Andiamo al mare in Croazia

Where to begin…Croatia was such an amazing time. The trip started out with over 15 hours of traveling. The bus ride to Croatia took just as long as the plane ride from Chicago to Rome. However, the bus ride was part of the reason why the trip was so fun. Not because the bus ride itself was necessarily so much fun- but because we were so pumped to finally get there and make the most of every second we had there. We left Rome at 5 pm on Thursday and we got into Split, Croatia at 9 am. We had two hours to get ready and settled, eat breakfast, and then meet again at the dock for white water rafting. Since Jenna, Alex, Kim, Tawny, Stephen, Ben, Garrett, and I all shared a hostel room it was pretty hectic getting ready. We were all cranky and exhausted but at the same time we were really running on adrenaline and excitement of finally being in Croatia.

White water-rafting. Not what I expected, way better. The river was calm at times so it was manageable for us to really take in the scenery. Not only that, but our tour guide was pretty hysterical. We would try and race other rafts and what not. We were rafting on the river for about 3 hours. It was pretty exhausting at the more active points of the river, but most of the time it was very relaxing. About 2/3rds of the way down the river we went cliff jumping. It wasn’t easy getting me to try and do it. At first I sat in the raft and just watched everyone jump off and look at his or her ridiculous expression. It wasn’t until I heard one of the tour guides say “You have to push yourself…test your limits” to some girl that I realized I had to do it. When was I ever going to get the opportunity to cliff jump in Croatia again? Well….the answer is most likely never. So…next thing I know I am walking up this cliff. Let me say, it seemed a lot higher when I was walking up it. I started second guessing myself but still carried on forward. All of my friends went before me. They reminded me to make sure to jump far out. One by one, it was slowly getting closer to being my turn. Finally, it was. I stared down….rookie mistake… and then plunged off the rock. I felt like I was in the air for a while because I remember cussing. Once my body hit the water I was stricken cold…I mean really cold. It was hard to swim and move my muscles. Although, this was nothing compared to the cold we felt when we swam in the Med Sea in Capri. Nevertheless though, it was shocking. After the eventful day of rafting and cliff jumping we headed back to Split for a pub-crawl. Everyone on the bus2alps program was interested in doing the pub-crawl. Supposedly it was absolutely worth the 16 euro.

The man running the pub crawl brought his dog with to every bar. The best part was that the dog really like beer… I mean I have never seen anything like it! I saw the sly little guy trying to knock over people’s cups and drink the beer. The man warned us all about it, but I didn’t completely believe him until I saw it for my own eyes. Anyways, the night was a blast. I met people from all over the world and also enjoyed being with the other Americans in the bus2alps program.

The next morning was the private island hopping tour. We woke up around 10 in order to be down at the dock by 10:45. There wasn’t one cloud in the sky! We brought drinks and delicious calamari with us. One of the bartenders on the ship started out the journey by walking around pouring shots for everyone. It was hysterical, although I wasn’t quiet up for a shot that early. When we got to the first island some of my friends jumped off the top deck of the boat into the water and then swam to shore. It was really entertaining to watch. The tour guide Lauren joined us at this cute little bar overlooking the water. Afterwards, we went to the beach and relaxed before it was time to head out to the next island. The next island was hysterical. My friend Stephen and Jenna both drank a little too much and were the life of the party…or so they thought they were. We played bocce ball in the sand and relaxed in the sun.

The way back to Split was pretty entertaining. Everyone was rallied up and mingling. The best part was…. there was no language barrier! It was strange being with so many American again. The night wasn’t as successful because most people were burnt out from the long day. I had an early night because the National waterfall park was in the morning. This by far was the coolest part of the trip. I don’t think I have ever seen nature be so beautiful. Even just breathing the air in the park had this refreshing feel to it. It was a great day and then after viewing the park we had to head back on the bus.. back to Rome. This bus ride was not as pleasant because there was nothing to look forward to anymore.

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Cheers to spring break with the sister!

