Thursday, July 10, 2014

Italia amore

The land of carbs is calling

Running and screaming like a child proceeded after the arrival of this text. 

There are countless things I love about traveling. Eating new foods, seeing new sites, & learning and engulfing myself in a completely new culture. But my most favorite thing about traveling lately is meeting people and being reminded of how much good is in the world and how many genuinely good people surround us every day.

Our Italy trip was one for the books. We loved the, pasta, gelato, bread...only the healthiest of foods were consumed of course and as surprising as it sounds, as the end drew near we actually got sick of eating pizza, and I couldn't eat gelato after every meal like we did for the first week. We craved fresh foods, but ohhhhhhh before that overdose hit, we loved every carb loading second of those incredible meals (& let's be honest. Even when we were sick of them, as soon as they were put in front of us we scarfed them down and loved every second...until they were sitting in our guts). 

My parents and I had been planning this trip for almost 5 years. It was originally just going to be the three of us, but JD was brilliant and married me when he did just so he could come and be part of it all. I cannot express how grateful and blessed I felt to have three of my most favorite people in the world with me in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Being with my parents and my husband made the trip what it was...and unforgettable adventure.

Brace yourself with miles of pictures to come. Stella was constantly snapping & it was hard to just pick a few.

We flew out of SLC the morning of April thirtieth & landed in Milan. With the time change we arrived around nine in the morning and had the day ahead of us. I was an idiot and couldn't sleep (we were trying to sleep on the flight so we'd be ready to rock when we landed) and didn't decide to take a sleeping pill until we were four hours away. When we were landing JD kept trying to wake me up so I could look out the window at the sun rising over Italy. Unfortunately, my eye lids weighed 500 lbs which kept me from enjoying the view. On the flight over, we sat across the aisle from the nicest Texan family ("clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose"). We chatted and got to know them during part of the flight and came to find out that we were going to be flying home the same day. So we said Ciao! until we meet again.

We had two weeks of Italy ahead of us and we jumped right in.


Seeing the beautiful Duomo and gawking over the bulidings, enjoying our first of many Italian gelatos, and limping from already blistered feet and exhaustion. Couldn't believe we were actually there.

Oh Italy, you little charmer. 

By the end of the day we were ready for bed, but if we hadn't been so exhausted I don't think this would've come to be and that would have just been a real shame. Mom had been studying Italian for months on her phone before we left and could easily tell you if you had "a mouse in your sugar"(which obviously is extremely useful and a very common phrase...), and that confidence shown like a star throughout the trip (and even though we gave her a hard time it really did come in handy. Grazie mama).
When the waiter asked something (that sounded like "pasta") after we had finished eating, mom turned to him, pointer finger and thumb together like a true Italian, and proclaimed, "No pasta!" thinking he was offering us something. He then looked very confused & walked away. She then tried to ask the other waiter how to say please in very elaborate English sentences, which also confused him. The entire time the other three were laughing hysterically, which probably made the waiters feel like we were laughing at them, when in reality we were laughing at our Italian speaking mother.

The next morning came and dad and I wanted to get an Italian run in. Thinking we would be able to get back, we started taking turns and were only going to be gone for a half an hour. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we got lost in the city and kept running hoping we could find our way back to at least somewhere we were the day before...something familiar. A half and hour, turned into an hour, which turned into an hour and a half, but we made it back to the hotel...only to find mom and JD still passed out and snoring. They wouldn't have even known we had been missing if we hadn't told them. Sleepy heads.


A small town with big history in my family. This was the place where my Bertoch ancestors were converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and travelled to America. The house where they lived is still there and we were lucky enough to go visit it. 

We got lost on the way, but luckily there are kind people who even though they don't speak English, will do everything in their power to help out. Once we finally made it to San Germano, we weren't exactly sure where the house was. My Grandpa had gone when he was visiting years before and just asked the workers at the city hall if they could explain how to get there. We did the same thing, which included broken English and a lot of blank looks and charades. But the nicest man, who spoke no English, got in his 3-wheeled buggy car and lead us up to where we parked and then proceeded to hike with us up to the house to make sure we found it. 

It was a rainy, beautiful Italian day. 

(still laughing about "no pasta". It will never die)

One of my favorite meals. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive to be divine. 


