Friday, November 5, 2010

Napoli, Ercolano, Vesuvius, Pompeii

My second day in Italy was Connie’s first, so I had to wake up and find my way back to the airport from Ostia Antica.  I had a cab called for me, and made it to the airport with enough time to grab a cappuccino and croissant before Connie made it through passport control and got her bags.  The Rome airport is not actually in Rome, but about 30 minutes outside of the city, so we had to take a train to the main Rome train station, and then take another train down to Naples for the beginning of our journey.  Once in Naples, we had to take the Metro another stop to get to Giovanni’s Home, the first hostel we were staying in.  This is the part of the journey where we met the other American girls.  Once we made it to Giovanni’s, he had us all sit down and gave us a run-through of the city and the things we should see and do while in Naples.  The hostel was really just your typical European hostel, but Giovanni really made it something special.  He was such a character, and he had such passion for his hometown.  His information session and map drawing really helped us a lot during our stay too, because we had so much we wanted to do and not very much time to do it in.
After talking with Giovanni and putting our bags down, we headed straight back out for the Napoli Sotterranea, a tour of the Naples “underworld.”  Giovanni recommended it, so all 7 of us took his recommendation and went on the tour.  The tour is literally, underground, and takes you through underground quarries from the Roman period, a Greco-Roman theater, cisterns, aqueducts, and caves that were used as bomb shelters during World War II.  The underground theater was actually built inside of and on top of when the Naples population was booming and there was a law that prohibited building outside the city walls.  Part of the theater was later discovered as someone’s apartment storage, so the tour takes you through the old apartment and down the cellar where it was first discovered.  The cisterns were massive, and we were able to see the cuts in the rock where the “little monk” would put his feet to clean debris out of the water with his nets.  Once the cisterns were abandoned, Naples started depositing garbage in the underground caves, and then at the start of World War II, they covered the garbage with rock, and used the area as bomb shelters.  There was one well that didn’t get covered when turning the cisterns into shelters, and that was because the well was located inside a church.  The Italians didn’t think that churches would get bombed, so they didn’t cover the well.  One day the church got bombed, and everyone inside the shelters died.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Sorry folks.  Lack of internet coupled with computer issues had led to a severe lack of communication and blogging.  I sincerely apologize.  We had internet at our hostel in Naples, but my computer wouldn't connect, and I wasn't able to figure out the problem and didn't have time to do some serious problem solving.  THEN, in Rome we were hit with some crazy internet nazis who vastly limited our internet using capabilities.  We were told it was "illegal" to provide free internet to tourists because the government needs to have a way of monitoring who goes what and does what on the internet.  Apparently the only way to get internet in Rome is to either hand over your passport and complete all the paperwork for a sim card, which costs lots of money and takes lots of time, OR sign your life over and pay an arm and a leg for 15 minutes worth of internet at a grungy internet cafe.  These people are no joke.  They looked at my passport, copied down all the info off my I.D. into a computer, and then had an entire screen of my information, computer usage, time, websites visited, etc.  It's borderline communist crazyism.  These internet laws are supposed to be in effect all throughout Italy, but the convent turned hostel we're staying in now in Naples has free wi-fi and no scruples.  Haaaa-lle-lu-jah!!

We have been going non-stop since we landed in Rome, and there's no sign of stopping anytime soon.  We pretty much leave the hostel every morning by about 7-8, and don't return until anywhere between 8-10 pm.  Needless to say, sleep is precious.  We have seen and done so much since the last blog post that I don't even know where to start.  Naples was an amazing city with so much to offer.  I feel like we didn't even get to scratch the surface of exploring Naples with the short time we were there.  We definitely took advantage of the pizza capital of Italy, and ate at the "best pizza place in the world" for both dinners we were there, and we've been craving it ever since.  Gino Sorbillo's really is the best pizza in the world, and there is no way on earth I could come up with a just comparison to anything served in America.  The pizza is so thin and is topped with just the right amount of ingredients that it's impossible to pick it up and eat it with your hands.  We kept wanting to return to our natural instincts and pick it up, but it's just not possible.  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rome Again Rome Again

