The end :(

It’s weird to be sitting here in my bed at home and writing a post, but I guess the blog has come full circle because I did do my very first post from home too! It’s absolutely crazy to think about everything that has happened since then, but I can say with confidence that it was some of the best 4 months of my entire life. Before I get super sappy and reflective, I’ll show you a little of what my last 2 weeks in Florence looked like:

Florentine crepes!

pesto pasta from our first night, repeat!

4 Leoni salad- famous!

artichoke lasagna from 4 Leoni!

my very first cappuccino! finally!

missing this sight already!

homemade dinner: bruschetta, pear&pecorino ravioli, pork, roasted veggies, tiramisu

watching the sunset from Piazza Michelangelo

perfect sunset!

tomato bread soup

veal in a truffle sauce

finally rode the carousel in Piazza Republica...totally worth the euro!

the richest hot chocolate EVER! from cafe rivoire

our final cheers to Firenze- Le Volpe e L'Uva

delicious antipasti!

Lexi and I on our balcony for the last time ūüė¶

butter chicken at Trattoria Sostanza our last night

artichoke omelet thing? sorta funky!

my lovely roomies in front of Via del Moro!

It was a perfect last couple of weeks (minus those final exams!!) that we spent eating, relaxing, and celebrating the random holidays that Florence seems to have every few weeks or so (this time it was Notte Bianca…an all night party sponsored by the city!). ¬†One of the things I will miss most about Florence is the abundance of things to do ALL the time. ¬†There was never a dull moment while I was there. ¬†I mean really- what city would ever pay money to set up bean bags and real trees along the bridges, hang swings from the high rafters of buildings, and set up DJ’s in the central squares just for the fun of it? ¬†As you can tell I also enjoyed my fair share of Italian cuisine the last few weeks as well! What’s missing from these pictures is the multitude of gelato that was enjoyed as well.

I know for a fact I will never ever forget these last 4 months of my life. ¬†Not only was it the most relaxing and enjoyable experience of my life- but I learned more about myself and how to live on my own that I probably ever would back at home. ¬†From cooking to grocery shopping to completely learning a new language and culture, my “real world” experiences were absolutely invaluable. ¬†I also know that I’ve made some lifelong friends who I hope to stay in touch with over the years- they are the only ones who truly understand the experience, and that is something I will always cherish! With all this in mind- I know I am going to be back soon. ¬†I’ve totally caught the travel bug, and already have a growing list of cities I didn’t make it to yet, and cities I want to re-visit.

Being home so far has been really nice to see friends and family, but it’s been quite different too. ¬†I’m still getting over my jet-lag, and haven’t quite gotten used to the cell-phone idea again. ¬†I know I had a phone there, but trust me- no one used their phones even 1/10th as much as people use them here (so sorry if I don’t reply to you right away, still trying to remember to check it!). ¬†I have also definitely paid more attention to the world news, and looked at the little problems in life differently since being abroad! ¬†Even though I miss the life I had over there, I know that I can continue to live that way here in the U.S. too (maybe with a little more work thrown in) by staying spontaneous and seeing what kind of adventures I can dig up around here! ¬†It’s tough to sum up all these thoughts into a blog post, but I can summarize yet again by saying those were some of the most memorable 4 months that I will ever have. ¬†If anyone EVER gets the chance to study abroad or even just travel for a few weeks- take advantage. ¬†It doesn’t matter where you go, the opportunity to expose yourself to a completely different life is eye-opening and invaluable. ¬†That being said, if anyone needs a travel buddy anytime soon I’m always ready!!

As weird as this is to say- I think this is the end of my blog (for now!). ¬†Maybe one day I can come back and reflect a little more or hopefully share some more travel experiences with you! But as for now I’m going to take a blogging break and get back into the real world (thesis, grad school applications, work…yuck!). ¬† Thanks so much for reading, your comments often made my day! Hope to see you all soon if I haven’t seen you already ūüôā

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Ciao Firenze

Hi everyone! Believe it or not I am coming home tomorrow! The past 4 months have absolutely flown by. ¬†I’m just trying to enjoy every last minute here so I’m not going to write a long post, but I wanted to tell you all to keep reading! I have some awesome posts coming about my final weeks here- including some delicious food!! I would also love to see everyone soon, so make room in your schedules! Ciao for now!!

