Sunday, April 17, 2011

"It's not possible!"

(the theme of the weekend)

Another "only in Italy" moment:
Two of my friends and I were driving on the highway, when it came to a sudden halt- only to find out we were stuck right behind an accident, ugh! A semi's tire blew causing it to swerve and block the highway, guardrail to guardrail! Me and my friend pulled "an Italy" and joined the masses to get a better look:

Don't worry, it's normal here...

...As is driving on the line:

After about an hour of wondering how and when we were going to get past this, as well as watching people try to back up and maneuver back to the previous exit (usually with no luck, as we saw lots of leaving and returning a minute later)...

We finally started to noticed the cars dwindling around us and about 30 minutes later the red car behind me was no where to be found, then semi behind me moves to the right lane and *viola* there are NO cars in the entire lane behind me, and there was no way they went forward. All that was left was the right lane full of semis, me, and the few cars in front of me. After a few minutes of putting together my limited Italian vocabulary, I was directed to turn around, drive the opposite direction, and get off at the first exit (on the off ramp)...

Good times!

This weekend James and I were thrilled to be able to meet up with some friends from back home, Chris and Vicki, who came to Italy to celebrate their 20th anniversary. They toured Rome and Venice for a few days, and then we met them in Rome on Saturday, and brought them down to Naples with us on Sunday. And what a blast it was!!!

We caught an early train up, and met them around 9:30am at the train station, and first things first- grabbed some cappuccinos and pastries! After catching up and walking in circles because we were so busy chatting, we finally made our way to the Pantheon.

James and I had never been inside, it was really cool!

At the top of the dome there is an open hole for light, only problem is- rain also gets inside, so the floors are lower on the outside than in the middle so that the rain fall rolls down and into the drains.

Also in the ceiling, they carved out square patterns in order to take away some of the extra weight. They also stuffed glass bottles inside for the same effect. Those Romans... I tell ya!

Next we admired the random street painters' artwork while walking through Piazza Navona, then walked over a pretty bridge overlooking the Tiber River with a great view of the castle in the background...

Cute spot that I thought looked very Italy-esque:

Finally, Vatican City! As the museum is huge, and really doesn't mean much if you don't know what you're looking at, we took a very interesting guided tour.

(I tried to catch "Vicki Chan" in picture-taking action...)

I took many pictures, but they might bore you, so here is one of the last copper statues remaining:

Immediately after, we decided to walk up the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica. Walking up was 5 Euro a person, where as the elevator ride was 7. We saved 2 Euros and walked. All the way. To the top.

Note- Don't be fooled by James' enthusiasm. Pay the 2 Euro extra.

Regardless, once we reached the top, it was well worth it!

The first stop was the inside of the dome.
I thought the walls were really neat... but I have a recent obsession with all things mosaic so, naturally... ;-)

We also got to see mass being held, and a better view of where Matthew 16:18 is written:

Tu es Petrus...

A few more stairs later and we were outside!


After the much more preferred trek down, we checked out the inside of the church then ate dinner and were on our way down to Naples!

Sunday- Pompeii and Amalfi Coast drive.
Let's go!

To start the morning off right...

Caffe and fresh pastries! Yum!

Now Onward to Pompeii- the city that was destroyed, and yet preserved, by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
All this stuff was around back in the disciples' day. Crazy!

Original wall carvings:

"Europe," but in their alphabet.

Replicas of bodies they found:

Which I find the most interesting.Morbid much?!

Responsibly using the pedestrian walkways:

My fave-couple-ever enjoying the ruins together ;-)

The four of us in the amphitheater on our way out:

Uhh... Whoops!

I know it was probably wrong of me to take a pic, but someone did tell her and the problem was fixed!
So that makes it all ok right?! ;-p

Getting ready to get our grilled Artichoke on!

It was our yummy snack for the road.

The Almafi coast drive takes you along a windy highway which runs along the cliffs of the coast. It's beautifully picturesque so naturally I have a million pictures, but I'll try to just give you some highlights.

