First Dinner out in Vomero

Yummy!  The food here is simply amazing!!!

Bath Time in the City Apartment!

Moving Bathtime

This is how you do it, if you don’t have a bathtub…

Grocery Shopping: The American vs European Way…

So I fully admit, I look hysterical when I’m trekking 2.5 blocks from my parking garage up hill carrying all my groceries…. It’s no wonder Italians only by what they are going to use that day… While it makes for daily trips to the bread, pasta, meat, fish, vegetable markets, it works out way better than the way I’ve always done it.  The difference now,  I don’t have a driveway to pull up in and walk only a few steps to my front door…  instead I have blocks of cobble stone roads to manuver while strategically avoinding the many pot holes… “buco” and once I get to my building I have a half dozen stairs to climb before I get to my ever so small elevator… my baby stroller doesn’t fit inside the elevator… that’s how small it is!

This second picture was taken after I lost all my bags in the middle of a busy street while crossing…. It was a mess… And you can’t tell from the pic, but the frozen foods bag has a huge American Flag on it…

Downtown Diggs – It’s Moving Day!

It’s official!  We’ve been here almost three months and lived in two other apartments already.  Needless to say, we are excited about moving to our downtown apartment!  It was a bit stressful watching them move our stuff in.  I was wondering how they were planning on getting our stuff up to the 5th floor (American 5th, Italian 4th) in a tiny elevator.

It was really cool seeing them use a lift – we should all move like this in the States! I loved it. We’re starting to settle in… a bit.

Stay tuned for more pics once we’re moved in!

Love our Italian Neighbors!

Vomero Pizzettas

 

This is what’s left of a plate full of homemade hot pizzetta! Heavenly!  What a way to welcome the Americans, let’s do what we do best and deliver pizza!

Piper’s 1st Halloween!

It’s been a busy week for us.  Scott’s Birthday, a base halloween festival, Piper’s Virtual Birthday Party, her other Birthday at School… and now Halloween!  It’s exhausting just thinking about it!  Before Piper’s school birthday party we hit the commissary and she was a hit in her ghost costume!

After, we hit the base for a little trick or treating. Piper was unsure of walking up to strangers, but she liked loved watching everyone.  It was great being in Italy where they don’t celebrate, but still having an American community to be amongst for Piper’s first Halloween.  It was a fun night!

Piper’s 1st Birthday – Virtual Style!

Since we just moved here, we don’t know that many people and the ones we do know we felt odd inviting to our crappy off base apartment.  So we decided to celebrate Piper’s 1st Birthday at the bowling alley – with our families via Skpe!  It was fun having everyone on one line to watch Piper eat cake for the first time and open presents…

Her favorite part was playing with the balloons and roaming the bowling alley.

Piper’s birthday celebration lasted almost a week, with a party at school…

And gifts rolling in through the week.

She loved it!  Thank you sweet family for making it so special for her.  We love you!

 

Halloween Festival

One of the nice things about living so close to base (we moved into a crumby apartment behind base a we weeks ago) is because of the on base activities.  They seem to have several things a month for families.  This month there is both a Festival and Trick or Treating the night of Halloween.  This was a pretty cool festival – lots of families, games, and food!  Piper had fun in her pumpkin costume – compliments of Gigi.  She was so cute!

 

Tuscany

Thank you Columbus Day!  We’ve just had an amazing weekend driving through Italy up to Tuscany. WOW!  What a beautiful part of the country – while I’ve yet to see anything remotely ugly here – this one sure tops the list of stunning.  Rolling hills of vineyards, sunflowers, and small farmhouses as far as the eyes can see.

We loved our little agriturismo ”farm house” that we stayed in outside of San Gimignano in Tuscany.  Talk about romantic – and the food – 5 course meals with all you can drink wine pairings… UMMM this is why we came to Italy!?!

The little towns around the area were so much fun to explore.

But my favorite part was Siena – we’ll be back to spend a long weekend alone in this fabulous city full of so much history.   Love this town.

And then there was the entire reason we visited this region – the wine….  we visited several wineries in the Chianti region and a yummy gelato shop….

