Tag Archives: florence

A is for Abroad

“Being abroad is a strange yet terrifying yet completely liberating and exhilarating experience,” says the girl who has been here all of five days. If we are being real here, I thought I would be gallivanting all over Europe, drinking wine, eating pizza, and practicing my Italian on beautiful willing locals/Armani models. School? What is school? I am just going to travel and tan and be a European for the next few weeks. Hold up, woah, press pause. That is all wrong, my friends. Well, not all of it, but being abroad requires a little hard work and it really reveals who you are when dropped in unfamiliar waters. This is what I have learned these past few days.

Know when it is time to buck up and do something and when it is time to go home. You are abroad, gosh darn it. You obviously did not pay X amount of money to sit in your apartment and watch movies all day. The world is waiting for you! You are here to explore, to practice the language, to meet people, to see things people dream of seeing, to take advantage of life! See it, enjoy it, live it, and take it all in. But if you are ill, injured, or physically exhausted, don’t stress! The Coliseum will be there tomorrow. So will the Eiffel Tower. Maybe even Big Ben. You will have other opportunities but know when the time is right to stay and see or go and rest.

Find a happy medium between comfy and fashion-forward for your clothes. It is no secret that Europeans are world renowned fashion know it alls. I have even seen Roman women treck ruins in Louboutin high heels. True story. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Dress to impress as the Europeans do, but please do not sacrifice your feet to the cobble stones. It really isn’t worth it. I invested in Birkenstocks today (which happen to be alla moda here in Italy) and wow did I not know what I was missing out on. Adjust your closet to your comfort and vise versa, but never sacrifice one for the other. There is always a happy medium.

If you are ill, take action immediately. European pharmacies, unlike American ones, open late and close early. So if you are ill, it really is hard to be proactive. Bring with you extra Advil, a thermometer, an over the counter cold and flu medicine, and an extra pack of band aids from home just in case your local pharmacy is closed. Call a doctor immediately. Often times they do house calls as well!

Explore outside of your host city. I am head over heels in love with Florence but I would be lying if I said I am not psyched to go to Croatia for Ultra Music Festival and to the Amalfi coast. Explore your city, but do not be afraid to get out there and see something new!

Know enough of the language to get directions and ask basic questions. I am currently learning Italian so I am not having many problems getting by here in Florence. But if I was in Paris, Munich, or Copenhagen I would be lost to bits. Knowing how to ask who, what, when, where, how, and why is never a problem. Yes, lots of Europeans speak English but they will be impressed with you- and appreciative- if you try to speak their language.

Keep a journal, a blog, a photo diary, ANYTHING to remember these moments. No, Instagram doesn’t count. Neither does Facebook. It doesn’t matter if writing isn’t your strong suit, you will want to look back at these days with a full and clear memory. It can be just a sentence or two! Write every day so you can always look back.

Make friends. Like, duh. Who doesn’t want to make new friends? Talk with people in your classes, in your program, friends of your roommates, locals even! Invite them out to the bar, invite a group over for dinner, go to gelato, go to a museum, go do anything! You are in a new place. New friends would be a bonus addition.

Focus on your classes. That is the whole reason you are here. Classes are so important I can’t even begin to stress it. You are not in Europe to eat gelato all day (ahh…wishes) and go out every night. Study and study hard so you can play hard. Nobody likes writing a paper or doing a project while your friends are traveling new places and having the time of their lives. Do not procrastinate, study in groups, get your school work done efficiently and yes, make sure it is correct!

A good work ethic in the classroom will make this all happen. Classes are classes and they are important and the reason you are here. But studying abroad is the one chance you have to be out every night with friends, travel the world, meet new people, and make some amazing memories. Do your school work, but make sure you get the full experience.

Originally posted on Memoir of a Cliché, reposted with permission from Ally Arrigo. 

9 Bucket List Sunsets

1. Sorrento, Italy

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Until you’ve seen the clouds tinged with a golden hue that seems nothing short of angelic, you haven’t really absorbed the beauty of the Amalfi Coast. Don’t forget to glance down to take in the serene waters of the port below.

2. Oia, Santorini, Greece

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The world’s most photographed sunset didn’t get that distinction by accident. A sky brushed with lavender, mauve, coral, and so much more atop the blue-domed and white-washed buildings will take your breath away every time.

