Monday, June 29, 2009

La Dolce Vita

This is a poem I wrote while waiting for a train in Chiusi, Italy. (yes, I am a closet poet) It kinda goes along with my last post so I thought it was relevant to add... Enjoy!

La Dolce Vita

Laying on a bench waiting for a distant train,
I wonder how far I've come and if I'll see this place again.

Five weeks may have seemed long at first,
but now I beg to differ.
To see this world in all entirety
could take, at best, forever.

Will I make it back to my daily streets?
See the sights I took for granted?
Will the memories flood when I arive once more?
Will a seed sprout from the roots I'd planted?

For in this place I find myself,
I'm exactly who I want to be.
Apart from stresses of the distant real world
I'm living la dolce vita in Italy.

note: the words in the picture are drawn on my thumb from boredom of a long train ride. no tattoos here

Indecisive Feelings

I couldn't be more torn right now. Last week I was a sob fest because the thought of leaving this place was killing me. This week I am more excited than ever to come back to my small town world and family and friends. I am right in the middle of the gauge.. flip a coin for me?

It feels like these past weeks have just flown so fast. The only way I can grasp the true length is to read my journal from the first several days and then I realize, "Wow, I have been here a while." I have made some amazing friends that I hope to stay in touch with back at A&M. Its hard because we've lived in this environment where we are all each other has. When we go back it is back to the same ole groups and organizations and distractions, and As much as we want to keep in touch its going to be difficult. I guess thats the tough part for me.. well that and leaving my home of Castiglion Fiorentino.

I have gotten attached to this little town and finally know it like the back of my hand. Some of the locals are even starting to look familiar. I have the stores' siesta times down and we know exactly which day the Coco Palm (gelateria) and Pirate Bar (pizza) are closed. We know the exact amount of time it takes to walk to the train station from the center and how much time can be allotted to make it to anywhere else on time. The food. oh the lunches and dinners.. I dont know how I am going to overcome the distance of that. I will forever CRAVE Santa Chiara caprese, lentil stew, salmon, potatoes, and chocolate salami. Its going to be hard eating/cooking Italian when I get back due to the highest standards ever that have been created while here.

Ah, now all this talk of my home here is making me miss it already. Fail... but on the optimistic point of view, I dont think this is my last trip to Italy ever. I've tied to many roots here to never visit again (besides I threw the coins in the Trevi Fountain in Rome and rubbed the pigs nose in the Florence market... I'm golden.) Also I want to keep up with the lingo- the language. I think its awesome to know another language and I feel like I have about a half semester of knowledge just from being submersed in the culture. And as much as I want to broaden my horizons and travel to other countries, I have become SO familiar with Castiglion Fiorentino, Florence, and Rome that I want to come back and walk the familiar streets again.

All this makes me wish I could have studied after the trip. I know that before I left America, traveling by myself was a huge no-go and even I wouldnt have trusted myself with a week by myself in a foreign country. But now I am SO confident in how to get around this country and wise of my belongings and myself that I think that traveling by myself after this trip would have been the best part of it all. If you know me then you know I am independent and like to do things for myself (if you didnt know that well now you do..) and I feel the most liberated when I accomplish something bigger than myself. In our huge group, I have so much fun and good conversations, but by myself I think I can actually take in everything better. There is always a rush with a group and I feel like I dont see the sights to their full capacity. Anyway.. thats just a little tangent.

All in all, this trip has been the most amazing thing I've done my entire life. Hands down. Its been a dream of mine and I know looking back it will all seem like a fairy tale that I made up. I cant express how grateful I am to have made it this far - my parents and myself will surely be in debt for some time to come... Oh well.. I wouldnt have missed this experience for anything in the world. I have learned so much and have changed A LOT. I cant wait to share the million more stories I have when I get back and share the thousands of pictures I have taken. Have a wonderful day!
Buona Sera!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Oh Gosh... Girls Weekend from Transportation Hell

Oh boy… this weekend was a roller coaster, fun at times but there were definitely some steep, twisting failures.

