Venice for Carnival!!

Ciao followers!
Sorry it’s been so long since I have written you all. It has been a while since I have done something worth writing about…but today I’m so excited to tell you about my trip to Venice for Carnival weekend!

After a very long week ofย  sleepless nights studying for midterms, 11 of us set out North on a 4 hour train ride to Venice last Friday. Unfortunately, we bought our tickets too late and they only had “standing seats available”…which means you stand in the isles OR you sit in a fold out chair and get up every 2 or 3 minutes to let people pass by. Needless to say, it was going to be a long train ride! Some of us (who will remain nameless) decided to drink to pass time. (Don’t worry mom I didn’t partake in the drunkenness.) HOWEVER, those who did seriously regret doing so for reasons you will soon find out.

In our first hour we heard a group of people speaking english (this is very rare) so my friend Brooke and I decided we were going to go introduce ourselves. As it turns out, there were 6 students from California studying in Rome this semester. We talked a little about studying abroad and living in a new country, and then we exchanged numbers on Brooke’s phone and made plans to meet up in Venice.

When we arrived in Venice, we got off the train, I gathered everyone up, and we headed to a nearby coffee shop to relax and reenergize for the walk to our apartment. When we sat down one of those who remain nameless remembered that he forgot his ipod and $90 headphones on the train….guess it serves him right for drinking and riding on a train! haha anyways, Brooke then realized that she left her phone on the train too(which had the numbers to the Cali friends we just made). So we didn’t exactly start off on a great foot in Venice.

Now if you are planning on coming to Venice you should know that 1)it’s beautiful and unbelievably romantic. 2) the nightlife isn’t exactly “happening” and 3) you should pack light and don’t bring rolling luggage because bridges are everywhere and they have stairs on every one of them which makes rolling luggage pretty annoying.

So we finally got to our apartment that we rented for the weekend…yes ALL 11 of us we sharing an apartment for 4 people. I’ll get to sleeping arrangements later. So we we’re in Venice for Carnival which is basically Mardi gras in Europe….but much bigger! People go ALL OUT for their costumes. All the girls on our trip decided we were going to dress up as kittens, so we wore all black and bought cat ears and painted noses and whiskers on our faces and headed to San margaritone square. We had a few drinks and met a group of girls from Pennsilvania. Around 1 or 2 I decided to call it quits and head back to the apartment. Luckily, there were only a few of us that we back so early, so 3 of us girls slept in one of the beds and went to sleep.

The next morning, I looked to my right and saw my friend, Melissa sleeping on the floor with a towel(since all the blankets were being used) and our friend Michael quickly said “Melissa do you want to use my curtain? it’s actually quite warm!” Apparently he found a curtain on the floor and we all thought this was hilarious!

That day we got up, got ready, and headed to the market to shop for Carnival masks! I ended up finding the perfect mask, and we decided we wanted to wear them and go on a gondola ride! I mean we ARE in Venice so it was worth the 15euro a person! When we got back to the apartment we got ready for dinner and found a small restaurant on the water. I orded a four cheese pizza and after the first bite I realized that I made a wrong decision. The cheese was way too strong for my liking…and it wasn’t settling very well. Unfortunately, I had to stay in that night because I was feeling sick to my stomach.

The next day we cleaned the apartment and headed to the train station. It was a beautiful weekend and we met alot of great new friends. Carnival in Venice is like no other place on earth and I am so excited I got to experience it!

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To Siena and back…13 hours later!

Ciao world!

This Saturday was yet another art history weekend! Destination: Siena. We woke up at 6am to shower, pack, and make lunch/breakfast! This time we were going to come prepared. But honestly nothing prepared me for what felt like a 30 hour day!

We met in the center of Guido Monoco which luckily is right out front of my apartment ๐Ÿ™‚ our art history professor got a private bus for us to take to 3 cities around Siena. Now it is important to know that this week I have been sick with some kind of infection. So on this early Saturday morning I wasn’t exactly looking forward to walking around all day with a cough and a soar throat ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

We took an hour 1/2 bus ride to Siena and I think all of us were knocked out the entire way. When we arrived in Siena, it was a little dreary looking..there weren’t alot of people out and it looked like it was going to rain. Our professor kindly told us that rain or shine we were going to spend the whole day here so we put on a smile and headed to the Basilica Cateriniana.

The Basilica was dedicated to St. Catherine who worked to bring the Papacy back to Rome from its displacement in France, and to establish peace among the Italian city-states. The Basilica has her head and her thumb on display inside. Kind of creepy when you first see it but in a way it is a reminder of the movement for the people of Siena.

Our Professor took us around to several different places in Siena including the main Piaza and the Duomo. The Duomo was interesting to learn about because we learned that Florence found out that Siena was building a Duomo that was one of the largest at that time, so Florence decided to make theirs bigger and build on, making theirs the largest Cathedral at in the 1300s.

