La Bella Vita in Rome

IMG_5368Italy has a way of pulling us back over and over again.  When we saw cheap tickets to Rome for New Year’s, we didn’t even hesitate.

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This happened in spite of the fact that many people I know do not care for Rome, for one reason or another.  I’m glad I went anyway because my husband and I had a great time admiring the grandiose architecture, eating delicious food, and strolling the narrow cobblestone alleys that were still decorated for Christmas.

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We stayed in a lovely guesthouse right in the center of the city from which were able to walk to every major site on our itinerary.  We didn’t book the trip far enough in advance to get tickets to the Colosseum or the Vatican, but to be honest, I don’t think it would have been pleasant cramming our way through the crowds.  Instead, we chose to enjoy those landmarks from a distance.

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One of the highlights for us was stopping at a cafe after walking through the old city and sipping on glasses of Prosecco while we listened to a Reggae band busking with a very hip older gentleman as their backup dancer.

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Another highlight was climbing up the Spanish Steps just in time to watch the sun set over the Roman skyline.  The weather was seriously gorgeous.

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My favorite travel companion.

I am so glad we got to experience one last taste of a European Christmas (and of Italy!).  This time next year, we will be spending our winter holiday in the States for the first time in five years!

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A Lovely Week in Sicily

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I just returned from a fabulous week in Sicily with some dear friends of ours and their adorable little girl.  I am officially on summer break and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick it off than a week of sunshine, beaches, Mediterranean villages, great food, wine, and good friends.

For such a little island, Sicily has a LOT to offer – easily two weeks’ worth of sightseeing.  We didn’t get to see everything, but we saw a lot of great highlights.

Taormina and La Riviera dei Ciclopi

Our first stop was  the little beach town of Taormina.  Though it is very crowded and full of tourists, it’s not hard to understand way.  Idyllic cliffs dotted with colorful Mediterranean houses tower over turquoise water.  We browsed the cute boutiques, had an incredibly picturesque picnic, and indulged in some delicious canoli.20180616_161640.jpg

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From Taormina, we moved on to La Riviera dei Ciclopi (The Riviera of the Cyclopes) where we enjoyed the views of the strange rock formations, enjoyed some cheap beers on the marina, and listened to a local band festival.

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Mount Etna

On our second day, we decided to head up to hike Mount Etna, an active volcano.  It was a little rainy, but stunning nonetheless; however, we had not expected it to be so cold. We all showed up in our shorts and t-shirts only to be met with wintry temperatures.  Still, the views were spectacular.  It reminded me a lot of our honeymoon in Iceland!

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Siricusa

Siracusa (Syracuse) is a lovely coastal town surrounded by ridiculously blue water, white marble architecture, and loads of sunshine.

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I pretty much went from freezing to sunburnt in the matter of a day!

Cefalu

Cefalu was a lot like Siricusa, but with more laid back beach vibes.  There was a ton of public beach space and the view from the sea was magnificent surrounded by cute houses and big, green mountains.  Drinking cheap summer shandy while floating in the water didn’t hurt either.

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This past school year was incredibly rough.  I’m so grateful to have spent such a wonderful time with my husband and good friends and to have started summer on a much more positive note.  Italy is ridiculously good.

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A New Year in Bologna

IMG_2073.JPGFor the first time since we’ve moved abroad, we were both off on New Year’s and the weekend before, so we decided to get off campus and celebrate properly somewhere; the question was where.

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As usual, we let Skyscanner decide and the cheapest flights outside of Turkey were to Bologna.  The times were perfect and the price was right, but we wondered if perhaps we shouldn’t look elsewhere because we had already been to Italy twice before and there are so many places nearby we haven’t seen yet.

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But c’mon.  It’s Italy.

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The more we talked about it, the more I loved the idea of wandering through narrow streets, eating amazing food, and drinking good wine.  After all, since we had already done the whole tourist thing a couple of times, we figured there would be no pressure to check off a list of sights to see and places to go; we could simply sit back and enjoy la bella vita.

