Roma, Italia Day 3 & VIDEO DIARY

Day 3 in Rome we woke up to freezing rain and cold winds. We bundled up and left to tour the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.  We were lucky that we bought Roma Passes for bus/train/metro rides and entry into attractions because we got to skip the 2 hour wait into the Colosseum and walked right in. The city is restoring parts of the stage back which was neat in some ways but seemed wrong to disturb such an important historical monument. I loved seeing the different styles of pillars and columns that we had once studied in our history of creativity and design classes. I can hardly wrap my head around how people built such magnificent works of architecture with such little technology.  We walked over to the Forum and I love how they had laid out the pillars where they would have been originally.

About this point in the day I felt super sick. We had been rained on most the day and it was bone chilling cold. We went into a McDonald’s of all places to rest and I fell asleep and woke up to some crazy worker yelling at me that I couldn’t sleep there. I tell you the amount of times I got in trouble in Italy should set some kind of record. Then I fell asleep again. :/ We finally made it home and I ran for that warm shower. We ate a simple meal of meat, cheese, bread, and olive oil and I began to feel a little better. I went to bed and slept almost all of Saturday. I was sad that I was sick on our vacation but at one point I didn’t even care because I felt like death was coming for me right then.

Sunday we traveled back to Milan and got in very late. We had reserved a room through Airbnb for 3 nights. Our host was super nice and I began to feel much better. We went grocery shopping, toured the painting of The Last Supper (no pictures allowed and only 15-20 people at a time in the room) and went SHOPPING! We finished it off with Shockolat because what would the end of an Italian adventure be without GELATO!

*A few notes on traveling in Italy

-Pack clothes in a carry on just to be safe

-Exchange money in America first at your bank to avoid high exchange rate fees. We also could get cash from an ATM in Italy and we were only charge a $3 transaction fee from our home bank.

-You have to have your iphone unlocked to get an italian sim card

-Don’t use hotel phones, even for local calls

-Have a detailed map of each city ahead of time (we took pictures of some in a store)

-All the streets are cobblestone… wear appropriate shoes

-Buy water at a grocery store instead of cafe’s and restaurants (so much cheaper)

-Restaurants charge a cover or seating fee (eat where the locals eat, cheaper and better food)

-Buy a Roma pass for travel and you get 2 attractions free per pass and skip lines! (worth the money for your time). You cannot use it at Vatican City

-Validate train tickets before boarding to avoid fines up to $100

-Buying off street vendors  is sometimes illegal,  just be cautious

-Keep cash in a few different places

-I felt 100% safe in Italy all the time but Cameron also lived there for 2 years and speaks Italian fluently, just be smart and polite


Italy Video Diary

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Roma, Italia Day 2

Day 2 in Rome was my favorite! Cameron took me to all the big attractions and it was amazing! It really started to sink in how old the city was and the history that stood all around us. We started with a typical Italian breakfast of pastries and we grabbed some fresh juice too! We walked down to Piazza Del Popolo and saw the Twin Churches.

*A funny little salesman tried to give me a rose for “free” and I kept saying no and he kept following me saying it was a gift for the beautiful girl.  Well fine then. I took the rose, smiled and said “grazie” and walked off. He turned to Cameron looking for money and Cam just shrugged and shook his head no.  Meanwhile, I am halfway across the plaza with my “free gift.” The man chased me down snatched his rose back. Rude, you can’t take back a gift! Cameron was dying laughing at me and said he had never seen someone actually take it and not pay. No money. No rose. No creepy stalker guy anymore :)

After the Twin Churches Cameron walked me down some high end streets to look (key word ‘look’) at some beautiful designer stores. We both found our dream cars! (see below) Hardly anyone is on the street mainly because it was early and more likely because of the prices.  All of the sudden some lady bumps into me and keeps walking. “well that was rude.”  Cameron double takes and stops me and says,

“I think that was Jennifer Lopez…”

“Yeah, right. I would know if J Lo bumped into… Ohhmergosh! That is JENNIFER LOPEZ!”

I proceeded to have a minor crazy freak out that probably resembled a petite mal seizure. After, I composed myself and made a plan I casually walked over and struck up a convo with her very French PA. BONJOUR! I asked if I could take a picture with her and he turned me down flat. Not taking no for an answer, I explained how I am an American (like that gives me bonus points or something) and I love all her movies (great now I look like a stalker).  He radioed her very large very tall body guard who came out and talked with us.  He was from Brooklyn and told us that he would be nice and let us take a picture across the street but that the street was too busy for us to stop her and take a picture.  Literally, there are two people on the street with us. So confused and still freaking out, we walked across the street to wait for her to come out. As soon as her car pulled up ninja paparazzi appeared from no where! It was insane but I did snag a photo of my experience! I am now practically famous because J Lo touched my shoulder!

