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30 Thoughts You Have During a Wine Tasting

By Julia Treible

  1. Am I going to get to stomp on grapes barefoot like in that “I Love Lucy” episode?
  2. I mean, the Kardashians got to do it… so I probably will too, right?
  3. Wait, maybe that’s a bad idea. What if I fall like that woman on Fox News?
  4. I’m going to be such a wine connoisseur after today.
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  5. My friends at home are going to be so impressed.
  6. Wow this vineyard is beautiful! And who knew there were so many different types of grapes?
  7. …Has he seriously been talking about grapes for 30 minutes now? Can I get a glass of wine already?!
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  8. Sniff the wine? …Okay, if you say so.
  9. I’m supposed to be smelling “hints of tar, blackberry, and chocolate?” …am I missing something?
  10. Why would you ever want me to spit out perfectly good wine?
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  11. Ew, I don’t like this one. Can we open bottle number 2?
  12. This literally tastes exactly the same as the last bottle.
  13. Do all of these people seriously notice a difference? There’s no way… they’re definitely lying.
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  14. Whatever, I’ll just pretend that I can tell the wine is “oaked and earthy”
  15. Oh my god, that boy in the apron is so cute.
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  16. I wonder if he’s an heir to the winery?
  17. Does he have a girlfriend? I definitely need to marry into this family.
  18. Oh my god is he looking at me?! I’ll just smile and act casual.
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  19. ….my teeth are stained red aren’t they?
  20. That was so embarrassing. I need another glass of wine.
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  21. Am I allowed to pour my own wine?
  22. Ugh I can’t remember… am I supposed to sniff then swish or swish then sniff?
  23. Is there a limit to how much wine we can have?
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  24. Not fair, that girl over there definitely had more than me. Maybe I’ll just have one more glass.
  25. Wine is made from grapes, and grapes are fruit, and fruit is good for you.
  26. Today I learned how to appreciate good wine. And how to drink and be classy at the same time.
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  27. That quote on Tumblr really is so true. “Life IS too short to drink bad wine”
  28. I’m definitely buying a bottle for myself. And one for my parents. And probably some for my friends at home.
  29. Wait this bottle costs how much?! I can get a liter of boxed wine for 1 euro at the market…
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  30. …Where can I get gelato?
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AmsterdamBlog

10 Things to Do in Amsterdam Besides Go to a Coffee Shop

After wrapping up my semester abroad back in 2012 I did a little bit of traveling with my sister. We were in Budapest when we met a couple of middle-aged European women. They were intrigued by my travels and asked me what my favorite and least favorite places I traveled to were. Favorite? Split, Croatia. Least favorite? Amsterdam. After a couple discomforting facial expressions from my new friends, they blurted out that they were from Amsterdam. Talk about awkward. After laughing it off, they asked what I did while I was there. Before I could respond they started to guess. “Coffee Shops?” they guessed. I nodded yes, and before I could validate my point they responded with “That’s not Amsterdam”.

This encounter always stuck with me. So when I moved back to Europe and found myself in Amsterdam again, I decided to try see Amsterdam with different eyes. Needless to say, Amsterdam is now hands down my favorite city in the world. Here are 10 things to do in Amsterdam besides go to a coffee shop:

1. Go Shopping: Whether you’re looking for quaint high end boutiques or second hand shops, Amsterdam has everything. From hipster one-of-a-kind t-shirt shops to street markets and bazaars, there is no doubt you’ll find plenty of treasures in Amsterdam.

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2. Take a canal tour: Did you know Amsterdam has more canals than Venice? Enjoy a unique perspective of the city by hopping on a canal tour. The row-house-lined blocks of the city will surely amaze you.

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3. Ride bikes through Vondelpark: Bike riding is a lifestyle in Amsterdam, however, you may be getting in over your head if you try and hop right into the public bike lane which can have more traffic than a typical road. Spend some time cruising through Vondelpark. Stress free and so beautiful!

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4. Take a Day trip to the Keukenhof Gardens: About 30 miles southwest of Amsterdam is the small village of Lisse, home to the Keukenhof Gardens. In March, you can find miles and miles of artfully planned tulip gardens, like something out of a fairytale.

