Cinque Terre and Chianti

During my week in between part one and two of my trip I stayed in Florence with my family. Even though I’ve been to Florence a half-dozen times I still was able to have two fun and new experiences.



The first of my new experiences was Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre literally means five lands. Five villages along the Italian Riviera all border one another and are connected by hiking trails, trains and ferry boats.

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A friend and I decided to do two hour long “intense” hike to the very last beach. We saw some of the best views of the coast and the towns and had a great workout.

Cinque Terre is known for their local white wine and their pesto so before we left we were sure to stop in at wine bar and have some wine and crostini with pesto.

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A couple days later, once Marisa and Scott arrived, the three of us with my mom went to Castello di Verrazzano in Chianti for a tour of the vineyards and wine tasting. In addition to plenty of wine, we each had a huge plate full of cheese, prosciutto, salami and other yummy things! So delish!

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olivia leigh gaggi

Love,
Liv

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Things I Wish I Packed

For the most part I think I packed pretty well. This is definitely the lightest I’ve ever traveled anywhere for any amount of time (just one backpack for a whole month!) there have been a few things that I wish I had packed.. but at least I’ll remember them for next time.

Here they are:

  1. External drive. I’m glad I didn’t pack my whole computer. I’m in Europe and I didn’t come here to spend my time on the computer. Plus relying on my smartphone and paying for time at internet cafe’s really limits my time on the internet which is good when there is so much to see and do in a new city. However, I do wish I brought my external drive. I’ve been keeping all my files, reservations and guides on my dropbox account which has been great but it would be nice to have something that doesn’t require internet access to get to my documents! Plus, the major reason it would be beneficial to have packed an external drive is that I’ve already filled up the memory card on my DSLR. I’ve been using dropbox again to store images but like I said, I’d feel more comfortable if I had somewhere off the internet to keep them safe!
  2. Towel. Just a small to medium size one so I wouldn’t have to pay one to three euros at every hostel to rent one. The last hostel made me buy one actually for five euros which I found annoying. The towel actually is pretty good for what I need though its small enough to be packed easily and big enough for showers/beach/etc. I’m just pretty sure I could’ve found a similar one for less in the States.
  3. Nyquil/Dayquil. The pill kind. Didn’t pack any because I decided I wasn’t going to get sick and I wanted to save space. That was dumb because they hardly take any space and I did get sick! Thank goodness for the sweet friend I made in Taormina who gave me a couple days worth of both Nyquil and Dayquil!
  4. An art tube. Since I was about 12 I started collecting paintings from street artists in different places I visited (my first one I bought in one of an old ghetto in Prague). I’ve already bought two paintings and tomorrow I’m going to the studio of an artist that I bought from four years ago in Florence. He said he’d give me a REALLY good discount since I’m a returning customer and his paintings are definitely my favorite ones that I’ve collected.
  5. Tevas or Chacos. Or whatever those hippy shoe are. I swore I’d never get a pair but honestly, I wish I had for this trip! I’ve done so much walking and the shoes I brought aren’t as comfortable as I thought they were.

Just a couple little things that would make this trip easier!

Love,
Liv


Milan and Venice

After travelling to Milan in Venice I am now back in Florence for a few days catching up with my family, relaxing and planning part two of my trip (which I’m currently planning will consist of Croatia and Madrid)!

Of all the places I’ve been to in Italy, Milan might be my favorite. People have always told me that Milan was the New York of Italy. Yes, Milan is a very modern city and is where the majority of businesses are and the fashion capital of the country but the over all atmosphere to me was very different than New York.
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I’ve never visited anywhere where I thought I could live there comfortably for my whole life. There are places where I could see myself starting off or others where I could see myself settling down but they rarely were the same place. In Milan I felt I could live there my entire life and never have the desire to live anywhere else!

