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...