June 10th, 2012

This weekend in Rome was one of the best weekends I have had so far in Italy.  It started by visiting the Vatican and several other landmarks and ended with a four course dinner and a late night trip to the Trevi Fountain.  The Trevi Fountain was surreal.  It was beautiful and at night it was extremely relaxing with tons of fun people.

Rome definitely made me miss my Poppi though.  Before I left for Italy, I watched the videotapes from when my grandparents visited Italy and saw all the places where they went.  One scene my poppi was videotaping across the street from the Coliseum and I am pretty sure I was standing in the same exact spot 6 years later.  He would’ve loved this trip for me.  I think about how excited he would’ve been to help me practice Italian before my trip; he probably would’ve ended up booking a flight over too! I feel Pop here with me every day and I hope to never lose that feeling.

The next day we woke up and went on several tours of the Coliseum, Roman Forum, Imperial Forum, and the City Hall. It was rainy so it was probably the best day to get all the private tours done.  After the tours we went out on the town as a massive group. It was so many people to keep track of but we were able to stay together for most of the night.  Eventually we split off and met Alfredo, a photographer for Vogue, Brian, an actor doing a movie in Rome, and Luca, who is a designer for Asics shoes. They were tons of fun and showed us a couple different places that were filled with locals and had great food. The club scene is definitely a lot more relaxed than in Florence.  At the club we actually ran into some people we met in Florence the week before which was fun to add some more people to our group.  After a long night we ended it with pastries and headed back to our hotel room.

Today we ditched the tour to go see the Pope say his blessing to the crowd and that was an experience that I will never forget.  People from all over the world showed off their flags with pride as they listened to the Pope bless us in about ten different languages (it was really impressive!).  Next we went to hang out at the Spanish Steps and while we were there we ran into VOGUE doing a photoshoot for their next cover! Today we visited a total of 4 countries: Italy, Spain, France, and the Vatican.  In honor of the thirty year war, the Pope gave ownership of the Spanish Steps to Spain, but at the top it is technically France’s territory which is really cool.  After taking pictures we then went to a park where we rode a four person bicycle – in dresses. It was a mess but we had so much fun and it was a nice break from walking.  Rome was better than I expected and a lot of the people are really kind and funny, it’s definitely going to be hard to leave here so soon! But every good thing eventually comes to an end so now it’s time to head back to Florence to finish writing our papers.

*Pictures coming soon! They won’t upload right now.

Opera & Ballet / Pisa & Lucca

June 7th, 2012

Sorry for not posting these past couple of days, I’ve been extremely busy with midterms!

Two days ago I went to the opera and ballet and saw my first performance in one of the oldest opera houses in Florence. It was beautiful and was about being careful for what you ask for.  I could understand what was going on by the actions, while catching some Italian words here and there. I can’t wait to go to my next one! I also went to hear the Mayor of Florence speak about some issues going on in the city.  He held the conference right in front of the Duomo which was really neat to see.

Yesterday, everyone from USF took the train into Pisa and Lucca.  Lucca is what I imagined when I thought of an Italian town.  It was rich in history with tons of quaint shops.  They have a wall which completely encloses it and is one of only three towns left in Italy that way.  The wall is probably a good 12 feet high and almost 5 feet wide to protect them from cannonball damage back in the day.  Next, Pisa was extremely empty! I can’t believe it houses such a great and distinct Italian landmark when the place looks like a small town you would find on the side of I-75. After taking some pictures we left and were very excited to get back to Florence and go to Ganzo to meet the newbies.  This past week about 100 students arrived to start taking classes and will be here until the end of June too.  The food was great and we met a bunch of new people who are going out to dinner with us tonight.

Random side note, but I’ve been obsessed with the work of Dante Alighieri.  There is a massive statue in Santa Croce and I noticed we have a book full of his poems in our apartment so I started to read them. They are amazing. I love is work and now everyday before I get ready for school, I read one of his poems. It definitely should be something you guys look into!

For tonight, it’s all about packing and Gusta Pizza. Tomorrow we leave for Rome and won’t return until late Sunday. Fingers crossed on seeing the Pope!

must read.