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So. Freaking. Good.

We rented an adorable apartment from Airbnb (If you haven’t tried it yet, you should!  You can get $23 off your first stay here.) and hung out like the locals for a few days.  Of course, we did some sightseeing, but we also balanced that with trips to the local cafes for cappuccino or aperitivo (wine and appetizers) or strolling through the streets and window shopping.  We even went to a local grocery store one night and bought all kinds of tasty ingredients to see if we could make our own delicious Italian dinner since our apartment had a kitchen – it was one of the highlights of the trip for me!

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Once New Year’s Eve rolled around, we were ready to go out and see the annual fire in Piazza Maggiore.  Yes, fire.  They spend the days leading up to New Year’s building a paper sculpture in the middle of the square, and at exactly midnight on New Year’s Eve, they light it on fire and everyone watches it burn.  It was incredibly strange and incredibly awesome all at the same time.

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Moral of the story:  Italy is always a good idea.

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The aftermath of a great party

Of Lost Cameras and Sinking Cities

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Sad story:  We lost our camera in Venice.  It was a hot, miserable day and our hotel was out in the middle of nowhere.  It took us 3 hours to find it, which meant we had to take a few breaks because the heat was so unbearable…it just so happens that on one of those breaks, I stupidly set the camera down and forgot to pick it back up.  Not a great start to our trip.

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After we got to our hotel, I was feeling so shitty about it that I didn’t even bother to go out into the city our first night, but I decided that one night of sulking was enough.  Camera or no camera, we had come to see Venice.

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It was hot, crowded, and beautiful.  I did my best to capture it with some grainy Kindle Fire shots, but of course, they don’t do it any justice.  We arrived with no itinerary and we definitely didn’t want to fork out the cash for an overpriced gondola ride – especially since we now had a camera to replace.  Instead, we simply wandered through the alleys, stopping for the occasional gelato to try and beat the heat.

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So where to begin with Venice…  It’s a tourist trap for sure, albeit a beautiful one.  It’s also possible that my experience was a little tainted due to having lost our camera.  I definitely couldn’t imagine spending more than a couple days there, but I certainly don’t regret going…especially when considering it may not be around much longer.  My advice?  Don’t go in July.  Wait for the off-season to avoid the crowds and the sweltering heat.

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2016

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January

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February

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March

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April

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May

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June

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July

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August

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September

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October

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November

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December

What an incredible year I’ve had!  Looking back at each month made me realize how unbelievable it’s all been.  It also made me realize how quickly time is going by.  How has it already been another year?  How?

Here’s to hoping for an amazing 2017 for us all!

An Evening in Milano

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After a lovely few days in Cinque Terre, we spent one day in Milan before catching our flight back to Turkey.  The visit was quite short, so we didn’t do too much, but we had a great time walking around the main squares and getting our last few bites of Italian food.

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The architecture in Milan is stunning and it’s crowning jewel is the Duomo Cathedral.  It was enormous and beautiful, as was the whole of Piazza Duomo!

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I absolutely loved listening to this man play music on the bottles!  He was brilliant!

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We were both starving after the long stint on the train, but we were having trouble finding something that wasn’t ridiculously overpriced in the main square.  We stumbled upon a little cart selling gelato popsicles and the rest is history.  This almond was superb.

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Our “Last Supper” involved two very large and very delicious pizzas.  Speaking of which…

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…we missed out on seeing the original Last Supper, which is housed in Milan.  It was a bummer because I find Leonardo da Vinci very fascinating and would have loved to see some of his work while we were there.  We did, however, manage to see this statue of him.  I guess that just  means we’ll have to go back to Milan to do it properly…

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We loved you, Italy!  Italy is one of those places I know in my heart that I’ll see again.  I went into it with a mix of expectations based on differing opinions and was pleasantly surprised by how laid back, relaxing, and beautiful it was.  Until next time!