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If I could describe a perfect day for me it would consist of everything I did during my three days/two nights. Street markets, fabulous museums, beautiful city parks. Being surrounded by art and culture in a beautiful setting truly is where I feel like my best self. I went to the Brera Picture Gallery, the Leonardo da Vinci museum of Science and Technology and hiked to the top of their duomo. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to see da Vinci’s last summer and a couple other museums but at least I have that reason to come back! I was sad to leave Milan because it just felt like I belonged there!

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Next was Venice and for some reason even though I enjoyed everything I saw and did I just did not like the city. Maybe it was because everything was so ridiculously overpriced and I had to spend 20 extra euros in the process of doing anything. It was frustrating. I just started sneaking into the water buses without buying tickets in order to save money.

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I still had fun though! I went to the Academia and the Peggy Guggenhiem gallery of modern art which was amazing. I then found out my favorite photographer since I was 16, Elliott Erwitt, had a gallery show right next to my hostel so I went to that as well.

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In order to get away from all ticky tacky touristy things inside of Venice I snuck on a couple of water buses and made my way to Burano (not Murano). This was a really part of the city about 30 minutes away from the center. I had lunch and took some really great photographs which I’ll half to upload when I get back! I really recommend anyone in Venice heading over there!

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Like I said, I’m back in Florence now with my family. Today my parents and I took a daytrip to Lucca where we bikes the old city walls. We also visited a church that held a tomb of a young bride who married some important guy a long time ago. I read in one of the tour books that the young girls of the town use to rub the nose of the statue on it for good luck in finding love and a sweet boyfriend. Since Lord knows I need all the luck I can get in that department I paid the extra two euros to go see her tomb. When I got there though there were bars blocking people from getting too close. But that didn’t stop me, no siree. I waited until no one was around, ducked under and rubbed her nose! Success! So basically, Mr. Right should be walking into my life any minute now!

Tomorrow I’m getting up early to catch a bus and make a daytrip to the seaside towns in Cinque Terre! There will be lots of hiking and hopefully some laying out involved!

Love,
Liv

One week of travelling!

I’ve officially been travelling around Italy and Sicily (apparently they’re separate) for one week now! I’ve been to Palermo, Taormina, Segesta and I’m now spending my first night in Milan!

Taormina was possibly one of the most amazingly beautiful places I’ve ever been to. Actually, the entire island of Sicily is one of the the most naturally beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Volcanic mountains next to the blue ocean- it was remarkable. Even if Palermo did scare me the first couple nights and I woke up screaming from night terrors for the first time in my life. It really wasn’t that bad though. Luckily, one of my friends that did a study abroad with me in Florence two years ago, was also in Palermo at the same time as me.  After exploring of the nicer parts of town, I found that Palermo really wasn’t as bad as I thought. Thankfully I didn’t wake up screaming my last night.

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I met two fun and sweet girls from Wisconsin at my hostel in Taormina. On the last night there we all wanted to have one of those full course Italian meals. I got seafood risotto and veal for my courses. The other girls got lasagna, swordfish and mixed fried fish for theirs. I couldn’t even finish my food but it was delicious. The last morning in Taormina we all did a hike up to an Arab castle and saw some incredible views of the city and sea.

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olivia leigh gaggi

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The other place I visited in Sicily was Segesta. There’s pretty much only one reason to visit Segesta and its for their Greek temple. I think I read that the temple there is actually in better condition than the Parthenon in Athens. It was definitely worth the trip. I missed the bus and had to take the train to get there. It was about 30 minutes longer of a ride and I had to hike a kilometer uphill to get to the temple. At the end I decided that that must be how the Greeks felt hiking up to temple and decided it just added to the experience. There was also a pack of rabid, wild dogs on the way up to the temple. Yes, Sicily has wild dogs. They have red eyes, they growl, they’re not friendly and they are scary. But thanks to some kind Sicilians, who didn’t speak a word of English, that drove on the road between me and the dogs in order to block them from me, I made it up in one piece!

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I really have had the best encounters on this trip. So many kind people have insisted on helping me in little ways even though they don’t know a word of what I’m saying! I’m so thankful for all of them!

