Things That Are Awesome, Vol. 139

The weekly roundup of awesome internet time-wasters:

  1. Ohhhh, France, this is so you: French Baker Busted for Working Too Much.
  2. Though I hate the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, I cannot deny that Jamie Dornan is adorable: Fifty Accents of Grey with Jamie Dornan.
  3. Love me some Stanley Tucci: If Stanley Tucci Were Your Boyfriend.
  4. “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure”: Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer.
  5. Oscar mania: I loved Mark Seliger’s Instagram Portraits from the Vanity Fair Party, and I died laughing at The Hater’s Guide to the 2015 Oscars (“I don’t wanna live in a world where Ethan Hawke has his career validated by an Oscar”).
  6. The topic of standing desks has been a popular topic of conversation among my work friends as of late, so this made me laugh out loud, for real: I Switched to a Standing Desk, So Now You Should Too.
  7. Love both of them: Eddie Redmayne and Emma Stone on Acting, Fame, and Protecting Their Privacy.
  8. Thank the lord this month is almost over: Hey…Can You Not Invite February? No Offense.
  9. This topic as a whole baffles me, but: Here’s What Colors Your Favorite Celebrities Think the Dress Is (all hail Chrissy Teigen) (but it’s clearly white and gold). And if you still need more information: The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress.
  10. I hope you are binge-watching season three already: Everyone Frank Underwood Has Screwed Over on House of Cards (in Order of How Badly He Screwed Them).

(Image via)

A Peaceful Lake Como Cruise

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In the timeline of my life, I will remember the summer of 2014 for one thing: the bar exam. That two day test from hell consumed everything, always, and caused me (and every other poor unfortunate soul who sat for it) undue amounts of stress. I’ve never been one to particularly stress about exams, but the bar is just different. The fear of not passing crippled me at times, and I studied like I have never studied before.

And so, as I sat in Michigan, in the throes of bar studying but stealing a few minutes here and there to plan my bar trip, all I could think about was making it to Italy and relaxing. I planned to be in Italy for nearly a month, and I knew there would be days of high activity and lots of sightseeing, but upon arrival, I wanted to start with something low-key, something peaceful, something that would be the complete and utter antidote to the stress of the bar. Enter: Lake Como.

Lake Como

Yes, I know it’s a popular vacation spot, but it’s also low on monuments and must-sees; there wouldn’t be much for me to do there besides relax, and I would be relaxing in an incredibly beautiful spot. Perfect, right?

However.

As with everything in life, vacation plans never quite work out as expected. My journey to Italy involved a super long layover in JFK, followed by a long time in Milan’s train station, followed by a sweaty train ride north, sitting across from a man who ate an entire box of cookies with his mouth open and drank directly from the world’s largest container of orange juice. By the time I found my hotel in Varenna (which itself was a slight challenge), I was not feeling the serene Lake Como magic I had anticipated. And, later that afternoon, when I lined up with what can only be described as a mad throng of other tourists to board the boats that jump from city to city around the lake, I grew even more dispirited. Jetlag was in full force, and I was not having my ideal Italian moment.

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But then. Then the boat revved up, speeding out into the middle of the lake which, I kid you not, was positively glistening in the bright afternoon sunlight. And it was like a switch had flipped: the breeze was refreshing, the blues of the lake were crystal-clear and perfect, and the towns that dotted the lake (including Menaggio and Bellagio, where I briefly stopped) were charming, vibrantly-hued little gems. Suddenly, my jetlag didn’t seem so bad, and my pushy fellow tourists seemed less like annoyances and more like pleasant companions.

Just like that, I had arrived in Italy. And it was all good.

Montreal: Old Town Charm, Riverside Promenades, and One Very Adventurous Boat Ride

Now that I’ve written three food-related posts about Montreal (see here, here, and here), I suppose it’s time to discuss what we actually did to work off all those calories while visiting the city.

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We based ourselves in Old Town, which was exactly where I wanted to be. The thing that first drew me to Montreal was the idea that it was “the Paris of North America” – and I figured nowhere would more exemplify that than Old Town. Though it was of course touristy, I quite enjoyed this area. Cobblestone streets and lots of flowers? Sold.

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Speaking of flowers: I was more than a little enamored with the perfectly manicured floral displays scattered throughout Old Town.

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Another fixture of Old Town is, of course, Notre Dame. No, it’s not quite like being at the one in Paris, but Montreal’s Notre Dame is grand in its own right. We tagged along with one of the free guided tours that run regularly, and then came back later on our trip for a Sunday mass.

