Mykonos, Greece!!

010 (4) 038 (4) 055 (3) 025 (4) 083 (2) 037 (4) 062 (3)Suzy and I traveled to the island of Mykonos for about four days a week ago. When we arrived in Mykonos on our first day, we were picked up from the airport and delivered to our hotel, Hotel Milena. We settled into our quaint, white-washed twin room and made our way down to the town, which was only about a 15 minute walk away. The town itself was gorgeous! Located on the edge of the sea, the brilliant white buildings appeared almost blinding in the hot sun. When we were there, we visited the town’s famous windmills and slowly made our way over to ‘Little Venice’. The streets in the town were so close together with cute, little shops on either side. We stayed and shopped in the town for awhile before bringing some baklava back to the hotel.

 

The next day, we went into town and rented a four-wheeler to explore the island. It took awhile to figure out how to turn on the ATV, but when I finally got the hang of it, we were able to set off. We decided to go toward the northern part of the island, past the island’s dam. On our journey to the northern coast, we past many arid fields that had grazing goats and sheep. The roads themselves were quite narrow, and because I was driving the entire time, I kept close attention to the road ahead. Several times, I was glad I wasn’t looking off because on one occasion, a bulldozer was coming right at us and I had to veer off the road to avoid being crushed..eeek! Anyways, we made our way to a beautiful beach that had virtually no people on it! We parked our quad and made our way to a little spot in the dunes, set up camp, and went in the water. The water was pretty cold, but Suzy and I are use to cold water because we vacation on Cape Cod every summer and the water temperature was no different. The sea was so blue and clear, we swam out to about 20-25 feet in depth. No where around the US would I swim out that deep, but I’ve heard that the Aegean Sea has no sharks…hopefully lol..Closer to shore, I found this little sea anemone that would cling to my toe if I touched it lol…looked like the sea anemone in Finding Nemo that the clown fish live in…except beige. There were also very prickly anemone that I tried to avoid lol. After swimming, we laid out on the beach and listened to some music. A curious, little lizard in the dunes kept touching us and running away….happened about 6 times while we were sunbathing haha. Later, after we had dried off, we left the beach and made our way to a grocery store, got some chips, and drove to another beach. The beach was less crowded, but we sat near some nude people…and decided that we were  suddently very hungry lol. We drove back into the white-washed town and had gyros, which were a whopping 2 euros…yay! We ordered vegetarian gyros, which were stuffed with french fries…bellisimo! With our stomach full, we drove off to our last destination…Paradise Beach. On the way, we stopped at an abandoned church located atop a hill, which was very beautiful and provided excellent panoramic views of that side of the island. When we finally got to the road going down the beach, we saw how steep it was, so we pulled off halfway and just sat on a cliff overlooking the beach. On our way back, we tried to make it up the hill, but because of the steep incline and both of our weight on the bike, we began to roll backward on the bike….ahhhh!!!! We only rolled backward down the hill for about 10 feet because Suzy was able to jump off in a driveway that was near the bike and help me with the brakes, which didn’t seem to work completely. At that moment, I realized that maybe I should have worn the helmet..(but it was so dirty, yucky)

On our third day, we went to the island of Tinos, which is the island closest to Mykonos. When we got there, we tried to find a place that rented quad bikes…but unlike Mykonos, which had about 2 dozen places to rent ATVs…there was only one, and it was twice as expensive as the bike we rented the day before! Whaaaaaaatttt booo! So, we decided not to rent a four wheeler, and just meander around the small town. The town had many white buildings like Mykonos, but it wasn’t as pretty. On our way over to a beach, we saw an abandoned house that had lots of feral cats. They looked very hungry, so Suzy and I parted with a piece of our precious baklava, and gave it to them….BUT THEY DIDN’T WANT THE BAKLAVA AHHHHHHH AND SPIT IT OUT?!?!?!?! A piece of gold wasted, mehh :'(  When we got to the beach, we set down our stuff and read for about 2 hours. When the sun began to set, we made our way up to a cliff that overlooked the town and sat for awhile there….Lots of sitting on this excursion haha…Then we went into town and sat down for dinner at this small cafe… A little kitty sat near our table and mewed for our food the entire time…lol. She definitely preferred our cod over the eggplant, but I personally thought the fried eggplant was deliciouso!

