Wednesday, November 28, 2012


It is exactly as it sounds.

Eating + Italy.

Picture it. Four floors of a warehouse sized building, filled with groceries and restaurants. The idea behind Eataly is that everything, and I mean everything in the building comes from inside Italy. The cheese, the meat, the soda, even the cows where they get the milk to make the gelato live in Italy. Ya, everything is from Italy. So everything is just that good. We walked around the store and took everything end before picking a place to eat. Integrated with the groceries are different restaurants, classified by types. So in the cheese and meat section, you can eat cheese and wine aperativos. Other restaurants included a restaurant of fried food, one of seafood, one of meat dishes, and one of pizza and pasta.

We had a lovely dinner at the pizza and pasta restaurant and we each ate pasta sorrentina, a pasta dish with tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella. After dinner, we went downstairs and had the most incredible gelato since I've been in Italy. It was SO incredibly flavorful. I've never had anything with so much flavor in my entire life. After gelato we did a little grocery shopping and then headed back to the apartment for the night.

No lie, Eataly easily makes it into my top 15 favorite experiences. The only regret I have is that I didn't go earlier! But for all of you in the states, don't fret, you too can experience Eataly!! Shockingly, there's a location in New York. Just like the one here in Rome, everything inside of it comes from and is made in Italy, but I don't doubt that the food might taste a little bit different considering it's not actually in Italy. But learning this was a huge comfort to me knowing that when I'm back in the States and pining for the magical food of Italy, I can make my way to New York for something that just might come close to the greatness of the food I've been eating for the last three months.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Life Amongst the Bentleys and the Rolls Royce

One of my final trips this semester was this weekend: Nice (pronounced like "niece") and Monaco/Monte Carlo. In case you don't know, Nice and Monaco are two of the most popular places to vacation on the French Riviera. Of course, late November isn't exactly what you would call primo-beach season, but we took it in stride because that means that this typically extravagant get away city for the rich and famous of the world is in it's off season. And I'm sure we all know what that means. DISCOUNTED. RATES. For starters, we stayed in a hotel, yes a hotel not a hostel, for a very reasonable price. Oh what a splurge, to stay in a hotel. Instead of spending the whole weekend  there though, we decided to make it a one night stay, just doing Saturday to Sunday.

We caught an early flight and were in Nice by 9 am. Since we couldn't drop our backpacks off at our hotel room yet, we decided to walk down the main street (of which unfortunately, I still don't even know the name), look around, and find a cafe for breakfast. We ended up at a precious, cozy little place where we had cappuccinos and pastries. After breakfast, we dropped our bags at the hotel, wandered around town a bit more, then caught a train to Monaco. We picked up some baguettes and cheese to eat en route on the train to suffice for lunch, and it made for an interesting situation. The three of us got lots of looks on the train from passengers. Either three American girls eating bread and cheese looked strange or they were giving us dirty looks for eating on the train. Well, that's what we thought. However it was actually very different. One lady who we thought had been giving us the stink-eye, actually asked us what kind of cheese we were eating because it smelled so good. Then she asked if she could try it so we gave her a little piece! And another lady who had been watching us said "Ah, a baguette and cheese, classic French. Now all you are missing is Red Wine!" And what's even more interesting, is both of them were French. I know we all have heard the stereotype that French people are rude and snobby, and while I"m not saying that's not true, I will say that every French person we interacted with this weekend was almost excessively nice. (And as a side note, the cheese we were eating was Boursin garlic and herb. Yes, they sell it in the States. And in advanced, you're welcome. Because trust me, you'll thank me.)

