The End.May 9, 2013
Just a few hours ago I finished my last final in my last class in Italy. It is crazy to think of all that I have done this semester, all that I have learned and accomplished. As I was taking my finals the materials on the tests seemed somewhat irrelevant because I have learned so much more than just beginners Italian, Creative Advertising of Italian Destinations, Italian Fashion, and History of Fashion. It is as though those are just the icing on the cake of my study abroad experience.
The world has become a much different place to me through my many experiences abroad, and I wouldn’t say that it is positive or negative, but more familiar. Growing up I always lived in the midwest, so moving to Europe was quite a change not only in scenery, but also in the way of life. I’ve learned that there is so much more to this world than I will ever be able to grasp, and I am unbelievably lucky to have seen the parts of the world that I have thus far. Moving across the world alone also makes you realize a lot about yourself, and a lot about what you want in life. It’s bizarre because I still cannot quite pinpoint what that is, but what has become more clear is what is important as well as who. At this point I am dying to see my wonderful family,friends, and most of all puppies at home and I cannot wait to have the summer to spend with most of them.
There are a lot of things you must figure out on your own when studying abroad, but if I can offer some words of advice to those who are looking to study abroad in the future they would be:
1) This experience is about you. Not your friend , or your teacher, or your mom, or your roommate, or anyone else. Do what you want when you want and everyone else can deal with it. This was hard for me because I didn’t want to be that selfish or rude person that said ‘I’m doing this, at this time, because I want to’ but that is just what you have to do sometimes. I’ve always been a very go with the flow person, but when you study abroad you have to think about what you want because you may never get to experience these things ever again.
2) Travel. The thing I treasured the most about this experience is all of the places I was able to go for such a reasonable amount of money. You will never have access to such excellent public transportation in America, let alone these locations.
3) Don’t book all of your trips right away. Things change, opportunities arise. Book some trips in the beginning of your stay and go from there. Figure out what kind of transportation you prefer before booking all of your trips to make travel the least chaotic as possible. Bus, planes, trains, automobiles- you name it Europe has it, so switch it up a little until you figure out what works best for you.
4)Pack layers. Any study abroad blog you read will say this, but it is so true. You need to be able to transform your clothing to a wide variety of climates whether it be from winter to spring, fall to winter, or just from Southern to Northern European weather. Also, don’t pack any clothing you truly love because you will hate it by the end of your time abroad. Also washing machines abroad will do a number to your clothing so don’t bring anything you would mind getting abused in the wash.
5)Eat. A lot. Most of my favorite memories of Italy revolve around food, so just eat the gelato, you can diet when you get home.
6)Remember you have a two suitcase limit. Over the months I have been slowly collecting souvenirs and presents and now I have one suitcase dedicated to these lovely purchases…
7) It is all worth it. There were a few times when I just wanted to go home because things weren’t going my way or I missed my family and friends. You have to remember they will be there when you get home, Europe will not. I am so happy that I had such a pleasant experience, but I know some people that didn’t get the best roommates, or had traveling problems. It’s not the end of the world, you will figure it out.
Well that’s all I can think of for now so I guess I’ll just end on that note. I cannot believe in only four months I have lived in Florence and visited Montepulciano, Orvieto, Pitigiliano, Sienna, Modena, Garda, Verona, Rome, Sorrento, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Croatia, Ireland, Munich, London, and Turin. Is this real life? Now, it is time for me to go back to one of my favorite places of all, Kansas. Let’s be real, there is only so much ‘I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore’ that a girl can take.
Young and BeautifulMay 6, 2013
The title of this post isn’t just referring to me (jokes), its the title of Lana del Rey’s latest single she wrote for the Great Gatsby movie. About a week ago my friend Lilly from class asked mw if I would go with her to Lana’s concert because the person who was supposed to go with her bailed and she had an extra ticket. She knew I was a fan, and since I had no plans for the weekend I said of course! We booked a cheap hotel and found a train and off we went.
The concert was in Turin aka Turino, which is North of Milan so we took an early train Friday morning. Once we got on the train we were surprised to run into another girl from our class also going to the Lana del Rey concert. She was alone so it was perfect because she could explore with us. Once we made it to Turin we headed to our hotel, which turned out to be something straight out of the eighties. Sparkly pink ceilings and sparkly black floors lead us to our room with gold sparkly ceilings, pale pink walls, and burgundy floors and bedding. I guess that is what you get when you only pay fifty euros for a double room.
We ate lunch and met back up with our friend Lauren so we could explore Parco Valentino. Within the park was Borgo Medievale, an adorable medieval castle. We explored the park and then went back to our hotels to get ready for the concert.
One of the best parts of Turin was the metro system that made it super easy to get around and meet people. We met Lauren at the metro stop close to our hotel and then took a bus to the Olympic stadium where the concert was held. We grabbed a bite to eat at a pub near by and then headed to the concert.
We got to the concert just in time for Lana to go on, and luckily we had seats so we could relax and listen to her wonderful concert. Her voice was amazing and the graphics were breathtaking. We all had a great time and it was totally worth the trip just to see her preform.
The next day Lauren took an early train home so it was just Lilly and I left to explore Turin until our 7:45 pm train. Lilly is also a huge fan of fashion, so what are two fashionistas to do with a full free day…. Shop of course! Turin had amazing shopping and Lilly and I found some wonderful purchases including a fabulous lunch and gelato.
After a long day we were ready to relax and take the train back to Florence for our last Sunday in Florence.
I cannot believe how fast this semester has gone by and all that I have done. I am unbelievably lucky to have seen all that I have, but I can’t help but feel like there is so much I have yet to see. I’m not sure I’m ready to go home, but I think that’s mostly because my parents are sending me pictures of the snow they got at home. I have finals this week(which I should be studying for) and then it’s back to Kansas.
