June 10, 2015After a filling breakfast we loaded our luggage onto the bus for the last time and headed back to where it all began, Rome. On the ride, I saw some people working in the fields. It’s interesting to see glimpses of other countries’ farming techniques. That’s one thing I like about riding the bus. You don’t see many people working on their hands and knees in U.S. fields, but I did notice that in Italy. We arrived back at our very first hotel in Rome around 2 P.M. We lugged our suitcases up four flights of stairs and then headed out to enjoy our last day. One of my friends had been in Italy with her family the week before our trip started, and they had found a great candy shop near the Vatican. So we headed there to stock up on some Italian candy before we left.
Our group decided we wanted to have our last meal together, so we met up and chose to go back to the restaurant we went to on our very first night in Rome. I got a dish of gnocchi, which are potato noodles. I’ve gotten this several times during the trip, and I really enjoy it. After dinner most of us went to get some gelato and then sit at the Pantheon for a while. We then headed to Piazza Navona where there was a performer doing a neat fire show dance. It was a great evening out and I’m glad we all spent it together. I’ve made some amazing friends on this trip and it will be really sad to say goodbye, especially to the UNO students who I won’t get to see as often.
Back at our hotel, I used the wifi to book a hostel for my next three nights in Rome. It took me a while to find one that was nice with good reviews, but not too pricey and within decent walking distance of the sites, but it was a great feeling taking care of everything on my own.
There are three people leaving really early in the morning, so we said our goodbyes tonight. Then it was off to our rooms to do some last minute packing, or re-packing in order to get everything to fit, and then time to get some sleep before a long day of traveling for everyone.
June 9, 2015Got to visit Pompeii today! The ruins were amazing, and I loved learning more about this city. I was surprised by how large it was, but I guess it was a city once. We went through some houses, though mansions may be the better term, bath houses, an amphitheater, and even a little restaurant/food vendor. They were all so neat. It was an unreal experience seeing the casts of the people. Their expressions made them almost seem like they were still here. I really enjoyed our time in Pompeii.
On the way back from Pompeii, our bus driver stopped at a scenic outlook. It overlooked Naples and the port; it was beautiful. I don’t think I have ever seen so many boxcars though.
We also visited an ancient Greek site in Paestum. We looked around a museum filled with Greek pots and artifacts for a while. Then we went out to several Greek temples, which were very neat. At one of the temples we tried building a human pyramid. The giant one failed, so we made 3 smaller ones instead.
I’ll mention here that there is now only one full day of this study abroad left. The rest of the group will leave June 11. I’m going to be staying in Rome another 3 days and then meeting up with a friend of mine from Germany. We’ll spend about 11 days traveling around Italy together.
When we got back to the agritorisimo, most of us went swimming or hung out by the pool. There was another delicious group dinner this evening. As it is one of our last nights we decided to make it fancy and have everyone dress up. We cleaned up well. The dinner was fabulous and several people gave toasts. Dr. Erdogmus and the bus driver were of course recognized. We reminisced about the trip, the funny moments, how Rome seemed forever ago, but at same time how it felt like we just got to Italy and shouldn’t be leaving yet. It was a rather bittersweet dinner.
After dinner nearly all of us went outside to play mafia again, Dr. Erdogmus even joined in this time. We spent quite a while out there, trying to catch the mafia and just having a good time. It was a nice ending to our second to last day.
June 8, 2015Today we had until 10:00 in the morning to do whatever we wished, definitely the latest we could have slept in. But there’s a lovely gravel path going around the outside of the wall, so I got up early to go for a run. I ran into another student from our group who had gotten up early to watch the sun rise. It was a nice run, but I was dripping from the humidity by the time I finished.
I headed back to the hotel to get ready for the day and grab a delicious breakfast with some friends. After breakfast a few of us went out to walk around the town. Most of the shops weren’t open yet so we did some sketching instead.
At 10:00 A.M. we all met to go up the only remaining climbable tower in the town. Instead of a sprawling city with huge buildings and cathedrals, this tower overlooked hills and fields. It was absolutely gorgeous! We spent quite a while up there before heading to a torture museum. The museum was awful in an interesting, scary kind of way. Some of those devices and torture methods are just terrible; it hurts to think about them.
