Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Grand Finale

The trip is officially over, but I still have the last 3 days to catch everyone up on.

Saturday might have been one of the best, if not the best day we had on our entire trip. We went to the Island of capri today and it was super fun and super expensive. We woke up early to catch a big boat to the island. I don't remember the exact time but I think we left the house at 7:20 to catch a train (we had to sprint to the train again, Rook thought we would be late... we werent, we beat the train by over 10 mintues to his defense the train was a little late) to Sorrento. Then from Sorrento we got on the big boat. The boat can hold cars and trucks and all kinds of stuff in the hull, the upstairs is where everyone sat and it kind of felt like an airplane. Rook and I experienced first hand why many foreign countries hate americans. It is because of the young american tourist groups, like the smart kids doing a foreign exchange or something. We had to sit through (well we watched because it was funny) 20 minutes of a two 14 year old girls with ipods acting like they were playing dance dance revolution. No joke. They were dancing around and acting like they were stomping on lit up arrows on the ground while everyone gawked at how dumb some people can act. It was hilarious and Rook and I looked at each other and said "this just got real". I was pretty tired so I went and rested a little bit in my seat and Rook stayed out on the deck filming and ended up making friends with a nice couple, Franco and I don't remember his wive's name. When we get to the island we walk around with the couple looking for stuff to do and we all decide to rent scooters! Rook and I didn't want to pay 80 dollars to rent a scooter for a day and I didn't want to have to ride on the back (gay style) with Rook driving and I'm sure he didn't want to do that either. We ended up getting 2 for one on the scooter and we were happy about that.

We took off on the scooters and were driving around too fast and teh owner came up behind us and said Rook was a good driver and I was bad because he said I was wobbling (I was doing it on purpose to make things fun, weaving in and out and such) we ended up having to wait for them to bring us gas when i realized my scooter didn't have any. We rode around some very narrow streets dodging buses and other cars and scooters. It was so much fun! Our first destination was the Grotta Azure or the blue cave. The blue cave was supposedly on the list to be considered one fo the natural wonders of the world. It is way cool. You get on a row boat for 10 euros a person (rip off, but worth it) and he rows you up to the mouth of the cave and there is a chain that he grabs onto and pulls you into the cave really fast when the waves go down... it is pretty intense. The opening is so small that you have to lay down on the bottom of the boat to not hit you head on the rocks. When you get in you kind of ask yourself, "self, what is the big deal" and then you look back at the entrance and at the water below and your jaw hits the floor. It is the craziest blue color you have ever seen! It looks like they filled the cave with blue powerade or something. Its quite a site to see and very shortlived, we were probably in the cave for 5-7 minutes and that was longer than most people get from what we hear. We circled around a bit and got some really cool pictures. I got a really good one of Rook and the boatmen got a good one of the two of us, unfortunately I didn't get a good one of me (they all came out blurry) and I was not happy about that, so Rook and I got into a little tiff. Everything was better when we got back on the scooters and started having fun again. We rode over to the other side of the island to eat some lunch at a pizza place the scooter guy recommended to us. It turned out to be really good, I got a pizza called the Zingara or Gypsy that is just onions and sausage and Rook got a seasonal veggie pizza that had carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant. Mine was way better! We had to ask the waiter for the check like 1,000 times. It took them about an hour to bring it to us, check that Rook just went up and paid. We didn't really mind waiting, we were right on the water and the sun was shining so we just relaxed and talked for a bit.

we went down to the beach, if you can call it that. The beach consisted of a bunch of big rocks, no sand at all, just river rock type rocks... not fun to walk on with bare feet. When we were about to leave the couple we had meet was coming down to eat lunch on the beach and we sat and talked with them for a bit. Rook joked about getting in the water and the guy said you are on vacation you have to do it, you can't be on an island and at the beach and not go swimming. We were hesitant, Franco kept insisting and insisting (I think he might have just wanted to see Rook with his shirt off) untill we all decided to do it. We got our little toes in the watter and immediately said screw this, the water was way too cold. It was funny when Franco started making up our excuses for us, he said "well we did it, lets just get our faces wet and say we did it... its too dangerous... they are probably sharks"... and anything else he could come up with. It was pretty funny. We got dressed again, jumped on our hogs and rode up to a ski chair lift that Franco really wanted us to go see he said it was super beautiful. Franco was right, it was way cool we could see little islands and we watched the sea gulls hovering around and catching the hot air currents or pockets or whatever they are and gliding around... it was really cool. We climbed a tree and took some sweet pictures.

It was getting late so we wanted to see one more spot on the island and we went up to a cool look out point and got some really good drinks since we were both super thirsty. The drinks were awesome, it was 1/2 frozen leomonade and 1/2 fresh squeezed orange juice with a bunch of different kinds of oranges, mostly blood oranges. It was pretty tart but really good and hit the spot. We wanted to get another but the guy had closed his stand before we got back from taking more pictures.

