Monday, August 19, 2013

What you didn't know about italy

And should.
If you ever visit italy... or move here there are a few things people forget to mention. I have mentioned them here and there when I was cranky but never in depth.

Tipping is not required. Service staff gets paid as high as entry level engineers do. In particular, tipping people you personally know is considered offensive. In general, the attitude toward tipping is that you can’t buy a person off, so be mindful if you decide to tip.
Dates are shown as day-month-year, always.

You push to enter a place, and pull to get out. Exactly the opposite as in America!
Airport and rail stations have public restrooms, often with attendants who expect to be tipped. If someone is guarding the door of the restroom, you’re expected to leave a few coins.
Restrooms in all bars and cafes are for customers only. Order an espresso and only afterward head to the toilet!

In public restrooms, toilet paper is a rarity. Italian women always keep a travel pack of Kleenex in their purses for this reason.

You can’t walk in a church with a tank top or with shorts on. You need to be properly dressed to visit most holy places.

Credit cards are not widely accepted. You can’t pay anything that is less than 10 Euros with a credit card, and even then you’re going to be frowned upon.
Always bring cash with you!
Public phones are now officially extinct. You will need to carry a cell phone for anything you need, from calling the hotel to reserve a restaurant. If you’re going for a brief stay, use your US cell phone and get a calling card. If you’re planning a longer trip, look into getting a SIM card and use it with your (unlocked) US phone- most cell phone calling contracts in Italy are prepaid services, so no need to lock in a plan!

When using an Italian cell phone, all incoming calls are free.

Store exchanges don’t exist. If you buy something and decide later you don’t want it anymore, you’re stuck with it. Choose carefully!

Shops close for lunch between 12:30pm and 3 or 4pm. Everything shuts down by 7:30pm.

National Holidays:- I swear it feels like WAYYY more! January 1st, New Year’s Day January 6th, Epiphany Easter Sunday Easter Monday April 25th, Anniversary of Italy’s liberation May 1st, Labor Day June 2nd, Anniversary of the institution of the Republic August 15th (Ferragosto), Assumption November 1st, All Saints December 8th, Annunciazione December 25th, Christmas December 26th, St Stefano. In addition, each town will honor its patron with an additional day off.

You have to wear plastic gloves to pick up food in the produce section of the grocery store or old ladies will yell at you.

You bag your own groceries and pay for the bag.

Italians don’t put ice in their drinks. If you must, ask for it, but realize they’ll look at you as if you were a Martian. When (if?) they bring you ice, they will send to the table a small saucer with 5 ice cubes for the entire table

There are no dipping sauces in Italy, so Italians are not really familiar with double dipping rules.
Salad is considered a side dish, not a starter.
 No meal in Italy ever starts with a salad.
Tap water is never served, and despite the fact that it’s now as safe as in the US, people keep on drinking bottled water and restaurants only serve bottled water.

Salad dressing is oil and vinegar and that’s it. There aren’t different types of dressings.

If you don’t ask for the check, you’re not going to get it. Italians consider a check put on the table before you’re done with your meal, or without you asking, like an invitation to leave. It is considered a no-no in restaurants, so you must ask for your check if you’d like to pay!

Alfredo sauce is not Italian. Don’t ask for it!

Dinner is past 8pm, not at 5pm. If you’re hungry at 5pm, go to a pasticceria and get a hot chocolate and some pastries. If you’re hungry at 7pm go to a bar and order an aperitivo. Don’t show up for dinner before 8pm (and that’s still kind of early!).

Most Italians under 40 speak some English, but many will be embarrassed to talk

You shower at night in Italy, and you change to dress-up clothes before going out for the evening, whether you’re going to a restaurant or to a bar. Day wear is not considered appropriate for night time.

In Italy it is not socially acceptable to be drunk. People boast about their alcohol resistance and no one would ever admit to be drunk.

You can see a lot of speedos on Italian beaches, and nobody finds it hilarious.

Topless sunbathing is quite common in the northern beaches, and more frowned upon in the South.

If someone flashes their brights behind you, it’s because they want you to move to the right lane so that they may pass.

