Dodici at Le Sablon

So it had to happen at some point or another – the last trip to Le Sablon, Pasticceria heaven in the beautiful North. And if it was to be my last trip, I was going to go all out – I forewarned Lucy of my intentions, but I think it was more the staff at Le Sablon who were astonished at the amount of cake I could put away.

Because, if you think about it logically, I had to have all of my favourites, and any newbies that I (shockingly) hadn’t got round to trying yet.

And as ever, Le Sablon was on top form. Thank you for always being there will amazing cake and making Padovian Uni Life just generally better – and to my Sablon Wife Lucy, going ice skating with you that one time and stumbling upon this gem is still one of the best things to have happened on Erasmus, and it will always be ‘Ours’.

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Erasmus – Amiche Per Sempre

I can’t remember whether or not I’ve mentioned anything about Block Q and the legend that it is in The Gelato Diaries so far – Block Q is what made my first year at Leicester crazy stupid amazing. We all resided in the marvel that is Mary Gee, Leicester Uni’s gem of student accommodation (think cheap and cheerful and you have it), but what made it great was that our home away from home was with people who came from all over the world.

Mary Gee is divided into blocks, each block housing 10 students. After first semester, living with Frenchies and the cutest Germans, I had a whole new set of housemates for the second. I loved all the girls, but my second semester Queenies were family. Hong Kong, LA, South Korea, Italy and England. Some of my favourite memories are with these beauties and even years later when we’re back on different continents, we’re still a unit, forever branded Queenies of Block Q. So yes, it’s now my turn to be on Erasmus and the exchange program, to make new friends and experience new cultures and try new things, but I couldn’t not visit my favourite Italian in the whole wide world when we would be (finally) living in the same country again.

I feel like a proud mother hen when I say Maria Sole has graduated law and now has an internship and is working away like a busy bee (puts me to shame – I consider watching The Little Mermaid dubbed as revising) so I didn’t make it to Florence until last weekend, and there’s not enough time in the world to just ‘be’ with Maria Sun because we can be doing nothing and having the best of times, but nevertheless, I spent two and a bit days livingthe highlife and taking part in Italian shenanigans with Block Q’s residential fire starter (never had the best of luck with the ovens, did our Maria…) and it was Epic.

From Friday night Birthday celebrations for Irene, to a Saturday night cocktail party on the roof terrace of the Baglioni for a Graduation-Birthday fiesta, and a HUGE Sunday lunch at a family trattoria (crostini, cold meats, ravioli alla crema di carciofi, Florentine steak, spinach, crème caramel, wine – the list goes on), it was an amazing weekend of English/Italian bonding. I miss my carrot cake loving soulmate more than ever.

And, as we bonded over cake in the beginning, it was only fitting that we got involved in some cake action for the reunions. In fact, the first thing we did after Maria came to pick me up from Firenze Rifredi station was go to I Dolci di Massimo, and I swear, it’s some of the best dolce I’ve had all year. It was a semolina cake with a chocolate topping, and my God, we ate about two thirds of it for breakfast on Saturday (and this is a proper sized cake people) and almost bought another to take on the train back to Padova. I fell in love. So now two reasons for going back to Florence!

Maria + Cake = Happy Chloé

I genuinely felt tears in the eye when I got on the train home – all the more reason to start planning another reunion soon so there’s something to look forward to!

So here’s to Erasmus friends – they’re some of the most extraordinary people you’ll ever meet, and they’re people you’ll love for life X

Island in the Sun

A week or so ago I was temporarily adopted by the Gould family where we played tourist in Padova and neighboring territory – obviously one of those being the obligatory family trek to Le Sablon, where Lucy and I introduced yet more people to the most magical place (in terms of pasticceria) in the Veneto region. If they had loyalty cards for this place, we’d be rolling in free cake by now!

But I also played third daughter on a trip to Murano and Burano, two of the Venice islands.

They’re only tiny, but they’re definitely unique, whether it’s the explosion of Murano glass (quite literally) everywhere you look or the rainbow coloured houses in Burano that make you feel like you’re somewhere that could feasibly be called candy land. So obviously no complaints here!

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A grand merci to the Gould family for letting me tag along – it was a great day of sunshine, boats, ice cream and manic Venice-ness!


Hiking in the Dolomites

My family aren’t what you’d call sports-orientated, and I think that’s a fair assessment to make without being a meanie. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not the sloths of the human world – we’ve just never been the family who go camping or who go on ski trips or surfing getaways. Call me crazy, but I think it might be because when it comes to a holiday, there’s something appealing about a week of relaxing and eating good food (the latter playing a major role, as proven by the fact that the first topic of my Skype home today was a rundown of foodie visits, menu included, where my parents had been since the last time we’d spoken.)