The Almalfi Coast: Paradise on Earth

This past weekend puts an end to my crazy weekend travel experiences for the semester! Can you believe it? ¬†Luckily, I went out with a bang on one of the most luxurious trips of the whole semester. ¬†My roommate Alexi, and a few of our other friends travelled to the Almalfi Coast where we stayed in Sorrento, and visited Pompeii, Naples, Capri and Positano. ¬†Everything was absolutely gorgeous and luxurious (with the exception of Naples) and completely fresh. ¬†I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

orange trees outside our hotel!

downtown Sorrento

caprese panini on capri! so fresh and light!

Capri

me on the hike up to Anacapri!

walk through Anacapri to the Blue Grotto!

the most perfect flowers I've ever seen!

Blue Grotto

the most perfect lunch overlooking the Blue Grotto!

Lexi and I ready to go into the Blue Grotto!

the Blue Grotto itself!

beaches on Capri

town center of Capri

view from the top of Capri

Lexi and I at Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius in the background

perfectly preserved food service station!

some of the wall murals that remain

freshly squeezed blood orange juice!

Pizzeria Da Michele (from Eat, Pray, Love) in Naples

hands down most heavenly delicious pizza I've ever eaten

the streets of Positano!

Positano!

beach, so perfect!

Positano

This is only a sampling of the hundreds of pictures I took, so for a few more check out my facebook or ask me when I come home in 8 short days!! ¬†This area has to be one of the most beautiful I’ve ever visited in my entire life. ¬†The water everywhere was the lightest blue, the plants were brightly colored (beautiful on the eyes, rough on the allergies), and the neighborhoods were quaint. ¬†Sorrento (the town we stayed in) was the perfect beach town with small shops and restauants, and a fun coast line to walk along. ¬†Positano (the next town over on the Almalfi Coast) was by far the prettiest town we visited, with the nicest beaches as well. ¬† Capri was in it’s own category for beauty! Naples was probably the dirtiest, loudest, trashiest city I’ve ever visited anywhere (sorry!) but had truly the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life. ¬†Pompeii was the coolest musuem/archeological site I’ve ever seen/probably will see. ¬†So a brief run down of the weekend:

We started off with a 7 hour busride into the night to arrive in Sorrento. ¬†Four hours later we woke up to catch the ferry over to Capri for a day of touring around the island. ¬†After refueling on a fresh caprese panino (fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil, my favorite!!), Lexi and I decided to try the hike up to Anacapri on the other side of the island. ¬†After what seemed like 1000 stairs we finally made it to the top and had the whole afternoon to explore Anacapri which was another cute beach town. ¬†Next on the list was the Blue Grotto, the mysterious cave in the ocean that glows bright blue for no real reason! ¬†We walked about another 4 miles to reach the Grotto which was totally worth it. ¬†We shared a small lunch of caprese salad and lemonade (famous in Capri) on a restaurant that literally sat right above the grotto. ¬†It was interesting to watch the ridiculous money trap that they have made the Blue Grotto into. ¬†Most people don’t realize you can walk there, so they take a 20 euro boat ride to get there, at which point you have to transfer boats and pay another 11 euro just to go in! Our trip leader told us that the Mafia has a monopoly on the grotto and is able to get away with those ridiculous prices, pretty crazy! Lexi and I decided we would splurge a bit and paid the 11 euro for the boat inside the Grotto, and I must say it was totally worth it. ¬†Although you are only inside for about 3 minutes, it was really cool to see, a picture does not do it justice! ¬†We spent the rest of the day wandering around the center of Anacapri and getting in bed early to catch up on sleep!