Before boarding a train you need to validate your ticket. You will have to validate your ticket directly on buses instead. Make sure you allow plenty of padding on your transfers, as Italian train times are, once again, more a declaration of intent than a set rule…

Scooters, bicycles and motorcycles share the road with cars, and they will zip by on your left and right in a one-lane road!

No right turn on red!

Eating in the car is unheard of. Italians would never do such a coveted and social thing like eating in the most unsocial place of all, the car.- and illegal!

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Malta, what a trip! My life long dream of swimming with dolphins came true. My girls even got to swim with them. I wanted to cry. I couldn't believe it was happening. The dolphins didn't feel rubbery like I thought they would. It was the best hour of my life.

The island of Malta was so stinking awesome! To spend a week there, we were very lucky. We ate local food, wandered around like we owned the place and went to popeyes village (where they filmed the robin williams popeye movie) and spent an entire day there.

The public transportation was beyond easy. And the Island isn't huge but big enough to have to use the buses! We would never drive there, it's insane! Valletta is a great city, we ate at La Mere, the food and service was perfect. We went to the blue grotto and went through the caves via boat. The water was a color i've never seen before.

The island as a whole was super inexpensive and a wonderful adventure!

We never wanted to leave. And have plans to go back as soon as we can.

Bevilacqua castle

One Day in our post newspaper we read there was a medieval festival at Bevilaqua Castle, So we took a trip! It was a bit chilly. It was about an hour drive from vicenza. The castle itself was gorgeous. The festival was great! There wasn't a ton of people but it went on as planned. The actors were super friendly, playing with the kids, teaching them how to use wooden guns, giving them lamb on a stick and fried dough covered in sugar. The boys got to buy swords! It was a good choice of an outing. Except next time, we will have more cash, since there was no ATM in sight!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Cruise!

I posted many of our cruise pictures here. We had a blast! We took an MSC cruise out of Genoa. The drive to Genoa sucks! 4 loooonnnngggg hours. We stayed in a a cottage over night on a cliff over looking the Italian Rivera. It was scary! Getting aboard the ship was the easiest process ever! Way better than carnival. The rooms were cozy, we had two rooms. The ship was beautiful, the staff delightful and the food perfect! Our first stop Marseilles, france. It was awful. Dirty. We got off the boat, went to starbucks and got right back on. But hey, they kids have been to france ;) Next stop, Barcelona, Spain. OMG... I cannot say enough great things about Barcelona. It was beautiful, the people were sweet, the city was breath taking. Now we head through the straight of gibralter. What an awesome experience. Seeing two continents separated by 7 miles of water. On to Casablanca, Morocco. By far the most gorgeous place I've seen. Seeing the 3rd largest mosque in the world, it had me in awe. We got a travel agent who took us for a day trip around the city. We ate at Rick's Cafe (from the movie!), saw the beautiful beaches, the rich parts and poor parts of the city. Their version of the twin towers, went in to pharmacies, bread stores, and a rug factory where they gave us their Moroccan tea and we left with a 600 dollar prayer rug with the tree of life on it. Worth every cent! Next stop- Cadiz, Spain. Another great place. We road the open top bus, went in a church that left me speechless, went to beaches where clothes were obviously prohibited ;) We got absinthe and tried it. That stuff burns! Ate some candies from the local candy factory and sadly said our goodbyes. Lisbon, Portugal here we come! Lisbon looked like San Francisco (I've never been, but from watching full house) it had a huge bridge like golden gate, row houses, steep hills. The weather was perfect, the locals every so sweet. We got a bite to eat at the hard rock cafe and wandered aimlessly around until the last call for the ship. Then we had 2 days at sea. Our cruise was a total of 2 weeks. The two days at sea got old quickly but we drank the days away. We met awesome people from austria, Becca and Christoph and another military family from germany. We also had two other families from our area on the boat. All in all, this was a trip of a lifetime. One we will never forget. We are very much looking forward to the next cruise in April 2014.