The day came to an end and we had a fun scooter ride back to the pier. We had some time before the boat would take us back so we got some aranchinis (fried rice balls with tomatoe sauce and mozarella inside) that were pretty good and a saltimboca sandwich (proschuito and mozarella), it is amazing how many different names they have for what seems to be the same sandwhich. We sat on the boat and rode back watching an episode of how I met your mother on the ipod that was pretty funny.

we got back into Sorrento and had a bit of a walk to get into the town, we had to walk up a bunch of steps. It took us a lot longer than it would have taken two healthy individuals. Rook is hobbled by his knee that is hurting him quite a bit and I have blisters on my feet and have rubbed wholes in two pairs of jeans... do the math! So we finally get into the city and walk around looking for souveniers and stuff to buy you guys, long story short we went shopping for us. We were walking down the street when I saw Luigi Borelli 60 % off out of the corner of my eye. I said Rook we have to go in and he said ok. I have always wanted a luigi borelli dress shirt, they are hand sown by pasta mama's in napoli and are the it shirt in italy right now. We asked the guy if we bought a couple to give us a deal and he did so I ended up getting 2 shirts and 2 ties for less than 1 shirt would have cost me. Rook got 2 shirts for less than one as well. In the end it was like 70 % off. So I am very exicted about the deal we got, especially on something that was on my list of things I wanted to buy in Italy. After that we hopped on a train went back to the Iacarino's house and went to bed. After our first experience going to the Iacarino's via trian I always find myself a little more alert and looking people up and down to make sure that nothing is going to happen.

We got up the next morning and went to a town called pisatano that is supposed to be one of the prettiest towns on the amalfi coast. It was a ghost town. none of the shops were really open. So we spent most of our time which ended up being a couple of hours just walking around taking pictures, watching random people fishing on the pier and taking a little nap while listening to the ocean. We got there around 8:30 and when we were leaving at 11 people were still getting their shops up and running. There was nothing for us to do there. We had lunch planned with the Iacarino's at 1:30 and we didn't want to miss that. So we set out to catch the 11:15 bus back to Sorrento. Turns out that because it was raining and the roads to get there are on a bunch of cliffs, the bus company was afraid of landslides and there were some bus delays... just a few ;) So we had to wait in the rain for an hour and a bit with no idea whether a bus was coming or not. We had some small talk with a nice middle-age couple from west virginia (I think) and also and nice kid from Mexico that was studying abroad in spain. For some reason he wanted to go around Italy by himself on his winter break. Pretty brave. Even with the bus delay we were able to get back to the Iacarino's at exactly 1:30. They made us a very nice dinner, some penne pasta and bread, which was really good, they had it cooking all day the day before and it turned out tasty. Also Hermione the eldest daughter made us a bunch of cream puffs. Yummy! I was also able to get some blogging done and get us a hotel for rome that night, which is our last night :( We ended up staying there a lot later than we wanted to and if memory serves we didn't get out of there till 5 or 6 and we still wanted to do some souvenier shopping so we were up against the 8 ball.

After blogging, eating, and talking at the Iacarino's we got on a train to go back to Napoli and did some shopping. I wanted to see if the iphone guys were there and also wanted to get some fake glasses for everyone. Rook and I mulled over whether we should take the same route as we did last time in Napoli or if we should check our bags. I didn't want to pay 15 dollars to check our bags for 2 hours. So we risked the dangers of Napoli and treked out to find stolen/fake treasures. We also really wanted to eat at Pizzeria da Michelle again and have the best pizza in the world be our final meal in Italy. As luck would have it, Pizzeria da Michelle is closed on sundays so we had to eat at another ancient pizzeria across the street. I don't remember the name and I prob wouldn't go back there, it was decent but it just didn't compare to the classic margherita at Michelle's. Rook got a calzone and I got a proscuitto margherita pizza with mozzarella di bufala. Not anything to write home about, (I know I am writing about it) but that is probably since we had our hopes set on Michelle's. After that we had to run fast to hop on the train to Rome and we had to buy a ticket upgrade real fast before we could get on. We ended up lucking out and getting a good sleeper cabing that we could actually sleep in, since there weren't many people in it. I watched some Aqua teen and listened to some music and got a little shut eye. It was relaxing.