After 12 cases of wine, our luggage and car seat barely fit in the car – so we had to cut our winery trips short… till next time… I think we might need a bigger car!

 

 

 

 

Not quite Zoo Safari adventures – Matera and Alberobello

I don’t think I’ve seen Scott so excited about going to the zoo, ever.  There’s a wild animal zoo safari about 3 hours east in Puglia (opposite coast) that we’ve heard great things about.  So we loaded up the family and headed out… We arrived to Alberobello late – but managed to find our romantic trulli in no time.  Even by night, this town was by far the most charming thing we’ve seen in Italy thus far.

The next morning proved to be even better.  The sun shinning down on these little white huts that line the cobble stone streets was like waking in another lifetime.  These 400 huts build in the 1700′s are very similar – all white, all round, and all have a cone roof.  Once inside they are surprisingly spacious.  Ours had 3 beds, a kitchen, living room, and bath.  Very quant and cute.  The stone walls kept it nice an cool.  We walked the town, not too much to see, the trulli’s are the main attraction here.  There seem to be people living in them as homes, as well as running businesses out of them.  I found the best handmade linens.  I wish I had bought more than just dish towels… But being a 15 min. drive to the Zoo Safari makes it a place I know we’ll return…

And the reason we’ll return… we’ll that’s a funny story.  Piper was napping when we arrived so we pulled up to the drive through entrance and parked to the side – we were 50 feet from the gates.  She slept for about an hour and a half – we were pretty entertained watching the camels and other wild animals litterally escape, only to be chased back in by an Italian – who seems to have a full time job wrangling the animals.  Once Piper woke up we decided to feed her, change her diaper and go to the bathroom ourselves.  Once we loaded up the car (with our $20euro worth of nuts, veggies and fruits for the animals and ourselves) we drove up to the gate ready to go.  Only to find out they closed 5mins ago….. What?  It’s 2pm?!  Yup, we’re closed…. you have to come back….  I’ve NEVER seen Scott so sad. He was totally upset “for Piper.”  Poor guy.  We were able to go into their walking part with amusement rides and a few animals.  Piper liked it.

Since Alberobello didn’t have much going on, we decided to continue our journey on to Matera and make a return visit to the zoo at a later date. This was a great decision.  Matera was AMAZING.  Hands down my favorite spot in a all of Italy… so far.  But I think it will be by the end as well.  In my opinion it should be on one of the must visit 20 wonders of the world list.  It was like Machu Picchu to me – But Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century… Sassi of Matera was built 9000 years ago… No joke.  While most of the cave houses dug into a limestone ravine, and the main city was really developed in 1100 there are dwellings that date back 9000 yrs.

It’s simply amazing to see.  You can’t drive in this area- only walk up and down these narrow paths of caves built on top of one another.  We even stayed in a cave hotel and ate dinner in a cave restaurant!  So cool. The area did not have water or electricity until recently – the city forced the inhabitants to leave in the 50′s due to unsanitary conditions – people were still living in caves with their livestock and no utilities… AMAZING!

If there is one place in Italy that people visit – this would be my recommendation.  It’s easy to imagine how people lived 1000 years ago in this cave city.  Love!!!

The Navy Ball Birthday Celebration

One of my favorite things about being in the military with Scott are the annual balls.  Everyone deserves a reason to get all gussied up and enjoy a great night of food, wine and dancing.   This year’s Navy Ball was held at an agriturismo – Italian for farm house.  But usually they are far from farm houses.  They are usually beautiful acreage estates with vineyards and delicious restaurants.  This local one did not disappoint…

House Hunters International Here We Come!

Ok, so we’re not going to be on HHI – or at least they’ve not responded to my e-mail inquiry.  :-)   But we do need your help in picking out the right place for us.  Which one do you think it will be?!

Though we’ve seen practically everything on the market in the greater Naples area, we haven’t found our perfect Italian Villa yet.  While there’s no place that meets all the items on our wish-list, we have been able to narrow our search to 4 places.  Which one should we choose?  Which one would you chose?

