Now I know where my Journey Ends: 25 Things I will miss about Firenze

Yes we have to accept it, it’s that time! Our journey is coming to an end and wow oh wow are my emotions currently riding on a roller coaster. Reminiscing everyday and night, even through my sleep, led me the right direction towards what my last blog should be.I believe it will relate to all of the other study abroaders going through the same thing and about to leave. Here are the 25 things I will miss about Firenze, of course there are many more, but these are the ones I thought we could all reminisce and relate together! Enjoy!

  1. The glorious architecture and beautiful views everywhere you look                                                                                      Image

    (I took this shot on the top of the Bell tower at sunset. Isn’t it just darling with all the beautiful christmas lights glistening!)

  2. Getting to see the magnificent Duomo everyday                                                                                                                                            Image                                                                                                                                                                                                        (I will never forget the first time I ever saw it!)

  3. The Art and learning all the art History behind it                                                                                                              Image                                                                                                                                                                                                         (I got yelled at for taking this picture, apparently you can get a 300 euro fine for taking it! Hey look thats my Art history teacher at the bottom right.)
  4. The Smell of secret bakery                                                                                                                                                                Image                                                                                                                                                                                             (Right before we took this picture Jill( girl all the way to the right) said, “I wish we could take a picture of the smell,” if only!)
  5. Kikuya’s Dragoons                                                                                                                                                                                              Image                                                                                                                                                                                                        (I guess I never took a picture of the Dragoons, but it was a dark beer with a high alcohol content…yumm)
  6. Blob’s GrenadesImage                                                                                                                                                                                                     (First you take the tequila shot then you take the jaeger bomb…get it…grenade….warning only have one!)
  7. The WINE (not to mention the rediculously cheap prices of wine)                                                                                       Image                                                                                                                                                                                               (This was my roommates and mine’s first time ever buying 4 wine bottles for 8 euro…clearly we stocked up)
  8. The 4P’s- Pizza, Pasta, Paninis, Prociutto                                                                                                                                Image                                                                                                                                                                                              (this was on my 21st birthday, my babe took me to Gusta pizza and ordered it in a heart shape, romantic I know…also the best pizza I have ever tasted)

    9.  GelateriasImage                                                                                                                                                                                                   (This was my first gelato in Firenze, my roommate, Dani, bought it for me since I walked with her to the doctors)

    10. Being able to walk everywhere (convenient and lots of exercise too)                                                                             Image(This was me climbing back down the bell tower, 414 steps….that’s just one way! Not to mention the mountain my boyfriend and I climbed and then walked at least 4 miles later that day….LOTS of exercise!)

    11.  The night life                                                                                                                                                                               Image                                                                                                                                                                                                    (Here is me and my friends at The shot bar….that pitcher was only 10 Euro…and this was just the pre-game)

12. The Espresso’s and Cappuccinos                                                                                                                                                        Image                                                                                                                                                                                                                 (My roommate, Caitlin, and I went on a wild goose chase for this one….we finally found the News Cafe and got a picture to prove we got our foam drawings in our cappuccinos)

13. Using the 2 euro coins!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Image                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             (I didn’t have any pictures of me spending a 2 euro coin, but this is what it looks like…there was nothing better than getting to buy an espresso and a pastry with this it felt like spending an American quarter)

14. The smell of bread being made in the morning on Borgo Pinti (and Borgo Pinti in general)                                                     Image                                                                                                                                                                                                              (Good ole’ Borgo Pinti! What a pain it was to walk all the way down this street twice a day, equivalent to .8 of a mile.)

15. Easy travel access                                                                                                                                                                                   Image                                                                                                                                                                                                              (My favorite plane company we used was easy jet, the trains and buses were easy accessible too…everything besides taxis…ironic)

16. The culture                                                                                                                                                                                                        Image                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (The Gates of Paradise on the Baptistry, depicting the scenes of the old testament…created by Lorenzo Ghiberti)
17. Those mini eco friendly cars                                                                                                                                                               Image                                                                                                                                                                                                             (Thats me next to the eco friendly car, I’m taller than it, I never could get use to those things….you better hope you don’t crash when you’re driving one of them thats for sure)

18.Hot chocolate                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Image                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               (It was actually hot pudding of the richest chocolate, aka the most amazing hot chocolate ever!!!)

19. The style                                                                                                                                                                                                   Image                                                                                                                                                                                                                (Yes ladies and gentlemen she is wearing heels while riding a bike…impressive I know)

20. The laxidasical attitude of the people (although I think I’m ready for some order again)                                                                                                                                                                                      Image                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (Oh to see those signs again!)

