Czeching It Off My List

A few weeks ago one of my roommates mentioned she was dying to go to Prague and although I had thought about going to the country, I never really figured I would get there seeing as it wasn’t top on my European bucket list. However a few minutes of convincing later, I was sold and booked by trip with Florence For Fun to depart for Prague this weekend. Luckily, my spur of the moment decision did me no wrong!

Prague was definitely one of my most favorite places I’ve visited so far. Although originally weary of the people we would meet when we arrived, I found the town to be incredibly Americanized and full of lovely people with neat accents. After a 12 hour bus ride through the night (how fun does that sound??), I took off my sleeping mask to find the sunny city of Prague in all of its architectural wonders. After a quick stop by our hostel at Fusion Hotel, which was surprisingly wonderful and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a cheaper place to stay, we headed out on a guided tour of Prague. We made our way to their astronomical clock in time to see the time change at noon which entails a fun ceremonial ritual then headed to the Charles Bridge. We finished our tour in the old Jewish Ghetto of Josefev which was my favorite part. Ever since I learned about the Holocaust in 7th grade, I have been fascinated by it and although I won’t be able to get to Auschwitz on this trip, I plan to make it there sometime in my life. My roommates think I am creepy for my fascination, but the history behind it all truly interests me. After visiting a couple synagogues and exploring the streets, we headed to a favorite restaurant of students where I finally found a burrito and pretended I was in Mexico for a few short minutes.

Our free time on Friday included exploring the sights as well as climbing the clock tower to find some of the most amazing views of Prague. When we arrived back to our hotel that night, we got ready and headed out with our group to do a pub crawl. A couple watered-down sangrias later, my roommates and I danced until we were falling asleep on our feet then headed home to crash until morning. We awoke to a dreary day but were excited to see the John Lennon Wall. Although I’m not a huge Beatles fan and didn’t know much about the wall previously, it was an amazing sight so we took a ton of photos and then headed up to the Prague Castle. There was a Starbucks at the top with the most wonderful view, it was the perfect way to reunite with one of my favorite American beverages. Who knew Italy has outlawed Starbucks from entering its country?? With my vanilla latte in hand, we explored the Castle and its Cathedral then headed down the many flights of stairs to stop in a quaint restaurant for lunch. Keeping up with the local cuisine, I ordered beef goulash and apple streusel for dessert, both of which were WONDERFUL! I seriously haven’t met a food over here that I don’t like.

We ended our day with a little shopping in the local market and got ready for a late dinner at the most wonderful place. Kolkovna is known in Prague for its gourmet food at cheap prices so we sat down to a complimentary beer and because I was feeling adventurous, I ordered the leg of goose. Before you judge, it was actually wonderful and tasted like a moist turkey leg. However dessert is what really stole my heart. Warm chocolate soufflé atop a tantalizing vanilla sauce garnished with raspberries… In case my description didn’t do it enough justice, trust me when I say I fell in love. OMG. I walked out with a wonderful food coma and we headed to a 5-story club where the music was a little too loud and the smoke constricted my lungs. Good experience but never will I ever go back!

We finished our trip with a 12 hour bus ride back to Florence on Sunday and although I thought I may go crazy, the ride included a drive down the German autobahn and beautiful sights of the snowcapped mountain ranges in Austria. By the way, the highway rest stops here are phenomenal… Clean and full of great food and wonderful views. I made great memories and hope to one day come back to Prague!

Until next time, I will be studying for midterms and nursing a cold, while getting ready for spring break in Spain next week!

Molly

Advertisements

Mediterranean Mojo: Part 2

I don’t even know where to begin for this post because I have so many wonderful, happy, beautiful memories bouncing around in my head! I guess I will start from the beginning which included the most glorious breakfast buffet. We had a wide array of different bread and pastries, fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt as well as a fabulous coffee and tea bar! It set the tone for the fabulous day that lay ahead.

