Two Things that are Harder than I Realized

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So . . . we went to Malta last month.  I promise to talk more about it soon.  (Short recap:  it was awesome, surprisingly kid friendly, you should totes to it.  Oh, and I flew by myself with the chitlins.  What???)

Being there made me realize some things though.  Just like it is OK to admit things can be hard, I think it is OK to acknowledge that some things are tougher than I realized.

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In case your Friday needs more “babies”

Dear Mac,

You are now 18 months old.  Instead of months, I can just say you are a year and a half.  This is actually easier for me in Italian because numbers 16 – 19 trip me up occasionally.  (Unrelated, “quindici” or 15 is one of my favorite words in Italian.  I don’t claim to know why.  But I love it.)

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ICYMI: Where did 2015 go, ya’ll?

Have you started to feel like every day for the whole rest of the year is planned?  Seriously, where did it all go??  And how do I already feel behind on Christmas shopping???

Chase pigeons every day

Chase pigeons every day

On the Blog:

I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that we are having adventures faster than I can write about them.  I’ve been updating Travel Resources with more info to give you travel ideas, even if there aren’t links to full posts.  Looking for your next day trip or weekend getaway?  Check it out here.

One adventure I did cover was our jam-packed day trip to Turin.  If you have a chance, I’d spend more than a day here.

I also talked about my love/hate relationship with crowds and our trips to Nemi and Orte.

As well as gettin’ deep about last meals at Castel Sant’ Angelo.

And 3 tips to make your travel awesome.

Huh, I guess there are still some travel posts going up around here.  I feel like things have definitely gone off the rails lately.  #sorrynotsorry

Fall is here!  I still haven’t ordered my OTK boots, but I’m sure everyone here would like me to just do it or shut up about it.  What’s on your fall fashion wish list?

Heh, million dollar baby.  LITERALLY.  And then my other recent attempt at humor where I talk resumes and giving booze to horses.

The one where I get kind of preachy about judging other people.  I swear, I’ve put the soap box away.  For now at least.

My baby is 3!!  Still says hilarious things.  (And like my kid, I’m very food-oriented.   Treat yo self.)

On the Internets:

For my hipster peeps, have you tried switchel?  I really want to try this apple cider vinegar drink, but I’m having a hard time on the ginger juice.  I can’t find it in juice form, and I don’t have the capability to juice fresh ginger.

This video had me cry laughing.  If you want to kill your morning, delve into Break Womb’s other stuff.  Ah, it’s funny because it’s true.

How not to say the wrong thing

If you looking for some fall pieces of your own, Ann Taylor is 50% off through Sunday.

I’m very intrigued by this stroller.  Any urbanites tried this one?

That’s all I got.  Happy weekend everyone!

Enjoying the moment in Turin

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I really really really try not to do this.  I promise I do.

But I can’t help thinking that certain things, particularly travel-related things, will be easier in just a few years.

And I know.  I’m working on enjoying the moments.  I swear.  But you just have these little niggling thoughts, ya know?

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Do you run TO the crowd or FROM the crowd?

So there are lots of food-themed festivals around here, particularly in the summer and fall.   Fruit!  Porcini!  Carciofi for everyone!  I love food; sign me up!

I meant to do more.  And we will.  But we did make it to the Sagra delle Fragole (strawberry festival) in Nemi this June.

But the thing about festivals is crowds.  Shockingly, other people ALSO want to go to the cool-sounding festival with you.

I don’t really love crowds.

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Why you might not want to ask me to look at your resume

9.17_Why you might NOT want to ask me to look at your resume

You may have noticed.  I’ve been having some trouble writing lately. I WANT to be writing.  Just any time except when I’m actually near a computer.

I blame two things.  First, of course, the adorable weirdos.  I’ve just been more wiped out lately.  Nap time rolls around, and I just need a break.  Eh, I’ll write something, I say.  Just let me read a few more chapters of Mindy Kaling’s new book first . . .

