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Can Someone Please Tell Me Why I Shouldn’t Up and Move to Italia Right Now? (The Pains of Carb

Ciao, bellas! It’s your girl Tara here back from the motherland (literally mother because my mother is the one from Italy) and somehow running on a less-than-desirable amount of sleep. But it was ALL WORTH IT because I had the most fabulous time this weekend touring Northern Italy with my girls Claud and Kris.


But FIRST. Let’s talk Friday. No wait, Thursday night beforehand, real quick. I watched R+J, the old school 1950’s Franco Zeffirelli one with the Zac Efron look-alike as Romeo who severely confused me as a 14-year-old in Mr. Mayer’s 8th grade English class as to how Leonard Whiting was somehow NOT Troy Bolton! They look exactly alike! 100% could be related. Anyway, watched this lovely, traditional film with the mother of India Eisley (the little sis on Secret Life of the American Teenager) portraying Juliet, and I’ll say it definitely prepared me for my trip to “fair Verona, where we lay our scene.” My goodness, is this Italian town fair!

Ok so now onto Friday, we all went on a full-day excursion to Stonehenge and Bath. When you think prime England geographic locations, what immediately pops into your head? For me, it’s the White Cliffs of Dover and Stonehenge. We still don’t know the

answer to the mystery of the origins–why are they there? Who brought them to this field in the middle of nowhere (ok sorry, near Salisbury) that’s in between London and Bath? Lorraine probably knows more than we do because she was the only person who listened to the audio guide….

But anyhow, seeing these stones (burial grounds, really) you always hear spoken of in an eerie tone of voice was an astounding sight to behold. I was AT STONEHENGE!!! Freezing wearing nearly 4 layers and a beanie and gloves, but that’s irrelevant.


We were then onto Bath! You know, the town Jane Austen lived in and wrote about in both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (her two book-end


That’s the tour guide, FYI!

novels, first and last). Apparently she really detested the place, according to our tour guide. He offered to answer any question we might have as we walked along, and of course, the first one I proposed was about Jane Austen’s time spent in the town. He chuckled at my enthusiasm and pointed out the blue door of the home where she stayed with her family.

He also led us to the pathway where Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth “walked along” in Persuasion and before introducing the walkway asked if anyone had read Persuasion. I raised my hand, but he turned to me and said in an affectionate way: “I know YOU have.” You can just imagine how I beamed with pride. Jane’s my girl (as is Charlotte Brontë), and I’ll say it (or type it) loud and proud.

Every tour guide with the blue pin–our Shoreditch art walk tour guide, Ruth, and this one here–is phenomenal, by the way. They are like walking encyclopedias, and as I too enjoy spurting out random entertainment trivia from time to time, the fact that this guide shared how GILES from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is a resident of Bath further made me feel quite at home in this town full of people both in the past and the present of whom I am a major fan. Nicolas Cage and John Cleese also lived in Bath at one time or another.

Our Accent programmer Kadri is also so sweet!! The whole time we were there, she kept giving Claud, Kris, and me tips on Italy since she lived there–in Palermo and ooh I forget the other place–but nonetheless, she was so excited for us! Still have to show her my pictures!!!

Next we went inside the Roman Baths. Pro tip: the water you are allowed to drink as you exit the museum apparently has tons of minerals that are good for you, but man did it taste like the water you have at the end of your dentist appointment. Ick *cringes* *shivers* I felt like a vampire!!! But then again, I was trying to have as many health-boosts as I could get since I was trying to beat back my over-a-week’s worth of


Lastly, we checked out Sally Lunn’s buns–basically half a large roll (a little like Hawaiian rolls in terms of sweetness but not as soft) with cinnamon, butter, and an orange peel on top! Yummy!

The next morning at 5am, it was time to wake up for Italy: Day 1 in Milan! We were at the bus stop by 5:30am (in the hope of catching the earlier bus at 5:40am instead of our 6am scheduled one), but even though the bus came, we weren’t allowed on because they already had an excess of passengers due to the Victoria coaches being cancelled. K thanks.

