Tuscan Hike

Ciao! Ugh it’s been a while since I’ve said that. As promised, I am very slowly but surely finishing up my posts and uploading all of my photos. I find myself all too often beginning to upload pictures and getting lost reminiscing scrolling through them all.

One group of photos I came across was from a random Wednesday afternoon when the roomies and I decided to take a bus to a nearby countryside town for an ambitious 5 mile hike. (We may have had a revelation about the amount of bread and pasta we were consuming.) This may have been one of my favorite days. I feel like I say that a lot about multiple days but it was such a random and spontaneous little adventure I will never forget.

The six of us set out after class to hike the trails of a nearby town, Fiesole. The hike started with a view overlooking Florence in the distance and led us through tree covered trails, winding roads, and at one point I’m pretty sure we were just walking through vineyards. Shoutout to my roommate, Mary, for leading us through the through the 5 mile hike without getting us completely lost.

We always joked in Florence that we never see grass or trees since we were living and going to class in the city center so it was refreshing to get out of the city for an afternoon. It was a beautiful day with beautiful scenery of the hills and countryside of tuscany. Mary DJ’d our hike with a wide assortment of tunes and Kalyn counted the number of times someone said they “need a drink”. We may not be veteran hikers but it sure was a good time. The day that I listened to Fetty Wap on a Tuscan hike with amazing friends is one I’m sure not to forget.

See more photos from my hike in Fiesole on my Images page!

xo, Morgan

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4.5.2017

As I’m sure most of you know by now, I am back in the states *sigh* and despite my procrastination and late posting, I am determined to complete my folder of half-written posts. Honestly, I’m mostly just bored with no extravagant weekend travel plans and no gelato to be eaten, reminiscing on my time abroad from a local coffee shop in my tiny hometown seems like the best thing to do on this rainy day.

Hmm…where was I?

So after saying goodbye to my mom and sister, two of my roommates (S/O to Kalyn and Alex) and I were off to Cinque Terre for the day. Cinque Terre consists of 5 seaside towns known for their colorful buildings, hiking trails, and delicious seafood. Just a short train ride North West of Florence made for the perfect day trip destination. Not only was it a beautiful day but it was also my 21st birthday!!!! Yes, the drinking age in Italy is 18 so it was not necessary the hyped up birthday it is in the states but we were going to make a day of it anyways. We had originally planned to spend the day hiking between the villages but one Aperol spritz led to the next and we opted for gelato and sitting by the sea instead (surprise surprise).

Aperol + gelato + views by the sea = the perfect 21st birthday

(Check out more pics of my day in Cinque Terre on my Images page)

After a large helping of seafood pasta and saltwater we were back in Florence in time to end the night at my favorite Florentine bar. Sure it may not have been the conventional American 21st birthday but I’d pass up the Nitty Gritty for drinks in Cinque any day.

Thank you to all of my friends and family who wished me a happy birthday and to my Florence fam for making it one I will never forget.

xo, Morgan

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Taste of Tuscany

Ciao a tutti!

I promise I’m still alive and abroad despite not posting for a month. I’ve been crazy busy the last few weeks. I can’t complain though because honestly I’ve spent the last three weekends traveling and catching up on sleep, homework and eating paninis in between travels.

The last time I posted was Spring Break . . . wow that feels like forever ago. I’ve been lucky to have not one, but three visitors during my time abroad. I said goodbye to one visitor and the next weekend welcomed my mom and sister to Italy! We spent the weekend walking (and walking and walking) around Rome, drinking our way through chianti, and visiting all of my favorite spots in Florence. Being that it was sister’s first time in Italy and my mom’s first time in Europe I was beyond excited to show them around and spend a long weekend with my favorite ladies in no place other than Italy. I can’t not talk about our day tasting wine in Tuscany, she says while pouring herself a glass of wine.

Wine, Tuscany, and your BFF’s . . . what more does a girl need? If you know me, you know how fond I am of the wonderful beverage that is wine, especially Italian wine. I have had multiple wine tastings in Florence but was waiting to take a trip to vineyards with my mom and sister. We took a bus to Chianti, home of the classic Italian wine, Chianti Classico. Here we visited two wineries in Greve, Chianti. The first was Tenuta Riseccoli, a small family business located between vineyards in the hills of Chianti. We sipped on three of their red wines and enjoyed the Tuscan views.

After a brief stop in the city center of Greve, where we got another glass of wine (obviously), we continued our tour to Santa Margherita, one of Italy’s best known wineries. We tasted another 3 wines, learned about the process of winemaking, and sampled typical regional products *cough* cheese, another one of my favorite things.

It was a day well spent in Tuscany to say the least. Thanks for drinking wine with me all day, mom and Lexi. Check out my Images page for pics of our time in Rome and Florence!

Cin cin! (Cheers!)

xo, Morgan

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Spring Break: Milan/Paris/Florence

I would have never believed you a year ago had you told me I would be spending my spring break traveling Europe with my boyfriend. But here I am. Nine days of good drinks, great food, and better company. It was also nine days too short. Nothing beats traveling with your best friend. I could go on and on about this trip but I only have an hour on the train to write this post so I’ll try to make it short and sweet. 