Also, I joke that I can take care of the kids and only do ONE other thing in my life at a time.  Well, I don’t know why I’d call it a joke.  It is pretty true.  Except not completely true because I’ve been running again and I’ve also been doing more travel planning.  So maybe 1.5 things in my life.  Running doesn’t fully count.  This is why having running buddies is awesome.  I just show up, and they pull me along.  Autopilot.  Melissa, did you have a chance to think about a route for our long run?  Uh . . . blank face.  I’m sure they love it.  I’d like to think that I make up for my route laissez faire with sparkling conversation on our runs.  Which is TOTALLY something I do and not turn bright red and wheeze.

But, yeah, I’ve been spending my precious computer moments planning more adventures instead of writing about previous adventures.  Some out of town.  Some in town.  We went on an epic organized gelato crawl that I need to tell you guys about.  (Because nothing makes people hate you more than pics of you stuffing yourself full of gelato.)  We are going to see Shakespeare at the Globe Theater in BorgheseI saw Castel Sant’ Angelo at night.  We are trying some new restaurants.  We got tickets to see the Forum at night.

All good and exciting things.  All take time to plan.

So I haven’t been writing.

But lately, I’ve had trouble sleeping.  Thankfully, not wake up in the middle of the night sleeping, but just get-up-too-early not sleeping.  (She says, furiously knocking on wood.)  Instead of getting up, though, I’ve been tossing and turning or reading because WHO ON EARTH wants to get up at 5:00 am if they don’t have to.  NO ONE that is.  Maybe babies actually.  But babies can be kind of jerks sometimes.

So today when I woke up early AGAIN I was all FINE UNIVERSE.  You win!!  I’ll get up!  I will write and spend time crafting my brilliant tomes of wisdom that are DEFINITELY not just internet screeds.

Aside:  Screed is a really funny word, right?  Try saying it over and over.  Screed, hehe.

But, ANYWAYS, the joke is on YOU, universe, because I’m recycling something I’ve already written.  (Which is good because I already hear Mac screaming.  See above re jerk.)  You can lead a horse, but you can’t make it drink the champagne.  Which is probably a good thing.  You don’t want your horse stealing all your champagne.  Unless you are me, because I’m not doing a full whole30 right now, but I am trying to cut back on certain things.  Like booze.  Because I may not have mentioned this, but I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately.

Official Disclaimer:  I do NOT give booze to horses.

But I guess the joke is kind of on me because I just wrote over 600 words culminating in a disclaimer I never thought I would write.  Or really the joke is on you because you just read it.  Muhahahaha.

So remember how I have a sister?  (Two actually, but let’s focus on this one for now.  Oh, and a brother.  But I digress.)

When we were back in the States, she asked me for help on her resume.  Do I have opinions on resume style?  YOU BET.

I gave her some pointers, said something obnoxious about her sending me an updated draft within a week, and then scampered back to Rome.

Surprisingly–although I guess not as surprising as you’d think for a put-upon sibling who was used to dealing with the tirades of a domineering older sib–she sent a draft within a week.  And it was AWESOME.  Seriously, you guys should go hire my sister.  If for nothing else than to help you with your resumes because she is now a stone cold resume writing genius.  I just had a few comments and sent it back.

Within a few days, I hadn’t heard anything.

You may not have picked up on this, but patience is not one of my strong suits.

Aside:  I just googled “strong suit” to make sure that I’m not mistyping this.  And I was all, what does that really mean anyway???  Trying to be all deep.  Is it about the strong, power suit in your closet?  The one you only break out for interviews?  Because you had an awesome resume???

And, of course, it is about your strong suit of cards.  Which I think I actually knew, and I probably could have re-puzzled out if I gave myself the chance.  (James is definitely doing some serious eye rolling at this point.  I’ll be able to confirm for you in person in a few hours because I love nothing more than to read blog posts over his shoulder to see where he is laughing.  (I don’t think it needs to be said, but he loves MANY things more than this.))

Update:  James read that first paragraph and was all “seriously??” and I’m like just keep reading.  And then he lost it.  ALL the laughing.  So I was happy.  But then I was like, GREAT, my best joke on here was a private one for you.  Face palm.