The next morning we got up early again to visit Pompeii! I was especially excited for this excursion because I spent the last 2 weeks in my Ancient Rome class learning all about it. ¬†For those of you who don’t know, Pompeii was a luxury villa town where many wealthy Romans vacationed in the mid Roman republic. ¬†In 79 AD Mt. Vesuvius erupted spewing hot ash and volcanic gas all over the city, literally burying it alive. ¬†It ¬†was not discovered until recently, and because of the nature of the ash that fell over the city, everything was perfectly preserved. ¬†Today you can walk around the whole city and see the private villas, amphitheaters, restaurants, and even the bodies frozen in their exact positions of death! ¬†It sounds kind of gory and creepy but it was actually quite interesting. ¬†The sad thing is that Pompeii is also monopolized by the Mafia, and they put little to no money into maintaining the ancient structures even though they charge 11 euro per visitor and Pompeii has over 1 million visitors a year. ¬†Just last year the House of the Gladiators crumbled to the ground because it was not monitored and maintained. ¬†It’s sad because this history will disappear forever. ¬†(Look at me- a total history guru now haha ūüôā ) Regardless of the Mafia influence, the city was unbelieveable- these people really did live in luxury! From Pompeii we ventured off to Naples to get pizza and get out. ¬†Naples was not a nice city at all, and not worth visiting with the exception of the pizza. ¬†Everyone I’ve spoken to (even all the travel sites and even Yahoo News) agrees that the best pizza in the world comes from Naples and the best pizza in Naples is Da Michele, so of course we had to try it! The menu has only 2 things on it: Margarita or Marinara pizza. ¬†I ordered the Margarita (only 4 euro!) and absolutely devoured it. The crust was thin but doughy, the sauce full of flavor and the mozzarella cheese was just perfect. ¬†I’ve never had pizza that tasted anything like this, and probably never will again (sad!). ¬†Totally worth the nasty trip to get there.

Sunday (Easter) we were all ready for a little R&R, so we took the famed busride into Positano.  The Almalfi coastline has some of the scariest roads along cliffs with little to no guard rails, and the buses seem to drive about 1 million mph, so it was scary to say the least.   I actually took a video, and will post it below, hopefully it works, this will be a blog-first! ( just kidding- tried to post and its in the wrong format, ask me to see it at home!) We spent the whole day in Positano laying on the beach doing absolutely nothing and it was perfect.

Our last day was cloudy which was a bit disappointing but we spent it exploring Sorrento and doing a little shopping.  Mid-afternoon we had to head back to Florence which took absolutely forever because all Italians take a vacation day-trip the day after Easter so there was awful traffic.  Totally worth it though, I had a great weekend! This is a place that I absolutely have to go back to one day!

For now that’s all I’ve got. ¬†My next post is going to be a food tour as I eat my way through my last week here! ¬†See you all so soon ūüôā

London Continued

Sorry for the rushed nature of the last post, I underestimated how slow our internet is and the pictures took far too long to update and I nearly missed my bus to the beach! Lucky for you, London was broken up into two posts so now you can be entertained for even longer (yay!).  First, I will finish with the rest of the pictures:

crossing Abbey Road!

Oxford Street- greattt shopping!

bangers and mash- typical pub food

changing of the guard!

changing of the guard again!

dad, is that you?? -camo man

Windsor family crest

Parliament at night

Alrighty, so what exactly did I do in London? First off, I walked A LOT and saw what seemed like the entire city (not true, but I did see a lot!). ¬†While walking around I got to see a ton of street performers doing everything from break dancing to beat-boxing to breaking out of metal chains…. people really do the strangest things! It was quite entertaining though. ¬†I didn’t ride on the London eye because I felt it was ridiculously overpriced (17 pounds) for one loop around. ¬†I checked out the Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London which were both awesome! ¬†I then made a stop at Platform 9 and 3/4 in King’s Cross Station (Harry Potter reference of course) which was actually just a cheesy poster near platform 8. ¬†Still a fun idea though! ¬†The next day we did a free walking tour which was great until we lost the group!! Still not sure how that happened but I used my master navigational skills and lead my friends on our own little tour of the rest of London. ¬†We saw Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar square, a bit of Hyde Park, Big Ben, the Parliament buildings and Westminster Abbey. ¬†Next up was a stop at the famous luxury department store Harrods. ¬†The store itself needed a map it was so big, but I didn’t need to navigate too far because everything was ridiculously expensive. ¬†My only Harrods purchase was a cupcake from their famous bakery. ¬†I couldn’t decide between all the delicious flavors so I ended up getting two mini-cupcakes: Red Velvet and Carrot Cake- seriously delicious! ¬†After we were all fueled up on cupcakes, we decided to venture back to Hyde park to explore some more. ¬†I absolutely LOVED all the green space in London, and the fact that exercising is a normal practice there (unlike in Italy). ¬†I could have spent days walking around in the park, it was like a secret garden! (This all refers to the pictures from my previous blog post).

