Monthly Archives: January 2016

Italian Homes Part 2

Yesterday was our turn to go out with Enrico, Tina’s son, the other half of the mother-son duo. He is quiet and really tall. He speaks pretty good English and it turns out he was actually born in Rhode Island but has spent most of his life in Italy.

Enrico was charged with helping us see some places closer to the base. Like we were told, it would be a challenge to find a place close to base that was big enough AND had land. Nevertheless we want to see what is out in town, so he takes us into the city of Aversa.

We immediately feel the difference from the places we’d seen the day before as we travel city streets packed with cars whirring all around us.

Brian is driving the minivan, only his second time driving on Italian streets, and today the whole family is along for the ride because we have our car. I am sitting in the back with the kids so Enrico could navigate in the front with Brian. Not a block off the freeway when we have our first slam-on-the-breaks moment. A driver on the opposite side of the street pulled out in front of both lanes to make a quick turn in front of us. Brian asks Enrico, “Did he have the right of way?” To which he replies, “The more aggressive driver has the right of way.” Ha! Doesn’t sound too good for when I’ll be behind the wheel.

We finally turn off the main road and about half a block down we park.

7. Downtown Townhome #1

The Good: The house is nice and everything you would expect from a townhome in a downtown area.

The Bad: That trek from the freeway to the house through the downtown to our place is very congested. There is small area of grass in the back that a play structure could technically go on, but the back of the house faced the center of a bunch of other town homes and boy did my kids voices echo back there as they briefly ran around. They made at least three dogs on balconies bark like crazy with the ruckus, which I am sure would eventually settle down but something to consider. I can just see the angry Italian neighbors chucking tomatoes at us because we let the noisy kids out again. No just kidding. Enrico said not to worry about the noise, “This is Italy!”

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8. Downtown Townhome #2

This is just a no go for us so I won’t even do a write up. This home is right on a main busy street. Brian could barely squeeze into the driveway and Enrico had to physically stand in the street because traffic wouldn’t stop to allow Brian to get in. Unfortunately that isn’t going to work. I mean if we wanted to fall asleep to the white noise of honking Italian cars then this would be our dream house. It’s too bad too because this is the house with the unbelievable toilet seat cover Eliann loved.

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Feeling like the night (and living close to the base) is a bust, we start to head back. Enrico asks if we’d like to see one more house he thinks we might like. He says the only thing is it only has three bedrooms, but they are big and the house has a private garden area and pool for the kids in a parko right near base.

Sure, why not? We haven’t seen anything great today so we might as well see a three bedroom. We had honestly talked about trying for a three bedroom on base if it meant keeping us close to the school, so there was no harm.

9. The ‘Three’ Bedroom Near Base

The Good: This home is only an exit away from the support site, which is about 2 miles. It is in a small parko with four other homes. The parko means added security with a gated entry and each individual home in the parko has its own large gated entry as well. Right away we see a grassy area out front with trees. A huge cobblestone driveway condenses down to a pathway that wraps all the way around the house which we immediately picture being great for bikes. In the back of the house is a large pool that is gated off. The kids jump up and down because they can see the pool has a slide and we’re told there is also a diving board. We walk inside from a covered porch area that has beautiful wooden beams (I love anything with exposed beams) and enter a grand living room with vaulted ceilings. Brian jokes that this is where we will host our balls. The rest is standard an entryway, dining room, kitchen (with a second fireplace) and the three bedrooms. This is the first house we see with a dual vanity in the master. The laundry room is the biggest we’ve seen.

While we were outside we noticed a second stairway with separate entrance upstairs. Enrico asks the owner and he says there is a second unit upstairs. It has a kitchen, living room, laundry room and two more bedrooms. We ask if it is connected to this main part of the house, and he shows us the door to a stairway that could connect the two from the inside.

Unfortunately the owner didn’t have the key to the second unit so we’d have to come back if we wanted to see it, but Brian’s wheels start turning thinking we’d ask to rent both spaces if our housing allotment would allow it.

The Bad: The locations is not great. Not that it isn’t safe, it’s just blah by Italian standards. Nothing attractive about where it is located and no shops, no nothing by it just more housing and farms. The space is almost too much, especially if we add the extra living space upstairs. I just know it’ll take more than what we’ve shipped to fill these spaces and we’ll need to do our best to fill them or else there is a serious echo. Ain’t nobody need to hear an amplified version of my kids voices all day. If we only had the downstairs three bedrooms, all kids would have to share. Even if we got the upstairs unit I don’t see how I’d split up the family, so at best that is great for guests who can have their own apartment if they stay with us. Ha! Probably the biggest bummer of all is that this house is only fitted for electric washers and dryers.

