Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Verona?!

Verona, Italy

The city

Welcome to Verona, the romantic city of Romeo and Juliette

"Shakespeare Street"

Verona is one of the most historical cities in Europe

Gazebo in the center of the Historic District

A beautiful loggia

“Juliette’s House”

"Casa di Giulietta"

We're in Letters to Juliet! 😀

Apparently, it is a tradition of good luck to rub the breast of Giulietta's statue...as this young boy is so ecstatically embracing.

"Locks of Love"

The balcony, which was attached to the house in the 1900s to match the tale 😮

❤

The amphitheater

You can see the ruined amphitheater in the background here...

It was a quick trip back in time sitting on the theater stairs

BACI!

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A hike through the Alps

Garda Lake: The village

Before heading into the mountains for a hike in the Alps, we visited Garda Lake--a quaint, old village with a beautiful view of the Apennines.

It wasn't the ideal sunny weather we had been hoping for, but I actually think the stormy atmosphere created a breathtaking eeriness to the views.

🙂

Garda Lake: The castle

The entrance to the village began with this awesome castle 😀

It felt a little surreal...

Garda Lake: An amazing view of the Alps

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We'd be hiking through those mountains in just the next day! 😀

The Alps: A hike through the Apennines Mountains

The rolling misty clouds that surrounded us looked absolutely incredible...

The cold and rain couldn't stop us from appreciating what an awesome experience this was 🙂

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The Alps: The waterfall

Woohooooo!

The Alps: The church I was obsessed with

I was absolutely obsessed with this church from the 1000s that sat atop a hill... (Scarlet Monastery, any World of Warcraft fans?)

We walked up to get a closer look...And it only got creepier and creepier.

A cemetery wrapped around the outside of the church

The stone walls of the interior were covered in frescoes and Latin phrases

This is possibly the scariest photograph I've ever taken in my life.

Siena & The Mazzei Winery

Last weekend when my family was visiting, we took a day trip to Siena -- a little under a two-hour train ride from Florence.

Specifically, we ventured into the beautiful Tuscan area on the outskirts of the city of Siena -- by Castellina di Chianti -- to attend a wine tasting & tour of the Mazzei winery. It took a few transportation setbacks between being told to take the wrong buses and not having buses show up, but we made it!

After a lovely wine-tasting (Zisola is possibly my new favorite red wine), our guide Vittoro led us through the enchanting little village of the winery.

I was so happy that my mom could see the picturesque countryside of Italy that we always sigh over in chickflicks 🙂

There were barrels and barrels of vino stored away in the rustic cellars... The Mazzei winery is still family-run from the original family line that started the business in 1435!

This is the "library." (Now that's my kind of library!) Vittoro was telling us how part of his job is to test these wines. "It is good job" he remarked in a tone as if we needed convincing.

Even the gloomy weather couldn't take away from the village's quaint beauty.

Ahoy, Prague! (Spring Break: Part I)

Spring Break in Northern Europe

  • Part I: Ahoy, Prague!
  • Part II: Hallo, Berlin!
  • Part III: Hey, Amsterdam!
  • Part IV: Bonjour, Paris & Versailles!

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Architecture / City

Prague is truly full of stunning architecture. Not only will the historic sites impress you, but also the residential & commercial buildings as well.

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The famous clock tower. We had an AWESOME walking tour leader, Filip, who is honestly my favorite European I've met yet. He is young, quirky, and really brought the city's history to life through his animated storytelling. It was very amusing to hear him mock the clock tower, though, because of its anticlimactic "show" that happens every hour, which people come from all over the world to see and are always just like "oh" when it's over.

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The Old Town Square

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"Frodo, watch out! NAAAAAZGUUUUUL!"

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Very possibly my favorite building I've seen in Europe.

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To the castle we go!

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City by day

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...And city by night

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Czech out the people & culture!

I wasn't sure if I was looking at a soldier or a LARPer...

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The classic old dude playing accordion-like instrument with monkey 🙂

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I have no idea what instrument this guy was playing, but it was awesome.

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I LOVED the people and culture of Prague. The Czechs are extremely friendly and communal. And they say "Ahoy!" as a greeting, which is badass. I would like America to adapt this pirate lingo.

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The Czech currency is crowns instead of euro, and will make you feel like an absolute 'baller. I only took out 40 Euro (~$52), which equated to 1000 crowns. It came in just one bill. Madness.
P.S. I did not mean to flip you off in this photograph -- I apologize.

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Marionettes were EVERYWHERE. This is one of the creepier ones I encountered...

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Absinthe is huge in Prague. If you've seen Eurotrip, you know all about "the green fairy" behind the craze of this bright green beverage. I had never seen it before, but it was a major component of every bar and liquor shop.