Now for today’s pictures: later that evening we ventured to the other side of town to visit Abbey Road, made famous by the Beatles. ¬†It was pretty awesome to see, but no one tells you that it is actually a main road! We had to wait for about 15 minutes just to get onto the cross-walk and then basically sprint across to snap a picture before another car came. ¬†The Beatles must have waited for days to get their perfectly synced album cover! ¬†The following day finally called for some shopping (how could you not in London!) ¬†First stop was Oxford Street which is basically the 5th avenue of London. ¬†It was awesome, I could have spent about a week there as well (if I wasn’t on the study abroad budget of course!). ¬†We also visited the Portobello market and Camden market which were both giant and quite unique! I don’t know how you could ever see all there is to see in either market. ¬†At exactly 11:30 on Saturday ¬†the guards performed their formal guard change at Buckingham palace, so we had to check it out! ¬†I wasn’t expecting the mobs of people that were there, so I was glad we arrived a bit early. ¬† Regardless, I could barely see for the first half an hour of the show, but the last 15 minutes were pretty cool! ¬†I was a bit surprised, and confused about why the changing of the guard involves an instrumental band playing for 20 minutes. ¬†Even more confusing was why they were playing Star Wars and Michael Buble…. if anyone knows more about this let me know because we all left a bit baffled!

You are probably wondering what I ate in London, because we all know this blog is 50% about food anyway! ¬†London is not exactly known for their fine cuisine, but I actually enjoyed eating there a lot! ¬†London has the only Chipotle in Europe, and after months of Italian food we were all craving something a little different. ¬†Chipotle is cheap and delicious, so we had to stop in for dinner one (or maybe two ūüėČ ) nights! ¬†The third night I ventured out and tried some classic pub food- bangers and mash (as featured in the photo above). ¬† It looks absolutely disgusting, and I was pretty nervous to try it but it turned out delicious! ¬†It tasted just like mashed potatoes, peas, and then a sweet sausage with a sort of barbeque sauce on it. ¬† Strange, but good for the experience! ¬†We ate lunch everyday at the small cafes that reminded me a lot of the typical lunch cafes at home. ¬†We made an attempt to get afternoon tea in London, but after 3 hours of hunting and no tea cheaper than 25 pounds we gave up and settled for Starbucks (much lamer, I know!). ¬†I would have to say that was the biggest downside to London- its ridiculous expenses!!

My trip to London was made especially fun by two of my good friends from home who are studying there. ¬†One night I met up with my friend Cristin from UConn, and another night I met up with my friend Sarah who I’ve known since kindergarten! ¬†It was so much fun to see friends from home in a random city, and they were perfect to get travel advice from! ¬†We ended our trip a bit on a crazy note- since we had a flight at 6:30 in the morning on Sunday and the airport was about an hour and a half from the city center we calculated that we needed to leave London by 3:00am at the latest. ¬†This isn’t terribly late to stay up, so to save some money we skipped on a hostel for the last night and walked around to see all the sites in London at night until about 3am. ¬†We then began the long trek home to the airport in Stansted to Pisa and then finally to Florence. ¬†It was my first official all-nighter and let’s just say that I am never trying that again!! I was happy to save some money but pretty much delirious with exhaustion after the long weekend.

All in all, London was a ton of fun, and I felt like I really belonged there (with the language and culture) which made it easy to appreciate right away. ¬†I can’t wait to see all the Royal wedding celebrations on TV after I saw all the set-up in person! ¬†I’m also seriously considering running the London marathon one day because that was probably the coolest course in the world! They closed entire streets and set up bleachers to cheer people on. ¬†So neat! Anyways- I have my Italian final tomorrow so wish me luck! Can you believe I’m done with classes? I seriously can’t, it still seems like I just got here! ¬†10 days until I return, hope you are all ready!

