Italia Round 2

July 15, the fam bam and I packed up and headed back to Italy for a week in the Tuscan countryside. It was a fun, jam-packed week that went by way too quickly.

We arrived Saturday morning and spent the first half of the day touring around Rome before driving to Trequanda to our villa. We saw all the major sites in about half a day, which was a lot of fun! We arrived late in the afternoon to the villa, where we unpacked and explored the house before calling it an early night.

Sunday morning we woke up early to take a water painting class that was a lot of fun. I know I am not artistically talented… there’s a reason I choose the business side of fashion versus the artistic! My painting turned out much better than I imagined, but it still wasn’t great! That afternoon I took mom and dad to experience their first Italian grocery store! We had a great time and it was fun to show them the aisles of pasta and how I shopped for four months!

Monday we spent the day at the villa, relaxing by the pool, and exploring the town! It was so nice to have one more day to enjoy ourselves before our Italian sight-seeing adventure began!

Tuesday we visited Siena and toured the city. It was fun to see the churches there and explore a different city! From there, Mairead and I took the train to Florence, where I was able to show her all around where I lived for four months! We ate dinner at the Mercato Centrale and then went to the Accademia to see David before going out to Kikuya!

Wednesday morning everyone joined us in Florence and we all went our separate ways to tour the city! While everyone went to really tour the city, Mairead, mom, dad and I went to run errands I forgot to do while there. We went back to the Mercato to get balsamic, then to take a picture in front of my apartment, before stopping by Pino’s for a panini. We then crossed the Ponte Vecchio and shopped a little before seeing Pitti Palace. We were so hot that we found a place to cool off and grab a drink before going to La Carraia for gelato and then to the Ferragamo Museum. We finished our night off at my favorite restaurant in Florence – Trattoria Gargani! Holy yum!

Thursday was wine day! We went to the Chianti region and to four vineyards for wine tasting. While I am not a huge fan of red wine, it was fun trying all the wines and to be with the fam! Lunch was at our tour guide’s friend’s mom’s house – she cooked the entire meal for us, and it was insanely delicious! We had so much food and it was all amazing!

Friday was our last full day at the villa… we spent the morning hot-air ballooning over Tuscany at sunrise and had breakfast where we landed! It was my first time in a hot-air balloon and it was amazing and the views were breath-taking! Afterwards, we returned to the villa where we hung out by the pool for the last time before packing up.

Saturday we woke up and drove back to Rome to catch our flight home. It was such an amazing trip and I am already looking forward to my trip back to Italy, whenever that may be!

 

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Lunch in Trequanda

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Siena Church

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Siena

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with David

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Duomo

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My lovely dinner date at Mercato Centrale

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Streets in Florence

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Pitti Palace

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Ponte Vecchio

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Tuscan Vineyard

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Vineyard

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Hot Air Balloon

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Balloon

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Balloon Shadows

Travel Diary: Capri

This past weekend, I met up with my friend Victoria from elementary-high school in Capri. We left on Thursday and took the same train to Naples, but it was super crowded, so we weren’t able to sit together. Once we got to Naples, we took the ferry to Capri, which took about an hour. We didn’t get in until late Thursday evening, so we walked around Anacapri, where our hotel was, and found a place to grab dinner, before going back to the hotel to relax a bit.

 

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Sunset night 1

 

