Travelling to and getting around Lake Como 

This post is focused on getting to Lake Como from Milano Centrale Station because that is my experience! I hope anyone doing the same finds this post helpful.

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Milan to Bellano

If you’re wondering how to get to breathtakingly beautiful Lake Como from Milan, there are a lot of ways! But for Cassi and I, we decided to choose a town with easy travel options. We settled on the small lakefront town of Bellano.

Getting to Bellano is very easy!

All you need to do is buy a €15 round trip ticket from Milano Centrale to Bellano Tartavalle. You can do so by going to Trenord’s website and typing in the required credentials. From here, all you have to do is board the train and off you go on the adventure of a lifetime.

Luckily, the Bellano train station is centrally located and it will not be difficult to find your airbnb or hotel from there. I always recommend downloading the google maps app and then “downloading” the map of the city you’re going to. What this means is that you can have the map of your desired town to access offline. And for the most part, the GPS is accurate so you can follow yourself and get around easily.

I would also like to note that this same train stops in Varenna (one of the 3 most famous cities on this part of the lake). But, I have a bias toward Bellano-it is so quant and delightful!

Alright so you’re in Bellano (or Varenna or Belaggio or Menaggio), now what?

If you want to travel from place to place, it is very easy to do so via the intercity ferry. This ferry goes between Varenna, Bellano, Belaggio, and Menaggio. I recommend buying the day pass (it is valid from start to finish in your port city for 24 hours). The day pass was 15 euros. Cassi and I researched the times up and down to make sure we had time to hit all the stops. It actually was quite easy! We ended up being able to go to all of the cities in one day and we had a blast!

You can access the Navigation Laghi website here:

http://www.navigazionelaghi.it/eng/index.asp

Some things to note: the times are rather accurate on the time schedule and the ferries truly do only stop for the alluded time (usually only a couple of minutes). The times in red are the “jet boat” that costs an extra 1.50 euro per trip. Also, the hardest city to coordinate is Menaggio as it stops there less often. Make sure to plan ahead for traveling on the ferry because if you miss it, you may or may not be completely screwed.

Ciao & thanks for reading!

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A day spent in Milano

My best friend Cassi and I did a day in the wonderful metropolitan city of Milan before heading for a relaxing two days on Lake Como. It was a short trip, but we both really enjoyed exploring the city. It reminded me a lot of Chicago & I easily noticed the differences between Naples, Rome, and Milan. Milan was more put together and contemporary. The streets were also significantly cleaner than Naples or Rome.

To me, Milan is a must see to round out any Italy trip. I thought it was a great experience, at least for me, to get to see such a wide range of Italian cities. I truly feel like after this weekend I have a much better grasp on what life is like in Italy.

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The famous Duomo Cathedral of Milan. This church is dedicated to St Mary of the nativity and is a Roman Catholic Cathedral. The architecture is gothic, which is easy to tell from the tall and plentiful spires! This Cathedral was unlike a lot of the others I’ve seen.

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The fountain in the western Castello neighborhood of Milan. This is at the entrance to the touristic site of Castello Sforzesco. Cassi and I particularly enjoyed walking through the Sempione Park which is directly behind the castle. On a beautiful spring or summer day, Milan is pure perfection.

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The main touristic shopping square in Piazza del Duomo. This view is very famous for anyone who knows anything about Milan. Even though I usually try to avoid super tourist-y places, Cassi and I enjoyed a reasonable lunch here at La Locanda Del Gatto Rosso (as we were eating at an off time and were starving)!

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As for food…

You must try the restaurant Panzerotti Luini.

Panzerotti are like mini calzones or “pizza pockets.” They come in sweet or savory flavors. The plain baked Mozzarella and Pomodoro was amazing. Cassi and I enjoyed it as a snack, but you could easily make a cheap meal out of this place as well. They are on average 3 euro for one. It is a great deal and truly delicious. More detailed information can be found on Trip Advisor about Panzerotti Luini. You should definitely try this place out.

Ciao & thanks for reading!

A quick trip to Pompeii & conquering Mount Vesuvius

 Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in 79 AD that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and several other settlements.

Vesuvius has erupted many times since 79 AD. In fact, it is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years.