We left star stuck and walked to the Spanish Steps. Not my favorite attraction but still neat.  We rounded a corner and behold the Trevi Fountain! We grabbed lunch and watched how many people tried to jump in the fountain. Pretty entertaining if I do say so myself. We tossed in our coins to promise a return to Italy and were on our way.

Rounding yet another corner and BAM! The Pantheon sat in all its glory! That is seriously one of he most interesting built structures ever. Once the world’s larges unsupported dome, it also is held sacred and respected. They ask for silence while inside although a protest to save the whales was demonstrated outside.

We walked down to the Victor Emmanuel Monument and toured inside. It is HUGE and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. We didn’t have time today to do the Colosseum tour or the Forum so we decided to come back tomorrow but I had to snap a few pictures! Sadly, most of the Colosseum was under construction, so only a few outside parts were visible.

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Roma, Italia Day 1

After walking through the Cinque Terra all day we gave lots of love and thanks to Salvatore for being the best host ever and an even better friend and we hopped a midnight train to ROME!

We were staying in Rome from Wednesday (late late Tuesday night) until early Sunday morning because we knew there would be so much to see and do and we didn’t want to feel rushed.  We were staying with Cameron’s friend Pasquale who was just a nice and generous, insisting that we take his room for the week as well.  I sometimes still can’t believe how kind people were in Italy; I just loved it!

Wednesday morning, the Pope would be speaking in Vatican City and I had my heart set on attending! We woke up early and took a bus and stopped at the coolest underground pastry shop that you would have never known was there, but luckily Cameron knew Rome quite well! When we got into the Vatican (which is considered not part of Rome) I was shocked.  There were so many people it was like Disney World met New Year’s Eve in Time Square! Just lines and lines of people waiting to go into St. Peter’s Basilica and hopefully see the Pope.  He had already addressed the crowds but we wouldn’t of been able to see anything except the projections on the big screens, yes the big screens! Crazy! We decided to tour the Vatican Museums instead and spent the day looking at gorgeous statues, paintings, tapestries and murals. Of course we saw The Sistine Chapel and what felt like, and probably was, thousands of other famous art.

*A man yelled “NO PHOTO!” in the room with the painting of The Sistine Chapel, but I may have snapped a few (whoops!) You also aren’t allowed to sit on the steps of the floor :/ Yup, guilty as charged…

We left Vatican City and walked through Passeggiata Del Gianicolo which had absolutely breathtaking views of the city! There are these random water spickets everywhere and especially around the park, that are always flowing fresh cold water. Cam loves these and so we of course had to take a drink and it was worth it! We took our tie walking around, came across the set of some movie being filmed (no idea what), watched the sun set, then grabbed some life changing bruschetta for a snack.

*We later found out that every night at sunset thousands of birds flocked Rome! It was so beautiful, kind of scary, and really cool!

Nothing compares to the food I ate in Italy! We walked around an art square and listened to some live music and then headed in for the night! Great first day in ROME!

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Cinque Terre

Tuesday, we took a bus to Cinque Terre. There are 5 lands (as the name explains) too see and we ran short on time to see all 5. Oh well, guess we will have to go back! On the bus ride Cam talked to a little lady that lives in one of the towns. She was explaining how a few years ago a mudslide destroyed a few of the towns and they had to rebuild it over the years.  Well, I couldn’t tell a difference, it was beautiful either way!

I saw the most adorable couple when we arrived and we always talk about young love but their ‘old love’ made my cheesy chic flick heart skip a beat! We decided to hike to the highest point at our first stop. We literally did not see a person the whole hike. It was gorgeous and very steep, and as you can see below we were not exactly dressed for this climb… it was so worth it and the view was breathtaking! The ocean was vast and empty and waves gently rolled in. Flowers and vines bloomed all around us.  We hiked back down and headed over to the next  town.  We watch some boys play football (American Soccer) and they were freakin awesome! We toured an old WWII bunker and Cam was in war heaven.  It was trashed inside probably from bums and tourists but it was amazing to think about defending a land from that tiny stone hut.  We also saw some war grave sites and walked the ocean shore line.  Cameron showed me a statue of a man holding the city on his shoulders and we walked down to the water but I didn’t dare get in! Brrrr! We grabbed some yummy gelato and headed home. Such a relaxing day as we walked around like it was our home town.

We hopped a train back to La Spezia and grabbed our bags to head down south to ROME!

