All posts by gianna1228

Just a girl living in Florence and enjoying the extended study abroad life dolce vita style!

#nowyouknow Ireland

The land of green, rolling hills, castles, and more Guinness and whiskey than you could ever imagine. Ireland is home to some of the most beautiful coastline in the world as well as some of the kindest people. Everyone deserves to test their own luck of the Irish and head to the Emerald Isle for a getaway.
#nowyouknow_Ireland1. The king we all love to hate in “Game of Thrones” (King Joffrey or actor Jack Gleeson in real life) attends Ireland’s oldest university, Dublin’s Trinity College. The actor was also born in Cork, Ireland. Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and, Bram Stoker, creator of Dracula, also attended Trinity College in Dublin.
2. In 2007 Galway was named one of the top eight “sexiest cities” in the world.
3. Free live music is played in almost every pub in Ireland seven days a week.
4. The park scene from the movie “P.S. I Love You” was filmed in a National Park outside of the city Galway.
5. U2’s Bono was born and raised in Dublin where the band was formed and played its first gig. He now owns a famous hotel and nightclub in the Temple Bar area.
6. Ireland is politically divided politically in half. Northern Ireland is under the rule of England and uses the British Pound currency, the south is the the Republic of Ireland and it is on the Euro.
7. It is estimated that 50% of the Dublin’s residents are under 25 years of age.
8. Maureen O’Hara, Brendan Gleeson, Gabriel Byrne and Colin Farrell are all Hollywood actors from Ireland’s capital.
9. The “Oldest Pub in Ireland” is reputed to be located in Dublin. The pub is called the Brazen Head. There has been a pub on this site since 1198.
10. The Cliffs of Moher draw almost 1,000,000 tourists per year and have been the set for many movies and music videos including: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Princess Bride (1987), and in Maroon 5’s Runaway video.

#nowyouknow Morocco

Not far in distance, but unmistakably unique in culture, Morocco is a whole different world compared to Europe. Hike the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, visit a traditional hammam spa , get lost in the famous Marrakech souk and befriend a camel in North Africa’s gem.

1. Cycle 16 of “America’s Next Top Model” was filmed in Marrakech.
2. Morocco is situated in North Africa and is the only African country that is presently not a member of the African Union.
3. It is considered impolite to handle food with the left hand.
4. The official language of Morocco is Arabic. However, Berber (another dialect) and French are also spoken widely.
5. Moroccan cuisine is a mixture of European and African cuisine, due to its location between the two continents.
6. Moroccans are known to be some of the friendliest people around the world.
7. The national drink of Morocco is mint tea. The national dish of Morocco is couscous.
8. EVERYONE eats couscous on Fridays in Morocco.
9. If you make eye contact with someone of the opposite sex and smile, to them this is a sign that you are romantically interested in them.
10. In Sex in the City II, the market scene where Carrie meets up with old flame Aidan was filmed in the Marrakech medina.

#nowyouknow Interlaken

If you simply sat in the middle of the field in the center of downtown Interlaken for the entire weekend, this trip would be worth it simply for the unmistakable beauty. Though it is impossible to not take part in the activities of this adventure capital.  Skydive, bungee jump, paraglide into the clouds, or zipline through the trees. Adrenaline not your thing? Relax in a hammock, take a hike through the alps, hit the Swiss spa, paddleboard on glacial blue lakes, or have a night out for traditional Swiss fondue. Plus, its Bus2alps’s home base. Make this a get-away you do not miss!
1) The word “Interlaken” is derived from the Latin words inter lacus, meaning “between the lakes”.  Logical, as this picturesque getaway in Switzerland sits between the majestic Lake Brienz and Lake Thun.
2) Interlaken, Switzerland is the original Bus2Alps destination, hence the company name.  In 2003, students studying in Florence traveled by bus to Interlaken to ski the Swiss Alps, and Bus2Alps was born!
3) Searching for your adrenaline fix? Look no further! Interlaken is considered the adventure capital of Europe and third best adventure destination in the world (only behind Queenstown, New Zealand and Victoria Falls, South Africa)!
4) Attention chocolate lovers! The Swiss eat the most chocolate of any country, a whopping 22 pounds per person annually. At the Grand Café Restaurant Schuh in Interlaken, they have been making chocolate since 1818.  You can learn the incredible Swiss art of chocolate making and most importantly, sample the best chocolate in the world!
5) The town is surrounded by 3 well-known peaks of the Jungfrau region of the Alps; the Eiger (13,020 ft), the Mönch (13, 474 ft) and the Jungfrau (13, 642 ft) which can be seen easily from over 1/3 of the town of Interlaken.
6) Though the Eiger is the smallest of these 3 peaks, it is infamous for the aptly named “Death Wall” on its northern face. From just 328 feet below the summit, the mountain becomes a sheer wall, falling abruptly for approximately 6,000 feet.  This challenge attracts expert climbers from all over the world.
7) Need some last minute souvenirs for mom and pop? Look no further! Interlaken has the highest concentration of souvenir shops in Switzerland.  Watches, Swiss army knives, chocolate, woodcarvings, Swiss music boxes, and other quaint items your friends and family are sure to love!
8) Is skiing the Swiss Alps on your bucket list? Interlaken is the home base for more than 93 miles of ski runs in the Jungfrau region, making it one of the top winter resorts in Europe! Sitting down more your style? Take a ride on a sled (or sledge) on any of the 9 miles of trails around Interlaken!
9) Don’t mind if I “fondue”! Invented by the Swiss in 1699, cheese fondue is considered a national dish of Switzerland.  No trip to Interlaken is complete without indulging in this cheesy heaven. Bebbi’s Restaurant in the heart of Interlaken serves a chocolate edition as well!
10) Living up to it’s adrenaline hype, Interlaken is one of just 3 places in the world where you can jump off a cliff into a canyon… and survive.  Canyon jumping here will test your bravery as you attach yourself to a 279-foot rope. Prepare to free fall 3 full seconds and then swing at high speed, suspended over the canyon floor!

