A few days back, we had a brief from the Commanding Officer (amazingly, he took over two hours out of his day to talk to us about the region - that's a lot of time for a busy man to spend with us), and he referred to the Support Site (where we temporarily live) as Mayberry, but encouraged us to "get outside the wire," meaning, "go off base, explore, don't stay in Little America all the time or you'll miss out." This base is Mayberry in some ways...kids can play safely, people can walk at night, your car window will still be intact in the morning, and you can go to sleep at night without lowering the lockdown shutters that cover every window and door. But it's a Mayberry surrounded by barbed wire, armed guards, and Hum-Vees manned by assault-weaponed, Italian Army types. Thus...get outside the wire to experience the real Italy.
We did just that tonight. We, along with another couple from our orientation class, drove to a nearby restaurant (Country House) using our GPS to get there. In order to go places here, you put in GPS coordinates, rather than a street name. We tried checking the restaurant's coordinates with Google Earth per instructions, but couldn't figure that out, so off we went anyway. Error one happened within a block of the gate when we accidentally got on the highway. No problem, the GPS recalculated and got us turned around. We followed that stupid GPS straight to our "destination," which took us to someone's house. Thankfully, we avoided the Chevy Chase error of knocking on the door to look for "sex." For some reason, I then suggested we just drive around looking for a street name we recognized (I don't know why I thought we'd recognize a street name in a foreign country in a town none of us had ever visited, but that became our plan.). And we eventually, after a few turns, found the restaurant - nowhere near where the GPS took us and down a very long driveway with only a small sign at the road. Not a clue how we managed to find this.
We had an absolutely delicious dinner...our first real dinner "outside the wire" that was not pizza! Caprese salad, antipasti, calamari, lobster, pasta, clams, mussles, tiramisu, chocolate souffle, and a bottle of wine. Absolutely delicious. I ordered the special of the day, lobster pasta, thinking it would be pasta with lumps of lobster. Nope - the plate showed up with half of it a yummy pasta dish and the other half a humongous lobster tail. I've never had one of these that I had to crack open myself. It went fairly well. When it came time to use the cracker thingies, I only lost the lobster half off the plate rather than shooting it across the room.
About this time during dinner, it occurred to us that we should have taken a GPS waypoint back at the base so we'd know how to get home. The food was good, wine even better, so we decided to worry about getting home once we were in the car. The restaurant is really only about 1-2 miles from the base, so we decided to follow our earlier plan of just driving around. Nathan gets the points for making not a single wrong turn! [Note: Nathan was our driver and had only one regular-sized glass of wine - our rule while here in Italy for the designated driver.]
A mostly successful day. Really the only disturbing point was while at our little fieldtrip to the Housing Warehouse (where we took a look at the washers/dryers/fridges that we can have on loan), I noticed the sign below in a nearby garden: