The End

August 1, 2012

I’m sad to say that my journey has come to an end. I am safely, but not contently back in America. It was so hard watching Italy fade away as the plane took off. I could say it was a “trip of a life time,” but I don’t want my next explorations to be any less. So far, it was definitely the most impressionable memory I have had yet. I learned so much, and the things I learned will stick with me for the rest of my life. I can’t thank Luca any more for giving me this experience and sharing it with me. I don’t think I could have seen Europe for the first time in a better way.

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Venice (Venezia)

July 29, 2012

Venice was incredible. It is so unique and different from anything I have ever seen. The mixture between the architecture and roads made of water made it seem as though you were in a fantasy or dream. The only negative thing about it, is that is extremely touristy and expensive.

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One of the most exciting things was seeing Piazza San Marco. The dukes palace and St. Mark’s Basilica were glamorous.

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This face was interesting because apparently back in the day, if the Venetians heard their neighbors talking badly about the government, they would tell on them by writing it down on a note and putting it in the face’s mouth.

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We went to the Peggy Guggenheim art museum, which is located in her old house in Venice. I loved it because it was so intimate. I have never seen art displayed in the same way. We could even go out on the porch and watch people pass by on their boats on the Grand Canal. Some of the artists that we saw were Picasso, Dali, Duchamp, Man Ray, Pollick, and many many more. Yoko Ono set up a “wishing tree,” where you could write down your wish on a piece of paper and hang it up on the tree.

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But honestly, you didn’t need to step a foot in a museum to see the real artwork of Venice. Every store we went in, there was a display of venetian glass. The glass work was incredible.

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I was in awe when I saw the Venetian masks. The masks are used for the ongoing tradition of the yearly carnivals in Venice. The artistry and craft that went into the masks were spectacular. I’m hoping to someday be able to afford a mask to hang up on my wall in my house.

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Cinque Terre

July 28, 2012

Cinque Terre means “5 lands” in English. It is literally a network of 5 small towns that can only be accessed by walking paths or the tiny train that connects them. Cinque Terre is unique because it grows all of it’s own crops and imports barely anything. So, everything is as fresh as can be. It was the perfect combination between mountains and ocean. I have a really hard time choosing which one I prefer, so I feel that having both hits the spot.

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To start our hike between the towns, we started on the “Trail of Love.” It had to be the cheesiest thing I’ve ever done. The whole trail was lined with flowers and had names engraved into the wall of lovers (I had to engrave our names just for my own entertainment). Half way between, a man even started singing love songs as couples passed by him. One of the most humorous things was the padlocks that people hung everywhere with their names written on them. I begged Luca if we could get one, but his ego wouldn’t allow him.

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The hiking was so intense! I felt as though I was going to die on the way up the mountains. But the view when we reached the top was definitely worth it.

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On the way up, we stopped at a winery to try the local wine. Cinque Terre is mostly known for it’s Sciacchetrà, which is like an orange muscat dessert wine, but with a bit more spice to it. I think the spice is from the sea. We also learned about the process of how they make the wine. Because the hills are so steep, they use these pulleys to transport the wine up the cliffs. It was quite interesting.

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The view from the tops of mountains was incredible. It is now definitely in the top 5 most beautiful places I have ever seen.

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Cinque Terre is very earth-friendly, so even the water is as pure as can be. You could see so clearly into the ocean when you looked at the water. A nice dip in the water never felt better after the long hike.

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Lucca

July 23, 2012

Lucca is a quaint, old medieval town that is mostly known for its huge defensive walls that surround the city. It is located in the Tuscan region of Italy.

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The first night that we arrived at Lucca, we heard about this restaurant right outside of the town that supposedly had fantastic food and was well priced. So, we decided to have a proper romantic Italian dinner. The view from the taxi ride up was incredible. We went on these little countryside roads up this huge mountain with vineyards, olive trees, farms, and extravagant villas to see. The restaurant was located over a mountain that overlooked the town of Lucca. It was a spectacular view.

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We started our meal with antipasto and the local red wine (only £3 for a half liter)

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Our second course was the pasta. Luca ordered mushroom and sausage gnocchi in a cream based sauce and I ordered beef ravioli in a meat sauce. We ended up splitting each other’s dishes because they both looked so good.