We left the hotel in Nice and headed to Eze which is a small village on top of a cliff. The Fragonard perfume factory is housed there so we got a quick tour and made a few purchases. Then we found the trail and walked up to the village of Eze. It was a quaint town with small cobblestone streets, perfectly quiet while situated on the most beautiful cliff overlooking the ocean. I decided right then and there that it was a potential honeymoon location (because yes, this is what I think about while traveling). We rushed through the town, trying to capture the picturesque streets but our photos didn’t do it justice. I never wanted to leave.

Little did I know that yet another beautiful site was awaiting me just 15 minutes away. We made our way along the coast to the wonderful Principality of Monaco. Yachts and sailboats and blue water and beautiful military men in uniform… Someone please tell me I can stay forever! The streets were clean, the ocean breeze was fresh and the classiness of Grace Kelly lingered in the air. We made it in time to see the changing of the guards, where I spotted my future hubby with a tall stature and a phenomenal French accent. I stalked him for a little while then made my way to the Cathedral to visit Grace Kelly’s grave. We stopped for lunch to eat a ham and cheese crepe that followed with a crepe filled with perfectly chocolatey chocolate and whipped cream. We did a little souvenir shopping then headed to the gardens that were dedicated to Grace Kelly. Situated right along the cliff, we sat in the sun and stared out in awe over the beautiful Mediterranean sea. I’m positive I could live the homeless lifestyle on the beach if I meant I got to wake up to those views everyday.

Last but certainly not least, we traveled to Monte Carlo. Our first stop was the Monte Carlo Casino where cameras were forbidden but the sites will be ingrained in my head forever. Massive chandeliers hanging from gold plated ceilings while fabulously dressed men and women strolled through ready to play their hand on the dark wood Roulette tables. I slipped 5 euros  into a machine that I had no idea how to work and played my luck. Only cashing out with 0.30 euro, I knew I had some practicing to do before I ever hit another casino. Still pretty cool to say my first slot machine was played in Monte Carlo! We left the casino and found Lamborghinis and Porsches, Ferraris and Bentleys as we made our way around town being glared at for our obviously poor American statures. Since we couldn’t afford anything, we walked and enjoyed the sites and on our way back to the bus saw two children riding in an electric Ferrari car also known as an electric Barbie car in the US. Funny how different the price point is over here!

I said a very sad goodbye to the place that touched my heart forever and we made our way home through the traffic back to Florence. This was the first trip I went on where I wasn’t glad to be home. I could have stayed in the French Riviera forever and I know that I must go back again during my lifetime. Maybe next time it will be on a rich man’s yacht with servants feeding me grapes… A girl can dream! It was an utterly fabulous trip and I feel so blessed to have been able to see these sites at such a young age… Thank mom and dad!

Until next time I will be making cannoli’s and heading to Prague this weekend!

Molly

Mediterranean Mojo: Part 1

I sincerely apologize for my week hiatus in posting anything. I was trying to find something that truly inspired me and boy did that happen this weekend! On Saturday morning I left for the French Riviera… Did that really just come out of my mouth (or rather, my keyboard)?? When I say I have seen heaven, I mean that this place looked like coastal Northern California on steroids. It was hands down the most incredible place I have ever visited. The decadence, the beauty, the ocean, the crepes… I may or may not have already started looking for jobs there after graduation.

This trip was put together by the school where I am studying so we paid a flat fee and had tons of activities on our itinerary. We began our bus ride up the coastal road through Italy and eventually made our way into France. Just the view alone from the bus was enough to get me excited! I never truly realized how much I missed having a body of water so close. As our adorable teacher and fabulous tour guide, Franco, talked to us about the regions of Italy and France, we made our way to our first stop which was Cannes. Our bus parked casually at the marina where we were able to get off and take just a few quick steps to the ocean. Clearly I ripped off my shoes and ran to put my toes in a foreign sea. The water was cold but heavenly. We took some touristy pictures and marveled at the yachts then headed to the main road, passing a few topless old ladies on our way by. I can only hope to be topless on a beach in Cannes when I get older!