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Florence, Italy

After driving from La Spezia to Pisa, we took a train to Florence to tour the streets of this gorgeous city. We saw a replica of The David (the real one was closed-check for reservations!), toured inside the Duomo Baptistery, saw the bell tower and visited Ponte Vecchio. We also went shopping down some of the streets and picked up a scarf and some gorgeous silk ties for Cameron.  AND of course tasted the local cuisine and grabbed some delicious Florentine Waffles! Florence was pretty and had lots of fun shopping but it was winding and cold and started to rain late that night.  We took a train back to La Spezia for the night and crashed after a long long day!

Firenze (Florence) through my lens.

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Monday morning, Salvatore drove us from La Spezia to Pisa. It was neat driving on Italy highways, we saw these gorgeous mountains where they mine marble for all around the world! It looks like snow on the mountains but it is actually the marble.

When people say that all there is to see in Pisa is the Leaning Tower of Pisa… they aren’t lying. It’s a tiny little town surrounded by a large wall with pretty much a whopping 3 things to look at including a baptistery and cathedral.  I usually hate super touristy things and like to site see more local but I just can’t pass up the Leaning Tower of Pisa! I also really had to use the little girls room while I was there but learned that it was really a big boys room. No girl bathroom and no girl toilet. Yup that’s right, I peed in a urinal. It’s really a big accomplishment if you think about. I try not to… haha

Pisa is like a college town and there are a lot of students around.  One of my favorite people we met was this cool African from Senegal that was selling bracelets to make money to send back to his family.  He was so kind and talkative so we got one and he gave us a little elephant statue for good luck.

Check it out :)

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La Spezia

Saturday night we took a train to La Spezia and I was so excited to meet some of Cameron’s friends from his mission when he lived in Italy. He had spent almost 10 and a half months in this city and loved the people very much.  Salvatore and his daughter Rita picked us up at the train station and we drove back to their house.  We met 3 more of their friends

“Are you hungry?”

“Oh, a little. But we’re okay.”

That just doesn’t cut it in Italy! He made us a delicious dinner from scratch including pasta with a red sauce, frittata, fresh bread, and crostatta for dessert all at 11pm!

We stayed up all night talking and I loved hearing them get so excited and seeing them use their hands to talk. I later asked Cameron a question that night and he responded in Italy and never realized it. He’s stinkin adorable I tell you!

We went to church the next morning in a tiny little rented out room of a building met all 30 members of the branch. We were running a little late, NOT because of me this time, thank you very much… and they had already started the opening song. Everyone got excited when Cam walked through the door and they stopped the meeting. The Branch President got off the bench and came and sat with us as did the missionaries and a few little old ladies got up to come kiss us. Talk about feeling welcomed! I was also really tall compared to most people which surprised me since I am 5’2.  They later asked Cam to bear his testimony and I have never felt the Spirit so strong in my life.  I could barely make out words but I know my husband enough to know that his faith in the gospel was reinforced in tiny little rooms like these on his mission. Simple people and simple faith built Cam into the greatest man I know. I conversed pretty well and people were excited that I knew some Italian. You say a few sentences and they break out at rapid speeds with hands flying! Salvatore had never come to church in the almost 11 months Cam served there but that day he came. It meant so much to Cameron and I saw that 19 year old boy come to life in his 25 year old eyes.

After church we went out and got A TON of pizza and gelato and Rita taught me how to shop the Italian way! I am pretty sure she is my Italian soul sister! Then, we were invited to the branch president’s house for a 6 course meal for dinner.  Buono! I even got to help grate the cheese! Sister Margaretti made red pasta, fish pasta (with octopus in it! Ahhh!!) grilled chicken, bread, fruit, and dessert! Whoo talk about full! It was too delicious to describe!

Monday, Salvatore set out the best little breakfast for me.  Italians, usually just have a pastry and cafe but he went and got me corn flakes, milk, and Bravo (a fruit juice). Just the hospitality alone made me fall in love with his family! He drove us to Pisa and then we took a train to Florence for the day. That night Salvatore took us to dinner at Ristorante D’Angelo were I ate the best pasta of my life!

Tuesday we toured Cinque Terre and then we were off to Rome!  Before we left Cameron took me by La Pia and ate delicious farinata pizza! So so SOOOO amazing! We stayed Saturday night through Tuesday night  and had so much fun with everyone!

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Saturday we checked out of our hotel in Milan and took a train to Venice for the day. The hotel was awesome and let us keep our luggage in a locked room for the day but we brought all our most valuables with us of course.

Venice was BY FAR my favorite city. When we go back to Italy, I would spend much more time here!  It was clean, not a ton of tourists, GREAT food, romantic, inspiring and just relaxing. We were so scared it would be freezing cold and even flood that we were planning on buying rain boots after our train arrived, but we stepped off and it was gorgeous.  Bright & beautiful!