On our final day in Mykonos, we went into town and bought a hand painted plate for our momma….she likes those things. I also bought myself a greek necklace with the symbol for prosperity…and something else…as the pendant.Then we went to a beach and sunbathed/read until the sun began to set. We went into town for some of our last gyros :'( and more greek desserts haha.  The next day, we flew out and went back to Milan…

I thought Greece was beyond wonderful! The land was gorgeous, the weather fantastic, and the people very kind. Mykonos and Sicily have probably been my favorite vacations so far…and I hope one day I’ll visit Mykonos again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Break in Cinque Terre and Riva Del Garda

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Cinque Terre and Riva Del Garda—Spring Break

 

 

My parents came over to Italy to visit Suzy and I during our spring break!They arrived in Milan on April 16 and we met up with them at Centrale Station. We brought them back to apartment where they dropped off their bags and grabbed some food before giving them a small tour of Milan. Suzy and I brought them to our favorite gelato and panzerotti places and also showed them around the Duomo. We took a tour through the cathedral, and eventually went to the top,near the spires. I had never gone to the top of the cathedral because it cost money lol, so it was something new I hadn’t seen since being here. In the evening, we went to dinner near my apartment, and later planned where we would stay along the Cinque Terre.

 

 

The next day, we caught an early morning train to Levanto….the neighboring town to the Cinque Terre..on the Monterrosso side. The Cinque Terre is a national park composed of 5 different towns(Monterrosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manorola, and Rio Maggiore) along the Ligurian Coast. Between each town, there are many ancient walking paths connecting these close villages. We stayed in Levanto for about 4 nights. During this time, we hiked between Levanto and Monterrosso, about a 4 hour hike, and from Monterosso to Vernazza, about a 3 hour hike….they were completed in 2 different days.We took a day off between the designated hiking days, and explored the villages. We started off in Rio Maggiore and gradually made our way back towards Levanto, stopping a different towns along the way. Rio Maggiore is a beautiful village situated between two hills along the sea. In the town, we visited a castle and a beautiful church. The next town we went to was Manorola. This town is literally built up on a cliff, and is probably the most picturesque of all 5 villages. In Manorola, we went spent time hiking up the panoramic view points and exploring some the walking paths surrounding the village.118

 

 

After going to the Cinque Terre, we took a train back and prepared to depart to our next destination the following day. On Tuesday morning, we got a train to Peschiere del Garda, and then a bus to Riva Del Garda! We were in Riva for the rest of Spring break. During this time, we took a bike ride through a nearby valley, stopping in several different towns, including Arco and Dro. Another day, we got a ferry to Malcesine, a village also located on Lake Garda. We visited Malcesine’s ancient castle and exlplored the quaint, authentic Italian town. On Friday, we took a walk up to Riva’s waterfall! I had been there before and wanted to show my parents how cool it really was.For the rest of the time, we went on walks around the lake, shopped in the small town, or went out to eat..yay!031 (2)074 (2)

Overall, I had a wonderful Spring Break! Although we only went to two different places  during the 12 day break, I was glad we didn’t push for more traveling…. it can be quite exhausting. The trip was a perfect balance between being relaxing and being an adventure046 (2)!

I must say though, I really wanted to go home with them by the end of the trip…the thought of flying back to the states seemed sooo nice..and still does….I think I might be  traveled out…and home really seems like the place to be now. Hopefully, it’s just a temporary funk and I’ll get my travel bug back!084 (2)

 

Sicilia

view from castle

view from castle

Greek amphitheater

Greek amphitheater

Isola Bella

Isola Bella

 

view from Gambino vineyard

view from Gambino vineyard

Suzy walking around isola bella

Suzy and I on crater

Suzy and I on crater

Sicily!!!

 

On Thursday, Suzy and I caught a 6.30 flight from Bergamo to Catania, Sicily. When we arrived at the airport, we made our way to the taxi/bus area and caught a bus to Taormina! During the ride, we checked out the countryside, which was sooooo pretty. The island is composed of rolling green hills, almost Hawaiian ‘rippled’, which are covered by olive trees and desert shrubs. From the road we could see the beautiful coastline to our right and Mt. Etna, Sicily’s volcano, to our left. When we reached Taormina, we checked into our hostel, and then headed to the beach.