Expect my Almalfi Coast post soon, ciao!

Mega Update: Spring and London

Ciao regazzi! This past week has been a whirlwind of activites from London to friends from UConn and Farmington visiting to more 21st birthdays to the MTV Trl awards here in Florence.  The weather has remained absolutely beautiful, and I snapped this picture while crossing the Arno the other day.  So gorgeous!

Although I feel like I haven’t slept in over a week, it has been entirely worth it. ¬†All of a sudden we are realizing how soon the program is ending, and we are all trying to make the most of every last minute. ¬†This of course includes trying out a few more restaurants we’ve been dying to go to:

spicy salami pizza!

Nutella Tiramisu

Yum yum yum, I really am going to miss this food. ¬†Since there is so much to update you on, I’m going to have to go out of chronological order and make a two part post. ¬†The first part will be Florence happenings and the second part will be London!! ¬†We started off last week with the birthday of my roommate Hannah, and of course some homemade tiramisu!

It came out absolutely delicious if I do say so myself, and I’ve got the recipe so I can make it for you all at home again. Aside from the birthday celebrations I spent a majority of my time writing a 10 page research paper for my Art of Florence class. ¬†Pretty awful, and tedious but luckily it’s over!! This week was the week of the visitors, starting off Sunday afternoon with the arrival of a group of my friends from the Uconn in Granada program. ¬†They were on spring break this week and decided to do a tour of Italy for their break, stopping in Florence of course!! I knew a bunch of the kids from the program because I’m a spanish minor at school, so I’ve had classes with most of them. ¬†I was especially excited to see my future roommate Alicia and my good friend Sara. ¬†We had a great time roaming around Florence and eating lots of delicious meals:

old friends and new friends!!

bruchetta and mushroom crostini from Il Gato!

grilled veggies from Il Gato!

truffle ravioli, broccoli gnocchi, and penne al vodka!

The dinner pictures are from our family style meal at Il Gato, a restaurant similar to Il Latini (the crazy enormous meal) but with smaller portions.  We all paid 15 euro and we treated to seemingly endless appetizers and 3 different pasta dishes, unlimited wine and water.  We all had a great time, and the food was delicious, as usual.

While my Uconn friends were visiting, my friend Jen (who I visited in Barcelona) finally came to visit me! It was really awesome to show her “my” city after she got to show me hers. ¬†Again, I had so much fun and I even got to see a few things in Florence that I haven’t seen yet like this lucky boar where you rub the nose for good luck:

the lucky boar!

Luckily, Jen was still here last night when MTV Italia hosted their TRL award show in Santa Croce, a square near my apartment! I had heard about the show weeks ago when they set up the voting system; the rumor was that the winner from each category would be performing in one final concert at the award show. ¬†We were all super excited because we saw stars like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Eminem were nominated for awards. ¬†Turns out, none of them won and it was exclusively Italian artists, but it was still a lot of fun. ¬†I have never seen Florence that crowded or rowdy ever! ¬†Unfortunately I had to say goodbye to Jen last night, but I’ll get to see her again in Farmington in a few short weeks!

Ok onto part 2 of this post: my weekend in London!!! ¬†I’ll start off by saying I absolutely loved it, and it was possibly even my favorite city of the trip. ¬†It reminded me a lot of home in some ways, but was also totally different in others. ¬†It was refreshing to visit a city that had a lot of reminders from home! It was almost shocking to actually see people in a rush to go somewhere! I loved the shopping, the insane variety of food, the ability to walk or easily take transportation just about anywhere, and the beautiful parks! The whole city was just bustling. ¬†Here are some of the things I saw:

crazy street performers!

the London eye!

Thames River

Tower Bridge

signs on the road for the dumb Americans!

Tower of London

Platform 9 and 3/4...from Harry Potter

guards outside of Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

all the flowers in preparation for the Royal Wedding!

the classic London phone booth!

