Five things you should know before booking a trip to Italy

We booked our trip to Italy without knowing much more than cursory understanding of the culture.  Pasta, wine, ocean views.  What more did we need to know?  Well, once we got there, a couple things kept coming up that both Matt and I would say–“Someone should tell you this before you get to Italy.”  So here I am, doing just that 🙂

1. You can’t sit down for a meal at a restaurant at any time throughout the day.  Restaurants are only open from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. for lunch and 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. for dinner.  Any decent restaurant will be closed in the mid-day and will not be open for dinner anytime before 7:00 p.m.

We didn’t know that.  So we booked tours to see the sites from 11:00 to 2:00.  This was a bad idea.  We couldn’t eat lunch before the tour, and by the time the tour was finished and we figured out a good place to eat, we’d have about 15 minutes before the restaurant would close.  We made it work, but it would have been nice to planned around this a bit better.

2. Be a little picky when selecting your restaurant.  Great Italian restaurants don’t have pictures of food on their menus or translate their menus into other languages.  Matt and I are anything but foodies.  I do not have a refined palate and really like most everything.  So any food in Italy sounded amazing.  But there are some tips to get the best of the best.

If the menu has pictures of the food, consider finding another restaurant.  Italians know what that dishes look like.  They have been eating these meals for generations.  If there are photos, this likely is not the restaurant the local Italians are going to time and time again.  It is likely a tourist-focused (less authentic and delicious) restaurant.  In that same vein, if the menu is translated in another language, it is probably not a local’s go-to restaurant.  You want to eat where the locals eat.  That’s where the best food is at.

Also, typically the restaurants near the big tourist attractions are not going to be where you find your best meals.  The great, local Italian restaurant is probably going to a couple blocks away from the action.

3. You can make a lunch out of meats, cheeses, olives, and bread from the grocery store.  The grocery stores in Italy are full of fruit and vegetables that are unbelievably fresh.  Lemons are the size of your fist.  You can pick up a baguette, some cold cuts, and fresh cheeses and make your own sandwich.  The grocery stores have half bottles of wine that are perfect to split.  And get the buffalo mozzarella cheese.  It’s amazing.

Plus you can pick up food to try you over until dinner time if you are use to eating your dinner before 7:30 p.m.  On our second day in Italy, we picked up a bottle of prosecco, olives, and some cheese at the local grocery store and had a midday snack.  We saved a bit of money and kept the hangry Matt at bay 😉

4. Bring a water bottle to Rome.  Rome has water fountains with drinkable water by all of the major site.  Just toss your water bottle underneath and grab some cold water.  So make sure to pack a cute water bottle with you or save a durable disposable bottle.  There are people all over trying to sell you water bottles for a Euro.  Don’t do it.  Grab your own bottle and refill for free!

5. You have to pay to use public bathrooms.  Yes, if you have to use the restroom, you better be at a restaurant or near your hotel because otherwise you’ll be paying about a Euro to use the bathroom.  As someone who is thirsty most of the time, and drinks lots of water, planning was involved so that I wouldn’t spend our money on bathroom trips.

Even without knowing this information before we got there, our trip to Italy was amazing.  It was beautiful, relaxing, and everything we hoped it would be. But if we had known these things before getting there, it would have made the trip a bit more seamless at times.  Hopefully this will help you as you plan your trip to Italy!

Other Italy posts: Positano Travel Guide // A day trip to Capri // Rome! (to come)

 

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A day trip to Capri, Italy

When I booked our trip to Positano, Italy, I knew that no matter what, we needed to fit in a trip to Capri. Capri is an island that’s about an hour boat ride away from Positano on the Tyrrhenian Sea.  It is known for having these gorgeous sea caves that are flooded with crystal blue and emerald green water when daylight shines in. Yet despite deciding that we were going to make our way to Capri, I never actually figured out how we were going to get there.  After settling into our hotel room in Positano, I jumped on google to try to solidify a day trip to Capri.  No luck.  The companies on Expedia and Trip Advisor were booked solid.  I was worried we may be stuck taking a water taxi.  Thankfully, there were three companies that were set up with tents on the beach offering full and half day tours. Surprisingly, the rates were comparable.  So we secured a full day trip with this company to Capri for 140 Euro for the two of us.

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I am a travel blogger today! Positano, Italy Travel Guide – Hotel and Food Edition

The fact that I am writing this post means my dream vacation came true–I went to Italy! And you guys, it was everything I dreamed it would be.  Breathtaking views. Wine. Pasta. Uninterrupted cuddles with my husband.  Kisses without kids tugging on your leg.  Ocean waves. Boat rides. Walks on the cobblestone paths. More wine. More kisses. And swimming in the gosh-dang Tyrrhenian Sea. Because that is a thing I’ve done now.  The entire vacation was magical. Yes, you should go to Italy.