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So, for spring break the famous Katie Cerney came to Italy!!
Day 1:
I picked Katie up from the international airport in Rome. After a long day of traveling, we finally arrived in Viterbo. It was really amazing for me to have someone from back home understand where I am living and what I am actually doing here. We arrived in Viterbo around 9 pm and we were in a little bit of a rush to get some dinner. I took her to La Spaghetteria, which is my favorite pasta place in Viterbo. They have over 300 different types of past dishes. After a nice dinner we met up with some of my friends that were still in Viterbo and went out to a local bar called Lucios. I think she had a great time meeting some of my friends here and trying to mingle with the locals that don’t speak English.
Day 2:
The next morning, we woke up a lot later than we expected. We missed the first train to Florence but were able to catch a later one. Once we arrived in Florence we were both pretty exhausted and wanted to do a quick dinner and get a great night sleep since we had such a big day ahead of us.
Day 3:
We woke up and went to go get some breakfast. This is when Katie was able to try the Italian cappuccino…and she was very impressed. After a little caffeine and croissant boost we were ready to do some sight seeing. The next thing on the agenda was to go into the Acadamia museum. This is the museum where the David sculpture by Michelangelo is in. Then, we climbed the domo. This was something that I wasn’t able to do on my first trip to Florence so I was very excited. I have to admit- I was pretty nervous about being able to make it to the top since I haven’t worked out in almost four months. However- I succeeded. The view from the top of the Domo was spectacular. It was a panoramic view of all of Florence, and it is surprisingly a lot smaller than I expected.
After climbing the Domo, we worked up an appetite for some Pizza. I took Katie to Gusta Pizzaria, which was the place we went to last time for lunch while in Florence and had such a great experience. When Katie and I went there it was a lot different than the first time…unfortunately. They were overly crowded and insanely busy, but the pizza was just as delicious.
After lunch we were both ready for a quick power nap. When we got back to the hostel we had a new roommate named Cynthia. Off the bat, she was super outgoing and so easy to talk to. We invited her to come out to dinner and drinks with us. Katie and I both really enjoyed her company and invited her to come visit in Chicago this summer.
Day 4:
We woke up relatively early to catch the train to Cinque Terre. Cynthia, Katie, and I stopped for a cappuccino and breakfast sandwich at some bar by the train station. The train ride was relatively easy with only one train transfer. We got to Cinque Terre around noon. Once we arrived, we decided to sit down at this restaurant that had outside seating. We ordered some seafood risotto and a mixed green salad….yum. Finally some variety in my food! Afterwards, we checked into our B&B and went to go get situated. When we got to the B&B we realized it was more like our own apartment. It was awesome. We had our own kitchen, bathroom, and most importantly…our own bedroom!! We shared the apartment with three other roommates. They were American guys- and I have to say it was so nice to be around some Americans. We all hit it off really well and did the Via Dell’Amore walk to the next town to go check it out. We found a local bar that was pretty hidden but absolutely amazing. We were the only people in there and they had live music playing. The whole evening was perfect and one of the most fun nights I have had here in Italy. On our walk back home it started down pouring rain- which made the whole path of Via Dell’Amore a million times more stunning and romantic. The waves were crashing so hard against the rocks. It was so beautiful to watch the storm that I literally stood in the pouring rain for a few moments just to take it all in.

Day 5:
This was the day we had planned to do the hiking in Cinque Terre. I have to say, this day will stay with me for a very very long time.
Before the hike, Katie and I decided to treat ourselves to one really nice meal. We ate at this restaurant called Billy’s that was at the very top of the village Manrola but it also had a great view of the water. We got lobster pasta, and some fresh fish. It was the best meal I have had in Italy so far. The lobster literally melted in your mouth. After our fabulous three-hour lunch, we were fueled for some adventure. However, we had no idea just how adventurous we were about to be…
The hike we decided to do was the one from Vernazza to Monterosso. This was about a 2 and a half hour hike. I was in boots and jeans, which definitely wasn’t the right attire what so ever.
So on this hike, the first hour and a half was all up hill. I mean it was such a challenge. Also, there was no railing so if someone were to trip or take one wrong step….well they would be a goner. We had to jump over really narrow waterfalls, climb over mud piles, walk on the thinnest slippery paths along a downstream river, etc… It was so intense but I am so glad I did it. I think if I knew how crazy the hike was going to be I would have been too afraid to do it- so even though it was a huuuuge suprise I am glad that I didn’t know what I was getting into…
All in all, it was a fabulous day in Cinque Terre and we successfully got to travel to all of the five fisherman villages.