Cinque TerreMay 5, 2013
For those of you who are not familiar with Cinque Terre, the literal translation is five towns. A series of hiking trails connect the seaside towns as well as a train. To start out my journey around these five little towns I took a bus with a tour group to the La Spezia train station. At the train station we picked up our Cinque Terre train pass that allowed us access to the trains that go to each town for the day. Sadly there had been a landslide and most of the hiking trails weren’t open, but after the long weekend in London I had just endured I was okay with that.
We took the train to the second town, Manarola, where the scenery was ideal for some excellent photographs.
After Manarola my roommate Kim and I separated from the group to stop at the third town, Corniglia while the rest of the group moved on to the fourth town for the only open hiking trail. We walked through Corniglia, which consisted of about one street, and found a restaurant that we could eat lunch at. Our guide had informed us that the area was known for their pesto so we went for gnocchi con pesto and pesto pizza. She was right because that was the best gnocchi con pesto I have had in Italy.
After lunch we headed to the next town, Vernazza, for a little bit of shopping. There weren’t many shops, but we found an adorable shop with prints of different towns in Cinque Terre, jewelry, and charms with Italian landmarks on them. I found an adorable print that the artist signed for me and a charm with the Duomo on it.
We then went on to the next town, Monterosso al Mare to get a little beach time and meet up with the group. It was overcast so we didn’t get the full experience, but it was wonderful to sit in the sand and listen to the waves roll in. Before meeting up with the group we stopped at the focacciaria for some focaccia bread, which they are also known for. To make it the best of both worlds I got mine with pesto and it was delicious.
I See London…May 3, 2013
Sorry I’ve been MIA, two weekends ago was springfest in Munich and although that was tons of fun, there is nothing educational about leiderhosen and steins of beer. We did get to visit the Neuschwanstein castle which was amazing. Walt Disney actually modeled Sleeping beauty’s castle after it and it’s obvious why.
This weekend was filled with traveling because we had Thursday off of school. My roommate Kim and I took this as an opportunity to visit some of her friends that are studying abroad in London. They were kind enough to allow us to stay with them, which was wonderful because the British pound could kill you. We took a train to Pisa and plane to London and for those of you who read about the Ireland fiasco this was quite an achievement. I even got to see the tower of Pisa out of my airplane window! Once we got to London we thought we were going to have to turn around and go home because the border control was so intense and scary. Of course we got the man who took hours on each person and lectured them until he was red in the face. We hadn’t filled out the address of where we were staying, and this was a blessing in disguise because he told us to step aside and write where and who we were staying with while he helped another person. We were then helped by another border control attendant whose only concern was that I looked nothing like my passport photo. He made me recite my birthday just to prove I wasn’t an imposter! Luckily I got it right and we were allowed into the UK. We then took a train and met Kim’s friend at a stop off of the tube. The border patrol had already made us late and when the tube stopped four different times because of technical difficulties it didn’t help. Once we made it Kim’s friend showed us where we could grab a bite to eat and then took us out to the Cambridge area for the night with some friends. It wasn’t too hopping on a Wednesday night, but it was fun to hangout with Kim and her friends from home and some friends they had made in London at school. It proved to be a small world because two of their friends were from Missouri and we knew some of the same people!
The next day Kim and I woke up bright and early to do some sight seeing while the London crew was at class. We took the tube to Buckingham Palace and made it just in time for a parade! We were so psyched and it made our day that we got to see this special occurrence! We come to find out later this was really just the changing of the guards and it happens everyday at 11…. We then walked across a park to see the London Eye, Big Ben, and Westminster Abby.
After we got in the must see attractions Kim and I headed to our must see… Shopping! We stopped at a pub for the best fish and chips I have ever had and fueled up for Oxford street. We hit all of our favorites and some new ones as well and finally came to the conclusion that we couldn’t afford anything. Luckily we found a cheap store called primark and made a few purchases before heading home. We got back and had a falafel and met up with Kim’s friends before they took us out to the pickadilly circus area which sadly wasn’t really a circus. It kind of was with all of the nightlife and Chinese food restaurants. I was happy because an Irish guy bought me Chinese food and lets be real, food is the true way to my heart.
The next morning we woke up early and visited the Globe theater. This was kind of like a birth right tour for Kim considering she is an acting major so it was great to see it with someone so excited. The Globe was right by the London Bridge, and let me tell you it was not falling down or really impressive at all for that matter. We then headed to Cambridge market with the London crew and found some souvenir treasures. This was probably my favorite area of London, partially because I could afford it and partially because I really enjoyed the trendy scene. Afterwards we took the tube to platform 9 3/4. As a non Harry potter fan I was chosen to be the photographer and took tons of pictures of everyone before heading to the library. The library was surprisingly one of the most interesting places we went because it had different historical documents that were amazing. They displayed handwritten Beatles lyrics, letters from queens, magma carta notes, and works of Michelangelo and Dante just to name a few.
After our long day we ate at a gourmet burger place where I had the best chicken sandwich ever. Maybe it’s just because I am comparing it to the chicken sandwiches I get at the truck stops (which I’ve grown to love throughout my travels), but it was perfect.
That evening we went back to the Cambridge area for one more night out before we went home. The next morning we woke up early to get to the airport super early for our flight. Of course Kim and I were shopping and ended up at the back of our plane boarding line. Luckily we found two seats across the isle from each other and made it back safely to Italy. We then took a train from Pisa back to Florence and had a few hours of sleep before another big day at Cinque Terre, but that’s a whole other blog post.