Our adventures began in Milan, where I eagerly waited for Shawn’s plane to land. The next day we had the afternoon to check out the city before getting on an evening plane to Paris. The main thing on our agenda in Milan was the duomo, where we climbed the steps to the castle like terrace. It was beautiful and so different from the duomo in Florence that I’m used to. After walking through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and spinning in the bull’s balls for good luck (a tradition and silly tourist attraction), we were off to Paris!

I fell in love with Paris this week. Our plane got in late on Saturday and the city was lit up as we taxied to our Airbnb. I felt like a kid in a candy shop, asking the taxi driver about everything that we passed and trying to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower between the buildings. Our next two days were packed with walking around the city. LOTS of walking. We had great weather the first day and walked from Arc de Triomphe to Notre Dame and everything in between. Some of my favorite parts of the day were climbing the Arc overlooking the city and hanging out along the Seine River. That night we had dinner at the cutest little restaurant near our Airbnb where I convinced Shawn to try escargot with me. Afterwards we took a ride on the Grande Roue de Paris, the big ferris wheel in Paris, and wandered towards the Eiffel Tower. Walking around a corner and seeing the huge iconic building all lit up was breathtaking. That site alone is worth a trip to Paris. 

The next day we explored other parts of the city. We figured out the metro this day to give my blistered feet a break. At night we got our obligatory French crepes (Banana Nutella for me) and took a Seine boat tour, seeing the major landmarks along the river. 

I could’ve spent so much more than two days in Paris but I can not wait to return some day. I’ll be back, Paris.

A plane ride later and we were in Florence. I was so excited to show Shawn my city. We spent the next few days going to my favorite spots, exploring new places, and enjoying (lots of) afternoon drinks and gelato. It was so fun seeing the city through someone else’s eyes. I feel like I’ve been stuck in my routine here lately and looking for new things to do and places to go with him made me want to explore new parts of Florence even more. 

It was sad to say goodbye but I am so lucky to have someone who makes saying goodbye so hard. Thanks for visiting me, Shawn. Looking forward to our next adventure. See you soon.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from our trip. Check out my images page for more! 

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xo, Morgan

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Bike Rides in Lucca

One of my favorite days abroad so far was spent on a bicycle in Lucca, Italy. Well, to be fair, the biking only took up an hour of the day but it was a pretty great hour at that.

Lucca is a tuscan city located about an hour west of Florence. The city is famous for its Renaissance time walls encircling the city. With a total length of about 2.5 miles, the walls were originally used as defense and have since been converted into a biking/walking path, green space and parks. Cars can’t drive into the walled area anymore unless you are a resident inside the walls, making for a peaceful and pedestrian friendly little city.

The amazing advisors of my program offer optional activities and day trips so I jumped on the opportunity to visit another Italian city, ride bikes, and eat gelato. We couldn’t have gotten a better day for it either. 70 degree weather made for a perfect day. Our advisors always seem to get the best tour guides for our trips so we started the day with a guided walking tour. Our guide led us through the quiet streets of Lucca, giving us a brief hisory lesson and stopping at few of the one hundred churches in the city. Seriously, there are literally one hundred churches in this little city.

Our tour led us to Guinigi Tower, one of the tallest towers in Lucca. Our guide explained that in Renaissance times wealthy families would build towers to show their wealth; the taller the tower, the more wealthy you were. One family in particular, reached the city height limit for their tower and came up with the idea to plant tress on top to make it appear even taller. Pretty clever if you asked me. We climbed the 230 steps to the top of this tower for a beautiful view of the city.

Our next stop was lunch in Piazza Anfiteatro, what used to be the city’s colosseum and has been redesigned as a city square.

The next hour was what I had been waiting for all day…riding bikes! Such a simple thing but it made me so happy. We finally got the green space and fresh air we had been craving in Florence. We biked around the entire city on the trail on top of the walls. I think I could do that everyday and be happy. It’s the little things in life, right?

Our day ended with a healthy serving of Italian gelato and a wonderful nap on the bus ride home. It was a good day 🙂

Check out the gallery for more photos of my day in Lucca.

xo, Morgan

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Holy Cannoli, Sicily

I decided to join a few other girls from my program on a weekend getaway to Taormina, Sicily. Having ancestors from Sicily, I was hoping to get here during my time in Italy but had figured I didn’t have any more room in my busy travel agenda. A last minute decision and change of plans lead me to purchasing a plane and train ticket to the largest Mediterranean Island.

