Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Senza titolo

And yet again, another month has passed without my noticing. Believe it or not (I’m inclined to not), I’ll be leaving this incredible country in just 2 days. I am definitely excited to go back home to the States (where there are dryers, peanut butter, and pancakes!), but I will miss my host family, friends, professors, and living in Italy. I have to come back!
            In the meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying and seeing more of the country. For Easter break, I spent 9 days down in the south of Italy in a tiny little town called Durazzano. My friend Marly has lots of relatives down there, so we stayed and ate at the family owned hotel and restaurant, Guardanapoli, and were able to meet a whole bunch of her relatives. It was really an amazing and unique experience to get to meet and talk to her family, many of whom are older and have had such different lives than we have. We were able to eat at their houses, walk through town with them, see a youth league soccer game, and go to church with them. These are things you would never get to do as a tourist!
            We arrived on Good Friday, and one of Marly’s great aunts took care of us for the evening. We had coffee and cookies with her (lots of cookies – her husband literally shoved them in our pockets as we left!), then visited another family member (more coffee and cookies, hospitality is very important in the south), then participated in the Good Friday procession. It was amazing. Every year, a group of adults from the church reenact the Stations of the Cross, setting each station at different points around town. The crowd follows them around, singing and praying. The priest of the church led us in songs and prayers and read the Gospel at each of the Stations. It was so powerful to see it acted out right in front of you – a man carrying a large wooden cross, three people up on crosses – amazing.

Cemetery in Durazzano

            During the week, we spent a lot of our time hanging around Durazzano and spending time with the family. We had a huge lunch one day with Marly’s great aunt and uncle – and I mean huge; I could barely walk afterward – and dinner another night with another family. One thing to note – the food is better in the south! My favorite was the mozzarella – so delicious. We also did a couple day trips to places nearby. The first was to Naples and Pompeii. Naples was really interesting, beautiful, but really dirty. There were piles of trash everywhere. We did a tour of the Naples underground, then, of course, tried the pizza. Incredible.

            We took a short train to get to Pompeii, and spent a few hours exploring (and getting lost…). It was really cool to see how well preserved this ancient city is!
There were casts of bodies they found, perfectly preserved from the ash

Mount Vesuvius in the background

            Another day trip was to Positano on the Amalfi Coast. It was so beautiful! It’s famous for ceramics and lemons. We had lunch at a restaurant looking over the water, then did some shopping. We also had a break to eat REAL cannoli. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Real Cannolo

            By the end of the week, I didn’t want to leave! The culture and environment is so different in the south of Italy. I definitely want to do some more exploring down there. Since then, we have also had our last BU program trip – a boat cruise from Padova to Venice, stopping at three different villas along the way. It was a great trip – beautiful weather, amazing villas, and approaching Venice by boat – awesome.

            And I’m not done! Last weekend a group of friends and I went to the Dolomites in the north of Italy. It was incredibly beautiful. We stayed at a cute little hostel run by a family with the CUTEST baby, and the grandmother cooked dinner for us each night after we came back from hiking. So fun! We planned to go home on Sunday, but arrived at the train station in Feltre only to discover that there was a train strike for the rest of the day. We literally we stranded. After spending a few hours in the train station, we booked a bed and breakfast and extended our vacation for one more night. Oh, Italians and their strikes.

            Another very exciting experience was yesterday when my friend Katie and I went to Belluno to watch a stage of the Giro d’Italia. She and I are both cycling fans (I watch the Tour de France every summer!!), so this was really cool for us. We got a spot right up close to the barrier and, since it was a time trial, we got to see each of the riders go by individually! We stood in the same spot for over 4 hours, watched 166 riders go by, and cheered for every single on of them. We even got to see Alberto Contador, the winner of the Tour de France last year. Awesome.

Alberto Contador

            Well, this will be my last post in Italy! Can’t believe it. Hopefully I will be able to continue this blog the next time I come to Italy! Ciao tutti!

Learn Italian
nave – boat
giardino – garden
rosa – rose

Monday, April 18, 2011

Un sacco di cose

Sorry for my prolonged absence from blogging – I’ve been pretty busy over the past month! I’ll try and give you a quick synopsis of my recent travels through lovely Italia.

