Venice + Lake Como 2017

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Are you guys tired of seeing my Italy posts?  It was one of my longest trips (besides London), so I have a lot of material (and this is without sharing so many photos, and I’m not even writing about Lucca/Milan, because they were quick trips, but still.  That’s how much Italy stuff I have).  However, I’m just going to keep telling myself that no one is sick of my Italy posts yet, because not loving Italy is something I can’t quite comprehend.

Anyways, after San Gimi, I went over to Venice.  I was only there for one night – I actually was supposed to go for two nights, but my mom called me and told me that she recommended that I stay in San Gimi another night, because Venice is absolutely mad crazy busy with tourists in the summer.  I’m so glad I stayed in San Gimi another night, although I did still have lots of fun during my night in Venice!  I still can’t quite get over staying in a town on top of a giant pool of water – my train went right over it, and then my mom picked me up at the station and we waited like, ½ an hour for a water bus, and how weird are water busses?!  After, we walked around Venice for hours looking at pretty masks and all of the buildings.  Pro-tip: If it’s June in Venice, the sidewalks will be so packed you literally cannot walk more than a couple steps at a time.  If you’re not patient, like yours truly, it’s maddening.  A local told me the best time to go would be in late April-early May.  Anyone have any tips on this?  I’d love to visit again!

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Also!  If you get a chance to get out at night after all the tourists have gone to bed, Venice is so amazing!  I got super lost, ate some ice cream, and saw some of the most beautiful sites.  That was by far the best part of Venice in my opinion.  After I got back to my hotel, my mom snuck me into the hotel room, and I shared a bed with one of my aunts and my mom.  It was a squishy night for sure.

After Venice, we took a train ride over to Milan where we saw the Duomo!  So, so gorgeous.  Also, we found a really lovely restaurant that we ended up at twice!  However, the highlight of the Milan trip was our little day-trip to Lake Como.  We took the funicular up to the top of the mountain and ate at the loveliest restaurant, and I had the BEST roast with polenta.  Then we took a boat trip around the lake and got gelato, and it was a perfect day!  All in all, such a lovely day trip and a nice way to end my stay in Italy!

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Some fun things to see in Lake Como/Milan (honestly I wasn’t in Venice very long, and I can’t even remember the name of the only restaurant I ate at.  Sorry!)

  • Boat Ride – Take a boat ride around the lake – we found the hour long tour was plenty! Then, get some gelato across the street from the boat station!
  • Fernicular – the fernicular goes to the top of the mountain in Lake Como and has absolutely the most stunning views and some cute shops! Definitely go if you can.
  • Ristorante Bellavista – this restaurant is located on the top of the mountain in Lake Como which you can get to by hiking or taking the fernicular. The beef + polenta dish was amaaaazzzzzininininggg!!!
  • Ristorante Il Tavolino – Our favorite restaurant in Milan we went to twice! The waiters were very sweet and got us way drunk on limoncello shots both nights!
  • Frank – a nice cocktail bar in Milan! Good whiskey!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Creature Comfort by Arcade Fire

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Cinque Terre + San Gimignano

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I’m currently in rainy Ireland, sleepy from my flight over and also the 2 pints I drank last night (when did alcohol start having these effects on me, I’m too young for this?).  While the cooler fall weather has been very welcome lately, I can’t help but be really jealous of 3-Months-Ago-Sara.  How come 3-Months-Ago-Sara got to lay on the beach drinking aperol spritzes, and Current-Sara is slightly damp from the rain and falls asleep after a couple of Guinnesses?  In just a few weeks, I’ve gone from Fun-Girl Mode to Hibernation-Mode.  Okay, not entirely, I have actually been super entertaining in Ireland, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyways, have you guys heard of Cinque Terre and San Gimignano?!  They were honestly my most favorite places in all of Italy, so I’m super excited to share this post!  You’ll notice by the pictures that they aren’t very similar at all – Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 towns along the Riviera coastline, and it’s filled with these amazingly colorful, boxy houses on the cliffs!  On the other hand, San Gimignano is in Tuscany, and it’s probably what most people imagine when they hear about “Italian wine country”.  Both of them were so different, but I had just the most amazing time in each!