Saturday our plan was to go to Perugia - home of Perugina Chocolates… Well we made it to the train station a little late so we missed our train. The next one came in two hours so we debated for a while what to do and decided to go on the next train instead of waste our day. When we got to Perugia we had to take a scala mobile - escalator thing - up to the top of the city. We hopped on whatever we saw first, which was a “mini metro” that looked like a giant ski lift. It was super hi-tech. We rode that to the top, where we found the escalators that took us up farther. Of course it started raining when we reached the top plus we were hungry plus we needed a bano stat for a small bladdered emergen-pee. So after finding a W.C. and stopping by the tourist office to grab a pamphlet, we searched for Allan’s Paninoteca. There they had cheap and amazing sandwiches, and a crazy guy named Allan. Alas, his brother was working today, but he still made us AMAZING caprese sandwiches that were HUGE and only 3.50 because we got a studentessa sconti (student discout). Yes, you see Perugia is a college town, a.k.a where the attractive Italians are. So after we scarfed our paninos we frolicked around a little bit. We went to the café that is said to be the best cappuccino in Italy. It definitely held strong to those standards and I should have gotten 8 of them because they were only one euro! Soon after we went to the main chocolate store and to our luck it is taking a summer break and is closed for a month. Hmm.. well, we had passed a little store that advertised the Baci brand near the train station so we went back there…it was closed too. But this one was just on a daily siesta, not a month long siesta, so we happily fulfilled our chocolate needs (and he gave us all two chocolates for free!). We headed down the mini metro after that to make sure we didn’t miss our train, but we had almost an hour to kill so we headed to the Co-op across the way. There we bought Ciobar - which is the most amazing hot chocolate you will have in your life. Its not even really a drink, its more of warm pudding in a coffee cup that you have to slurp and lick out. Just trust me, its comes from heaven… We made it back for nightly dinner at the center and boy was it the best dinner yet. Not particulary because of the food, but it was so nice because we had our own table and our own portions and our own EVERYTHING. Don’t get me wrong, I love our giant group. But it was nice to be selfish with our pasta for once and be able to stuff ourselves to our heart’s content.

Sunday…..oh man…now this is when it got interesting. Today our plan was to go to Montepulciano- home of the famous (and AMAZING) Vino Nobile wine and where they filmed for Twilight’s New Moon movie. Well, transportation was yet another issue today and I am so glad to say that we made it out alive and got back for dinner all in one piece. That being said, now I can tell you the trials we had since you know there is a good ending…

So we made it to the train station on time this morning, ha, and our train there was short and fine. Montepulciano is really only like an hour away, but you have to take a train to Chiusi and then get off and have a layover and get on another train from there… or so we thought. We were excited because our train from Chuisi to Montepulciano was a high-tech baby train. It was really short (baby) and had a chill couch-like vibe on the inside, air conditioned, and had the most amazing train bathroom I’ve seen in my life. Note: You may not understand the obsession with this bathroom, but once you ride a inner-city train across Europe and use their restrooms that have no toilet paper, no soap, no hand towels, no room to stand up or rotate, and basically no sanitary air to breathe then you will understand. So this W.C. was HUGE, had a toilet seat that rotated and squeegee cleaned itself for you, it didn’t have soap but I didn’t hold that against it since it hand a hand dryer. It was a heavenly experience and we all walked out of it like our lives had been changed forever. Anyway, so high-tech baby train took us to Montepulciano…except not really.
You see, Montepulciano is the highest city in Tuscany, and where we were was flat ground and I didn’t see the town walls ANYWHERE. So we ask someone walking where the main Piazza was and they gave us hand sign directions - this way and then that way basically. So we follow that until we start walking down a seemingly never ending country road. And in fact we saw a sign that said Montepulciano 9…meaning 9 kilometers which is roughly 5 and ½ miles. Um, no..There was a little wine store on the corner so we rung the doorbell to see if we could get some help. It was an older woman who didn’t speak English (of course) but she told us that if we walked 1 kilometer there would be a ospedale (hospital) that was nearby a bus station. Ah, well we decided why not. We had come this far so might as well suck it up for the .6214 mile walk we had ahead of us. I was in a particularly optimistic mood, though. I mean, we were walking through Tuscan grape country. Vineyards were on both sides of us, housing the grapes that produce the best wine in the entire WORLD! How cool is that?

But there is only so much optimism when you keep walking and walking and walking and feel like you are getting farther and farther from civilization. So as we are walking we see a woman walking down to the road from her house, just on a leisurely afternoon stroll. We are getting ansty by now so we went to ask her where the town was and if there was indeed a bus that grandma didn’t know about. She informed us that no buses ran on Sunday (great..) and that the town was 10 miles down the road. Oh joy. We just looked at each other helplessly thinking, “Well, that was fun, looks like we are going back to the train station cause there is no way we are walking 10 miles for Robert Pattinson.” She obviously saw this and told us to wait there while she went to go do something - we weren’t sure at the time. But we hear a car door slam and an engine purr and here she comes in her little car to take us to Montepulciano. Now I know you may be freaking out, but this was definitely not a scene from Taken at all. She had a beautiful house, was really sweet, and -heck- when we got in the car she handed us her purse to put in the back seat. She trusted us just as much as we trusted her… We tried to talk with her but the language barrier was so bad that we didn’t talk much of the way. Its okay thought because A) it was the most amazing drive through the Tuscan countryside and B) we were all excited to be in sitting in a car for the first time in what seems like forever. Music, fresh air, scenery, control - cars have it all, and you don’t realize that until you are sent into a world of trains, buses, and boats that you don’t get to drive. Anyway, so she took us up to the city (yeah we would have never made it because it was FAR) and dropped us off outside the walls. We told her Grazie Mille like 800 times and she told us she was sorry because she didn’t speak English even though she had no need to apologize since we were the ones being the inconvenience!! All in all, most amazing woman ever… she has some good karma coming her way.

