Central Market

This morning I had an early class and then decided to check out the Central Market for the first time! It is ridiculous that I haven’t gone yet considering it is about 10 feet from my apartment (I really have a great location!) and is probably closer than the grocery store I’ve been going to. The first couple weeks I didn’t go because I couldn’t find it. Whoops! I don’t know if it’s just me or the fact that I’m American, but when I think of a “market” I think it’s outside. I knew it was close to where I live and would try to search for it but the only vendors that are outside are all selling clothing and fake Hermes bags. Then once I had my Food & Wine pairing class our teacher took us on the tour and showed us the building the Central Market was in. And it is a huge building in fact, right in the center of the clothes markets I walk through every day on my way to class. I wonder if I ever would have found it if it wasn’t for her? I’d like to think so but I’m not sure.

So today I finally found the time to go. I only had 4 euros on me and was just in the search for eggs (le uova). When I went inside the market for the first time I was completely shocked. Nothing in Italy seems to not shock me though, now that I think of it. It’s basically like a shopping mall, but with food. There are just a million different booths set up all around and little cafes with bars selling sandwiches or pizzas or whatever. Fruits, vegetables, homemade pastas, meat, FRESH meat like with the rooster’s head and gobbler still on it, nuts, oils, chocolates, pastries, everything! It was magical. I spotted the nuts and remembered I’d been craving almonds so I bought 100 for 0.50 euros. I thought that was a deal! I kept walking around until I found the eggs with a sign for 1.50 for a pack of 6. I’m not sure if that’s a good price or not because I forget what I bought them at the grocery store for, but I figured I’d take a shot at bargaining. I never know if people understand English or not so I just held the eggs in my hand and held out 1 euro and just kind of shrugged, trying to say, “This is all I have but I desperately need eggs” and he took it! Such a good feeling! If I had more money on me I would have gone crazy trying to get away with as many deals as I could. It’s like going into the supermarket and paying whatever you want for everything. As I was walking out I saw some packaged, real-life, OREOS! They were only 0.50 euros but I figured I’d keep the 2.50 I had left in case I needed something desperately until Thursday, when I leave for Switzerland!

My travel writing class is seeming to progressively get more interesting and I’m enjoying it more than I thought I was going to two weeks ago. Today we basically just went over the reading (which was surprisingly enjoyable) and then got to leave for 45 minutes and write about observing a person/people. I went to a cafe/bar (they’re called the same thing here) and wrote about a woman who met a man there and I’m pretty sure they were having an affair. Then we all read our little essays to the class and I wasn’t even nervous to share my writing, which is usually not the case! So far it’s been a good day 🙂

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Don’t forget to make a wish at the Trevi Fountain

I just got back from Rome and have never been so exhausted! I’m trying not to fall asleep right away though, because it’s only 7:30 and I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night. WOW ROME WAS AMAZING! Maybe just because it was the first place I’ve traveled to outside of Florence, but I am obsessed! It is just so old and beautiful and everywhere you turn there are huge statues and churches and omg it was just incredible.

Friday morning the bus left at 7am which was an early wake-up call for us. Thankfully, I slept basically the entire 4 hour drive and woke up excited to see Rome out my window! The bus dropped us off in the middle of town and we immediately started our first tour at the Column of the Immaculate Conception. It was my first glimpse of the ancient statues and I was in awe. Just a short distance from that was the Spanish Steps, which I thought for some reason was going to have a lot more steps. There were so many people on them its hard to capture a good picture, but I loved the church (I think it was a church) at the top of them! After taking too many pictures with every combination of people, we ventured to the Trevi Fountain. THIS WAS MY FAVORITE PLACE!! I wasn’t expecting it to be so big and my mouth just dropped when we turned the corner and I saw it for the first time. There is no possible way to describe how beautiful and grand this fountain is. Of course I threw a coin in, but forgot to make a wish because I was focusing so hard on getting a good picture. My bad. And I didn’t even get a good picture either. Legend has it that if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain you will find your way back to Rome again someday. LET’S HOPE! Our tour guide told us that every year all the coins are collected from the fountain and given to the poor people of Rome, and last year 40,000 euros were collected!! We got a break to get lunch at the fountain so we grabbed the first paninis we saw. Mine was turkey and was delicious, but I realized later that I’m not supposed to eat meat on Friday’s during Lent, oops! After the Trevi we found our way to the Pantheon, stopping to see many columns, statues and fountains along the way. The Pantheon was HUGE! And inside was really cool with Raphael’s tomb and a bunch of others. I took a video of us walking into it but can’t post it here – just the pictures! The tour ended a little later at the hotel and we obviously all napped. Once we were all awake we took a walk to see our neighborhood and sat down for dinner in a cute little piazza that had a ton of restaurants outside with big heating lamps. I got the gnocchi in pesto sauce and it was like I was eating little clouds. They were perfect! I’m still always so surprised at how small the portions are here, which is a good thing definitely, but I am continuing to expect a massive plate of pasta like I would get back at home.

