Drama in Atrani

Moving on from Naples and Pompeii, Josh, Vincent, and I drove down to the Amalfi Coast (about an hour and half drive without traffic), for some fun on the beautiful seaside towns of southern Italy. My uncle Ted visited the Amalfi Coast about a year before we did and he said the roads down there are like death traps! When we arrived we were expecting one lane roads with two way traffic on cliffs overlooking the sea (similar to the roads on the way up to Belaggio. While it wasn’t that bad… the roads definitely aren’t for the faint hearted! We arrived on the Italian version of Labor Day (May 1st), so as you can imagine, we hit some major traffic trying to get to the coast. This was the second time on our trip that we hit Italian Holiday traffic- it added at least 30-45 minutes onto our trip to the hotel. But having lived in Italy for over a year at this point, we were used to traffic jams, and difficult driving conditions. This didn’t phase us, except I was worried little man would wake up screaming because it was getting close to feeding time for him.

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The hotel we stayed at was a beautiful bed and breakfast in Atrani, literally walking distance from Amalfi. The owner called us to find out what kind of car we were driving- a few minutes later he was literally knocking on our car window after driving up on his scooter, he gave us directions to the B&B and helped us navigate. Our B&B overlooked Atrani and we had a beautiful view of the mediterranean right out of our bedroom. The balcony was enormous and we had breakfast out there each morning. The owner was very accommodating and even purchased a pack and play so Vincent would have a bed. When we arrived we were so happy to be out of the car and into the sea air that we decided to hang out on the balcony and enjoy the warm air and sun. The owner of the B&B asked that we keep the umbrellas closed when we weren’t there, otherwise the umbrella would end up on the beach and he would have a big fine.

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The view from our balcony- it was amazing to wake up to that every morning 🙂

As we sat outside that afternoon the sea breezes were nice for about five minutes…. We had the umbrella open to shield Vincent from the sun and were enjoying a little snack when, out of nowhere, a gale force wind blows up. Not wanting the owner to lose his umbrella and get a big fine, I reached for the umbrella to keep it from blowing away and over the balcony to the street below. In the process, the umbrella snapped in half and started falling towards Vincent’s little head waiting below. Mama bear came out at this point- I moved to grab the snapped umbrella and put myself over Vincent so he wouldn’t get hurt. In a split second the broken umbrella hit my head and cut open my ear while I screamed at Josh to get Vincent inside.  Two seconds later it was all over. I was left holding the broken umbrella recovering from a small heart attack, Josh was inside staring at me like I was crazy and Vincent looked at me wondering why he was inside on such a beautiful day. I thought that umbrella was going to kill my little man- I couldn’t let that happen! The rest of the day I was battling a stinging ear and pounding headache. That’s my version of what happened with that little drama… I’m sure Josh would have a much less dramatic version.

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Since I have become a mom, everything is like a death trap for my son… and I’ve learned I’m a mama bear. It’s a little silly sometimes and I have to tell myself to relax. Josh thinks I over react a lot… I’m sure all of you moms out there can relate.

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Vincent taking in the sights and smells of Amalfi- he enjoyed seeing all of the new things.

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We walked from Atrani to Amalfi through the houses on the hills- we learned very fast that it is quicker and easier to take the walk on the shoreline, but it was a nice little hike that afternoon.

 

While on the Amalfi Coast we took a lot of time to relax and enjoy the seaside without anymore drama. The best part of being on the sea is all of the seafood, the calming sounds of the water that lull you to sleep, and best of all- the salty, humid air. Being back in Minnesota with just cold dry air, I often dream of the smell of the sea, wishing I was there enjoying the sun on my face 🙂 While on the Amalfi coast we did make a trip up to Positano, and spent a lot of time in Amalfi shopping at the ceramic shops. More to come on that… But for now, here are some pictures from our first day in Atrani.

 

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Coming over the hill to Amalfi, the view was beautiful!

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Sitting on the boardwalk people watching

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The main church in Amalfi

Mount Vesuvius

The same day we visited Pompeii, we drove over to Mount Vesuvius and hiked up to the top. This was a really nice hike, and again… we just didn’t leave enough time for this! I’m seeing a pattern with our travels… we try to do more than we really can with the time that we’re given, resulting in not getting a chance to enjoy things as much as we would like to. We went to Pompeii in the morning and visited Vesuvius in the afternoon. Now, I don’t necessarily believe that you need all day to hike up Mount Vesuvius, but more than a couple of hours would have been nice.