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Tomato Pie

It’s been a while.  Again.  Still been making new recipes.  Still forgetting to take pictures.  I’ve been lazy.

But there is something I have been spending my time taking pictures of.  Surprise! There is a new addition to our family.  Three weeks ago, a little French bulldog moved into our house.  Her name is Pancake.

Pancake helping Matt in the workshop.
Pancake helping Matt in the workshop.

It’s been an adventure.  Neither of us have owned or trained a dog before so we enrolled into a puppy class.  Pancake is becoming proficient at playing fetch, and she’s great at sitting, but now that she has learned that sitting equals treats, walking on a leash has become more difficult.  She will walk a few steps, sit, and wait for a treat.  It’s only been three weeks so hopefully she will get the hang of it soon.

Pancake loves stacking lumber.
Pancake loves stacking lumber.

Our kitchen also has experienced a new milestone.  I finally made something using yeast! I’ve been saying for months that I wanted to learn how to make dough, but every time the opportunity arose, I opted for Pillsbury’s.

tomatopie

This lazy streak has come to an end! Matt is an avid woodworker (the best if you ask me!) and he subscribes to every woodworking show, blog, youtube channel.  One of the woodworkers he follows had a post about making a pizza peel with a recipe for tomato pie which included a homemade crust.  Matt took it as a sign that it was time for me to finally learn to work with yeast.  Clever guy 🙂

tomato pie

I love this tomato pie recipe because of the simplicity of it.  While I love a pizza piled with toppings, sometimes you crave the bare necessities.  Plus, you make this pizza up-side-down.  The cheese is the first topping with the sauce on top.  This unique structure and simple ingredients enhances the flavor of the pizza.  It was the perfect recipe for me to start my journey working with yeast.  And we’ve now made this pizza over 10 times.  I’d say it’s a keeper!  And I now consider myself a “yeast expert.”  Well, as long as it involves this recipe…

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Eggplant

When it comes to holidays, I love the ones that aren’t hyper commercialized. So yes, that means I LOVE April Fools Day.  Playing tricks on people is something I live for.  And no, I do not need a holiday for that.  But when our nation decides to celebrate it–yeah, sure. I’m in.

My co-worker Amber and I spent our April Fools Day playing tricks on our co-workers.  Sure, it was fun switching our boss’s diet coke for lemon juice and creamer.  But it only made my thirst for mayhem stronger.  I needed more.

So, this year I decide that Matt would be the perfect target for a fake cake.  I told Matt that I made him his favorite cake–a black forest cake.

black forest cake...or is it....
black forest cake…or is it….

But in reality, I took a balloon–blew it up and covered it with homemade icing.  Matt was psyched that I made him a cake out of the blue.  I gave him a knife and asked him to cut us both a piece of cake.  And then….bam!  The “cake” exploded in his face and icing went everywhere.  It was awesome.  I laughed hysterically, and Matt looked at me and said, “So, there is no cake?” And that was the best part.  He was all excited for cake.  And there none. Bahahaa.

 

my victim. bahahah
my victim. bahahah

All and all, it was a good April Fools Day.  Messing with our co-workers with Amber was fun.  Messing with Matt only made the day better. And really, what is was was a reminder that there is no need to take life so seriously.  Sure, I definitely get stressed.  I have mini-panic attacks at work over nothing.  I freak out over little things.  But at the end of the day, I need to remind myself that I need to just laugh it all off.  And that’s why I love April Fools Day.

Besides making an exploding cake, I made this delicious eggplant dish! I watched this Italian tv show with my father-in-law and memorized the ingredients as well as I could.  This recipe is easy to make and delicious to eat.  Try it.  You will thank me.

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Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

Remember picture day back in high school?  It was such a big ordeal.  Picking out the perfect outfit, applying gobs of makeup, and finding a hair-style that’s just right.  Yes, very similar to Goldilock’s adventure.  Unfortunately for me, every year my pictures turned out the same.  Eyes mid-blink.  Uncomfortable smile. Messy hair.

pop can bangs. yes, i was that stylish.
pop can bangs. yes, i was that stylish.

Today, we had picture day at work.  Well, kinda.  See, our firm hired two new employees who needed photos for our website.  Since the photographer was already going to be around taking their pictures, I thought, “hey, this is a great opportunity for me to get a better picture.” Maybe I can just sneak in and get a new pic.  [no worries. I got the thumbs up from our marketing coordinator].

Spicy Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

Why did I need a new picture you ask?  Yeah–I’m not the most photographic of individuals.  It wasn’t my best work.  Meaning I’m that girl who has been complaining about her work picture ever since it was taken.

Today was the third time I’ve had my picture professionally taken for work.  Move over, Beyonce.  There’s a new diva running this town.  But, channeling my inner celebrity paid off.  I got to look at my new work pictures, and while I won’t be auditioning for America’s Next Top Model anytime soon, I no longer looked frazzled.

