(Italy: Part Two)
I’m sorry that I did not update more than once from Italy! I was so busy with all my adventures that I could not find the time. So, thank you for your patience, and here it is… the rest of the account of my study abroad experience in Italy!
January 8th – Uffizi Gallery
I woke up early and went to the Uffizi Gallery, home of The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, which was so cool to see in person.
I spent three hours in the Uffizi and only got through one floor (the top floor). I hoped to go back to the gallery to see the bottom floor, but unfortunately never made it back. I guess I have to go back to Florence now! 😀
I cooked dinner in the apartment (chicken and spaghetti) and then Holly and I went back to La Strega Nocciola to get gelato. Told you I’d be back.
January 9th – First Gusta Pizza Experience
I slept in, then made myself breakfast/lunch in the apartment and went to class, so my morning was eventful. In class, we watched documentaries about the mafia in New York and Chicago. The documentaries were interesting, but the most exciting part of the day by far was dinner. Holly, Liz, Patricia, Tim (another Scranton student, our honorary apartment-mate), Dave and Jake (students in the LdM program), and I went to Gusta Pizza for dinner. I had heard about this restaurant from SO many different people, and I was so excited to try it. Well… it certainly did not disappoint. I went back twice, but easily could have gone back every day. If you go to Florence – YOU MUST GO TO GUSTA PIZZA!
January 10 – Cinque Terre!!!
Holly and I woke up early because we had a 7:08 train… and it was so worth it. It took us a couple trains and a bus to arrive, but we made it to the stunning villages known as Cinque Terre (“Five Lands”). Because it was off-season, two of the four hiking trails were closed. That was of no import, as it took us all day to hike just the two that were open. I cannot do this beautiful place any justice with my words, nor with my photos, because even my best pictures do not compare to the views I saw standing on the trails of Cinque Terre. Nonetheless, I will share a picture, of course! This, to me, is the standout highlight of the trip (pretty much everything was a highlight, I had such an amazing time). It was my favorite place I visited, though I say the same thing about Venice – but for different reasons.
Anyway – here is a view of Vernazza, one of the five lands of Cinque Terre, from the hiking trail.
January 11 – San Gimignano
Holly, Liz, Patricia, Tim, and Dave went to a soccer game, which I would have liked to do… maybe… if I liked sports. But, I don’t. Thus… I went to San Gimignano!
Getting there was a bit of a fiasco. I misunderstood the bus timetables, resulting in a three hour layover in a bus station. Fun!!! Once I finally got to San Gimignano, I explored the beautiful medieval town. It was very different from the other places I had visited, and equally as beautiful. I climbed a tower to see a panoramic view of the town, and ended up in a fit of laughter because of the extreme wind physically moving my body and causing my hair to fly everywhere. So, the pictures of me on the tower aren’t the best – well, I guess that depends on one’s sense of humor – but the pictures I took from the tower are just fine. 😆
Oh, and, guess where we went again? La Strega Nocciola. 3 times in 4 days. Nice. We found out they were closing for winter holiday after that night. Blessing or a curse???
January 12 – Life-Changing Pizza
I did not go sight-seeing, but this day is still noteworthy because I had another delicious pizza. And yes, I do mean the entire pizza. It had eggplant and salami on it, and the waiter brought chili oil… which I had never heard of, but it soon became my new best friend.
January 13 – Santa Maria Novella, Basilica di San Lorenzo, Midterm, Il Teatro, First Trip to Venchi
To make up for the uneventful post-travel rest day that was January 12, I went to two sites before class! First, I went to Santa Maria Novella Church (Chiesa di Santa Maria Novella), which was absolutely beautiful. Here’s a picture:
Then, I went to the Basilica di San Lorenzo, where I saw Patricia – she was there with her class! I loved the Basilica di San Lorenzo so much. My admission came with a free audioguide, and I listened to every description. I am so glad I utilized this tool, because I learned so much and it was actually very interesting. My two favorite explanations were that of a painting of Joseph and Jesus and the mural of a night sky painted in a dome within a chapel in the Basilica.
This was also the day of the midterm! It was fair; we had learned all the information. Some information I knew better than other, but all in all it was good.
For dinner, Liz, Patricia, Holly, Dave, Jake, and I went to Il Teatro, where I got unbelievably delicious tortellini (or, as we call it in my house, Tori-tellini). This was definitely one of my favorite meals! After dinner, we went to Venchi, which is a gourmet chocolate shop that accounted for about 50% of my expenditure abroad. I got crepes with gelato. Oh my gosh.