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Hiking up to the top is a steep climb! Be prepared to take some breaks and be sure to bring lots of water. Again, it’s hot and sunny in the southern part of Italy so sunscreen is also a must for those of you with fair skin like me. You can drive all the way up to the hiking path entrance and park in the lot there, but it will most likely be packed with cars and tour buses. Especially if you arrive in the morning. Since we got there an hour before it closed, we found a parking spot right at the ticket gate (after dancing with some tour buses to get into the lot). From there, it’s a 1 km hike up to the top on a steep, ashy path. The footing is not always secure, so be sure to wear appropriate hiking shoes. Our tennis shoes did the job, but hiking boots would have been better and I wouldn’t have been so nervous about Josh slipping while carrying Vincent…

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Looking inside the volcano

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Once you are at the top, you can see all the way to Naples across the bay, and down to Sorrento. The views are spectacular! Not to mention there is a nice breeze up there which helped me cool off a bit. At the top there is a little gift shop with chotchkies (which was a little strange…) as well as a little bar. It would have been nice to sit and have a glass of wine while taking in the amazing views! But unfortunately there just wasn’t time since everything was closing. It also would have been fun to hike around the volcano- there is a path that goes around the top. Maybe next time… 🙂

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Pompeii

The day we went to visit Pompeii and Vesuvius, it was only about 87 degrees, but it felt like it was in the mid 90’s! Pompei is near the coast, but doesn’t get the nice coastal breezes like Naples… so it feels hotter than it is. This place was so amazing and was definitely a highlight of our trip. I wish we would have spent more time there- we were only there for a few hours and didn’t get a chance to explore as much as we wanted to. What really made an impression on me was how they lived- the lifestyle was very similar to how we live today!!

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The Arena

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A little history for you- Pompeii was buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. The city then stayed buried for about 1500 years until it was discovered in 1599. The city was preserved pretty much in tact because of the immediate burial under 13-20 feet of ash and pumice.  It was a Roman city with a population of about 20,000 people. There was a Roman Ampitheater, water system, sewer system and even a gymnasium. You’ll also see bakeries, brothels, markets, and homes for the poor as well as the elite. We were only able to visit about half of the city that day… I would highly recommend devoting an entire day to Pompeii when you go.

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A few things to remember when visiting:

Bring a water bottle- there will be fountains inside the town, and there is even a snack shop in the center of the city selling sandwiches, water, coffee, etc. People will try to tell you that there is no water inside and try to sell you a small bottle of water for an exorbitant amount of money. Don’t buy it!

Umbrellas come in handy- it most likely won’t rain, but it’s a good cover from the sun. Walking through the city can be tough with the sun beating down on you.

Wear sunscreen!

Take a walk through the gardens near the amphitheater. It’s a nice break from the heat of the streets.

Go to an entrance that sells audio guides- they are a great resource of information and cheaper than a tour guide.

Here are some pictures of our day at Pompeii. Enjoy!!

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Little man didn’t last long- the heat and all of the new sights wore him out!

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Still sleeping when we took a snack break

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One of the walls in an indoor spa, all of the walls were lined with these statues. It was incredible!

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In the brothels they had pictures above the entrances to each room. They depicted what position was the specialty in that particular room…

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One of the rooms in the brothel

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One of the bakeries

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One of the preserved floors in a mansion

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Naples x 2

During our time in Naples we really enjoyed the energy of the city, the architecture, and the different parts of town. There is so much to see! There is a famous Christmas market there where you can purchase any type of nativity that you could possibly imagine- and yes! They were selling Christmas stuff in May. There is also a famous pizza place where they filmed Eat, Pray, Love (which happened to be my favorite pizza place in the city!). OMG it was good!

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Castel Nuovo

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But we also visited the Castel Nuovo (New Castle- although new is relative… construction began back in 1279…), The Palazzo Capodimonte, the Piazza del Plebiscito and the Royal Palace of Naples, as well as the Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore. We didn’t tour any of the palaces, but they looked amazing from the outside! Since we were on vacation, we typically got a late start in the morning and didn’t get to the palaces until they were closed for the day. Just one of the many reasons to go back to Naples 🙂

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Piazza del Plebiscito

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The Royal Palace

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A wedding outside of the palace

On our last night in the city we walked to the Piazza del Plebiscito which is across from the Royal Palace, and then we kept on walking along the promenade along the sea. There was an amazing sunset with a great view of Mount Vesuvius. It was a great little evening “passeggiata”, and was the perfect way to end our time in Naples.

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Vesuvius from Naples

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Enjoying our passeggiata

After we visited Naples on our family trip, we moved on to explore Pompeii, and Mount Vesuvius. Stay tuned for that… Hopefully it will be posted in the next three months… 😉

I LOVE Naples!