What Ever Happened to the Luck of the Irish?April 15, 2013
One would think it’s not that challenging to catch a train in the city you live in…. That is until my roommate Kim and I attempt to. After a jog to a taxi and then said taxi getting stuck in traffic we made it to the station with 3 minutes to spare. We found our train and ran to our designated car. We then found that the doors were closed and pushing the button and asking the attendant did nothing and there went our train, without us. Obviously we were less than thrilled and the Italian train attendant that was laughing at us did not make it any better. Luckily there was a nice train worker who figured out a train that would connect to the train we missed. We got on a train to Bologna and told the attendant on board out plan. By the time we told him the plan he pointed out that the other attendant at the station had told us we would make it to bologna in seven minutes…. Bologna is a little over an hour away, perfect! So the attendant helped us find a train to Milan from Bologna that would still give us a chance to make our flight. So we got to Bologna, bought our tickets, and got on the train to Milan with time to spare. Kim and I boarded the train and went our separate ways because purchasing our tickets last minute meant not sitting together. The attendant designated to check tickets got to my car first and once again a train attendant had to tell me I’m wrong. I was on the freccia bianca train and bought a ticket for the freccia rossa train that gets to Milan an hour quicker. Through all this stress I had held it together, but then came the waterworks. Luckily a nice Italian guy sitting across from me said he’d help me out and looked up the next flight to Dublin since it was obvious I was missing mine. Of course it wasn’t until the next morning, but that was our only option. We finally made it to Milan and went straight to the airport to purchase our tickets and look for a cheap hotel. We come to find out there was a huge furniture expo in Milan and the hotels were completely booked. Our only option was a suite in the closest hotel, and luckily my father being the nice guy he is told us it was on him because let’s be honest we needed a shower and some sleep if we were going to make it without anymore breakdowns. Our flight was at six in the morning so we got up super early and headed straight to the airport. Luckily we had no problems and made it to Dublin after a layover in Copenhagen.
Once we arrived in Dublin we took a taxi to our hostel and met up with our tour group leaders who took us to the walking tour our group was on. My favorite part of the tour was the statue of Thomas Moore, a favorite Irish poet. We had just had a discussion with the taxi driver about my name being Irish and this definitely proved his point. After our walking tour we met up with our friends who had already made it to Dublin and had some fantastic sandwiches at O’neils an authentic irish pub before touring the Guinness factory.
A Flower Stand on the Streets of Dublin and Trinity College
St. Stephen’s Square
Oneill’s and the Guinness Factory
That evening we grabbed some cheap food at a grocery store and then went back to O’neils to see an Irish band. The highlight of my night was when they played The Galway Girl, which the Irish man played for the American woman in PS I Love You. The next day we actually got the chance to visit Galaway with our tour group. We took a bus and stopped at the Cliffs of Moher first. This was quite an experience because of the rain and heavy winds, even though we couldn’t stand the elements for very long it was amazing to see the beautiful cliffs. Our bus then took us to Galaway where we went on a walking tour, ate some delicious fish and chips, and got a little shopping in.
The Cliffs of Moher
Us Battling the Elements and the Window in Galway where the Lynch family Invented the term ‘Lynching’
The River Corrib and the Restaurant we had Fish and Chips at
After shopping we headed back to Dublin and went to the temple bar area. We went to a few pubs and listened to some more live performers before calling it a night. Our friends had an early flight the next morning, but luckily ours didn’t leave until six. We spent the day browsing the stores on O’Conell street before heading back to the hostel to head to the airport extra early.
The Spire and O’Conell Street
We made our flight and prayed to the transportation gods that it would make it in time for us to catch a bus in Milan. Once we landed we took the shuttle to the train station and a taxi to the bus station. When we got to the bus station we saw a deserted station and the ticket office was closed. Once again we were forced to seek help from a passing by train worker who informed us there was no way a bus was coming tonight. We told him about a schedule we saw online and he was kind enough to look it up and sure enough it was the correct station. He had no idea where it would pick us up or which bus it was, but shortly after he left a bus with Firenze flashing on the top rolled up in front of the station. We boarded the bus and they let us purchase the tickets on board. Turns out the luck of the Irish doesn’t work until after you visit Ireland because we made it home safely and the bus we caught made it to Florence two hours earlier than the bus we had planned on taking.
Traveling almost every weekend while abroad is definitely fun, but the problems that arise are terribly stressful. Luckily Ireland was a great place to visit after our terrible traveling woes because the kind English speaking natives were extremely refreshing. Next weekend I’m headed to Munich for Springfest so hopefully my travels go smoothly!
CroatiaApril 9, 2013
Big/Little Date of a LifetimeApril 8, 2013
Upon my arrival home from spring break, my wonderful tri sigma big sister Christie was waiting for me in Florence. She studied abroad last spring in Sorrento, Italy and had visited Florence before, so she was fully prepared. We spent the week adventuring around Florence, and she got the chance to visit all of the places she had yet to go in Florence while I was in class. We also visited some places I had yet to see like the Ferragamo museum and a huge cemetery behind piazzle Michelangelo. The ferragamo museum had a wonderful exhibit on Marilyn Monroe that left us envious for beautiful shoes, clothing, lifestyles, and even moles. The cemetery was a hidden treasure that one of our sorority alumni that had studied in Florence told me about. This was no ordinary cemetery, there were entire structures devoted to the burial sites of families. The entire cemetery was this bizarre mixture of beautiful yet creepy.
We probably spent most of our time in the leather market which was quite an experience. Florence is known for its leather so Christie decided she needed a big girl briefcase looking bag which of course she had very particular requirements for and I needed a new carry on because mine broke over spring break. Needless to say after visiting all of the stands and shops about twenty times the vendors were prepared to practically give us what we wanted for free. I found a beautiful leather carry on for exactly the price I wanted to spend, but of course the bag Christie fell in love with was in the shop of the meanest vendor I have ever met. He would not budge on the price and was not exactly the kindest man ever. Finally she realized this was the bag of her dreams and she purchased the bag for the price he wanted.