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5. Explore the food scene: Maybe you’re studying in Italy, where you’re up to your eyeballs in pasta and pizza, or France where you consume baguettes and French onion soup daily. You’re probably ready for some variety in your diet. (Cue harps and holy music). Amsterdam has anything your heart desires. From the best falafel you’ll ever eat, giant sized pancakes, and even sushi!

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6. Grab a beer with a view.

Because, wow.

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7. Learn about the red light district: Sure, you may have heard that prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, but do you know why or how this came about? Educate yourself, and you may be surprised about how you feel afterwards.

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8. Go to a concert: Amsterdam has a surprisingly cultivating music scene. There’s always a big headliner performing in Amsterdam. Cough Cough….Beyonce and Jay-z.

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9. Visit Anne Frank’s House. If you didn’t already know, the house Anne Frank and her family spent years of hiding in, is located right in the center of Amsterdam. Relive a humbling part of world history by touring the four walls that birthed The Diary of Anne Frank.

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10. Check out the Van Gough Museum: Even if you know absolutely nothing about art, you’ll recognize something in the Van Gough Museum. Surprise your folks back home by doing something cultural in Amsterdam.

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Europe Through Movies: Italian Edition

By Endsley Eggert and Courtney Gallant

One way to explore Europe is through cinema. Our first stop? Italy! Let’s travel North from Southern Italy as we check out these movies to get a glimpse of the beautiful Tuscan countryside, canal-lined streets of Venice, the architecture of Rome and much, much more!

The Godfather (Sicily, Italy)

The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his empire to his reluctant son. Discover the incredible Sicily with the most powerful family in the business in The Godfather.

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The Lizzie McGuire Movie (Rome, Italy)

It’s a dream come true to visit the ‘Eternal City’ of Rome but even more of a fairytale for Lizzie McGuire who bears a striking resemblance to Italian teen pop star, Isabella. Lizzie and her friends have a whirlwind adventure through the ancient churches and basilicas, grand Roman monuments, and graceful fountains because of Lizzie’s newfound fame. They bring a new meaning to “When in Rome…”

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Gladiator (Rome, Italy)

Visit Rome in the height of the Roman Empire: gladiators, emperors, and chariots galore. Russell Crowe takes us back in time as he seeks revenge on the betrayal of a Roman general, his murdered family, and the emperor’s corrupt son in Gladiator.

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Roman Holiday (Rome, Italy)

Joe Bradley, an American newspaper reporter stationed in Rome, finds a girl fast asleep on a public bench. He takes her back to his apartment, unaware that she is Princess Anne who has just escaped from her boring and sheltered life. Fall in love with Rome as Joe and Anne fall in love with each other in Roman Holiday.

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To Rome with Love (Rome, Italy)

Get to know the romantic city of Rome on a personal level through the intertwining stories of a worker, architect, young couple and opera director. Following the lives of visitors and residents of Rome through their romances, adventures, and predicaments will leave you feeling right at home in To Rome with Love.

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Angels & Demons (Vatican City, Italy)

The Holy City is under attack by the secret brotherhood, the Illuminati. Gain access to restricted areas of Vatican City when we follow Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) as he deciphers clues to a catastrophic conspiracy. Race through hidden passageways, read in the Vatican Secret Archives, and try to save the lives of the four preferitti in Angels & Demons.

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Eat Pray Love (Rome and Naples, Italy)

Elizabeth Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts,  travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia on a journey to find herself again in Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth spends the first 4 months of her trip regaining her love for food. And what better place to do that than in Italy? Not only will this movie make you want to take the next train to Rome or Naples, but it will have you salivating as well.

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Under the Tuscan Sun (Tuscany)

A struggling writer, Frances Mayes, decides to buy an old villa in Tuscany that matches her shambled life. Through restoring her new home, she eventually finds the fulfillment she was longing for. Take a journey through the beautiful Tuscan countryside in Under the Tuscan Sun. The charming low hills covered in olive groves, vineyards, and beautiful old villas will have you running to the nearest realtor so you can move into one yourself.

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The Tourist (Venice, Italy)

Venice is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities. Tourists flock from all over the world to take a gondola ride through the canals, visit the glass blower’s’ shop and relax in Piazza San Marco. Experience Venice as never before through this high-speed, action-filled movie of one tourist in the right place, at the wrong time. Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, and a band of Russian mobsters guarantee a heart stopping view of Venice in The Tourist.

