Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ciao katilda: FLORENCE!

The title of this one earned capital letters because that's how my heart feels inside when I think about this city. FLORENCE!

This city is just my speed. Rome and Pompeii were a flurry of activity, but when I got off the train in Florence, my heart was like, "Yes, this. THIS." I tend to find my best things in life by listening to my heart when it says things like that to me. It is usually right. Reliable ol' ticker.

Florence is slower. It's easy to navigate. It's sensual, with sumptuous food and flirtatious Italian men and lilting street music and lights over the river. My two favorite moments of the entire trip happened in Florence: first, when we ate lunch at Trattoria San Lorenzo. The gnocchi was good enough to almost bring tears to my eyes, I kid you not. I want it right now. And every minute of my life. EVERY MINUTE OF MY LIFE. My friend's order of lasagna bolognese was also worth writing home about, so if you ever eat here, perhaps get both. Your life will be glorious.

The other greatest moment was one night when we climbed up to Piazzale Michelangelo, which requires a walk across the river and a small trek up a hill. The view was incredible! There was a man with a thick Italian accent playing English songs on his guitar, like Coldplay's "The Scientist" and John Lennon's "Imagine." And several other modern hits. We sat on the steps, looked over the city and basked in the music. I feel like it was one of those evenings that my thoughts will wander back to time and time again for the rest of my life.

Alsssso....we saw Michelangelo's "David"! This is stunning. This is a must see. I am so in awe of the things that human hands can create.

Florence is also fantastic for....SHOPPING! Whoever designed the clothing here just....they just....they just GET me. Pretty flowy things with touches of leather and lace, yes please! I scored a few great items, including a pair of blue suede ankle boots, and.....drumroll authentic Italian leather jacket (pictured below, of course)! Two Italian men helped me try it on and consult on the size, and only one of them spoke any English so there was a lot of gesturing and rough translations going on. I ultimately picked a more fitted size (which the Italian speaker was a fan of) and earned myself a "che bella!" and approving hand gestures upon my decision. I love love love the jacket and have hardly skipped a day of wearing it since I came back to California.

And of course there were the usual spots like The Duomo (I recommend a climb up the bell tower rather than the dome itself, because then you can take pictures with the dome in it.....and also if you're afraid of heights like I am, this entire experience is a bit of a trip. You can do it. You got this.) We also ate a LOT of gelato in Florence, including like three visits to Perche No! – an adorable shop that claims to be the oldest gelato shop in Florence (opened in 1939?) and has THE friendliest employees. And the chocolate orange rum flavor? I CAN'T EVEN. Also, the raspberry. I can't all the evens.

Simply put, I adored Florence. Florence was my jam. If I was going to live in Italy, this would be the place. We are two Italian birds of a feather.

Next up: Cinque Terre & Pisa!
Other Italy posts: When in Rome / Pompeii & Sorrento

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ciao katilda: Pompeii & Sorrento

Well I'm clearly taking my time with these Italy posts. #beenbackfor12days #hadsuchambition

So don't mind me if I start posting them all at once so I can move forward and blog about other things. Like how much bacon I ate this weekend. It just started showing up in every meal......not entirely certain what happened but I'm not mad.

So, Pompeii!

If you're in Rome and have time for a day trip out of the city, Pompeii is something you shouldn't miss. It's very easy to get to by train -- you just ride down to Naples (where you can go exploring and get pizza if you want, but we decided to skip it) and switch trains to the smaller one that goes along the Amalfi Coast. Think: coastal Italian views. You won't be disappointed.

Pompeii is basically a city that was destroyed in a volcanic eruption from Mt. Vesuvius (the views of said volcano are pretty cool, also) and was also previously leveled by an earthquake some time before that. So, not the luckiest city, eh? It's pretty crazy because (morbid alert) there are actual human figures they've discovered in the positions they died in during the eruption and created plaster molds of. Creepy and neat.

You can get an audio guide of Pompeii, but we opted to go on a guided 2-hr tour (the city is HUGE; we barely scraped the surface) with a man named Salvatore who was standing outside the entrance when we got there. He had the greatest stories and info about Pompeii, which was originally a trading/commerce center with, ahem, a bustling red light district. The place is a trip.

After our tour we grabbed lunch at a little pizza place by the train tracks, where we were pleasantly surprised by the entertainment of a small Italian band of troubadours......meaning, we danced to accordion music and it was fan-fetching-tastic.

Oh, and we also had an impromptu dance party in the Pompeii ruins to Bastille's "Pompeii." It just felt right. Hence all the girl band photos.

And then, Sorrento!

Hopping back on the train, we headed down to Sorrento, which is this loverly little coastal town known for its lemon products. There are several of these towns along the Amalfi Coast, and I wish I had time to see them all but I was quite pleased with Sorrento. Adorable little alleys of shops that smelled like lemons with rows of yellow jars along all the shelves. I also bought a pink scarf and it makes me feel like summer and happiness when I wear it.

