Travel in Italy: Urbino, Le Marche


urbino When most foreigners think about the Italian countryside, they think about Tuscany, maybe Umbria if they know the country well. Before coming to live here I had no idea how much diversity Italy’s various regions represent. Vineyards in Umbria, beaches in Tuscany, mountains in Abruzzo. The center of Italy is culturally diverse and rich in history and food traditions.

One region that I didn’t have much experience with was Le Marche. I knew it was in the center of the country but didn’t realize how many unique landscapes it holds. After driving through the Apennine mountain range, you come to rolling hills and fields as far as you can see, until reaching the eastern coast and the Adriatic sea. We managed to make an overnight road trip out of it, with plenty of stops for food and photos along the way.


Today I’m sharing some pictures and information about one of my favorite cities in Italy, Urbino, before going on to share about Abruzzo (Tuscany) and San Marino (it’s own little country within Italy!)

What we saw: the city of Urbino

I had the good fortune of having a friend study abroad in Urbino, while I was studying in Rome. I went to visit her once, before we left for Oktoberfest and I still remember that short trip. While I was only there for a night, I was stunned when we walked up a hill and entered the walled city by how beautiful the views were. I haven’t seen anything like the amazing landscape of this region before. Because you’re at a high elevation, you can see for miles around and the land is generally clear of trees because it’s so heavily cultivated. It makes for great views and amazing, locally-grown food.

Urbino is a walled medieval city that has its own castle and ramparts surrounding it. You can’t take any cars into the city (unless you’re a resident) so we parked and walked inside after arriving late at our bnb. Because we went in around dinner time on a weekend, the city was very quiet at first. As we walked closer to the center, through twisting alleyways and under stone arches, we found the city center where many people were out in the piazza having drinks and enjoying Saturday night aperitivo. My sister and I were charmed by the smaller city size, cute shops and restaurants, while my Roman boyfriend was wondering how anyone could ever live in a city so small. Before eating, we walked around and visited some of the tourist shops on the main road (Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi) where I found an amazing blend of tea, bits of pottery, and a fabulously helpful shopkeeper who reminded me how nice Italians outside of Rome can be.


What we ate: Cresce, gelato, wine, meats, and cheese

The food in Urbino was absolutely amazing and consistent with the rest of Le Marche. Every meal we had on our trip was tasty and affordable. In Urbino, we asked our shopkeeper friend for reccomendations and she sent us to Il Girarrosto. This was a classic trattoria with great house wine, an open fire for roasting the porchetta and other meat, and a great selection of food. Because we ate a (very) big lunch in Arezzo, we went for a salumi platter, with sides of straccitella cheese, the local piadine and of course a liter of red wine. While of course the salame and prosciutto were amazing, we all really loved the crescie, a flakey, warm flatbread native to Urbino. We topped it all off with a quick gelato to go on our walk back down the hill.


Where we stayed: Ca' Vernaccia B&B

Our Airbnb, Ca' Vernaccia, was charming, with a fantastic view of the countryside. We were only a few minutes outside of the main city and by car it wasn’t difficult to get to. Off of the main road, we took a smaller dirt road down to the bnb where we rfound the guest rooms separated from the main house with the restaurant and breakfast area. While breakfast was included with our room, they also had the option to do a tasting meal at the b&b’s restaurant which is known for its truffle dishes and has a relatively low price for all four courses. The room was nothing special, but it did fit three comfortably and we had a separate bathroom and kitchen if we wanted to cook in the apartment. The only negative note were the two stink bugs we found in our room but with the proximity to the outdoors, some wildlife is only to be expected I guess.


Near the b&b is where we took my favorite photos form the trip because the lighting and backgrounds were so beautiful. I lost count of the times I asked Edoardo to stop the car so I could get “one last picture”.


If you made it this far, you must either really love Italy’s hidden gems, or be a member of my family. But all of this just goes to show how passionate I am about finding off the map places and enjoying all of Italy’s amazing regions.

So, have you ever been to the fabulous region of Le Marche? Or another area outside of Italy's main cities while traveling here?

Testaccio Market in Rome: Where to eat at Mercato Testaccio


Testaccio Market Testaccio Market is one of the best-known food markets in town. It's large, easily accessible by metro and bus, and has a wide variety of stalls. There are plenty of produce stands but what makes Mercato Testaccio really special is its food stalls. From vegan and health food, to pasta on the fly, meat and cheese boards with €2.50 glasses of wine, to its amazing sandwich options. All of these are perfect for a quick lunch, whether you're working in Rome or if you're visiting the city and want to try out some really great food. One food stall that I just tried is the famous Mordi e Vai, or Bite and Go. 

Testaccio Market

These guys are famous in Rome for their fast, take-away sandwiches that are based off of typical Roman dishes. Their panini con allesso (stewed beef), lingua (tongue), trippa (tripe), or polpette (meatballs) are fun takes on the classics and for a quick sandwich shop, the food is great.

Testaccio Market

Testaccio Market

I found this one using one of my favorite ways to find a great spot when you have many options: by seeing where the local crowd is. When I saw the line around Mordi e Via, I knew I needed one of their sandwiches for lunch.

Testaccio Market

Testaccio Market

Sandwiches are prepared on the spot with the fillings pre-made off the premises. They range from €4 to €6 and work well as a filling lunch. The only catch is you have to take your sandwiches to go and fight for a spot in the open communal courtyard. Another option is to take yours for a walk around Testaccio or into the Non-Catholic Cemetery park for a picnic lunch.

