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The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page
St. Augustine

My last days in Florence

I can’t believe this semester has finally come to an end. I knew it would go by fast, but somewhere in the back of my mind I didn’t really ever think this moment would come. I’m in Shelby and mine’s room right now, and it’s depressingly empty :( This semester has been so much fun, the best times of my life, and I really accomplished so much. I learned a beautiful language, lived in an amazing city, traveled all over europe, and made some wonderful life long friends :) I knew I was never going to want to leave, but I am so excited to go home and see everyone. If anything can make going home easier, it’s the fact that I’ll get a whole summer with the people I love! 

Also my parents got here on Tuesday!! We have been spending the rest of the week exploring Florence and we have pretty much conquered the city!! It’s so fun walking around and seeing everything one last time with them. Tomorrow we leave for Venice and then we will be going to Lake Como/Switzerland, the Burgundy region of France, and then Paris. It’ll be so fun to travel more before I head home. 

Saying goodbye to Florence is going to be incredibly sad, but we’re going out with a bang! Last night we went up to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset with a bunch of friends from Chapman as well as other schools. With a couple bottles of wine, we watched the sun go down and spent our last real moments in the city all together :) 



Genevieve and friends come to Florence!!

This past week was one of the most fun weeks yet during my study abroad experience! Last friday one of my best friends, Genevieve, (who also happens to be my big sister in my sorority) came to visit me in Europe during Chapman’s spring break!! I was so excited to see her and subsequently planned many activities and places to go while she was visiting :) To make everything even more exciting, a whole slew of my chapman friends were also making their way to Florence that same week, so I got a great dose of home and got to hang out with some great people in my lovely city. Gen got here last Friday, and even though she was suffering from an awful bout of food poisoning from airplane food, we still got out and saw a lot of Florence that first few days. Big groups of us got together to get food, sightsee, and go out, while also taking a little downtime for gen to get better :) 

On Sunday Genevieve, Shelby, our friends Nikki and Kristen, and I headed out for a day trip to Siena. I have been wanting to go to this city since the beginning of the semester, so I was super excited when we finally got to go :) We had great weather, and although it was a hike to the top of the hill town, we were rewarded with an amazing meal and spectacular views! Literally one of the best meals yet and it was so much fun catching up with friends from home :D

After our long lunch we meandered through the city taking in all the sights. Siena was a lot bigger than I expected, but was absolutely stunning. Rick Steves (travel guru and my favorite pbs show host) always raves about this city, so finally being there was a great joy :) We sat and people watched in Piazza del Campo and ate some gelato before heading back to catch a bus back to Florence. What a great day!!

The next day I went to class and caught up on homework while Genevieve, Nikki, and Kristen headed to the Cinque Terre. 

Thursday was a day I had been waiting for the entire semester!! Genevieve and I went horseback riding through the Chianti hills and it was spectacular!! I absolutely love riding, and that combined with great food, wine tasting, sightseeing, and quality friend time made for a wonderful day :) The ride lasted about an hour, but after that we explored the ranch, went to a fabulous lunch, drove through the country side, and went to Montereggione, a town built on a hill inside of a castle. There genevieve and I went wine tasting and each ended up buying three bottles of wine! This seems like a lot, but it was literally the best chianti of my life and it was only six euro a bottle… only in Italia!

After that long day we came home, when to one of my favorite restaurants here in Florence, and then packed for Rome.

Now… in case anybody didn’t already know, I have a slight obsession with Rome. I had been there three times before this, and each time was a completely different experience. I love Florence and everything it has to offer, but it is very much a small town, whereas Roma is most definitely a city. I am so in love with the art, the architecture, the history, and the hustle and bustle of this place :) Hard to believe, but this might be one of my favorite trips to Rome yet! We met up with Nikki, Kristen, and our two Canadian friends on Friday night for dinner, and after walking around the city for a while, ended up at the Trevi Fountain where we just sat, laughed, and hung out together :) It was so much fun! 

