Friday, March 29, 2019
Florence, Italy Travel Diary

Florence, Italy Travel Diary

Hello from Florence! Or well... Marseilles, it's been a sec and we are officially in FRANCE! BUT! More on that later, for now, Florence.

After far too many train troubles (get excited it gets worse) we were on our way to our second destination, and for such a short amount of time. We didn't even get a full day in Florence! We arrived in the afternoon on Monday, spent the night, and left the next afternoon to Venice. I really do wish we had more time to fully see all the of Florence, and Rome and Venice too for that matter.

We walked about 55 miles this week, most of which was done in Rome, thus setting us up for a tired, sore week ahead unfortunately.
We checked into our hostel where we got a big ol' map (thank god for maps saving our butts this trip) and a bunch of recommendations from the guy who checked us in. We set out to explore our neighborhood. Obviously, first things first, we got gelato (pictured above). 

I did my best to try a new flavor of gelato every time but I really couldn't stray away from the fragola (strawberry) It's just so yum, SO yum! I also really loved the dark chocolate with orange, it had the flavor of orange and also little orange pieces in addition to the chocolate, so so good.

Does anyone remember Terry's Chocolate Oranges? They will forever be my favorite things, but I haven't had one in YEARS! If you know where I can snag one hook me up. 
We tried to go to a bunch of museums and gardens and do the whole touristy art thing, but everything was closed on Mondays or had closed right as we had arrived. This promoted a chill evening, which I most definitely was okay with seeing how exhausted I already was.

We realized almost immediately how small Florence is. Pro tip: when you are traveling if you don't get a SIM card or an international data plan, for sure download Google Maps offline of the places you are going. Things looked further away then they were on maps and we were always shocked when we covered so much ground in such a short time.
As the sun began to set, we had the idea to get a view of the city from Piazzale Michelangelo, apparently so did everyone else in the entire city of Florence. These photos don't nearly do the view justice, but it was packed and I'm sure you can imagine why. This for sure if a must see if you go to Florence, go at sunset.
So beyond hungry, we spent about an hour trying to track down this restaurant that the guy at the hostel told us about. He even gave us a card with his friend who works there's name on it and said to request him as a waiter and show him the card, that way we would get unlimited limoncello... Even as unsure as I already am about limoncello, it sounded like a pretty unmissable experience.

Alas, our stomachs were grumbling ravenously, we needed food. We went to an outdoor place (they had heat lamps!!!) right on Piazza del Signoria where they were doing a light show on the front of Palazzo Vecchio, it turned out to be the perfect place for us. Not to mention the gnocchi.

The gnocchi was perfect. Let me tell you, sitting here now on the floor of the Marseilles airport for the next five hours, I want nothing more than a bowl the size of a well of that gnocchi.
Remember in my last post when I was being all deep and said, "it was just us, red roofs, and Rome."

Roman red roofs ain't got nothin on Florence's red roofs, wow.
We knew we had to get at least one art museum under our belt, so we decided on the Uffizi. For us it made the most sense, I know everyone says to see David, but we thought since the Uffizi offers so much, and isn't crazy expensive, it was our best bet.

We loved it all, except the moment when someone threw up right in the middle of the gallery and the stench lingered for a goooood while. Definitely didn't put that into consideration when deciding where to go.
We saw lots of creepy baby paintings, loved that.

But most importantly we saw so many famous works of art, so many things we learned about in Art History which was so cool to see in person and not on a powerpoint slide in a dark room at 8am.
We also went to Gucci Garden, which is the Gucci Museum. I'm not a big brand name girl, you will literally never see me in a Gucci belt, dear god. BUT! I was weak in the knees for all the patterns! Setting my career goals based on the fact that I want to wear rainbow Gucci dresses for the rest of my life. Obtainable? Yes.

Also it was free for students, so even MORE worth it.
The rest of the day we spent strolling down the streets, popping into stores and cafés, we had some time to spend before our train to Venice. 

Also, Florence is WINDY! Not sure if it's always like this, or just while we were there, but wow. WIND. We were walking along the river when we passed a couple and 5 euros flew out of the girls pocket!

Boy did that thing FLY! We chased it down the street, literally sprinting until we caught it, Kate was on the ground, and I was trying to film the whole thing laughing so hard. 

Instead of being good people and giving it back to them, we treated ourselves to the gelato above. This time I got a yogurt mousse that had cookies, chocolate chunks and fudge mixed in, and then of course a scoop of fragola because why not...
Before our nightmare of a journey to Venice, we enjoyed one last cappuccino at a rooftop café. It was windy and a little cold, but somehow so pleasant, and the perfect way to cap off Florence. 

