Saturday, August 27, 2011

Isle of Ischia

So while almost every person that we know is battling a hurricane this weekend (condo please don't flood, please don't flood) we decided to take a day trip to the Isle of Ischia today. For those of you who don't know, Ischia is basically Capri's lesser known sister island. It sits in the Tyrrhenian Sea and is about an hour ferry ride from Naples. Many Europeans flock here for its thermal spas, hot springs, and volcanic mud, while also enjoying the beaches and little shops and restaurants in the small towns.
View from Procida
Our day started with our first Italian ferry experience. To get on the ferries there is what one may call "organized chaos". Basically, everybody just gets on... with toes being rolled over by large suitcases in the process. And everybody also includes people on scooters, cars, and pedestrians... at the same time, through the same ramp. Complete craziness, but I guess there is a smoothness to all of the mayhem since nobody gets killed or seriously injured in the process. This is also true for getting off of the ferries.

A string of cars waiting to get on.
We had some pretty good views from atop the ferry. 

Pulling into the Ischia port
A lighthouse
We didn't go into the day with a set plan. We didn't know where we wanted to go on the island, but being that it was in the high 90s with clear skies and no wind we wore our suits and brought some towels in case we wanted to check out one of the beaches.  We walked around for a bit, looking at the cute shops along the cobblestone roads. A woman was pushing a huge cart of lemons in front of us. When a couple of them fell Jon helped her out and picked them up. She was very thankful and asked us if we wanted to try two kinds of liquors from her store. Of course we'll try your liquor!!! Who does she think she's talking to? :) We also tried one of her cookies and some sweet thing we can't remember. A great start on the island.
Big cart of lemons!
We basically walked around a whole bunch more on the island. We didn't make it to the beaches since we just couldn't stand being outside any longer than we already were. The heat was beating down on us and was pretty unbearable. We did take a breather and had lunch at a pizzeria where we ordered prosciutto e melone (melon, which was the best melon I've ever tasted... seriously) and pizza margharita (what else?). We ended the day with a quick bus ride to the port and some granita (like Italian ice) to cool us off some more. A ferry ride back and we were done!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Eating, eating, and well... eating some more!

So we've been in Italy for about 10 days. Things have been a little hectic with orientation, Jon checking into the hospital, trying to get our car (which we finally did a few days ago), and looking for apartments. We haven't taken any long day trips in the area yet since we are trying to find either someone to walk Maya for us during the day, or find a reputable boarding place for her to be overnight in... we know, we know, Maya is our child who rules our lives :)

So what have we been doing this whole time? EATING!  Seriously, we're shocked that more Italians aren't obese. There are five courses to a typical Italian meal.. antipasto (appetizer), primi (1st course usually consisting of pasta), secondi (2nd course usually consisting of meat or fish), contorno (vegetable that usually accompanies dinner) and dolce (dessert).We really have tried to keep up with all of the courses, but we've typically been sharing the secondi course or not ordering one at all. Just the antipasto could be a meal on its own!! Also, dinner lasts at least two hours (no wonder with all of the courses) and if you go out before 8:30 for dinner you will be the only ones in the restaurant for a while. Some restaurants don't even open for dinner until 9pm!

Cheryl drinking vino rosso by the sunset.
Jon drinking a Peroni.
The other night we tried to go out to dinner to a place that we found in a book. If you didn't know this place was here you would never find it, which also means that it's more of a local restaurant sans tourists, plus no English is spoken. As we were driving towards it we got the impression that we were entering someone's backyard. We finally make it up a big hill and see that the place was closed for the month (Italians typically take most, if not all of the month of August off for vacation). No problemo! We just happened to stumble upon a different place a very short distance away. We walk in and using whatever Italian we think we know we say, "due per favore" (two, please). Nobody spoke English, but we got by with Spanish, which Jon knows how to speak. Anyway, the owner, Eduardo, asked us if we wanted to start out with some prosciutto and mozzarella so we said yes. That was the last time we spoke with him until the end of the meal. The plates of food that came out were never ending... there were mussels, fried anchovies, fried doughballs (zeppelinis), eggplant, baked clams, bruschetta, octopus, and squid. We were literally laughing as the food kept coming out. The waiter then came around and asked if we wanted to see the menu for the 1st course. Yeah, we were pretty stuffed so we passed. With wine and water we were wondering how much this was going to cost us. A whopping 35 euros! What?! The wine itself, and everywhere else for that matter, was just 5 euros. Simply awesome and a great experience.

Having some drinks at the hotel before we went out for pizza!

A specialty in Naples is pizza. Modern pizza originated in Italy as the Neapolitan pie with tomato. In 1889, during a visit to Naples, Queen Margherita of Italy was served a pizza resembling the colors of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). This kind of pizza has been named after the Queen as Pizza Margherita, which is the pizza to get while you're in Naples. We've ordered pizza Margherita about 5 times since we've been here and we haven't been disappointed! We also buy an extra one, put it in our fridge and eat it cold the next day!