Now I wouldn’t change my family holidays for anything – I’ve been well and truly spoilt on that front (I mean, any child who gets to go to Florida is literally the luckiest son of a gun out there, because it’s where magic is made, in the form of theme parks, Disney, crazy miniature golf and pink plastic flamingos) but out here there’s the chance to do something different (and funnily enough, we still managed to live and breathe Disney for the day.)

ESN put on a spur of the moment trip to the Dolomites, the mountain range in the north-east of Italy which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For only 24 euro we could go exploring Lake Misurina and Tre Cime di Lavaredo for a day, and with Anna and Anica up for it, it was all systems go. Time to put my Timberlands to some proper use!

From Padova it’s about a 3 hour bus journey to get there – until I looked at the map yesterday, I didn’t realise just how far North we were heading!

These are the Tre Cime di Lavaredo AKA the Three Peaks AKA Drei Zinnen and are apparently one of the best-known mountain-groups in the Alps. Go Figure.

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We hiked all the way around these babies, with varying levels of steepness, rockiness and iciness – we were out there for around 5 hours, which I like to think is pretty impressive for a group of unsuspecting Erasmus students. And all the while, we were taking selfies, singing the soundtrack from Frozen (pretty fitting if you ask me) and pretending to be Olaf as we ran down parts of the mountain. Let’s just say the videos are pretty hilarious and leave the rest to the imagination!

Of course it rained. But after stopping and starting for an hour or so, it eventually let up and we got to see the sun set on the mountain face which was spectacular – turns out you can still appreciate the beauty of nature when you’re trying to recover from a ridiculously long stretch of steep incline that feels like it’s damn close to 90 degrees, even if it’s not.

Surviving the circle round the peaks was an achievement in itself – seeing our bus parked (dangerously) close to the edge of the cliff was a very welcome sight and from there we went to Lake Misurina.

Lake Misurina is the largest natural lake of the Cadore and is over 1700m above sea level. If there was ever a picture perfect moment of the day, this was it.
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So by the end of the day I had ‘Let It Go’ on repeat in my head, the mother of all blisters on my little toe and a belly full of an amaaaazing Peperonata pizza from a cutesy Pizzeria by the Lake.

I can now say I’ve climbed a mountain in Québec and a mountain in Italy – not bad for a girl from Suffolk, a county where hills don’t really exist!



One of the rules I was determined to stick to this year was to say yes to as much as possible – perhaps that’s justification for the indulgence of pizza and gelato binges that seem to be an almost daily occurrence this semester because let’s face it, Leicester, whilst I love you, the fact remains that there isn’t an ice cream shop on every street which quite frankly puts you at a disadvantage to Italy.
With this ‘Say Yes’ motto in mind, the other day someone sent me a buzzfeed article on 25 Bakeries in the World You Have To See Before You Die*. My friends know me so well. Anyway as I was scrolling down this list of bakeries and staring longingly at the foodie photos that accompanied each entry, it’s fair to say that I was mentally making a mental list of new places to add to my ‘Places to Visit’ list. Especially the one in Sweden, number 24 on the list, Taxinge Slott Café in Nykvarn – I’m sorry, but a cake BUFFET in a place that’s attached to a Castle??? I think I’ve found my new home… Should have learnt Swedish – I blame the British education system.
But, before I go off on a tangent, one revelation I had whilst reading the article was that one of the places on the list was in Milan. Now I’m the first to admit that my geography knowledge isn’t up to scratch, but having lived in the North of Italy for however many months now, even I knew that Milan was in my neck of the woods – that could only mean one thing. A daytrip was in order.
Seeing as I’m now free from lectures and exams, I’d made a list of the places I wanted to visit before I left, and Milan was already there, so this just gave me more incentive.
The only thing is the ‘gang’ per se seem to have abandoned Padova for the moment, either having left already for Cornwall or Barcelona (not that I’m jealous or anything) or off on trips or with guests, and whilst obviously it’s always great to go away with someone I don’t want it to be the case that when I’m back in sunny Suffolk in August I’ll look back and think I should have done more than sit around and wait. So, as a spur of the moment thing I bought a return tick to Milan for the Saturday at the ridiculous bargain price of only 38 euro. After an afternoon on Tripadvisor and downloading The BEST App for my iPhone which acted as my offline map for the day (Ulmon Milan – totally amazing and free to download, I can’t recommend it enough. The map is detailed with all the street names, even the little’uns, sign-posted major landmarks and the option to pin places you want to visit so you can find them easily and plan your route. They also have the app for other cities across the world, and if I’m ever lucky enough to visit them I’ll 100% be downloading their Ulmon App!) I was ready for my day of solo adventure. Obviously this included an early night as my 4:30 am wake-up had to be taken into account.The train was a Freccia Bianca – these are the fast trains, not the regional ones, so it was only a 2hour7minute journey – this meant I arrived in the metropolis of Milan at the early-bird time of 8:30am. Perfect time for cake. (Let it be known now that I had eaten two decent sized portions of cake by 10 o’clock – but as we all like to say, we’re on holiday. It doesn’t count.)

