Bella Capri

The weather has been beautiful this week – around 70 each day!  We decided to get away for the weekend and take the fast boat to Capri.  Such an easy commute for us – take the funiculari down to the port and hop on the 40 min. hydrofoil.  In less than an hour and half we were in Bella Capri!

It was great being here in the off season.  While most of the stores and hotels on the island were closed in preparation for the high season – which kicks off Easter weekend – it was still a treat.  The island itself is pretty large, difficult to get around all the way by car – in fact they limit cars to only the residents.  You have to either take a taxi or a boat to tour around the island.  We opted to stay in Capri and walk most everywhere we went. 

 

We enjoyed the little Piazza – as usual – with cappuccini and panini  - and walking around the beautiful island.  The highlight was us taking the stroller on a trek that isn’t intended for strollers- a ton of stairs and off the beaten path rocks later we made it in a few hours – with great memories and pics to prove we made it!

It’s easy to imagine what this island will be like in high season – and understand why it’s a top destination for people from around the world.  It’s simply beautiful here.  I know we’ll be back often!

Carnival Anyone?!

Carnival in Italia? Yes please!  With Piper in tow?  Why not?!  Italians LOVE babies and children.  They pretty much do everything with them, including celebrate carnival.  We decided to make a long weekend out of it.  And spent our Valentines Day in Rome.  We hopped the fast train up to Rome on Friday night and stayed at a lovely hotel Copa Africa, near the Coliseum.  They recommended a lovely place for dinner – Gios “Joes” they had the best eggplant stack I’ve had since being here – which btw I never ate eggplant in the state.  They really know how to make a variety of dishes with it here and I just love it!  After eating entirely too much food we took a stroll at night to see the coliseum lite up.  Beautiful. 

Saturday we spend the day seeing the sites that were walking distance from the coloseium to the Trevi fountain.  We only had a until 4 in Rome until our train left for Via Reggio, the city hosting carnival. 

Via Reggio is a cute little beach community north of Rome in Tuscany.  They had a real beach with white sand here – it was a bit cold and very windy so while our hotel overlooked the beach we didn’t venture out there.  Sunday morning we took the train to Pisa to see what every tourist dreams of seeing in Italy… the leaning tower… And guess what?  It really leans. 

It was a nice way to pass a few hours of our time, but really not a must see on my list for future travelers – it’s kind of out of the way – so unless you’re in a town nearby  I’d say skip it.

After our morning trip we headed back to Via Reggio to meet some friends the Barris and their kids to partake in carnival.  I wasn’t sure what to expect- but it was legit with HUGE floats( and lots of them,) loud music, food, and street vendors galore. 

 

 

Piper loved it!  Confetti, friends and bright colors really entertained her.  It was fun!  All in all it was a fantastic Valentines Day weekend.  I’m really liking this place called Italy! 

 

Sicily and a Saint

Sicily is huge!  Who knew?  Maybe those who aced geography or world history. I always thought of it as a smallish island.  Not true.  We only had 4 days to explore so we chose the East side of the island.  Sicily is known for it’s beautiful beaches, but since it is the dead of winter we were advised to stay in the largest city on that side – Catania, and travel from there.  Great advice.

Catania reminded me of Napoli – big, dirty, chaotic, beautiful.  Our exploring was focused on the neighboring small towns.  Taormina is where we started by exploring a 3rd Century B.C.Greek Amphitheater overlooking the stunning waters below. It is a very well preserved theater… some say better than those in Greece, I guess we’ll have to go see for ourselves!  One of my favorite parts of Taormina was it had the best cannoli – a Sicilian treat at it’s finest!  Yummy.
The next day we spent in Syracuse and the island Ortigia.  Syracuse has another Greek Amphitheater from 5th Century B.C. and a Roman Theater built 21 B.C. right next to each other – it was pretty amazing walking the ruins.
We spent the afternoon exploring a darling little island – Ortigia. Loved it there.  I would have stayed here if I’d had known about it.  It’s quant, clean and charming.  The streets were wide, the Piazzas full of life.  It was a fun way to spend the day!
Our last day was the most adventurous.  In true King fashion, we found a festival! Here in Italy, most if not all of their festivals are related to religion. Every town has a Saint and every year on the Saint’s Birthday they throw a huge party.  According to google – we lucked out and timed our trip with the largest Saint’s day party in Sicily. This small town called…..
It was a hoot.  We spend the day chasing the Saint – being carried by people – around the town paying respects to every church in town.  There were fireworks and music along the way.  It was fun, but noisy. As I’ve said before and will say many times again, the Italians LOVE their fireworks no matter if it’s day or night!
All in all Sicily was a success. I want to return here in the summer months and do more of the beach towns on the other side of the island!
Till’ Next Time Sicily!