21. The beautiful sound of the language                                                                                                                                                  Image                                                                                                                                                                                                              (Although I didn’t get too learn how to fluently speak it, I will miss the sound of hearing it all around me everyday)

22. The romanticism throughout the entire city                                                                                                                                                Image                                                                                                                                                                                                                 (My beau and I feeling the love of the romantic city…The music, the views, the food, the culture)

23. The micheangelo piazza view                                                                                                                                                                   Image                                                                                                                                                                                                              (This is me in awe over my beautiful City that I was privileged enough to live in for four months…I am one lucky girl!)

24.The city lifestyle                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Il Santino wine bar                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           (drinking wine on the streets..ohh we’re all going to miss it!)

25.All my new friends and all the memories we’ve shared together!                                                                                                 1471996_10152148135813169_29230680_n                                                                                                                                                                                                     (Couldn’t get you all in there…but this is the biggest picture I could find of us all… you all know who you are…love you all!)

Firenze you have been the best experience of my life, Ciao Ciao for now!


Wake me up when it’s all over by; Mikayla Litevich

I circled the “T” for true on the last part of my test, didn’t double check it nor did I care whether it was right or wrong, I then grabbed my bag handed it to my teacher and ran out of that classroom! Midterms were over!!!! Let fall break begin..haha little did I know what was about to happen.

Wait, before I tell you the adventures to Amsterdam, you have to know a couple events that occurred before we even let. So the day before we found out about the transportation strike occurring in Italy on October 18th 2013. Like really? Any other strike and or any other day but that day would have been nice considering October 18th 2013 was the day we were leaving for our fall break.  So we had to think fast and do anything we could to try and defeat the strike. We quickly decided to stay a night in Pisa, Italy (where our plane was taking off). This way we didn’t have to worry about the buses or trains not being able to take us from Florence to Pisa in the morning. The only thing we now had to worry about was whether the plane would take off or not. We thought maybe since we booked an early flight it wouldn’t be affected. We even called the airport to ask if the flight would be cancelled and they had told us that as of right now no it wouldn’t.


^^^^^^Transportation strike^^^^^^

So after all of my friends tests were handed in we all headed to the train station to catch the bus to Pisa! We got on the bus and as everyone sat down I’m pacing up and down the bus isle “WHERE IS BRI BRI! She scares the shit out of me” I’m calling her and calling her until she finally answers and I was like, “thank god, where are you? Get here right now.” I hear her feet banging against the streets and she says to me, out of breath, “don’t worry I’ll be there in 5 minutes.” I told her “it’s okay I’ll make the bus driver wait.” When she gets to the station she calls me asking me where the bus is I’m telling her in panic “across from Mcdonald’s in the front of the station” and were both in panic yelling at each other “no this way, no this way.” I ask the bus driver if I can go get my friend and he says no were leaving right now either get off the bus and don’t come back or stay on and leave now. Dang that was harsh …..He starts pulling away immediately and I was like “uhhhh Bri we’re literally leaving right now.” Tears of terror came out of Bri, it felt like the world was over. But for only a second because I quickly remembered that you can change the time of your ticket for free so she went to the info desk and caught the next bus.

So when the gang and I minus Bri got to Pisa October 17th we thought we had gotten a hostel that was in the airport, it ended up being a 20 minute walk away. When we got there the guy was frantically running around as if he wasn’t expecting us. He comes out and says “uh hold on I should probably clean the beds.” We all looked at each other in confusion; scare, whatever our feelings were we were unsure what was about to happen. There was another group of girls who he took in first and then he said come with me, to me and the guys. So we follow him another 15 minute walk to a random place that to this day I don’t know where we ended up staying, but hey it was a bed I guess. As we were walking there luckily we spotted Bri in a taxi. She came along and as we got into the place we were staying we literally breathed in an entire pack of cigarettes, gross. The guy then said that three of us could stay on one bed and he would bring an extra cot for another person and then one would have to stay in a room with random people. We went out got some drinks and pizza and then tried to find the leaning tower of Pisa, failed at that, went back to the hostel and me, Bri, and Chaney (my boyfriend) all slept in the top bunk together and Josh lost the fight and had to sleep with the random old men in the other room, poor Joshy. We were surprised how well we actually ended up sleeping. Hey, way to start the trip off with a funny story! It could only get better from here, Right?