Anyways, I have a busy day of museum hopping tomorrow in Milan so I gotta bounce.

Love,
Liv

PS- Laugh!

In the past five days…

Let me recap the past five days of my life:

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I graduated college.

There were cupcakes.

I moved out of my college apartment.

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Hopped on a plane (on my 22nd birthday).

And arrived in Florence!

Needless to say it has been a BUSY five days!

I’m so happy to finally be in Italy though. I’ve been planning this trip for the past semester. While my dad will be in Florence for the next six weeks teaching a study abroad course I really wanted to see parts of Italy I haven’t been to before. I’ve been to Florence and Tuscany quite a few times. I lived here for four months when I was five years old and visited for six weeks at a time almost every summer I was in high school.

My itinerary:

  • Palermo, Sicily (6 days)
  • Milan (3 days)
  • Venice (3 days)
  • Back to Florence (6 days)
  • Herculaneum (1-2 days)

Then probably Barcelona and Madrid then back to Florida!

This is the lightest I’ve ever traveled anywhere in my entire life. Only one backpack for the whole trip! It’s going to be a very busy and interesting six weeks!

Things that make me happy right now:

  1. my fam
  2. Italy
  3. my cats
  4. tiramisu gelato
  5. color blocking

Love,
Liv

PS- If you want to see a few more pics that I’ve taken since getting to Italy you can click here…

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Summertime

So I’ve been insanely busy with my internship cause I’m out of my mind and agreed to work until August 16th when I head back to Boone for school the 18th. So while everyone else has finished up their summer internships I’m still working on mine! Which is great because I’m learning a ton and meeting so many wonderful people.. I just wish I had scheduled in a little vacation time before I start my senior year of college! I still have no idea how my senior year is already here but that’s a whole other story!

Some other very exciting news in the Life of Liv is that I have another internship already lined up for this coming winter break with Daytime on News Channel 8! I had my interview with their lovely executive producer last Monday and I am very excited about this fabulous opportunity. I am so excited to learn more about the broadcasting aspect of communications careers!

I’m trying to fit in as much fun experiences as I can in my last couple of weeks in Florida as I can before I move back to the mountains so I’ve been extremely busy. Last Saturday I went snorkeling through Tropical Island Getaway’s with my lovely friend Samantha Whiting and had the time of our lives! I already knew about Tropical Island Getaway through one of the Family Fun tours I had been working on through my internship with Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater. I included it on my tour of South Pinellas county so I decided to give it a try myself!

The guides/captains were so much fun and they gave us a heads up on the best seats on the boat so we could get the best view of the dolphins who came and played and jumped behind us for part of the ride. The ferry was BYOB and they had extra coolers to keep your drinks and snacks reallyyy cold. Then we once we got to Egmont Key the snorkeling gear (and noodle floating devices) were included and we got to see all the cool marine life around the ruins of the Fort Dade, which was used in the Spanish American War.

After the snorkeling portion of the trip we went over to the island which was incredible. You don’t see beaches like that too often. Everything was very natural feeling.  The only thing missing was Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom from the Pirates movies!  We hiked around the old fort and saw the lighthouse which was built in 1858.  After our explorations then we went back and relaxed in the water with a couple noodles and brews.

There were private boats all pulled up and anchored right on shore.  If I ever move back to Florida for good: 1) I must live closer to the ocean and 2) I will have my own boat.

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After Saturdays sea adventure I went on a different kind adventure to Universal Studios. There was no way I was going back to North Carolina without seeing Hogwarts! I am a huge Harry Potter fan and had to see the new section of the park!

I think my favorite part of the day was going to Ollivanders wand shop. When you go to Ollivanders you can either wait in line and go in with a small group of other Muggles and have a chance at being picked by Ollivander himself to go through the whole process of finding the perfect wand for you or you can just skip ahead and just pick one yourself. I, of course, wanted the whole experience and luckily Ollivander picked ME out of everyone in our group to find the wand for me! Anyways the Ash wand picked me.. thats the same type of wand that Cedric Diggory had and it was also the same as Ron Weasley’s first wand.