 

 

Taormina is situated on a cliff overlooking a small island…. Isola Bella, so getting down to the beach is a bit of a hassle…that is if you re cheap like us and don’t feel like paying 3 euros to get the cable car down. So about 400 stairs later, we arrived at the rocky beach near Isola Bella. We were able to walk over to the island because there’s a thin sand bar linking Bella to the beach. However, waves from both sides come crashing between, so it’s almost impossible not to get wet when it’s high tide. We explored the little island and then went back into town where we then made our way up to the castle….400 stairs later…lol we made it to the top! The views from the castle were sooooo spectacular! You easily see Etna and Catania from here. After hiking down from the castle, we checked out the old town! The town is very small, but it’s sooooo ‘Italian” and beautiful. The streets are narrow with little terraces overlooking the alley ways. We bought some groceries and headed back to the hostel.

 

 

The next day, we went up with a small group to Etna! We all piled into the jeep and drove for about 1 and a half on winding roads with beautiful scenery and the occasional man on horseback. When we got to the base of the craters, we got out of the car and hiked around several of them. Our tour guide was very informative about the geographical and geological nature of the volcano, and also the island itself. He told us that the Sicilian flag, which is Medusa with three legs coming out from her head, was actually associated with Mt.Etna. Medusa represented the volcano because it turned everything into stone…and the legs represented the three corners of the island. He also talked about the rich soil around the volcano, which allowed for excellent farming of all different kinds of plants, including apple trees, vineyards, olive trees, hazelnut trees, almond trees, etc. The closer you are to the volcano, the better the soil, but higher the risk of natural destruction.

 

 

After hiking around the craters for awhile, we went to Gambino Vineyard. (Not associated with Maffia family in States…i asked lol)Here they fed us and also let us all try several different Sicilian wines. My favorite was this red wine they they grew at their vineyard, which tasted nothing like red wines I’ve had before. It had a nice, light flavor. Once we finished eating and drinking, we took a ride to the latest lava field. You could literally see the end point of the lava flow. The tour guide told us that people would come up the mountain to the slow moving lava and cook food on sticks over the hot molten rock. People would have a small festival around the lava flow, bringing there coolers and picnic lunches and watch the lava move down hill. Lastly, we went to a lava cave and explored inside for a while. The cave was produced from when the lava melted the earth beneath it, causing a hole in the ground…then the earth from either side of the hole eventually came together to form an underground cave. The cave ground was the hardened lava river that had cooled after it ceased moving. Many years ago, the cave was actually used by the villagers to store ice. They would bring snow into the cave during the winter, and by summer, the snow would have condensed into ice. The villagers would then bring the ice from the cave down the mountain to put their fish in.

 

 

The next morning we went to the Greek amphitheater, which was originally constructed in 200 BC. It is situated on the tallest hill in Taormina, which allowed for amazing views of the island. Also, several of the pillars have been knocked down over the years, so you can easily see the volcano and the surrounding hills between the remaining ones. After, we went down to the beach and swam in the cold water around Isola Bella. It was about 60 degrees, but it was well worth it! The water was soooo clear, you could see all these sea urchins, fish, and beautiful rocks. I noticed though that the water was especially salty. I guess that’s how the Mederterranian Sea is? After swimming, we warmed up in the sun for awhile before heading into town and listening to some music in the piazza. The performers sang ‘Amore’, which is probably the most stereotypical Italian song I can think of haha. We shopped around for a little until it got dark outside. We headed over the piazza again and saw the red glowing lava from Etna…. that was beyond cool! The next morning we caught a flight back to Mi-lame-o. Lol haha ;P

 

French Riviera

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Suzy and I decided to go to the French Riviera after finding out that tickets to Rome were around 85 Euros a person. So, we took a train late Thursday evening and arrived in Nice around 8 pm, and checked into our hostel. We were the only ones in a 6 person mixed room, so we thought that was nice……

