Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Roma, Italia

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Can I beginning with something that isn’t related to Rome?! Well I will.  So Cory Monteith died yesterday.  For those who do not know, he played Finn on Glee.  Y’all know how much I love Glee.  Well he will be missed, and Glee will not be the same without you.  Thanks! (:

So I left for Rome, Friday morning and didn’t get there till 4pm that afternoon.  The rides were not that bad.  Also, security in Europe is so careless.  Erin got through security at Rome with a big bottle of water.  What? And I looked like a fool walking through the machine with my shoes off while everyone else had their shoes on. Oh that was fun times.  Well, I took the bus to Termini Station and on the way there I saw the Colosseum!! It is so huge you guys, like so huge!  So I found Erin and her friend Annie (from Mary Wash).  We took the metro to our hotel, the metro was so dirty and so much graffiti! I use to like graffiti and the art of it, but it is over used in Europe!  Like every open space has graffiti! STOP!! Can I just say I got a really good deal on this hotel and it was so nice and had free breakfast! BOOM

We decided to look at some sites Friday night and do the rest on Saturday!   First, we walked to the Colosseo = Colosseum and Arco di Costantino = Arch of Constantine, which were right beside each other.  [I forgot my camera charger, so I only have pictures form my phone, sorry!].  The Colosseum is seriously so huge in person and every place we went they were doing construction on the architecture! But we still were able to see the structures! Then, since we were there, we walked around the Roman Forum too.  Afterwards, we took the Colosseo metro to the Spagna metro stop, which is near the Trinità dei Monti (a church) which is famous for having the SPANISH STEPS.  We tried to understand its importance but there isn’t anything other that it leads to this church which I was unaware of till we saw the stairs!  I just kept saying that I saw the stairs in so many movies, why not go to the stairs!  Then, it was time for dinner! We found this outdoor restaurant, and I ordered spaghetti de carbonara (which is spaghetti with bacon, eggs and black pepper).  It had bacon in it so I was down! And for dessert I ordered terimisu (which is cake- usually angel cake- drenched in coffee and then topped with whipped cream and extra topping), that was amazingly good!  I was so impressed (: !! Then, we walked to the Fountana di Trevi = the Trevi Fountain, Erin heard it was way prettier at night So it was about 10pm and we thought the same; it was so gorgeous and huge!  I had no idea it was actually that big.  We were on one side at first, then we moved closer to the fountain and we did the traditional “throw a coin into the fountain”, which means you will return to Rome!! Let’s try!  Finally, we got tired and took the metro back to our hotel, but Erin got shut out of the metro! I have never seen her so terrified and then the doors opened again and we came in. We laughed it off, but I would have hated for her to be by herself in that creepy metro station!image






imageSaturday, we got ready and went to the floor above us and had breakfast! It was so good!  They even had Hot chocolate, which I had.  I had a piece of chocolate and vanilla marble cake and a glazed croissant, then a piece of turkey (sandwich meat stuff) with toast!  It was so good, I somewhat got seconds.. (:!  After we checked out we started our adventure with a metro ride from Piramide to Ottaviana , which is the stop for the Vatican City!  So you don’t need your passport to enter, but you needed appropriate attire to enter the museum and other building!  We didn’t make the cut, so we just took pictures of the Basilica St. Pietro = St. Peter’s church.  Y’all, this is where the pope talks and a lot of people stand at the bottom!  It is such a big area!  Apparently, only the pope and maybe some nuns live in the Vatican City!  Weird!  Anyways, we walked to Campo dè Fiori, which is like the Easter Market in DC but way smaller.  It was past noon, so we each bought a cup of fresh fruit! Also, that day was so hot! WE deiced to get lunch then at Ja’Jamma.  We al ordered pizza and this place made Nepali (the type from in Nepal, Italy) and it was so, so good and thick-crusted! The next place is something Erin picked, because her teacher told them about it in one of their italian classes.  It is called  Piazza Novana and has 3 really nice fountains.  The fountains had some great architecture, almost like roman mythology people.  I mean, I never really paid attention to that stuff in high school, but they had fish legs and some were naked!  Also, a lot of people were selling painted pictures, which was pretty cool!  Literally, 3 blocks away was the Pantheon and when we turned this corner we found it and it was so huge!  Fun fact: The height of the Pantheon is the same as the diameter of the dome!  So it’s as tall as it is wide!  It has this huge hole at the top and 22 small holes in the floor for draining when it rains!  So cool, it was built in 126… DANG!  We walked a few blocks north to this gelato place called Giolitti, on Via degli Uffici d. Vicario!  It was so nice, you had to buy the order first then go up to the bar and tell the man what you wanted. There were like 50 flavors and all in Italian, that was fun.  You could get up to 3 flavors on one cone/cup.  I ended up getting Ciocolotto e menta con panna = chocolate and mint with whipped cream!  It was some real mint gelato.  So I literally told Erin it tasted like bitting fresh mint form my backyard and then i saw a mint left in it and was like THIS IS SO REAL MINT!  Fresh out the garden!  Afterwards, we walked down this big shopping street called  Via del Corsotowards the Piazza del Popolo, that had two famous paintings by artist I don’t know but it was so huge and beautiful.  Lastly, we headed back to the hotel to get out bags and we headed for the hotel!  That was such a successful and packed trip but I enjoyed it.