So back to my strong suit.  My fictional strong suit is a traditional color, but it has some feminine details, and I like to wear it with statement jewelry.  Because I have LEARNED NOTHING.

My sister.  Even though my email game is anything but tight, I apparently expect everyone to reply promptly.  Because that makes sense.

So I sent her this message.

Which I thought about asking her permission to use, but then I was all, hey, I wrote the email.  And this really says everything about my mental state and nothing about hers so she has no reason to be embarrassed.  Except on my behalf.

You:  OMG.  I just landed the BMW internship job thing.  They said normally they don’t do this, but they are going to pay me a starting salary of $75K because they were SO impressed with my resume.  They even want me to start a resume-writing workshop for all zee Germans who have perfect English but are worried about their English.

Me:  That’s terrific!  I knew you could do it!

You:  Also, NBD, this German prince or duke or something was TOTALLY hitting on me at my interview.  He showed up on the lawn in his private copter (with BMW motor, of course!) and begged me to give him a chance, but I told Dieter that I’m a career girl and I can’t be seen dating the boss.  Or the dude who will be my underling in about 2.5 seconds when I skyrocket up the corporate ladder faster than a German chasing a keg of beer rolling over a field of bratwurst.

Me:  Right on!  Girl power!

You:  Anywho, I couldn’t have done this without you.  You’re the best.  DAS BEST.  I’ll make sure they name the next Z Series after you.  And then deliver one to your door!

Me:  Aww, you’re too sweet.  You really did all the work.  I’m glad I could be of some small assistance.  Don’t forget me when you are off running the Eurozone and rubbing elbows with Merkel!

You:  NEVER.  I don’t have favorites, but you are definitely one of my favorite sisters.  Love you!

Me:  Love you!

With apologies to all jokes at expense of zee Germans.  The email just tickled me, and thankfully my sister thought it was funny too instead of being all WHY ARE YOU RIDING ME ON MY RESUME, WOMAN?  Also, it was for the best because she claims her email ate my original message with my actual thoughtful comments which I would say isn’t a thing except that has totally happened to me before too.

And with apologies to all of you because I’m pretty sure I have exceeded my caps and italics usage for the year with this rant, I mean post.  But you can’t really blame me.   Blame THE UNIVERSE.  Because this is what happens when I’m writing at 5:30 in the morning.

ICYMI: Ferragosto edition

Here in Rome, we recently passed Ferragosto.  This one day holiday has somehow expanded into most of the month, and the city has shut down.  Day cares are closed.  At least half the stores in my neighborhood are closed.  Romans are getting out of dodge.

We too did some traveling.  And now travel recovering.  I don’t know that I’ll be completely absent this August, but things will probably (continue to) be pretty quiet this month.  I’m aiming to enjoy time with family and friends and do more thinking on long-term projects.

Until then, please amuse yourself with some recent blog offerings you may have missed.

On the blog:

My Aunt (paraphrased):  I liked your post.  So you’re just figuring out what you’re doing, just like the rest of us, huh?  Yup.

My new pan is here.  It is glorious.

Need any thoughts on jumpstarting your back-to-school To Do List?

Henry still cracks us upAnd is ridiculous.  Mac is gettin’ big.

Umm, so we went back to the States, and I still didn’t drive.  Ridiculous, I know.

So my running has fallen off with recent vacations.  This is unfortunate because my half is coming up SOON and you know I can’t skip it after going through this.

We’ve talked clothes for Rome.  Now see shoes.  #teambirkenstocks

On the internets:

The one piece of clothing every billionaire is wearing at summer camp  (Hat tip MDBH)  Hmm, maybe I’m really just seeing lots of billionaires everywhere?  #vestupson #vestlife

Kind of depressing and inspirational all at once.  Time to get off the couch!

I must not helicopter, I must not helicopter . . .

Me:  Do you have Grindr on your phone?  I want to swipe people.
Sister:  You mean Tinder.  And no.  Gross.
Looks like she has a point.  I don’t even know what to do with raising kids in this, especially boys.  Sigh.

Enjoy the rest of your summer.  I miss you already!