The pizza Margherita that we ate in about 2 seconds!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Driving in Napoli... quite an experience!

We've always heard about the crazy drivers in Napoli, but we weren't too worried about it since A) we're not too shy behind the wheel (especially Jon) and B) we lived in NYC for 4-5 years and had no problems at all when we needed to drive in the city. In fact, we missed NYC driving when we moved out. So we should be more prepared to handle it than other Americans coming over.. and we are!

Jon's been doing all of the driving so far since we had to rent a stick shift car, which I don't know how to drive (yet). We've been driving around for a couple of days and there were certain times where I white knuckled my passenger side handle, but overall, it wasn't as crazy as I thought it would be... until this past Sunday. On Sunday we decided to take a drive into downtown Napoli, and let me just tell you I thought someone was going to get killed. I covered my eyes, squeezed the handle, and yelled "WATCH OUT" more than a few times. Jon was made for this type of driving and was pretty calm... even though I know he was looking around saying, "What is going on here???"

From what we've observed so far here are some rules to abide by when you drive here:

1) Do not drive in the left lane unless you are passing. This is a rule that we wish could be implemented more in the United States. Virginia drivers LOVE to hog up the left lane going the speed limit or below and not let anyone pass. In Napoli, the drivers will flash you to get out of the way (and they do). In Virginia, it was Jon doing the flashing, but people would only move about half of the time.

2) Stop signs are for beginners. Seriously, treat them as if they're not there.

3) You know those white lines on highways and streets. Yeah, just ignore those too. Many people straddle lanes. I don't know why.

4) Cars, buses, vespas, etc. can pass you if they think you're going too slow. Even if there's nowhere to pass, and especially if there's a car coming on the other side.

5) People driving vespas and scooters weave in and out of cars, while talking on their cell phones, and smoking a cigarette. Or possibly while hauling all of their garbage to wherever they dump it.

6) Pedestrians walk wherever and whenever they want. It is your job not to hit them.

7) When turning onto a street, just go. It really doesn't matter who is there... they'll slow down to avoid you.

I'm sure we'll be adding more to this list as we continue to drive around, but this is what we have so far. We'll be picking up our car this week so I'll have my hand at driving soon. More to come!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our adventure begins!

Before the flight with 340 lbs of luggage.

We made it to Napoli after a 13 hour trip with a stop in the Azores. We toted 340 pounds of luggage with us, including Maya, who was a trooper throughout the whole process. Of course, we couldn't get to Napoli without something going wrong. The hotel had mixed up our reservation and had us checking in on Friday. With no availability until then they put us up in their sister hotel (not as nice, but doable) and have been more than accommodating and apologetic. Nevertheless, we are so excited to be here and even more excited to get out of the life of being nomads. For those of you that weren't following our summer, here's what we went through since we moved out of our condo on 5/29/11:

- 9 different check ins to hotels (tomorrow will be 10) totaling 42 nights at various times throughout the summer with about 3 more weeks until we find an apartment.

- Not including our flight yesterday we were on 14 different planes going to Los Angeles, Denver, New York, Washington D.C., Norfolk, and others with the connections totaling 9,140 miles.

- We drove from Norfolk to New Jersey, back to Norfolk, to the Outer Banks, to New Jersey, to D.C., to Durham, to Norfolk, to Richmond, and back to Norfolk totaling 1,970 miles.

Needless to say, we are more than ready to get back to having a home that we can live in and dressers/closets we can put clothes in!

We haven't done much today except sleep and relax and we probably won't be doing much until we can pick up our car early next week. More to come!

Landing in the Azores.
Leaving the Azores.

Landing into Napoli.
Mt. Vesuvius

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Arrivederci Party!

Welcome to our bloggio! Here, Jon and I will post information, updates, and photos of our life abroad in Naples, Italy for two years. We plan to travel extensively, become immersed in the culture, and enjoy everything that Italy has to offer. We hope that documenting our adventures here will give you a taste of what we're experiencing.

Even though we haven't officially moved to Italy yet, we thought that our going away party was the perfect starting point to our blog. Jon's parents, Lori and Joe, threw us an arrivederci party today at their house in New Jersey. With two weeks to go until we leave, it was an amazing send off, one filled with lots of love and thoughtfulness. Flags of Italy flew above the red, white, and green clad tablecloths, while the caprese and cannolis gave us a taste of what is to come.  Some pictures are below... unfortunately, I didn't get any of Lori who spent a lot of time preparing for the party and did an excellent job hosting. Thanks Lori, Joe, Gaye, and Al!

The grill masters Al and Joe.
Arrivederci to us!
Yay friends!
In front of our beautiful cake.
Mom had too many drinks!