After an awesome few days in Umbria, we kept moving and drove to Naples. So far, the Thielen family road trip was off to a great start!! Naples is a crazy city and we were warned by every Italian we knew that driving in the city will be crazy and we will love it. They were absolutely right! The city is insane, especially for driving… But I fell in love with Naples!

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Where we entered the “old town” from where we stayed. Our hotel was just a short walk from here.

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One of the many churches we saw

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Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and was the most bombed city in Italy during World War II. Pizza was also “invented” in Naples in the 1860’s, although many people in Chicago and New York may argue that… Either way, the city definitely has the BEST pizza I’ve ever had in my life!   Naples is also the largest city in southern Italy, and has an amazing view of Mount Vesuvius across the bay of Naples. When you are in the city you’ll see many pieces of art depicting the eruption of Vesuvius; the people of Naples had a perfect view of the event, but thankfully were out of harm’s way. I found the city to be bustling with energy, extremely friendly people that speak the Neapolitan dialect (understandable, but a few strange pronunciations), good food, and fun shopping. The city is not a rich city like Milan, so shopping is a little different with many street vendors, fun little shops, and lots of good bakeries.

 

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A nice refreshment break- the server took a family photo for us 🙂

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Vincent had fun on our little refreshment break

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Of course Naples is known for its amazing pizza, but some other things that are popular there include Il Baba- a little cake that looks like an unmentionable part of a man, and is soaked in rum. Personally, it wasn’t my favorite. There are many other yummy deserts in Italy… this one didn’t take the cake for me. Another favorite is mussels- being right on the sea, it’s no wonder that mussels are in abundance in Naples! In addition to mussels, you can try just about any kind of fish you want. And it is oooh so good! Another famous dish from Naples- Eggplant Parmesan! You haven’t tried eggplant parmesan until you’ve tried the original from Naples. Yum!

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Josh’s favorite pizza place, it was amazing!! You know it’s good when this many locals are waiting to get in!

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mmm…. pizza!!

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As with most of our travels, we spent most of our time just walking the city streets and soaking up the culture. I really enjoyed Naples and can’t wait to get back! The weather was perfect, the people were amazing, and there is so much to see and do in the city. We spent a couple of days there and saw quite a few sights. I’ll post another blog with more pictures- it’s just too much for one post.

Umbria part 3: Assisi

Assisi! What an amazing town! And now that the Pope has taken the name Francis, this town has become more and more touristed. It was so busy while we were there that we tried one day and couldn’t get near the city!! The second day we went first thing in the morning and still had trouble getting close to the city for parking. If you drive to Assisi it’s not easy to park there… It’s on a hill and if you get outside of the city even just a few blocks, you are walking up some pretty steep hills to get into the city center.

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walking into the city- you could see the castle on the hill

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My favorite picture of my two favorite guys!!

Assisi is probably best known as the birth place of Saint Francis, Italy’s patron saint. Many Italians will travel to Assissi in their lifetime just because of this fact. Now that the Pope is named Francis, it seems that people from all over the world want to know more about this patron saint and where he came from, including us. Saint Francis founded the Franciscan Order in Assisi in 1208, and Saint Clare also founded what is known today as the Order of Poor Clares. Assisi is still the home for both of these orders. Many people come to Assisi on a pilgrimage and this was definitely evident. Most of the streets in the town lead to the Basilica of San Francesco and the monastery. There were nuns and monks everywhere, and many solemn people. This town definitely had more of a serious feeling that the others we visited, probably because people were mostly there for religious reasons.

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one of the amazing views from the city

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Aside from the serious side, Assisi is a beautiful medieval town with cobblestone streets, and beautiful medieval architecture. We enjoyed walking from the parking lot through the city center to the other side of town where the Basilica was. There were a lot of people out and about that just added to the buzz of the town. As we entered the city, we saw a church on just about every corner (or so it seemed), and a castle outside of the city walls. After a nice walk we finally got to the Basilica of San Francesco and we couldn’t get over how huge it was! It is on a beautiful piece of property at the end of town and it overlooks the Umbrian valley. It’s an amazing piece of real estate! But more than that, the Basilica itself is beautiful. There are a few levels once you enter the main church- you can actually take stairs to a large area under the main santuary and see where Saint Francis is buried. We actually waited in line for quite some time to see Saint Francis. There were so many people in line that wanted to light a candle at his grave that they prohibited you from actually lighting the candle. As you approach the grave you just place the candle in a basket. There were quite a few baskets and all of them were full!

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Break time!

We also took some time to view the rest of the church and monestary before heading to a nearby cafe for a break. Vincent was hungry for a late morning snack and we were in need of refreshments. After a short stop we were on our way out of Assisi. As we walked to the car little man just couldn’t stay awake anymore and he face planted in his carrier. What a cutie!!

