Generally, I write about the positive aspects of our experience in Italy. For the sake of honesty (actually, I just want to complain), I have to include some not so positive aspects. Going to the hairdresser in Italy is nothing short of torture for me. I have been through three hairdressers in one year and a half. It isn’t because they don’t do a decent job. It’s because they take so **bleeping** long.

The first one I went to when we moved here took 3 ½ hours to cut and color my hair. At the time, my hair was shorter than my boys’. What could possibly take so long??!! On to the next one… I stuck with him until I had to wait over an hour when I had called for an appointment. This is when I learned that appointments mean absolutely nothing so don’t bother. You try to go when it isn’t too busy. (I’m there when they’re opening the doors in the morning.)

Finally, I found the one that seemed to be quicker. Although, he is slipping. The last couple of visits are going over my limits. Today was three hours but it did include highlights so I guess I’ll give him another chance. Definitely on probation.

The new color…

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Carnevale is a popular festival throughout Italy. Some cities are famous for their festivals but everyone celebrates in some way or other. Here’s a short article about it: http://goitaly.about.com/od/festivalsandevents/a/carnevale.htm

A couple of Moms in Russell’s class organized a costume party at a local party place or “ludoteca”. It gave the kids a chance to dress in costume and run around like crazy people while the parents stood around chatting and eating too much. In typical fashion, everyone brought a dish of something so there was plenty to choose from. My cupcakes were a hit because cupcakes are a bit of a novelty. The recipes were requested by a couple people so they’ll soon discover how easy they are to make. So much for my moment of fame….

Russell, of course, was Ironman. Duilio surprised us by asking to be Arlecchino (Harlequin Clown), one of the typical Carnevale clowns (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlequin).

Duilio in his Arlecchino costume

Russell as Ironman

Towards the end of the party, Duilio says, “It’s just too much for me.”

The gang – at least those they could get to stand still for a moment


Yesterday, we took our first trip to the U.S. Consulate in Naples (http://naples.usconsulate.gov/index.html). We needed to renew Russell’s passport. I think my “bar” has been lowered from dealing with Italian bureaucracy because it was actually a pleasant experience. The passport renewal instructions on the internet are clear and detailed so we arrived prepared; the appointment was made online; we found the building easily and there was even parking nearby. A polite Italian and jolly American guy took of the paperwork and we were on our way. So what’s the message….Americans, for all its faults you should appreciate your government. You have no idea how good we have it!

After that we took a drive over to the Navy Support Site. I wanted to check out their commissary (grocery store) and buy some items that are difficult or impossible to find at Italian grocery stores. For an avid baker, it was bad news when I discovered that brown sugar does not exist here. I searched for a substitute and discovered you can make it with white sugar and molasses. Too bad you can’t buy molasses either! In the end, I bought molasses up at Aviano AFB last summer. You can make a lot of brown sugar with one jar of molasses.

You may be amused by what we bought:

Normal size chocolate chips (they only sell wimpy miniature ones locally)

Butterscotch chips

Cape Cod potato chips (woo hoo!)

Can of baking powder (sold in annoying little packets here)

Vanilla extract

Flour tortillas

Bagels

Two ribeye steaks

Hamburger buns

Bacon

Maple syrup

Transformer fruit flavor snacks

Super Mario Bros fruit flavor snacks

Perhaps not the healthiest selection but it sure will taste good! We topped off our American experience by eating lunch at A&W in the food court. Loved the rootbeer! The burger and fries…..not so much. Overall, it was a nice mini-trip to the U.S.


Can you guess what it means? Now, no cheating…don’t use some Internet translation tool…

 

I’m not quite sure how we’re going to remove said baffi. Russell, along with several other classmates, grew them today thanks to un amico che piace pirati tantissimo. Although, Russell decided that he preferred to be a famous artist. He wouldn’t tell me his name but did insist on calling me by my given name instead of “Mom” for about an hour. You see, I wasn’t his mom while he was in character.


A few Sunday mornings ago, I must have asked the boys ten times to get dressed. They have already perfected the masculine art of selective hearing. (I remember my Grandpa Nubile having this art perfected. It was truly amazing. ) Finally, around lunchtime as I took the last batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven, I yelled upstairs, “Whoever is NOT dressed doesn’t get any cookies!” Suddenly I hear little feet scurrying to their room. Five minutes later they arrived, fully dressed. Those kids will do anything for chocolate chip cookies. Whoever says bribery is not a good parenting technique doesn’t have kids….

