Croatian Adventures, Part I – Split & Trogir

Last weekend my roommate and I hopped across the Adriatic to Croatia… well, ‘hopped’ makes it sound deceivingly short and simple.  We actually took a 12-hour, overnight ferry from Ancona, a port town on the eastern coast of Italy.

All aboard! Taking the overnight Blue Line ferry from Ancona to Split.

View of the port from inside the ferry

It was a really long ferry ride, but I luckily slept through most of it (when I wasn’t working on my essay due Monday, that is).  Besides, the view from the deck in the morning made it completely worth it.

The first thing I saw when I walked out onto the deck in the morning, just as we were approaching Split. Good morning, Adriatic!

Close-up of the coast

Enjoying the view

Once we disembarked and went through passport control, we set out to find our hostel (and took lots of pictures along the way, of course).

Split, Croatia

The boardwalk!

Not a cloud in the sky

Our hostel was awesome – it was a really clean and spacious converted apartment unit run by a friendly young woman who lived upstairs.  It’s called Sweet and Cheap for anyone planning on going to Split anytime soon, and we booked through hostelworld.com (hostelbookers.com is also good).  After dropping off our stuff, we headed to the farmer’s market we had passed on our way.

Farmer’s market in Split

Farmer’s market in Split

There, I bought ingredients for a delicious trail mix – almonds, hazelnuts, and dried pineapple and papaya pieces (a very non-GORP GORP, if you catch my drift).  Snacks in hand, we set out to explore Split.

Courtyard in front of Diocletian’s Palace

Diocletian’s Palace

Diocletian’s Palace and Mausoleum (I think..)

Diocletian’s Garden (note the bag of trail mix)

The fish market in Split

The streets of Split

We stopped for lunch at a very non-touristy restaurant (or so we’d like to think), which the receptionist at the tourist information office recommended for authentic, traditional Croatian food.  Then, we decided to find the beach.  Always a good decision when it’s sunny and warm out.

Stuffed Pljeskavica, grilled minced meat steak stuffed with cheese and served with ajvar (the red pepper paste above) and onion

View of the train tracks leading into Split (on the way to the beach)

Beautiful, clear Croatian water

The beach – what better way to enjoy the perfect weather?

Soakin’ up some sun on the other side of the Adriatic

The beach

After we had our fill of laying out under the sun, we decided to go to Trogir, the historic town just a half an hour bus ride from Split.  It was a quiet little town with less of the cruise ship tourists and not terribly much to see — but worth a visit nonetheless.  We took our time just wandering around until sunset.

Trogir

Trogir

The ‘boardwalk’ in Trogir – not nearly as buzzing as in Split, but beautiful nonetheless

A soccer field, old fortress remains, and mountains (with the ocean just to the left). Just beautiful.

Sunset in Trogir

After sunset we headed back to Split for dinner, which ended up being one of the best meals I’ve had in Europe thus far.  We shared a champagne and smoked cheese risotto and that night’s special, a lentil and sausage dish, while sitting outside in one of Split’s many cobblestone squares.  The rich and creamy risotto was perfectly balanced by the simple yet hearty lentils…delicious.

A delicious (and complimentary) cheese spread for our bread

Champagne and smoked cheese (gouda?) risotto

Lentils with sausage

It was the perfect ending to our long first day in Croatia.  Next up: day 2/3 in Plitvice Lakes National Park and Zagreb!

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Mie Cose Preferite… (My Favorite Things)

We just learned how to say “favorite” in Italian class the other day, so I thought I’d dedicate this post to my favorite things.  Accordingly, it will be all about food (with photos!).

It’s taken me quite a while to start to blogging again, mainly because I’ve had a ton of reading to do… Sorry!  In happier news, I’m done with my first course of the quarter, which covered the history of Ancient Rome.  I literally turned in the final paper a few hours ago (yay!).  The second course started yesterday, and it will cover Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, aka the Christianization of Rome.  Should be interesting!

I’ll try to blog more often, and will be back-dating posts about the past three weeks once I get around to writing them…  Keep an eye out for the one about my trip to Croatia!

