La Traviata at the Arena di Verona

Surprise!!! Here are two little bonus videos of the Arena di Verona! Enjoy!

June 22, 2014

Verona, Italy

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(La Traviata- Arena di Verona)

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(Juliet’s Balcony)

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(Juliet statue and the original letter wall.)

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(The first of many Aperol spritz and my vintage B&B keys.)

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(An attempt to catch the energy of Verona.)

What can I say about Verona? Home to Romeo and Juliet and famous for its opera; it’s also the first place I tried an Aperol Spritz! As is the theme with most of my trip (as you probably have noticed), I was only there for a short time. Less than a day actually from start to finish; I used it as a stopover between Switzerland and Florence. Mostly though I just wanted to see Juliet’s house and opted for a bed and breakfast next door (literally). After missing my bus stop (note: transportation drivers are not always helpful) and walking back quite a bit and purchasing a map, I finally found the B&B only to have no answer with the doorbell. I ended up having to call and since she had expected me about 2 hours prior, she had gone out. Luckily she wasn’t too far and within 30 minutes I was checked it, changed and ready to see Verona. The B&B itself was quaint but lovely, very feminine due to its owner but I enjoyed that aspect. The massive shutters opened to the bustling street below and added character to the rather modern space. The owner was the quintessential Italian woman, animated and exquisite. She was beyond welcoming and accommodating (I had my breakfast at 6am). My favourite part though, was how she said “Prego” as every other word. She’s the one who informed me an opera was to be preformed that very evening and I must attend to get the full Verona experience. I only really knew about Juliet’s house and because I knew my stay was brief, I didn’t look up what else to do or see. Thinking an Italian opera sounded wonderful, I made a metal note to check out tickets and headed next door to Juliet’s house. The courtyard part is free but it is quite small and pictures are difficult with people in every nook and cranny. The house is a bit larger and costs to go in which lessens the crowds a great deal. After looking around at the sparse space, I made my way to the electronic computer area to write my letter to Juliet (no paper letters anymore). Next was a quick stop on the famous balcony and I was desperately wishing I wasn’t alone at that moment so is have picture evidence of it. That was it, short but sweet and exactly what I had come to see. With an evening to kill now, I wandered around the cobblestone streets; just taking it all in. Verona is just a buzz with energy from tourists and locals alike. I found the arena and bought my ticket to the opera, “La Traviata”. By this point, exhaustion is starting to set in and I find a little restaurant to rest, eat and sit and to watch the passersby. After dinner, I make my way back to dress for the opera; suddenly I’m grateful to have brought a dress but missing my heels. Again with too much time on my hands before the start, I venture to a nearby piazza for a drink. Sitting in Verona, waiting for the opera, I realize I am in a sea of orange beverages. Being curious I order one and that, my friends, is the life changing moment of my first Aperol spritz! For those of you who have not had one it is Aperol, which is a bitter orange liqueur, and sparkling wine and it is delicious! As if I could follow that (ha-ha), I went to the opera. I sat beside a lovely German couple on a second honeymoon type vacation, which I quickly became friends with. They hand out candles and it’s so magical in the open air arena with the sun setting and the hundreds of candles all aglow. I couldn’t believe I had almost missed it. The opera itself was an experience and although I couldn’t understand the words it was wonderful. It was also familiar and after a déjà vu moment, I text my friend to Google its movie origin. Turns out I was sitting at the very same opera as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman!! At the last intermission I took a quick photo with my new friends and we said our goodbyes. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and knowing I was heading into a long day with Florence and Rome, I left before the end. The streets had calmed down significantly but it was still very lively as I walked home. I didn’t want to go to bed but I knew I had to and so with great sadness I ended my only day in Verona. The next morning I ate and took another pause at the gate to Juliet’s for a photo op and I was off to my next city. I would definitely return as there is a lot more to Verona then those two sites but I feel more then content with what I experienced. It’s a very romantic and family oriented city and maybe because I was a touch homesick, I felt a bit lonely here. I’d like to bring a companion if I ever get the chance again; if only to have someone to take my picture of Juliet’s balcony!

