Benvenuta in Italia, Phyllis!

Phyllis's World Tour! Formal Portrait by the Court's Artist, Jeffrey Ebbeler

[heading style=”1″]Benvenuta, Phyllis![/heading]

At last Phyllis is ready to show her furry face in Italy! I won’t lie — it’s been a long time coming, but she decided to take her own sweet time and do an extended tour of the country before settling down with us. Being in Italy, it goes without saying that Phyllis’s every move was followed by the papparazzi. As soon as I heard that she had landed in the country, I hightailed it to her side to be her chaperone — and a good thing, too!

So straight from the tabloids, I present Phyllis’s Italian adventure in pictures…and a short video! (Click on pics to enlarge.)

A female groundhog was spotted throwing pizzas off the Leaning Tower of Pisa. When questioned, the groundhog, who goes by the name of Phyllis, said she was performing gravity experiments. Further investigation revealed that she was in possession of all the necessary permits, and that the area was secured prior to the pizza flinging. Sources say she is now headed for the Veneto region, where citizens have been warned to lock up their gnocchi. Stay tuned for live updates as they come in.

Phyllis at the Tower of Pisa
Experimenting in Pisa

On what is widely reported as one of Phyllis Groundhog’s favorite days of the year, she was spotted in Venezia, where she pulled a spectacular April Fools’ joke or, in Italian, un pesce d’aprile (an April fish). Despite the fact that Carnevale ended in February, the narrow alleys and streets of this famed city were packed with masked and costumed merrymakers, apparently the work of this mischievous marmot! Thousands of confused tourists swamped the mask stores.

I sewed and embroidered my own dress and hat, but Phyllis wanted something more elaborate, so we rented hers. Can you spot Phyllis?

Phyllis and Renee in Venice
Phyllis and Renee in Venezia

Next stop was Verona where, I am ashamed to say, I fell into a deep sleep, leaving Phyllis without a chaperone. In the morning, this is what I read in the tabloids:

Early this morning, in the pale light of the inconstant moon, Phyllis was spotted breathing heavily on Juliet’s balcony in fair Verona, where she laid her latest scene, mumbling something about roses. The witness, a nurse on her way to the early shift, claims to have heard the voice of a swooning male issue from the shadows, but this claim is as yet unsubstantiated.

And Phyllis ain’t talkin’.

Late-night shenanigans in Verona
Late-night shenanigans in Verona

Phyllis was spotted in Roma where, after an audience with the Pope, she was seen riding a chariot through the Colosseo while clad in a toga.

Phyllis winning the chariot race
Phyllis winning the chariot race

I was able to round her up shortly after this photo was taken, and we continued our tour of Rome without further incident. Phyllis decided to keep her toga on all day to make the experience more authentic. She did keep her overalls on underneath, however, because it was drafty.

Phyllis and Renee in Rome
Phyllis and Renee in Rome

Tired from her many exploits, Phyllis infiltrated a large envelope bearing Snoopy and Woodstock, sealed herself in, and propelled her hibernating self to my town. I just took a train. Exhausted and a little lovelorn, she refused to take visitors for a few days while she recuperated. After she fainted on the chaise, I treated her with a poultice and smelling salts, which revived her long enough to ask the parlor maid for a cup of tea. She asked the press to leave her in peace.

After a week of receiving callers only by appointment, Phyllis emerged from her hidey hole! She needed a good two hours to primp and preen before her photo shoot, but then we had a marvelous time with the whole family. My little guys Lorenzo and Claudio were excited to show her around some of their favorite places!

First we took her to the gulf of Baratti, where there’s a dig going on at an Etruscan archeological site right on the beach and across the street from a field of Etruscan tombs. A couple of years ago, they discovered 3000-year-old furnaces the Etruscans had used to extract iron from the rocks. The region of Tuscany, where we live, takes its name from the Etruscans.

Phyllis even volunteered to do a little digging herself, and the archeologists were duly impressed with her skills. She might even come back next summer to work at The Archeological Park of Baratti and Populonia — lots of ruins to uncover here!

At the Etruscan furnaces
Time for a little dig!

It was such a beautiful day that we decided to settle on the grass to have a good read before continuing our tour.

reading at Baratti
Reading APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS by the sea...

That town up on the hilltop behind us is the Etruscan village of Populonia. It’s my favorite little corner of Tuscany, so of course I had to take Phyllis there! She hopped up on the wall to get a closer view of the fortress, while the boys inspected the rocks below.


Since she had been a little lax in her weather reporting duties, Phyllis decided to climb up into the fortress to make her report. The skies were clear and blue with no humidity and a temperature of 23 degrees Celsius (75F). The sea currents were very still. As you can see, we could not agree on which way the wind was blowing!

The wind went that-a-way!

Finally, Phyllis had some free time for a bit of sunbathing before the director called her to the set for filming. Isn’t she glam?

Phyllis sunbathing
Ready for her close-up!