January 14 – Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Vecchio, Acqua al 2
I went to Palazzo Pitti in the morning, and spent about 3 hours there. I loved it! I went through a costume gallery filled with stunning garments and jewelry, a porcelain museum, and a treasures museum. I also got to walk through the Boboli gardens and Bardini gardens. They were beautiful, even in the middle of winter. I cannot even imagine how breathtaking they must be in spring, when the flowers are in full bloom.
After class, Holly and I went to Palazzo Vecchio. My favorite room was the one with maps all over the walls and a huge globe in the center of the room. I really liked Palazzo Vecchio!
We went to dinner with Liz, Patricia, Tim, Jake, and Dave (#squad) at Acqua al 2. They are famous for their blueberry steak and their sampling platters. I got a pasta sampler, which included five different kinds of pasta. The five pastas were (1) rigatoni with eggplant and mozzarella, (2) farfalle with pumpkin, (3) fusilli with spinach, (4) some kind of risotto, (5) pasta (not sure what kind of noodle) with gorgonzola. YUM! My sister recommended this restaurant to me, so I was especially excited that we got to go! And… guess where we went to dessert, again… Venchi!
January 15 – Bargello Museum, Museo Casa di Dante, Opera della Santa Croce, and… Family Dinner!!! 😀
I woke up early in the morning and went to the Bargello Museum, which housed a few sculptures by Michelangelo! Unfortunately, the second floor of the museum was closed, so it only took me about an hour to go through. But, that gave me more time for the next two sites…
After the Bargello Museum, I went to Museo Casa di Dante (Dante Alighieri’s house – a museum dedicated to Dante). It was so cool! Visiting the museum really made me want to read The Divine Comedy. One day!
Then, I went to Opera della Santa Croce. My admission included a big church as well as smaller galleries and museums. The church was my favorite part, it was so beautiful! Here’s a picture I took inside:
After class ended, I practically sprinted back to the apartment because I was so excited! I made dinner for the family!! (We’re family. No, I do not consent to a heredity test, we’re family. – Liz, Patricia, Holly, Tim, Dave) I made garlic bread; caprese salad; sauteed vegetables, which I combined with pomodoro sauce; and rigatoni. Here is the smorgasbord:
And… we went to Venchi after dinner. Three days in a row, but who’s counting?
January 16 – Pisa, Field Trip, To Venice!
Holly and I went to Pisa in the morning. We went to the Cattedrale di Pisa (Pisa Cathedral) and took the obligatory pictures. Here’s mine:
The first half of class we had lecture, but for the second half we went on a “field trip” – 10 minutes walking – to Via de’ Georgofili, the site of a bomb explosion by the mafia which killed a family and a student. There is a small memorial there for the innocent lives lost; this memorial includes an olive tree to symbolize peace.
After class, Holly and I got our bags and headed for the train station… it was our last weekend in Italy, and we were going to Venice!
January 17 – Venice Day 1: St. Mark’s Square, Rialto Bridge, Basilica dei Frari
We had a busy day! We woke up pretty early and walked for about 35 minutes to St. Mark’s Square. First, we went into the Basilica of St. Mark and the museum. Both were beautiful! Unfortunately, the tower was closed for renovations, so we did not get to climb that.
After the basilica and museum, we went to the Doge Palace in St. Mark’s Square. It was so cool; my favorite part was the old prison! There was an actual prison within the palace. I also loved one room we went to which had a lot of maps, as well as two big globes. One globe was the Earth, the other the heavens.
We went to the Rialto bridge and took countless pictures from both sides of the bridge… what a sight to see. So stunning.
Finally, we went to the Basilica dei Frari, which was beautiful, of course. (As if a basilica could be anything but beautiful. Can you imagine? “We went to the Basilica dei Frari… it was kind of ugly.” Never!)
We crashed at our hotel after walking all day and feeling like our feet would fall off!
January 18 – Venice Day 2: Murano and Burano
We spent our Sunday in Venice on two of its famous islands, Murano and Burano. Murano is known as the glass island. We saw a glass blowing demonstration, which I absolutely loved. I also went a little crazy with the gift-buying at Murano. Moving on… 😳 Burano is known as the island of color and the island of lace. Just like Murano is known for its beautiful glass, Burano is known for its beautiful lace. And the color reputation? Well…
I wish I could have spent more time on these islands and in Venice. I really loved Venice and had such a great weekend here!