The next day was sightseeing day, and Genevieve and I tore up the Roman streets! Our hotel (hotel panda hehe) was literally a block away from the Spanish Steps, so we were in a prime location to walk just about everywhere :) First stop was the St. Peter’s Square. Since it was Easter weekend, it was insanely crowded, but it was fine since Gen and I had both seen the vatican before. I picked up a rosary and some holy water blessed by the pope for my grandma, we snapped some pictures, and then were on our way to see the rest of the monuments. After seeing Campo di Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and all those wonderful places, we took a little siesta. After we woke up we went to see the Spanish Steps at night which were so beautiful and then grabbed some dinner. When we were heading home, we decided we wanted to stay out and maybe get some dessert and a glass of wine, and we happened across a wine bar that was directly across the way from our hotel! Antica Enoteca was a super chic wine bar with awesome tirimisu and a super cool staff. At one point one of the waiters brought us a free glass of red wine and I’m not even kidding when I say it was the best wine I’ve ever had. And he kept bringing them! By the end of the evening Gen and I were having so much fun, got 50% off our bill, and only had to walk about 10 feet to our hotel. It was such a successful day and night in the eternal city :)

Sunday was our day to head home, but before we caught our train we went to see the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Every time I come here I am simply amazed. We decided to pay the 10 extra euro for a guided tour and to skip the line and it was SO worth it!! If you come to rome and don’t go inside the colosseum, you are completely missing out.. it’s just so cool. Our guide was awesome and it was a wonderful way to end a spectacular weekend :)

We got back to Florence and had some farewell gelato with a bunch of our other friends studying/visiting and then headed home. I was super sad to see Gen leave the next day, but so happy we had such a successful time :)

Today I also got to see one of my best friends from Chapman, Taylor, and her family! Tay was studying in London and now she and her parents are traveling :) Seeing all these people from home is making the fact that the semester is almost over a little bit better. I just have to get through the massive amount of work I have left and then I get to see my parents and travel with them! Can’t wait for even more adventures to come!! Now wish me luck through finals :D

Ciao for now,

PS pictures to come or go to facebook to check them out :) Especially the ones Gen took! 



more pics of capri!

This past weekend I went on the second of my two field trips included in my study abroad program. This time around we went south to visit Pompeii, Sorrento, and Capri!! It was a seriously amazing trip for so many reasons :) First of all, tons of Chapman students went on the trip, so it was tons of fun hanging out and bonding with all of them. While I absolutely love Florence, I can’t help but miss my loves back at school, so being with everyone from Chappy is definitely comforting <3 I also loved this trip because I am head over heels for Pompeii! I had been to the archaeological site once before, but this time around we saw completely new areas! Walking around in an ancient city that is so well preserved is unlike anything else I have ever experienced. It was a wonderful three hour or so tour and after some delish slushies we headed out on our bus to Sorrento, a city perfectly situated on the Amalfi Coast. There was quite a lot of traffic, but I didn’t mind because of the absolutely gorgeous views! It’s true what they say, the mediterranean really does sparkle on the Amalfi Coast :) 

Sorrento was really beautiful!! It was a lot bigger than I expected and it seemed like a really fun place to hang out and beach during the summer. We got there pretty late, and after we got placed in our rooms (in a super nice hotel btw) we just relaxed until dinner. After dinner we went to a limoncello tasting! I thought I’d like it a lot more than I actually did.. it was superrrr sweet.. but I loved the limoncello dark chocolate! That night a group of us just hung out in our room playing cards and drinking wine, lots of fun :)

That morning we met up with the group and headed to the port in Sorrento to board our ferry to the island of Capri. It was cloudy and a little chilly, but that sure didn’t stop me from wearing shorts haha. When we docked in Capri our group got on a smaller boat to take us on a tour around the island! Our first stop was the Blue Grotto, one of the natural wonders of the world :) Four at a time, we all climbed into little tiny row boats where we laid down so that we could easily float through the entrance to the grotto. It was so amazing inside and the water glowed the brightest blue I have ever seen. I got a pretty great video of our singing boat rower as well which I will post later!

After the grotto we set sail around the island. The mist from the fog made the mountainous island look especially cool. We were all saying how the mountains looked like those flying ones from Avatar haha. Our boat captain took us to other little areas of the island where we saw beautiful green water and jelly fish in caves. So pretty!

We got back to the port and rode the funicular to the top of the island. Eventually the sun came out and our day consisted of delish pizza, amazing gelato, and hanging out at one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen :) It felt so so nice to be by the ocean with truly fantastic people. All in all, a very successful trip :D



Some of the pictures from my weekend in Tuscany! There are more on facebook :) 

Under the tuscan sun.. <3 <3

This past weekend I spent an amazing two days in the south of Tuscany! We get to choose two of ten of these side trips to take during our study abroad experience. I am SO glad I chose this trip!! We went to a total of four tuscan towns: Arezzo, Cortona, Pienza, and Montepulciano. 

