Studying Abroad in Italy

Venice & Pistoia – To Go or Not to Go According to Plan

Shaquasia Myrie

Last weekend, I spent the entire day in Venice on a day trip I booked through FlorenceforFun. Sean was supposed to come through as well, but he didn’t show up. Later on I found out why. He never did have much luck when it came to traveling out here. It was kinda funny though. You can ask him what happened.

Francesco was a great tour guide. He was an older Italian man with a head of gray hair. He had some jokes up his sleeve. Also, the way he spoke about things was amusing as well.

We took a 3 hour bus ride to the train station to catch the train to Venice.  At first sight of the water and boats I was in awe. Its a completely different experience from seeing pictures of Venice and seeing it in person. We took a private water taxi to Piazza San Marco where we saw a glass blowing demonstration. The man molded a vase with a handle as well as a cat. I used the free time we were given after the demonstration to explore the Piazza.

My plan was to visit the museums in Piazza San Marco. I found the Mueso Correr towards the end of our allotted free time. I was contemplating whether or not I should go on the gondola ride or stay behind to look at the museums. I decided to go on the Gondola ride because the chances I would get the opportunity to do so again are slim. I’m glad I did. The gondola ride was so relaxing. At one point I covered my eyes with my green “Italia” hat and snoozed a bit. It was a solid 3-5 minutes before I had to get up because the ride was over. I was taking pics and observing scenery for most of the ride.

Towards the evening,  we had another free time period near a bunch of shops to get souvenirs. It was my first time hearing of and trying hot wine. It was good. It had some spices in it as well. We all continued with the walking tour of places crossing multiple bridges as we made our way back to the train station. We ended up leaving two guys behind in Venice because Francesco didn’t want us to miss our train. They stayed behind to see the cathedral in Piazza San Marco. On the bus ride back, we made a quick stop to pick them up at a different station.

There was a delay on the bus ride back to Florence because of an accident. We were supposed to get back at 10:30, but didn’t arrive back until around 11:30. The next train was at 12:35, so I went to Burger King to grab something to eat first.

It was hard trying to see signs through the train windows because it was close to pitch black outside. I ended up missing my stop and ended up in Pistoia. The next train to go to Prato from Pistoia was at 5:16 am. I also ran into a guy who looked to be around my age maybe older who missed his stop on the train to Florence. We walked underground to track 4 where the train was supposed to be departing from. He boarded the train to take a nap. I stayed outside on the platform and started calling people to let them know where I was. Sara was the only one to answer her phone. I texted Jen as well. Then I called my mom to make time go by faster. She was more worried for me than I was. I ended up going back to track 1 where I initially got off to sit down. There was also more light over there.

Then I called the emergency number to ask for a cab number I could call. I was not about to stay in the station by myself all night. On top of that my battery was low and I kept received this unnecessary text message that was written in Italian. It took some time, but I eventually got a cab and made it back. It was $50. $50 that could have been spent elsewhere but it is a loss I can deal with.

It was a trip for the books.

Water Taxi Ride - http://youtu.be/BmbeV00I0kY

scenery from water taxi ride

scenery from water taxi ride

 

Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

A stand serving hot wine
A stand serving hot wine

scenic evening pic

scenic evening pic

 

Cooking Class Fun

Shaquasia Myrie

This evening I attended a cooking class at a vocational school here in Prato. The entrance to the school reminded me of the MTV TV series “Awkward” the way it was set up.  We were introduced to the students and the menu and got started right away. We were split into three groups. Doug and Kevin were in my group with two culinary students. Each group made something different. We made Prato del Biscotti, which is a biscuit made in Prato. The other culinary students helped the other two groups make tortellini with tomatoes and mushrooms and salty crepes stuffed with spinach and cheese.

 

I got a chance to mix the powered ingredients together, roll the dough and cut the biscuits after they were done cooking. Some parts of the process the culinary students had to do, and I watched. After cooking, everyone ate. The food was Molto Bene! I took a few candid pictures.