So we got to the town and hunger struck so we stopped at a trattoria and ate AMAZING gnocci (potato dumplings in crème sauce) and pici ( thick hand-made spaghetti, best known in Montepulciano). After we stopped by a wine store and tried some of the Vino Nobile to check that off our list. Then we headed… I mean, hiked, up to the Piazza Grande. This is where they filmed New Moon at the Volturri Castle or something (I haven’t read it yet) but Sara and Hayley were freaking out so I figured it was significant. We tried to decipher where all Robert Pattinson had gone and filmed (yeah we are mature) and took lots of pictures so after the movie comes out we can be like, “WE WERE THERE!!! LOOK!!” and have proof. It was a gorgeous little town and a beautiful beautiful day (even though we all brought our umbrellas cause weather channel said 95% rain… LIAR). We didn’t have much time though because we REALLY didn’t want to mess up getting home and we realized that this time we were going to need to take a bus to the Chiusi stop instead of going to the train station and then taking baby train. Finding the bus station was chaotic, and once again, we missed our bus. It all worked out though because the train we thought we would catch (that would have been cutting it close) doesn’t run on Sundays. So we had an hour to chill and breathe before our train came. I found an US Weekly in English and felt soooo out of the loop reading American gossip. I mean really? I leave for 6 weeks and 2 media legends die on me (oh and Billy Mays too!?) and I don’t even want to know what songs/movies/etc is new. Ah I am so out of the loop. Oh well, we made it back alive and just before the main course was served. Perfecto! The day was highlighted when we got ice cream cones for dessert. I, chocolate obsessed, followed that with a hazelnut Baci chocolate and am now perfectly content with the day. Livin la doce vita!

note: Picture taken during 2 hour wait after missing our train to Perugia. We took lots of artsy shots using the self timer to, well, pass the time.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In Fair Verona Where We Lay Our Scene..

Yes, if you remember freshman english class.. I visited the home of Giulietta, the setting for one of Shakespeares most tragic love story, and one of Italy's hidden gems. It has a wonderfully cozy atmosphere. There are shops - expensive and cheap- down a main street alongside cute cafes, restaurants, and bars. This town is in love with theater.. well duh. But they have an arena that is the home for many plays throughout the year. What is so awesome about this theater is that the props and stage equipment are kept uncovered right outside. The play currently being shown was Carmen.. but the props outside that we saw were giant iron roses, sphinxes and eqyptian platforms, and shanghai houses... a wonderful compilation I would say. Later we went to the Casa di Giulietta where the famous balcony is along with a statue of Juliet herself. Its good luck in love to rub her left breast (no i did not make that up), so we all did and took awkward, breast-rubbing pictures. haha... Later we hit up the shopping, I didnt come home with any winners, but we tried on the latest in Italian styles. Alas, it was a good trip to Verona. Ole' Bill Shakespeare would be proud, as I assume my english teacher mom is too ;)

Reports from the Lido deck..

I could have stayed in Venice another week. The Venetian islands have so much to offer and were so intriguing that they require a full day each to be adequately seen. Our hotel was on Lido - yes we said many "Lido deck" jokes and no there is no nude beach there. Thats a big fat rumor. There is a beach though and I dipped my toes in the Adriatic just to expand my toes' horizons. Lido is not bery touristy, but had the cheapest food of all the islands so we made our lunch and dinners end up there. Two of the three nights I must admit we ate at a Chinese restaurant. Before you judge, think about eating the SAME genre of food for 5 weeks straight. Then, alas, a new type of food appears that is half the price of the norm. Well, if you are still judging, think that from Italy, I am alot closer to China then in the U.S. therefore it MUST be better than Pei Wei... Ok I'm done...Nights at Lido mainly consisted of going to the BluMoon Cafe at the beach. It was the most chill atmosphere, playing fun music with a bar, rooms with bean bags, and an outside patio (next to the beach of course). It was nice to be able to sip some wine, dance a little, walk the beach, or just sit and chat. I took a ton of pictures of it because I love the decor and plan on imitating some of it for my room.