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Sleepy little man!

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After visiting Assisi, it was time to move on! We left Umbria and started on the road to Naples!! Stay tuned…

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Ready to hit the road!

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Umbria Part 2: Spello and Montefalco

After we visited Perugia, we also explored a few other small towns in Umbria. We went to Spello, Montefalco, and the now world famous Assissi. I’ll discuss Assissi in the next post though since it is such a special town, and we have a million pictures…

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The alleyway where we found our spot for lunch

But for now, Spello and Montefalco. Spello is a tiny hilltop town a little southeast of Perugia and south of Assissi. This town also has an amazing gateway into the ancient city. We ate lunch at an amazing little restaurant, Porta Venere, overlooking the valley and the food was great. It was also fun to have little man there enjoying the view too. It was the most relaxing way to spend the early afternoon after exploring Perugia. We ended up just staying there for a couple of hours enjoying the view and relaxed atmosphere. Actually, I think the restaurant was waiting for us to leave so they could close and prepare for dinner. After an awesome lunch we walked around and explored the small town, then decided to head back to our B&B to cook dinner and get little man to bed. It was great spending time together as a family and exploring new places. Now that Vincent is a little more interactive it was fun to share our love of travel with him and this lunch was just the start of a fun trip!

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An Etruscan arch in Spello

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Did he sleep well at night? Well…. not really. Before this trip he was waking up only once a night on a typical night. The first night was good, but the second night was a disaster. He was literally screaming at 2AM for about an hour. Poor guy, he was confused. After that night he did OK, but still woke up every 2-3 hours or so to make sure we were still there. It made for one tired mom and dad with lots of coffee being consumed!

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The grounds of the B&B- they were really nice!

The kitchen at our B&B, we were able to cook up some yummy local veggies and meats

The kitchen at our B&B, we were able to cook up some yummy local veggies and meats

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One of the main streets in Montefalco

Another fun town we visited was Montefalco. It was near our B&B so we stopped by to check it out on a day with not so nice weather. It’s another hill town in Umbria where we had an amazing lunch and met some fun people from Naples that were on holiday. This little restaurant we ate at, Olevm, was amazing! And tiny… between the stroller, diaper bags, Vincent and us, we took up a lot of space and were pretty much blocking the front door. That day was REALLY cold and rained off and on, so taking a break at this cozy, little restaurant was nice. It was also a boutique for specialty wines, olive oil, and different home made items like jams. We ended up spending quite a bit of money in that restaurant between our food and other purchases! We ended up enjoying this little city so much, that we went back a second time when the weather was a little nicer and took some fun pictures with the countryside in the background. There was also a little street market in the square that day which was fun- they had some great antiques.

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We took a break in Montefalco for some pictures- the views were incredible!

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One of the gates into Montefalco

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Poppies were in bloom while we were there- they are so beautiful!

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My two handsome men!!

The next city we visited was Assissi… Stay tuned!

Happy birthday Vincent!

I can’t believe it, but Vincent is a year old! It seems like yesterday I was holding him in my arms for the first time and he was looking at me like “What just happened? Where am I?” So much has changed and he has grown so much over the past year that it’s hard to put down in one blog. But below is a quick recap of his first year!

But first, a quick update on him. He had his one year check up today and he is still 23.5 lbs, 31 inches long, and his head is still the same size. He’s crawling everywhere and very close to walking. He can walk just holding one hand- he’s a little awkward, but it works. He also loves climbing up stairs, but he hasn’t figured out how to go down yet. He says things like “dada, mama, baba, dat, dooo dat, ummumm” etc. No official word yet, but he is close to saying cat and bat. He also loves going to daycare now, although he still give me the “don’t go!” look when I drop him off. He’s eating finger foods as well, although I think he enjoys feeding other people his food more than he enjoys eating it!

Welcome to the world! 9-12-12

Life is good :) Life is good :) It's a boy!! Welcome Vincent!!

Met his grandparents, during the fall 2012

More firsts... Vincent around town

Snow!

First road trip- Venice, Italy! 3 weeks old, Sept 2012

More firsts...

Vincent’s first Thanksgiving- Nov 22nd, 2012

New year, New Homepage

2 1/2 months at Thanksgiving

2 1/2 months at Thanksgiving

Basting the bird

Traveled to his first new country/countries, Austria and Germany- December 2012

All bundled up and ready for the cold!

All bundled up and ready for the cold!

The way down was much easier!