 Now, in case you don't know (as I didn't) Monaco is in fact a different country. It is a self-governed city-state, that France has no jurisdiction over. Monaco and it's most well known part of town, Monte-Carlo, are the stomping grounds of the ridiculously rich. I saw more Bentleys, Rolls Royces, and Ferraris in my 5 hours there then the rest of my life combined. Yikes. Once we arrived, we walked through the town a bit then down to the port to see the ridiculous number of yachts, ranging from speedboat sized to small cruise ship size. Absurd. With stars in our eyes, we walked on, up the hill next to the port to find the Casino. I'm guessing you've heard of Monte Carlo's famous Casino. (Here's a hint, it's the inspiration for the Casino of Casino Royale.) Ya. That casino. We decided that since we were here we just couldn't pass up the chance and we spent a little time in front of the slot machines. It was truly an interesting experience. I've never thought much of gambling aside from Black Jack, Roulette, and of course Texas Hold 'Em, and while I don't foresee a lot of slot playing in my future, it was quite fun. I myself was so fortunate to turn a profit. € 9.04 to be exact. After the casino, we walked around a bit more, caught the bus back to Nice, grabbed dinner and called it a night.

Port of Hercules, containing the largest collection of most extravagant yachts you'll probably ever see


the hotel where we stayed. NOT. 

so overwhelmed and loving being in a nice hotel, even if it was only for 5 minutes

my winnings from the casino. all € 14.04

The Monte Carlo Casino

in front of the Monte Carlo Casino

Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel around 9 and made our way back into town. We grabbed a crepe breakfast at a cafe and then headed down towards the port. By far one of my favorite things of the trip was the flower market that we went to Sunday morning. Not only were there tons of gorgeous flowers but there were fruits, cheeses, spices, candies and soaps. Oh the soaps. They were so pretty and smelled so good. And they were all cut in those perfect little rectangles. Let me just say, if I'm ever having a bad day, if you take me into a soap shop, I will be down right happy. Soaps are some of my favorite things, bar none. The way they smell, the way they look, how smooth they are, how they line up in a row and fit together so perfectly, and my absolute favorite is the sound they make when you tap them against each other. One brick of soap against another brick of soap. Done. There's a smile on my face. So naturally I enjoyed the market. After we made it all the way through the market, we walked around some of the smaller streets to see the off-the-beaten-path stores and then went down to the water to spend some time sitting on the beach. It was absolutely gorgeous. I really do understand why people love it so much there. After we had sat there for about 20 minutes or so, a storm started to roll in over the water so we had to head for cover. The rest of the day was spent walking around, shopping and grabbing lunch/snack before taking a bus back to the airport.

Nice Flower Market


found a Christmas  tree outside of a shop

on the beach

the storm rolling in

the giant bows, my favorite of the many Christmas decorations in Nice

As many of you know, I love Christmas and all that goes with it, so being away from home during this season is not entirely fun for me. Particularly, I really love the first couple days after Thanksgiving and decorating the house for the Christmas season. It's pretty much the culmination of everything I love. To help assuage my absence, my Mom sent me a picture of my Dad and Mary Catherine on the roof putting the Christmas wreaths and lights up. Plus there's that little furry one down in the bottom of the picture. Not to mention we get onto the roof by climbing out of that window you can see in the picture, which also just so happens to be my bedroom window.

Dad, MC and Delilah

With only two weeks of classes left, I have a fair amount of work on my plate right now, but we have one final trip scheduled for next weekend and lots of fun stuff planned to close out our sweet time here in Rome. The fun isn't over yet!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey, Pumpkin Pie, and Lasagna

Only in Rome could a thanksgiving dinner include both turkey and lasagna. And they pull it off. But let's start at the beginning of the day. First off, Happy Thanksgiving! Anyone in my family will tell you I'm a sucker for traditions. So being away from the States for this holiday, and for the start of the Christmas season (officially. because let's be honest, I started celebrating months ago.) This morning, my art history class went to Galleria Borghese, one of Rome's most foremost art museums, which is in an old villa (Villa Borghese) in the biggest park in Rome, the Borghese Park. First of all, the park is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It is so extensive,  with lakes and rivers and fountains and hills and forests and climbing and paths and dog parks. Just gorgeous. So it was a great way to start Thanksgiving. And the Villa itself is gorgeous. It's that old-money gorgeous. Not to mention it's filled with beautiful art.

