things to do in italy

Verona – the city of love

Hello lovelies! So, keeping with the theme of love since I am still so giddy about Valentine’s Day, I decided to write about Verona, one of the most romantic and quaint little cities in Italy. I’m sure it sounds familiar, as I think everyone and their mother has read Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, which takes place in Verona. To me, Verona was so incredibly beautiful, yet so full of history. Nestled between the Adige river and Lake Garda, I feel as though this place is one of the more underrated tourist destinations compared to some of Italy’s more famous regions like Rome, Milan, Naples, etc. There is something so romantic and charming about Verona, just strolling along the alleyways and seeing the beautiful arches and churches. There was really something breathtaking in every nook and cranny. I really wish I was able to spend more time exploring this city. If you are ever in Italy, I highly recommend taking a day or weekend to walk through the infamous streets of Verona.

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Since it is most well-known for Romeo + Juliet, it only makes sense that they have many monuments and odes to this famed play. For example, Juliet’s house where you can see the symbolic balcony (for a small price), or stand next to the Juliet monument where legend has it if you touch her right breast, you will have good fortune bestowed upon you. You’ll also see here the walls where lovebirds write their names . I can’t even imagine how many couples have written their name here. Also down the street, they have Juliet’s tomb, which you are able to walk around as it seems like a garden, but there is an entrance fee to see the actual tomb.

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Sant’ Anastasia Church

There are so many beautiful and historical churches all throughout Italy. The Sant’ Anastasia church in Verona was so ornate and beautiful that my sister and I couldn’t resist just walking around and taking in all of its beauty. The detail that went into creating the ceilings, the murals, the statues, it was all just unbelievable. HINT: if you are wearing spaghetti straps or revealing clothes, definitely have a shawl or scarf handy to cover your shoulders.

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Castel San Pietro

Okay for the best view in all of Verona, I don’t care what anyone else says, the best view is at the top of Castel San Pietro. Bring your water and your walking gear because there are about a million steps to the top, but it is worth every step. I believe there is a trolley or bus of some sort, but what fun is that? The real way to take in all a city has to offer is by foot. You get to walk past houses and yards, and little caverns and balconies, there really are no words for it. And once you get to the top, you will just be completely awe struck. You really feel like you are looking out into the entire universe.

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Piazza Erbe

Although there are many plazas within Verona, the one I liked most was Piazza Erbe. There are so many stalls and stands, from food to clothing to souvenirs, it is basically one giants market square and flea market.

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Castelvecchio

Castelvecchio is a beautiful, ancient castle from the Middle Ages. It costs about 6 euro to tour the entire museum, but you can also walk around some of it for free. Constructed back in 1354, it was used to protect the citizens of Verona from attack. The Ponte Scaligero bridge is also said to have served as a quick escape route to the country-side.

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My sister and I crossed both the Ponte Scaligero and the Ponte Pietra. Built originally with wood and then with white and pink stone, the Ponte Pietra is absolutely beautiful, but the history behind it is even more beautiful. Since the bridge has been around since 1 B.C., it seems only normal that it has collapsed several times since then. What makes this bridge so fascinating is that every time it collapsed, architectures of that time rebuilt it in the style of that time. For example, the right side of the bridge dates back to the Middle Ages and in 1298, features such as towers were added on and then the arches were renovated again in 1520.

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Ponte Scaligero

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Ponte Pietra

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Ponte Pietra

Verona Arena

The Verona Arena is an expansive structure that resembles the Colosseum. I believe it is the third largest of its kind in Italy. Eros Ramazzotti was performing the night we were there which was pretty amazing. If you can attend an event here I would certainly do it – and if you do show me pictures! I’d love to see what it looks like on the inside, if it is just as beautiful on the outside! Also to the left of the arena, is the town hall which is called Barbieri Palace. With the Grecian columns, it certainly resembles the White House!

 

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Gavi Arch

This arch also reflected the Venetian influence as it is built in white marble. When the French took over, it was completely dismantled as they believed it messed with traffic patterns and such. They discarded the pieces under the arches of the arena. In 1932, it was finally reassembled, piece by piece.

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Portoni della Bra

Right behind the arena is Piazza Bra, the largest square in Verona, and some say the largest in Italy. Lined with cafes and shops and stands, there is a ton of people-watching to be done here. There are also little fountains with lush plants spotted here and there throughout the square. In the square you will also notice two large arches with a clock in the middle. This gateway  is called the Portoni della Bra.

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Or you simply just wander around, you never know what beautiful sight you may come across 🙂

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Apple of My Eye Apple Pie

So it feels like ages since I went apple picking, and I promised I would share just what I did with all of those apples. A few days after apple picking, I whipped up this recipe for everyone to enjoy – however, I’m just posting about it weeks later. It has been so hectic on my end – starting a new job, helping with my sister’s wedding & bachelorette party, it never ends!