We found where the Cannes Film Festival is held and enjoyed the scenery then headed to lunch overlooking a phenomenal view of the city. We ended our time in Cannes with a stroll through a wonderful antique market where I purchased beautiful antique diamond earrings (I promise they were in my price range!). We sadly hopped back on the bus and headed to Nice with a guide who told us all about the architecture and history behind the places we were passing. We arrived to yet another picturesque waterfront and then headed inward to the old town of Nice. We strolled through small streets and passed a large flower and soap market (can you imagine the scents… Wonderful!) and also several chocolate and candy stores. Our guide stopped in front of one of the oldest chocolate stores in Europe but didn’t give us time to go in… Obviously she didn’t know who she was dealing with! Wiping the drool off my mouth, we made our way to Fenocchio’s, a famous ice cream place in Nice, which was really the only reason we decided to follow the guide on the tour in the first place. I got three scoops of different flavors and happily enjoyed my treat on the way back to the bus, just in time to catch the sun setting on the beach. We said goodbye to the water and headed inland to our 4-star hotel with the most amazing view of the city… These people know how to keep me happy!

After a nice long shower with HOT water and wonderful water pressure, I struggled to peel myself out of bed for dinner downstairs. We had an eggplant stuffed with mixed veggies followed by a delicious chicken and potato dish and ended with a chocolate banana cake. It was all wonderful, especially the warm baguettes that they continually replenished. We headed upstairs with a happy belly and snuggled into our beds, ready to take on the next day in Eze, Monaco and Monte Carlo.

I will include more about my travels to Eze, Monaco and Monte Carlo in my next post. But until then, I hope you dream of sandy beaches and clear blue water and decide to make a trip to a seaside city in your near future!

Molly

Let’s Get Lost

There is something so incredibly beautiful about being lost but not worrying about finding your way home. Almost everyday I find myself going stir crazy if I don’t take a long walk through the city. Whether a new part of town I’ve never visited or an old part of town I pass everyday, there is something new to find every single time. At home, I hardly ever walk to my friends house located only 2 minutes away but while I’m here, we take two hour long walks with no destination in mind. While safety is always thought about, I have never once felt threatened while walking during the day time. It’s wonderful to live in a place where walking is not only easy but encouraged, although that doesn’t include the handful of times I’ve almost gotten decapitated by the large buses on small streets (Yikes!).

This whole “getting lost” concept isn’t a new thing to me. No matter where I am headed with either new friends or old mates, I normally always get lost or find a new adventure. Maybe its Gods way of showing me new adventures or maybe my life is just a joke that I continually fall for, however I can’t say that it bothers me. I’ve learned to embrace the madness and welcome it as a way to see new things and explore new avenues. Plus it doesn’t hurt to stumble upon a new gelato place while lost and finding my way. My roommate and I have an understanding that if we see a new gelato place that looks good, we simply must go in and try a few flavors as “research for our blogs” (seems legit enough, right?).

Maybe getting lost isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe getting lost is the way we truly find ourselves. I know that whenever I have a question about where my life is going, I somehow seem to stumble upon an answer that brings me back to where I am meant to be. The wandering, the questioning, is all part of a beautiful process that we must embrace in order to grow. Without getting lost, we wouldn’t know how to get back on the right track. We would settle for the ordinary without truly getting to experience the extraordinary. Life would be pointless, dull and quite frankly uninteresting.

The ones who wander are the ones worth following.

Until next time…

Molly

Beauty in Uncommon Things

On Sunday after our trip home from Milan, my roommate and I knew the weather was too perfect to stay inside. Since we had yet to see Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo, we put on our sneakers and headed out to find the most amazing view Florence has to offer. Although still sore from our many mile long walks around Milan, we were determined to press through the pain to find the view while thinking about getting our bikini bodies ready for Cinque Terre in April!

Michelangelo.

Michelangelo.

We took back roads to get to the Ponte Vecchio and crossed the next bridge over, stopping to take photos of the gorgeous blue skies that hung over our new town. Everywhere we turned there was beauty in everything we looked at. From the green moss that covered a beautiful cement fountain to the way the sunshine hit the sidewalk, we couldn’t help but fall in love with the city we had chosen to call home. We climbed our way to the top and what we found was beyond what words can describe. Miles upon miles of beautifully colored reds, yellows and oranges combined with the green of the hills that served as the backdrop to our city. We gawked at the views as we tried and failed to capture the pure beauty of it all. Dodging tourists and hoping to not look like one ourselves, we made our way around the entirety of the Piazza then headed up the street to the beautiful church that sat even higher up than we already were. Here is where I found the most serenity.