We took a boat through the grand canal to Basilica di San Marco to see the square and tour the Cathedral. The boat ride was nice but after sitting on a train you just want to explore, not sit and wait more.  We wished we had just walked to the church, seen more, and saved money. It probably would have taken the same amount of time. Although, romantically appealing, gondola rides are super expensive and I think I would rather walk the city!

The Cathedral and square were both gorgeous and the line to view the church was pretty manageable. You can’t bring in book bags or purses and there is a place to check them but Cameron wasn’t to thrilled with the idea. The ceiling is all gold and just breathtaking. Afterwards, we ate the BEST panini of our lives, then walked around, got lost and embraced the city.  We poked our heads in and out of  some small stores, ate a huge chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips and topped the day off with our first of many gelato stops! Do you see how important eating is yet? :)

Here are some of my favorite moments.

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My next few posts will be from our world wind crazy trip to Italy! We started and ended our Italy trip and Milan.  It was gorgeous, full of history, fashion, and architecture!

Even before we got married, Cameron and I talked about traveling the world.  He said that when we got married I could visit a country every year. Selling point, am I right!?  We talked a lot about visiting Italy since Cameron had served his two year mission for the church there.  We floated around with the idea of traveling back with his family or taking an adventure on our own.  With the announcement of the Rome Temple, we also thought of visiting for the dedication.  We had purchased a lot of flight in the past and joined every skymiles program out there to get points and around October we realized I had enough for a free round trip ticket and he had enough for half.  Well, his brain went into what I call ‘Italian Mode’ and one night I came home from work and he had been looking at tickets all evening and found some great deals, I half jokingly said, “well book them already!” and he did! After jumping up and down on the bed we went into making plans and finding contacts to stay with and making our ITALY BUCKET LIST!  I loved the spontaneity of the trip and the adventure in our lives.  I am pretty type a and like to have a plan set but I was okay with just diving in headfirst. It was liberating!

We left during Cameron’s semester break and flew from Phoenix to New York and then on to Rome. We tried to get on a good sleeping schedule on the plane and luckily had entire rows each to ourselves to spread out and sleep. We flew Delta, had amazing food and great flight staff.  I was rather impressed! We woke up in Milan Friday morning and after going through customs and all that jazz we walked out to a cold brisk air. We exchanged some money -p.s. do this in the U.S. first to avoid fees- and grabbed a bus to the main train station. From there we researched a hotel for the night and thank heavens that boy speaks fluent Italian.  I never would have made it on looks alone ;) Just kidding, but really having my own personal tour guide was pretty sweet! We grabbed some -too pretty to eat pastries- at Pasticceria Caffetteria for breakfast, can you say food porn?! Cameron was so excited by the fresh water fountains that are everywhere and I am pretty sure it was the first thing he did after stepping foot outside the station!

We stayed at a pretty nice hotel we found online and we thought we weren’t even that tired but would shut our eyes for a little bit and then hit some sights. FAIL! We woke up at 7:00pm that night hungry as ever and ready to go! We grabbed some delicious pizza in a plaza and toured the Duomo di Milano. Absolutely gorgeous and HUGE! You aren’t suppose to take pictures inside and there I was the ignorant American snapping away. Whoops! Just FYI some cathedrals do allow photos but most don’t out of respect. Makes sense to me. We walked around the rest of the night and one of my favorite moments was this tiny little bookstore that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in. Just look below, so quaint!



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Stuffed Pasta Shells

So this recipe makes about 30 shells or could feed 4 people easily! I made the full filling recipe and just only cooked have a box of jumbo pasta shells. Also, I decided to skip the sauce recipe and just use good old Prego for the sake of time. The recipe is on my Pinterest or links to this blog.

Stuffed Pasta Shells
1 box jumbo pasta shells (30 shells but I used about 15)
Lemon zest for the sauce (now personally we didn’t like the lemon zest so we won’t use it next time)
1 15oz container of ricotta cheese. (you can find it usually by cream cheese in the store)
1 egg beaten
1/4 tsp sea salt
1c. grated mozzarella cheese (you can buy the bagged kind but I think the fresh moz tastes so much better)
1 bunch chives minced (I used dried herbs to my taste)
Preheat oven to 350 and cook in boiling water as directed & DON’T overcook or they will break. 
Sprinkle lemon zest in you dish and set aside.
Combine ricotta, egg, and salt and mix in mozzarella, lemon zest, and 3/4 of chives.
Spread 1/3 of sauce in bottom of dish.
Fill each shell with cheese filling and arrange in a single layer in your pan.

Pour remaining sauce to cover shells.

Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Uncover and bake for 15 more minutes.

Sprinkle with remaining chives and bon appetit!