Day 6:
Heading to Piombino…
This was our planned day to relax. When we arrived in Piombino I was stunned by the town’s beauty. Our hotel literally hovered over the water and gave us the most beautiful view and a patio with a table to sit and soak it all in. We spent the day touring around Piombino and ate dinner in the hotel because it was included. Nothing too exciting happened, except great wine tasting, touring, and relaxing.

Day 7:
This was the day we were suppose to head to Elba Island from Piombino. It was going to be a day trip and we were both really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the weather was awful and the waves were too high to take a fairy to Elba. So, again we enjoyed another relaxing day in Piombino.

Day 8:
Rome Rome Rome. Took Katie to Vatican City (but Sistine Chapel was closed), Colosseum, and the Trevi Fountain. We tried to pack as much as we could in this one day because the next morning she was heading back to Chi-town.

Day 9:
Saying goodbye to Katie was a little bit harder than I expected. I was so glad that she was able to understand this part of me that not a lot of people ever will truly understand and it was so amazing having her here. I know that our vacation together in Italy is going to be something neither one of us will forget.

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Field Study- Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, Capri, Amalfi, and Caserta

View from the bus

(He is praying)

(Pompei)

(Someone in their last moment)

(Captain Jack!)

(Blue Grotto)

(Amalfi Cathedral)

(On the way to Amalfi)

(view on Mount Vesuvius)
The field study was more than I expected it to be. Every minute was filled with something to do or see. It was exhausting but also amazing.
To start:
The first day, after a 4 hour bus ride, we arrived in Naples. My friend from the LA area said it reminded her of a dirtier version of LA. She was saying this because of the crazy traffic that we had to work our way through to reach the center. Once we arrived in the center of Naples it ended up being a lot more beautiful than I expected. Most of the Italians here don’t speak very highly of Naples (unless they are from there, and if that’s the case- well it is the best city in the world). The main piazza was gorgeous. Once we arrived, we were able to have some free time to roam around and shop. Afterwards, it was time to eat. Not just anything…but pizza from the place where it all started. It was a lot thicker than the pizza you would find here in Viterbo but it wasn’t anywhere close to a Chicago deep dish. It was VERY tasty though. After lunch, we started our tour. The tour guide took us around the old castle, and opera house, as well as the archeological museum. However, once we got to the museum I started loosing focus because everyone was so beat. Once we saw all we needed to see in Naples we headed back on the coach bus to Sorrento- which is where our hotel was located for the week. It was dark by the time we arrived but it wasn’t hard to miss the beauty- even in the dark. Most of us had an early night and crashed pretty hard while the others went out.

The next day, we headed to Pompeii and also Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii was spectacular and so mind blowing. To think of the history behind Pompeii is almost unfathomable. As we walked around the town, the knowledgeable tour guide filled us in on the story behind the ruins of Pompeii. At one point, Pompeii was four times larger than Paris and twice as large as London (or maybe it was the other way around- can’t remember). When we entered the area where the gladiators were held he told us a story that I found sad and intriguing. Apparently, when the town was destroyed by the Mount Vesuvius eruption there were four gladiator bodies found in the gladiator housing rooms. The most interesting part was that one of the gladiators was not alone. In fact, he was with a woman and in the middle of an intimate moment (the archeologists said it would be hard to misinterpret the act). This woman was much more wealthy than he was because she was decked out in jewels, as well as a wedding ring. The gladiator wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. It is true that gladiators were really admired by women back in this time period because of their build and bravery, but it is amazing to hear of such a story. Other bodies were also on display in Pompeii. These gave me nightmares. The bodies had some form of a plastic caste that formed around them (an effect of the eruption) and this ended up preserving their body in the position they took in their last moment. One man was praying. One had his hands covering his face. You could even make out the facial expression of the bodies. It was truly horrific.
On a lighter note, after we left Pompeii we got to climb Mount Vesuvius. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Once we reached the very top there wasn’t a view that could beat it. Again- a memory that I don’t think will ever escape me.

