ANCHORED: Europe’s Ultimate Week Long Festival Cruise

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My summer plans just got a whole lot better. With the rise in popularity of throwing music festivals at sea, Unique Cruises announced their brand new 7-day nautical adventure called ANCHORED, and it looks almost too good to be true. From June 11th – June 18th, over 2,500 people will embark on the European vacation of a lifetime.

Making the Most of a Long Weekend in the Eternal City- Rome

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Rome, the eternal city, is also known as the city of love, meaning that it is not only the perfect place to visit with friends, but also with your loved ones. From its (world famous) gastronomic delights and ancient wonders of art and architecture, to romantic strolls along the Ponte Sisto and the many other bridges of the Tiber, Rome is a cosmopolitan centre yet still infused with the magic ancient civilizations. The only problem once you’re there is figuring out what to see in the short time you’re there. As the city is so full of treasures is absolutely impossible to visit (or even discover) everything, the numerous churches hidden in every alley, the designer shops in Via Veneto or Via del Corso, the restaurants, or the myriad of historic piazzas with their monuments, museums, art exhibits, and cultural events… and the list goes on. Here are my tips on how to make the most out of your short holiday in Rome.


1 )  Book tickets in Advance!- This way you can avoid waiting in long queues as Rome is always bustling with crowds of tourists daily. Buy your flight tickets early and possibly even weeks prior because prices tend to shoot up approaching the holiday seasons. This includes not only hotels or B&Bs but also entry tickets for museums, shows at cultural events, and of course for kids’ activities! Visiting the Colosseum will be a lot of fun for both couples and families, kids can take pictures with Roman Gladiators and even dress up like one (make sure you visit the local shops for toy swords and helmets!). The Vatican is another must, and you can snap up your Vatican Museum tickets long before your holiday to avoid wasting precious time and energy at the back of a long queue under the hot Italian sun! My advice to avoid crowds is to visit the Vatican in the afternoon, particularly on a Thursday or Friday if possible.


2 )Getting around in Rome can be a hassle for locals but if you’re a visitor then you may well enjoy the characteristic and authentic view of Roman life with a nice bus ride or on the metro. The metro is always your best option to get from A to B quickly and easily, but once you are in the historic center (like Trastevere) it is easy to walk to all the major sights; Campo de Fiori, the Pantheon, the Vatican, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum are all within easy reach.


3 )  If you like to relax and submerge yourself in local city life you might want to visit a piazza, like Piazza Navona with the fantastic mythological statues and fountains of Bernini and the Monuments of Borromini, Piazza Barberini, or the Pantheon Piazza. You can marvel at these ancient wonders while sitting at a cafè and sipping a glass of wine or enjoying an appetizer or an amazing gelato (for kids and adults alike!)


4 )  For the best panoramic experience, climb the Spanish Steps, or even better, the marble staircase of  the Vittorio Emanuele Monument to get the best view of the historical sights. At the top terrace bar you can take in the whole view stretching over the ancient Forum filled with arches and columns from the 6th Century B.C.


5 )  If you are not a first-time visitor and you’d like to see and experience something different, then check out hidden spots like the Romeow Cafe, a Vegan Cat Cafè where you can hang out with all your feline friends that roam around the area while you enjoy a healthy vegan cake! There are also the more mystical elements to Rome and one includes the Egyptian motifs that appear throughout the city (including the Vatican); the Egyptian influence on Roman culture dates to the time of Julius Caesar and a visit to the 2000 year old Pyramid of Cestius will be an unforgettable experience (and you don’t have to go to Egypt to see it!)


Ultimately, you may not get to see everything you had planned for so meticulously, but the important thing is that you have the opportunity to relax. Don’t spend your tome in Rome hurrying from monument to monument forgetting to take a second and just marvel in your surroundings, remember- you can always come back another time to see the things you missed!      

THANKS FOR READING!!    

5 Must-Try Places to Eat In Florence, Italy

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I was fortunate enough to live in Florence for over a year and a half, and it is hands down one of my favorite cities for food.  I’m admittedly a very gluttonous person, and must have gained at least 20 pounds while living in Italy.  For anyone making their way to one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, make sure to cross off these 5 best places to eat in Florence.

1.  Salumeria Verdi – Pino’s Sandwiches 

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Who makes the best panino in Florence?  Well, this is a widely debated topic, but to me is this is a no-brainer; the answer is Pino.  Not only is he one of the friendliest Italian men I met during my time in Florence, but makes one of the most mouthwatering sandwiches you’ll ever try.  He cuts all the meat right in front of you, and all the ingredients are incredibly fresh.  Located just a few minutes down the road from Santa Croce, you definitely need to stop by this place to try it for yourself.

2.  Gusta Pizza / Gusta Panino

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Located across the river around Piazza Santo Spirito are two amazing places to get either a pizza or a panino.  These establishments are favorites among the locals and the study abroad crowd, and are guaranteed to love every single bite.  They are also budget friendly, and won’t cost you much to enjoy an authentic Italian pizza or panino.