So the next morning we wake up at 6Am to get to the airport because our flight was taking off at 8Am. Destination one was Amsterdam! We were beyond excited and could not wait to get there. But don’t forget it was October 18th 2013, the day of the transportation strike. So 8Am came around and our flight was delayed a half hour, not bad, then it was delayed 20 more minutes, okay, okay that’s okay. Then 15 more than an hour more and then all of a sudden it was 11:20 and the lady announced on the intercom that our flight was cancelled! WHAT, NOW WHAT?! Our entire trip could be ruined if we don’t get there. We had a festival to get to in Amsterdam, from Amsterdam we had a bus to Paris, and from Paris we had a flight to Barcelona, we booked all our hostels all of which said no refund and all of that would go to waste if we didn’t get to Amsterdam within the next 12 hours. That is exactly why we were getting there some way somehow.


^^^^^^waiting, waiting, and more waiting^^^^^^

Without thinking we went straight to the Ryanair (the company we used for our flights) line in hopes of getting another plane to Amsterdam. We waited in that long and stinky line for an hour everyone’s bodies touching each other, sweating our asses off, tears coming through all of our eyes at different times, complaining and fighting you name it, we were miserable. Brianna says “Hey guys, were in this together” and at that point that was so comforting to hear and so true. We had to keep a positive outlook! Long story and long exhausting day short, with a little bit of team work and Nate’s initiative to get us the tickets we ended up booking a free flight to Paris. We planned to take a train from Paris to Amsterdam and we would be there by 10 in the morning and still be able to make it to the Amsterdam festival. Yayy we were finally back on track and things were looking up again!


^^^^^^The Amsterdam music festival kept us motivated^^^^^^

A couple of celebratory bottles of wines later we get on the plane to Paris. Once we arrive in Paris were all ready to book our train, but then we come to find out that were actually an hour away from Paris and that we’d have to take a bus there and from Paris there are no trains at this time. We quickly think to rent a car and drive it to Amsterdam and drop it off at the same company in Amsterdam. We find out they only have stick shift and Chaney was the only one who knew how to drive stick, so with a little hesitation and anxiety kicking in he says he will do it with lots of espresso and us cheering him on. We all put our hands in together and did a group cheer, “1,2,3 DON’T DIE!” The boys try to figure out the car situation while the girls try to see if there are any other flights just in case. We both found out that we can’t take the car out of France and there is no flight to Amsterdam or anywhere close to Amsterdam. WOW, everything was in circles for me, we were stranded in a foreign country, we have limited amounts of money, nowhere to stay, and no way to get to Amsterdam even though we absolutely had to get there. Then Ali’s phone rings, its Nate. He proposes a plan that the car company said we could get a 1000£ taxi that will bring us right to our hostel. Between 7 of us that would be 150£ each. At this point we all were ecstatic about this idea and with no hesitation we said get the taxi. We ran over got the taxi and were finally on our way to Amsterdam!


^^^^^^only documentation of us in the taxi^^^^^^


^^^^^^and it came toooooo 1,073€^^^^^^

5 hours later we arrived in Amsterdam at 3AM. It was beautiful! We all had crooked smiles on our faces with relief and exhaustion. Brianna and Ali went to one hostel and Nate, Chaney, Josh, Bri, and I go to another. When we get to our hostel, “The White Tulip” we receive the news that they gave our beds away, after all it was 3Am. However, they still allowed us to stay there Josh and Nate on the ground Chaney, Bri, and I on the window sill. Instead of going straight to bed or window sill, we went out into the Red Light District. Why end the night now? Our other friend Matt who didn’t get affected by the strike was still up and had some goodies to share with us. We went to a bar, yes they were still open, it’s Amsterdam duh. We got the most delicious glass of Heineken, chilled, and began laughing hysterically in a delirious state and in disbelieve of what had just happened. It was almost as if we had woken up because it was all over! We made it thoughhhhhhhhhhh! Some way, Somehow!


^^^^^^All in it together^^^^^^


And this was just the Beginning!

5 steps to help you plan your travel in Europe by; Mikayla Litevich

 Fall break is coming up, has everyone planned their trips yet?!

 After traveling many amazing weekends with the bus2alps program, I decided that I wanted to try something new and plan out my own trip, how hard could it be right? Well, let me tell you, it was one of the most stressful processes I’ve had to deal with here. Planning a trip within a foreign country all on your own while managing classes, internship, and social life does get a bit overwhelming, believe me I know. However, I can finally say that I’m all booked and 100% ready to go! It was definitely a learning experience and that’s why I decided to share with you a few tips to give you a helping hand. Whether it’s for your fall break or any future trips I got ya covered! You are not alone!

