Rome in a Day

Everyone told us we’d need more than one day in Rome to see all we want to see, but we proved them wrong–even on a beautiful Friday in May!

We started with a trip back into ancient times, with the Colosseum and incredible city of ruins.

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

I thought I only could experience ancient, ruined cities like this in video games 😮

~

~

~

~

~

This building is incredible…

~

The Pantheon

Trevi Fountain

Next we headed over to the Vatican City. It was crazy how it was an entire little “city” walled off from the rest of Rome.

Vatican City

The Vatican Museum …Now I can see how the Pitti Palace in Florence (post-Medici takeover) was an attempt to mimic the classical Roman styles with lavish Baroque-style and manneristic architurecture/decorations.

The Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museum — The Sistine Chapel — Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam and Eve” and “The Last Judgment”

It took a very long time to actually exit the Vatican Museum…We kept getting led through more and more halls, until we got to this staircase and decided that we are probably being sent to hell……especially after Heather yelled “Jesus!” in response to strong sunlight, but right in the face of the nun she wasn’t expecting to see upon turning away from the sun glare. (Instant sun glare to nun glare).

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica — “It’s like God himself is radiating through the dome!” -random man

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica — Michelangelo’s “Pieta”

St. Peter’s Basilica…Definitely one of my favorite sites I’ve seen in Europe.

After the Vatican, we STILL had more time to explore Rome! We ventured along the river, met with a friend of Heather’s for dinner (Rome has awesome pizza), roamed around Rome more, and then headed back to the train station for Florence–all before it got dark.

Looking at these pictures, it still feels surreal that I was actually there. It’s so weird to learn about and know of these sites in such a distant way since elementary school, and then to actually be there. I’m so glad I got to experience it!

Munich Springfest: PROST!

Springfest 2012 in Munich, Germany

Springfest, modeled after the famous Oktoberfest, is not just a festival of drinking beer into oblivion. It’s a giant, culturally-themed fair with rides, foods and German traditions.

This attraction is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen in my life. The children are put into giant balls and then sent afloat to struggle like hamsters who can neither gain any momentum nor maintain any stability.

Groups of attendees in elaborate costumes would spontaneously spring into traditional music and dances of the old German culture.

I was so impressed to see even young adults embracing the cultural traditions. They clearly planned with large groups of friends to coordinate choreographed dances and matching costumes.

The theme decorations were so cute!

You could get your schnitzels and bratwursts at every few stands, including a half-meter one!

And there were cutely decorated sweets all around as well.

And, of course, BEER. Beer served in these giant steins. This is the Radlermass–the most refreshing beer I’ve ever tasted. It apparently involves lemonade, which wasn’t distinguishably tasteable, but certainly added a little sweetness.

The waiters serving beers in the tents were kept VERY busy. I wonder how many giant barrels of Augustiner were consumed 😮 …What was even more amazing was seeing the waitresses carry up to ten filled steins at a time!

This is what the Augustiner tent looked like during the day–pretty family-friendly.

But from about 7-11pm (when it closed), the Augustiner tent evolved into “the routy tent.” When the band started playing, everyone ascended right up to stand on the benches of the table and remain up there for the remainder of the night singing, dancing, cheersing and drinking.

After the first night, I woke up with a swollen hand from holding my heavy stein all night 😮 PROST! (“Cheers!”)

To me, the most awesome aspect of this tent and the college-age Springfest experience is how innocently jolly and cultural it was. Yes, it was crazy in there–beer spilling all over the place, everyone being loud and routy, people jumping up and down on the benches, sometimes someone falling–but in a way that I don’t experience in American culture. Tables were shared among strangers who became friends, most the people were dressed in the traditional costumes, people were chanting along with ye olde historical drinking songs and German tunes, and the dancing was not distasteful the way it would be in a club. It was an incredibly unique experience that I will always remember. And as our German companions told us: “This is nothing compared to Oktoberfest!” …I can’t even imagine.

At 11pm, the fair shut down and everyone flooded out of the tents. This is unfortunately when my belongings got stolen 😦 but Springfest was overall too great to be spoiled.

My weekend in Munchen was not just about festing, though. My friends and I did lots of exploring through the city both on foot and with a bike tour!

We were slightly nervous about biking through the city in a giant group, but we managed!

Munich is full of beautiful architecture 😀

Hofbräuhaus Brewery

~

St. Cajetan’s Church

St. Cajetan’s Church

~

~

~

~

We spent quite a bit of time in the English Garden — a large and beautiful park.