As we were driving through Sorrento, the first city on the coast, I decide to google what it is known for. Lemoncello is number one, but it also has a restaurant which is supposed to be one of the best in all of Italy. Since we pretty much burned more calories than we in-took eating the Artichoke, it was about time to eat, so why not check out this restaurant. Oh Don Alfonso... I plugged Don Alfonso (restaurant) into the GPS, but I think the GPS was trying to put our fears to the test. We went up and up and around and around, we went through tiny streets where we had to pull our mirrors in, and all the while we hear our tires squealing on the cobble stone streets. Not a good feeling when driving on steep skinny streets with no place to turn around and even so going back means going all downhill on these steep skinny streets with the squeaky tire business - besides the fact that many streets are one way or probably should be. So, after passing a turn the GPS told us to take that was closed and looked like only pedestrians could fit on anyway, we felt like we had cheated death enough for one day, and were ready to just get back to the main road and pick another spot for lunch.
Wouldn't you know, right at that point is when we came to:

I realize this downward hill may not look too steep in this picture, but before we got this close, it looked like a cliff... and we were a little slanted down at this point. So trust me, it was steep.
So- Down the paved street or left on the pebbled path that leads to the woods?
Um... if we go down, we have to come back up, squeaky tires, old car and all. I vote left!
A little after we turned left, we had enough room to turn around and we were golden! We rushed our-nerve-wracked-selves back to a main road and got ourselves out of there! Then we came across a cute little restaurant with several cars in the lot, and decided to stick with the masses this time and take a lunch break!

It was a good choice. It gave us all food in the bellies, caffeine, and a break from the car- and cliffs! The food was good and the cappuccinos were strong (perfect)! And of course the view was great. After all, we were still rather high up.

Viva Italia!

After a great Italian meal, we hopped in the car for some more coastal fun, and headed to Positano.

I've heard the views here are the best, so we couldn't just stop at Sorrento!

The weekend weather was nothing short of beautiful, and the adventures were more fun than I can put into words- we laughed endlessly! We decided some things were "not possible," (like that downward hill...) and also did a lot of things that we thought might be "not possible" and lived to tell about it. We got three videos of lemon orchards- though hopefully not three of the same orchards and had mostly sat down to eat AND mostly grabbed food on the go (Hah Vicki ;-) We were sad to have to send Chris and Vicki off the next day, but it was without a doubt a weekend that won't be forgotten! We are definitely blessed with such great friends!

* The story behind "it's not possible" would be best told in person... or maybe simply kept as an inside joke, as those can sometimes only be funny in the moment .*


Friday, April 15, 2011

Ci vediamo dopo e buon viaggio!

See you later and have a good trip!

Obviously in the Military there are always people coming and going, and currently we have two friends that are heading out. One is moving to his next duty station and the other is going on deployment.

Since Nic won't be getting much authentic Italian food after his move from Italy, what better note to leave on than FOOD!

Nic working on the potatoes for our croquettes!

There's a lady here named Vera who is a wonderful cook! She is an American who came to Italy to learn Italian cuisine (and goodness did she ever!) while studying to be a Home Economics teacher. She was only supposed to be here for a few months, but as life would have it- she met the man of her dreams and the rest is history (Aw!). 40 years forward... she holds cooking classes in her basement, which is a huge kitchen!
**And she hasn't been to the states since, so it was fun talking about how different life in the states is now!

Ladies and Gents, I give you... "Cooking with Vera!"

The menu:
Bruschetta with Tomatoes (traditional)
Bruschetta with artichoke
Bresola Penne with Vodka,
Fritti Potato Croquettes
Eggplant with mozzarella and ham topped with tomato sauce.
Torta Caprese with Gelato.

Now, let's begin!

Vicky got the messy job of mashing the potatoes, that Nic previously shredded (?), with her hands.

We then rolled the potatoes up and stuffed slices of ham and mozzarella inside and set them aside for frying. Mmm!

I'm usually pretty bad at cutting tomatoes as I tend to smash them while cutting them, but at this point everyone else was diligently working so James and I volunteered to cut the tomatoes for the bruschetta. It was a success because that bruschetta was wonderful!!!

Um... if you know me, you know I don't like fish...

But I was quite the trooper and helped slice the squid for calamari.
Much to my delight, it was actually really tasty! Maybe fried fresh fish isn't so bad after all! (And shockingly, James agrees! Another success!)

Vera showing James how to prepare the artichoke for the second bruschetta which, like everything else that night, was SO delicious!

Alas- Dinner time!

Our other friend who is being deployed is Danielle. Her and her husband, Stephen, are our pals and we're going to miss her bunches! Best wishes Danielle! We hope everything is smooth and goes by quickly!

We hung out a bit before she left. But here are two fun times that I've captured:

One day our men decided they wanted to look at suits, so the four of us met for lunch and suit shopping at the "outlets." Don't get excited, the outlets here are really just like an outdoor mall, no great discounts like in the states (bummer).

James and Stephen ordered burgers... and burgers is indeed all they got-

Well, at least it had a good taste... and fries!

