Tag Archives: florence


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.

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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

Coming down from the study abroad high: Reverse culture shock

When coming home from study abroad and reuniting with all your friends back home, there are a few questions you will hear:

  • “OMG how was is it?”
  • “What was your favorite city?”
  • “Did you love it?”

They really are some of the hardest questions to answer. How do you describe your four months abroad? It was amazing, I loved every city. Of course, I loved living in Europe and traveling for four months.

I went back to my home university this past weekend and I felt bad for my friends that had to constantly listen to me talk about abroad, but right now it is the only thing I want to talk about.

My first week back home has been a mix of feelings. Filled with jet lag, sadness, happiness and shock. If you think culture shock going to Europe is bad, just imagine it when you come back home. I was amazed by the fact that I could get tap water without judgment and that separate checks were a reality once again.

The fact that if I want to go anywhere I have to drive because I can no longer leave my apartment and cross the Ponte Vecchio to run errands. It is a completely different lifestyle in Europe and I was lucky enough to experience it for the past four months.

For those of you lucky enough to still be there: Enjoy every waking second of it. Not many people were as fortunate as we were to be able to study abroad. And to those of you who are about to leave for the summer, you are about to have the best experience of your life.

You may come home slightly broke and slightly fatter, but you’ll come home with more experiences and stories that you could ever imagine.

Arrivederci Firenze!

30 thoughts everyone has the first time they see the David

By Virginia Fay, Michelle Hayman and Sara Wiseman

  1. …Does that look a little small?
  2. Why are his hands so massive?
  3. Seriously, they’re like baseball gloves.
  4. How the eff long did this take?
  5. I’m exhausted just looking at this.
  6. I don’t have enough patience to make a sandwich let alone carve something out of stone.
  7. My ex-boyfriend looks kind of like him?
  8. …Right? He looks like that, right?
  9. It was created in 1501? When was that?
  10. Did they just see me take that photo?
  11. Oh, crap! They saw me.
  12. Who made this?
  13. Michelangelo. Didn’t he do the Mona Lisa too?
  14. Wait, no. That was in the “DaVinci Code” = Obviously DaVinci
  15. Can we talk about Tom Hanks’ hair in that movie? Disgusting.
  16. But, no, this guy did the Sistine Chapel.
  17. God, isn’t it so annoying when they shush you in there?
  18. Like, your shushes are louder than any conversation I was having. Rude.
  19. Look at how interested this old guy is in the David. So cultured.
  20. He probably doesn’t know anything about art and needs to relax.
  21. Boy, David looks kind of hot and bothered doesn’t he?
  22. What do you think David’s diet was?
  23. Straight protein?
  24. I bet he would have loved Chipotle, given the opportunity.
  25. God, I want Chipotle.
  26. I should probably at least get a pizza instead.
  27. David could totally put away a lot of pizza, with that size.
  28. If I Instagram the picture I took, will the authorities find out somehow?
  29. You can’t get retroactively banned from a museum, can you?
  30. What else is even in this museum?

The low-down on Florence’s ‘White Night’

Notte Bianca (or White Night, for you English speaking folks) has been a tradition in Florence for the past five years. Taking place on the last day of April every year, the city of Florence turns into a whole other world. The streets are filled with art and performances, the museums are open late night and all the bars and clubs are opened later.

The theme for Notte Bianca this year was “The City Goes On.” According to Notte Bianca’s website, “This is the theme of the fifth edition of the Notte Bianca of Florence, that aims at developing the model of a fascinating and high-value event. We will experience a limitless city, reinterpreting the avant-garde vision of the group of radical architects active in Florence at the end of the sixties, which marked a significant page of culture in the XX century. “

In the street you could find musical performances, art shows and in Piazza Signoria there was a laser show infused with dub-step. There was a hay maze to run through is Santa Croce and you could go see the David at 3 a.m.

It was a night that really brought the people of Florence and the abroad students together. Everyone came out for the festivities and partied their way through the night!


Ways you’ll wish you would’ve documented your time abroad

You’ve jumped in front of the Eiffel Tower. You’ve prosted with a beer stein in Munich. You’ve “held up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You’ve captured all of the biggest moments of your trip, and you have the Instagrams to prove it.

But once you get home, you might start wishing you would have documented the less obvious things that made your time abroad so awesome. Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

Your daily route.

When it’s raining and you’re already five minutes late for class, it’s pretty easy to take the fact that you’re walking past the Duomo for granted. But when you’re back on campus in the US, you’ll wish that you could be strolling by world famous landmarks again. Pick a day when you’re not in a hurry and video your typical route around the city.

All of the restaurants you eat in.

There are some restaurants that are so good that the thought of forgetting them is unfathomable (here’s looking at you, Pino’s Sandwiches). But there are others that you’ll simply stumble upon when you’re out exploring. Don’t be left wondering what the name of that awesome hole-in-the-wall pizza place was in Siena. Every time you eat somewhere, write down the name of the restaurant and what you ordered. Bonus: you’ll be able to give fantastic recommendations to your friends when they travel.

Your apartment.

The impossibly small shower, the burner that lights itself on fire, and the ladder that you use as a makeshift drying rack might drive you absolutely crazy now, but they will all seem like charming quirks in retrospect. So make sure that you capture them on film. If nothing else, you’ll have great visual aids when you tell everyone how you “roughed it” in Europe.

Pictures that you can’t find on Google Images.

While it’s great to take your very own picture of an iconic place or landmark, chances are you could find a nearly identical photo online. Don’t forget to capture the little things, like overly friendly pigeons or interesting graffiti. And if you’re skilled in the art of creeper photos, adorable elderly couples and fashionable children are great too.

Pictures by yourself.

You’re always going to cherish the photos of you and the amazing people that you meet in Europe. Just remember that having pictures by yourself is important too. Studying abroad is a meaningful experience, and you’ll be glad that you have photos that represent your unique and personal adventure.