When I made the decision to move to Bologna last year, I was overwhelmed with excited about all the new places I planned to see in the coming year. I’m so grateful when I look back over the past nine months and think about all the new cities and countries we’ve explored, but I also can’t believe how quickly time has flown by.
I have less than three weeks left in Italy (I fly back to San Francisco on May 18th) and I’m trying to fit in as many Italian experiences as possible with my remaining time here. That includes wine tasting in Tuscany, visiting the gelato museum, and spending the majority of my free time sipping cappuccinos in sun-filled piazzas.
Now that the weather is finally getting warmer, I’ve been finding more excuses to spend time outside. While I do enjoy working on my laptop or reading in various piazzas and outdoor cafes throughout Bologna, sometimes I just crave some greenery that isn’t completely overwhelmed by city sounds.
I was excited to check out Villa Ghigi, a large park just under three miles from our apartment, and it was even better than I could have imagined. We decided to make this gem our destination for a Sunday picnic and our walk up to the park quickly turned into me ooh-ing and ahh-ing over our surroundings.
Rolling green hills, trees heavy with plump figs, and endless rows of grapevines mirror scenes found in the heart of Tuscany, rather than just outside a large city. The only thing betraying our location was the Bologna skyline off in the distance.
Lake Como. A place that even my friends that have a fierce “been there, done that” attitude have proclaimed that they would gladly revisit someday. It’s a destination that couldn’t be more photogenic and succeeded at taking my breath away at every angle. I see why George Clooney likes it.
Even the train ride into the tiny town of Lierna, our Airbnb location, offered up incredible views, serving as both a means to get us excited for the upcoming weekend while also distracting us from the sweltering hot train cabin we were all crammed into.
The weekend wasn’t perfect because we saw all the sites the guide books insisted we must visit; the weekend was perfect because besides a short hike and eating a ton of great lake food, we didn’t really do much.
My favorite day was Easter Sunday where we spent much of the morning and afternoon soaking up the sun on Lierna’s pebble beach, taking a dip in the icy cold lake water whenever the heat became too much. We then had a great Easter dinner at a local restaurant, followed by a game night with friends.
Unlike a lot of places we’ve visited over the past eight months where we try to cram in as many sites as possible, we really just forgot about planning and enjoyed our surroundings in Lake Como. Perhaps it’s because we knew that we would return someday.
A three-hour walking tour of the communist history of Bucharest was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Admittedly, I was pretty ignorant of Romanian history before visiting it’s capital city but I was completely enthralled throughout our tour.
We visited some spectacular sights but our guide also wasn’t afraid to show us some of the rougher parts of Bucharest, underscoring how much communism affects the country almost 30 years after its fall. I can’t recommend our tour guide, Marius, enough and you can check out his blog here.
Bucharest (not to be confused with Budapest!) took me by surprise. With it’s various coffee shops filled with the scent of single origin coffee beans, restaurants serving up dishes using organic and locally-sourced ingredients, and a young population of the most fashionably scruffy individuals, Bucharest screams hipster. I loved it.
Despite it’s capital city’s up-and-coming vibe, Romania still has deep scars from years of repressive and brutal leadership under Nicolae Ceaușescu, which was evident by the countless crumbling and abandoned buildings we saw scattered throughout the city. Yet that didn’t stop us from enjoying plenty of Romanian beer, a fantastic conversion rate, and a delightful abundance of blooming springtime flowers.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been two whole months since Evan and I last traveled outside of Italy (when we took a train to Vienna), and I’m excited to announce that we will be headed to yet another new country tomorrow. This country has kind of gone under my radar but after reading up on it a bit, I’m really looking forward to exploring this hipster paradise (I mean, check out that bookstore).
Unfortunately, this will be our last big trip together before I move back to the U.S. in May, which makes it even more special. We’re headed to one of the most affordable capitals in Europe, also known as the “Paris of the East”. Any guesses?
The first word that came to my mind as our ferry inched towards the Capri dock? Wow. Aqua water, majestic cliffs, and cheerfully bright buildings make this place truly stunning. Don’t get me wrong, I really did love our time in Napoli but compared to the hustle and bustle of Italy’s third largest city, the island paradise that greeted us in Capri was a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively).