The next day was our free day! We all decided to take a fairy out to Capri for the day. Once we arrived in Capri I realized what the hype was all about. It is by far my favorite place in Italy. We took a boat ride around the entire Island. It was a personal boat tour so nobody else was on the boat but us. The captain- who said his name was “Captain Jack” was amazing. He blasted tunes for us and made sure we really got our moneys worth. We also went into the blue grotto. It was beautiful but also a complete rip off. It was 12.50 euro for less than a minute inside… I could’ve definitely done without seeing it. Afterwards, we decided it was time for us to take a dip in the Med Sea! I was the 3rd person into the water- which also means I had to watch the frightening expressions of the others. The second I landed in the water I couldn’t even think or breathe. We were all hyperventilating and panicking in the ice cold water. Thank god one of the boys that was with us is a swimmer at his school back home and he knew how to calm us down. He said breathe slow- it helps you warm up quicker- and it did. Captain Jack made us swim through a cave and out to the other side. It was one of those crazy things that was a once in a lifetime experience- and something I can not ever see myself doing again. After the boat tour we were all sun burnt and sleepy so we took the next fairy out back to Sorrento.

Amalfi was on the itinerary for the next day. To get to Amalfi we had to take the bus through the mountains. It was the most beautiful scenery the whole entire way. Once we arrived, we started our tour. Most of the town was wiped away by a tsunami in the past, but the amount that stood was unbelievable. It was similar to Capri in a way-minus the fact that Amalfi isn’t an island. The Cathedral we walked through was fascinating. Later, we got seafood pasta! Yummm… After the tour, we were able to have some free time for the day. We all brought some wine to the beach and just relaxed. It was another great day.

We went to Caserta on the last day. At this point I wasn’t feeling well at all and had to sit out for some of the tour. From what I saw, the castle was enormous. Apparently, it is almost 10 times larger than the White house. The garden behind the Castle extends all the way back into the mountains for a little over a mile. It was unreal.
When we finally made it back to Viterbo- later that day- I finally got a good night sleep. Now I am sitting at a local café sipping on a cappuccino and people watching. It is a beautiful day here!

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Barcelona, my first love.

(More pictures on facebook)