After 2 1/2 months in Italy and lots of life-changing and cultural experiences, I’m back again.  This time is going to be a completely different experience because A: I have much more freedom and a limited amount of time to see everything, and B: The greatest world traveler and best friend around (Connie Hoover) is joining me in this adventure.  The plan is to meet up in Rome and take the train straight down to Naples and Pompeii for the start of our trip, and then work our way back up the country and over into France.
For those of you that know me, I like to wait for the last minute for everything, and I rarely plan out details in advance.  I know it drives some people crazy, but it’s just the way I am.  Everything generally works itself out anyways, so why waste time planning the nitty gritty details??  Welllll...sometimes this habit of mine comes back to bite me in the butt.  Connie practically had to force me to sit on the computer a month before this trip and purchase our plane tickets home together.  No easy feat, seeing as how she was halfway around the world and a full 12 hour time difference away.  But, alas, it all worked out.  Finally, few weeks ago I decided to start looking for a plane ticket TO Italy.  A flight home from Paris was great, but I needed to get there somehow.  Being the obsessive internet ticket searcher that I am, purchasing a plane ticket generally takes anywhere from 4-24 hours.  No joke.  Maybe that’s why I put everything off for the last minute...because I know its going to consume me for the greater part of the day.  So I work my magic and find a single plane ticket to Newark, and then another ticket to London Heathrow, and then on to Rome.  Seriously, I don’t know how British Airways didn’t lose money on me.  I sent Connie my itinerary, and she wrote back a day later something along the lines of ‘Don’t freak out, but I don’t fly in until the next day.’  Umm....Oopsies!! 
After a little panic attack from mom, and reviewing all my options, I decided (as we all should about everything in life) to make the most of it and find something super cool to do on Tuesday when I arrive.  Before we get to that, though, lets recap the trip over here.
I flew from Orlando to Newark, which I thought was in New Jersey, but everything on the plane tickets said New York, so now I’m not really sure.  Since this was a single ticket not attached to my British Airways flight, I had to check my bag, claim it at the Newark airport, and then re-check it with British Airways.  With that being said, I have now officially become a master plane traveler.  By the time we got to the airport in Orlando I had less than 30 minutes to check my bag, go through security, and make it to the gate before they started boarding, and I’m proud to say I made it there with 15 minutes to spare.  I lugged my 11kg backpack around the Newark airport until I found British Airways (they’re doing construction so it was a little hard to find) and then went off in search of some lunch.  When I was riding the train between terminals, I caught a glimpse of the New York City skyline, complete with the Statue of Liberty.  A little bittersweet for me, because on November 1st of last year I ran my very first marathon through the streets of New York, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  I didn’t get in on lottery this year, but on the bright side, that meant I was able to go on this trip!  I made it to the Newark gate with about 15 minutes to spare...just enough time to load a new book on my Kindle and call home.  The flight from Newark to London was from 6pm to 1am according to our time in Florida, but by the time we landed in London it was 7am...just in time to see the sun rise.  The flight really felt like it was 2 hours long because I slept practically the entire much so that the lady I sat next to complemented me on my sleeping abilities.  I started watching Sex and the City 2 (I know, terrible choice), but apparently one of the in-flight entertainment systems had some electrical issues and started smoking while we were flying, so they had to shut down the entire thing.  But, because of this, everyone received $25 British Airways vouchers for our next flight.  Again, I don’t know how they made money off of me.  And, anyone looking to travel to Europe, I am completely a fan of British Airways.  Much more so than Lufthansa.  The seats are bigger and more comfortable, you have more foot room, nicer blankets, pillows, eye masks, socks, nicer flight attendants, and an overall more relaxed experience.  The Lufthansa planes seem nicer/newer, but the overall flying experience is uptight and a bit stressful.  So we land in London and I head out in search of breakfast, since I slept through it on the plane.  The London airport is by far the nicest airport I’ve ever been in.  You can tell it is brand new or newly remodeled, but there are also other little things that make it a pleasant airport.  For instance, in order to keep the noise down and the terminals more quiet, they only announce final calls for flights over the speaker.  No gate numbers, changes, or other useless information that nobody listens to anyways.  To make up for this, they have strategically placed computer stations where you can check your flight status, gate, time, etc.  The airport also had a wide range of healthy food choices, which I greatly appreciated.  Organic soy latte and all natural fruit salad for breakfast is a major win in my books.  Oh yeah, and I watched the sunrise while eating.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


One of the most awesome people in the world just went on a family vacation to Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, and until I saw his pictures, I had absolutely no idea how beautiful Nevada was.  I went to Colorado 2 summers ago, and it was probably the most beautiful state I'd ever visited, but I've got to believe that Nevada is in a close competition with the Rocky Mountain state.  Every single picture was just breathtaking, and the state itself has a lot to offer in the way of adventure and outdoor activities.  
He brought me back one of the coolest souvenirs I may have ever received, not because it has anything to do with Nevada, but because it's just flippin' amazing.  I present to you, 1% for the Planet The Music, Vol. 1.
I have a huge appetite for music, and this is like 41 sweet surprises all wrapped up in one cardboard cd cut out.  From my personal favorites, The Submarines, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, and Jack Johnson, to some of the most well known names out there, like Brandi Carlisle and Jackson Browne. There are 41, YES, 41! different artists on this album.  All 41 artists have donated their music to 1% FTP to be used in this breakthrough album, most of which are rare and exclusive songs.  All the proceeds from the sale of the $9.99 album go directly to 1% FTP, and I assure you, it will be the best $9.99 you've ever spent on music.