Church alter.

Church alter.

For some reason since I’ve been here, I’ve had this immense fascination with churches. Anyone who knows me knows that I know as much about religion as a pastry chef knows about blacksmithing… In case that was a terrible simile, I mean that I know VERY LITTLE about any kind of religion. Although taking a course about all types of religion at High Point, my boring teacher did little to spark my interest leaving me with just a few facts about Jesus and his disciples. However in this country that is so heavily based in religion, I find myself wonderstruck by all the churches I go into. Wanting to know more about the history and traditions behind it all, I am determined to make my way to a Catholic service while here, no matter how long or how confused I may be. The passion and time put into not only practicing the religion but the details behind every painting and column in the church is something I hope to explore in depth. The church we found on the hill was hands down my favorite spot I have found since being in Florence.

Divine light.

Divine light.

We made our way back down the hill down a side street that was rarely used. I felt like I was in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun as we passed Tuscan style houses with greenery crawling up the deep yellow walls sitting on empty roads. In that moment, I knew I had chosen the perfect place to study abroad, a place that makes me feel alive and happy while yearning to discover all the hidden treasures this town has to offer. As if that wasn’t enough, our walk home ended by stumbling upon a free organ concert in a church right around the corner from our apartment. I made my roommate go in with me and for a moment, all we did was stand in the holy space surrounded by breathtaking sounds. Every single time I turn around, I see something even more beautiful than the past and I am always so excited to journal about my experiences so that I can remember them forever.

View from Piazzale Michelangelo.

I have been keeping a list of at least one thing a day that makes me happy and while being here, I am overwhelmed by the amount of objects I want to add to my list. Even the little things like a child with gelato all over their face or a couple staring passionately into each others eyes, this city makes you fall in love with not only the people and places around you but with the life you are living. I guess that’s why they say its one of the most romantic countries… Not sure how you could leave here without falling in love with something or someone.

Until next time…Molly

Effortless

This weekend I traveled to Milan for FASHION WEEK… Whose life am I living?? Surrounded by fashion and wonderfully fabulous people, I couldn’t help but feel like I had entered a new world. I must have come to a stop at least 50 times on the street as I stood in awe watching the most beautifully clothed people walk by. Only the best fur, leather and yes, sneakers (who knew they go well with suits?) dawned hundreds of women and men walking the streets of Milan. The style was so effortless and seemingly easy that it made me want to run into the next store to try and copy their glamorous way of dressing.

Galleria ceiling.

Galleria ceiling.

On Friday we made our way to the train station with our hats on and our beautiful outfits packed away in our oversized suitcases. To our surprise, our train ticket indicated that we were in business class even though we swore we picked the cheapest option on the website. We were delighted to find dark leather seats that reclined along with a complimentary beverage and yummy snack. Only an hour and forty minutes later we arrived in Milan to the most gorgeous train station filled with businessmen (I love a man in a suit), beautiful children in adorable outfits and women who looked like they had hopped out of a magazine. Jennie’s friend Chris met us at the train station and we took a metro to his apartment where we would be staying for the weekend. We freshened up and hit the streets to find the Duomo in Milan as well as the Galleria full of overpriced stores with amazing window displays. It was our first taste of Milan fashion and we couldn’t wait to find more.

Gelato with nutella on top, YUM!

Gelato with nutella on top, YUM!

After a quick stop at the BEST gelato place in Milan (Cioccolati Italiani), yes they do fill your cone with chocolate from a chocolate faucet before they plop 2 oversized scoops of gelato on top, we headed out to find the fashion district and stumbled upon the entrance to the Les Copains show which obviously star stuck us beyond words. We hung around, taking pictures of the fabulous people walking in then finally tore ourselves away to find the Sforza Castle with a carnival going on behind it. Funny how something so old and ancient can be next to something so jovial and fun. On our way back we stumbled upon the main fashion district with stores I usually only dream about. Knowing our budgets couldn’t even afford to step inside, we oohed and ahhed at the window displays and gawked at the beautiful people walking by who could actually afford to go in.