Then it was time for the shoot. In this video, Phyllis helps me demonstrate a typical scene when I try to read aloud to Lorenzo and Claudio. As you’ll see, it’s no easy task. Phyllis was a good sport, though, and knows that the boys are still a bit too young for a treasure hunt. She said she doesn’t mind waiting if it means she can hang out on the beach some more!

“A storm is coming!” the groundhog said.
“A storm that just might kill us!”
But all her friends just laughed and jeered.
No one listened to Phyllis.

[heading style=”1″]Can’t get enough of Phyllis?[/heading]

[heading style=”1″]Arrivederci, Phyllis![/heading]

Next time, we’ll have some Italian lessons! 

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  1. Wow, Renee! This is so awesome! How cute are your boys?! 🙂 I have no idea how either you or Phyllis survived her trip to Italy. Goodness a lot was packed in there! Thank heaven she didn’t run over anyone with that chariot. I have a feeling I know what her new favorite activity is going to be when she gets home. She’s going to be careening all over Blueberry Hill with Scout and Jemma harnessed to the Radio Flyer! 🙂 I did really love her costume (I think she was wearing stilts under there because I KNOW she’s shorter than you!) and I loved her on Juliet’s balcony… we may have to change her full name to Punxsutawney Phyllis Princess Snowy Sunshine Macaroni Hot Wheels JULIET Groundhog Hill! Thank you so much for putting up with her and giving her such a wonderful tour of Italy!!! 🙂

  2. How fun was that???????? You did an awesome job with Phyllis’s visit. The photos are spectacular and the video…well there are no words for how precious the video is. Your boys are adorable. Great job!

  3. What a funny and delightful post! I love your dress, oh multitalented Renee, and you were quite a generous hostess to Phyllis in Italy. This book looks like a ton of fun, and I look forward to reading it. Your boys are beautiful. a.

  4. Ha, ha – ragazzi intelligenti! Birds are found first in the sky, then, if we’re lucky, they make an appearance in a book! Thanks for the tour (did you really make that dress? wow!), and all the photos (you’ve got ideas girl!), and especially the video! Please attach Phyllis’ favorite Italian recipe for us in the next post!

  5. I know we are not meant to have a favorite Phyllis post, but I have to say that Phyllis (with just a tiny bit of help from Renée) outdid her splendiferous activities in Italy. This groundhog has no fear at all. She faced the carbinieri and simply pulls out her pizza-permits!! and then, no fear of heights, or the stage either!

    Fabulous post and your boys are toooo cute!

  6. That was amazing. I am so jealous of Phyllis. I think I need to visit Italy again .. hmm, maybe for my anniversary next year. Great job with the pictures, and your boys are so cute in the video. Thanks for sharing that with us. I loved your “tabloid” voice, that was so fun to read. I know you mainly do poetry and quiet books (or so i think) but you can totally do mainstream humor. It reminded me a little of the “voice” in the the story ‘True Story of the 3 Little Pigs’. Great Job!

    1. Thank you, Darshana! I do feel more comfy with poetry, but I also write humorous pieces for adults on grammar and language arts. I’m TRYING to find my way with PBs, but it ain’t easy! 🙂

  7. How awesome was that? Completely, utterly, TOTALLY awesome, that’s how awesome that was. And your boys are completely, utterly, TOTALLY adorable.

    Phyllis’s exploits just keep growing and growing. Her visit to Italy was fantastic. Thanks, Renee!

  8. I think I must agree, Phyllis in Italy may be my favorite, too. I love how imaginative you are. Everything about this is so creative! Although I think the favorite pic is of you reading to your adorable sons. Love the poem, too. Thanks Renee!

  9. Your boys are gorgeous and have wonderful names! I have to admit, I laughed out loud when you pointed out the bird and they looked up. It looks like Phyllis had whirlwind adventure in Italy, the photos are perfect. I agree with Joanna, this Phyllis post wins first prize! Which is probably blind adoration and admiration.

    Oh, and no one shares cars here, either.

  10. Very creative, Renee! Your boys are so cute! I love how you added the Phyllis clip art to all your photos! My daughter is going to write a report on Italy, and so I’ll have her read this post for a little culture!

  11. Wow. Phyllis is a very lucky groundhog. I love all the photos– so nice to see your corner of the world and to enjoy your great sense of humor. The video is priceless– the boys are adorable—the sand and a possible bird flying over head… fun stuff!

  12. Great to see all the sights, with little Phyllis sneaking into the limelight everywhere, but she is almost upstaged by your little boys, Renee. Beautiful photos-makes me want to fly right over for a nice break. Your dress is beautiful, too! Thanks for making a book so memorable!

  13. HA HA HA! Love the pics and the video (look! It’s a bird! 😉 )! Itlay looks like a wonderful place! I bet Phyllis had a great time!

  14. I wish I was there with Phylis. What a great time she had. Excellent reporting and fab photos. Love your little men too. Thanks for sharing your adventures with the famous Phylis!

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