So what is 1% for the Planet?  Only one of the coolest organizations I've ever heard of, and one that more people need to know about.  In 2001 the founder of the outdoor apparel company Patagonia, and the owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, good friends, avid environmentalists, and successful businessmen, joined their heads together to create a sustainable company that would be solely devoted to sustaining the environment.  They came up with 1% for the Planet, a business that encourages other businesses to practice responsible environmentalism by donating 1% of their profits to 1%, which, in turn, donates the money to environmental groups aimed towards sustaining the environment.  Sounds like a pretty awesome idea, right?  But what company, in their right mind, would sign up to DONATE 1% of all their profits to the environment.  Well...their first launch, at a Patagonia store in California, welcomed the first 21 businesses, and today 1% FTP has over 1,000 members worldwide, and has donated over $50 million to sustainability causes since the launch.  Famous companies who proudly tout the 1% membership logo include:

Barney's New York
Clif Company
Dandelion Communitea Cafe (in Central Florida)
Jack Johnson
Jackson Browne

Click on the links above for more information, awesome pictures, and some other 1% stuff.  You can also purchase the cd online if you're interested.

My favorite thing about today was getting a super sweet and genuine compliment about my blog from the lovely Mrs. Shepherd.

"In most cases, our so-called limitations are nothing more than our own decision to limit ourselves." ~Daisaku Ike

Friday, August 13, 2010


Last night I met up with Kim and Susan at a store called WineStyles in the Winter Springs Towne Center for a wine tasting.  Every Thursday night they have a FREE wine tasting/social hour from 7-8:30pm, and it was a seriously good time.  The store is set up kind of like a restaurant/bar, and they have a pianist (keyboard player) playing music during the wine tasting.  The waiters from the restaurant across the street come over and will take orders and bring you sushi or appetizers or whatever else you want to eat.  The combination of wine, music, friends, and food is perfect, and it's a laid back atmosphere that allows you to talk and just enjoy.  If you live in the area, you're welcome to join us next Thursday!

I have a million ideas for posts tonight, but it's late and I'm exhausted, so they're going to have to wait for tomorrow.  Instead, here's a picture of happiness that I took with my found camera at the Winter Springs dog park today.

100%, pure, uninhibited, free, happiness right there.  And loving every minute of it.

My favorite thing about today was experiencing the above photo.

In most cases, our so-called limitations are nothing more than our own decision to limit ourselves." ~Daisaku Ikeda

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bigs and Littles

A few years ago I read an article about someone's involvement with the Big Brother Big Sister organization, and it occurred to me that being a role model to a child in my community was something that was very doable at my stage in life.  I'd like to say the article was about Andy Baldwin, aka the Best Bachelor Ever, and his involvement with the organization, but research has turned up no such connections, so the person in the article will have to remain unknown.  Either way, I decided then that I wanted to be a Big Sister to someone in my community.  It seems like we all so often want to help others, and the easiest/fastest/most mass-friendly way is through the giving of tangibles, whether it be money or food or clothing donations.  We never really seem to devote the time or have the opportunity to develop true, genuine relationships with the ones we want to help, when so often that's exactly what they need most.  Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Florida seemed like the perfect opportunity to not only help someone else, but to develop a personal relationship, and to be challenged as well.

I filled out my application to be a "Big Sister" over 2 years ago, and was full of enthusiasm and excitement for the following weeks until an e-mail came explaining that there was really no need in my area, but that I would be contacted if anything became available.  Bummer.  My Big Sister high balloon had been deflated.  I still received e-mails about updates and events in the area, but they were all the general, non-profit organization, keep-you-up-to-date type mass e-mails, and nothing was written specifically to me.  Until today.  I had long given up hope, when lo and behold, in my inbox this morning was an e-mail from the BBBSCF saying they had a need for me!  I was so excited you would have thought this was the career of a lifetime just begging me to accept.  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This I Learned in Italy...