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Cinque Terre

Story time! In Cinque Terre, I stayed in the bottom town called Riomaggiore.  I was obsessed with the rainbow buildings, and I spent a large majority of my time there hanging out on the rock beaches and taking millions of pictures.  Anyways.  One of the days while I was laying on the beach, a local man walked up to me and asked if I wanted to do a night kayaking tour he hosted after 10 p.m.  Although I’m afraid of 1. the ocean, and 2. the ocean at night especially, I decided to say “fuck it” and have an experience.  I know it’s probably a bad idea to kayak off to a secret beach with a strange man you’ve just met, but he claimed that if I were to go with him, I would see glow-in-the-dark plankton, so obvs that convinced me.  I met up with him late at night, put on a super-sexy wetsuit, and our 1 1/2 hour kayaking tour took about 3, because apparently I’m that bad at kayaking.  There was no moon that night, and it was super dark, and I was kind of freaking out, because I JUST KNOW there was a whale swimming under me the whole time, but I made it!  We went to a dark cave where I saw lots of glowy plankton that looked like millions of stars in the water!  And then we went to the secret beach where I swam (SWAM!) in the dark natural pool there.  I was so proud of myself for being brave, and I had a cool experience!  So there’s your life lesson for the day: sometimes scary things are rad, and also there are some things you don’t tell your mom you do until after the fact!

Another funny story: while I was in Manorola attempting to get a picture of myself in front of the colorful houses with my mini-tripod and self-timer, a big tour group from China walked up and started taking a bajillion pictures of me.  I’m pretty sure they got better pics of me than I ever got!  Also, I think they were under the impression that I was a celebrity – as it turns out, the #papz is not for me.

Anyways, as stated above, I stayed in Riomaggiore, which is the bottom town of Cinque Terre.  I absolutely looooved staying there!  There’s only one street in the whole town, and the beach is honestly less than a five minute walk away from anywhere!  It was so perfect, 10/10 recommend.  I spent my first full day in Riomaggiore, hanging out on the beach, eating lots of food, and doing my night kayaking tour (although you can also do a day kayaking tour if you prefer).  The next day, I took a train to the other 4 towns, walking around each, eating lemonade-vodka granita, and doing the little hikes to the pretty views in each town.  After visiting all of them, I’m still glad I stayed in Riomaggiore (it’s a little quieter and less touristy than some of the other options).  However, I loved being able to take a day trip to the other 4 towns!  It was one of my favorite places on my trip, and I really can’t get over the pictures.

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San Gimignano

After Riomaggiore and Lucca, I took a train over to San Gimignano , which was another favorite of mine – it’s nestled in the hills of Tuscany, and it looks just like the paintings you’d expect to see in a cute Italian bistro.  I spent most of my time there getting lost in vineyards, and I’m still not even sure I was allowed to be in those.  However, I did do some more legal things like pottery shopping and visiting some of its beautiful sites.  Also, a young wine sommelier befriended me and taught me how to drink wine the right way!  I was reminded of how delicious amazing wine is, and totally neglected to mention that I usually just choose a bottle with a pretty label and <$10 price tag.  Convenient!

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Good stuff in Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore unless stated otherwise):

  • Colombo Guesthouse – this is where I stayed, and it was perfect!  Really clean, nice rooms with small kitchens.  Also, it’s on the main (and only) road, so it’s really close to the beach, train station, and restaurants!
  • Vertical – a little cafe that’s good for a cup of coffee and some breakfast!
  • Night kayaking – if you can track down the guy who offers this, it’s an amazing experience!  He doesn’t really advertise, but if you ask around, I’m sure someone can point you in his direction!
  • Gelateria Centrale di Germani e Giaccio – gelato!  Enough said.
  • Mamma Mia Take Away – a little friterie that has delicious cones of fried food that you eat with sticks!  It’s the perfect lunch while looking at shops or walking along the beach.
  • Marina Piccola (Manarola) – I stopped at this restaurant on my way back to Riomaggiore, and it was a nice change from the restaurants in Riomaggiore.  I sat outside, stared at the water, and ate lots of pasta – pretty good food, beautiful view!

