Worth a Thousand Words

It took me long enough, but I finally realized that my photos won’t upload because the wifi in my apartment has been so persnickety lately. The amount of photos I’m trying to share is in the hundreds, so it’s really no wonder the wifi is fighting me on this. Even in smaller increments it refuses to work with me, so words are all I have at the moment.

Despite the title, this post will (hopefully) not be a book’s worth of words, but I do feel like I haven’t shared in a while. Allora, this post is my latest attempt at narrating the scenes I viewed, the foods I tasted, and the memories I made with friends.

Fall break was a whirlwind spent in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales with two of my friends from Chapman, Emily and Marina. We started in London, where we immediately descended on the first decent-looking Chinese restaurant we could find. Asian cuisine is available in Italy, but we had been told that London had a particular knack for making delicious chow mein and dumplings. London didn’t let us down int hat respect, however the Mexican food we found was much less impressive. It’s probably terrible for me to even try to compare European versions of Mexican food with the Californian equivalent, but I hadn’t had cilantro, sour cream, or cheddar cheese in months. I was getting desperate! Too desperate I guess, because our West Coast taste buds were met with ketchup instead of salsa and barely-wrapped burritos filled with what I can only describe as sloppy joe meat. It shouldn’t have been surprising, but it was still disappointing considering even the margaritas were watered down. What could make up for this blunder? An English pub, of course! We drank a new favorite cider called the Blind Pig, and we all enjoyed the pub grub that the city is so well-known for.

Food, good or bad, aside, it was fascinating to see so many London landmarks in person for the first time. We passed the London Tower, Big Ben, London Bridge, Westminster Abbey, and even became experts on the London Underground (sort of). Emily’s obsession with Britain’s most famous detective led us to tour the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street. Hopefully when I get my pictures up I’ll remember to post the one of us all in his traditional deerstalker caps! My favorite part of London, though, was the National Gallery. Free entry, floors of masterpieces, and my inner art-lover descended into heaven. I never knew I could see Monets, van Goghs, da Vincis, Bellinis, Seurats, and van Eycks all in one place, let alone in one afternoon. It felt like some kind of miracle to see the original works that I had previously only read about in books.

From London we took a train up to Edinburgh, where we were immediately met with winter chills. Faces were hard to make out because everyone was so bundled against the wind in the city. Our first dinner was an odd mixture of hipster, Indian-Scottish cuisine, but it didn’t disappoint.  Would you try haggis curry, anyone? Delicious! I’ll readily admit my newfound love for haggis and black pudding, especially after our breakfast the next day. An egg scramble with fried black pudding balls was as far as we could have gotten from our normal Perugian espressos. Our time in Scotland was mostly spent on buses driving up and down the Scottish Highlands, and that’s where I believe the real beauty of the country lies. Rolling hills of towering trees and red rocks colored the roads below the cloudy skies that always threatened rain. We toured a distillery, took selfies with “hairy cows”, sang Loch Lomond while on the banks of the same lake, and even got a glimpse of Prince William while visiting Stirling Castle! Apparently he was there on official royal business that just happened to correspond with the timing of our tour, luckily for us. His enchanting smiles and waves had us grinning like fools for the rest of the day.

Dublin was exciting for me because so much of my heritage is rooted in Ireland. The Guiness Distillery and Irish pubs were just as I imagined, warm and wonderful. My Irish breakfast brought back memories from my early childhood because the plate of ham, cheese and eggs was just what my Grandpa Larry used to cook for me in his little house in Redlands. And the rye toast was just like what my dad orders every chance he gets. My feelings of homesickness abated briefly in Dublin. Unfortunately, we didn’t get outside the city to see the rest of the country, so naturally I can’t wait to go back and explore even more!

The weeks after fall break have been filled with school and weekend trips, the most recent being to Assisi, then to Florence and Milan, and later back again to Florence. Assisi is the birthplace of Saint Francis, the monk whose name follows the famously pious order of monks and cities like San Francisco. The church where he is buried is lovely, but ironically hypocritical. Saint Francis preached against gluttony, pride, and all representations of wealth, but the church named for him has frescos and stained glass adorned with gold.

In Florence, we visited the Uffizi where my classmates and I got to experience more da Vinci works, as well as Botticelli’s Primavera and The Birth of Venus. So many masterpieces! Afterward, as we walked through the Medici palace, I had the strangest sense of deja-vu. My roommate reminded me that I only recognized so many corners of the palace because we had been binge-watching Da Vinci’s Demons on Netflix!