The thing I liked the most about Rome were the beautiful Italian guys !!  No,let me stop yes they were gorgeous but the italian atmosphere was amazing.  There were people on the street and on the metros playing Italian music that you hear in movies! IT’S REAL YOU GUYS!!!  The music is real and the language is so beautiful and way more understandable than spanish!  I’ll probably be speaking spanish in an italian accent all week!  But the Pantheon and Colosseum surprised me with their size!  They were so nice!  Ahh, I miss it already!

The things they said a lot:

  • ciao = hello and godbye
  • grazi = thank you!

All I could think of was the movie Eat, Pray, Love!  I was trying to envision Julia Roberts in Rome with us and enjoying all of it!  Ciao for now Rome! (:

Waiting…and waiting…and waiting

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

So since I arrived in Italy I’ve noticed a lot of things: Italians really only like to eat pork (they literally put it on everything), you can park anywhere you want and not get ticketed, and literally everyone here smokes cigarettes. These examples, among many others, I can get used to, honestly. But the one thing that I just don’t think I will ever adjust to is all of the waiting the Italians have to do!!

If they say patience is a virtue then the Italians are certainly the most virtuous people I’ve ever met. They have to wait in line for EVERYTHING. In the last week I’ve had to wait 30 minutes for a bus that didn’t take me anywhere; 90 minutes at the post office only to be turned away because they didn’t tell us it was the wrong one when we walked in; another 60 minutes to get a metro card that you can get instantly on the metros in America; and who knows how many minutes I had to wait at the disco to get in or, even worse, check in my coat. These are the times that stick out in my mind that I find unnecessary, but there are countless times for everything else. The train, the bathroom, getting something to eat. They literally wait for everything.

In these situations I truly admire the Italians for their patience and lack of frustration. However, I blame the bureaucracy and the “Italian way” of doing everything on their own time for how many hours I’ve wasted waiting in line when I could be sightseeing.

However, now I’ve gotten the paperwork done (mostly) and hopefully won’t have to do anymore waiting so I can sit back and enjoy my time in Europe. Classes start tomorrow so we’ll see how much time I’ll have to get things done. Hopefully I won’t have to wait in line just to go to class!


Hello world!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Hello fellow readers. I’ve FINALLY started my blog about my adventures in Italy (after being here for 2 days). In the last two days alone, I’ve had some interesting experiences. Remember when everyone said “Oh, don’t worry, everyone speaks English in Milan”? Yeah, that’s definitely not the case. I’ve had to get by on my very broken Italian (which is a little embarrassing) since being here. No one at the airport, cafe, or metro speak English which resulted in me getting very lost and losing a lot of euros. But as my dad likes to say to me on a regular basis, “It’s a learning experience.”

While the first day was a disaster all in itself and just made me want to go home, the second day was really exciting. I met a lot of international students, from France, Australia, England, and, of course, all of the Americans. Everyone seemed to be in the same place as I was too; some didn’t even have places to live yet! So I figured, I’m just going to put the first day behind me and start again. And what do you know? I LOVE MILAN! I experienced aperitivo for the first time, which is where you pay for one drink and get a free tapas buffet. And let me just say, it was so simple but so delicious! The Italians definitely know how to take something simple and make it incredible. I’ve even noticed that my Italian has improved in just one day. I’ve learned to say “Nice to meet you,” and “Where is…(insert every place I needed to go to?”

All in all I can tell that this trip is going to turn out to be the most incredible experience of my life.