The next one was supposed to come in 15 minutes but NOPE. We were standing there waiting with a sweet

Irish couple who were going back to Shannon for their graduation, and the guy suggested at 6:20am that we should take the train–their flight wasn’t till 9am, whereas ours was at 8:20am!!!!!!!! So, he looked up the route for us, and we SPRINTED through Waterloo–with our backpacks/my suitcase in tow–and got on the tube. As the tube pulled away, we saw the Irish guy rush in, and he and I waved at each other in a “yes, this sucks, but good luck” type of manner.

We got off, transferred to another tube, and made it to Tottenham Hale and managed to get tickets onto the Stansted Express. The Irish


Complimentary cappuccino upon arrival!

couple got on our train as well, and as we got off at the airport, the guy cheered: “Good luck, kids!” Thank goodness for kind people in this world who help you when transportation has failed you–NATIONAL EXPRESS, NEVER AGAIN.

We RAN through the airport–think Sam in Love Actually minus cute music and a kiss on the cheek at the end. No, instead we had the RyanAir check-in lady tell us we were never going to make it. But you know what, she didn’t know what we were capable of! We raced through security,

pushed past everyone (in a polite manner, certainly) saying “excuse me, our flight is about to leave” and MADE IT to our gate with 10 MINUTES TO SPARE before our flight took off! But we GOT ON OUR FLIGHT TO MILAN. Sweating. Out of breath. But WE DID IT. OH YES. I wonder if the Irish couple suspected if we had made it or not. I’d like to think they’re the optimistic sort. Cheers on your graduation!!!

Anyway, so journaled the whole flight there and we got off at Milan Malpensa. Took the bus into

the city, and arrived at our luxurious hotel for young adults (seriously, how did we get so lucky with this hostel?) called Ostello Bello Grande. Highly recommend staying here if you’re ever in Milan and want to meet nice people, have clean accommodations, and consume free food/drinks!

We immediately asked Felipe (the kind gentleman at the front desk) where to get risotto alla milanese (thanks to Italy-guru Sam for the awesome suggestions!), and we headed to a ristorante right away! Not the most amazing Italian I’ve ever had (we’ll get to t

hat), but the food was still delicious and we ate everything up! The more Parmesan, the better! Plus the place had a Messi jersey hanging on the wall, so how could I not be pleased? I will warn future travelers that Italy charges a cover-per-person though upon eating at an establishment–we were quite confused at first when our bill arrived.

We then went to the Duomo and checked out the fashion in the piazza!! So many stores like Versace and Prada right alongside a gorgeous place of worship. I guess both can be considered locales of worship to people, but obviously for different reasons. Oh, and the PIGEONS. I thought pigeons in London were a burden, but the Italian pigeons! No no no you can leave me ALONE!

The cathedral had so much ornate detail on both the inside and the outside. Sam was totally right though about the awesome view of the Duomo from the 900 Museum–so much love for friend recs!


The inside of it though is truly awe-inspiring. You simply go silent looking at the beautiful minutiae of it all. Visiting there made me so excited to see the inside of Notre Dame as well! When my family and I went a few years ago, we only took pictures in front of it but

never went inside. What were we thinking?!?!

We went back to the hostel for free aperitivo–free dinner!! Pasta, veggies, pizza bites, and met a bunch of other young adult/mid-20’s people staying there traveling through Europe with Milan being just one of their pit-stops. One Canadian guy kept saying how he thought it was easier for girls to travel around by themselves though (it’s easier to get attention from guys). Um, hello, that’s exactly what we DON’T want. Duh……the unfair double standard that exists regarding gender in this world….

Meanwhile, we got responses on our first Rhetoric of London papers back. Unfortunately, my teacher did not react as hoped for in response to my open letter of adoration to Borough Market. Don’t think he’s a fan of ~my style~. Well,

I filled my paper with overflowing amounts of happiness and joy, so maybe he just wasn’t having a jolly day? Or is not a foodie?

