Things to do at the Verona Christmas Market

I love Christmas. It’s hard not to. So many things happen during this year. There’s snow and hot chocolate. There’s skiing and Christmas trees. There’s Christmas lights and music. My favorite thing about this time of year though? Christmas Markets. Germany has some of the best ones! Definitely tops my list of things I miss about living there. However, Italy has some pretty great ones too! There are plenty in my local area to go to, but sometimes it’s fun to venture out and take the train somewhere else. So, my friends and I decided we needed to see Verona at Christmas. It’s a two hour train ride, so perfect for a middle of the week day trip! I have been to Verona a few times before, but this was my first trip to their Christmas Market, which was huge by the way. The city center is a 10 or 15 minute walk from the train station. If you are just looking for a day trip I highly recommend it.

So, if you have never been to Verona, or even if you have, I made a short list of some must do’s! To include sights close to the center, and where the market is located, as well as, food that must be eaten!

Things to do at the Christmas Market in Verona

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1. Arena di Verona- This is a must because you can’t miss it as you walk into the city center from the train station. It looks like a smaller version of the Colosseum in Rome. To be fair it is a Roman amphitheater, so it makes sense. If you are into history, then this is definitely a must see! Even just to marvel it from the outside.

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2.  Torre dei Lamberti-  This is the tall clock tower in the Piazza delle Erbe. It’s the main piazza in Verona. Part of the Christmas market is also located in this piazza. You can climb up to the top and get an amazing view of the city. I think it was about 8 euro for the full tour (don’t quote me on that), either way it wasn’t too expensive and worth it! I didn’t climb it when we went to the market, but I did that last time I was there. You can’t beat the amazing view and since you’ll be there anyway, why not?

3. Vin brule- While you are in the Piazza delle Erbe, you should stop and get some vin brule. If you have ever had Gluhwein, then this will be the Italian equal. I will say the best vin brule I’ve had, has been at the Christmas market in Sacile. However, it is nice to shop and hold something warm, and this wine will do the trick!

4. Roasted Chestnuts- At the same stand where you bought the vin brule, you can also get some roasted chestnuts. Again, I remember eating them in Germany, and was glad to discover they sell them at their Christmas markets as well. They are so good and warm. A nice snack to have on a cold day.

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5. Kathe Wohlfahrt-  The Verona market has more of a German feel to it, you will notice this in most of the vendors and the items they sell. One such vendor, or store, is Kathe Wohlfahrt. This is the ultimate Christmas destination. If you leave the main piazza and walk over to Piazza dei Signori, you will find more of the market, as well as, this store. They have hand made wooden items, from ornaments to nutcrackers. I will say, this store is a bit more pricey, but the quality is great! If you go during the week there is no line to get in. If you find yourself there on the weekend, it’s a different story. The line may be lengthy and will wrap around the building.

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6. Pane Patate e Formaggi- I actually don’t know the exact name of this bread, I’m just going off of what I ordered. In the same piazza as Kathe Wohlfahrt, tucked in the corner, is this stand where they are making fresh bread. They had patate e formaggi (potato and cheese), or cipolla e speck (onion and a type of ham). I got the potato and cheese and let me tell you, I could have eaten 10 of those. I honestly regret that I didn’t it was so good. I’d say get at least one of each. Best. Bread. Ever.

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7. Casa di Giulietta- Because who can say Verona and not think of Romeo and Juliet? Some people may hate the story of Romeo and Juliet, I however, love it. Sure, in this day in age, it’s a little far fetched, but I think it’s a lovely story for that time. Anyhoo, if you walk down Via Cappello, a street directly in front of Piazza delle Erbe, you can’t miss it off to your left. It’s not as romantic as “Letters to Juliet” made it, so let that thought go. There are some letters, but mostly graffiti, it’s still a must any way. You can see her balcony and a statue of Juliet in the courtyard. And if it really compels you, you can grab her breast because that is a thing. I do suggest going into the little museum they have. The entrance is under the balcony. It’s interesting and has some items from the various movies that have been made.

8. Nutella Crepe- Before you leave, get yourself a Nutella crepe. Even if you think you’ve had a proper one, do it anyway. I know some places might serve a thicker crepe, this to me is not a crepe. It should be very thin, with whatever you want inside, folded, with powdered sugar on top. It is so gooood! It’s chocolaty and delicious. Perfect dessert and a good end to any Christmas market experience.

