I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! Thanksgiving is in fact just an American holiday, so it wasn’t necessarily a holiday weekend over here. Well I promised I’d try to get this post out while it was still fresh in my mind, so what a coincidence that my plane got delayed an hour on the Tarmac and I had plenty of time to jot some things down.
Some of you may remember that my best friend Alaina is studying in Florence this semester, we met up at Oktoberfest in September but haven’t been able to coincide any trips since. I figured there was no better way to spend my Thanksgiving than in Italy, at least I would still satisfy the over eating that comes with the holiday. Her family and our best friend Jenni flew in from MA for the week, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to spend time with my favorite people. And Thanksgiving is meant to be spent with people your thankful for 😌
So I arrived in Italy early Tuesday afternoon, and despite coming far too close to missing my train from Bologna, I got to Florence by about 2. Our afternoon was not spent in Florence, but instead touring wineries in the Chianti region of Tuscany. We visited two different wineries where we sampled cheese, salami, breads with truffle oil and aged balsamic paired with different red wines. Funny enough, I have suddenly acquired a taste for red wine, but maybe that was just because Italy. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I enjoyed more, the wine or the company.
On Wednesday we slept in and spent the afternoon exploring Florence. Alaina had class in the evening so Jenni and I took that time to have our first gelato experience, so that was exceptional in itself. After class, Jenni and I met Alaina at a bistro near her apartment for appertivo. Appertivo is what I would equate to Spanish tapas, I guess. It’s a buffet of small plates that you help yourself too. Like happy hour. Happy hour involves drinks, and in Italy they drink spritz. Still not exactly sure what’s in a spritz but I had one every day I was there, so I would say they get my stamp of approval.
My friend Sam is also studying in Florence. I was lucky enough to cross paths with him in Amsterdam, but I got to see him again in his city. His apartment literally looks out at the Duomo, a church in the heart of Firenze, so we met up with him on Wednesday night and drank some wine. Good times with old friends in a beautiful new city. What a life.
Turkey Day, sans Turkey…We woke up early Thursday morning, almost missed our train but still managed to get to Venice by 11 AM. Venice is literally a city plopped in the middle of the Mediterranean, it’s all these old Italian buildings and squares separated by canals that all dump out into the sea. There aren’t really streets in Venice, there are canals and alleys.
As soon as we got off the train at St. Lucia, we got on a water taxi to head to the island of Murano. Murano is famous for its glass blowing. We watched this man turn a burning blob into a beautifully intricate vase, of fierce oranges that would become blue by the time they cooled. It was the coolest thing to watch, and crazy how simple they make it seem when it clearly is an art that needs to be mastered. After watching a demonstration we got to walk through a gallery of chandeliers, china, statues, jewelry made of Murano glass. It was only a matter of 5 minutes before we all got anxious that we were going to break something and have to foot the very high bill. Think Chandeliers at like 18,000 euro. Also no pics were allowed.
After leaving the glass blowing factory, we found a little restaurant to get a Thanksgiving day lunch. We figured it was good, cuz it had 4 stars on Trip Advisor. If there is one thing I have taken away from my travels, it is that Trip Advisor is everything to small businesses in the EU. We enjoyed yummy salads and pizza and soups with mimosas made with fresh squeezed OJ. It may not have been turkey and mashed potatoes but cha girl is not complaining.
After lunch we headed back to the center of Venice, to Piazza San Marco (or Saint Mark’s Square). We spent the afternoon shopping around the little shops. I spent a lot of time desperately searching for a specific style bracelet made of Murano glass that I wanted. I had received it as a gift about three years ago, and I wore it everyday until it broke this past summer. Unfortunately they don’t seem to exist anymore. I looked literally all afternoon and was SOL. Instead I found some earrings, and I like them just as well 🙂
Venice is a beautiful city, a lot of the streets look so similar that it is extremely easy to get lost in. Which is exactly what happened to us as we tried to make our way from Piazza San Marco back towards St. Lucia train station. We spent an hour getting lost in alley ways, but the best way to see a city is on foot and I do feel as if I did a good amount of exploring in Venice. I’ve told myself a lot throughout the last three months that it’s all about the experience, but its more than that, its about what you make of the experience. You’ve got to just be positive and it will be positive. Like making a wrong turn, ending up in a market, and stopping for some mulled wine, made getting lost a positive experience 🙂
We found a restaurant to get some drinks and apps to pick at before heading back to Firenze. Thanksgiving came and went so quickly that it didn’t really even feel like it ever happened. But it did, and I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving I took a Gondola ride through Venice with my best friends while we sang “That’s Amore.”