I really don’t know where to begin talking about Barcelona. It was by far my favorite trip and city that I have seen in Europe so far.
After celebrating my birthday in Rome, we had to wake up at 5 am in order to catch our 8 o’clock flight to Barcelona. Of course we were all very exhausted but it didn’t matter because we knew what we had to look forward to. It was a very long morning but we were all able to take a power nap on the plane for 2 hours and when we woke up- we were in the most beautiful city I have ever seen. That isn’t an exaggeration either! Barcelona is by far the cleanest, and most beautiful city with the most organized transportation system. Our hostel was located in the middle of the Gothic center, which was a perfect location! We were a ten-minute walk from the beach, and right near a metro to take us to the other tourist attractions. So, when we first got there we headed towards the Magic Fountain of Montjuic. A show goes on every thirty minutes and people dance around it and there was even Disney music playing! As corny as it may sound, it truly was magical. After this, we had all worked up an appetite and were ready to embrace a local Spanish meal. We ended up at a restaurant that the hostel recommended which was a few doors down from the hostel itself. It had great local dishes for a great price! We started off with fondue…..um YUM! Then, I got roast beef with wild rice over a Dijon mustard sauce. It was amazing. After dinner, we were all so beat and ready for sleep and trying to prepare for the long day ahead of us- so we crashed. The next morning, we woke up around 7:30 to take advantage of the free breakfast in the hostel. Then….we went to STARBUCKS! This was so exiting for all of us because we haven’t been able to get coffees to go in so long! So we got a coffee to go and headed to the Cathedral. The Cathedral was absolutely magnificent and embedded with the most detailed artwork. After that, we headed to La Rambla, which is known to be one of the most beautiful streets to take a stroll on- and it definitely lived up to its reputation. On La Rambla there was a market going on with tons of deals and great shopping. There was also a food market where you could find the freshest smoothies, fruit, fish, candy, other meats, and cheeses. I had a kiwi smoothie and it was the most refreshing thing I have ever had to drink.
After that, we went to go see La Sagrada Familia. This was by far my favorite part of Barcelona. The Catholic Church was built by Gaudi by using the gothic architectural style. He died before he was ever able to finish La Sagrada Familia. He had a whole plan set out for how he wanted to finish the Church and not until 2010 did the work begin. The building of La Sagrada Familia started in 1883 and Gaudi devoted most of his life to finishing the church, but by the time he died it was only like a quarter done. Although it isn’t complete, it is still the most beautiful architecture I have seen thus far in Europe. Then, we went to go see Park Guell which was also designed by Gaudi. His house was smack dab in the middle of the Park. The best part about the park was a ledge at the top where you could outlook over all of Gaudi’s work and also Barcelona as a whole. It was one of the most surreal moments in my life. I couldn’t even grasp all the beauty I was seeing. We stayed on top of the hill for a while in silence, taking in all that the sight had to offer. That is a memory that I will have with me for the rest of my life.
Once we left the Park we were all starving. We decided to get dinner on the beach and try the signature dish- Paella. It was to die for! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.. Then, of course we had to experience the nightlife. Barcelona is known for the nightlife. One of the girls I was with had friends who were in Barcelona studying abroad. We met up with them and they took us to a nightclub called Catwalk. We had to be on a list to get in. It was pretty intense. They were playing American music the entire night! It was a lot of fun and we were all dancing and just having a blast!
The next morning we woke up and headed to the beach! It was a much more relaxing day since we had gotten all the other stuff out of the way the day before. So, we took a boat tour of the ports and coast. It was such a beautiful day out and it was a great tour for such a cheap price! After that, we headed to the beach to frolic around a little and relax. We spent the entire day on the beach, and when we headed back to the hostel we were all ready for a nap. We meant to wake up to go on the cable car that takes you all throughout Barcelona. However, every single one of us over slept because we were so exhausted. Once we finally woke up we were ready to eat again. Most of us were trying to spend money wisely, so on the last night we got subway because it is so cheap compared to everything else. Then, unfortunately three of us had to study for a midterm that we had the next day. So…that was pretty much it about Barcelona!! I am counting down the days until I can go back. I fell in love with it.

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Day trip to Roma

Where to begin…
Okay, so this weekend I went to Rome just for another visit. We didn’t want to go anywhere too far away this weekend because we are all saving up for Barcelona – which is over my birthday weekend!!! So, my friends Alex and Ben and I decided to go into Rome for the day on Thursday. We wanted to see the Jewish Museum and eat some Chinese food because we had been CRAVING it. When we got into Rome we first headed to the museum. It was beautiful and not at all what I expected it to be. After that, we were ready for some Chinese food. We had this one specific restaurant in mind because we had gone there before on our way home from Palermo…however it was closed! We were so upset because we were so ready to eat something other than pasta or pizza. So, we searched for this Sushi place. It ended up being delicious but insanely expensive. For just two pieces of sushi it was 2.50 euro. So we didn’t eat that much there but just enough to fulfill our desire for something oriental. After that, we met up with Ben’s friends who are currently studying abroad in Greece. They were super nice and we all went to get some appetizers and drinks. They wanted us to stay the night and go out in Rome with them but we were all exhausted and Alex had a fieldtrip the next morning. They convinced Ben to stay but Alex and I tried to catch the last train… we failed epically. We sprinted throughout all of Rome trying to get to a certain train station that had the last train out to Viterbo. We missed it by two minutes. At this point we were so frustrated that we didn’t even want to go out. We were afraid that we weren’t going to have anywhere to sleep since we went into this hotel and the man said they had no rooms left. We pouted a little and he finally caved in and gave us a room. It ended up being a really nice hotel and was a little pricey but at that point it was all we could find and we would have paid anything to have a shower. When we got to the room it was around midnight and we had to wake up at 3:30 am to catch the 4:50 train so Alex could make it back in time for her fieldtrip. However, it ended up not happening because Ben came to the room pretty late after being out and we all stayed up talking. When we finally fell asleep it was about the same time we had to get up. Thank god Alex found out that there was a bus she could take to the location of her fieldtrip from Rome later on in the morning instead of having to go all the way back to Viterbo and then back towards Rome. So this meant we got to SLEEP! We woke up around 8 and she headed towards her fieldtrip location. Ben and I stayed a little longer and grabbed some food and waited for a train to take back to Viterbo. When we finally arrived back in Viterbo we felt so grimy and exhausted. When I walked into Jaine’s apartment she goes “Well… those look like the same clothes you wore yesterday…” haha and she handed me TACOS! Yumm. That made the day a million times better, after all, when do you get to eat tacos in Italy? Never.. All in all, it was a very interesting and unexpected trip in Rome.