Both Florence and Milan are beautiful in their own right, but for me, Milan had the most breath-taking views. The Last Supper is called Il Cenacolo by the Italians, and as our professor constantly reminded us, tickets are near impossible to get without a year or two of being on a waiting list. The work itself is enormous, and more colorful than I thought it would be. Da Vinci’s poor choices in painting materials along with the terrible placement of the fresco (it’s on the opposite side of what were the monastery’s kitchens) makes the details difficult to make out. That being said, the incredible balance and power of the piece is definitely something I won’t forget anytime soon. Much like Il Duomo di Milano, the tallest and most intricate Gothic cathedral I’ve seen so far. The columns travel up so high and hold so many figures carved into them that bending my back to see everything almost made me faint! Thousands of pews line the rows of the cathedral, and enormous stained glass windows paint each individual chapel. We were even lucky enough to hear the towering organ play the first few notes of Sunday mass before we had to leave.

Going back to Florence without scholastic pressure gave me the opportunity to slowly enjoy the Uffizi and to seek out other Florentine wonders. One of those being the magnificent Michelangelo’s David held in the Academia. I get the hype: the statue is colossal! There was so much to study, from his hair to his feet, and I spent the better part of a half an hour admiring as much as I could take in. (Side note: David’s butt is a work of art within itself, just saying!)

Alright, so maybe I did write half a book, but a month of missing pictures demands at least a thousand words! Again, as soon as I can figure out how, I will post the pictures I have of these latest travels. Thanks for reading!

Quick Note

I’m so sorry I haven’t been posting regularly on here, but for some reason I can’t get my pictures uploaded. I’m doing my best to fix this, and once I do there will be a storm of information concerning my last few weeks! Or maybe it will be another photo dump, I’m not sure yet.

Either way, there is more to come so thank you for your patience!

Rome by Night

This weekend, my friend Marina arranged for herself, her roommate Emily and I to stay in a B&B that her family has been going to for years. Zagarolo is a little medieval town just outside of Rome. It used to be a major neighborhood for the Roman Empire, but nowadays it’s more of a sleepy Italian suburb. Our little room is cozy, but the best part is the man who runs the B&B, Evano. He really should be a college professor with everything he knows about his town and his country’s history, but he’s content with playing a part in local politics and giving tours to his visitors. Last night, he took us on a night tour of Rome, and he meant night. We met at 12:30am, were in Rome by 1, and we didn’t get back to Zagarolo until 7am. It sounds crazy, but the city really is completely different at that time. Evano showed us “his city” the one he grew up in for 37 years before moving Zagarolo. He showed us some of Rome’s best known tourist traps, but from his point of view. And alone and at night, they really didn’t seem like tourist traps at all.

Here are the same places I visited last time I was in Rome, plus the Vatican, but last night they were brand new to me. 

The quiet of the wind and fountains trickling made such a serene city that I felt privileged to see. Without the crowds and the heat and humidity, Rome’s beauty shined through.

Evano taught us about the hidden treasures of the city, and of course he swore us to secrecy, but one perspective is too amazing not to share. This is the Pantheon, which in its entirety looks like a beautiful but average Roman temple. But a closer look at the size reveals just how difficult it must have been to create such a huge structure. It took all three of us, Emily, Marina and I, to wrap our hands around one enormous pillar. These pictures were taken to show my view looking up from the massive pillars at the front of the building, and I think they show just how awesome this 2000 year-old temple really is.

So Much To Do, So Little Time

I can’t believe I’ve already been in Italy an entire month! There have been so many adventures these last two weeks, and more than a few days in bed with a cold, but now that I have a minute I can finally catch up!

First of all, about two weeks ago I was introduced to European cemeteries. My creative writing class took a field trip to the cemetery just outside of Perugia and the tombs were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The statues and house-like structures that sit over the graves are each their own individual masterpiece. These are just a few of the hauntingly beautiful tombs we encountered.

That weekend, my roommate Nicole and I took the train to Rome for a night. While the nightlife wasn’t exactly what we imagined, the scenery was breathtaking at every turn! Here is a glimpse of Piazza Navona by night: 

Nicole, having been to Rome many times before, took me on the tourist tour the next day. She was so patient as I ooh-ed and awed at every last column. The Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain were our main stops, and yes of course we threw coins into the Trevi!

This past week was jam-packed with Italian culture. La Bolle delle Maschere was performed in a Perugian theater and a few students and I were lucky enough to attend! The opera was entirely in Italian, and while my language skills aren’t perfect, the level of acting and musicality made the story crystal clear. It was a tragedy of lovers who never got to be together, with as many betrayals and elongated death scenes as you can imagine. But as my second opera and my first Italian opera, I have to give it a 10/10. (Even if I did sniffle and quietly try to blow my nose through the whole production!)

Finally, just this past weekend, my writing about food class took a field trip to Montefalco and two of her finest wineries. We toured the vineyards, sampled the wine, and I even purchased a small jar of grape jelly from the first vineyard, called Le Cimate. It was one enjoyably tipsy Saturday that I will not soon forget!

Photo Dump!