Testaccio Market

If you're not interested in mouthwateringly tender meat piled on a crispy bun, Testaccio Market has many other food stands or you could just pick up some food for home. We did both.

Testaccio Market

More Info

Mercato Testaccio

Monday-Saturday 7:00 am-3:30 pm

Via Beniamino Franklin, 00118 Roma (near metro stop Piramide)


Tipping in Italy: How to avoid being rude in Italian restaurants


tipping in italy Ah Italy. The magical promise land where tipping doesn’t exist, your bill is exactly what you ordered off of the menu and there are no cultural obligations to give extra money for your meal. Unfortunately, the stereotype that tipping doesn’t exist in Italy has been spread across the world and Italian waiters now deal with increasingly demanding and disrespectful tourists. While tipping in Italy is different from other countries, especially the USA, there is a system you should know before visiting an Italian restaurant.

Casual bars:

In both types of Italian bars (“bar” caffes and bars/pubs), it’s very uncommon to tip. Because the bills in these places are generally on the lower end, it’s not usually expected that you leave a tip. Whereas in the U.S., not tipping your barista could have negative consequences on your coffee order, especially if you’re getting anything more complicated than a cup of filtered coffee, i.e. triple shot soy mocha grande latte. A coffee at an Italian caffe will run you from 80 cents to €1.50 and tipping on that cheap of a bill seems extreme. This goes also for beers, wine and cocktails at bars or restaurants. Unless you’re getting table service at a club and spending over €100, a tip isn’t expected.

tipping in italy

tipping in italy

Restaurants (dishes being served)

On the other hand, if you’re at a restaurant, getting some sort of food dish, you’ll probably want to tip. Now hear me out: I know most guide books and even people living in Italy will tell you not to tip. If you don’t at a restaurant, you’re not a monster and it isn’t socially unacceptable. But if you leave even a euro for your waiter, you’re letting them know that you enjoyed your meal, the service was good and you respect their time and effort.

tipping in italy

You should check if your bill includes a servizio (which is a service fee and thus covers tips) or a coperta (which is usually mandatory per table and has the same effect). If these are included on your bill, you might get away without leaving something extra. But if your restaurant was nice enough to only charge you for water and bread (two things that unfortunately are NOT free in Italy), consider leaving a small percentage on the table. An important thing to note: tips are split equally among all the waiters in the restaurant.

tipping in italy

Tipping in Italy: not mandatory but certainly welcome

This post is not to say that anyone that previously has been skipping tips in Italy is a terrible person. Just a light reminder that sometimes it’s worth rewarding good services and experiences and that even a few extra euros goes a long way to the small salaries that waiters have in Italy. Where in the U.S., waiters are paid around $2/hr in anticipation of numerous cash tips, Italians get paid between €5 and €10 per hour with no tips. That means that your waiter could be working an eight hour shift, and making €40 for their entire day. Not always the reality but it happens more often than you’d think.

tipping in italy

Have you ever left a tip while traveling here? Or do you believe that not tipping in Italy is a sacred right of tourists, not to be disturbed?

Day Activities in Rome: Villa Torlonia Park


Villa Torlonia Going to the park is a Roman tradition. Because getting to the beach from the city isn't the easiest, even in the summer people tend to head to one of the many parks for the afternoon. With the warm weather we've been having this February in Rome, we've been checking out different parks each Sunday and it's become a really nice weekend tradition. Villa Torlonia is a beautiful park in Rome, with multiple museums, a restaurants, fountains and areas to sit in the beautifully landscaped park. 

Villa Torlonia

An easy trip from the center of the city, Villa Torlonia is located off of Via Nomentana and is accessible by bus from Termini Station (bus #90). The entrance to the park has marble walls and many palm trees, differentiating it from the city directly outside those walls. As you walk along its paths, you come across the villa's many museums and cultural centers. On nice days, we give those a pass and continue on, past the fountains, ponds, and green areas that make up the rest of the park.

Villa Torlonia

Villa Torlonia would be a great place for a large group, family outings or even a solo trip where you bring a book and lay in the sun. We've been bringing lunch inside, usually some kind of pre-made sandwiches or salad (but pizza to go would work just as well) and small bottles of wine/beer to enjoy a few hours outside the craziness of Rome. With a blanket, drinks, food and friends, it's the perfect weekend activity.

Villa Torlonia

If you want to visit Villa Torlonia, it's open to the public all throughout the week, while there are also museums and a restaurant/bar inside the park.

For a special treat, I can highly recommend Guttilla, a gelato store across from the park on Via Nomentana for its amazing gelato and large cone size. There's nothing better than taking a gelato into the park for a walk on a nice day.

Villa Torlonia

Day Trip from Rome: Castel Gandolfo


day trip from rome Finding a nice day trip from Rome that is accessible, easy to get to, and worth the extensive public transportation travel time, is sometimes difficult for visitors. A day trip from Rome to Castel Gandolfo covers all the bases.

