Must-have shoes for Italy in the fall

Whether you’re the form over function type or vice versa, I’ve noticed a really awesome trend among Italians (and Europeans, really) lately. You’re going to see a few stilettos on cobblestones (eek!) but most people–especially¬†the most chic–are opting for lower-heeled or flat shoes and boots. I’m not sure if it’s an extension of NORMCORE or if people are just tired of twisting their ankles but I’ll just say it’s a win for both comfort and style. I’m calling four major styles as your best bets when packing shoes for Italy, especially in fall and winter.¬† Continue reading

Our day in Venice

If you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, you probably well know the scene where Dorothy walks out of her sepia-tone Kansas farmhouse and witnesses the technicolor vibrancy of Oz. It’s completely unlike anything she’s ever seen and she’s overwhelmed with awe. This was Venice for me last weekend. Truth be told, I’ve never had much interest in Italy, let alone Venice. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m missing the romance gene, so gondola rides with my sweetheart…I gag even writing it. Stepping out of the Venezia San Lucia train station, though, was akin to Dorothy stepping into Oz. The color, the architecture, the buzz of watercraft and people, the surreal blue sky…words just can’t describe it.

This is in front of the train station with Venice's Grand Canal as a backdrop.

This is in front of the train station with Venice’s Grand Canal as a backdrop.

Focused so much on getting a map, Eddie was literally head-down, walking with determination and purpose to the ticket and information kiosk. The saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees” was applicable here. “Eddie. EDDIE. You’re missing it. Look.” He nor the girls felt the same way I did, but once we got that damn map, he was ready to see what was in front of him.

Because Venice is an easy day trip from Vicenza–our home base for the next three years–we didn’t bother planning the day. Our goal was to make it to the Piazza San Marco simply because that was as good a goal as any. For future trips, we’ll read up on the history and plan a bit just to know what we’re seeing. In hindsight, it was very relaxing to just see the city organically, to navigate the tiny alleyways and just genuinely feel surprised by what we encountered around each corner. Sometimes, it was a major tourist destination (the Rialto bridge in the second photo below), other times it was just a really cool square or bridge. Still other times, it was a great little pastry place or cafe.

venice 189 venice 211In terms of the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), it was grander than anything I had imagined. It was hard to choose one focal point. It’s busy and full of kamikaze pigeons (seriously, they’ll flap you in the face totally without provocation), but it’s simply amazing. To think that these buildings have been standing since the late 1400s and 1500s (the youngest being 400 years old), is simply…at the risk of overusing the phrase…awe-inspiring.

With just an hour until our return train trip, we chose to take a ferry back to the station. This was a great way to see Venice from the water. Truly the highlight of my time on the water was watching the gondoliers blow air kisses at Harper. They were completely and utterly stoic–focused, even–until they passed our ferry. At that point, the whole gondola could’ve sunk. Screw the paid passengers, there’s an adorable baby on that ferry. Italians love kids and they seem to really, really adore Harper.

St. Mark's Basilica

St. Mark’s Basilica

venice 226I won’t lie: getting there was much harder than I’d imagined. There are three Venezia (Venice) train stops (if you ever plan to go, it’s Venezia S. Lucia that you want). Also, on the way back to Vicenza, your train will be the Venezia to Verona line (nowhere will it say Vicenza). Venice can also be expensive. Take plenty of Euros or be prepared to find an ATM. We didn’t find many and none of the Italians we encountered could understand “ATM.” Luckily there were some no-fee types just over the Rialto bridge. There’s too much to adequately see in a day, but luckily, we have all the time we need.


Our First Weekend in Italy

garden 2 We’re here! We touched down in Venice, Italy on Thursday. The baby’s car seat didn’t work in the plane’s seat, so I had to hold Harper the entire trip. I did try to sleep but was too afraid she would fall out of my arms, so I stayed up about 36 hours. I know I was talking and moving Thursday, but nothing was intelligible or coordinated. Given my inability to sleep on planes in the past, this was kind of expected.

Friday or Saturday night (I forget which night I did sleep–Harper didn’t sleep one of those nights), I had my first good REM sleep, which yielded a pretty funny dream. In the dream, I was driving and felt a weird sensation in my mouth. A tooth fell out. I remember saying (in the dream), “O.k. Well, I knew this was going to happen. I’ll be okay.” The next morning, I looked up the meaning of tooth loss dreams. Basically, they tend to occur when we’re under stress from a major upheaval in our lives. Uh, yeah. The fact that I was mentally prepared for that loss tells me that my Type-A, high-strung self did a good job of preparing for this adventure.

So…on with the good stuff, right? What’s it like? Well, I haven’t seen much. We went out to Camisano on Saturday night for dinner with new friends and to Rettorgole for a BBQ last night with another set of new friends. During both short trips, we did get to see a bit of the area. I wouldn’t be able to find my way around by myself but can at least mentally put together where all these towns are located that we see on the Off-Post Housing site. The rest of our time has been spent in-processing and combing the housing site. (Seriously, you haven’t had fun until you’ve taken two small kids to an ACS briefing by yourself at 9 a.m.)

With a few more days under our belt, maybe we’ll be able to get out into Vicenza…maybe have a real Italian meal or some gelato or something. I have had some great wines. The red that is pictured below was amazing. I also had a Moscato wine from Italy’s version of Wal-Mart. I’m not a sweet wine fan, yet I could have sucked this stuff through a straw all day long. For less than 10 Euros per bottle, I may just do that.

I think I’m going to like it here. Not having a handle on the Italian language needs to remedied a.s.a.p., but once I can converse, it should be easier. They don’t have Diet Coke (Coke Light is my only option), but they do have chocolate chips. Once I whip up that first batch of chocolate chip cookies in my kitchen, I think it will all feel just right.


The amazing Italian vista from our hotel window (looks like a prison, huh?!)

The amazing Italian vista from our hotel window (looks like a prison, huh?!)

Seriously, one of the best red wines I've had.

Seriously, one of the best red wines I’ve had.