Kayti VS the World

SIX THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE TRAVELING TO ITALY (PLUS A FREE PRINTABLE LANGUAGE GUIDE)

29 November 2016


Look Into Transportation Passes


Do some research about where you're going and how long you're staying to determine whether or not a transportation pass might benefit you. In certain cities it is extremely beneficial and cost effective. Like in Venice, for example, the rates for water buses and taxis are outrageous if you don't have some form of a transportation pass. Even if you are only there for a couple of days, it could save you hundreds. If you are under the age of 29 then you qualify for the Rolling Venice Card which is a 3-Day tourist pass for 28 Euros (about $30 dollars) that includes unlimited use of all local public transport.

Be Wary of Lunch Hour and Mondays


This is a big one for first time Italy or Europe travelers. Always check the hours of a business before organizing two ferries and a bus route to get to your destination (oops). BEWARE THE ITALIAN "RIPOSO". This mid-day tradition closing of various businesses and sometimes even restaurants varies from city to city and business to business so it's always better to double check. It can run anyway from a half hour to a couple of hours usually between noon and four in the afternoon.

Another little known nugget of knowledge is that a large portion of business and restaurants (usually not in major touristy areas, but still occurs in places like Burano and Montalpulciano) are closed on Mondays. I found this out the hard way after making my way all the way to Burano from Murano only to find the historic lace shop I wanted to visit (along with several other businesses) was closed. My suggestion? Spend Mondays exploring architecture and beaches and maybe even hit up a local grocer in the morning and pack a picnic for the day. Some of my best days in Italy were spent stocking up on fresh meats, cheeses, wines, breads and fruit in the morning and spending the whole day driving around stopping here and there, taking in Italy's beauty.


You're Supposed To Get Lost


Yes, of course visit all of the famous shops that you've heard so much about or seen 100 times on Pinterest. But take some time to just get lost. I had a list of places that I had to go while I was in Italy, but my most memorable experiences were getting lost in the alleys and finding a restaurant with pizza that changed my life. Or hitting a dead end that brought me to the canal, but being able to watch a woman across the way singing to herself and hanging clothes up to dry. It's the getting lost and letting the city just swallow you up that's going to create the most lasting memories and the biggest impact.

Know Your Basics


I feel like a lot of Americans just assume that in most major cities (Venice, Rome, etc) throughout Italy, that a large majority of people will speak English. Sure some do, a lot of the younger generations. But a large majority DO NOT. It's beneficial and polite to know your basics. Even if you're not good at it, even putting in the effort makes people a lot more apt to help you or put in the effort to understand you. A simple "please", "thank you", or even "help" while holding a map can do wonders. And for you're benefit I've put together a cheat sheet for the basics you must know before traveling to Italy. Just click the image below to download.



Yes, You Can Drink The Water


And I'm not just talking about faucet water here folks, there are various public water fountains all over Italy that are perfectly safe and acceptable for the public to use. And on a hot day, when you've been walking for hours and a bottle of water is 3 Euros, you will be grateful for these fountains. We kept water bottles on us and then just filled them whenever we came across a fountain. And not only useful, they're usually beautiful as well.


When In Tuscany? Rent A Car


I'm not usually a car rental advocate because I feel like it's a waste of money. But when it comes to Tuscany it is definitely worth it. Sure, there are tours that go all over Tuscany but to be honest they're just as expensive if not more expensive than a rental car and don't give you the freedom to get off the beaten path. Rent a car, pick some villages and cities you want to hit, and make your own path! We knew we had to Montalcino, Montalpulciano and Montecatini Val di Cecina. But after that, we just drove wherever the wind decided to figuratively take us. If we saw a random hot spring in the mountains? Stopped. A secluded tree lined country road? Drove it. I can't recommend enough. Plus it makes the whole packing a picnic option a lot more feasible.

Did You Find This Information Helpful?

STOPOVER: BOSCO DELLA SPINA

21 November 2016


Bosco Della Spina



I stumbled upon Bosco Della Spina by means of a happy accident. I last minute had to book a reservation close to where I was, which was in Tuscany where there wasn't a city in sight. A little under an hour's drive from Montalpulciano, we found an AirBNB close to where we were. So, we booked it and in less than fifteen minutes we were pulling into the tree lined parking area at what was the only commercial business in Lupompesi. There were no shops, no stores, no restaurants. Before checking in, we decided to take a little walk around town in hopes of finding something to eat (this was before realizing Bosco Della Spina had some of the BEST FOOD we would have in Italy).