Step 1-

Find your travel buddies if you want them and plan ASAP- Did everyone I know tell me to do this? Yes.  Did I listen? No :/

 Seriously though listen, it’s not only a million times cheaper, but it’ll take a huge weight off your back, I promise.

Step 2-

Set aside an entire day or two, and get everything booked at once!

Do lots of research on the places you want to see and just by looking at a map figure out an efficient route, if you’re traveling place to place.  Also, choose how many days you want to spend at each place you’re traveling to.


Step 3-

Once you know where you want to go and when the next step is to find the cheapest and most time effective way of transportation.

Consider buses, trains, airplanes, taxis, and even renting a car. Here are a few travel agencies that I discovered as the most cost efficient for me:


Step 4-

Next it is time to figure out where you are going to slumber!

In busy season times, the longer you wait to book your hotel or hostel the more expensive it will be.  Something I discovered is that some hostels can actually be nicer than some hotels so don’t be scared away by the word “hostel.” Another way to save some money is to stay in a room with 10-14 people. Hey don’t knock it until you try it! Just think of it as an experience and plus your barely going to be in the room anyways. Get out there and explore, you can sleep when you’re dead!

The best websites to use are:


Another option may be to bring a group of friends and everyone split a cheap Villa.

Step 5-

The Checklist:

□   Passport and visa (bring copies of each as well)

□   Print all your travel tickets (otherwise you have to pay a huge fee)

□   Print reservations

□   Check the weather

□   Pack one carryon bag (yes, that’s right time to downsize)

□   List of places to visit (make an itinerary)

□   Maps

□   Check the currency (exchange at the most efficient location)

□   Spending money (consider night life, shopping, food, museum fees, taxis, etc.)

□   Credit\Debit cards (if you even bring them make sure you notify the company of the places you’re traveling)

□   Don’t forget your camera

□   Make sure to have the emergency numbers saved into your phone before you go (SAFETY FIRST!)

Most importantly have a crazy time!




^^^^^^^This is where I’ll be How bout you?!^^^^^^^



Trick, Treat, or Party! by Mikayla Litevich

Just around 15 years ago a new holiday was brought to the ancient town of Firenze, international traditions were finally adapted and are slowly becoming more developed each year.  Plastic pumpkins, spiders, and Jack-o-lanterns, what other than Halloween of course! As Italians call it, All Saints day eve.

Many study-abroaders ask; “Do we dress up? Do we trick or treat? Where do we go?” Woah, no worries I have a few answers to ease the spirit of Halloween….. or spark it rather!


To dress up or not to dress up?… that is the question!

Yes! In fact the narrow streets are crowded with all types of zombies, vampires, and witches until 6 in the morning. There are many Halloween themed pub crawls, keep an eye out on the pub crawl “Florence Club” is planning, we promise there will be all kinds of creatures you won’t want to miss out on! Many bars and discos will be holding costume and mask competitions so dress to impress. When I say dress to impress, for all those Americans reading this, ahemm girls! I don’t mean wearing booty shorts and be a hooters girl, no. Andy my fellow “When in Florence” co-worker said, “It’s more like guys dressing ridiculously and girls in dresses.” So be somekind of creature, put some humour or possibly even gore into it.


^^^^^^^BRAVO ^^^^^^^



Don’t come knocking on my door!

Don’t do it, don’t knock on peoples’ doors screaming trick or treat expecting candy. Even after a couple of drinks into your system, try to remember it is a new tradition and the older generations don’t understand and quite frankly don’t even like the new holiday. They will not have candy waiting for you, strictly kids only are allowed to do this and probably only to family member’s houses. So instead buy your own candy at a local 99 cent shop and treat yourselves to the other in-season foods. October is the month for porcini and truffle fungi, roasted chestnuts, pumpkin dishes, and a traditional hearty soup called Ribollita.



Where to go?