Villa Borghese Park

Galleria Borghese


my bus riding companion today

To finish off my school week, I had quite the surprise in my Italian class, my last class of the week. We had a Thanksgiving celebration! People brought cookies and snacks and we had an aperativo (basically appetizers)  and watched Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. It was a terribly wonderful surprise to have this little party when I just thought I had to endure another Italian class. After class, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have a traditional (ish) American Thanksgiving dinner. Our program directors had set up a dinner at a restaurant where the chef had agreed to learn how to make turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and even pumpkin pie! Plus, the chef made us a special surprise, while it didn't fit the repertoire of our Thanksgiving dinner, it was his specialty - his lasagna. And oh my oh I have never tasted such a magical Italian cooking. That lasagna was one for the books. While it was as good as my Thanksgiving dinner at home, it was still great. It was certainly nice to have something even remotely similar to what all my American friends are eating today. 

watching Charlie Brown in Italian class

Thanksgiving Dinner

"Pumpkin Pie" note Andrea posing in the background. he's a hoot.

Now we're back in the apartment, steeped in our turkey coma. To inaugurate the Christmas season (because you're never too early!) we moved our mattresses onto the floor all together and are watching Christmas Vacation with a Christmas air freshener filling the room with the smell of Christmas trees. Right now, nothing could be more satisfying than this. 

And on a final note, I got this sweet photo from my family today. Love them.

yes, even Delilah ran the Turkey Trot!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beth and Bonnie Roma Party: Part 2

--Written November 19th--

I didn't think Beth's time here in Rome could get much better than yesterday, but it DID. We got up early this morning to go get the customary cappuccino before my 9 am class. Beth (wisely) decided to opt out of going to class with me and instead sit on the 4th floor patio reading her book and looking out over Rome. Needless to say I was jealous. But oh well, who am I to complain? I'm still in Rome.

After class, we headed to the Vatican City for the day. Luck was on our side as we encountered little to no lines everywhere we went today. And we all know that when you're doing touristy stuff, that really is lucky. First we whisked into the Vatican Museum after not waiting in the non-existent line. (just wanted to emphasize that for ya). We made our way through it all to see the big things like the Belvedere Torso, the Laocoon, the Raphael Rooms, and the Sistine Chapel. After we finished with the museum, we grabbed some wonderful pizza at a pizzeria a little ways into the Vatican City. To top off lunch, we got some delectable gelato at the little Old Bridge Gelato shop, reputed to be the best gelato in Rome. I can't say with certainty that it was life-changing-great gelato, but it was certainly good! Maybe that's a testament to how good the gelato quality is all across this eternal city.

leaving the Vatican Museum

Old Bridge Gelato

Once our bellies were full and happy, we went in to see St. Peter's Basilica. While we were in there, we actually saw priests come in singing and conducting worship or something. It was very interesting to watch. Once we had seen the inside of the Basilica, we went up on top of the dome! I'd been wanting to go up there for a while and Beth wanted to go for it too! So we took an elevator up to the bottom of the dome where we got to walk around the inside of the dome and look down into the interior of St. Peters. After that, we continued up to the top of the dome by climbing 300 steps. From the top of the dome we had a 360° view of Rome. So beautiful. After we came down from the dome, we headed back to my neighborhood where we warmed up with some lovely hot chocolate. Then we took some time to rest in the apartment before going to dinner with Abbie, Lindsey, and some of Abbie's friends who were in town. All in all a wonderful day.