3. Split, Croatia


Amber reflections off the peaceful sea lining the palm-tree-studded main street of Split is the perfect end to a day spent tanning on the Dalmatian coast, and the ideal precursor to a night spent in Croatia’s legendary nightlife.

4. Nice, France

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Watching the sun set from Castle Hill in Nice affords views of the whole Promenade des Anglais, not to mention the famous pebbled beaches and azure water. They don’t call it the Côte d’Azur for nothing.

5. Florence, Italy

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Iconic and instantly recognizable to anyone who studied in Florence past, present, or future, the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo is not to be missed. You’ll never feel more fond of this Tuscan gem than when the sky turns into a piece of art worthy of the Renaissance masters who loved this city also.

6. Amsterdam Canals, Netherlands

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With more canals than Venice, Italy, Amsterdam is not short on charm. When dusk hits and the sky turns every shade of pastel, all reflected in the canals already mirroring the myriad colorful houses and boats, you’ll be hard-pressed to look away.

7. Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain

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Taking in the views of this city from arguably the world’s best park is breathtaking anytime of day, but add in a sinking sun against Gaudi’s mosaic masterpieces with La Sagrada Familia and the Mediterranean Ocean in the forefront and it’s a whole new ballgame.

8. Prague, Czech Republic

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The shades of pink and purple the sky turns at dusk in Prague can’t be replicated. Add in a striking contrast to the Charles Bridge and you have a pretty unforgettable view of Eastern Europe’s prettiest city.

9. The Swiss Alps

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The Alps are a decent background to begin with, but add in a sunset reflecting off the snowy white mountaintops after a day spent adventuring in Swiss heaven, and you have the perfect setting to reflect on just how lucky you are to be there.

Treat Yo Self: Exploring National Food Identities

While they may not be consistently nutritious, and more notably low in calories, the food that characterizes many European countries is consistently delicious. So many of the places I visited had a sort of “food identity.” I’m here to tell you what each of those identities is as well as remind you to treat yourself to them if you have the chance because you’ll miss it more than you know when you’re home. Eat whatever you want. Do not count calories. Just treat yourself.

Good old Italia. Also the country in which I studied and which also happens to be a country known for its cuisine. Italy is so big and every region’s food is so different, making it easy to come by good food. Studying in Florence, there’s all the places everyone knows and goes to like Zaza’s, Gusta Pizza, All’Antico Vinaio, Pino’s, Gatto, etc, plus SO MUCH MORE/way too many to name. My favorite panini in Florence was definitely All’Antico Vinaio, could’ve eaten it every single day.


I also loved the panini at a little wine bar called ‘ino over by the Uffizi. Their bread is amazing, and all of the panini have three ingredients, and all of them are delicious.


Rome has similar food, but they’re definitely known for carbonara so make sure to treat yourself to some if you’re there. Truffle ravioli are an essential part of any Italian experience; so make sure to order those as well because they aren’t hard to come by.

The truffle ravioli at Tony’s in Rome.
Venetian seafood.
Venetian seafood.

Olives, cheese, meat(s), and wine are essentials in Italy, so treat yourself to as much of those as you can because those truly aren’t the same in the US.


From left to right all the way down: Milan’s Salsamenteria di Parma served their wine in bowls instead of glasses; Cantinetta dei Verrazzano in Florence has some of the best cheese and meat to go along with their family’s famous wine; treats from La Fierucola, the organic market held on the third Sunday of every month in Florence’s Santo Spirito; gorgonzola, pecorino, honey, meats and wine from a market/event in Piazza Santa Maria Novella; olives and cheese from the same market; cool presentation of cheese and meat at La Vivanda in Florence.
From left to right all the way down: Milan’s Salsamenteria di Parma served their wine in bowls instead of glasses; Cantinetta dei Verrazzano in Florence has some of the best cheese and meat to go along with their family’s famous wine; treats from La Fierucola, the organic market held on the third Sunday of every month in Florence’s Santo Spirito; gorgonzola, pecorino, honey, meats and wine from a market/event in Piazza Santa Maria Novella; olives and cheese from the same market; presentation of cheese and meat at La Vivanda in Florence.

