Siena, Italy

Siena, Italy, is a beautiful, small town in Tuscany. It made up for the crazy start to my morning.

After walking downstairs five flights with purses and cameras in hand, three girls are on their way to the metro to ride quite a few stops to the train station, Termini. Finally to the bottom floor and out the door, one girl realizes she doesn’t have her purse. OR her key. (Okay Rachel, just be patient).

Now we are finally back on our way to the metro, and the ride to the train station seems longer than usual. Upon arrival, we find out our train is stationed at the farthest platform. So, off we run, and there I have probably met my burned calories goal for the day. The train conductor laughs and says we have made it just in time, and welcomes us on the train.

In three shorts hours, we arrive in Siena.

Siena outlook

Our first stop is Catherine’s Basilica. This church has a medieval theme (as does the town), and is adorned with beautiful, color-filled detail.

Siena is such a beautiful town to simply walk around and enjoy all of the sights. Also, the people here are some of the friendliest I’ve encountered in all of Italy!

Flower Wall in Siena

I found this adorable little market with lots of fruit, pictured below. I got a bag of dried fruit to take back with me and it was some of the best I’ve had.

Fruit Market in Siena

While you’re in Siena, I highly recommend stopping at Bar Quattro Cantoni for lunch. It’s an adorable cafe with the friendliest staff, and not to mention freshly baked everything!

I had pumpkin soup (seriously the best I’ve EVER had), a focaccia sandwich with an omelette, and a cappuccino.

Pumpkin Soup
Focaccia Sandwich
Cappuccino

Another Italian town, another outstanding dome.

Duomo Siena

Now on to the main piazza of the city, Il Campo. This is where the horse races take place every summer, and also where the James Bond movie was taped. I loved being in this area and seeing the market they had set up for a casual Saturday.

Thanks for stopping by!

-Rach

Florence, a.k.a Firenze

Italy has so much to offer and I’ve made it a goal to travel around this country as much as possible. I’ve been wanting to go to Tuscany, and Florence was the perfect start.

I took a train from Rome to Florence and it was only an hour and a half. You could easily make a day trip out of Florence, but we stayed one night at the cutest Airbnb. When I walked out of our door, this is what I saw!

We started at Palazzo Vecchio, where you can see many beautiful, historic statues and lots of fun places to shop.

Palazzo Vecchio
Statue of David

The more I explore Italy, I realize every well-known town has a famous dome. This one by far is my FAVORITE! The detail of this building is absolutely incredible.

Florence Cathedral
Florence Cathedral Pt. 2
Isn’t this detail stunning?

The city of Florence is easy to navigate and all of the major things to see seem to be fairly close together.

Next, we went to the beautiful bridge, Ponte Vecchio.

Ponte Vecchio

As much as I want to live in Venice one day, I wouldn’t be opposed to living in one of these colorful apartments along the river.

Apartments along Ponte Vecchio
Look at all of the eye-catching colors!

My roommates and I stopped at a cute little cafe, known as Corona’s Cafe, for hot chocolate and a snack. I had fruit tarts and they were so cute and yummy!

Fruit tarts from Corona’s Cafe

For dinner, we ate at Al Acqua 2, which I highly recommend. Our waitress was so friendly and so sweet to make suggestions (in English!).

I had maccheroni alla vodka e mozzarella. (The closest thing I’ve had to mac n cheese since I’ve been in Italy). It was so good and I loved the vodka sauce!

Dinner at Al Acqua 2

I have a hard time saying no to dessert (and luckily so does my roomie), so we opted to split the dessert sampler. It had tiramisu, dark chocolate cake, lemon tart and strawberry cheesecake. It was the perfect way to end a dinner!

Dessert Sampler at Al Acqua 2

Saturday morning, we went on a food tasting tour with “Italy On A Budget Tour.” (Linked below) They do everything from olive oils (you would be shocked how many kinds there are) food (such as cheese, bruschetta and salami) and wines. It was a fun way to meet other people who are traveling and experience a little more of Italy!

Can you tell I might’ve snacked prior to taking this picture?

https://www.italyonabudgettours.com/en_GB

Lastly, if you miss home, I highly recommend going to the American Diner. It has a 1950s theme and all of the waiters are wearing roller skates. It’s so cute and you must go!

Thank you for reading,

Rach

Venice, Italy

This is the most magical little town and I would go again at anytime.

The train ride from Rome to Venice was beautiful. We passed through snowy mountains and little villages which made the ride pass by so much quicker.

The first day we arrived, we unloaded our stuff at the hotel and made our way to find dinner. We ate at Enoteca Rio Martin, which is my new favorite place EVER! I wish I could eat this same exact meal over and over. The restaurant was small with a beautiful set up and wonderful service.

For appetizers, we had a caprese salad and a charcuterie board.

 

Caprese Salad
Charcuterie Board

For my main entree, I had gnocchi made with Gorgonzola cheese and walnut. I don’t think I’ll ever find a better gnocchi dish than this!

Gnocchi

Lastly, for dessert we had tiramisu and panna cotta. This was my first time ordering panna cotta, and it’s definitely my new favorite dessert!

Tiramisu
Panna Cotta

The weekend we decided to go was actually the same weekend as the Venetian parade. I’m really glad we went this weekend because it was such an experience to see everyone’s beautiful costumes and of course Venetian masks!

If you go to Venice, be sure to buy an eye mask as a souvenir.

In San Marco Square, you can pay €8 at Campanile to take an elevator to the top and look out over the beautiful island of Venice and see how beautiful the water is.

