San Gimignano

San Gimignano
Beautiful city of San Gimignano, where we spent last Sunday afternoon.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Italia-#3 Experiences and Observations Abroad

It has been a week since I've posted and I've had some interesting experiences since that time.  I would  like to report that I am well on my way to learning Italian and have my drivers license in my pocket but alas neither of those are checked off my list.  I have procrastinated and not studied for my DL test so it will be another week before I can take the test.  I think I am enjoying just being driven around by Steve when we are off base :-)  When we are on base I can drive the little bit I need to.  As far as the house goes, we are waiting for the house we want to be posted on the Housing website.  At that point I will need to be "Pronto!" and be over there to be the first to see it and say that we want it.  We have actually already seen it when the previous Americans were moving out in preparation for their move back to the U.S. (they were very sad to be leaving Italy and the house).  I can understand why.

1.  I managed to upload a link here all myself, yippee!  The picture above is of a little hill town about 80 minutes away. We spent Saturday enjoying the drive there as well as wondering the streets and having lunch.  San Gimignano is a town that is hundreds of years old with a very interesting history.
SG managed to avoid the bombings of WWII and the buildings and streets are still intact and are just beautiful.  The views from the hilltop streets are also amazing with the olive trees and grapes below as well as other crops!  The area is well known for their Pici Noodles
as well as their famous Vernaccia di San Gimignano white wine.

2. My experience on Friday afternoon was not as pleasant.  One of Steve's teachers had graciously offered to take me to the upscale Italian grocery store  We arrived, placed a Euro in to the cart rental (yes, we had to pay to rent a cart, our 1 Euro coin would be returned when WE returned the cart at the end of our shopping excursion).  We approached the front counter of the store which is just outside the main entrance (inside a small shopping mall) so she could help me obtain a frequent shopper card.  We both placed our purses on the counter in front of us, conducted our business, etc. To make a long story short, after going in to the store, going through and picking up a little bit of produce she realized her small purse was missing (it had been about 5 minutes at that point).  She immediately began to backtrack and then we both quickly realized it had been stolen.  Despite the language barrier we managed to get the store Mgr. and the store security involved, they looked at 3 different video cameras and finally determined that a "short, blonde girl" took the purse when we were standing at the counter. Since we both were RIGHT THERE beside each other the whole time we feel fairly certain it was a small gypsy child. Stealing is a common problem and I am always aware of it (that is why I had my purse over my shoulder and head and in front of me).  She kept saying, "after all these years living over seas I knew better"  I felt so bad for her, especially since she was there helping me at the counter when it was stolen.  She only lost a little bit of $$ but lost her Govt. ID (BIG deal), credit card, driver license, and the only car key she had. Steve came and got us, took her to the MP office to file the claim about her stolen Govt ID.  In all honesty, there likely won't be much attempt by the Carabielli to catch anybody for the theft.  It just makes us...and others more aware of how very quickly it can happen when you least expect it.

3. On Sunday Steve and I enjoyed driving over to San Giuliano, a small town close to where we will live.  They have one of the larger Antique Street Markets in Italy.  It re-opened March 4 for the season.

4. We have a house!  The one we wanted!  I am not exactly sure when we will be moving in since it takes time to complete the volumes of paperwork required on the US end and the Italian end but I would think at least within 3-4 weeks.  Our HHG (household goods) have been sitting in a warehouse in Ramstein Germany for several weeks now.....just waiting to be delivered.  More on the house in a later blog.

5. Buying gas in Italy is a very interesting experience.  In England and Japan we bought gas on base, usually at prices comparable to U.S. prices.  If we were going to venture so far away from base that we couldn't get gas we could buy "gas coupons" at US prices and use on the local economy there.  In Italy we cannot buy gas on base, however we buy gas coupon booklets.  These coupons are generally bought at US prices, but are for litres of gas.  Right now a litre of gas costs about 1.74 on the economy in Italy.  These coupons are then good at the gas station Agip in Italy.  We Americans are used to gas stations being open and available anytime we want to buy gas, right?  Wrong!  Gas stations are generally open 8-12 and then 3-7.  They open on Sat 8-noon and then are closed the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday.  You better plan to get your gas during the hours they are open or plan on staying put LOL.   I plan on never letting my tank get below 1/4 tank at the very least!

6. Let me end this blog with one of my favorite subjects, food.  Today we went in to Pisa and walked around the Leaning Tower as well as along the Arno River.  Stopped in a market and bought two types of homemade bread from a local vender, who graciously let me taste both of them before selling it to me and then also bought some Pecorino cheese from two older women who I believe have their own cheese making business. They spoke no English so I couldn't ask my usual questions but the cheese and bread are delicious.  We just ate a snack of both with our gift of olives from the farm we are moving to.  Most of the restaurants here serve Schiacciata.  This is almost like a thin pizza dough with olive oil and sometime salt and herbs on top of it.  It is usually served as an appetizer soon after you sit down in a restaurant. It is delicious, especially when served hot directly out of the pizza oven!  Here is a recipe for it :

7. One more observation about dining in Italy.  The food is delicious but one major adjustment that Steve and I are still having to make is that the restaurants do not even open until 7-7:30 at night.  When we go at this time usually no one else is there except us OR there may be another table or two of Americans :-)  The Italians typically begin to come in around 8:30 - 9 o'clock.  We Southerners have had a very hard time getting used to eating so very late.  I can handle it better than Steve because I can sleep late in the next morning.  I'm sure we are going to get in the swing of things.  We have a favorite restaurant here close to base.  They know we like to come there now so the owners and staff are always very welcoming to us.

Here are some pictures we have made the last few weeks.  My first time to upload, yikes!

San Giuliano. The Antique Market is in the background. The large building in the background is a hot springs and upscale hotel.

Steve at San Giuliano with the same background :-)

San Giuliano again, this is the same spot as above, just the water side view.

Gelato from the Gelateria that is very close to our soon to be home.  Delicious!  Strawberry for me and Orange for Steve.  We have already been twice (they recognize us now too).

We the this afternoon wandering around Pisa.  Saw the Leaning Tower and walked along the Arno River.  I especially enjoyed just seeing the old buildings, the little narrow streets and the street markets.