A Day Under the Tuscan Sun

I had weekend with very little time to travel, so I decided to take a tour bus up north for the day for a tuscan wine tour through a company called Dark Rome.  The tour left from Piazza del Popolo which took us through a beautiful drive between Rome and the southern region in Tuscany. Our first stop was in Montepulciano, which is a beautiful mountain town famous for its Nobile wine.

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After Montepulciamo, we took a quick stop at the Sant’Antimo Abbey which had beautiful views of the country side.

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Afterwords, we stopped for a 3 course meal with wine tastings paired with our food.

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We stopped to drive through the town of Monticiano, and then we stopped at the final town of Pienza. It apparently has amazing gelato, so I got some pistachio gelato to eat while I looked at the Tuscan views.

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Eins, Zwei, Drei, G’suffa!

Ever since my Freshman year, the students who attended their study abroad in the Fall semester all said you must go to Oktoberfest, so as soon as a decided to go in the fall, I knew Oktoberfest would be the first trip I would plan. We began planning this in April to get a hotel, because we had been advised against staying in the tents. We stayed at the Park Hotel in a very quiet neighborhood in Munich. There were some coffee shops and bakeries on our street, and we were right next to a subway stop that took us directly into the city center of Munich and the festival.

Soon after we arrived in Munich, we walked a few blocks down the road from our hotel to get groceries. Munich grocery stores are one of the most amazing things. The one we went to was massive, with two stories and an elevator ramp, and they had so much more than just pasta. Afterwards, we went to the city center of Munich to buy our dirndls for the festival.

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We didn’t end up going into the festival until around 4 after all the shopping, but we stayed later into the evening. The festival when you first enter looks like any other carnival, and I would almost compare it to the Houston Rodeo, except everyone was wearing dirndls and lederhosens instead of cowboy boots and hats. Sprinkled within the carnivals were tents which is where all the Oktoberfest beer is.

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On top of the beer, the food was amazing. I had sausage and sour kraut the first day for dinner, and finished the evening with a bratwurst. The second day, I had some amazing fries, a potato dumpling drenched in duck gravy, and one of the best donuts I’ve ever had in my life.

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We also made sure to walk around the city center of Munich a little bit, which was very beautiful.

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Capri – A Weekend in Paradise

Before it got too cold, I took a short girl’s trip to the island of Capri off the coast of Naples to enjoy the mediterranean water one last time before it got too cold. We only went to Capri for less than two full days, but it was amazing, and I know that Capri is definitely a place I will go back to.

Travel

Since it’s a little harder to get to, our trip included a lot of public transport. We took a city bus from our apartment to the bus station (1.50 Euro) and then a Flix Bus from Rome to Sorrento (about 50 Euro round trip taking about 5 hours) and then a Ferry from Sorrento to Capri (around 40 Euro round trip taking about 20 minutes) and then a bus from Capri to Anacapri (1.50 Euro) and then to our Villa where we were spending the night. Although it was extremely long period of time spent on public transport, the views the whole way were actually breathtaking.

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Beautiful mountain ridges midway to Sorrento.

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Mount Vesuvius from outside of Pompeii.

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The Amalfi Coast.

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The Amalfi Coast.

First Night in Anacapri

When we first arrived to our villa (which was absolutely stunning with incredible views for only 67 Euro) it was around 4pm after the endless public transport journey, so we had limited beach time. Our airbnb host recommended a beach near us which he graciously drove us to. The “beach” was actually more of a cliff side that you could swim in, but it was very close to the blue grotto. I’m honestly very afraid of the ocean and dark water, so I unfortunately did not get the chance to swim this night out of fear, but it was still beautiful seeing the sunset along the cliffs. I did get the chance to drink limoncello at the beach, which is what Capri is known for, and also enjoyed some fantastic frozen lemonade made from fresh Capri lemons. Again, since I’m afraid of the ocean, I passed up the opportunity to swim into the blue grotto, but my friends said it was incredible.

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After we got back, we went out to dinner in Anacapri where it was cheaper, then we went down into the town of Capri to go to a bar. We didn’t do enough research, but it’s actually very expensive to go to the bars in Capri, but we ended up walking around a lot and seeing the town, which was very nice.