No trip to Capri is complete without a boat tour and while we were hoping to check out the famous Blue Grotto, our guide was adamant that he wouldn’t take us there at that time in the afternoon. Turns out that our hour tour of the White Grotto, Green Grotto, Coral Grotto, and the Faraglioni (three huge rock formations along the coast) was spectacular, causing our desires to see the Blue Grotto to quickly fade away.
Capri is not a cheap destination but it’s still possible to find affordable restaurants and accommodations if you really look for them. We shared an Airbnb with our friend, Aleks, and I don’t think we could have asked for a better view from our patio. Also, thanks to recommendations from friends and my own research, we enjoyed some fantastically affordable meals.
My only regret regarding our trip to Capri is that we didn’t have enough time. Plenty of people treat the island as a day trip destination from Napoli or Sorrento but I could easily see myself enjoying an entire weekend relaxing under the Capri sun.
P.S. Sign up for Airbnb and get $37 in travel credit by clicking here.
Almost 40 meters below Napoli lies the historic underground, which was first excavated by the Greeks for water storage in the fourth century BC. These cisterns have provided water first for the Greeks, then for the Romans for an estimated 23 centuries.
For a mere €10, we were guided through these winding tunnels, an area that I admittedly had no idea existed before our trip. Most of the tour was relatively well-lit (except for the section where Evan accidentally stepped into an ankle-deep puddle), but my favorite part was when we were led by candlelight through a pitch-dark passageway, so narrow in places that I had to turn to the side just to squeeze through.
These ancient tunnels were used as bomb shelters during World War II and now serve as a greenhouse for a nearby restaurant, providing an environment that is much purer than the city above. Clearly, the value of this space didn’t end with the Roman times and it should be interesting to see how its use evolves in the future.
Most people know Napoli as the gateway to Capri and the Amalfi Coast, a trash-filled and overcrowded city, a place where you should closely guard your wallet. While these stereotypes are true to some degree, Italy’s third largest city also has so much more to offer.
When I first learned that we’d be moving to Italy, I knew that a trip to Napoli had to happen at some point during our nine months here. My grandpa’s family on my mom’s side is originally from Napoli (the details are a little fuzzy but we know they were leather glove makers) so I was determined to explore this city of my ancestors.
I’ve heard from several people that Napoli is dangerous, dirty, loud, and simply not worth the visit. Napoli is known by most people as “that place where they stole my friend’s wallet”. Although I would still encourage you to keep a close watch on your belongings while in Napoli (as you should in large cities throughout the world), there’s really no reason to avoid this culturally-rich and historical place. Here are my top three reasons to visit the city:
The food: Seafood, pasta, sweets (sfogliatella is incredible), cheese, and… oh yeah, Napoli is the birthplace of pizza – that’s reason alone to visit in my book.
The people-watching: We witnessed aggressive car honking, multiple children on a single Vespa speeding down the sidewalk, and a massive crowd taking part in a taxi strike. And that was just within the first hour of being in Napoli. One of my favorite moments was sitting at an outdoor cafe table and watching the city’s colorful people pass by.
The history: It is believed that the Greeks founded Napoli somewhere around the 7th century BC. I was overwhelmed by the amount of history thrown at me during our tour of underground Napoli, in which we saw the Greek-Roman aqueduct that is 40 meters below ground and the remains of an ancient Roman theater, plus so much more.
Even though I graduated from college over two years ago, I’ve still managed to plan a little getaway every March or April, even if it’s just for a long weekend. Last year, Evan and I planned to visit New Orleans, a place that has long been on both of our bucket lists.
Unfortunately, our flight was scheduled to depart Denver the day after the area experienced record snowfall (19.5 inches, to be exact). Needless to say, we didn’t make it to New Orleans but we’re hoping we have better spring break luck this year!
Next week, we’ll be spending two nights in Naples and a night in Sorrento, and I can’t be more excited to explore Southern Italy!