One of the biggest things that I have learned here in Italy is that they are heavily divided by states. If you have lived in Milan your whole life, then it’s you against Rome and Florence and everyone else.

After a few hours of walking around, we got a lunch break and Brooke and I were STARVING! So we found a cute little whole in the wall restaurant right outside of the Piaza. I ordered lasagna for the first time since I’ve been in italy and let me tell you they sure do know what they are doing! It was oven baked and absolutely delicious.

When our break was over we headed back to the bus and onto our next destination: San Gimignano. Aka “the town of terror”. The Black plague was in 1348 and this city was one of the only cities that didn’t change after the plague was over. What I mean by that is that most cities changed their art after the plague in Italy. The art was more about God as a man and more human-like, rather than the constant reminder that he is “unreachable” and “unaproachable”. San Gimignano, however, stayed dark, and kept their art that way as a constant reminder of your sins.

Inside the Cathedral of San Gimignano, the paintings are violent. They show the scene of the crusifiction with blood, and anger. On the ceiling there are paintings of hell and the seven deadly sins. MUCH different than the Basilicas in Florence and Rome.

Hoping that our Professor would change his mind and take us all home, we headed back to the bus and by now it was 5:30pm. But no, we headed to our last destination just to find a small town of less than 1,000….meaning that when we arrived at 6pm everything was closed! SO we headed back to the bus for the last time and headed back home!

Overall, Siena was beautiful. I got some great pictures and learned a really cool story. Our italian teacher, Guilia had joined us and gave us a side lesson. She said that everwhere you look while we are here to try to notice all the constant reminders of religion in their culture. For example, the three things that are most important in Italy are 1)art, 2)worship, and 3)culture. When you walk down the streets in every city there are sculptures of madonna everywhere. So, while I’m here, I’m going to pay close attention to the art around me and try to learn something from those three things.

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Florence!

Salve tutti! (Hi everyone)…I figured I could give you all a little bit of italian in each of these ๐Ÿ™‚

This last weekend we packed our bags and caught a 7:40am train from Arezzo to Florence for our Art History class. Now before I begin this story you must imagine my Professor: he is a runner, he is very serious about art history, and he isn’t interested in becoming your friend, so needless to say he hasn’t exactly pumped us up for coming on this trip with him.

When we arrived in Florence we checked our baggage at the train station drop off so we wouldn’t have to lug everything around…(most of us were planning on staying through Sunday). Once we we light handed, our Profesor gave us 15 minutes to “fuel up” because he told us we we’re breaking for lunch or snacks and we wouldn’t be done until 3:30! So we each got a sandwhich and a water and ate FAST!

Once we all met back up he told us to let him know if we needed to call a cab because he wasn’t going to slow down…i know right…he is getting really inspirational at this point. So we start our journey through Florence around 9am!

So my professor might be a little serious for me, but he sure knows his stuff! We went to the Duomo, the baptistry, the Arno River, and San Miniato al Monte. So here is a little break down of each:

THE DUOMO: The duomo was the largest cathedral in all the world until 1636, today it is the 4th or 5th largest! There are 8 sides of the dome representing the 8th day, beyond eternal existance. Inside the Duomo there are paintings, sculptures, etc. representing the creations of man, or “City of Man”, in the middle it is the “Realm of Faith” representing those who walk in faith, and in the back is the “Realm of God” which represents god and those who join him in the heavens.

THE BAPTISTRY OF SAN GIOVANNI: One of the oldest astronomical places in the city of Florence. The open space between the Duomo and the baptistry is known as “paradiso”. Paradiso is a graveyard, when people were baptised in the baptistry they would then walk across the Paradiso representing the sacred way to the “holy life” in the cathedral. When you walk into the Baptistry and look up there is another 8 sided dome painted with pictures of the stories of Christ.

I can’t decide if Florence or Rome is my favorite place now. They are both beautiful in their own way! But the stories in the baptistry are breathtaking…it’s like putting the bible into a picture book.

After a long day of art, Brooke and I were looking forward to taking a shower and a nap in our hotel. However, the girls that we were staying with forgot to look up the directions before we got to Florence, so we walked an hour and a half looking for our hotel. It ended up being in a very sketchy part of town. We went up to our room and what do you know! NO SHOWER! We talked to the manager to try to get our money back but he said no. So we booked another hotel where another OU group was staying that was close to the train and MUCH safer. So we finally got settled in there and took a very long shower and nap!

On Saturday we walked around the markets in the streets. They were alot like New York where you can bargain for prices and get some really good stuff for cheap! Brooke and I each got some bracelets and a scarf, and I found a really cute leather purse for only 10Euro. After shopping we found an American bar and finally had a hamburger and fries..man did those taste AMAZING!

