KITTIES IN CARGO-
We made it to Italy! Bizou, Beeker, and I had a BIG adventure traveling 17 hours from the U.S to Italy. Initially, both cats were going to be in cargo for the trip, and last minute the airline told me that I had to take one with me on the plane. How do I choose just ONE?! At that point, Beeker was nominated to go in cargo based solely on the fact that she had already relieved herself in her kennel. :( (Poor Beek-Beeks!) Thankfully, Bizou was uncharacteristically quiet on the plane, which was a HUGE relief.
We had a 4 hour layover in Germany where I got to make up for the 8 hours of sitting I had just done on the flight. They made us get off the plane, go through customs, collect ALL of our baggage (and cats), turn our checked bags BACK in, go through security, walk uphill both ways in the snow back to the gate we started from, and go past go and collect $200. (Phew!) While I was carrying about 70 pounds of luggage around the airport, I discovered that Germany, and Europe in general, has VERY little air conditioning. I was never more grateful to get back on a plane for my 1 hour flight from Germany to Italy. :)
When we got off the of the plane in Italy, we were greeted by Nick, his squadron commander and wife, our sponsors, and a few others from the squadron. They were really excited to see our 2 CATS! We moved our baggage to our room in the temporary lodging facility (TLF), and finally let the cats out....of the bag. (Hee,hee) Now the kitties won't go anywhere near their kennels. :)
My first full day in Italy, we headed out to do some house hunting. Nick warned me not to get my hopes up because the houses and apartments here are much smaller than anything in the US. We first visited Sacile, which is a beautiful town about 15 minutes southwest of the base where a lot of the guys from the squadron live. Sacile is the type of town that makes you want to walk through and sing like Belle from Beauty and the Beast: "Little town, it's a quiet village, every day like the one before..." There are shops, restaurants, cafes and places to eat gelato on almost every corner! There are beautiful rivers and streams that meander through the town, as well. And I still can't get over all of the beautiful flowers hanging off balconies and windowsills. Italy is stunning!
To my surprise, the first apartment we looked at was HUGE! I call it the "tree house" because there are stairs that lead in all different directions, and there are three floors! The apt has 4 rooms, and 4 bathrooms! (UNHEARD OF!) There are wood floors, wood ceilings, a huge fireplace, and a view of the Piazza (town square). It was amazing! Then we went to the second apartment. After seeing the first apartment, nothing compared. The second place felt more like an apartment, whereas the first place felt like a home. I was convinced at that point that I didn't need to see any other places. We had found our home right on the Piazza del Popolo (People Square) in Sacile, which we would get to move into on August 21st.
PIZZARIA, TRATTORIA, OSTERIA-
We HAD to stop for some gelato while walking around Sacile, and we didn't have to go far to find it. I was slightly intimidated to order in Italian, so I let Nick go first. He confidently blurted, "Ciao! Parle Iglesias?" "Uhhhh...no," responded the server, slightly confused. I started to laugh. I don't know much Italian, but I knew enough to realize that Nick wanted to ask,"Do you speak English?" but instead he had asked, "Do you speak CHURCH?" Hahaha! Iglesias is Spanish for CHURCH. Haha!
Nick proceeded, "VERO una pallina di gelato." The girl looked slightly confused again, then grabbed Nick a scoop of the flavor he picked. Instead of saying, "I would like a scoop of gelato," Nick said, "TRUE a scoop of gelato." VORREI means "I would like." VERO means "true."
The Italians love when you try and speak their language even if you make mistakes; however, most of them won't correct you if you're wrong.
I'm convinced that there is no such thing as a bad meal in Italy. Every meal we've had is DElicious! We've noticed a few differences in eating here compared to the US. If you want to have a fancy meal, you go to a RISTORANTE. If you want a casual dinner you'll go to a TRATTORIA. If you want to eat pizza you go to a PIZZARIA. And if you want to eat at a mom and pop shop, you'll go to a OSTERIA. Nick thought that a mom and pop shop was called, APERTO. I noticed A LOT of signs that said APERTO. There was even a FURNITURE store had a sign in front of it that said, Aperto. That was new! A furniture store with a mom and pop restaurant? APERTO, I found out, means OPEN. Hahah! I can't tell you how many stores Nick pointed at and said, "There's a mom and pop place, too!" Haha! He makes me laugh...especially when he speaks Italian. :):):)
And don't worry! If for some reason you get a craving for fast food, there's a Taco Bell, Cinnabon, and Burger King on base. :)
I LOVE coffee, and thankfully, so do Italians. There's a cafe or "Il bar" just outside our apartment.
A big difference in coffee here is the size. As an American, I expect to get at least 12 oz for a small coffee, but not here! You basically get a shot of espresso when you order coffee. I ordered a cafe Americano, which is a shot of coffee with a small pitcher of hot water to dilute the shot.
Italians do not order coffee drinks with milk in them after noon. You will get funny looks, if you try.
When you order water here, you can expect to get carbonated water, unless you specify "acqua naturale" which is a bottle of still water. You can also expect to pay more for water here than wine. I guess I should consider taking up drinking. :P
And if you want ice, forget it!
We walked around the Piazza del Popolo a little more and noticed several boutiques. YAY! (Any men reading this, you can skip this section.) Italian shopping is definitely different than American shopping. In America, we walk into a store and start picking things up and touching all of the fabrics. Here you will get funny look if you mess up their displays. If you want to try something on, you tell them what style and what size you would like. DO NOT TOUCH the clothes on display. (Non toccare)
Also, if you're like me and you head right for the sales rack in a store, you won't find one. Italian stores only have sales in August and January. There are big signs all around the Piazza del Popolo that read, "Saldi," which means sale.
One of my expectations in Italy was to see women and men wearing bright colors. That has been one of the biggest surprises for me. Most women wear very bland, neutral tones. Plus, they wear very little jewelry! I'm going to stand out like a sore thumb with all of the loud clothes and jewelry I have from working at Buffalo Girls in Texas!
I do LOVE that the Italian women like to dress up, even if they're just going to the store. They call it "bella figura." It basically means you need to always look nice. You will never catch an Italian woman going to breakfast in her slipper's and PJ's.
THE FAST AND FURIOUS-
We decided to head back to base after a fun day of looking at apartments and sight-seeing in Sacile. Driving in Italy is an adventure, to say the least. The roads are winding and narrow. There are bicyclists EVERYWHERE, and people drive way over the speed limit. It's chaotic! Plus, when it rains here the pavement is about 100 times as slippery than the pavement in America. It has to do with the type of material they use for the roads.
I was expecting to see little European cars here that look like clown cars. NOPE! There are luxury cars everywhere. I've never seen so many BMWs in my life.
Watch out for the Carabinieri! They're the cops around here that hold out flashing "lollipops" to signal you to pull over. If you get pulled over by the Carbinieri you can expect to pay at least 200 Euro. If you don't stop for their flashing lollipops, they have the right to shoot at you, and could arrest you and take you to Candyland...with their flashing lollipops. (Haha! Just kidding:))
We are so grateful that we've found our apartment! We're excited for you all to see it. Next on our list is finding a car...and traveling of course! :)