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Notre Dame

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We also paid a visit to another of Montreal’s grand cathedrals, Marie-Reine-du-Monde. Though a cranky caretaker quickly shooed us out as it was near closing time, I’m glad we got to at least take a quick peek at its fantastic interior.

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Less successful was our visit to the Château Ramezay museum, which contains exhibits on Montreal and Quebec at large. Unfortunately, our guided tour was slow moving and painfully boring (which I say as a person who actually loves and enjoys history). My mom and I even ended up sneaking out early! The gardens at Château Ramezay are lovely, however, and are well worth a quick visit.

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One of my favorite parts of our visit to Montreal were our walks along the water; luckily, our hotel was located right nearby the St. Lawrence River waterfront. We went one evening as the sun was setting and it was impossibly beautiful.

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Another river-related activity that we loved – but that I sadly have no pictures of – was taking a jetboat down the Lachine Rapids with Saute Moutons. Upon arrival, we listened to a short presentation on safety and what to expect and bundled up in life vests and rain gear. Riding down the rapids was crazy fun: the waves are huge, the crew members enthusiastically shout out chants in their bullhorn, and you get absolutely drenched. It may not have matched up with the refined, old world Montreal that I expected, but I loved it nonetheless, just as I loved Montreal at large for being a city that is both classic and modern.

Montreal Eats: More Than Just Poutine (but Also a Lot of Poutine)

During our trip to Montreal, my family joked that we were basically just spending each day filling time between meals. And while that’s not entirely accurate, it is fair to say that food was a focus of our stay in the city. In addition to eating our way through the Mile End and ogling fresh produce at the Marche Jean-Talon, there were more than a few other gastronomic highlights.

When it came to Montreal’s cuisine scene, the only thing I really knew about going into this trip was poutine, the famous fries, gravy, and cheese curd dish, so it seems only appropriate to start there. Upon arrival, we dropped off our bags and headed straight to La Banquise for poutine because, you know, priorities.

At La Banquise, you can keep it simple and order la classique, or you can try poutine topped with…pretty much anything. I opted for chicken with mine and it was delicious – albeit rich, food coma-inducing, and something I probably would not want to eat with any regularity. Still, when in Montreal…

La Banquise

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On our first evening in town, we enjoyed a fantastic dinner at Boris Bistro. I had a summery sangria to start, followed by a sinfully rich but oh-so-tasty duck risotto with oyster mushrooms, sage, and orange cream sauce for my main. This tasted incredible but, in the manner of all risotto, was eminently un-photographable.

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For dessert, I ended with a chocolate cake drenched in caramel sauce. This is how all dinners should end:

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One memorable meal was at a creperie right in the heart of Montreal’s Old Town, Crêperie Chez Suzette. Though it is situated right on the main – and thus, touristy – drag in Old Town, Chez Suzette served up tastier crepes than I would have credited them for. They also have an incredible variety – both savory and sweet – to choose from. The perfect stop for a mid-sightseeing snack.

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If you’re in search of a good finer dining meal in Montreal, I quite enjoyed our dinner at Restaurant Verses. While the food itself was good, I also adored the presentation – all the dishes were artfully arranged, even moreso than my lowlit photographs would lead you to believe:

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For a lovely Sunday brunch, we headed to Bieres et Compagnie in search of their all-you-can-eat mussels. Something I didn’t expect to have: a gigantic, bright pink beer. Excellent:

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As has probably become clear for anyone who has followed along for a while, I love a good high tea – and was excited to see what Montreal could offer up on that front. We headed to the Fairmont one afternoon, and while the tea and treats themselves were great, the service and atmosphere left much to be desired – we were seated next to a gigantic and loud bridal shower, ruining the elegant tea experience we had hoped for. When we asked if it was possible to move, the server basically ignored our request and promptly disappeared. Fortnum & Mason this was not.

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From the refined nature of a high tea to something the absolute opposite: a deli meat extravaganza at Schwartz’s. We arrived early for lunch, anticipating that it would become crowded (it would) and not wanting to miss out. The heaping smoked meat sandwich was worth an early lunch time.

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Nothing says French Canadian charm like…Spanish tapas. While nothing about our meal at Tapas 24 was particularly Canadian or unique to Montreal, it did provide tasty food in a large, modern space.

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We ate breakfast at our hotel most days, but on our last day in town, we ventured out to Olive & Gourmando – and I’m glad we did. The place was packed, and for good reason – it was delicious. It also happens to be home to an excellently named breakfast sandwich: the “poached egg on your face” panini. Made with spicy poached eggs, Comté cheese, speck, and tomatoes, this was amazing (albeit, as the menu description warned it would be, a little spicy for my tastes):

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We finished our Montreal food odyssey at Brit & Chips. Lest you think this was a very un-Canadian place to finish our trip, I should mention that I chose the maple syrup battered haddock for my meal. While it was a bit strange to taste maple syrup in my fish, it seemed a fitting end to our trip.

