As a child I didn’t care too much for my parents’ florist shop, and I was
sure I would never follow in their footsteps. It was always work, work, work, 6/7 days in the week and, to my mind, not enough time spent as a family. Which is why I could never wait for our (summer) holidays. Even though we weren’t well off, we got away with all the family for two or three weeks, when we spent plenty of time together. Usually, my mum, sister and little Henk went on ahead, with Dad joining us a week later with the car; he didn’t like being away from the business for too long. The family Teunissen’s favourite destination was the Lago di Garda, or Lake Garda, in Northern Italy. We stayed in a few places on the shores of the lake, from Riva to Garda, and I still know the best spots (and the tastiest ice cream parlours).
Around 10 years ago we returned as a family, and actually not much had changed in 40 years. I have so many Happy Memories from those holidays with my mum and dad and sister. We often stayed in the kind of simple, small family hotel where everyone — young and old alike — helped run the family concern; mum, dad, sometimes even a brother or grandmother and grandfather, and the children too, as it was all hands on deck in the summer. All meals were included, with lunch and dinner served at set times. Each customer/ family had their own table in the restaurant and just before meal-times the guests could be found waiting outside the restaurant doors. We never stayed at a camp site as my mum detested camping; if I have to crawl into a tent, I’d rather stay home, she’d always say.
What has stayed with me in particular is the family ambience of those little hotels. In no time at all you’d got to know all the manager’s family, and the Italian food was delightful, of course. Extended, hot meals were served both at lunchtime and in the evening, meals that included pasta, with all the food (sometimes three courses no less) served on white table linen. Naturally, we thought it the height of luxury. Your name was put on any bottle of wine you’d ordered, which was then saved until the next meal, if you hadn’t finished it before then of course. However, my parents weren’t big drinkers, so the wine was imbibed sparingly.
During the summer in Northern Italy the weather can take a turn for the worse now and then, so during inclement weather we would always go on a day trip somewhere, on the lake, or to Venice or Verona. I have great memories of Verona; it is a lovely, old, compact city with at its heart the world-renowned Arena, the amphitheatre, where magnificent open-air opera performances are held in the summer time. Children find it a real experience too, although some operas can be quite long. Unsold tickets for that evening’s performance could be bought at a discount at a kiosk on the square outside the Arena. I can picture it now, and opposite the Arena were countless pavement cafes where we were sometimes treated to a drink if we were thirsty or tired. Once inside the Arena, you could hire cushions to make you more comfortable on the stone seat. Only the expensive tickets at the front had proper chairs, and to my mind these looked very chic. They were always very special weeks, and going on holiday together as a family to us, to this day, is the ultimate holiday.