The English Garden holds the Chinesischer Turm, the second largest beer garden in the world (where our bike tour guide of course had us stop for a stein at before continuing on our tour…)

There was a large, grassy area for lounging and playing sports, but it came with two major surprises: 1) Nude tanning. When we first approached the area, we realized that a lot of the sunbathers were naked. My friends and I chose to lounge at a spot near the stream that didn’t seem to have any naked people. After laying on my back a bit, I flipped around to read my book and was shocked to see an old, naked man sitting only a few meters in front of my with his junk hanging out. Not cool. 2) The stream went throughout the entire park and moved with a lot of velocity. Every now and then, we’d see people in the stream quickly float past us, carried with the force of the water. It looked fun but crazy!

This stream also had an area with waves for surfers, tucked away in the woods. Again, one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen….

Our weekend in Munich for Springfest is one of the best times I’ve ever had in my life….I hope I can go back for Oktoberfest someday!

Notte Bianca: When the city pulls an allnighter

In conjunction with Labor Day today in Italy, last night was the annual “Notte Bianca” (“White Night”)–a night in which the city of Florence doesn’t sleep. Businesses are invited to stay open all night, every piazza is full of stage set-ups, musicians, DJs, drinking tents, and all kinds of fun stuff, and the streets are absolutely flooded with people. EVERYONE is outside living it up–drinking, dancing, eating, walking, going wild…all the way until 6am.

I can only imagine being a tourist and not knowing about this night, seeing Florence this routy at night, and thinking that this is how it always is. Crazy fun night!

Florence Underground Music Scene

As someone who grew up in the NJ music scene, I’ve been craving a taste of the local music scene in Florence–especially since the Florentine teens and young adults carry such a punky style. Well, I finally got my in.

Last week, a bartender I’m friends with (Simone) told me about an upcoming gig his band would be playing right near the pub (which is right near our apartment). After two past failures at attending a local show this semester, I was SO psyched to finally have an in–and to see a friend’s band! “It’ll be more like a giant party,” he told us, and man was he right!

On Friday night, Vicki, Heather and I found the place (thanks to the giant crowd of smokers outside of course) and presented the fliers (aka magical admittance tool) that Simone had told us to print out beforehand to the bouncer, who let us right in. We confusedly entered what looked like a typical caffe, but then were led back to the room where the show/party would take place. The entrance fee was 10 Euro, which covered two drinks at the bar as well.

Our friend's band, Cinderella Breakdown, kicked off the live set. They had the front of the room dancing, and even some fans who jumped up on stage to dance too.

When we entered the room, we were struck by the spinning party lights, DJ blasting jams, and pretty ghetto set-up of a bar. It was an energetic atmosphere though–definitely not what I’d expect for a local show based on the Jersey music scene, but definitely fun!

It felt so funny seeing our local bartender singing it out on stage!

The age range went from teens younger than us to adults in their 40s, and we were probably the only Americans in the place. We noticed a lot of other regulars from Joshua Tree Pub, where Simone works, so it was really cool to see everyone coming out to support his music and have a good time. Cinderella Breakdown played a very fun set, but we were surprised that all their lyrics were in English instead of Italian!

The next band that played was a lot younger, called Ritmo Randagio. They certainly brought in a younger crowd with even more dancing, and they played a combination of original songs sang in Italian and covers of American songs sang in English, like Kids by MGMT an Stand By Me–both which the crowd loved.

I was so impressed by not just the party atmosphere of dancing, but particularly  by the way the young guys and girls interacted. These college-age kids would dance kind of old-fashioned style, with the guys taking the hand of a girl and twirling her around, etc. It was very cute and romantic, I thought.

I was really impressed with Ritmo Randagio, and actually returned to see them again last night at the Hard Rock Cafe in Florence. They played another awesome set, and I enjoyed getting to briefly meet some of them when I went to buy their CD. Apparently they’ll be playing on Monday night in Florence again, so I’m planning to see them then too. I could definitely get used to the Florence underground music scene 😀

Ritmo Randagio at the Hard Rock Cafe, Florence (April 24, 2012)

I kicked over the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Yesterday I visited the ever-so-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa...and kicked it over.

RAWR. Anyway, it was a fun trip. One of the most hilarious sights was looking at the line of people holding funny poses with their hands up in what looks like the middle of nowhere in order to capture the oh-so-desired cheesy tourist photos. (Of course, I was one of them too — but I’m pretty sure I’m the only badass who kicked down the tower :P)

Apparently, the lower leans about 5 meters. It originally started shifting mostly due to natural causes, because it was constructed without a basement. Apparently it stopped continuing to shift at some point though. I stood on the side that it didn’t lean down on to be safe, as I promised my Grandpa I would 🙂

There are other amazing monuments in the "Field of Miracles" where the Leaning Tower exists -- the Duomo (cathedral) and a huge Baptistery.

But let's face it...Pisa is primarily visited with one purpose in mind: take really fun photos with the tower! 😀

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!

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

—————————————————————————————–

—————————————————————————————–

—————————————————————————————–

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 🙂

—————————————————————————————–

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.