January 17, 2011

Snowboarding in Ovindoli

The other day we went snowboarding. I had only been once before so I was very nervous to strap my feet to a board and slip down a mountain. Plus cold and I are not usually friends. The first time I ever went snowboarding was in Arizona. It wasn't the greatest place for a total beginner to learn, plus I didn’t have the proper snow clothes. Wearing jeans and sitting (falling) in snow just don’t mix. It wasn't the most fun I had every had… I was crying and pitching fits because of the cold… so remembering that experience made me apprehensive to try it again.  But since it is one of English Boys favorite things to do, I really  want to suck it up and learn.

This time the experience was much better. We went to the Ovindoli Ski Resort. It is half way between Rome and Pescara near a town called Ovindoli. It was only about an hour and 45 minute drive. As we went we were getting a little nervous driving though the mountain because we couldn't see any snow. Then we came out of a tunnel and saw these mountain peaks.

The drive seemed so quick and it was so easy to rent a snowboard and boots (only €10!) that before I knew it, I was standing on top of a hill with my feet strapped to a board. This time I had proper snowboarding clothes so falling in the snow wasn’t so bad but I was still scared of hurting myself. After my first couple of falls I learned quickly not to use my hands to catch. This resort was great because it had a very good area for beginners to learn. I spent most of the day on the baby slope just trying to get the basics down. It had this conveyer belt type thing that made it much easier to get up the slope.  I definitely recommend learning to snowboard at a place with one of these.

Once I started getting better, English Boy made me try this bigger and steeper but still beginner slope.  Very few people were on it and it turned out the be very icy.  It hadn't snowed in Ovindoli for several days so we were pretty lucky with the conditions we did get. But an icy slope is no fun to fall on and very difficult to get control.

I had to use a ski lift on this slope.  My least favorite part.

I went down the intermediate slope twice and it about finished me. But I gave the baby slope another try after that and it became so much easier. I did two really great runs then for my final snowboarding run of the day I had my hardest most painful fall of the day. Of course English Boy had to be watching after missing the times I did really good! I was leaning backwards but somehow fell forward. I landed first on my knees then slammed my chest and head into the snow. It knocked all the air out of me and it took me a second to see straight again. I still have the bruises on my knees.  I was so disappointed to finish like that.

By then the resort was getting ready to close and we still hadn't made it to the top of the mountain. I was too beat up and exhausted for more snowboarding so we dropped my board at the car and headed for the gondola to the top. Even in pain I could admire the view...

At the top there were even more ski lifts along with several snack bars and restaurants. We had 15 minutes until closing time so I snapped some pictures then caught the gondola back down. English Boy snowboarded his way down and beat me by a long shot. 

The Ovindoli Ski Resort seemed like a really good place for snowboarding and skiing. It had slopes for all levels and I was able to get just a little better.  Maybe next time I'll get to enjoy the intermediate slope. Over all it was a good day but the next day I could hardly move. Talk about a full body workout!


January 13, 2011

Frascati Pictures

 I though I'd post some pictures from around Frascati. I've been pretty bad about taking pictures the last few days; which is a total crime since I did get a new camera for Christmas. But I'm trying to get better. I hope you enjoy!

Here is a picture of a sunset I took a couple of weeks ago. The view is from my bedroom window. I just love the colors in the sky.

There always seems to be weekend events happening in Frascati. A couple of Sundays ago there were all these stall selling antiques and craft type things. Most of the stuff looked a bit... how do I put this politely... old lady collector type stuff, but I did find some side tables that English Boy and I really loved. We were both short on cash though so we didn't bother asking the price.

 Another view of the market.

Here is another sunset, this one from this evening. It is the same sunset and the picture I put in my header. This picture came out a little blurry (I'm still figuring out my new camera) but I love the shapes in the sky.

 This is the main road into Frascati from Rome and a view of the sunset behind some really giant trees.

The prime passeggiata spot in Frascati. This were the Italians go for an evening stroll to see and be seen.

I hope you like!


