And Here Our Journey Begins…
Thursday May 12, 2011
Day 1: I have had many firsts already. First time leaving the U.S., first time seeing the ocean, first time in another country, first time eating pasta in Italy, first time eating gelato. It has already been an eventful trip, and it just started.
Beginning with good byes to friends and then our family at the Lincoln airport, Rachel and I boarded our plane for Chicago, not without meeting people from our own towns. I experienced airport security and thankfully made it through without too much trouble. I also received the great opportunity to eat airplane food!
Next, we flew to Germany where for the first time in my life, I was in a place where English was not the first language. I was very surprised however, how many people were able to speak at least a little English. When we(naive as we were), asked directions to exit the airport in Rome, the guy at the information stand simply said “Follow the blue line.” Awesome, we thought until we took ten steps and the blue line suddenly disappeared. However, even our cab driver once we got to Italy was kind enough to do his best to talk to us in our language.
Once we FINALLY arrived at our hotel in Rome, we checked in to find many interesting things. Our first trouble began early when, after being in our room for only a few minutes our lights shut off. It took us awhile, but we eventually figured out that we must leave the key card in a slot if we want them to stay on. Next, we entered the bathroom. Here, we discovered many interesting details. First, was the bidet, along with the different buttons for how strong of a flush you need. Soon, when we went to shower, we noticed that the shower curtain/door only goes halfway across, leaving water to spray everywhere!
Finally, we were situated and had pretty much everything figured out. We then started to journey on our own around the city. After only a few minutes of walking we found our first Roman church. It was an unheard of basilica, but still the most beautiful church I had ever seen! It has more alters than I could count and sculptures larger than I have ever seen. As we made our way back to the President hotel to meet the group for supper, we grudgingly passed many snack and gelato shops that looked o so tasty! When we joined the group, we began our walk. After about an hour, we discovered our destination was closed, so we found another little restaurant and I had my first Italian pasta! It was very good. The portions were much smaller than they would have been back home though.
O, did I mention on our walk, we passed the Ancient Colosseum. We were amazed as others passed by nonchalantly. All the buildings here are just like the movies, with flowers hanging out of the windows and each building a different color. We came back to finally relax and watch the only channel is in English, MTV. Of course Jersey Shore is on.
Friday May 13, 2011
Day 2: Today, which was our “chill day,” we got to sleep in and eat breakfast at 9:30. We left at a little after ten and didn’t get back until 16:30. We have been walking pretty much not stop the entire time! It was all worth it though as we got to see many places including the Pantheon, the river, the Piazza Navona, the church of Santa Maria, and the Mouth of Truth (which is supposed to close on the hand of a liar. We all passed the test!). We also made our way to Campo de Fiori where we has some free time before walking back to the hotel and of course getting gelato on the way.
As fascinating as all of these places are, though, the way of life here is interesting. First, we woke up to our neighbor whistling just outside our window. None of the streets are straight. It is not unusual to stand at an intersection and literally have five or six coble stone streets you can turn down and on each of these streets are small shops or tables selling a variety of things. You can even spot men selling purses or sunglasses who load up and take off as soon as they see a cop. Look up though, and you feel like you are in a movie. Coble stone streets are beneath your feet and flower pots are out every window. O and I can’t forget the giant doors with little doors cut out of them. Don’t look up for too long, though or else you are likely to get hit by a tiny car or moped (that is all they really drive. I saw one mini van today). I am quite certain there are no traffic laws either. Even our taxi driver yesterday was going 120 k/hr in the city. They have stops lights for both walkers and motorist, and even sometime bikers, but you must pay very close attention because they will go right through red lights. Also, don’t worry if you almost walk into a parked car, because they are everywhere! People park, walk, and drive down the middle of the narrow streets and mopeds will be parked on the sidewalks if there are any. It’s crazy here!
If you glance down now, you will breathe a sigh of sadness as you see men and women living on doorstep of churches and crawling on skateboards because their feet are deformed but they can’t afford a wheel chair. All talking in Italian (I assume asking for money), they are out in the middle of everything, much unlike homeless in America who hide underneath bridges.
