The iPhone holiday challenge


For our holiday in Tuscany, I set myself the challenge of telling the story of our week using only my iPhone 5 and the standard effects and filters available via the popular social photo sharing app Instagram. So here are my favourite shots, with a few words of commentary on each.

1. A room villa with a view

This was the third time we’ve been to Tuscany. This panoramic view from the front terrace of our villa, where we ate every day, goes some way to explaining why we keep coming back. A spectacular view, with the only audible sound the chorus (sometimes cacophony) of crickets. We had our own swimming pool (which you can see bottom left), which was a prerequisite of our holiday. More on that later.

2. Two’s company, six is a crowd

In addition to the five of us, we went with old university friends who also have three kids. Their youngest is a week older than our oldest (Isaac), giving us a spread of ages ranging from 12 to just 15 months (Kara). All six spent the entire week looking out for each other, with the youngest five (pictured) in particular spending hours upon end doing stuff together. Not only did this help lighten the parenting burden, but I think they had a lot more fun as one big gang than they would have done with just their respective siblings to play with.

3. An adventure around every corner

At the ripe old age of 15 months Kara is now a high-speed toddler who isn’t afraid to run and climb everywhere. This shot was taken in a narrow street just off the cathedral square in Lucca. As is now typical of her, she wasted no time in charging off to explore for herself, not even bothering to check if I was following her.

4. Food, glorious food

For foodies, Italy is nirvana. Natural, unprocessed, simple ingredients combine to form mouth-watering flavours. This antipasti dish, served at Bistrot Paris Bohème in Lucca, was our favourite: the standard cold meats (salami, bresaola and prosciutto) served with a variety of bruschetta, cheese, fruit and fig jam. Delicious.

5. Antiquity

While many of Italy’s cities are drab, characterless concrete jungles, large swathes of the country wear their age like a badge of honour. There’s nothing artificial about the state of distress common to any centro storico (old town). This window was one that caught my eye while wandering around the 14th century hilltop town of Certaldo. The more modern and dominant part of Certaldo which sits at the base of the hill has all the conveniences of modern life but not one iota of its predecessor’s history or charm.

6. Earning water wings

The pool soon became the hub of our entire week as we settled into a routine of post-breakfast and pre-dinner swims. Kidney-shaped and comprising three levels, it was ideal for older swimmers, learners (Isaac) and waders (Kara) alike. When I asked Isaac yesterday afternoon what his favourite thing about the holiday was, he immediately said the pool. (Which is quite something, given his deep-rooted love of pizza.) Having not yet mastered swimming pre-holiday, by the end of the week he was doggy-paddling seven metres on his own. Water wings well and truly earned!

7. Coming of age

For me, Toby really started to come of age on this trip. Some of it was little stuff such as the confidence to drink out of proper glasses. A lot of it was being surrounded by much older kids. He has always tried to emulate his elder brother, but here he latched on to our friends’ middle child – also a boy – who, at nine, is more than five years older than him. He has watched the older kids like a hawk, he has shown more curiosity in his surroundings than ever before and he’s done it all (well, mostly) with a big smile on his face. (Frequently one augmented with an ice cream or chocolate moustache.)

8. Water baby

The shallowest level of our pool was a gently sloping beach-like paddling section, which was ideal for Kara. From there she could watch on as the other kids swam and splashed about, while pottering around doing her own thing, which mostly seemed to involve trying to drink every last drop of salt water from the pool. Nonetheless she wore a smile like this the whole week.

And that’s it. Eight images for eight days of holiday, all captured with a simple smartphone. We fly home later today. More detailed thoughts to follow.