We wandered down side streets and alleys and after a while started to feel like we had stepped through the twilight zone. We saw maybe one other person, walking from their car to their apartment. Other than that the town seemed completely empty. We had just reached the edge of the South side of the town when out of nowhere it started down pouring. Despite the sun and the butterflies and the warmth, it was pouring. We waited it out under a nearby tree and after about ten minutes the rain slowed and eventually stopped. The sun was just starting to set and cast a misty glower over the rolling hills, illuminating fragile spider webs between the trees.

After a few moments of taking in the beauty we remembered the truly important part of our walk, we were absolutely famished.


The Restaurant


Normally I start these hotel reviews by talking about the hotel itself, and trust me, there is plenty to say about this place. But I will never forget the food. When we did finally check in, we were happy to find that there was an on-site restaurant that served breakfast (included), lunch and dinner. We took our bags to our room and quickly hurried back downstairs. We didn't see any other guests but we caught a glimpse of two young men in the kitchen, one who promptly came out to take our order.

I ordered the first white wine I saw (typical) and ordered mushroom risotto. Two things to note here. I have never had risotto before. And I was so absorbed by how delicious my food was I have absolutely NO IDEA what my boyfriend ordered. It was one of the best things I have ever eaten. I ate as much as I could before sitting back and taking a look around. Half of the restaurant is all windows, some of which look out onto the terrace which is seats on one of Tuscany's signature rolling hills. There is a large fireplace in the center of the restaurant and modest decor that made you feel like you were home again.

When we came down for breakfast the following morning, we found we were not alone for once. There were a few other couples seated around us. I was waking myself up with a cappuccino when we were slowly brought out various breakfast pastries, FRESH out of the oven. Flaky croissants, plump fruit, and some kind of pastry with chocolate on one side and Italian cream on the other. I have seen pastries like this before in America but none that TASTED like this. I don't know what is up with this Italian cream but I dream about this damn cream. And the chocolate was real chocolate. The perfect bittersweet kind that perfectly complemented the sweet pastry dough it was wrapped in. I have had plenty of creams and custards but nothing compared to this pastry. I could only eat one but you can be DAMN sure I wrapped the rest of those up in napkins, stuck them in a box and brought them with us on the rest of our journey.

A BRIGHT IDEA: During my next stay at Bosco Della Spina, I plan on trying to coordinate with the chef and inn keeper to perhaps put together a picnic basket lunch for us that we can take out into the Tuscan countryside. Might be a good idea for others to ask about as well?


The Rooms


There are a few different room types, but since we were only staying for the night we opted for one of the smaller options on the second floor. A big comfy four poster bed facing shuttered windows, a small kitchenette, a very interesting laid out bathroom with a large shower, but best of all was the window. In the center of the living room wall that faced the side of the inn that drops down into the Tuscan hills, was a giant brick lined window. We didn't really discover just how much we loved this window until early the following morning.

We took a shower, cuddled up under the comfy blankets and fell asleep early. Still suffering from jet lag, we woke up the following morning around 4:30am. We wandered into the living room area and could see the fire few rays of the sunrise illuminating the far off hills. We grabbed a few blankets and climbed onto the brick windowsill. We sat there together in silence, taking in the beautiful view, the misty morning haze, the sunrise that slowly cracked gold along the horizon. We watched a storm roll in and out in the distance and slowly watched the small Italian village around us come to life. It was the most relaxing and peaceful morning I have ever experienced. And for that reason, I cannot wait to go back.

TIP: Make sure to ask for a top floor room so you can get the best view! And don't forget a swimsuit!


The Property


The next morning, being fully rested, we were able to explore the grounds a little more. We had breakfast early so the sun was still making it's way above us when we walked down the stairs through the tunnel of ivy that led to the terrace. There was a large outdoor seating area with a gazebo like structure made out of vines and ivy. If you walk past this area, parallel to the drop off that the property is situated on, you will come to a beautiful infinity pool. It was too cold to swim while we were here but if you swim up to the edge it looks right out over the hills. It's a stunning view if you can't tell from the photo. I could easily spend a few hours perched on the edge of this pool on a warm Summer night, watching the sun's glows fade and the fireflies move in.

Book This Hotel If you're looking for relaxing accommodation near some of Tuscany's most popular areas with beautiful views and excellent food. Bosco Della Spina is suitable for all traveler's but would be especially appealing for couples or honeymooners.

Rooms Starting at $63*
*price based on current exchange rate

CREATE YOUR OWN HOLIDAY TABLESCAPE (PLUS A $500 HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY!)