Parliament Buildings

Big Ben and I

Westminster Abbey

Harrod's!

cupcakes inside of Harrod's, delicious!

Hyde Park

GAH!! This monster post took me a lot longer than expected (particularly with the photo upload) so unforunately I have to cut it off right here! I have tons more pictures to add, and stories to tell including my trip to Chipotle, meeting up with my friends Cristin and Sarah, the changing of the guard, and shopping in the markets! ¬†I visited at a great time with all the preparations for the Royal Wedding and the London Marathon in full swing. ¬†But if I keep talking I am going to miss my bus for my Easter vacation so I’ve got to stop here. ¬†Ciao for now my friends, and Happy Easter. ¬†I’m off to the Almalfi Coast till Monday! ¬†More posts to come soon after! How is time flying so fast?!

Here comes the sun!

I think since I’ve last posted, there has not been a cloud in the sky over Florence! It has been unbelievably sunny the entire time, and I couldn’t be much happier. ¬†I absolutely love relaxing in the sunshine, and thats what I’ve done just about all week (with a few classes here and there ūüôā ).

On Tuesday a few of my roommates and I took advantage of the bright blue skies and decided to finally fork over the 8 euro, and climb to the tippity top of the Duomo. ¬†Let me tell you- it was more than worth it!! The views were stunning, and the climb itself was actually pretty fun (and even a bit scary). ¬†You could see for miles and miles, and it was pretty fun to pick out all the sights we already knew. ¬†I can’t even imagine what it might look like around sunset- maybe I’ll try that one day soon!!

the ceiling of the dumo!

view from the top!

Santa Croce in the middle

panorama

bell-tower on the right
Me, Hannah and Madison on the top

Later this week, Hannah, Madison and I decided to check out the restaurant where our other roommate Alexi works.  She got a job as a waitress here to get some experience before waitressing in the states, and has been raving about her restaurant so we had to check it out.  The whole place was really cute, and they started with the most delicious bread so we all knew we were in for a treat.  My meal was delicious, and the waiter brought over a free tiramisu for us to share afterwards, so we were happy!

"Il Teatro"- penne with fresh salmon, tomato and mushrooms

It was also super cheap, so I’d say definitely worth another visit. ¬†Another day this week it was so hot I just HAD to get a quick gelato. ¬†This time we tried out Grom (which has locations in the U.S.) and it was pretty tasty. ¬†It doesn’t live up to my favorite gelato place (La Carraia) right across the river, but it did the job!

straticella (chocolate chip) and strawberry gelato!

Yesterday we had absolutely nothing to do, so we figured a day trip would be perfect! ¬†The weather was perfect, so where better to go than the beach?! We picked Viareggio, a beach town about an hour outside of Florence. ¬†Just about our entire school had the same idea, so it was a great time. ¬†The train tickets were buy one-get one free on Saturday so it was a super cheap, super relaxing trip. ¬†The sun is SO strong here though and everyone is completely roasted. ¬†Sun screen is almost impossible to find here (must be because of that dark Italian skin), and the kind that we did find was SPF 10. ¬†Luckily I am not burnt but a few of my friends are sitting next to me looking like sun-dried tomatoes ūüôā ¬†Oops!!

Viareggio!

the beach!!

It’s been a great weekend, but I’ve got to finish it up with some school work. The end of the semester is coming WAY too quickly, and I need to get a jump start on some of those final papers. ¬†Can you believe I am going to be home in less than a month?! I certainly can’t. ¬†I only have one more real weekend left in Florence (I am going to be traveling for the next two). ¬†Crazy!!!

One last excitement for the week- I have a new cousin-once-removed (??) named Layla Grace!! My cousin Kelly had her baby on Wednesday morning! She looks absolutely adorable, I can’t wait to meet her! Congrats Kelly and Joey!!

NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPS

This has nothing to do with Florence but its 6:30am and I don’t know how else to celebrate! This might be the only time this semester I am SERIOUSLY wishing I was back in Storrs. CONGRATS TO MY FAVORITE UCONN HUSKIES!!!!!!!!!!!! Try not to get too wild tonight Uconn ūüôā

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