The plazas are, once again, a scene out of a movie; they are bustling with people and merchandisers hoping to make a few euros off of a naïve tourist. Still with the gorgeous fountains and amazing weather, I could lounge their all day. There are families with children, men in business suits (who strangely ride mopeds and bicycles in their suits), entertainers, singers, music everywhere, there was even a living statue of the Statue of Liberty trying to make money off Americans (who, by the way stick out like a sore thumb. We can walk down the street and pick them out everywhere.)
Now, we have made our way back past some of the ancient ruins and the Colosseum and are finally resting from the days long walk. Only for a moment though. Soon we will journey to find a new place to eat!
Saturday May 14, 2011
Day 3: Today we woke up to a call telling us we must be out of our room in an hour. As we had already made our selves at home, we knew we should probably get up and start repacking. We wanted to get breakfast first though of course. So, we take the creepy elevator(which has a door that opens out like a regular door) down to the lobby where we saw Ryan and Matt sitting sleepy eyed with their luggage at their feet. Not thinking much of it, Rachel and I continued to breakfast where I was surprised to find that chocolate is a regular at Italian breakfasts. We finished up and headed to pack, we again passed the guys in the lobby. This time, we stopped to talk and found out they had been there for a long time already and couldn’t get back into a room until afternoon. So, we all went up to wait in our room until we too got kicked out.
Next, we went back to the Basilica de San Salvadore to check mass times. After wondering around and rounding up more people, we went back to church later that afternoon. After finding the one alter that had a crowd, but no place to sit, we decided we were young and could stand through one mass. Fifteen minutes in, I thought it was weird that I had absolutely no idea what was going on, but this was my first mass in Italian so I didn’t think much of it. However, when an hour passed and we had not even taken up offertory, I started to wonder. Finally, we decided we were actually at a confirmation that lasted over another thirty minutes. Soon we made it back to the hotel where we met the rest of the group including our new roommates! We had our first group dinner of twenty-one people!
Sunday May 15, 2011
Day 4: Today has been an eventful day. We rose early to be ready to venture at 8:00. First, we walked to the Colosseum where we were finally able to go inside instead of just walking by it. It was amazing! From the top you can see everything and from the bottom you feel tiny. I could not believe we were in something so incredible. Hundreds of years later, all the tiny detail showed just how remarkable of a structure it really was and still is today. While we were there, we attempted our first sketch, were it was once again proven that I am definitely not an artist. We then saw many ancient ruins. We saw the Arch of Constantine, and climbed to the top of the Roman Forum. Also, we learned about the ancient Roman road systems and the strategies used to build them along with finally discovering what SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus) meant. We ended the night with eight of us heading back to Campo de Fiori!
Monday May 16, 2011
Day 5: Today was mostly a free day, we talked about different time periods and what kind of architecture they brought to Rome. Then, we climbed the famous Spanish Steps and the rest of the day was ours. Four of us set out on a journey of our own passed shop like Prada and Guchi. After trying to rent a bicycle for four or at least four bikes for one, without success, we walked around peeking in shops and finding new alleys. After a long day of walking, the quiet room is almost putting me to sleep. So, arrevaderchi for now!
Tuesday May 17, 2011
Day 6: We started early today by taking the metro over to Piazza del Popolo and seeing the Egyptian obelisks. We then made our way over to toss coins into the Trevi Fountain, which was beautiful. We then sketched in the Pantheon for a while before finding, once again, another pizza/calzone place. We didn’t meet again until after we stopped for Gelato of course. Then, we continued our day stopping at yet another beautiful Church and ending at a museum where we saw the statue of Romulus and Remus, the Spinario statue(the thorn), and the hall of emperors and philosophers. Now we are off to spend an evening on the town!
Wednesday May 18, 2011
Day 7: Wow! Today was a busy day! We got up bright and early to head to the Vatican. I can’t even explain how incredible it was. It was awesome to see something that I had heard about for so long and that was the center place for my religion. After finally making it through the Sistine chapel, Raphael’s Rooms, the rest of the museums, and hearing our first real round of “NO PHOTO” we took a lunch break and headed to the Spanish Steps. We then went to the Da Vinci museum, which was surprisingly interesting. We were able to see the yucki ball, replicas of The Last Supper, and many other inventions and works by him. It was inspiring to see how much of an impact he had on everything from art to medicine. For now, we are putting up our feet after a long day of walking! P.S. we saw the Basketball Wives today!