Today, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living in the surrounding area. It is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world.

Now, you can hike up the mountain and explore its sides and crater. The mountain is 4,000 feet high. The entire crater is Lava rock and it’s pretty freaking cool.

I am not going to lie, the hike is tough-even for me, an avid hiker! It is kind of like climbing up a sand dune because you slide a little backwards with each step. Nonetheless, it’s a MUST DO.

Here is how the trek to Vesuvius works:

After arriving in Pompeii, you take a Trolly-like bus to the base of the mountain. Watch out, the seats are limited and the handles are very very dirty if you’re standing! Just a tip, bring wet wipes! From there, the group meets a sort of military bus that takes us up 3,000 meters. The last 1,000 meters is for us pedestrians to hike up.

Although it was a foggy day (due to the thick marine sky), the view was very very cool and a once in a lifetime experience.

Something that I did not expect was the little cafes and souvenir shops at the top of the mountain. My family and I decided to do the hike and sights on our own, but in addition to the cafe and souvenir shops, you can also get hooked up with an official tour guide offered in most common languages!

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Pompeii

Just a couple facts, both Pompeii and Vesuvius are in the Campania region of Italy just outside of the city of Naples. Originally, Pompeii and other cities destroyed in the eruption were buried under 20 feet of ash. Today, the city of Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In my opinion, the city of Pompeii is very run down and dirty. Other than see the ruins (which are very cool) it is not much of a site. It was very different than other parts of Italy-or should I say the more “glamorized” parts of Italy. Without the tourism, the town would be essentially nothing. There was a lot of trash everywhere which always is a wake up call for me. It’s hard to see such natural beauty, like Vesuvius and the Ocean, and then see heaps of garbage making up our land. It put things into perspective of how diverse the Campania territory is.

Go to Pompeii strictly for the ruins. It does not take a whole day, maybe just half a day to do both Pompeii and Vesuvius. Both trips are also rather inexpensive when compared to American tourism. As for my final piece of advice…eat lunch somewhere else-all the food there is very “americanized” and low quality. If you’re feeling very proactive-you can even pack a yummy snack & lunch!

The ruins themselves are HUGE. I had no clue…but literally imagine this “museum” being an entire city. It isn’t just a couple of things, it is literally the entire ancient town as ruins. I would suggest getting a guide book or map or even a tour guide. My family and I were completely overwhelmed when we went-we didn’t know what anything was and there were no descriptive signs. We just kind of looked at the sites and guessed!

In case you’re wondering about transportation to and from Pompeii and Vesuvius, I will provide a brief explanation below:

From Sorrento, you go back to the train station that you most likely took to Sorrento from naples. The Train is called the “Circumvesuviana” (Note: it is pronounced CHIR-CUM-VES-OO-VEE-AHNA). From there, you get off at the Pompeii stop. It takes about 30-45 minutes. Often, the train is crowded, so look up the departure times beforehand and get there early!


Thanks for reading and Ciao Ciao for now!

Passing the time in Positano, Italy

A great day spent exploring La Costeria Amalfitana

During our time in Southern Italy, my family and I enjoyed a day of wandering the Amalfi Coast. One of my favorite stops was a town called Positano. This town is all over Pinterest and is one of everyone’s bucket list destinations. It is very easy to see why.

Below are the words I wrote about my short time visiting this wonderful town.

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Here is a snap of Positano from above. The town is a beach town, but it continues deep into the hills of the Amalfi Coast. The Ocean is so blue & the colors of the town are incredibly picturesque.

Positano is one of a kind. I thought all Italian coastal towns would be similar, but I was very wrong. Each city is very unique and not at all like another.

Upon arriving, we were in awe. We got out of the car and started exploring right away. I loved walking up and down the winding streets-eventually ended at the black sand beaches of Positano. In addition to the great views, the shopping here was great and it really inspired me to be excited for Summer weather and fashion!
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Wandering around, we heard Church bells in the background commemorating the week of Easter. Above us were trellises full of beautiful violet flowers that smelled amazing-we couldn’t figure out if they were lilac or not. Above the trellises, you can see the large cliffs that hold the town together. It is truly magnificent.

