Just a few Juliets in Verona

IMG_8585fullsizeoutput_5a4I really have some awesome girlfriends here in Innsbruck. They planned a surprise bachelorette get-away for me months in advanced. Only when we were driving in the car did I learn where we were going – to Verona! The hometown of Romeo’s Juliet! What American girl gets to go to Italy for her bachelorette trip?? So special! IMG_5099We had an excellent Air BNB right outside of the colosseum. We wandered a bit and of course had to stop by Juliet’s famous balcony. Though we didn’t write any love letters ourselves, we read some of the notes that other visitors had left for Juliet. We had a delicious lunch in a charming outdoor café with a canopy of vines to provide shade. We then stopped for some Aperol spritzes at cozy bar along the Adige River that runs through the city.


Just a trip to Verona was not all these girls had planned. They were taking me to a Lumineers concert in a castle! It was a great show and in such a cool place. Everyone was singing along and went crazy when they started “Ho Hey”. I think I still have “Ophelia” in my head! The girls even got me a sparkly “bride to be crown” to wear! And then after the concert, we did what would be unthinkable in Innsbruck. We went to a café after midnight and ordered pizzas (and more Aperols)!

IMG_7173After an amazing day in Verona, the girls had even more surprises in store for me. We drove to Lake Garda. We stopped at a town that the girls had visited before, Lazise. It was so cute walking through the tiny streets and out onto the lake front. We dipped our toes in the water and giggled as we tried to shake the sand off when it came time to put our shoes back on. IMG_3271We ate a late morning snack (Aperol spritzes and a fruit platter) at a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the lake. We spent the afternoon driving along the lake shore and stopped at Riva at the top of the lake for one last gelato.

It really was a very special trip that I won’t soon forget!

Polaroids taken by Selina!


On our way back to Innsbruck from Venice, we stopped in a beautiful small city, Bolzano. Their history includes some time as a part of Austria so many of the people still speak German. Our bellies were rumbling so our first stop in Bolzano (called Bozen by the German speakers) was to the Stadt Caffe Città. We sat outside and watched those strolling through the main piazza which happened to be hosting a festival of flowers. We got a couple glasses of chilled white wine and ordered some tasty bruschetta – we were not ready to say goodbye to the fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. After lunch we participated in one of the Italians’ favorite activities – passeggiata or strolling. We walked through the town, enjoying the mixture of Italian and Austrian cultures. On our way to the car, we decided to take some Italy back with us. We bought a few bottles of wine and even a couple basil plants.

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Venice has a few other islands that are just a short boat ride away. Reini and I hopped on the water bus and made our way over to the glassmakers’ island, Murano. The story is that the glassmakers were all banished to Murano in the 1200s because their craft was feared to burn down Venice’s wooden buildings. Now this island is jam packed with glass making and glass selling shops. Artists have huge creations in their windows and sparkling glass chandeliers hanging from their ceilings. There’s even a cool display in the middle of one of their courtyards. Most of the pieces were way out of our price range, but I ended up buying a picture frame and Reini bought a coveted glass egg. We mostly just enjoyed the magnificent window shopping offered on this special little island.


IMG_3279Many of the people living in the Tyrolean Alps don’t feel the need to travel far away. Their hometowns are so beautiful they tend to stick close by. With his four hour drive Reinhard was the first of his family and friends to visit Venice. I had only been once before, so I was eager to give it another try. Reini drove almost all the way to Venice, stopping to park and hop on the train in the town just before the island. Thankfully I picked a hotel fairly close to the train station so weren’t lugging our suitcases too far. We weren’t amused when the men selling the “selfie sticks” tried to get us to make a purchase as we carried the bags over the bridges. The weather was fine – no rain and a little sun. We loved wandering through the narrow streets when nighttime came and cruising on the water bus during the day.