 

Afterwards, we ended up walking all the way back to our destinations from the school. It was a 30 min walk which wasn’t too bad given all the walking I’ve been doing out here. The initial plan was to catch a bus back, which is how we got to the school. However, things didn’t go according to plan. I personally didn’t mind walking at all. I was listening to music and got a chance to spot a few signs that caught my attention. I didn’t take any pictures because my memory card for my camera ran out of disk space. I didn’t want to delete any of my previous photos either. It was nice to see a different area in Prato. Overall, it was a nice experience.

 

Biscotti del Prato

Biscotti del Prato

Candid Pic of Culinary Students

Candid Pic of Culinary Students

 

Salty Crepe with Spinach, Cheese, and Tomato

Salty Crepe with Spinach, Cheese, and Tomato

 

Late Post, Late for Dinner, I’m Embracing Italian Common Courtesy

Shaquasia Myrie

Two days ago, I had dinner with the Italian family. At first, I was under the impression that the dinner would be small and intimate. I ended up being put in the largest group. It was about 10 of us. The family we had dinner with was Rebecca, her mother, and Rebecca’s cousin. Rebecca and her cousin invited other Italians as well so it was a small gathering of people. There were about 15 Italians that came through. My first thoughts meeting the Italians were, “Well we’re underdressed.” They legit dressed up nice for this dinner gathering. I made it my task that night to try and talk with each Italian there, which I did. However, I only remember a couple of names.

I remember Fillipo because of his mario brothers’  looking mustache. His best friend had a mustache too. I thought they were brothers, but they are just good friends. Also Giorgio was nice to talk to. They seemed pretty chill.

I enjoyed conversing with Giovanna the most. She seemed like a really down to earth person. I found it interesting that she lived in Switzerland and Germany prior to Italy. She also speaks many languages: German, French, English and Italian.  The only thing I said in German was “I speak very little German.” Its making me reconsider taking up German again now that I am meeting here in Italy that speak German.

For dinner we had homemade lasagna and pesto as main courses. The lasagna was heaven sent. The pesto was good too. It was my first trying pesto with the type of noodles they had. Im not too sure what I had as an appetizer but it was good. For desert they had different flavors of Gelato and tiramisu. I definitely had the ultimate gut after eating all of that food.

Karaoke was cool too. It started off kinda slow but people eventually go into it. I sang Destiny’s Childs’ “Say my name.” Other people sang were R. Kelly’s “Ignition” and Tyga’s “Rack City.” Andy sang rack city. He was pretty good too. Throughout the night I also managed to lose at chess to James. Besides that, I really enjoyed myself and glad I decided to go. I was having last minute doubts about going out of pure laziness. I would have missed out on a great opportunity.

Lucca Wall Walker > Tightrope Walkers…Just Saying

Shaquasia Myrie

This past friday, I attended the school trip to Lucca. We visited a few Piazza’s. The one I found most interesting was the piazza that was formally an arena. You could see the ovular shape of the former arena as well as the 4 main entrances. In another Piazza, there was a statue with Mary and her son with gold rays protruding outward behind them. The rays were actually colored gold and gave some contrast to the white marble. The rays were curved which is a personal touch I really liked about it. I snapped the usual scenic as well as some pics with people in it. I made sure I spent a good amount of my time at the walls because that is what Lucca is known for. I walked on the trail where people were biking, running, walking their dogs etc. After seeing some teens walking on the actual wall, I decided to give it a go as well. I took a quick video of myself walking on the wall. You’ll have to excuse my elevator music in the video. I have a habit of doing that while I walk sometimes. http://youtu.be/CGSVnUxnXl0

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Isola Di Capri

Charles Brooks

To anyone studying in Italy, or abroad in general, go to Capri. Basically It is a giant rock off the coast of naples that is layered with Villas and Restaurants that zig zag their way up the mountain side. I was lucky enough to spend 3 nights on the island in a rented villa with beautiful views of Marina Grande.