We got into Rome around 11 and we needed to take a bus to our hotel, (might I add we got a 4 star hotel for 40 dollars) the only problem was that the only train that went to that hotel or close to it did not run on sundays. At least that is what the schedule said. So we asked around and nobody knew if it was running or not. Some said yes, some said no, some said I don't know. Mostly they said yes and that they don't post the times since it doesn't run as often as it normally would. So we waited around for an hour and asked every bus that came by if it was heading in the right direction. Turns out none were and everyone we asked was in a foul mood and didn't want to answer our questions. We ran into some people from spain who were having the same problems. In the end we hoped on a bus who made a stop that wasn't on his route to drop us off as close as possible. Turns out that it wasn't very close at all and we had to walk around for 45 minutes to find the hotel. It was quite a walk with 40 or so pounds on our backs and we had to walk through a bunch of alleys and back streets. Couldn't find the street we were looking for so we ended up asking some thugs on the street, we were a little nervous because of what happened before but it ended up being a good move since they told us how to get there and were nice. We walked through an apartment/condo development where it was pitch black and I ended up rolling my ankle, lucky for me it wasn't bad and it was our last day so it won't really affect me much. We got into the hotel finally around 1:30 if memory serves and it was really nice. Everything looked brand new. We were in there and the lights kept going off every 5 minutes. So we called the front desk and we had to leave our key card in this slot by the door to keep the lights on, its some new "green" function that makes it so you can't leave the lights on all day and waste electricity. Pretty cool. Well we showered and packed up and got to bed around 3 am and our last day came to an end.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Here are a couple of pics. I would upload more but it takes forever to get them up so I will most likely put up a bunch when I get back to the states on monday!

Rook and I with the Napoli skyline behind us... oh yeah we are on top of a castle!:

Saint Peter's Square Rome:

The Famous Pizza da Michelle (best pizza in the world!):

Friday, February 27, 2009

Napoli, Castellamare, and Pompei

Rook and I instantly loved Napoli! The flow of the city, how busy it was, all of the fake designer stuff overflowing the sidewalks and spilling onto the streets. It was pretty crazy! We left our bags at a bag check, trust me it sucks hauling around what must be 35 pounds by now... especially after you have spent the last 2 weeks on your feet 12+ hours a day. We then left the station and decided to see all that Napoli had to offer. On the way to our first mission (more on that later) we were assaulted by various street venders, most of them were very nice and very pushy. We had two guys trying to sell us iphones, we got them down to 170 euros for 2 16 giggers, but we thought they wouldn't work in the states so we decided not to. On top of that we only had enough cash for lunch and needed to pull out some money. These guys tried to sell us everything, they had iphones, laptops, and I joked with them that this stuff "fell off the back of the truck" and they shushed me and looked around all cautiously. It is obviously stolen goods, if there are any goods in the first place (we think its probably a scam). Anyways, our first mission was to get a pizza at the best place in Napoli, where they make the best pizza in the world! We found it at a place called pizzeria da michele. It has been around since 1870 and It has tons of awards on the door. We even saw a newspaper article where oprah went there with her crew and they ate 400 pizzas! Let me tell you this place did not dissapoint, I can say it is probably the best pizza I have ever had. It is hard to describe, but they use a certain kind of mozzarella called fior di latte and it is super simple, just: basil, tomatoe sauce and cheese (maybe some olive oil). It is super thin, not even as thick as a cafe rio tortilla. The great thing about it is that it just kind of makes your whole body sing when you eat it and it makes you go into a frenzy (we went back for dinner). It was super cheap 5 euros for a maxi pizza with double mozzarella which still doesn't cover all of the sauce btw. There are about 6 total items on the menu and for of them are drinks. You can get either coke, orange soda, beer or water. There are two pizzas: margherita and marinara (I didn't see a single marinara ordered and mind you there was a wait at the door pretty much all day long to get in and eat), margherita is pretty much a cheese pizza for those of you not in the know. After eating we went out to see every big building that Napoli had to offer.

We started with a castle, I don't remember the name but it was really cool. We hit up a couple of churches a couple of museums, by now you can probably tell from my writing that I am pretty worn out on the whole museum/church 3 times a day in every city routine. So I wont go into much detail about it, but we saw over 10 of them, did some tours and took a funevia (its a kind of a rail car, kinda like a trolley on a rolercoaster pipe) up the mountain. Rook pointed out that we have traveled by every mode of transportation on this trip. We have taken planes, trains, and automobiles (like the movie), boats, trams, trolleys, busses, subways, metros, we have driven cars and been driven around, the only thing we haven't done is swim somewhere (maybe later). We noticed that there are lots of dogs running around in Napoli and tons of dog crap on the streets. On our way back we got stopped by a nice guy selling sunglasses so we got a couple to bring back for the siblings.