After showing Christie around my territory, we took a train to Naples and then to Sorrento so that I could see her domain. The entire train schpeal was quite an adventure because I told Christie I would meet her across town at her hostel because it is close to the train station. Well of course I was running way behind due to an alarm issue, a makeup compact exploding all over my room, and to top it all off the long strap on my new bag broke as I was practically running to meet Christie. I was fifteen minutes late and the train was scheduled to leave in fifteen minutes so Christie began to walk to the station in hopes I would meet her there. Luckily I ran into her just as I was about to turn towards her hostel street and we made it to the train station just in time. Of course we had to run all over because we thought the five minute delay indicated our train was at track five and in reality it was across the station, but eventually we made it.
After our train ride we walked through town to get to our conveniently located hostel that was right next to everything. Within five minutes of being in Sorrento we ran into two of Christie’s old professors and a restaurant full of people that knew Christie. The small town atmosphere difference was obvious within minutes of our arrival. We went to her favorite restaurant that she went to almost every day and the entire crew yelled ‘princepessa!’ (princess) as she walked in the door. Needless to say I felt special everywhere I went with her because not only did she know where to go and what to do, she knew everyone there as well.
I guess we had not had enough trains because that evening we decided to ride the tourist train around that Christie had unsuccessfully begged her friends to ride with her when she was in Sorrento before. I, being a good little, agreed to ride the train with her. We almost were not able to because we were the only ones that wanted to buy tickets, then another couple joined us so we could take the tour. It was quite a bumpy ride, but nice to see all of Sorrento at night from the comfort of the little train.
We spent our time in Sorrento going to Christie’s favorite places and doing touristie things Christie wanted to try as well. We took a boat to Capri, which Christie had done once before, but felt was a must for me to experience. The little island was fun to explore (aka get a little lost) and we found a fabulous lookout. Capri was much more pricey so we spent most of our time window shopping, but even on the cloudy day we went it was beautiful.
That evening we we watched the procession that the town has every year. Christie had warned me it was kind of creepy, but who is really entirely prepared for a parade that goes between creepy music or silence with tons of people wearing white robes marching through carrying lanterns, incense, crosses, and instruments. Needless to say the procession would definitely not be allowed in America due to the historical reference of the attire, but in Sorrento this is the tradition.
The next day we were originally going to climb Mt. Vesuvius with the school Christie went to last year, but after staying up until four to watch the procession waking up early for the bus was not going to happen. We decided to sleep in and then grab some sandwiches to eat in the park before visiting a different view of Mt. Vesuvius from the Roman ruins. The walk to the Roman Ruins was gorgeous because of the views of Sorrento behind us and the beautiful weather, yet terrifying because we were walking on a tiny curvy road with no side walks. After much terror we made it to the ruins and climbed on the rocks to soak up some sun. Christie said that when it got warm they would swim there and there were even some brave souls swimming when we visited.
Our last full day in Sorrento was cold and cloudy so we sought an indoor activity that wasn’t too challenging after our many days of travel and long plane ride Christie had ahead of her. We found out there was an entire spa and gym underneath our hostel and thought a massage would be excellent. Sadly all of the openings were booked, but we decided to look elsewhere. After what seemed like forever searching on the internet and confusing calls to Italian hotels in broken English we found somewhere that had an opening. Of course it was across town and the shuttle was coming to pick us up really soon. So we practically ran to the meeting point and hopped on the shuttle. The hotel looked really nice so we were excited, that is until the strange experience with the massage therapists. First they wouldn’t accept credit cards, which was fine because if we did a couples massage we had just the right amount of money. We weren’t entirely sure if the massage therapists knew that we weren’t actually a couple and just friends but we decided we didn’t care if it got us a discount. The massage itself was very bizarre because it was more like they were just rubbing oil on us for an hour and not really massaging. Then they would randomly leave the room to go and talk to someone and all of the sudden it started to get loud outside of our room right before the end of the massage. We took a picture for our efficiency chair for our big little date, got dressed, and walked out to see a room full of people that were waiting for something in the room next to ours and extremely confused to see us leaving the room together. Needless to say it was quite an interesting experience.
That evening we met up with my roommate from Florence, Kim, who also happened to be in Sorrento visiting for an Amalfi Coast trip with a tour group. What was even weirder is that Kim’s cousin studied abroad in Sorrento with Christie. It’s funny how study abroad teaches you how small yet big the world is. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Buffalito after my new found ability to eat Buffalo Mozzarella (being lactose intolerant in Italy is hard), and as you can see devoured our delicious meal.
That morning Christie’s shuttle for the airport left at four in the morning and my train in Naples left at ten. This was quite confusing because it was also daylight savings time for Italy as well as Easter so the train I had to take to Naples to catch my train was on a different schedule. I eventually figured out one that would allow me to catch my train and made it back to Florence.
It was fun to have Christie here, and with just a little over a month left I’ve decided everyone should just move here so I can have the best of both worlds- be in Italy with all of my favorite people. This would also mean Stephens would have to move to Italy which would be quite challenging. I guess I should just take this month as a chance to explore and live the best of it before returning home to my friends and family.
The Northern LoopMarch 26,2013
After weeks of anticipation, I boarded a bus with three of my roommates last Thursday for a wonderful twelve hour drive to Prague. Sleeping on a bus is not exactly my forte, but I got enough sleep to survive through a walking tour of the city the next morning. The city was amazing and although it was cold, the snow held out until the end of the tour. Luckily Czech food is very warm and comforting and was perfect to have after spending hours walking around. We were all exhausted and spent the rest of the day in the hostel, which was surprisingly fancy for my first hostel experience. The next day we explored and went to the John Lennon wall and had more fantastic Czech food. A girl could really get used to bread dumplings, goulash, and Tredlínk (a delicious hollow cinnamon sugar pastry).