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Beer is by far the greatest drink of Prague, though. Apparently, Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other nation! Pilsner Urquell is one of their major beers, and all beers were generally cheaper than water where we went 😮

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Nightlife in Prague

Prague has excellent nightlife. Whether you're looking for a relaxed atmosphere, a jolly pub to drink some beers, or a crazy club with good dance music, the city is full of great locations to have a great time.
We happened to be there St. Patrick's Day weekend, so we kicked off Spring Break with some green beers!

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On our first night, we partook in a major Pub Crawl that brought us to four different locations. It felt really silly traveling in this giant mob of young people from place to place, but it was a fun experience to try.

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Cheers!

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I am on the hunt for the kind of Electronic/Techno/Dance music that I heard in Prague. It was unlike anything I've ever heard because it had a noticeable influence of polka beats under the music (which may sound weird/corny, but it was very well done, very unique, and very enjoyable!)

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The next night, we czeched out a five-story club -- the largest dance club in all of Europe!

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At an AWESOME Irish pub we found on St. Patrick's Day, we asked for tequila shots. The bartender asked "silver or gold?" and I had no idea what that meant. He then explained that silver is taken with lemon, while gold is taken with cinnamon and orange. I said I wanted silver, but with salt and lime, and that I had never heard of the latter. "Aaaah, you are American, huh?" he replied. Apparently, tequila with salt and lime is a very American thing, and tequila with cinnamon and orange is something that most Americans don't know about. We eventually tried it...I didn't like it. But the Olmeca brand (also a tequila I've never heard of) was wonderful!

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After checking out the five-story dance club, Heather and I ended up going back to that Irish pub that we loved so much. It was late at this point, but it was still really energetic in there. We met some very friendly people from Dublin and conversed with them a bit. Then, the bartender who had served us the tequila earlier that night emerged next to us, now dressed in normal attire because his shift was done. He introduced himself as Jacob, joined us, and we were welcomed to stay until the wee hours of the morning. He introduced us to a shot of Absinthe lit on fire--which I guess is part of the Prague experience, but a pretty awful one! The alcohol literally burns down your body and leaves a terrible aftertaste. It's no wonder why he kept laughing to his friend, "I can't believe I'm having this!" One of the interesting parts of our conversation with Jacob was about Czech's attitudes towards Americans. We explained to him that we're constantly warned about Europeans' disdain for Americans. His instant response was, "What? We LOVE Americans!" And I must say, of everywhere I've been in Europe, Czech Republic is by far where I felt the most welcomed and accepted. What a great culture and great people.

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Our last night in Prague ended when the sun was rising...We truly made our short time there matter. Two hours after going to bed, Heather and I were woken up by the girls sharing our room in the hostel (who were also on this "Northern Loop of Europe" trip). "Wake up! We have to board the bus for Berlin in 10 minutes!" That was the quickest getting-ready/packing job I've ever done.

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John Lennon Wall

In my opinion, the John Lennon Wall is a must-see if you go to Prague...

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We all took a turn contributing something new to the wall... I put up lyrics from a Scranton, Pennsylvania-based indie band I love, Tigers Jaw, and sent them a picture of it on Facebook with a "Welcome to the John Lennon wall!" caption.

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"POW!"

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Sending lots of love from Prague! ❤

Adventures in Assisi

March 3, 2012 - I decided not to look up anything about Assisi before boarding the train, so that everything I saw would be a complete surprise and adventure. That's the way to do it.

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When we arrived in the Assisi train station, we looked out at the medieval city up on the afar hills. The castle on top seemed so high and far away that we had some doubts about reaching it, at first. There was one desolate road that went towards that city, so we started walking, unsure of exactly how long and direct this journey would be.

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...It was a beautiful walk.

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(Photo credit: Heather Ayvazian) As we entered this medieval city, every winding layer of road we climbed only became more and more impressive. I kind of felt like I was climbing up the city of Gondor, except with an atmosphere of warmth instead of gloom.

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This was my first visit to a Tuscan countryside area, and it truly was picturesque.

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I love Italy 🙂

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As we approached the top of the hills, we ventured off a main road and through a dirt pathway that lead us through the woods and up to the castle. Along the way, I spotted so many intriguing encounters, like this.

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STORM THE CASTLE!

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Feeling on top of the world.

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Rocco Maggiore

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oh hai there 😀

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Rob the Majestic

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I love feeling like I'm in Robin Hood...

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Basilica Papale di San Francesco

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...The most incredible sunset I've ever seen.

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And that concludes my adventures in Assisi...