So Venice! I had a mediocre expectations because I only knew of what I'd heard: St. Mark's, gondolas, and pigeons. Well, St. Mark's was golden (literally) and the square was filled during the day with people and pigeons, and we took a gondola ride for an amazing price. Honestly besides that, Venice is really small and quiet. As soon as you wonder a street off of St. Mark's Square it is quietly open with a few local italians here and there. Thats what I liked about it- that though it had one touristy area it still felt like a smaller town.
My favorite part of the trip though was our day ventures to the surrounding islands of Torcello, Burano, and Murano. Torcello was somewhat abandoned- the Luckenback of Italy. People go to see a couple sights just to say they did and very very few live there (maybe 10).
The highlight for me was our next island: Burano. I'd watched some travel channel special on Burano so I was excited to finally see it with my own eyes. I was definately blown away when we docked from our boat,

-- oh yeah, p.s. getting around Venice = taking a Vaporetto, which is like a bus but on water. This trip has cultured my travel styles.. train, metro, bus, boat, mini metro, town escalators)--

anyway, Burano is gorgeous. Its the home of handmade lace but that wasnt a very big deal for me. The houses are all painted different colors. From hot pink to a passionate purple, eye-stinging yellow to sky blue, every color of the rainbow was represented. I had so much fun getting lost in teh colorful town and taking 8 million artsy pictures. It was one of my favorites for sure, not so touristy but insanely gorgeous. There is no way people living there could ever be sad. I mean with a hot pink house? No way..

Our next idland hop was Murano, home of glss. We saw men molding glass at a factory and thenwalked among the shops to see the creations of their handiwork. You had to be careful though because some stores sold fake Murano glass that was actually from China. It was mostly very expensive but it was neat to se glass art and jewelry that was "imported" from the furnace next door. Shipping and handling for their inventory was probably a man named Francesco, holding a box of hot, fresh glass.. or at least thats how I imagine it.

I was sad to leave the island on Friday, but by taking the number 1 Vaporetto I got a chance to see it all (it stops at every stop along the Grand Canal) and say ciao ciao Venice!

You Mosaic Me Go Crazy...

Attention crafty people... visiting the mosaics of Ravenna will induce a feeling of craftiness that is only curable by a double scoop of gelato. Well.. at least that was my reaction to the town.
We visited several basilicas in the morning, the beauty in that their art consisted of insanely intricate mosaics of Christ, saints, and other decorative images. If you've ever slaved over a mosaic (think 8th grade art) then you know how difficult it is to plan, plaster, and finish even a 4x6 inch board. Now imagine covering an ENTIRE basilica with little 1 inch squares... IMPOSSIBLE! Next, we visited the tomb of Dante and another glorious room of squares. Afterwards we set off to lunch, where I got a panino (not panini as we say in the states) with a weird artichoke sauce.. oh well, its food.

After lunch we wandered the quaint town. We struck gold when we went into a mosaic store. The store sold finished mosaic trinkets and gifts as well as materials to do your own mosaic... make my own mosaic? using slabs of any color imaginable? ... coming from the mother ship of all mosaic lands? I nearly had a conniption. I laser-eye memorized the pieces I loved (upwards of 1,000 euro!) so I could recreate them when I got back to my craft box in America. Then, while walking toward the bus, we made a pit stop for gelato. I resisted for a good 20 seconds, reasoning why I shouldn't get any and how I need to save money...but then I caved. I mean, who looks at the flavor, ironically named "Temptation," and doesn't cave?? It just shows how easily swayed I am by mysterious flavors and my newest best friend, Mr. insanely rich, dark-dark chocolate. I got him on top :) È squisito!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mediterranean Obsessed...

So for our “vacation” this weekend we stayed in Riomaggiore, which is part of the five cities making up Cinque Terre (literally meaning five cities). These towns weave alongside the Mediterranean and have a famous hiking trail that goes from Riomaggiore all the way to the last town of Monterosso. It is 9 kilometers (5 ish miles?) and generally takes about 5 hours to finish. Our plan was to go on Saturday morning so we could be finished early enough in the afternoon for a nap and shower before whatever we planned to do that night. Instead it rained until about 8 in the morning, so our start time was more around 11:30. It was nice and cool even though it was sunny so that helped make the hike more enjoyable. The hike between the first two towns is reeeaaalllyyy easy. Its not until the third town that you come in contact with a giant mass of stairs that looks like a winding maze. 382 steps later you reach the town of Corniglia, which is where most groups stopped to refuel for the next two towns. I was still feelin good at the time so I went along with a group who kept going.