Then things got interesting. Dad kept warning us about Napoli and said it was dangerous, but we didn't think much of it. Everyone seemed very nice. Let me start by saying we are fine and nothing happened so you can all breath and not worry about the coming sentences. At the end of the day when we were walking back to the train station so young guy came up and grabbed Rook by the right arm, Rook pulled away really hard and the guy backed off and said "sorry, sorry i thought you were Napolitan" I got in between them and kinda pushed the guy away with my body (with a fierce gaze on my face mind you haha). After that I made sure Rook was ok and we continued on to the train station. We asked around to see if that was some way of them marking you to get mugged or something like that and we got a bunch of different answers ranging from yes to no to maybe to be careful to you should have knocked him out. Napolitanes are funny. We asked the bag check guy and he said instead of pulling your arm away you should have smashed his face. After that we asked some security guards and they said you can do what you want just don't hit them in the face so you can say he "fell down" haha. It was pretty funny and we thought we were in the clear. Boy were we wrong. We got on the train going to castellamare to meet up with a friend of Rook's and stay with them for a couple of days. The moment we sat down there was kind of a crazy guy mumbling and 3 young guys like us mid 20's laughing at him and I joined in. After that I said "ipod me" to Rook and he pulled my ipod from his bag so I could listen to it. The guys that I was joking with asked to see it so I handed it over and regretted it the split second later and thought well that was stupid. Two of them kept saying "mine, mine" and I said no "mine, mine" then they asked what kind of phones we had etc we tried to be nice and smooth things over. Rook gave them some gum. Then they wanted to see Rook's iphone and I could tell Rook was getting really upset. I always took the approach on my mission to be friends with people like that so they wouldn't bother you but this was a little different. After a couple of mins I asked for my ipod back and they didn't want to, so Rook got mad and said just give it back and grabbed it and gave it back to me. I put it in my backpack and my mind was going a mile a minute. One of the guys spit out his gum and I thought oh crap something is going to happen. The guy asked Rook why he was acting the way he was and Rook said I'm sorry I don't feel good and I just don't want to lend people my stuff so i don't get screwed. They guy said if I was going to rob you I would just put a knife to your neck. Rook didn't like that and said I'm sorry I don't feel right and we got up and went to the front of the train. When we got there I looked back and saw one of them walking up and keeping his eye on us (just writing this is making me shake). Rook was figuring out when we needed to get off the train, I said lets just jump off as the doors are closing and catch the next train that comes by (they come every 5-10 minutes) he said no. The guy walked away and then I saw the other two get up and walk up towards the front of the train after us and my heart was racing, you just never really know what to do in those situations. They kind of went in shifts coming up closer and closer to us. It was pretty suspensful. I remembered to pray and ask for protection and I felt a little better. Then when it seemed like they were going to make a move one got off and was walking wuickly towards the front of the train while the other walked up through the middle of the train. I thought there were going to try and trap us in the front car but luckily the one just stayed off the train while the other keept watching us. He got a phone call and was walking all up and down the train (not in our car). He eventually got off and we thought there was one left but Rook walked up and down the train and was sure he had left. Then a guy came up to the front and was looking at me a little weird and looked at our bags and went ufff. I thought it might have been the third guy, but he started a conversation with us and said we were lucky and that the guys had decided to rob us but the guy got a phone call and left. Rook during this whole ordeal was very angry I could tell because every vain in his forehead was pulsating. I just told him to calm down and that everything would be fine. The scary thing also was that they were speaking the Napolitan dialect and Rook could not understand them at all, it is a very different way of speaking and super hard to understand. So we didn't really know what they were talking about when we were talking to them. We would of had to fight them because niether of us is in good enough shape to run after them, Rook's knee is bothering him and I have been rubbed raw haha. In the end we thought they might be calling their friends to wait at each train stop and mug us, but we felt semi ok and luckily the dad of the family we are staying with wanted to pick us up from teh train station instead of us walking to his house even though its a 7 min walk. We got in and got a good nights sleep. A fun a eventful day comes to an end.

Which now brings us to today. I want to go over it real quick before bed and it will also catch me up on the blog, then I will have more time to put up picks tomorrow night since I am completely out of memory and we are using just Rook's cam now. We have taken well over 2,000 pictures, not including the many that we have erased. So this morning we woke up around 8:30 and went around castellamare with Hermione our host who I guess recently got back from a temple square mission. We walked around the bay and some ship yards, she gave us a history lesson on castellamare and napoli. We got some gelato (we do every day) and walked around some more. Went to a local gourmet bakery/pizza shop got some supli kinda things and some deep fried mashed potatoes with cheese in the middle (don't remember what they are called) that were way good and we got some canolis as well. We took that with us to Pompei where we spent the rest of the day. We walked around pompei for about 3 and a half hours, the place is freaking huge. Met some nice people from the bay who are studying in paris and london (I think it would be fun to study abroad). Took a bunch of pics and got on the train coming home. By then we where beat and ready to be done for the day. I think we are starting to break down Rook's knee is really hurting him since yesterday and I got some major rubbing going on downstairs (my knee started to hurt today as well) I think all of the walking and running around is taking its toll. We are both loving the trip and being with each other, but I think we will both enjoy the luxury of your own car and not having to walk if you don't want to back in the good old USA. I think I need a good calf and foot massage. Speaking of feet, they hurt all day long and I got a big blister on my middle toe today! When we were done with pompei we went back to the same gourmet spot fo dinner but they had to get the over ready for the pizza. So we walked around and looked at some shops. Rook showed me an italian family owned supermarket which was neat. After that the fam called us and they wanted us to get pizza with them. So Rook and I bought everyone pizza, it was the least we could do since they are being so nice to us. The pizzeria was off the chain cool. They had a sweet system going where they made 4 pizzas and slipped them into the oven on a long plank. The pizza turned out great and I'll hopefully put up some pics tomorrow for ya. Love you all, I can't believe that tomorrow is pretty much our last day since we'll have church and some travel on sunday and then we fly home monday morning. It has been a great trip and we lived it up! TTYL.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