Whenever we finished with the museum, we had free time until noon, when we were to leave San Gimignano. I was one of the last ones out of the museum, so I looked at some tourist shops and got yummy gelato. One of the flavors I got had pure nutella in it. Then, after what seemed like much too short a time in San Gimignano, we got on the bus and headed to Paestum.
The rest of the day was pretty much just spent on the bus. It was a really long ride; we left San Gimignano at noon and didn’t get to the agritorisimo until 8:30. It wasn’t just a boring bus ride, though. We had some live karaoke entertainment. First Jeff came up and gave more of a comedy performance, which was hilarious. Then it was Brenna’s turn. She sang wonderfully; she even started an acapella group at UNO. Another member of our group, David, also sang us a song. After karaoke, we all played Mafia. We had some great narrators keeping us all entertained.
Mafia ended when we got close to the agritorisimo. An agritorisimo is kind of a country bed and breakfast. There were separate buildings for people to stay in. Four of us practically got a whole house to ourselves. We had an adorable room, with good air conditioning. No one else was staying in any of the other rooms that we noticed, so it was just us. There was a patio on the second floor, a dining room, and a couple living rooms. The walls had old pictures hung on them and the rooms were filled with interesting decorations and memorabilia. I knew this was my favorite placed we had stayed, and I hadn’t even had the food yet.
The dinner we had here was definitely the best food we’ve had all trip, and we’ve had some good food. The appetizer was huge; they kept bringing out more and more delicious dishes. They have the best buffalo mozzarella that I have ever tasted. We all agreed it was the best mozzarella. There was so much food, we were all stuffed before the pasta dish even came out. They also had the best cooked and seasoned vegetables I’ve ever had. I really can’t explain how good this food was. After dinner, Jeff ended the night by giving another one of his performances, with dancing included, this time to Taylor Swift’s song, 22.
June 7, 2015We left Bologna this morning and headed towards our first destination, Pisa. After a couple hours of driving, we got to a parking lot, where we then squeezed on a shuttle bus that drove for a couple of minutes before letting us off near Pisa. When I first saw the Tower, Baptistery and Cathedral, the first thing that popped into my head was, “I’m looking at a postcard.” The marble seemed sparkling white and clean. There were tourists milling around, the grass was a perfectly cut sea of pure green, even the sky looked great, with puffy white cloud spaced throughout it. I was also surprised by how much the tower actually leaned. I had seen pictures of it before, but seeing it in person was really something.
We got lunch shortly after arriving and then deposited our backpacks before climbing the tower. We started by filing into a small circular room at the bottom of the tower. Here a guide gave a quick history of the tower with some interesting information. We then began the twisting climb up the tower. I’ve never climbed anything like it before. You could feel yourself practically falling as you would walk up the leaning side of the tower. The stairs were worn in different areas depending on which side of the tower you were on, from all the people tipping to one side as they wound up the stairs. Once we arrived at the top, we found ourselves nearly face-to-face with the cathedral. It was a great view and we spent a fair amount of time up there.
We descended the tower and headed over to the cathedral. Here my friend discovered the time-lapse option on her iPad and we had a blast taking videos of our group weaving in and out of the many columns. We also visited the baptistery where we heard a demonstration of the buildings acoustical properties. A lady stood in the center and sang a couple notes; it sounded like there were about five people singing. It was really neat. One of the members of our group is an architectural engineer focusing on acoustics, so this was right up her alley.
After we visited all the buildings, we had some free time to take fun and cliché pictures with the tower. Today was also probably the hottest day we had experienced so far. It was absolutely miserable out, and if we wouldn’t have been at Pisa, or anywhere in Italy, I would have been in a rather disagreeable mood. I had a fantastic time here though!
We drove for a few more hours before arriving at San Gimignano. The scenery along the way was beautiful. San Gimignano is an adorable hilltop town, so it’s surrounded by views of gorgeous rolling hills. The room we stayed in was the cutest yet. It was painted soft, pretty colors and had fun, ornate furniture.
