Salute

Italians are passionate about their wine and because of this passion, Italian wine is considered among the best in the world. They know how to incorporate it into their everyday life and they truly know the perfect occasion to go with the perfect glass.

IMG_1256.JPGI took a day trip to Chianti with my roommates to Castello di Verrazzano vineyard because a trip to Italy wouldn’t be complete without going wine tasting! We got the full-on tour with the owner of the vineyard who you could tell grew up running through the rows of grape vines. He had no filter but was actually quite charming. For him wine was a way of life and he recalled having wine at 12 years old not to get drunk, but to celebrate life. We concluded the tour in the barrel rooms down in the cellar, which I the barrels that ferment the wine were much bigger than I imagined them to be.

When we made it to the tasting room we learned proper wine tasting techniques that were actually quite silly. For example, you swirl the wine in the glass to get just the right smell, or that you use a white napkin and the sun to reflect the color of the wine.

Perhaps the most important rule I learned about wine tasting is that when you are clinking glasses with someone, you must look them directly in the eye. If you don’t, then you will have seven years of bad sex!

IMG_1716.JPGBefore we got our first sip of the rose we held our glasses high and all cheered “Salute!” which is Italian for cheers. The rose was the perfect amount of sweetness and rich in flavor. We were also told to take a sip of the rose and swish it around like mouthwash to expose more flavors. We later moved on to trying the rich Chianti Classico then the Chianti Reserve. But in my opinion, what was tastier than the wine was the balsamic vinegar that we took by the spoonful. It was intense in sweetness and a floral smell that complemented it. A small bottle of the balsamic alone is twice as much as a full bottle of the Classico, but where will you ever find authentic and wonderfully tasting balsamic like that?

 

Salute!!

love,

-T

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Tea and Fancies

 

img_2792Afternoon tea is a cultural tradition in England just like how Spaniards have siesta time. Except, the Brits need a little caffeine pick-me-up in this case. You won’t believe all the flavors of teas you will experience in England, but here are a few of my favorite places that I tried in England that I thought I would share with you.

Harrods

Harrods has a Tea room where it might be a bit of a wait to get in, but the wait is well worth it. First you pick the type of tea you want then you can look on the menu to decide on what fancies to go with(fancies are little decadent cookies and sandwiches that are traditionally served with tea).The waiter told us that the English way of preparing tea was to first pour in the tea then the milk, then finally, a cube of sugar. After your experience at the tea room, you must not forget to go down to the level of Harrods with all the fancy and extraordinarily colorful desserts. If there ever was a real-life candy land, that would be it!

The Capital

My family and I used TripAdvisor to find one of the best places in town for afternoon tea and fancies, and it just so happened to be at this historic hotel called The Capital. It gives you the perfect English feel when you go inside and see the rich colors of the old Victorian-styled hotel. The tea room was off to the side and nicely closed off for a quiet and peaceful experience. They have an array of different teas to choose from. When the tea kettles are brought out they are beautifully displayed in clear glass kettles with fancy spices and herbs inside to enhance the flavors. The Fancies are just as beautiful as the teas. Everything is pristine and set for the perfect afternoon tea in London.

The Ritz

Our stop at the Ritz was not intentional. We didn’t plan on making a reservation at their tea room or anything, it just happened to be one evening we were walking around the streets of London and I begged my mom to let me see the legendary hotel in person. She finally gave in and the hunt was on. We walked a few miles and there it was in awe with its bright lights and classic look. All I wanted to do was go inside, however because we didn’t exactly plan on finding it, we ran into a few problems on how we could get inside….

Problem One: we didn’t have a reservation for the tea room, and they were completely booked.

Problem Two: we were weren’t exactly dressed to inside of the Ritz, they have a very strict dress code.