Primarily known as the Pope’s summer residence, Castel Gandolfo is a small village that overlooks gorgeous Lake Albano that's surrounded by Lazio’s mountains. The lake itself is a nice day trip itself in the summer with beaches, boats or bikes for rent and the classic Italian waterfront atmosphere, but even in the winter it makes for a great visit.

day trip from rome

Tickets for the quick regional train from Rome are €2.75 each way and can be bought at Termini Station in Rome and validated on the platform in Castel Gandolfo. You also get the added benefit of a scenic train ride through the Italian countryside for less than the price of an American coffee.

day trip from rome

You can sightsee in the village, with a trip to the Pope’s castle, a walk through the charming village and of course, a long lunch in one of its delicious trattorias. We headed up there for Sunday lunch and a trip to a local mercatino. Even in the winter, the town was alive with tourists, locals, fresh food markets, small boutiques and many restaurants.

day trip from rome

The lunch itself was incredible and a great reminder of how amazing food in the country can be. After checking reviews, we went to Arte e Vino. The food there was typical Lazio, hearty and delicious. We got wine, an an appetizer, and two pastas for around €35 and everything was top notch. I would’ve grabbed one of their amazing desserts if I had had room by the end of the meal.

day trip from rome

day trip from rome

If I’m eating in the country, the one thing I will always order (besides the house wine) is a plate of meats and cheeses. They’re always so fresh and as a prime example, Arte e Vino’s mortadella drizzled with truffle oil was the best mortadella I’ve had in Italy. I actually wanted to cancel my primo and get a second round of mortadella after finishing up the first plate. It was that good. My pasta con ceci (chickpeas) in a sourdough bread bowl was a close runner-up, however, and filled my mortadella void. The only issue we had with Arte e Vino was the very slow service, but this sometimes happens during Sunday lunch at one of the most popular restaurants in town.

day trip from rome

Castel Gandolfo makes for a great day trip from Rome. The tasty food, amazing views, and ease of transport make it one of my highly recommended choices. I can’t wait to go back for a seafood lunch and a boat ride on the lake once it gets warmer out.

day trip from rome

day trip from rome

More information

If you want more information about making a longer trip out of it or renting a car to explore the area, try this Trip Advisor post.

And take a look at Natalie of An American in Rome’s post about Castel Gandolfo here.

Libraries in Rome: Biblioteca Angelica


library rome I have a thing for libraries. Ever since I was little, spending an afternoon reading in a library has been my idea of a good time. I didn’t know how much I missed the smell of old books and the hushed silence until I made my way to my first library in Rome, Biblioteca Angelica. Located in the heart of Rome next door to Piazza Navona, this magical library gives you all the Harry Potter feels, with rows of study desks, walls lined with old tomes and wooden ladders that the libraries scuttle up and down grabbing books. As it’s reminiscent of both Disney (Beauty and the Beast) and Harry Potter films, I would highly suggest you check it out if you’re in the market for library in Rome with some history, a great study atmosphere and a place where you can get your reading on.

library rome

We saw multiple tours going in and out of the library. If you just want to take a peek (or a picture) inside, you can also ask to enter as a tourist. The best way to experience the library, however, is to fill out a library card, lock your bag up in the cubby outside and head in to choose a work space for yourself. Bring a laptop or books to make yourself look like a serious student and get to it. I sneakily just read a fiction book on my kindle while all the people around me were furiously highlighting hundred-page documents or typing obscure notes into Excel files.

library rome

On your frequent “study” breaks, you can people watch, stare at the intricate wood molding/gorgeous carpets or head outside to grab a coffee. My favorite thing in the hour or so that I was there was to stalk watch the librarians grab books from the highest levels of the library. They climbed up ladders and literally walked along the shelves to get hundred-year-old books, using an analog system to mark that it was in use. All of the higher levels have secret doors painted with bookshelves to allow for people coming and going. Basically it’s my dream job and I WILL find a way to make it happen.

library rome

library rome

I hope this rather basic information on how to visit a library is helpful, though much of it is turning out to be common sense. This library and many others in Rome, I’m sure, are worth a visit if you’re a book lover or just really really like old stuff.

More information about the library can be found here. During busy study hours, you may need to reserve a desk by calling +39 06 6840801

Biblioteca Angelica

M, F, S 8:30-1:45 ; T, W, Th 8:30-6:50

Piazza di Sant'Agostino, 8, Roma

Useful Italian Phrases when you Travel to Italy


Before you travel to Italy, there are a few phrases that you need to know. While Italians are very welcoming and you may find people who speak English in the city center, it is polite and more impactful for you as a traveler to learn some basic language in order to get by. Even if you have to immediately switch over to English, hearing someone say "Good morning", "Hello" and "Thank you" in their language makes Italians very happy and more willing to help you out! For anyone traveling to Italy, I'm including my most useful Italian phrases and how to say them below.

As with many languages, Italian is split between formal and informal phrases. There are usually at least two ways to say everything and if you choose the wrong way of addressing an Italian, it can sound rude, disrespectful or just weird. If you're talking to someone your age, in a casual setting, informal language is fine, but if you're in a store, restaurant, or speaking to anyone older than you, default to formal language. I'll be translating the most important phrases into both options.

  • Hello

Ciao (inf.) [chow] or Salve (f.) [sahl-vay]

  • Good Morning; Good Afternoon

Buongiorno [bwon-jor-no], Buonasera (formal and commonly used) [bwon-ah-sar-ah]

  • How are you?

Come va? [co-may va]/Come stai? [co-may sty] (inf.) or Come sta? (f.) [co-may sta]

  • Thank you

Grazie [grah-zi-ay] or Grazie molte [grah-zi-aymul-tay] (for more emphasis)

  • Can I have...?