Shortly after getting to the hotel, Kelsey and I headed out to explore the town before our group dinner. The stone walls and heavy wooden doors made for some cute pictures. There were a plethora of neat artisan shops that were fun to look around. We had our dinner at 7 in the hotel, and it was delicious. We started with a yummy appetizer of asparagus, artichokes, peas, zucchini and some bacon. There was a pasta dish and pork for the main meal. There was also a great view from the restaurant.
After dinner we went to one of our rooms to play cards. There were over 15 of us crammed into a 3-person room. We ended up playing a few rounds of mafia. It was a blast! We were all laughing and having good time. Unfortunately, when 15 students are having fun, there’s no way it’s quiet enough for someone to sleep; we had disrupted the man in the room next to us. Eventually some of them headed outside to finish up the last round of the game, and some of us headed to bed. I think we all had a great day today.
June 6, 2015Cinque Terre We were all able to get up early and to the train station on time. It was about a three-hour ride, and had to switch trains once, but we made it without any issues. Once we did get there I was glad we left so early. It gave us more time to be in this beautiful place. Cinque Terre is five towns connected by train, trail or boat. We took the train to the first, forth and fifth towns.
When we got our first glimpse of Riomaggiore, the first town, we were amazed by how picturesque it was. The water was a gorgeous blue with cliffs and rocks lining the shore. We got off the train here and walked around for a while. We explored the shore and walked along the cliff paths. It was so pretty we had to take pictures of everything. I thought the fauna was neat as well; there were some cool cacti. After about 40 minutes of walking around, we headed to the forth town, Vernazza, to eat lunch. We had a nice meal and several of us got some good seafood dishes.
After lunch we headed to the fifth town, Monterosso al Mare, to go swimming. This town has the best beach, and therefore, it was packed. Some of us stayed there to kayak and paddleboard. Since it was so full, half of us went back to Riomaggiore to swim in a smaller, rocky, beautiful area. The water was refreshingly chilly and so clear you could see the all the way to the bottom. We enjoyed a couple hours there before heading back to the station to make our train back to Bologna. Today was one of my favorite days of the trip so far. Cinque Terre was absolutely gorgeous. It was a nice change from most of our other days of the trip. We were all relaxed and happy to have a day to swim in the Mediterranean.
I also enjoy these free days because it gives us a chance to become more independent. Getting our own train tickets and making it to the stations on time teaches us responsibility. It can be a bit nerve-wracking doing everything on our own, but we’ve learned that we’re capable of traveling and getting around without adult supervision. This independence and confidence is something that I think is important for everyone to have. These free days give us that, in a way that hardly makes noticeable what we’ve gained beyond the pictures and memories.
June 5, 2015Day of Cars
After a breakfast of far too many croissants, we got on our bus and said goodbye to Milan. We drove for a few hours, with a short stop at a gas station to refuel and stretch our legs, before arriving at the Ferrari museum. I’ll admit, I thought I would find this rather dull. On the contrary, I had a great time. Our tour guide did a great job and told us tons of interesting information about all the cars and the history of Ferrari. I was very impressed.
We had a nice lunch at a restaurant across from the museum. I had a delicious mushroom and cheese lasagna. We then drove to the Lamborghini museum. We didn’t have a tour guide here, but the cars were still fun to look at and read about. There were a couple cars with a matte finish, which I really like. They had a gift shop where you could buy small model cars for 200-400 euros. Seemed like a smart purchase to me…
We were once again on the bus, this time headed to our final destination of the day, Bologna. The little of Bologna that I saw seemed like a nice, cute city. There was a huge street market close to our hotel. We all agreed that we couldn’t imagine setting up a whole tent of tables filled with clothing in the morning, just to take it all down, package up all the clothing, put it back in the big white van in the evening, and then start all over the next day.
Most of our evening was spent planning for our next day trip to Cinque Terre tomorrow. A few of us decided to skip this one and relax at the hotel and explore Bologna instead. It was difficult to plan this time; we weren’t sure how many people would go because for a fair amount of them it depended on how expensive train tickets would be. You can’t know how much it will cost until you’re at the counter buying them, and if we had 10 people going, we could get a group discount, which would also affect the price. In the end, all of those who were interested in going headed to the train station. We ended up getting the ticket for ten of us a lot cheaper than we had expected.