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Luckily for us, there were two extremely nice doormen outside and I was able to go talk to them. I asked if we could go in for tea and fancies but he told me that without a reservation he could not get us in(figures). However I was able to bat my long eyelashes and say thank you and walk back to the girls. But as I started walking away, he told me to wait for a second. I turned back to him and he said that although there may not be room in the tea room, we could go into to bar to get tea and desserts. I knew my face lit up instantly and we graciously agreed to do that. As we started to walk in the door man had to stop my friend Peg. “Ma’m, your trainers!” Sneakers are not allowed to be worn in the Ritz what so ever. She told us to go in without her but we couldn’t just leave our group member out. So we decided that this just wasn’t going to work out. The Door man apologized and then asked us where we are from. We told him Montana, and he said he’s never met anyone from there before (us Montanans are one in a million ;)) He told us to wait again as he went inside to ask for permission for Peg to enter the building. He came back out with good news that we were allowed to go to the bar area. Batting my long eyelashes worked its charm! Inside was absolutely beautiful with a grand piano and beautiful colors surrounding the main lobby area. At the bar we felt very under-dressed compared to the other guest there, but that didn’t stop us from having an amazing time. Our tea was delightful, but my favorite part was the dessert I ordered. I will never ever forget it because it was out of this world amazing. I forget the name of it, but it was a little bowl made out of sugar holding a light lemon ice cream inside. The ice cream fizzled and dissipated in my mouth, and perhaps that’s why I remember it so well. The Ritz made my day and it notably one of my most favorite experiences in London that summer. I couldn’t resist giving a hug to my new little doorman friend after the fun I had at the Ritz.

Don’t miss out on a memorable afternoon tea experience while in London!

love,

-T

In The Port of Amsterdam

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One day my uncle and I got in his Benz and took a road trip to Amsterdam. He had a business trip up there and what better way to explore a new city than to just wander around? He showed me the Royal Palace and the Heineken breweries (I swear there was one on every corner) we even hunted down the legendary bench from the movie Our Fault In The Stars. Everywhere you go you get a waft of a weed from bikers that pass you by.

                                **** PLEASE ALWAYS LOOK OUT FOR BIKERS!!****

(I was accidentally walking in the bike lane of the sidewalk and almost got killed. Please don’t be the dumb unaware tourist like me)

My first stop was to the Artis Zoo because I haven’t been to a zoo in ages and I wanted to see the butterfly exhibit and the elephants. It was a peaceful little day at the zoo after seeing all the amazing creatures. After the zoo I walked up a couple blocks to a little gift shop and they literally sold edibles right there along with postcards and other Amsterdam souvenirs.

When I met back with him at the cafe he looked at his watch and said “Oh we are going to be late for our appointment!” I followed him as we walked along the streets by the canal. Its hard to keep up with him because he is a fast walker, but he turned and asked me, “Aren’t you curious where this appointment is?” I said, “Well yeah! But I figured I would just try to keep up with you and see what it was eventually. Along the canal there was a man on a boat that yelled out. Apparently my Uncle knew him and there was even a Belgian flag off the tail of his boat. My Uncle said, “Hop on!” We got on a beautiful remodeled boat and our captain gave me the grand tour of the city from the canals. We came across the Anne Frank house and there was a ridiculous long line to get in. We boated into the expensive neighborhoods and it was so beautiful with all the trees and the still of the water. The captain asked if I wanted to take over, and I got so excited. Yes, I got to drive a boat in the canals of Amsterdam. How many people do you know that get to say that?

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The most interesting part of the boating adventure was seeing all the unique boat houses. Some of them were so modern and cozy looking, it convinced me that someday I would want to live in one! We drove past a big one where the captain told us a writer lived in. The windows of his place were open and we saw the writer inside behind his laptop. He noticed us too and waved and we got to wave back.

Overall the day was the coolest experience getting to be in a new country. Amsterdam is a fun city for young and progressive people. If I could go back anywhere, that would be my first choice because I wish I had more than a day to see more of the historical sites. If you ever get the chance, don’t forget to bring your umbrella!

love,

-T

A Walk Through Trastevere

img_1646-1Trastevere is considered the hippest area of Rome. I was fortunate enough to get an apartment right in the heart of it. On weekend mornings my roommates and I would go to our favorite little cafe hidden in Trastevere’s winding streets. It’s called Meccanismo and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the coffee I ordered because I mean, look at how beautiful that is! The coffee I ordered was called the Meccanismo and if you are a chocolate lover and coffee addict like me, I guarantee you would love the Meccanismo.