The town is full of color and is buzzing with the energy of the locals who love the town just as much as those visiting. It’s very easy to be swept away by the colors, sounds, and smells of Positano.

My family and I were only here for a few short hours,

but we all fell in love & we will be back.

Thanks for reading!

Ciao Ciao

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A day in Capri. A day by the Sea.

La Bella Isola di Capri

Friday, March 25, 2016


Friday gave us an early call time. We had to get down to the major marina in Sorrento by 9:30am in order to catch the right ferry to get us to the amazingly gorgeous Italian island of Capri. Getting on the ship from Sorrento was a mess because, of course, no one waits in line here in Italy. But, after a panic, we finally got our tickets and made it onto the boat. I have always loved being on the sea (now being in the sea is different for me). Below are some of my initial pictures as we pulled into the dock.

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My Dad was set on us climbing to the top of the island right away. I didn’t protest as I needed to get out of the tourist-trap marina ASAP. The line to buy tickets for the little trolley “Funicular” that takes you right up the mountainside to the top was too long for us Cumberlands, so we made the initiative to walk the entire way (about a little over a mile up). It was hotter than we imagined and I wasn’t dressed to hike, but I enjoyed it because I’m crazy. Up top the view is ridiculous. Here’s me posing in front of the view from the main area called “Piazzetta.” No fake smiles needed here!!!

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From there, we decided to trail off and find even higher views. We ended up in a really cute Eastern part of the island called Matermania. To enjoy a nice walk on the island, find Via Tagara on your google maps app and proceed. Via Tagara has the most gorgeous views EVER. The air is so fresh on this island and the air is buzzing with the sounds of humming birds and laughter. Just look below & then book your one way ticket! 😛

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This place it straight out of a dream!

Accidentally, we approached the viewpoints from the wrong direction. We went too far and were stuck to climb stairs up the mountain near Villa Malaparte (apparently Bill Gates owns this) that was equivalent to over 100 floors! It was a brutal workout and I didn’t think I would make it. BUT, I’m so happy I did! I feel very accomplished. In the “non-winter” months there is a nice restaurant to break up the long stairway up called “Ristorante Le Grottelle.” The views were gorgeous up here. We were all starving and were mad the restaurant wasn’t open for a nice break!

After, we found some lunch at a surprisingly good place back by the Piazzetta. I ordered a pizza and ate the entire thing. Frankly, I damn deserved it!!! The family enjoyed their meal too. I cannot find the name of the restaurant unfortunately or else I would recommend it! I want to also add that this area is the main shopping area. I didn’t expect there to be all the top designers on this island in the middle of the Mediterranean, but I guess this was a little naive since I’ve heard how expensive and luxurious Capri is 1,000,000 times. As a day-tourist though, the prices weren’t too ridiculous in my opinion.

At this point we were wondering what to do next because we were on a time scheduled since our ferry back to Sorrento left at 4pm. We rode the “Funicular” down the hill back to the marina. Here, we got approached and asked if we wanted to do a boat tour and we did. Yes that sounds really bad because no you shouldn’t ever do those kinds of things, but hey we did it and we loved it and had an absolute blast-just use discretion, please!!!

We got to see the “white” and “green” grottos and the Romantic Arch (below). Unfortunately the “blue grotto” (the most famous site) was closed on this particular day because of the tides. What we did see, however, did not disappoint! Nothing compares to a sunny day on the sea. I really enjoyed seeing the bright neon orange coral that is situated on the rocks of the island (visible by boat). I always enjoy these types of things because my Dad is a Marina Biologist-so we get to talk shop.

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The Romantic Arc by Sea

It was an amazing and incomparable day. I loved Capri and am dying to go back one day. Italy continues to amaze me.

If you’re a future JFRC-er, definitely do Capri! Explore Italy, there is so much more to see than just Rome, Florence, & Milan. Do note, however, that I love those cities too!!! But, Capri and the Amalfi Coast have been my favorite travels so far. I actually thought that these destinations were a more “cultured” (for lack of better world) Dubrovnik.

Thank you to my amazing parents & Loyola for letting me see sights like this and for an incredible end to our week in Southern Italy.

Ciao Ciao and Baci Baci!