First Christmas- 2012

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First New Years Eve

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First time on the Mediterranean Sea at Porto Fino, Italy- Jan 4th, 2013

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First Venetian Carnivale- March 2013

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First time in the Mountains- Dolomites, Italy, March 2013 (also his first time swimming!)

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First 4th of July and meeting his cousins at the Cabin, after his first plane ride and passport stamp!

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Met his cousins, aunt and uncle in AK for the first time- August 2-11, 2013

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Visited the animals at the MN State Fair- Sept 1st, 2013

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His first birthday- Sept 12, 2013

Pics to come!! His birthday party is in a couple of weeks… and yes, we will be doing a smash cake! Hopefully we can get some good pictures for you.

And… I haven’t forgotten about our Italian road trip posts. I’m still going through pictures when I have free time- it’s taking a lot longer than I anticipated!! There just isn’t enough time in a day!

Thielen Family Road Trip!

Josh and I took little man on our first family road trip at the beginning of May and I’m finally able to start writing about it! It seems like it was a long time ago (especially considering all that has happened since then)! Our trip was a week and a half of exploring parts of southern Italy. We went to Umbria, Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and Pompei. It was amazing!!

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Fun with the wide angle lens

The trip started on a national holiday in Italy and we hit the road in the morning expecting to arrive at our B&B early in the afternoon. Little did we know that the entire population of Milan was on the highway at the same time we were. We hit some crazy traffic as a result! It was at a complete standstill on the highway that added about 2-3 hours on to our travel time. Even the rest stops were packed full of Italians on a family holiday trip! It was nuts.

We spent a few days in Umbria (a region in central Italy between Florence and Rome) and it was a beautiful part of the country. Italians LOVE Umbria and feel that its better than Tuscany. Josh and I would beg to differ! The food was good, and the scenery was beautiful, but I think I’m starting to get jaded from living here. Everytime we went to a hill top town I kept thinking “I’ve seen so many hill top towns… Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all!” If I would have come straight from Minnesota to Umbria, I would have had a different attitude! Although, Perugia was pretty amazing! It had these underground ancient roadways with a market, and a pretty city center.

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An original Etruscan archway to enter to historical center of Perugia

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Etruscan Arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent the morning just enjoying the city, had some coffee at one of the famous coffee shops (it was good, but the pastries were better), walking around and people watching.

Perugia is famous for its Etruscan roots since the city dates back to Etruscan times. There is an original Etruscan archway that exists at one of the entrances to the historical city center and it’s incredible! And a lot bigger than you would imagine.

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The city center

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The view of Perugia and the countryside

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More of the underground market

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Some delicious chocolates for sale in the underground market. They were tasty!!

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People Watching

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One happy little man after a long nap:)

A few other cities we visited during our time in Umbria include: Spello, Assissi, Montefalco, Todi and Orvieto. More to come on those cities 🙂

Quick update from MN!

Hi everyone!! So it’s been how many months since I’ve posted something…?? I thought a quick update was in order…

We are now back in Minnesota and living in our house. Yay! We moved back on July 1st, and our furniture just arrived on last Thursday so we are deep into unpacking and getting the house in working order.

Last week I started working at Capella University again and it’s great to be back! In some ways it seems like I never left, but at the same time there are a lot of things to learn! But it’s so great to see so many familiar faces and have a full time job again. It’s hard being away from Vincent all day everyday… but it’s good for both of us.

Vincent transitioned to full time daycare and is doing really well. He is now taking a bottle (HUGE win for us!! He refused for a long time…), crawling, saying “dada”, “mama”, “baba” and his latest thing “do doot”. At his last check up about a month ago he was 23.5 lbs (10.6 kg) and 31 inches long (78.75 cm). He’s at the 97th percentile for height and 75th for weight. We have a big boy!!

Do I have reverse culture shock? Yup! I could go on and on… but the biggest thing are the drivers in MN. They are horrible!! People drive slow in the passing lane (yes, thats the lane on the left) and don’t allow you to merge when a highway goes from 2 lanes to 1. Not to mention the Target parking lot on 101 and Hwy 7 has a stop sign LITERALLY every 30 feet. Yes, I need to allow pedestrians cross in a cross walk… I know this thanks to drivers education classes… I don’t need a stop sign. Ok, thats my rant for now! I’m sure there will be more.

Other than that, I do have MONTHS worth of blogs for you… but our computer was just set up last week… So as you can imagine I have a lot of work to do! But, to give you a sneak peak, we visited Umbria, Tuscany, Naples and the Amalfi coast before moving back to the US. AND we have been up north a couple of times to visit family here in MN. I have pictures of everything for you. I hope all is well!!

Me and Vincent in Alaska a couple of weeks ago
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