The trail DEFINITELY got harder and there were times when I wanted to injure myself in the hopes of not having to finish the hike and instead be picked up and carried by someone the rest of the way. This part of the hike was not at all paved or civilized this part was more like you are in the set of, well, the Jungle Book or Jurassic Park (yes there was a rickety wood and rope bridge that you crossed over a small waterfall). Basically at some parts it seemed like they’d just looked at a foot-wide rock jutting off the side of a cliff and said, “yeah that’ll do for a walkway” and were done with it. Needless to say it was the toughest hike I’ve done in my life (blew Enchanted Rock out of the water REAL fast) and I would recommend it to any dare-devils who want a good challenge.

My group finished in about 4 hours after taking only one short break in Vernazza (the second to last city). When we reached Monterosso we were hungry though, so we went straight for some food. One group got pizza but I went with some girls to find sandwiches and just so happened to land in the heaven of all sandwich shops. It was the freshest food I have ever had and watching this man make my sandwich made me want to cry. He sliced the turkey from the huge breast, chopped a glorious red tomato, sliced the delicate mozzarella, used the greenest handful of mixed lettuce, sprinkled a little salt, and poured the perfect amount of olive oil on top before topping it off with toasted freshly baked foccacia bread… If that didn’t make your melt water then I suggest you catch the Red Eye to Monterosso STAT!! The bakery was apparently in Rick Steve’s book of Italy so it all made sense.. Needless to say after that morning of vigorous activity I was too pooped for the night life of Cinque Terre, but I think my rest was well deserved!

note: image is the view of Vernazza from the hike

Pisa My Heart

Buona Sera!
So the rest of the week was so jam packed. On Thursday we went for the third time this semester to Florence. I must say I love this town and every time I visit it I feel more at home. This trip we went to the Academy (home of Michelangelo’s David) and then to the Uffizi Gallery (home of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus). We saw many other pieces in these galleries but those were the highlights. I can’t begin to explain the feeling you get when you come face to face with something you’ve heard about nearly every year in art and history classes. It feels like a joke almost. I mean, no way that is seriously the sculpture of the real David, done by Michelangelo himself. NO WAY! I remember when I first saw a picture of it in high school art class and, being immature, thought “oh my gosh he is naked!” But after learning the philosophy, understanding the struggles, and witnessing the beauty of it in real life, I have a whole new outlook on it.…But enough with the heart-to-heart… After the museums we went to the market to pick up souvenirs for family and friends, then made it home for a delicious dinner featuring the best dessert EVER which I will constantly make when I get back to the US of A called “chocolate salami” compliments of Santa Chiara.. yum!
The next morning we left EARLY for Pisa. All I’d ever known of Pisa was the Leaning Tower, so I was surprisingly amazed to see the beautiful baptistry, cathedral, and cemetery all nearby as well. The architecture there is AMAZING and super intricate that my words couldn’t do it justice. We rushed through most of the morning so we could have time for pictures at the tower, even though we only had 10 or 20 minutes. I took one holding up the tower like everyone else and their dog, but tried to do some creative poses. A.k.a chudo chop kicking the tower (didn’t turn out so well), then handstands, and then a jumping pic which turned out PERFECTO!! The only thing that would have made the day better would have been some free PISA!! Haha get it? Like pizza? Ok I’ll stop…but only if you say P-L-ISA!!…ok now this is embarrassing…

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wandering Aimlessly

So this week = crazy crazy busy. Yesterday we went to Assisi, which always has an amazing view and is such a quaint little town. Then today we went to Cortona. I've never seen Under the Tuscan Sun, but if you have then you may know that it was filmed there. It really just reminded me of my home away from home: Castiglion Fiorentino. The streets were narrow but they were full cute little stores. What I had most fun doing was ..well..absolutely nothing. Me & my roommate Hayley took on the town..meaning we walked down the winding streets of Cortona, gelato in hand ( be precise a media caramel and a vanilla with chocolate chunks from Snoopy's Gelateria!)without a clue of where we were going. She had seen the movie so we could say we were exploring for sets, but really we would reach a fork in the road and say "left or right." It was nice to just stroll thru an unknown place. But no worries, you can't get lost in a tuscan town since A) they mostly only have one main street and B) all towns are on a hill so you just go up!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stone Beaches and Bungalows

