The Heart of Perugia, Italia

My apartment building felt like it was out of some vintage Italian film. [Via Bartolo]
Some of the best afternoons were spent exploring with my camera.
I fell in love with the details of Perugia, especially the flower pots from the balconies.

I’ve been meaning to write some love about my beautiful city for a while now. When I mean a while, I mean for months. I’ve put it off because I don’t really know how to give this city justice…but I sure as hell can try.

I believe each city has its own personality; Perugia really makes you fall in love so effortlessly. I love how the city feeds off of the energy of the people. It’s not just a beautiful city. It’s medieval history is vividly shown through this epic ‘underground world’ that reminds me of something out of Harry Potter. The heart–or the core of Perugia is in it’s authenticity. Its found everywhere– in every restaurant, the always tempting goodies at pasticceria Sandri on display while walking Corso Vanucci, and freshly made cannolis that always run out before lunch time from that cafe that I still don’t know the actual name of. Because food is such an essential part of culture and travel, I had to share a few of my favorites in Perugia.

This photo was taken as the last (for now) time at my favorite spot
when my family came to visit after my backpacking trip.
Taken during our first week, roommate out for lunch at Pizza Med for our first time
Taken during our first week, roommates out for lunch at Pizza Med for our first time.
They are the best.

Pizza Mediterranea  Better Neaopolitain pizza than I had in Napoli. These brick-oven crafted personal pizzas will raise your standards for pizza, forever. Just trust me. My friends made fun of me because I literally ALWAYS wanted to go here. I have no shame because it’s the best. We even had an accidental tradition of getting Pizza Mediterranea after weekends of traveling because it was a comfort of coming back home to Perugia. On warm days, you’ll see locals taking their pizza to-go and enjoying it on the steps near Fontana Maggiore.  Best for causal lunch/dinner date [Piazza Piccinino 11/12 Da Antonio]

This nook pizzeria is perfect for a quick slice of pizza.


La Taverna Try the truffle ravioli, a house specialty and Umbrian dish that made me not only like, but love truffles. Each table is treated with complementary champagne, a veggie appetizer, and their homemade chocolate liquor.  I can’t recommend this restaurant enough–it’s a true Perugian experience. Best for impressing your family and your hot date. [Via delle Streghe]

Caffe Morlacchi This coffee shop is usually filled with Italian university students quickly taking their 1/7 espresso by the bar. My roommate Sammi discovered this place the first week or so and it easily became my go-to space to study or meet up place for a pastry and espresso macchiato. The prices are student-budget friendly and they have live music every week.[Piazza Morlacchi 6/8]

No need for any excuses to sit, relax, laugh, eat, and drink on the steps–
it’s just what you do in Perugia.

Internationally, Perugia is known for Umbria Jazz, a festival held in July in the center of the city (just near my old apartment) and Eurochocolate, the chocolate festival held in the fall. Baci is Perugia’s most iconic hazelnut chocolate that is hard to miss while traveling throughout Italy. I even spotted it in “Little Italy” in San Francisco and instantly felt that Perugian love. The best part is that Perugian chocolate isn’t the sweetest part of the city…it’s the insanely beautiful views from the hilltop city that make it unforgettable.

I was so blessed to have my favorite view of Perugia just up the stairs from my old apartment.
A view of Via Appia, one of the most photographed parts of Perugia.
A vintage postcard I found in CA a year before I came to Perugia. Took this photo the last day I left as a reminder of how far I've come to get to where I am today.
A vintage postcard I found in CA a year before I came to Perugia.
Took this photo the last day I left as a reminder of how far I’ve come to get to where I am today.

Huge thanks to the talented Stephen Doyle for creating this video, gives me goosebumps every time.

I make a little appearance presenting research from my semester internship!

For more about my program, check out the Umbra Institute website or feel free to leave me a comment!

“The Little Blue” is a blog created by two awesome friends/staff members all on Perugia. Early in the semester, I started collaborating with them by updating photos.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”

First spontaneous trip: Budapest, Hungary
First spontaneous trip: Budapest, Hungary

It’s remarkable that one decision can unfold into a myriad of memories that encompass your journey. Transitioning into living back at home in California after almost a half a year of living and traveling abroad has honestly been difficult at times. Sometimes I feel like I need to satisfy my craving for a change of pace and have days that remind me that life isn’t about routine and playing it safe. I’m also learning that “home” is no longer just a place.

