Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sperlonga, a beach paradise

Although my group's excursion to Capri and Sorrento was a struggle, we longed to escape the heat in the city. Luckily, our school organized a beach trip halfway through the program to Sperlonga, a beautiful little coastal town a few hours outside of Rome. 

If you are ever visiting central Italy, I recommend a trip here. It is slightly less touristy than Capri, but visitors are still able to navigate the area with ease. The piazza is adorable, with stairs to the beach on the west and the town to the east. 

Photo credit: absolutevisit.com
Another plus is that Sperlonga is a sand beach with plenty of room for you to spread out a towel and soak up some sun. The water is perfect in the summer, wonderful for swimming. 

Along the beach, there are adorable shops and bars. You can grab some lunch, have an apertivo and even pick up beach items if you forget anything! 

Whether you are traveling around Italy or want a coastal escape while visiting major cities, Sperlonga is spectacular! 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bella Vita Polyvore Finds

Looking to bring some "la bella vita" to your every day? Search "Italy" on Polyvore and explore a world of made in Italy or Italian inspire products! Below are my personal favorites. Bella Italia

Phase eight
$47 - johnlewis.com

Lords of Liverpool graphic top

Sheer cardigan

Phase eight
$66 - johnlewis.com

Leather ballet shoes
$180 - pierotucci.com

Yellow gold jewelry

Vintage eyewear

Laura Geller lipstick

Old Italy Map 12 x 12 Paper

Cinecittà News

Over the weekend, I was talking to a friend that did the same study abroad program, but last summer. Her class was not able to visit Cinecittà because its management is currently discussing remodeling the studios in order to compete with lower cost facilities in Eastern Europe. 

Workers & industry influencers, fearing a de-emphasis on film, protested last summer. HBO's Rome set also partially burned down, although online reports say that the protests and fire are not connected. Hollywood Reporter and Cinecittà's media center provide reports that explain the issue at hand and damage. 


Friday, May 24, 2013

America Meets Italy, McDonald's Meets Barilla

I just came across the most interesting Italian food related news! McDonald's is partnering with Barilla to serve PASTA in it's Italy locations, according to NBC News. 

Italian and American representatives from McDonalds state that the new menu item is an attempt to "respond to tastes of the Italians," and that the fast food giant has previously succeeded in different "flavor profiles." They are also doing an al fresco pasta dish rather than a traditional warm pasta. 

From my experience living in Rome, Italians don't go to McDonald's, Americans and other tourists do. They might stop in and get an espresso on the way to work, but that's it.

Photo credit: meijer.com

One of my professors told us that when they were building the location near Piazza di Spagna, the local government protested due to fear that fast food smell would ruin the local atmosphere. As a result the Mickey D's on Via dei due Macelli has a McCafe at the front of the store and traditional fast food in the back. Interestingly, NBC News also reports that the Italians started the "slow food movement" when McDonald's entered the country in the 1980s. 

Photo credit: Jaunted.com
I am so excited to continue to follow this story and see how popular McDonald's pasta is in the place that made the dish a culinary experience. 

Verona, home to Romeo & Juliet

When visiting family in Northern Italy, we visited Verona. I was thrilled because my mom gave me a few of her old Italy pictures, one of which was the balcony at Casa de Giulietta - Juliet's home.

Shakespeare's novel and the centuries old home are the center of tourism in this Italian city. Although the home is considered a "mythical location," according to a recent Los Angeles Times article, Verona's tourism is centered around the doomed romance and its setting.

Juliet's balcony!
Two of my friends visited Verona when I was in Florence and they put it wonderfully. "Verona is the Disney World of Italy." It is immaculately clean and everything geared towards tourists in the city has a Romeo & Juliet tie in. Signs point you in the direction of Casa de Giulietta and plenty of souvenirs are available.

I wanted to see the much buzzed about letters to Juliet on the courtyard walls as the film but was surprised to learn that the city encouraged "emails to Juliet" instead.

Notes to Juliet in the courtyard entry!
I came across a Los Angeles Times article the other day that reported on additional changes made to Casa de Giulietta. "Cashing in on 'Juliet's balcony' in Italy" informs us that in addition to paying to enter the former Capello family home, visitors to the legendary balcony courtyard will now have to cough up an entrance fee. 

The article reports that monetizing the balcony courtyard will help maintain the attraction and allow Verona to make ends meeting as the Italian recession continues. 

Verona town square

An interesting feature coming to the courtyard is that instead of tacking messages to Juliet on walls via gum or other sticky substances, a video monitor for mobile messages will be added. 

I am definitely interested to see how these changes pan out, do you think this will help improve Verona? 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Italian Film: Cinecittà

One of the highlights of my study abroad experience was visiting Cinecittà. Located in the outskirts of the city, Cinecittà is considered the home of Italian cinema. From classics to modern, movies to television, the studio is a link to Italy's cinematic history. 
Cinecittà entrance. 