in St. Peter's

the service we saw

looking down into St. Peter's from the dome

looking down into St. Peter's

the view of the Piazza from the top of the dome

having a lot of fun on top of the dome

throwing up her quatrefoil on the way down from the dome

warming up with hot chocolate

--Written November 20th--

This morning we decided to sleep in just a tad and ended up hanging out in the apartment until about 11. Before we embarked for the day, we grabbed coffee and pastries at the local bar. Then we took the tram over to Argentina where we retraced much of what we had done two days before in order to re-visit some shops and get some gifts for friends and family. We grabbed a cheap pasta lunch by the Pantheon and then shopped a bit more for the afternoon. Something so wonderfully monumental of the day is that we were walking along and we passed a bakery and it had cookies in the window. Cookies. Y'all. I haven't had a cookie since I got here. So of course I had to get one. And oh heaven it was good. Once we were done shopping in that part of town, we went to Trastevere to go to some book shops. Then we came back to my apartment, grabbed another hot chocolate (it was cold and rainy) and then went back to my apartment so  I could submit a paper and Beth could start packing. We decided to finish off Beth's time in Italy with a lovely dinner at a restaurant near Piazza Navona. One thing's for certain, I'm sending Beth back to the States with a full belly of Italian food. And as I've said to her at least a dozen times while she's been here, it was just so great that she came to visit.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Beth and Bonnie Roma Party: Part 1

As some of you know, my sweet friend and soon to be roommate, Beth is here to visit me for a few days. Not only is it an incredible and unexpected blessing for her to be here, but has also proved to be such magnificent timing that only God could have orchestrated for this all to fall together so perfectly. Not to mention I squealed with excitement when I saw her coming out of the airport doors because I hadn't seen her precious smiling face in 6 months.

She arrived early yesterday morning and I went to pick her up from the airport. We made it back to the apartment and set out into our day when it was only 10 o'clock. Before going far, we of course stopped for the obligatory cappuccino e cornetto for her first meal in Rome. Most of Saturday was spent conquering three big tourist hubs: the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Palatine Hill. When it was still early evening, we left the city center and went to Trastevere to walk the streets, get some gelato, and ended up having an early dinner at Carlo Menta. Unfortunately, I left my phone and camera in the apartment by accident so I don't have any photos to show for the day.

This morning, Beth decided she wanted to just see when she would wake up. Whoops. Girl slept until 11. But no worries, because I slept pretty late too. We both needed to catch up on some sleep and this turned out to be a great time to do it! I especially thought she deserved to sleep in, seeing as she had just flown half way around the world to see me. And on that note, she is handling the time change impressively well! Of course, almost 15 hours of sleep helps, but she's pretty much on Roman time already! Since we got a late start and it's Sunday (aka almost everything in our neighborhood is closed), we grabbed a quick breakfast in the apartment then headed out for what was left of the day. We walked through the heart of Rome and saw Campo di Fiori, the Pantheon (where we got a wonderful coffee granita treat), the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and did some shopping all throughout and on Via del Corso too! It was a wonderfully leisurely day, but also an impressively productive one too! We closed the day with walking back down Via del Corso to Piazza Venezia, where we went to see the Capitoline Hill and a view overlooking the city. We had decided to cook in for the evening, so on the way home we picked up all the ingredients we needed. We made a lovely dinner of pasta amatriciana (tomato sauce with italian bacon), home made garlic bread, and home made tiramisu. Loved it. It was certainly the most cooking I've ever done for one meal, but it was so worth it!

at the Trevi

making my third wish of the semester

sitting on the Spanish Steps

I am just head over heels loving having Beth here and soaking up every second of being with her sweet self. Being the thoughtful girl she is and knowing how incredibly much I love Christmas, she brought me a plentiful array of Christmas goodies consisting of: Christmas sticker, a miniature Christmas wreath, candy canes, cinnamon scented soap, Christmas scented air fresheners, and even gingerbread cookie mix! She's too precious, right?


Monday, November 12, 2012

The Land of Leather

Florence, oh Florence. It's a pretty hard spot to fill, that first weekend after fall break in Paris, London and Dublin. I mean, it's not easy to come after that and be impressive. But if any town could do it, it's Florence. I will say, I've heard lots of talk about how Florence is the perfect town for students studying abroad and it's has all the appeal of a small town and a big city. It is a great city and I really enjoyed my time there, but I'm glad I'm studying in Rome. Because Florence is such a great city for students, they are everywhere, which sort of waters down the Italian experience. I feel like after one weekend I covered Florence fairly well, while after almost three months in Rome I still feel like there so much of the city left to explore.