Brit & Chips

Looking back on these photographs makes me pretty nostalgic for our time in Montreal (and not to mention damn hungry). I cannot wait to return one day and experience even more of the city’s food scene. Bon appétit!

January in New York: A Few Favorites

I mean, if T. Swift says New York is waiting for you, it has to be true, right?!

Alright, maybe not.

One thing New York has been, however, is a city that’s starting to feel more and more like home. And so, even though we are well into February now, I could not resist ignoring my own tardiness and looking back at January anyway, because it was a pretty good month.

It started out on a high note, with some of my best friends in town for New Years Eve festivities. On New Years Day, we wandered through the Central Park Zoo:

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The next day, we headed to Williamsburg for a tour of the Brooklyn Brewery. While I think the Brewery is a fun place to meet with friends for a drink, I have to say the tour left a bit to be desired: it’s short, not terribly informative, and basically consists of two stops. I wouldn’t wait a long time for it (which, as tickets go quickly, you often have to do).

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In other news, my sister and I saw Cabaret on Broadway. Alan Cumming was amazing (that seriously cannot be overstated) and Emma Stone was…MIA on the night we went to the show. It was a huge bummer (that also cannot be overstated) to arrive at the theater and realize she was not going to perform that night – but I’m still glad we saw Cumming in all his glory.

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We also stopped by an art gallery in the Meatpacking District to see Suits: Behind the Lens, a collection of on set, behind-the-scenes photographs by Patrick J. Adams. Oh, and we met Patrick J. Adams. Kind of awesome.

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In other news, despite the frigid temperatures, I walked the loop in Prospect Park:

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And I walked a lot of the loop in Central Park:

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Tavern on Green

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And I wandered through Riverside Park just in time to see a sweet sunset:

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I visited Chelsea on a very rainy day (but it still looked pretty cute despite the weather):

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I visited Nolita and Soho on a very windy, frigid day (both neighborhoods also retained their charm):

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And I survived the great Blizzard of 2015, which turned out to be – for NYC, at least – not much of a blizzard at all.

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In foodie news, there were many good meals this month, from a tasty brunch at Williamsburg’s Shelter, which can only be described – with its tree stumps for seats, canoe and bicycle decor, and mason jar candle holders – as a hipster paradise:

At the Tipsy Parson, I found what just may be one of my new go-tos for brunch. The chicken and waffles were delicious, and the rest of the menu looked so appetizing as well – definitely worth a return trip.

At Café Lalo, I channeled my inner Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail, and while the café is super cute (you can tell exactly why they chose the spot for the movie), I found the food underwhelming.

At The Fat Radish, I had an amazing (but, sadly, also amazingly greasy) burger:

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At Fig & Olive, I enjoyed the rosemary chicken panini with a side of white truffle olive oil fries (the panini was standard, the fries were yum):

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And in terms of local eating, I found myself at Communal Table twice, once for a quiet Saturday morning breakfast and the second time for a dinner with friends – and both times involving their flatbread pizzas, which are on point:

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Finally, I discovered an adorable little place to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings: Treat House, which basically makes miniature gourmet Rice Krispies Treats.

And though it pains me to end on such an obvious and cringe-inducing note, I’ll just go ahead and say it: January was pretty sweet (absolute utter craziness at work notwithstanding).

Things That Are Awesome, Vol. 138

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The weekly(ish) roundup of internet finds:

  1. A gem, as per usual: Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I “Wasn’t 100% Sober” During State of the Union.
  2. I suppose this was inevitable, but it’s still pretty great: This Beck and Beyoncé Mashup Will Cure Your Grammy Woes.
  3. Yes, let’s please stop this: 10 Times Reporters Asked Female Celebrities the Wrong Damn Question.
  4. Yes it is: “Hot Dudes Reading” Is the Best Thing to Happen to Your Instagram Feed This Week.
  5. My new favorite commercial: Android – Friends Furever.
  6. How can they be so talented at such a young age? Lennon & Maisy – Boom Clap Cover.
  7. Really fantastic: If Taylor Swift Lyrics Were About King Henry VIII.
  8. The Whiplash one could not be a more perfect encapsulation of that movie: Kids Reenact 2015 Oscar Nominees.
  9. A fun project: Filling Content.
  10. The combination of Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer in one movie is almost too much for me: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

(Image via Buzzfeed)

One Month in Italy: The #dailygelato Project

While I haven’t been the most prolific blogger of late, I have been really looking forward to these next few weeks of posts. Why? Because they happen to involve my favorite place on earth: Italy!