2 days in Rome

We got into Rome and went straight to the hotel. We got a great deal on a 4 star hotel called pineta palace. When we got off the subway and started asking directions so we could get to the hotel we went into a little bar and we just had an x on a map in the general location of the hotel and we couldn't remember the name of it, the funny thing is the guy knew exactly what we were looking for and what bus to take so that was pretty cool. We got to the hotel, settled in and got ready to go out on the town in rome!

our first stop was at the spanish steps in downtown rome. We passed a bunch of cool designer shops: dolce and gabana, gucci, armani, salvatore ferragamo, louis vuitton, all of the cool shops that I wanted to browse around in... sadly we didn't have enough time.W e took a bunch of pics on the spanish steps, I have no idea why they are famous (I bet it is something historic...duh). So after that we walked around some more and hit up trevi fountain and got some gelato, trevi fountain was way cool/pretty and reminded both of us of vegas ha! After that we went around some more and took some pictures of the Roman forums and then did a guided tour of the colloseum which was pretty cool since we learned a whole lot more that we would of if we didnt have our guide. He was also funny so it was worth the extra money. Interesting fact: the games at the coloseum were free, you got free food, free wine, free water, and I think free women (not sure on that one, I don't remember). Another funny thing the guy told us was that chicago in latin means to take a deuce... then he said so when people say your new president obama is from chicago..., he is from crap... people got a kick out of that. On a side note a lot of people have asked us if things are better with obama and if things have changed etc, so its funny that everyone is so interested in what is going on in the good old USA. Durning the tour it started to rain big time and we had to cut the tour short and stay under the cover of the coloseum most of the time, so we missed out on some stuff in it.

Next we went on to the Roman forums with the same guided tour, and also went up and got a history lesson on the circus maximus and the forums and Romes fore fathers Romulus and Ramos. I didn't know this but Rome was founded by Romulus and that is where the name came from. Also he killed Ramus so he could rule the land. The tradition of carrying your wife over the threshold when you get married and are going to replenish the earth for the first time comes from the raping of sai (sp). When the Romans didn't have any women they invited a village known for their beautiful women for a big party and got them drunk, scared the men away, scooped up the women in the way you carry one over the threshold and closed the castle doors behind them... I thought that was pretty neat. At this point we were super duper wet and decided to check out the pantheon, that was cool. At that point we were sick of being wet and cold so we decided to get some grub a dub dub. We asked around for a while and a nice lady told us where to get some good food. It was a pretty decent little place and we ended up staying there for a while and drying of/flirting with our cute brazilian waitresses. For some reason the place only had waitresses from brazil. So I showed off all of my portuguese that I learned in one semester of classes and she thought I spoke portuguese at first, then she realized I didn't but said I had a brazilian accent already and that if I went to live in brazil for a month she thought I would be fluent... haha fat chance, but it was a nice compliment (it didn't hurt that she was a looker either Rook and I were kinda fighting over who had a better shot with her like we always do). After that we went and used the internet and went to bed.

The next day we woke up around 8:30 and went to go do our laundry, its nice every once in a while to break up your everyday routine of site seeing and to do a normal task like washing your clothes. ps. it is super expensive to wash your clothes in italy it cost us like 20 bucks the first time and about 15 the second... so it cost us 35 buckaroonies to do 4 loads of laundry? go figure. Luckily there was an internet place close by and we were able to kill some time, it was also cool that the lady there started the wash for you, used the right detergent and dried and folded them for you if you wanted. We just let her dry them for us and we folded them ourselves, it was pretty convieniant. We walked into the internet place and the girl asked me if I knew spanish and if was I colombian, so right then and there I knew she was colombian and we got to talking and we are now facebook friends haha. I know I say this a lot, but its fun to be able to use my spanish and actually talk to someone instead of doing lots of listening, nodding of the head and one word answers. Funny thing is usually when I can get out a sentence or two people think I can speak italian or tell me I have a good accent (I guess I naturally pronounce things correctly, lucky for me).

