Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ciao Verona

Finals are over; the rain has stopped, and Verona is beautiful for our very last night in town. I can’t believe that it is time to tell Verona goodbye, but we have had such a great time here. Tonight we are heading out for one last group dinner and a last Hoorah downtown. Tomorrow morning, we leave for Florence and Rome as a group. Then on the 25th, Austin, David, Joe, Lauren, Emily and I set off for Paris (well, we will be setting off if Rome calls off the strikes that are scheduled for that day).

Hopefully I will have internet and will be able to post a few tidbits about the new exciting places that we will be visiting, but if not, this will be my last entry. Thanks so much to everyone for following my blog. I hope it was somewhat amusing and gave you a little bit of an idea about what I was doing and seeing. So, ciao for maybe the last time, maybe not, and I will see you all when I get back to the States.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Futbol and Finals

Monday night was the Italy v. Portugal World Cup Game. Being the devoted study abroad students that we are, all of us were die-hard Italia fans for the night. We made a party of getting all dressed up in blue (jerseys, t-shirts, hats, etc) some of us because we wanted to, others because we were under the impression that we wouldn’t be able to get into Campus Bar without blue. Anyway, bottom line is we stood out like a bunch of Smurfs. Apparently, Italians are suspicious when it comes to soccer games. They don’t wear blue.

So, here we were waltzing around downtown Verona team-spirited out, and all of the Italians were raising their eyebrows and stifling giggles. We had a good time though, and that is all that matters. One of the guys in the group had reserved tables for us at Campus a week before, so upon finding the tables tagged “USA,” we set up in our stand like seating and cheered on the Italians. Almost the entire study abroad group turned out.

This was a nice addendum to our last week in Verona.

Tomorrow is finals and then our last dinner out in Verona. I’m not looking forward to packing or leaving, but I am excited about Rome, Florence and Paris.

(I'll put a picture up as soon as I can commandeer Kristy's camera.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Three Cities, Three Days

For the remaining three days of last weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), Kristy, Karli, Hayley, Alyssa and I headed to three different cities to experience Northern Italy. Each city was extremely different with totally different things to offer, but I am glad that I went to each one. Here is a little bit on each:


The first city that we hit up was a German-Italian town called Bolzanno. This city was basically like a German city that had been plucked out of some German countryside and plopped down south of Austria. We spent the day eating German food, visiting Utzi (the 5000 year old ice man), wandering around the streets and into churches, and just taking in the city.

Utzi in his freezer. He's a pretty old guy.

Apparently this is what he "should have" looked like when he was alive.

A view from Cable Car #2


Milan was by far my favorite city of the weekend. Along with being the fashion capitol of Italy (and one of the fashion capitols of the world) Milan is full of interesting history and lovely sights. We started off our day in Milan (after the train of course) with a bus and walking tour. This was the best thing we did all weekend. We saw all of the top sights on the tour - the Duomo, the Opera House, the Galleria (shopping mall with a glass ceiling), and most importantly Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper. The Last Supper was simply incredible. The painting is amazing in so many ways, the fact that it is 500 years old, the fact that it is perfect, the sheer size. This was my favorite part of the city. The Duomo (Cathedral) was really great too. I think it was my favorite church of the trip so far. The rooftop was incredible. After climbing a ton of stairs you got to actually walk around on top of the roof, in and out of the spires.

And then there was the shopping. Milan has streets and streets of shopping, and although we didn't go down all of them, we certainly perused a few. My favorite was the Prada store. Although I couldn't even pretend like I was going to buy anything, I had never been in such a big Prada store before. It was two stories full of purses, clothing and shoes. Prada also started in yeah, that's pretty cool.

Once we got back to Verona, we quickly found a resturaunt with a TV and settled in for the US v England soccer game. We were the only Americans there. We were the only loud ones there. Surprisingly, the Italians played along.

A perfect day? I think yes.

The Duomo. This is the first thing that we saw as we walked out of the metro station. It made a good first impression.

On the roof of the Duomo.

World Cup!!!!!

Milan is home sweet home for Prada.