No more Sunday afternoon sadness, but still some mixed feelings

We are coming up on our anniversary in Rome.  Or our Rome-iversary as I like to call it.

Wow.  We’ve come a long way.  I look back on early recaps like this and realize just how different things are now.  We have enjoyed plenty of trips.  We have eaten at lots of restaurants.  We have had lots of fun exploring the city.

Sometimes I get frustrated because it feels like all the new arrivals are able to do stuff immediately that it took me six months to do.  I’m happy for them.  But I can’t help but wonder: what was wrong with me?

And then I try to tell myself that I’ve come a long way on the kids front.  When we arrived, l didn’t have experience watching one of my kids full-time, much less two of them.  There was an adjustment period.  (Understatement of the year, that one.)  Now I’m much more comfortable with the adorable weirdos.  I still get intimidated by them at times.  We don’t always try for big adventures.  But we’re getting better.

Things aren’t perfect.  Things could be tweaked.  I’d love a little more uninterrupted time for myself.  But I’m happy.

I realized how happy when it hit me:  I no longer dread Mondays.

Back in DC, I suffered from chronic Sunday afternoon sadness.  James can attest that this was very real.  It would manifest itself in various ways.  I might frantically try to squeeze in one more adventure so that I could feel like we enjoyed the weekend enough.  I might get cranky.  Or mean.  There could be crying.  It was not a good scene, yo.

All of this because of my anxiety about work on Monday.  Even when things were going well at biglaw, I never bounded out of bed ready to start my week and lawyer everyone.  When things weren’t going well, I truly dreaded setting foot in the office.  Even though the office found you outside of normal hours, being at work usually felt worse.

Now Monday is just another day.  It will be filled with kids and frantically typing at naptime and cooking and messes and running.  Sometimes I’m tired.  Sometimes I’m bummed that James has to go back to work.  But I don’t dread anything about the day.

I like this.

But I can’t say that everything is all roses and sunshine.  Even though I’m pretty content on a day-to-day basis, I worry about the future.  And I worry about money.

The best thing about my biglaw salary was that we didn’t worry about money.  We didn’t spend like crazy or anything.  But I never worried about it.  I didn’t think twice about buying a shirt I wanted or going out to dinner.  There was always enough money for whatever we wanted.

Now there is still enough money for whatever we want.  But I have to think about it.

This came to a head when plotting our August trip to SC.  We are pumped to see all of our family in South Carolina, but it felt all kinds of wrong to fly all the way across the ocean and not see our dear DC friends.  James and I plotted deploying Camp Grandparents and heading up to DC for a day sans spawn.  But the plotting did not turn into reality.  First, it was worry about Mac and the boobs.  Then just general worry about the kids even though we knew they would be fine and not wanting to take advantage of grandparents.  We also squeezed in some worry about whether DC in a day would be fun or stressful and disappointing because we wouldn’t be able to see and do and eat everything we wanted.

While we worried, airfare, of course, just kept creeping up.  Every price hike set off a new round of worry about whether we should be doing the trip.  Which caused more delays in action.  Which resulted in higher prices.

Long story short:  we eventually booked a flight.

But all of this back and forth and worry did not feel good.  I didn’t like it.  And I couldn’t help feeling that law firm salary-earning Melissa would not have had this stress.  Yes, I would have wanted to get a good deal on a flight.  Yes, I would have grumbled when prices went up.  But, no, I don’t think I would have had the same gut-twisting anxiety about whether to do it.

I’ve started reading The Compound Effect.  (The tone is a little aggressively self helpy, but seems like good info so far.)  Just like compound interest, the general principle is that very small, hardly even noticeable changes add up in a big way over time.  The first step on making a change is tracking your behavior.

So that’s the plan.  After mentioning a financial challenge to follow the 30 Day EVERYTHING Challenge, I’ve actually tried a few days of tracking spending, but I get derailed before accumulating a month of data.  Failed information capture rears its ugly head again.

And THEN when I thought I had a plan to deal with all these feeling of weirdness, we actually did the flight overseas and the Passport Customs Whatever dude looks at me and asks, “what is your occupation?”