Fashion show set-up.

Fashion show set-up.

On Saturday we woke up ready to take on the day in our Fashion Week designed outfits. I slipped into my faux fur coat (thanks H&M!) and we headed out, dying to find a fashion blogger or take a picture with someone famous. We roamed the streets for hours and although we never ran into anyone worth talking about, we did get a great workout and took lots of pictures, nevermind the whispers from a few Italian men who said we looked “molto bella”. We finished our day by shopping a little then making dinner for the boys we were staying with and headed to bed early with dreams of European fashion dancing through our heads.

My outfit for the day!

My outfit for the day!

It was a wonderful weekend and although we didn’t get into a show, the excitement of the city and the beauty of the people who effortlessly walked the streets was something I will never forget. Maybe a few years from now I will be the one wearing disgustingly expensive but utterly fabulous clothing, holding my invitation to the hottest fashion show in Milan. Nonetheless, Jennie and I were so extremely excited to come back to Florence where metro stations are not needed and walking to every destination is within reach. After I return home from any trip, I am always so blessed that I chose Florence as my home base… Small enough to get around but big enough for endless exploring.

The Duomo in Milan.

The Duomo in Milan.

Until next time I will be searching for sales in European stores so I can match their fashion without matching their price tag!

Molly

Adjusting

Here we are 3 weeks since my arrival in Florence and I’ve been doing some reflecting. My time here so far has been incredibly well spent, full of adventures and stumbling upon beautiful places and people that I would have never experienced had I stayed in America this semester. Although refusing that I would be homesick or that I would actually miss life back at my home university, I was sadly mistaken. Adjusting to a new life abroad was much harder for me than I expected. Naïve and wanting to get away from reality for a bit, I came here thinking my lifelong dream come true would overpower any sense of homesickness I may encounter, however that was not the case.

While here my homesickness comes in waves, usually on Sundays after I get back from a weekend trip and have to face the reality of homework and classes. I keep having to assure myself that I am in a beautiful place and yes this is actually happening and yes I am here for another 3 months. The whole experience still seems so surreal to me that when I walk the streets of Florence I have to continually remind myself that I am here, doing what I’ve always dreamed. The funny thing is that whenever I start to miss my family or feel depressed when I can’t text my friends from home 24/7 (I realize how pitiful that sounds and I am welcoming the unplugged environment), I find something beautiful that brings me back to the moment.

Yesterday my roommate and I ventured across the Ponte Vecchio (still extremely strange that I say that in reference to my location) to see the Aldo Fallaci photography exhibit. Fallaci was a photographer for Giorgio Armani and although shy about showing his work, he finally gave in and allowed his work to be put on display. The exhibit is in a villa on top of a hill that overlooks the entirety of Florence, meaning we had already taken 50 pictures by the time we even entered the exhibit. On a perfect day with overcast skies and light coat weather, we wandered through the most beautiful gardens that could seemingly only be staged by a set director. We forced ourselves to step away from the views and entered the exhibit which was a view in and of itself. White fames holding mainly black-and-white photos on a forest green wall, the simplicity made the photos jump out of their frames. Pictures of models, pictures of ordinary people, pictures of happiness and sadness; I fell in love with the vulnerability.

In that moment, I had escaped my mind and floated into Lalaland as I walked inside an Italian villa full of perfectly imperfect photographs. As we made our way out of the villa, we left down a different road that housed a quiet community with beautiful streets. I wished for a professional photographer to take cheesy photos of me that captured my sheer happiness. In case the villa experience wasn’t enough, the end of the hill housed the best gelato place we have encountered since being in Florence. Although we were looking for pastries, we couldn’t pass up the endless flavors so we ordered two scoops and continued on our stroll to find a few leather markets where we looked but didn’t purchase.