Campanile

Not going to lie, it was very freezing at the top and extremely windy! Excuse my crazy hair!

Crazy Hair Don’t Care
Campanile Pt. 2
Campanile Pt. 3
Campanile Pt. 4

While in San Marco square, we also visited the Doge Palace.

P.S. – they offer a student discount!

This is an outstanding building – I loved seeing all of the court rooms and the detailed ceilings!

Palazzo Ducale

While you’re still in San Marco square, be sure to check out St. Mark’s Basilica, too!

St. Mark’s Basilica
San Marco Square

Also, be sure to try Rosso Pomo Doro. It’s an amazing Italian cuisine chain throughout Italy.

I tried fried pizza – it was great, but more like a dessert. It was too savory to eat as an entree!

Thanks for stopping by!

Venice Selfie

 

 

Foro Italico

Foro Italico is a complex that Mussolini created to implement the Fascist regime.

Here you can find many mosaics with Fascist slogans inscribed in them, a tennis court, a swimming complex and a track.

Mussolini worked really hard on this complex in hopes to host the Olympics, which were held at the Foro Italico in 1960.

The statues surrounding the track are absolutely beautiful!

Foro Italico Track

St. Peter’s Basilica

If you have the opportunity to go into St. Peter’s Basilica from bottom-to-top, don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity! It’s definitely tiresome, but well worth it.

My tour was early on a Tuesday morning, which meant no one was there. After the tour, I was extremely grateful that we were the only people in there at the time, because it’s not a very spacious place. The earlier you go, the better it will be and the better experience you will gain from the tour!

First off, my group started two levels below floor level. The ceilings were low and it seemed rather humid, but what we saw was a great history lesson.

We looked at preserved tombs and caskets of previous popes. We were not allowed to take pictures there so I do not have any to show you, but I can’t imagine how long it took to create a single casket. They were made of marble, then had carvings of other people or animals on the outside. The carvings were 3-D and we learned that typically the largest carving of a person was the person who was inside of the casket.

For a tomb to be this old, it was very modern for whoever goes to see it today. They now have electric sliding-glass doors to make it easy to walk from point A to point B.

St. Peter’s Basilica is full of chapels that represent different cultures. Each one is very beautiful and diverse from the rest.

After visiting the tombs and chapels, we climbed to the top of the Basilica where you can have a breathtaking view of Rome. There were 550 stair steps, and as you climb to the top the staircases are rather narrow. Even worse, they curve slightly because of the shape of the dome.

After this exhausting trek, the view made up for it.

Mosaic within Basilica
The Pope’s Parliament

Roman Forum

Known for being located in the center of Rome, the Roman Forum is filled with beautiful elements of ancient government buildings.

It’s crazy to think about what this place was like when it used to be part of everyday life.

Elections, celebrations of triumphs, public speeches, campaigns, criminal trials and gladiatorial matches took place here.

Located between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Roman Forum used to be the most celebrated meeting place in the world.

 

 

In My First Week of Rome…

I’ve eaten what is equivalent to my body weight in carbs. So yes, my first-week recap is going to be all about food!

I’ve had ravioli, spaghetti al carbonara, lasagna, tortellini con prosciutto, and two trips for gelato. Also, I’ve learned that Coca-Cola is better here for some reason. I drank a coke at an airport while in Atlanta, Georgia, thinking that would be my last one for four months. But I’m so glad it wasn’t!

At this point, I’m super thankful for all of the walking I’ll be doing while I’m here to compensate for all of the eating I will be doing.

After moving into my apartment, my roommates and I walked around the block in Prati district to see if we could find some food close by. We found Zigaetana, which is a cute two-story restaurant. If you didn’t know this, Italians have a reputation for never being in a hurry (unless they’re driving). The food was great, but the service was slow. I had ravioli and it was great after a long flight!

I’ve always been a lasagna fan, and now I think I may be an even bigger fan. This lasagna (pictured below) is from Vito E Dina.

I’ve learned that typically, most restaurants in Rome charge 1 Euro per customer. If they give you bread, you’re actually paying for it, because then the service charge per customer is 1.5 Euro.

This next meal pictured below is “Pollo al Roma,” which is Roman chicken. This is a classic dish with a red sauce and red and green bell peppers.

This restaurant is an older, family-style one located right around the Pantheon, La Sagrestia.

This is a great place to grab dinner with friends and family, take a look at the Pantheon, and grab some gelato!

Now on to the gelato that’s close to the Pantheon… This place is called Della Palma, and has 150 flavors! I got the champagne flavor and would have it again and again!

Tip: Typically gelato shops around major landmarks (such as the Pantheon) are a tourist trap. You can tell because the price is 4 Euros, instead of 2 Euros. Also, anytime a gelato shop is a bunch of bright colors, stay away. It’s FAKE!

This gelato was a size small that came with three scoops, and was only 2 Euros!

Now here’s the real deal when you want to stay in and eat to-go. Delivaroo is an app you can download and have delivered to you. They have multiple restaurants on the app and the delivery charge is only 2.5 Euros!

I ordered a classic burger with fries and a sprite, and it hit the spot and made me feel right at home again!

This meal was from Tommi’s Burger Joint, which is a cute restaurant located in Prati District.

Last thing – I ordered a spicy salami sandwich in the district where school is located (Campo Marzio) that inspired me to grab some salami at the grocery store. I’ve been grilling sandwiches at home with salami, prosciutto (yes, double meat and I am a girl) and provolone cheese and it’s INCREDIBLE!