 

Starting Spring in Sorrento

Sorrento, Italy

A short & personal entry on my Family and I’s relaxing vacation in Southern Italy.


IMG_3773.jpgIMG_3423.jpgAbove are two similar pictures from the Hotel we stayed at for the week. You can see part of the town of Sorrento, the Mediterranean, and Mount Vesuvius in the distance.

During our time there we did a lot of exploring outside of Sorrento, including excursions to the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii & Vesuvius, and the Italian Island of Capri.

Being in Southern Italy has easily been one of the best trips I’ve been on during my time studying abroad. I have enjoyed making new memories with my family and it has been such a treat having them visiting me!

In Sorrento specifically, my family and I enjoyed wandering the streets of the city, window shopping, and eating a lot of delicious food.

Some of our local restaurant favorites are the following:

  • Da Gigino,
  • L’Antica Trattoria,
  • Donna Sofia, and
  • Il Borgo

So if you take a trip to Sorrento, check these out for sure.

Overall our trip was a very relaxing one. Each morning, would wake up slowly and enjoy the morning sun together. This part of our day was of course accompanied by lots of cafe!!! Then we would go out and explore the town or do whatever we wanted. It is always our family’s goal to try to immerse ourselves in the local life-wherever we are vacationing. By this point we would get hungry for a late lunch/snack. In Italy there is surly no shortage of divine treats to indulge in, so you can take your pick. After all this delicious food, we would enjoy a late afternoon nap. Our relaxing days here were much needed, in my opinion!


I am so thankful for my parents for giving me the opportunity to see wonderful and unique places like Sorrento. There is nothing like being in a beautiful place surrounded by the people you love & who love you. Thank you Mom and Dad for all your support and the laughs! I will miss you as you head onto Madrid and then back home.

Ciao ciao for now!

(1 month of Study Abroad left)

A Friday for Enjoying Rome’s Villa Borghese

26-02-2016

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Friday was a lovely day spent stay-cationing in Rome. I have been spending a lot of time either exploring the Balduina Neighborhood (where campus is) or traveling to various cities, but I hadn’t gotten to enjoy Rome in a while. This weekend was the perfect time to really start planting my roots in downtown Rome because a lot of people were staying in town to prepare for midterms week.

Even though I have been busy preparing for the exams myself, I knew I had to use my time wisely and balance fun and work. I had saw pictures of former students rowing the boats at the Villa Borghese, so I knew that I needed to hit the destination this weekend. My friends Julia and Lukas had visited the Villa the weekend before, so they gave us the low down on what to see and skip. To make the day even better, the weather on Friday was perfect-upper 60 degrees and sunny. So, my three friends and I left after lunch to downtown Rome via the 913 bus for a day of fun before snapping back to reality-a world of studying and sadness 😦

Here are the places we stopped:

Piazza del Popolo- translated “the People’s square.”

Terazza del Pincio- or Pincian Hill. You get here from Piazza del Popolo. Upon a steep but short climb, you encounter some of the best views of Rome!

Villa Borghese-this property is MASSIVE and there is a lot to see! You can easily spend half a day (if not a whole day) there.

Spanish steps- (which are under construction). This is one of the most famous sites in Rome. It has 135 steps in total. At the top is a Church with more gorgeous views of the City.

To conclude the day, we went shopping on Via del Corso & then ate at one of our school’s favorite restaurants: Osteria del’anima. This particular Italian restaurant is famous for their “pear pasta.” This dish is no joke and you must try it if you get the chance.

I leave for my Spring Break in Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia this Friday-so expect some cool posts soon!

My trip to Venice

So many fun memories and pictures to share…. where to begin!?

Friday

I am so busy during the week that I don’t spend much time hyping myself up or setting unrealistic expectations for my weekend excursions. Therefore, each trip has been absolutely amazing and better than anything I could have conjured up in my head. I am blown away each time by the diversity and beauty of all the wonderful cities I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. Last weekend I got to go to Venice and it certainly did not disappoint.