Wenceslas Square and the Astronomical clock
John Lennon Wall
Prague Castle and Tredlník stand
Our next stop was Berlin- the land of grey dreariness…. besides the tour guide and currywurst. The tour in Berlin was fascinating, but had it not been for the friendly guide I probably would not have enjoyed it. The East Side Gallery was my favorite part of the city. It’s a gallery on one of the last remaining sections of the Berlin wall.
Checkpoint Charlie (notice the McDonalds behind the American checkpoint) and Bradenburg Gate
East Side Gallery
Amsterdam was our next stop, and one of my favorites. The beautiful dutch architecture lining the streets and canals make the city a great place to explore. Our walking tour in Amsterdam took us through the New and Old Markets, the Red Light District, and ended at Anne Frank’s House. After the tour we indulged in some excellent dutch cuisine before visiting the Anne Frank Museum. The museum was very well done to make the experience fascinating and touching. We were also going to visit the Van Gogh museum, but instead got lost which was fine because it was great to see the city.
The Anne Frank Museum and a Tulip Vendor
The Streets of Amsterdam
Our last stop was Paris, which was definitely a magical experience. Upon arrival we headed to Montmartre, an adorable area of town with an excellent view. There we spent some time wondering the streets and stopped in a piano bar for some dinner. What is better than being in a beautiful city and being serenaded by gorgeous Parisian men? Afterwards we went to see the infamous Moulin Rouge building and had some fabulous crepes. The next day we went on a walking tour, ate lunch at a street side cafe, and met up with my roommates brother. He took us to all of his favorite spots, our favorite being the magnificent French restaurant. We liked it so much we went back there the next day. He also arranged for us to tour the Notre Dame which was incredibly fascinating and we even got to cut in line because he knew the tour guide.
Basilica of the Sacré Coeur, the Piano Bar, and the view
The Moulin Rouge and a Parisian bridge
Love locks and The Louvre
Macarons and Notre Dame
Paris concluded the Northern Loop, and after all that traveling I was ready to be back in Florence. My wonderful friend Christie Lee was there waiting for me, but that’s a whole other blog post.
Midterms Schmidterms- Bring on SPRING BREAKMarch 12, 2013
T-2 days until I leave for spring break!!! I guess I shouldn’t overlook the fact that also means T-2 midterms until I embark on my trip across the ‘Northern Loop’. Today I turned in my midterm paper to my 9am creative advertising class and luckily had spare time to nap because I was up all night haunted by a picture my lovely father sent me via email right before I went to bed:
A scene from Hostel 2 where a young female student is being tortured while staying in a hostel.
Luckily I have many evenings in hostels ahead of me… After my nap that was uninterrupted by scary pictures from my father, I went to Italian class to review for our midterm. This put me somewhat on edge because although I understood the material my teacher presented, she won’t be giving us the answers for the real deal on Thursday… My next adventure of the day was to go to my Faces, Facts and Places of Italian Fashion Midterm. Being that this was my first midterm exam here, I was very nervous even though I have gone to all of the lectures and completed all of the readings. Luckily my nerves were unnecessary and I definitely studied more than I needed to for a twenty question multiple choice quiz. I suppose that was better than not studying enough.
I now have one paper and one midterm behind me and two more quizzes to go that I hope will be just as simple. If I have learned anything from my time in college it is to never assume that anything will be easy, so I suppose I will study as I pack tomorrow. Technically packing is practically studying when one of my quizzes is in history of fashion. Sadly we haven’t been studying appropriate attire for Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris. Luckily Stephens has taught me well and I am sure I can tackle my Italian and History of Fashion Quiz.
Wish me luck and be prepared for the full spring break story as soon as I return!
La Dolce VitaMarch 9, 2013
My time in Italy has proven that anytime I feel as though I might be upset, some experience comes around that makes it impossible to be anything but delighted. I was very sad to see my mom and aunt leave but the day that they left my 9 am class had a wine tasting…. Yes that is right my food, fashion, and wine- creative advertising of Italian destinations class went to the little wine store next to our school and tasted fine wines before noon, only in Italy. That same class had a field trip that Friday that I knew would be a great time as well. We took a bus to the original Max Mara factory that has been turned into a contemporary art exhibition to display the founder, Achille Maramotti’s collection. Although modern art can sometimes go completely over my head, it was really interesting to see the giant collection and wide variety of pieces.
These were some of my favorites
There was an entire room in the factory filled with shirts hanging that an artist came and set up for the museum
Our next stop was the Ferrari Museum. We had the opportunity to test drive one or be a passenger, but for eighty euros to drive and forty euros to ride I was content with just looking around the museum. The museum was very fascinating and made me wish I knew more about cars.
After we left the Ferrari Museum we drove to a store in Modena that was a little off the beaten path for a balsamic taste test. They took us to the attic where they age their balsamic and told us about the process. Essentially the continue to move the balsamic up the barrels to avoid evaporation and the littlest barrel is the oldest. The taste test taught us that the older the balsamic the sweeter the taste. We tasted two white balsamics, a Fiji apple balsamic, an everyday use balsamic that was aged about four years, the traditional balsamic aged twelve years, and the balsamic that was aged twenty five years.They were amazing to say the least. We also tried their chocolate filled with balsamic, it sounds disgusting but it is wonderful. The tasting was the last stop on our field trip and afterwards we returned home.