The weekend after Florence, Boston University sponsored a trip for us to go to Torino (Turin), the former capital of Italy. It was a major site for the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy, so the whole city was still nicely decorated and spruced up. It also happened to be about 70 and sunny while we were there! We were only there for about 24 hours total, but what we saw was definitely cool. The first day, we visited a museum that basically took you through the entire history of Italy – with cool special effects and all. We then headed over to the National Museum of Cinema. Did you know that Torino used to be one of the major cities worldwide for cinema and television? We got to see old sets of movies, props, and other cinema-related paraphernalia, including the original Star Wars heads they used in filming:

After pizza, gelato, and a short walk through the city, we all crashed back at the hotel (that’s right, no hostel for us!). The next day we went to the National Automobile Museum. I was a little worried about this, as I’m not much of a car person, but I was very pleasantly surprised! They made all the exhibits really interesting and put the cars in elaborate sets, and had cars made out of just about anything!

Car made of matchbox cars

Car made of leaves

We had some free time for lunch and wandering (we found a chocolate festival!), then started to head back to Padova. Fun fact about Torino: It’s the birthplace of Nutella and Tic Tacs!

Mantova and the opera
Two friends and I made a little day trip to the small town of Mantova. It was definitely small, but very pretty. My favorite part? There were lakes! It reminded me a lot of Back Bay in Portland. J We had a picnic outside, then sunbathed a bit by the water. Lovely. We also saw Rigoletto’s house, from the opera Rigoletto, which was perfect because the next day I went back with a friend to Venice to see the opera Rigoletto! It was amazing. I liked this one better than La Boheme. La Boheme was more showy and cool to watch, but the music and singing in Rigoletto was awesome. The man who sang the part of Rigoletto was absolutely amazing. When he finished his aria, the audience just clapped for five minutes straight! I loved it.

Lake in Mantova

Cast of Rigoletto

 When in Rome
So this is the trip everyone has been waiting for. I finally went to Rome! It was amazing. We were lucky enough to stay with my friend’s cousin who studies there, so we had an Italian guide for the whole weekend! It was definitely a huge blessing. We went to all the important and historical sites: the Vatican Museums, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain. The first day we went to the Vatican Museums, which was definitely amazing. I saw School of Athens, and, of course, the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. I just went in there and stared at the ceiling for about ten minutes. I kept thinking about how it was the same man who created this and the David. Incredible!

School of Athens

In Vatican City!

The Pantheon

La Pieta

Inside St. Peter's Basilica

At the Colosseum!

Inside the Colosseum

The next day we did all the main tourists sites, including going into St. Peter’s Basilica. That was one of my favorite places we visited all weekend. The Basilica is SO HUGE, and also intricately decorated. There is also Michelangelo’s La Pietà! I had heard that it was possible to get rosaries blessed by the Pope when you visit the St. Peter’s, so I had brought along with me a rosary that I had bought for my grandmother. I was asking around to figure where to go with it, and I kept getting sent from one place to another, with no success. Finally, a priest was walking by (he must have been somewhat important to be in the Vatican!), and the guard helping me asked him if he would mind blessing the rosary right then and there. And he did it! He then proceeded to bless me, and all my friends! I think that was really cool – I got a personal blessing inside St. Peter’s Basilica! That doesn’t happen everyday! So, we all left St. Peter’s a little holier than when we entered. J

So, I have to mention the food I ate, of course. We had some specialties of Rome: spaghetti alla carbonara (sooo good), bruschetta, and pizza. We ate at a well-known restaurant called Dar Poeta, and the pizza and bruschetta there was incredible. I had bruschetta (toasted bread with toppings) with pesto and ricotta, then a pizza with prosciutto. Yum. We also finished that meal with a unique dessert: a calzone filled with nutella and ricotta. Might sound weird, but it was awesome.