The following were filmed at Cinecittà:
La Dolce Vita
Romeo & Juliet
Gangs of New York 
The Passion of the Christ
HBO's Rome

Set of HBO's Rome
My classmates and I were lucky that a tour was one of our field trips; after exploring the website, I realized that the only tab about visitors was for corporate events! 

Costumes from Cleopatra (1963)
Originally founded by Mussolini as a propaganda factory, Cinecittà is now home to studios, sets and props. The museum is beautiful! Housing costumes from iconic films, it is also decorated with quotes from Italian film professionals. A screening room, gift shop and event area are nearby as well. 

Set of Gangs' of New York 

Touring Cinecittà was one of the highlights of the courses I took while in Rome. It was a true joy to connect media, culture and history in one activity. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this iconic studio, please do! Everything about it will amaze you. 

Outside sources: 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Piazza Spagna - Spanish Steps

I vividly remember the first time I entered Piazza Spagna. I was heading to my Italian placement exam at the school hosting my program. Walking through the Spagna metro stop into the sunlight felt like a scene from a movie. The sun was shining on the palm trees and exquisite buildings. Locals and tourists were running around, even though it was pretty early.

The sun was shining down on the stone steps and the fountain at the base was flowing. The piazza was crowded with rose sellers, police officers and pedestrians. This was where Lizzie McGure signed autographs as Italian pop star Isabella, was what I thought to myself. Lame, I know.

Photo Credit: rome-tours.org
After passing this area every day for class, I started to take it for granted as I sometimes do in Chicago.

Piazza Spagna and the Spanish Steps are a cornerstone of the Eternal City. If you are looking for something affordable to do in Rome, get some drinks or gelato and spend your evening on the Spanish Steps. Piazzas are a gathering spot in Europe and this piazza is no different. One of my friends and I realized this on our last night in Rome and were so disappointed we did not realize it sooner! The hustle and bustle of the intersecting streets, tons of people and occasional live music is a beautiful sight. 

Piazza Spagna in the early evening is a true example of living "la bella vita." Simple, relaxed and fun. 

Travel Outfit!

If I went to Italy tomorrow, I would bring clothing to mix and match to avoid overpacking. A crossbody bag for walking around is essential, as are lightweight colorful tees and comfy flat sandals or boat shoes. Keep jewelry simple and bring one pair of earrings that match everything and a few necklaces to layer. 

What would you bring on your dream vacation? 


V neck tee

Short mini skirt

Sam & libby shoes

Massimo Dutti courier bag

Style co jewelry

Stud earrings

Jeepers peeper

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Packing for Italy 101

Packing for Italy was rough. I had to fit clothes, toiletries, books and magazines, my laptop and "American" items for my family friends and meet the suitcase weight limit. To make this chore a little easier, I compiled some lessons and tips I learned during my study abroad experience. 

  • You do not need as much clothing as you think. I wish I packed less because after making purchases abroad, it was a struggle to fit everything in when returning to the U.S. My recommendation is to pack for three weeks and do laundry. 
  • Duct tape your shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and body wash so it doesn't open and explode during your flights/train rides & put them in plastic bags. 
  • Bring a smaller suitcase with clothing and necessities in it as a carry-on, just in case something goes wrong with luggage. 
  • Ladies, heels are not cobblestone street friendly. Wedges & flats work. 
  • Ladies & gentlemen: be sure to have one long pair of pants and a sweater or long sleeve shirt for visiting churches. 
  • Don't forget a converter for chargers, blow dryers or hot styling tools. 

Photo credit: social.eli.ubc.ca

Hope these tips help! If you have any other tips, I would love to hear. 
Buon viaggio!

Cats of Rome

As an aspiring social media professional, I know that the Internet loves cats. I found these gems in my study abroad album and thought they would be perfect to share. 

I previously mentioned that Italians take looking good very seriously. Italian cats do as well. I present the modeling cats of Rome! 

This cat above was lounging at Largo di Torre Argentina, the Roman ruins at which Julius Cesar was murdered. We discovered this ferocious feline when during a Spaces in Cinema in Rome class field trip. 

Wandering down a street near the Trevi Fountain searching for a place to eat, my friends and I found a precious cat posing on a moto.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Moda Italiana

Fashion is a major part of Italian culture. Italians love to look good and uphold "la bella figura." Milan is known as one of the world's fashion capitals, but Rome is also home to couture and affordable finds. 

The Via Condotti is one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world and located directly across from Piazza Spagna in the middle of the city. If you are searching for a Prada wallet or Louis Vuitton shoes, head right over to the Via Condotti. 

A view of the Via Condotti from the Spanish Steps!

If you are on a smaller budget, like I was when studying abroad, summer sale season is your best friend. Sales, or saldi are usually 50-75% discounts. Some key stores to visit in La Citta Eterna are: 
  • Massimo Dutti
  • Oviesse
  • Oysho
  • Zara 
  • Class
  • Intimissimi
Massimo Dutti, Zara and Oysho are all located in Galleria Alberto Sordi, a beautiful, air conditioned mall in the heart of Rome. The galleria also has two cafes where you can enjoy a snack, an espresso or a glass of wine. 