Home is a feeling. It’s laughing with my family and friends. Regardless if it’s under the roof I’ve lived under since I was just 3 years old.

I don’t think I realized this until I was able to live thousands of miles away from my family, in a place that was once completely foreign to me, and have it turn into that feeling of home. I remember the times that I came home to my apartment in Perugia and my friends were cooking dinner and we started all singing together, when mornings started by enjoying my espresso as I peered out my window just to see Perugia waking up, and the times my friends and I had late night chocolate and vino runs to our favorite spot– just because.

These moments piece together why I’ll never think of life differently than the little moments we create.

Yes, the big picture is important. But if you miss the smiles from people around you, the deep conversations in between mundane activities, dancing to your favorite song, and enjoying that delicious Neapolitan pizza like it was your last meal on earth–what’s the point?

I’m a big believer in the power of putting action behind your dreams. It’s silly to argue that dreaming big is enough, it’s not. Actions make things happen, not wishful thinking. While backpacking on my own, I remember feeling fearless; capable of accomplishing anything. Not as in I didn’t feel fear at times, but as in I didn’t buy into it.

I didn’t let being scared hold me back in doing the things I wanted to do. If I felt like going off to Sweden on my own, I just did it– like it was some normal thing like deciding what to eat for lunch.

What if I felt that fearlessness everyday? Well I’m continuing to pursue my dreams. I’m currently saving up (and trying not to go out for margaritas) so I can afford a trip to Brazil in January. Latin America is so intoxicating and the opportunity came up, so I figured, why not?

Returning from an adventure that was the time of your life creates opportunities to explore your current surroundings with new eyes, plan your next adventures, and share your stories. So that’s what I’m doing, and I like that life is keeping me on my toes a bit.

So what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Wednesday’s wisdom: do it with passion

Loving my new home for summer… beautiful San Francisco at dusk

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds, your mind transcends limitations… and you find yourself in a new and wonderful world, dormant forces, facilities and talents come alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed.” -Patanjali


So friends, what inspires you?

Backpacking through Andalucía, España


Backing through the south of Spain was easily one of my favorite experiences during the past 6 months of traveling. Here’s some highlights from my six-city adventure through Andalucía!

Excited to experience my first bullfight in Sevilla
Excited to experience my first bullfight inside Plaza de Toros
One of my favorite spots in Sevilla
Plaza Santa Cruz is a peaceful part of Sevilla
Beautiful Córdoba and a view of the Mezquita

For my first evening in Córdoba, a few of us took a night bike tour/tapas crawl to get to know each other and the city. At a small bar near the roman bridge, a girl from Salamanca leaned towards me asking in British English: “So if you don’t know any Spanish, then… how are you getting by, all by yourself?”. I smiled, then answered: “Well, I guess I never thought of it that way. I’m learning basics from people I meet and enjoying figuring it all out”.

I know how to order my favorite tapas, my coffee just how I like it, how to ask for directions, and…that’s about it. This was all part of the fun for me though I’ve got to admit.


Streets of Cordoba
Streets of Córdoba
A view from Cordoba from my hostel terrace
Inside the famous Alhambra [Granada]
My second flamenco show
Flamenco show in Granada
One of my favorite views of Monachil in Granada

If you have time to do the hike through Monachil, I can’t recommend it enough. I’d argue that day was one of my favorite memories with friends I had just met earlier that day through my hostel. You can swim in the water (the waterfalls are incredibly beautiful) and the hike itself is exciting. You feel like you’re in a hidden treasure of nature.

Hiking in the Monachil village in Granada
Playing around on the beaches of Marbella
View of Ronda [Málaga region of Spain]
Ronda’s famous bridge
Old town in Marbella

I wrote a snippet about my backpacking trip here, but I’ve also learned that some people come into your life for years and some for maybe just a few hours. But regardless, that time is important. The beauty and heartache of traveling is leaving so abruptly;  and yet it’s amazing to cross paths with people from all over the world. Backpacking opened my eyes to the core of human needs and the simplicity of life. It’s not a style of travel for everyone (understandably), but I never thought I’d enjoy living out of a backpack either. It really challenges you and teaches you–and I’m so grateful for all of it.