3.  I Due Fratellini

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When walking around the city center exploring the many beautiful piazza’s, monuments and museums that Florence has to offer, it’s likely that you’ll walk right past this place without knowing you did.  This is a “hole-in-the-wall” place run by two brothers (which is what the name means).  They have a wide selection of panino’s which are small, affordable, and delicious.  Located just minutes away from Piazza dell Signoria, it’s a perfect mid-day snack to keep your energy levels to up while you explore Florence.

4.  Ristorante La Spada

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I lived right down from the road from this restaraunt, and it remains, to this day, one of my favorite places to eat (and drink) in the entire world.  When you come here, you can order from the wide variety of Italian specialties from the menu, but the secret to going to La Spada is ordering the “Bruno Special”.  This is basically a family style feast that comes with hefty servings of three different types of pasta, and then a massive plate with a mix of delicious meats, and perfectly seasoned potatoes.  The best part about ordering the Bruno Special — bottomless wine.  It’s a great way to get a big meal in, and also a great way to start the night out before hitting the town.  Located on Via Della Spada just minutes away from Piazza della Repubblica; you simply have to try this place.

5.  Perseus

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Located right near Piazza della Liberta, you absolutely have to head here to try the famous “bistecca alla fiorentina”.  One user on TripAdvisor even went as far to say that it was the only reason she came to Florence.  Your taste buds will definitely agree with her as you enjoy this truly authentic dining experience. [divider]

Well, there ya have it.  When it comes to Florence, there’s so many options when it comes to places to get a delicious meal, but these would be the top 5 I would suggest to friends.  Just make sure after you finish your meal, you enjoy a nice scoop of delicious Italian gelato.  Delicioso!

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10 Things To Do In Rome

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Rome is one of the most interesting cities in the entire world!  There’s always something to do, a new place to visit, and a delicious restaurant to try.  The food, the language, and the city is completely beautiful.  Check out my list of top 10 amazing things to do in Rome!

1.  See All The Sights

Walking around Rome is basically like walking through a giant free museum.  Everywhere you turn there is a cathedral, monument, or something spectacular to see.  If you can, space out your time, and cross off these monuments off the list.  Vatican City, The Colosseum, Roman Forum, The Pantheon, The Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, Piazza Popolo, Piazza Venezia, and Campo di Fiori.

2.  Explore Trastevere

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My personal favorite area of the city.  This area will give you a smaller city vibe, tucked into the madness that is Rome.  There’s tons of amazing bars and restaurants and is really just a great area to experience.  Best way to explore Trastevere is to begin at Piazza Trilussa, and just begin to wonder.  Eat dinner, have some gelato, grab a beer, and walk around the area.

3.  Campo di Fiori Nightlife

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I’ve definitely spent a lot of time in this massive and popular nightlife piazza.  There’s tons of bars, and is a great place to start and end the night.  You’ll meet tons of people, both tourists, Italians, and American study abroad students.  For those who like to party, the main two bars are The Drunken Ship and Sloppy Sams.  Both of these places have great drinks, beer pong tables, and get very busy.  If you are looking for a quieter area, just walk around the piazza and choose a different bar.

4.  Suppli & Arancini

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I’ll never forget my first Suppli; it truly was an amazing discovery.  Rice, Mozzarella, and Tomato Sauce all combined into an amazing 1 euro snack.  There’s a few different varieties of Arancini as well.  I never go to Rome without getting at least 1 suppli per day.

5.  Testaccio Nightlife

Rome is not particularly known for the best clubs in Europe, but there definitely are some great places to check out in the neighborhood of Testaccio.  Choose between AKAB, Caruso, or Coyote.  Caruso is a really big Salsa type of club, but has a lot to offer.  The other two have different nights, but Coyote is always a good time.  Recommendation:  pre-game at On The Rox in Testaccio.  Great bar with great vibes.  It’s also open until 5 A.M, so it’s a great place to end the night.

6.  Gelato at Ciampini

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Everyone who goes to Italy looks forward to trying the famous Italian Ice Cream, Gelato.  Trust me– this is the best place in Rome.  Originally my cousin showed me this place because she lived really close, and I’ve been taking people there ever since.  It really is the best gelato in the city.  My 3 Favorite Flavors:  Pistacchio, Banana, and Crema,.

7.  Bottle of Wine at the Trevi Fountain

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Now you’re most likely to go to the Trevi Fountain during the day while sightseeing, but it’s also an amazing place to relax at night.  There is no open container law in Italy, so feel free to grab a bottle of Italian wine, some cups, and hang out and people watch.  It’s a great way to start the night, and what I like to call “monument drinking”.

8.  Scholar’s Lounge Irish Pub

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Definitely one of the most popular places to grab a pint in Rome, Scholar’s never disappoints.  There’s always a lively atmosphere, and is a great place to meet people.  Drinks can get a little pricey, but it’s definitely worth stopping by.  It’s got two huge rooms, and there is Karaoke which is awesome.  Also– this is definitely one of the best spots to watch sporting events while in Rome.  They’ll play pretty much all the major games going on every night.