Barcelona, aka many people’s heaven on Earth, has anything you’d ever want and more. Treat yourself to brunch at Milk or Brunch & Cake and then later chow down on some patatas bravas at Tapas 24 or tomate. When you wake up on Saturday, maybe stop by Bo de B for a tasty sandwich filled with all fresh ingredients. From what I could tell, tapas are pretty big here so that’s the thing to try if nothing else, besides maybe the eggs Benny on a waffle at Brunch & Cake/the best treat ever.


GREECE. Greek food is unreal. If you don’t eat moussaka if/when in Greece, you’re missing out. It’s similar to lasagna in that it’s layered, but this bad boy’s got eggplant or potatoes, followed by some meat, followed by a ‘savory custard’ (tastes like cheese). It’s out of this world.


Prague: the city of treats. If you’re feeling really wild n crazy and want to gain 5 pounds in a weekend (not really but probably) eat how I ate while I was in Prague. Czech people are into meat and beer. Most dishes are served with potatoes of some sort and all the meat is cooked to perfection. I went during a weekend before Easter, so Old Town Square was filled with tents selling food and beer. They had homemade chips literally right out of the fryer, “grilled” cheese, grilled chicken and veggie skewers and so much SAUSAGE. Treats on treats on treats on treats. This was one of my favorite weekends food-wise, plus beer is the equivalent of water in Prague. While calories did play a very large factor here, I still decided to treat myself, and look how happy I was:



Amsterdam was hands down my favorite city. If Boston and Venice had a baby it would be Amsterdam. Being here made me miss the US while simultaneously wishing I were European. Food-wise, not much to say except for cheese museum and pancakes. Other than that all the food was what you’d find anywhere. If you don’t eat a pancake or treat yourself at the cheese museum while in Amsterdam don’t worry about it, you probably just aren’t as into cheese as you should be. It’s a museum full of free cheese samples, so I don’t know what more you could ask for. The Heineken Experience is also a must.


In Germany the majority of what I treated myself to consisted of beer, but Springfest has lots of tasty treats. Some Bratwurst, some roasted chicken, pretzels, more meat, some potatoes. Good stuff, but nothing too exciting.


Cheese and chocolate are Switzerland’s staples…treats all around. I’m pretty indifferent towards chocolate, but I make up for those feelings with my feelings for cheese.

Treating myself to some candlelit fondue at Gasthof Hirschen in Interlaken. I insist that you do this too.
Treating myself to some candlelit fondue at Gasthof Hirschen in Interlaken. I insist that you do this too.

In addition to their cheese, Switzerland dabbles in landscapes, mountain ranges and overall aesthetic appeal.


I hope that wherever you study and wherever you may travel, you always remember to treat yourself. So much of my experience abroad involved food and I don’t regret it, nor do I regret anything that I ate, because I thoroughly enjoyed it all. If you ever need encouragement or inspiration, just read this post again.

Five Ways to Get Your Fitness On in Florence

Florence is a beautiful, carb-filled paradise. Heart-shaped pizzas in fiery brick ovens declare their burning passion for you. An intense longing grows in your soul if you’re separated from your favorite panino for too long. Around each corner, decadent gelato does its best to seduce you. As you pass trays of cornetti (custard-filled croissants the size of your head) in bakery windows, they call out to you, saying, “Forget about egg whites! I’m the breakfast choice that can really make you happy.”

While eating delicious food is an absolutely essential part of experiencing Florence, after a while your pantaloni might start feeling a little bit tight. The good news is that you’ll be walking a lot more than usual, but if you want to take your fitness up a notch (or work off that jar of Nutella you just consumed) try out one of these fun calorie-burning activities:

1. Hike to Piazzale Michelangelo.  


When was the last time Instagramming your #workout looked this good? The climb to Piazzale Michelangelo is steep and well paved, making it perfect for both walking and intense interval training. Go early in the morning or later at night to watch the sunrise/sunset and avoid the biggest tourist crowds.

Looking for an added challenge? Hike up further to see San Miniato al Monte and get an even better view.


2. Climb to the top of the Duomo.

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463 stairs to the top of the dome. 414 stairs to the top of the bell tower. Get ready to feel the burn.

3. Rent a bicycle.


Who doesn’t love a good bike ride? Explore the city on a rental bicycle and attempt to look half as chic as Florentine cyclists.