January 10, 2011

Nemi, Italy

One of the best things about going somewhere new is marveling at how different it can be from home.  You can see these places in movies and in pictures but its just not the same as experiencing it in person. There is always a sensation and impression that you get from being exposed to something different that you just can't get from a picture. I love that feeling.  Yesterday my boyfriend and I went to explore some of the towns in the Alban Hills. Mostly we just drove through but one place we did stop was a small town called Nemi. It was by far my favorite place of the day and one of my favorite places in Italy. 

Nemi is a very old and small town that over looks a volcanic crater lake called Lago di Nemi. Perched on a cliff, this town was full of tiny cobblestoned streets that could only be explored on foot. We walked down tiny alleyways with dead ends that were so full of character. English Boy was laughing at me every time we turned a corner and I would say "Wow! This is so cool!"  Let me see if I can describe it to you. I wasn’t exactly on top of taking pictures.  (I blame it on the cold weather)

We started by walking up the main street past unique shops, restaurants and cafés. Judging from some of the items being sold, Nemi gets many tourists and is probably very busy in the summer time. We were welcomed into the town by a norcineria (pork-butcher) that had  a boars head hanging outside.  It was one of the busiest places in town but for me the smell was unbearable. Or should I say 'unboarable'?

After exploring a bit of the town and the view of the lake, we stopped in a café for a hot chocolate and pastry. Nemi is known for its wild strawberries  and they sell them everywhere. On their own, in pastries, as jam…. All of the cafés had these little pastries with wild strawberries. They were to die for! I could eat one of those for breakfast everyday. And the hot chocolate was like heaven in your mouth. Italian hot chocolate is not the same as the drink you get in America. It's thick and creamy and has to be eaten with a spoon. If you have ever made the chocolate pudding, the kind you cook on the stove, then imagine eating a cup of that while it's still warm. It is amazing.

Nemi is only big enough to take a couple hours of your day at best but totally worth the time. If given the chance I think everyone should visit to admire the view of the lake, eat some wild strawberries, and maybe pick up some jam to take home. Exploring the towns in the Alban Hills make a great day trip from Rome.


January 5, 2011

Aperitivo in Rome

Earlier today English Boy and I went into Rome to do some exploring of areas we have never been before. It was really only a few smaller streets off of the main Via Nazionale but there was a lot to explore. We went based on a recommendation and found that it is a very nice area and full of restaurant and cool shops. We found a couple of Indian and Japanese restaurants that we plan to go back and try. Since we were a little too earlier for the Italian dinner time none of the restaurants were open. So instead we went for an aperitivo. For those of you who don’t know, going out for an aperitivo, a pre-dinner drink, is a very common practice in Italy and is usually done between 5-8. The drink can be anything from wine, cocktails, to soda and always comes with food to nibble on. Depending on the bar and the time, the food could be a bowl of nuts or a full out buffet with of all types of foods.

As we were wandering we came across a cozy looking bar and went in for a drink. It had a really nice relaxed atmosphere and was full of Italians. I ordered a glass of red wine, un bicchiere di nero d'avola, and and soem olives and it came with bread snacks and some strange nuts. I'm not sure what the nuts were but they were good.  

We then did some random street wandering and suddenly came up to the colosseum from the upper street level and took some really great night shots.

Here is a cool one of the back of the forum. One of my favorite pictures of the day.

And the Colosseum all lit up. We got this picture just as it started raining. Then we ran for it and got an Italian hot chocolate from a nearby cafe.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!


January 4, 2011

Christmas in Frascati

I know it’s a little late and everyone is probably tired of Christmas but I thought I would share a little about my holiday. This was my first year ever being away from home and away from my family for Christmas so I wasn’t sure what to expect. And it didn’t feel like Christmas leading all the way up to it. That week started out hectic for me. I had had my last day at work, flew to Italy, found a Christmas tree, did shopping for Christmas dinner, and played chauffer and host to English Boy's parents.  Then before I knew it Christmas was here!

This is the tree we got three days before Christmas. We went to a nursery in Frascati and purchased the biggest tree they had. That is where boys and girls differ. My boyfriend went for size, whereas I would have picked on for shape and looks. This tree has a funny extra long branch that sticks out the middle. It also almost looks like two trees stacked together. After staring at it for a while I now think it looks like an angel with its full skirt and wings. It is also a very tough tree. Its needles are as sharp and pointy as a cactus and being pricked by them made me itch so bad it hurt! My hands went all red and broke out in hives. I haven't touched the tree since.