So we got done with laundry and internet and headed out to the vatican and saint peter's square/basilica. Sorry dad we forgot to ask for carlo fortuno, but when we thought about it (after we left) we didn't really know who to ask, the funny thing is we asked about him in the duomo in milano. As grandpa would say we are a couple of lemon heads! On the way there we stopped and got some kebab's, they were really good. A kebab is supposedly 82% turkey 9% veal and the rest is yogurt and spices, well at least theirs was (it was really good). So we did the museums and the churches again. BTW saint peter's basilica is pretty amazing. Its hard to appreciate some of the churches when you see like 5-10 of them a day, but this one was huuuuuuuge and just had some insane statues in it that were way cool. After walking around the vatican and taking a bunch of pictures we decided to do some shopping. Bad idea. We only got to go to like one shop (dolce and gabana) since all of the freaking stores in Rome closed at 7:30... are you kidding me? I almost bought a sweet necklace with the italian good luck horn, but I know I can get it cheaper online (it was 160 euros but way cool). Then we decided to eat and we wanted to eat somewhere nice. We went to a place that a couple of people recommended and said was good. It was good and it was expensive, but tiny portions and nothing too amazing. We got an appetizer that was about 20 bucks and we thought the guy said it was 5 different kinds of meat... well it wasn't. Then we got a roast suckling pig and a bucatini alla amartriciana to split, long story short we should of just got the pasta. Everything else was just kinda average. After a 60 dollar meal we werent even full... that sucked. We wanted another kebab instead. After that we went home and started planning for Napoli!!!! (we are now in napoli, and have access to a computer with the people we are staying with so I will be able to put up some pictures some time tomorrow!)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Arezzo and on to Roma!

After we left Florence :( we went to Arrezo to stay with an old missionary contact that Rook and Daniel Taccone had met who turned out to be the nicest little lady you could ask for. I mean she really rolled out the red carpet for us. First off, after getting to Arrezo we were met by one of Rook's baptisms. His name is Fiorino and he is from Romania. At first I thought he was a little weird, but I really warmed up to him and he is a great harworking guy. He was so happy to show Rook his Maquina (he has a pretty cool red alpha romeo). Rook really wanted to get some piadinas from his favorite place in Arrezo (he served there for 6 months). I think its called il tuo piadina or your piadina in english. It was fun because Rook had taken grandpa and barbara there when they came and visited him... so it was nice thinking that grandpa had been in the exact same spot as I had just 6 years earlier.

After we finished up touring the city with Fiorino and calling and re-calling Angela Pasqui (the lady we stayed with) to tell her to expect us a little later we called up another of Rook's baptism named sueli a nice girl from brazil. She had since gotten married to an architect who was dead set on showing us his rental property. It was really cool and reminded me of the house on a good year the movie with russell crowe. It was pretty cool, but it seemed like he was trying to get us to rent it. He said it was 5,800 euros a week during the holidays hahaha... yeah right buddy! So after looking through their wedding fotos that they had in this huge leather bound book (way cool I want one it looks like an old bible or something) and doing an awkward kiss goodbye we headed off to Angela Pasquis.

When we got to Her house she wasn't what I was expecting. I thought she was going to be some nice middle aged tall thin woman for some reason. Big shock here... she was a tiny little in your face kinda lady, extremely nice and really reminded me of what my dad's nona would have been like. She is so warm and will let anyone stay in her house, fed us breakfast in bed... just told us to relax and she would take care of us! So when we got there it was around 10:00 at night she took us out to a restaurant with her twin sons and their wives and babies. Did I mention that Angela is blind as a freaking bat? Well she is. She was following her son the the restaurant and tried to drive up the side of a grassy hill and kept spinning her tires. She was all confused and didn't know what was going on. hahaha. So Rook said "why don't you drive on the street for a change" and then she got all embarressed and said "mama mia mama mia my sons will never let me live this down" it was freaking hilarious especially when she said that they will tease her about it for at least 3 months (she had Rook drive home)! The son's (Mario and Athos) both went to cooking school in spain and are bonafied freaking chef's (more on that later). So we went to the restaurant and got some great food. These people know how to eat, its just course after course after course. We had proschiutto and different kinds hams and salami's with different kinds of bread. It was amazing! Then we had our main course, I got gnocchi in a ragu sauce with bacon and a little bit of spice in it (de-lish) and Rook got his staple of tagliatelli with a wild boar meat sauce (I have pics I just can't upload them here). After that we had a chocholate brownie/pudding kind of like a flan type consistency desert that was very good. We had some great conversations and we felt like we were part of the family, mario speaks spanish so I was able to talk to him all night and that was a lot of fun for me, he is probably the coolest guy I have met in Italy. So after that amazing meal we said our goodbyes and did the kisses on the cheek and it no longer creeps me out doing it with the guys like it did before, probably because I like the family so much. After that we went home to sleep and wouldn't you know it Angela has 2 cats and surprise surprise they were both in heat and wouldn't leave me alone... agghhh! I don't know why all these italian cats like me so much its annoying.