This is a perfect dessert for Thanksgiving, especially if you’re having a more intimate, smaller gathering. A great alternative to apple pie – and you don’t have to worry about how big of a piece you take 😉


Ingredients:

  • 10 apples (this is only because I had sooo many)
  • 4 Tbsp. of butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Crumb Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup crushed graham crackers (this is optional)
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 6 Tbsp. butter (melted)
  • 1 roll of pre-made pie crust (optional if you don’t want to wrap the apple in dough)
  • Ice cream! Caramel sauce, whatever you’d like!

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash apples and set aside.
  3. Prepare the crumble topping by combining flour, graham crackers (if used), oats, brown sugar, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and then melted butter until mixture is combined and crumbly. Set aside.
  4. Peel and chop 4 of the apples.
  5. Add these chopped apples, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and maple syrup to a large frying pan and cook over medium heat for about ten minutes (until the apples are softened and tender!). Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside.
  6. With the remaining 6 apples, cut the tops off and use a spoon to scoop out the insides. Be careful to not go all the way down/pierce the skin of the apple! Leave a perimeter within the apple as shown below. It should resemble an “apple bowl”.
  7. Fill your “apple bowl” with the filling from the sauce pan you just made. Fill about 3/4 of the way, or halfway if you’d like to be generous with the topping.
  8. Cut the rolled dough into strips and “mummify” or wrap the apples! It can be a bit tricky to have them stick to the apple so definitely press the dough strips into one another so they don’t unravel.
  9. Place the apples into a pie pan (I had to use two) because just in case of drippings, it doesn’t overflow as it potentially could on a flat baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  11. Serve warm and with your favorite ice cream! I recommend Ben & Jerry’s cinnamon one.

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Capri

Capri, easily one of the most beautiful and relaxing places Italy has to offer. Nestled in the cliffs in the Gulf of Naples, it literally looks as though a sculptor just carved a little town into the cliffs. It had such a rustic and quaint, yet vibrant and lively feel.

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Since we were already in Sorrento, we took a half hour boat ride to Capri. The boat ride was really short and pleasant as the waters weren’t rough. The morning started out cloudy, but by afternoon (and hours of climbing steps), my sister and I couldn’t wait to change our clothes and cool down.

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We arrived at Marina Grande, a bustling sea port lined with a few cafes and souvenir shops. This is where we first saw the infamous “handmade sandals” shop. For 99 euros, you have custom made sandals made for your feet and to your liking, right in front of you!  If you don’t buy the sandals, then I honestly would not spend too much time here as the actual city of Capri has much more to offer. Also, this is the place where you can get on the funicular, bus, taxi, or even chairlift to go up to the main square in Capri. This is also the spot where you can catch another boat to go on a boat tour around Capri (my sister and I did this later on in the day).

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When we first got there, my sister and I had the BEST sandwiches I’ve ever had in my entire life. Would you be shocked if I told you it was only comprised of a slice of tomato, a slice of mozz, some oil, and bread? The Italians have simply mastered the art of cooking simply yet deliciously.

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We sat on this very rocky beach for a bit and just took it all in. We still couldn’t really believe we here in Italy. It really felt like a dream (still does!).

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Before we trekked up almost three billion stairs and explored the city, we went on a boat tour around Capri. Capri is most famously known for their grottos, little caves where the water is amazingly clear and blue due to the reflection from the sun hitting the cave. There are various grottos, such as the blue grotto, the white grotto, and the green grotto. Sadly, the tides were too high in the caves when we got there so we couldn’t go in them. We did get close to them, and as you can see, the water was beautiful regardless!

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The boat tour allowed us to stop and swim for a bit, which was an experience in itself. How many people can say they spent their day swimming next to the grottos on the coast of Capri?!

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Obviously had to get some fishing in during the tour haha!

After we got back, we decided to explore this historic city. We also didn’t mind checking out the luxury shops like Dolce & Gabbana, Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton, etc that line Via Camerelle. However, to get there, we had to do a TON of walking and a TON of stairs. Honestly, when I got home, I couldn’t even look at the stairmaster in the gym for weeks. It was truly all worth it. The views from such heights were incomparable.

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During our walk, we also came across these mini shrines or praying stations, if you will. It is said that these were set up for the elders who could not make the trek and journey to the actual church. These were set up so they can go to “church” basically outside of their home.

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SO many steps!

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But at least some were beautiful – almost too pretty to step on!

We finally reached the top! We reached Piazza Umberto I, or the Piazzetta, Capri’s most famous square. This is basically the heart of Capri, lined with cafes, newsstands, a tour kiosk, town hall…and most importantly, celebs. What was once a market for selling fish and vegetables, the piazza has become a top meeting place for locals and celebs. Don’t be shocked if your bumping arms with Clooney or photobomb a few paparazzi!

We walked on and stumbled across the Luna Hotel, where we most definitely were probably not allowed to be. We couldn’t resist the views though. Could you blame us? Although we were staying back in Capri, I would definitely recommend staying here simply for the views and ambiance (and of course I did some research on it 😉 ).

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Capri gave me the best food, the best workout, the best pictures. Seriously, this must be a stop in your travels to Italy.

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