When in Rome…

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

…or Florence, as the case may be, eat lots of gelato! At least that’s the rule we went by during our weekend in Tuscany. Rachelle, Rachel, Kirsten and I left a week ago today for our Italian adventure. Before our train that night I had a walking tour with my history class to see all of the places in Salzburg that have a connection to World War II or the Third Reich, and it was really strange to learn that some of the buildings we pass by everyday were sites of Nazi book burnings or SS prisons. Few of the buildings have any markers to indicate what they were, but most are so little changed that they are easy to identify from 1930s and ’40s pictures. Depressing.

But shortly thereafter we were getting ready to board our 9:10 train. We all got a bit of a shock only a short while into the trip after Angry Austrian Train Man, his name as we refer to him now, yelled at Rachel for daring to put her foot up on the seat in front of her. German can be a frightening language as it is, so it shakes a person up when its being directed at you loudly. His outburst quickly became rather amusing though, and we played cards and chatted until we got to Villach, Austria were we needed to make a train transfer. From there to Florence we attempted to sleep, sprawled across our seats and squished on top of each other, but we all got at least a little rest before the train pulled up in Florence at 6:30 in the morning. Our hostel had asked us to confirm our early arrival time, so of course when we got there around 7 no one was around to answer the door. Someone finally came and, bleary eyed, politely inquired as to what the heck we were doing there. Confused, cranky that we were being dumped out into early morning Florence instead of being able to take a few hours nap, we left our suitcases with him and promised to return a few hours later. A snack at a cafe perked us up a bit, and we decided we might as well head to the Accademia Gallery, where the David statue is housed. It opened at 8:15, and we were first in line, so we had the whole place practically to ourselves for a time. The statue is one of those pieces of art we’ve all seen in textbooks since elementary school, so it was really cool to see it in person. We wandered through the rest of the galleries as well, oohing and aahing at the different statues. As the museum was getting more crowded we could feel our eyelids drooping and decided to escape to our now-ready hostel to take a quick cat nap.

A few hours later we were far more ready to face the city. We grabbed sandwiches for lunch and hiked up to Michelangelo Plaza, a hill with a gorgeous view out over the entirety of Florence. So awesome. We hung around soaking in the view for a while, and then we explored a church on the hill that had a tangled maze of a cemetery behind it. We got some gelato and sat on the side of the plaza watching the sun get lower and a cute newlywed couple take wedding pictures with all of Florence in the background. By the time we hiked down from Michelangelo Plaze the sun was setting with a vengeance, and we were getting hungry. We took the time to stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, an old covered bridge that today houses lots of jewelry stores. Shiny. Dinner followed (pasta of course!), and then it was more gelato. Yum. After our train ride the night before we were all falling asleep at 8, so we made it an early night and headed back to our hostel with the tiny creaky elevator and our room with no heat.

Saturday morning we woke up in time to get to the Uffizi Gallery before it opened. We had been warned that it gets super crowded later in the day, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t have to climb over people to look at paintings. The gallery was gorgeous, full of Renaissance era artwork, most of which Kirsten was able to explain to us. We took a hint from Kirsten’s old family vacations and each chose something to count in the paintings. There were a lot of horses, but not enough to keep me out of fourth place. We must have seen virtually every painting in the place, and by the time we’d wound our way out of the galleries and through the endless Asian tour groups we were in desperate need of some lunch. Pizza seemed an appropriate choice, though resisting the temptation to pick it up and eat it with our fingers proved exceedingly difficult. We all ordered different kinds, and all were rather tasty. That afternoon we found the Florence street market, full of leather products and jewelry and t-shirts that said silly things in Italian. We went into the Duomo (the main cathedral) as well as some other churches. And I’m pretty sure we ate a lot of gelato, seeing as that’s all we ever did. We even had a rule that we couldn’t eat the same flavor twice, so between the four of us we tried just about everything. Ever since Budapest, Rachelle and I seem to have a knack for coming across random parades, and Florence was no exception. What we at first perceived to be an anti-tax protest turned out to be a mini gay rights parade. You go Italy. The parade worked its way down the street, and we found a little place to have pasta for dinner again that night before managing to discover an English pub showing American college football on TV. The half of our quartet who actually enjoys football found this entertaining.

