Thursday, November 24, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone finds someone to enjoy this holiday with. It can be hard to be away from home for the holidays but good friends and food always help alleviate that, so give someone a call! I'm sure we will skype with the family later as well.

This year I am so thankful to have the opportunity to live in Italy. I have heard a lot of people complaining about living here and it makes me sad. On the one hand, yes it is hard to be far from home and family and familiar things. But on the other hand I think it is all about your attitude. It can be oh so wonderful to experience all of these new things. Yes, it's scary sometimes. But it's wonderful too. The time will fly by and soon each of us military families will move back to the states, this is really a very short time we have here overall. So ENJOY it!

This year I am attempting to brine my turkey. Wish me luck! I hope this recipe works:

Let's eat!

Monday, November 14, 2011


Padova is a city very close to Vicenza. It is close enough to drive to but I don't recommend doing it. Driving in Padova is super confusing and there are a lot of "zona traffico limitato" areas you have to watch for, or places you can't go or else you get a ticket. I took the train the other day and it was only a few euro and took less than 20 minutes to get there.

Padova is famous for their food market. Every morning you can find fresh foods being sold in the piazza della frutta. There is also a meat market under the arcade of the building you see here.

Padova is a major pilgrimage site due to the impressive St. Anthony's Cathedral.

"At 90.000 square meters, "prato delle valle" is the biggest square in Europe and probably one of the most beautiful in the World. Historically a Roman theater and later a fairground, it was redone in 1775 to the present layout: a large central grassy area, surrounded by a statue-lined canal, then a broad expanse of flagstones before a couple lanes of traffic are allowed to trickle around it in the distance. Saturdays the square hosts a giant market." (
Padova is home to the oldest University. The best part of the University is their graduation hazing which you can watch on any given day as they graduate them one by one there about every 20 minutes. Once they come out of the University from graduating they are at their friends and families' mercy. They have to put on a ridiculous outfit and do silly things while reading a poster of their "life's story". It is quite entertaining. Periodically everyone breaks out into a catchy little song that says something along the lines of "doctor, doctor, you're just a doctor of the butt".

Next time I go to Padova I would like to reserve tickets in advance to see the amazing frescoes in the Scrovegni chapel.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monte Baldo

Last weekend we decided to take the gondola up to the top of Monte Baldo and hike around a little. So we made the trek all the way there (it's right next to lake Garda) only to find that the gondola JUST closed for several months of repairs. So don't plan a trip to the gondola. Their website says they are pretty much open every day except didn't mention two months of repair. So just in case it's on anyone's agenda, thought I'd put it out there.

Monday, October 17, 2011

EuroChocolate in Perugia Italy

This past weekend I planned a ladies trip to Perugia to indulge ourselves in every woman's favorite food...chocolate! The EuroChocolate festival in Perugia is supposedly the biggest and best chocolate festival in all of Europe. It was awesome, chocolate everywhere and in every flavor imaginable! The phrase "posso assaggiare..." (can I taste...) was my best friend. Perugia is up on top of a big hill and the view is beautiful.

It's going on next weekend too, so hurry and plan your girls trip! It's about a 4-5 hour drive south of Vicenza area. All of the hotels in Perugia book months in advance, but we booked last minute stayed in an adorable agriturismo outside Assisi and toured around Assisi our second day there (beautiful!). When you get to Perugia the best thing to do is park at the mini metro station (look for signs to the "Fontivegge") pay Euro 1.50 each way and take the little mini metro (super cool looking, google it) to the top of the mountain where Centro Perugia and the Chocolate festival are located. Parking at the station is free during the festival.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Working in Italy

Jobs can be tough to come by here in Italy. Because of the SOFA agreement you are not allowed to work on the economy or have any kind of home business (the only exception is if you live on Villagio you can open your home for Family Child Care). Also because of the SOFA agreement something like 80% of the jobs have to be given to the local nationals. So that doesn't leave many jobs. You can check on for some job listings.

There are lot's and lot's of volunteer opportunities available. So if you want to keep busy it's really not hard to do, even if you can't get paid for it. You can volunteer for American Red Cross, the EFMP program, USO and many more. Pretty much all the organizations here will take volunteers.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a string of five villages on the cliffs next to the ocean in Tuscany. There are hiking trails connecting each of the villages and also a train you can take. Overall I felt it was a beautiful but a bit of a disappointment. I have been looking forward to going here for quite some time. I had no idea it was a HUGE tourist destination. There were so many tourists there it really took away from the environment. Especially since most of them were speaking english...I know that sounds weird but American tourists really bug me. I like to feel like I'm in Italy when I am.

Don't get me wrong. It was amazingly beautiful. But it was the kind of place that you expect to be deserted and more remote. I have heard that the locals say that it deserves a quiet kind of respect that it has not received since being "discovered".