4. Get a gym membership.


There are a lot of fantastic gym options in Florence (like the Swan Gymnastic Center above). Getting on an elliptical or treadmill is a comforting and effective way to deal with homesickness and the general stress that comes with travel. Plus, an Italian Zumba class is guaranteed to be ridiculously entertaining.

5. Go to the gelateria on the other side of the city.

When you live above a gelateria or down the street from Florence’s best kebab place, things can get out of hand quickly. If you decide to go for a treat, check out places that aren’t so convenient. You’ll be able to see more of the city (and justify that second scoop of gelato) if it’s a 25 minute walk away.

Some Essentials and Realities of Life Abroad

1. Things most certainly do not always go as planned.
Despite your best efforts, planning in advance, creating a rough agenda, or whatever it may be, traveling and living in general while abroad do not always turn out exactly as expected. A friend and I planned a weekend trip to Milan. We bought the train tickets and booked a hostel on a Thursday night, and had a list of restaurants, clubs and general areas we wanted to hit. Additionally, we had mapped out distances between the places we’d be and wanted to be. Upon our arrival, we were slightly disoriented and a lot of what we had planned ended up being counterproductive. Instead we spent the day wandering around the city, ending up at Milan’s Duomo, which is astoundingly beautiful. We ended up sitting in the piazza with some wine, people watching and talking until dinnertime. Rather than getting frustrated and bummed out about the unexpected, we went with it and decided to explore the city without any sort of direction or plan, and this ended up being one of our most memorable days/experiences.

2. Going with the flow and keeping a positive attitude are essential.
When plans don’t materialize or go as expected, go with it and definitely make the most of it (see point 1). Wandering around for example can bring you to some of the best places, or past some of the most obscure places that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Ask locals for restaurant recommendations. Laugh at the fact that you have to run a little over a mile back to the station to make your train. When I reflect on my time abroad, I remember the things that went wrong and my positive reactions to them the most. I remember laughing/running to catch my train back to Florence from Bologna and I remember wandering around Milan for hours spending quality time with my friend. The way you react to these situations is crucial.

3. Homesickness may come in waves, or not at all.
I wasn’t homesick for 99% of the time. The 1% of the time I spent being homesick was the result of something absolutely ridiculous and I regret it. You will more likely than not miss the little things like Chipotle, guac, and Goldfish like I did, but you’ll survive the 3.5 months without them simply because you don’t really have a choice and because they all taste so much better after waiting. If you’re homesick for other reasons, try to focus on what a great experience being abroad is and the fact that you will never have the same experience/opportunity ever again. Even if you come back to the place you’re studying, it will be with different people, at a different time, and you will be a different person. So if you get homesick, absolutely do not let it get in the way of enjoying and making the most of your time, because more often than not the reasons contributing to the homesickness are trivial compared to all the awesome things you’re experiencing abroad.

4. Do, see, or try something new everyday.
Really though. It doesn’t matter if it’s a food you’ve never tried or a site you’ve never seen or a route you’ve never walked. Do something unusual or out of the ordinary every single day. Make a point of going to a new museum or restaurant or walking a different way to class or exploring a new area of the city. Not only do these things help you to get to know a place better, but more importantly they help you get to know yourself better.

5. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.
See point 1, as well as point 3. Also, you and all of the people you’ll be spending time with are humans, and therefore are not perfect. Just because you’re abroad living the dream doesn’t mean you’re always going to be happy. I honestly thought that everything would be perfect because I was abroad and nothing was going to get me down, but the reality is things are still going to happen that you don’t necessarily like. The key is to not let those things bother you too much or to get in the way of your time abroad.

6. Enjoy the little things, because they’re actually the big things.
Words cannot describe the joy I felt walking by the Duomo in Florence everyday and night. I never once took that for granted. I stared at it with admiration every time I passed it and reminded myself of how beautiful it is. I watched many sunsets at Piazzale Michelangelo, and I wish I saw more because they’re unreal. I enjoyed the fact that I could walk literally everywhere and that my longest walk at any given time was 20 minutes. Walking everywhere is one of the things I miss the most about being abroad. Even the details of the buildings are ingrained in my mind because I loved them so much…even though they’re just buildings. I also miss the obscure shape of my apartment key. The list goes on.