The city that took my breathe away as soon as I walked into it. It felt more like I was in a movie than real life. Thick pizza crust, more delicious food, gelato, incredible architecture, fun shopping, and once again, aching feet & exhaustion from wanting to see anything and everything (granted, flip flops weren't the best decision I could've made). I think we covered almost every nook and cranny of that beautiful sinking city. That's the way a vaca like this should be...two weeks of pure exhaustion from taking advantage of where you are and enjoying every sight you can.

Our second day was the day we would've walked for graduation if we had been home...& instead of getting all dressed up in a cap and gown, we decided to sit down, eat real italian food, and talk about our favorite experiences we had during college. Officially college grads & couldn't feel better about it. 
We got all dressed up for church, ate our Italian breakfast, typed the address into our GPS, and ended up at this


On our way from Venice to Florence we pulled off the freeway to get a bite to eat. We turned into a town that was clearly not populated by tourists. A genuine, real, little Italian town.
We stopped into a restaurant and immediately were greeted by a large Italian group sitting and eating and enjoying the fact that their son and friend was visiting from being away for school for a semester. I can't imagine how they figured we weren't from around there...with our baseball caps and bright white skin. None of them spoke English besides the boy, but that didn't stop a man from coming over, offering and pouring his wine into our glasses (as we tried to explain the best we could that we don't drink), and telling the boy to translate for him. He wanted to welcome us to Italy and kept asking us questions...through his little translator. The mom of the boy kept giving him kisses and told him to tell us that she was just so excited that he was visiting and that she missed him immensely. It was so sweet.

Some of our most favorite places were the unexpected little towns and cities that we would stop into. Some of the best food and best people were met there.


Florence for the afternoon. We had been driving through the tiny streets wondering what city we were in when we realized we were almost to the center of Florence. At this point in the trip, JD practically wasn't with us every time we all loaded in the car. He pulled a Kelsey and became car narcoleptic (translation: only sleepy in the car) and went out hard every time he sat down and we started driving.
Saw the Duomo (from the outside...the line to get in was miles long) and gawked once again at the architecture and detail that went into it all. Then grabbed a bite to eat at the same little restaurant that my parents ate at the last time they were there.

These were my favorite Pringles in Russia...they have yet to make it to the Land of the Free, but they were in Italy which made me one creepy smiling girl.

Translation: Five Cities. 

Monterosso Al Mare
Of every incredible place, this was by far my favorite. We drove the windy, incredibly dangerous mountain roads down into the north-most city, Monterosso. We had no hotel reservation and had no idea if we would find anything on such short notice in such a small city...but the heavens opened and delivered us to the quaint, romantic Villa Steno. A "hotel" with less than twenty rooms and incredible views and patios and lemon trees scattered throughout the hill it was built on (they actually make their own lemon marmalade to sell and for part of breakfast). The smells of this city would blow your mind and the buildings, food, views, Mediterranean, and people made this my favorite spot. 
Pictures don't even do it justice, and Stell did a great job at capturing it, so that's saying something.

The view from our room. A glimpse of Heaven.
This might look like a normal, boring plate of spaghetti, but oh, it was so much more. Best I've ever had.
I need to find these in America so I can actually test them out. I was a lot more excited about seeing these than the normal person probably would've been.
This is what I have to look forward to when my sight starts to go...
Witnessed our very first fireflies...soooo cool. Made me pull out a little A*Teens.




We ran from the top of the cliffs to the train (where the picture was taken from) because we thought we were going to miss it...come to find out, we just don't know how to read their confusing train schedules and ran to hurry up and wait for a half an hour ;)


We spent one night and one day in Pisa and that was plenty for us. It seemed like most all of the restaurants stopped serving food by 5 pm and we were STARVING with little to choose from. J found a little kebob place that looked pretty sketchy so he was the only one that ate anything there (but it ended up being delicious...). We saw the leaning tower, took some pics, enjoyed the sunset, walked around the city, and tried to stay away from all of the people trying to sell us all the crap in the world. Although, they did sell these little blobs of goo that had faces on them and splattered on the ground that JD really wanted and mom would just stare at them as they played with them which obviously made them think she was interested and they would start following us (wow, run on sentence much?). And this wasn't just a one time thing...she would stare at them every time. It was hilarious.

We got back to the hotel, starving like I mentioned before, and so the normal thing to do would be to order in pizza. So that's exactly what we did and it was to die for. It might have been our starvation talking, but that pizza was one for the books indeed. We sat on the TV, ate delivery, and watched the Italian Voice on TV. 