So, back to food…

My roommate and I have been cooking a lot since we arrived because it’s a pain (and expensive) to go out to eat all the time, and more importantly because we love to cook.  We’ve made some really great dinners so far, and we’re making an effort to learn how to make some authentic Italian dishes.  We live with our program’s Italian Student Companion (ISC), who is awesome and has taught us some of her tricks and favorite recipes!  She made the entire apartment an authentic carbonara a couple of weeks ago and prepared a tomato sauce from scratch the other night…both were delicious!  I’m starting to catch on, and I think I’ve mastered pasta al dente.  (According to our ISC, the trick is to make the pasta at the same time as the sauce/veggies, rather than cooking the pasta first and letting it sit in the strainer, where it cooks more, hardens, and gets cold.  Using the pasta right after it’s done cooking is the best way to preserve the al dente consistency!)

Pasta with sautéed peppers, onions, and zucchini

Farfalle with sausage, peppers, and onions and a side of sweet lemon carrots

Broccoflower! saw it at the supermarket, had to try it

An Italian version of ratatouille, which our ISC taught us how to make (potatoes, zucchini, peppers, onions, and eggplant topped with a few pine nuts)

Braised lemon chicken, made by my roommate! (And served with a side of rosemary potatoes)

My favorite of our cooked meals so far is the braised chicken – I think my roommate was a chef in her past life (no recipe, just instinct!).  Anyway, moving on… out of the kitchen, that is.

We obviously eat lots of pizza here, and it’s SO GOOD.  I’m not even going to try to put it into words…

My first pizza in Rome (and my favorite so far!) – an amazing white pizza in Trastevere (just off of Piazza Trilussa), topped with pesto, potatoes, and sausage.

Me and my roommate in Naples with our Neopolitan pizzas! Mine had mushrooms, artichokes, basil, and mozzarella, and hers was folded over, filled with ricotta, and topped with mozzarella. Cheesy goodness.

My roommate’s rosemary and olive oil “pizza” in Ancona, Italy – sauceless and kind of like a really crunchy flatbread. Not exactly filling, but delicious nonetheless!

Ancona’s version of the “Hawaiian” pizza (no meat, just pineapple) – another one of my favorites

Which brings us to gelato.  The only thing I can say is that it’s so much better than ice cream!  There are some good gelaterias in LA, but it’s nothing like getting gelato in Italy.  They’re on every corner, which is all too tempting.  I’m on a search to find the best pistachio…

Pistachio and bacio (chocolate and hazelnut combined)

A gelateria in Cumae with flavors I’d never seen before! Apparently the rule is, if there’s a gelato flavor you’ve never seen before, it has no calories the first time you try it ;) It’s a dangerous concept, I know.

Limoncello gelato – “no calories”

Italian McDonalds has gelato McFlurries… (awfully tempting, but I don’t eat McDonalds)

More desserts…

A chocolate bar in Trastevere..!

“Mozart cake” – a pistachio flavored cake that’s common across Europe. This was came from a little dessert shop in Split, Croatia (more on that trip coming soon!)

Indulging in a cannoli before hopping on a train to Ancona

Ciobar. Italy does hot chocolate best. (Although it’s really more like pudding)

And coffee!  A morning cappuccino is my new best friend.

A cappuccino from the cafe just down the street from IES, where I have class.

Stay tuned for more about my adventures in Italy and beyond!

Roma, Ti Amo

First post from Rome!  I’ve been in the lovely land of the Italians for almost a week and a half now, and all I can say is, this is the life.  I’ve been quite busy with classes and school work, so unfortunately I haven’t had time to blog until now, and I’ll have to keep it short.  To my family and friends: I have settled in wonderfully and am loving every minute here!  I miss you all and hope you are well.

Here’s the last week and a half in photos (updated with captions on 10/12!)

my room!

the view from our corner

a fountain in the park just down the street!

my favorite study spot: the rooftop terrace at our classroom facility, IES Rome

a view of Castel Sant’Angelo from our lunch spot the first day

partial remains of a theater in the Forum Holitorium, ancient Rome’s vegetable market – and yes, those are apartments on the top floor and they do in fact house people today

bridge decor

Castel Sant’Angelo and the Tiber River in the late afternoon

a ferry on the Tiber

the Roman Forum

the Roman Forum

Largo Argentina, the site of 3 ancient temples’ remains and home to a cat sanctuary (see below)

a cat in Largo Argentina

more kitties!

just a casual lunch at the Trevi Fountain

view of the fountain from our standing lunch spot

Marino, Italy, home to Sagra dell’Uva, an annual wine/grape festival

the “wine fountain” at the festival (those are grapes) – free white wine!

Marino all lit up for the 88th Sagra dell’Uva