Uh . . .

Cue the crickets.

Serenading a deer in the headlights.

Part of this was because I was racking my brain (good to know) about whether my passport actually LISTED an occupation.  Was this a quiz?  Was I failing?  Would I be singled out as an unsuspecting drug mule because I gave a shady answer??

I think eventually I mumbled something awesome like I don’t have one.

And slow clap for this Passport Customs Duder who is all “do you take care of these kids?  Hardest job in the world there.”

I appreciated what he was doing.  I guess.  But I was more all like THANKS dude.  I don’t need rando Passport dude to make me feel better about my life choices.

Or maybe I do.  Because this continued to bother me for several days.  I haven’t dealt with many “so what do you do” insinuations in our current gig.  There are a lot of people who are in between things or doing something unconventional.  I don’t ever feel like I have to EXPLAIN myself.

And even if I could bring myself to say it, homemaker or housewife just doesn’t sound right.  My house is not clean.  I don’t bake.  Don’t homemakers have their S*** figured out and NOT wear their husband’s boxers because they haven’t bothered to buy new underwear?

My main “occupation” is keeping the adorable weirdos from killing themselves.  But saying “Mom” doesn’t seem appropriate as an occupation either.  I’m a mom whether I’m doing work to be paid or not.  As are bazillions of other women in the world.  So being Mom is something I love.  It is something I am.  But I wouldn’t call it an occupation.

I’ve thought more about what I would like to tell Mr. Stamp My Passporter.  Would I have liked to say “I make money off the internet?”  (I currently don’t.)  Apparently money is not a prerequisite based on Duder’s standards for listing occupations.  I could have said I’m a screenwriter!  I mean, I’ve never gotten paid for being a screenwriter.  Technically, I haven’t even written my screenplay.  BUT I TOTALLY feel like I have a screenplay within me.  Just this morning I was tickled at the thought of Santa’s reindeer operating a submarine.  If Pauly Shore can make a move, I surely have 85 minutes of laughs in that premise, right?  I should tell that Judgmental Duder that I am a screenwriter!

James, of course, is vehemently shaking his head and screaming NOOOOOooo in the vacuum that is trying to reason with me.  Because YES I know that the whole point of Passport Control is NOT to be a shady weirdo and YES I get it that the lady who pauses for 20 seconds and declares she is a screenwriter is SUPER SHADY.  Don’t stick out.  Blend in.  I don’t need to explain that I’m a former lawyer.  I don’t need to explain that the piecrusts I’m not attempting to make are not light and fluffy.  Just be a full-time Mom.


So, a rambling 1300 words later, there we have it.  My day to day happiness has undoubtedly increased.  But I still worry.  Money.  The future.  I still have some ambivalence about my “occupation.”

All good things to think about for the coming year.  Unless you never hear from me again.  Then just assume that I was imprisoned by Border Control for wearing a beret and being an “Aspiring Writer and Recovering Lawyer and Child Minder and Adventure Planner and Traveler and Runner and Food Lover” on my trip back Romeward.  Their fault for asking really.

Very Normal Henry (with a side of Assisi)

Dear Henry,

Instead of rambling about your vocabulary (immense) and your size (also immense), let me tell you a story about a recent trip that sums up the essence di Henry, if you will.

On a sunny, long weekend in June, we did an overnight trip to Spoleto, Cortona, the Perugina chocolate factory, and Assisi.  There were plenty of quintessential Henry moments throughout, but I’d like to talk about our time in Assisi.

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Want to hear something kind of crazy?

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I want to tell you something that is kind of crazy.  I, Melissa, mother of two, have never put both my kids in a car and driven them somewhere all by myself.  And these kids aren’t weeks old, mind you.  My “baby” turned one this spring.

The other crazy thing?  I haven’t driven a car since last August when we moved here.  I haven’t driven in Italy at all.

Back when we lived in DC, I was never a big driver.  When we were in Maryland, I sometimes drove to the metro or shopping or to visit my friends in Virginia, but I didn’t drive all the time.  Once we moved to DC proper, I mostly stopped driving.  I walked Henry to day care.  I took the bus or metro to work.  When we did family outings on the weekends, James would drive.  I did pull shifts–usually the early morning shift (no shocker there)–on our drives to SC, but I could still go months without getting behind the wheel of a car.