7. Almost everything is a learning experience.
Even the bad things. I got my debit card compromised over spring break in Greece, but I learned to 1. Be more cautious of the ATMs I’m using and 2. Handle and manage such a situation. If something happens like this again, I’ll know how to handle it because I’ll know all the right questions to ask the bank, things to take note of, etc. On my second to last night in Florence, I got my phone stolen. I’m pretty sure it was stolen right out of my hand because my purse was pretty much the Fort Knox of purses, but it pretty much just taught me to back my phone up to my laptop. I did back up to iCloud, but not to my laptop, and I didn’t know when I’d have an iPhone again and the only thing I was worried about off the bat was when I’d have access to my pictures. If you care about your notes/pictures/calendar/etc. put them on your laptop too, because you just never know. If you’re lost or can’t find your way or aren’t where you thought you’d be, use it as an opportunity to use another language, get to know someone know or just explore!

8. Keep a journal.
Before I left for Italy, my dad handed me a little black notebook and told me not to buy him anything, but to write a journal entry every day for him in the notebook as his gift. I had planned on blogging a little bit while abroad, but never really thought about keeping a journal. About halfway through my semester, I figured out that my dad had tricked me into writing in the journal for myself, and I’m so happy he did because I know I wouldn’t have kept up with it so much if it hadn’t been for him. I literally wrote in it every single day about what I did, how I was feeling, what my plans were, etc. Now whenever I feel like reflecting on my time abroad I can go and read my journal.

Top 8 underrated must-sees in Europe

Everyone knows that when in France to visit the Eiffel Tower, to walk on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, grab a beer at Temple Bar in Dublin, and so on. These typical tourist attractions are always worth to see, but what about those city gems that go unnoticed except by the locals? Sometimes the best things in these famous European cities are the things that are almost entirely unknown by tourists, but are incredible when discovered. Here we have a list of the top most underrated places in a few of Europe’s most travelled to cities, and all are worth checking out!

1) Fiesole
This Italian providence is located right outside of Florence up on those amazing Tuscan hills. Many tourists never think to travel outside of Florence’s city limits, but Fiesole is worth the trek! Being up on those high hills, Fiesole offers breathtaking views of Florence that could even the Piazzale Michelangelo views to shame!

2) Santa Maria del Mar
This church is typically overshadowed by the famous La Sagrada Familia by Gaudí located in Barcelona, is a great example of Gothic architecture for all you art lovers out there. Santa Maria del Mar is gorgeous and immense both in its interior and exterior. However, its beauty is often not noticed by travelers because of the rush to see all of Barcelona’s other more famous Gothic churches. Yet a trip to this church will leave you feeling as much awe as any of Gaudí’s works!

3) Rue du Chat que Piche
This street in Paris is known by the locals as the most narrow street in all of the city. Along one of the wall’s lining the street is a design of fishing cat underneath an umbrella, symbolizing the English translation of this street name, “Street of the Fishing Cat.” This unique street is a necessity in any traveler’s itinerary for unique things to see when in Paris!

4) Troja Chateau
This Prague gem is known for its gorgeous gardens and impresses all with its architecture. The chateau is rarely a popular visiting point for those exploring Prague, but its breathtaking artwork and location will be a memorable site for anyone passing through Prague.

5) Richmond Park
London is home to many popular walking paths, but one of the more easily overlooked ones are the paths going through Richmond Park. This park provides people with beautiful views of London through a waterside walking tour. London has many tourist attractions, but travelers will be able to experience a whole other side to this busy city through its peaceful Richmond Park.

6) Artis Royal Zoo
Zoos are a common tourist spot in any location, but the Artis Royal Zoo located in Amsterdam tops all others with its many exhibits. With a planetarium, aquarium, a huge variety of animal exhibits, and a cheap entrance fee, this zoo is sure to impress.

7) Royal Canal Way
There is few better ways to experience a new city than by exploring by foot. The Royal Canal Way in Dublin winds around a lake while remaining close to the train for easy traveling. Even though it is a mainly local area, the scenic water view is memorable to any travelers who know of the spot.

8) Appia Antica
Rome is known for its mighty attractions like the Colosseum and the Vatican, but the old road of Appia Antica departs from the bustling Rome tourists. Containing a few historic sights on the road and no cars allowed through on Sundays, Appia Antica shows travelers a new and calmer side to Rome that few get to experience.