So after a train ride from Rome to Naples (ghetto-ville ITA), a tram from Naples to Sorrento, and a bus ride down a windy, narrow road we made it to PARADISE!! We stayed in the small town of Marina del Cantone in a hotel called the Villagio Resort Nettuno. It was the most amazing and beautiful place I have ever had the pleasure of staying. The was a main office higher up on the property with a restaurant above it, a small grocery store connected to it with all you would ever need (a gelato bar, a veno tap, and croissants), a pool, private beach front, ping pong, bar, canopy dining, chairs to layout in, plus our adorable colored bungalows AND IT WAS 14 EURO A NIGHT! What at deal! Our bungalow was lime green and it had two bunked rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, tv, patio with tables and chairs, lines to hang laundry, and a view of the gorgeous water and surrounding hills. You could tell the complete satisfaction on our faces and our body’s were just limp from contentment.
So the first night we got situated, then went to dinner at one of the restaurants overlooking the dock and the bay. I had ravioli and it made chef Boyardee taste like cat food- not like it doesn’t already… We got some gelato then hit the sack early because we had a big day in Capri ahead of us…
Our Capri adventure started at 8:45; we met at the front office and walked down to the dock where we got on a boat (yes, I was “on a boat” and we sang the snl skit song the whole time) They took us on a scenic tour around the first half of the island then we made stop at the blue grotto. If you haven’t heard of the blue grotto I am sure you have seen it before, imagine the bluest water you could ever seen in a cave on the Mediterranean. My camera pooped out about this time but I still got some decent pictures before it completely died. It was gorgeous.. Then we got back on the boat and saw a couple more landmarks until they dropped us off at Marina Picola on Capri for 5 hours to see the sights, lay at the beach and whatnot. We looked around down at the beach vendors then decided to trek up to the actual town. Once there we looking in shops again and decided to take a bus up even higher in the city. Up there we did possibly one of the greatest things ever, we took a chairlift up to the top of Capri. I know its not that hard core, but it was so insanely beautiful. The lift was 12 minutes up there and I had gotten my 8 euro worth right when it lifted me up. It was like getting a bird’s eye view of the most beautiful place in the world. Though I’ve never been to Greece, but REALLY want to go, I think it was close in comparison to the beautiful blue mixed with the white of the town and the green of the countryside flying by under me. BELLA! At the top there was an amazing garden plus trails to see all the sides of Capri’s beauty. After picture taking and Lewis & Clarking new paths we headed back down on the lift (amazing as well) and got some calzones at the town below. We shopped and chilled up there until we took a bus back down to the middle level of town, then walked down to the beach level. We went swimming in the gorgeous water and jumped from rocks and floated and took in the sun until it was time to go. On the boat (which left without me and Hayley so they had to come back!) they took us through the lovers arch thing that means you will be together forever (I am coming back for my honeymoon, its official) and then around the island some more. We finally said ciao ciao Capri and trucked on back to our resort. Back at the bungalow me and Sara went to the store and bought food to make dinner in our kitchen. We made a feast for 5 euro each, brushetta antipasta then marinara spiral pasta with olives tomatoes and mozzarella, and of course some wine from the vino tap. DELICIOUS! That night there was a festival for Saint Antonio in the town so there was a boat parade and a live band and fireworks! It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. We sat on the stone beach as the fireworks went off from a boat not that far away. It was so perfect and I am definitely going back again someday!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Rome If You Want To"

