My 30th Birthday Part 1: Bologna, Italy

Italy is hands down my favorite country in Europe. The landscape is so vast with hundreds of miles of rocky coastline, rolling hills and vineyards, tall mountains that broach the sea, and turquoise blue waters that lap the shores of pebbled islands. You have glorious Rome, with it’s dirty streets and brilliant pizza, Florence with endless artistic gems, Milan with elegant cathedrals and a knack for fashion. Everywhere you look there are glistening fountains, gelaterias, and elegantly-tall domed basilicas. If you escape to the countryside, you will find some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. And let’s not overlook the abundant olive and lemon trees – all hail the home of pesto! There’s Lake Como with it’s mermaid-worthy blue hues. There’s ancient villages such as Cinque Terra and Positano, carved into the cliffsides along the sea. And there are wonders of ancient architecture and engineering such as the ruins of Pompei and the Colosseum. There always seems to be a surplus of sunshine in Italy, which is perhaps why this country produces some of the sweetest tomatoes in the world. I did not truly believe tomatoes were a fruit until I tried them warm and sun-kissed off of the vine in Italy. And I guess that leads me to the food. If you don’t like pizza, pasta, warm oven-baked bread, or gelato, we can’t be friends. But you’ll still manage to find something to eat in Italy – the freshest mozzarella, seafood caught that day, tiramisu, panna cotta, and a schmorgesborg of soft cured meats, such as prosciutto (ideally wrapped around cool melon) are just a few of the country’s specialties. If your mouth is not watering and your heart is not lusting after an idyllic Italian vacation, I have failed you as a writer! For me, Italy is on par with England, France, Belgium, or Spain. It’s a country I’ve been to before but will never tire of, and try to visit at least once a year. This year, I totally lucked out. Amie and I went to Cinque Terre right around my 29th birthday, Kai and I went to Trieste in the summer, and then I spent my 30th birthday (finally getting to the point of this post!) in Italy as well. When I hit three decades, I wanted to be in my favorite country with my favorite people. And so I selected the best of the bunch from Amsterdam and the US, booked a giant villa, mapped out an itinerary, and flew into Bologna to celebrate thirty years Italian style with all of my favorites. Continue reading

A Pit Stop in Trieste, Italy

While planning our trip to Slovenia, Kai and I realized that flights from Amsterdam into Ljubljana were quite pricy. Like, €260 each pricy, which was a bit more than we were hoping to spend on a long weekend trip in Europe. As our ultimate destination was Lake Bled, we knew we would have to rent a car anyways, as there are no airports in the close vicinity of the lake. So when we found €80 return trip tickets to Venice, which is only a 2.5 hr drive from Ljubljana, we quickly got excited about saving some money and also spending some time in Italy! Kai and I had both been to Venice before, and so we decided to do a pit stop a bit closer to Slovenia in Trieste, Italy. We flew into Venice late on a Wednesday night, slept at a cheap and cheerful airport hotel, took advantage of the free breakfast the next morning (ohh how my heart loves a good Italian breakfast of meats, cheeses, crusty bread, and espresso!) and hit the road early enough to arrive in Trieste by lunch time.  Continue reading

Vernazza, Italy

For the past 18 months, I’ve been dreaming of Italy. Shortly after my breakup with B, I had an irrational brainwave (probably inspired by a Pinterest board) imploring me to roam the Bel Paese (or beautiful country, in Italian). I spelled out the dream holiday previously in this post – the trip would involve exploring Tuscany, grooving my way through Rome, and splashing in the sea on the Amalfi coast. At the time of my fantasy, I did not know Cinque Terre existed. If you did not know Cinque Terre existed, you are in for a delight. IMG_0761Cinque Terre means The Five Lands in Italian, and is comprised of five stunning seaside villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Hiking trails and trains scale the lush, hills of the Italian Riviera, connecting the villages. Boats also ferry between the villages, however a major part of Cinque Terre’s charm lies in the fact that the villages aren’t quite accessible by car. Olive and lemon trees speckle the hills, terraces run along the rugged, steep landscape, overlooking the sea, and seafood is plentiful in the local cuisine. Essentially, Cinque Terre is an Italian lover’s dream, and so when Amie made her semi-annual pilgrimage to Amsterdam, we booked an inception vacation (a vacation inside Amie’s vacation) to the stunning Italian Riviera, to visit none other than Cinque Terre. Continue reading