I’ve been so busy that I’ve barely had any time to write! Allora, instead of a full-blown blog post, I decided I would tell my most recent stories with all the pictures I’ve been taking. This is a mix-up/mash-up of my past week, including Berlin street food, a day-trip to Siena, and some of Perugia’s most beautiful architectural accomplishments.
Grazie per visitare il mio blog!

img_20160909_125339382.jpg
img_20160909_125349823.jpg

img_20160909_125335597.jpg

img_20160910_171415737.jpg


img_20160910_154922592_hdr.jpg

img_20160910_154825272.jpg

img_20160910_153141177.jpg

img_20160910_161437887.jpg

img_20160910_152853466.jpg
img_20160910_164328952.jpg

img_20160910_163926970_hdr.jpg

img_20160910_164000772_hdr.jpg

img_20160910_165240958.jpg
img_20160910_153354387_hdr.jpg
img_20160910_163209452_hdr.jpg

img_20160913_131758288_hdr.jpg
img_20160910_163745172.jpg

img_20160913_124833281.jpg

Farming the Weekend Away

The week of intensive Italian classes ended on Thursday, but my weekend was the best course on agricultural Italy that I could have asked for!

To start this Sunday’s short but sweet story, I have to explain more about how I got here. Arcadia University and their College of Global Studies is the reason I get to enjoy this lovely country at all. They teamed up with my home university of Chapman, along with numerous other schools, to ensure that our study abroad experiences would stand out among the rest. Part of their helpfulness and generosity included taking all of  us to a local farm in nearby Assisi.

I’ve driven through most of California’s agriculture center, but this single farm had something singularly special about it. It is situated just off the coast of a gorgeous lake, and rises up along the hills to offer views from all directions. Complete with a myriad of vegetation and animal stock, the farm held us in awe us from the very beginning of our tour of the vineyards.


The family that runs the farm grows three kinds of grapes, each for their own specific wine purposes. Luckily for us, they even let us taste a few right off the vine – hence my jumps for joy in the third picture! Next, a local artist came up to the big house on the family’s property and invited us to participate in one of his paintings. He really worked wonders with what we provided. Can you guess which half he painted and which half is ours?

 

The best part of the trip was the way this family made my entire group feel welcome by showing us into their home and feeding us from their table. Our meal was entirely raised, farmed, and cooked on their property. We enjoyed homemade bruschetta, pasta with a meaty tomato sauce, rosemary pork, and thin cakes with their own strawberry jam on top. It was phenomenal. I could taste the care this family puts into their food with every bite, and we were all so sorry when it was time to leave.

The whole experience really left me with more emotional understanding than practical knowledge. I don’t know exactly how they prepared our meal, nor do I know any of the realistic statistics that come with operating a farm in 2016. All I know is that this family loves what they do, and they love each other. They told us their pride and joy in their tasks has been passed on from generation to generation, and they are definitely continuing that Italian tradition today. As important as profit is in a self-sustaining industry,  it was obvious that the close relationships between the many entwining lives on this farm were the true products of Italy.

Perugia at Last!

It’s close to 4:30 pm on Saturday, and this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and write! The last two days have been a whirlwind of all things Italian, so let me catch up.

I found my people with the Umbra Institute at the airport in Rome, and we took a bus to Perugia. It was only two hours, but it felt like longer because we drove through some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever encountered. Sunflower fields, corn fields, grape vines, and the prettiest little houses were scattered all over the countryside along our road. Once we arrived in Perugia, we received the orientation spiel from our advisers and were settled into our hotel rooms with our new roommates. I roomed with Jaila and Nicole, but in Perugia there are five of us living in one apartment together.

img_20160826_171013044.jpg

Exploring Perugia from the hotel was not as easy as we thought it would be, but 100% worth it. Hotel Gio lies at the bottom of the huge hill on which most of Perugia’s inner city sits, so naturally getting anywhere is a bit of a climb. Nicole and I went out with some people from Umbra in search of a wine bar, but what we found was so much cuter! A tiny Italian restaurant owned by a family of really kind Albanians fed us sandwiches, bread, prosciutto, melon, and deliciously chilled Prosecco. They joked with us about our collective gaps of knowledge in the Italian language, and didn’t seem to mind that we looked like we had just run a marathon. By the time we left, we were all feeling the giddiness of succeeding in new places with new friends – the Prosecco helped too!

img_20160827_161504655.jpg

The next day we were all shuttled up the hill to our apartments in the center of Perugia. I cannot emphasize how excited I am about this, but I have a bedroom window that looks out to a cathedral! Why does that matter, there are cathedrals all over the United States. This cathedral was finished in 1490, two years before anyone from Europe had even seen the American continent! It is enormous and old and beautiful and I absolutely adore it. img_20160827_161513667.jpg

Opening my bedroom window to see this view everyday for the next four months will not make Italy easy to leave in December.