Thursday May 19, 2011
Day 8: Today we finally went to St. Peter’s! It was huge. I loved seeing the marks on the floor that compared it to the other large churches all over the world. Even the sculptures were gigantic and beautiful. The Baldwin was one of the most impressive objects though. It stood tall over under the dome and covered St. Peters tomb. It was fun to see the place I had done a lot of research on. I also bought some gifts in their gift shop and received two Pope Benedict coins for change.
After visiting St. Peters, we went on a scavenger hunt all over the city. We love finally knowing we could find our way around well enough to get somewhere on our first try as well as knowing information about the places we went to. My team figured out the clues right away, but got second due to a bad decision of trying to take the subway from the Coloseum instead of trying to power walk home all the way.
Friday May 20, 2011
Day 9: Today we packed up in Rome and journeyed to Florence. It is beautiful here as well, basically like a mini Rome. We went to the Galileo Museum and then made the trek up the 463 stairs to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome in the Duomo. It was a narrow and slanting and extremely old stair case! What a view! Our hotel is in a great spot, no longer an hour walk from everything! Therefore, we wondered around right away and were ecstatic to see our first burger joint! I have never been so excited to see a burger! You think Italians can cook pasta, try their burgers! Especially after eating nothing but pasta and paninis for a week. It was a great change!
Saturday May 21, 2011
Day 10: We have already gone to many museums and churches today including the Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce. Many of the museums have had a lot of stone heads. We have seen some very famous and inspiring sculptures and paintings though. Some of these include the David by Michelangelo, as well as the Thinker, the Thorn, and many others. The churches in Florence are breath taking, but this time from the outside. Almost all that we have seen so far are made of the most beautiful naturally colored marble. Mostly white, green, and pink, the stones have been carved and placed in exquisite patterns. Because most of these churches are designed in a different time period, the decorations inside are slightly more scarce. It is easier to notice more of the architecture this way. I found it very interesting as well to notice the increase in use of stain glass window. Also, churches here and in Rome house many saints and famous people’s tombs. Today we saw Michelangelo’s and Galileo’s. Now we are off to have dinner on the roof of our hotel.
p.s. we woke up to church bells this morning and opened our shutters right away to find friendly locals waving ciao to us!
Monday May 23, 2011
Day 12: Dinner was awesome! We had fresh local veggies and fruit(some of the best tomatoes I have ever had!) along with some local meat, the greatest cheese in the world and a little wine. The evening view of Florence from the roof was exquisite! The dome, castle, and a couple churches sticking out above the orange and yellow buildings were amazing. It was made even more surreal with the mountains in the skyline! Our night was not uninterrupted however, we did manage to have our second and third unfortunate encounter with pigeons. Since then having two more, totaling to five. Other happenings in the past couple days include seeing Jersey Shore(on our way to Mass I may add), climbing to the top of a mountain for an unreal view of the city, and of course improving our bargaining skills with the local vendors. Currently, we are about to leave our 2 star hotel(of which we received the handicap room so our shower is not above our toilet) with opening shutters, but noisy next door church bells, ambulances, and street cleaners, to head for our next destination. It has been nice being in a smaller city, but I am sure Milan will have surprises of its own!
Tuesday May 24, 2011
Day 13: We made it to Milan yesterday afternoon. It has a very different feel than the first two cities. It’s more modern and NYC-like. We then climbed to the roof of Duomo di Milano. Here we again noticed the difference. There were sky scrapers instead of ancient ruins and more grey buildings than yellow and orange. Even the church itself was drastically different. It was strongly Gothic, meaning tall and pointed rather than wide and round. Even though there were many more windows than usual, the dark stained glass dimmed the light making it very gloomy. We went out to dinner for Liz’s birthday. It was delicious and on a boat! Currently we are preparing for our first lecture at Politecnico di Milano.
Wednesday May 25, 2011
Day 14: Today we went to the National Science Museum, but the best part of the day was seeing the Last Supper by
Da Vinci. It was nothing like I imagined it. It was not in some huge museum or basilica but in a small humble monastery. We
did have to do a lot to get in though. Only after going through two rooms with controlled atmospheres were we allowed inside.