9.  Speak Italian

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Now Rome is definitely one of the most visited cities in the world, so you can visit without knowing any Italian, but it’s such a fun language to try out.  Greet and say goodbye to people with CIAO.  Thank people by saying GRAZIE.  Learn a couple phrases, and try them out.  It’s not that difficult, and it’ll make your Italian experience much better.

10.  Bottomless Wine Miscellanea Dinner

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Located right outside the Pantheon, this is one of my favorite spots to grab dinner in Rome.  You pay 15 euros, and you get a ton of amazing food, along with bottomless wine.  What else do I need to say?  There’s a bunch of different courses, and it is served somewhat family style, but some courses each person gets their own plate.  Trust me, if you are looking for a good spot to eat in Rome, look no further.

10 Amazing Things To Do In Florence, Italy

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Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  I actually lived there over a year, and fell in love with the lifestyle and culture.  It’s a small city that’s easy to walk around, plenty of amazing restaurants, and incredible nightlife.  If you’re planning a vist and looking for some recommendations, here are 10 amazing things to do in Florence.

1.  Sunset at Piazza Michelangelo

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Easily one of the best piazzas in Firenze, and definitely the best place to watch the sunset.  Grab a bottle of wine, some cups, and some good company; you are in for a great night.  It is a really common thing to do in Florence.  Sometimes there’s live music, and people sit there for hours enjoying the beauty of one of Italy’s finest cities.

2.  “The Bruno Special” at La Spada

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My favorite restaurant in the city is called Ristorante La Spada, and is located just a few minutes away from Piazza della Repubblica.  Most importantly, order the “Bruno Special”.  You get three different types of pasta, and then a ton of meat and potatoes.  It’s best to go with a group of people, because it’s family style.  Oh, did i mention it includes bottomless wine!  Amazing dinner + best pre-game = La Spada

3.  Walk the Steps of the Duomo

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The most iconic church of Florence, and quite possibly Italy, the Duomo is something you have to witness in person to understand it’s beauty.  Walking past the Duomo everyday was easily one of the best parts about living in Florence.  There are 417 steps to the top, and is a pretty intense work-out, but the views are worth every step.

4.  Pino’s Panino’s

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There’s a lot of places to get a panino in Florence, but hands down Pino’s is the best.  Very popular among study-abroad students, this place is one of my favorite spots to eat in the city.  Every ingredient is fresh, and the meats are sliced right in front of you.  There are a ton of panino’s on the menu, but you can never go wrong with “Pino’s best” or the “turkey best”.  Also, check out his wine tasting as well!  This guy is truly a Florence legend.

5.  Write on the Walls at Uncle Jimmy’s

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I can’t even begin to tell you the stories of the nights I’ve spent at Uncle Jimmy’s.  A relatively new bar to the city, and I was there when it first opened.  It’s a crazy vibe when it’s busy, full of Karaoke, drunk study abroad students, and an insane amount of Sambuka shots.  The ceilings are covered with various undergarments, and feel free to grab a pen and leave your mark.

6.  Day Drink Along the Arno

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I probably like to drink too much, but Florence is an amazing city to do some day-drinking.  I mean, look at the pictures.  How can you not want to sit down on the grass, play some music, and drink a Peroni.  There’s no open-container law in Italy, so drink anywhere you want.  But I just love sitting along the river, walking the streets with a beer in my hand, and soaking in the views of Florence.

7.  Bar Hop

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I worked in Italy for two years as a tour guide for study abroad students, and Florence could be described as “little america”.  There’s a ton of bars that are flooded with college students out every night for various parties.  My favorite is Lion’s Fountain.  Some other popular bars that I recommend are Naima, BLOB, Astor, Red Garter, and Kikuya.  Drink up.  It’s Italy.

8.  The David + Uffizi Gallery

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I couldn’t make a list of things to do in Florence that are strictly alcohol related, so definitely soak up the art and culture in Florence.  From seeing Michaelangelo’s masterpiece “The David”, or strolling the long halls of the Uffizi, Florence definitely has some amazing works that will satisfy all your art and history needs.  If you don’t want to wait in line to see the real David, check out the fake one in Piazza della Signoria.

9.  T-E-N-A-X

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Florence might be a great place to bar hop, but there’s also an abundance of clubs.  If you want to experience a real Italian discoteca, then you have to check out Tenax.  It’s mostly Italian club goers, and the vibe is amazing.  Great club, great music, but it is a bit outside the city center.

10.  The San Lorenzo Leather Market

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You can’t come to Florence without buying something leather.  Italy is known for having some of the finest leather goods, and you definitely should treat yo self to something.  I spent about 130 euros on a leather jacket at the market for my birthday, and it’s still one of my favorite items of clothing.  Even if you don’t get something, it’s a must-see in Florence.  Remember, you have to BARTER.