June 22-23, 2013

Capri, Italy

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I took a boat tour to Capri on my fourth day in Postiano. The tides had been high and the waters were rough for days leading up to my tour but I got very lucky and we were able to go into the grotto! My tour boat was filled with a group of Americans from New Jersey about my age, and they were so unbelievably nice. Even offering me to continue on to Rome with them so I wouldn’t have to be alone; I didn’t take them up on it as I was going to Cinque-Terre next but it was a nice offer. They were a sister and her two brothers along with their significant others and they definitely got the party started early and we all had a great time listening to music and talking. I should note they looked nothing like the cast of Jersey Shore and they hate that show for ruining their city’s image. We stopped to swim in the open water before getting to the grotto. Swimming in the sea was the first thing I did to conquer my fears and it was terrifying but I was so proud after. The line up was long and it took us about an hour to get in plus approx. 15 Euros but it was so worth it! They say you can’t swim in the grotto but for 5-10 Euros extra (depending on your boat) they will let you. You are transferred to smaller boats in groups of 3-4 people and you have to lay flat to enter. Once inside we jumped into the water and swam a bit in the glowing blue water before getting back in and leaving. It’s a short time but breathtaking and amazing. It was probably one of my top 5 experiences on this trip and well worth it to anyone who has the opportunity. I should also tell you that it was the first time in my life I got sea sick and while it passed quickly thanks to some medicine, I was grateful to learn that early on before some other much longer boat rides later in the trip. I am telling you this because I grew up on boats with my dad and both him and I got sick on the waves of the seas, it’s a different beast so be warned. Afterwards we docked on Capri and had some lunch before they took a taxi to the top of the island for a birds-eye view. I opted for looking around the local shops and sending a post card home to my family. Lemoncello is a delicacy here and another must to try. Because of our long wait at the grotto we didn’t have much time in Capri and we were headed back to Positano before we knew it. It was short but sweet and I loved Positano so much I was happy to get back in time for dinner on my last night. If you can’t stay in Capri because of cost or time restraints, then a boat tour is a fun way to see the island and grotto without spending a fortune. If you’re lucky you might even meet some great people too, like I did.

June 27, 2013

I’m trying something different this week, click above to see my video of entering the Blue Grotto!

Florence, Italy

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It is getting close to the one year mark of when I first set off on this life- altering trip abroad; as such, I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic and have started reminiscing over some of the treasures I brought home with me and remembering aspects of my trip I had forgotten. Since I had gone to Europe back in 2010, some places on this visit were for other purposes. Florence is one of these places and I spent just a few hours there to go shopping! Before you go all crazy, my first visit was with an art history major and we spent a great deal of time seeing all the sites Florence has to offer. It is a truly gorgeous city just filled to the brim with art and history. We saw the Uffizi Gallery, Santa Croce, Duomo di Firenze, Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Ponte Vecchio, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, and of course Michelangelo’s David! Those are just the places I can remember specifically seeing but she pointed out many more and I’m sure I’ve missed some (I am bad with names unless I write it down immediately). It was on that visit in 2010, while inside Santa Croce, that we stumbled upon a leather school hidden in the back of the monastery. I happen to love leather, so this little gem of a place was right up my alley. It’s adorable too, quaint and old, just filled with traditions and history. I bought a bracelet for myself and an eyeglass case for my mother and we were on our way. Three years later, the bracelet had tarnished and rusted and so I decided to stop on my way from Verona to Rome to see if I could replace it. I arrived very early into Florence at a smaller train station with no open shops anywhere in sight. I wandered for a bit before finally giving in and calling my mother to get directions. It was in the beginning before I discovered CityMaps and without any stores open I could not get a map or use WiFi. She “googled” where I had to go and it turns out I was very close by. I found the side entrance (you do not have to go into Santa Croce to get to the leather school) and I was so happy I could hardly contain myself. The school is called Scuola del Cuoio and it was exactly as I remembered. It is just off of a court yard and has a larger shop in the front where you walk in, followed by a long hallway lined with individual shops where they make the goods. The most surprising thing was they still made the exact same bracelets! This time I bought three; two for me and one for my mom and a little change purse printed with the Florence (or Firenze) Fleur-de-lis.
This brings up two travel tips I have for you:
1. In Europe, the names of cities will be spelt differently than they are in North America. Know this ahead of time so there are no surprises.
2. Many cities have multiple train stations, check the name prior or look at your ticket to make sure you don’t jump off at the first stop.
In 2010, we also went to Ponte Vecchio, which is where I discovered the amazing jewellery that fills the shops that line either side of the bridge. Among all the gold and diamonds that Italy is famous for, are beautiful cameo pieces. Cameo jewellery is made of stone or shell and has a side profile of a woman’s head. I fell in love with these rings, but at the time was unable to purchase anything. This time I did. It was a bit of a splurge and I couldn’t afford the gold, but I now have my very own Italian cameo ring from Ponte Vecchio in Florence and it is among my prized possessions. Some might say it’s just things, consumerism, objects, etc. But this isn’t just stuff to me, they are tangible memories. They are beautiful, special items that I can pass down through generations. They are not extravagant by any means and I include other souvenirs from my trips here too; but they are special and they mean something to me. I have items from family members that are no longer with me, including a magnet my grandmother got from Arizona and a Caribbean man in a tire my dad got from Dominican Republic; I cherish them and display them because they meant something to them. It is important to pass down things from previous generations. We travel the world to see what others left behind for future generations. It is important to know what came before. Family is important. I finished my time in Florence with a glass of wine in front of the Duomo di Firenze, where I got a free glass because my server’s girlfriend was also Canadian. My suitcase made is difficult to get around and since I was leaving from a different train station, lockers were out of the question. I ended up leaving a couple hours earlier then I had intended and headed off to Rome. Florence is a spectacular city and I highly recommend it.