The Galleria


Our last day was a day to explore one of the past Olympic cities, Torino. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any of the Olympic parts of the city. Actually, to an outside eye, our Torino trip would seem like a complete and utter disaster. It all started with trouble with the taxis getting to our residence. The taxis here won’t carry more than four people…we had five. Then once the taxis finally got to the residence we arrived at the train station in time to run to our platform, hastily cram our ticket into the validator and wait, panting, for the 9:30 train that never arrived. After realizing that our train was MIA, we got to argue in broken Italian with Train Station Employees who spoke broken English about getting our ticket okayed for the next train – all in a matter of twenty-five minutes. Luckily after that, we arrived at Torino without any more difficulty and then we walked in the wrong direction (we found this out later) from everything Olympic.

Anyway, despite our crazy day – we had an enjoyable time walking around Torino. It is a beautiful city. We toured the royal palace (and took a tour in Italian – it was a little long), and walked through the piazzas. Then, right as we decided that we could go for something to eat…the sky fell out. I think I forgot that it rains in Italy, but Sunday was a good reminder. It absolutely poured. At this point in time, we made a friend at a fruit stand who offered to walk us to the Metro Station so that we could get to the Olympic side of town. So in an act of kindness, he walked us through the rain and low and behold…the Metro was randomly closed. At this point in time, we decided it was time to head back to Verona. Luckily we had had such a good time the entire weekend that we took our crazy day with a grain of salt. We laughed it off and considered ourselves lucky to be getting back to Verona earlier than we had planned.

A little bored waiting on the next train after the 9:30 one abandoned us

Soaking after a jog in the rain

Inside the palace (pictures weren't allowed, hehe)

One of the piazzas

All in all, the weekend was a great way to experience the smaller and often less noticed parts of Italy. I am glad to have done this for my last weekend trip. I can’t believe that this is my last week in Verona now, though. Summer, where have you gone?!

Stuffed Flowers, Pressed Pasta, and Corn Cake...oh my

Although it seems unreal that time has gone by so quickly, this past weekend was my last weekend in Verona. The past week was nice, because there wasn’t much to do in the way of classes. After a week of studying like crazy for midterms, it was nice to be able to sit back and take in Verona and prepare for the weekend.

As Thursday drew near, a majority of the group packed their bags and bathing suits for the bright city of Barcelona. Around 35 of our 59 person group decided to head out to Barcelona for a weekend of Espanol and some of the best clubs in the world. The small group remaining branched off in different areas around Europe, but four others and myself decided to stay the weekend in Northern Italy. I had decided before I came on the trip that I wanted to go ahead and “do” Italy, so that when I come back to Europe in the future I can go to a different area of Europe without having so much that I still want to see in Italy. This being said, our four day weekend itinerary was packed.

The weekend started off in the sleepy town of Dossobuono. Well, sleepy is probably an understatement. This town was in a coma. So how did we end up wandering up and down the single street of Dossobuono? This little town just so happened to be our meeting place with Luisa, our cooking instructor for the cooking class that we were taking on Thursday night. Having the starry-eyed perception that everything in Italy must be beautiful and quaint (which most places are) we decided that busing into Dossobuono early would give us a chance to explore a new city. Well, it turns out there wasn’t much of a city…just a street and a bus stop.

Once we met up with Luisa though, everything was worth it. As we piled out of her car, once we reached her house, she told us to try some cherries from the cherry trees in her front yard. Good first impression – especially since they were the best cherries I have ever had. And then came the menu. I really think that the food we made at her house was some of the best food that I have ever eaten. For appetizers we made ricotta and ham stuffed zucchini flowers (exotic? Yes.), then came a delicious entrée of home-made ravioli with pumpkin in sage and butter sauce (and we actually made the pasta – like out of dough), and finally we made corn and almond crumble with Grappa for dessert. It was absolutely delicious!! A wonderful way to start off a weekend of day tripping – and certainly a five star break from the ten minute meals we have been making in our rooms.

More to come later on the three cities that we visited. For now, enjoy the pictures.

After we cooked the dinner, we all sat down with Luisa and had a nice meal and nice conversation.