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Our third course was the meat. I ordered steak with parmesan and lettuce over top, and Luca ordered a mix of meats. Unfortunately, we were both stuffed, so we did not order dessert.

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The next day we rented bikes and road around the walls (which was about 5k)

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We explored the town a bit, but unfortunately mostly everything was closed because it was a Sunday. Travel tip 1: Don’t plan on doing much of anything on a Sunday in Italy. One of my favorite things we did during the day was climb a lookout tower.

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I loved the Tuscan region of Italy. It was incredibly beautiful and the people were so nice. Somebody told us that the olive oil is particularly special in the region because the olives grow better when they are further away from the sea. Now we’re off to Cinque Terre!!

Florence (Firenze)

July 20, 2012

Florence is all that I dreamed it would be. The city is spectacular. Luca and I did a lot today, including visiting the giant palace the Medici family lived in. 

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The walls and celings in every room were covered with elaborate artwork designed by all of the big names we know. I wish I could afford a room with this everywhere…

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What was interesting about this room, was that they just discovered the lost painting of Leonardo Divinci, “Battle of Anghiari.” Apparently the artist who most recently painted this room covered Leonardo’s painting. The discovery channel is currently doing a documentary about it. 

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The churches of Florence are very different than Rome. Their beauty is more emphasized on the exterior, rather than having an elaborate interior. Their exterior has a very particular style, known as Florentine architecture. The style was formed during the Renaissance. Today we tried to enter the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, but I was not allowed to enter the church because my shoulders weren’t covered. Then they expected me to buy a shawl for £2. I was so pissed off, that I didn’t end up going inside. I thought we were over this…

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One of my favorite parts of the day was visiting the local market. Everything from Italian leather to olive oil was for sale. 

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Luca and I ended our day eating wild boar salami and parmesan cheese on olive bread, with a bottle of local Tuscan Red Wine, and watching this view overlooking Florence…

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Tomorrow we are going to go visit the Galleria Delgi Uffizi to view the artwork of names such as Raphael, Michelangelo, and many more. Then off to the town of Lucca!

 

 

Roma Dolce Roma

July 19, 2012

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So far, some of my favorite memories have been made while staying in Rome. Luca’s house is so adorable and cozy! His garden outside, filled with fruit trees and flowers, is one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen. Our trips to the center of Rome have been quite adventurous. The first trip we made was with Luca’s sister, Chiara, who studied art in college. I love walking around with her, and seeing the art, because she sees it at a whole different perspective than the average person.

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The day that we went into the center with Chiara, we walked around and I got a general overview of Rome. The city is different than any city I have ever seen. There is so much history and culture within it. I love not having giant towers that block the sun peering over me, with people constantly rushing to get to where they’re going.

My highlight of the day was, of course, the gelato. WOW! It was heaven to my tongue. I could choose 3 flavors and out of the 3 I got, my favorite was lemon cello.

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There is art everywhere I look when I walk through the streets of Rome. It is extremely inspiring. I don’t understand how anybody could ever live in Rome and not become an artist.

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We came upon a street artist that I bought a couple of paintings from. Luca and Chiara had a great conversation from him and he told them that he could tell I was American because Americans are always smiling. I thought it was hilarious.

One of the best things that happened to Luca, Chiara, and I was when we stumbled across Caravaggio. We were just walking past a cathedral in the late afternoon and saw a poster that was highlighting Caravaggio. Chiara and I stopped and started rambling about how much we love the artist and his use of Chiaroscuro (strong lighting from one light source, to create a sense of drama). Ignorantly did we know that the cathedral in front of us was home to 2 of Caravaggio’s most famous paintings: “The Calling of Saint Matthew” and “The Martyrdom.” It was closing in less than 5 minutes, so we ran in and got a glimpse of it before it closed. I was just amazed.

The churches are awing in themselves. When walk in, you get this overwhelming feeling of respect, even if you’re not particularly religious. Being an American, I am not used to things being so old and rich in history. It is quite humbling when you see sites that have been around for hundreds of years more than you, as it makes you feel extremely small and insignificant.