We left Saturday morning at 8:30 and began our journey to our first stop, Arezzo. The drive out was absolutely beautiful. Shelby and I always sit in the front of the bus haha in order to avoid all car sickness possibility, but it also means we get the best view :) After only about an hour or so in the bus we arrived in Arezzo. This town is absolutely beautiful! It was the biggest of the four places we visited, and also the most grand. We had a two hour guided tour (with not the best guide, unfortunately) and saw all the areas of the town. There was also an antique fair going on, so there was even more character added to Arezzo. It was so beautiful! After the tour Shebly and I got lunch at a deli style place with a crazy man speaking the fastest Italian I have ever heard! But we got our sandwiches, and they were delicious and cheap :) After a quick gelato, it was back on the bus and off to Cortona!

The next town we went to was Cortona, one of my two favorite favorite places on the trip :) Cortona is situated on top of a hill overlooking a magnificent valley. It is also the place where one of my favorite movies, Under The Tuscan Sun, is filmed! It’s the most adorable little town, filled with shops and winding alley ways, and surrounded by the most amazing and endless views. It was simply everything I pictured and expected Tuscany to be <3 Cortona was the town we spent the night in and our hotel was spectacular! It was perched on the side of the hill, making for one of the most picturesque hotels I have ever stayed in. Our room had a little balcony with a breathtaking view. How cool is that? :) That day our teacher led us on a walking (more like hiking) tour of the town and we climbed ALL the way to the top of Cortona! This was no small feat, but was well worth it, the view from the top was unparalleled :) That night we had a beautiful dinner in a piazza at a wonderful restaurant. There was delicious food, champagne, wine, and good friends. Afterwards a group of us hung out on the patio at our hotel that overlooked the countryside. It was a great night :)

The next morning I was a little sad to leave Cortona, but I was even more excited to get to the next town, Pienza. Again, the drive was absolutely stunning, filled with incredibly green hills, vineyards, and cypress lined roads. I kept taking pictures, but I just couldn’t take anything to quite do it justice. Pienza was my other favorite place on the trip. It is the most adorable little town and definitely where I took the most pictures :) I loved everything about this place, and really hope I get to go back when my parents come to visit! After visiting the town we headed off to a farm where they produce Pecorino Toscano cheese, the only cheese produced in Tuscany, and my absolute favorite! The farm was adorable and completely family run. We got a wonderful tour and then enjoyed a great lunch in the tuscan sunshine :)

After that we headed to Montepulciano, the highest hill town in Tuscany. For my friends who are twilight fans, this is the town where they filmed the scene where Bella saves Edward in New Moon. I’m not really a twilight fan, but nonetheless it’s always cool to go to a place where such a successful movie has been filmed :) Once again, the town was gorgeous. Like in Cortona, we had to hike to the top of the town, but again it was well worth it and the views were spectacular! All of these towns also have magnificent cathedrals and churches which are always beautiful and fun to look at. After exploring and taking pictures for a bit, we headed to our wine tasting session. Montepulciano is famous for producing the Vino Nobile wine, and we got to explore some of the oldest cellars in all of Italy. These barrels were massive and the area has been used for wine cellars for centuries! It was fascinating! We sampled the wine, some people bought a bottles, and then it was time to head back home.

This trip was so much fun, and even though it was quick, I feel like we did so much!! I can’t wait to explore more of Tuscany when Lily and Genevieve visit :) We’re going horseback riding and I’m sooo excited! 

Tanto amore,




some more pictures from Istanbul day 1!

Beautiful and Unexpected Istanbul, Turkey

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to update my blog about this trip! but with midterms, being sick during midterms, and then spring break this past week I just found myself so busy and just didn’t have enough time to write a post worthy of the adventure. But now that everything has settled down, there are two very long updates to come :D

Last weekend I took the trip of a lifetime to Istanbul, Turkey. I got the idea to take this trip when I found out most of my roommates wanted to go to Ireland one weekend that I couldn’t, so I decided that I wanted to take a trip on my own somewhere I had never been before.