Naturally, we went on a trek down a lot of stairs (and back up them again later) to get down to the water....where Cami and I took off our shoes and waded in. You may remember that she and I did the same thing at a glacial lagoon in Iceland. This experience was considerably less freezing. This whole tradition began on a trip to Boston when I casually said to her one Sunday afternoon, "Hey, let's go on a walk to the Atlantic Ocean....." and because she's a gem she trusted me and we walked a verrrrrry long way when we could have taken a short bus ride. Lessons learned, my friends. BUT. Started a great tradition of always wading in. We're all about it.

It was a most excellent day that involved a lot of train rides and scenery, which was a really nice break in the middle of running around Rome. Highly recommended!

Next up: Florence!
Other Italy posts: When in Rome / FLORENCE!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ciao katilda: When in Rome!

Hello friends! Ciao! Buongiorno! I'M BACK IN 'MERICA!

And one year older and wiser too! Good ol' 28. If I could describe the feeling of being 28, I'd say it's like being a little older than 27 and a little less old than being 29. That about sums it up.

I have some serious jet lag right now.

The Italy posts are going to come at you in a few parts, so it won't be eleventy years long by doing it all in one post. So let's start with the first part of my Rome!

This whole trip was booked through an amazeballs deal with go-today, and I'll do a separate post reviewing my experience with them and the hotels we stayed at and etc. So, stay tuned for that! Let's focus on the adventures right now.

Italy is magic.

There is accordion and violin music wafting around every corner, food is an EVENT, and all the little cobblestone streets and twinkle lights....just....I....I mean, I know why they say this place is romantic. A girls trip works too, right? :) Quick note about my travel companions: they're the best. THE BEST. End note.

Our trip started on a Saturday, when we flew out of California, over to Frankfurt (including coming close enough to my dearly beloved Iceland that I wanted to parachute out for a quick visit and hot dog lunch), and then into Rome! We planned a lot of our itinerary and eating spots thanks to my friend/coworker Emi's Guide to Rome, at The Well-Traveled Wife. She didn't disappoint! (Thanks Emi!!)

After landing, we grabbed a train to the hotel (I LOVE pleased at how much train-riding I got to do on this trip!), then wandered the evening streets and alleys aimlessly, soaking up the street musicians and gorgeous architecture. And then, spaghetti at a cafe with red checkered tablecloths! Because OF COURSE. Early on in this trip, we became quickly acquainted with the catcalling of many Italian men ("Princesses!" "Beautiful!" "Signorinas!" "I make you happy, baby!" uhhhh). We rounded out that first night by poking around the Trevi Fountain (and discovered it was covered in scaffolding -- boo!), danced on a bridge over the Tiber River to the tunes of a sidewalk guitarist, visited Fontana di Tritone and Castel Sant'angelo, stumbled across St. Peter's Basilica all lit up for the night....AND ate gelato served by a man named Fabio. Could you ask for better??

Our adventures in Roma continued the next morning with St. Peter's Basilica (550 steps to the top! I counted), the Vatican Museums & the Sistine Chapel (my heart tended to stop in general every time we came across a different piece by Michelangelo -- the Pieta was the first one I saw, and it was arresting. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was WHOA). We rounded out the day with the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, pizza (they cut it with scissors!), gelato, ravioli, cannoli, Altare della Patria, more wandering around Rome at sunset....also can we talk about how cheap everything is in Rome?? Is it my California goggles talking? I felt like I was robbing the place. (Not mad.) Also we maybe got lost a couple times and walked A LOT of miles. Between that and the stairs, and this 13-hour day out and about, I'm fairly certain my Achilles tendons may never be quite the same. #noregrets

Ready to talk about what happened on my birthday? ARE YOU READY?

Because....we saw the Pope! I really admire Pope Francis. I think he does such great things and is always addressing real issues like poverty, homelessness, etc. I have always appreciated his humility, authenticity and candor. We heard earlier in the week that he would be speaking on my birthday, so OF COURSE we hit that up first thing in the morning (after grabbing pastries for breakfast). We ended being just a few feet away from him riding by in his Popemobile! It was amazing. I loved being part of the crowd of people all cheering and waving their countries' flags. The atmosphere was electric.

I had a waiter at a restaurant teach me how to say oggi รจ il mio compleanno, which means "today is my birthday"! After our rendezvous with Pope Francis, we wandered more alleyways, then took in some sun and xylophone(?) music while people watching in Piazza Navona. Then lunch. LUNCH. I could have wept into that pasta -- so good! Then I got exactly what I wanted most for my birthday: a NAP! My travel buddies woke me up from said nap with pastries and candles, which was the best surprise nap-wake-up ever. Then off to the Colosseum and the Trastevere District, with dinner at the cutest little restaurant where the owner was shocked that I was turning 28. "You're venti (20) to me!" He put a candle in our tiramisu and it was just perfect. Perfetto!

Other Italy posts: Pompeii & Sorrento / FLORENCE!

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