Sunday we had to head back to Arezzo pretty early so we could catch up on our homework for Monday, but overall Florence was a success and I look forward to going back in a few weeks ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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Getting settled: the REAL life in tuscany!

Buongiorno amici!

So I have been moved into my place for a little over a week now! Moving here for more than 90 days means signing tons of paperwork, waiting in lines at the post office, and having an interview with the italian police! Who would have thought?

On our first weekend in Arezzo, the entire group (26 students) met up at Mr. Blooms, a local bar that previous students told us about. Brooke and I enjoyed the free drinks and good company, and yes mom I was safe and smart! haha and the good thing about going with your best guy friend to another country is that he will wait for you to walk you home even when he wants to leave! Even though Arezzo FEELS safe, I never want to take the chance of venturing off in the wee hours of the night.

The second night out we all met up again, only this night wasn’t as fun :(. There were some italian boys who were under the impression that some of the OU girls were into them….but they quickly got the hint we are strictly here to have fun, study, and focus on US!

My roommates and I walked back and enjoyed the rest of the night in our warm beds gossiping and watching american shows(a nice little treat seeing as there are no TVs at our place or anyone’s that we know for that matter).

On Sunday Brooke and I woke up, got ready, and headed to the market. However, we hadn’t realized that Sunday’s are literally closed. Everywhere. SOO we made leftovers of anything we could find at the house..which consisted of pasta, pasta, cheerios, and pasta! Lesson of the day: stock up on groceries on SATURDAY!

Today was my first day of school…1 class(italian) at 9am! I learned the hard way with french and spanish class that if you aren’t interactive…you get lost REALLY fast! So I decided to sit in the front and participate for once ๐Ÿ™‚ She asked me if I could immitate italians so I just belted out “CIAO” and “PREGO”!! Everyone started busting out laughing so I guess I’m also the class clown.

We have been making pasta almost everyday SO today we decided to get some fruits and veggies and juices….imagine that…craving the good-for-you foods! So hopefully when I come back to the states I can be a great italian chef ๐Ÿ™‚ Ciao for now!

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Finally moved in!

Ciao everyone!

I am FINALLY moved into my beautiful apartment in Arezzo! It is small but so so cute ๐Ÿ™‚ When we arrived at the train station in Arezzo, we walked to our apartment which is about 5 minutes away! The good thing about Italy is that all apartments are locked to get into the main lobby and you have to buzz someone to get in(very safe), however, no one in our apartment building would let us in! SO we finally met up with our advisor to let us in. Our place is on the 4th floor(the main floor is ground so we are 5 floors up…80 stairs…8 flights….ya a big workout!)

When we got all 6 of our suitcases up the stairs we had to learn how to open doors in italy. Yes it might look easy but there are about 6 dead locks and 3 keys to 1 door! We walked in and were immediately greeted by our 3rd roommate, Kate! Kate has firey red hair and a big smile. She showed us the ropes and here’s what we had to get used to:

1) opening the doors and figuring out which key does what

2) our water is a new kind of filter that only keeps a certain amount hot at a time. Therefore this morning(on our first day of orientation) I took a military shower: rinse, turn off the water, shampoo, turn on water, rinse, turn off water, condition, turn on water, rinse, turn off water, and soap, turn on water, rinse and DONE! Seems like I would save alot but Brooke had no hot water by the time she was ready. We’re going to have to work on our shower times ๐Ÿ™‚

3)hang drying our clothes….however its been raining the past 2 days and its supposed to rain the rest of the week. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

4) blow drying our hair. we brought converters, however the past week our hotels have provided us with hair dryers. So this morning when I went to dry my hair the dryer made a weird noise, then smelled burnt, and then didn’t work. So I guess we’re going to have to settle for an italian dryer!

5) speaking italian. Arezzo is a rich town, and not many people know english(unlike Rome and Sorrento the past week where everyone was willing to help us and they could understand everything we were saying). HERE we couldn’t even order meat and cheese at the grocery store without having someone from our OU program speak for us.

So we will have to get used to life here and the whole “saving energy” concept. But today we had orientation, where the advisors told us about the rules and how different the italian law is. Basically we just can’t get in trouble with the law. If we do, they said they could lock us up downtown for 3 days without talking to anyone. So we have to be smart while we’re here!

I am slowly but surely getting to know the streets and catch on to basic italian terms. So I’m hoping by the end of the semester I will be fluent ๐Ÿ™‚

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Day 5-6

Today we went to the island of Capri ๐Ÿ™‚

After sleeping in…a little too much…we missed out ferry at noon and had to catch a ferry to Capri around 2pm. We found this cute little restaurant right off the dock that was family owned. I ordered a pizza and I can honestly say it was the best meal I have had so far!