Posso pizza margherita; un caffe; il menu? [poh-so ah-veh-ray]

  • I'll have...

Io prendo...una pizza; un caffe. [E-oh pren-doh]

  • My name is...

Mi chiamo...Abbie. [Me key-ah-mo]

  • I'm from...

Sono di... (Sono degli Stati Uniti; Sono di Boston) [soh-no dE]

  • Goodbye; See you soon

Ciao (inf.)/Arrivederci (f.); Ci vediamo (inf.) [chow; ah-rE-veh-dare-chi; chi-veh-dE-ah-mo]

  • What does ___ mean?

Che significa...questa parola? (What does this word mean?) [kay sig-nE-fE-ka]

  • Where's the toilet?

Dov'è il bagno? [doh-vay il bahn-yo]

  • Do you speak English?

Parli inglese? (inf.); Parla inglese? (f.) [par-ly/par-lah ing-ley-say]

  • Help!

Aiuto! [ai-yu-toe]

There are many nuances to what greetings and language you can use in Italian, but the phrases I've included are some of the most important ones. If you study this list before traveling to Italy, you'll have at least a basic idea of how to communicate and be polite in social situations. And when all else fails, Google Translate is my most used phone app.

How much of the language do you study before traveling to a new country? What words or phrases are your most-used while traveling?

More Resources:

This website and this one give a more in-depth list, as well as an audio/visual pronunciation guide.

What to Pack for Winter in Rome

winter in rome
winter in rome

When I first travelled to Italy, I wore what many tourists (especially Americans) do: athletic shoes, shorts, puff jackets, and bright colors. While I've adapted somewhat, I still tend to wear non-Italian looking clothing, or carry my backpack around and get mistaken as a tourist regularly. Over the time that I've lived here, I've started to see just how easily tourists stand out in Rome. When you wear brighter colors, synthetic fabrics, brand logos or sports clothing, you'll be recognized immediately as a foreigner and often targeted because of that. To avoid sticking out and blend in while traveling, here's a list of what to pack for winter in Rome.

To ensure that you're comfortable and fit into the Italian culture, it's important to pre-plan what you'll bring on your trip. Check the weather conditions, consider what activities you'll be doing more of (eating out, exploring/walking, outdoors vs. indoors) and try to pack a cohesive bag that covers all your needs. Especially in the winter, you'll want to bring layers. Depending on the month, Rome can be rainy and 40 F/5 C or sunny and get up to 60 F/15 C. I have more in depth recommendations for specific categories and items that work well in the city.


The coat: One of the most important things you'll pack (second only to walking shoes), choosing the right coat is essential to keeping you warm, comfortable and cute for pictures when you're traveling. A lot of Italians love a good puff coat and usually women wear theirs with a cinched waist. Both men and women will wear wool peacoats or overcoats in dark colors like black, blue, or a rich jewel tone. If you're staying for more than a few days, consider packing a down-filled coat that can be squeezed into a packing cube for travel and wearing your heavier coat on the plane.  One of the two should also be resistant to rain or waterproof.

winter in rome
winter in rome

The scarf: Scarves get their own category because there's nothing that Italians like better than a nice scarf in ANY season. According to any Italian mamma who's ever lived, if you go outside without covering your neck, one good gust of wind and you'll be immediately hit with a flu of epic proportions. Aside from obvious warming purposes, scarves help you seem more European and also give you the chance to add some color or interest when you wear the same coat for days on end. I like an oversized scarf wrapped over your closed jacket, but layering scarves is also acceptable. All of the above applies to both men and women; it's rare to find an Italian guy without a scarf or knit hat in the winter.

winter in rome
winter in rome


The boots: I think ankle boots are the best footwear for winter in Rome and are something you probably already have. You avoid the issue of wearing ugly "comfort shoes" while being able to walk all over the city in them if  needed. If they're worn in, have protected leather and even better, a rubber sole, they'll be your best friends while traveling.

winter in rome
winter in rome

The sneakers: For the days when your feet are killing you, sneakers are unavoidable. They're the most comfortable shoe and if you have the right pair they can also go with non-athletic wear. If you want to fit in with the Italians, Nikes and Adidas are the most prominent brands here. The Adidas Superstars were all over the city for years but now seem to be dying down a bit.


I won't give an entire packing list for your clothes but rather a general idea of how to dress for the city during the colder months. One of the biggest giveaways for gli Americani is the color of our clothing. Most Italians wear only dark clothes, especially in the winter. If you have a bright coat and mix many colors together, you'll stick out as a tourist. I recommend sticking to neutrals and darks, with smaller pops of color in your accessories.

winter in rome
winter in rome

For the changing temperatures (February in Rome feels like a New England fall day, with cold mornings/evening and warmer afternoons) I wear layers. A base layer, light sweater, jacket and scarf will keep you warm and you can remove as you go.

winter in rome
winter in rome


The bag: For Rome it's better to have a smaller bag that you can see at all times. There are less pickpockets around the city in the winter, but it's important to keep an eye on your things. A satchel or crossbody fits a good amount of stuff and lets you be handsfree, while a backpack is good for bulkier items.