Besides the little hidden cafes and unique shops, Trastevere always had something going on at night. One time after dinner we came across a large gathering in the square where there was a large TV screen for Italian fans to watch the World Cup game that evening. It was convenient to be able to get a drink or some gelato from a shop nearby and watch the game at the same time. There are usually a lot of street performers in that square at night to. Sometimes you never know what you are going to stumble across when in Trastevere.

And don’t even get me started on the food!! If you plan on going to Trastevere, you have to promise me one thing. And that is that you go to dinner one night at Roma Sparita. Unless you are a local, there is no way you can get a table if you just show up. So make sure you make a reservation the day before to guarantee yourself a table because you aren’t going to want to miss out on this. When I went there I had to try their specialty, which is Cacio e Pepe. This dish is freshly made pasta sprinkled with parmesan on top and served in a bowl made out of parmesan cheese. It is out of this world amazing!

I hope you find Trastevere as magical as I did. And remember, Get Lost in Italy.

love,

-T

The Art of Pasta Making

img_1673“When in Rome” they say! And that’s exactly what my roommate and I said when we signed up to take a pasta-making class. We didn’t think our Italian experience would be complete had we not learned the Italian way. We signed up online through Walks of Italy and we looked forward to our class all week long.

The day finally came, and I had made sure to not overeat so I could save room for enjoying  my culinary perfection that night. After class, I wandered into some Piazza with my google maps trying to find the studio apartment where my class was located. I walked up and down a street a few times until an American couple looked at me and asked in if I was looking for the class too. My roommate called for me when I passed the wrong little curvy street and we finally made it.

The class was so big that half of us had to be directed to another apartment which was about a 5 minute walk(not bad for walking in Europe). As I followed the guide, she pointed to the rooftop of a building ahead of us and said, “There it is!” My roommate and I had butterflies in our stomachs because we had dreamed about visiting one of the rooftop terraces d. We got into the building and had to take a couple flight of stairs up to the apartment. Then inside the apartment we had to go up a twisted and narrow set of stairs to get to the roof.

Everything was so surreal, so dreamy, so perfect. The sun was just setting, and the view over Rome was unbelievable. And on top of that we were served bottomless prosecco and bruschetta 🙂

We were each given our own work station with three simple ingredients in front of us: flour, egg, and olive oil. The first step was to put a cup of flour on our board and bundle it all together to make a hill. Then you stick your finger in the middle of it and start swirling towards the edges to make a volcano. (note: it is very important that you have strong walls of you volcano!) Then we dropped the egg in the mouth of the volcano and put a tablespoon of olive oil in. Next was the the most tedious part because you have to mix but making sure to slowly take in the edges of the volcano, adding flour little by little. Next we kneed the dough with the palms of our hands.img_1669

After we made the dough, we had to store it in the fridge for about 20 minutes, but the teachers suggested you leave the dough for about a day or multiple hours. When our dough was ready we stretched it through the pasta making machines, each at a new level. Then we got a harp-like instrument out to lay the flat dough on, then it cut the dough into fettuccine sizes. We took our new noodles and let them dry (as pictured above), then made our sauces for our meal. We also were taught to make raviolis, but those were a little trickier!

When our pasta was served to us it was one of my top 5 meals in Italy that I absolutely enjoyed.

Note: We got certificates after the class and the full recipes for everything we learned to make that evening!

Happy pasta-making!

love,

-T

Letters to Juliet

One weekend my girlfriends and I decided that our Italian experience wouldn’t be complete without going to the city of Verona. There must be a reason why Shakespeare made it the backdrop to one of his most legendary plays. We would’ve stayed the whole weekend if we could but there was a train strike that would shut down all stations on that Saturday at noon through Sunday. So we were left with all day Friday to adventure the small city.

The train ride was a very cozy three hours long. I got time in to nap for the day and it was also the perfect opportunity for me to write my letter to Juliet. I remember watching the movie “Letters to Juliet” with Amanda Seyfried and dreaming about visiting the city to put my letter to the wall one day. And the day had finally come! But sitting on the train I stared at my notebook page and I could only get as far as “Dear Juliet,”. I was absolutely stumped on what kind of love advice to ask the love gods. I am only twenty years old and I guess I haven’t had enough experience in the subject of matter to really have questions that were beyond asking my mother what she would do. So then my letter became asking advice on what love is and how do you know if you love the right person?

