our Dairy Cottage in the Dolomites

(or, How to Stay Mostly Cheerful Despite Mosquito Infestation)

After our whirlwind, stressful, last-minute trip to Naples and the Amalfi Coast last month (or was it this month?), Elliott and I both wanted me to take over more of the planning of our next trip.  Hours and hours of research and decision-making and phone calls later, I had a plan:

  • Fly into Venice last Friday (Elliott was already there for work); Elliott bought my plane ticket
  • Rent a car (also something Elliott will do)
  • Drive up into the Dolomite Mountains (also Elliott’s job)
  • Spend the weekend there resting, reading, walking/hiking, and being together as a family
  • Drive back at the end of the weekend and return the rental car (again, all Elliott’s responsibility)

OK, so I guess I didn’t end up doing too much besides enjoying everything that Elliott did for me, but at least this time I did pick out the place we would stay.  That’s progress.  And I offered to drive and rent the car.  (No progress in that department.  Maybe next time.)

We rented this car, which was too small for us but was awfully cute, even though Lena’s car seat was too big to fit behind us and so my seat didn’t lock into position all weekend.  Also, no A/C.  Livin’ la dolce vita!  This is a Fiat cinquecento (Fiat “five hundred,” named for its 500 cc engine), the quintessential Italian car.

We met up in Venice and headed for the famous Dolomite Mountains, jagged protrusions of gray rock that dominate the skyline throughout all of northeastern Italy.  The mountains remind me of molars: the jagged tops are flat like molar teeth and the green valleys sweep up to them like gums.  The Dolomites are breathtaking, unforgettable, and–considering that we already visited them in May–have a powerful allure to keep drawing you back.

I chose a location that was just north of grappa liqueur country and just south of Asiago cheese country, smack dab in the middle of dairy and organic farming country.  The former diary cottage where we stayed was part of a larger complex run by a friendly man named Enrico.  He welcomes guests to the dairy cottage or into two hotel-like rooms in the larger house, and he also hosts business retreats and meetings during the year.  He offers his guests fresh vegetables from the garden and homemade jams from his kitchen.  It was all truly just as peaceful and authentic as it sounds, and we were charmed.

For photos inside the dairy cottage itself, check out the listing on AirBnB.  (I apparently didn’t take a single photo of the inside of the dairy cottage!)  For some snapshots around the farm and property, see below.

the meeting room inside the big house
 Enrico canning fresh pear jam in the kitchen & some charming details around the big house

 local grappa and Balsamic from Modena (where Balsamic vinegar originated)
herbs and sunflower seeds hung up to dry

picking produce for dinner from the garden, which is so organic that absolutely no chemicals whatsoever are allowed, even those usually permitted in commercial organic farming

fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and zucchini to supplement our evening meal

After such a heavenly evening, we were prepared for a wonderful night.  Not so much.  Lena fell asleep downstairs and we crept upstairs to the little attic.  It was hot, so hot that Elliott was sweating just sitting still.  Eventually we fell asleep, but around 1am we were awakened to mosquitoes buzzing around our heads.  I pulled a sheet over my head and slept fitfully until morning.  Elliott tried, but he was too hot, and by 4:30am he gave up and went outside into the cool night air to work on his laptop for the rest of the night.

When we woke up, we looked at our daughter and cried out in dismay.  She was covered in mosquito bites.  Thankfully she’d been wearing her sleep sackinstead of sleeping in just a diaper; her arms and face bore the brunt of the bites.  For most people, mosquito bites are awful, but they disappear within a few hours.  Lena, however, has some kind of allergic reaction to mosquito bites, and so they turn into hard dots and eventually scabs that take about two weeks to heal.

Elliott wanted to leave.  “Let’s go somewhere else… anywhere else!”  I was torn.  Surely we could find a solution.  Close the windows, buy bug spray, borrow a fan?

In the meantime, we decided to sit down and have breakfast.