Best cherries ever

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Coffee on the Clouds (A Day in the Alps)

The Alps, the Alps, the Alps. Everyone is always talking about the Alps. I remember watching the screen on the plane to Milan as the airplane symbol moved slowly across the image of the Alps and wishing that I could see them through the clouds. Well, I’ve seen them now, and I truly think that everyone should see them or something like them at some point in their lifetime. Granted, I have never been to the Rocky Mountains in the US; in fact, the most extreme mountains I had ever seen before last weekend were the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, but the Alps are just incredible. Whether I was glued to the train window, craning my neck to take in as much as possible or standing next to the window in the cable car, the views were breathtaking.

We went to see the Alps on Saturday. After waking up semi-early and cooking an American breakfast of eggs and bacon we hopped on some trains (some of which weren’t ours and we had to run like all of the other Swiss people in the train station) and headed to the mountains. Once arriving at a small train station in the foothills of the Alps we hoped on a bus and made our way into the mountains. Our plan upon getting to the actual mountains was to take a cable car to the top of one of the mountains. Although this sounded all fine and dandy, a few people in our small travel group started to get a little nervous once they caught a glimpse of the steel cables disappearing into the clouds. I on the other hand was ecstatic. A cable car to the top of the Alps? Sign me up!

So, after a short wait we found ourselves in a glass box hanging over Switzerland. There was a point in our ascent where we were completely encased in clouds, and a few minutes afterward we could see the peaks of the mountain range around us. Beautiful just doesn’t do the view justice. When you are 7500 feet above the rest of the world, the view is indescribable.

Once we reached the top we spent time walking around and taking in the views. One of the things I immediately noticed was how quiet everything was on top of the mountain. All of the ambiguous noise which fills the background on a regular basis was gone. People were talking, of course, but everything else was silent. It was an interesting feeling. We found a little restaurant perched on one of the peaks and sat down to enjoy a coffee on top of the world. Best coffee ever (followed by a wonderful apple pie that Kristy and I devoured almost without taking time for a breath). Even if Zurich hadn’t been wonderful (which it was) the Alps would have been enough to take the trip to Switzerland.

The rest of our time in Zurich was devoted to wandering around St. Gallen, checking out the Swiss “discotecas,” and taking advantage of the Starbucks coffee which could be found every few corners. Don’t get me wrong, I love Italian coffee, but every once in awhile it is nice to get that soy latte fix.

Hopefully the pictures can do a better job communicating Switzerland than a measly blog post :)


A view from our cable car about half-way up


This weekend I will be backpacking Northern Italy with a group of four other girls (five in all). Most of our study abroad group is setting off for Barcelona this weekend, but we decided that we wanted to get Italy under our belt before setting off for Spain. It is going to be a jam packed weekend. Here is a short itinerary:

Thursday: Cooking class at Lake Garda (Italy’s largest lake)
Friday: Bolzanno (German town in Italy and home to the “Ice Man”)
Saturday: Milan (Last Supper, here we come!)
Sunday: Torino (I hear they have summer luge….)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Taking in Zurich

Here are a few shots from our day in Zurich:

Standing in front of The Gates of Hell (Rodin)

A super sneaky shot of one of the Monets

A view of Zurich from the top of one of Grossmünster towers


Right after we arrived in Zurich...on the way to the Mexican restaurant :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Run Like the Swiss!

Well, another weekend has passed which means that another weekend trip has already come and gone. This trip is going by so, so quickly; I really can’t believe that I will be home again in a matter of three weeks – in fact (as much as I love all of you at home) the thought makes me a little sad. However, Istanbul feels like it was decades ago. Anyway...Zurich is the topic of conversation, so let’s talk about all of those Swiss banks accounts, mountains, and nonsense that I have been alluding to.

Friday morning, at 6:00 am, Kristy, Austin, Cody and I took a cab from Residence all’Adige to the Verona train station to set off for Zurich, Switzerland. For most of the train ride we found ourselves glued to the windows…getting a glimpse of the Alps for the first time is a pretty remarkable experience. You make a big deal when you see a waterfall, and then you realize that every mountain has a couple of them. Or you paint furiously at the snow gracing one of the peaks when seconds later the train curves around a line of trees and you are faced with an entire horizon of similarly clad mountains. Bottom line is, the weekend was off to a wonderful start even from the window of our train.

Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, and it sits in the midst of the Alps. The city is really lovely, albeit expensive. Zurich is the most affluent city in Europe and one of the most expensive to visit. Luckily, the four of us had a place to stay, thanks to a friend that Kristy had that goes to college in a nearby city.

Our first day in Switzerland, we spent the day wondering around Zurich. We had an awesome lunch at a Mexican restaurant just inside the city. Then we walked around and took pictures, typical tourist stuff, you know? We did climb one of the church towers and got to see a beautiful view of Zurich from above.

My favorite part of day one though was probably the art museum that we went to near the end of the day. After realizing that the Swiss Toy Museum that we were planning on visiting was closed, we decided to go to The Kunsthaus art museum. Thanks to the expert map directing of the others in my group, we made it to the museum with plenty of time to see all of the art. I was excited the minute we walked up. The Gates of Hell by Rodin, one of the pieces that I studied in my Art History class, stood next to the entrance to the museum. The rest of the museum was filled with treasures from Degas, Picasso, Manet, Monet and countless others. We spent about an hour and a half wandering through the museum, sneaking pictures while the attendants weren’t watching, and giggling at how we looked with our phone-like audio guides.

Eventually we left and went to meet Kristy’s friend Felix at the train station. We spent the rest of the night eating German food and hanging out at a “beach bar” in the middle of the city. Eventually we made our way back to the train station and headed to St. Gallen (a city an hour outside of Zurich where we were staying).

The next day was devoted to the Alps, as is the next blog post.

Pictures will be up soon. – Ciao.

A few more shots from Cinque Terre before we head on to Zurich

I thought I would post a few more shots from the beach day at Cinque Terre before I blogged about all of the happenings in Zurich, Switzerland this past weekend. So, here is the visual accompaniment to Cinque Terre part two.

A perfect restaurant for a birthday dinner

Kristy, Jordan and I with Marco (aka Heath Ledger). Sorry about the lighting; it was late.

Monterosso in the evening

Our awesome Cinque Terre beach towels!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Midterms and Monterosso: Cinque Terre (Day 2)

Midterms are over. Over and successful, at least that’s what I think. I’ll find out on Monday whether that’s just false confidence or not. But as of now, I think my future as an ethical espionage is looking pretty good. But I’m sure that’s not what you all are interested in, am I right? You want to hear about Cinque Terre! So I’ll go ahead and appease you all.

After a fun night of Big Kid Juice Boxes and admiring Riomaggiore from the shore line, we all went back to our hostels to crash until our beach day. Now, the fifth city (the one we hadn’t been to yet) is known for its beaches, so we were all pretty excited. We boarded a train after eating breakfast and about ten minutes later we found ourselves a city further down than our five hour hike had taken us the day before.

Monterosso (that is the fifth city’s name) was really pretty. Most of the group headed straight to the beach – after buying Cinque Terre towels, of course – but Emily and I decided to walk around the town a little first to see if there were any sights to see. It turns out Monterosso was just a beachy version of the other four towns that we had visited the day before. It was a little busier and offered more sea food, but all in all it was about the same. We had a good time wandering around the little shops and boutiques that dotted the side streets and made sure to scope out a few restaurants that would be suitable for Austin’s birthday dinner later that night. Austin’s birthday was actually on Sunday, but seeing as we would be on trains all day on Sunday and since it was his 21st we decided to unofficially move the day to Saturday so we could celebrate sufficiently.

After we finished looking around, I headed to the beach to join the rest of the crew. I love the beach – even though this one was a little more rocky than sandy, the view completely made up for the painful hop-skipping that it took to get to the water. We spent the rest of the day sunbathing, drinking fresh fruit daiquiris and Pina coladas, buying bracelets from Somalian-Italians and taking in the view.
As the day drew to a close, we donned our cover-ups and ate some wonderful swordfish at one of the local restaurants before heading back “home” for a night of celebrating on the rocks. It was a fun night of rock-paper-scissor competitions, happy birthday singing and meeting new people. Lucky for us we met a friendly Heath Ledger look-alike Australian pilot who was spending the summer motorcycling through Europe. We’ve got pictures to prove it, haha.

But eventually, we all got tired and headed back to our hostel in the clouds to sleep before departing for Verona the next morning.

