Category Archives: Family Fun

Gelato Festival in Naples


Whoo! Today was a fun day attending the Gelato Festival in Naples with our friends the Wilkins’ Family. It is a touring festival, travelling both around Italy and Europe for 5 months, and visiting 9 different cities… including Naples! For four adults to try all the 14 flavors at the festival (8 flavors that are competing, plus 6 other unique and original flavors) was €23. Kids twelve and under were free to try as much as their parents would allow. Got to love that kids are free for most things in Italy.

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Once you pay you get a ticket like this called “The Gelato Card” to visit three specialty food trucks created for the festival to house all the different flavors featured this year.

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Apparently if you are hardcore, you can fill out this card and turn it in to vote for the best Italian and foreign ice cream makers for this years festival. We just wanted to eat gelato so we weren’t focused on the judging.

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We walked around and stood in quick lines to try a sample of the flavors. Now the scoops were small and cute in there baby sized cones… which may seem disappointing… but let me tell you they were the perfect size for the kids and adults alike when you consider how many flavors you could try.

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Our friend Beth’s goal was to try something crazy… and crazy we found! One of the gelato options was a spumoni style serving of tomato, mozzerella and basil flavored gelato… yes they actually tasted just like you’d think those flavors would taste… but in the unnatural consistency of cold gelato. I’ll let their faces tell the tale of how it tasted.

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Nope. Nope. Nope.

Our favorite flavor by far was the original Buontalenti- a cream based specialty flavor which “in the late 1500s, the Medici family commissioned famous artist and architect Bernardo Buontalenti to prepare a beautiful feast for the visiting King of Spain. Using his culinary skills to present an elaborate and visually pleasing display, Buontalenti presented the King of Spain with a creamy frozen dessert that we now call gelato. Buontalenti is considered the inventor of gelato.”

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It tasted heavenly with just the perfect amount of sweet creamy-ness. We got gelato-ed out… but #ohbrian was determined to at least try all the flavors which led to this binge at the end.

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Probably equally as fun as trying all the gelato was the discovery of this amazing little park just a stone throw away from the festival. The kids ran around and climbed to their hearts content burning off all the gelato calories. We agreed that this was the nicest park we’ve seen in Italy. Believe it or not parks are hard to come by… especially parks that are relatively clean and aren’t runned down.

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On the way back to the parking garage (another €12 to park… making this only a €25 day of fun #daveramseyapproved) we hit a stand where the kids could try to kick a goal to win a soccer ball… well these people were supper generous and essentially just handed all the bambinos a ball for any kind of kick. Ha!

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What a fantastic day to enjoy the festival! It is still going on tomorrow May 22nd from 12-10pm if you haven’t had the chance to enjoy.

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The Royal Palace at Caserta

We all like freebies, right? Well how about free tickets to over 300 Italian state museums, gardens, monuments and archeological sites? Yes, please!!!

The government initiative called Domenica al museo, or Sunday at the Museum, has been running since July 2014 to encourage people to take more of an interest in the arts. Well you better believe our family will be taking advantage of this awesome initiative!!!

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Initially we thought we’d be headed to Pompeii first, but after some research we learned Pompeii is not very stroller friendly because of the huge cobblestone walkways. We’ll wait to explore Pompeii when we get access to a baby carrier for Lorelei.

Brian mentioned a palace near by that a co-worker told him about. The reviews online made The Royal Palace at Caserta a must on our Naples Bucket List. It was close (only 17 miles from the Support Site), kid friendly with amazing gardens for them to run around in and it all looked gorgeous!

But I was nervous… although it would be visually gorgeous, how would a palace keep my kids interest? My kids are still little and I only have one confident reader. Hmm… a photo scavenger hunt it is!!!

I looked online at pictures of the palace and came up with a short list for a photo scavenger hunt the kids could complete. If we got a picture of all the items on the list we would get a treat after the palace visit!

The list also helped them get excited about the palace because they couldn’t believe we would see waterfalls, a sea creature spitting water and some of the other items on the list.

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After packing snacks, our list and our stroller (we knew we’d be walking a lot) we were off!

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When we arrived there was already a line out the door to enter. We were warned online and by friends that on the first Sunday’s free you have to get anywhere  early. I wasn’t keen on Brian’s idea to leave the house at 8am, so we aimed to leave at 10am (which of course meant 10:20am) and we arrived at the palace a little before 11am after parking on the street and walking about half a mile to the front of the palace.

The wait was 10-15 minutes max. My kids can’t get over how many people smoke. Even the vendors will puff smoke all around you.

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For the record, when we got to the front of the line the Italians asked in their best English, “Apartments only or apartment and parks?” I took that to mean palace only or palace and gardens… which was correct! Well, we wanted to do both. They then explain in half Italian half English that essentially only the palace is free and it still costs money to do the gardens.

Thankfully the gardens were only €5 per adult and kids were free, although you could tell they didn’t anticipate needing to give us four free kids tickets to enter. Ha!