Then we went around the farm to see the chickens and down the road to meet the neighbor’s animals.  (This neighbor was our favorite person we met all weekend.  He was only wearing his underwear.  He also invited us in for a beer… at 10am in the morning.)

Later, while Elliott napped, I talked to Enrico.  He found a fumigating spray we could use in the cottage (organic here, much?) and an electric bug killing machine (that didn’t work) and promised he would ask his friends for a fan.  He then told me it was going to rain that night (which meant cooler temperatures and no mosquitoes) and swore that it is never like this here!  Except one week each August, maybe!  Bad timing…

Lena and I went across the street and met our neighbors to ask if we could pick their blackberries and raspberries.  Their bushes were laden with fruit!  They happily obliged, and Lena and I made friends with the farmer’s daughter, Jessica, and her daughter Aida.  Later Jessica and her farmer-father brought us a bagful of fresh produce and asked to get a picture with us. 

And then we went on a walk around the larger neighborhoods of Sant’Antonio Tortal, the town where we were staying.  And because we were in a good mood, and because it was already so late in the day, and because we are chronic procrastinators, we just stayed for another night. 

do you see the mosquito bites??

And how was the night?  Well, not as bad, but also still not easy.  Elliott fumigated the cottage while we were on our walk and as a result I think there was only one mosquito in the cottage that night.  It was also lot cooler, too, and eventually it did rain. 

Lena, however, had a problem of her own that we could not figure out.  She’d seem to settle down and fall asleep… and then she’d start tossing and turning and crying again.  Finally, at 3am, I tried my final idea.  I pulled the sheet off the [flimsy, thin little] mattress of her travel bed and placed a deep, soft blanket in between the mattress and the sheet.  Maybe she thought the bed was uncomfortable compared to her bed at home? And sure enough, our little baby snuggled down and went to sleep without a peep for the rest of the night!  Our little princess had a pea.

The next day we went for a Sunday morning drive through the hills and found a lovely meadow and half-finished house where we could eat our picnic lunch. 

“Nose!  Yes, Lena, that’s Mama’s nose.  Where is your nose?”

meeting a grasshopper
(This was right before I said, “Wow, Elliott, there’s a weird black beetle thing in the grass that looks kind of like a grasshopper!  Look!  What is it?”  And Elliott scooped it up and stared at me.  “Honey, haven’t you ever read Cricket in Times Square?”)
That afternoon we weathered rain and a thunderstorm in our cozy little dairy cottage with books and cool, cool breezes blowing through the open windows.  Finally that evening we turned our wheels towards home.   We were a lot more spotted with mosquito bites, and just a little more rested than when we came, but we were happy, and together, and ready to try something vastly different next time.
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7 Responses to our Dairy Cottage in the Dolomites

  1. Eden August 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    What amazing photos! I can totally see how you were charmed. Lady, just because you didn’t do the actual renting or driving, doesn’t mean you bore no responsibility in the process! Sheish, decision-making is the hardest part!

  2. Eric August 29, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    I love the pictures! Lena is going to have so many fun pictures to look at when she’s all grown up.

  3. lucyanngreen6 August 29, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    ohhh, mosquitoes. i remember a night or two like that, where because we were so hot we pulled the mattress out onto a little balcony and met with an army of mosquitoes, and a little cooler air! makes one appreciate air conditioning and bug spray!

  4. granolastateofmind August 30, 2012 at 2:49 am #

    1. love the blue dress
    2. love the haircut
    3. love getting glimpses of Lena’s teenage years: pimples and all.

  5. Becca August 30, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    I’m going to have to brag a little about that dress sometime on here, right, Jess? The pity with altering a dress so much is that now I can’t wear it without seeing a million improvements that still need to be made…

  6. David Garber August 30, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Of course, I love the afro chicken! #MargeRIP (ask Elliott)

  7. Danie at Pasadya September 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Wow, Sant’Antonio looks a bit prettier than my San Antonio (Texas)! Just a little, you know. I can’t imagine having such an incredible view!! Lena is too adorable!

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