 

The criteria for our search:

3 beds 2/baths – one with a bathtub, American sized washer/dryer, 1200-2000 sqft, View of the Mediterranean, Close/walk to shops and restaurants,  Updated, A/C, Safe family friendly neighborhood, Parking for 2 cars, 30 min commute to work and support site, some kind of “community” feel for Piper and I, yard area for Ali

 

Option A – City Living:

Pros: Everything is walking distance – restaurants, markets, parks; Large rooms, Somewhat updated, Italians and Americans in building, Nice landlord, Parks near by for both Ali and Piper

Cons: No View of the Med, No parking (we have to pay 200/car/mo) and the parking is a block away, No bathtub, Only one split unit A/C for the living room, Small European W/D in bathroom, no yard area (closest park is 3 blocks away), traffic can be hairy

 

Option B – City Living with a View!

Pros: Amazing view, Completely renovated, Hardwood floors, Walking to lots of great restaurants, Boardwalk for running, Grass area for Ali a block away, Playgrounds for Piper on boardwalk

Cons: No bathtub, 45min work commute with traffic, No grocery or markets within walking distance, European W/D in kitchen, Exterior of building (and perhaps some neighbors) are sketchy, some odd smells nearby (can’t tell if it’s gas/storm/sewage systems nearby…or maybe even the Med), No storage space

 

Option C – Villa in Private Park

Pros: Beautiful Italian marble throughout, Large and spacious, Yard for Ali and Piper, Decent Views of the Med, Private and Gated, Community Pool, Bathtub, Laundry room with full sized W/D, nice landlord, Has 5 restaurants on main road, great commute for Scott, 10 mins to awesome park area, Has a garage attached, Great place to entertain

Cons: Kind of far away, No place to run (no sidewalks), Have to drive to store (5mins) and into town (10mins), Large space (expensive to heat and cool), Rent is more than our housing allowance (we would pay a little out of pocket), Kitchen is separate room with no view of living room.

 

Option D – Townhome with a View

Pros: Awesome layout (open kitchen to living area), Good size, Nice views with nice yard area for Ali and Piper, Updated, Bathtub, Laundry closet with full size w/d, 5 restaurants on main road (same area as the house), easy commute for Scott, 10 mins to awesome park area

Cons: Kind of far away, No place to run (no sidewalks), Have to drive to store (5 mins) and into town (10mins)

 

So, as you can tell – it’s a hard decision for sure. We’d love your opinion.  Since we hope you’ll come visit sooner than later, you might as well have a say on where you’ll be staying!

Stay tuned to see what we picked!

 

Sorrento

The weather has been gorgeous here for September.  So we decided to take advantage of it by trekking down to the Amalfi Coast one more time… This time to Sorrento for a quick weekend stay.  We loved this city – and I’m positive we’ll be back often!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oktoberfest! NATO Style

Oktoberfest?! Yes please… in Napoli? If that’s the best we can do, then sure!  Every year the Germans from NATO throw an evening affair with German beer, bratz, and a polka band to boot. Piper loved it!

She cruised and crawled all over the place!

We’ve Got Wheels…and a few driving tips

I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a car since I was 16.  Not kidding.  It’s been almost 6 weeks without a vehicle.  Yes, we’ve rented cars to get around, but there is nothing like owning your own car, the sense of freedom it brings with it especially when you’re living on a military base.

The only issue was finding a car here in Naples, as I don’t really know how to drive a standard.  Poor Piper is probably suffering a slight case of whiplash from my frequent stalling in our rental cars.  So getting a car – one that I can drive (yes I’ll have one of the token automatics in Italy) is so freaking exciting.  For the record, Scott has no issues driving a standard, and in fact loves to drive them. I think in his former life he was a race car driver.

Now the question is what did we decide to get?!  Naples is known for it’s chaos.  Along with it’s chaos comes frequent break-ins and traffic accidents…. which they call Naples kisses – just a little bump here and there…  I think it’s more of a status symbol to drive with your windows knocked out and have dents and scratches all over. They also drive incredibly small cars here – think smart cars and mopeds.

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So finding a car that would fit in, but is safe for a family was kind of hard to do.  I always swore I’d never drive a mini-van.  No offense to mini-van lovers, it’s just not my thing.  The good news for me is mini-vans are too big for Naples, but I did settle for the next best thing… a station wagon.  Yup!  I really think I’ve lost my marbles, but moving to a foreign country where nothing is what you are used to can do that to you.