What could possibly be a better way to celebrate Halloween but in the 2000 year old city filled with Medieval and Renaissance history? You can find haunted tours through the streets and buildings of Florence and later experience the night life at its finest. If you are looking to escape for the evening you can go to a nearby city called Borgo a Mozzano, in which they hold the biggest annual Halloween party. The Devil’s bridge is known to be the first Halloween celebration of Italy, first held in 1993. This year will be the 19th annual celebration where there will be live music concerts, a path of terror, horror movies, lots of games such as La Notte Nera(black night),themed dinners, and many more. Be sure to read the legend of the Devil’s bridge and celebrate this years’ Halloween right. Visit this website for more information


^^^^^^^The Devil’s Bridge^^^^^^^

Fiorentina vs. Juventus – The rivalry continues 20th October 2013

20th October 2013: FIORENTINA vs. JUVENTUS


The early 80s marked the beginning of a particular period of interest in Fiorentina’s history: the bitter rivalry with Juventus. In the final game of the 1982 season Fiorentina and Juventus faced each other to decide the winners of the league title. Following a dubious penalty decision to decide the game, Juventus were crowned champions for the year, much to the dismay of Fiorentina fans.

Following that, the teams faced each other once again in the 1990 UEFA Cup final, Europe’s second most prestigious club competition. Confident of victory, and elated at reaching the final of the competition for the first time, Fiorentina’s fans were hopeful. Or at least hopeful until the news broke on the day of the final that talented young player (and future Italian soccer legend) Roberto Baggio was to be sold to their rivals. Predictably, Juventus were victorious on the day, and riots broke out on the streets of Florence in protest at the actions of their owners. And so, one of Italian football’s biggest rivalries was born. Newcomers to the city take note: keep your Juventus jersey hidden deep within your suitcase.

Don’t miss out on your tickets for this year’s game! Available for a special student price from the When In Florence office on Via Giuseppe Verdi 46/r.  If you only go and see Fiorentina once whilst you are here, make sure it’s this game!  Tickets WILL sell out, so don’t miss out!


Top Secret by Mikayla Litevich


                Before coming to Florence to study abroad for 4 months I had many people telling me “Florence is small, you can see the whole city in one day.” I became a bit nervous because I was about to stay there for four months, would I run out of things to do? After my arrival it was soon that I found out that even though you might be able to walk from one side of Florence to the other within 30 minutes, you could never capture the entire city in one day, one week, let alone 4 months!  

                The first couple of days you spend your days getting lost and coming upon these infamous monuments such as; the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Santa Croce, Piazza de Signoria, and many more. Then you find different places to eat the most delicious pizza and the creamiest gelato you will ever have. Then you realize the shopping, the addicting cappuccinos, and the espresso that give you a kick in the butt in the morning. Until one day you have the urge to touch the Duomo and notice the detail on every single square.  That’s when you realize WOAH! Pause….. How could I ever capture every last detail of this entire city?

                I have now been here for 1 month and 6 days and I know that I still don’t know even the half of it. However, one of the perks of living here is you get to unfold all the little secrets that Florence has to offer.  Every day is a mystery to solve!  Here are a few secrets that I have discovered with my Florence detective skills so far. As long as you promise to keep them between just you and me ;o).




                Okay so you might have all heard of “The Secret Bakery” or maybe you haven’t, but either way it is a huge mystery to solve when you’re here. Late at night around 2:30-3:30am you need to start your search. The only way you can find the secret bakery is sniffing it out. So put your dog noses on and smell out the sweet smell of a bakery. Don’t even try to ask one of the locals where it is because they will act like they don’t know what the secret bakery even is. Trust me I tried! And don’t ask another student or one of the “When in Florence” guys where it is, because that’s CHEATING!  Even though that’s what I did. But to say the least it was THE best pastry I had in my entire 21 years of life! Fresh out of the oven, sweet-tooth satisfying, gooey, mouth-watering, can’t get enough kind of pastry. And it was only 1 Euro! Bottom line make sure you find it.





                Have you ever looked at the traffic signs? The city is based around walking so why would you ever look at the traffic signs, right? Wrong, look at them there a site to see! A local artist named Clet Abraham, originally from France, has been rebelliously placing stickers on each of the traffic signs since 2010. These stickers have created a personality to the streets of Florence creating controversy and a bit of humor for the people.  Through research I found that he is actually committing an act that is against the laws of the road and he has received a couple of tickets to pay off when getting caught in the act of placing these stickers. However, they are easy removable adhesives, so why haven’t they taken them off yet? Personally, I believe that even the law can appreciate a rebellious and unique act of art especially in Florence, the city of art. 