Traveling is 25% sightseeing, 25% exploring/getting lost, 25% experiencing and learning the culture of the area, and 25% building personal relationships with the people you meet.  And, as always, 100% living in the moment.
Family is the most important thing in the world, and should be the foundation of YOUR world.  Everything in Italy revolves around the family unit, and the relationships are of the utmost importance, as they should be.
Even if you’re traveling on a budget, take just one day to have a nice, sit-down, relaxing meal.  So much of culture is in the food, and so much relationship building and bonding is done over meals.
Fresh is best.  Since returning to the states, I can honestly and truly appreciate fresh, unprocessed foods.  My body went into a state of shock after the horrible things I fed it for the first few days of being home.  Now, it’s fresh/organic as much as possible, and I carry a lunch box with me everyday so I have healthy foods available.
Don’t hold yourself as high as you think others see you.  Nobody really cares how you’re dressed or what you look like.  Italians are not as self-conscious as us prudish Americans, and they’d rather wear what they like than worry about what others are thinking.  The important thing is to be yourself, and comfortable with who you are.  “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself." Thich Nhat Hanh
Live simply.  Forget about all the things that you “need.”  It’s just stuff and you don’t need it.  Life is so much more pleasurable with the simplicities; Chatting outside with the neighbors, riding your bike to the store, cooking a home cooked meal, etc.  The pleasure from experiences and relationships exponentially outweighs the pleasure from acquiring new “things.”
Travel is all about discovering yourself and who you are.  Even if you think you’ve got yourself defined, discovering new people and places has a strange way of showing you just exactly who you are in this world, and where you stand.
Without being open to the above mentioned form of discovery, travel is nothing more than a picture taking excursion unless you have someone you love to share it with.
With THAT being said, Italy is not a good place to visit without the one you love.

Every day is an adventure.  What you make of it is up to you, but the adventure is always there.

I learned much MUCH more about myself and the beautiful country I was sharing with you every day.  There is too much to put in writing, but in sharing my stories each night, I discovered that I really truly enjoy writing and blogging.  I love being able to share what I've learned and experienced, and I didn't want to stop just because I've returned to the states.  So how do I keep a "Life in Italy" blog alive when I live in the United States?  I've decided to take what I've learned in Italy and apply it to the new format of "Every Day is an Adventure."  I will post about my Central Florida adventures, including info on things that really interest me, like health and nutrition, and I'll do my best to make it as interesting and enjoyable as reading about beautiful Italy.  Every day really is an adventure, whether you're in Italy, Timbuktu, or Florida, and I want to continue to share that passion and zest for life that I've acquired in Italy.  I understand that some of the things I write about may not be the most interesting things ever (I mean, seriously? Can you really top Venice?), but I hope that you'll continue to read and learn along with me.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm Not Normal

Sorry it's taken me so long to get this blog up.  I wrote it on the plane on the way home, but haven't been able to actually post it to the internet until now.  This is not my final post about Italy...I have one more reflective post that I will get to before the weekend, so please check back for that one.  Until then, here's our last weekend in Venice.

Christine and I read in a blog about Venice of a new “People Mover” to transport people from the parking garage and the cruise ships to the island.  Since it was just the 2 of us this weekend, we decided to give it a shot and see what it was all about.  When I think “people mover,” I think of one of those moving conveyor belts at the airport where you just stand and it moves you along.  This Venetian “People Mover” was essentially a monorail over the water, connecting the mainland to the island, and is supposed to be much more efficient than the vaporettos.  It costs €1 for a one way ride, and there are 3 stops; The beginning, at the parking garage, one stop in the middle for the cruise ship passengers, and then the end at Piazza le Roma, where all the train traffic arrives.  Considering the price, ease, and speed of getting from one side to the other, the people mover turned out to be highly convenient.  A one way ride on the vaporetto (water bus) costs €6,50 and it generally takes at least 30 minutes to get from tronchetto (the parking garage area) to your destination.  The only drawback to the people mover was the location of drop-off.  The vaporettos obviously have more access to the areas in Venice, and you can generally find a bus stop somewhere within 3-5 blocks from your destination.  Piazza le Roma was easy for the location of our hotel, but if we had been staying on the other side of the island, we would have had a hike to get to our hotel.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

It is officially my last night in Italy.  My plane leaves tomorrow morning, and by 6 p.m. I'll be in the beautiful sunshine state.  For my last weekend here, Christine and I decided to go to Venice so I could say bye to Sergio and see any last minute sights I'd been wanting to see.

Believe it or not, of all the times I've been to Venice now, I hadn't yet actually gone in to Saint Mark's Basilica.  It's amazingly impressive on the outside, so I couldn't even imagine what it was like on the inside.  Rick Steve's said the inside of Saint Mark's is like covering (some crazy odd number that I don't have access to because I don't have the book) football fields with contact lenses.  26,240 square feet to be exact.  The ENTIRE inside of the massive church is mosaic, from wall to ceiling.  There is so much mosaic work that it is unfathomable to think of how much work went into the completion of the building.  Just to give you an idea, which I know won't really do any justice to the immensity of the church, but here's a far away and a close up of one small minor part of the mosaic work.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Life Lessons

The last few days have been pretty uneventful but productive nonetheless.  I mentioned this a couple of posts ago, but my time in Italy, and this experience in general, has been one giant, invaluable life lesson that I couldn't have gained any other way.  I honestly am coming out of this a completely different person than I was on May 24th when I boarded the plane to come over here, and it's all for the better.  

