A perfect day in Milan:

As soon as I stepped foot in Milan I felt like I was home. Probably more so than I’ve felt anywhere else, ever.

Here are my top five things to do in Milan to ensure you have a perfect day.

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1. Buy the current issue of VOGUE ITALIA. Though you could buy it anywhere in Italy I think everyone should buy it in Milan, since it is the fashion capital of the country… it just has more meaning.

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2. Window shop stores you’ve never heard of / could never afford.

These shoes remind me of something a modern Cinderella would wear!
These shoes remind me of something a modern Cinderella would wear!

3. Climb the stairs to the top of Milan’s duomo. It’s the third largest cathedral in Europe!

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4. Then, grab a bite in Milan’s version of “Central Park.”

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5. Go to the museums. Don’t forget to make your appointment to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper at least six months in advance or you’ll miss it like me! After you see the official museums check out some of the fun art on the streets!

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Try not to leave your heart in Milan like I did.. I’ve been homesick since I left!

Love, Liv

Pack light; Travel cute

Packing light is necessary when travelling, but so is comfort and style. You don’t want to be lugging around heavy suitcases on to trains and ferries, and you also want to be comfortable and look together.
The key is to pack a lot of versatile items that you can wear over and over! Here’s a guide that can help get you started:olivia leigh gaggi
1. Luggage. I used The North Face’s small base camp duffel, it’s great because it is a backpack that doubles as a duffel bag! I know I’ll use it when I’m not travelling, too.
2. Fedora hat.
3. A bright necklace.
4. Hippy shoes.  I know, I know… they’re kind of fugz but trust me you’ll learn to love ’em! You need comfy shoes that have a back strap, especially when you are walking around a lot.
5. Longchamp. Or another light weight easy-to-pack purse. The Longchamp is great because it’s waterproof and it folds up so it can fit in a small packing space when you’re not using it.
6. A sassy scarf. Perfect for sassy-ing up an outfit for night or just accessorizing during the day.
7. Comfy cotton dresses. Old Navy has some great inexpensive cotton dresses. They’re great for wearing during the day and being super comfortable.
8. Versatile shorts. J. Crew, Gap, Banana and Old Navy all have great shorts for traveling. They’re nice, tidy looking and look good with a lot of things. The last thing you’d want to wear are those tacky, little booty shorts in a foreign country. Actually, I hope they are the last thing you would want to wear ever, to be perfectly honest.
9. Basic tanks.
10. Button downs. 
11. Cotton skirt.
12. Colored blazer. They’re fun and can brighten up any outfit.
13. Wedges. Personally, I need a heel. I’m 4′ 11″ and wedges are perfect for giving me a bit of height and are easy to wear.
14. Cardigan. Cardigans are great when it’s just a little cool and you don’t want to wear the blazer. I don’t like to wear sweatshirts abroad because I think they make people stick out like soar thumbs as Americans.
15. Jeans. One or two pairs is enough to pack. You can wear them a couple days in a row and then switch them out.
16. Cross-body purse.
*Don’t forget a bathing suit and sunglasses too! And yes, all those things (and more) did fit into my base camp duffel =]

Five Things to Do: Taormina, Sicily

olivia leigh gaggiHere are my top five things to do in Taormina, Sicily:

1. Have cannoli for breakfast, lunch and dinner (:

2. Walk to Isola Bella (it means beautiful island in Italian)
The guy who sells you the ticket to walk around the island is going to make you feel like you have a special discount by saying, “for you, tickets are two euro.” Then you’re going to realize that the sign that clearly states that the price for everyone is two euros (oh, those Italian men).
While you’re there, break the rules a little and climb over the sectioned off rope to explore the parts of the island that are “forbidden” to tourists. (:

3. See the Greek theater

4. Meet new friends and make a wine cooler with rocks on the beach
SIDE-NOTE: They say “when in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and I think that saying should stand for anywhere you go while travelling.  So, if you feel the desire to lay out topless on a European beach – go for it. I won’t judge and it’s actually quite freeing… Plus, you won’t have to worry about tan-lines (;

5. Stay at Hostel Taormina!
The staff was super nice and helpful and told you where to get discounts in town! Plus, look at the view from the terrace!