Rome was a whirlwind! They say you cant see Rome in a day, but we did. ALL OF IT. But I’m getting ahead of myself. When we got in the first day we went to the Vatican, which is technically its own country with around 800 residents. I’d been to St. Peters and the Sistene Chapel before but they are both so breathtaking that I still feel like I didn’t see it all. The basilica is gorgeous and the giant alter-thing can’t be fathomed in words. This time in the Sistene Chapel I paid less attention to the ceiling (the creation of Adam by God’s finger) and was more interested in The Last Judgement (the huge painting behind the altar also done by Michelangelo). I could have sat there FOREVER taking it all in - I cant imagine the life of a pope or cardinal that spends days on end in there just looking up like, oh hey million year old fresco that is one of the most well known paintings in the world done by on of the most amazing painters in the entire world. I’m just a tad bitter… That night we went to Hard Rock Café. The wait was awful but the food was sooo worth it all! Hamburger, fries, FREE ketchup (you pay for ketchup here which is no bueno for me who slathers it on everything) and ...drumroll… ICED TEA!! We were most excited for the “iced” part since not many things have ice or are cold in general.
The next day was probably the busiest and most rushed day of my entire life. I mean, when in Rome might as well go big or go home, and since home is a bajillion miles away we went BIG. We started out at the Spanish steps, then on to Trevi Fountain (my all time favorite forever and always), Italian parliament, the Church of St. Ignasus (ask me about it’s dome), the Pantheon (which is HUGE by the way), Piazza Navona, Piazza Venecia, Capital Square, the entire expanse of the Roman Forum and finally the Colloseum.. PHEW… If you weren’t tired reading that then I suggest you pull out a road map of Rome and measure out the path we took. If you still aren’t tired after that then get your lazy butt over the pond and walk it yourself and YOU WILL BE TIRED! We had a 30 minute break in there for lunch and we found a gelato store with 100 flavors!!! Talk about heaven on earth…
Our next day in Rome wasn’t any less rushed. We got up and went to the Catacombs - creepy-, then walked to the Apian Way, which is the original rock road where Christians were persecuted and claimed to be the road Peter was killed on. Following that we had a 2 ½ ish hour break, which sounds like plenty of time for everything right? Ha, well my roomies and I planned to go back to the Vatican but we had to run to our hotel (Hotel Bled…ha) to get cover-ups and other stuff so we were slowly running out of time. By the time we got to the Vatican we had maybe 10 minutes to take pictures and do whatever before we had to leave again. It definitely wasn’t enough time for them but we still have another trip to Florence this week. After our break was over we took a forever tram ride to Fiesole, an ancient Etruscan ruin town. In a sentence, it was a forum of ruins and rocks and pillars and grass and headless sculptures. For some reason our tour out there lasted from 2 till 7…blah… and when we got back we were even more rushed because we signed up for the Coliseum Pub Crawl. Basically this is a function where you pay 10 or 15 euro for a free shirt, free pizza, free beer/wine, and then entry into several bars along the way. The majority of the maybe 150 people who went on the “crawl” spoke English so that was nice. I was really in it for the pizza and the sweet shirt (it says I CAME I SAW I CRAWLED on the back!). I played the watchful mom most of the time, but I had a lot of fun dancing at the random pubs/bars. They play fun American songs which is always nice to hear now and then when you can’t understand ANYTHING except for gelato flavors.
The next morning we got up and had time before our train left for Naples so me and my roomy went souvenir shopping and stopped by the Trevi Fountain to take it in one last time. We met up with another girl and went to the outside of the Vatican one last time before heading back to Roma Termini to catch our train. More of the weekend to come later!

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Stomach Speaks Italian Now..

So probably one of the most important topics i have yet to talk about is the food. Oh the food. At the center we get served lunch and dinner only. Breakfast for me usually consists of a croissant I bought at the Co-op with an orange that I got for dessert the night before. Lunch and dinner however are massive feasts of true Italian dishes. From spaghetti to risotto to prosciutto to pesto pasta to rigattoni to glazed salmon to the freshest mozzarella and tomatoes you will EVER encounter in your life, we've had them all. Never am I left wanting more.. well, except for the salmon and crusted cod we had at lunch today.

The way we get served is amazing as well. First comes bread.. this part i have started skipping though because A) i want to save room for the amazing dishes we get and B) because it is usually leftover from the day before so its seen better days. After 5 or so minutes we get served the antipasta, kindof like an appetizer, and that usually consists of any type of pasta to bean or lentil stews/soups. This course is ALWAYS amazing.. but what am I saying, the WHOLE MEAL is always amazing.. Next comes the main course which (for dinners) consists of a mean and side(s). Typically this includes a chicken, ham, or roast of some kind, glazed in all sorts of amazingness plus glorious vegetables or potato fries.

Lunches are generally lighter than dinners so the main course will be kindof snacky - a.k.a prosciutto slices, mozzarella and tomato trays, etc. I write down everything they serve us so when I come back I can try and recreate the amazingness. For dessert we most always get a bowl of fruit, which as I stated earlier, becomes my breakfast. HOWEVER, on a students birthday we get italian ice cream sandwiches (graham cracker instead of chocolate) and on some random days we will get pie or tarts or sliced watermelon... Those days are especially spectacular. So there you go. My taste buds have taken a turn in a different direction and I am 100% confidant that when I come home I will order very weird and different from my normal eateries. Hopefully I can find an english-italian cookbook while I am here so I can convert my family and roommates when I get back!! Arrivaderci!

Pictured: Cous cous and various antipasti (like bruschetta and toast with melone and spicy sausage)

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Phew what a weekend! .. you will understand the title later..

