Sunday, March 6, 2016

Benvenuto in Italia!

We left Costa Rica at 9:30 am flew three hours to the Dominican Republic where we stopped for refueling then we hopped on for the nine and a half hour flight to Frankfurt Germany.  The German airline was fantastic they fed us dinner and breakfast the next morning, but it felt  like all day for us because of the time difference.  Most of the kids slept for at least a little bit while on the plane except for Maggie.  Tessa wrote in her journal about the experience, "We found out that sleeping on a plane is terrible." Once in Frankfurt we had a four hour layover before our final flight to Rome.  This was fine because we had to go through passport security there and the Frankfurt Airport is massive so it took a bit to maneuver.  We did find the time to grab some real German airport bagels and some kinder surprises, to keep the smiles going.  In our final leg to Rome  Jonah and Max, who had both insisted on being by a window so they could see, slept the entire time.  Once in Rome we were picked up by the company that we were leasing our van from, they helped us get set up with some navigation and helpful tips with maneuvering a van in Europe, and we were off.  To find our first apartment in a little hilltop village called Castel Madama.  

Our apartment was in the center of a little village about 30 minutes outside of Rome.  After about 23 hours of traveling we were all exhausted, but we were also hungry so we marched up to a pizza place near our apartment the Italian pizza shops have pizzas spread out in giant rectangular sheets, not round, and you just point to what you want, they cut it in blocks, pile it all on a scale, and you pay by the weight.  I have to admit that our first impressions of our European home was met with mixed emotions.  We knew we had to start thinking small.  Our apartment, while it looked spacious on AirBnB, seemed quite small once we got there.  Max kept wandering back and forth through the rooms mumbling how he didn't know how we were going to survive with so many people in such a small space.  Luckily there were plenty of beds for everyone, so we ate and crashed.  The next morning things looked brighter.  Maggie and Tessa both slept for 18 hours straight and were like brand new people when they awoke.   Even Max, had changed his tune, saying how this was going to be pretty good.  Bread, cheese, and cured meat for breakfast, I think we're going to like Europe.

That first night we had two wet beds and one kid that puked.  Not cool!  That meant we got to try out our European washing machine.  Europe is not geared for large families.  The washing machine was about 1/4 of the size of mine at home and no dryer.  Consequently our first day was spent doing laundry.  Italy is also not geared for vehicles that carry large families.  Aaron impressed us all with his incredible parallel parking skills.  It needs to be noted that Aaron made it IN to the spot pictured above (we were grateful one of the cars was gone we we had to leave) and he did it all while driving a stick shift.

While the laundry dried we went off in search of warmer clothes.  We found a kids clothing store in the nearby metropolis of Tivoli.  The ladies there didn't speak a bit of English, but they were very helpful.  When Eli had to go to the bathroom the young store clerk did a vividly clear charade of "little boys can pee in the street, no problem" that was both entertaining and informative.

Tivoli was only about a ten minute drive from Castel Madama and was full of history and landmarks. People have been living in this location for over 3000 years and it is home to two UNESCO world heritage sites.  The first we visited was Villa d'Este.  An residence dating back to the mid 1500s when the governor of Tivoli wanted to build a palace and gardens along the cliffside.  They brought water through aqueducts and created beautiful breathtaking fountains and gardens.   

Pictures clockwise from top left.  1- A castle in the center of Tivoli, very impressive, but you can't go inside.  2- A little hands on culture, we really wanted the kids to connect with the things that we were seeing.  3- Statue of a fertility goddess, of sorts.  4- The water works inside Villa d'Este were absolutely stunning.  This walkway sprang water on three levels from several intricately carved faces.
A wall mural within the palace.  I wish my walls and ceilings
were painted like these.
and I wouldn't mind the view either.
Ok, I'm also in love with the fountains and the gardens.
Some of the many water spouting faces at Villa d'Este.  

Tessa, "Today we went to the fountains.  They were really pressured so they shot up straight and that made them tall and beautiful.  We also saw tons and tons of really really really really really good sculptures and paintings.  I thought it was interesting."

Jonah, "Will you lift me up so I can see that old moldy thing?"

Piazza near the Spanish Steps.
With a little bit of culture under our belt we felt ready to tackle Rome.  We rode the metro into the Spanish steps then followed Rick Steve's walking tour to catch the Pantheon, Piazza Novano and the Trevi Fountain.  It was amazing!  It all looked just like the pictures, narrow winding streets, stunning architecture, colorful buildings, impressive fountains, and gelato shops open in the winter.  