So we got a great nights sleep and breakfats in bed that was hot milk and croissants filled with custard and fruit. We went out to open up Angela's tennis academy. Supposedly its the best tennis academy in Italy and people come from all over the world to train there, it was pretty cool. She and her two boy's own and run the place and also have a restaurant inside. So she gave us a tour, there are 8 clay courts all inside blow up domes. A school for the kids, a gym, 11 apartments for the kids who don't live close and the restaurant. She said they own everything but the apartments. It was a pretty big deal. So Athos came and cooked us an amazing meal. he made probably the best lasagne I have ever tasted in my life and it was a vegetarian lasagne it was so good I want another piece right now (it was also an Athos original). After that we had some roast suckling pig and fried potatoes, again really tasty. She gave us two different desserts one was a puff pastry kinda cream puff with cream and fruit and sweet balsamic vinegar (my fav of the two), the other was a really thick chocolate desert that was kinda like a really undercooked brownie, it was way good and way rich.

After eating Angela gave us one of her cars to use for as long as we wanted. We went up to siena and went all through the town. It is the town where the new james bond starts out with the horse race in the beggining. Way cool town it was like we went back in time. Did the usual, went to all the churches and crypts and museums. Rook had made plans to stay with the bonorino family, but angela wanted us to stay with her again and we obliged since she was so good to us. When we got back to Arezzo she had dinner ready for us in the restaurant and had made us a delicious plate of spaghetti with really thick noodles, tomatoes, basil, and big shavings of parmesean cheese! After that we had some proschuitto, pecorino romano cheese and some honey to dip it in (very tasty). Then she brought us out a kind of apple pie dessert that was way good. Did I mention this lady hooked us up big time? Well she did. She also gave us a really expensive bottle of old balsamic vinegar... it looks great. This lady is just so giving, we are thinking of something nice to do for her, so any ideas would help.

After all of this we went to bed and woke up at 6:20 to catch a train to Roma, we reserved 1st class tickets (supposedly we arent supposed to since our pass is 2 class), good thing Rook talked him into letting us stay and got into rome at 8:30! We ound a 4 star hotel for 45 dollars a night (sweet) and we are here for two nights waiting for our connections in Napoli to figure stuff out and let us come stay with them. More on Rome and everything else later, our laundry is done! Love you all.

Arezzo (where they filmed life is beautiful)

Siena (where they filmed james bond)

The Spanish steps (don't see what the big deal is)

Monument for vittorio something the second, its a way cool building

More later, I just wanted to put up some stock picks so you had an idea of where we are! Love you all.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Firenze, Florence, Tuscany

We got into Florence Thursday night and went to bed. We were super tired. Got up a little late the next day and did our laundry... finally! It was time we had just run out of everything and we spent the morning washing clothes, blogging and eating piadinas at a place owned by an italian lady who is married to a Dominican! It was great, amazing food, super busy with the college kids and it was great getting to use some spanish! We went around and saw the Duomo, walked up what seemed to be 1,000 steps of spiral staircases and enjoyed the views. The dome is a panting of dante's inferno (according to some american students we walked up with) It was pretty cool. We met some nice girls at the top and we met up with their group later to get some gelato at a famous place that is gelato torino style, (its called GROM). After that it was my turn to get some sweet designer shades. Rook's amazing italian and charm helped out once again in getting us a deal. I found a sick pair of Versace shades that were half off and and Rook got me an extras 10 euros off for beng nice and I got an extra glasses case (a hard one and a soft one). Essentially I got a pair of 300 dollar glasses for 90 euros or 120 ish dollars depending on the exchange rate for that day! SWEET! Rook also talked the museum people into letting us see the statue of David after hours, just us and for free! We didnt et the close but it was way cool and a lot bigger than I thought.

Then we went to il gato e la volpe to get some food. It was packed and we had to wait till about 10 to eat. It was well worth it. We got a focaccia di tre colori... it was focaccia with tomatoes, buffalo mozarella, and arrugula lettuce.... AMAZING! So fresh and it ws just de....wait for it...lish! then We got some special dishes that werent on the menu because Rook sweet talked the host. So he got the dish he has wanted to eat the whole time we have been here. Tagliatelli pasta with a wild boar meat sauce, it was great. I got a chicken and broccoli penne pasta. The host also got us some dates, we told him he could have two hot girls sit with us if he wanted and he got us two nice looking girls, we got to eat their leftovers so it was worth it! The had pesto gnocchi and another gnocchi that wasnt as good. Rook and I love that place, at least I do (Rook is havng a hard time tasting things, he is sick).