We got up at 5 to get to the train station Thursday morning and boy that was a doozy. In Florence we toured the Duomo, the Museo di Palazzo Davanzati (Paolo, our art teacher lived in the building when he was younger) and then the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore. We were starving after that so we went to a nice restaurant and I got cheese lasagna...YUM. Before they served the food though they served us wine (it comes with every meal and is cheaper then water) ...and on an empty stomach, wine+nina=a tad wobbly. Ha, but it wasnt that bad since we went to a boring museum (harsh but true!). It kinda made it more interesting. So after that we were free for the rest of the evening. They gave us a train ticket back but the majority of the group stayed the night in Florence in hostels. My friend Sara and I were going to stay with a friend but (beginning the gypsy life) we crashed at our friends hostel instead. That night we got sandwiches and had plans to go to the biggest Discotheque in Rome but since it was so far away we just made the downstairs of a bar into a dance floor. It was probably one of the funnest nights of my life I must say!!

The next day we had the plan to go to Elba island (where napolean was exiled) and stay in a bungalow on the beach but that definately fell thru so instead me and the girls who I would have gone to Elba with decided to gypsy along and travel with a big group to Viareggio and stay in the same hotel. Talk about LIVIN ON THE EDGE! There are three of us in our gypsy gang and us three slept with 3 other girls in a room fit for 2. I slept on the floor but it wasnt too bad. It was intense because I dont exactly know what we would have done if we got caught since there were zero openings. At Viareggio we hung out at the beach most all day.. cloud, cold breeze, drizzle and all. We didnt exactly check the weather... but it was still a blast besides the whole gypsy aspect.

Today we made it back after some issues on the trains. First off, finding the right binario (platform) is like utterly impossible without asking someone and looking dumb. Besides knowing how to gelato nicely, the other phrase I am a master at is "Va bene per [insert destination]?" ..."Does this go to .." So we thought we found the right train, but at a random stop EVERYONE got off and then the lights cut out. Yeah, so that prooooobably wasnt the right one. Luckily the right one was on the next track over and it left in 5 minutes, so we raced to catch it. Then once we arrived in Florence we had to find our train home. Now this was a curiously long train ride. Basically if you think of the trains as like the highway, you can either take the Highway route or the Business route. The Highway route goes fast and barely ever stops. The Business route, however, stops at every little town. We evidently took the "Business" route train and it took a tad longer than normal since we made stops at stations in no mans land. There were literally 10 people on the train with us.. I counted. When we arrived in Castiglion it was raining.. of course.. so we trekked up to the center to be welcomed by clean laundry, new towels, and fresh sheets! Ahhh... home at last.

the picture is of me sara and ryan (the gypsies fo life). The back story is that when we were outside the Duomo in Florence, there are gypsies asking for money.. BUT these gypsies are wearing all white head to toe, their faces are painted white, and they are holding a red posey. Also they creepily approach you by making a loud SMOOCH / kissing noise in your face. Honestly it is pretty disturbing because of how they look and the fact that they get in your face. SO throughout the weekend when we talked about how we felt like gypsies, we would stick out our hand and made loud smooching noises to everyone.

2nd note:
Even though we gypsied, we paid our fair share. Sure we mooched, but we all split the cost, so basically our gypsy-ing made it cheaper for everyone!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Just a Normal Run... in Tuscany!

So this past semester I have taken up running. My roommate and I started short distances and gradually made our way up to the 3 mile mark for 5k season. So for training, we ran past our house into Bryan. You are probably thinking, "What the heck does this have to do with Italy?" Well today I ran with some other girls, basically in hopes to stay in shape through all the gelato. But what was different about this run was that the scenery wasn't filled with foul smells and run down neighborhoods... it was the Tuscan countryside, the greenest grass, adobe houses, poppy flowers, a brilliant blue backdrop onto the rolling hills and vineyards up above. It was AMAZING. I felt like I was on a movie set, it was too beautiful for me to be running, sweating, panting, and smelling awful in. It made me want to take up extreme marathon running, which wouldnt last long since I am the slowest runner of all time... Thats probably why I saw so much of the scenery in the back of the pack ;)

Monday, June 1, 2009


BLAHHHH RAIN! Supposedly today was the last rainy day and the rest of our stay should be hot and sunny, but they said that yesterday too! Hmm.... Its still just as beautiful here, but when its down pouring there is only a handful of things one can do in Santa Chaira. Watch movies, play games, sleep, catch up on work, OR listen to music and get intense cabin fever. Actually today we branched out and went to town to transfer money and get postcards and francobollos per stati uniti so that we can mail them. Tomorrow is basically Italy's republic day ( like memorial day) so most things will be closed for holiday, so its looking like tomorrow will be uneventful as well. However its a big day at the Medeival festival.. i hear there will be falconry and jousting!! WOOO!!