The Island is divided into 3 sections, Marina Grande, Marina Piccola, and Annacapri. There are buses running every 30 minutes to destinations across the island, but be prepared to be crammed tightly because Capri usually sees more tourists daily than it has in residents. All the roads are one lane and it seems like we almost had a head on collision every time we rode the bus. After speaking with a taxi driver, I would not recommend renting a scooter after he said tourists crash everyday on the windy roads.

My favorite and the most popular attraction on the Island is the Grotta Azzura, or Blue Grotto. Named for its stunning blue lit water that shines from the ocean floor. The views were great but the boat service was a rip off. 8.50 euro per person, plus a tip if you want to stay in the grotto for longer or swim. Those guys clean up since there is always a steady flow of tourists with money to blow.

After going into the grotto, we walked down the path leading to a couple of restaurants. Beyond the restaurants lie a series of cliffs and ladders that you can easily jump or dive off of. They aren’t too high but ended up being one of the funnest parts of our trip. If your looking to stay in capri, rent Stefano’s house from airbnb.com, he offered us an extra night for free since we arrived late thursday night.

 

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And the World Keeps Moving…

Jennifer Hesselbach

One of the biggest ideas that you hear when you are looking into studying abroad is that it will be the most eye-opening experience. The idea that you will be pushed out of your comfort zone- you WILL feel uncomfortable and it’s very humbling.

So far even though we’ve been living in Prato for a month now, it still hadn’t felt real. I still felt like this was an extended vacation/field trip kind of situation, and not that I was in a completely different area where I was a guest into these people’s world. The moment finally clicked for me a little over a week ago on one of our trips. Some friends and I traveled to Cinque Terre, a beautiful group of 5 small beach towns located right along cliffs on the edge of the water about 2 hours away- I highly suggest everyone go visit there, just sayin’.

Anyway, though the trip wasn’t too long, we had to catch 3 different train transfers. During our second transfer on the ride back to Prato, our seats got separated and I was in a train car with 5 strangers for about a half hour- that’s where my realization happened.

For me, there’s something about listening to your iPod on a train and staring out the window that is really relaxing and gets me thinking and reflecting on random things in my life- I’m so deep and interesting, I know. Anyway, I had lowered my music a little bit at one point and heard the girl across from me answer her phone, speaking fast Italian and trying to find her ticket in her purse.

Don’t ask me why, but that moment just made me feel like such a visitor. The trains here are almost identical to home (with the exception of signs being in Italian), so I had almost felt like I was just back at home taking the train somewhere. That moment made me realize that these people have their own lives here, meanwhile our lives back in the US still go on. Everyone’s lives across the entire world just go on, no matter what is going on anywhere else. Those people on the train don’t care that I’m American or that I just went to the beach. They don’t know I’m American (okay, maybe they do, but not the point). They just carry on with their lives. Those people on the train have places to go, plans to see people, and my journey through study abroad might be a huge part of my life, but it doesn’t effect there lives out here at all. The fact that I am a smaller than miniscule part of this entire world and life that’s going on here in Italy is extremely humbling and makes me want to take in even more while I’m here to try to extend my standing.

ANYWAY, here’s some pictures of how beautiful Cinque Terre was since I obviously don’t have photos of the woman on the train to tie in relevance to this post. Enjoy!

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Tricked by the Tour Guide

Danielle Sumoski

This is a sort of follow-up to Sara Haney’s post “Tricked by the Buti.” That was the first hike we went on, and we decided to give hiking in Italy another shot by going on a school-sponsored hike. The school had hired a tour guide that was part of a hiking club in Prato, and was going to show us around the mountain, which seemed awesome. So we woke up early, got breakfast, and headed out to meet the people going on the trip.

 

The hike up was great, with a site tour of parts of Prato I have never seen, plus the “wealthy” part of Prato where all the big houses and mansions are. Boy do I want to live there! Then we headed up the mountain with beautiful views even if it was a little overcast; at least there was no rain. We even saw the oldest church in Prato located a little up the mountain. We sat down to enjoy lunch on a picnic bench, and even were told that the way down was going to be a straight shot.