“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, I would stay and love you, but I have to go”

P.S. I’m working on my “favorite hostels in europe” post for all the avid European travelers!

The best of Amsterdam, Holland

Amsterdam was easily one of the best places to photograph
Tulips are a symbol of Holland, especially tulip fields. You can buy them everywhere in the city


One of my favorites, the canals are romantic and peaceful

I was surprised how much I loved Amsterdam. The Dutchman that lent us his home for the first night told me that “there’s more bikes than people in Amsterdam”, and he wasn’t kidding. This beautiful city is covered with bikers crossing over small brides framing glistening water canals, coffee shops with puff clouds with the concoction of weed and espresso, and dainty boutiques on every corner.

After my program ended, I met up with Sammi and Kara for the first day before they had to get home. We did all the social aspects of Amsterdam like our first experience at a “coffee shop”, then bug-eyed in the red light district, and laughing in the sex shops. Somewhere in between stuffing our faces with Dutch pancakes of course. I was surprised how beautiful the city is, because all anyone talks about is how prostitution and weed is legal. No one says anything about how gorgeous the city is at dusk and how romantic it is to take a boat ride with live music. I can’t forget that everyone was so friendly towards us, and three cheers for being able to speak English for a few days!

Seeing the Anne Frank House was a highlight since I’ve read and seen movies on her legacy.  Seeing the house in person was pretty crazy. I enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere and just wandering the streets of the canals.

I highly recommend going to a cute organic bakery called De Laatste Kruimel (I went three times in the 2.5 days I was there). I’d argue it has THE best white chocolate raspberry scones with fresh cream I’ve ever had. And I eat a lot of pastries. You’ll recognize the bakery by their darling display of pastries, cakes, and sandwiches in the window.



A view of the red light district
Maybe my favorite coffee houses/bakeries in all of Europe, that’s a big deal
Dutch shoes on display at a vintage shop
My favorite little corner of the city



5 things I learned from my first solo backpacking adventure

I should start by saying I never planned on backpacking. Like eating a whole bag of popcorn while watching a movie, it just… sort of happened.

It was a week before my semester was ending and it dawned on me that 1. I had no real travel plans (daydreaming of island hopping around Greece doesn’t count), and 2. consequently, I’d be homeless in Italy real soon. And I could tell you that by my first day of backpacking, I knew I was about to have the experience I’d been missing out on during my time studying abroad.

And to be honest, I learned more in the two weeks I backpacked on my own then the time I spent studying and living in Italy. It must be the beauty of getting completely out of my comfort zone and not having a friendly face to depend on for anything. Here’s my thoughts:

1. Less things scare me now. My family was pretty nervous for my safety (understandably) and I was anxious about how I would figure all the planning out. But after overcoming something that once seemed daunting, I gained a new perspective and confidence in what I can accomplish.

2. A simple life is always more beautiful. You don’t need most things, you just don’t. I learned to appreciate every little thing I could fit into my bag. Especially the travel size goodies that I held onto for months. I swear, it’s the simplest things.

3. Don’t let others dictate what you can and cannot do.  Just because traveling independently has its precautions, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done (and loved). I was surprised how passionate and comfortable I felt; the people I met during my adventure made my experience exceptionally memorable.

4. There’s no price on education. I want to learn and grow–and I guarantee that you can’t buy experiences that grab a hold of you and transform you from the inside out. I learned to react  to mistakes that fostered a new kind of patience and understanding that I hope will stay with me forever.

5. People have this innate gravitation towards others. Even if you’re not an extrovert, when you’re in an unfamiliar, thrilling situation like traveling independently, you naturally gravitate towards others. You want others to share that new experience with you. I can only explain it by illustrating it as a basic human need.

A view of one of the waterfalls in Monachil. One of my favorite memories.
Travelers from literally all over the world. All day Hiking in the Monachil village in Granada, Spain

Would you ever backpack on your own?

4 Months Later

Four months ago I sat anxiously in the car as my dad drove me to the San Francisco airport.

It was 3 in the morning.