After the tickets were figured out, we went to a market to get some food for dinner and the next day. There’s a McDonald’s right next to our hotel, so some students got dinner there. It was about 6 euros, so a bit more expensive than home, but I also heard it tasted a lot better. Those of us going to Cinque Terre in the morning tried to go to bed early; we’re planning on meeting at 5:30 A.M. to leave for the station.
Ferrari trophy room
They would put this covering on the cars when testing them so that competitors wouldn’t be able to take pictures of the car. If they tried, it would just be a blur.
This is the most expensive car ever sold, at $52 million.
A maybe 6 inch model car for almost 300 euros.
June 4, 2015Day Trip to Venice
We left early this morning for our two and a half hour train ride to Venice. I traveled to Venice several years ago, so coming here again brought back some great memories. I love this picturesque town. It’s beautiful.
The highlight of my day was definitely the gondola ride. I never thought I would get to ride a gondola down the canals of Venice—but I did! The boat rocked a little as six of us tried to get situated. There was a fair amount of traffic on the canals with all of the other gondolas going about, but it was a relaxing, nearly half hour ride that I really enjoyed. After our gondola ride, we met up with the rest of the group and headed to San Marco square.
San Marco is one of my favorite places in Venice. The cathedral is gorgeous; I love the beautiful marble and mosaics on the arches. A couple of us decided to climb up the tower in San Marco, but were disappointed to find out that it’s an elevator ride instead. Once we got to the top, we no longer cared how we had gotten there; it was amazing. I hadn’t realized before how many islands make up Venice; there’s over a hundred. We stayed up there a while and then headed down to meet the rest of our friends who had gone shopping. I got some gelato and then we headed off to walk around some more. We meandered through the streets and stopped at several glass shops. They all had beautiful pieces. We also stopped at a bakery and my friends and I got some macaroons and meringues to share.
They were delicious!
In the evening we headed to the train station. After waiting around for a while, our train didn’t appear on the screen when we thought it should. Some of us started getting a little antsy. Then we learned that our train had been cancelled all together. When getting the tickets the day before, we got the second to last train to leave Venice in case something like this happened, but the last train wasn’t leaving for another two hours and that meant we wouldn’t get home until around midnight. Some of our group went off to try to figure out what to do. Shortly after they came hurrying back to tell us we needed to hustle on the train that was leaving in about two minutes. We made it on that train and then got off at the next stop to hopefully get another train that would take us to Milan. After more talking and a little waiting, we had to run across the station to make it to a train that was to leave in about a minute. There were nineteen of us sprinting down stairs, through the tunnel, back up the stairs and squeezing onto the train. It was rather exciting, and we got to see how everyone handled stressful situations; quite an experience. Once on the train, though, it was smooth sailing back to the hostel.
June 3, 2015Rode a four hour train to Milan this morning. It was kind of nice to have some relaxing time where we didn’t have to do anything. We’re staying in hostel here, but I like it. It has nice big room and a decent kitchen in the common area. The shower is small, but everywhere has a small shower.
We walked to the Duomo of Milan, or Milan Cathedral. It’s gothic in style, and I really enjoy Gothic cathedrals. There was more climbing here, and once again a good view. It was also fun just to be on the roof of the cathedral, getting to see the flying buttresses and some of the detail up close.
We also toured an opera house, La Scala, and saw a statue of Leonardo DaVinci. Students gave their presentations at each of these sites, and both were very interesting. The “classroom” setting on this trip is unique and something I really enjoy about being here. We’ve only sat in a lecture room once, all other times our lectures are taught out in the open. Dr. Erdogmus and a student told us information about the Colosseum atop a hill overlooking it. We talked about the Roman aqueducts while standing right in front of them. We discuss churches while standing in line to climb to the top of their dome. These settings make me think about what we’re discussing more. I feel I pay better attention when the thing we’re learning about it actually right in front of me. I also think of and ask questions that I wouldn’t have thought of if the actual structure weren’t there. This is something I wouldn’t be able to experience in nearly any other class, and I think it’s absolutely amazing.