Roma. Florence, Venice, and Rome were the three cities I had wanted to see while in Italy. I thought about going to Rome on the front end of my trip, but in light of everything that’s been going on recently and all of the solo traveling I have been doing I decided it was best to just spend my time with my friends while I could. I’m young, I can go back to Italy. We decided on Thursday, however, that Friday would be the perfect day to visit Rome. We would leave early in the morning, hit a few major stops, and get back to Florence by evening. I was so happy I was checking the last place off my list.
So we got to Rome around 10 AM on Friday morning and headed right to our first stop, the Colosseum. Then we headed back in the direction we came, to find an Internet Cafe to print our tickets cuz an email just wasn’t enough. Always read the fine print my friends!
Minor delays are no biggie, and we entered the Colosseum soon enough. I was singing “This is What Dreams are Made Of” in my head the entire time. If you go to the Colosseum and don’t think about The Lizzie McGuire Movie…well then you probably weren’t born in the 90’s! (In the light of writing this I decided I really want to watch that movie now…so I just added that to my list on Netflix…and now you know what I’ll be doing tonight.)
Anyway, the Colosseum was very large and, in my opinion, very beautiful. The coolest thing I found about Rome, was that there are all these ancient structures plopped down right in the middle of a modern and lively city. People visit Rome to experience its very famous history, that’s what I liked about it. It is currently influential because of what occurred there thousands of years ago…#swag. And speaking of thousands of years ago, after leaving the Colosseum we went to the Roman Forum. Same spiel as previously stated: old but cool.
Our last destination in Rome was the Trevi Fountain. Many of you may not know this, but the Trevi Fountain was under construction this fall. I was really sad when I thought I wasn’t going to get to see it in all its glory, but it reopened last month, so yay! We got to go and we all made a wish, because WHEN IN ROME. I’m not going to tell you what my wish was, otherwise it won’t come true, but I promise I’ll let you know if it does.
After leaving the Trevi Fountain we headed back to the train station to go back to Firenze. Our trip to Rome was short and simple, but we got in and saw almost everything we wanted too, and got out without getting pick pocketed. I have been hearing a lot of mixed things (a lot of them more negative than positive) about Rome recently, but I was pleasantly surprised with it. I thought the city was beautiful, there is so much held within it. I’m so happy I got the chance to visit such a famous city. The only thing I didn’t get to do was go to the Vatican, which I really would have loved. I missed Papa Francesco in my city and then didn’t get the chance to see him in his. I’ll be back to the Vatican some day. Seeing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is something that needs to be checked off my bucket list. I love checking things off lists.
Well we had some shopping to do when we got back to Firenze and it had totally slipped our mind that it was Black Friday. Thanksgiving may not be a thing outside of the US but due to consumerism, Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) are pretty universal concepts. Jenni had to come home with Italy with some Christmas presents for herself and I was more than happy to tag along for the experience. Black Friday in Florence. Something to say you’ve done, right?
After some pretty successful purchases we headed to what I was most excited for in Florence: Gusto Pizza. They’ve been on @foodintheair, so you know it’s real. They make their pizza’s shaped like hearts, and they’re BOMB. On our way to Gusto, we had to cross the river and in the process I encountered the Ponte Vecchio for the first time. I had seen pictures of this bridge, on like Google Images and Dell Desktop Backgrounds, but was totally taken a back to look to my left and see it in real life. It is so nonchalant to travel throughout Europe, sometimes you don’t realize how cool it is to be where you are. I had one of those moments when I saw the Ponte Vecchio, I was like wow I’m actually in Italy right now.
After Gusto Pizza, (which I hearted, get it?) we decided it was time for some gelato. Wow I would be fat if I lived in Italy, the gelato was just so damn good and I never felt guilty about it.
We just chilled Friday night, there was packing to do. I was just happy to have girl time, that’s one of the things I’ve missed most since being abroad. I have such amazing friends that I left behind for the last four months, and I have been aware of how much I missed them, but not of what I was missing. I literally talked so much this weekend, cuz I just forgot what it was like to have someone there all the time to talk to if you want too. Thanks Jen for just letting me talk and getting that I needed to :’) Glad we had to share a twin bed on your last night in Italy.