Sunday we woke up to rain and cold and not much left on our list of things to do. We finally discovered a place with cannolis (yet another food on our ‘we have to have while it Italy’ list) and sat eating those while waiting for the rain to stop. Of course, in keeping with the theme, a bizarre parade of Italian soldiers in uniforms ran by the cafe playing ‘Hava Nagila’ on their trumpets. Europe never fails to make me laugh. We then attempted to venture and find gardens that were marked on our map, but as it turns out the Four Seasons hotel had bought them and fenced them off, so alas, no gardens for us. Cold, and with our jeans wet almost to our knees, we stopped for cappuccino if for no other reason than that we were in Italy. This non-coffee drinker had to drown hers in sugar but drank it. Eventually we found ourselves at the Medici Palace, which you had to pay to get into, so we settled for taking silly ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ pictures with our umbrellas outside. Finally, finished exploring, we ate gelato yet again and then dragged our stuff back to the train station. We staked out a table in the back and proceeded to cover it in homework assignments as we attempted to catch up on our work while waiting for our 6:30 train. Of course it’s hard to concentrate when you’re freezing. Florence does not believe in heating its buildings it seems. Several hours of shivering later we celebrated the fact that our train was not one of the many canceled ones that evening and piled on for the quick two hours to Venice. We had just enough to time to make our connection there, and then we were stuck for the long haul back to Salzburg. Poor Diego, our Italian compartment mate, was probably regretting his choice of train when the four of us showed up. I know I caught him talking about ‘quatros Americanos’ on the phone at one point, and if I knew the Italian word for crazy I probably would have heard that proceeding it. He was a good sport though, and the train ride went relatively quickly. Angry Austrian Train Man was back, but he was much friendlier this time, and when I woke up for a moment at a stop still in Italy it was snowing like insanity. We got back home at around 4 in the morning, and my German skills were tested when our taxi driver back to the dorm decided I should want to chat in a foreign language at that time of the morning. The whole trip was a blast though; it was a stunning city with lots of good food and lots of bonding time for the four of us.

I spent most of this week stressing about homework because I had a big presentation for a class on Wednesday. I am all sorts of happy to have it over with. Yesterday too Rachelle and I had the fun adventure of searching out the Austrian equivalent to Draino so that we could finally fix our evil shower that refuses to drain. I’d really rather not ever have to empty a shower with cooking pots either, but luckily we were both amused enough by it that we didn’t take the time to consider how gross it really was. For the time being the problem seems to be solved. We made Austrian food for our weekly girls’ dinner last night, so that was fun. I met a girl from the second floor of our building who is from Columbia and only speaks Spanish and German but who wants to learn English, so it was quite the experience with all of us attempting to use a combination of Spanish, English, and German to communicate. Not much else too exciting though. We leave for Prague at the crack of dawn tomorrow. It’s supposed to be a spectacular city so I can’t wait to see it. Can’t quite believe we leave for home 5 weeks from today though; we’re trying to cram in everything we still have to see and do. Not to mention those three major research papers I still need to get a handle on.

Grandma’s Chaos Tour

Monday, October 12th, 2009

We passed our one month mark in Europe last week, and it’s crazy to think we’ve been here for as long as we have. Despite its significance, however, last week went by fairly ordinarily. Wednesday we were treated to a free lunch at a wurst stand which was rather greasy, but good. That night my friends and I made dinner (it seems Wednesday night dinners have replaced Taco Tuesdays), and we had fun making pasta and catching up on gossip. I only have one class on Thursday, and it’s an evening one, so I spent the afternoon searching out the university libraries I’m going to need this semester. I played the role of the confused exchange student very well as I still don’t know how to find books in the teeny tiny Social Sciences library. One day soon I’ll have to summon the courage to enlist the help of a frazzled librarian. Fridays are free, and so some friends and I finally got the kebaps (delicious, cheap, Turkish sandwiches) we’d been craving and then spent the afternoon at Frau Schoettke’s making improvised but quite tasty apple tarts with Kirsten and Rachel.

Rachelle and I attempted to go to bed early Friday night, but 4 am rolled around awfully quickly and the alarm clock was beeping away. Yes, we got up at 4. We had to be on a bus at 5. Somehow no one slept in, and 30 of us were able to get on said bus, passports in hand, and set off on what our tour guide for the weekend, Frau Schoettke, called “Grandma’s Chaos Tour.” The trip lived up to its name very shortly thereafter as Frau Schoettke’s friends began passing out shots to everyone on the bus. At 5:30 in the morning. Oh boy.

Most of us attempted to sleep on the bus as we drove through Austria in the dark, but soon enough we arrived in Trieste, Italy, where we disembarked to stretch our legs and walk around pretty Castle Miramare on the Adriatic coast. The views were gorgeous and the weather warm so everyone enjoyed it. I had never been to Italy before, so even though it was a short visit I’m excited to be able to check it off my list.