Final Beach Day

On our second and last day in Capri, we wanted to take full advantage of the turquoise beaches. We went to Marino Piccola to a free beach, which was small and very nice with several cheap restaurants next to it. Since it was a beach, I actually was comfortable with going in the water, so I had a nice time swimming around the turquoise water. The water was a little cold at first, but it felt great once you get used to it. The beach was a little painful because it was a pebble beach. Far away from the water the rocks were large and smooth enough that it was okay, but close to the water it was actually very painful. I used my waterproof Tevos a lot when I was going into the water to protect my feet. I also got a Caprese sandwich, which was especially good coming from Capri.

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When we left the beach and got ready to get on the bus, we had a happy accident where we could only take the bus halfway across the island to the town of Capri, and then had to walk the rest of the way to the port where the ferry was, which took us down a long staircase down the mountain. We did however get picturesque scenes the whole way down. This weekend was incredible, and the views from the island are indescribable, and the pictures do it no justice. I can’t imagine not coming back to Capri, because it was the most wonderful place I’ve ever been to.

Roman Food, Ruins, and more Monuments

Although I’m living in the center of Rome, I feel like I haven’t given myself enough to to adventure within the city. Fortunately, I am taking a cooking class where I get to learn about different places to go eat, and I am taking a cartography class and an architectural analysis class where we get to walk around the city for three hours rather than sit through a powerpoint, so it gives me the opportunity to explore despite the fact that I am in class for 21 hours a week.

Food

After learning more about the different foods in Italy as a whole, I soon realized that I have been limited myself so much on good Italian food besides spaghetti.  One of my favorite things I have had lately was the Tartufo from Tre Scalini in Piazza Navona, which is truffle gelato. Truffles are some of my favorite things in the world, and even though the thought of mushroom gelato sounds horrible, tartufo is the most incredible thing in the world.

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One gem of Italy is that everyone pretty much only eats croissants and coffee for breakfast, and you can get nutella-filled croissants, which are heavenly. Iv’e also been trying to cook some more Italian meals in my apartment. After cooking class one day, I decided to make polenta with a mushroom and sausage tomato sauce sautéed in white wine, which surprisingly turned out very good.

Ruins and Monuments

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These top three images show my surprise progression to discovering the Spanish Steps. My friends and I were just walking around and we saw this street with a big open space up at the top of the hill, so we just walked down to see if there was a park or something. We find these nice hotels and a big church we steps to an upper level, so we walk up the steps and discover this incredible view of the city.

We walk down the steps, and we turn to find more and more people – and more and more steps! We soon realized we had stumbled upon the Spanish Steps, so it was a cool accidental discovery.

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After the Spanish Steps, we walked down further to the Piazza del Popolo, which was much more empty and large than I expected it to be. The Piazza was cool because when you sit down at the obelisk, you can look down three avenues down to their ending monument. The center one just so happens to be my favorite road, Via del Corso (aka the shopping street) which terminates at a monument called the Altar of the Fatherland, affectionately called the Wedding Cake. We actually came to the Piazza to see the twin churches, but unfortunately the church on the right was covered with scaffolding and a Samsung advertisement.

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Some views from my cartography class walks. We went to the top of the hill in Trastevere and were able to see pretty much the whole city as well as the mountains in the far distance. At the end, we saw Tempietto di San Pietro by Bramante, which is one of the most iconic pieces of architecture in its perfection of Ancient proportions in a Renaissance period. The last one is the Triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus, which was the end of another walk outside the ancient Roman Forum.

Beach Daze – Anzio

On our first day having a break since arriving in Rome, I went with most people in our study abroad group to the town of Anzio, Italy to have a beach day. This was my first time swimming in the Mediterranean sea, which was pretty exciting. Coming from Rome, this trip was super easy and fairly cheap. We had to walk about 30 minutes to the train station, which was the hardest part, but everything else was very easy as far as travel.

Our tickets cost us about 7 Euro roundtrip for the day. I actually decided to leave earlier from my scheduled time to leave, so I paid an extra 4 Euro for my ticket home, but if planned out better, it would have been a very cheap beach day. Once there, we walked from the train station to the beach. We opted for a “private” beach (aka you paid about 4 Euro for an umbrella or 7 Euro for a chair to gain entrance), so it was less crowded, cleaner, and there was a bar, restaurant, and bathroom all on the beach.