 

The way down started out fine, still in the mountain. The tour guide said we were going back on the bike path for easy walking, but we never made it there. We ended up either in the very outskirts of Prato or crossing the lines of a different city, and at one point crossed a tollbooth getting onto a highway. We then found houses, and the tour guide stopped to ask for directions. We ended up finding the river that runs down Prato, and following that back into the city. Instead of following the tour guide all the way home, though, we saw a sign for Mokha that took us back to the restaurant and we knew our way from there.

 

Needless to say, after these two hikes, I do not think I will be hiking again in Italy.pratohike1 pratohike2

Long Exposures for Days

Kara Zavaglio

This weekend was a traveling weekend. I went to three different cities in three days. The trip I enjoyed most this weekend was Manarola, which is located in Cinque Terre.  The reason I liked it the most was because I had the opportunity to escape from the crowds and tours going through the village.  I took long exposures on the rocks below a cliff for about two hours. Long exposure of water is my favorite thing to photograph. The clear water makes for interesting pictures. I was able to observe the fish in the pools of water on the rocks. I’d like to go back to take more long exposures during the sunset. IMG_0234

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Cinque Terre, Molto Bella!

Danielle Sumoski

A group of us went to Cinque Terre over the weekend. It is a place we learned about from our Italian teacher, and I’m so glad we went!  Cinque Terre is made up of 5 small villages, and we went to one of them called Manarola. I honestly think it’s the most beautiful place in the world, and everyone should go there while they are abroad- especially since it’s so close to Prato! (Also, Kevin should consider building our campus there, I would not mind waking up every morning and being blown away by beauty).

First thing when we got there was to go get food of course, and we looked for a place close to the shore, but it was really expensive. We went in a couple feet and found the most amazing place to grab lunch. Not only where the prices so much better than any other place, but they had just about EVERYTHING on their menu, and specials! We did have to wait about 20 minutes for a seat, but got a free small glass of white wine while we waited and talked to other Americans that were traveling around Italy. For 9 Euros, I had fresh lobster linguini, picked straight from the sea that was “down the hall.” Nothing can beat that!

Then we got to the even better part, swimming in crystal clear ocean blue water. It tasted a little salty of course, but nothing can beat being able to see the fish you are swimming with. You could also cliff jump if you are feeling adventurous. Spending the day in the sun was the best, I never wanted to leave.

We also got to walk around and take pictures of course, I would love to go back and visit the other 4 villages that we did not have a chance to go to, I bet they are all beautiful and unique in their own ways!

This would be the one thing you have to do while its warm out in Italy, hands down.

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Am I the Only One Who’s Starving?

Jennifer Hesselbach

The first thing that comes to mind when people mention Italy, is the food. Don’t get me wrong, almost all the food I’ve had during my two and a half weeks here so far has been amazing- but I have had a few frustrations with food so far-

Anywhere in the US, a typical breakfast is a bagel, pancakes, eggs, bacon, or French toast. I unfortunately can’t say the same for Italy. A typical Italian breakfast is a pastry (such as a croissant) and a coffee or water. Personally, that’s no where near enough to get me started for my day, especially since I have to walk 10 minutes through the city to get to the restaurants in the first place. The pastries are incredibly delicious, don’t EVER say I don’t like pastries; I just wish they had some more hearty things for breakfast or things with some more substance.

I feel like I’m the only person who’s starving all throughout the day since breakfast is small, and most places either have odd hours for lunch or tend to close around that time which can be inconvenient if you’re ever having a late day.

Fortunately, once it gets to dinner time (which isn’t typically before 8pm), all of that changes.

Growing up with a big Italian family, I’m used to having big, multiple course meals, but this is a different story. With so many great appetizers, main courses, side dishes, and extra things to pick on like bread, it’s so hard to leave room for any dessert… which I won’t even get started on because that could be it’s own blog post in itself.

1238112_10151654057302776_417814609_nLuckily, all of the food has been worth the wait and timing frustrations. And I know it’s just their way of every-day life and it’s not too life-shattering, it’s not like I’m not eating at all during the day, it’s just that I’d probably marry someone for a bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel right now….