For my post-bar exam trip, I decided to spend a month in Italy before rejoining the world of working adults. I had been to Italy several times before but couldn’t pass up the thought of returning to see my old favorites, to discover new ones, and to stroll among some of the world’s greatest historical and artistic treasures. Oh, and to eat, and eat well. While much pizza and pasta and wine was consumed over my four weeks in Italy, the defining culinary experience of my trip was perhaps the simplest pleasure of all: gelato.

Knowing that I would, of course, be eating gelato on the regular (when in Italy…), I decided to make like any good millennial and document my quest via social media. Thus, #dailygelato was born. There were no rules, other than to try as many flavors as possible (instead of defaulting to my well-worn staples of coffee, caramel, and chocolate) and to eat it daily (duh). Here are the results.

Day 1: Strawberry & Hazelnut in Varenna

#dailygelato Day 1

In Varenna, my go-to gelato spot was Gelateria Riva, which is perched right on the water. Eating your gelato while promenading along Lake Como? Kind of the best.

Day 2: Chocolate & Pistachio in Varenna

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: though there were other gelato options in Varenna, I adored Gelateria Riva so much that I returned on day two. I’m not sure what’s more beautiful here: the gelato or the lake.

Day 3: Stracciatella & Mint in Verona

On my first day in Verona, I headed to Gelateria Savoia, just off Piazza Brà, one of the town’s most charming squares. While I adored Verona, I have to admit that this was one of my more forgettable gelatos; it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as amazing as some of the others I tried in Italy.

Day 4: Lemon with Licorice, Vanilla, and Hazelnut & Caramel with Saffron in Verona

My second Verona gelato outing was much more successful: I headed to Pretto, a high-end Italian gelato chain with a penchant for concocting some very creative flavors. Though I’m not a licorice fan, I couldn’t resist trying such a unique flavor (verdict: good, but not something I would re-order).

Day 5: Caramel & Tiramisu in Venice

#dailygelato Day 5

On my first evening in Venice, I headed to Gelateria Al Todaro, located just off busy St. Mark’s Square. While its location is super touristy – making it the sort of gelateria I usually try to avoid – I could not pass up the chance to grab gelato with such a stunning backdrop. Plus, it actually turned out to be pretty tasty.

Day 6: Fig & Dark Chocolate with Walnut in Venice

#dailygelato Day 6

Gelatoteca SuSo, tucked in an alleyway somewhat near-ish to the Rialto Bridge (it’s hard to tell exactly in the maze that is Venice), served some of my favorite gelato. There were so many appealing flavors that I found it difficult to choose, but I was super satisfied with my rich, yummy fig and dark chocolate combination. Even more perfect? As I was strolling along, eating my gelato, I stumbled upon a restaurant sing-a-long of Que Sera Sera. Life cannot get any more OMG-I’m-in-Italy-and-it’s-magical than that.

Day 7: Fruits of the Forest & Peach in Burano

#dailygelato Day 7

When in crazy colorful Burano – seriously, colorful is an understatement on this island – I knew I wanted an equally vibrant gelato. I found it at Su e Zo. It wasn’t my favorite gelato, but it damn well might have been the most colorful.

Day 8: Pistachio & “Samurai” in Bologna

Bologna is known as a foodie’s paradise, so it only makes sense that its gelato would be top-notch as well. Gelateria Gianni would go down as one of my very favorites in Italy, and with good reason – its gelato is unbelievably creamy. On my first visit there, I tried pistachio and “Samurai,” which was made with ricotta and mascarpone. I promptly died and went to foodie heaven.

Day 9: Il Sole & Neve di Primavera in Bologna

#dailygelato Day 9

Gelateria Gianni was so perfect that I had to return – but to mix things up, I went to a different branch (there are three in Bologna). I tried “Il Sole,” made with vanilla, orange, chocolate, and pralines, and “Neve di Primavera,” made with milk and cream, and ate my cone in the shadow of Bologna’s magnificent Due Torri (Two Towers). Pretty awesome.

Day 10: Cinnamon & Coffee in Vernazza

I wouldn’t have expected this in Vernazza, the gorgeous Cinque Terre town that also happens to be teeming with tourists, but I found my absolute favorite flavor of gelato there: the cinnamon at Gelateria Il Porticciolo. It was indescribably delicious. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough: Go there. Eat the cinnamon gelato. You will not regret it.