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Overall, it was a fantastic trip and I had an amazing time. The water was incredible and warm and blue. Although it was short, it was a very nice break from the city.

Benvenuto in Roma!

In my previous post, I mentioned how I had been spending most my time since arriving in Rome in the town of Tivoli, which was about a daily 45 minute to 1 hour bus ride there and back. I have spent a little bit of time sprinkled around in Rome, though.

Arriving in Rome

As soon as I got to my apartment, I fell in love with this city. I am living close to the river and about a 10 minute walk from the Pantheon, and my neighborhood has lots of shops and bars, but it’s relatively quite, and very clean and safe. We are living in a big 5 bedroom apartment to house 13 girls, and although it’s for college students, it’s still very lovely.

Right behind my apartment is a pedestrian road full of places to eat, and it’s honestly some of the best food I have had in Rome so far. I’ve found some of the touristy areas have just decent food that is very overpriced, and the best places to eat are down windy alleyways. While getting cappuccinos with a view of the Pantheon is nice, I’d rather pay €1,20 for my morning cappuccino than €5,00.

In my first few days, I ate at a place called Baghetto Milky, where I had an amazing pistachio and salmon risotto dish. I also had amazing pistachio gelato at a Kosher Gelateria. Theres an American themed hamburger joint near me, which is called Fonzie, and has the Shake Shack logo, and tastes as amazing as Shake Shack, so it has become one of my favorite spots. I also later had some coffee with a friend outside the Pantheon, but again, it was very expensive, and we were pretty much paying for the view.

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Views in my neighborhood

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Touristy Things

One kind of cool thing about Rome is this almost festival/carnival thing set p down by the river. I say only kind of cool because all the food is super expensive and not very good at all, so I definitely do not recommend going down to eat by the river. But the atmosphere is very cool and nice to walk around in.

One day, our groups for the competition came down to Rome, and the Italian students in our group showed us around. We saw the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon (again), checked out some markets and Piazzas, saw a Bernini spiral church, and we almost went to the Colosseum, but we were too tired.

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I wish I had more time to wonder around in Rome, but that is my plan for this weekend. I am already in love with this city and I can’t wait to explore it more!

Villa Adriana and Villa D’este

Ciao! Sorry I haven’t been able to write in a while – we have arrived in Rome, and the next day we got whisked off into a 10 day international architecture student competition, so needless to say I have not had much time to write. On top of that, I haven’t seen much since most of the work for the competition took place in the basement of a hotel in Tivoli.

Our competition took place at Hadrian’s Villa in the town of Tivoli. On the day of the project introduction, we had a tour of the Villa, as well as access for Villa D’este, where the famous Tivoli Gardens (also known as the Lizzie McGuire Gardens) is.

Hadrian was the emperor of the Roman Empire during its peak, and he built a massive villa for himself, which today remains as an extensive site of ruins. Although some of the ruins don’t tell us enough about the villa to fully understand it, some areas have remnants of the marble cladding and the elaborate tile and brick work that tells us what the palace would have looked like, which would have been a marvelous show of white travertine marble. Hadrian was essentially the ruler of the world, at least from his perspective, being the ruler of the largest empire at the time. He is also responsible for the reconstruction of the Pantheon that we see today.

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After Hadrian’s Villa, we went up the mountain to Villa D’este. This was an interesting experience because allegedly one could not enter the place without being a European citizen, so being Americans, we all had to talk in British accents. But even when we would slip and talk normally, we were fine, but it was apparently separate from the rest of Italy. These gardens were absolutely beautiful. The way the gardens were designed were on a hill, so the pathway down is a double scissor path, making little special moments at every turn. This was something we studied in school, but actually seeing it was truly remarkable. The villa also has a huge focus on water, so there were glorious fountains everywhere. This is also the home of the ever famous fountains Lizzie and Paulo ran past together in the Lizzie McGuire Movie, so that was pretty cool.

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After this very long day, we were then taken to another villa that was a hiking trail, but we were so tired, we just sat at the top of the hill and waited for the bus, so I unfortunately do not have many good pictures or much to say about this, although I wish I would have hiked all the way down.

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That’s all I have for my time in Tivoli. While Tivoli had some neat stuff, I’m excited to be back in Rome and spend some time getting to know this city!

Ciao