So here is my car – although it’s not Italian, it’s a real European brand… drum roll please for my…. Audi.

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And here is Scott’s a Fiat, which we hear stands for Fix It Again Tony.  Hopefully that’s not the case with our Bravo.

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Yes, our cars look alike….they all do.  Small.

Now for the driving here in Naples…  It just doesn’t make sense.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  They say there are only two rules to the road here.

1) Flow like water… if you see an empty space, fill it.  And they do just that- if there is a hole it will be filled with 5 mopeds and 2 cars with in seconds.  People literally drive while touching the bumper of the people in front of them.

2) You’re only responsible for what’s in front of you… don’t worry about your sides or your rear.

And park where ever you want.

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Like the middle of a traffic circle – and hop out in front of traffic without even looking.  Because rule #3….Ok so there are more than 2 rules…

3) Don’t make eye contact with anyone when you are driving or walking out into traffic.  If you do then that means you are yielding to them.  If you act like you don’t see them, then you have the right of way…

Oh and stop signs are just decorations on the side of the road – I’ve yet to see anyone stop, and I’ve been told the best way to get rear-ended is to stop.  It’s barely a yield sign….

Wish us luck on the road!  I think we might need it….

Gaeta

We’re still new to the area and it’s a bit boring living on the base, so we decided to get out and explore Gaeta!  It’s just a quick 45 minute drive North.  There’s a base here that Scott has infrastructure he oversees, so why not?  People say they’d much rather live here than in Napoli… I can see why.  It’s small and quant.  The beaches are pretty and the town in clean.  I hope to come back when it’s a bit sunnier!

 

 

Italian Classes on Base

So we’re a week in, and I already know that learning a little bit of Italian will go along way.  Several of the wives in Scott’s Command are taking an intro to Italian Class through Central Texas College that meets 2x a week at the high school here on base, so why not join them?  What do I have to loose…

First Impressions:  There are a lot of ways to say the word “the”…. every original Italian word ends in a vowel… it’s hard!

Here are just a few shots from the class and our final group dinner that we had after 8 weeks of class!

First Italian Vacation – Amalfi Coast

When Scott suggested we take Labor Day weekend and explore one of the closest areas to Naples, the Amalfi Coast, I couldn’t argue with him.  We are living in a hotel and have nothing but time on our hands.  Plus the thought of getting away from the smoke filled air and craziness of Naples was pretty appealing.

Being the last weekend in August we were worried the coast would be crowded, as the Italians take this time off and head to the beaches.  But to our delight it wasn’t too bad.

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One could spend a week parading through the towns along the Amalfi Coast, only having a few days we just saw parts of it.  But what we saw was stunning.  Imagine small town after town situated on a huge rock mountain peninsula that jets into the blue waters of the Mediterranean.

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We stayed in Ravello, a quick 45min – hour drive from Naples.  To get there we went over the mountains directly to the town.  Had it been just Scott and I we would have driven the coastline from Sorrento around, but with Piper and Ali in tow, we thought we’d spare them the long car trip.

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Ravello was simply charming, known for the views overlooking several other coastal towns.  We found the perfect little hotel to stay in, Villa Fraulo, a 300 year old home situated in the heart of  Ravello.

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We spent one of our days exploring the old city.  Note to future travelers: Be prepared to do a lot of walking on uneven surfaces, up and down hills.  They do have a pretty good ramp you can use if you have a stroller, like we did.  One of the many highlights was just enjoying one of the outdoor cafes in the square.

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We spent a few hours just wandering Villa Cimbrone Gardens – a perfect wedding spot for anyone looking. It’s grounds were full of statues and had plenty of room for Piper to practice her cruising.

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That evening we found a quaint Italian food restaurant (imagine that.)  The food was yummy, and the table wine was perfect!  Exactly the reason we moved to Italy.

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On Sunday we made the 45 min drive from Ravello to Positano to spend the day with the crowds at the shops and on the pebble filled beaches. Stunning views, lovely architecture, and great people watching with all the hustle and bustle of the tourist strolling in and out of shops along the steep hillside village.