June 24, 2013

Souvenirs

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As a way to commemorate my trip (other than my spoon collection) I opted to collect bracelets. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get them from every single place because that would have been a lot to wear and I was packing light. The collection actually started in New York City in 2012 with my first Alex and Ani bangle. Right before I left home I added to my arm with NTIO bracelets I purchased online and a Brave collection (all of which ended up falling off). A special gift to ward off evil from a dear friend completed the look before I even got on a plane! I wore these bracelets everywhere, even swimming (except for a select few that would tarnish) and to bed. Growing the collection as I went; I added piece by piece, losing some and gaining others. By the end I was kind of over the weight on my wrist, but every time I look down at them it brings a smile to my face. This trip was so life changing and special; I love having little souvenirs to remind me of that time. Along with the bracelets and spoons, I did get some magnets and a few knick-knacks. Most of these extra souvenirs were sent home from abroad, the lack of luggage space was a challenge to say the least. I will say, every time I had to climb stairs or lift luggage overhead though, I was utterly grateful for my carry on. Now, each time I hang my keys on my Barcelona key rack or open my fridge or look at the Oia glass decoration in my bathroom; I remember this great time in my life. And every time I wear these bracelets it brings me back to places I saw and the amazing experience I was lucky enough to have. There is something to be said for souvenirs.

June 13- October 1, 2013

Left to Right: Florence, Nice, Antibes, NTIO company, Paris, Dublin (Alex and Ani), NYC (Alex and Ani), Gift from friend, London, NYC (Alex and Ani).
Others that are not pictured were from: Athens, Popeye’s Village, Brave Collection, Switzerland, Barcelona.

Monterosso, Italy

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It was my second time in Cinque-Terre but the first time I got to stay overnight. It’s really no wonder it’s such a popular tourist destination, from the hiking, to the scenery, to the idealistic little villages; it’s colourful in both its energy and ambiance. I stayed in Monterosso, which is the last of the five villages that makes up Cinque-Terre. Monterosso is the epitome of a beach town and I felt like I was almost camping in my little single room at the hostel (which I loved). I had such an amazing time here that one post would never be able to fully express that. The other day I found a little blip I had written in my phone while there. I was sitting at a sea front bar, drinking an Aperol Spritz and looking out at the lights of the neighbouring villages. I thought for this post, I’d share that note and some photos from that moment.

June 29, 2013
I’m sitting here at a seaside bar in Cinque-Terre, Monterosso to be exact. Glittering in the distance is Varnezza! Sparse twinkling lights, shimmering up the cliff side, but at dusk they almost look as though someone has put Christmas lights on the hills. Monterosso is buzzing with locals and tourists alike. It is high season and the feeling of summer in is the air. The feeling of long nights and even longer days; of sand and salt mixed into every inch of your body and no desire for it to be any other way. A boat sails into the harbour, a momentary distraction but gone as quickly as spotted. Boating is second nature to those here. The sea is a part of life; of everyone and everything, as it is with most coastal towns. It is with blurry eyes I try to stay awake, I’m exhausted from the day but I do not want it to end. At the sea is where I feel most at peace. And although another vision of the sea awaits me, I have enjoyed my time here so… Maybe that is all Cinque-Terre is ever meant to be for me; a fleeting moment of utter happiness, destined to be repeated but not revelled in for long. How else could you truly understand the immenseness of being complete? Even if only for a day.

June 28-30, 2013