For the past 3 years (at least) I had been hell-bent on coming to Italy.  It was like some unexplainable power had taken over my brain and was telling me "You need to go to Italy."  I was doing anything and everything I could to get over here, and I didn't have the slightest idea what I was going to do once I landed.  I had purchased travel books and novels set in Italy, done countless hours of research online, and watched the Travel Channel anytime the show was set in Italy.  Needless to say, I was obsessed, and I didn't have anything else to go off of other than that I just knew I needed to come to Italy.

When the opportunity of a lifetime came through my e-mail one day, it's safe to say I was just the slightest bit ecstatic.  I was finally going to achieve one of my lifelong dreams (if you can call it that at 23 years old), and, as an added bonus, I wasn't going to be a sole, lonely American in a sea of Italians.  It really was the perfect opportunity and something I had been dreaming about for years.  Another check off the bucket list!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It Tastes Like Chicken

Today was a pretty uneventful day, so I'm going to post more "You know you're in Italy when..." pictures and comments.  Christine cooked up one of the rabbits that have been hanging out in the freezer for dinner tonight.  Elia and Ida do a really good job at cleaning the meat before they give us their headless pets, and the meat is very lean to begin with, so aside from cutting the meat off the bone, there's very little preparation involved.  Christine found a recipe online that involved slightly browning the rabbit meat in olive oil, adding crushed garlic, some rosemary (from the garden), and a bottle of white wine.  She let it simmer for a few minutes, and then baked it in the oven for about 3 hours.  And guess what?  Rabbit tastes a lot like pork, with pretty much the same consistencies as well...maybe a little less tough.  Living in Florida, everybody always says gator tastes like chicken, and now I can say that rabbit tastes like pork.  It was pretty good though, I've got to say.

Today Jameson was running around the kitchen rummaging through our makeshift pantry, and he pulled out a bag with yesterdays leftover baguette from dinner.  You know you're in Italy when your kid starts gnawing on a rock hard day old baguette.  And so it begins.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bread Crumbs, Mi Amigo

Alright, I've got a shiny €2 coin for the first person who can tell me what late 90's teen chick flick the title quote is from.  And NO GOOGLING!  (I'll give you a hint...they're glow in the dark.)  The movie rates right up there with She's All That for all time best teen chick flicks.

Enough with that, on to the blogging!  I went out for a bike ride today, and got so lost I needed bread crumbs to find my way back (hence, the title).  I like to mix it up on my runs/rides, because, well, let's face it, it's a heck of a lot more fun to have a change in scenery, and you never know what you're going to find around the next corner.  I started out on the road right across from our house, which is the same road that took me to the grocery store last ride, so I had get a bit crazy with my turns.  I ended up on a dead end at one point, and then on the autostrada for a period as well.  I can officially check that off my list of things I've done in my life that not many other people have.  The autostrada is like the Italian version of the autobahn, but it has speed limits, so it's really just like a highway or toll road.  Here, though, instead of just ending or merging into another highway, the road is still under construction, and it just tapers down into several roundabouts leading to different cities in the area.  Because of all the turns and winding roads, I'm not exactly sure how far I went, but I tried to map it out as best I could and it came out to about 8 miles.  I just kept using the big mining spot on the side of the mountain behind our house as my landmark, and I eventually ended up in Sacile and was able to find my way home from there.  I had planned on taking more pictures during my ride, but ended up only taking 2.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Arnold and Danny DeVito Were Onto Something

There's nothing like a good Italian beach to make you suddenly and acutely aware of A: How incredibly pale you are, and B: How incredibly modest you are.  Seriously.  I've lived in Florida for nearly 24 years now, never more than an hour away from the beach, and with a pool in my front yard.  My first beach trip of the year is generally in January, and my last lay out/swim at the pool is normally somewhere in November.  That means the most I ever go without wearing a bathing suit is about 2 months.  It was my daily habit to lay out by the pool and read everyday before work, so I was rockin' a pretty decent tan when I arrived in Italy.  Now, I've gone almost 2 months here without wearing a bathing suit, so obviously I've lost some of my tan, but you'd think that the 24 years of Florida sun would have somehow found a way to permanently tan my skin just a bit.  Maybe it has, but I've got NOTHING on these Italians.  I wanted to ask for a picture just to show the difference in skin's sickening.  It would be like putting Kate Bosworth next to Denzel Washington.  Absolutely no comparison.  There were 5 year olds with tans that were easily 10 shades darker than me.  And they've got virtually no tan lines, which brings me to my next beach observation.  Men wear speedos.  All of them.  Bright pink drawstring, plain white with a palm tree picture over one butt cheek, and little mini shorts.  I saw them all.  From 2 years old to 80, they were all showing some serious leg.  After some observation, here's how they do it.  The guys wear their speedos, and then wear regular board shorts over top.  When they're not swimming or tanning or strutting their stuff, they put their shorts on, you know, just to cover up a bit.  I saw the same super tan 5 year old wear 3 different bathing suits today, not a single one less than 2 inches above the knee.  So we've got all ages of tan Italians running around in Speedos, and then we've got the women.  I didn't see a single one piece bathing suit on the entire beach today.  I think I would have noticed too...she would have stuck out like a sore thumb.  I'm talking, everyone, from 80 years old to 8 months pregnant, wearing teeny weenie bikinis.  And yes, there were a few who were tanning topless.  And it wasn't attractive.  I seriously felt like Jackie O sitting there on the beach in my black two piece bikini.  And it's completely normal here to not just not dress your daughter on the top if she's under the age of 7.  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You Know You're Italian If...