Needless to say that my Tripadvisor session was split into two categories – things to see and places to eat. Without knowing when the next time I’d be in Milan I wasn’t willing to leave it completely to fate when it came to pasticcerias, so I had gone with list in hand but obviously with the open mind to deviate if I stumbled upon somewhere new, which actually happened twice.
Breakfast number 1 – Pave – I had a Raspberry tart with Creme Patissiere, the best of both worlds – sugar and fruit. You can’t say I’m slacking on the five-a-day, no sir. Fairly near the station it’s more off the beaten track, with a cute, urban style.

Breakfast number 2 – Princi Cafe – this was a newbie, a place on my way to Sempione Park along Via Venezia, and after walking past the window I couldn’t not walk back and have a closer look. Never have I ever seen Pain au Chocolats looks so amazingly golden. So many regrets for not getting some pastry goods to go, but considering what I did get from there, my arteries are probably relieved I didn’t. It was one of those moments where you’re looking at the options and then you notice the Big Whopper, the King of the display, and as soon as the guy asked me what I wanted, I couldn’t help but point and ask him what on earth this heavenly looking cake was. Baring in mind it’s 10am, and this is a full-blown dessert cake ok, but he recovered, and went on to list every dessert-lover’s bliss. A biscuit base with a layer of chocolate hazelnut ganache, a thick layer of sticky caramel with caramelised hazelnuts and chocolate covered biscuit balls topped with a layer of frozen cream and covered with a coating of milk chocolate. By the end of his description I was just nodding and saying si, because I think after that you can’t really not try it, even if you know you should be gorging on the fresh fruit or the buttery croissants they have instead. But no, a holiday is a holiday and I was going to have that cake be damned.

The rest of the day’s food follows along the same vein – another pasticceria on my list, Sugar, was my afternoon stop where I had some cute blackberry and raspberry pastries, and as my attempt to find one of the gelaterias on my list failed as it apparently no longer exists (merci bcp Tripadivsor) a twist of fate had me walking past a place called Chocolot Maggi (funnily enough on my way to Sugar) and I had a raspberry and white chocolate ice cream. I kid you not, the white chocolate ice cream tasted exactly like I was eating Cadburys chocolate. It was a beautiful moment : ) And of course, I went to Pasticceria Marchesi, the Milanese entry on the Buzzfeed article. That’s one down, twenty-four more to go…

But obviously I didn’t spend the whole day on a food tour of Milan, as fun as that does sound – plus for the record I decided to forgo a Metro daypass and walk everywhere, which I like to think counter-acted the excess sugar intake of the day (too much wishful thinking?)
Anyway, food highlights aside, I enjoyed the actual city just as much. So much that I took over 600 photos. I haven’t done that since Canada so Milan is definitely topping my list of things I’ve done so far in Italy! I walked through Sempione Park and saw the Castello Sforzesco and the Arco della Pace – pretty perfect when the sun is shining and you’re surrounded by green grass and flowers. And whilst it is one of the touristy things to do, I went in the Duomo and went up to walk on the roof terraces – this was incredible. The view of the city isn’t much, it’s more of the actual Duomo that you appreciate. In fact, the Duomo is hands down one of the most amazing pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen.