Afterwards we walked around and checked out all the suits stores we could find, and along the way we came to a cool fountain thing that Danielle has apparently been wanting to run through since she got here. And who can say no to a girl who's deploying?
Not us...

Running through random fountain at outlets...check!

*Enter fountain-ing...*

She surprisingly managed to remain dry. Well, most of her anyway- her feet did not come out so lucky.

We made our final stop for dessert at the Godiva store, where we combined caffe and Godiva.


Another day, the day before she left, the four of us met up again for lunch. We had chinese food, and all was normal until we were about halfway home, and their car just cut off. Stephen thought he stalled until he realized it wasn't coming back on. We were in our own car behind them, so we pulled up next to them to see what was wrong. Since none of us know enough about cars, there really wasn't much we could do on the spot. After a few minutes of reviewing our options, we jokingly decided that our beater, could probably push their beater to the base. Since we both drive "beaters," there really wan't much to lose, so the joke became the plan:

The gate guard on the base even let us push them onto the base... classic

Of course it seemed like a much longer drive than usually and was a little nerve wracking, but it came with loads of laughs! And though it was kind of a bummer for them, it was definitely a hilarious memory for Danielle to leave with. I would go through the details, but I think it's one of those times where you just "had to be there!"

Only in Italy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

More snow, more sun!

Since I apparently couldn't get enough of the pain, we went back for more...

However, this time there was so much snow!

When we fell it was like falling on pillows, so we were much more fearless! We could tell our skills improved, and my boots fit way better this time; I had a few good wipeouts, but it was a blast!

The memorable event from that day was when our friend who is a seasoned snowboarder took us up to a "great run" and then left us, as he was much faster and better than the rest of us. Due to the constantly falling snow, the visibility was incredibly minimal, so those of us that were in the same group (six of us) decided that it would be best to stick together!
We were sitting for a few minutes coming up with a game plan when another American couple showed up just as lost as we were (go figure). After a few minutes of walking around the immediate area, the lady that just joined us started freaking out on the phone with the mountain police. Just as she was getting off the phone, the snow let up just enough for us to see the next marker off in the distance- the lady refused to leave because the polizia told her not to move. We stuck around long enough to hear her tell the polizia on the phone that she "told the teenagers to stay put but they don't want to..." Arrivederci dramatic lady!

... We later heard that the polizia found her and her husband and brought them back to the bottom on their snow mobile. While I would have totally been down for my first snow mobile ride ever- our way sounded way more adventurous in the moment! Funny thing is, about 15 seconds after we left them the visibility was almost perfect and 15 seconds after that we were at the bottom.

Next stop, SWISS ALPS!

In other news, I'm thrilled about our friends Rachel and Matt having a baby. we've only known her while pregnant, so it'll be fun to meet the little one we've been in anticipation of since day one! They are not finding out what gender the baby is, and before I was totally convinced I had to know when it was my turn- but seeing them go through it actually makes it seem more fun!
All that to mention this (you military folks may appreciate this a little more); the chapel that we attend on Sunday's held a baby shower for them one day after service. And on that day, the CO (Commanding Officer... head of the whole base) and his family attended. Rachel and Matt aren't buddies with them, I think they met once, however, the CO and family happily attended. They gave them gave them a gift and card, helped with the clean up and the wife even spoke her well wishes before the cake cutting... Though very nice of them, tell me that's not random and awkward! It was quite entertaining and I had to capture some of the moment...

Next on the calendar, my cousin Rosalia came to visit her sister Lauren, who is the one studying abroad in Rome, so we went up to Rome for a day to hang out with them. We met up at the Victor Emmanuel memorial, as we wanted to go inside, but we couldn't figure it out so after about 10 minutes we just browsed around he church next door, gave up on V.E. and moved on.
As we walked on, we passed the lovely Fontana di Trevi...

Overlooked the Piazza del Popolo...

And took what seemed like an endless walk around Villa Borghese, until finally arriving at our destination:

This Museum, Museo Borghese, houses many paintings- of which my favorites were Bernini's! His paintings look like there's a spotlight on the main attraction point. It was really cool. I'd never heard of him- which is probably crazy because from what I understand, he's up there among the greatest Italian Artist. Whoops. I don't have any pics, but I'm sure you can google them!

After that we headed to good ol' Hard Rock Cafe for dinner, which you can find by the American Embassy (how convenient), and said our goodbyes! It was such a fun day, I LOVE my cousins! Their mom and another sister are coming for a visit next month, yay!

Oh, and Rachel and Matt had their baby BOY this month :-) He's quite the cutie little pumpkin and we call him Chip!

Lots going on this month and next! I love it!

Ciao Bella!