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Carnevale 2012 in Venice!!!!

Carnevale in Venezia.. This past weekend almost everyone in the USAC program here toured to Venice for Carnevale. Carnevale is celebrated for 10 days and it is similar to the US version of Halloween- except it is much much bigger. So, when we first left we were taken on a 6 and a half hour bus ride to Verona. Verona was absolutely gorgeous. We ate an amazing lunch there and toured around for a couple of hours. There was a huge parade going on with floats and decorative costumes dancing throughout the streets. It was amazing to be a part of such a cultural element in Italy. We also went to Juliet’s house and we walked pass Romeo’s but the site was closed. After this, it was time to head on out to Padova. The second we arrived in Padova I started feeling really sick. I laid down in the hotel and I was completely passed out until the next morning. The next morning we woke up very early because we were all so exited to get into Venice!! After a thirty-minute bus ride we were finally in Venice! The second we crossed the bridge I knew this was going to be my favorite city. As we walked around we got to see all the beautiful masks for the special holiday and the outrageous costumes. I don’t even enjoy stopping but I couldn’t help stopping at every booth and looking at all the masks. They were unreal! I splurged a little bit of money on them for gifts and souvenirs- after all, how many people can say they were in Venice during Carnevale. After about an hour and a half of walking we finally made it to San Marco Square. This was probably the most surreal beauty I have seen so far. It would be near impossible to even explain all the detail in beauty in all the buildings and all the people that filled the square. I have never seen such elaborate detail in the architecture, and as well as the costumes. Unfortunately, within our first few minutes of being in the square my camera died…. So I made sure to take a million mental pictures. We sat on the edge of the square and dangled our feet over the water and sat in silence for a good 30 minutes. It was one of my favorite memories I have experienced here. Not to mention, the weather couldn’t have been any nicer!! The sun was out, there wasn’t much wind, and it wasn’t too cold. Absolutely perfect day that may be one of my favorite days…I have EVER had. After experiencing Venice we headed out to Padova for the night. We were all very bummed that the tour didn’t let us stay in Venice overnight but it was probably because it would have been VERY expensive during Carnevale. So, in Padova we were taken to this party that had live music. It was a blast but by the end of the night I was just too tired to stay out so late because we had such a busy day! Unfortunately, we didn’t get home until 5 am because a lot of the other people in the program wanted to stay out and it was a little unorganized when the tour leader tried to get everyone to leave. At that point, some of the other girls and I were already sleeping on the bus. The next day, we woke up early again to go sightseeing in Padova. It was a beautiful town, however, at that point everyone was so exhausted that all we wanted to do was make it back to Viterbo. We finally reached Viterbo at midnight. I have to say that this tour definitely bonded our group. One of the guys in the program- Garrett- who studied abroad in Spain last semester said that the group of people in our program are MUCH closer than the people in his program last semester. And it is honestly not that hard to believe. These friends I have made here honestly know me in ways that people don’t know me back home. It hasn’t even been two months and I feel as though all these people are so important to me and it kills me to think there will be a time when we wont all be together. Thankfully, one of my friends here goes to Iowa! Well, I am going to go make some pasta and read! I will try to keep this blog more updated – I have just been sooo busy. Ciao!