Places to visit in San Gimignano:

  • Pottery shops – There are tons of great pottery shops throughout San Gimignano – I picked out a couple of ceramic roosters for my mom and aunt, which was interesting – “hi, can I take pictures of your roosters?”
  • Linen – okay, it sounds boring, but I loooved the linen stores!  So many great dish towels that would make amazing props for the blog – I had to leave before I bought one of everything (although I did indulge and buy a cute linen bread basket).
  • Palazzo Buonaccorsi – a historical home owned by a very sweet man who rents out beautiful rooms in a quiet area of town (aka – away from the super touristy areas!).  Lots of great shops and restaurants nearby.  Definitely recommend!
  • Restaurants in alleys – if you get the chance, skip all of the super touristy restaurants in the square, and make your way through alleys where you’ll find tons of small, local restaurants!  There’s lots of hidden gems on these side streets that you won’t find on Yelp or Tripadvisor!
  • Enoteca DiVinorum – a cool bar with an amazing view of the countryside!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Lauren – Men I Trust

Rome + Florence 2017

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My first stop in Italy on Euro-trip 2017 was Rome!!  For some reason, my crazy ass decided it would be a good idea to spend only one night in Rome and fit in both the Colosseum and the Vatican.  lol.  It all worked out.  It was great.  On the other hand, I would not recommend that crazy schedule to anyone.  This is coming from present-traveler Sara who has lived and learned from this experience.  Past-traveler Sara was ambitious but now understands the stress of having only one night in a city.

However!  Apart from the craziness that was Rome, I was absolutely enthralled by it.  After finding my apartment, I headed over to the Colosseum!  Pro-tip: You need to have your tickets printed if you buy them online (and trust me, you want to buy them online, or you will regret everything while standing in line in the blistering heat for 2 hours).  Anyways, printing: I did not print my tickets.  I went to the Colosseum on a Sunday.  Guess what’s not open on a Sunday?  Effing printing services.  BUT.  There is a really nice touring agency near the Colosseum that will print your tickets for you for a pretty cheap price so yay!  Learn from my mistakes – print your tickets, and do not call your mom crying, because you had a bad traveling day, and you want to make your Colosseum time frame, but you can’t find a place to print anything on a Sunday.  Lesson learned!

After the Colosseum, I met up with my mom, grandma, and aunts who happened to be in Rome while I was!  I met my mom at the Spanish Steps, and then she took me over to the Barcaccia Fountain to fill my water bottle!  Then, we ate arancini and pasta, and I drank lots of wine!

The next day, I headed over to the Vatican (got totally lost on the way but made it nonetheless!).  Again: buy tickets in advance!!  The Vatican was amazing and definitely something pictures can’t do justice.

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After the Vatican, I took a short train ride over to Florence for a few days.  I got to see all the amazing leather shops, buy some fun jewelry, and eat lots of pizza!  I also accidentally ordered a giant gelato cone (why don’t the gelato shops tell you when they serve giant gelatos??).  Plus, David taught me that the thing they say about men with big hands is NOT true*!  Thx David!

*I had a friend tell me that David was thought to be “strong of hand” which is why his hands are disproportionate to the rest of his body.  Another friend told me that when David was built, it was common to make mens, ahem, groinal-areas smaller, because only women were to be portrayed as sexual – anyone have any thoughts on this??

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Thanks to my mom for letting me use some of her iPhone pics for this post!


Some things I loved about Rome:

  • Colosseum – buy tix in advance!
  • The Vatican – again, buy tix in advance.  And don’t forget to leave a large amount of time to see it!  Also, and this is very important, even if you’re really hungry, don’t go to restaurants around the Vatican!  They are the worst, most expensive tourist traps ever.  I spent 18 euro on the worst salad of my life.  It was sad.
  • Spanish Steps – fun to walk around, and the view from the top is amazing!
  • Barcaccia Fountain – it’s right next to the Spanish Steps, and you can walk out and fill up your water bottle!  I guess it’s not necessarily that exciting, but it’s definitely something fun to check out!
  • Arancini – I only had 2 meals in Rome, and like I said above, one of them was the most disappointing salad ever.  But definitely find a restaurant with arancini!
  • Aperol Spritz – find a cute cafe to drink Aperol Spritzes.  If you’re there in the summer, it will be hot, and this is the only cure!

Things I loved in Florence:

  • Ponte Vecchio – a little touristy but definitely fun!  There are lots of cool leather stores and jewelry shops to check out.  Plus, there’s a cool place to take photos of the river!
  • Stay in the heart of Florence – I was in a historical apartment five minutes from the main train station, and I could walk EVERYWHERE!  There were tons of great restaurants, gelato shops, and shopping nearby!
  • Accademia Gallery – go say hi to David, and check out the super cool musical instruments exhibit!
  • Ristorante Accademia – my mom, grandma, and aunts raved about this restaurant for 2 years before I visited it on this trip.  I went with the family, and the owners and waiters instantly recognized everyone.  We had plenty of limoncello shots + their veal picatta!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Chateau – Angus & Julia Stone