#nowyouknow Vienna & Salzburg

Austria has everything to offer curious minds from the cultural epicenter of art, music, and history that is Vienna to beautiful baroque towns set against the backdrop of the awe-inspiring Austrian Alps like Salzburg.


1.) Warm up your vocal cords for a sing-a-long. “The Sound of Music” was filmed in and around Salzburg and there is even a tour you can take to see all of the music popular sights seen in the film.
2.) Famous for its performing arts history, classical composers, including Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Schubert and Brahms have all lived, performed and created many of their masterpieces in Vienna.
3.) Viennese enjoy one of the highest qualities of life in the European Union.
4.)You can try the world famous and Original Sachertorte that Austrian Franz Sacher made in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna, Austria. One of the most well known Viennese treats, this chocolate cake is sweetened with layers of apricot jam.
5.) You can tour the Schnaps museum in Vienna and sample the local liquors. Schnaps is derived from a word that means swallow in “low” German and now refers to any kind of strong alcoholic beverage.
6.) Vienna was the capital of the Austrian empire and remnants of the royal Hapsburgs can be found around including the Hofburg palace and their summer home (Schonbrunn palace) that is rivaled only by the Palace of Versailles outside of Paris.
7.) Vienna is referred to as “The City of Dreams” as it was home to the world’s first psycho-analyst – Sigmund Freud.
8.) Coffee houses are famous in Vienna and is customary and popular for the Viennese to hang out all day in a cafe drinking coffee and water and sampling desserts.
9.) Salzburg’s “Old Town” is one of the best-preserved city centres north of the Alps and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
10.) Salzburg was the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

#nowyouknow UK Celtic Loop

Massive hills, plunging cliffs and bustling metropoli, the Celtic Loop seems to roll right off of legendary film strips. These destinations have set the scene for countless films and have birthed some of the most remarkable staples in popular culture like Harry Potter and Guinness beer.


1) The Queen of England is super old. As reigning royalty, she’s seen 11 U.S. presidents occupy and leave the Oval Office.
2) London has set the scene for Harry Potter, James Bond and countless cinematic legends and is the third busiest film production city with over 14,000 shooting days.
3) London based best-selling artists like Adele and Coldplay account for a large percentage of the music industry’s profit, gaining more than $3 billion in worldwide sales last year.
4) Scotland’s Edinburgh is the second most popular European tourist destination behind London.
5) J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book in an Edinburgh cafe. Surely, the magic still lingers.
6) The Edinburgh Castle is built upon an extinct volcano.
7) The Titanic was built in Belfast. In retrospect, someone really dropped the ball on that one.
8) Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” was first played live in Belfast. And so, the rock legend began.
9) Dublin is the home of Guinness beer. Over 10 million glasses of the famous brew are produced daily all around the world!
10) Vikings ruled Dublin for almost 300 years. And if you don’t already know, Vikings were pretty nuts”

Sara Eats Her Way Through Italy: Da Enzo

By Sara Kotcher

My friend Hannah went on a food crawl of Trastevere, our neighborhood in home sweet Rome. She ended up at a spot called Da Enzo. When she suggested it to me, little did I know she was offering up a hidden gem of Trastevere’s restaurant scene. Da-enzo was da-mazing!

Although the dining experience did not begin so smoothly; we showed up as a party of 3 with no reservation around 7:45pm, early for Italian standards, and the place was packed. Whoops, our bad. I have never made a dinner reservation in Rome because usually you can stroll in and they’ll find a way to make it work, true to Italian form. However, it had been torrentially down pouring all day. I know because I literally got caught in it in between classes and walked around all day drenched. Not fun. So I was obviously really hungry. Finally they seat us outside but they said that if it rains, there’s nothing they can do about it – again, so Italian.