Since croatia is only a 2 hours drive from here we decided randomly to take a trip there for a saturday evening. The drive is simple, and slovenia and croatia are beautiful countries! Everything is kind of on the higher priced side there but not too extreme. Passports are needed as they checked those and my soggiorno when we came back. Also, on the way in, get your vignette as if you don't (it's a 15 euro sticker for your car window... a tax) you'll get an 80 euro fine!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hot springs in Padova

For our 10th wedding anniversary dan set up the day. He got a babysitter, made reservations and told me nothing. I mean nothing! We get to this hotel and from the front it didn't look to wonderful to be honest. We go in and I find out its an all inclusive hotel, spa, resort. It had many sauna's, showers, outdoor natural spring water pool, indoor pool, jacuzzi, massage areas and an amazing 5 star restaurant. Who knew the view on the other side of the wall would be what it was? One of my dreams was to go in a hot air balloon, as we know we did that for our 9th anniversary and that did not go over well. HA! But on this day there was a hot hair balloon festival in padova and as we sat on our balcony hundreds of balloons took off and flew right over us. I was in awe! We relaxed, well I tried too. I don't sit and do nothing very well. HAHA. We really enjoyed each others company. The one night at this hotel all inclusive for 2 people was 500 Euro. YIKES! However, since it did mark 10 years and dan planned it (that never happens!) I couldn't complain at all! The picture above is the outside pool area, it was beautiful.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pirate ship Cruise

I don't think I've posted this, but last september I finally landed a job at the Elementary School, in the special education department. A group of people set up a pirate ship cruise through Venice during carnivale. It was a great time! 75 Euro per person gave you unlimited food and wine along with the cruise and stop in San Marco to explore. It was an amazing time. It felt like we were movie stars. People taking pictures of our arrival on the boat at the doc and waving to us as we were leaving. We danced the night away and had the time of our lives. One of the best events we've done here, thus far!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Safari in Italy?

Who knew you could find a Drive through Safariin Italy? We took the girls for a date day to this zoo. Half of it is a Safari, animals just roaming around at their leisure. The other half, a walking zoo. It was very hot the day that we went so we did not complete the walking area but saw most of it. It's huge! A great family outing with a picnic, in spring or early fall! My favorite part were the Zebra's!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Dan and I snowboard, I am not the greatest but I try LOL. I can stay up, turn and fall on my behind to stop. We thought we'd take the kids on a ski trip. I feared it would be a disaster. I was wrong! My kids have no fear, the girls picked up snowboarding instantaneously and the boys skied like they've done it a million time. It's a great location for families, only about 2 hours from the vicenza area. There is a few cafe's to grab a bite to eat, many runs from green to black and a perfect learning area for newbies!

Fun Facts about Italy

Who doesn't love useless facts? Here are some about Italy...
1. The Vatican is a separate sovereign nation, its own country. I've been there!
2. Italy is slightly larger than Arizona.
3. Italy is the eighth most visited country
4. The average Italian consumes 26 gallons of wine a year
5. Italy’s national dish is pasta.
6. Italy’s national flower is the Lily.
7. Everyday 3,000€ gets tossed into the Trevi Fountain.
8. The average consumption of pasta in Italy is 25 kg per person per year.
9. The highest point in Italy is Mont Blanc, in the alps at 15,770 feet.
10. Venice has over 400 footbridges.
11. The ice-cream cone was an Italian invention
12. The area is 116,346 sq mi
13. Italy surrounds two of the world’s smallest countries
14. Italy is the most earthquake prone country
15. Italy is largest wine producer in the world
16. Italy has the twelfth highest life expectancy in the world in 2012
17. Italy has the third-largest gold reserve in the world
18. Garda is the largest lake in Italy at 142 sq mi
19. An Italian wrote the famous Pinocchio story
20. Almost 20% of Italy’s population is over 65 years old

Monday, August 12, 2013

To Paris, I said!

As you all may know, my mom passed away on my birthday two years ago. It was the hardest day of my life. On the first anniversary of her death I didn't want to talk to anyone, didn't want to get out of bed, wanted everyone to leave me alone. Since my mom would be pissed that i acted that way I made a promise to myself that this year, the second year would be different! So to Paris it is! I got a good friend of mine on board and we took a 4 day girls trip to paris. I thought I would feel guilty for having fun but I didn't. This is what mom would have wanted! The first night we went to moulin rouge. It was tacky lol. And not worth the 100 euro per person. We stayed near the moulin rouge, on the sex strip- it was scary! The next day was my birthday- first stop, the top of the eiffel tower. I thought i was going to cry when i saw it up close. It was stunning. I skyped my sister Min so she could see it, it was 3am her time but that is what she wanted. After seeing the eiffel tower we went and picked up our paris passes and explored the next two days. Birthday dinner was spent at hard rock paris where they sang to me! I was in hard rock heaven!!  We went to the chocolate museum, the wax museum, The louvre, notre dame and lit a candle in moms memory, Napoleon's tomb, the arc de triomphe, a river cruise, ate delicious food, drank starbucks, carried around baguettes, and shopped like crazy women! I could not have asked for a better way to spend my birthday weekend!