Our school sponsors a tour group company called Snow or Sand that specializes in taking small groups of 12 or so students to various European destinations, many of which are somewhat unexpected (like Istanbul or Morocco). Being a place I have always wanted to visit, I thought this would be a perfect time to adventure to Istanbul. Flights were kind of expensive, and the trip was a little impulsive, but I can without a single doubt in my mind say that this was one of the best trips I have ever been on! Spontaneity at its best :)

My journey started out on Wednesday evening when I went to the train station to catch a train with my friend to the Bologna airport. Our flight was at 6:30 the next morning, meaning we had to get there ridiculously early. I literally felt like I was on the Amazing Race! I had to run to catch my train, which I wasn’t totally sure was the right one. I had to ask practically 8 people in Italian if the train was indeed heading to Bologna. When we finally arrived, I got off the train and took the bus to the airport where I proceeded to camp out until our flight. Then we flew to Frankfurt which is literally the biggest airport I have ever been in! It’s like a city and I’m pretty sure you could fit SFO, LAX, and JFK all in the same space. I had an unpleasant experience at this airport a few years ago, so Cat and I literally ran to our connecting flight to avoid any chance of complication. We made it just in time and were then finally on our way to Istanbul!!

When we arrived we went through customs and purchased our visas to enter the country. I had no idea what to expect when I was to leave the airport. I had done virtually zero research on Istanbul other than what I had seen on TV (very unlike me), and I had no idea what this city would be like. I knew it was a predominately muslim state, and I knew it was once called Constaintinople (sp? yes that’s a song), but I really didn’t know much of the culture or traditions of the country. But wasn’t I in for a wonderful surprise :)

When met up with our transfer driver he took us to the car and low and behold we stepped outside and it was literally SNOWING! It was unseasonably cold in Istanbul that weekend and snow was especially unusual for that time of year, but it was so cool to see the city in that aspect! Everything had a little white blanket :) We took the long drive to our hostel, and of course I was constantly staring out the window, taking in the sites. We arrived much earlier than the rest of the group so we got to explore a little bit that first day. Our hostel was nestled in the old town center (called Sultanhamet) in a very tall adorable building. The hostel was so hospitable and the people were so friendly :) There was even a yellow lab to play with! I love dogs so this was super exciting. They offered us apple tea (basically the best thing ever) and we settled into our cute room. We then met up with our guide and he showed us the top floor of our hostel which boasted one of the best panoramic views of the old city. The Hagia Sophia was right in front of us.. I was literally speechless. I tried to do a little studying for midterms that day but just kept getting distracted by the amazing view :)

Our tour officially began the next morning when all of us had arrived. There were 11 girls in all and I knew it was going to be a fun bunch :) Our guide, Caglar, explained that Friday was going to be more of the historical day of our tour. We began outside the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque where our guide explained their histories and how they became to be such cultural and historical centerpieces in Istanbul. These buildings are indescribably beautiful. Their immensity completely dominates the surrounding in the most amazing way. One of the greatest sights in Istanbul is the skyline, with the endless minarets poking up around the mosques that cover the city. It seems everywhere you turn there is another one of these great religious and cultural structures, it’s fascinating.

Next we journeyed through some of the tangled streets of Sultanhamet towards the Grand Bazaar. Along the way we stopped and looked at some typical street foods of Turkey such as Kebap, Turkish Delight, Baklava, and fresh squeezed pomegranate and orange juice. Needless to say I sampled all of these delicious treats and had quite the culinary experience while in Turkey. 

Ok: shopping. If you want one of the most exhilarating, exciting, and extensive shopping trips of your life, head to Istanbul. The grand bazaar is the largest indoor bazaar in the world and twists in hundreds of little alley ways in a massive building. It was constructed in 1461 and has over 4000 stores or stalls. Each shop carries colorful variations of different items such as beautiful glass mosaic lamps, gold, jewelry, leather, scarves, fabrics, ceramics and so much more. Also, the exchange rate is very favorable, making the bazaar a very dangerous place for me! Bargaining is also key. You can easily haggle an item down to half its price! I came home with some of the most amazing treasures and souvenirs :) 

After the Bazaar we walked towards the Bosphorus strait to eat some traditional sea food fare! The walk was right through the bustling pedestrian streets of the old city. Istanbul is massive (about 15 million people!) and everything is packed into tiny winding streets. Each shop is so different from the next, and there are always little guys carrying trays of tea to the various shop owners. We got to the harbor and went to a little restaurant right on the Galata Bridge. Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus strait and is next to the Sea of Marmara. Because of this, a huge part of their local economy is based on seafood. Hundreds of boats cover the water, and the bridges are continuously lined with fisherman. The most traditional dish is the fish sandwich. They sell them on the street from boats that rock dangerously back and forth, serving up the fried fillets on big baguettes. We all tried these at the restaurant and they were delish! Very different, but so good! It was really nice to eat seafood for the first time in a longgg time. 