                The Dollar Bill Building, “WHAT THE HECK?! Is anyone seeing this right now? “Those were my thoughts when I first saw the building. I immediately wanted to show everyone back in America this bizarre building. There is American Dollar bills placed along the entire outside of the building. At first I thought they were real, as others did too in which you can see at the bottom of the building they ripped the bills off. (Dumb Tourists) Can I say that now?  Through research I have found that they are actually fake bills. The building itself is called Sant’Orsola located in Via Panicale. It was originally a Convent that turned into a Tobacco factory and later was used for University classes and then became abandoned. Through its decades of abandonment, archaeologists discovered 8 skeletons. One in which they claim to be the sitter of the famous Mona Lisa painting! The location of the building became a highly populated area of immigrants, in which it became a violent and problematic street. This was unfortunate because it used to be a highly important area and it should not be forgotten. This unique approach to art surely raised awareness of the entire area. The Italian Province has now announced the restoration of the monumental building and is investing 46 million euro in its renovation. The Dollar bill act of art certainly helped the preservation of the importance of the Sant’Orsola complex.



Secret 4:

Have you noticed the random white marble circle located on the ground in the Piazza del Duomo? Well in the 1600’s it is said that the top of the Duomo was struck by lightning and the copper ball rolled down the Duomo and shattered leaving an indent on the street and they marked where it had landed. That’s what the white circle is for!  The copper ball has been replaced with an even bigger one today.



“If you don’t know, now you know!”

That’s all the secrets you get for now! Thanks for reading :o)


In The Heart of Tuscany By Alycia Oliver

The heart of Tuscany is a great place to get a break from the busy and crowded streets of Florence. The scenery you will immerse yourself in is surreal; the contrast of the vast rolling yellow and green hills against the clear blue sky is breathtaking.IMG_1128 The hills of Tuscany are the home of many sunflower fields. Especially in the summer months, prepare to see rows on rows of sunflowers (more then you could ever imagine!). Several movies have been filmed in the beautiful tuscan towns, such as Gladiator, Under The Tuscan Sun, Heaven, a Mid-Summer Nights Dream, and The English Patient.

In addition to all the above, Tuscany produces some of the best wines in the world! As wine is something all cultures enjoy, this is a favoured place to visit. If you are a wine lover, you absolutely MUST take a day trip to the heart of Tuscany and take part in one or two wine tastings. IMG_1122You can either rent a car or vespa and ride through the hills, or you can take a bus with a tour guide that will take you to towns and vineyards. I personally did the second option and will further explain my experience in the chance you want to take notes and do it on your own!

I got an early start and left Florence, around 8 am to ensure myself a full and eventful day. I arrived in the first town of Montepulciano an hour and a half later excited and eager to explore. We headed to the Nooble Di Montepulciano Cantina Crociani for our first wine tasting of the day (yes, at 11am). I tasted three different red wines, each of different quality, price and body. There was a unique atmosphere with being surrounded by several oversized wine barrels in an underground cellar.  Satisfied and tipsy we left to venture the Piazza Grande. For any twilight fan this was a very exciting moment to step in the exact doorway Edward Cullen was standing in. The size of the piazza itself was surprising as it seemed so much smaller then it had in the movie!IMG_1151

Our second stop was a Cheese farm in Siena hidden in between two sunflower fields. Not only did they have the best cheese, it was also the home of many animals such as puppies, goats, turkeys, guinea pigs, pigs, kittens and last but not least puppies! I cannot deny the fact that I offered the owner money to take one home. The owners did a demonstration of how cheese was made, and after they generously fed us a fresh four cheese pasta and an unlimited amount of wine. In total we tried five different types of cheese until our bellies ached! IMG_1224Although we were all quite tired we went to our third stop in a small town called Pienza. Here we attempted to walk off the wine, bread, cheese and pasta while looking in the small boutiques and shops. The highlight of this town was the amazing view overlooking the hills, vineyards and sunflower fields- it really was picture perfect!

Finally, we made it to the Brunello Winery in Chianti. Since Brunello is one of the most famous wines in the world it was rightfully so the most delicious wine I have tasted. This winery was extra generous and in total we tired three types of brunello all ranging in the year it was made, a grappa wine, and a desert wine. I left with 3 bottles to bring home, and let me say this I was not the only one! All in all Tuscany was a relaxing and tranquil experience. It is lovely to see places in the world filled with such beauty and serenity!IMG_1314

Tips to Stay Healthy in Florence By Alycia Oliver

When the word Florence comes to mind what do you think of? My guess would be pasta, gelato, food, and more food. And no, food is not the only important thing in Italy there are many beautiful historical structures, yet when I came to Italy people were forewarning me not to be upset if I “gained a little weight”. Travellers want to enjoy their vacation and mindlessly eat without thinking of all the calories and carbs they are consuming. If you are studying and working abroad in Florence and are here for the long haul a 2-6 month “vacation” may not be acceptable. The following are a few guidelines to follow to ensure a healthy and happy lifestyle in Italy that you may usually maintain back at home.