 

Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to Italy

I’ve been horrible about posting the last few months, buuut moving to a new country will do that to you. A lot has happened and after nearly 4 months, I think I’m starting to feel like I’m home.

I’ve lived overseas before, but that was a different country, and well, about 14 years ago. So, things are different here. Some people complain about the differences, I however, welcome them! Except the tile floors. My feet are freezing and a black dog shedding on white tile……… I feel like I spend half of my life now just vacuuming. I bought slippers and fuzzy socks, so I at least fixed one problem. My oven is also T-I-N-Y… tiny. It doesn’t fit a standard cookie sheet, but no worries! I just bought a smaller one. Like I said, things are just different. So, in this post I’m going to share:

A Few Things I’ve Learned Since Living in Italy

  1. Italians have their own time schedule. Things are slower here. Not in a bad way, just no one is in a rush. Sooo…. if an Italian says one time, just maybe tack on an extra 30 minutes to it.
  2. Riposo is never missed. Riposo is translated to “rest” and Italians never miss their rest time. You can be certain that businesses will close for 2 to 3 hours Monday through Friday. This took some getting used to because you have to factor this in when planning to go run errands. I, however, have come to appreciate this part of the day. It goes back to Italians aren’t in a rush. So, go sit down and have un mezzo litro di vino or un cono gelato (my personal favorite is pistacchio or yogurt), and wait for things to open back up. Nessun problema!
  3. IMG_7255Recycling is next level. In America, I had one recycling can and everything went in it. Here, I have 5. Secco (non recyclable dry waste), vetro (glass), carta (paper), umido organico (basically biodegradable, foods), and plastica e lattine (plastic and cans). My biodegradable food has to be thrown away in a biodegradable bag and just gets thrown in this big bin behind our house where it will be nice food for some bugs. I will say, I appreciate the way they take recycling seriously. When you go shopping on the economy, they won’t give you a plastic bag unless you pay for it. It’s a good way to get people to bring their own and help cut down on plastic waste. America could take a tip from Europeans in that regard.
  4. Wine is cheap and delicious!  I can’t express this enough! You may pay for bottled water here, but I’m fine with that when the cost of half a liter of wine is the price of one glass in the states. The wine is just also, better. There is a winery 10 minutes from my house and I go purchase 5 liters for less than 11 euros. If you love wine thFullSizeRender (10)e way I do, this is a place for you! It’s also acceptable to drink wine at any time of the day, so #noshame here when I’m drinking it at lunch at 11:30- 12:00.
  5. So. Many. Bikers. I’ll give it to them though, they make me feel bad when I see them pedaling up a hill. Every age does it too. When you see someone that is old enough to be your grandparent biking up the hill you’re driving, you’ll feel a new sense of awful about yourself.
  6. They have festivals for everything. This is no joke. There is a festival for everything. Pumpkins, mushrooms, you name it, but again I love it. Food, music, getting out of the house for a bit.
  7. You haven’t had pasta or pizza like this. And I mean it. Forget the big tourist cities, I’ve eaten there, and here in my small town, and they’re different. When you get away from those areas and off the beaten path or more local, I’m telling you, it’s magical. I love food, pizza has always been a love of mine, and they are doing it right here.IMG_7480
  8. Espresso. Italians love a good espresso. I’m more of a cappuccino girl myself, but I can appreciate the espresso. But lets be real, cappuccino is basically espresso with a little steamed milk foam and it’s delicious. Forget Starbucks (except PSL, I’m sorry I do miss that in the fall, yes I’m one of those), you want real coffee? Come to Italia!
  9. Potato chips are better here.  You may laugh at this last one, but seriously. There is just something about them! If you happen to come to Italy and you stumble across a Conad (a grocery chain), walk in and look for San Carlo potato chips. They are sooo much better than Lays. They are thicker and less greasy. I’m telling you, you won’t regret it.

 

Two Weeks in an Elephant Village

Have you ever taken a trip with little, to no thought?