Friday morning, we got up and went to the town of Capri to take a boat tour around the island to see the sights. We were supposed to go to the Blue Grotto, but it was a 3-hour wait, so we decided to pass on that! Once we got back to port, we wanted to go to Capri Centro to walk around the shops and grab a bite to eat. Well, we didn’t realize how far and uphill the center was from the port. By the time we got to the top, we were both panting and sweating. Luckily, waiting at the top was a drink stand that had lemon slush with fresh squeezed orange juice – like he squeezed the oranges in front of me directly into the cup. It was literally the BEST thing I have ever had. It was so fresh and much needed after our killer hike. We also later learned there’s a funicular that you can take up, but we rewarded ourselves with yummy food instead! After we had grabbed a bite, we took a cab back to the hotel to change into our swimsuits to go the beach club. The taxis in Capri are so fun – they are all open air, so it’s like one big convertible, which is really nice in the sun! We spent some time soaking up the rays and then headed back to the hotel to change for dinner. We had read on trip advisor about some places and decided to try one that wasn’t too far away. However, when we got there, it was closed… so we got back on our phones to try and find another place to go, but while doing this, the owner came and, in very broken English, told us to come in… so we did! We were the only people there, for a while anyways, but enjoyed it and I think the sweet owner did too! I think we had some of the best food my whole time in Italy there – we had Caprese salad (with tomatoes and basil from the owners garden – she was very proud of that), Gnocchi Sorrento (with potatoes grown in her garden that had natural soil), and a fresh fish of the day. We didn’t realize when we got the fish that it was the whole fish and that we would have to debone it ourselves. Victoria and I both just stared at each other for a bit, but I told her if she cut off the head, I could do the fish.. and I actually did pretty well for my first time! We finished the night off with a drink at the hotel bar and then passed out.

 

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View from breakfast

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Delicous Lemon Slush and Orange Juice

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From Kindergarten to Capri 

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The deboned fish.. it was a lot better than it looks

 

Saturday morning we got up early and went to lay by the pool before Victoria had to leave. She was going back a day early, but we forgot to factor in the time of the ferry to get her back, so she left a little earlier than we had anticipated. After she left, I stayed by the pool for a while before cleaning up to grab lunch and shop a little more. After lunch, I went to ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain for beautiful views of the island and the surrounding area. I went back to town to shop a bit before getting dinner and calling it a night.

 

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From the Top of the Chairlift

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Sunday I got up and got ready for the big travel day back to Florence. It was such a fun trip and it was really fun to share it with a friend I’ve known for 16 years! We had a great time and I cannot wait to go back to Capri one day! This week is my last week before finals and I cannot believe that was my last trip before the end of the semester.. it has gone by so quickly!

 

Travel Diary: Cinque Terre

Yesterday, Kayleigh, Lizzy and I took a day trip to Cinque Terre. We took a 2-hour bus ride to La Spezia where we got on a train that took us to all the different towns of Cinque Terre. We only visited 3 towns, but they were all beautiful. The first town we visited was Manarola and was the picturesque town with colorful houses on the water. The weather was chilly and a little rainy, but it was still a lot of fun. We only spent a bit of time in Manarola before taking the train to Vernazza where we had a delicious lunch. Apparently Cinque Terre is where pesto was created, so they have pesto everything. We had pesto pizza for lunch and it did not disappoint. After lunch in Vernazza, we took a 2-hour hike to Monterosso al Mare. The hike was not too strenuous, just long and there we, as a group, went pretty slow. It was a pretty hike that led us to the beach town of Monterosso al Mare. Once we arrived there, we indulged ourselves in some margarita buckets and fried crab claws. Everything was absolutely delicious. Though it was overcast and a bit cool, it was perfect for the hike and we really got to see the towns. It was a fun day, but we all came home exhausted! Next weekend we head to Barcelona for Jenny’s 21st birthday, which will be really fun!

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Manarola

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Manarola 

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Vernazza

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Our “We’re wearing matching Cinque Terre shirts and just finished a hike to the beach” picture

Florence for the Weekend

This past weekend, we stayed in Florence, which was nice to just have time to relax and enjoy the city! We started Friday off by climbing to the top of the Duomo and the Bell Tower, visiting the church museum and the Baptistery! It was such a beautiful day and crystal blue skies, so it was completely worth the 463 steps (for the Duomo) and 414 steps (for the Bell Tower). We enjoyed some gelato afterwards to treat ourselves. We then made our way to the Church Museum, where we were able to see the real golden doors from the Baptistry – they were BEAUTIFUL! I then met up with three friends from high school who were visiting for dinner and we had a lot of fun catching up and reconnecting!