 Around 2 am, a homeless man woke Suzy and I up and told us that we had to talk to him. He wasn’t mentally there, so the conversation was a mix between babble and finding work in the US?Then, he came over to Suzy’s bed and was showing her an interesting hole in the wall?? WHAT?When he got close to her, I was like OMG, Suzy, he’s gonna pull out a knife or something. Not shorty after, I guess, he got angry because we didn’t want to talk,(GO FIGURE) and was like, “what do you want me to leave or something? There are plenty of beds here, but you want me to leave??” So I said, “Maybe you would prefer a room with more talkative people…” After about five minutes of persuasion he finally left…. For the rest of the night, I literally slept on my pepper spray, because I was so afraid he was going to come back.

 Amazed to have woken up the next morning…alive…, Suzy and I went downstairs and talked to the owner of the hostel about what happened that night. He explained that this man stayed one night and got a copy of the key somehow, and had been coming back each night. So, we asked if they had any female only rooms because we would feel much more comfortable in a different room. Then the owner got mad and said that was discriminatory, and that he would MAKE SURE the guy wouldn’t come again?? Like WTF….Rude….and this guy has been coming every night AND still has a key, what’s going to be different this time…ughh. So we just were like ‘the hell with that’ and left

 So after that traumatic night, Suzy and I decided to explore Nice! YAY! We checked out the beach and the old town, before heading to a viewing platform high above the city. The walk up was a bit arduous, but when we finally got there, the views of Nice were spectacular. After that, we got a train to Menton….

 In the south of France, no one pays for tickets on the train because people get off and on so often that it’s impossible to track who got checked for a ticket and who didn’t. So to save a buck, Suzy and I decided not to get one, and if we got caught we could just buy one on the train for a little extra. (That’s how it usually is)So when we were just about to get off at Menton, a train employee decided to be a real asshole and made a huge deal about not having a ticket. We tried to reason with him, saying that the machines at Nice wouldn’t take our card…WHICH THEY WOULDN’T(because we didn’t have the card with the microchip)..and that we were going to buy them on the train for a little more. He just started screaming at us, saying that we owed 35 euors each, and that we were being thieves. We refused to give him the money, so he called the police.When we got off the train and I finally gave him my credit card, he refused to give it back until I signed it. He was the biggest effing asshole I have ever met in my life.

 So after a nice cry session, we made our way into Menton to try and enjoy some of the day. The town was beautiful, but I was so preoccupied about what happened, I wasn’t able to think of anything else. After Menton, we visited Eze. By now, I had begun to feel a little better, so I was able to appreciate this town more. It is situated on a hill overlooking the beautiful, blue water of the Mediterranean. The beach was very pretty, being made up of small stones. Suzy and I collected pretty rocks for a good hour before heading back to our different hostel in Nice.

 The next day, was pretty rainy, so we decided to hang around Nice and plan cheaper travel to our next destination…Cassis(about 2 hours away). We decided to try out Bla Bla Bla Car Rides, which is a site that allows you to book car pool rides with other people who are going to the same destination. We couldn’t find a ride directly to Cassis, so booked the ride that was closest. We got a ride with a French girl from Nice to Toulon, but she then offered to drive us another 45 minutes to Cassis because it was getting late! She was so helpful and sweet…it was really was such a nice change…I had begun to think all French people were jerks!

 The next morning, we woke up to blue skies, and to an amazing view of the ocean.I was so excited to begin hiking the calanques(very narrow, limestone peninsulas that jut out into the ocean) that I could barely stand to be in the breakfast room for much longer. We left and walked about 20 minutes to the beginning of the trail, which was located next to a small port. The water was so clear, I could easily see the bottom, which must have been at least 15 feet deep. We hiked up to our first calanque, which was beyond beautiful. At the top, you could see many small islands in the distance and a teal inlet below. I took many pictures, but was too afraid to get any closer to the edge because it was extremely windy up that high. After, we made our way down in the gorge and to the inlet, then back up to the second calanque. The views were pretty spectacular from here as well because you could see a huge red cliff far off that wasn’t visible from the first calanque. We slowly made our way down into the second gorge and up to the third calanque, but by this time I was getting very tired lol. After a good sit at the top, we hiked back into Cassis. When we eventually got into town, my feet felt like they were going to fall off…We had hiked for about 7 hours, so just a few stairs left me winded. That’s why getting back to the hostel felt like an eternity!

