About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Final Inspection - Off to the Hilton Near the Airport

This morning was our final morning in our apartment...sniff sniff.  Katrina headed out to to Linate early to exchange our rental car for a mini van.  I swept and mopped the apartment floors and finished cleaning the bathroom.

When Katrina returned, we loaded 4 large suitcases, 4 small suitcases, and a bike box into the mini van.  It was packed tight.  European mini vans are a bit smaller than American mini vans.

The real estate agent, the apartment owners father, and our relocation agent arrive around noon for the final apartment inspection. Its funny.  We spent 2 1/2 days giving the apartment a deep cleaning (it was not clean when we took possession)  and all they really seemed to care about was making sure we left the furniture and all the light fixtures.  The biggest conversation was all about transfer of utilities and how to do that!

Our relocation agent had the owners agent write out and sign that all was good.  They weren't going to leave us anything like that!

Anyway, we grabbed our backpacks and Stevie that cat and left our Italian apartment for the last time.  Surprisingly, no tears were shed.

On our way out we stopped to say goodbye to our portania and her family.  Anna, her husband Ivano and their daughter Martina were always welcoming to us and took a big liking to Brandon.  Brandon would sometimes go down to Anna's office and spend a couple hours speaking Italian with her.  Early in our time in Italy, she asked Brandon what kind of pasta he liked.  He told her Bolognese and a few days later she made some homemade sauce for him.  This past Monday Ivano made homemade pizzas for us.  And yesterday, they gave Brandon an Italian flag to take home.

 Martina, Ivano and Anna

Martina, Brandon and Anna

Brandon gets a big hug

Ivano and Brandon

After we said our goodbyes, we headed over to la Piccola Gelateria to say goodbye to our gelato guy.  

It was time to head to our hotel.  We are staying at the Hilton Garden Inn near Malpensa airport.  We didn't want to leave all of our luggage exposed in the car, so we carried it all up to the room - well, we used to carts to carry it all up.

Stevie was fairly comfortable.  He came out from under the bed and explored the room a bit. He even tried to jump through the large mirror!

Dinner in the hotel.  Some TV watching and early to bed.  We need to be at the airport by 4am tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Final Cleaning...

Today was all about final cleaning.  Katrina had a meeting at work, so she headed in while I finished up the kitchen and the bathroom.  It was a lot of work, but went smoother than I anticipated.

This evening we headed into Milan for a dinner with some of Katrina's Italian coworkers.  We met at Mangiafuoco Bracerie.  Their specialty is all types of grilled meats.  We had a lot of food.  Quite a few anitpastas were ordered, then came the meals.  There was also wine and some gelato for dessert.  Some of her Italian coworkers bought Katrina two books as going away presents - one on Polaroid photography and one on Italian wine.  It was a late night, but the food and company were great for our last night in Milano.

Tomorrow is our last day in Italy :(

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Last Pizza Night

This evening we had Italian pizza for the last time...a very sad moment for me.  I love Italian pizza.  Brandon and I went over to our favorite pizzeria, Il Ghiotonne, to pick them up and take some pictures.  

Here are several pictures - the art of Italian pizza making - photos by Brandon

The three pizzas ordered before us go in the wood fired oven.  Now time to make our pizzas:  1 Margharita, 1 Marinara and 1 Pugliese

Select the dough

Roll it out

Add tomato sauce

Cheese and toppings

Add Oregano 

And more seasonings


And into the oven


Our pizzeria friends

Pizzas, ready to go in about 10 minutes

Brandon tries his hand at pizza making

I tried making pizzas a couple of times, without much success.  I will keep practicing and hope to someday build a wood fired oven on the patio.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Vet, Painting and Cleaning

This morning I had a 9am appointment to visit the vet.  Stevie needs a current health certificate that is validated for 6 days or less so that we can travel home...KLM requires this.  He also needs a Pet Export form from the Italian government so that we can leave Italy with him...just a way to raise cash!

The vet appointment went well.  Brandon went with me and helped carry Stevie in his new soft sided crate.  After the appointment, I dropped Brandon and Stevie off at home, then headed into downtown Monza to get the Pet Export form at ASL, the Regional Vet office.  