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

Photographing soup has always been a bit of a challenge for me.  If it isn’t full of chunky ingredients, a creamy soup looks bland.  What I should do is buy some cute, unique bowls from Goodwill to jazz it up.  But its so easy to get lazy when it comes laying out colorful and eye-catching backdrops for my website.  Thankfully, this recipe is full of delicious chunky ingredients, so my fiestaware bowls sufficed.  This spicy soup was delicious, easy to make, and can be ready in twenty minutes.  The perfect meal after a long day of work! 

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Caprese Soup

It only took six months, but I finally feel like I have a real handle on my job.  Instead of being perpetually on defense, I finally feel like I am on offense.  Now, I can anticipate what needs to be done, understand where I am in a file, and no longer feel like I am constantly asking my boss questions (although, he may not agree. haha).  It’s a good feeling.  Unfortunately, I am not infallible.  So I am not in the clear yet.  I still spend a good amount of time reading statutes and learning something new about banking law.  But, that’s the whole reason why I went into law.  Everyday, there is something new to learn.  (wow, yes.  that is correct.  i am that nerdy. gross).  So, I’m in a good place.

In that some vein, I am getting far more comfortable with my cooking skills.  I no longer stay clear of recipes that require multiple tools, crazy ingredients, and complicated steps.  This recipe is not hella complicated but it is amazing delicious.  It is a bit time consuming, but it is worth the extra time and effort.  After making this, I felt on top of the world.  Trust me, it’s a recipe you do not want to miss.

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Tomato Pesto Soup

It’s that time of the year where everyone is either sick, getting over a sickness, or is about to be sick.  No gusta.  This sickness cloud sat over our house for a couple days last week.  Matt couldn’t get out of bed.  I went home from work early (a true sign of sickness–I’ve never called in sick or went home early from work since I was 16).  Now that we can stomach food again, I had the urge to make some comfort food.

With my health back, I was ready for a challenge.  I’ve been wanting to make homemade tomato pesto soup for quite some time after having a delicious tomato pesto at Crave, a local restaurant.  And this recipe not only met my expectations, it surpassed it.  To my surprise, this recipe isn’t as challenging as I thought it was going to be.  Sure, there are multiple steps.  You need a hand blender.  And lots of tomatoes.  But most of the work involving waiting rather than mincing and chopping.

goal of recreating this soup: check.
goal of recreating this soup: check.

Honestly, this soup may be the best thing I’ve made thus far.  It tasted like Italy.  So natural, fresh, and basily. Perfect. I couldn’t stop bragging about it.  I texted pictures to family and friends.  Blabbed about it at work.  But it was so fucking good.

Ok, enough of my shameless face shoving.  Go make your own batch so you can do the same!

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Olive Pesto

Matt is a big snacker.  This snacking habit has only been encouraged by my particular “house rules” when it comes to dishes in the wood shop.  No glass, no fiestaware, and no silverware near the power tools.  So Matt made his own wood bowls that he fills with chips (that later become full of wood chips. somehow that doesn’t deter him from eating his potato chips).

Periodically, I like to surprise Matt with new dips for his chip addiction.  Last week was Matt’s half-birthday so I decided to try this olive pesto.  I know, I know.  Who celebrates half-birthdays?  But it all started several years ago when Matt went out to his friends for a couple beers.  It just so happened to be his actual half-birthday.  Somehow, the guys started saying it was Matt’s actual birthday and despite the reality that bartenders look at your ID–the bartenders bought it.  He had a night of free drinks, dancing on the bar, and running around ringing the birthday bell.  Ever since, we celebrate Matt’s half-birthday.  Complete with a half-cake and special dips.

Olive Pesto

This olive pesto was a fun twist on the traditional pesto that I love so much.  It was quick and easy to make, and it would probably taste delicious mixed with pasta.

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Caprese Pizza

I PASSED THE BAR!! You have no idea how good it feels to write that.  After months of waiting, worrying, and some more waiting, I got the coveted letter from the Bar of Law Examiners Friday morning at 11:00 and screamed in excitement.  So loud that one of my co-workers came into my office to see if I was ok.  Ha.  I was shaking with excitement for a good hour. The final hurdle standing in the way of my legal career has finally been conquered.

Now that I’ve lawyered the bar exam, my next feat will be working with yeast.  I have a long list of recipes I want to try that work with active yeast that I have putting on the back burner to try “someday.”

Well, that someday wasn’t today.  (hey, I passed the bar.  I figured I earned myself a break)  But next week I am going to overcome my fear of yeast and give it a good college try.  This pizza was so delicious that it will probably be one of my first recipes I’ll make using yeast.  Figure even if I fumble a bit, the powerful basil and mozzarella flavors will overpower any mistake I may make.

 

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