We got into Florence around noon and grabbed some lunch at a nearby cafe before we went on our first tour. Our first tour took us to see the Palazzo Vecchio, where the Medici family lived and the original location of Michelangelo's David. Then the tour took us to see Ponte Vecchio Bridge, the oldest bridge in Florence which is populated by precious little jewelry shops. After the tour, we made our first trip to the leather market. As I assume you know, Florence is renowned for its great leather and its fantastic leather market filled with that great smell of leather and lots of vendors with flexible prices. EEEEEKKKK!! Better than a candy store. And to answer the question I'm sure you're all thinking of, yes I got a purse. That was leather market round 1. After the market we spent some time on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge gawking at the glittering jewelry in the showcase windows. And then, then, came quite possibly the best part of the trip. Two words: Mexican food. I know what you're thinking: Mexican food, in Italy? But y'all. It was good. Like really good. Maybe it's because I haven't had Mexican food in almost three months, but still, it was goooooood. And this is coming from a girl who doesn't even like the Mexican food in North Carolina. These people were smart. That restaurant was packed. I know it's silly that we ate Mexican food for one of our two dinners in Florence, but oh my it was worth it. 

a replica of Michelangelo's David in its original location

rubbing the hog's nose so that someday I will return to Florence

in front of the Ponte Vecchio bridge

The next day we got up early to shop around town a bit before we went on a day trip to Vernazza, a town in the Tuscan countryside. We visited a castle that now functions as a winery. So we took a tour of the wine cellars and then enjoyed a lunch of cheeses and meats (made in house) and tasted some of their wines. It was all great and the view from the castle was just absolutely incredible. When we got back to Florence, we embarked on leather market round 2, then went elsewhere in the city to shop around before returning for leather market round 3. That night we grabbed some dinner at an Italian restaurant we stumbled upon that was crowded with lots of old Italian men and women. You can't really ask for a better approval rating than that. And it was fantastic. And then after dinner, we grabbed some hot chocolate to warm us up. Sidenote, the hot chocolate here in Italy is no normal hot chocolate. It is literally hot chocolate. As in melted chocolate. So thick and so rich.

me in il Duomo

me and the dome

the vineyard in the Tuscan countryside

view from the castle

on the grounds of the castle

the grapes drying out

the casks of wine

love them. so much.

looking for restaurants 

the hot chocolate

The next morning we had one final tour before leaving the city, but before we met up for that, we managed to squeeze in leather market round 4. Then the tour took us to see the Duomo and finally the Academia, which houses Michelangelo's David and Michelangelo's prisoners. The David was magnificent. The only thing I wasn't expecting was it's size. It is so massive! If you're ever in Italy, the David is a must. After the museum we had a little time to grab lunch and walk around town just once more before hopping back on the bus to Rome. The bus ride was cold and rainy and thoroughly enjoyable by my tastes. And what made it even better, instead of dropping us all off at the school and then us having to take the bus back to our apartment, they dropped us off right in front of our apartment. It was just a nice little surprise. To end the night last night, Abbie, Lindsey and I watched the childhood classic "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." I hadn't seen it before and Abbie was absolutely shocked, so we just had to watch it. And because we're just loving celebrating Christmas, tonight we're going to watch Elf. Y'all should join in on the early Christmas festivities too, you who are in the states, a country that puts tinsel and Christmas lights on anything that is immobile for at least 5 seconds. What I wouldn't give to be there. I'm really having to keep from buying Christmas decorations to deck out the apartment. I think I'll just have to hold on to all of my Christmas spirit until I get back in the states.

outside the Duomo

Ciao! And Merry early Christmas!