Day 11: Coconut & Prickly Pear in Vernazza

#dailygelato Day 11

I stopped by Il Porticciolo for a second time, this time sampling the coconut and the prickly pear, the latter of which was wonderfully unique. These flavors were good, but nothing can beat their cinnamon.

Day 12: Peanut Butter & Tiramisu in Florence

The gelato at Carrozze in Florence was good but nothing special. The views from Carrozze, which is right alongside the Arno River? Well, those are pretty on point.

Day 13: Lemon & Raspberry in Florence

One thing I love about Grom – a chain that you can find all across Italy (like in Milan) and in New York – is its reliability. It’s not the best gelato I’ve ever had, but it’s always tasty, and they always serve up seasonal flavors, which I appreciate. This lemon and raspberry combo was perfectly refreshing on a warm Florentine day.

Day 14: Cinnamon & Coffee Crunch in Florence

I loved the gelato at Gelateria Perché No, but what I loved even more was the sentiment: perché no means “why not?” in Italian. And really, is there any better motto for eating gelato in Italy than “why not?”

Day 15: Fresco Carapina & I Grandi Formaggi in Florence

Carapina was one of my favorite gelato experiences in Italy: every flavor was incredibly unique and made with fresh, local ingredients. I tried the “Fresco Carapina,” made with mint and milk (and it was incredibly refreshing), and the “I Grandi Formaggi,” made with pecorino cheese. Like, there were legit chunks of cheese in my gelato. It was glorious.

Day 16: Salted Caramel in Florence

Sometimes you just need to go with a classic: on my final day in Florence, I headed back to Grom and tried one of my favorite food flavors, gelato or otherwise, salted caramel. It was the only day I didn’t mix flavors, and it was well worth it.

Day 17: Lemon & Vanilla in Sorrento

#dailygelato Day 17

Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast at large, is a bit lemon-obsessed. One walk down Sorrento’s main drag, packed with shops selling every conceivable lemon product, was enough to convince me of this. Naturally, then, I decided that lemon had to be my first gelato selection in Sorrento, and Raki served up a delicious – and very, very lemony – version.

Day 18: Lemon & Cotton Candy in Positano

I guess I was feeling whimsical in Positano, because when I saw that Collina served zucchero filato (cotton candy) gelato, I knew I had to try it. It was almost sickly sweet, but it was sort of a fun flavor to experiment with.

Day 19: Profumi di Sorrento & Coconut in Sorrento

In his guidebook, Rick Steves dubs Gelateria David’s Profumi di Sorrento “an explosive sorbet of mixed fruits.” Of course, this meant that I had to try it – and while I don’t know that I would have labeled it “explosive,” it was damn good.

Day 20: Apple Cinnamon & Cannoli in Sorrento

Sorrento’s Gelateria Primavera was one of the craziest gelato experiences I’ve had: terribly crowded with customers, and featuring an insane selection of flavors (my estimate would be around a hundred). It was overwhelming and almost impossible to choose two fllavors. Due to some rusty Italian skills on my part, I thought I was just ordering cinnamon, but it turned out to be apple cinnamon. Not my favorite flavor ever, but decent enough – and the accompanying cannoli flavor more than made up for it.

Day 21: Nutella & Biscotti in Sorrento

#dailygelato Day 21

If you like Nutella, you must visit Momi: its Nutella-flavored gelato felt less like gelato and more like straight-up Nutella, scooped directly from the jar and onto my cone. It was incredibly thick and rich – so much so that I couldn’t finish my cone, something that I would not have thought possible.

Day 22: Madagascar Vanilla & Pistachio in Rome

#dailygelato Day 22

One thing I loved about Gelateria Vice was how natural and pure the flavors were; nothing tasted overly sweet. When it comes to gelato, simple and delicious is the way to go.

Day 23: Coconut Cream & Chocolate with Oranges in Rome

#dailygelato Day 23

After a delicious lunch in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, I headed to Fatamorgana for a sweet finish. This gelato was good, but short-lived: it collapsed onto the pavement shortly after I purchased it. What a tragic loss.

Day 24: Coconut & Peach in Rome

I got sick on my last few days in Rome, with my primary ailment being a sore throat – as though I needed any additional justification for buying gelato! Coconut and peach gelato from Gelateria Vice was just the refreshing treat my sore throat needed, as it turned out.

Day 25: Grand Marnier & Coffee in Rome

On my last day in Italy (insert sad face here), I headed to Carapina for my final cone: Grand Marnier and coffee. It was a fittingly sweet – and also, bittersweet – send off from bella Italia. And believe it or not, after 25 days of gelato, I still wasn’t sick of the stuff; #dailygelato is an experiment I would gladly repeat again, and hopefully soon.