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The Italian Job (Venice, Italy)

Did The Tourist leave you wanting more high-speed action in Venice? Never fear: Mark Wahlberg and Donald Sutherland are here! They’ve assembled a team for one last gold heist of $35 million in gold bars. Race through the canaled streets of Venice in The Italian Job.

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The Talented Mr. Ripley (Sanremo and Venice, Italy)

There are a couple things Mr. Tom Ripley is really good at; lying, impressions, and forgery. Travel to Venice and Sanremo in the 1950’s with Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cate Blanchett in The Talented Mr. Ripley. The young underachiever, Tom Ripley, is sent to Italy to retrieve a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy named Dickie Greenleaf. Ripley’s errand fails and he must take extreme measures.

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Letters to Juliet (Verona, Italy)

Get a glimpse of the city that inspired William Shakespeare and the classic story of Romeo and Juliet through Letters to Juliet. Amanda Seyfried plays Sophie, a girl who dreams of being a writer. During her vacation to Verona, Sophie stumbles into the “Secretaries of Juliet” who take down love letters written underneath Juliet’s balcony and respond with advice and comfort. As we follow Sophie and the Secretaries through the Roman ruins, medieval vestiges, and antique palaces, squares and bridges, it will be love at first sight.

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How to Transition to Life in an Italian Apartment

Of all the glamorous things you’ll do and experience abroad, living in an Italian “flat” probably won’t be one of them. Unless you lucked out and were placed in the apartment that your program advertises on their website, read the following and you’ll be transitioning to your new life in no time. First and foremost, as a general rule, everything in your Italian apartment is probably going to be smaller than your home in America. It’s unclear whether Italians enjoy showering in a space equivalent to that of a sardine can, but it’s something that will definitely take some getting used to. You’ll quickly learn that your 20 minute showers are not only unnecessary, but not that relaxing when you start getting claustrophobic after minute 5. This applies to personal space as well. If you have an apartment with seven people, you are probably going to be squished into a room with four of them which means you and your new roomies will become BFFLS in no time! We know it’s a confusing lifestyle change, but we promise you’ll adjust. The contrast in size from your American kitchen to your Italian kitchen is also a major cultural difference. With the average kitchen being about the width of a small hallway, you will most likely be able to fit one, max two, human beings in there at the same time. Plan accordingly because overcrowding can result in broken plates, broken toes and pissed off roommates. Your Italian kitchen will also be much less equipped with conveniences you are used to in America such as a dishwasher, garbage disposal, self-lighting stove, and there usually isn’t a microwave. Cue: What does this mean? You’ll take out the trash a lot more often, usually have a stack of dishes taking up residency in your sink, and get used to cold leftovers. The plus side is it may just motivate you to clean your apartment more frequently….maybe. Doing laundry is another chore that Italians do a bit differently than Americans. Most apparent is that dryers are not commonplace in Italian apartments and they dry their clothes the old fashioned way, on a clothing line. You’ll probably have to get used to your clothes being a bit stiffer than usual and girls, if you rely on your dryer to make your jeans tighter once they stretch out, visit your local laundromat (although if you’re doing Italy right then you probably don’t want to shrink your jeans anymore…). Exhibit A: Your toughest struggle living in an Italian apartment? Wifi. Almost every apartment will have it, but that doesn’t mean it will be reliable. Italians do not seem to possess the same constant need for virtual connection and interaction that we as Americans have become somewhat addicted to. This means that within the first week, you’ve learned the exact corner of your apartment that you need to huddle into to talk to your parents on Viber, and the perfect position to hold your ipad in so that you can catch up on Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Scandal. It can be tricky, but we have faith in you that you will adjust to this life altering cultural difference. After all, we all know how this feels There is obviously a trade-off however, of “roughing it” and that is that you’re living it ITALY. You will rarely spend a long span of time in your apartment anyway. When you’re living in a country as beautiful as Italy with as much to offer, you should be going out and experiencing everything possible and not trying to figure out how to download a proxy server that allows you to watch Netflix. As long as you keep this in mind, you will learn to accept, and even come to love, your new little Italian home in no time!