Be sure to try the AMAZING Foccacia bread in Monterosso (the last village), they are famous for it. I had a potato flavor that was smothered in delicious olive oil and I still crave it.
The houses are built right into, on and around the rock. I wondered if some of them even have the natural rock as part of their walls inside.
To get there you drive to La Spezia, park at the train station (or a few blocks away, the street parking is cheaper then the train station parking garage). Buy a Cinque Terre train ticket for 10 Euro which includes access to the trails or if you only want to hike, pay the 5 Euro to access the trails. But the train ticket is a pretty good deal because you can get on and off between the towns as many times as you want. I think next time I go I would like to stay the night in one of the villages to get a better feel for Cinque Terre.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Kitchens of Italy

Kitchens in Italy are...interesting. Italians like to "take their kitchen" when they move. Which means that typically when you look at an apartment to rent there is nothing there but some water pipes where you would put your sink. I had a hard time wrapping my head around this. I still have a hard time with it. So if you end up in private housing you have to figure out what to do with your kitchen (arrange your contract so the landlord puts a kitchen in or make a big IKEA run...)

If you're in goverment housing like me, it is taken care of. It's not amazing, but you do have a fridge, sink, dishwasher and maybe some counter space. Below is a picture of my set up. The walls are just outside the edges of this picture. The only other thing you don't see in this photo is my fridge which is on the opposite wall. So as far as counter space/storage space what you see is all I've got.

This is definitely something to consider when deciding what to bring over with you...of course everyone's situation is different. But I can tell you that most people here complain about their kitchens.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Volterra, Tuscany

Does Volterra sound familiar to you? Probably from the recently popular Twilight books. When Bella goes to Italy to save Edward from stepping out into the square in daylight...that was in Volterra. (They didn't actually film the movie in this town though, it was further south.) Aside from Twilight though this town is so lovely. It is a walled Etruscan city (which means it's older than Roman times!) up on top of a hill with so much charm and a lot less tourists then a lot of places in Tuscany.
The main square (for you Twilight fans this is where Edward almost stepped into the light)

The walls of the city used to be twice as big as they are today. There is one remaining city gate from Etruscan times. A lot of the wall was destroyed by the Nazis, but this one arch the Volterra people took up all the stones from the street that led to it and filled it to the top so that the Nazi's wouldn't blow it up. After WWII they took all the stones out and put them back down on the street. Really neat story.

Wild boar is a specialty in this area

Of course Rome came in and took over Volterra at one point so there is a Roman theater that was later mostly taken apart to make some baths.
Roman theater

Overall I really loved Volterra. It was fun to just wander the streets and take it all in. Walled cities are nice because you can wander as much as you want and know you're still in the city as long as you haven't gone out of the walls.

Calculating road toll cost

I just found an awesome website to help calculate road tolls in Italy.

Go here.

I dare you to find out the toll cost from Vicenza to Napoli, and then not pass out. Tolls can be painful in Italy...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Condensation dryer...heard of it?

When I first got into my house here in Italy I did about two loads of laundry and my dryer stopped working. I could not figure out what the heck was wrong with it. Finally I pulled this little drawer out and it was full of water. I wasn't sure what it was but there was a little hole so I decided to empty it, my dryer went back to working. It's called a condensation dryer, have you heard of this? Maybe I'm ridiculous but I've never heard of it.

From Wikipedia:
"Just as in a normal dryer, condenser dryers pass heated air through the load. However, instead of exhausting this air, the dryer uses a heat exchanger to cool the air and condense the water vapor into either a drain pipe or a collection tank. This air is run through the loop again. The heat exchanger typically uses ambient air as its coolant, therefore the heat produced by the dryer will go into the immediate surroundings instead of the outside, increasing the room temperature."

P.S. Speaking of laundry there are a few other quirks you might want to know about...the machines here take FOREVER. The washer takes 2 hours unless I run the "quick" 1 hour cycle.  The dryer also takes about two hours, depending on how much I'm drying. And to make things worse, if I try to run both at the same time it flips the breaker. A lot of other ladies here have told me that the same thing happens to them.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Strada delle 52 galllerie

The weather right now is just right for a good hike. Last weekend we decided to check out the Strada Delle 52 Gallerie. In the Dolomite mountains of Italy not too far from where we live there is a series of 52 tunnels that where cut into Mount Pasubio by soldiers during WWI in order to safely transport supplies. Work began on February 6, 1917 and was concluded in November 1917. It is considered to be an engineering masterpiece for it's day and is one of the few remaining structures from WWI.
The very first tunnel
Getting there was easier then I thought it would be. It took about an hour and a half from Vicenza. We put "Valli del Pasubio" into our gps. From there we continued onto SS46 towards Rovereto. The road goes up to the moutains so there are a lot of switchbacks. About 6 miles up SS46 on the right hand side you will see a sign for Strada delle 52 Gallerie, turn right. (This road is a little bit tricky but manageable. It is a one lane road going up the mountain, so there are some blind corners and it drops off on one side of you. Just go slow and you'll be fine. I have found that everyone goes up this road in the morning and down in the afternoon, so as long as you are there in the morning hopefully you won't have to pass any cars. But if you do happen upon a car coming down, there are pulloffs for passing here and there. It's not a bad road, I took a little four door car up it no problem, no need for an SUV.) You all the way up until you get to a spot where the road goes three different ways. Go left. Go all the way up until you get to a nice big parking lot just for the Strada delle 52 (it's about 5 miles all the way from where you turned off). Get out and take the left hand trail with the fancy entrance and get hiking!