I purchased a white balsamic and the Fiji apple balsamic to use here and the chocolates of course
That weekend I stayed in Florence and decided to take advantage of the wonderful weather. I did a lot of shopping and spent way too much money at the leather market. On Sunday my hairdresser Renee, who has been doing my hair my entire life, came to visit for the day with her family. It was nice to see a familiar face and I’m really starting to enjoy showing people around! On Monday I decided to go across town to the Stibbert Museum that I am required to go to for my history of fashion class. Once I made it all the way across town I found out the last tour had been twenty minutes earlier. Luckily there was a beautiful public garden next to the museum that I did some homework in so my hike there wasn’t a waste.
Later in the week I made it back to museum, but sadly it was a rainy day and I couldn’t enjoy the gardens again.
This Thursday I spent some time at FLY taking pictures and these are my favorites so far.
This weekend I am in Florence again relaxing and studying for midterms. I have a long few weeks ahead of me with midterms, followed by spring break, then the wonderful Christie Lee is coming to visit me! So wish me luck on surviving these next few weeks ahead of me!
Ten Years Later….February 28, 2013
So much has happened since my last post that I do not even know where to begin. I have been traveling all around Italy with my mom and aunt and have not had the time or internet to write it all out. I suppose I can start with the first day my lovely visitors got here, good ole February 14th. Most nineteen year old girls would not like to admit that their mother and aunt are their valentines but I was practically screaming it from the rooftops. I had class that morning and practically ran to their hotel as soon as I was done. They did not share my enthusiasm because who really can after spending over a day traveling. So I left them to sleep and went to my first day at FLY to volunteer. I spent a few hours pairing outfits and taking photos and then once again ran back to visit my mom and aunt. They were ready for some Italian cuisine so I took them to one of my favorite restaurants, Del Gatto E La Voppe, and my favorite gelato place, Gelataria de Neri. After a short walk we went our separate ways to prepare for the long day we had ahead of us. The next day I dragged them all around Florence, literally. We saw the Duomo, the Piazza della Republica, my place, Michelangelo, and Santa Croce all in one day. Our Florence adventures were fun, but compared to the adventures we had ahead of us they were nothing.
In front of my apartment and the Piazza della Republica
My Aunt Debbie and I at the Piazza de Michelangelo enjoying the view
That weekend we decided to rent a car, meaning I did and my aunt had the pleasure of driving. When you hear that it is not fun to drive in Italy, just take their word and definitely do not attempt. Within five minutes of having the rental car we were being honked at with arms waving in full force. After leaving Florence it was mostly smooth sailing for our day trip to Siena. Siena was beautiful and like all other Tuscan towns had a large Duomo, city center, theres being Piazza del Campo, and lots of tourist shopping opportunities. We bought what we called “the golden ticket” that was to the Duomo and Mueso dell’Opera Metropolitana del Duomo. They were gorgeous and the Museum had a beautiful lookout that made it totally worth the eight euros.
Aunt Debbie being a trooper and driving wonderfully (probably parking in our special spot we created next to the Sienna Duomo) and Piazza Centrale
The next day we embarked on our journey to Lake Garda. Before leaving the city we faced a minor run in with the law when we drove the wrong way down a one way street leaving town because the GPS told us to. The police officer was less than enthused and of course we knew the proper reaction- Aunt Debbie apologized, I held up the GPS, and my mom giggled nervously in the back seat. This did not stop his repetitive scolding of “Not Possible” from the policeman but luckily his female colleague pointed us in the right direction. After we finally got out of the city we made our way towards Lake Garda and stopped in Modena. This was well worth the drive if just for the wonderful balsamic vinegar we purchased. A local shop insisted we have a try a few of the balsamic vinegars and after the taste test it was pretty obvious the aged ones were worth the money.
If you look closely at the picture below of the Modena Duomo you might see me…
My fabulous mother and I at lunch in Modena
The balsamic vinegar taste test in Modena
We then drove on to Lake Garda and of course it started to rain as soon as we got there. Either way it was gorgeous and we had a nice time picnicking in our hotel room to avoid the rain.
The shopping area was nestled next to the lake and surrounded by cute little sail boats
Below is a picture of my aunt and I in front of lake Garda and in the picture on the left you can see the lighthouse
On the way home from Lake Garda we stopped in Verona. We might not be welcomed back after a slight incident at McDonalds where my Aunt Debbie stole a receipt so I could use the code for the bathroom without buying anything which did not make the grumpy security guard happy. After our lovely McDonalds excursion we found our way toward the Verona Arena and indulged in a little bit of shopping as well as a wonderful lunch in the area around the arena.
Below is the Arena which is in the Piazza Bra (insert Stephens College joke here)
Within the Piazza dei Signori also known as the Piazza Donte there was the Torre dei Lamberte,which is the huge tower, and a cute little market
The ride back to the hotel was smooth sailing… until we faced the terrible feat of returning the car. The experience is truly indescribable. The only way one can somewhat understand what my Aunt went through driving through the streets of Florence and I went through attempting to help her navigate is by looking at the map of our route we took.
Yes we did drive under the Piazza della Republica arch and between the Baptistery and the Duomo…. Eventually we got it back to the rental car garage but it was after a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
The next day I had class and my mom and aunt used their free time to take a cooking class. From what I can tell I think I might have a new father, GiGi, the chef that taught the class…. Wednesdays I don’t have class so we took an early train to Venice. We spent the day traveling around via water taxi and visiting the Rialto, San Marco Square, and about a million glass shops in Moreno. Needless to say this trip to Venice was much more pleasant and dry than my last soggy adventure during Carnivale.