On the way back to the hostel we stopped into a mosque in the old city. It was beautifully decorated in these bright floral blue tiles that covered all of the walls from floor to ceiling. We learned that there are never any images of people allowed in mosques, so instead they use gorgeous tile and elaborate calligraphy  as decoration. It’s stunning!

Walking around Istanbul it’s easy to get lost in the modernity of the city. It’s extremely vibrant, and all of the people are happy and very curious to meet americans and hear about our lifestyle. Noise and commotion is ever present, and the city gets very loud, especially in the winding streets of Sultanhamet. Then, suddenly the call to prayer echoes overhead, and people file into mosques on various street corners of the city. I learned so much about Islamic culture that weekend, and it really is so very fascinating. 

We then wandered through the spice market. It smelled so good in there!! Giant baskets were filled with exotic herbs, teas, and spices. So cool!

After that, our guide took us to a baklava restaurant where we got to sample all different kinds of the delicious Turkish treat! Dessert in Turkey is always really unexpected. They’ll wrap honey, nuts, fruit, and spices up in phyllo dough into something that looks a little questionable, but tastes amazing!! It’s very very dangerous! :)

When we got back to the hostel we had some free time so Cat and I headed over to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, since we weren’t visiting them with our guide. Hagia Sophia was a church in byzantine times and was eventually converted into a mosque. Now it’s a museum and you can go in and see mosaics that were uncovered and the expansive spaces inside the building. It’s absolutely endless and awe inspiring. Then we went across the way to the Blue Mosque. This mosque is famous for it’s marvelous colorful tiling throughout its interior. Absolutely, indescribably stunning :)


(tumblr won’t let me add any more pics so i’ll have to do another picture post)

That evening we had a very special dinner. Our tour guide took us to the home of a local family in Istanbul for a traditional meal. I knew I really liked Turkish food, but I still didn’t know what to expect. We walked into the apartment and were greeted by warm smiles of an adorable family. They even had little baby girl who was just so precious! We all sat on the floor, as is custom in Turkey, and ate a wonderful meal all together. Our hosts didn’t speak any english but our guide translated for us. It was a great evening! 

The next day we ventured out to get a more modern feel for the city. Caglar took us to an area called Taksim, a very young and lively region of Istanbul. We toured around a bit and looked at some of the historical sights, went shopping, and got some lunch. It was interesting to see such a modern and urban area, with many of the same stores in America, in a country halfway around the world. It wasn’t at all what I expected, but it was beautiful and I loved it! That day we also got to sample Turkish Delight which is nothing but absolutely delectable. I brought back a whole bunch for my roommates in Florence :D

That day we also took a ferry ride to Asia! Haha yes that seems strange, but only a little part of Istanbul, and Turkey for that matter, is in Europe! It was a beautiful, sunny day and we got amazing views of the entire city. The ferry ride actually made me think of san francisco which was really comforting and I couldn’t help but just take tons of pictures :) when we got to other side, we just walked around a bit and got some tea and then headed back so we could watch the sunset on the boat. I loved seeing all the minarets silhouetted against the orange sky <3

When we got back to Sultanhamet, all of the other girls went to dinner, but Cat and I decided we wanted one more last go around in the grand bazaar :) 

That night we experienced a definite highlight of the trip! All of us decided we wanted to try the Turkish Baths. We didn’t really know what to expect, other than that we were going to go into some sort of spa like environment, but this was by far the coolest spa experience I have ever had. We went through a little door on busy street and walked into a massive domed building. I can’t even describe how neat this place was. It was built in the 15th century and has been a functioning bath house ever since. They have different packages and everything is really cheap, so you don’t feel so bad for having a little pampering :) I got the bath, facial, and pedicure. So worth it!! Most relaxing and perfect end to a wonderful adventure :)

The next morning our flight was at 6:30 AM and I was back in Florence by 3. It was a quick weekend, but it was one of the best adventures I have ever been on. I had soooo much fun and experienced a culture unlike any other I had ever experienced. Everyone needs to go to Istanbul!! Hopefully I’ll get to go back sometime and visit other parts of this beautiful country :)