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Somewhere in the middle of our road trip a friend of Lucas asked me what it was like to pass through 3 of the best countries in the world. Well, here it is in a nutshell…

Italy
The drive through the Italian country side and alps was incredible. All i would see was fields upon fields of olive trees and grape vines. When we were passing through the alps, the highway would bring us through these huge tunnels under the mountains and then at every end there would be an awing view waiting for us to see. There was literally a castle with a town surrounding it on every mountain top. I really love the towns that are built on the mountains, but I would never want to live there because it would be a pain in the ass to climb the mountains all of the time. At the end of the day we stopped at a camp site along the coast. We spent the night on the beach drinking wine bought at the store straight  from the barrel. Even the cheapest wine here is better than the most expensive in the USA.
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France
In my most recent post, I covered my excitement about Monte Carlo. Here are some more pictures…
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We also passed through the city of Niche the same day where we ate lunch on the beach.
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That night, I got Creme brûlée at the restaurant we ate at. Mmmm, heavenly.
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The next day we stopped at a local bakery and bought brie and baguette for breakfast. I can’t even explain with words how good it was! The bread was so soft, and the cheese was so, so, creamy…
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After breakfast we drove to the town of Arles, which is known for where Van Gogh painted his “Starry Night.” The surrounding area of the town is known for having wild horses and flamingos. Even though we looked for them, we sadly never saw any. I unfortunately did not spend enough time in Niche and Arles to really get to explore, but I put them on my list of things to do in the future. The French countryside is extremely beautiful and I would love to spend a longer period of time there.
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Spain 
Benicassim was so much fun!!! I was really living a summer vacation. At night, we would stay up until early hours in the  morning listening to great music and partying. Then, spend our days sleeping on the beach. The first act we saw was Lisa Hannigan. Every minute she was on stage she was smiling. She was so adorable. The festival ended with David Guetta, which was awesome! The light show was insane!
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In Benicassim, we ate paella at a local restaurant. Paella is a Spanish rice dish that is more on the oily side and is cooked in special pans.
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Like Italy, Spain is extremely disorganized and slow, but there is something about spain that I am completely in love with. Every town I was in was incredibly beautiful and artistic. Spanish art is completely my style: bright, bold colors, with lots of movement in the organic movement in the compositions. I am inspired by it and hope to study more of it in the future.
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On the way back from Benicassim, we stopped in Barcelona for the day before boarding the ferri.  My new goal in life is to live in Barcelona for a period of time. I absolutely love that city! It is extremely artistic, socially advanced, and beautiful. Barcelona is most known for being the home of Gaudi, a famous architect known for using organic shapes and being extremely ahead of his time. We visited Park Guell, the public park that he designed and a few other sites of his.
 
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Bonjour Monte Carlo

July 10, 2012

Today we stopped at Monte Carlo in France. Absolutely breath taking! I felt like I was in a real-life fairy tale, but with Ferrari’s as the pumpkin shaped horse carriages.

This is from my iphone with limited pictures, so more later…

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Benicassim

July 9, 2012

Today we are starting our road trip to Spain for a music festival called Benicassim. The festival is located
somewhere on the beach between Barcelona and Valencia. It actually starts on Wednesday, but we left early so we can take our time and stop at places on the way because were passing along the coast through the country sides of Italy and France. The festival ends on sunday and then were taking a ferry back from Barcelona to Rome. I’m not sure how much Internet access I will have for the rest of the week, but I’ll update you as often as possible!

I am back in Rome from my trip to Anzio. The whole week was a learning experience for me. There was definitely a cultural barrier between me and Italians as far as organization goes. Although the kids at the summer camp were adorable, I have never experienced such disorganization in my life. There was a lot of miscommunication between the bosses and the workers. It was beyond stressful for me. Luca and his friends informed me that Italy is just “like that” and that people of Italy make things up as they go.

Looking back, the whole week was not completely disastrous. The stressful days only made me appreciate the beauty of my surroundings more when I had the chance to enjoy them. After a long, stressful day of dealing with screaming kids and disorganization, I started to question why I was not going insane. But then, I would sit with a couple of friends and have a few beers, or go watch a sunset on the beach, and allowed my mind to go at ease while my body went in sync with the rhythm of the surrounding world.

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