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Saturday I spent the day playing tour guide to my friends. We went all over Florence in the pouring down rain and managed to take absolutely no photos  But we had a great time and I’m so happy I got to see them! That night, Lizzy, Kayleigh and I finally made it to a “secret bakery.” It’s where the bakeries start baking late at night for the next day and you go to the back door of them and can buy fresh pastries! We all got chocolate croissants for $1 each and they were delicious!

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Today, we went to see the David at the Accademia since in Florence state museums are free the first Sunday of every month! It was a bit crowded, but so much fun and we really enjoyed seeing David and the other art around the museum. It has been a gross, cold, rainy day here, so we are all now in comfy clothes and relaxing!

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Travel Diary: Milan

This weekend, Lizzy, Kayleigh and I visited Milan. It happened to fashion week, and it was a nice little getaway from Florence (not that I don’t love it – it’s just nice to get away from our other roommates)! Kayleigh went to stay with her family, so it was just Lizzy and I Friday night, and then our friend Mary-Kate decided to come stay with us Saturday, which was fun to have her there too! It was a cold and rainy weekend in Milan, which was not good for this sick chick, but we still had a lot of fun!

Where We Stayed

The Yard Hotel

We stayed at The Yard Hotel, which may be one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. The rooms were all sports themed and ours was Polo. The atmosphere of the hotel was really cool and quirky and we really enjoyed it. Friday night, Lizzy and I sat in the covered bar area and had a drink and people watched, which was really fun, since it was fashion week!

What We Did

Bus Tour

Since it was Lizzy’s first time to Milan, she wanted to see all the sights, including the “Last Supper” painting. Well, to see that, you have to book it months in advance, but we found a bus tour that took you to all the sights and tickets to the painting. I had done a tour like this my first time in Milan, but it was nice to do it again and really appreciate everything I saw. We started at La Scala, the opera house, and toured the museum. We then walked through the galleria over to the Duomo and were able to go inside, which was really cool. I had never done that before and it was beautiful. There was a lot of stain glass and it was not too busy, so we were able to enjoy the scenery. We then got back on the bus and did a driving tour showing all major sites on our way to the “Last Supper” painting, which was our final stop. It was really fun and a nice way to see the city since it was pretty chilly.

Shop

The rest of the weekend we spent shopping and exploring Milan. Our hotel was situated by a number of cute boutiques that were fun to venture into. We all didn’t buy much, but had a lot of fun trying things on and seeing what the stores had to offer.

Hot Chocolate at Farage

OMG Jenny had recommended that we go to this hot chocolate shop, Farage. It was the best thing ever. Hot chocolate in Europe is not like it in the States. Here, it is literally melted chocolate. I got dark chocolate with whip cream and it was heavenly, especially since it was so cold and gross out!

Sights from Milan

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Indoor Bar at our Hotel

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Last Supper

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When in Italy, one must eat the colors of the Flag 

Travel Diary: Venice

Where We Stayed
Charming House DD724
This was the cutest little hotel tucked back by the Guggenheim museum. There were not many rooms, but the rooms were really nice. We were able to get a room with 2 twin beds so Lizzy and I didn’t have the share. And the bathroom – OMG literally anything is better than our apartment shower, but a rain shower is the greatest thing ever. Though our apartment isn’t terrible, I’ve really come to appreciate nice(r) bathrooms and showers!

What We Did
Saint Mark’s Basilica 
You can’t go to Venice without visiting the Basilica – it supposedly has the remains of Mark, the gospel writer, which Venice stole to bring people to visit and make money. Apparently back in the day, to have the full body of a gospel writer, was major for a city. You can’t get too close in the church, nor can you take pictures inside, but it is a beautiful place.

Piazza San Marco
If you didn’t know, I’m terrified of birds – pigeons especially. So the piazza is basically my worst nightmare. There are birds EVERYWHERE and for whatever reason, people think it’s fun to feed them and have them land on them… It makes my stomach nauseous to see that. When we were in the piazza, Lizzy and I had our picture taken, but that was it. The less time we spent there, the better it was.

