Tuesday, October 21, 2008

firenze con la mia amica jen!

Still on "catch-up"mode...

Two weekends ago (the same weekend as the Pisa and Lucca trip), Jen came to visit me! She flew into Rome and spent the night there Friday night, and came to Florence Saturday night. We had SO MUCH fun together! It was so great having one of my friends from home here, especially because I have been missing them A LOT. 

So I basically just showed her around Florence and we had lovely dinner dates every night in which we would share various entrees, salad, bruschetta, tiramisu, and of course a bottle of wine! Our favorite meal was at Yellow Bar. Jen got a pasta dish with yellow and green linguine, tomato cream sauce, mushrooms, and ham. I tried a bite of it and it was delicious. I got a calzone (my first one in Italy!) with gorgonzola, mozzarella, and ham. SOOO GOOD. AND of course we shared bruschetta, an arugula and shaved parmesan salad, and a nice bottle of chianti. Everything was amazing!

Il Porcellino!

We took a lovely half-day trip to Greve in Chianti, which is a little town in the hills of Tuscany. After a breathtaking bus ride and confustion about where to get off, we absolutely fell in love with Greve. It had awesome views of the surrounding wineries and olive groves, cute little houses, beautiful foliage, and of course, plenty of wine!

Wine tasting in Greve

So... we basically want to live in Greve! We also went to Panzano, which was about 15 minutes from Greve, when Danielle came to visit. Panzano was great because we went to a gorgeous family-owned and run winery that had delicious wine and wonderful views: 

View from Le Fonti Winery

Then on Friday, we took the train to Rome to hang out with a few different friends. I saw the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's for the second time, and we also went to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.... Roman icons! I didn't feel like I needed to go to the Colosseum again, so Jen and Danielle did that after I left and before they went to Paris.

I was so glad I could have a good friend come visit me, especially after the emotionally trying time the previous few weeks. In late November, I am lucky that two more friends are visiting me! Well, they are also lucky ones to be coming to Italy! 

Next up: Venice!


Friday, October 17, 2008

the leaning tower of pizza

So that's really what I used to think it was called... 

My school program took us on a trip to Pisa and Lucca for the day. After confusion about where we were supposed to meet for the bus (totally my fault), we finally got on the bus and drove almost 2 hours to Pisa. Before taking a tour, we had to fuel up with a cappuccino... of course! The cathedral was beautiful and so was the cemetery, but the main reason for going there is to take a picture with the Leaning Tower:

Doing my part to help!

Honestly, Pisa was okay, but there isn't much to it besides the tower and the cathedral. We didn't go up the tower due to time constraints,  though my claustrophobia definitely wouldn't have allowed me to go up anyway. 

From Pisa, we went to Lucca, which was a very cute town that is famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls. One of my roommates and I got lunch at this well-known restaurant called Buca di Sant'Antonio that has existed since 1782. We got a little adventurous with our meal choices: I got braised wild boar (very common in Tuscany) with polenta and my roommate got lamb chops with fried vegetables. The meal was very rich, so I was pretty much full for the rest of the day. After lunch, we walked around and saw a lot of the city. There was a bike tour around the city walls, but we decided to skip out on that because we didn't have very much energy that day. Instead, we ate more! We went to a lovely chocolate place with some of the best chocolate I have ever had in my life (sorry, Ghirardelli). There were also bakeries on every corner! Everything looked so delicious, but I had to regulate myself. 

Mmmm... baked goods in Lucca!

We also went on a walking tour where we went inside a few of the churches. They were definitely not as grand as the ones in Firenze or Roma, but they were still beautiful. It was also fun to look in all of the shops around town, because some of them were a bit different from the ones in Firenze, and it looked like the prices were cheaper, too! Once again, I restrained myself... I try to save money for trips rather than spending it on things... I have enough crap here and at home!

UGH the blogger things SUCKS at uploading pictures EVERY TIME. So I guess two per entry is all I get.

Coming soon: Jen's trip to Europe!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

le bellissime cinque terre

To continue on with my catch-up blogging, this post is about my trip to Cinque Terre, or "Five Lands," which was a few weekends ago. Cinque Terre is in the region of Ligura and it consists of five fishing villages on the coast: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. My roommates and I went with a tour group called Florence for Fun and we took a 3-hour train ride to Cinque Terre with a bunch of other young people form various programs in Florence. There must have been a faster train there, but I think they wanted o give us the cheapest option. Anyway, once we finally arrived we began our hike through the utterly gorgeous fishing towns. 