January 19 – Pistoia, Farewell Dinner, Secret Bakery
Holly and I took one final day trip… to Pistoia, the chocolate valley. We only ended up finding one chocolatier shop, but it was DANG GOOD. Definitely the best chocolate of my life! We had such a fun time on this trip, from almost missing our morning train to actually missing our afternoon train (don’t worry, we caught the next one), and searching endlessly for chocolate shops.
Lorenzo de Medici hosted a farewell dinner for all the students in the program… it was delicious, and a lot of fun!
That night, we went to the SECRET BAKERY! It’s not really a secret, everyone knows about it. ANYWAY… it’s “open” from 12 AM – 3 AM and each pastry costs one euro. I got a nutella croissant… 😛
January 20 – Accademia and Il Gatto e La Volpe
In the morning, I went to the Accademia and saw the incredible David statue. People talk so much about it, but I really had no idea what was coming. It is truly a magnificent piece of art. The rest of the Accademia was great, too, but… the David. It’s the David, after all. Can’t beat that.
For dinner, the family went to Il Gatto e La Volpe, a delicious restaurant with a family-style option, which we opted for. They brought out two types of bruschetta and a meat/vegetable/cheese platter for appetizers. Then, they brought four pastas for the meal (farfalle, gnocchi, penne, risotto). The gnocchi was my favorite! Everything was delicious. We spent the entire meal reflecting on the trip and our favorite parts or favorite things (for example, “List your top 5 meals”, “Favorite church”, etc). My favorite part of the whole trip was unequivocally the people I met, the same fantastic people I got to spend this meal and several others with. That’s not to say Italy itself wasn’t amazing – it was. My statement is nothing negative about Italy… I fell in love with the place. It’s just proof of how outstanding my Italy family is. I’m not crying, stop looking at me.
January 21 – Piazzale Michelangelo, San Miniato, Florence Fish Kiss, Final Family Dinner
I went to Piazzale Michelangelo in the morning and was blown away by the incredible view. Time stood still… I could have been staring for 5 minutes or for an hour, I really cannot tell you. Then, I went to San Miniato, and again back to Piazzale Michelangelo. I sat on the steps at Piazzale Michelangelo and wrote in my journal about the trip. It was so peaceful!
After class (presentation day!), Holly and I had a very unique experience… we went to Florence Fish Kiss!! We got “fish pedicures” – where special freshwater fish suck the dead skin off your feet. It sounds so gross… but it was awesome! I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Our final full-family dinner was at La Giostra, a beautiful and pretty fancy restaurant with delicious food. I ordered the pear ravioli, which was delicious! It was a perfect last dinner with everyone… Tim was leaving the next day, Thursday! The rest of us were leaving Friday. And what better way to celebrate our last night all together than to go to Venchi? So we did.
January 22 – Last Full Day 😥 – Medici Chapel, Mama Gina
In the morning, I went to Piazzale Michelangelo again! Holly and I wanted to see the sunrise, but it was cloudy 🙁 so we didn’t see anything. Then, I went to the Medici Chapel which I really loved. The colors of the interior were delightful (reds and blues – all marble) and different than the rest of the architecture I had seen during my trip.
In class we had our final exam, which was bittersweet. I really loved the class but ESPECIALLY the adorable professor, and I knew I would miss him! (2.5 weeks later, I can confirm — I do)
We celebrated the completion of our courses with some friends at the margarita bar (I’m legal in Italy!!), where I got a peach daquiri, yum! Then we went to dinner at Mama Gina, which was so delicious. I got spinach and ricotta gnocchi and it was marvelous. Seriously. Definitely a worthy last dinner in Italy!
January 23 – Flight Home 😥
Holly and I woke up at an ungodly hour – I believe we left the apartment at 5:15? It was too early for me to remember. Anyway, we took our trains, somber as ever, to Roma Termini, then the airport, then a shuttle to our gate, and finally got on the plane. 🙁 Ten and a half hours after taking off, we landed in Philadelphia. I was so happy to see my mom at the gate, waving and smiling and running towards me, but I already missed Italy.
I will be back one day, hopefully soon! I’m so blessed to have had this opportunity. I strongly encourage ANYONE who has remotely considered this trip to go on it!! Scranton makes it so easy to travel and experience other cultures. I’m so glad I went on this trip and I can say for sure it was the best three and a half weeks of my life. So, I’m begging you… Go!! (and take me with you).
One more picture… Ponte Vecchio at night.