This is when I knew I was about to experience something life changing. My stomach started to have that aching feeling like when you’re about to go on a roller coaster or about to have an important interview. Leaving behind expectations and the familiarity of home, I was ready for an experience that would change me forever.


It’s now my last night in the apartment; my friends have now left Perugia, some back to the States, others traveling with their family. I really don’t know what was more difficult: not knowing when I’d see them again, or the realization that our adventures in Europe have come to an end.

My bed in our vintage apartment.
My bed, we said our apartment looked like a cute grandmother lived here before us

And to be honest, I can’t find the right words to describe the past few months, or how strange it feels that my time in Perugia is ending so abruptly. I wish I could accurately describe how incredible it feels when you experience a country for the first time, the exhilaration of feeling like anything is possible, and the heart-warming comfort of Perugia after a long week of traveling.

I am cognizant of the over-whelming appreciation I have felt literally everyday– towards my supporting family and friends back at home, as well as the friends that I like to call family here in Perugia.

Even though my time in Perugia is over for now, I am comforted knowing this simple truthif life is the adventure, then the adventure never really ends. 

“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.” -Jack Kerouac

Here’s to living fearlessly, with every intention of discovering something new. Off on my backpacking adventure.

Photo series: Prague, Czech Republic

Old Town Hall Tower & the astronomical clock
Traditional street food of sausage and beer near the clock tower
Street food dessert of almond/toffee pastries…one of my favorites!
Feeling the peace at the John Lennon wall
Making my mark on the wall with one of my favorite quotes by  Mumford & Sons
Making my mark on the wall with one of my favorite quotes by Mumford & Sons
I had to try this famous Czech beer!
Traditional goulash with sausage, onions, peppers, and bread dumplings in a creamy sauce
Traditional goulash with sausage, onions, peppers, and bread dumplings in a creamy sauce
Easter decorations around the city
Prague Castle
Prague Castle

I couldn’t help but think of my full Czech grandfather during my weekend in Prague. In a weird way, I felt like a part of me was coming home.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

-John Lennon

Semana Santa in Sevilla, España

The Giralda, part of the Cathedral in Sevilla
DSC_0265_2 09-50-55-255
When in España… loved the importance of flamenco dancing
Delicious cafe con leche at a local cafe
Beautiful day for exploring the streets of Sevilla


Personal tour guide: my gorgeous roommate Tamara
Loved the chaos of eating at El Patio San Eloy
Montaditos and Sevilla’s beer, Cruzcampos at El Patio San Eloy
Beautiful Plaza de España
Beautifully intricate architecture at Plaza de España
a paso, the main attraction of a procesión
A paso, the main attraction of a procesión
sampling desserts
1euro desserts turned into dessert sampling…whoops
Painted flamenco fans
Painted flamenco fans
Inside Alcázar de Sevilla
Inside Alcázar de Sevilla
Making a new friend after eating churros con chocolate
Another view of Plaza de España

Jaw-dropping architecture, vibrant streets with blooming orange trees, gorgeous people, cheap tapas, beer and tinto–Sevilla is easily one of my favorite cities so far.

I knew I’d love Sevilla after talking to one of my close friends (shout-out to the lovely Jenn Sanchez!) who spent a month this past summer doing an intensive language immersion home-stay. I had the opportunity to spend Easter break visiting my roommate in college, Tamara, who is currently studying in Sevilla. The moment I got off the bus from Madrid, I could feel the intensity of the city joining together in celebration for their Easter rituals, as men dressed in cultural attire gathered together along with the rest of the city. We could barely get through the streets to the residencia it was so packed. Accidentally speaking in Italian, all I could do was laugh as we made our way to the front of the scene to experience my first paso. I quickly realized, Semana Santa is a religious holiday that is taken very seriously in Sevilla. After meeting Tamara’s speaking partner, he educated us about the importance of the procesións and led us through the crowds.

The pride Sevillanos have about their beautiful city is contagious and refreshing. The intricate Moorish architecture reminded me of Morocco and unlike most cities commercialized by tourism, this city still embodies its own sense of awe in their own culture, which I loved.

*Traveling from Perugia to Sevilla took close to 16 hours of multiple trains, 1 plane, and 1 bus. After arriving in Madrid, ‘Socibus’ can take you from Madrid to the center of Sevilla in 6 hours for only 22 euros.