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The beach wasn’t exactly what I’d call a beach – but it didn’t seem to deter the sun worshiping Italians on vacation.  Instead of white sand beaches they have gray stones that fill the space.  It kind of reminds me of Stone Steps pebbles for those of you San Diegoians.  The water was crystal clear and rather warm.

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All in all we had a great time and can’t wait for visitors to come so we can explore more of it.  It was the perfect place to start our Italian adventure and celebrate Piper’s 10 month birthday – Amalfi style!

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Ciao for now!

The Kings

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Life on Base

So we’ve been here a few weeks and we’re still waiting to hear if we are allowed to live out in town or if we have to live on base.  Due to budget cuts they have a mandatory live on base policy now.  However, they’ve run out of units.  We’re right on the cusp of getting to live out in town.

When we first imagined living in Italy I pictured a romantic cobble stone pathway lined with small cafes and people shouting italian from every rooftop.  Not living with 1000 Americans on a small base 30 mins outside of the city.

Now that we’re here though, I actually kind of like it.  We’re very fortunate that we have Ali – as having a pet allowed us to be in the 2 bedroom 2 bath villas versus the one bedroom hotel room while we’re waiting to hear where they’ll let us live.

The villas are pretty big and come furnished.  Our express shipment of items got here the same day we arrived, so we’ve had some of our personal belongings with us which makes it feel more like home. (Piper’s toys, clothes, towels)

 

 

Piper is loving it here as there are tons of kids around with parks on almost every corner.  There are playgroups almost every day and library time once a week.  The Italians that work on base light up when they see babies, so she gets a ton of attention anywhere we go.

She and I haven’t left base on our own yet.  So we spend most of our time at play groups and walking around the base taking care of all the paperwork and classes we need to take…. like getting Ali registered at the Vet,  scheduling our household goods shipment, and getting gas coupons for our rental car.  So we’ve been pretty busy, but we hope to hit one of the markets they have near by next week…. Stay tuned…

First Impressions: Just Look Past the Trash

So before we got here, any time I told someone familiar with Italy where we were moving they’d say,  “I hope you like chaos and trash.”  And I suppose they were right, but like any city it’s pretty amazing if you can look past the trash.

It’s perfectly located on the Mediterranean with views of Mt Vesuvius from almost anywhere you go.  I think the landscape is the prettiest of any place I’ve lived…

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The people here are incredibly nice.  Most speak English or Spanish.  It’s been really easy to get around – yet I’ve not ventured off base by myself, so we’ll see how that goes once I have wheels.

The lifestyle seems pretty cool.  Everyone shops at the open air markets for fresh fruits and veggies.

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You’ll even find fresh fish, olives, meat markets and bread shops.

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The daily shots of espresso or cappuccinos sure beat the Starbucks routine and the food is incredible.  We can eat a 5 course meal with house wine for 15 euro a person.

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The buildings leave a lot to be desired.  They all look the same – concrete square 3+ story apartment type buildings… and they are everywhere… as far as the eye can see.  They are built right on top of each other.  Naples is a very densely populated city.

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They have trash issues, so people just burn their trash at all hours of the day.  The air usually smells of smoke, something I noticed the first few weeks here.  Sad thing is I’m used to it now.  When my eyes burn I realize it’s the smoke, but that’s really the only thing that triggers the smell now.

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Unemployment rates are high here, so it’s considered to be a poor city.  The petty theft crime rates are high – so we try to be vigilant about pick-pockets and taking everything out of our car.

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Funny thing about parking here – when you park for free on the city street- no matter the time of day – you will be approached by an Italian holding out his had – you give him a Euro to watch your car.  Rumor has it if you don’t, your car will be broken into.  So we keep Euros on hand!  It’s an easy insurance policy. (I hear american snack foods like oreos and diorites work wonders too.)

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All in all I’d say we are adventurous people, and this city is full of just that.  And if we care to hop in the car we can be any number of amazing sites with in 30mins to an hour.  I’m sure the differences will get to us sometimes, but the excitement of really experiencing a new culture should far out weigh the inconveniences.  At least that’s what we are telling ourselves :)

 

Here’s to our little Italian adventure!