Monday, February 27, 2012

Quando a Roma!

This past weekend all of us api students traveled to Rome!  Trips like this are the best because api does all the organizing and planning so all we have to do is show up, relax, and enjoy the trip!

We left Florence Friday morning and arrived in Rome around 11am.  We immediately began our typical tourist site-seeing accompanied by our own private tour guide.  We walked through the city's historical center and visited the famous Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza di Spagna, and Piazza Navona.
On the Spanish Steps 
Treve Fountain!

This coin myth better be true!
The famous legend is that if you throw a coin over your left shoulder you will return to Rome.  However, throughout the years other myths have been added to the "legend."  If you throw 2 coins you will get a fiance, 3 coins you will get married, and 4 get divorced.  Let's pray the Treve Fountain is good to me and brings me my husband!

We spent the morning and early afternoon visiting these sites with our group and tour guide.  Unfortunately we got stuck with api's worst group of girls!  Some of them were still hungover from the night before, they talked while the tour guide was talking, and when they were paying attention they would ask the dumbest questions!  Since I was actually interested in what the tour guide had to say I butted up right next to her during the entire tour that way I could hear everything she said and I could tone out the dumb girls skipping behind me.  

Outside the Pantheon

Piazza Navona
After we checked in at the hotel, we freshened up and were back out on the streets of Rome to roam around!  Mina, Josie and I visited the famous Roman Ruins, two historical churches, and saved the best for last...Gelato!  We went to the oldest gelato shop in all of Rome and got Ciccolato with Tiramisu flavored gelato...YUM. The shop was PACKED with tourist all bunched up in front of the counter.  You literally had to fight your way through to the front and pray the gelato boy would grab your receipt first so he could make yours.  It raised my stress level quite a bit, but once I got my gelato I was a happy gal!

Well worth the chaotic process

For dinner we went to La Carbonara and naturally got the carbonara which was delicious!  They had fantastic house wine too!  Afterwards we joined some of our friends at Mr. Browns, an older pub across the river.  We ended the night early so we could rest up for day 2.

Saturday morning we met our tour guide at the historic Castel Saint' Angelo.  We got these cool headsets to wear so we could hear our tour guide as she spoke through a mic. Luckily it matched my outfit.

Ready for the tour with my headset!
The tour was a bit boring, but when you reached the top you got an amazing view of Rome which made for a great picture shot!
Josie, Mina and I
Greg and I
Beautiful View
We then headed to St. Peter's Basilica which was my favorite part of the entire trip!  St. Peter's square and church is absolutely beautiful.  We spent over an hour inside the church learning about different sculptures and art within the church.
Outside in St. Peter's Square waiting to get in the church
Marble piece by the famous Michelangelo
Front of St. Peters
The structure behind us is equivalent to a 10 story building in height! 
Famous door that is only opened every 25 years by the pope
Next on the list was to visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.  Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in the chapel, but it as by far the best art I've ever seen.  Michelangelo was truly a genius.  To paint on a ceiling and get that perspective is purely incredible.  We stared at the ceiling for a good 30 minutes, just admiring the art.

After the museum we came back to the hotel and literally crashed.  We napped for a few hours then got ready for our dinner at Ditirambo.  Great food and phenomenal dessert!

We spent our last night in Rome at the Ice Bar.  It was literally an "ice" bar, with a temperature of -5 degrees you wore parkas inside and drank frozen drinks from an ice cup.  It was a fun experience, but quite the cold one!
My roommates Gabby, Erica, and Mina
Sunday morning we loaded up the buses and headed to the historic Colosseum.  I'm not sure if I was just tired and cranky, but this tour was probably the biggest disappointment.  The actual structure has been restored so much over time that it's lost its original feel.  It was cool to take pictures in, but it was super crowded with tourists which made it difficult to get good shots.  One of the dumb girls in our group asked the tour guide "how does the gladiator win?"  Isn't it common sense that the champion gladiator was the one who lived and the loser was the one was killed by the winner...duhh!  