Upon entering the palace we are immediately met with statues and architecture we could not believe.

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What are Brian and Lorelei breaking their necks to see?! Oh you know… just this… on the ceiling…

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Then right next to this is the staircase and atrium of the palace that were used in filming the scenes in the Theed Royal Palace for Star Wars: Episode I and II.

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Next we wait in another short line to enter the rooms of the palace. The place is so big that even though my kids were running around and making noise while we waited, you honestly couldn’t hear it.

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Whats Pierce looking at? Again… a magnificent work of art on the ceiling…

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Eliann chose this bed for her room… which of your little ladies wants in on that sleepover?!

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I’m going to pretend this is me and some of my girlfriends (whom I miss) hanging out at the palace!!!

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They had rooms dedicated to each season. This crazy chandelier was in the ‘Spring Room’ and the kids thought you would want to see this Grandma Ann.

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Then amidst all these rooms, there was a Barbie Dream House. We have no idea why it was there because it’s description was in Italian and I didn’t have my Google Translate app handy yet (I do now).  But Eliann got a kick out of it especially since we had this exact house thanks to a hand me down from her friend Gaby.

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“Maybe the Barbie Dream House was modeled after this palace?” Mmm… don’t think that’s what it said Eliann, but sure!

In terms of volume, the Royal Palace of Caserta is the largest royal residence in the world. At this point we’ve walked one wing of the second floor and have been through at least forty rooms all of which lead into the next and get more extravagant as you go. But there are five floors and 1200 rooms. We would never make it because the kids were already getting squirrelly. Thankfully the whole palace isn’t even open for exploring.

We decide to head out to the gardens for a snack and to find the rest of our photo scavenger hunt items. Have you been keeping track? We’ve already crossed off…

  • A lion.
  • A staircase with more than 20 steps.
  • An angel.
  • A painting in the ceiling.
  • Something made entirely of gold.
  • A chandelier.
  • Two beds.
  • A horse in a painting.
  • A woman holding a baby.
  • Someone wearing a hat.
  • A sword.

… and on the way out one more…

  • A giant seashell.

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Heading out to the gardens isn’t like ‘oh look, we’re outside and in the garden.’ No, the layout of this place is crazy! You have the palace and then over two miles worth of garden areas with successions of pools, fountains and cascades adorned by large Italian sculptures along the way.

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But we were determined to get to the back of the garden where the waterfalls start… not before pausing for snacks of course.

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There are a couple of ways to do this trek. You can walk… you can ride a horse drawn carriage… you can cram into a small bus… or you can rent a bike. We all wanted to ride a bike (of course not possible with the littles) but you can probably guess that we chose the cheapest route and that was to walk… after all running around in the gardens was one of the main reasons I thought the kids would like this.

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Hey look a couple walking along with us and they are both wearing red shoes!!! Actually we saw quite a few red shoes so this scavenger hunt item didn’t end up being as hard as we thought it would be.

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A purple flower for Lita.

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Once we reached the first pool a new form of entertainment came about. Not only did we find the sea creature spitting water, but it turns out there are numerous waterfalls, fountains and fish you can find in every single pool! The carps varied in size from a few centimetres to a couple of feet and my kids were determined to feed every single one… like a whole box of wheat thins was out the door and in the pools. The water is brought to the gardens via an aqueduct, and it’s pouring down a hill located at the very end of the park which was our end goal.

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We couldn’t pass up photos with the statues either. #ohbrian

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Oh my goodness… are we still walking?! YES. Were there breakdowns and tears?! Yes… almost exclusively from David whose “legs were dying.” And Lorelei who didn’t want to be in the stroller anymore but was taking forever and at times would walk in the opposite direction so we’d have to retrieve the little #crazylolo!

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But we had all the time in the world and the weather was perfect and overcast (perhaps in the heat this would have been the worst idea ever with four kids).

And eventually we made it! What do you get to see when you make it to the end? Now I didn’t take these next two pictures but they capture the essence of ‘WOW’ I want you to take in like we did. There were just too many visitors to get as clean a shot of the whole view.

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Now here are some of our photos from the back of the gardens.

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The way back was so much quicker than the way up just like we promised the kids. They ran almost the whole way and tossed every single last crumb of the wheat thins to the fish. Lorelei took to the stroller again and napped a little on the way back.

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Goodbye Royal Palace at Ceserta! Yes we look crazy and Italians stare at us all the time, but at least it’s in amusement and not in horror that we are carting around four little kids on our adventures.

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PS. We did cross all the items off our list and our treat, to everyone’s surprise, was finding a Burger King to eat at! Yes we literally pulled off the road to see if it would taste like Burger King from back home. We’d give it a 7 out of 10… but we’ll take a burger after all that walking for sure. Don’t judge… we like our American fast food and pulling over for Italian with all the kids is a lot harder and longer than you’d think… but we’ll get there too.

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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!