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Bus2alps Make it Rain Sale

In Europe, the hint of crispness in the air and leaves changing colors signal more than a shift in seasons; it means new places to explore! Bus2alps wants to help you check off everywhere you want to go, so tonight, we’re making it rain. Don’t worry, no actual cloudy skies in sight–we’re just dropping discounts on our fall trips so you can save big and see it all!

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From 6 pm – 8 pm, tune into the Bus2alps Make it Rain Sale Facebook event for voucher code announcements to save you anywhere from 10€ to 300€. Every half hour, we’ll be releasing more discounts on trips everywhere from the French Riviera to Prague to Interlaken and more, not to mention Fall Breaks. You can see and book all our trips at www.bus2alps.com.

The vouchers are first come first serve and have limited uses, so be sure to check the event right away to snag the deals! Here’s when we’ll announce them:

Beach Trips (Rome & Florence Departures): 6 pm
Winter Trips (Rome, Florence, & Prague Departures): 6:30 pm
Fly-in Weekend Trips: 7 pm
Fall Breaks (All Departures): 7:30 pm

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These deals will be expire after Wednesday, so book fast to save big on your fall semester!

These voucher codes are valid in addition to staff discount codes for even more savings, so let us know if you need a discount code for an additional 5% off. 

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A Dozen Reasons to Love Greece

 

  1. There is such beautiful and majestic nature around every corner of Greece.
    There is just something about donkeys laying under the shade of a palmtree umbrella decorated with vibrant colors and a blue sky for a backdrop that makes you step back and truly appreciate what you are looking at. The beauty that is held in nearly every corner you turn in Greece is something that deserves full and undivided attention and appreciation.  You really need to engulf yourself entirely into the scene and view before you.
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  2. The Colors of the Flag are Everywhere!
    From the blue and white of the Greek flag to the blue skies and sea contrasted with white clouds and houses, the cities and islands are filled with the Greek flag’s colors everywhere you turn. Not only is this beautiful, as one could imagine, but it makes sense as to why the Greek flag would be blue and white….2
  3. There are Vendors Everywhere
    If you’re in the mood for a piece of fruit, or anything little to snack on, there is no need to go to a farmer’s market to satisfy the craving. This is because there are little fruit stands all along the side streets throughout Greece. Not only is the food fresh and tasty, but typically it is locally grown, and the vendors are super friendly!
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  4. You can Ride a Donkey to the Old Port for 4 Euro
    If you’re able to get used to holding your breath from the stench and watch out for getting hind kicked, you can get the true “Greek Experience” and ride a donkey down the botton of seven winding staircases to the Old Port below Thira, Santorini.  Just like in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, you can hop on a donkey with bells and embellishments and he’ll take you to either the top or bottom of the passageway… not too shabby for 4 euro!
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  5. The Cliff Side is Unlike Anything in this World
    In both the towns of Thira and Oia in Santorini, the stucco homes lay on the cliffside looking west.  The homes literally look as if they are stacked on top of one another, adding even more character to the pristine country of Greece.
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  6. Donkey Owners take their Pets home at Sunset
    There is something so pleasing about sitting on a blanket, watching the sunset in Oia, when a parade of donkeys pass by in front of you with the backdrop of a colorful sky.  Although it is only a silhouette, the moment is instilled in your mind forever.
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  7. The Most Beautiful Sunset in the World: Oia
    Being able to say that you were able to witness and engulf yourself to see the beauty of a sunset in Oia is something that will stick with you for life.  It was one of the most breathtaking moments I had while in Europe, watching the ball of red slowly lay itself into the Mediterranean Sea before me and move onto someplace else in this world.
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  8. The Aegean Sea has Water you can see your Feet in!
    Growing up in the Northeast of the USA, I am used to brown, mucky ocean water where you can barely see your chest.  Being fully submerged in the salty, smooth water of the Aegean Sea and still being able to see my feet was something out of this world!  And there is nothing more refreshing than soothing your feet after burning them on the hot, black sand!  The color of the water alone isn’t like a Caribbean blue or even mediterranean blue, it’s a much crisper color.  Absolutely breathtaking!
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  9. Windmills… Everywhere!
    And I don’t mean like the windmills that you see in California. These are old fashioned, stone, beautiful windmills that have so much history and character behind them!
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  10. The Red Beach
    Yes, a red beach, with red sand. You have to climb up rocks and follow a dirt path to get here, but when you turn the corner and the red beach is there for full view, you realize how the trek was very much worth it.  Again, it is unlike anything in this world.  When you climb down to the actual beach itself, you can find a lot of smoothed down sea glass along the shoreline. The contrast of colors from the blue water and the red sand add for a breathtaking spot.
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  11. It Isn’t Just Beautiful
    But it is also extremely rich in its history.  Dating thousands of years back in time, to the ancient Greek times, the history and culture of the Greek tradition is so rich.  You can finally go to Zeus’s Temple, like in the Disney movie we all would watch when we were younger, Hercules. The columns and massive structures make you have a whole new appreciation for manual labor and what man is capable of doing and succeeding in.
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  12. They Love Americans!
    Unlike a lot of European countries one may visit, Greece is very welcoming of the American people. They ask questions of the country itself and are fascinated to hear what you have to say. It is pretty equal in the appreciation a Greek has for America and Americans have for Greece.  It is also very nice to feel welcomed and enjoyed in a foreign country!  It makes you feel like having a home away from home.
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Exploring Florence’s Best Piazzas