14 November 2016

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #InspireWithCheese #CollectiveBias


In case anyone hasn't checked their calendar recently, let this be a wake up call. IT IS NOVEMBER 14TH!! And that means the holidays and rapidly approaching. For some of us, this is when the panic will start to ensue. But for others, who actually have their thoughts together on a daily basis (I'm not on of these people) they will get through the holidays with no burnt meals, no spilled red win and you can bet that every single holiday gathering will have a flawlessly set table. So, being one of these people that has some issues with giving myself ample time for planning, when the opportunity to create a holiday party post with Kaukauna® Cheese arose - I jumped at the chance!

Today I will be sharing with you some photos of my own little holiday dinner I had last week with my family along with a DIY of how to create some super cute pumpkin place settings (as seen in the photo above). I will also be sharing a little recipe of how to make Herbed Artichoke Pull Apart Bread, the perfect holiday appetizer!


The first thing I always take into consideration when setting a table for the holidays is an overall color scheme or mood. This time around, I wanted a darker, moodier theme. I chose some muted light greens in the centerpiece and leafy bits, matte black plates, a dark almost black purple plate charger, and light pink napkins. At first I was nervous about the light colored napkins but after I got everything together I actually think the light napkins accentuate the darkness of everything else. Candles always add a magical touch, so I used two large gold candle holders (with lots of patina!) and several small tealight candles.


And now onto these little cuties! I think this is the cutest idea for little place cards for Thanksgiving or any November holiday party. For December I would probably use something a little more Winter or Christmas themed. But really, these pumpkin name cards could be used any time in Winter or Fall. And what's even better, can you save and reuse them!


YOU WILL NEED:

  • Painters Tape
  • A Paintbrush
  • Gold Leaf Paint (very cool and much easier than using actual leafing)
  • Letter Stamps
  • An Ink Pad
  • Blank Name Tags (BUY EXTRA!)
  • Enough Small Craft Pumpkins or Gourds for Your Guests


    First, applying painters tape to half of the pumpkin. I chose the bottom half because that way the gold leaf paint wouldn't be coming into contact with the plate or table. I was worried the paint might have glitter or might fall apart over time, but I actually would have been fine painting this on either side of the pumpkin. Make sure your tape adheres along where you're edge will be so that you have a nice clean line.


    The fun part! Paint! Apply the gold leafing paint to any exposed area of your pumpkin or gourd and allow to dry for however long is necessary. Mine only took about fifteen minutes to completely dry so that I could handle it without transferring any of the color.


    And the final step, which is definitely the hardest step, make your name tags using the blank tags, stamps and ink pad. I went through an ENTIRE PACK of blank name tags just to get the four place settings I needed. Since I was stamping individual letters I had to really focus on the spacing I wanted and keeping my line height consistent. So, good luck. I hope you all have an easier time with this than I did. Then attach your name tags to the pumpkins. And voila! You now have your own super cute little pumpkin place card!




    Now that we've taken care of the table, we can focus on what really matters - the food. Who doesn't love bread, am I right? I decided to make a shareable appetizer that has every delicious thing. Bread, butter, artichoke hearts, herbs, cheese. What more could you really want?


    You Will Need:

  • A Round Artisan Bread Loaf
  • One Can of Artichoke Hearts
  • Fresh Rosemary
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Butter
  • One Kaukauna® Sharp Cheddar Cheese Ball


    Unless you've been living under a rock, you've seen Kaukauna® products around your local grocery store. And maybe it's just me but I always associate their cheese with the holidays. It's one of those easy things you can pick up, set on a cheese platter with some crackers, veggies or toast rounds and you've got yourself a delicious, 100% real cheddar appetizer that makes entertaining easy. But, Kaukauna® cheese doesn't have to only be eaten in it's prepared form. You can also incorporate it into your favorite recipes, like I did here. I normally have a hard time finding the perfect bread loaf but this time around I just went down to my local QFC headed on over to the Cheese Shop where I picked up my Kaukauna® Sharp Cheddar Cheese Ball and found the perfect crispy bread loaf in their bakery department.


    Next you will want to prep your ingredients. There really are no exact measurements, everything is according to your own taste and preferences. You don't even have to use artichoke hearts if that's not your thing, you can fill this bad boy with whatever your heart desires. So chop those herbs, slice and shred that cheese, and mince that garlic! As for the bread, you will want to use a sharpened serrated knife to cut diagonally in BOTH directions across the loaf so that you're almost but not all the way through the loaf. This will create easy to tear little bread diamonds that make this dish so easy to share!


    Now, melt enough butter so that you can drizzle it over the entire loaf. Make sure to separate some of the cracks so that the butter gets into the loaf not just onto it. NOW STUFF THAT BAD BOY! Fill the cracks with your cheese, herbs and artichoke hearts and the fuller the better because it will really cook all of those flavors right into the bread itself. Then, wrap in foil and stick in the oven at 350 degrees for about fifteen minutes. Then open the foil and cook for about ten-ISH minutes longer until the top of the loaf is crispy and beautiful.