The umbrella: Unless you want to buy a cheap umbrella off of the street, bringing a sturdy travel umbrella is great for rainy days here. If you have a small one, it can fit in your crossbody or backpack and you can take it with you during the day.

Other Resources:

Before I pack, I google around and check Pinterest for outfit and packing list ideas. Maybe it's the stationary nerd in me but writing packing lists is one of my most satisfying hobbies. I liked this article for inspiration and have a lot of winter Rome-ready outfits on my Fall Pinterest board.

What are your thoughts? When traveling do you wear what you know, or try to adopt the country's cultural style?

Free Museum Entrance (Sunday at the Museum) & Palazzo Barberini


Free Museum Entrance I mentioned in my weekly favorites that last weekend I finally took advantage of the free museum entrance that the city of Rome puts on every first Sunday of the month. I think it's an amazing way to encourage people to visit more of Italy's amazing museums and cultural sites, while also making it more affordable for young people or anyone who wants to save a few euros while traveling.

To explain this offer in more detail, here's the list of museums currently doing this event every month and a good explanation of the system. I really recommend checking the museum list, selecting your chosen museum and then checking if you need to make any reservations or bring anything specifically. Some of the museums are only free for city residents and many private collections aren't included so look out for that.

Free Museum Entrance

The list is quite extensive though and includes favorites like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Galleria Borghese and the National Art Gallery (GNAM). If you are a resident of Rome (living or studying here) and have more time, I suggest picking some smaller collections at random after you've gotten to the big names on the list.

On Sunday we went to Galleria Borghese and tried to enter, only to find out that you have to book your tickets online ahead of time, paying €2/ticket to reserve them. Luckily Piazza Barberini is right down the street from Villa Borghese and we were able to see Palazzo Barberini for free.

Free Museum Entrance

Palazzo Barberini's been on my list for a while and it was such a nice way to spend a couple hours on a rainy Sunday. The palace itself is not overwhelming in size so you can make your way slowly through the various rooms and still see everything. The architecture of the building is beautiful, with white marble columns everywhere, while inside there are a bunch of frescoes on the ceiling and gorgeous medieval and renaissance paintings on the walls. I managed to do it without a guide or audioguide (using my art-savvy friend to fill in the blanks), but I bet it would be even more entertaining to have some type of guide.

Free Museum Entrance

Free Museum Entrance

Palazzo Barberini is most known for it's Raphael and Caravaggio works. The rooms that really gave me pause were on the second floor of the building and included an amazing ceiling fresco that is both reminiscent of and less-crowded than the Sistine Chapel and the Caravaggio room. The artist and his followers all have a very identifiable style and his work Judith Beheading Holofernes is truly breathtaking.

Free Museum Entrance

So moral of the story: do your research ahead of time and start enjoying the many, many museums that Rome has to offer. If you're a tourist, make sure that after you get to the big ones, you make time for smaller museums that may be even more interesting.

Free Museum Entrance

Free Museum Entrance

Free Museum Entrance

My Favorite Travel Apps


travel apps With technology, traveling has become easier and more accessible for everyone. I still remember my family taking a road trips down to Florida from Boston—my parents driving with 5 kids under 15—and navigating with a paper map. If we missed an exit, there would be 10 minutes of freaking out to figure out where we were and how we could get back on track. Apps like Google Maps have revolutionized traveling and now I couldn't imagine traveling anywhere without my iPhone and favorite travel apps.

Obviously I use many more apps on a daily basis and have downloaded even more to make life living in Italy easier (maybe an idea for another post?) but there's a core group that I always have updated and ready to go when I play tourist in a different city. I've divided up my favorite apps into 7 different categories and will explain exactly why they're on my list of (free) must-have travel apps.


My navigation apps are chosen solely on ease of use and how accurate they are. Obviously Google Maps is the winner for an overall nav system, also because its public transportation feature is the most accurate that I've tried. The fantastic part of this app is its ability for you to load a map while you're on wifi and navigate in airplane mode, with your phone's gps tracking your movements along the route. I do prefer Waze for car travel, because it continuously updates your route for traffic, as well as Roma Bus when I need to check where my late bus is for the 20th time (it gets quite addicting).

travel apps

Basic Information

Sometimes when you're traveling you desperately need answers to some very important questions: "Where's the closest bathroom?" and "How much money am I actually spending in this country because this seems like Monopoly money?". I use Google Translate to translate ANY language to English, take pictures of labels to be translated (especially helpful in foreign supermarkets), and record someone speaking to be translated in-app. It's almost flawless. XE Currency is the best conversion app I've found because it also works offline using its most recent conversion rates. Together, these apps leave me a little less helpless.

travel apps


When you're constantly jumping from wifi-zones, it's tough to stay in touch with family and friends. One of my first priorities when landing in a foreign country is to text my mom that I made it there safely— big shout out to a mom that puts up with my insistence on flying questionable airlines with layovers in less-than-desireable places. I use Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to talk to anyone I need to, without needing to worry about roaming fees or paying for texts when I'm not in airplane mode. Yes, iMessage works with other iPhone users but I find the previous two apps to work better with less stress. No one uses Viber so maybe steer clear of that one.


I love organization in general but when I'm traveling I need to keep everything in its place. These apps are key to avoiding missed flights (!!), plans, or big mistakes. Evernote keeps literally everything together in one app. If you're not using this daily, get on it. But really, while traveling you can put your travel itineraries, emails, notes, photos, receipts, and anything else you need to keep sorted in one place. I love its option for notebooks>folders>notes and keeping all of the things organized.

