Amazing Race Through Florence – ON TOUR European Experience

After three days in Italy’s capital city of Rome, everyone was excited for the relaxation and sunshine awaiting us yet another beach town: Sorrento. Located on the  Amalfi coast of Italy, we were stoked to visit the famous island of Capri and the the coastal towns of Sorrento and Positano.

Everyone was astounded by the beauty of Capri, with its gardens and coastline decorated with houses of every color. The highlight of the day was the boat ride, when we got to see famous grottos up close and personal. We also loved swimming in the sea, with Bailey diving in like a pro! Logan, Emma, Rachel N and Morgan also had an amazing time splashing around in the waves together. It was unanimously agreed that our swim was, by far, one of the best parts of our trip.

Later that evening we all went out to sing karaoke, where we were all wowed by Nicki H’s stage presence; she managed to get everyone totally into the songs we sang, including our morning song “Wild at Heart” by Gloriana. Carolyn also showed us her singing skills, belting out “I want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys with the other trip members.

The next day we went to Positano: another coastal posh resort town like Sorrento. The whole day was dedicated to relaxing on the black, volcanic sands. Haley and Sydney M also got to interact with some adorable Italian kids playing soccer on the beach while we were there, having a hilarious conversation consisting of a lot of hand gestures and their cute, but broken English. Aaron took it upon himself to climb up the hilly slopes of the city in order to get a great view of the harbor and seaside. Nicki P also tasted a local beach treat, buying fresh coconut right from the basket of a very nice Italian vendor. The region is also known for its citrus, especially lemons, of which Emma got a true taste since she picked one directly from a tree and ate the whole thing, straight up!

The next day we headed to Florence, the Tuscan capital of art and culture. As the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli, Galileo and Michelangelo, there was no way not to be constantly surrounded by reminders of the golden age of the Italian Renaissance. We visited the Uffizi galleries, where Max was especially impressed works such as Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” and Jacob by Da Vinci’s painting of the Annunciation. In Florence, we also visited the Accademia, which is where the original “David” of Michelangelo is located. We also got to see the Ponte Vecchio, which is unique for the fact that people have their shops and businesses built into the bridge. Lance enjoyed stopping there for a gelato that turned out to be the biggest cone we had yet to see that entire trip! Clearly someone has quite the sweet-tooth!

On Tour

Our last night in Florence was most definitely the highlight of our stay. We began our evening at a cooking school where we all prepared an Italian feast for dinner. Macy, Corey and Gabe were in charge of making fresh linguine pasta, which they did like professional chefs. It was impressive to see them roll the pasta and send it through the cutter, producing enough for our entire group! Ally, Nicole B and Sydney T also proved to be amazing at making crepes, not ripping a single one when flipping them in the pan. Paulina made a delicious filling for these crepes, sautéeing garlic and spinach in olive oil, which she later mixed with ricotta cheese. Once filled, she topped the crepes with béchamel and grated parmesan cheese. Lee and Zack made an amazing fresh tomato sauce to dress the linguine, which was most people’s favorite course of the meal. Hannah and Sam also made the most delicious bruschetta campagnola, or toasts with fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil. The pannacotta we had for dessert was also incredible, thanks in part to the work of Jesse. All in all, it was one of the best meals of the trip!

To finish off the evening, we all engaged in some friendly competition in Adam’s annual Amazing Race through Florence. Jolie and Jamie helped their team by leading them to the statue of the “Lucky Hog,” knowing it was right in front of the straw market when others had no idea where to find it. It was also hilarious to see Harry and Corey’s identical reaction to the task of “find a guy named ‘Hugo,’” since although not on the same team, they both screamed “HUGO!” on the top of their lungs in the middle of Piazza della Republica. Little did they know that they need just take a photo in front of the Hugo Boss store that was right on the piazza. All in all, it was an amazing night spent running all over the city and having a ton of fun working together towards a common goal. What a blast!And now we’re off to the last stop of our trip: the city of Nice in the south of France. Although it’s our last destination on our 28 day odyssey, we are all excited to spend our last moments under the beautiful sun of the Côte d’Azur!

Ciao for now,

The Westcoast Blogger

Canals, Culture and Culinary Creations – Backpack Europe

Buongiorno Backpack Europe friends and family!

Venice was a truly unique city to visit. Aidan and Alex experienced this first hand as our trip’s navigators, they quickly discovered that this city is actually a series of interlocking islands all woven together by a series of bridges. Reading the map, they noted that any shortcuts would lead us straight to a canal’s edge. As we strolled throughout the streets of Venice, Emma commented that Venice “doesn’t seem like a real place,” suggesting that the presence of boats instead of cars and canals, and rivers instead of streets is something right out of a Disneyland theme park!

Visiting the Jewish Quarter in Venice was quite interesting and it was very cool when Remi shared with us her ability to speak and read Hebrew. Sunny enjoyed the markets around the Rialto Bridge, adding to her mask collection, while Alec opted for Murano Glass (after watching a very impressive glass blowing demonstration at Vecchia Murano). The highlight of Venice for Shayna was a traditional gondola ride, where she took the opportunity to relax and appreciate this city from it’s intended vantage point, the water. Jenny noted that Venice was the city she was most looking forward to visiting on this trip and that her expectations were definitely met, if not surpassed!

From Venice, we made our way down to Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region and the Italian city famous for its street markets and art-embracing culture. At the Accademia Gallery, Mara admired the famous “David” and was thoroughly impressed by Michaelangelo’s ability to carve such a detailed and expressive face out of white marble.

After some time spent exploring the Ponte Vecchio and Piazza Del Republica, we made our way over to our much anticipated cooking lesson at a local cooking school. Jeremy was probably the most excited to don his apron and learn some new skills. Our trip members displayed excellent culinary talent following the direction of Vincezo, with Zach and his crew preparing linguine from scratch, Mike, Sam and Josh’s team stretched our palates with a stuffed zucchini dish and Bennett helping to prepare an orange zest Florentine cake for dessert. The meal was excellent and we all had a chance to refine our skills in the kitchen. With our stomachs full, we set out to Space Electronica disco, where we danced the night away!

Today was our last full day in Florence and we have certainly made the most of it. We climbed up the narrow and ancient passageways of the Duomo and took in the awe-inspiring 360 degree view of Florence. As a group, we decided to take advantage of the fact that we were in a major city and we set out to the movies to see the latest Harry Potter film. Tomorrow we are off to Sorrento for a whole new set of adventures!

Ciao for now!

The Westcoast Blogger