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So with the roof terraces ticked-off my to-do list, the only other main thing that I really wanted to do for definite was the Cimitero Monumentale, which obviously had to be on the other side of the city. But so worth the walk, and so worth the half a dozen map-check stops to make sure I was in the right place.
How to explain this place without making it sound weird… basically it’s a cemetery where the tombs and gravestones are so elaborately ornate it blows your mind. You could spend hours here and still not have seen everything, and I could have stayed there the whole afternoon if it weren’t for the incessant attack of ants that kept biting me – next time, I’m wearing my Timberlands.
I managed to see and do a lot of things in that one day – admittedly my train home wasn’t until 9pm, but with a city as big as Milan I wanted to make sure I could fit in as much as possible. And when you’re there you learn that there is so much more to the city than just Designer shops and fashion. For one, I’m crazy about Romans and their architecture, and Milan has a whole Milano Antico tour, which I bought a guide for, and there are apparently ruins and museums all across the city. Reason enough to go back!
So how was my first proper solo adventure of my Italy experience? It was pretty damn awesome. Yes the downside is I have no photos of me next to the Duomo or the Basicilia or La Scala or Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, but I had such a great time that this doesn’t really bother me.
Milan has to be one of the most interesting cities I’ve visited in Italy and I wholeheartedly say ‘Go Visit.’

*here’s the link for the buzzfeed article – everyone needs a little bit of cake in their lives!

Rimini Roadtrip

I have an insurmountable love for ULMLS for a number of reasons – one of those being my beloved Languages Family. Yes when you look at the Family Tree is does get a little complicated, and at the ripe old age of 21 I’m a Grandmother and soon-to-be Great Grandmother when the newbies arrive next year, but I’m also blessed with a younger brother, one who happens to be twice my height and has a wicked sense of humour. Yep, I definitely hit the jackpot with my ULMLS Famalam.

The day after my last exam Dan, my younger brother bear, came to Pads where the idea was to rent a car and go roadtripping across Italy. This plan was subsequently crushed when it turns out you need to leave a 525 euro deposit in order to get the car, which neither of us has at this point in the game, so we wandered round the foodie hotspots of Padova (think Nutella crepes, L’Arte Pizza and Ciokko Latte ice cream) and came up with a new game plan.

Our new-and-improved getaway was now a train-trip to Rimini, just over 3 hours south of Pads and on the beach. We didn’t actually get there until evening, but we still managed to fit in a fair amount of things, including the heavenly experience that is a cassone. We were staying with one of Dan’s friends for the nights we were there (muchas gracias Stefano!) and his first shout was what we wanted to have for tea. This is when he changed my life for the better – he introduced us to cassoni, which are basically Italian style Cornish pasties – I opted for the Cassone Vegetariano. It had peppers, onions, aubergines and courgettes as the filling, and was surrounded by amazing buttery pastry. It was magic. One point to the South.

The next day we had a tour of the city – it has an Arch of Augustus, which immediately makes me fall in love with the place. Whenever I leave Padova the thing I often notice is the free space – wide streets, open air and sun spots. (Padova has them too but it’s still different in my head – maybe because I live here it’s so familiar now.) And seeing as how we were playing out-and-out tourists anything and everything was allowed, because when you’re on holiday there are no rules. This is why we ended up having 7 ice creams between the two of us on the Saturday alone. That’s family bonding right there. And the discovery of a Churro shop? I think my heart skipped a beat or two before I got into gear and dragged Dan across the road (not that he was complaining) and immediately joined the queue to get some freshly fried sugar coated goodness, that they drizzled with Nutella. (As you can see, it’s going very well on the food front – I’m not starving Mama!)

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This is the ice cream from Cuor di Cioccolato – AKA The Chocolate Lab. I went for Cremino and Bueno, and the Bueno was out of this world – there was a whole piece of Kinder Bueno waiting for me at the bottom, and it was the best surprise ever. Plus, look at the size of this monster! All that for only 2 euro 50??? Bargain has never been so aptly used! Should have had two…

Saturday afternoon we went out solo to explore the beach front – this is when we decided to hire a bike buggy. Hilarious shenanigans ensue. So whilst we didn’t get to go on our epic roadtrip (which I have a voucher for and can redeem anywhere – Mexico is on the cards, especially as Dan speaks the lingo, which saves me from trying to get by on my limited ‘Me llamo Chloé y tengo dos perros rojos’) we did get out on the open road on our hipster bike-mobile (bright red, obviously). I’m pretty sure I was laughing for the entire time, with the exception of when we stopped for ice cream from Pelicano, a Gelateria with flavours that will make you salivate!


Our Bike Ride Selfie

But there was still one highlight to come, and it was so unexpected that it still seems a tad surreal. Saturday night there was going to be a party/festival in Rimini – we had no idea what to expect, and suffice to say when we did get there (right on the beach so pretty perfect location) it wasn’t exactly what we had imagined. Think thousands of people, dance music and neon lights. Not bad, but not what we’d call ‘our scene’ per se. However, whilst we were casually bopping at the back we looked over to the screen above one of the stages. Immediately looked at each other and then looked back. My friends, of all the random Djs to be on that Rimini stage, it was the one and only Craig David.