Peggy Guggenheim Museum
This was a last minute decision, but one I’m happy we did. It was a museum in Peggy’s house on the canal. There were so many works of art by Picasso and so many beautiful things to look at within her home too.

Doge’s Palace
We did the Secret Tour at the Doge’s Palace since we are able to get student tickets. It was really cool to see the prison cells and hear the stories of Casanova and about that time. I had done this tour with my parents a few years ago during the summer and it was so hot that I couldn’t remember anything that we saw or heard about. I was purely focused on how hot I was. This time, it was chilly. We went in the morning, so it was cool, but the palace retains the cold and Lizzy and I could not wait to finish so we could go warm up. It was definitely worth the tour, though.

Getting Lost
One thing I was told the first time I came to Venice was to get lost. Well when it’s smoking hot outside, the last thing you want to do is get lost. This time, since the weather was nice, we were able to “get lost.” Just walking around and seeing the city of Venice was really fun and you never knew what the street would lead to.

Venetian Sights

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Water Taxi to Hotel

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Venice is known for seafood – so seafood pasta

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Travel Diary: Day Trip to Pisa

On Friday, we did a day trip to Pisa. It’s about an hour train ride from Florence and it was fun to go see the tower since that is literally all there is to do. Lizzy and I went with a group of girls we had met our first week here and it was nice to travel with a big group. We took the train in the afternoon since we knew we only wanted to spend a few hours there. As soon as we arrived at the train station, we headed straight for the tower and had our photo shoot. It was really fun and it’s hilarious watching people trying to get the perfect picture.

After we finally got the right picture, we walked around a bit to see what Pisa had to offer (which wasn’t much) and found a cute place for lunch. We then headed back to the tower to go into the cathedral right by it and then back on the train to head back to Florence.

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When we arrived back in Florence and ended our night at the chocolate festival that was going on at Piazza Santa Maria Novella. HOLY YUM! There were so many different types of chocolate and a million different ways to eat it. I got chocolate dipped cake pops and a waffle on a stick dipped in chocolate. Literally the greatest thing ever!

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This is all chocolate!!

Florence Days 4-6

Wednesday was our first morning in our new apartment. We quickly learned that the noise on the street echoes (as one girl noticed as she screamed “echo” down the street) and people are LOUD at 3 am. While the noise eventually subsided, I finally fell asleep in the wee hours of the morning only to wake up at in a few hours for the first day of orientation. We made it through the 2-hour session and had the whole day to explore even more. Lizzy, Kayleigh (our roommate from FIT) and I grabbed coffee at a café near our apartment and then went on a hunt for a pillow. We may have the tiniest beds in the world and the stiff pillows did not make it any better. But we found some, and let me tell you, it was glorious to sleep on. We went back to rest for a bit before walking around and shopping some more. While on our walk, we found a cannoli place where they make the cannoli for you… it was the best thing ever! We ended up at dinner at a restaurant with all study abroad students that had a deal for dinner and sat a table with three girls from a different school. They were the nicest people and we spent the whole night laughing and talking, which was nice to meet such normal people and have a good time. But, by like 11 we were exhausted and were in bed and asleep!

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Making my cannoli

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The final product

Thursday, after a pretty good night’s sleep, we went to orientation again this morning for just a bit. After that, we walked back to our apartment and got situated before heading out for lunch. We went to this really yummy burger place by us and enjoyed some non-Italian food We then explored some more of the city and went across the river to get some gelato and walk around there some more. We eventually found our way to our friend Cassie’s apartment, which was fun to see (but I like ours a lot better)! Now we’re just relaxing and enjoying the comfort of our apartment before a welcome dinner at the school tonight!

 

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Yesterday, we had our last session of orientation and rewarded ourselves at News Cafe with a Nutella lined coffee… Though I am not a coffee drinker by any means, it was pretty good, but not good enough to convert me. We then went on a little walk and enjoyed and ended up at All’antico Vinaio for a panini – OMG this was literally the most amazing sandwich I’ve ever had. I can’t even describe it – it was so amazing! We grabbed our sandwiches and walked across the Ponte Vecchio and sat in front of Boboli Gardens before going in and walking around them. It was so beautiful and nice to escape from the “city.” We finished the night at dinner with Jenny at the Mercato Centrale. This weekend we’re just enjoying Florence and doing a day trip to Tuscany!