The first thing I did on Saturday was burn my hand really bad on coffee. I’m sitting here typing this and it looks like I have a some sort of rash/infection on my right hand. The burn came with the sad realization that I may know how to do a lot of things in a kitchen, but I have no idea how to work a coffee pot. #KeurigGeneration
After my incident, Laine, Jenni ,and I headed to Mama’s Bakery for famous bagels and American coffee. #Blessed. Then it was time to say bye to the O’Malleys and Jenni before they headed to the airport. The week FLEW by, and I was only there for half the time they were. It was v sad to say bye to them, but crazy to think we’ll be home in just a few short weeks anyway. Thanks Paul and Kelly for taking me in as your fourth daughter this weekend 🙂
After we sent them off, Alaina and I figured we might as well check the Duomo off our list of things to do. If your my friend on snapchat you know that I climbed A LOT of stairs in Florence, but I think the Duomo takes the cake. So many stairs and they were so steep. Well, at least I started my day with a workout, and the view was great. I guess I can’t really complain…and it allowed me to justify my calorie intake.
After leaving the Duomo and getting ready for the day, we headed out for the main event of the day: shopping. Surprising enough, in all my travels shopping is one thing I really have not done at all. But if you’re gonna find the time to shop, it should be in Italy. After a lot of searching, I found a few perfect Christmas presents and a new purse that was exactly what I had been looking for. I also came back to London with a list of all the things I decided I need to buy here before coming home. And on that note…if anyone is looking to employ someone for the holidays, I’m your girl.
After we spent our day shopping, we went up to the Piazzale Michaelangelo to watch the sunset. This area of Florence is always busy with people because of the beautiful views of the city that it offers. I watched the sunset in over Firezne with my best friend while we shared a bottle of red and a famous Pino’s panini, it was an ideal afternoon to say the least.
We made reservations at ZaZa Trattoria on Saturday evening, as it had been highly recommended to Alaina by a lot of people. Little did we know that we would be in for one of the best culinary experience of our lives. We showed up a half hour late for our 7 PM reservation and they still managed to have a table for us, so I guess that was a good omen. We drank spritz and went halfsies on the truffle oil raviolis and gnocchi in tomato sauce with basil. It was literally unreal, definitely my best meal all week and I kid you not probably the best Italian food I’ve ever had. Well I was in Italy so that makes sense I guess lol. I am happy to say that I didn’t have one bad meal all week #NoRagrets
I still needed something sweet on my last night, even though I was so full from dinner. We tried and failed to find some good cannoli’s, so instead we went to Venchi and splurged on chocolate crepes. I’m not sure if I was still on a high from how good my dinner was, but I followed one of the best meals of my life with one of the best crepes of my life. And I’ve had a lot of crepes since arriving on this side of the pond. I’ll probably spend years to come thinking about this meal.
Exhausted from a busy week, Alaina and I went home in the state of a food coma on Saturday night, and both ended up falling asleep without setting alarms resulting in me missing my train to the airport Sunday morning. I guess I was bound to miss at least one train last week. Luckily they run every 15 minutes on Sundays.
It all worked out fine, I made it back to the UK in pants that are far tighter than they were 5 days ago with the bittersweet feeling of realizing that the next time I’m on a plane, it will be Boston bound. I also got back to my dorm last night and did what I’ve been waiting six months to do. Every place on my European Bucket list has been checked off. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Thanks to my best friend for a great week, even if you wanted to kill me at least once a day. Firenze did make my top three, but I think that was all thanks to you! I feel like I ate, drank, shopped, and saw everything the right way, I think you’re officially a local Laine. Can’t wait to cuddle w you in Cmass soon :’)
It’s weird to think that this past week was Thanksgiving. It didn’t feel like Thanksgiving in a lot of ways, but in others it did. I came back to school feeling like I over ate all week, it was just gelato instead of pumpkin pie and truffle oil instead of gravy. No leftovers survived though 😦 I also came back to school with the same feeling I do every year, with the reality that Christmas is in a month and yet another semester is almost over. The weirdest thing about this time is, that when I go home for Christmas I won’t be coming back to London.
I was grateful for all of the train rides this weekend. It’s been about a month since I’ve done some traveling and I realized that I’ve done some of my best thinking when I’m in transit from one place to another. No data or wifi, just music and my mind to keep me occupied and reflect on where I’ve been and what it meant to me. I even brain stormed some future posts for ya 😉
So all of that being said I have 20 days to check quite a few things off my list. I will do my best to post as much as possible in that time frame so bear with me. Regardless there’s still lots more to come, it’s crunch time. My adventure is not over yet so stay tuned. Cheers 🙂