We're headed to Venice and Venice Islands this coming weekend!  I just need to get through this boring schoolwork until then.  Missing everyone at home! Ciao Tutti!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekend of Sight Seeing

This weekend we took advantage of the beautiful weather in Florence and did a few "touristy" things around the city.

To start the weekend off we had a cleaning lady come in our apartment to help us clean!  Can you believe cleaning services in Florence only charge 12 euro an hour!? Is that even minimum wage?  In the states we normally pay a cleaning company at least $100+ per cleaning session.  Needless to say, the apartment needed cleaning and we took advantage of the cheap service.

After the big cleaning/disinfecting morning we walked across the Arno River to the Piazza Michelangelo to catch the most beautiful view of Florence!

There is a 200 ft drop to the road right behind me...I was shaking while posing!
Beautiful View!
Missing our  VT Sororities back home! 

Hokie Girls
 ΑΔΠ Diamonds and  ΑΦ Ivy Leaf
We even got a little workout in climbing up the numerous steps to make it to the top of Michelangelo!
Preparing to run up the 100+ steps...getting our workout on!

Saturday we went to the Uffizi Museum and soaked up lots of Florentine culture through art pieces from the Renaissance period.  Fantastic museum and was full of tourists!  I've never seen so many Asian tourists in my life! Mina and I tried to tag along with some of their tour groups so we could hear the guide giving information about each art piece.  Hey, we're poor college students so bumming off a tour group is our style.

We're off to Rome next weekend so keep a look out for the Roma Blog Post! Ciao Tutti

Thursday, February 16, 2012


The Chocolate Fair is going on here in Florence and it's addicting!

One of the many vendors at the fair.
The fair has been here for the past week and ends this weekend.  It takes over the entire Republica Square and has about 15 different vendors, each having their own signature chocolate. 

Getting my waffle drizzled with white chocolate


I of course started off with a yummy, and super fattening Chocolate covered WAFFLE!  It was super yummy, and almost as good as the waffle I had in Belgium.  


Mina enjoying her tasty treat!

Of course, we couldn't stop at just the waffle, we had to end our tour of the chocolate fair with chocolate covered strawberries and bananas topped with whipped cream!

Tomorrow we will most definitely going for a long run to work off all the yummy chocolate.  Mina is currently slaving away in the kitchen attempting to make risotto with chicken and asparagus for dinner!  I'm currently just watching her cook until I receive orders to stir or chop up something :)

Since we will be gone the next 3 weekends to Rome, Venice, and Tuscany we decided to stay home in Florence and enjoy the many things we have yet to do/see here!  You could live in this city for years and still not get to experience all the wonderful things it has to offer.  Ciao!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Climbing the Duomo!

Today we climbed up 463 steps to reach the top of the Duomo!  The hike was quite challenging and scary at times, but the view was completely worth it.  The staircases are very narrow and wind around and around and around!  Talk about being claustrophobic and dizzy at the same time!

Going up the old, sketchy,  & tight stairway

More old stairs!

Even though climbing to the top was exhausting, it was completely worth it when you reach the top and take a deep breath of fresh air overlooking the entire city of Florence.  The view is breathtaking! 

Finally made it to the top! 

Such a fantastic view of Florence!
I climbed up the Dome with Mina, Josephine, and our new friend Stephen from Mina's wine class.  We had a blast getting in a little workout climbing up and then spent about 30 minutes standing on top just having casual conversations about The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and The Bachelor.  Mina's ideal Bachelor date would be candlelight dinner on top of the Duomo, but with a space heater by her feet of course.  I think I'll send in that suggestion to Ben, the current Bachelor.  

Stephen, Josephine, Me, & Mina

You can also climb The Bell Tower pictured above.  We might do this when it gets warmer.

When you got about half way up, the stairway would lead you into the center of the Cathedral keeping you about 1 foot away from the wall you could look down into the beautiful Cathedral to see the church and then above to see the wonderful art on the ceiling.