Our apartment is on the third floor of a building around the corner from the Umbra classrooms, and in between us is the Piazza IV Novembre, a large open square with a gorgeous fountain in the center. img_20160827_124704828.jpgThere is an elevator – thank goodness! – but it can really only fit two people at a time. One of my new goals is to conquer stairs before I leave: my calves will look amazing, and I will not be out of breath when I reach the third floor! The inside of the apartment is a lot bigger than I thought it would be, and fully furnished with old, endearing fixtures. There is an out-of-date sitting room as you walk in the door, a spacious kitchen, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. My three roommates that have arrived so far, and I went exploring again once we were all moved into it, only to find the best view of the city I’ve seen so far.

img_20160827_122838682.jpg

Other than that, it’s been mostly school business. I took my written Italian placement test earlier today, and I’ll need to go back later this evening to take the oral exam. The outcome won’t matter too much because I don’t need anymore language classes for my minor, and if I get placed in a 200-level course, it only means I’ll have an easier semester. The rest of my classes look amazing though! One of them is dedicated to the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci, and two others that I’m taking will cover Italian short stories and other literature. All of these have at least one weekend trip, which means I get to see even more of this beautiful country while I’m here.

Do I sound happy? Because I am! Culture shock, smulture shmock! Viva Italia!

 

La Mia Prima Cena – My First Dinner

A short post about my dinner- of course pizza and beer is my first meal in Italy! I can’t think of a more American way to start to my time abroad. And yet, Italy has a completely different version of “cheap pizza” than the U.S. It tasted almost as good as La Volata in my hometown, but for a quarter of the price. I’m not really surprised, but I am already rationalizing how I can eat this for every meal. The pizza had thin slices of meat under the cheese, and olive oil an base underneath layers of mozzarella cheese. And those adorable mini tomatoes you can see on the picture? Super sweet! Good bread, good herbs on top, and I am a satisfied tourist.

Here Today, Gone Tomato

I tried to get all my thoughts together before I boarded my first flight, but here I am half way through my second and I still haven’t written anything. Also there’s no wifi on this flight, so I’ll post this when I actually get to Rome and insert my phone’s international data card (hell yeah Italian apps!)
The pictures are my goodbyes to Cole, Brenna, and my mom at LAX. Dry eyes are not our forte, but I’m not ashamed to say that it was really difficult to leave, knowing I won’t see them until Christmas. They’re proud and I’m excited and I refuse to cry on a plane full of sleeping people!
ANYWAYS –
Despite being an extremely goal-oriented writer, I have no idea how this blog is going to turn out by December. I don’t want to set any major restrictions on myself, so I can’t guarantee updates every day or even more than once a week. Spoilers, there will be swearing, hopefully some in Italian. This is more for me than anyone else anyway. Mom if you’re reading this, you’re probably the only one and I love you for it!
Like I said, I’m half way through my second flight. First was LAX to Chicago, and from there to Rome. It was surprising and intimidating to hear all the natural Italian accents on the first flight. Learning the language was one thing, putting that knowledge to the test will take more than a flight to Chicago. The best were the two little kids who demanded that everyone “guarda!” as we flew over the Midwest.
In between flights was the only really exciting part. My itinerary said that I was supposed to be on the same plane, but a flight attendant told me to go a different gate in order to transfer to Rome. Knowing that I had an hour, I stopped by Starbucks, took my time getting to the gate, and didn’t even bother looking at the big boarding itinerary next to it. It only took me fifteen minutes to realize that all the accents around me were British, not Italian. I might pretend to be a linguist, but intuition is my strongest suit. The gate was definitely the wrong one, I wanted Italy not England, and my actual flight ended up being across a huge section of ORD. Huge as in, yes it was only from gate K to H, and yes I was out of breath when I got to the right spot. Obviously I made it, and with time and snacks to spare. Though to be honest, I was proud of myself for just having made the flight. This has been my first time outside of the U.S. and my biggest solo trip to date, so I’m counting the little miracles as well as the big.
The woman sleeping next to me is going on a cruise from Rome to Greece when we land, and next to her there’s an elderly couple who I sat next to on the flight to Chicago. Cole mentioned that my world was about to get smaller when I left. I believed him, but the physical reinforcement of everyone’s individual path is making it seem huge again. There are only so many places on earth – so many being like billions, but still – and yet we’re all still going different places at different times for different reasons. It was an easy concept when I was in high school: not all of my friends had my exact class schedule, but we all got our degrees. Then university hit, with hundreds of classes with hundreds of students pursuing any number of degrees. School is such a microcosm for the bigger world.
Seems obvious, but I won’t erase the ideas because I think they’re important. A small world doesn’t equal small lives. Easier said than done, and easier read than understood, amiright philosophers?
My next post won’t go as deep into the anthropologic lens of travel, I promise.
Three and a half hours to go!