There are some things in Italy that just make me laugh.  For instance, the same old man driving his tractor down the road in front of our house every morning.  The mobs of 30+ bikers flying down the road, and bikes trailing mopeds/vans as pacers are also pretty funny.  The mail lady driving her moped with her little white helmet on always gets me, as well as watching mopeds drive right past you and all the other cars in front of you at a red light just to weasel themselves in front.  These things aren't necessarily comical, they just elicit a chuckle because they're so ordinary but yet so unique to Italy.  Never in America would you see  warning signs on the side of the highway about an upcoming speed trap, and then see a giant sign next to a box with a police officer painted on the side signaling the radar zone.  You also wouldn't ever see a CAN of Coca-Cola for €3,49 unless you were at a theme park, and hanging the laundry out to dry is (sadly enough) pretty much a poor man's game.  Here are some pictures I've collected of things you'd only see in Italy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Am Lion, Hear Me Roar

The other day when I rode the bike into Sacile, I noticed that the best shoe store in town had practically everything on sale.  In Europe they don't do the whole clearance rack/sale rack thing.  They generally have sales twice a year, and EVERYTHING goes on sale.  Kind of like Victora's Secret's semi-annual sale.  As a seasoned rider/runner, I know never to leave the house without some money, so I was prepared to buy myself some shoes right then and there.  My Italian isn't good enough to decipher the hour signs, which usually have multiple sets of hours on them because of the odd hours stores are open here.  I hung around until 4, and then decided the store probably was just closed because it was Sunday, so I headed home.  I asked Christine if we could go back in town so I could get some shoes (there were several pairs in the window I had my eye on), so Christer got a ride to work today so we could have the car.  It turned out that they didn't have any of the shoes I wanted in my size anymore, so I left empty handed.  I STILL don't have a single pair of Italian shoes!  I'm striking out everywhere we go.  Christine and Jameson got gelato, and a bunch of kayakers were practicing on the course on the river that runs right through the middle of the town.  It was super cool to watch.  I would compare it to the precision of downhill skiing, and maneuvering through the poles, but you're in a kayak and have the flow of the water to mess you up.  It takes some serious upper body/core strength to turn these boats on a dime, like they were doing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Whoopsie Daisies!

In the haze/fog/heat of last night, both literally and mentally, I failed to include a few important pieces of our trip to Parma.

First off, Parma is the home of the extremely popular parma or proscuitto ham, and the origination of Parmigiano-Reggiano (which is also produced in the Reggio Emilia), the "true" parmesean cheese.  It is also home to 2 global brands, Parmalat, and Barilla pasta.  Yes, the Barilla you find in your nearby grocery store really is produced in Italy.

After we left the city of Parma and headed back to the hotel, we all decided it was time for a nap.  Jameson was falling in and out of consciousness the whole ride back, so we thought a solid nap for him was a done deal.  We put him back in the crib in the bathroom, and all was well, until about 10 minutes later when I heard the exact same noises as the night before.  Sleeping just wasn't happening.  Christine and Christer tried for a bit in their room, but they soon came to the realization that he just wasn't going to sleep, so they headed down to the pool while I napped.  At about 6 we moved his crib and all his stuff up to their room so they could put him down for the night.  At about 7 I got a knock on my door.  Christer: "We're just going to go home.  Jameson won't sleep for anything, and this just isn't worth it."  Hallelujah!  Let the angels rejoice!  As I said yesterday, I didn't really have any idea of what to expect out of Parma, so leaving early was no big loss for me.