It was such a fun day! I even tried fish and chips again. For those who don’t know me but I stopped eating seafood when I was nine years old because I ate too much fish and chips when we lived in Cambridge, England for a little over a month that year!

So anyways, I’m at my parents right now recovering from my wisdom teeth removal surgery and after going a little stir crazy the past couple days I decided to go run some errands around town with my mother.  We went and looked at the lot where they are going to be building their new house. It’s really beautiful and has a woods in the backyard which are going to be nice for barbecues and get togethers. Hopefully it’ll be done being built by the end of December!

Then we had to go run some errands in Temple Terrace (the part of town where we use to live.) I feel really bad because I kind of made my mom go and drive by our old house even though she didn’t want to and it looked terrible.  It was so depressing to drive by. The new owners were not taking care of it at ALL. There was crap all on the roof, the lawn needed to be mowed, they tore out some of the bushes so the yard looked bare and ugly, there were bouncy balls and toys all over the yard… The entire front of the neighborhood looked HORRIBLE because of the jerks that moved into our old house! The house I grew up was entirely TRASHED. It was beautiful when we sold it to them. My parents worked so hard to make it nice and they literally just killed the entire house and made the entire neighborhood look awful. I really hope that somehow the new owners of —— see this post and realize what assholes they are for killing an already beautiful home. I hope they realize that the entire neighborhood of Raintree Oaks probably thinks they’re douche bags for doing so.

Okay, well that’s what I’ve been up to lately! I’ll upload some pictures from one of the tours I’ve been working on later! Summer is almost over!

Love,
Liv

Mother’s Day Hike

After many sleepless nights in the library, three research papers, two presentations, four final exams, moving out of my apartment, moving into the family’s condo, moving into a hotel, moving into my uncle’s beach duplex, going to Las Vegas for my 21st birthday, my parents leaving for Italy, and now my first day at my internship I think have finally been able to catch up with my life! A chaotic month and a half later I am hopefully beginning to find a little routine in my life!

So I made it through finals and the semester from hell is finally over and I could not be happier! Literally the first thing my sister and mother said to me a month ago when they came to Boone for Easter was “Liv, you do not look good,” ” you look so tired,” and “you do not look like yourself.” After I got finished up the semester and after I spent a few days in hibernation in the mountains this HOPEFULLY this still isn’t the case. One lesson I have taken from this semester is that I will never again even think about attempting 19 credit hours again. Bad idea for almost everyone unless you’re super human (which you may be), but for an ADHD college girl, definitely not.

My mom and I spent Mother’s Day in North Carolina as well. Since I’m not only a tired, ADHD college girl but also a broke one,  my mom picked out a bracelet, bought it and came to me and said, “Here Liv, why don’t you give me this for Mother’s Day.” I promise one day when I have a job and I am making money I’m going to take her on vacation to somewhere really amazing.

Mom and I also decided to go on a hike that day too. My mom searches the internet for a nice hike that isn’t too far away. She finds one and says she found one that isn’t too far away and it is labeled as a moderate hike so it shouldn’t be too hard. I’m driving because of course, its Mother’s Day and I’m such a sweet daughter. The hike she wanted to go on may have only been 25-30 miles away but since more than half of it was driving up a windy, GRAVEL road, that had steep overlooks where it looked like we were about to drive off the mountain, it took more like an hour. By the way, my mom is terribly afraid of heights! I’m not even very scared of heights and this drive was freaking me out! Finally, we got to the parking area, which I thought was practically the top of the mountain and I didn’t understand why anyone needed to get any further up! The hike itself may have been “moderate” but the I’d say driving my two-wheel drive Nissan Versa on mountain gravel road would have been considered “vigorous”!

This was the mountain my scared of heights mother chose to hike!

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