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Milano Panini

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Ciao for now!

xx
Grace

Florence Days 1-3

I have finally made it to Florence and to say that I am excited is way understated. Lizzy and I arrived after a pit stop in Amsterdam to a rainy Florence, with all our luggage in tow. Though we were insanely exhausted, we decided to explore a bit so we could get comfortable with our new home and try not fall asleep! After a delicious lunch in one of the piazzas, we went on a mission to find shampoo and conditioner at Sephora and after visiting 2 Sephoras, I was finally successful! Who knew that it was that hard to find shampoo? We then decided to venture over to the area of our new apartment and see what it was like. When we finally arrived we looked around and there were very few people in sight and not many places to eat or shop at and while we were skeptical (don’t worry mom, that changed quickly), we decided to go back to the hotel and rest since it decided to rain harder. With one more go on the town for dinner, we both crawled into bed at 8:30 and slept fabulously! Monday morning, we woke up well rested and enjoyed a nice croissant at a little café.

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Yesterday, I was determined to find a curling iron or hair straighter. After many visits to department stores and pharmacies, I was about to give up, when I saw an electronic store (I had read that they carried them), only to find it was closed. However, the sweet man that owned it came running up after us and opened it for us. Praise the lord! Lizzy and I then ventured across the Ponte Vecchio and grabbed a slice of pizza before climbing to the top of Piazza Michelangelo. Don’t let the photo below fool you, it took us 3 breaks on the steep steps up to get to the top, but the view was well worth it! After our trek, we thought we’d go explore the area around our apartment since it was a beautiful sunny day. And much to our surprise, the area was packed with people (see mom, it’s going to be okay!) We finished our night off with dinner with Jenny and it was so much fun to see her!

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Stairs to the Top

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View from the Top

Today, Tuesday, we went to orientation for our apartment and finally got our room keys. Lizzy and I packed up our suitcases and took a taxi to our new home. It only took us using 4 of the 6 keys to finally get into the front door to then have to figure out the next key to use to open the next door. 3 trips later, we finally made it with all our stuff to our door on the 3rd floor, which uses two keys to get in. Our apartment is perfect! There’s a decent sized kitchen with a fridge, oven, microwave, and even a dishwasher. Off that we have a little living area with a TV. Lizzy and I share the first room and there are 3 other rooms for the 4 other girls, plus 2 bathrooms. The ceilings are high, so it makes it feel a lot bigger and it’s IKEA furniture, so it’s pretty modern for such an old city. The window in my room is across the street from a music school, so we hear the piano and other instruments, which is fun to hear. Orientation starts tomorrow and I’m excited to meet more people and get everything ready, but, for now, it’s nice to finally be unpacked and organized! I’ll try to write and post pictures as much as possible!

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Our bedroom

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The Kitchen

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Living Room

Ciao

 

When in Rome

After a few days in Florence, we took a (very long) train ride to Rome. We really only had one full day in Rome and I was determined to make the most of it. We started at the Colosseum which is amazing. The fact that it has been around for so long and there’s so much history with it baffles me. It was (again) insanely hot so I wanted something flowy to be able to be comfortable. After the Colosseum we went to the Forum, which again was amazing. We had a quick lunch and then it was off to the Trevi Fountain, WHICH WAS CLOSED, for construction, but still. After way to much gelato and a short rain, we arrived at the Spanish Steps. We were able to see all the main sights during the day and then we also did a night tour to see the city in a different light. It was like another world and it was magical. All in all, it was an amazing trip and I enjoyed every moment of it!


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Top: Zara, Skirt: Show Me Your Mumu (Old, Similar Here), Shoes: Converse. Necklace: Kendra Scott, Purse: Gucci, Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

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