If you like to make packing lists and are a visual person, I can't say enough about Stylebook. You can input your clothes to the app using the camera function and then create packing lists for different trips, separated into outfits. It's also fantastic on your trip when you don't know why you packed a specific piece of clothing because you can reference your outfit ideas.

Wallet by Budget Bakers is the best budgeting app I've found. I use it for all of my personal finances and love it. You can input both cash and card expenses and look at your month as a whole; it gives you a very clear idea of how far your budget can stretch.

travel apps

travel apps


I will NEVER go out to dinner in a new place without looking up recommendations first. I barely feel okay getting a coffee without researching the best cafes to go to. I think that there are too many awesome places out there to have an average or bad food/drink experience while traveling. I comb through Yelp and TripAdvisor like a pro and really recommend making an account to save your favorites. If you're in Italy, I love Elizabeth Mincilli's app Eat Italy for fantastic and curated recommendations.

travel apps


Taking pictures is a big part of traveling for me and editing apps are essential. I use Snapseed and Photoshop Express primarily and sprinkle in some others depending on the day and what effects I'm looking for. Snapseed brightens and tweaks every photo very naturally and has a user-friendly interface. Photoshop Express is the only paid app on this list but I really enjoy its effects and experience.

travel apps


Obviously there are so many apps out there for entertainment purposes and if you have wifi you can take advantage of Netflix, Bloglovin, and Safari to browse the Internet and watch shows. Offline, I use Kindle for iPhone so I can read my books anywhere and don't have to worry about taking a separate device. I also really like Apple's native Podcast app for airplane-mode fun.

That's it! I get by with these apps alone and they manage to fill every need I've had so far. If you have any other necessary downloads, add them in the comments below. Now I just need to go clear some more space in my storage...


What to pack for a long haul flight


long haul flight After 9 round trip flights from the US to Europe in the past three years alone, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on surviving the long haul flight. As a someone traveling on a budget, all of my flights to Europe have layovers and sometimes my full journey will take 24 hours total. Learning to pack for these occasions and make the most of your time while locked in a flying metal box for 12 hours takes practice. But so far, there are a few essentials that I've learned make a big difference when taking long flights.

When packing, I usually break my list down into the following subcategories:

  1. Clothes
  2. Technology
  3. Toiletries/makeup
  4. Miscellaneous extras

For today's post, I'm focusing on what to include in your carry on and the necessary things to keep with you on your flight.

  • Clothes | Traveling outfit

While some people like to travel dressed up, in case they meet someone important or someone tries to snap a pic (VERY common occurrences I'm sure), you'll never catch me in the airport in anything less than a Comfy outfit. It's one of those times that people will tell me, "You look so comfortable!". Terrible backhanded compliment aside, there's no reason not to wear something that you feel good in on a flight. I do try to make sure that it can take me from airport lounge, to sleeping in my seat, to landing and going out into the real world. For me, this means I usually wear a sweater/leggings combo, or sweatpants/athleisure look with multiple layers and easy shoes.

I cannot extol enough the virtues of a blanket scarf while traveling. It's my best friend in airports or train stations. I use it as a blanket, pillow, scarf, wrap, or even seat cushion bc. butt pains after 8 hours of sitting in the same spot are REAL. Runner up to my blanket scarf obsession is a love for cozy socks. Even if you show up to the airport without socks (kinda gross when you have to go through security with bare feet), I'll always pack a pair to change into on the plane. Socks on, scarf wrapped, headphones in, and I'm ready to go.

long haul flight

  • Tech | In flight entertainment

I don't like the provided inflight entertainment. Very few airlines show current or interesting movies/tv shows and what they do have won't keep me occupied for an entire flight. I supplement with books on my kindle (which can be used during take off and landing when you switch it to airplane mode), watching shows and movies on my laptop, and writing in my journal. If I remember to download shows and podcasts ahead of time, I'll alternate between those and my books. I find international flights to be really great opportunities for brainstorming sessions or periods of reflection and love having a pen and paper to get it all down on. But really, the biggest tip I have is to get yourself really engrossed in a long series and save a good one for the flight. I recommend Game of Thrones, Wheel of Time, the Young House Love podcast, Serial, and the OA for downloading.

Noise cancelling headphones take care of the airplane background noise and I always bring ear plugs for that terrible situation when you're stuck close to a crying baby. A portable charger is 100% on the list and a headphone splitter if you're traveling with someone else (check my Christmas gift guide for more tech recommendations).

  • Toiletries | Travel-sized makeup and skincare

Any skincare products I bring with me on the flight are all about moisture. With air that sucks up every bit of liquid from your skin, bringing some form of lotion and lip balm is a must. I take a different one for hands and face, facial wipes to take the edge off of skipping my double cleanse, and eye drops. Makeup-wise, we're looking at 3 products max. Concealer, brow pencil and blush make me feel slightly better when I finally step off that plane. All of these come in 100 mL sizes or I decant them into smaller pots, then put them in a plastic baggie for security.

