Bologna

Let the Countdown Begin

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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.

Bologna

A Hidden Gem Just Beyond the City Walls

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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.

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Travel

A Perfect Easter Weekend on Lake Como

 

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Our first Lake Como sunset

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.

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The view from our hike certainly paid off

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On top of Castello di Vezio
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I was only slightly obsessed with all the wisteria
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Probably the most epic pool location
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The view from our ferry as we cruised up to Varenna

 

Travel

In Pictures: A Communist Tour of Bucharest

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.

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Our tour began at the Romanian Patriarchial Cathedral. Everyone seemed to be busy cleaning and setting up for a Palm Sunday service the following day.
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Bucharest architecture is quite the mix of medieval structures, historic buildings that look like they belong in upscale Parisian neighborhoods, traditional communist-style apartment buildings, and much more. This building was one of the largest apartments in the city and you can see where the construction abruptly stopped when communism fell.
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Here’s yet another building that was never completed. It was meant to house the National Council for Science and Technology where Elena, Nicolae Ceausescu’s wife, would approve or deny research projects. The communist party didn’t hesitate when given the opportunity to boast about Elena’s Ph.D in Chemistry (the Illinois Academy of Science even gave her an honorary membership), but it turns out she just barely completed elementary school.
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There are countless overgrown lots like this one and from a distance, they look fairly ordinary. Yet upon closer inspection, you can spot remnants of bulldozed houses that made way for oversized communist-style apartment buildings. Apparently, these actions sum up to the single most destructive period during a time of peace.
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Part of our tour included sampling a few food items that were popular during communist times. Ceausescu was determined to pay back all of Romania’s national debt, which meant exporting the majority of the country’s goods. While he was ultimately successful, it resulted in extreme food shortages throughout the country. These puffs were pretty gross – think Cheetos without any flavor.

 

 

Food · Travel

My First Impressions of Bucharest, Romania

 

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The decor in Origo Cafe was so pleasing to the eye

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.

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Our first night in Bucharest was a comical affair, to say the least
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Carturesti Carusel is one of the most beautiful bookstores I’ve ever visited
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The components of a great meal at Lacrimi si Sfinti
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Moody skies from the Pura Vida Sky Bar
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I was a little too excited over all the tulips and daffodils throughout the city
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The dining room of The Artist was a work of art in itself
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Why choose one dessert when you can have bites of all three?

 

Travel

Our Next Trip

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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?

Image via poppylovesbookclub

Restaurants · Travel

Under the Capri Sun

 

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Enjoying the sun while waiting for our boat to arrive

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.

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One of the dramatic Faraglioni
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The view from our spacious Airbnb patio
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A final glimpse of Capri before taking off on the ferry back to Napoli