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We arrived in the small train station and took a cab to our hotel to check in. The concierge desk was very friendly and nice and gave us a map and showed us to how to bus around the city. They told us that the best way to see the city was by walking to the city center and so we set out to explore the city by foot that day. The first attraction we came across was the Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore, we didn’t stop by to see the inside because our main mission was to go to Juliet’s house. However, we did make a stop at the Ponte Scaligero because it was a beautiful brick bridge that almost looked like a castle. We walked over the bridge to see the breathtaking views beyond the river then turned back around to stay on track to Juliet’s house.

 

img_1613We ran into the Piazza delle Erbe and had to make a quick stop for lunch because we were dying of starvation, which I didn’t know would ever be a thing while living in Italy. After belinies and bruschetta we were less than a mile away from the house. My stomach had butterflies in it and I still couldn’t believe that I was in the city of romance. We continued down a brick alley then came across a small arched doorway that read “Casa di Giulietta” and I’m sure I had the biggest grin on my face once I red that. Going inside the corridor the walls were colorfully decorated in “love graffiti” that had millions of hearts and names written all over. Then in the small courtyard I looked all around and I could not find a wall with notes stuck to it anywhere. This was totally not like the movie! I kept my letter safe in my hands but my next order of business was to get a picture with the bronze statue of Juliet. It is said you will get luck in love if you touch her right breast, so how could I resist?! The girls and I were worried what to do with our letters and we thought it was a lost cause at that point. We bought our tickets into the house of Juliet and at the top of the stairs you can walk out on Juliet’s balcony for a Verona-worthy picture. After we got our romantic pictures we noticed that the house kept going. Inside there was a museum set up like Romeo and Juliet were real people and the story told by Shake sphere lived in that house. We continued through the museum and it kept going up flight of stairs until finally we struck the holy grail. There was a cute red mailbox for us to drop our letters in! And if that wasn’t modern enough, there were computers set up inside for you to email your letter to Juliet. I was so relieved to have found the mailbox and finally my mission was complete.

We still had daylight to burn so the girls and I continued towards the city center and we walked around the Arena area. It is said that the Arena is older than the Roman Colosseum, and that’s pretty ancient! We noticed all these banners of events going on in town and my girlfriend said, “Look! Romeo and Juliet is playing!” Had we really been that lucky to visit Verona at the time where they celebrating 100 years of Shakespeare? Why yes, yes we were. We found a little wifi to look up more information and we still had a little time before the play started. Not too far away from the Arena was the tomb of Juliet that was another must see of the area. It was the most beautiful burial place I had ever come across. I was already envisioning myself on my wedding day walking down the isle through the vine covered white column posts that was the entry way into the gardens. Down narrow stairs was a musty smelling room with a somber feel to it, and there also lay the tomb. It was ancient looking and the girls and I got the heeby jeebies just being down there. Back upstairs we took a stroll through the gardens and we even did a little fishing in the fountain. One of my girlfriends found a Russian coin in there that she decided to take as a keepsake. Luckily, if you can’t find the mailbox for your letter to Juliet at her house, there is another one at her tomb.

Once again we were starving and we thought it would be best to grab a bite before the play. We ate in an alley way off of the main tourist food places. Our pizzas hit the spot and we made our way across the river to the play. Our general admission ticket was under 15 euros, and we got a primo spot towards the top. Watching Romeo and Juliet in Italian and in Verona was the coolest experience ever. It was even interesting because it had a playful modern twist on the classic story that made it more interesting. They play lasted a good three hours and we didn’t get back to the hotel until 1 in the morning.

Verona is my most favorite city in Italy to this day. It is a quaint little town with friendly people and beautiful scenery. I wish I could’ve spent the whole weekend there to see more. The next morning I checked my steps counter on an app and it told me that I had walked over 13 miles exploring the city of Verona! Hello calf muscles. I am still waiting to hear back from Juliet and I looked up that it can often take six months to get a reply. I am hopeful I will get a response, but my letter has a long way to travel to Montana, and I hope by Christmas time I will have a little surprise waiting for me at home.

love,

-T