IMAG0783We ended up picking a couple of great restaurants. I made Reini stop for gelato at Grom (it reminded me of many nights in Florence) and the Magnum shop. We dined the first night at Muro Frari. I had the most delicious gnocchi and Reini enjoyed a pasta dish that had some assorted fishy things in it. The second night we ate dinner at the Impronta Cafe. We shared a tasty caprese salad with the freshest mozzarella. But what really stole the show was the panna cotta that we ordered for dessert – so decadent! I could have used seconds! We always had great house wines and even stopped off at an enoteca and enjoyed a small carafe of wine outside. You have to be careful in Venice – there are lots of awful places to eat that solely target tourists. But there are also many absolutely special places, too! It just takes some research ahead of time!


The End

After a very long Wednesday of travelling, I am now back home in good ol’ Marietta. I miraculously did not get charged for overweight bags, and they both arrived at my destination this time. I call that success!

It’s nice being home, but I am missing parts of the European life. Though my Italian escapades are over, this blog will hopefully get used again for a future adventure abroad.

Thanks for reading!

Tying up loose ends

Artisan adding initials

So little time and so much to do! I feel like I’ve had to cram a week’s worth of events into this very abbreviated week. Sunday I finished up some essays and did my last bit of grocery shopping. Yesterday was really exciting. I went to the Leather School to pick up a couple things a friend asked for. The Leather School is really cool. Florence is known for its leather work, so of course there would be a school here just to teach the artisans. This school is really old, though, and is literally attached to the old Santa Croce church. While I was waiting, I read that it has its origins as a school for orphans. Now it attracts aspiring leather artisans from around the world! The school, of course, has a big showroom where you can buy pieces of their work. My friend went to Florence when I was there also in January, and she had already been to the Leather School so she knew just what she wanted and asked to have initials put on them.

Piccolo door

On my walk over to the Leather School, I passed this very special door, made just for my favorite Italian family – the Piccolos!

Neptune water dispenser

On the way back, I stopped at the public filtered water dispenser. This this is even better than the fresh milk vending machine because it’s free! Florentines will bring empty water containers and fill them up with clean, cold water – either still (naturale) or bubbly (frizzante). I think it’s fitting how it’s right next to a big neptune fountain.

A little later I went to my last public speaking class. We just had to turn in our essays (low on ink, mine was printed with pink words). Then we went back to Piazza della Signoria and talked about good old Savonarola and had a big group hug before our professor got a little emotional and left. I guess we’re not the only ones who are sad about leaving! After that, I headed back to the Leather School (to pick up a little something for one of my family members).

My friend Amra and I with our politics professor at dinner

Monday night was wonderful! We had a great big farewell dinner with everyone in our program and all of our professors. We went to Il Gatto e la Volpe and had a great big family-style feast! They brought out a huge antipasto platter consisting of mozzarella, turkey, prosciutto, salami, zucchini, tomatoes, and roasted red peppers. I’m sure you can guess that my favorite part was the mozzarella! But oh my goodness, the turkey was also a show stealer. Yum! Then we got 3 different pasta dishes. First out was a risotto with spinach and chicken. Cheese was melted all throughout. Second was spinach tortellini filled with ricotta and topped with a truffle sauce. Last was penne alla vodka. All-around deliciousness paired with, of course, red Chianti. We then got to mingle and take pictures with all of our friends and professors as we said our goodbyes. It was a great way to conclude a wonderful semester of classes.

My last Florentine sunset

Today I did some heavy duty packing. I started yesterday, but mostly did everything today. I was so worried I’d have to buy a third bag to check, but by the grace of God, I think I can skirt by without it. Then we had our apartment “inspections” which consisted of our landlord coming by, asking us if anything was broken, and telling us to leave our keys on the table when we leave. Right after, we headed up to Piazza Michelangelo to watch the sunset. It’s already been a lovely week.

Now I’m preparing for the early morning and crazy day that will be tomorrow. I am not looking forward to my alarm going off at 4 am, but I am super excited to get to be home for Thanksgiving!


City with Liquid Streets – Venice

Our water taxi

Yesterday I went on my last trip of the semester. One of the assigned readings for my public speaking class was the book Vidal in Venice. When it arrived in the mail over the summer, I busily flipped through, reading about the history of Venice and looking at the accompanying photographs. It made me really want to visit. We were supposed to go via a subsidized class trip, but that totally fell through. Instead, I went through a student tour group. It was the same one I had used in the past – not that great, but the price made it the way to go.