We took an overnight (8 hour) megabus at 1am on Friday morning. The bus was not the group’s favorite, but it sufficed for only 22 euros. The arrival to Venice was rough. We underestimated how hard navigating over 100 individual islands would be. To make things better, the Venice bus station was on the completely opposite side of the Island where we booked our Airbnb (we stayed in the Castello part of Venice & it was great). We were all a little disheveled and grumpy lugging our duffel bags and backpacks across the island, but our unease was quickly shaken when we arrived at our apartment.

From there, a new problem arrived-the apartment owner wasn’t there to meet us like he said he would be (granted we were 20 minutes late). Fortunately, I’m outgoing so I walked around the building we thought to be ours saying “Roberto, Roberto?” and to our surprise a woman popped her head out of the apartment saying she was the one to greet us, let us into our place, and give us our keys! We were all dying of laugher at the unexpected incident but we were also grateful that we could finally take a minute to breathe.

We all took a minute to freshen up and then embarked to find some lunch. Below is a photo I snapped on our walk. We ended up at this little cafe called “Crazy Bar.” It was actually very yummy despite the weird name. Luckily, Castello is not the tourist-y part of town. We enjoyed the quiet neighborhood and interacting with some Venetian locals!

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After lunch we spent the entire day walking up and down the different streets of Venice. It is so easy to get lost, but we didn’t mind! I booked a Free walking tour at 4:30pm for us that day. The walking tour was somewhat disappointing. We learned some cool things and got to see some off-the-beaten-path sites, but we all decided we wouldn’t do it again. Below are some more photos of the Venetian canals (the second one is the Grand Canal which is the biggest & deepest canal in Venice).

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After the tour, we ended up at THE BEST restaurant. The restaurant is called 6342 A LA TOLE. They have pizza & pasta, but let me tell you, it was the best pizza I have ever had. I got one with mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, and arugula. It was perfection. I wish I could eat it every night. Also, the place was very aesthetically pleasing filled with cute decorations and a kitchen you can see in.

While we enjoyed our dinner (I drank a Spritz alongside my pizza which is my new favorite drink), we even got to hear live music! The performer played Jazz guitar and sang. He literally sounded like John Mayer. It was a perfect dinner to end our day.

Saturday

Saturday was our sleep in day, which was much needed! I ended up falling asleep at 9:30 the night before because I was feeling sick and the extra sleep was much appreciated!

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My friend Aaron and I snapping some selfies in the perfect lighting before we left for day 2 of adventuring the Island! Aaron looks like a movie star.

We walked around for a while and then met up with some friends we had met on Friday to

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Thanks Rachel for the photo!

do the Gondola and explore the town further. For anyone who is interested, you can fit 6 people into 1 Gondola and it is 80 euro (standard across town). We had 7 people, so we had to take 2 Gondolas and it was 60 euro each boat for two boats (we each ended up paying about 17 euro). It ended up being very fun! I was not sure if it was going to be worth it, but I am very happy I did it as it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. To the left is a picture of Hannah and I on the Gondola. Our Gondolier was named Antonio and he is an independent Gondolier (not part of a huge company as you would find on the Grand Canal by St Mark’s Square). The ride lasts about 30 minutes. We start on the side canals, have a quick venture onto the Grand Canal (which was VERY cool by boat) and then return back to some quaint side canals which are very charming and fun to look at. Overall it was a good part of my day and something I’ll always remember!

If you are looking for a Venetian do this not that I would say DO the gondola DO NOT go to St Mark’s Square. St Mark’s square was dirty and pigeon infested. It was not worth it at all. See the real Venice, not the tourist infested facade of Venice.

I was significantly disappointed with St Mark’s, we had luck in Florence (the Duomo and Museums) and in Rome (too many to list) with the tourist destinations, but St Mark’s was significantly disappointing. Avoid at all cost (trust me). Instead, view this picture I have of St Mark’s Cathedral and the St Mark’s riverfront and call it a day.

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To continue our Saturday, we wandered toward a Tiramisu bar that we had heard offered 24 different flavors. We were a little disappointed though when they only offered 3 at a time-I was dying to try the banana flavor, but as it was not offered I opted for the classic flavor. Then we did some souvenir shopping and conveniently ended up at a Pizza place that was on our must-see list! I bought a HUGE piece of margarita pizza for 2.50. It was fabulous. Our day was full of laughter, gorgeous sites, and delicious food. I loved Venice and feel so lucky to have gotten to go!