Our next adventure was our trip to Rome on Friday. Our car navigation wasn’t too shabby, but once we parked the car in the garage we couldn’t find our hotel from there. After lots of frustration and asking numerous people that gave us incorrect directions, we got out the handy dandy GPS and found our way there. We then took a little walk to the Colosseum which turned out to be a lot more boisterous than we expected. As we were glancing up at the Colosseum I hear my aunt yell “NO!” at a woman and push her away and then she proceeded to run away. After much confusion my aunt explained that the woman was reaching into my pocket in an attempt to pickpocket me. Joke was on the pickpocket though because had my aunt not stopped her all she would have got was a map, a mitten, and a used kleenex. My aunt was not sure what was in my pocket though so she was a hero and I believe they are casting a bronze statue of her to be put in that exact spot. Our walk was cut short by some lovely rain so we went to dinner and then bed. The next day the rain continued so we took a short walk to the Trevi Fountain and caught a tour bus so we could see all of the major sights. The rain drizzled windows didn’t allow for many pictures, but the bus was an excellent call so that we could see the entire city without getting wet.
The Colosseum and me at the “Wedding Cake” the nickname that was given to the Altare della Patria by American soldiers where the tomb of the unknown soldier resides
I had to take a cliche Trevi Fountain wish shot, but no I did not wish for love
On Saturday we had a very unpleasant, for lack of better words, drive to Sorento. It was pretty much a torrential down pour the entire way, which was excellent once we reached the windy coastal road that evening. Once we got there we were led to our adorable villa by the owners. If anyone ever needs a place to stay in Sorrento I would definitely recommend Dreaming Sorento, the place we stayed. The owners were very sweet and our place had a little kitchenette, one bathroom, a fold out couch, and a loft with a double bed. It was perfect which was good because we had to spend a little time in there because of the bad weather that weekend. After our bad driving experience we went to a local tavern where we had the best meal I have had since coming to Italy. They kept bringing us food and all of it was wonderful!
My aunt and I found out we both share the go to “anything for me” pose at the restaurant
The next day we took it easy and when the weather allowed we took a walk toward Sorrento because our villa was technically in Meta, a town about four miles away from Sorrento. We didn’t make it all the way to Sorrento’s main square but we found a wonderful place to eat lunch where my aunt met her future husband who would not leave us alone. His never ending tales of living in America and his encounter with “Georgie Bush” made the free garlic bread he made us not even worth it.
The day we left it was pouring so we did a quick walk through of Sorrento and left relatively early. As we were driving out of town the sun came out and it made the drive out of town beautiful. The drive back was bittersweet because I never really wanted the car ride to end because that meant the weekend had to end and with that my mom and aunt had to return home.
Piazza Tasso and Aunt Debbie Pumping Gas
I’m going to miss having my wonderful mother and aunt around not only because we ate out every night and explored all around Italy but because I kind of like them… don’t tell them that though
Tuscany- Hills, Wine, and a Billion ChurchesFebruary 11, 2013
After a wonderful week of classes including a field trip to the Pitti Palace Costume Gallery and Boboli Gardens, SAI treated us to a trip across the Tuscan countryside to immerse ourselves in its hidden treasures. We embarked mid day on Friday toward our first stop in Montepuliciano for a wine tasting. We visited the Cantina Gattavecchi where four generations have worked to produce some of Tuscany’s best wine. After trying three of their fine wines and consuming large amounts of saltless bread, salami, and cheese we then took the bus to our resort, Terme di Sorano, to indulge in another meal they provided for us. The next day we were dived into groups for different activities and tours of nearby towns. I was in the group that took tours through Sovanna and Pitigiliano first and then took a hike near our resort. After all of this interesting, yet strenuous activity we enjoyed another wonderful meal and then took a dip in the thermal baths. The next day we woke up early for a bus ride to Orvieto where we were once again divided into groups for walking tours and then given some time to explore and have lunch. SAI truly outdid themselves, I mean what college student dislikes a completely paid for trip with meals included…..
Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens
Sorano and a hand carved Tuscan road
Orvieto’s View and Duomo
This week cannot go by quick enough because I am anxiously anticipating the arrival of my wonderful mother and aunt this Thursday! We plan on exploring Florence on Friday, renting a car and traveling through Tuscany this weekend, taking a train to Venice on Wedensday, renting a car again the next weekend to visit Rome, Pompeii, and the Almalfi Coast…. All of which I planned with just a little help from a local student travel service… not too shabby if I do say so myself. I also planned this before the recent news about the pope so I’m convinced he heard I was visiting Rome and wanted to get out of there… Either way there is no way they are going to stop us from adventuring around Italy, and I am positive there will be plenty of great stories to come!
FLY- Fashion Loves YouFebruary 7, 2013
Do you ever run across those moments when you cannot fathom a more perfect opportunity/ situation? That is my life right now. I just got back from my meeting with my community service project and I could not be more ecstatic! Who gets super pumped about community service you ask? A Fashion Marketing and Management major who just got informed that their community service consists of taking pictures of the beautiful vintage clothing sold in the school store to post on their website and the freedom to completely rearrange the visuals of the store. I cannot think of a better job for me! One other volunteer and myself were chosen for this opportunity within the Florence University of the Arts vintage and consignment boutique named FLY Fashion Loves You. Visions of photo shoots and window displays are dancing in my head along with all of the pieces I want to buy! All you fashionistas out there should give me suggestions as well!!!!!
Michael and the City of WaterFebruary 5, 2013
Being in the middle of Tuscany has its advantages. One being that there are all sorts of fabulous destinations and landmarks so easily accessible. A landmark right on the outskirts of Florence is the Piazza de Michelangelou. My roommate Taylor and I took the journey across the river and up the endless amount of stairs only for it to start raining when we reached the top. Bad weather aside, the views were still breathtaking and I am definitely going to go back when my legs can handle that again. The next day I had a trip planned to Venice and they weren’t kidding when they refered to Venice as the city of water…. not only were there canals everywhere, it poured the entire time. This was a shame because I could see how much potential there was to have an awesome time at Carnivale but the conditions were miserable. We spent the entire time seeking shelter within different restaurants around the city. Ultimately my foul weather weekend resulted in more sickness than fun but here are a few pictures of my adventures.