Cruising the Grand Canal
Fish Market (scene from The Tourist)

So two of my roommates and I went to meet our group (including 7 other Elon students) at the train station early in the morning. We took a modern bus over to Venice, stopping in the town of Dolo to catch the train to the island. We hopped off the train and onto water taxis to take us down the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco. Our big group had to be divided into smaller groups to fit onto the taxis. We had enough Elon kids so that we could have our own boat. We had a great time and took a lot of pictures on our Grand Canal cruise.

Piazza San Marco

When we arrived in Piazza San Marco, we walked over to a Murano glass blowing demonstration. We saw a man make an elaborate vase. Then he broke it into a trashcan. That was kind of sad. Then we were given free time to eat lunch and do some shopping. A couple of friends and I walked through the narrow streets and shopped. Little odds and ends crafted in Venetian glass filled the little stores. Then we stopped for some lunch. We went to an ultra touristy place (which you shouldn’t do) and ended up paying way too much for a mediocre pizza. Oh well. It was really cold outside, and the restaurant gave us a nice, warm place to sit for a while.

Street fair thing
Nutella sandwich

Then we joined back up with our group for a walking tour. We walked all through the beautiful island, over river bridges, along the water, through alleys. We ended up getting to a street filled with food venders. There were men stuffing cannoli, frying bread, and candying strawberries. I ended up with a fried bread thing filled with an inch thick of Nutella and rolled around in sugar. Whoa buddy. The Venetians know how to do sweets!

Casanova's house

We wandered more through the city, we were supposed to take gondolas back to the train station, but we either got lost or the dock was broken? I don’t know. Either way, we didn’t ride gondolas. But we did instead get to see Casanova’s house and spent some time on the Rialto Bridge (Venice’s equivalent of the Ponte Vecchio).

Foggy day

By then we were all freezing and tired, hopped on the train back to Dolo and then the bus back to Florence. Venice was super beautiful and an extremely unique place. Too bad we caught it on a really foggy day – my camera was struggling a bit.

Also – there’s a new page at the top with descriptions of my most memorable places in Florence.


Liquid Streets

Coming to a close

This has been the most odd finals week yet. During this point in the semester, I normally check out 15+ books from the library and stress eat ice cream as I work to finish essays and study for final exams. This week has been much less taxing.

I worked on a group video project for my Italian class. It involved a search to find a giant squirrel (our teacher dressed up), love lessons, and the top places for “planking” in Florence. During our night of compiling our footage, we picked up pizzas from Gusta Pizza (I had the most delicious spinach, ricotta, and mozzarella creation ever) and sipped a bottle of prosecco (because we’re all about class here). Yesterday evening we had a big premier of all the videos done by Elon’s 2 beginner Italian classes. It was a really fun way to culminate the semester.

I’m done with my three written finals (Italian language, politics, and history). The language was, of course, the easiest. The other two involved me writing about both the European Union and Berlusconi. Both are an interesting part of Italy’s past and present.

Mercato Centrale

In the middle of all that studying I, to my father’s dismay, have done some more shopping! Let’s just say I battled the San Lorenzo leather market and came out victorious.

I also picked some super special (and delicious) gifts at the Mercato Centrale.

Instead of stress eating ice cream, I enjoyed pear and extra dark chocolate gelato from Grom for lunch, and then picked up a chocolate dusted cappuccino from the school’s coffee vending machine. For only 60 cents, that thing is pretty great. For dinner, I continued the chocolate theme and went to Neri to pick up caramella mou gelato, topped with chocolate mousse. (Side note, if I don’t develop diabetes or lactose intolerance from this trip, I deem my body indestructible.)

I was hoping to finance some of this by selling my books to the English bookstore here in Florence. They took quite a few of them and offered me a fairly good price, but it was only in store credit. So, I exchanged 6 books for one Italian cookbook. Oh well, less weight to bring back in my suitcases!