Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Florence & Venice in Less than 72 Hours

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of venturing an hour or so north to Florence and then onward to Venice with five of my friends. Like always in Italy, the food was amazing, there were spectacular views and fantastic wine. Keep reading to learn about my favorite spots in Florence and Venice and why January is a great time to visit!
From the top of the Duomo, you can see all of Florence, if, of course, you want to climb a winding staircase of 463 steps. It was exhausting but completely worth it. This is where I got my best photos of the whole trip! It costs 15 euros to do so and that will also grant you access to the bell tower (pictured below), which we also climbed, as well as several other sites and museums.
Despite the fact that it was late January in Florence, it was around 55 degrees and sunny. It was so warm sometimes that I didn't even need my jacket. The great thing about traveling during this time is that not many tourists are out. It makes getting everywhere a lot easier!
One museum that I really didn't want to miss the opportunity to visit was the Gucci Museo. For the past couple years I have become very fond of the brand and I really appreciate the luxury of it all. Above is the Tom Ford exhibit of pieces he created for Gucci throughout the late 90's and early 2000's.
The other exhibits include evening gowns worn by celebrities, florals, vintage luggage, home wear, florals, accessories, and even a car! It's amazing how iconic Gucci really is and it was so fun to explore this museum with my friends. If you are visiting Florence soon and have a love for fashion, I would highly recommend it. If you go after 8 PM on Friday like I did, admission is only 5 euro when it is regularly 7 euro.
We spent one day and one night in Florence, so on Saturday morning, we made our way farther north to the island of Venice. It was truly like nothing I had ever experienced before since you have to go everywhere by water. Their 'bus' system there is just a bunch of boats that pick you up at docks and take you across the rivers and through canals; it's odd and would be a very different way of life to adjust to!
Of course, my one goal of the trip was to ride in a gondola. It was such a cool experience, like one you see in movies! Usually, the price of a gondola during the daytime is around 80 euro for 40 minutes and you can fit 6 people in the boat. I ended up haggled the price a bit and scoring it for 60 euro, meaning my whole group and I only had to pay 10 euro per person! Definitely worth every penny.
If you plan to visit Italy during the winter time like I am, Venice would be a good place to stop during February or March because it's their carnival season! We were unfortunately just a week too early, but it was still a nice time for all of us as the sun was still out and the weather wasn't too bad.
Overall we had a great weekend away! Florence was by far my favorite city because it is so easy to navigate and full of history and beautiful scenery. After returning home to Rome on Sunday night, I woke up on Monday with a terrible fever that was so bad I had to skip class. Fortunately, I am feeling much better tonight but I am still trying to get adequate rest since I've been sick twice already and I have only been abroad for 3 weeks. I hope you all stay healthy this winter, seeing that I've had some very bad luck with my immune system these past few winters! 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Weekend Tour of Campania

After being in Rome for two weeks now, it was time to get away and explore. That's why my university took us on a tour of the region of Campania this past weekend. The views were breathtaking and the wine & cheese was glorious.

Our first stop was Paestum, an ancient Greek town near Naples. Here is a temple built for the goddess Hera. The sun was shining that day and we all took some great pictures of the ruins.

Posing for a quick photo in front of the beautiful Italian sun! That day I was wearing my Barbour coat, keeping me warm on chilly days, as well as my Saks Fifth Avenue silk scarf that is one of my favorite accessories at the moment! It really makes any simple outfit classic.

The next day, we visited two different "farms": a mozzarella farm and a vineyard. These sweet little cows are dubbed 'bufala' and they make the best and freshest mozzarella cheese. We also saw how they make the mozzarella, which is a long process, but completely worth it for the amazing end product.

After meeting some bufala and eating lots of cheese, we made our way up the hills of Agropoli to a vineyard called Cantine Marino. Being able to drink legally here has never been more rewarding than this moment. They make an amazing white wine as well as a pretty great red; they even make extra virgin olive oil! As you can see, there were also some great photo ops.

We spent two beautiful nights at Lloyd's Baia Hotel on a cliff over the sea in the town of Vietri sul Mare. Can you believe how stunning this sunset is? Italy has my heart.

On the very last day of our long weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Montecassino. My friends and I agreed that this place was stunning. I have never been so moved by architecture in my life.

The Basilica Cattedrale di Montecassino was the best part of the visit. Everything in the church was decked in gold and beautiful, bright frescos that almost brought tears to my eyes. I have never felt so close to my Italian heritage and Catholic faith. This was especially significant because my great grandfather was from a town only twenty minutes away from this sacred space.

Our beautiful Roma awaited us as we arrived back last night. I can't wait to have more weekends full of travel and adventure. Keep checking back weekly for more. My upcoming travels include Venice, Florence, Paris, and Milan!

Have a great week!
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