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So we’ll have to come back and see the upstairs. But what do you think about this last place? Seems to have the things we’d like for the kids with the convenience of being close to the support site… but then we’d give up the dream of living in #2.

Decisions, decisions.

Italian Homes Part 1

It was a long morning of copies, signatures, fingerprints and applications for all six of us to get out Sojourners Permits (kind of like a Green Card). Come to find out if we travel outside the country they recommend having your permits, your official passports and your tourist passports for all six of us. That is eighteen pieces of official documentation to whip out and carry… misplace and potentially lose.

After the morning working on the permits with the littles, we arrived back on the base just in time to pick up the big kids from school. Thank the Lord for our new friend Beka and her family who agreed to take our three oldest for the next part of the day.

Side story on Beka… she lived in San Diego and attended our church just six-ish months ago. I had never met her but we shared mutual friends who connected us and we are just meeting in Naples. A sister in Christ is worth her weight in gold and I’ve been so blessed by her already… but today took the cake as she took in, fed and entertain my oldest so we could house shop for about four hours… also her house on base  looks like a pottery barn catalog which made me very excited to see these white walled apartments turned into a gorgeous home.

So we got off base with a realtor to see some homes in Naples. Tina, our realtor, is part of a mother-son duo and she is a boisterous Italian woman. She talked and talked and answered realtor calls loudly in Italian. When I asked her about cell phone laws and driving she said, “Is fine, is fine! No one sees you you don’t get in trouble, eh!” Every couple of words she would laugh at something she’d say. She was quite the character but came well recommended and you could tell she’s the kind of woman who could get what she wanted. I liked her!

We had asked to look just outside the base first but Tina said that homes for our sized family were rare near base and none would have any land or yards for our kids to play on. So we took her advice and headed towards the coast (which she swore was only 10-15 min away… it was not).

We looked at six homes. Each with aspects that we loved. If only we could combine the best of them all then maybe that would make us want to make the 35 minute commute (without traffic) to work and the support site where our kids school is at. Here were some of the highlights of each and whatever pictures I could quickly snap without feeling like the Italian owners would think I was crazy.

  1. The Modern Parko

The Good: A “parko” means gated/fenced in group of homes. This parko only had six units and apparently a known soccer player from Napoli just moved into one of them. These units “are three years old and made for American types,” Tina tells us. We could have an American washer and dryer. The inside felt crisp and modern and the second floor had gorgeous wooden beams and skylights in every room. This is a four bedroom and all the bedrooms were upstairs.

The Bad: There was a tiny patch of grass in the back. Maybe four feet wide by the length of the house. There was no place that felt safe to play out front. An American car would have trouble getting in and out of the narrow steep driveway.

Our Favorites: American feel and the wooden beams/skylights upstairs.

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2. The Gorgeous Italian Villa

The Good: This is the type of house you write home about. It is the essence of an Italian Villa. The property sits on close to an acre. It has gorgeous grounds, lots of grass, a gazebo, a fenced in pool, a huge outdoor living room with a built in pizza oven and a huge garage. “You could easily entertain 30-50 people here. Look at all the parking and two entry gates.” My ears immediately perk at the idea of entertaining. This is a four bedroom with three bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs perfect for a guest room. I didn’t get too many pictures because the owner walked with us and it felt rude. It turns out we would mostly be dealing with the owners son who speaks English which is nice.

The Bad: Who would we entertain?! Yes we’d be in a gorgeous home but this location was the most secluded of the homes we saw with tiny curvy roads to get back to where it is located. Our friends would have to plan to spend the day with us because we wouldnt just happen upon too many people. I fear we’d be lonely. You’d have to drive to everything. There is no little market just around the corner like some.

Our Favorites: The land is a dreamland and my kids would love to explore and play on all of it, the kitchen, the outdoor living space and the huge garage.

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3. The Three Story Parko

The Good: We come back up the tiny curvy road and head down a block or two to another parko. This parko seems to have about twenty homes on it. The house we see is a three story unit. It also has a pool but it isn’t fenced in. The grounds are not as gorgeous as the villa we just saw but I’m sure nothing will be so it’s fine. Brian liked the layout of this house the best. Main floor are living spaces and kitchen. Upstairs are four bedrooms with one of the bedrooms leading into a small extra space. Two of those room lead to a large terrace that has a spiral staircase up to the roof where there is more room for entertainment and solar panels. The downstairs was almost a whole other house with a large living room another bedroom and bathroom.