All too soon it was back on the bus and headed towards Slovenia. Frau Schoettke informed us that Slovenia is one of the ugliest countries, but I didn’t think it was all that bad. The geography definitely changes though, from the mountains and evergreen trees of Austria and northern Italy to hills and scrubby trees. And there’s very little to see, just a handful of houses and a odd abundance of roadside ads for cell phones. We drove straight through Slovenia, and when we got to the border of Croatia we left the European Union and so had to stop at border control. At this point Frau Schoettke informed Rachelle that it was to be her job to use her “pretty eyes to make the border guards stamp our passports.” They don’t normally take the time to stamp everyone’s I guess, and I’m not sure if it was Rachelle batting her eyelashes or the beer Frau Schoettke gave them, but somehow we got stamps from both Slovenia and Croatia. Cool.

Shortly after we crossed the border we stopped in a small fishing village to eat lunch at a waterfront restaurant. Frau Schoettke had already decided that the food of choice was to be calamari. I ate the pieces that looked like onion rings, after drowning them in tarter sauce, but my friend Phil got all of the pieces that had identifiable squid characteristics. We lingered over lunch, and watched Frau Schoettke drink more and more wine, before finally leaving for our hotel in Umag, Croatia, a few kilometers further down the road.

Our hotel was a resort, though one mostly shut down for the season. Frau Schoettke has been coming to the beaches here since she was little, so it’s no wonder she loves taking each new semester’s worth of AIFS students. After a minor mishap involving room reservations, we all jumped into our swimsuits and headed to the beach, where some people quickly shed their swimsuits again. Yes, it was a nude beach. And a few of the guys in our group may have been extremely enthusiastic about this. And Frau Schoettke may have encouraged this enthusiasm. A lot. The weather was warm, but it was 5 in the evening and cooling quickly and the water was pretty cold. I got in up to my knees, but a few people managed to legitimately swim in the short time we had before rushing off to a buffet dinner in the hotel. Because the resort is primarily a destination for German/Austrian and Italian tourists, the dinner was an amusing mix of sausages and pasta, but we all ate well and stuffed ourselves with ice cream to top it off. Later that evening we found a taxi driven by one of Frau Schoettke’s friends (Really, who isn’t that woman friends with?) and drove into the little town of Umag itself. Not much was open, but we walked around for a while anyway. Croatia feels like you’re somewhere else. The buildings were just a little rough around the edges, laundry hung out of every window, and I think we saw more cats than people. If that’s eastern Europe, I can’t wait to go back. But we finally found our friends in a bar (well, we heard them before we saw them) and got treated to an entertaining round of interpretive dance by several group members and a middle-aged Croatian man with a ponytail. Too funny. It started to storm shortly thereafter, and we went back to the hotel to watch the lightening from the balcony in our room with some friends. After getting lectured for being too loud by the woman in the room next door (in a language we didn’t recognize), the four of us retreated inside to watch American movies in English with Croatian subtitles. After having been up for almost 24 hours we were so tired that reading the subtitles was a vastly amusing ordeal. In case you were wondering, it seems New Jersey translates to Jerseyu. You would find that funny too if you’d been as tired as we were. Needless to say we fell asleep very quickly that night.

In the morning we had yet another hotel buffet for breakfast (this time there were crepes! With chocolate sauce!), and then it was back on the bus again. We drove back across the border and into Slovenia where we stopped at a massive cave system. We had to take a little train into the side of the mountain before getting out to walk around. The caves just went on forever. It was cold in there, but we amused ourselves discussing the possibility of death by stalagmite (or stalactite? I still don’t know) were they to fall and what sort of Lord of the Rings characters the various rock formations looked like. After a few hours in the caves, it was time to get on the bus yet again and drive the last few hours of the trip back to Salzburg. By the end of the trip, everyone was going a little stir crazy from being cramped up on the bus so much. Some of us chose to alleviate this through sleep, others through the seemingly continuos consumption of alcohol. So while the trip was chaotic at times, and no one was ever where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be, and I’m still not sure how some of my friends managed to get completely drenched when all they had to do was run from the taxi into the hotel during the storm, the trip was all kinds of awesome. How often can you say you’ve been to four countries in one day? It was a whirlwind, and all of the countries we saw certainly deserve more than a few hours visit, but it was a good start.

We got back to Salzburg to discover the temperature had dropped dramatically, and fall has finally arrived for real. There was snow on the mountains around the city when I woke up this morning, and there is talk we might get some on the ground in the city by the end of this week. Crazy! I like the cold, but I can’t help but miss my nice warm Virginia falls a bit. Now for the rest of this week I just have to stay warm, stay dry, and catch up on homework so that I can enjoy this coming weekend in Vienna!