Somehow, someway, the universe seems to know just what I need at the perfect moment. Yesterday was exactly what I needed to be reassured that the place I am currently is the place I need to be. Although craving a gossip session with my closest friends and wanting to hear my dad snore in his chair while we watch endless episodes of Big Bang Theory (never thought I’d say that, huh dad?), I have been truly blessed with not only this opportunity but also with the roommates I ended up with. One reminds me of my best friend from college and the other is a crazy, wild California girl who pulls me out of my shell. Together we make a good team and I am grateful that we clicked so instantly. Changing countries, time zones and currency isn’t easy but I am so glad to be experiencing it with good people in the most beautiful place. Day by day I am embracing my homesickness and turning it into a desire to find all of the wonderful hidden places my new town has to offer.

Info plaque.

Info plaque.

One wall of exhibit.

One wall of exhibit.

Favorite photograph.

Favorite photograph.

Love the perfect vs. imperfect contrast.

Love the perfect vs. imperfect contrast.

Statue, mainly because she was on pointe :)

Statue, mainly because she was en pointe 🙂

Villa Bardini.

Villa Bardini.

View from the terrace of the villa.

View from the terrace of the villa.

Cinnamon and lavender gelato from La Strega Nocciola.

Cinnamon and lavender gelato from La Strega Nocciola.

Until next time…

Molly

With Love From Verona

I hope you all had a very Happy Valentine’s Day full of tons of love, laughter and of course some good chocolate. I spent my Valentine’s Day traveling to Verona with my roommate, Jennie. We arrived in Verona with a happy heart, despite the mushy gushy couples that surrounded us. At the train station we were greeted by a sweet old Italian man that Jennie knew through a mutual friend. He bought us Italy’s best chocolate and offered to put us up in a B&B for two nights as well as show us around the town he knew so well. Little did we know that his favorite parts in town included just about every food group we could think of.

Off we went as 20 year old women with a 60 year old man (what a pimp), to lunch at one of his favorite restaurants. He knew the owners so we walked right in and took a seat. We ordered our first plate in Italian, I had the penne with zucchini and ham which was incredible. After we enjoyed that, he said we needed to order a second plate, something our college pocketbooks hadn’t been able to afford prior to this day. So we went with his suggestion and got a broiled fish dish that was delectable. Next up was pastries followed by coffee which Jennie and I declined since we were already full of good food. 2 hours later, we came to the conclusion that there wouldn’t be much sightseeing going on today even though the weather was pristine.

We headed into town after lunch and explored the Verona In Love festival which housed chocolate and cheese and a plethora of beautiful couples holding roses and stealing kisses. After grabbing a cappuccino with Robert (our host) and his friend, we headed back to our B&B but made a pit stop on the way at Robert’s favorite Pasticceria. Still stuffed from lunch, we wondered how we could fit anything else in our stomachs. But out came hot chocolate, which in Italy is more like a pure melted dark chocolate bar (hello cavities), and a platter full of galani and fritelle. Galani has the consistency of a cannoli shell but tastes like a funnel cake and is decked in powdered sugar, it was fabulous. Fritelle is a custard filled pastry that I wasn’t too fond of. Nonetheless he made us finish the platter and hot chocolate as Jennie and I entered a sugar coma, unable to physically put anymore food into our bodies. We made our way to our B&B which was a beautiful apartment just outside of town and rested until dinner… And so began another food frenzy. We met Robert and his wife at a lovely, quaint Valentine’s dinner that included pumpkin tortellini in Amarone sauce (AMAZING!), steak and vegetables followed by a rosemary infused crème brulee… Are you drooling yet? Although it was a 4 hour dinner, we enjoyed the decadence and headed home to nurse our food baby.

Saturday started with a bang as we shopped around the fabulous stores and made our way to Juliet’s house. Although crowded and way less intimate than the Letters to Juliet movie portrays, we got our picture holding Juliet’s boob which is meant to help us find our true prince then explored her house and got a picture on her balcony. We walked the streets as we fell in love with the porches draped in flowers and beautiful colored window shutters then grabbed a fresh soft pretzel as we made our way back to our apartment for a nap. We met Robert for another 2 hour dinner (seriously a hard thing to do for this fast eater) but this included only one course of fresh, delectable pizza… It was a little place called Tabia, you must go if you are ever in Verona!