The boys wanted to go hiking in the hills and Brooke and I quickly shot that idea down. We heard that the caves are the thing to see in Capri, so we rented a boat from “Stephano” and his puppy “Miley”. He said his family has been in Capri for over 700 years!

The island is 8 miles around, so the boat ride was only an hour and a half all the way around. The caves each had names like “candlestick” and “the three sisters” and “the lovers beach” that had just enough room for 2 people. Each one was unique in its own way and the water was crystal clear blue all the way to the bottom. Though it was chilly, it was well worth the 25euro to see the entire island!

Tomorrow we are headed back to Rome for the day, and then we will head to Arezzo on Wednesday morning! I can’t wait to not live out of a suit case ๐Ÿ™‚ Wish us luck! Bacetti!!

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Day 4

SORRENTO! This morning we woke up early, checked out, and headed straight for the train station. The train ride was about 3 hours from Rome to Naples and then we took a smaller train ride to Sorrento! Now that I can compare different cities within Italy I would say Rome is the New York of Italy, and Sorrento is the small town, beachy scene…more like a vacation spot to me!

When we arrived, we met a very nice couple in the exchange center. They told us about a 4 star, cheap hotel that was right by the water! As we walked to our hotel you could see the coast line and the island of capri in the distance. The people here are sooo nice and helpful…a big change from Rome to say the least! We haven’t had any problems with language barriers our entire trip thus far. Everyone is willing to help us and speaks very good english!

Because it isn’t tourist season, many of the restaurants and hotels aren’t opened. We found a little restaurant called “In the Garden” that served fresh seafood and cheeses. It was my favorite meal so far ๐Ÿ™‚

Sorrento is definetely a nice change from Rome, we can stroll down the streets and not have to worry about guarding our purses or walking closely together. If you are looking for a nice romantic getaway…this is your place!

Tomorrow we are going to take a fairy to Capri so many pretty pictures to come! Ciao for now ๐Ÿ™‚

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Day 3

Ciao everyone!

Today my roommates and I went to the Roman Colosseum! When we first got off the train and came to the entrance there were men dressed in roman gladiators costumes. They took pictures with us and were very nice….as we walked away they tried to get us to pay and unfortunately the boys fell for it! We learned our lesson quick!

When you first enter the colosseum the lights are beaming into the dome from every angle. We got there at just the right time of day. At the time of its construction, the Colosseum had the capacity of seating around 50,000 spectators. We learned that the prisoners of war fought to their death…if they were moving on the ground they would beg for mercy and it was up to the emporer to decide if he lived or died.

After the colosseum, we went to the Pantheon, the first roman cathedral! The streets around the Pantheon are exactly what you would picture Rome to be like… small side streets and water fountains in every direction.

At sunset we went to the Spanish steps. There were men everywhere offering flowers to us and right as we walked away they asked the boys to pay…poor boys…but they said no and we gave the flowers back every time! The steps were beautiful at sunset.

Tonight is our last night in Roma, and tomorrow we’re off to Sorento! It is weird how fast you get to know the town and how to get around… It almost feels like home ๐Ÿ™‚

CIAO BELLA!!!

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Day 1-2

DAY 1

After a very long day of flying, we FINALLY landed in Roma around 5:00pm. We took a shuttle to our hotel and quickly dropped off our luggage to get our first Italian meal! We ate pizza and drank red wine. Surprisingly everyone was willing to speak english and help us with our italian.

After dinner we went sight seeing and found a small pub called “Yellow Bar”. We met some other students studying in Italy from University if Missouri, so they let us in on some secrets of where to sight see and eat, etc.

DAY 2

Today we went to Vatican City! The train station is a 5 minute walk from our hotel. As I walk the streets the italians call me “barbie” because of my blonde hair…its amazing how fast you can tune people out! The older women don’t care for Brooke and I, I guess american girls don’t have the best reputation. On the other hand, the restaurant owners are continuously nice and VERY helpful!

Once we arrived in Vatican City, I was absolutely blown away. Every wall, ceiling and floor had decadent artwork. Words can’t even describe the feeling when you first walk in…I guess the closest thing would be if god lived on earth, this would be his palace!

We went down into the tombs and the gardens and then into the sistine chapel. There were swiss guards at every corner. We met people from all over the world, Russia, China, France, India, and 2 from South Carolina!

We made it back to our hotel and our feet are absolutely killing us! Our plan was to visit the Bernini fountain, but I think we are going to call it a night and rent an italian movie! I am missing my family and friends back home so much ๐Ÿ™‚ please keep in touch over the next months. Sunday is my day for Skyping and I get texts free but I can’t respond. So for now….CIAO!

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My first blog

I leave Tuesday, January 11 out of DFW on an 8 hour flight
to London. From London, my friend and roommate, Brooke will be
flying to Rome and begin our adventure at the “Groovy” Hotel Romae.
Wish me luck!

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