Then, once we got in, they were very strict about photos(As a couple of the guys discovered quickly). It was awesome to see something that has been such a famous piece of history and my religion.
Since arriving to Milan, we are now staying in a hostel, meaning less hotel-like and more dorm-like. We are staying six to a room with one bathroom. O ya, and one mirror. However, on the upside we have a kitchen, so we are able to go to the local grocery stores and try our hand at making true Italian cuisine!
Friday May 27, 2011
Day 16: Yesterday was one of my favorite days. We have two free days so most of us decided to travel to Venice, the city built on water! It was amazing. We began by being typical tourist and searching all of the shops for souvenirs. We gained experience working the markets the hard way by finding something we love, buying it, and then discovering ten steps later at the next booth that we could have gotten the same thing for half the price. After some purchases and only a few dead ends and wrong turns, we made it to the famous bridge where we saw Gondolas and water taxis. After getting some typical tourist pictures, we continued our journey. We bought a few more gifts and decided to head to the beach!
After deciding private water taxis were not the best deal to get to the island with the beach, stopping to take some awesome pictures, ripping a pair of shorts, and finally figuring out how to use the water bus, we began to cross the water to the island. We all made it alive! The next mission was to find the beach. Clearly this island was set up for tourist as we passed at least eight Gelato shops in the ten, straight shot blocks to our destination. Don’t worry though, we only stopped at one! Finally, we saw the sign reading “Free Beach.” I am pretty sure this is the first thing we have seen advertised as “free” since we have been here. Anyway, we made it to the beach! Soon, we were changed into our suits and trekking across the sand. I was at the ocean for the first time in my life! We picked a spot to put our towels and jumped in. It was so salty! We swam a lot and didn’t leave before taking more pictures, racing, and wiping out into the water. We also made friends we nicknamed Michelangelo and Da Vinci. Too soon, our time was up and we had to head back. We stopped in to eat at a little pizza place where we ate in the back Garden. We then made some last minute purchases (mostly made of glass). We made it back with just enough time to find the rest of the group and board car number nine. Like the first train, this ride was equally as fun. We played card games the whole way! What an awesome day!
Today, we are just chilling. We made breakfast (we have a kitchen so we have been cooking a lot! It’s been fun!)and wrote postcards! Off to play some cards!
p.s. we didn’t leave Venice without hearing the sirens of a water ambulance!
Saturday May 28, 2011
Day 17: This morning we left our lovely hostile in Milan(which did prove to surprise us) and set out for our bus tour. We are currently on the five hour ride to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. To pass the time, I just reread the letters Kristin and my friends prepared for me and was reminded that I have the best friends and family in the world!
Sunday May 29, 2011
Day 18: We made it to Pisa yesterday where we saw the Leaning Tower. We once again took typical tourist pictures of us pushing the tower over. Then, we climbed to the top of the mysteriously sturdy structure. We then toured the nearby Baptistery where we heard incredible acoustics even after hundreds of years! We arrived last night in San Gimignano the cutest city I have ever seen! We sent our luggage on a van before climbing to the top of the mountain to our hotel. We roomed four to a room so it was Rachel, Sara, Linsey, and I again! We walk into our room and it was sweet. We have giant beds and a patio outside our window! It was such a pretty view over part of the city and mountain! Then, last night we had a delicious five course meal with the group before walking to the highest place in the city and finally seeing stars! So incredible!
Today, I woke up in a movie. I got dressed, walked out on our patio to a serene scene and the sound of only birds. As I was taking it all in, the window above me opens and an Italian man starts singing. Only moments later, another man with a harp comes and sets up to play directly below us. So awesome! We met the group to climb one of the thirteen old defense towers. We then went to one of three torture museums. It was scary to know that those devices were actually used.
Afterwards, we all split up to find lunch. Since we weren’t in a hurry, we literally strolled around the entire city. We eventually found some paninis and ate by the center well, where a flutist played for us, before grabbling some World Champion Gelato. I love this town! (This ended up being my favorite place of the whole trip!)
We then spent the afternoon in Siena where we saw the shell shaped plaza, climbed the central tower(where we watched a marching band parade through the streets), and the famous striped church. The plaza was one of my favorites so far. It showed the creativity architects must have. I also loved the striped church. It was so unique! It was yet another change in use of decoration.