We woke on Sunday and headed to town, gawking at the old Italian ladies who walked the streets in their marvelous fur coats. We grabbed another pretzel (they were too good to pass up!) then climbed the Lamberti tower to see the best views of Verona. Little did we know that it was noon and although people were still climbing, the bell did still go off! After losing our hearing and taking several pictures, we did a little more shopping then headed back to the train station. It was a fabulous, relaxing weekend that included way too much food but hey, when will I ever again get the chance to be wine’d and dine’d by an old Italian man??

Our apartment for the weekend.

Our apartment for the weekend.

Juliet's Balcony!

Juliet’s Balcony!

View from Lamberti Tower.

View from Lamberti Tower.

Castelvecchio.

Castelvecchio.

Touching Juliet's boob to find my prince!

Touching Juliet’s boob to find my prince!

Verona in Love.

Verona in Love.

Main square with Lamberti Tower.

Main square with Lamberti Tower.

Until next time, I will be anxiously waiting be departure for Milan Fashion Week on Friday!

Molly

Choose Chocolate

On Tuesday, the professor of my International Marketing class gave a lecture introducing the class then showed us a series of pictures from one of the most controversial advertising campaigns the world has ever seen. United Colors of Benetton, which is a European based clothing company, bravely did a campaign full of pictures that highlighted racism, sexuality and body image among other things. Never before had a company taken a risk that huge in the marketing world. One of the photos my teacher showed us was the photo I have included below. While surrounded by body image issues everywhere I turn, it made me think about the eating habits in Italy as compared to that of Americans.

Body image ad by United Colors of Benetton.

Body image ad by United Colors of Benetton.

As I mentioned in past posts, everywhere you turn there are Italian women in outstanding fashion, exemplifying class and confidence as they stroll through the streets without a care in the world. One of the main things I notice about these women is that none of them are obese and none are stick thin. Somehow these women seem to have mastered the art of balance in accordance with their weight. In America, it is normal to see an extremely obese person strolling behind a young woman who looks like she needs a burger… Or 5. In Italy, that is simply not the case.

Whether it’s the amount of walking they do or the flights of stairs they climb to their apartment (it’s actually a wee bit overkill), these women exemplify what I believe the perfect woman should look like. Unlike America, the gyms here are small and empty, normally only full of American students. There is no craze to stay in the gym for hours on end followed by a trip to the local organic store for a mysterious green smoothie. These Italian women walk or bike to their destinations and they start their day with a croissant and coffee then end with a plate of pasta and cheese (did I just use three carbs in one sentence?!). Americans seems so incredibly black or white in their habits as compared to the Italian culture who have acquired a sound equilibrium. Maybe their love for a more conservative life at a slower pace is what we Americans should be aiming for in order to create a better balance in our society. Maybe we should be using our time to build healthy relationships instead of creating unhealthy habits, finding others opinions of ourselves more important than our own.

Speaking of balance, how off kilter would I be if I declined a visit to a chocolate festival that’s only 10 minutes from my apartment?? After hearing everyone in every class talk about the chocolate festival by the train station, my roommate and I set out to find out what all the fuss was about. Sure enough there were tents upon tents full of chocolate. If you know me well, you know that I was drooling… Quite literally. My mom can attest to the anxious, “OMG I want everything” attitude I get when surrounded by good food/desserts. You can bet your bottom dollar that same emotion was present when I stepped into those tents on Tuesday! Chocolate fountains, chocolate truffles, chocolate croissants, chocolate crepes… Oh happy day! Remembering my wise words from above, my roommate and I split a flakey dark chocolate croissant and I only had one dark chocolate tartufo (those free samples they hand out don’t really count as calories).  It was a wonderful day in my book as I walked away with a happy heart and maybe a little bit of chocolate still left on my lips.

Although taking the overindulgent, off-balance approach to food when I first arrived here in Italy, I am slowly learning the Italian way of eating is much more enjoyable. Taking your time and as my favorite movie (Eat, Pray, Love) says “having a relationship with your food”, is the best way to enjoy what I consider to be one of the greatest pleasures in life. Acquiring balance with anything you do in life is important and I cannot wait to continue learning from the fabulous Italian women who know what they want and don’t feel guilty about getting exactly that.