Kate tried amaretto, hated it, it was funny.

That pretty much wraps up Florence. 

I realize my post about Rome was probably more eloquent, informative, and wordy, but to be completely honest we didn't do as much in Florence as in Rome, and I think I actually liked Rome the best, but more on that later. 

Up next: Venice!! See you there :)
xo, O
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Ciao Bella! I'm In ROME!

Ciao Bella! I'm In ROME!

Buongiorno! From Italy! We made it, after so many hours of flying and training, Kate (my amazing roommate and best friend) and I have arrived in Italy for the week before our quarter in Lacoste, France! Let me tell you, after just one day, we could't be more sore... yikes!

We started our Italian adventure off in Rome. Arriving on what we thought would be Saturday morning, quickly turned into Saturday night after mixing up our times and a long, long incorrect train ride.
We knew we had to train from the airport to as close to the hostel as we could get. However, not only were we not strong enough for our barely overweight suitcases, but we were a lot closer to the airport than we thought.

After training all the way to the last stop somewhere in eastern Italy, we somehow got lucky with a group of young Italian boy scouts who spoke just enough english to help us get on our way, and help us with our suitcases, no joke, these boys saved our lives...

We then walked about 2 miles on cobblestones with all of our luggage (wearing pijamas) through Rome until we got to our hostel. We are staying at Nika Hostel, which we love and totally recommend if you are staying in Rome, definitely don't recommend not figuring out how to get there before you are and have no service... definitely don't recommend that.
The next morning (today) we woke up before the sun did and got ready for our nonstop, 20 hour adventure. Ready to start the day with the Trevi Fountain! Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, the three metro stops close to that area were all closed... Already a little flustered and it's not even 6:30.

BUT! Luckily, the metro spat us out at the Piazza del Popolo. Recognizing it from art history classes I forced myself not to fall asleep through, we took a spin around. It was amazing. Completely empty, not a tourist in sight, as the sun kissed the tops of domes and arches, we were in awe of this happy accident.
Kate pointed out a higher area where we thought we might get a nice view of the piazza from above. Little did we know that we would be able to see the entire city as it woke up, moon still high in the sky; it was just us, red roofs, and Rome.

Every second of this moment was perfect. The best way we could have started our trip.
Since we were already in that area and on a bit of an Art History kick, we were desperate to see the Sistine Chapel. Off to the Vatican City we went!
We waited for a few minutes before they opened and went in, it was still empty being as early as it was. Heading straight for glory, I got kicked out.

My dress was too short.

Ugh.

I sent Kate in alone and took a walk around while I attempted to foster a best friendship with a fat pigeon. She wanted none of my love.

Pigeons these days.

About 15 minutes later, Kate and I reunited. I was so excited to see photos and hear all about how incredible it is in person. Turns out Kate couldn't find it for the life of her and got told off by a very rude priest.

Both of us feeling uneasy and upset about the hyped Vatican City, we went for breakfast.
We got pizza and cappuccinos which we are both now obsessed with! The obsession pretty much starts and ends with cappuccinos though, 8am pizza can wait.
Let the games begin!! Next we enjoyed smooth metro sailing and arrived at The Colosseum! It was huge, it was fascinating (i did an audio tour which added to this) it was CROWDED.

And although that last part was a bit annoying, we used our savvy skills to cut lines, and find empty spots for viewing and photo taking. I loved every single second!! (as I did with most of today, but I'm just going to keep reminding you)

Going in and touching the walls, and walking the grounds that gladiators, ready for death, walked way back in 80AD was surreal. Wrapping my mind around it, I tried to cancel out all of the headphone wearing, selfie stick holding, scaffolding securing, elements of 2019. What would the people of 80AD say if they saw us now?

Probably nothing nice...
Well that is until they met Kate and me, then they wouldn't be able to shut up about how cute we are, just saying...
Of course, after The Colosseum came The Roman Forum. BEAUTIFUL! This was my favorite place to walk through today. All the ruins, all the overgrown flowers, weeds, grasses, everything and anything, it was wonderfully magical.

Again, I had such a fantastic time learning about this place and imaging what it must have been like living there before it all turned to ruins. It's fun to make up lives for the people from the past!
We walked out and around this area for a long time, really taking it all in. Everywhere we turned there was some new huge building sitting pretty up against the cloudless sky on wobbly cobblestones.
Long after sunrise, (our original destination for that time) we found our way to The Trevi Fountain. Listen, I don't know about you, but in my language, Fontana di Trevin in Italian translates directly to Lizzie McGuire Movie (start at 0:49). Don't ask me how, I was never too good at languages in high school, but I'm pretty sure that's what that means.