Florence is filled with beautiful piazzas, but if you’re not used to having several giant and elaborate town squares in your city, they can seem like a bit of a mystery. If you’re wondering what you can do in some of the city’s best public spaces (and what to eat, because duh, it’s Italy) consider this your guide:

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Home to some of the most famous statues in the world, Piazza della Signoria is an art lover’s dream. But don’t expect to be alone as you marvel at the impressive works in the outdoor sculpture museum, the Loggia dei Lanzi. At any given point in the day, you’ll be surrounded by hordes of tourists.

A few blocks from the Piazza, you can find Gelateria dei Neri, one of the best gelato places/bakeries in the city. Grab yourself a cone or a cannoli, walk to the piazza, and spend some time admiring the architecture of the Palazzo Vecchio and the copy of Michelangelo’s David in the statue’s original location. Then find a seat on the ledge of the Loggia dei Lanzi and watch tourists react to the sculptures. You’ll hear everything from debates on the ethical issues of marble quarrying to things like, “Isn’t that white naked guy thingy famous?” (Believe it or not, this is a real quote.)

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Because it surrounds the Basilica of Santa Croce, the burial place of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli, Piazza Santa Croce is another major tourist destination. You can expect to see several groups being led by tour guides carrying giant sticks with loofahs on the top, a few souvenir carts, one or two street musicians, and a whole lot of pigeons.

Piazza Santa Croce is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon. Get yourself an unbelievably delicious panino from the nearby Pino’s Sandwiches and head directly for the steps of the Santa Croce. Despite the constant commotion of the piazza’s visitors, the steps are a relatively quiet place to read a good book or spend a few hours people watching.

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Piazza della Repubblica has an incredibly long history. Starting as a Roman forum, the piazza is now at the heart of Florence’s shopping district and is filled with interesting people and events. Be prepared to see painters, musicians, and what is quite possibly the world’s coolest carousel.

There’s no shortage of great food surrounding Piazza della Repubblica (seriously, there’s a place that sells chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick) but if you want to go for a classic, get some mind-blowingly good Venchi gelato. Riding the carousel is obviously a magical experience (especially at night), but simply sitting and watching/listening to the musicians and artists is highly enjoyable. If you’re really bored, see how long you can stand in one place without a gypsy approaching you. My current record is 3.5 minutes.

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Looking to escape the crazy crowds of tourists? Then take a trip across the Santa Trinita bridge to Piazza Santo Spirito, because you won’t see hardly any of them there. In addition to artsy locals and the gorgeous Santo Spirito church designed by Fillippo Brunelleschi (of Duomo fame), you’ll find pretty trees, a beautiful fountain, and tons of charming restaurants and bars surrounding the square.

Around the corner from Piazza Santo Spirito is Florence’s crowning jewel of a pizzeria, Gusta Pizza. For daytime visits to the piazza, there’s nothing better than getting a gloriously large margherita pizza and eating it on the church steps. But perhaps the best time to visit Piazza Santo Spirito is on weekend nights when it’s absolutely packed with young and fascinating locals. If you’re tired of hanging out in Americanized clubs and bars, you definitely won’t be disappointed with the Santo Spirito nightlife.

 

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