  • Extras

Everything else that I take depends on how long the flight is and where I'm going, but I always bring an empty water bottle to fill up when waiting to board and enough snacks to get me through long stretches of no food or terrible inflight meals. I also take a small pill case with ibuprofen, migraine medicine, and motion sickness medicine (drowsy and non-drowsy), which will cover me on the medicine front.

long haul flight


And that's it! Everything fits into a tote bag that serves as my personal item and leaves me with the option of bringing a carry on suitcase full of clothes if I've exceeded my checked bag limit or want to avoid the baggage claim. For ease of travel, I highly recommend Turkish Airways. They offer two free checked bags, frequent inflight meals, decent entertainment, free alcohol, and have waived a one-way flight for me that one time I forgot what day my return flight was. Whoops. 

What are your long haul flight necessities? Do you go carry on only, or checked baggage all the way?

Travel Highlights: 2016-2017 U.S. Trip


Other than family and friends, who are of course my favorite part of coming home, there were many things that I loved about my 2016 trip. To follow up from my most recent post with 2016 travel highlights, here are my favorite photo memories from December and January in the States.


Having a white Christmas for the first time in years:

Christmas in Rome is stunning but having snow on Christmas is EVERYTHING. I got to play in the snow with my puppy, take nature walks and enjoy feeling a real Christmas season.


Seeing my pets:

Meeting Annie, my family’s puppy and seeing my cat again were definitely highlights of my trip. It was so nice to be around animals again and I was able to go on so many snowy walks in the woods with Annie.


Hanging out in Lowell, MA:

Lowell is a highly underrated city. I love its architecture and old industrial style and there are tons of new foodie locations open in the center.


American breakfast:

I prioritized eating breakfast while I was in the US because no matter how delicious cappucino’s and cornetti in Italy are, nothing compares to boozy American brunches where you eat enough food to last you the entire day.


Going into Boston for New Year’s Eve:

This was my first New Year’s spent in Boston and I got to hang out with some of my high school friends as well. We ended up having an early(ish) night at Coppersmith’s in Southie and it was heavenly. Getting to see my bestie Erica’s new apartment in the city was a treat as well.


Holiday crafting:

My mom is big into crafting so of course we spent HOURS over the holidays making presents, gingerbread houses, and decorations. Our annual craft night Christmas party is so much fun and I also had a blast setting up my 2017 bullet journal. With no work and taking a break from the blog, I got to spend time practicing with my new camera and using the cool stamps that my sister got me.


24 hours in NYC:

I last minute made plans to visit New York and my university friends who are living there. It’s been a while since my last trip and even if the weather wasn’t spectacular (cold and misty), it was completely worth the 7-hour round trip drive to see the big city and my closest friends. Not to mention the unbelievable variety of food that it offers. It’s safe to say I spent most of my time in the city eating.


Those are the highlights from my admittedly low-key trip. I had so much fun spending time at home while also making trips to some of my favorite cities. I’ll have a bullet journal overview coming up next week so if you’re interested in learning more about how it works and seeing some page examples, check back soon.

2016 in Review: 2016 Travels


As I start looking forward to 2017 and the trips that I have planned, I thought it would be fun to do a complete review of my 2016 travels. Towards the end of 2015 I made the big move to Rome from Massachusetts and throughout 2016 I focused on exploring Rome more, as well as other places in Italy. I did less international traveling than I would like but this year I think this will change!

One of the hardest things that I find about living abroad in a different country from your own is balancing the costs of time/money spent traveling home to see family and friends, and budgeting for other travels. With two visits to my family in the U.S. last year, I wasn't able to budget for as many other trips. I'm hoping to work around that this year and still manage to make it to a few more places on my travel bucket list. Here's an final list of everywhere I traveled to in 2016, excluding solo day trips.

Berlin, Germany

My Berlin trip happened in December, 2015 but we're counting it on the list anyways ;) My boyfriend and I decided to go to Berlin because of all we had heard about the architecture, music scene and for the Christmas markets. While certain parts of the city were beautiful and the history/museums were well worth the trip, I don't think we go to experience the laid back aspects of the city, including the nightlife, because the temperature was so brutally cold when we went. Visiting in mid-December, hopping from one warm indoor location to another was the norm. We definitely want to go back in the summer to see more people out and walk around the city more.

Highlights included: the Topography of Terror (built on top of the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS), East Side Gallery, the Christmas markets (specifically Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarktand) and the free wifi at the Starbucks near the Brandenburg Gate.

Naples/Pompei, Italy

This was my second trip to Naples, a city that I absolutely love, and it was even more special because my parents came with us. They flew out to Rome after Christmas and I spent the first week of January exploring Rome with them and heading to Naples and Pompeii for a quick 2 -night trip. The food in Naples is spectacular and Pompeii was everything that we thought it would be. I really recommend getting a private or small group tour at Pompeii because nothing is labelled and our tour guide, Lello, really brought the ancient city to life.

Boston/Kennebunkport, USA

In May, I flew out to visit home and for my younger sister's high school graduation. It had been 7 months since I moved to Rome and I was so happy to see my family again and reconnect with friends. This was a long trip (3 weeks) so I also managed to fit in some visits to Boston and a trip up to Kennebunkport, Maine. Edoardo also came home with me this trip and it was fantastic to show him more of Boston and to spend time all together.

Puglia, Italy

In August, when all of Rome shuts down for the month, we took a last-minute trip to Puglia for a week. Until this point, I hadn't been south of Naples in Italy and I was so excited to see this beautiful region. We rented an apartment in Galatone, a small town close to Gallipoli and based our trip from there. The entire region is accessible by car and can be crossed from the different coasts with a one hour drive. We took day trips to Gallipoli, Ostuni, Otranto, and Lecce. Next up in the South, I want to see more of Compagna and definitely need a long trip to Sicilia!