The Bad: I don’t love all the levels. In theory yes it’s great, but practically with all the kids it seemed dangerous. The pool wasn’t fenced either which is another danger we’d have to negotiate to be fixed.

Our Favorites: The layout of the rooms and the bonus living space below.

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4. The Million Dollar View

The Good: The view of the sea and an island from a gorgeous wrap around porch that was huge and great for entertaining. This is a four bedroom all on one level. It has plenty of parking with a big flat blacktop area that had a basketball hoop on it.

The Bad: It is up a huge steep hill with a tiny road to get you up there. Tiny roads are terrible for two way traffic and my minivan. The living situation was odd. The home technically had three levels. We would live on the main level with all the bedrooms. But the owners daughter would live above us and the hired help lives below us. The owner assured me that none of them were strange, “all family!” Tina translates for us. Brian didn’t love the small walkways inside the home with doors opening into doors. There was only a small area of grass.

Our Favorites: The view and wrap around porch.

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5. The Handy English Speaking Landlord

The Good: This place was totally private and fenced off. We share a fence line with our English speaking landlord who seemed willing to move things around (like a whole kitchen) to whatever we would like. This home had the largest bedrooms we had seen. It had a nice covered patio and lots of space for parking our minivan. It also had an awesome totally enclosed sunroom upstairs with views of the sea in the distance.

The Bad: The house was split up funny. It was two stories but each story had a kitchen, living room and two bedrooms. I don’t know how I would split things up. These levels almost seem like they could stand as apartments on their own but to make it feel like a cohesive house would be hard. There is also a scary 800 feet worth of drive before getting to the house that is super narrow and apparently although it’s labeled one way people come down the wrong way all the time.

Our Favorites: The English speaking landlord.

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6. The Parko with Americans

The Good: This is the biggest parko we’ve seen which means lots of people around us and a guard station when you enter. The land around the house was flat with grass and trees. It got dark by this time so it was hard to appreciate. Tina pointed out where two teachers from our kids school live and several American families who ride the bus from here to school. Right across the street from the house was a family with kids.

The Bad: The house itself was just okay. Maybe it was because at this time we were tired and the light was dim since the sun was down. I don’t have great pictures of this house honestly I’d have to go back in the daytime to give it a shot.

Our Favorites: The potential for community and flat land with trees for climbing.

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All of the homes had:

  • Lots of bathrooms.
  • At least one fireplace.
  • Freezing cold tile floors (such is the way in Italy).
  • A freeway entrance nearby.
  • None were in amazing clean feeling neighborhoods. I don’t think Naples feels very clean altogether though from what I’ve seen.
  • The school on base has a bus route somewhere near them.

The overall downside to living near the coast is the distance to our kids school and Brian’s work. There is just no way around that 30-40 minute drive. It’s what you have to give up to have a larger home with any kind of land. We aren’t used to this dilemma and driving in Italy sounds crazy. Obviously we’ll have to learn sooner or later.

Im not thrilled about the kids taking  the bus either. An extra hour in the morning and in the afternoon sounds like a lot of extra missed family time and wear on their little bodies. Plus if they do any activities at school or I need to do groceries at the commissary we’ll be making added treks back and forth.

Honestly, even after seeing this first round of homes, I still feel like being on base is what’s best for our family. It is built in community and support.

Maybe if I didn’t have four kids. Maybe if they were older. Maybe if I was less social.

The base is family friendly. Lots of parks and grass. The kids love running outside and knowing there are always friends to play with. I feel safe with them out there and they could walk to school. I know the base will get small, but that is what venturing out is for.

All these Italian homes will be there. I would rather AirBNB an Italian Villa for a week once a quarter then live feeling secluded daily. I don’t know.

The bummer is that there are no four bedroom homes available on base right now so outside we must look.

Of  the homes we saw today, which did you like?

Our First Walk Around Napoli

Today is our third day in Italy. Honestly it’s been go go go since we got here and mind you we are dealing with jet lag (mostly us adults the kids seem to be doing fine thank the Lord). Thursday Brian had to report to work first thing in the morning which was only about 12 hours after arriving. Today we actually got a chance to see where he will work in Capodichino, Italy (pronounced Cah-poh-dee-KEE-noh) or as the people here on base call it “Capo” for short. It is the actual military base here in Naples and it is right next to the airport.  Brian took a bus from the Support Site (where we are staying temporarily) to his work in Capo that first day and today we jumped on that same bus as a family to see it too. This a complimentary bus to and from Capo which is nice. Now when we say bus, just to be clear, picture a private charter bus just for military transport so it’s nice and was heated for us when we boarded. 