Saturday ended with this view (pictured below) that words just cannot describe.

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We left Venice mid afternoon on Sunday via Trenitalia. We spent our last couple of hours grabbing some last minute souvenirs, snacks, and walking around town.

Thanks for reading!!! Baci baci & ciao ciao for now!

Photoshoot in Venezia: shooting with an iPhone 6s

Shooting with your iPhone 6s & my Photography journey

I have had a passion for photography since middle school. I got my Canon DSLR 1000D in 7th grade and from there on out I was always snapping anything I could. My friends and I throughout the years have done countless photoshoots and some of my photos are even featured as art in my home in Oregon. During my senior year of High School I even had 4 or 5 of my senior portrait head shots featured in the Yearbook!

I’ve always enjoyed portrait photography because I love giving people the chance to feel beautiful, hot, gorgeous, artsy-whatever! A good photo is always a confidence booster & we all know it. Recently, however, I’ve also been getting into landscape photography too (which you will see a lot of on my blog and instagram). The more adventures I’ve been embarking on, the more inclined I am to capture the beauty of nature.

(I do believe, though, that moments of beauty are not meant to be captured on camera-so experience your life don’t live it through a lens!)

Anyways, when I started packing to come abroad to Rome, I debated if I wanted to bring my DSLR. My sweet boyfriend got me some amazing camera accessories for Christmas and I was more energized to get back into photography than ever. But I realized that I really need to upgrade my DSLR body from a 1000D (beginner level) camera because at this point the iPhone has better specs than my old camera model.

With my realization, I decided to jump into the financial commitment to upgrade my phone to an iPhone 6s. It was the best decision I’ve made for my photography!

Although I still plan on pursuing digital photography via Canon products, It might be a while before I have the time or money to afford an upgrade.

All my photos on my blog are taken with my iPhone 6s and I’ve been so happy with them! Below are some snaps of me taking photos and below that those are how the photos came out (after a couple small edits on iPhoto-yes you can keep it simple people)!

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Of course, it helps to have extremely stylish and photogenic friends to be your subjects! Above are my pals Rachel and Aaron-aren’t they amazing & fabulous?

Below are some of my favorite photoshoot moments from my time in Venice, Italy. The colors in Venice (and Italy in general) are outstanding and I’m obsessed with capturing them.

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Anyways, I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos I’ve featured on my blog thus far! I’ve enjoyed taking them and having an outlet to share them on.

Happy snapping & ciao!

A Tuesday out in Rome

Tuesday night is a party night for American college students here in Rome. It only took me a month to finally make it out of my bed and out on the town…

Last night we ventured downtown to an Irish Pub, The Abbey Theater. This particular joint is a quick bus ride downtown on the 913 bus. After, you just walk across the Tiber into the historical district and make a couple turns down a few back alley streets. The pub is not hard to find, but I suggest google maps (pro tip: you can download a section of any city onto the google maps app and can use it offline).

Overall, last night was an absolute blast. I ended up going down with 5 friends but when we got to the pub it was packed full of various other students from Loyola and beyond. Although the Italian culture is so rich and magnificent, it was nice to have a little familiarity with the food, drinks, and language. We enjoyed the Pub’s Taco Tuesday offer for American students. Also– every day the Pub offers 1 euro “shooter” shots to students & they are quite yummy!

I thoroughly enjoyed myself on my first night “out” in Rome.

Below are some of the highlights of the night (predominantly food pictures).

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I asked my friend Julia to snap this picture in front of the courthouse at Piazza Cavour. This proves that I do, in fact, live here in the eternal city of Rome and I’m loving it!

In case you’re wondering, below I will provide some other Americanized student hangouts for you to check out (I know future JFRC-ers read my blog)!

To my knowledge, Tuesday nights out are also good for Scholars Pub, G-Bar, and Shari Vari Club.

Of course, go out and find your own fun and drench yourself in Italian culture. But as a current student myself, I know how nice it is to have a night or two of American food and fun as well. Embrace your culture, love it, and love Italia too! Balance is key.

Ciao for now