I’m a nervous person and a nervous driver.  Not driving much exacerbates this.  Living in cities exacerbates this.

I usually don’t mind it at all.  I have plenty of stores within walking distance.  Public transportation is still a challenge with the two kids, but it is there.  We can get where we need to go sans automobile.

But something happened earlier this month that has me reevaluating my no drivo status.

We visited Lake Bracciano on a weekend.  Although our trip out took longer because of a flat tire, this volcanic lake is only 45 minutes from Rome.  Motor sports are limited, and the lake is a pristine and quiet place.  It is rimmed by three towns to explore and an awesome (and free!) airplane museum at the sight of Italy’s first airport.

Even though the lake is crazy close, we opted to do an overnight so that we could explore more.  Our agriturismo, Agriturismo Il Castoro, sits on smaller, neighboring Lake Martignano.  You have to go down some serious dirt roads to get there.

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Even if you don’t stay there, you can pay a few euro to access the expanse of grassy beach lined with hammocks.  You can pay a few more euro to rent a paddle boat–some with their own slides–or grab some refreshing beverages at the small cafe.

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Because of uncooperative weather (I swear, it is always stifling except when I actually have aqua access), we didn’t frolic in the water.  (Although we did all touch it; Mac was particularly nonplussed.)

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We did enjoy some time swinging in the hammocks and feeling the grass between our toes.

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As we strolled, I could not help but think, I could do this.

I could load up the kids on a random weekday and hit the lake or explore a nearby town or do anything we wanted.  We have fun at the zoo and parks in Rome, and I’m trying to get better about picking off new sights with the kids, but we could just go.

Of course, exploring a new town with the adorable weirdos sounds downright frightening.  I’m not scared of my kids, per se; however, sometimes I am definitely intimidated by them.

But things change.  And faster than I think too.

Not that long ago, I could barely grocery shop with the two kids by myself.  Now we have a produce guy, an egg lady, fish dudes, and I can get around the store with the two of them if I need to.

Not that long ago, Mac refused to move anywhere.  Then I spent HOURS walking behind him holding his hands.  Now I walk beside him and sometimes dash to keep up as he darts off a few steps on his own.  (He still refuses to crawl though.)

At some point, trips with these guys may not seem so crazy.  I need to be ready.

Even if that means getting behind the wheel of a car.  I’m planning to force myself to practice when town empties this August.  Our car is already lightly “Romanized.”  No one would notice a few more scratches.

Deep breath.  I’m an adult.  I can do this.

Other Trip Highlights

  • We hit up Il Castello Odescalchi in Bracciano, site of famous weddings such as Tomkat’s.  The self guided tour involved some stairs, but went over well with the kids.  Shocking to NO ONE, Henry loved the weaponry.

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  • Historic Bracciano is fairly small.  We wandered, checked out views of the lake, and enjoyed lunch outside at Pane e Olio.  Service was slow (they were slammed), but the food was very good.

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Pistachio pasta FTW

Pistachio pasta FTW

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  • We drove through Trevignano, but didn’t get to explore this town.  Unlike Bracciano, which overlooks the lake from on high, Trevignano is down at the water.  Several restaurants on the water looked pretty sweet.
  • We enjoyed an evening wander and dinner watching the sunset over the lake at Il Vecchio Salus in Anguillara.  Although we didn’t go, Anguillara seems to have an expanse of public beach along with a jump park and rides area.

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  • If you have kids or any interest in planes, definitely check out the Italian Air Force Museum.  Fun (oversimplified) fact:  Italians built lots of seaplanes because they didn’t feel like building runways.  This free museum has several hangars of planes to delight the kiddos.  Even though half of it was closed at our visit, it was still worth the trip.  Did I mention it’s free??  Cafe inside.

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Also lots of old cars.  BONUS.

Also lots of old cars. BONUS.

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Other Bracciano Resources