Juice Bars

For those who have fresh fruit and vegetables in their morning routine, coming to Italy to only find pastries and breads in the morning will be a shock. To do worry- the fresh juice bars scattered around the town will save you. My personal favorite is called Love Life Juice Bar, located close to Santa Croce. Here you can select the fruit you like and they will blend it into a nice refreshing drink. You can also find salads, quinoa, yogurt and granola and many other healthy options to satisfy your needs.fruit-salad

Locate a Gym

If you are going to be in Italy for a longer period of time locating a gym at the beginning of your stay will be the most resourceful. Here they will provide workout classes as well as full access to a well-equipped gym. With a little research and a bit more cash you will also find a spa included with a gym membership. This includes steam rooms, saunas, and hot tubs. Don’t procrastinate, or else a membership may not be worth the amount of time you have left!

Running on treadmill

Feet First

Take advantage of all the walking you will be doing in Florence! Boycott taxi’s and buses if you can and use your two feet to get to all your destinations. Surely enough working elevators are hard to come by in Florence, so getting up and down from your apartment will be a workout on its own! Do yourself a favor and choose the activities that require exercise. Climb the 417 steps to the top of the Duomo as well as the Bell tower and hike to the top of the Michael Angelo Piazza to watch the sunset! You will be having fun while getting a work out at the same time.

Fresh, Fresh, Fresh.

The fresh farmers markets are the place to be. Italians cook with the freshest of fruits and vegetables keeping their bodies healthy and strong. Some restaurants even make their own pasta right there in the restaurant. Eliminating all the extra chemicals added to foods will make you feel better about what you are indulging on. check out a restaurants review, and do your research to find the freshest restaurants in Florence.


Hydration is Key!

It is very important to remember to drink lots of water in Florence. With all the walking and the smothering heat you will start to feel ill without water. Water will give you energy, tide you over between meals and keep you feeling healthy. Although you do have to buy water in restaurants (at usually a hefty price) it is possible to find 1 euro very large bottles of water! Stock up while you can.


Fiesole Italy: What kind of Tourist Are You? By Alycia Oliver

When travellers are looking to come to Italy the first on their mind is Florence, Rome, Venice, Milan and maybe the Amalfi Coast. There are many hidden gems in Italy and Fiesole is most definitely one of them. The biggest benefit about Fiesole is that you can stay in the heart of Florence and take just a short 20 min bus ride up the hill to the magical countryside. If you are interested in taking this bus you must get on the number 7, which stops at the Santa Maria Novella railway station and Piazza San Marco.


First of all, I would like to ask you what type of traveller are you? You may be surprised to know that in fact there are different types of travelers. Here are your options:

  1. Organized Mass Tourist. This is the least adventurous of the bunch. You like you remain within the tourist bubble, and use the itinerary fixed by the tour operators and attend trips out of the complex and organized tours. This is the easy route that most families take if they have a lot of children they are traveling with.
  2. Individual Mass Tourist. These tourist also use facilities made available by tour operators but exercise greater control over their own itinerary. They will typically serve their hotel as a base and arrange private tours or hire a ca for further trips.
  3. Explorer. An attempt to get off the beaten track and experience new places is the main goal. They make their own travel accommodation arrangements and really enjoy experiencing new things.
  4. Drifter. These travellers scorn the tourist bubble and shun contact with mass tourism. They want to immerse themselves directly into the culture and seek for the local spots in their destination. They Actively seek new destinations and are prepared to take risks in experiencing new cultures and places.

I urge you not to be an organized mass tourist, work your way down the ladder and be comfortable with exploring new places! Typically, explorers and drifter tourists will populate Fiesole, as it is not as well known as other larger cities in Italy. Little do most people know Fiesole was an active community before Florence was, with very unique rules! It was said that the women had just as many rights as the men (at this day in age that was very unusual). They could go to the bank, pay for things, work just as hard, and sometimes the men even took care of the children while the women went out hunting for food.  All Florentine history originates in the hills of Fiesole.

This small town in the Tuscany region overlooks the entire city of Florence and was conquered by the romans in the III century BC. In 405 BC everything turned to chaos when the Stillcone defeated the Goths. The reason why this location was so valuable is because it was far enough way from the Arno River, the main form of transportation at the time. This would allow villagers to have a warning when any danger was near. The Ertuscan’s populated Fiesole and many of the remains are still present. With only an 8 euro ticket you are able to see the roman baths, the remains of the roman Etruscan temple, as well as the magnificent theater. What is really special is, to this day you are able to watch classic shows and operas in the roman theater! The capacity is up to around 3000 people. Some of it has been preserved however there are parts that are still untouched.