This winter we decided to take little excursions when the weather is nice on Sunday mornings. It’s easier on the kids than longer trips, especially with Duilio in school on Saturday mornings. Besides, there seems to be castles or ruins of castles on every hilltop around here. We thought it would be fun to A) try to find them and B) hike around them and check them out.

One morning we went to Montoro Inferiore and saw this castle. We were actually looking for a different castle that we have seen from the highway many times! Guess we’ll have to give it another try.

Castle Ruins

View from the castle site – See the snow on the distant mountains!

Old building with pigeon holes

My Little Adventurers

Church adjacent to the castle ruins – It was pretty new – 1800’s….

Statue of Jesus outside of the church.

Another Sunday, we went to Agropoli. This town has been settled since Neolithic times and that is a mighty long time. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agropoli for more on Agropoli.

It’s a pity we didn’t know about this town when we moved here. I think it would have suited us even better than Salerno. It’s small but lively and has a charming corso. It has a centro storico on the hilltop with a castle, of course. Also, nearby are the many lovely beaches of Cilento.

Our budding photographers, Russell and Duilio took many of the photos this day.

We had many photos of cats…I figured I’d better publish at least one…

 

The stairs leading up to the historic center

Taking a break on the corso

I wonder why we look so tall?

Castle

Now that the boys are taking pictures, there will actually be pictures of Luca and I together again….

The old city gates…cool…

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View of the harbor

Agropoli’s corso on a Sunday morning…


At least I hope so. After two weeks of school vacation, Russell was home sick with a fever and sore throat. On Friday, he was able to return to school. To celebrate my few hours of freedom, I decided to andare in centro to do a little shopping. After a year and half in Salerno, I’ve never blogged about the center of Salerno. Salerno has been around since Pre-Roman times and boasts a historic center. It’s not large but it is nice. It’s always enjoyable to take a stroll through the narrow winding streets. It’s filled with stores, restaurants and, of course, coffee bars.

I generally park in a large parking lot outside of the center and walk in past the train station and down the corso. Most Italian cities of a decent size have a corso which has shops, restaurants, etc. including department and clothing stores like Benetton. They are usually closed to general traffic so people can stroll down the street safely. Strolling down the corso is quite a social event in the evenings when it’s warmer.

This is a picture of the corso in the morning.

My first mission was to visit a shop to exchange a bag that Luca had bought for me for Christmas. He bought it at a shop that we both really like. The owner makes the leather goods, mostly purses and belts, on the premises. He didn’t have the purse I wanted in black so he’s going to make it for me and I’ll pick it up in a week. I think it’s cool that you can still buy handmade products from the person who made it. It seems more unique and special.

Here’s an example of some remaining Roman columns. My guess is they were covered up in the past and then rediscovered.

After the leather shop, I shopped the sales. Like in the U.S., after Christmas is the time of big discounts and great time to stock up. Naturally, I had to take a break to have a coffee and biscotti.

A street in the historic center

It has been a long time since I posted. There were lots of holiday activities and I’ve been working part-time. I couldn’t find the time to write blogs but I miss it. Blogging is a good way for me to reflect on life and appreciate it. In the midst of the daily grind, it’s easy to forget what we have. Buona Domenica!

To find out more about Salerno, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salerno.


It wasn’t actually A Big Fat Italian Wedding. That was just to get your attention. It was more like an elegant, fun Italian wedding in a lovely setting. We recently went to a friends’ wedding up in the North of Italy at Lago D’Orta (Lake Orta).

Lago D’Orta

Luca and I flew up for the weekend without the kids (woo-hoo!). Everyone stayed in this little town along the lake called Orta San Giulio. It was what you think of when you think of a little Italian town….medieval buildings, no cars in the center, small streets to explore and plenty of wine bars and restaurants. (It is a popular tourist and wedding destination.)

Central piazza in the centro storico

After arriving Friday evening, we met the groom, Luigi, at an enoteca (wine bar) for a party with other wedding guests. Luca and Luigi have been friends since liceo (high school). As an aside, we credit the bride, Chiara, with getting Luca and I together. She invited him to a party, he invited me, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Luigi’s party was interesting with a friendly, international crowd. I was rather disappointed that almost everyone spoke English…I didn’t get to practice much! We were very lucky that our hotel was just a few steps away. It was a very cool hotel by the way. Small and cozy with very particular rooms; the showers were right in the room. (http://www.ortainfo.com/aracoeliinglese.html)

This was the view from our hotel room window.

It was an afternoon wedding so we had time to explore the town. Everywhere we went, we met other wedding guests strolling around as well.

The paintings on the buildings were beautiful.