Until next time, Happy Valentine’s Day! I will be spending mine in the City of Love, Verona! My roommate and I plan on visiting Juliet’s house and spending the weekend falling in love with the new life we are living here in Italia.

Molly

Roman Rendezvous: Part 2

Rolling out of bed to throw on our comfy walking shoes, we hopped down the steps (7 flights I may add… Hello calves) of our new apartment and opened the door to our fabulous view of the Colosseum. Determined to undermine the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, we planned to visit all the touristy areas of the historical city in just one day and boy did we succeed.

Our first view of the Coliseum.

Our first view of the Colosseum.

Starting at the Colosseum, we walked around its entirety and gawked at its views. Ever since I was little (yes, probably because of the Lizzie McGuire movie), I have dreamed about what it would be like to see the Colosseum in real life. I kept having to pinch myself because I was finally in Rome experiencing it firsthand. To say I was awestruck would be an understatement. Although we didn’t go in due to time and money constraints, I was like a kid in a candy store just roaming around the outskirts. After that we headed to Vittorio Emanuele which was an equally amazing sight. Built more recently than the ruins, it was a huge building with marble floors and fabulous columns. For 7 euro we made our way to the tippy top of the building which supposedly housed the most incredible views of the city… And we were not disappointed. Although experiencing a minor heart attack about how high up we were, I was so happy to make it to the top. You could see for miles on end as we took picture upon picture attempting and failing to truly capture the in-person view… Breathtaking!

Molly Ruins

Roman ruins.

Finishing up there, we headed to the Pantheon which we had already been to the night before. Not knowing much about Roman architecture I was delighted to see the hole in the ceiling which lets rain in and on certain holidays, rose petals are dropped through the roof for all who visit to admire. I yearned for a place in America that had this much culture and beauty. Our next stop was Piazza Nuvona which was a phenomenal sight however my favorite views were of the hundreds of artists that lined the square. Everywhere you looked you were surrounded by beautiful art which, combined with the sunny skies, made for a spring-like day in the middle of a normally rainy and cold winter. Next up was the Trevi Fountain! Turning a corner, you don’t even realize that you are stumbling upon one of the most famous sites in the world. Surrounded by people making wishes for love and adventure, you can’t help but feel inspired as you throw in your coins. We were told to throw 3: 1 to find your love, 1 to marry your love and 1 to return to Rome. Now I must wait patiently for them to come true! We took tons of pictures and made our way to a quaint lunch spot for some authentic Roman pizza.

Piazza Nuvona with my roommate, Jennie!

Piazza Nuvona with my roommate, Jennie!

After lunch we headed to the Spanish Steps which I was extremely excited about. Little did I know that all the pictures weren’t really what they were cracked up to be. Full of people and lovers caressing each other, it felt less than intimate and instead more like a zoo. We took a few pictures then we hopped on the Metro which is Rome’s version of a subway to travel to Vatican City! As we came up from the subway, I couldn’t help but feel as though we had entered India. There were thousands of Indians everywhere we turned, not to say its a bad thing but definitely a surprise considering where we were in Europe. We walked cautiously to the Vatican and entered to see a line that must have been a mile long, literally. Deciding that the trip inside wasn’t worth the 5+ hour wait, we enjoyed the views then met up with Stephen as he showed us his favorite gelato stop. We headed back to our apartment and got freshened up for apertivio at Anima Mundi, the bar whose owner helped us the day before. We celebrated our day with drinks and a fabulous appetizer buffet.

The Vatican!

The Vatican!

We ended our day with another cup of gelato (yes my pants are getting a little snug but, When in Rome!) and woke up Sunday to board the train back to Florence. Arriving back in our little city, I felt like we were back at home. Strange how after just a few days, the place you reside seems comforting and welcoming. Although I love the big city feel of Rome with its fabulous architecture, I am grateful to be in a city where I need no public transportation and I feel safe walking everywhere I need to go. We spent Sunday doing laundry and grocery shopping, appreciating the memories we shared over a great weekend.

View from the top of Vittorio Emanuele.

View from the top of Vittorio Emanuele.

Until next time I will be attending classes and exploring Firenze!

Molly