Daily Failtales: Week 2

Continuing from my Week 1 recap of Daily Failtales, here’s some more funny little tales of fail from this past week or so:

Casually strolling through the Strozzi, nbd

Credit: italyguide.it

My Architecture class takes place in the Strozzi–the same building Day 1 of orientation took place in. Hmmm, this looks different than last time, I thought as I wandered into the Palazzo Strozzi for my first class. I obliviously strolled through an enormous, lavish room that reminded me of Mr. Darcy’s mansion in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. As I looked around for any doors or stairwells, the construction workers inside looked at me. Oh shit…I’m not supposed to be in here, am I? Realizing my error, I hurried out the open door on the opposite side, puzzled. DOVE IS MY CLASE? I thought, as a construction worker at this doorway shooed me away. I then joined a student in walking to the Strozzi common building next to the Strozzi PALACE of Florence that I had just casually strolled through.

LESSON LEARNED: If the building’s interior looks like a palace, it very well may be. So do not continue walking through.

Mouse Maze

The grocery store around my corner is set up like a maze. It begins with the produce, and takes you through a one-way adventure of zig-zagging isles until you finally reach the cashier at the end. While purchasing my food, the employee was trying to tell me, in Italian, that I needed to weigh my produce before. Non capito, and I didn’t know what to do at this mid-purchase moment. There was someone behind me in line, so I said, “I’ll just go put these back then?” and hastily did this awkward speed-walk/jog/gallop through the damn maze of isles until I finally reached the produce section at the start, put back the bananas, and hurried back to the cashier to finish my payment. Hopeless.

LESSON LEARNED: Weigh your produce before paying.

An unintended walking tour

My textbook-purchasing errand involving four different copy stores and bookstores somehow turned into an unintended 2 to 3 hour walking tour all over the city of Florence, thanks to a few wrong turns and some unexpected traffic areas to get around. On the downside, I was carrying around what became a heavy backpack, and the heel of my boot broke on a cobblestone street. But on the upside, I had the fortunate experience of wandering into the final scene of the 1991 version of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves–minus the fighting. (Your movie tastes must be infiltrating my brain here, mamma). I have no idea what church this is, but it has such a beautiful medieval look to it!

LESSON LEARNED: Keep getting lost in Florence, but wear better walking shoes.

That time Chelsea caused a Fiasco

Chelsea, Heather and I finally built up the courage to check out a local bar on our street last Friday night, which we had been very curious but very intimidated about. “Ciao,” a tall, gorgeous Italian man standing outside the door greeted us as we walked in. We ordered beers at the bar and took a seat in the corner, slowly getting acquainted with the place. “Yeah, I can definitely see this is as a good go-to place by our house,” we were agreeing, feeling quite comfortable and pleased with the atmosphere. [Cue fiasco].

Brawny, I think I found your next spokesperson for a brand image makeover.

Apparently the table was wobbly, and with a little kick, Chelsea accidentally clonked the table enough to knock over the beers. Heather’s lap, the table and the floor were soaked in birra. The locals looked at us. The three of us looked at each other with that “Oh shit” look, and before we could get up to seek paper towels, that gorgeous Italian man appeared out of nowhere holding a giant roll of paper towels. “May I help?” he asked. Where the hell did he come from? we were all thinking.

“You know,” he said while beginning to wipe up our mess, “you didn’t need to spill your beers to get my attention.” He then introduced himself (in perfect English!), and we found out that he is one of the owners–Paolo. We conversed a bit, telling him that we are students here and whatnot. A little later, he brought us [very undeserved] drinks on the house…but asked that we drink them instead of spill them.

LESSON LEARNED: No crying over spilled beer–it might lead to something good.

Is this lotion?

Heather kindly ran some errands for me today. Personal products can be confusing to purchase when you can’t read Italian, though. She picked up what looked like a bottle of body lotion, and tried asking the barely-English-speaking employee to make sure. Apparently, it was lotion to be used for–errr, intimate purposes. The old lady behind her gave a strange look. “Ooooooh!” Heather laughed, “no, no.” So she picked up another one, which the employee nodded to.

At home I started rubbing it on my skin and instantly knew something was off when a clear, kind of sticky fluid came out. “Ummmm,” I said to Heather–not wanting to sound ungrateful for her running my errands, “this doesn’t feel right.” I inspected the container. “Detergente fluido,” I read. “Detergent? Did I just rub detergent on my arms?” We laughed about it and typed up a bunch of the text on the container into Google Translate (one of our dearest friends here in Florence), and gathered that it’s some kind of cleanser for the skin–but not soap. Honestly, I don’t know what it is!

LESSON LEARNED: Italian translation for “lotion” is “lozione,” and “intimita” means “intimacy”–as in for-sexual-purposes.