It just seems too perfectly Italian.


We had three days booked for Rome thinking we were going to need all that time to see everything we wanted to, but we actually got it done in a day and a half. It worked out in our favor though as you will see as you scroll through. The first night we drove around to find the Rome Temple that is in the middle of construction (wishing it had been done) and trying to sneak onto the grounds to take a picture. Unfortunately we weren't able to get a picture so we kept driving back and forth trying to get one. After that it was time for some McyDee's for dinner and then time for bed. 
Rome was hot and dirty (like any city would be) but we loved seeing the jaw dropping Colosseum, Ancient Rome, Vatican City, Saint Peters Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain on our first real day there. 

The history you feel as you walk through this city is unbelievable. It's mind boggling realizing the time period these things were built and who has walked on these streets. 

Testing out to see if the Italian Big Mac is as good as the wasn't.

The Colosseum
AKA: My name is Maximus

Ancient Rome
Absolutely incredible.
 I spy mom.
 Unexpected life in old ruins makes for a pretty picture.


Saint Peters Basilica
Once again, so much history it's amazing.

Trevi Fountain
The day came to a close & once again we were BURNT out and exhausted from the heat and walking and standing all day. We fell asleep to the sound of italian talent tv shows and slept like babies.

Church in Rome. And unlike last week, we actually made it {hurray!}. Fun to get to listen to church through a translator again like I did every week in Russia. 


Since we felt like we were done with Rome, we decided that since we were only an hour and a half away from Pompei we needed to go see it. My parents had been once but it had been a rushed experience (since they didn't want to get left by their cruise ship) so it was fairly new for them and extremely new for us. 
I don't know what I have been picturing in my mind all these years (seeing that I've seen pictures of the Colosseum and also Pompei), but it amazed me when we were there, with Pompei and Rome, how advanced and intricate they were in building and creating a civilization and community. And also how preserved these things have stayed. Obviously Mount Vesuvius' soot and debris helped Pompei stay intact but it still blows my mind. 

 Dad was the map KING. Wherever he went, he was getting us around...thank heavens.


This is also known as the place that took our tastebuds out of this world. We decided we had to stop here on our way back to our hotel in Rome because we had to eat pizza in it's "birthplace". It got a little hectic trying to find the restaurant Starita, seeing that our GPS wouldn't work and it was unlike any roads we had every seen. There were scooters everywhere, sometimes even with two adults and two young kids (even babies) just squished between them, driving on the wrong side of the road and making laws as they went along. I swear Italy doesn't enforce road or traffic laws. It's a madhouse, and we spent quite a bit of time in the car throughout the duration of our trip. Dad was our designated driver (lucky guy). 

Naples was really neat though. We had read that the restaurant didn't open until 7 pm but that just didn't seem right (?) so we showed up at 5:30 at the doors thinking it must have been a typo on TripAdvisor. It wasn't, but sitting outside on this tiny little street, watching the commotion of the city, and watching the people interact with each other was 100% worth it. 

Ohhhhhhh and once we got in, it made the wait even more worth it. We were the first ones seated (obviously since we were an hour and a half early) and the dining experience of our lives began. We knew that this place was the second top pick for people to eat at on TripAdvisor (another lifesaver for this trip), but had no idea what was good, so we asked our waiter to do the honors of ordering for us. He ordered us four appetizers (two of them being appetizer pizzas), two more pizzas, and dessert. Every single thing he brought out was to die for. 

Arugula & tomato salad, stuffed cucumber flowers, some sort of filled pizza crust, delicious pizzas, and nutella dessert. Tastebud heaven. And oh their pizza crust.......still dreaming about it.

So we parked our car in an open spot we saw on the street. A car pulled out and there was NO other parking to be found in the entire city so we snagged it thinking, "Hey, someone else was parked there and we don't even know if cops do anything over here. We'll be fine."

We stopped at a gas station on our way to the hotel and my dad noticed something on the back window...and a little surprise was waiting for us. A nice old ticket to remember our visit to Naples I guess.


Hopped back in the car and drove up the east coast and stopped in the beach town Rimini. 

This trip was absolutely incredible. Will never forget it. & got to spend it with three of my most favorite people in the world. I can't believe how lucky and blessed I am to travel, but more importantly to have the people that I do in my life that make life worth living. 

Ciao for now.

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