June 3rd, 2012

7 of us went canyoning today which is where we spent the day in the Tuscan countryside jumping off of and sliding down mountains/waterfalls.  We all had helmets on and harnesses to protect us but it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life.  After doing that for 3 hours, we went to this small restaurant that is in a town with a population of 100 people.  They brought out this massive cast iron pan that had fresh pasta and sauce to give us all 2 servings. It was some of the best food I’ve had so far.

If that doesn’t sound good enough our tour guide, Simone, then brought us to a villa rental property which is conveniently located NEXT DOOR to Leonardo Da Vinci’s home. It was amazing. On the property it had these great views with tons of cherry trees which ended up being our snack for the rest of the day.

We came home and ended the night by watching the sunset while eating Hazelnut Gelato with Nutella and waffle cone pieces swirled through it.

p e r f e c t i o n.

girls night out

June 1st, 2012

Best night so far in Italy! About 8 of us ladies made dinner plans to go out to Gusta Pizza, where the kitchen guys made us all heart shaped pizzas and they were so delicious. We sat out by the local church to eat the pizzas and ordered a couple of bottles of wine while we talked with all the locals. Our next stop was to our favorite gelateria which topped off the night.

After that we went out to a local pub called the Lion’s Den which is a college spot out here in Florence and it was packed.  Shortly after, we left to go to a club called Twice where we were able to skip the line and pay no charge to get in.  We were dancing having a great time, then we met professional rugby players who brought us to their table in VIP and paid for everything for the rest of the night.  The club manager brought us out sparklers to dance with and we even got to go by the dj booth and onto the stage. It was amazing and since we were in VIP if anyone was bothering us, the bodyguards would kick them out immediately. It was definitely a night to remember!

dolce vita

May 30th, 2012

I’m exhausted today so I’m going to keep this post short and sweet!

Class was the same as usual but Hiba and I went to go see the real statue of david. It was surreal and massive! The statue is a sign of freedom for Florence and they have a fake one outside where the real one used to be. It was moved indoors when the Romans tried to destroy it. We aren’t allowed to take photos in the museum but I managed to get one from my cell.

I found out why Toscana doesn’t use salt in their breads. They got into a fight with Pisa, their salt supplier, centuries ago so the locals had to make breads without it and it just stuck. Weird, right?

Then Chelsey and I went to a dolce workshop to learn how to make biscotti and a traditional cake from Florence. It was some of the best pastries I’ve had since I got here! Don’t worry guys, I’m bringing the recipes home with me.


May 29th, 2012

So around 8am, an earthquake hit Bologna which is an hour north of us. Florence didn’t get any damage, but I guess 10 people died in it in Bologna.  Some people felt it here in Florence, but I slept through it all. The news stations are saying to expect more, but we all know what to do if one happens closer to us.

On a side note, we went to an Italian family business in my class today.  The two brothers run a menswear shop and have for 60 years but they are currently selling it. I guess my professor spoke to the older brother, but it was the younger brother who greeted us at the store.  He was CRAZY. He sang to us. He proposed to all the girls. He feel to the floor and crawled after a girl. And lastly, he would not talk about the business at all. The funny part was that he gave us a demo tape like we were a record company or something! haha

Tonight we ended by going to Taco Tuesday with all our friends. Most of us stayed in since there were protests in the streets about bars having to close by 10pm. Its insane here but so much fun!

sweet summertime

May 28th, 2012

My roommate Hiba and I were on the search for the perfect tanning spot which we found conveniently located in the Arno River.  Many locals seem to use the river dam as the their own beach which made for a relaxing Monday afternoon.  After that it was homework and laundry all day long!

Lastly, since I was here I became Financial Officer of the organization, Wishmakers at USF which works with Make-A-Wish Foundation, Autism Speaks U – at USF added ten new members, and I was offered an internship with Nielsen Company to work in their Global Trade department with buying and selling international businesses. OH. And I am officially a Senior in college – YIKES!

