets and pillow of the queen-size bed she’s sleeping in in this house that is way fancier than you need but was the only house in a twenty mile radius that would fit your whole family, AND a different kid wets a different bed on the same night . . . well, you are out of luck.

Italian washing machines are tiny so it’s going to take many, many loads to wash the sheets, coverlet, mattress pads, and pillow, and its going to take ALL DAY because their “speed wash” setting takes two hours!  And we were lucky enough to have a dryer, which is very rare in Italy.  They all hang laundry to dry, which is quaint and all and fits my old fashioned sensibilities, but sometimes you just need it dry, now!

So even with a dryer we ended up just putting blankets under the kids and hoping for the best and doing one load per night.

WIN = America

— 3 —


Italy has some adorable tiny cars:

Gus thought he was just the right
size for this “Luigi.”

And adorable tiny firetrucks:

And adorable tiny garbage trucks:

But as far as I can tell, it’s not possible to rent a vehicle for more than nine passengers.  Perhaps if there’s a next time, we’ll just have to rent five smartcars.
Since, that’s lame . . .
WIN = America
— 4 —
While we’re on the subject of driving . . .


So, that’s all cleared up then.
These are on all the traffic islands:

They are meant to indicate that you are not allowed on one side, but you are allowed on the other.  But to me it says: “DON’T GO!  This way.”  Which is confusing.

And boy do they like those blue arrows.  If they’re doing work on the Autostrada they’ll put hundreds of them in a row:

All pointed at oh-so-slightly different angles and all seeming to say, “Hey! Look at this!”  “Hey! Look at this!”  “Hey! Look at this!”  Honestly, how can anyone pay attention to driving?

There’s also this:

Which means: Cows. Up and down.  Of course.

But it sure makes for entertaining drives, so . . .

WIN = Italy

The husband was the one driving and he insists that however diverting the road signs are for passengers, they are lousy for drivers and that I must give the win to . . .

WIN = America

— 5 —
I really loved all the little Italian grocery stores.  They were heavy on produce and meats and cheeses, light on processed foods, and pre-prepared stuff didn’t exist.  Every time I walked in there I felt like I was on a Food Network reality show:  Make Dinner Using ONLY Food!  But I love a challenge, and I feel like that’s how I should cook all the time, so I liked it.
But that’s not where the fun stuff was.  The FUN stuff was down the baby aisle.
I had read that the American habit of starting babies on fruits and vegetables is not the norm in most of the world, since fruits and vegetables are acidic and not protein-rich.  So I wouldn’t have been surprised to see more meat-type baby foods in another country.
But I WAS surprised by the extraordinary selection available.  There were at least four choices each for fish or cheese baby foods:
Because Italian moms are like, “NO, I don’t want THAT kind of fish baby food!”
And OH the selection of meats (yes, that’s a bunny):
I notice that they don’t have a picture of say, a Thanksgiving turkey dinner, with a nice golden brown turkey and some veggies. No, they have a big ol’ ugly turkey just lookin’ at ya.
That baby’s thinking, “Yum, whatever that thing is I certainly want to eat it.”

And apparently, sometimes Italian babies just must have horsemeat and nothing else will do:

I like the fresh selections for grownups and I don’t feed my babies baby food anyway, so . . .
WIN = Italy
— 6 —
I think we know who’s going to win this one.  But I just found it noteworthy that while my neighborhood church is decorated for Easter with dozens of fresh lilies and hydrangeas, draped with strands of twinkle lights and faux flowers, and bedazzled with yards of gold lamé fabric (including a loincloth on Our Lord that would surely get a thumbs up from Elton John) . . . the beautiful churches of Italy just continue to look beautiful, un-bedazzled.  No need to guild the lily as they say. (But there were some lilies.)
WIN = Italy
— 7 —
I am currently eight weeks pregnant.  So, if we subtract those two weeks that I wasn’t actually pregnant from that, I’m about 40 days pregnant.  Which means that by this time in my last pregnancy, I had barfed about 50 times.  (Frankie’s temperament was well known to me before he was born.)
The husband actually remarked a couple of months ago that perhaps it would be wise to “be careful” until after the trip, so I wouldn’t be sick all over Italy.  And that mere suggestion, children, is where babies come from.  At least in this house.
But get this, I wasn’t sick anywhere in Italy.  I was not awesome when certain family members insisted that you could microwave prosciutto to “make” “bacon” (the smell still haunts me) but I never got sick.  And overall I felt pretty darn good because we were so busy.
Now that we are home and I can choose to be lazy it’s a different story.  It’s really remarkable to me how 100% it is.  If I don’t make myself eat because I don’t want to eat and I don’t make myself get out and be active because I don’t want to do stuff, then I feel like death warmed over.  But if I do eat and keep distracted, I’m pretty good.  There’s a lesson in there somewhere about my preferences.
(And I know what is true in my case isn’t necessarily true for someone else, so if laying on the couch makes you feel better, have at it.)
It was way easier to be motivated on vacation though, so . . .
WIN = Italy  (But clearly, I should just go on vacation for the next month or so, right?  For AMERICA.)
But Italy wins it 4-3 for whatever that means.  Next time I’ll have to factor in the legality of homeschooling and the existence of children with siblings and maybe we’ll do better.
But until then, feel free to check in on the rest of our travelogue: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.
And join me in sending up some prayers for our dear neighbor and almost great-grandma Louise Gantner who passed away while we were gone (we went to her funeral today) and Jen’s new baby Joseph who hopefully is home from the hospital and with his family today!
Thanks to Grace at Camp Patton for hosting!


  1. JenniferM

    "And that mere suggestion, children, is where babies come from. At least in this house."


  2. Jenny

    Oh my gosh, the road signs. You all have my undying respect for rocking the 9-passenger down the Amalfi Coast…

  3. Amy

    Funny about the jet lag, because last time we travelled to the US from our house in England, my Gus was pretty much ok in the US, but was up for hours in the middle of the night for a week when we got back to England. And you think I would have learned by the third or fourth night and gone to bed before midnight, knowing he'd be up at one, but that certainly did not happen.

    And laundry–ugh! Everything I read insists that the machines here are more eco-friendly, but I just cannot believe that, when my mom's in the US holds twice as much per load and takes a quarter of the time! I live for sunny, breezy days in winter so I can do multiple loads in one day.

    Your trip sound amazing. I pray I can take my kid(s) to Rome one day

  4. Sarah Marie

    Ahhh!! Congrats! I've enjoyed the whole of your Italy recaps but this takes the cake! (Also, apologies for excessive exclamation points but I think they're warranted in this case.)

  5. Grace in my Heart

    So funny! I hope everyone's jet lag wears off soon.

    Loved reading your recaps…thanks for sharing, thanks for your prayers, and CONGRATS on your exciting baby news! Hope you have a great weekend! 🙂

  6. Anonymous

    Love it! Baby food description cracked me up! and CONGRATULATIONS!!!
    -Lori McDermott

  7. Nanacamille

    Italy is one of the most fun and relaxing countries we have ever visited…totally "aubondanza!!!". Road signs are like that because if you get there fine and if you don't get there fine too. You sit and have coffee for 2 hours while your laundry washes…no problem. You eat after 8pm every night because you are fixing all that good fresh food but don't forget to bag your own groceries or you won't have any to prepare and don't forget the 2 hour siesta time and the 2 hour vino time before dinner time. You just have to sit back and think like an Italian but it's great to be back in the USA after all that relaxing.

  8. Rosie

    That baby food! I don't know how the sight of THAT didn't give you morning sickness! Yet another reason we take a whole-foods approach to solids.

    Nothing says, "Open up!" like pureed horse meat, am I right?

  9. Anonymous

    LOVED this post, and CONGRATULATIONS on your new pregnancy!

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