 The next day, we caught a bus to the train station( which was beautiful btw) and headed home. It took about 8 hours to finally reach Milan, but all in all the trip was definitely worth it.There were some flaws, but the hiking made up for all that had happened, and more some. Cassis was one of the prettiest places Ive ever been and I am glad that I will be going back in April with my parents. Yes, I convinced them that they HAVE to see Cassis when they come over. HEHE

 

Foppolo

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Ski Trip to Foppolo!

 

On Saturday, Suzy and I had to catch an ESN group bus at 6.30 am to get to the Foppolo ski resort. We had to leave the house an hour earlier to catch the tram, and then metro to get to the stop Romolo, where the bus was located. However, I had no idea that the metro in Milan doesn’t run until 6 am. Sooooooooo, when we got off the tram and realized that the metro was closed, and that there was no possibility of walking to Romolo, we decided to get a taxi .It took about 15 minutes to get there by car, so I was able to check out Milan from the safety of the vehicle..and lemme tell ya…Milan at 5.30 am is not the place you want to be if you are a sane person! Everyone that was out on the streets was creepy as hell. For one thing, there wasn’t a woman to be found, only creepy men in leather jackets…ahhh! And most of them were either still consuming alcohol, or throwing it up. So when we arrived at Romolo, the last thing I wanted to do was wait in the dark until sunrise, but I forced myself to get out of the safe, comforting taxi and sit in the shadows….. Suzy and I sat on a curb for a good forty five minutes, with a pepper spray bottle in out hands until people from the ski trip started arriving. Oh, I couldn’t tell you have relieved I was when I saw them carrying ski equipment and knew I was going to live to see another day !Also, It was great to not have to sit on cement any longer …my butt must have been as flat as a pancake. So, around 7, with everyone on the bus, we took off for the mountains of Foppolo!

 

When we got to the resort, we dropped off our stuff in our quaint, little rooms, got our rental ski equipment, and hit the slopes.Foppolo is a pretty small resort, with only about 2 dozen trails. So after just a few hours, we had skied about half the mountain. Suzy and I, and a couple friends who we skied with decided to get a lunch around 1.

 

 

Compared to Zermatt, Fopplo was dirt cheap…with a beer and pizza coming to a grand total of 5 euros..yayyy! Hmm,oh, ’tis a beautiful thing to buy alcohol legally abroad, when you are still underage in the states ;) I’m gonna miss that :’ ) After lunch, we skied for another two hours in pretty slushy snow before cutting out.

 

 

Later, after getting all cleaned up, the snow cat picked us all up from the hotel on the mountain and drove(?) lol us to a ski restaurant on the slopes for apertivo/happy hour. We ate good finger food while we listened to American pop music haha. The bathroom here was also Turkish style. Yay more practice -__- But after a while it was getting a lil lame, so we got the snow cat back to the hotel. We decided to go to the local club, Club Grizzly(?), after a short nap. So when I woke up, and was ready to party, I looked at the clock and it was 3.30 am haha.

 

 

The next morning, we went downstairs and got breakfast, which consisted of hollow bread and cornflakes. Literally every baguette we had, the ones at breakfast and the ones we stashed for later, all of them were hollow!! I must have eaten about 5 hollow baguettes during the course of the day haha. After breakfast and cleaning up, we hit the slopes again for another day of skiing. The views from the top of the mountain were excellent because there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, which allowed for great visibility. Around noon, we took a break down by the hotel and sat on beach/ bean bag chairs in the sun for about two and a half hours. I might have made a little/ huge mistake…My face is still swollen from the sunburn after two days. I even got laughed at when I was walking on a street in Milan…mehhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! The sun was so warm and inviting it was so hard to leave my soft, waterproof bean bag chair! But after getting fried, we skiied for another 2 hours and then cut out to get dinner. Soon thereafter, we gathered our stuff, boarded the bus, and drove back to Milano.