This chapel was in front of our hotel.

The wedding was in a church Orto San Giulio up this very steep, cobbled street. Many of the women braved the walk in tacchi alti (high heels). I hadn’t worn heels since Russell was born so I waited until we were safely back down the hill to change. I prefer not to break my ankles! It was a lovely ceremony and they even received a personal blessing from the Pope. Wow.

The church

The reception was about twenty minutes away so they actually arranged transportation for everyone via a little scenic train then a bus. This was one organized bride. The reception was at an actual castle complete with ancestral paintings and coats of arms. She truly must have felt like a princess on her wedding day.

One of the dining rooms at the reception

I was impressed by the door.

In case we were attacked, we located the nearest weapons and armor

Congratulations Luigi & Chiara!


There really is no place like home. No matter how interesting it is to discover new places, I breathe a sigh of relief and relax when I step on to U.S. soil. A few weeks ago, we went to Ohio for our home leave. I know how things work in the U.S. I can speak English freely and I understand how people behave….and the space. There’s so much space to walk, drive, park and play!

The trip over can only be described as the trip from hell. We should have taken it as a sign when we saw a tornado when we arrived at the Rome airport. I won’t bore you with the gory details. However, it took two days to get to Ohio and we missed stopping to see family in New York for a couple days :-(.

A tornado in Rome? We were traveling to the Midwest where there are always tornados, yet we see it one in Rome!

Once we arrived, we had a great time. The boys experienced their first country fair in Lancaster, Ohio. This fair is a big deal. Some kids get a week off from school because the animals that they have raised are competing for prizes. Our boys loved the rides.

Some good-looking chickens

Their first Ferris wheel ride

Look at Russell’s expression…

Like me, I think Duilio will love rollercoasters.

We also went to Old Man’s Cave, a beautiful hiking area in Hocking County. Here are a few web sites that about Hocking Hills in case you ever happen to be in the neighborhood. It’s well worth a visit.

http://www.hockinghills.com/old_mans_cave.html

http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/tabid/743/default.aspx

Duilio exploring

Checking things out

Old Man’s Cave

Nature is beautiful

We got to see foliage!

My Mom’s new home is lovely. The boys enjoyed riding bikes outside. Duilio mastered riding without training wheels so he was excited. We also got to see many relatives. A really happy trip!

Now here are pictures of some things you probably won’t see in Italy.

Not much call for deer skinning in Italy….

Not too many religious bumper stickers, either. I liked this one.

$4.00 take-away coffees. Insane, but as you can see, I really needed it…looking tired.


I forgot about these pictures on my little camera. There are mostly of Elba. I just had to post them.

This is my Marilyn Monroe moment. Thank goodness I was wearing a skort!

Check out the boys hair!

Russell was having a blast in the wind tunnel created on the side of the ferry here. He was pretending he was superhero, of course!

This was a lovely port – Porto Azzurro

Here’s a picture of the boys in the school grembiule. Russell likes his because he says it’s his scientist coat.

 


The Island

Elba is a beautiful island. Napoleon didn’t have it so bad when he was exiled there in 1814. Although I suppose having your dream of world domination shattered was probably depressing for him. In any case, we enjoyed our weekend there. It’s a great place for a vacation with plenty of activities. Not only are there beautiful beaches but there is also scuba diving, boating, hiking, biking and historical places to visit.

It seems to be a very active island. While we were on the island, there was a classic rally car race including a Ferrari expo (http://www.rallyelbastorico.com/index.php?c=3) and the Elbaman. There were two Ferraris next to us on the ferry ride over!

The Elbaman

Luca was a finisher! This in itself is a huge achievement. Can you imagine swimming 1.9 km, biking 94 km then running a half marathon? Mama mia! Naturally, he’s already thinking about how to improve his performance for the next one. Here’s the link again: http://www.elbaman.it/default.asp

There is a cool little video posted.

On Saturday Luca had to check in his bike and we checked out the course. We had driven around the bike route while touring the island. It was really hilly. Yikes!

You check your bikes in the night before in the transition area.

Lots of fancy triathlon bikes around….Luca’s not so fancy. Can you see where that’s headed?

The pink area is where the professionals transition. They don’t have to check in until the morning.

Swim course

The day before Luca seemed a bit nervous since it was his first long distance triathlon. The morning of the race he was pumped up and ready to go.

This was the beginning of the full ironman distance swim.

While Luca was busy for the day, we decided to have some fun and take a boat ride. It was a boat that had the windows below deck to see the underwater life. The kids loved it!

We just may have to return to Elba for vacation next summer.