Medieval times

None of our family had ever been to a medieval times before. We tried to go once in DC but it didn't work out. So one day we decided to hit up Movie land, the water park and eat at Medieval times. It was a blast! The food was awesome! They gave us a whole chicken, some kind of bread, the best soup i've had in my life, warm apple pie.. and i think I forgot something. The kids enjoyed eating with their hands, banging their cups and plates and not having a care in the world. Best part.. Unlimited wine for Mom! All for just 29 Euro per adult, 19 euro per kid, Which also happens to be cheaper than in the states! We did not leave hungry that is for sure! And the best way to end a long day at the water/amusement park! We cannot wait to go back.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Real Disney Castle

When we went to Garmisch last year we decided to take the journey to the real disney castle (the one the disney castle was modeled after), Neuschwanstein Castle. It was amazing! In order to take a tour you buy your tickets at the base of the hill and then you can either walk or take a horse & carriage ride up the hill. The tours are time slotted- Don't be late! We took the kiddo's in, and being a family full of Amazing race fans, we of course were checking out the places we saw on the show in more depth. What I disliked the most is all the renovations. Why can't people let things be? I understand somethings need to be renovated but seeing women behind the glass stitching at some cloth annoyed me. It's old.. it should be raggity and not pretty. Let history be history. We got some delicious pretzels and headed to back to garmisch after our hour tour. Well.. left right after getting a photo for our Christmas card in the prime location!

Sirmione Castle

I wanted to take some time and go in depth on the places we've been visiting. First, Sirmione Castle. It's on Lago di Garda. It's quite beautiful The view from the top of the castle over the lake is stunning. There is a cute little resturant right outside that we stopped for a bite to eat at. Not the best food we've had in Italy and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. There is a beach slightly down the road from the castle, it looked a tad overcrowded for me. Also, right at the castle entrance there is the ability to rent boats. Brilliant, what a better way to see the castle then from the lake?

Another one off the list

Slowly checking items off my small Italian bucket list. Last night we went to a Pitbull Concert in Assago-Milan, Italy. It was a blast. Much shorter than I had expected but SO MUCH FUN! We were right at the front. The italians are still rude no matter where they are. I literally had italians sitting on me when they had seriously 20 more feet of space to go to but they felt the need to sit on my foot. I held my composure well and didn't hit anyone and just enjoyed Mr. Worldwide!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

To do before I leave Italy

Well, our time in Italy is coming to an end... so we thought. March 2014 will be here before we know it. We found out yesterday that we got approved for the extension we put it! Yes, this girl who HATED Italy asked her husband to extend so we had more time here. We do not know an exact day we will leave this place or to where we are headed next, all I know is I still have some time to travel. When we realized that we were 8 months for packing up, I started to think of all the things I wanted to do before I left here. Most peoples list would say, go to rome... venice etc. Not mine.
My list : Go to Al Portego ( a restaurant i drive by daily and have for 2 1/2 years, but have never gone)
Go to the Mensa on post (Did that after 2+ years)
Try Prosciutto & melon (Did that yesterday)
Go to Auchan
Get a Demijohn Got two!
Learn to make pasticcio and gnocchi from scratch
Learn to make ragu
Have a real conversation with my landlord without playing charades
Go to Bassano Del Grappa My new favorite town
Go to a Concert in Milan
I don't have a ton of places on my MUST see list. I just went to paris last month. It was awesome. Greece & london are the only two left on my list but I wouldn't be terribly heart broken if I didn't get there.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Life long dream

My life long dream came true today! I swam with dolphins in Malta! His name was Sol. I cannot explain the 'high' I have right now!

Monday, May 6, 2013

We survived the cruise!

And what an amazing adventure it was! Our favorite places were Cadiz & Morocco. The best 10 days of our lives!!