We followed the Via dell'Amore or "Lover's Path" from Riomaggiore to Manarola. It was originally built during the expansion of the railway lines in the 1920s and it earned its name when a journalist writing for an Italian newspaper came across a sign left by young lovers while following the path. The path was basically carved out of the hills, so the drop to the ocean from the path was a bit frightening, but the beautiful views made it worth it! The vegetation and the blueness of the water made some of the views look exactly like Hawaii... it was so crazy. I can't believe that two VERY different places could look so similar if you photographed it a certain way. 

Next, we hiked from Manarola to Corniglia and the hike got a just a bit more strenuous... we had to walk up a staircase that looked like Lombard Street in San Francisco that was 365 steps! It was tough, but we made it. 

View of Manarola

Our tour guide told us that the houses in these fishing villages are different colors so that when the fishermen are out at sea, they can look back at their houses and be able to pick out which one is theirs so that they can think about their families at home. 

The hike from Corniglia to Vernazza was much more strenuous... I felt like I was in Yosemite doing those hikes! Somehow my roommates and I ended up in the "fast" group, but that actually turned out to be better because we had more time to spend in Vernazza, which was my favorite city. Vernazza had a very intricate layout because it has caruggi or narrow lanes and steep stairways. 

View of Vernazza

By the time we got here we were STARVING because it was around 3pm and the last time I had eaten was an apple on the train at 11:30am. Plus we had been hiking, which makes me even hungrier! I definitely earned that meal! Cinque Terre is in the region of Liguria which is also the region that Genoa is in. Pesto originated in Genoa, so basically anywhere near that has amazing pesto. The four of us got a nice cold beer and my roommate GiGi and I shared a seafood pizza and trofie with pesto. Trofie is a short pasta that is made by rolling the pasta dough in your hand for a couple seconds and then dropping it. It was SO GOOD... hands down the best pesto I have ever had. The area must grow the best-tasting pine nuts and basil for the pesto to be so amazing...

Next, we took a ferry from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare because the hike was supposed to be even more challenging. We didn't get to spend too much time there before catching the train back to Florence, but it was very beautiful. One day, I would love to go back and spend a couple days there and stay in a cute little bed and breakfast that overlooks the beauty of the sea. 

My next post will be about Pisa and Lucca.


Thursday, October 9, 2008


It's been quite a while since I updated last... mostly because I have been super busy. I have actually had some homework to do for my classes (shocking... I know) including two presentations and a paper. I have also been very busy on the weekends. Three weekends ago, I went to Bologna and Cinque Terre...AMAZING... I will talk about Bologna in this post. The next weekend, I went to Vinci for my daVinci class on Friday and on Saturday I went to Pisa and Lucca with my program... then Jen came to visit me and we went to Rome! Anyway, I will break up the trips in a few posts so it is not overwhelming for me to write or for you to read. 

So, to start with Bologna. First of all, our number one reason for going was the food. I had heard this before and we also learned it in our food and wine class that ragu/bolognese sauce, tortellini, ravioli, lasagne, and basically all the best pastas originated in Bologna. We were definitely eager to try these delicious dishes. Plus, it is only an hour away by train from Firenze, so it was a place that was easy for us to check out. 

We got there around 10:30am and basically walked around for a while until we were very very hungry for lunch. Once again (like in Munich), we did not bring a map because we are hard core travelers and we just know how to get places... haha.  I really liked the architecture and all the streets were lined with covered walkways, or portici, which were great because there was a chance of rain so we would have been saved by them. I wish that Firenze had the portici because once it starts raining, it's going to suck to have to walk everywhere! We went into the church of San Petronio, which I thought was soo beautiful inside! It was much larger than I was expecting, but I liked how it was decorated a bit simpler than some of the churches I went to in Roma. After walking around for a bit more, we found a restaurant that looked good. I decided to get the traditional ragu and it was soooo amazing. I also tried my friends' dishes and they had tortelloni and ravioli and they were very good too, but I liked mine the best! We also were so excited to have salted bread because we've been so used to Tuscan bread. We were lucky that we arrived when we did because they had just taken out a pan of the most delicious bread I have had in a while. It had a sort of biscuit quality where it was crunchy on the outside (with salt granules!) but warm and soft on the inside. We were in food heaven...

After lunch we walked around a bit more and then found the gelato place that my brother's girlfriend Yelena suggested because she used to study in Bologna. They had a lot of flavors and the gelato was truly amazing! They gave us much more generous portions there than they do in Firenze for the same price. So delicious!

We then did a bit of shopping (they had H&M!) and headed back to the train station. We wanted to get in early because all of us were exhausted and/or a bit sick from the previous week at Oktoberfest... and we had a big day ahead of us the next day because we are going to Cinque Terre.

More later! Again, the stupid picture uploader thing isn't working very well, so I can't post anymore photos... LAME!