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Fantastic Firenze

My weekend in Florence-

We left for Florence on Thursday and let’s just say that it wasn’t the best start to a trip. When we got on the train we didn’t realize it was mandatory to stamp the train tickets. So, we are sitting in our little section on the train and one of the workers asked for our tickets so we all gladly showed him them. He looks at my ticket and blurts out,  “50 euro thank you.” I chuckled a little because I genuinely thought this man was crazy or kidding. It fell silent when I finally realized this man was serious.. So, trying to save my 50 euro from his greedy hands, I tried to apologize may way out of the ticket and play the innocent card. It wasn’t too hard to play the dumb an innocent card considering it really was my first time traveling relatively far in Italy, and I didn’t happen to know the regulations of TrenItalia. Nevertheless, he was not buying it. So I unwillingly handed him 50 euro. I was so so mad because I only brought the exact amount of cash I would need for the whole entire trip. I was very nervous that this little hiccup in the trip would cause me to miss out on the trip to Venice for Carnivale (since we have to pay the trip in full on Monday). So, with that said I was a little shaken up. Once we got to Florence though I let the stress breeze over me and I embraced all Firenzia had to offer.

The next stop was the hostel! The hostel was amazing!! When we entered we checked it out for a little and then quickly got ready for dinner. We were starving! We walked around Firenzia for a little bit until we found this cute little restaurant which wasn’t too touristy, and had good prices. I got the spaghetti (first time I have had spaghetti in Italy) and lets just say it was amazing. After dinner we walked around for a little and then headed back to the hostel. Some of the other people from the USAC program were arriving a little bit later than us. Once everyone had arrived we checked out the hostel bar (I played wii bowling—in the bar–pretty sure some australians were laughing at how uncoordinated I am). After that we walked around town and stopped into a little pub and had a drink. We were all exhausted so we made it home at a decent hour. The next day we went into the Acadamia and say the David and Rape of the Sabines. I didn’t expect to be that blown away by the David but it was absolutely breath taking. There was such detail in the sculpture and precision. I could have stared at the statute for hours.  After that we continued on throughout the museum and saw many other beautiful works by artists like Botticelli.

Later that day we had a great dinner! We were all in the mood for something other than pasta and pizza so we went to a burger place. I got a burger with fried onions and bacon. Umm….yum. The bacon in Italy is so much saltier and fattier than it is in America. Delicious. We stayed in on Friday night because we wanted to be fully prepared for the long day Saturday. Saturday was saved for the Ponte Vecchio bridge, climbing the Duomo, and the Uffizi. First, we headed over to the Ponte Vecchio. It was a sight to see, I will tell ya that. Then, we experienced the BEST lunch and BEST pizza I have ever had. This little place right across the bridge called Gusta Pizzeria. Yummm. It was closed, but because they apparently thought we were “beautiful americans” they let us in. We were the only people in there eating their AMAZING pizza. The owners sat at the table with us and talked and laughed with us. Of course there was a little bit of a language barrier, but it was still a blast! The owners made us two free pizzas (because we inhaled the other ones) and they put on Michael Jackson and Madonna songs throughout the entire restaurant. A few dance moves might have been exposed in the Gusta Pizzeria… It was the most fun I have had since I have been here, and if I ever go back to Florence THAT WILL BE MY FIRST STOP. After that, we attempted to climb the Duomo and check out the Uffizi. Unfortunately, the Duomo was closed (I am not really sure why). We were REALLY bummed about it but we were all still in such a great mood from lunch that we just brushed it off and headed to the Uffizi. The Uffizi was spectactular. Every single thing in that museum was so elaborate and perfect. It took us almost 2 hours to work our way through the Gallery. I can’t really put it into words because it really can only be described my being there. The closest way to describe it would be sensational but that doesn’t even do it justice. Anyway, I will upload pictures later and tell you more about my time here later. Now… I must EAT.