Looking down into the Cathedral

The dome ceiling of the church

After our lovely little workout we treated ourselves with a wonderful lunch with a big glass of vino!  Tomorrow Mina and I plan to run the stairs of Piazza le Michael Angelo.  Once we make it to the top of the hill you can see a beautiful panoramic view of Florence!  We really need to start working out...too many carbs!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Swan Lake Ballet

Tonight we went to the Teatro Comunale theatre to see LL Lago Dei Cigni (The Swan Lake)

The ballet was amazing, the theatre was beautiful, and best of all the seats were extra comfy!

The ballet tells a story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse.  While hunting, Prince Siegfried sees an amazing swan.  As he takes aim to shoot, the swan suddenly evolves into a beautiful woman.  During the day she must be a swan, but at night she is allowed to be human again.  The spell can be broken only if the prince can save her.  The Prince falls in love with Odette, but due to an evil spell by the evil sorcerer, he proposes to another woman thinking she was Odette.  Both the princess and the prince eventually turn to killing themselves in the lake, therefore becoming lovers in the afterlife.

I wish I would have known a bit more of that story before going to see the ballet...just about all of us were clueless as to what was going on!  Even so, it was still an incredible experience and I enjoyed spending the night with the other API students.  

After a lovely evening, sadly it's now time to do Italian homework...Ciao!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Belgium Chocolate and Beer is a Recipe for a Fantastic Weekend

This weekend I traveled to Brussels, Belgium with my roommate Mina and flatmate Brittany.  This trip was a bit last minute and spontaneous, but they say those make the best trips and this one was indeed!

We arrived in Brussels late Friday night and Mina did a great job with her "asian version" of speaking french to the cab diver.  Luckily we made it to our hotel Beau-Site.  The entire time we pronounced it exactly how it's written until our cab driver corrected us pronouncing it "Bo Seat."  I'm sure he was thinking "these dumb American girls who can't speak a lick of French!"

Saturday morning we bundled up trying to keep as warm as possible in the 10 degree weather.  At times it was absolutely freezing, but we were able to go through a lot of the shops which were all blasting the heat.

We enjoyed a short tour through the Chocolate Museum where we learned how Belgium Pralines are made and of course, got to taste lots of different kinds! So delicious!

Our chocolate tour guide was amazing, he would go back and forth speaking French and cool!
After lunch we went on a 4 hour long beer tour.  The tour was fantastic!!  Our guide, Caesar was funny and very entertaining.  He cracked lots of jokes about how bad American beer is and claimed by the end of the tour we would never want to drink a Bud Light again.  Well... he was dead right.  The different kinds of Ales we tried were so good!  I never knew beer could actually taste good and refreshing!

An old popular Belgium Pub in Brussels, first stop of the tour
Trappist Blonde Ale
Mina and I enjoying our first Belgium Beer!
Mina and Brittany had Blonde ales and I had an Amber.
Our 2nd stop of the tour was at the Cantillon Brewery.  A family owned brewery where Lambic, Gueze, Faro and Kriek ales are made.  Nothing has changed since 1900 when it was founded.  The Van Roy-Cantillon family has been operating the brewery since the beginning and still does today!  

Our last stop of the beer tour was at the Moeder Lambic, a trendy bar in Brussels with over 24 ales on tap!  Fun atmosphere and great beer! 

Throughout the tour we made friends with a couple from Utah who were vacationing throughout Europe for 2 weeks with their foreign-exchange student Philipp, a German 17 year old who lived with them for a year to attend an American high school.  It was so interesting hearing about how this young couple with no children of their own basically adopted a teenage boy for a year.  We had so much fun with them and after the tour we invited them to join us for dinner.  We went to a great Thai restaurant in Grand-Place and continued getting to know our new friends Keith, Jennifer, and Philipp.  

After dinner we ended our night with the best dessert ever, a Belgium waffle topped with whipped cream, fresh strawberries, and chocolate.  It was most definitely the best dessert I've ever had and would go all the way back to Brussels just to eat it again!

Our weekend ended by stopping at the Leaning Tower of Pisa on our way home from Brussels.  
My awkward attempt to have the tower "leaning" on me

Living in Florence is amazing and getting to travel around Europe just adds to this wonderful experience of studying abroad!  I'm so thankful I have the privilege to be abroad for these next 3 1/2 months and can't wait to travel to our next destination.