Under the Tuscan Sun

This past weekend was so much fun! My program had an organized trip to many little places around Tuscany that me and my roommates went on. It was just Saturday to Sunday so we had the beginning of the weekend to relax and just hangout. Friday night we made dinner at home and watched She’s the Man, which none of us had seen in forever and quickly remembered how hysterical it is! What happened to Amanda Bynes, she’s crazyyyy now!

The trip left early Saturday morning for Siena. It is a small town and we learned a lot about Catherine of Siena during the tour. There is a beautiful church set up on a big hill that is basically the biggest thing in the town. We finished the tour at a large piazza where we then ate lunch – single slices of pizza! This was the first time all semester that we’ve just been able to eat a slice and it was so nice and a little reminder of home. The slices were huge by the way – like 1/4 of a pie! We ate our slices in the piazza and layed in the sun. I actually fell asleep for a couple minutes just sunbathing. It was nice and relaxing and fun to see a new part of Italy that is so different than Florence yet so close!

From Siena we headed to thermal baths in Rapolano. They were just like those in Budapest but a little smaller and there were more outside. Even though it was a Saturday the spa wasn’t that crowded because it is starting to get warmer and people are heading to the coast! Yes it was around 70 degrees outside but the thermal pools were still amazing to be in…not too cold or too hot! We lounged in the water for a couple of hours before leaving for the hotel. The API ladies had told us they were giving us dinner at the hotel but everyone was kind of like ya ya ok sure because every time we’ve had an organized “dinner” with the group its been just an appertivo buffet that is over crowded and not enough food. However, at 8pm we went to the lobby to check it out and there were set tables. So we sat down and were immediately greeted by a woman spooning pasta in our dishes. Amazing! The pasta was delicious and not even a small portion and my table got seconds! I was so satisfied I didn’t even need anything else, but then came the chicken and potatoes, then salad (the Italians have weird timing with their salads) and then chocolate cake dessert! I was so full it was beautiful. After dinner we all walked into town to this bar that was inside and outside and there was live music under the bridge we were on so that was nice. It was a great ending to a great day and I was excited for the next day!

Sunday we woke up and left for Cortona – where the movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed!!!! If you’ve seen the movie (and if you haven’t you must) I don’t need to explain the beauty of the town. The busses dropped us off at the bottom of a huge hill, where Cortona is located, and we had to take little vans up to town because there was a rare car race going on through town. Of course we had a tour and then got to stop and see some of the antique cars. They were antique racecars though, not like the ones you see in parades, and it was exciting to watch them race around the windy roads. After Cortona we went to Castello da Verrazzano for a wine tasting. At this point we were all very tired and a little cranky because they told us it was going to be a short bus ride and it was 2 hours long. Getting off the bus there was a lot of complaining but as soon as we made our way to the Castle gardens everyone shut up. It was absolutely gorgeous filled with lemon trees and fountains and a nice old British lady gave us some history about the castle and the Verrazzano family. We went on a quick tour of the wine cellar then were seated in a grand terrace for the tasting. We tasted 4 wines – 1 white, 2 red, 1 dessert (ew) and had lots of appertivo to go along with it. Prosciutto, salami, bruschetta, olive oil, quiche, biscotti, salad and olives were just a few of the things that were passed around our table. We drank and ate for about an hour and had so much fun meeting the 5 other girls that sat at the table with me, Bre and Michelle. They were all so nice and all from different places and I’m sad I didn’t get to meet them earlier in the trip 😦 The wine tasting was definitely my favorite part of the trip!

2 bad things about the weekend:

1) I somehow managed to get allergies for the first time in my 20 years of existence! As soon as we got on the bus Saturday morning it was like flipping a switch – my nose was uncontrollably running, eyes water, I couldn’t stop sneezing (and I have obnoxious sneezes) and my throat was sore. It was awful. I barely slept Saturday night because I kept having to wake up to blow my nose. Thankfully it didn’t ruin my weekend and I stil managed to have a ton of fun!

2) I forgot I needed to charge my camera battery. So when I turned on my camera in Siena it started to die so I knew I couldn’t take my pictures. So I basically could only take like 1 picture at every place.

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Spring Break Part 1

So happy to be home!! Thankfully, today is a national holiday so we didn’t have classes and had the day to recuperate and relax. Me and my roommates walked around in the nice weather and ended up at the pizza place where the Jersey Shore worked when they were here. The pizzas were awesome and we ate them outside in Piazza Republica. But that doesn’t matter so let me explain my spring break!

For my break I went on an organized trip called the Eastern Loop. I went with my friends Hannah, Ashley and Erin and there were only 37 of us on the whole trip! We left Thursday night from Florence at 9 pm and drove through the night to Ljubljana, (pronounced “Lubiana”) Slovenia. We got to our hostel, which used to be an old jail, at 3:30 am. There were cell bars in the rooms behind our doors it was cool!

Hostel in Slovenia

Hostel in Slovenia

Friday morning we had a tour of the city and our tour guide was so cute! We learned a lot about the history of the city and how they have lots of myths about dragons. The city was very small and had lots of cute restaurants and shops running along both sides of a river. We got lucky because it was in the 60s and sunny so I got some color while walking around. After the tour we got lunch and sat outside by the river, it was the first time in Europe that I had a salad with actual salad dressing! As in not just olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This is something I really do miss about the U.S. Then we walked up a steep (a lot steeper than I had anticipated) hill to a castle with amazing views of the Swiss Alps. Our tour guide encouraged us to go up there for the view because it had just snowed on the Alps the day before.