Highlights included: a scuba diving trip from Otranto, laying on the beach at Baia del Turchi, and seeing Solomon at the Blue Bay club.

Amalfi/Ravello/Positano, Italy

Ever since I studied abroad in Rome in 2013, I've been desperate to go to the Amalfi Coast. It's a hot destination for tourists to Italy and somehow I didn't get out there until September of this year, when my friend Tori came to visit. It was a breathtaking trip with fantastic views, food, and shopping. We loved Ravello and Positano more than Amalfi, but all of the smaller towns along the coast were so cute that if I were to go back, I would stay and spend my time in a lesser-known place.

Highlights: Dinner with a view overlooking the Bay of Naples in Ravello, our ferry ride from Amalfi to Positano, and buying a fresh sandwich and fruit to eat on the beach in Positano.

Umbria, Italy

For my birthday in October , Edoardo took me on a weekend trip in Umbria. I've spent some time in Tuscany before and did go to Perugia for the Chocolate festival once but taking a weekend road trip through the region and seeing some of the smaller towns was so much fun. We stayed in Castiglione del Lago, on Lago Trasimeno and visited Assisi, Orvieto, and Spello. The views from these mountain towns were breathtaking and the food (ragù, tartufo, vino) was incredible.

Highlights: agriturismo stops, an adorable B&B in the medieval town of Castiglione del Lago with a turret bedroom,and multiple food and wine tastings in the small towns scattering the countryside

Boston/New York, USA

I actually just got back from this trip a week ago and am still recovering from the many family and friend activities that I fit into a two week period. Aside from spending the holidays with my family, I also made it into Boston a couple times and also to Manhattan for a night. A dinner out with my family in the Italian North End of Boston was a fun experience for me, especially as I tried to be as obnoxious about the Italian culture as possible, annoying my family to a great extent. I also spent New Year's Eve with my friends in South Boston and had a blast while also making it to bed by 2:00 (which is a big win in my book). At the last minute, I decided to make the drive down to NYC to see my friends from college. We had such a great day exploring the west side of the city, going to Chelsea Market and Eataly, and fitting in as many food-stops as possible in a 24-hr trip.

Highlights: Seeing my family on Christmas Day after missing out last year, meeting our puppy for the first time, and plenty of down time with bffs.

I'm REALLY looking forward to 2017 and I'm so excited to get started on some new projects for work, my personal life, and this blog. And obviously, food and travel experiences are at the top of my to-do list for the year. Where do you hope to travel in 2017?


Italian Food Holiday Traditions


Within the U.S., holiday traditions vary for every family. This country has people of so many different cultures, which is represented by the diversity of our traditions. In Italy, the Roman Catholic traditional Christmas season is widely celebrated and traditions are more well-known and practiced all over the country. Being Italy, most of these holiday traditions focus on food. From my own experiences celebrating an Italian Christmas in 2015 with my boyfriend's family, and observing other families, I have a collection of general knowledge about these traditions.  holiday traditions

Christmas Eve fish

In remembrance of the traditional church mandate of fasting pre-celebration, Christmas Eve dinner is usually served without meat and instead with a variety of fish dishes. Starters include cold fish salads, fried calamari, shrimp, and anchovies, and an oven-baked fish with potatoes. After dinner, many families also head to a midnight mass to celebrate the Christmas Eve vigil the night before. In Rome, churches are packed and the Vatican has been taking ticket reservations for months.

holiday traditions

Christmas Day turkey or roast

On Christmas day, the Italian Santa Claus, Babbo Natale, visits every house and leaves presents. The day that Italians exchange presents depends geographically, with some in the north doing it as early as December 13, others on the 25, and more still on La Befana.

In most cases, Christmas day is celebrated with a meat dish (in comparison to the night before) and homemade pasta for a primo piatto. At Edoardo's house, this includes a GIANT plate of homemade fettuccine with ragu and an oven roasted turkey. Dolce includes all kinds of sweets and chocolates, with less emphasis on one main cake.

holiday traditions

holiday traditions

New Years Lentils

Lentichie for Capodanno are a yearly tradition in Italy; they signify good luck for the year ahead for the family. Usually inside they're cooked with sausages and pork ribs until the meat is tender and has flavored the pot.

Christmas sweets

The types of Christmas candy and chocolate served for the holiday depends on the region of Italy. Commonly found are candied fruit and nuts, chocolate bars, panforte (made with honey, nuts, chocolate, and dried fruit), cannoli, cookies, and many other goodies.

holiday traditions

La Befana:

On the day of the Epiphany, Italian culture dictates that La Befana (a witch) comes and delivers sweets and fills stockings. This day marks the official end to the Christmas celebrations and is celebrated with yet another feast and hefty portions of Pandoro and Panettone, Italian dessert breads.

holiday traditions

holiday traditions

Seeing how another country and culture celebrates such a tradition-driven holiday is very interesting, especially if you can experience it within the home of an Italian family. There is a set way of doing things for every region of Italy and knowing that you're doing the same thing for Christmas that your ancestors did decades ago is a very comforting idea. An Italian Christmas if full of significance, family time, great food, and a re-centering of religion.