March of 2016, I was scrolling through Facebook, when I came across a video showing different volunteer trips around the world. One in particular caught my eye, a trip spent working with elephants! Getting up close and personal with elephants was a dream of mine, so can this be real? O it was! I did a little more research on it. I went to the GoEco website that the video had given me and found a trip spent in Thailand working in a small elephant village. Side note: the actual company was We Are Bamboo, so should you look into a trip like this, you can just go straight to their site.  So, like most trips I go on….. I had no plan, didn’t really know how I was going to pay for it, or what to expect, I just knew I had to go. A few days later I booked the trip, bought plane tickets, and for the first few weeks in July I was going to Thailand!

Let me tell you, I regret nothing.

How could I? I was in for an experience that not many people are able to have in their life.

July came and after nearly 30 hours of traveling, I had made it to Bangkok. There I met the people that I would be spending the next few weeks with, some of the best people. By the end of our traveling experience we became a small family. They are what helped to really make the trip what it was. We stayedphoto (1) in this small hotel on a busy street with lots of shopping, food and not far from Khao San Road. This road had some awesome night life if you are looking for something to do into the wee hours of the night.

After that weekend, we took a train to Surin, Thailand for the night where we stayed in the Bamboo projects house for volunteers. The evening was spent in a Reggae bar listening to live music and drinking waaay too much Chang beer.

Bright and early the next morning we traveled to the elephant village, the place we would call home during the week. It’s a small village where families own and care for their own elephants. It’s here that they are trying to bring volunteers in to help promote the safety and well-being of the elephants.

Here in this village with it’s dirt roads, there is no WiFi, there is no air conditioning, and showers are taken by dumping water on you from a bucket (the bucket is also how you flush the toilet). All the volunteers stay in homes that families in the village are kind enough to open up to us. We slept on mats with mosquito nets covering them and a fan to turn on at night to help keep you cool because let me tell you, even if you think you know heat and humidity, you don’t. There is no heat or humidity like that of Thailand.

Thailand humidity: 7         My hair: 0

It is definitely a little bit of a culture shock from the Western world, but it was the best kind of shock. When you lose all the other stuff that creates distractions in life, all that’s left is time spent talking, laughing, getting to know other people from around the world, playing cards, and maybe a little more drinking of Chang than we should.

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The next week was spent cutting and planting bamboo, walking the elephants every day to the river to give them a bath, visiting where the “poo-paper” is made and helping to make the paper, kayaking, playing with the local children in the school yard, going to the Wednesday night market (which had the BEST fried chicken), and enjoying each others company. And there is nothing like the feeling of a cold bucket shower after a hot and sticky day of cutting bamboo.

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That weekend we had off, so I took this as an opportunity to put another stamp in the ole passport. A few of the girls and I decided to go to Siem Reap, Cambodia. There they have numerous temples that you can visit, to include the well known Angkor Wat, or if you want, Ta Prohm (if you really want to channel your inner Lara Croft). If you are looking for a hostel to stay at while there, I recommend the Funky Flashpacker. They have both private rooms, as well as, community style sleeping accommodations. The hostel is centered around a pool, there is always something going on there, you can meet so many people from around the world, and they have some pretty delicious avocado on toast for breakfast. You can get a tuk-tuk driver for the whole day for about $20. They will drive you to all and any temples in the area. And at night you can stay and enjoy the night life at the hostel or walk over to Pub Street and explore the night life there.

photoAfter a quick, jam packed weekend, we returned to the village for another week. Two weeks flew by and before I knew it, I was back in Bangkok preparing for the flight home. One more night was spent out for a bit on Khao San Road and the next day I had to say some of my hardest goodbyes. In those short few weeks, I developed strong relationships. We became a small family. You spend 24/7 with people you’ve never met and in a short time, you feel as though you have known them forever.

(This blog post and few pictures, doesn’t even begin to do this adventure justice. But I was trying to spare you from reading a novel of a blog post. Should anyone be interested, I’m happy to share more.)

Trips like this, force you out of your comfort zones. Force you to experience life in a different way. Force you to meet and create relationships with people.

In the end, the best trips are usually the ones that aren’t well thought out and they usually end up being the most unforgettable.

Does anyone have any unforgettable trips they’ve taken? I’d love to hear them! And maybe get an idea for somewhere I haven’t been, but need to go!

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