Here is the tree with our meager decorations that we put up on Christmas eve. We got a string of red lights that also acts as a garland. The ornaments are ones that we had received for Christmas the year before. And the tree skirt I made out if a cheap tablecloth we found in a store in Rome. Our guests made us the star out of tin foil and card board. They had it finished and on top of the tree before I pointed out that it was actually the star of David. But I thought it added character so we went for a multi-cultural Christmas. It really did feel much more like Christmas once the tree was decorated. Do you see the angel?

Christmas eve was the only day we had to show English Boy's parents around Frascati and Rome and it rained for most of the day! But there was a brief moment when I saw this rainbow over Frascati. It reminded me of rainy days in Arizona. We also went to Rome in the evening to try to find dinner but most places were closed or charging an arm and a leg to eat there.  We ended up back home and making leek and potato soup.
This is a large nativity scene that was on top of the Spanish steps. In the rain of course.  Italians love nativity scenes during the holidays. They have them everywhere. And in many shops you can buy all the pieces to make your own.  They also sell decorations of Santa on a ladder and I see them hanging out of windows everywhere. No chimneys for Santa in Italy.

Not only was this Christmas my first away from home but also my first time cooking dinner. English Boy and I did it together in our tiny kitchen and I have to say it turned out really well.  It was a mix of Italian, English and American cooking. There is some more of that multi-cultural for you.  It was so good that I'm still feeling proud of myself and craving another big dinner like it. 

Our dining table is so small there was only room for  eating. So we brought in the table from the balcony and made a small buffet. We also did not have a lot of serving dishes or pans so some of the food was made in disposible foil pans.

Overall it was a very nice Christmas and I hope everyone also had a Buone Feste! Now to focus on the new Year.


January 3, 2011

Driving in Italy

Driving in Italy can be very intimidating if you are new to it. Almost all Italian drivers are aggressive drivers and in order to drive more safely you must learn to adapt. It also seems to be the only time Italians are ever in a hurry when doing something. The drivers here remind me of some of the most obnoxious teenage drivers. Imagine a city filled with teenagers all rushing to get somewhere first. When driving in or near Rome you must always expect to be cut off, always expect someone to pull out in front of you, and always expect the driver in front of you to slam on their brakes when stopping or slowing down. 

The rules of the road don't seem to matter very much to Italians and are broken all the time; especially by people on mopeds and motorcycles.  And to some drivers, red lights are only a suggestion. It seems road lanes don’t mean much either. I often see people driving down the middle of two lanes. If a car wants to pass someone doing this then they flash their lights at the drivers side mirror.  This works only when the driver is paying attention of course. At stop lights, sometimes cars will form four lanes where there are officially only two. And when the light turns green, whoever has the fastest car ends up in front. 

Merging is a skill in Italy. Often many lanes of traffic will merge into one or there will be several on-ramps and off-ramps crossing over each other, in which case cars are zooming all over in a big free for all. Cars will get inches (sometimes centimeters) away from each other as they all merge into the same lane then separate into opposite directions.  It can all be very chaotic  but at the same time Italian drivers can be very gracious as well. If a driver has the guts to pull out into on-coming traffic to join a long line of cars then the on coming car will usually slow down to let that driver in.  Pedestrians have the right of way here. If a person is on or near a cross walk then cars will usually stop to let the person cross.  However, there is a technique to crossing the street. Always make eye contact with the person driving the car and don't hesitate when crossing the street.

 Parking is a free for all as well.  If the car fits, and it's not blocking a gate, doorway, or the street (too much) then it’s a parking spot. Italians will park anywhere and everywhere so they don't have to pay for parking. That is why having a small car is a must in Italy. There are also very few nice/expensive cars seen on the road in Rome. Just about every car will have dents and scratches from parking in small spaces or getting too close to another car.

Those are a few things to expect when driving in Italy. If you really want to have fun with it then get used to using the horn and study some common Italian hand gestures.  You will be just like an Italian in no time!