In the evening, we tried to plan out our day for tomorrow. We have a free day and are going to go to Venice, all 18 students and our TA, Eric. Dr. Erdogmus will be staying in Milan. So I also got the experience of trying to plan and organize a day trip with the opinions of 19 different people. In the end, after everyone pitched in their fair share of euros, four of us went to the train station to get tickets. I thought it would be a good idea for me to go since I will be staying another week and half in Italy after the class and will need to know my way around the train station. It wasn’t too confusing. The hardest part was just finding the ticket counter in the maze of shops and fast food stores in the tunnels, hallways and rooms of the rather large station. Once there, you get a number from a stand and wait until your number is shown on a screen. Then go to your respective counter to buy your ticket. We got everyone’s ticket, plus a discount since we’re a large group—yay! Took the metro back to the hostel and told everyone how it went. A couple of friends had saved me a dinner of noodles and bruschetta that they had made in the kitchen. It was delicious.
June 2, 2015Museums and More Museums!
I’m a nerd for museums. I absolutely love them! And that’s not sarcasm; I can spend many enjoyable hours in just about any kind of museum. Therefore, today was a great day! We started off at Uffizi Museum, which is one of the greatest art museums in the world. We were allotted 2 hours in the museum. Unfortunately, I was unfamiliar with the layout of the museum and spent the whole two hours on only the second floor. Consequently, I had to walk right past everything on the lower level, which was extremely disappointing. But there were some amazing pieces that I did get to see.
After our lunch break we headed to the Academia Museum, which houses Michelangelo’s David. They also have several unfinished works by Michelangelo that I really enjoyed seeing. Those made it easier to picture him actually creating all the masterpieces in his workshop. I find it hard to believe someone could really sculpt the David. It’s so huge, with amazing detail; you can see the veins in his hands and the nails on his toes.
We had the rest of the day free after walking over to San Lorenzo for a student to give her presentation. One thing to mention, is no matter where you are, if tourists inhabit the area, so do street vendors and beggars. So while three of us were sitting on the stairs of San Lorenzo, eating a snack, one of the many Gypsy women came over to us. They all have a little plastic cup with a few coins in it and shake it in front of you until you shake your head and walk away. But since we were sitting, we couldn’t walk away. She didn’t leave until my friend had given the woman her pizza crusts. A street vendor also came over to us, trying to sell us his bracelets. We politely said no thank you, but somehow still managed to get caught in conversation. We learned all sorts of stuff about him, including that he’s from Sierra Leone and has a wife back home. We eventually said it was time for us to go. Our time at San Lorenzo, and Florence, had come to an end.
June 1, 2015More Stairs and Great Views
Let me just start off with saying the breakfast at this hotel was fabulous! There was cereal and yogurt, even eggs! Of course I ate more than my fair share of chocolate filled croissants and had one cup too many of hot chocolate (I’m not a coffee fan, yet).
Today was a church-filled day. We visited three churches, and therefore had to dress appropriately, shoulders and knees must be covered--this includes guys! Our first stop was the Duomo of Florence, the great architectural feat of Brunelleschi. I think the line to climb the dome took a longer period of time than the line of St. Peter’s, nearly 2 hours, but the actual climb was shorter. The view was amazing! We stayed up there for a while and eventually headed back down to explore inside the church, which was also neat.
We visited Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, as well. Santa Maria Novella is where our professor, Dr. Erdogmus, did research. It was neat to think of her climbing around in the attic, looking down on all the tourists while performing her experiments. She and her colleagues were researching the construction of Florentine Gothic churches.
My friend, Kelsey, and I again got food from the market for dinner. I admit, we did get some strange looks as we sat on a curb eating bread, tomatoes and peppers.
May 31, 2015Train Travel and Florence
Around 8 A.M. on the 31st, all 20 of us loaded into about 5 cabs and experienced the thrilling ride of being in a car on the streets of Rome… We made it to Termini train station safely and once our train arrived, hurriedly got to our seats. The train ride was about an hour and a half, and once we arrived, we sent our luggage on a van to our hotel and started our adventure in Florence!