Tunnel number 20 spirals up through this tower
The walk starts at a car park at Bocchetta Campiglia [1216m] and ends uphill at an Italian Alpine Club refuge called A Papa [1928m]. There is an information board at the start of the walk, with a small section in English. Each tunnel is numbered and at intervals there are more boards giving information on the next few tunnels. The tunnels are all different. Some are long and some are short. Some have little lookout windows and some are dark. Be sure to bring a flashlight for the dark ones. My husband is over six foot and had to duck through some of the tunnels a little bit but not too bad.
The tunnels make this a really unique and enjoyable hike. It takes about three hours to get to the top and two to get down. There are some parts of the trail that drop off on the side but the trail is wide so it's not scary at all. We strapped my two year old into a hiking backpack because he is not so good at staying on a trail yet.
Going back down can be tricky because the tunnels can get slippery. If you don't want to go back down through the tunnels there is a road you can follow back down, you'll see it when you get to the top. There is a trail that sort of follows the road but cuts off the switchbacks, so watch for the red and white stripes that mark it.

When we got past about tunnel forty we were up in the clouds. When we got to the top we were above the clouds. It was beautiful up there.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Luzern/Lucerne, Switzerland

If you're looking to escape to the mountains there is no better place to do that then Switzerland. Everywhere you go in Switzerland there is a mountain, a lake, a river and a waterfall within sight. It is absolutely breathtaking. The city of Luzern is a wonderful place to see. The historic part of town is full of half timbered houses and even has a medieval wall with nine towers, three of which you can ascend (for free). The "chapel bridge" is Europe's oldest surviving wooden covered bridge built in 1333 with 17th century paintings in it depicting the history of Luzern.

The dying lion monument commemorates the hundreds of Swiss Gueards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when the mob stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

Interesting fact for an attempt to maintain neutrality Switzerland long ago strategically placed explosives around the borders that when activated, because of all the mountain passes would make access to Switzerland impossible by road.
Next to Luzern are two major mountains, Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi. They have a package deal that you can do where you take a boat ride to the base, ride a cogwheel up Mount Pilatus and then a Gondola back down but it's pretty pricey (80 Euro on the off season).
See the gondola?
We decided to hike to the top to avoid paying for the cogwheel/gondola. We wanted to do the toboggan ride at the top which they claim is Switzerland's longest summer toboggan ride. This hike is not for the faint of heart. It starts at the bottom of the gondola in Kleine and takes 3 hours of straight up the mountain to get there.
Love the sound of Swiss cow bells

Toboggan run on top of Mount Pilatus. Look at the view!
Be warned, everything in Switzerland is EXPENSIVE. The hotels can run you about $200 a night. We roughed it in a tent at a campground and paid $50 a night to do it. I never thought I would pay that much to camp! But what better place to camp then beautiful Switzerland.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Call the states for FREE!!!!!!!

I have always used Google voice to call home from here in Italy. It only charged me 1 cent a minute to call the states. I even use it to call landlines here in Italy because it's only 2 cents a minute as compared to the 12 cents a minute they charge me to call a land line from my cell phone. But it just got even better!

If you have a .mil email address you can add it to your google voice account info (if you have a gmail account log in with that info, if not, create a google account) and it emails you at the address to confirm and then you are signed up for FREE calling to the states from anywhere overseas! Thank you google voice! This would have been nice to have when my husband was deployed!

Monday, September 5, 2011


If you are an army wife in Europe, READ THIS.

I just found out today that your gas coupons EXPIRE at the end of every fiscal year (Sept 30th). So what you need to do is take any remaining gas coupons that you have on Sept 30th to the Px to get a refund and then buy your new coupons for the next fiscal year. They are a different color every year so it's pretty noticeable and you won't be able to use any coupons that you've bought before Sept 30th, so be sure you don't lose any money on this!

Good to know right??

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Asiago...the town and the cheese

Asiago is beautiful little town in northern Italy that is famous for (can you guess??) Asiago cheese. They are also famous for honey and mushrooms. If you are looking for somewhere to escape the heat, it's a good place to go. It's up in the mountains to the temperature is cooler and the air is so fresh. I highly recommend checking out this town. The cheese and honey vendors will let you have samples, it's fun to taste the difference in a cheese at different ages. The honeys have very different flavors depending on what the bees were pollinating. I tried a "honey of the woods" that I can only describe as tasting very much like the woods, as opposed to a "honey of acacia" that was sweet like a flower.

The switchback road getting up to Asiago

Beautiful green hills of Asiago

A church in Asiago


Don't you love the colors of Italy?

WWI monument in Asiago where 30,000 soldiers are buried