The next day we went around florence again went to piazzale michelangelo and sw a copy of the statue of david, took some pics, went through the Boboli gardens, while humming the godfather theme music the whole time. We felt we had arrived in the real Italy. For some reason the Tuscan area of italy is what you think of when you think of italy... its beautiful! After the gardens and a museum, we went and got on a train to Pisa to go see the leaning tower. It was way cool and we met 5 count them 5 nice girls that invited us out for drinks. We became friends (facebook friends) and we got some VIRGIN strawberry daquiris with them. It was fun, Rook talked up a storm and charmed the ladies. Luckily the one I thought was cutest was the only one that knew spanish, so I got to talk to her a little which was nice... but my spanish was a little too dominican for her at times and I had to enunciate a lot and not use as much slang/cutting words in half like dominicans do. We went back to Florence that night and went back to the same restaurant and got the same pasta Rook got the time before. We decided to split a Florentine steak it was 1.2 kilos or 2.6455471462199997 pounds! It was cooked (kinda we had to send it back the thing was still mooing) florentine style, it was pretty good. After eating that and some amazing roasted potatoes, we headed back home. That concludes florence for us, we loved it and went to church there the next day. Sorry I can't upload pictures on the pc. TTYL.

This is Florence:

Boboli Gardens:

This is a typical Tuscan Village:


We got in to venice around 10:30 am and were instantly taken back by how cool it was. We were lucky that we were there at the peak of carnevale! So we got to go around and see all of the street perfomers and take a bucnh of pictures with people dressed up as arisotcrats and hoity toity rich people. It was really cool and one thing we noticed about venice was that people were doing everything for fun. Taking pictures, dressing up, street acts, etc. They didn't ask for money or anything like most people have in the touristy areas we have been through... we both liked that! Everywhere you walk around in venice is a foto op. I have been itching to buy a cool italian style overcoat, but so far the only one I looked at was about 1,000 dollars... YIKES! I wish I had looked around more in Milano, there were some shops going out of business and the had 50% off. Its like that everywhere in Italy right now, the new collections have come out so you can get last seasons stuff for pretty cheap. We walked all around the different shops and tents that they had in the city centers, signed up for a cooking class/demonstration that I wanted to go to. We decided we are never going to cook with different flavored smokes and that we didn't want to lose out on the little time we had in Venice. So we decided to eat instead. I thought of you dad and got some Gnocchi! We were not very happy with the meal we got in Venice. We went to one of the nicer places and did like a 4 course meal for 15 euros, salad, gnocchi, steak, and cream caramel for me. Rook got the same but with lasagne and roast chicken (we shared). It was a little dissapointing, bland, and not very much food. Oh well, not everything is perfect in Italy. We stopped into a sunglass shop and Rook got some sweet orang and black carrera aviator shades. He got them for about half off and it was a real good deal! We both like them a lot.

We went around the city some more. Got some Gelato from a very nice lady who thought Rook looked like he used to Box, prob since we are running on little sleep and look beat up! I told her it was because he is gay (called him a finocchio) and she busted up laughing so hard... it was hilarious and Rook and I couldn't stop laughing either and almost lost our Gelato. We then went around the city center more and there were some guys on stilts acting like giraffes (very life like) and one of them tried to steal my gelato and I was ducking and dodging his fake giraffe head! He ended up breaking my cone a little, but we kept the crowd entertained and everyone was laughing and cheering!

We then went through the Duomo, it was awesome. The entire ceiling is mosaic, I have no idea how they did it or how long it took, but it is breath-taking. After a foto session and hanging out and talking with some people from spain we decided to take a gondola ride. It took some convincing, but I got Rook to break down and do it. We met a nice couple from Germany looking to save some money like us and we teamed up to get a deal on our gondola. Rook's Italian got us another 20 euros off and we got it for 100 euros. Not a bad deal. It turned out to be a great idea. We learned a ton about the city and had the coolest gondolear we could have asked for!

After the gondola ride we went on a search for the library that indiana jones and the last crusade was filmed in. It turned out to be a church and there was an inventions of leonardo davinci going on. We felt we had spent enough money so we decided against it and ran back to the train station. We picked up a gift for shelby at a hand blown glass shop (it is super cool) and looked for carnevale masks for Rook and me. We both wanted the same masks so we got two different ones. We'll see how that works out. Grabbed a couple of pieces of pizza and got to the train. Only to sit next to an american family visiting their daughter who is studying in Florence. They were really nice (from Valencia) and gave us some advice on where to eat in Florence. They told us in a Rick steve's travel book he mentioned a restaurant in florence called il gato e la volpe (the cat and the fox) we went there twice over the next two days. It was amazing! More on that later.