Gucci, Pucci, Prada OH MY!January 30, 2013
As a fashion student, and as Madison Moore, I have taken some relatively glamorous classes. Then I came to Italy, land of Ferragamo, Versace, and Armani… just to name a few. Two of my classes revolve around said glamour one being People, Places, Facts, and Faces of the Italian Fashion industry and the other Art, Food Fashion, and Wine- Creative advertising of Italian destinations. My Italian Fashion Industry class took a tour around Florence to all of the major designer stores, it was like a dream. Window shopping while getting college credit, check! We will be taking field trips to the Gucci and Ferragamo museums which I am definitely looking forward to. My Creative Advertising class is taking a field trip to the village Max Mara was established in which happens to be by the Ferrari plant where we get to test drive Ferraris….. My life is rough. My other two classes I have had are Italian and painting. Italian seems like it will be relatively easy which is excellent and I’m thinking about getting out of painting because the time commitment is way too much for a class I’m not getting credit for. Eight hour class, plus more studio time, a 150 Euro material fee, and 30 Euro lab fee… No thank you. I would rather spend my time participating in Florence University of the Art’s community service. I applied to volunteer at either our school’s consignment store or their program for developing artists with mental illnesses. No matter what I know that this semester is going to be perfect. Tomorrow I have History of Fashion as well as Italian and then I am done for the week! A girl could really get used to this no school on Mondays or Fridays. This schedule makes traveling a breeze. This weekend I’m headed to Venice for Carnivale. I know it is a huge tourist trap and I will only be there a day but I am still super excited! I let myself be a tourist sometimes though because lets be honest, I’ve been here a week, technically I am. This Friday my roommates and I are taking advantage of what Florence has to offer and we’re going to try and tackle some of the tourist activities we have yet to cover. So, stay tuned for some excellent pictures because I am sure there will be plenty to come!
Perfecto, Aka Perfect for you Americani
I would just like to use this blog post as a chance to say goodbye to everyone at home because there is no way that I am ever leaving Italy. I have been in Florence for four days and I do not think it is possible to love it more. It has been perfect from the start. I arrived here at the same time as my roommate and we were immediately escorted to our apartment. After a beautiful Italian man carried our luggage up to our apartment we were greeted by our other roommates and good news, none of them seem like they will be the next Amanda Knox. Well except for when they try and force me, miss lactose intolerance, to eat large quantities of dairy. As you can see our apartment is wonderful. I sleep in a loft that makes me feel like I live in a treehouse.
We have spent a lot of time exploring the city and words cannot even describe the magnificence and beauty that I see all across Florence. The history is depicted on every street with a beautiful historic landmark always visible. The Duomo is one of the most impressive structures I have seen in my life. It was built in 1296 and I cannot begin to fathom how considering the intricacies and size of the building.
Everything here is so grand, including their way of life. Study Abroad Italy, the provider I used to arrange this semester, exemplified this through their welcome event. We dined in a palace that made us all feel royal. That feeling seems to be a trend because many of the locals treat us that way. Besides the occasional eye roll at the ignorant Americans, the Italians are extremely helpful and welcoming.
I still cannot grasp the fact that I am finally in Italy, yet I feel like I have always been here. If my first four days are a reflection of the rest of my time here, I can honestly say this will be the best experience of my life.
Italy Here I Come …. MaybeJanuary 22, 2013
Today is the day that I have been waiting for! I checked my baggage, which somehow was not overweight, and made it successfully to my gate. The only problem is the plane… Of course my first flight to Newark is delayed two hours, but luckily I have plenty of time during my layover. Once I get to Newark… If I do…. I will board a giant plane that seats 360 people and fly eight hours to Munich. In Munich I have a wonderful five hour layover before I can take my last flight to Florence. So I have a long nineteen hours ahead of me and hopefully I make it one piece. If I do not I am pretty sure my friends and family are betting on how long it will be before I am “taken” so good luck to those involved. Looks like my plane just arrived so maybe I will make it to Italy!
Goodbye America, Ciao Italia
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Today marks the day that I, Madison Moore, am just nine days away from my greatly anticipated journey to Florence, Italy. I embarked on the adventure known as study abroad about a year ago, so one would think that my level of preparation is adequate. My knowledge of the Italian language consists of Ciao and Vino, Hello/ Goodbye and wine. I have about 4 things packed in my two suitcases. I did not find my passport that had been MIA since my move home until yesterday. So maybe I am freaking out a tad bit because of the proximity of my trip, but who would not be? I mean Florence cannot be that different from Olathe, Kansas or Columbia, Missouri, the only two places I have ever lived. (Said no one ever). The new scenery is the least of my worries; no one can complain about living in Tuscany, especially with my parents (hi mom and dad!), the ones who allowed this trip to happen, reading this…. What are quite frightening are my expectations. My months of planning and hard work have been fueled by the image of an adventure filled learning experience that will impact me for the rest of my life. Now that I am nearing my trip I worry about incorrect choices I have or will make. This is an experience I will never forget, so how do I choose what will produce the largest positive impact. Will I regret not taking this sweater? Should I have signed up for that weekend trip? Is my course work optimized for my success? Did I do everything I needed to do? WHAT DO I NEED TO DO? These decisions are going to be the death of me because they have complete control over the fate of my trip, which slowly and surely feels like it is slipping out of my hands. I guess time will tell.