After running to catch a train, a sketchy train station, a winding drive up the mountain with one sweet cab driver (Daniele, who ended up being one of my favorite people and saved our lives driving us up and down the mountain whenever we got lost), and misreading Google maps directions, we finally arrived at our Airbnb in Taormina around 10pm. Tired and hungry we went on a search through the quiet Sicilian streets for something to eat. After walking a few different directions with no luck of finding any open stores or restaurants we were about to call it a night when we saw a lit up sign and people at the bottom of the hill. The staff welcomed us with open arms and the chef came out to tell us he would reopen the kitchen and make two of their best pasta dishes for us. Maybe it was just the fact that I was hungry after a day of travel but wow was it the best pasta I think I have ever had…ever. Huge should out to Trattoria Tiramisu for being our savior that night and the entire weekend at that – we ended up coming back the next night for drinks and desert and the day after that for a last meal in Sicily.

With no plans for the weekend we asked the waiter for a few recommendations for what to explore while here. He gave us a long list of must do’s in Taormina and we were sure to fit everything into the next day and a half.

Holy cannoli Sicily is beautiful.

From Volcano views to walking on a beach to hiking up the cliffs, my time in Taormina was unlike any trip I’ve been on during my time abroad. Taormina is a town located on a hilltop on the east coast of Sicily. It’s a popular tourist destination with plenty of attractions like active volcano, Mt. Etna, beaches, an ancient greek theater, and plenty of panoramic hilltop views. Being that it isn’t tourist season yet, the town was rather quiet and a relaxing change of pace from the city life of Florence.

Being the planner that I am, it was difficult for me to let go of having no plans before the trip but it was such a nice change going into it with no expectations. I loved strolling down the streets with no particular route and deciding what to do on a whim. Some of my favorites parts of this trip were wandering down the curvy streets and staircases of the mountains, trying to find our way to the beach or the train station.

Sitting on the stones in the Mediterranean sea on the beach of Taormina made me reflect on my time abroad and how traveling has taught me so much about myself that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. I am thankful every day for this life changing experience of being abroad. I wish I could better explain the sites and feelings of all of my experiences but photos will have to do for now (although they don’t do the views justice).

It was an amazing weekend in an amazing place. Check out my Images page for pics from my weekend.

xo, Morgan

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When in Rome (Part I)

I spent last weekend, in the city of Rome. My study abroad program offers two overnight trips during the semester, the first one being Rome. This was my first trip to another Italian city outside of Florence and I was eager to see how other parts of Italy compare to Florence. My weekend started bright and early Friday morning when my roommates and I packed our backpacks and sped walked to catch the 7:30am bus to Rome. After a 3 hour bus ride and a solid nap later, we finally arrived in Rome. The next day and a half were packed with tours and exploring.

Our first tour started in Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and home of the Pope. Here we toured Vatican Museums, long halls of paintings, statues, and Renaissance artifacts. After a brief history lesson, we entered the Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo spent years painting the ceiling and large wall mural. This was possibly my favorite part of this trip. Not only was seeing Michelangelo’s work incredible, but I was fascinated learning about the history of the artwork and Michelangelo himself. I was so thankful for our tour guide at this point who taught me so much more than my Wikipedia search did. Everything was made more interesting, knowing the history of it. The tour ended in St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square, where Pope Francis holds the Papel Audiences.

Our Saturday was packed with even more excursions than the day before. We met up with our group and tour guide for our guided walking tour of the Roman Forum and Colosseum. The Roman Forum is an area of ruins of several ancient government buildings that were destroyed during the fall of the Roman Empire. Our tour guide lead us down Via dei Fori Imperiali towards the Colosseum, giving us historical background of every building and statue. Standing at the gates of the ampitheater, our guide explained to us the gladiatorial shows and entertainment events that took place in this building. I did not go into the Colosseum because I will be back to Rome in March when my mom and sister come to visit and want to go inside it for the first time with them.

The rest of the day was left to us to explore wherever we wanted until catching the bus back to Florence. The first stop for my friends and I was for carbonara, a famous Roman dish that my Food and Culture professor insisted that we get while here. It did not disappoint.

Next, we headed to the Pantheon, a former Pagan Roman temple. The construction of this building and it’s dome specifically actually inspired Brunelleschi in his construction of the Duomo here in Florence.

Naturally our next stop had to be to try some famous Roman gelato at Giolitti. It was delicious of course, but I am still biased towards my favorite Florentine gelateria.

We strolled down the streets of Rome, gelato in hand, towards the Trevi Fountain, for our obligatory Trevi Fountain coin toss. Completed in 1762, the Trevi is the largest Baroque fountain and most famous fountain in the world. There are many legends about throwing coins into the fountain. Fun fact: an estimated 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain each day.

We ended our day basking in the sun on the Spanish steps, chatting about our time in Rome. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the city even though we were only here for a short period and only had time for the major tourist attractions. I am looking forward to coming back in just a month with my mom and sister!

Touring Rome has made me so appreciative of the history of everything. I was never a big fan of history classes in school but being in Europe and being surrounded by so much history makes me want to learn the history of everything around me. Traveling to another Italian city has also made me realize how much I love the Italian Culture. I am happy to be discovering my love for this country and its culture and am eager to plan more trips within Italy. In fact, this weekend I have spontaneously booked a trip to Sicily, Italy!

I have so much more I want to share with everyone and am working on more posts so stay tuned for more from my life abroad!

xo, Morgan

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