Yep, we can now say that we have seen him live – or at least his performance of Fill Me In of which I have video evidential proof. So that perked up our nightly escapade, but then we swiftly escaped to the beach and wandered in search of ice cream – another plus for Rimini? Ice Cream Parlours are still open at 3am. It’s a wonderful concept. We found a place called Magri e Belli (Thin and Beautiful – haha) and filled our boots. I had coconut, kiwi and orange flavours – all fruit, so you know, good for me and my five-a-day – and it was pretty damn special.

But at some point or another I had to say goodbye to my ULMLS brother and return to the North (just call me Jon Snow – saying that, we had a fair number of GoT references that weekend) and let him go south to Lecce and then Naples (not jealous at all…)

So now I have a Facebook album and a Bike Ride Video to remember our trip to Rimini – it only makes me look forward to Fourth Year, which despite Leicester’s lack of sunshine and beach, is looking to be an Epic one.


The inevitable part of Erasmus is that at some point or another, you actually have to knuckle down and work some, and so from mid-June the wining and dining had to be put on hold as revision became the main order of the day. Thirty three credits are at stake; anthropology was a matter of writing an essay (sounds fairly simple, but when you consider the fact that it had to be 40,000 characters, written in Italian and the fact that the premise of cultural anthropology still somewhat eludes me, it makes the task a little more challenging. Needless to say, when I find out the verdict tomorrow it’ll be anyone’s guess as to how she rates my 17 page attempt to outline French anthropology and its relationship to colonialism – sounds thrilling, doesn’t it?)

That left 24 credits to the exams – Lingua Francese, Geografia Culturale and Civiltà dell’Italia Preromana.

Now, you can’t help but hear the horror stories – the disorganisation, the disorder, the general lack of attention as you regurgitate half a text book in the hopes of a good mark. However I couldn’t really relate those experiences to my professors – I seemed to have picked subjects where the lecturers were actually enthusiastic and interested in the topic, hence the pressure was on.

My one observation of Italian oral examination is the blinding downside that goes with it – it takes FOREVER. In theory, it’s actually not a bad way to test someone; it’s one on one, so more personal, and you can tell whether or not a person is trying to blag their way through it or if they do infact know what on earth they’re talking about. At least that’s the case when it’s in your own language. When you try and do it in Italian? Not so easy when you’re having to think of a suitable answer in English and then go through the process of translating it into a comprehensible Italian!

But the timing? That takes the crown. You have to register for the exams – simple enough once you’ve cracked the procedure, and by the end of it you have a number in the running order. However sometimes they choose to ignore this and pick willy nilly who goes next. This meant that for geography I was waiting in suspense for over five hours. That’s five hours without food, reading and rereading notes and consequently becoming more and more convinced that I knew nothing and that it was going to be a disaster (such a Drama Queen, I know). It also leads to desperateness when someone else gets the question that you’ve been hoping for because it’s the one you have memorised down to an art – because joy of all joys, to make it more interesting for everyone the oral exams are in front of everyone, and anyone can turn up to watch if that’s how they get their kicks.

This isn’t what takes the golden goat though. Nope, that would be my Preromana course, the last exam before semi-freedom and the one I had been stressing over the most. On Thursday the 26th of June, I spent more than SEVEN hours sitting on a hugely uncomfortable wooden bench waiting for my exam. This leads me to wonder why the concept of time allocation hasn’t yet been introduced. Obviously it’s not a requirement for you to stay in the room the entire time, but I had little else to do – I was convinced that the knowledge I had tried to retain would disappear if I did anything else. The one amusing thing to come out of it was the lecturer’s face when I told her I didn’t in fact study archaeology but languages (always quick to say I’m better at French than Italian!) – this is bearing in mind the entire class are final year students all with archaeology majors. Her shock was confirmed when she bewilderingly asked me why I took the course at all – yeah, that’s a memory.

So what to say about the Italian exam system – well, it’s certainly different to cheery ol’ England, let’s put it that way. And yet I seemed to have fared well in the general sense of things, and I think it’s actually based on my studying rather than a play of the Erasmus card (though the 26 for Preromana may have been a tad generous seeing as how I forgot where Calabria was…)

So after D-Day tomorrow when I find out my Anthro fate, my education in Italy will be over – happy days! It’ll be celebrated with an ice cream or two, and if I can be persuasive enough, a trip to 212 Hamburger – I’ve got my heart set on a Club Sandwich and some BBQ sauce!