So here we are, it's 7pm and we're loading up the car for the drive home.  Jameson still didn't sleep a wink during the entire drive, but he was 'lights out meatball' as soon as he hit his crib at home.  On a side note:  We stopped at McDonald's on the way home because we were all starving and it was the easiest and quickest thing around.  The McDonald's didn't have an intercom to give your order.  You just drive up to the window and give your order, pay, and then get your food at the same place.  I got my usual, hamburger and a small fries, and some things just never change.  McDonald's in Italy is exactly the same as McDonald's in Oviedo, and let me tell you something.  After 2+ months of zero fast food and reasonably healthy/fresh meals, that McDonald's meal was terrible.  I literally felt like I was clogging all of my insides with grease and fat, and I felt what I can only assume is a percentage of what the guy in 'SuperSize Me' felt a portion of the way through his experiment.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Some People Call Me the Space Cowboy

Err...I used my good Parma title for yesterday's post, and I'm fresh out of ideas.

So let's pick up where we left off, shall we?  Jameson had been awake since 3 am, and some combination of the 3 of us had been awake with him since then, so, needless to say, we were all exhausted.  Our first full day in Parma wasn't going to go to waste though, so we all piled into the car and drove about 45 minutes to the city of Parma.  Of course, as fate would have it, Jameson fell asleep about 10 minutes outside the city, and promptly woke up as soon as we parked.  First stop?  COFFEE.

I don't think any of us really knew what to expect from the city of Parma except good food, so it was a completely new and foreign place as far as the city goes.  The city itself kind of reminded me of downtown Knoxville or Macon.  The way the streets were set up and the shopping and restaurants just really made me feel like I was walking through downtown Macon in the middle of the summer.  

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Parma Parma Parma Parma, Parma-Chameleon

It's a terrible title, I know.  I should be shunned from the blogging universe for that, but I just can't help it.  I love myself some George Michael, and that song always pops into my head when I hear Parma.  

Christer was able to take Friday and Monday off, so we headed about 3 hours southwest for a long weekend in the Parma region of Italy.  Famous for the popular Parma ham, and known for having the best food in all of Italy.  Despite the scorching heat (compares with Florida weather in both heat and humidity) and general lack of air conditioning in most public places, it is high tourist season in much of Europe, so we were somewhat limited on what was available.  Christine managed to find us an old castle converted into a hotel a little bit outside of Parma, but there was no apartment available so we just had to book 2 separate rooms.  The castle and the views of the rolling hills and farmland were quite impressive.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hard Ridge

We've had a bit of a hairy day with the internet and downloading videos, but everything seems to be running smoothly now.  We leave for Parma tomorrow morning so I figured I'd better attempt to finish up with the pictures from Venice last weekend.

We switched hotels for our second night to a hotel in the Dorsoduro region as opposed to the San Marco region.  We hadn't yet stayed in the Dorsoduro area, and we wanted to be able to explore around  Accademia and see a side of Venice that was still fairly new to us.  The hotel we stayed at was previously a house (as opposed to the common apartments, like our palace apartment), and it was located right on a canal, about half a block from the campo where we saw the bird eat the other bird.  Sergio actually knew the people who owned the house, and he said they had originally tried to sell it but couldn't get anything near their asking price, so they just decided to turn it into a hotel.  Because of this, the hotel was set up more like a bed and breakfast, and it even had a garden and a yard out back.  This was super cool because A. It's very uncommon to have a yard or garden in a hotel in Venice. And B. It was really lovely to sit outside and eat our breakfast and talk with the other people staying in the hotel (of whom we met a family from Canada who had 2 girls who sang in the Calgary Girls Choir, and were touring all of Italy singing in the big basilicas.  They had sung during mass in Saint Mark's Cathedral the previous night, and they sang for the Dalai Lama before they embarked on this adventure.)

Tickle Monster

Sorry folks. I've been trying to upload a video for HOURS now, and it seems that with all this crazy technology, some things still move as slow as molasses. Jameson, on the other hand, is faster than a speeding bullet at times, and you can't turn your back on him for more than a second. We were playing upstairs while Christine was doing research for our weekend trip to Parma, and every time I turned my back he would run into the guest bedroom and start climbing on the bed. I'd say about 50% of our playtime was spent on the bed, rolling around on the pillows and freeing his inner bruiser without any of the bruises. His favorite game was to try to get "away" from me before I could push him over and make him fall into the pillows. "No more monkeys jumping on the bed!" didn't really leave any sort of imprint on my logical thinking skills. Grade A care-taker right here! As you can see from the video, jealous Levi HAD to join in the fun, and Jameson is not at all ticklish. Not one single bit.