Fiesole is small enough to do in a day trip. Here are the main attractions I would jot down to see!

-The Etruscan wall

-Roman baths

-Roman Temple

-Parco Della Rimembranza (best place to enjoy the view)

-Cathedral of Fiesole

-Antique markets (only happen once a month!)


This list does not include the several points you can enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the view. There are also a couple very beautiful restaurants on the hill tops with the most amazing pasta you will ever taste!  Hopefully this has inspired you to go to the roots of Florence and experience history first hand! Happy travels!

Top Travels From Florence: Day/Weekend Trips By Alycia Oliver

Florence is a spectacular place to set base camp while in Europe. Florence is essentially in the middle of Italy and Italy is sandwiched between beautiful Spain and Croatia/Greece. With a variety of transportation you are almost guaranteed to find a cheap way to the destination you want to reach. Alternatively, there are many student services companies that will take very good care of you. If you do not have the travel agent gene, do not worry the trips are pre-planned and a guide will show you the top attractions of the city! Here are a few of my personal favorite trips from Florence that vary from day trips to weekend trips. Stop by  the When In Florence Office for more information or to book your trip!


Venice (Day Trip). Sail the canals of the remarkable city of Venice while sipping on processo and listening to talented musicians. Your eyes will never be at rest in this stunning floating city!  After taking a gondola ride and floating down over 150 canals, make sure to see the Murano glass factories. Hopefully you will get to see a glass blowing demonstration, which will surely blow your mind. Other attractions that you can see are the St. Mark Square and the Rialto Bridge. If you don’t want to go with an organized group the best way to reach Venice is by train.


Cinque Terre (Day Trip). Lace up your sneakers, grab your bathing suit, and head to the home of pesto! Explore the 5 towns that hang amongst the cliffs over the Mediterranean Sea while hiking through the colorful villages. While admiring a breath taking view of the crystal blue sea you can enjoy amazing pesto pizza or seafood. At the end of your day there is a long sandy beach you can relax on before getting on just a 2 hour bus back to Florence.


Barcelona (Week-End Trip). The home of the ultimate Spanish beach life intertwined within a lively city is a perfect combination for a weekend vacation. The mix of modernity and old Spanish town is found in Barcelona. Some of the top sights you will see are The Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and La Rambla. Last but not least, the nightlife is unimaginable, pack your dancing shoes and expect to stay up until the early hours of the night!


The Amafli Coast (Week-End Trip). This will be a very eventful, action-packed weekend. Sail around the Island of Capri and visit the outstanding Blue Grotto (if your lucky you will get to swim in it!). Taste the freshest lemon cello while relaxing on many beaches. Visit Positano to cliff jump and swim in caves to keep yourself cool from the hot summer sun. Get another perspective and see Italia from sea as you can ferry from Capri to Positano or Naples!


Taste of Tuscany (Day Trip). For something a little closer to home we head to Florence’s backyard, the Tuscan Hills. This is all about wine wine and more wine. Taste some of the world’s best wines and go on wine tasting tours as well as vineyard tours.  Walk through the medieval villages and see the Montepulciano and Montalcino.


Interlaken & Lake Como (Weekend Trip). For all the adrenaline junkies out there, this is your ideal trip. Hiking, rough water rafting, sky diving, paragliding, and canyon jumping are all possible in Europe’s adventure capital, Interlacken! After an eventful day head to the spa or watch a chocolate show for relaxation. Lake Como, the home of many celebrities get-away’s, can be toured in one day as well. The third largest, beautiful lake in northern Italy is worth a visit!

Skradinski Buk

Croatia (Weekend Trip).   If you are looking for a tropical get-away then Croatia is the place to be. From river rafting, to island hopping, to the Krka waterfalls you come back with amazing photos, memories and maybe even new friends! Exploring the ruins of the Dioceltian Palace and the old town of split should be in your itinerary as well.


French Rivera (Weekend Trip). Visit the notorious southern France to experience the lifestyle of the rich and the famous! Sun bathe on Nice’s long beautiful beach or take a hike up a small hill to see an aerial view. With Monte Carlo only being a 20 minute subway ride away indulge in the amazing restaurants and test your luck at the famous Casino! Expect beautiful cars, people beautiful, beautiful scenery and a beautiful time!