Monday May 30, 2011
Day 19: Today we went to the church dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. It was large and had two layers of chapel, but the lack of gold and decoration showed St. Francis’ humility. We then set out for Rome to fly to Palermo. On the flight, we were not able to sit by people we knew. So, I sat in between an older Italian man who didn’t speak and English, and a guy about my age who could speak a little. It was fun trying to talk to real Italians other than when we were ordering food. The old man attempted to tell me about his grandkids by having the guy on the other side of my try his best to translate. Even understanding each other’s English was difficult. However, after over an hour delay and a forty-five minute flight, we had talked about pretty much everything. It turned out to be a great flight!
Tuesday May 31, 2011
Day 20: We made it to the island of Palermo last night and today we went to the local markets, a great castle, and a museum. The museum was interesting because we saw the difference between the marble buildings we are used to seeing and the porous rock used here from the local volcanoes. We also had some free time, so we attempted to find the beach thirty minutes away. However, after walking for an hour, we finally decided to turn around. We didn’t make it back though before purchasing some fresh peaches and a melon. We are about to head to our group supper full of seafood!
Wednesday June 1, 2011
Day 21: Supper way amazing! We had octopus and sword fish along with other great seafood. We even got to see the kitchen! We had a great night!
Today, we went to the Masimo??? Theater. It was pretty and I loved the room made for private conversations. It was a room where if you stood in the middle it would echo evenly throughout the room, but if you spoke on either side, the acoustics would cause such a confusion, that someone across the room could not understand.
We then boarded the plane back to Rome where we began our five and a half hour journey to Paestum. Here, we are staying in a cute cottage-like place and just had a fantastic supper!
Thursday June 2, 2011
Day 22: Last night, we discovered our cottage has a pool as well as fresh lemon, lime, and cherries trees. We played our new love, Nertz(the card game), until almost three a.m.. It was pretty intense! (We were also trying to distract ourselves from the spiders all over the walls and ceiling.
Today we had a great breakfast with cold milk! This was one of the first times we have had cold milk on the trip. We then set out to tour the ancient ruins of Pompeii. It was so interesting seeing an entire city still standing for so long, especially after being lost under the ash of a volcano. We were also able to walk down the original roads and see the strategies they used to flood the roads in order to clean it. There were even still three amphitheaters standing. There were everything from walls and tiny doors of houses, to the local brothel. Next, we came back to Paestum to see the Greek temples. Again, it was crazy to see these structures that have stood for so many years! This was the last of our touring which is sad because it means we will be leaving soon. It has been such an unforgettable experience! P.s. if you ever go to Pompeii, get some freshly squeezed orange juice or lemonade! The lemons are as big as my head!
Saturday June 4, 2011
Day 24: I am home after a twenty seven hour long trip! Last night we were back in Rome, this time staying closer to central Rome. Therefore, it was much easier to walk to the plazas because we didn’t have to walk an hour home. We headed to our favorite places for our final night in Italy. Matt, Rachel, and I’s flights were early in the morning so we said our good byes and headed to the airport. Matt left to find his gate while Rachel and I went to find ours. We were through security by about 4:00 a.m.. When we finally boarded, I fell asleep before take off! I slept the whole way to Brussels where we found out that some Iowa friends we had met in Florence were on our same flight to Chicago. So, they went with us through security and we all decided American security is much stricter than Italian security. We slept some more and watched movies on the way to Chicago. When we finally made it back to America where it was raining(it rained a total of two times the entire time we were in Italy, while we were getting notices of floods all over the Midwest), we went through security for our last time and set out to find outlets to charge our phones. We almost forgot we didn’t need a converter. We called our parents for the first time in weeks! It was funny the little things you appreciate when you get back to your home. Knowing exactly how to work the toilets was one of these! We also didn’t have to think about how to ask for food. We watched movies to pass the time during our seven hour layover. We finally boarded our final and smallest plane to Lincoln! Our parents were there with pillows and blankets to greet us home! I will miss Italy and everyone so much, but it was great to be home!
This has truly been the trip of a lifetime! Not only did I learn educational facts, but I learned about culture, friendships, and people. I love Study Abroad Italy- 2011!