Here are a few top things for me in Florence:

  • Best gelateria: La Carreria which is located on the other side of the Arno and is very cheap with around 25 flavors to choose from.
  • Best gelato flavor: fondente (dark chocolate) or ananas (Pineapple)
  • Best pizzeria: Gusto Pizza. 5 euros for a whole pizza and it is simply the best.
  • Best view of Florence: Michelangelo Piazza – it’s beautiful.
  • Best market: San Ambrosio (highly debatable!) small, but cheaper than San Lorenzo
  • Best supermarket: Billa. Clean, friendly but don’t ask the baker for anything in English. She only speaks Italian and becomes frustrated when you can’t understand. Oh and they play Shania Twain there – ‘nough said!
  • Best place to get pasta: Yellow Bar or O.K Bar. YUM!
  • Must do: Shop on the Ponte Vecchio, go to a secret bakery, see the statue of David and the Gucci museum and rub the lucky pig statue for good luck!

Family Dinner

May 27th, 2012

Megan and I spent the day getting the apartment cleaned and preparing for dinner tonight.  We went out to the garden and picked flowers for the table and then we found some figs and other fruit growing in our garden so we made a fruit salad for lunch.  After that, we went to this market that only happens on the last Sunday of every month and it was full of antiques.  Most of it was flea market stuff but the two things that Megan and I really liked turned out to cost over 1000 euros. Hahaha we couldn’t believe it because everything else was around 5-10 euros.

Our family dinner was of course eventful as always. There were about 12 people who came over to the apartment and our menu consisted of salad, bruschetta, risotto, veggies, pasta, and stuffed chicken – it was very tasty! We had flowers and candles set up on the table and all the food looked great but the company was even better.   After taking tons of pictures and cooking all night we finally sat down to eat where Crystal nonchalantly said, “Hey guys, I think something’s on fire.” At that point we turn around to see this massive flame and one of the tea lights managed to ignite the entire bowl of salad on fire! We quickly ran over and threw a pitcher of water on it to find a massive hole burned through our salad bowl.  We burst out laughing when the chaos was over and blew out all the other tea lights before we had any more accidents!

The dinner party somehow ended with Nate, Jessica and I standing on the table and doing a full out karaoke performance to Lady Marmalade, while Nate was wearing a sombrero we randomly found in our kitchen cabinets today. These people crack me up.  Everyone went home for now, but tonight we are going to the secret bakery to end this perfect day.

last day in Venice

May 26th, 2012

After having 4 cups of coffee with my lovely roommate, Megan, we left the hotel to head to Murano Island where handmade glass is created.  We started with a demonstration on glass blowing techniques and then for the finale he made a glass horse which is the signature piece they make there. I then shopped for a bit and headed off to explore the very tiny island!

We were running late as a group so after only an hour we had to leave to go back to Venice. The first thing we did was go on a gondola ride with all the ladies! We had so much fun and even our guide knew about Tampa Bay and our football team, the Bucs. It was about a forty minute ride and during the ride we came across another group that hired a singer to join their gondola. He had an amazing voice! After that we explored, shopped, and one of the best moments was when I stepped into the Gulf of Venice/Adriatic Sea. It was so cold and kinda thick but it was one of the most exciting moments! At a certain area the gulf becomes the sea, so I am not sure which part I was technically in – but either way, I loved it. Now, I’m back home in Florence after a very long 3 hour bus ride. Tomorrow most of the roommates are going to Cinque Terra, but Megan and I are staying to catch up with our homework and to host a dinner party for our friends.


Next Atlantis?

May 25th, 2012

Once we arrived to Venice, we went off exploring and touring all of the main areas of the island.  Venice has over 400 bridges and there are people boating everywhere and even crab fishing which made me miss my brothers so much. You boys would love it here; I can already see you all in the gondola outfits! Every place we go to just gets better and better.  It’s crazy to think that every year the town sinks and in years from now, the town will be underwater.  It has been a privilege to see it and overall it is a beautiful city and the people are very sweet here.   I wish we could stay longer!

The things I love the most about the city are all the different areas and stores it has to offer.  Practically anywhere you go, you have a water front view and it is amazing to think they built the town literally in mud and it has been able to stand its’ ground for all these years. The food is very expensive, but the other items have been fairly cheap and of course one of a kind.

Our hotel isn’t in Venice which is kinda disappointing, but the hotel has a working tv, hot water WITH water pressure, and even a rooftop pool area… ahhh how I miss those luxuries daily.  After our 4 course meal it is time for bed since we all have an early start tomorrow.