We got a good lunch before we headed to the Galileo Museum, a museum dedicated to early scientific instruments, including astrolabs, globes and surgical models and instruments. Afterwards we headed to the market (grocery store) to get some food for a picnic. Then we began the arduous climb up to Piazza Michelangelo. But once there, all the sweating and panting was well worth it. The view was spectacular. We stayed there for several hours; eating our meals and listening to a musician play her guitar and sing. It was absolutely perfect.
Our hotel is outside of downtown Florence, so we have to take a bus to and from there every morning and evening. Around 7:30 P.M. we headed down the hill and across downtown to meet our shuttle near the train station. It took us to our hotel where we got settled in. Some of us then headed out to find food and Wi-Fi, of course. A few of us chose to stay behind and take advantage of the little time to relax that we had. I also did some laundry in the bath since we’ll be here a few nights and it should have time to dry. With all the walking and sweating we do, my clothes surely deserve a good washing.
May 31, 2015Hello again!
Since I'm already all packed up, I'm squeezing this entry in before we leave for Florence! I can't wait to visit Brunelleschi's dome.
A quick recap of what did our other days in Rome: On the 28th we visited the Vatican City. There was so much artwork. Lots of paintings and sculptures, but they spanned quite a time period so there was a large variety of styles. I'm a fan of Salvador Dali, and there were even some of his works in the modern art section. The Sistine Chapel was amazing, of course. The longer I stood there, the more amazing it became.
We also saw the Castle of St. Michael that was once a fortress and offered a great view of the city. That view was nothing compared to the view from the top of St. Peter's Basilica, though. We climbed up 551 spirally, shallow, narrow, and even slanted-wall steps to reach the top. Walking inside the church was quite a sight as well. It was extremely ornate!
We went to University Sapienza on the 29th. We got so see some of their campus, which requires quite a bit of walking as it is spread out across the city. Some professors gave lectures about their research as well.
On our last full day in Rome we saw all the sites we had missed before or didn't have much time at, like the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Trevi fountain (which is under construction, so that was a bummer), Spanish Steps, and a museum about Leonardo DaVinci. I really enjoyed the museum; it was neat to get to see physical models of the many of the machines he designed. It was impressive.
We had about half of the day to spend how we wanted to afterwards. We got some fruit from Campo di Fiori, which is a good sized open market close to our hotel. A group of us spent a fair amount of time at Piazza Navona, just relaxing, journaling and sketching. It was really nice. The piazza was packed and there were lots of performers. A guitarist played the song Home, which almost made me homesick for a minute. After a yummy dinner and dessert it was time to head back to the hotel and pack. Rome was fabulous, but I'm excited for a new city! :)
May 27, 2015Ciao!
Today is our first full day in Rome, Italy. We started off our day with the ever famous Colosseum. One of the students, Izzy, informed us that 500,000 people and 1 million animals were killed in the various gladiator and sporting events that took place throughout the years. We discussed columns while we were here as well: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. We had an hour to walk around, observe, and sketch inside the Colosseum.
Also discussed the Arch of Constantine and found out that much of the material was actually from older monuments and buildings. Some old carvings and statues were defaced and replaced with Constantine's image.
We spent a little time in Palatine, the hill where many of the emperors built their places. We also discussed aqueducts and arches here. I found everything to be extremely interesting; I love history and architecture.
The Forum was visited next. There was a plethora of ruined temples and buildings here; exciting with so much to observe. We had lunch after--pizza of course! And got to rest our feet after hours of walking through all the amazing sites.
We ended our academic portion of the day with the Capitoline Museums that were filled with statues and busts. While Dr. Erdogmus had excellent timing getting us into the building just as it started raining, it was still raining as we left, and we got to walk back to the hotel in the rain. The traffic is not quite like home, by the way. It's a tad bit crazy. Drivers don't always seem to follow the painted road lines and you just walk along the edge of the street, sharing the road with the cars, taxis, buses, motorcycles and vespas.
We've all been scarfing down the gelato. Most of us have had it at least four times within our less than two days here. A group of us played cards during our down time at the hotel while it was raining, and we ended our night with a delicious four course dinner. We eat around 8 and don't get back until 10 so it's a bit later than I'm used to, but I hardly notice. We're busy most of the day and we all hang out and play games in the free time we have. Therefore, there's little time for anything else!
Inside the Colosseum:
Walking through the Forum: