Have you ever come back from a family vacation feeling refreshed and rejuvenated? Where your kids had the time of their lives while being immersed in another culture? Last summer, my daughters, age 9 and 11, and I were invited to Me & Mom in Tuscany hosted by Maria Rocco, sister to celebrity chef, David Rocco, where we experienced a trip of a lifetime.
Maria Rocco created a very unique destination for moms to share memories with their children and, at the same time, each enjoying themselves with their own peers. She built on the kids' camp concept by providing moms, a luxurious get-away where they can relax in the beautiful setting of the Tuscan countryside with the Mediterranean beckoning in the distance and with full Italian culture and language immersion.
While my kids enjoyed a week sleepover camp experience (with a full range of outdoor activities, sports, learning the Italian language, cooking workshops, and eating organic Italian food from local farmhouses - I could go on..) with other children from around the world, I was accommodated in a newly renovated and elegant agriturismo. An agriturismo is a style of vacationing in luxurious old farmhouses with a resort-like feeling. My agriturismo had both the appeal of a century old farmhouse with state of the art creature comforts. The mom's villa was a spacious eight bedroom villa with two completely separate living spaces to accommodate moms, like me, who may want their child to stay with them on occasion. It is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves where seven other moms and I indulged in yoga and cooking classes, outings to old estates for wine tastings, day trips to the seaside towns of Porto Ercole and Orbetello, as well as a shopping trip to Sienna.
Upon our arrival, Maria, had a welcoming reception at the kid's camp, before the rest of the children (the camp holds 50 kids per week) arrived the next day. La Capitana, the children's agriturismo, is a massive eighteenth century farmhouse, with winding staircases inside and out with its very own chapel. This farmhouse sits on top of one of the green hills of Tuscany, overlooking the sea. That night we were able to meet the staff members of the camp. Besides the Director of the Kid's Camp, there are nine camp counsellors, two chefs and a property manager, as well as cleaning staff. Two of the counselors are Italian, one from New Zealand and the remainder are either from the USA or Canada and most counsellors were returning for their second and third year.
The reception was catered together by the kid's camp chef and the mom's villa's personal chef. Mom's beverages included Prosecco and other Italian wines, the spread was a nice introduction to traditional Italian fare. We soon learned that we would be making these recipes and more during our upcoming week with our chef, Maurizio.
The evening ended with the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen (little did I know there would be one every single night I was there).
As I was meeting women from Italy, Canada, USA, Japan, Czechoslovakia and the Ukraine, my girls were meeting kids from all over the world as well. As the other children arrived for the week they were placed in age appropriate groups for activities and sleeping accommodations. Their days were filled with activities with two hours a day focusing on Italian and Italian cooking and culture. We were given their schedule so we would know when they would have a break for a visit if we were not busy ourselves.
It did not take my girls long to pick up some popular Italian phrases while I struggled with my ability to speak it. Luckily I did not have to rely on it! As I was basking in my own retreat, my daughters were having the time of their lives! I could faintly hear the laughter from children as I peered up into the distance to see La Capitana on the hill above us.
When we were not out on an excursion, the pool was my favorite place to be. And having Maurizio, our chef, bring us a chilled jug of Spritz cocktail, made with Prosecco and Campari, in the 36 degree Celsius temperature was an added bonus!
Each night we were served our dinner outside on a harvest table under a canopy of grape vines. This was truly the best time of the day for me - when the moms all came together to eat and enjoy the incredible food, the free flowing wine and the spectacular sunset that graced us each evening. Mornings usually started with a stimulating yoga class before our day began. Nothing in Italy is fast paced and I was able to savor the day as it was planned out for me.
When I had down time I would wander up to the kid's camp just to see how my girls were doing. My 12 year had no time for barely a selfie with me as she had made friends quite quickly, in particular, a girl from Rome that she is still in contact with. My youngest one is more reserved and was happy to spend some time with me. We even had a sleepover one night in my room, which was really special for both of us. My youngest daughter, however, was eager to return back to the kid's camp the next morning, in fear of missing something.
One of our last evenings we shared with our children was relaxing on the lawn at the mom's villa as we watched for shooting stars. Words can't describe the pure sense of connection I had with my daughters as we pointed out constellations waiting to see another shooting star. As we pointed to one in unison I looked over to my eldest daughter and saw her closing her eyes. I asked her what she was wishing for. As she responded, "For this to never end", a tear ran down her cheek. I felt so blessed I was able to give them this cultural experience and as I held her and her sister I was wishing for the same thing.