 

 

All in all, I thought the Foppolo trip was a lot of fun! It was great to be able to ski again before Spring came around. I loved skiing with my friends and soakin up the winter sun, even if I do have a tomato for a face. I definitely will try and get up to Foppolo again for hiking in May/June!

 

Die Schweiz…SWITZERLAND!!!

Viewing platform

Viewing platform

das matterhorn

das matterhorn

im so prettyyyyyy

im so prettyyyyyy

 

Glacier

image Trip to Zermatt, Switzerland!

Suzy and I boarded a train early Friday morning to Brig, then to Zermatt! The train ride to Zermatt took us very deep into the mountains, which provided spectacular views! When we arrived in Zermatt, located close to the Italian/ Swiss border, we explored the small ski town for awhile, before heading up to the ski resort on the Sunnega lift. When we got off the lift, we were greeted with breath taking views of the Matterhorn! We made our way down part of a ski trail, piste, which lead to a hiking trail. We walked the snow covered trail for a good half-hour until it ended, and hiked back. Walking on the snow, without crampons, is much more difficult than you’d think… It was probably only a mile each way, but it took us twice the time you’d need to complete it. When we got back to the beginning of the trail, we headed toward the mountain lodge/restaurant. There was a deck overlooking the Matterhorn and we grabbed a table, probably the one with the best view! Suzy bought a beer and I bought a Coke Zero…coming 10.40 CHFs or like 9 euros! (That’s highway robbery?!?!) Suzy and I just sat out on the deck for a good hour soaking in the sun and admiring the majestic mountain. When the sun began to set, we made our way back into town and boarded a 15 minute train to Randa, where our hotel was located. The hotel was very Swiss-esque and quaint, which gave the trip even more of an authentic feel!

 The next morning, we got up very early and got breakfast downstairs. We managed to stash some food in our bags before heading to the train station, and catching a train to Zermatt. When we arrived, we immediately went to a ski rental shop and rented some equipment. We went up Sunnega lift and skied from 9am to 4 pm. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, which made for awesome views and pictures!We took a break around 1 and ate some of our stashed food from breakfast at the ski lodge that had terrific views of the Matterhorn. We did it pretty discreetly because I’m pretty sure they want you to buy something…LOL….haha! Yeah I’m not about paying 12 CHF for some fries.

 After a long day of skiing, Suzy and I went into town and got dinner, half of an omelet(we ARE cheap lol) at Cafe Dupont! Kinda ironic LOL!!! Before getting our meal, a Swiss, typical looking mountain-man, with a long-beard, flannel shirt, and weathered skin from years of outdoor sun gave us both a warm potato! I was so grateful for that small potato because I was beyond starving! He said “Mude”, which in German means tired and I actually was able to understand that and respond. But then he went into a long spiel and I just smiled and nodded haha! The omelet was very good, but not enough, so before getting the train back to Randa, we stopped in the grocery store and bought more nutella and bread.

 Our skis that we rented, however, were a bit too heavy. Making turns was quite difficult, so I was hesitant to release my inner ski Olympian ;) the first day. So the second day, Suzy and I got lighter skis. These were much better…still not as good as my Dynastar ones at home, but pretty close. I found making sharp turns much easier. Suzy didn’t like either pair. Her style of skiing is a little different than mine…she make shorter S shape turns, so she relies on extremely light skis. But besides that, the day of skiing was fantastic! Again another day with no clouds! Suzy and I arrived on the mountain at 10 and left around 3.30 pm. (Between this time, I saw two different avalanches!) On the mountain, we took this trail which seemed to have no end…but eventually we came to a small train station in the middle of the woods!!! This is a stop on the Gornegrat train which leads up to a viewing platform, over 3000 meters up! We boarded the train and it took about 30 minutes to reach the top, but when it did, you had 360 degree views of Zermatt and Italy! You could see about 3 different glaciers from up there…it was too awesome! From there, we skiied down to Zermatt. The last trail we took, that lead to the bus pick-up, was about the worst trail I’ve ever been on…if you can call it a trail..It was about 6 feet wide, downhill, with patches of snow missing, moguls in the middle of it, and it was funnel shaped….I must have fallen like 3 times on this short section…I was so relieved when we finally got to the end of the ‘Trail from Hell’ and caught the bus to town. Before boarding the train to Brig, and then to Milan, we got some old-fashion looking post cards.