Claud, Kris, and I had bonding time in the rooftop lounge (I know, it’s nuts) about all things, but they were also really sweet in telling me not to let this one man’s subjective opinion infringe upon how I choose to write. It’s only his opinion, and while he does give me marks, I am my own person as a writer. I take my writing very personally and enjoy it so thoroughly that I feel hurt when someone doesn’t like it as much as I’d wished. But if I want to b

e a writer, I need thicker skin. Not everyone will prefer my writing. That’s fine. I have to be happy with the work I produced, and I love my paper! And I am happy with it! That’s enough for me.

We got gelato too, so how could I not be joyous? If you ever go to Grom in Milan, make sure to get crema di grom–mmm so happy just thinking about it!

We showered and went to sleep–the other 2 girls in our room (who are also from America but are studying abroad in Athens) were out to see The Chainsmokers. How fun, to go to a concert in Milan!!!

We woke up early the next day–6:30ish–, ate our

free breakfast, and were off to the train station to make our way to VERONA!

We did our make-up on the train, as usual, since we’re turning into our mothers. Once we got off, we walked a half hour to our sweet B&B–everything was heart-shaped and ~love~ themed. The woman who ran the B&B, Minerva (LOVE the name!!! McGonagall? Equivalent of Athena? Yes!), gave us suggestions for where to eat authentic Italian food that is not tourist-centered. She told us to try horse meat. Um, no. But then she proffered a great place for gnocchi, and we were sold. And I shall say, it was THE BEST PASTA I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. Unreal.


Yes, this image is featured twice because the gnocchi was THAT amazing.

My gnocchi tasted like little pillows of heaven with truffles and mushrooms on top. OH MY GOODNESS. Heaven on a plate. And it was portion-sized for a person, not completely over-sized pasta portions like I’ve usually received at


So since we were still hungry, we got some more gelato, naturally, at this gelateria called Pretto and walked over to where else but Juliet’s House!!! Yes, that one from the Shakespeare play. They actually filmed the morning-after scene from the Zeffirelli film at the house, which was pretty cool to learn, and had two of the costumes the lovers wore!

Anyhow, you can’t place letters into the walls like you might have seen in Letters to Juliet, but you ARE supposed

to touch Juliet’s left (right actually) breast for luck in love! We all did, despite the crassness of the act, and then went inside the house/museum!

We went on top to the balcony and then sought out to write letters to Juliet! At first, the option was to type a letter ON A COMPUTER. What is this modernization? Would Juliet even know how to work a computer? I wanted to send a handwritten, sentimental note.

I asked the girl on the side

(at first in Italian, then English–see I’m learning!) if we could write any, and she showed me a little mailbox where we could put handwritten letters! So, I ripped out 3 pages from my journal (see, it’s always good to have a paper and pen on hand!), and we all wrote letters to Giulietta!

I’m definitely coming back one day to volunteer for the Juliet Club–a group of volunteers in Verona who write back to all the letters from lovelorn folks or visitors to the house who write to Juliet in the spirit of true love and share in the cathartic experience of expressing human emotions through

the written word. How moving! I’m taking Italian next semester–FINALLY–and I think it’ll be a better idea once I’m able to get by without just instinctively switching into Spanish instead hoping they’ll understand what I’m saying. Funnily enough, everyone thought off the bat I was from Spain in Venice. Quite odd.

Next we went to the Arena, where a race was just finishing up! Totally reminded me of when we were last in Paris and my mom and I watched the Tour de France bikers speed by us.


We were CRAVING some pizza and were immensely hungry from all the walking, so Claud and I shared a prosciutto/mushroom and potato/salami one. They were good, but not the best pizza I’ve ever had. Going to Homeslice soon, and I think I might like that better in fact….but it was still good!!! Guess we’ve got to go to the South to get the real napoletana style 🙂

We moseyed around and went to some beautiful churche

s like Saint Anastasia, which immediately made me think of my grandmother and how much I’d love to go with her to mass there. The paintings within the church were so ornate but upon walking in, you felt like you were in an intimate setting. Very communal but still in such a place of grandeur.

We then heard some lovely tenor improvisational singing as we walked by a closing-down wine festival and strolled along the river, passing by some more live music and friendly locals along the way.