2013 in Review

Happy New Year! Well almost anyways. From the sound of the fireworks that have been going off all day you would think it’s already midnight. These Italians LOVE LOVE LOVE their fireworks – day or night…. Not sure how they can see them during the day- I have yet to figure that out – but they don’t seem to mind.

I can’t believe 2014 is already here. What a whirlwind 2013 was, but totally worth it. From the baby stage to practically running – Piper has grown a ton. Mom and Dad too – our life experiences have been amazing this year. Learning to be parents, loving and laughing our way through the stresses that comes with that new territory and add a cross atlantic move to the list.

It’s true what people say about moving to a foreign country- it’s hard leaving loved ones, friends and the comforts of home. But the adventures we’re having – living out of suit cases for 3 months, exploring our way around a new country where we don’t speak the language, and making new friends (even Italian friends – it’s a hoot trying to communicate!) have all been worth it.

Looking back at 2013 and choosing the “best of” was hard to do, but here’s my stab at it:

Piper walking for the first time in the foot hills of Tuscany

Last weeks in the US seeing family, friends and a quick trip to NYC

Finding out we were moving to Italy – Scott’s creative poem tops my list!

Touring our new country – the Amalfi Coast twice, the Zoo Safari(parking lot),  Alberabello, Materra, weekend trips to the small towns around Naples, and exploring our new neighborhood Vomero.

Piper’s first words – from ” Da Da”, “no, no, no” to “ciao!” everyday a new word or a new accomplishment like spinning in circles until she’s too dizzy to stand, or just hearing her laugh until she gets the hiccups – the precious moments I’m able to spend with her are amazing.

Celebrating Piper’s 1st Birthday Virtually with our family was a joy and I must add that Skype is something I’m most thankful for in 2013. It’s been clutch in keeping us connected to our family. Piper opens the computer and waves – thinking someone should be on the other end. Amazing that she will probably never know what it’s like to talk on a phone – or really what a computer was initially designed to do. But she has the iPad figured out!

Spending time in Austin, Dallas, San Diego and San Francisco with old friends – made us realize that our “location” doesn’t make a difference and that you guys will always be there!

The opportunity to grow in my relationship with Scott, Being overseas has brought us closer together since he’s all I have to lean on here – I love that he’s my partner in adventure and life and how supportive he is of me in all I do.

I suppose there are so many other things that could top my list – but Piper, Scott, family and friends take the cake!

Now for out next adventure…. 2014! Let the fireworks begin… or continue… from our side of the world to yours Buon Anno!!!

First Dinner out in Vomero

Yummy!  The food here is simply amazing!!!

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!!!

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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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Caiazzo for Pizza

Our very first weekend here, Scott’s boss invited us to a night out for some Italian pizza in an historic town. How could we say no?!  So we headed to Caiazzo 40 minutes outside of Naples in the foothills of some mountain.  This quant little town was founded around 300 B.C though the oldest thing we saw (from afar) came from the middle ages – the Lombard Castle and ancient city walls.  The quite streets are exactly what we expected to find – cobble stone with beautiful old concrete buildings everywhere.  Quite frankly, Caiazzo is what I imagined all Italian towns to look like.

We only had about an hour to explore the town, so we’ll have to head back another time.  Our real reason for going was the Pizza.  Which I thought was fantastic.  If the line in a small town is any indication of the restaurants’ popularity, then we were in the right spot.

Since we were with a group of Scott’s co-workers we did  it family style where they just brought out whatever the kitchen thought we’d like.  Basically we had about 10 different kinds of pizza.  They seemed disappointed when we told them we didn’t want the last few pizzas.  There is only so much bread you can eat! All of it was delicious.

Afterwards we hit a gelato stand and watched the Italians come to life late at night.  Kids were running everywhere.  There was just a fun buzz about. Piper however didn’t get the message.  She was passed out around 10pm.  Poor girl.

All in all, it was a fun little get away.  Worth a trip back at some point to explore a bit more and maybe for another bite of pizza!