Here is Brian in front of his office building in Capo. It’s a fairly non-descript government building on base but it was still nice to see where he will work.

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Here are the kids on the path right outside Brian’s office building.

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From Capo you can walk a little off base and to the right where the airport is to catch the Alibus (pronounced Ali-bus like Prince Ali). This is a full on city bus that transports people around Naples including all the way down to the port where we would be meeting Brians sponsor for a tour of downtown Naples.

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See Italians take selfies too! We waited like 10 min for this bus that runs every 15 min and in that time Brian had his first chance to use his limited Italian skills.

“Non parlo Italiano,” he quickly retorted  to an Italian man asking him something about the bus. It means- I don’t speak Italian. The man half smiled and walked on to another Italian man who answered him. Phew he survived his first authentic Italian exchange.

When the bus driver returned we jumped on the bus. It cost € 8 for us to ride which I think means we were € 2 a piece not counting the littles who I assume were free. Honestly we were just happy the man took out pretend monopoly looking money that we were told were euros.

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The kids loved the bus ride! I think it’s because it meant we weren’t walking. To get to each of these buses was quite a trek for all of our jet lagged legs.

We were lucky to be near two American military families on this bus each with three kids of their own. We quickly asked them the questions we are assessing at the moment- Do you live on base or off base? Do your kids go to school on base? Do you like where you live and why did you chose to live there?

They each offer amazing insight and so far we’ve been lucky to have people willing to share what they know to get us through this time of transition. Both of these families were off base with kids going to school on base and the both recommended the realtor team Enrique and Tina to help us look for homes in town. We’ll take all the tips we can get!

When we hop off the bus there is a full on castle to our left and the water full of charter boats to the island of Capri to our right. I forgot to snap a picture because we were looking for Brian’s sponsor. In case I haven’t been clear, Brian was assigned a “sponsor” in Italy to assist us with our move and transition over. Paul will actually be a co-worker of Brian’s too. We’ve been chatting with him and his wife for months now.

They show up with their two beautiful kids – a seven year old girl and five year old boy. Perfect ages to play with our kids! With a wagon and a stroller in tow we set off with the four adults and six kids to explore the city.

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We walked all along the water heading towards a favorite restaurant for lunch. We tell them we want to eat authentic Napolian food and Maria is quick to help us order and maneuver the conversation with the Italian waiters. Here is all we ate (sorry if it makes you hungry… but not too sorry) and I honestly can’t remember what everything was called so I’ll try to be better at remembering but it was all delicious.

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We of course had to try some wine and lemoncello, which honestly guys we are fired! Those drinks are literally hard to swallow… like I still feel the burn down my throat and the wince in my face. Ugh. We’ll keep trying because who lives in Italy and doesn’t enjoy their wine?! But the prospects aren’t looking great. Luckily Lolo was pounding her water in a non-baby friendly glass like a pro.

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From lunch we went on to explore the city some more. A park, gelato, a piazza (main square) and a ride on a funicular (a train that goes up and down vertically instead of horizontally) were all in route as we tried to make our way to Paul and Maria’s home.

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The Piazza del Plebiscito is a large public square in central Naples right next to the Royal Palace and the church of San Francesco di Paola which is what you see behind us here.

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If you look closely at the image above you’ll see Brian jumping at the front doors. And of course in a big square you have to have a little fun running around which is all fun and games until someone loses at races. #ohpierce

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From the piazza we were a short walk to the funicular train ride up the hill to where Paul and Maria live. When we get to their awesome apartment we squeeze through a secret door to get into the building and then Maria and I squeeze into an even smaller elevator that leaves barely enough room for a stroller and the two of us to get in. The rest of the gang race up the five or eight (depending on how you count it) flights of stairs to the top. Now I immediately thought about the pain it would be to do that daily and how we would struggle to get groceries up there; but all that immediately slipped away when you got a load of the view from their terrace (you can see Mt. Vesuvius and the Island of Capri in the same panoramic shot for crying out loud) , which I swear doubled their living and entertaining space too!!!

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I feel like that view sums up our first walk around downtown Naples… simply amazing. I hope you feel like you came along for the tour with us as you read this post and once again huge shout out to Brian’s sponsor, Paul and Maria, for giving up a whole Saturday to entertain and educate our family on the realities of living in Naples. Ciao!