View from the castle

View from the castle

That night our whole group went out for a traditional Slovenian dinner. It wasn’t really anything I haven’t had before. It was four courses, consisting of salad, soup, main course and dessert. The soup was really good, some time of beef broth with asian noodles, the main course was a huge chicken cutlet with vegetables and rice and then dessert was an apple pie-type pastry. It just wasn’t in the shape of a normal pie piece and definitely had other fruit in it, but it was called ‘apple pie’. Everything was delicious and I had a glass of the white wine, which Slovenia is famous for. I loved the city because it was so cute and reminded me of home, or more like downtown Newburyport by the water. In retrospect it isn’t anything like home, but when I haven’t been home in so long random things bring me back.

The next morning, Saturday, we woke up and checked out of the hostel to depart for Lake Bled. Apparently, it is one of the top-rated wake-boarding lakes in the world! It was beautiful but didn’t compare to the beauty of the lakes in Switzerland. However, the surroundings were much nicer. There was another castle at the top of a hill in the background that many people on the trip walked up to, but we chose not to. We walked around the lake, it took about an hour or so, and then got the famous pastry, Kremsnita, at a cafe with gorgeous water views. It was a custard/vanilla/flaky pastry that was DELICIOUS!! I also got a piece of carrot cake 🙂 We left the lake mid-afternoon for Budapest, Hungary.

Kremsnita

Kremsnita

BUDAPEST IS AMAZING!! I am aware I need to come up with better adjectives than “awesome”, “amazing” and “beautiful” but I can’t think of any right now. Anyways, I really am obsessed with Budapest (but not as much as Prague so just wait til I get there!). The city is so unique in that it is actually two cities – Buda and Pest – separated by the Danube river that runs through. The Buda side is more suburban and smaller, but we stayed in the Pest side which is the urban, city part. The Chain Bridge, along with many other bridges, is the most famous that connects the two sides. We made it to Budapest around 10pm and immediately showered and went out on the town! The four of us, and some girls we made friends with on the trip, went to an underground club that was insane! It was so big and had tons of graffiti and writings on the walls and was just a really cool atmosphere. They also served food late and had these amazing hot sandwiches that were about a foot long and hit the spot after a long day of being on the bus.

The next morning we woke up for a walking tour of the city that ended up being FREEZING COLD! I knew it was going to be colder on this trip, but was not ready for temperatures in the teens and snow! I only had my leather boots and my feet froze. The tour was enjoyable for the first half and then once it got too cold we kind of just stopped and got lunch and warmed up. That day we went to these markets outside (once we had revived ourselves in a warm cafe) and found t0-die-for dessert. They were these cylinders of dough that are cooked over coal and then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. AMAZING! They also had these in Prague but they were smaller there 😦 BUT the Prague ones had Nutella inside :)!!!!!

Delicious!

Delicious!

Back to Budapest, from the markets we navigated the metro system to the House of Terror. I wasn’t a fan of going there, but I figured its part of history and I should learn more about history and the war etc. So for those who don’t know what this place is, it’s basically where the secret police operated in Hungary during World War 2. It has exhibits dedicated to fascist and communist dictator regimes during that time. It was a really somber and depressing place to go, but I am glad I saw it and it definitely prepared me for my trip to Auschwitz.

On Monday we made it to the famous THERMAL BATHS! Basically, the best part of the whole trip hands down! Before we went there though, we had to check out the Grand Central Market, the largest in Budapest. We shopped around and I finally got some gloves that are cute and knitted and Hannah and Ashley got this amazing looing lango (I think that’s what it was called). It was just a fried dough circle but with toppings and they got Nutella (obv) and bananas! Wish I had some but for once in my life it was too early for me to eat sweets. After the market we headed to the thermal baths! There are a couple different places to go, but the one we went to was called Szechenyi. It’s a spa that has about 15 pools, some inside and some outside, that are heated naturally by two thermal springs. There is a lot of sulphate in the water and so the inside pools smelt of sulfur and were kind of gross to be in. Outside though, was, wait for it, AMAZING! (someone get me a thesaurus) The first outside pool we went in had a lazy river and bubblers but wasn’t has warm as we’d liked, especially because it was SNOWING! Yes, I was outside in the a bathing suit in a pool in March in a snow storm!! After about 30 minutes in that first pool we decided the other pool looked better. The only bad thing was that you had to get out of one pool and run to the other – in bare feet in the snow! But we managed and that second pool was soo incredible. We just sat there on the steps of the pool, submerged to our necks, absolutely relaxed. We had made massage appointments and so only had about an hour to stay in that pool, which was fine considering the recommended time was 20 minutes in the pool, but I would have actually stayed there all day. Before getting our massages we hopped around from pool to pool inside, but like I said they smelled gross and were filled with old people in speedos and bikinis. Ok now let me get to the massage! UGH! So good! It was an hour and I was just soo relaxed I fell asleep at one point. At another point I burst out laughing but oh well. After the massages we left (around 7 pm) and had to trek back in the snow to the hostel. But it wasn’t far! That night we got dinner at a local place that was really cute with live music. And we treated ourselves to 2 desserts!

Thermal Baths at night in the snow!

Thermal Baths at night in the snow!

I’m going to stop here for now because I need to make sure I do my Italian homework due tomorrow! I have to write a journal of every day’s activities on break! I’ll probably finish the trip later tonight or if not, tomorrow! OH and of course, more pictures to come!