 The trip to Zermatt was beyond amazing! We had spectacular weather, the food was great, and the skiing was awesome. I definitely will try to get back here again in my life, hopefully it will be less expensive…or I will have married a rich husband and the costs won’t matter ;) hehe!

 

:/

Sometimes,  I have to actually remind myself that I am in Europe and doing all the things of always dreamed of doing. It’s not that I’m ungrateful and forget that I’m extremely lucky to be seeing much of Italy at such a young age, but it’s as if reality just has never totally sunk in….

Venice!

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My trip to Venice!

So after my intensive italian course final, Suzy and I caught a train to Venice for Friday and Saturday…. the beginning of Carnival! It took about two and a half hours to get there, which felt like days because we were so eager and exited. But when we arrived, we walked outside the train station and were immediately on the Grand Canal! We then boarded vaperato, number 1, which is quite slow, but it allowed for great sight seeing along the waterway. We stayed on the boat for several stops, but decided to get off at one of the ports along the canal because it was taking too long to get anywhere lol.

We made our way into the city, and we came along a small piazza, where there were several performers performing for a small crowd of people. One of them was an old man, dressed in Venetian Renaissance clothing who was singing beautiful opera.We stayed to listen for awhile, but then ventured away from the piazza, down one of the side streets, which was lined with small bakeries andl mask and costume shops! I stopped in on of them and bought a beautiful carnival mask, made of black metal wiring. For a couple of hours, we continued to explore many of the quaint streets just to take photos. But during  this time, I also went into a bookstore and bought Carnival’s 2014 poster of the year. It’s of puppet that is strung up from the stars and she is also holding two masked carnival character puppets.

When the sun was setting, Suzy and I finally reached Saint Mark’s Square! The basilica was beautiful, as were the other ancient buildings surrounding the square. The square had a magical essence to it. Per6aps because of Carnival’s festivity, but also I think it’s because Venice seems timeless. The city hasn’t really hasn’t changed much for many  centuries. The buildings and waterways are the exactly as they were in the15 th century, with really no modern additions because there’s no space to add anything. There are no roads for cars, just boats. Also, the people nowadays even celebrate holidays and festivals in which people from many generations back did as well.

After exploring the area around Saint Mark’s square and getting dinner, Suzy and I caught a vapereto to Lido di Venice, where our hotel was located. The hotel was very nice and the breakfast the next day was amazing! The croissants were to die for! Suzy and I both decided to stuff as much food in our bags as possible so we could eat later for free. We were about on our fourth croissant and our third baguette into our bag, when my purse got knocked over and everything came spilling out in front of everyone. I couldn’t stop laughing because the entire time we were trying to be as sneaky and discreet as possible. It truly was karma lol. But after collecting our food and ourselves lol, we checked out of the hotel and made our way down to Lidos beaches. The weather was overcast and partly rainy, so the beach was completely empty. Suzy and I walked around by ourselves and gathered lots of beautiful shells! After that we got a boat back to Saint Mark’s square and explored some more. We went into a famous art museum and looked at a lot of very old art. To be honest though, I’m not much of an art person. I know that’s bad, but I’d rather be outside exploring ;/ …But no much after that, we then got a train back to Milan… meep :,,,,,,,(

Verona and Riva del Garda

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Trip to Verona and Lake Garda

The weekend after the Bergamo trip, we decided to visit Verona and Riva Del Garda. It took about two hours by train to get to Verona, which is located east of Milan near Lake Garda. Verona is a beautiful town, rich with romance and history. The streets of Verona are lined with old, ‘italian’ styled houses, and the walkways are made of pink limestone, which gives the town and even more romantic feel. There are at least two castles, both of which we saw when we visited that day. We also walked around and saw Verona’s small arena, Juliet’s balcony, and hiked up to a hill overlooking the city and it’s surroundings. Overall, Verona was very pretty and had very unique features and sites.