    I served my bread on a cake stand because I'm sorry but by the time this thing was done cooking it was more appealing to me than any cake I could think of and I really felt like it deserved that glorious crystal stand.


    Along with the Artichoke Pull Apart Bread I also prepared a brown sugar pineapple glazed ham, a Kaukauna® Sharp Cheddar Cheese Log, asparagus with balsamic tomatoes, candied bacon, a butter lettuce and rocket salad, and tortellini mac n' cheese. If you're wondering why you don't see any of the other food pictured here it's because, well, I straight up forgot. Until of course I pulled my mini blackberry pies out of the oven after dinner had already been eaten and cleaned up. So, here's this nice pie photo for you.

    Also, just as a tip if you've never created a holiday tablescape before, I highly recommend serving your meal buffet style from a different table. That way you can still dine at your stunning table without having to make room for each dish. And now for the fun part, the giveaway! Just enter below to be entered to win a $500 visa gift card, but there are some great runner up prizes! Like $200 visa gift cards or one of the beautiful Kaukauna® Cheese Boards pictured above. There are hundreds of winners being drawn so enter now for your chance to win!

    #InspireWithChe ese Sweepstakes
    I hope you found this post helpful and if you did, please feel free to share it using the widgets below! I love creating holiday tablescapes and giving myself the creativity to do something new every time. If anyone has holiday party posts they would like to share, please leave your blog post in the comments. I love to check out other ideas for inspiration!

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  • JAPAN FUNBOX: A REVIEW

    31 August 2016

    Japan Funbox Review

    JAPAN FUNBOX


    I don't do a whole lot of "box" type reviews despite the many options available for those who love travel or anything culturally diverse. But when I was contacted by Japan Funbox to do a review I couldn't resist, I mean, I am planning on going to Tokyo in a few months so I figured the timing couldn't be better! I was sent the Mini Japanese Candy Box or Japan Funbox* and I don't know why I get so excited about trying new food but I could not wait to rip this thing open.

    This subscription box comes in three sizes, the Mini, the Original and the Family Size and starts at an affordable $14.99 a month which is pretty low compare to some other subscription boxes I've looked at and subscribed to. After receiving the Mini I might just have to order the Original because some of the snacks and treats I was sent were amazing.

    ALFORT Chocolate - This was a bar of individual whole grain cookies coated in milk chocolate, and not the standard milk chocolate that you get from Safeway. I'm talking the World Market kind of milk chocolate. I'm not normally much of a chocolate person but I ate this entire bar in one sitting. I didn't plan to. It just happened.

    Grape Whistle Candy - Yes, this candy does actually whistle. And it doesn't taste bad either. Kind of like a soft version of Smarties.

    Pizza Potato Chips - So, to me these didn't taste like pizza. They tasted more just like... pizza flavoring. There's a difference. I'm not much of a chip person and these weren't bad, persay, but I would never buy them myself.

    Pretz Tomato Taste Sticks - Okay, these actually tasted like pizza and they are addicting. And tiny. So you can eat a lot of them. It's a really soft cracker that literally tastes like a pizza stick. My boyfriend even liked them and I can never get him to try new food.

    Ume-Pachi - This is supposed to be a sour plum fizzing candy but I can't really give much of a review of it because as soon as I put a little in my mouth I gagged. I found it to be extremely salty and nothing even loosely resembling a plum flavor.

    Shuwabo - I would imagine this is kind of the Japanese version of Laffy Taffy? It has that same super potent artificially fruity flavor but it had some kind of crackling bits on the inside. Not a lot, but you could still tell it was there. Almost like an extremely toned down Poprock center.

    After looking at the kind of stuff that comes in the Original and Family boxes, I might just have to order another one... And even better news you can get $3 off your first Original or Family box using code "3offget".

    Have any of you tried travel or worldly related subscription boxes that you enjoyed? I would love to try out a few more!

    STOPOVER: HOTEL QUATTRO FONTANE

    24 August 2016

    review of hotel quattro fontane in lido venice

    Hotel Quattro Fontane


    Since for the previous week or so we had been staying in Murano and Venice, arriving in Lido was a little bit of a shock. It had been a while since we had seen a car or a bus or anything other than boats as a mode of transportation for that matter. So, we stepped off the boat and immediately come upon a roundabout filled with cars, buses, bicycles and scooters. Having become quite accustomed to walking while being in Venice we decided to start the 15 to 20 minute walk to our hotel. In the same way that Venice is known for it's winding streets and alleyways, Lido is known it's beaches and laid back vacation feels.