One last thing! I didn’t get a chance to visit the Turrisi Bar while I was there, but if someone could check it out and let me know what this “famous penis collection” is about, I’d appreciate further clarification, thanks!

My First Homecoming as Alumna

Earlier this month I visited Boone, N.C. for the first time since graduation last May. I had been missing college, my small college town in the mountains and most of all my friends. I hadn’t seen any of my friends from school in over four months.

I love my friends so much and I have a wonderful group of girlfriends from school. We are all scattered now which is really hard. Towards the end of my final semester I was worried that we would get distracted with our lives and find it difficult to stay in touch. I know that the older we get the more time and effort you have to put into all of your relationships in order for them to last.

I was inspired by the Sisterhood of Travelling Pants and dragged my friend, Laura with me to all the thrift stores in Boone because I insisted we were to find a pair of jeans that fit all of us so we can keep in touch like they do in the books. In reality, there are a couple problems with this. One, it’s not possible and two, even if it was, about 90 percent of jeans at thrift stores are hideous.

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About mid-summer I came up with a plan B to magical pants, a more realistic one. I started a group chat with our group of friends on Facebook. It was a perfect alternative to magical pants! We all contribute to an ongoing conversation about funny stories, dates and life updates. It also has made planning trips together so much easier.

Homecoming was our first trip and now that we all have jobs we can hopefully begin planning more. It was so good to see them all again. We had so much fun returning to our favorite bar, tailgating and going to the football game. Since I’m in Florida where we see almost no Fall, I forced myself to get up early a couple days to go for hikes and see the changing leaves in the mountains. I can’t wait to go back to Boone again and I definitely can’t wait to see all my friends again.

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It’s so strange visiting your college town. I feel like I’ve only been pretending to be a grown up! Maybe that’s why they say “fake it till you make it?” I don’t know!

Love,
Liv

And I Did It All in Heels

In one month I traveled around Italy, Sicily, Croatia and Spain. I saw brand new places had some of the best experiences I have ever had. I learned more than I had ever anticipated on this trip.

Beautiful seasides, Greek temples, cathedrals, art and culture, pizza and cannollis, are all fantastic but the best experiences I had were thanks to the many people I met along the way. Whether it was someone in my hostel, a stranger attempting to help me when they didn’t speak any English, locals who invited me to sit with them at dinner when they saw me eating solo, or an entertaining tour guide. Above all what made my trip unique were the people I met in this past month. People from all over the globe that even if I never see them again I hope I never forget them and their stories.

Before I left my friends asked me if I was scared or nervous. At the time I was too busy finishing up college to let it register but I honestly thought it would hit me once I was on my own and I would be scared. Although I had my moments where I was scared (cough cough Palermo) for the most part I was so busy enjoying every ounce of my experience that I didn’t have time to worry. Like someone in my last hostel said, “just because you’re alone it doesn’t make you lonely.”

Split and Dubrovnik

Even before I knew how I was getting to Dubrovik, I knew I had to get there. Not just because it’s in “1000 Place to See Before You Die” but because I had already booked my flight from Dubrovnik to Madrid at least month or two prior.

It may not seem as though that it would be that difficult to get to since it’s literally next to Italy but you’d be surprised!

Easy Jet starts flying direct from Rome to Dubrovnik but not until July 1st. The only flights currently available had ridiculous connections and were really expensive.

After a lot of research, I figured out the best way to reach Croatia would be to take two trains from Florence to Ancona, take an overnight ferry to Split, and then a four hour bus ride from Split to Dubrovnik.

Phew! It took a good minute to get there but it was worth it!

Three days and nights of a peacock inhabited island, sea kayaking and going out and getting to know the locals a little bit and I found myself falling in love with this small city.

I’ve been to the Amalfi Coast, the Italian Riviera, the French Riviera and Sicily and the ocean and beaches I saw in Dubrovnik easily topped them all.

As of now, I’d officially rank them:

1. Dubrovnik
2. Taormina (Sicily)
3. Sorrento (Amalfi)
4. Cinque Terre (Italian Riviera)
5. Nice (French Riviera)

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Cliff jumping is supposed the be the thing to do in Dubrovnik. I didn’t do because I was travelling solo but it looked like so much fun!

Love,
Liv

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


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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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!