However, my favorite part of the trip was the second day…We got a bus to Riva Del Garda after seeing Verona, and checked into a hotel Saturday night. Because it was dark when we got into the town, we had no idea of the natural beauty surrounding the area. Therefore, we we woke up the next morning and peered outside the window, we saw enormous, jagged mountains all around us, with the morning’s mist lingering between the mountain’s crevasses. We ate breakfast as quickly as possible, so we could get an early start on the day. The first thing we did when we checked out of the hotel was to go visit a nearby waterfall. We paid 5 euro to get in, but it was definitely worth it. The waterfall was located within a cave, which was carved out by years of weathering from the water. We traveled inside the cave, and not long before we were rained down upon by the waterfall’s mist, soaking our jackets. There were several different passages in the cave to explore, all leading to the massive waterfall! I tried to get pictures, however, I was too afraid of my phone getting water in it, so I was unable to… :(

After the waterfall, we made our way down to the lake. Lake Garda, which Riva Del Garda is built apon, is the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen. The water stretches so far that it looks like it may even be a bay to the ocean.. It is surrounded by huge white capped mountains with small Italian villages built along the water’s edge. It’s beauty is so indescribable that it’s hard to put into words. ..Riva del Garda and the lake don’t even look like something of this world, perhaps something you’d see in heaven. So, Suzy and I just sat near the water taking in all it’s natural beauty for about an hour, trying to take a mental picture because our camera’s couldn’t justify it’s true magnificence.

We walked around the lake for awhile before we had to catch a bus back to Milan…And that’s when the bathroom situation became a problem…Let’s just say, if you have to use a public bathroom, the worst place on Earth to be is in Italy. There are NO free public bathrooms at all.After venturing around for a good half hour, I came across a little building that looked like a mini spaceship, which had a bathroom sign on it, so I was relieved! However, it cost ,80 euro to get in and the timer starts from 10 minutes. The inside was absolutely disgusting. It was a hole that was elevated from the ground with crap and piss everywhere.,,,ughhhhhhh, and you had to press a button to get 2 sheets of wet toilet paper from a machine….it was mentally scarring. But that bathroom wasn’t as bad as the one at the station…this ‘bathroom’ was a literally a hole in the ground. It reeked of urine, and to be honest it was quite hard not to pee all over the place, so I understand why it smells so bad.However, the trip was overall pretty amazing, besides the bathrooms that is. Riva del Garda has definitely been my favorite place I’ve visited so far.

Bergamo!

 

About a week ago, Suzy and I took our first mini-trip to Bergamo, which is a small town located to the east of Milan. It took 3 different trains to get there because the ticket we purchased was not direct to Bergamo…ahhhhhh! But, after about two hours we finally reached our quaint destination, hidden in the valley.

When we got there, Suzy and I walked from the train station to our hostel, and dropped off our bags. We met two Australian girls that were staying in the same room as us, and later had dinner and breakfast with them the next day. After getting situated, Suzy and I explored the old town on the hill overlooking the rest of the valley. We visited the Piazza Vecchia, which was an old square that had a beautiful fountain in the center and old buildings outlining the perimeter. We also visited the Bergamo museum and read about the history of the town. Bergamo is much older than I ever imagined! Archeologists found ancient remains of shops and homes from 100 AD under the ground near Piazza Vecchia. Bergamo was once apart of the Venetian Empire, which stretched much farther west and north than just around Venice, and it was a major trading post.

After looking around, we decided to get food before we crashed at the hostel. We went into a tavern off of one of the touristy streets and both had delicious sandwiches! We made our way back to the room and slept a good 6 hours, then woke up around 2 am and skyped our parents haha!

The next day we had breakfast with our Australian roommates. The breakfast was served buffet style, which was nice because I could steal food for later hehe ;) We decided to explore more of the upper town, so we took a vernacular to the highest part of the town. At the top, there was an ancient castle, which we went through. The inner halls and stairs to the castle where so dark, damp and small that it was tricky to navigate our way. However, when we eventually reached the top, there was a spectacular view of the town and city below with the surrounding mountains all around! You could even see several snow capped mountains that were behind the black hills.

Altogehter, I think Bergamo was a wonderful little city nestled in the hills. I am glad I was able to visit this town and learn more about it’s history and people. I would definitely recommend going here to anyone visiting northern Italy.