On top of all this traveling, people have also come to see me! I have had happy European meet-ups with three of my roommates, Malachi, Rebecca, and Danny – and all in Venice! Rebecca was here for the longest, so I got to show a bit around the area. We saw Venice, Murano and Burano (islands off of Venice), Verona, and Padova (including the Botanical Garden - oldest academic garden in the world!). We also saw an Italian ballet of Othello. It was a great weekend, and I loved seeing everyone!!

Me and Malachi!

Rebecca, Danny, and me!

Burano - a happy little island with brightly colored houses!

Verona - my favorite!

Rebecca at the Botanical Garden in Padova - with the ferns!

So what’s next, you might ask? Well, I leave on Thursday night for 9 days in the south of Italy!! My friends Marly and Katie and I will be staying in a hotel in Benevento (near Naples) owned by Marly’s family. We will spend Easter with her family and hopefully see some cool places like Naples, Caserta, Pompeii, Vesuvius, and the Amalfi Coast. Can’t wait!

Ciao ciao!

Learn Italian
costume da bagno – bathing suit
occhiali da sole – sunglasses
lentigine - freckle

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Buona Primavera a tutti! I know that most of you are still buried in snow, but here it is about 50-60 degrees farenheit everyday, and we’ve had a lovely run of sunshine. Spring is here. This past weekend, three friends and I spent 4 days in Florence! This was my first overnight trip outside of Padova. We had some issues with hostel bookings, museum reservations, and train tickets, but in the end, we made it there and back safely.

The first day, we checked into our hostel (in a perfect location – about a 5 minute walk from everything in the center) then climbed the Duomo! The Duomo is an absolutely incredible structure. I can’t believe that people built it by hand so many years ago! The outside of the Cathedral is so ornate and beautiful as well. We climbed the 300 something steps to the top, and the view was amazing:

After a little bit of exploring, we found a place for dinner. That Thursday was St. Patrick’s Day, so my friend and I had a Birra Morretti in honor of that. That day was also the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy! There were flags all over the place and museums all throughout the country were free. It was pretty cool that I got to be here to see it.

Delicious gnocchi at dinner

 So, you want to know how to avoid standing in line for museums in Italy? Get there early! We decided to get to the Uffizi Gallery about an hour before it opened and guess what? We were the first in line! It was actually fun to walk around a bit without any tourists around (except us of course). The Uffizi itself was awesome. I saw so much incredible art in such a short amount of time! I know I couldn’t really appreciate it all, but I still enjoyed it. From there, we eventually made our way to Santa Maria della Novella, then to San Lorenzo where they have a leather market. Florence is famous for its leather, so I bought myself a pair of leather gloves. We also got over to Ponte Vecchio and had a nice view of the river Arno.

On Saturday we took a day trip to San Gimignano, this little town on a hill that overlooks the rolling Tuscan countryside. It was absolutely gorgeous. I took about a thousand landscape shots that day:

 We had a delicious lunch, then went to the gelateria that has won “best gelato in the world” for two years. I had cannella (cinnamon), stracciatella (chocolate chip), and nutella flavors. So delicious!

Where we ate lunch

On Sunday, we got up early once again to head to the Academia to see the David. It was maybe my favorite thing we saw all weekend. The David is an incredible masterpiece. The looming statue is much larger than pictures make it seem, and it’s flawless. I can’t understand how Michelangelo (only 29 at the time) took an abandoned piece of marble and turned it into something so beautiful! We were also lucky to get to see the David with hardly anyone else there. From there, we headed over to the Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace. There weren’t many flowers in bloom yet, but it was a beautiful sunny day so we enjoyed walking the grounds in the sunshine. We got to see some exhibits within the palace, then headed out to lunch. Our train didn’t leave until 8 at night, so we mostly wandered around and visited a couple churches.

View from the Boboli Gardens

By the end, I was so ready to get back to Padova! Being in Florence made me realize how much I enjoy being in a small city like Padova that is beautiful, but not filled with tourists (I literally heard more English spoken in Florence than Italian). Coming up this week: a trip to Torino, Mantova, and another opera! Ciao ciao!

Learn Italian
prenotazione – reservation
stanza – room
asciugamano - towel