The next day, we woke up and Minerva had set out breakfast early for us because she knew

we had an 8:20am train. So sweet!!!

Then we were off to VENICE!!!! Canal-central. We walked out of the train station into such a mass of beauty to the eye. Who cares the weather was foggy? The whole day we lugged our luggage around everywhere, but it was fine. Nearly everyone there was a tourist aside from the people working in the stores and rowing the gondolas.

We got lost SO many times on our way to Piazza San Marco, and we got hungry for seafood pasta. There are so many ristorantes competing for business, and working the front of the house is a real

task!!! An older, Italian gentleman lured us in with his charm and offer of no cover charge, and the seafood pasta was pretty good!! Loved the crab, but the pasta was nowhere near as delectable as my gnocchi.

By the way, I love how Italian guys dress. Leather jackets? Right up my alley. And just the culture itself. Everyone is so friendly and loud and there’s such an ambience of warmth. It

felt so cool to be where my relatives came from. Not Northern Italy–more Southern, in Naples and Sicily, but still, to be in the country felt pretty surreal.

Anyway, we finally made it to the Piazza San Marco, but water was everywhere, so we all had to walk around on platforms! Too funny!

Next we got some AMAZING home-made (there in the shop that we watched!!) tiramisu! YUM. Our whole trip was esse

ntially sight-seeing and eating.

We then went on a SEVERELY over-priced and FAR too short gondola ride. And he didn’t even sing!! But it was still fun to see the city through the vantage point of the canals. Don’t know how I could live in Venice though. I would never be able to find my way anywhere! And I’m sure I would always be late.

We then went back through the Piazza (it’s not considered the main square for nothing!) to reach Harry’s Bar, where

the bellini (peach and champagne!) was invented. It was SO yummy!! Thanks Ro, for the tip!

We then got take-away freshly-made pesto fusilli from Dal Moro’s. SAM you were SO right. Delicious delicious delicious!!!!!!!!!!!! Gnocchi is still #1 though.

It was then time to head back to London. We were at the airport THREE HOURS EARLY this time. No more rushing to make our flights!! And our

flight was delayed, can you believe it? How perfect.

We got back to our flat by 2ish and were asleep by 2:45am (at least I think/hope so!!). I was SO exhausted yesterday that I believe I was delirious. But then again, I got a similar amount of sleep to what I got in high school so my body should know how to handle itself from years of practice.

Did not nap all day, BUT we did ready ourselves for a football match!!! Fulham vs. Norwich! We took the overground to Putney (where Daniel Radcliffe’s family still resides, apparently) and stayed for most of the game. It was so fun, even though Norwich was winning at first because of two penalty kick goals. NOT the same….

Being part of the rollicking crowd was awesome, and it definitely made me feel immersed in the football culture. Just wish I had a team I really supported, however. Now if Messi would have been playing, that would have been

an entirely different story. Still SO bummed that FC Barcelona will be playing an AWAY game while we’re in Barcelona in November. UGH!!!!!

Today after class I met up with Maitlyn and her friend Allie who were visiting from Vienna!! So fun to catch up with old friends and make new ones. We tried some pie from Battersea Pie Station and some tea scones from Whittard of Chelsea in Covent Garden. So much appreciation for hot chocolate samples from the latter, my goodness….

And tonight we just saw Amadeus at the National!!! SUCH a great production. The

beginning started off slow but really picked up once they went back into the 18th century. The actor who played Salieri was a true showman, and in turn, I was also astounded by the boundless energy of the actor who played Mozart. How he maintained his stamina for three hours astounds me.

Can’t believe my family is finally arriving tomorrow!!! And it’s RACHEL’S BIRTHDAY. SHE IS 18. EIGHTEEN. When did this happen? My parents keep saying how I’m her present. I’m so excited to see them I’m nearly bursting. I’m so looking forward to running to their hotel after my class ends at 5:30pm. Really Rach, you are MY present.

My time in Europe is nearly halfway over, but there’s still so much more to do, and I’m so grateful for all the incredible experiences I’ve had already. I must sleep now because it’s late, and I have a big day tomorrow!!

Cheers, Tara xx
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