Tag Archives: florence

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.

Duomo and Campanile Photo.jpg

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.

Florentine fare: Trattorias

By Hanna Daboul

Trattorias are one of Florence’s best attributes. Found around every corner and on almost every street, they offer a delicious taste of traditional Tuscan cuisine and culture. Most of them are family owned and operated, and have been in business for at least a couple of generations, sometimes more. I love everything from their comfortable, laid-back atmosphere to their fresh, piping hot dishes.

One thing that sets trattorias apart from a lot of other restaurants is their hand written menus. Most trattorias use fresh ingredients that they buy on a daily basis, so the menu is constantly changing depending upon what’s available on a daily and seasonal basis. If nothing else, trattorias serve to bring people together to share one of Italy’s favorite things: food. This food wouldn’t be complete without their second favorite thing, wine. The house wine in trattorias and pretty much anywhere in Italy never fails, and is a somewhat necessary and inexpensive addition to any meal, although that could be a matter of opinion. Another defining characteristic is their modest décor. Paper place mats, broken in furniture, random artwork and photos on the wall, and a paper menu are all typical.

Florentine trattorias have similar menus for the most part. Some of them might have a dish that the others don’t or one might prepare one a little bit differently than the others, but for the most part they all stick to tradition. So what can you expect to see on a menu? Bistecca Fiorentina (t-bone steak), ribollita (vegetable-bread stew), trippa alla Fiorentina (tripe), zuppa di fagioli (bean soup), tortelli di patate al ragu (pasta with meat sauce), peposo di manzo (beef stew), and bollito misto (boiled beef)are the usual fare. They also offer side dishes such as cannellini beans, boiled potatoes and sautéed spinach with garlic.

Walking into some of the trattorias there is a feeling of timelessness because some of them haven’t changed in 20 years, and none of them are in perfect condition. The place mats and napkins are disposable, the furniture is broken in, the walls probably haven’t been painted in forever, but the families that own them genuinely seem to want to deliver a good authentic meal and friendly, helpful service, making the experience that much better.

Trattoria Mario in San Lorenzo is without a doubt my favorite trattoria that I’ve been to. Mario’s has been around since 1953, and is still owned and operated by the same family. They only serve lunch, so it’s almost always packed and there’s usually a wait. The atmosphere is one of the things I love the most about Mario’s. They literally try to pack in as many people as possible even if that means seating four strangers at the same small table. It’s loud and oddly exciting watching the servers rush around. The bio on their website says, “If you stand across the street at 8:00 in the morning watching the butcher carry in a days supply of bistecca over his shoulder it could be 50 years ago and it would look the same.” I love this because it shows Mario’s commitment to buying and preparing the freshest ingredients, and to maintaining authenticity. When I went for lunch they were literally crossing things off of the handwritten daily menu as the ingredients/dishes ran out. I ordered the pepose di manzo, a beef stew in a red sauce.

Another favorite of mine is Trattoria Sostanza. It’s been around since 1869 and Sostanza is known for their bistecca alla Fiorentina. I love Sostanza’s white tile walls and white marble table and counter tops.


When I went for dinner there were actually mostly Italians eating, which definitely says something about the food. Sostanza is known for two of their own signature dishes in addition to the traditional dishes and their bistecca alla Fiorentina: tortino carciofi (artichoke tart) and pollo al burro (chicken in butter). A lot people around me were eating the bistecca Fiorentina, which is enormous and easily shared by three or four people depending on how hungry you are. I ordered the veal chop and didn’t regret it. I highly recommend what I’m pretty sure is their signature dessert. I don’t know what it’s called because I saw the people next to me eating it and asked for whatever it was, but it was amazing. Here it is:

Love at first bite.
Love at first bite.

I absolutely love eating at La Marione, off of Via Tournabuoni, because it’s so homey and warm, and the waiters are the nicest. They’re always willing to answer questions about the menu and they’re super accommodating and helpful. No complaints about the food either. I love their ribollita and their beef stew is also really good.

Trattoria da Giorgio is literally a hole in the wall. Its brick walls and broken in tables and chairs set with paper place mats all contribute to its casual, relaxed environment. The best part about Giorgio is its fixed price, three-course menu that includes a half-liter of house wine. You choose a first course, second course, and side plus wine and water all for 13 or 14 euro…great deal. I ordered the ribollita as my first course and then pork with a creamy truffle sauce for my second course with a side of spinach followed by an amazing chocolate dessert.

Trattoria da Giorgio's interior
Trattoria da Giorgio’s interior