    The walk to the hotel pretty much runs parallel to the beach the whole way, we passed a few street vendors and a few little curbside bars and restaurants. The main building sits just behind the front gate and is easy to spot by the lush ivy climbing up it's walls. Since our room wasn't ready when we arrived we decided to leave our luggage, walk back into town and rent a scooter for the day. This was also when we learned that it's completely normal for a hotel in Italy to request to keep your passport for a short period of time to process your check in.

    review of hotel quattro fontane in lido venice
    review of hotel quattro fontane in lido venice

    The Hotel


    The hotel property is a lot larger than I expected. Each common area is ornately decorated with eye catching pieces that will leave you wondering... We still want to know what was inside the trunk in the East building. There is a large courtyard with a beautiful tree that looms over, providing shade and a romantic atmosphere. And the courtyard is filled with various flowers, plants and little lizards. In the Summer, you can spend the evening dining outside among the flowers and candlelight. One evening, after taking a jet lag induced nap, we were leaving our room to walk into town for dinner. When we stepped into the courtyard, we saw at least 20 of the hotel guests in wicker chairs sat among the flowers and plant life, drinking Prosecco and laughing as the sun slipped beneath the ocean waves. I remember wanting to stay but my stomach was taking me elsewhere...

    TIP: Lido is all about slow living. So, take a break from exploring one evening, pour a glass of wine and spend an evening underneath that large courtyard tree enjoying the ocean air.

    review of hotel quattro fontane in lido venice
    review of hotel quattro fontane in lido venice

    The Room


    The rooms, also ornately decorated, have everything you could need for a comfortable stay. Our room didn't have a shower but it did have an unnaturally long tub. Everybody loves a good bath so this was a welcome exchange for us. Our room had large windows that opened like french doors over the courtyard. One morning we were there, we got caught in a Spring storm and hung our clothes in front of the window to let them dry. I remember the sun finally coming out and filtering onto the bed through the lace in my dress, little flecks of faded sunlight that told us we could get back on our way again, exploring the island.

    review of hotel quattro fontane in lido venice

    The Island


    I didn't find that any part of Venice lacked that old world charm, but Lido was like the California of Venice. There were motor vehicles for one thing, sandy beaches littered with bikini-clad designer-name-beach-tote bearing vacationers. The island is pretty small and easy to explore via scooter (we were able to rent one for 24 hours for around $35 which we thought was a STEAL, it costs twice that much in Capri).

    There are quite a few gelato spots around town that have some pretty extensive flavor lists. There was also a beyond amazing Indian restaurant righ t on the main strip called Buddha Soul that I cannot recommend enough. One night, Chris stayed in with a fever (worst time ever to be sick on vacation in Italy) and I went out to dinner by myself. The waiter acted like it was the most out of thi world thing that I was eating alone but I thought it was nice. I arrived late (to Americans anyway) at around 8:30pm and decided to sit outside to watch the town slowly fade from bustling day time beach goers into late night gelato stops and bar hopping (of which there were only a few so there wasn't a lot of "hopping" per say). I tried several things off the menu and they were all some of the best Indian food I've had at any restaurant (doesn't beat at authentic at home cuisine of course, but what does!).

    TIP: There are a few scooter rental places in Lido, I recommend the one on Via Negroponte 14/b, 30126. The service was amazing and the price was the best we saw during our whole time in Italy.

    review of hotel quattro fontane in lido venice
    review of hotel quattro fontane in lido venice

    The Breakfast


    I have this weird fascination with room service and I really hope I'm not alone in that. So when I found out that we could have the option to have breakfast delivered to our room, I jumped all over it. It was relaxing to have breakfast in front of those french door style windows over the courtyard in our pajamas but I would still recommend heading to the dining room. Also, when you order breakfast to your room, you choose from a menu and some things do come at a surcharge whereas when you take breakfast in the dining room it is served buffet style and there are no surcharges.

    I personally thought that the dining room breakfast surpassed the room service breakfast in quality AND quantity. There was wide variety of options from eggs, breakfast meats, scones and pastries, cereal, waffles, etc. Similar to an American buffet breakfast but the quality was much better.

    Book This Hotel If you want to spend some time on the beach but still be in close proximity to downtown Venice. Hotel Quattro Fontane is suitable for all travelers solo and otherwise.

    Rooms Starting at $167*
    *price based on current exchange rate

    Kayti VS the World was invited as a guest of the Hotel Quattro Fontane however, as always, all opinions are my own
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