Tickle Monster, originally uploaded by Kindra T.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

(Bridge of) SIGHS

If you didn't get the terrible play on words from the title, just imagine me letting out a big, long sigh right now.  Christine and I have been overwhelmed all day with this fantastic idea we have, and I've been doing research for the larger part of the day (when I wasn't chasing Jameson around).  Because of all this reading and computer work, I realllllly don't feel like blogging tonight.  Since I have this personal commitment to blog every day (obviously when I have a working internet), I'm just going to share with you some of my favorite quotes about Venice and Italy.  Enjoy!

“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” -Truman Capote

“If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you've imagined. Venice is -- Venice is better.” -Fran Lebowitz

“A realist, in Venice, would become a romantic by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him.” -Arthur Symons

"It is the city of mirrors, the city of mirages, at once solid and liquid, at once air and stone." --Erica Jong

"What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago." --Erica Jong

"You may have the universe if I may have Italy." --Giuseppe Verdi

"For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery. back, back down the old ways of time. Strange and wonderful chords awake in us, and vibrate again after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness." --D.H. Lawrence

"Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life." --Anna Akhmatova

"In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." --Orson Welles

"Open my heart and you will see 'Graved inside of it, Italy.'" --Robert Browning

Today my favorite thing about Italy is:  Other peoples' equally shared passion for Venice.

Monday, July 5, 2010

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...

Christer was able to get home early enough to give us a decent amount of time in Venice on Friday afternoon.  We arrived and were checked into our hotel by about 3, and we had the rest of the afternoon/evening to ourselves.  This trip was especially nice because Christine and I were free to do what we really wanted to do and see what we wanted to see.  We didn't have to worry about Jameson or showing other people around, and since we'd both been to the city before, we each had places and things we wanted to see but hadn't yet had the chance to (I don't know if it's possible to see and do everything in Venice in an entire lifetime).  Friday afternoon we took it easy, and relaxed in true Venetian style.  We chatted with Sergio for a bit, shared a prosecco (or two or three), visited a museum in Saint Mark's Square, enjoyed a nice meal in a quiet campo, and just wandered around the city taking pictures.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Venice at night is not something you want to miss out on; It is a completely different and amazing experience.  You haven't lived until you've seen the lights and felt the energy that abounds on the streets.  

The museum we visited is located in the Napoleonic wing of the piazza walls, so we had a straight view of the entire piazza from the second story windows that you see in the pictures.  The view was pretty cool, but I left my camera in the hotel, so I, was unable to take any pictures.  Sergio had recommended the museum as a good overall museum for the history of Venice, and boy was he right.  The building itself was simply amazing.  It was completely unreal to be walking around in the former residence of the king of Italy when he visited Venice, and it was just mind boggling to think of who had been there and what had taken place before us.  The museum houses artwork, sculptures, documents, and anything else deemed important to Venice's history, including coins, original street lamps (which look very much like the pink ones they have now), and clothing from the time.  

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Quattro Luglio!

Christine and I normally sit out front with Levi and drink our coffee and chat/try to wake up in the mornings.  Friday I walk outside and Christine is already out with her coffee, watching the cars go by.  She says to me "Good morning!  Just as a warning, the rabbits got it this morning so they're hanging on the line to dry."  Umm...what?  You must not have fully woken up yet, or I'm hearing you wrong, because I'm pretty sure you just said the rabbits are hanging on the line to dry.  Why yes, indeed, the rabbits were beheaded (by Elia), and were hanging by their feet on the clothes line to drip dry before being brought inside.  And sure enough, 3 hours later the doorbell rings, and we open to see Elia standing there with a big grin on his face and a serving platter with a raw, headless, skinless rabbit (that was alive just a few hours before).  Christine graciously accepted the gift, saying "bello! bello!" (beautiful), and brought ole' thumper inside.  We were leaving for Venice in a few hours, so there was no time to cook or eat (Christer's a vegetarian), so we wrapped him up in aluminum foil and he's still hanging out in the freezer, waiting to become dinner.

That was a lovely start to the day, but I don't think anything could prepare us for what we saw later that night in Venice.  We were able to get to Venice early enough to do some exploring before it was time for dinner.  Sergio closed his shop and met us on his way home for a prosecco.  It would have been my third prosecco of the day, so I decided, with a little of Sergio's persuasion, to try a spritz instead.  It is the popular drink in Venice, and really anywhere in Italy, and I hadn't tried it yet, so Sergio ordered me an 'aperol spritz.'  The drink is made with aperol (fruit/herb mixture that the Italians consider "sweet"),  a dry, white wine, and soda water.  I've got to say, it wasn't the best tasting thing in the world, and I had the "sweet" version, as opposed to the "bitter" spritz.  It was almost like drinking a watery juice of sorts, but the aftertaste was really horrible and bitter.  Sergio said even most Italians don't like them at first..."you have to drink many before you acquire the taste."  Nevertheless, I can say I've tried it, and I have a picture to prove it.