So of course, we had to make a wish. Busting through the crowds, and already knowing I'll be photoshopping out heads from the photo above, we got to the edge where we tossed two coins over our shoulder.
According to real life facts, aka some random blog I stumbled across, it's tradition to throw two coins, one symbolizes a wish you have for yourself, and the other is a wish for Italy. We decided to do one euro and one US coin to symbolize those two parts of us.

Of course I can't tell you what I wished for or else it won't come true, but know that they're good ones. By the power of the all mighty goddess Lizzie McGuire, and the woman who's in Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I believe they will come true. With that kind of support on my side, how could they not?
Next, a hop, skip, a jump, and many sweaty blocks later, we saw The Pantheon. I'll be honest with you, I was geeking out at this one. Spitting facts out to Kate the whole time, and ooing and aaahing over every little thing I was REALLY into it.

Besides the irrelevant Male Harp Player, this was one of my favorite things from art history. Needless to say, I was very happy we made it here. So beautiful, such an architectural achievement, just all around incredible, I was one happy tourist.
Stopping for a breather in The Piazza Navona (v pretty, v touristy), we checked our life saving map, and REALLY enjoyed playing in giant bubbles provided by someone most likely looking for money, but most definitely providing pure joy to those who entered the bubble zone.
It's hour who knows what, late or something, of being on our feet. Exhausted, hungry, and out of battery on basically everything (mainly camera which proves to be not only stressful but also devastating) we knew we needed to head home for a breather.

We struggled here.

Spent over an hour in a maze of an underground, closed for the day, giant metro station and a park full of picnicers, we finally got to the right metro and got home.

But there's something really, really wonderful that happened in between.

Completely worn out and ready to crash, we are trying to find our way out of this, although super pleasant and lovely, god forsaken park. People everywhere, music everywhere, grass EVERYWHERE (the nerve of some parks, I mean come on, really?!) we discovered the exit.

Which was actually also exactly where we started our day, at the hill overlooking Piazza del Popolo. It was a massive relief. We've been here, we know this place. Not only do we know this place, but we feel somewhat connected to this place. Say what you will, it's mushy sure, but being there with all the tourists and active park goers and selfie takers, it really made me appreciate our special sunrise moment with Italy 100x more.

I felt like I really had something special, I felt special.

The whole thing was ~*special*~

After having a brief moment, we hauled our exhausted selves home. Finally.
Best place to spend golden hour in Rome? Trastevere. Which I now realize, I have been pronouncing it Tra-va-stere. Which not only proves that I am bad as language, again! But that I simply can't read. Oop.

Trastevere was so beautiful. We really felt like locals here, regardless of people trying to sell us knick knacks every 5 seconds and others taking not so subtle photos of me in all my white haired white girl glory. The photo taking is relentless, seriously, happened everywhere in Hong Kong, and now here too? Ugh. 
Here we see my second ever cappuccino. I'd like to thank the sweet coffee gods, but give even more thanks to sugar and milk for making the entire journey possible and my tastebuds hate the bitter taste a whole lot less. Thanks y'all.
Full of flowers, ivy covered, paint peeling buildings, and the sounds of bustling alleys and corner cafés, Trastevere was an absolute delight.

Besides the fact that we spent over an hour getting hangrier and hangrier trying to track down one cute restaurant that I swear to you ran away after the first ten minutes of us being there when we saw it. Trastevere was a delight. Tip for traveling, always drop a pin for places you like and want to go back to, or else they will use the power of Italian Mafia Magic, and just vanish.
Last but not least, we met up with Kate's boyfriend's cousin Marissa. Marissa has been living here since January and let her true superstar shine by introducing us to the best gelato yet from Giolitti. I can't wait to eat my way through Europe over the next few months, beyond glad we got the chance to do that here. Thank you Marissa for being an angel.

Holy yum.
Overall, today was (highly painful for most every bone in my body) incredible. Rome, forget what people say about you being overrun by tourists, and too commercial, I love you and am so grateful I got to spend this time w you xoxo

But really, Kate and I are so proud of ourselves, we essentially did all of Rome in one day since we unexpectedly missed so much of Saturday. I'm tired, I'm full, but I'm enriched, and excited to see what awaits us in Florence, tomorrow! 

Also! Be sure to check out my YouTube channel as well, I will be posting the Rome vlog very soon! 
Hope you like travel content, because there is a whole lost more coming up so so soon. Until then, xo, O