The guys in the office of the office tried to be helpful, but really put a scare in me.  Our worst cat nightmare...the vet was on vacation and wouldn't return until Friday, the day we leave.  They said I could leave the paperwork with them and pick it up Friday.  I told them we were flying home on Friday.  The countered with, "You can pick up the paperwork before you head to the airport."  I countered that with, "We need to be at the airport at 4am!"

They then told me there was nothing they could do.  They were nice about it, but just couldn't do anything.  As one of the guys went to put the blank forms back into the envelope, he noticed that the bottom two copies were presigned by the regional vet.  Whew!  Short story - I walked out of the office with a Pet Export form.

While I was taking care of this, Katrina was off with our relocation helper, taking care of our bank account and forwarding of our mail.  60 euro to forward our mail for 6 months.  That's not too bad, considering the price of international postage.

We spent the rest of the day cleaning and I did some painting.  We hired a cleaning person to help clean the bathrooms and kitchen appliances, but due to a communication misunderstanding, she never showed up.

Katrina also had to go into work one last time.  

Last Day in Venezia

Today was our last day in Venice.  We had our usual breakfast in the hotel, then checked out.  We would end up spending much of the morning wandering around Venice.

Produce boat.  

By late morning we found ourselves near the 'top' end of the Grand Canal.  We wanted to see the canal once last time, so we hopped on vaporetto #2 and headed towards San Marco.  

There are many gondoliers on the Grand Canal

They are breeding giant crabs in the waters of Venice

This mosaic was done with plastic bottles.

Tourists take a break at the Venice produce market

Another gondolier

Italy is full of scaffolding.  You can't visit a historic town anywhere in Italy without seeing some of this.  

Colorful gondolas

Mosaics along the Grand Canal

How would you like this for a private yacht

San Marco.  Once we reached this end of the Grand Canal, we just stayed seated and headed back to where we started.

Look how skinny this house is!

One final gondolier shot.  

We love Venice and will most likely visit here again someday.  It will definitely take a place on my top 5 list.

Once we arrived back at the train station, we caught a train to Mestre, hopped in the car and drove home.  Tomorrow begins a busy and short week before we head home on Friday.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekly Count

113 Week Gelati Count:  349
113 Week Wine Bottle Count:  123

Jewish Ghetto and Back to Burano

After another light breakfast at the hotel, we headed out to see an area of Venice we had not visited before, the Jewish Ghetto.  

Brandon's rock star look

We caught a vaporetto to the Jewish Ghetto area of Venice.  These lagoon was full of boats today!

Katrina and Brandon enjoying the vaporetto ride.

Sunday morning on a Venice canal.

A lone gondolier in a quiet part of Venice

A sign that we are in the Jewish Ghetto

Our for a morning row

This is a scene we suspect most people think of when they think of an Italian restaurant.

Katrina and Brandon pose in front of this graffiti frame

And another frame

Once we had wandered most of the ghetto, we worked out way back to the vaporetto stop and took a ride to Burano.  Our first stop in Burano was for lunch.  We had a nice canal side lunch before wandering the  island one last time.  

There aren't too many neighborhoods where these bold colors look normal on a house.

Still shot from a rehearsal for Brandon's first music video...stay tuned and you will see the finished video on a future blog post

The lagoon has a lot of small uninhabited islands and that is apparently where everyone with a boat goes when it is hot and sunny in Venice.

Nintendo on the Vaporetto ride back to Venice

More boaters out for the day.  There must have been hundreds of boats all over the Venetian lagoon.

Once back in Venice, we switched vaporettos and rode to the Accademia stop.  Piazza San Marco in the background.

Mosaics on the Grand Canal

Peggy Guggenheim Museum

More mosaics on the Grand Canal

View of the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge.

We stopped for an apperitivo drink near the Accademia before heading to our favorite Chinese restaurant for dinner.  

Sunset on the Grand Canal

Gondolier on the Grand Canal.  That is the Venice main post office in the background.

An arch we have walked under many times.

After dinner we made our way slowly back to the hotel, Katrina taking lots of pictures along the way.  Tomorrow we will wander Venice a bit more, ride along the Grand Canal one last time, then head home to Vedano.  

Wow, we are so lucky.  I am still amazed that we were able to live in Italy for 2+ years and have visited Venice 8 times! It feels like a dream.