Galleria Alberto Sordi, also an air conditioned escape from the Roman heat!

Class and Intimissimi are free standing stores with various locations in the historic district. In addition to these stores, tons of small businesses in every Roman neighborhood have beautiful, unique finds for any budget. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Italian Cinema: Roman Holiday

One of my classes in Rome covered classic Italian film. Naturally, Roman Holiday was on our screening list. Although it is in English, the classic starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck is a timeless, entertaining piece that makes great use of La Citta Eterna as a setting. 

Photo Credit: IMDB
Princess Anne (Hepburn) is the original rebellious royal, escaping from her security to explore Rome. After falling asleep on an outdoor bench, an American reporter (Peck) finds & takes her around the city, unaware that she is the princess due to her new short hairdo. 

The Vespa scene is my favorite part of the movie solely because it places all of the tourist attractions such as Piazza Spagna, Altare della Patria and the Coliseum in close proximity to each other. While it is possible to get to these locations in one day, they are farther apart from each other than shown. 

Roman Holiday is a timeless film and provides a wonderful snapshot of the Eternal City!

Source: IMDB

Friday, May 10, 2013

Local La Bella Vita: LavAzza

I was not a coffee drinker until I studied in Rome. In pre-trip meetings, my professor told us that we would grow to love Italian coffee, that espresso in the U.S. would never be the same after out time there. He was right! Although I love a grande skinny iced mocha in the morning, Italian espresso is heavenly. 

Unfortunately, there are not many cafes in Chicago that have as good of espresso as the random cash only bars on Via dei due Macelli or Via Candia. When I am craving true Italian coffee, however, I always head to one LavAzza shops in the Loop on Jackson or Lake!

Although I never visited a LavAzza in Rome, every time I enter one in Chicago, I feel as though I am transported back Italy. The atmosphere is European cool with modern red and white or blue and white furniture. In addition to a variety of espresso and coffee drinks, there are panini and gelati available for purchase.

LavAzza is heavenly and always takes me back to my time abroad. 
It is truly a piece of local la bella vita!


LavAZza :)

"In bocca al lupo"

Have you hear the phrase "in bocca al lupo?" It is an Italian saying that literally means "in the wolf's mouth," but is actually how Italians wish each other luck! If you're looking for a new way to send well wishes to friends and family before an exam, job interview, presentation or performance, give it an Italian twist. In bocca al lupo

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"On an Evening in Roma"

"On An Evening in Roma" by Dean Martin is one of my favorite songs about Italy. It it light and happy, reminding me of Roman Holiday. It also reminds me of adapting to a new way of life and adjusting to cultural differences. 

Do you have a favorite song about Italy or traveling? 

On an evening in Roma

Simple Decorating For Your End-Of-Summer Party String Lights

*Link to the song is in the hyperlink! 

Glassy & Colorful: Murano, Italy

Growing up, everyone in my close extended family had glass gondolas in their homes, even my Irish paternal grandparents. Only through reviewing information from a video in Italian class did I realize these decorations were Murano glass!

Murano glass is a skilled craft using a "lamping" technique.
Glassmakers are highly regarded in Venetian society.

Although Murano glass is a luxury, it is also tourist trend found in many major cities. You can purchase small trinkets made from the glass from street vendors and gift shops. I was able to purchase some Murano glass bracelets in Venice and Verona for 4-5 euro.

Polyvore Link to Image Sources: http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=81390386

The highest quality Murano glass is still found in Venice. In piazza San Marco, you are able to walk through negozi that sell glass animal statues, chandeliers, plates, clocks and fine jewelry. 
My suggestion: walk through, but don't touch! These pieces do run thousands of euro. 

If you aren't able to hop on a plane right now, but want a piece of la bella vita, the following vendors sell Murano glass items: 

Italian Glass Connection
John Lewis
Kathy Kuo Home

Rue La La occasionally has jewelry deals that include Murano glass as well!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Inspirational Italian Quote

When I was admitted into my study abroad program, a family friend said to me "quando si chiuda una porta si apre sempre un portone," roughly translated as "when one door closes, a bigger door always opens." I doubt she remembers telling me this, but it always stuck in my head. As a senior graduating in five weeks, I try to keep this in my head and heart, so I created a nice visual via Polyvore. 

It's the Italian counterpart of "when one door closes, another opens," but I think it sounds prettier. 

What is your favorite quote? Besides Steve Jobs' "do great work" quote, this is my favorite. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Italy Inspiration - Photos & Art

Photos of and from Italy are a great way to bring some "la bella vita" to your home, no matter where you are. Most of these photos are available for purchase on Etsy and I discovered them via Polyvore!

All photos found via Polyvore.com.