Ciao

buona sera

Megan

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My adventures in Rome

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To fill you in—

So, today I just got back from Rome. We were able to see Vatican City. I have to say that The Vatican is by far the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. The second we walked into the Vatican I got chill—I was completely blown away. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize you could climb up the insane amount of stairs to reach the top of the Vatican and overlook the entire building. Once we were done seeing the Vatican we walked over to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. My friend Jenna and I didn’t have tickets so we tried to sneak in through a hidden entrance- but epically failed at finding it. I am kind of glad I didn’t see the Sistine Chapel yet because it will give me something to look forward to seeing the next time we head to Rome. After all the touring, we eventually made our way to check into the hostel. It was my first time ever seeing a hostel, and it was a lot nicer than I was imagining. We got two rooms- one room with Jenna, Garrett, Christina and I (all people in the USAC program), and the other room was a two-person room for friends Alex and Kelly. We were feeling pretty exhausted when we stumbled upon this amazing restaurant.  For 16 euro we were served an appetizer plate, two main dishes, a side dish, and gelato or tiramisu. It was FABULOUS. Once our bellies were all full we were ready to start the night at the bar crawl. For 20 euro we were able to have an open bar for an hour at the first place we went to, and then a welcome shot at every other bar we went to. It was a very interesting night and we were able to meet students studying abroad from all over the world!

It’s really strange because although it hasn’t even been two full weeks yet- it feels as though I have already grown and learned so much. It makes me sad thinking that there is going to come a time where I won’t be living here anymore- but it’s too soon to think about that. I am truly so happy with my roommates and the friends I have chosen. I really couldn’t ask for a better situation. Everyone seems so educated and most of them are older than me and teach me new things everyday. My closest friend here is Jaine and she is absolutely hilarious- I mean I am laughing on the floor hilarious! She is really great and has definitely shown me kindness and would never think to judge me for our differences.

Upcoming trips:

Florence next weekend

Carnival (Mardi Gra) Feb 17th

And HOPEFULLY Germany Munich on St. pattys day.

Still need to figure out and book other places for the other weekends!!

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Italy!

Ciao!

Italy so far is absolutely gorgeous. We went into Rome this past weekend and it was breath taking. I am so glad I chose to not live in Rome. Because although it was very beautiful, it was also clustered and chaotic. It was very nice to come back to a “small town feel” of Viterbo. In Viterbo you are forced to jump right into the culture – even if it means embarrassing yourself by butchering their language. Also, the apartment I live in was built in 1690 and has a lot of history to it. Everything in Viterbo is well preserved from the past and has such a surreal feeling to it.  The friends I have met with the USAC program are really great! Most of them are around 19-22 and all want to travel every weekend. We are going to try and go to Dublin for St. Patty’s day– but it is a little pricey so if not we are going to Germany. It is a 30 euro flight to Germany –BOTH WAYS! Also, this weekend some of the girls and I want to go back to Rome to see the Vatican City. Then we will slowly start traveling to farther away places- like next weekend we want to go to Venice or Florence.

Some funny facts I learned about the Italian culture in Viterbo:

DO NOT smile at strangers– especially if they are men. Apparently, they will assume you like them and want to speak with them.

Dress up nicely– everyday.

They know you are American before you even speak. How? I am not sure. But it seems as though it is clearly written across my face.

DO NOT take home any food. (Most places do not even have doggie bags to bring home food anyways).

Always Always say buongiorno to the teacher when walking into class.

Well, that’s really the basics of everything so far. I will keep you posted.

Megan

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The airport– (posted later)

Buongiorno- good morning

Or in Chicagos case—Buona Sera

I arrived in London about 2 hours ago. Even though I am just in the airport, I can tell that there is something fabulous about the people here. All of them are so much more polite then Americans, or maybe it is there accent’s that makes everything sound more appealing. Or maybe it’s their sweet names they call people-such as  “darling”—my personal favorite. I have about an hour to kill until I am on the plane to Rome. I can’t get a hold of anyone and my internet isn’t working! I hope my Mom and Dad aren’t expecting to hear from me soon- or my 854 boyfriends…. (Joking Dad). Well anyway, I don’t know how I am still up and kicking considering it would be 2:50 am back in Chicago. Ew.. I should probably try and sleep on this plane but I feel like I shouldn’t waste time on learning the key phrases of Italian. I don’t want to be totally lost in the airport. Once I arrive in Rome it will be 2:05 pm there- which means it will be 8:05 am back in Chicago. Which also means that I am going to be a little cranky and sleep deprived hopefully my roommates don’t judge me. Ahhh! I am so exited to meet them. P.s. the coffee in London is absolutely amazing. Yum. Strange to think that I am drinking coffee at 2:50 am Chicago time. Ok, well this blog has been the biggest rambling evidence of my ADD.

Arrivederci– goodbye

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