The waiter comes over, speaking perfect English in an Australian accent but then I heard him speaking to the table next to us in fluent Italian. Amazing, and atIMG_5235 this point I’m not really surprised.  For a restaurant known as one of the best in Trastevere, the waiters probably are used to dealing with non-Italian tourists all the time.  We order the specials right away – burrata, artichokes, and some zucchini flowers. The burrata was about the size of my face and we ate it all. It tasted so fresh, practically straight from the dairy farm I swear it was deliciously creamy but somehow not too rich. Only order the zucchini flowers here if you’re a fan of anchovies. Da Enzo goes heavy on the anchovies, unfortunately for us since we don’t love them. Artichokes were perfectly crispy and sautéed to perfection, however if you want the real deal visit Piperno in the Jewish Ghetto.

Main course comes out and by this time we had started talking to the table next to us, since we were basically sitting on top of them.  The outdoor tables at Da Enzo is basically one communal table. Small world though, since the mother-daughter duo next to us were from the same town as my cousins. Not only that, but the daughter had babysat for them and the Mom was friends with my aunt. My friends laughed since they were saying, “if anyone would know someone here, its you.”

IMG_5243The pastas were our first order of business. We had ordered the cacio e pepe, a Roman classic, and the special which was a fettucini in a sausage, pea, and mushroom sauce. While both were superb, the polpette (meatballs) we ordered stole the show. I would come back here for those alone. Best I’ve had in Rome, possibly life actually, except they could never rival my own Grandma’s.

So because we weren’t in enough of a food coma by now, my friends begged me to order the tirimasu for dessert. They didn’t have to twist my arm. Out it comes and WOW – delicious. Sweet, refreshing, full of coffee bean, just how any tirimasu should be. Definitely lived up to any tirimasu standard I have created over the years with the help of my brother, the tirimasu expert.

All in all, Da Enzo was a truly authentic and original Italian meal through and through. The service, the food, and the company alike were all a win. Also, it is very well priced down to the house wine which we guzzled like water, per usual.

Sara Kotcher is currently an Emory University junior studying psychology and media studies studying abroad in Rome through John Cabot University.  She is originally from New York.  Follow Sara directly on her personal blog and her comprehensive guide for all different cities blog

Why Fall In Europe Is Awesome

By Sara Wiseman

The leaves are crisping at the end of twigs. Elbowing men, women and children to get through piazzas isn’t wholly necessary anymore. Your favorite gypsies are bundling up. The smell of fall is in the air! Here are few things you need to know about fall in Europe:


1. Chill out.   I don’t know about you, but most of my summer consisted of heavy perspiration and wishing the heat would stop. One of the greatest things about fall in Europe (particularly Italy) is the fact that it’s cooling down. We are no longer constantly reminded of our out-of-shapeness as we climb what seems like thousands of stairs to apartments that are likely sans air conditioning.

Italy in fall will be rainy but temperatures won’t fall much lower than 50 degrees. This also means a decrease in bug bites. Less mosquitoes means less time spent scratching and looking like a coke-head tweaker! Joy to all!
mulled wine

2. Hot drinks. Cooler weather means you can drink hot beverages without feeling like you’re going to die! So, you should get a little lesson in culture and try some traditional hot European beverages like hot or mulled wine. Hot booze may sound like a different concept but you should definitely take a sip of this European tradition.

3. Beat the crowds. Most of my summer days were spent fighting through masses of middle-aged tour groups. They listened attentively to the their umbrella wielding shepherd and therefore paid no attention to any pedestrian. Praise the cooler weather as, alas, tourism season is drawing to a close. You’ll be able to climb the Duomo without waiting for hours and you’ll even be able to catch a bus and not feel as if it’s the last lifeboat from the Titanic.

4. New wardrobe. The fall also offers a chance to show off a new wardrobe to all of your new friends. They may be accustomed to seeing the same tank top and shorts combo and now (watch out!), here you come in clothes they’ve never seen before! Bust out the sweaters and scarves without copious amounts of neck-sweat. If studying or visiting in Tuscany, it’s also time to treat yourself to a leather jacket. Take a stroll through the leather markets and haggle your way into owning a fantastic new addition to your attire.

5. Festivals. A new season also means new festivals. Keep your eye out around your city for music festivals or seasonal events. A famous festival happening soon is the EuroChocolate Festival in Perugia. It’ll get your sweet tooth aching with chocolate tastings, displays, sculpting and street performances.

So, it’s no longer beach season which kind of sucks. But, hopefully these points got you pumped up for a great fall in Europe!