Our first gelato!  What a great walking motivator! 
Pinnochio was everywhere, we passed several little woodworking shops full wooden puppets (left,)
In front of the Pantheon (right) this structure is unbelievably massive.  The dome is large enough to fit a ball with a 142 ft diameter inside.  It was built about 125 AD, but is in incredible shape because it is one of the few Roman ruins that has been in continual use since it was built.  First as a Roman Temple and since the 7th century it's been used as a Catholic church.  I would love to see how they moved those massive pillars in 120 AD.  Impressive!

The kids were more impressed by the street performers in the
Piazza Novana.  Musicians, artists, a magician, and this guy.
Max, "Today we got on the metro and rode at the speed of light to Rome.  We got off near the Spanish Steps then wondered to find the Pantheon.  The Pantheon is a huge temple for the Roman gods.  Then we got gelato.  It was awesome.  Best.  I got a chocolate and mint and it tasted so good.  I now understand why the #1 thing you should see in Rome is gelato shops.  After that we went to the Four rivers fountain and saw some street performers that were doing amazing things like levitating, posing like a statue, playing the zither, and making incredible pictures of the colosseum using spray paint.  Then we went to an Italian restaurant and I got a 4 cheese gnocchi and it either meant there were 4 cheeses or there was 4 times as much cheese.  There were a hundred of barely visible pasta balls filled with cheese.  It was delicious!  Then we went to the Trevi fountain and got gelato again because tomorrow is my birthday and our oven is broken.  We saw the amazing huge fountain and got right next to it.  Then we made the exhausting trip home and went to bed.  It was an awesome day!"
Trevi Fountain

We felt blessed to land ourselves in the Rome 3rd ward.  
Tessa, "Today we went to church and right away met people who spoke english and were very nice!!! The mom turned out to be the primary leader and nice.  They made the lesson all in English and because of Max's birthday gave us ice cream bars which were epic!!!  I felt loved because they took the time to do english."

For Max nothing says "Happy Birthday" like ice cream and meat!  
Max, "Today is my birthday.  It is also our first day at church.   We went to a ward in the country and sat down.  In the meeting everyone spoke Italian, but in primary we found that only 1 person there was Italian so we heard the lesson in English.  We also found that it was somebody else's birthday so the teacher had brought ice cream.  It was a miracle!  After church we had mashed potatoes, (smashed with a fork) and steak for dinner.  It was an awesome birthday!"

Jonah's new best friend is a hunk of fennel.  We call it "Fennel
Friend."  Best part, no language barrier, Fennel says
 just what Jonah wants him too.  


  1. I love your kids personalities! I'm sure the climate change feels pretty dramatic for all of you. I'm loving following along, but somehow missed what started this worldwide tour?

    1. Well, we have spent the last many years having kids, starting businesses and investing in real estate. It has been intense. Finally we got to a point that our real estate could support us. Which gave us new possibilities. We took about a year to focus just on real estate and to detox from the intensity of starting business. I loved it! Aaron was around so much more and having the increase in family time was good for everyone. You know Aaron, though, after about a year he was ready to start moving on the next thing. The question became do we start another business or we take the opportunity to travel the world. Not a real hard question for me. Loose all our precious time with Aaron to another business, or live out of a suitcase for ten months whilst experiencing the world? We knew that our kids were in about a perfect position to undertake such a once in a lifetime adventure, portable but not into super intense school yet. So we decided to take the chance while we could. We are grateful for the opportunity we have all grown and changed in many ways, some expected and some unexpected. Our travels continue until August 2016, we'll go home in time for the kids to start back into regular school in the fall.

  2. Oh my gosh...the fantastic memories you are making. I absolutely love the photos of the gardens, fountains and sculptures. I love the shots of pizza and gelato (by the way I'm super craving gelato now!!!!) I loved Jonah's quote about "the old moldy thing" and tell Aaron he is my new hero for that parking job...amazing!

  3. Hi Kari! This is Emma from the ward in Perigeux where we met last Sunday. Italy looks so fantastic! I certainly hope our family can make it there this trip! I also love seeing and reading about all the awesome places you are going and things you see-and tajes you eat too!! So glad we met your family! Say hi to Maggie for me

    1. Hi Emma! It's great to hear from you! So glad you found our blog. :) Stay tuned there are many more things to come. We are so glad to have met you guys as well, what luck! Maggie smiled, and says hi back.