Let’s not even talk about the train ride back though. Delays, delays, delays, that is all you need to know. Once back we ordered some Chinese food from a Chinese restaurant that also serves spaghetti and started preparing for finals week.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, you are officially caught up with the happenings in Italy.

Weekend Update:

Tomorrow, four of us depart bright and early (again) for Zurich, Switzerland! We will spend the weekend gaping at overly priced everything, opening Swiss Bank Accounts and hiking the Alps. Sound like fun? Well, I certainly think so.

So, until next Monday…Ciao!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bison Roam Water: Cinque Terre (Day 1)

Yes, I am still alive. I am even still in Italy, but I have been very very busy, hence the lack of blogging. But I really do want to tell you all about Cinque Terre (aka the most beautiful place on earth, in my humble but accurate opinion, to use one of Mrs. Gillham’s phrases). So, let’s talk Cinque Terre.

Our trip started off bright and early on Friday morning. Our first train (from Verona) left at 5:40 am, which meant we needed to catch a taxi from our residence at 5:00. Despite the early hours, and the late night before – we all managed to meet up in the lobby and set off for our first weekend trip on time. With tickets in hand and seven out of eight passports we boarded the train and settled in for a five and a half hour nap (and two train switches). We did try to amuse ourselves with games on the train – we were lucky enough to have the Bison playing cards that Jordan brought along, and with Bison on our minds we ended up laughing pretty hard about the relevancy Bison had to, well, anything. All of this hassle was worth it though once we reached the city.

Our hostel was in the first of the five cities that make up Cinque Terre. The town is called Riomaggiore and it is absolutely lovely. All of these five cities are very small, the most populous one only has about 1700 residents, but we still managed to get lost finding our hostel. There is one main street through Riomaggiore, and it happens to be straight up a mountain. So we walked to the top figuring that the trudge would be a warm up for our hike only to find out that the hostel check-in was situated at the bottom. This was cause for groans since some of us still weren’t quite awake yet. But eventually we checked into our hostel, climbed the nine flights of stairs to our room, and most of us were pleasantly surprised with what we found.

We had reserved a room for eight, and I for one was expecting to see four bunk beds with a community bathroom, but instead we found ourselves in a cute little apartment style room with two bedrooms, a pullout couch, kitchen and bathroom. I certainly think we lucked out, especially with the view from our window.

Anyway, we didn’t stay in the hostel for long. We spent most of our time during the weekend traveling around each of the five cities. The first day we did the famous hike through Cinque Terre. Although we had been warned of the “dangers” of the trail, we found the hike totally doable. I think this was everyone’s favorite part of the trip. We spent the entire afternoon and early evening trekking through the hills, cities and cliffs on the Italian Coast. I have never seen a more beautiful place. At every turn I wanted to pull out my camera (and at a lot of them I did). It was a great five hours of talking and climbing stairs and simultaneously staring wide eyed and jaw dropped at the scenery surrounding us.

The thing I thought was interesting was how each city had its own personality. Obviously, all of them are fishing villages, but each one had something unique about it, whether it was a certain view of the sea or popular beaches.

I feel like words really can’t do justice to just how pretty this place was. I am so glad that I got to experience it with such an awesome travel group. The eight of us had a wonderful time hiking. After stopping in the fourth city to eat dinner we returned to the hostel to explore Riomaggiore. We ended up spending most of the night on the rocks that make up jetties at the base of the city. By the end of day one, I could already tell that this was going to be a great weekend, filled with many more hysterical stories and exciting times. But those of you that want to hear about it will have to wait, as I have midterms to study for now.

Ugh, midterms in Italy! Isn’t that just the worst concept you have ever heard? But until next time, I hope that some of these pictures can show just how lovely the sights of last weekend were.

A view of the second city

Getting ready for the hike - the "before" picture

The girls - we decided eight was a perfect travel group size - a perfect fit on the trains

The boys on the train, bright and early.

Simply breathtaking

Some of us got very unique souvenirs, haha.

Leaving the second city

Excitement after climbing 382 steps on the last leg of the trail to the third city

The cutest tradition I have heard of. You and your special someone buy a lock, lock it and throw the key into the ocean. **aw** This doesn't just happen in Cinque Terre though. Apparently, it is a tradition all around Italy.