Saturday we didn’t have anything scheduled so we just walked around and went to Vatican City. I was sure to bring my passport because I know it is technically its own “state”, but they didn’t check passports and I was upset because I wanted mine stamped again! We didn’t go inside the St. Peter’s Basilica or the Sistine Chapel because the lines were sooo long and we were hungry and tired after a long day. I regret that after talking to my other friends who went inside and “their lives were changed”, but mine was changed at the Trevi so too much life-changing in one weekend might be weird. That night we ate dinner at a place called Classy in the Front Sloppy in the Back HAHA and it was so good as well! We ended up back there that night too!

Today, Sunday, we woke up and had breakfast at the hotel. I finally got to have one of the chocolate croissants I’ve been craving and so I had 2. We checked out of the hotel and got in the bus to go to the Colusseum! On the way we got to see the whole side of Rome that we hadn’t seen yet and I was continuously amazed by all the insane architecture and how old everything was. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that basically everything there was made B.C. as in Before Christ. The Colusseum was enormous, as expected, and just so crazy to be in. I need to see the movie Gladiator now. We walked all around it and went on the ground floor as well. After our tour we got back on the buses to come home and it was weird for the first time my mental image of “home” was my apartment in Florence, and I couldn’t be happier. After this weekend it really hit me how lucky I am that I have the opportunity to study here and really experience so much of the world! Thanks Mom & Dad ❤

I’ll post an album either later tonight or tomorrow!

Beyond Italy

I AM TOO EXCITED TO SLEEP!!!! I just finished planning and booking trips for the majority of the semester! I know people who study abroad in Europe tend to travel a ton on the weekends because everything is so close and cheap, and I knew I wanted to, but the past two weeks me and my friends have kept saying, “oh we’ll do it tomorrow…” and then, “let’s plan trips this weekend…” and I was nervous I was never going to leave Italy (which wouldn’t be a bad thing, don’t get me wrong).

I have been constantly changing my mind for where I want to go on spring break and me and my friend Hannah finally decided we wanted to go EAST! We booked a trip with a program (they say that’s best to do for spring break so the planning is taken care of and you can just relax) to Budapest, Krakow, Prague and Ljubljana (I can’t even pronounce the last place is that bad?). All I know is that Budapest is the “Paris of the East” and Prague is somewhere everyone says you must see. The other two look amazing and I feel like my experience is going to be so unique! Activities during the trip include going to Auschwitz, the thermal baths in Budapest, pub crawls, cave diving and apparently the exchange rate is like 0.1 to the US dollar, or something insanely cheap like that. Ok I actually just googled it and got this:

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I’m sold. IS THAT EVEN REAL? All my other friends are going island hopping in Greece to Athens, Santorini (sisterhood of the traveling pants AH!) and Corfu which all look absolutely amazing. That is where I would have gone if I didn’t go east, but I figured I’d mine as well get in as much as I can! OH and did I mention we booked our trips for 50% off because there was some valentine’s day special WOOHOO!! So it was sooo cheap! I am like giddy writing this!

Then, because we were in such a good mood after getting amazing deals and finally making decisions on spring break, we decided to find the cheapest flights anywhere in Europe for the few free weekends we have. At first we were all set to do Paris but then we realized we’d have to miss class and since we’re such good students (cough) we decided on Barcelona since the flight  is leaving on Friday (no classes!). So in two weekends from now we’ll be getting our tan on in BARCA! We all have friends that are studying abroad there too so it should be an unreal time.

Oh and did I mention I’m going to ROME this weekend?! I’ll be sure to post TONS of pictures and try to chill with the Pope before he retires.

My semester timeline of traveling:

Feb 15-17: Rome, Italy*

Feb 21-24: Interlaken, Switzerland (tentatively, but so necessary)

March 1-3: Barcelona, Spain

March 9-10: Venice, Italy*

March 16: Bologna, Italy

March 21-31: SPRING BREAK > Budapest, Krakow, Prague, Ljubljana

April 4-14: Jill & Justin are here!

April 6: Lucca, Italy*

April 13-14: Cinque Terre

April 20-21: “Under the Tuscan Sun” Trip*

April 26-28: Amalfi Coast

*= with my abroad program

Now that I’ve been here for some time…

Even though I don’t necessarily feel like I’m in a foreign country every second of the day, there are definitely some moments that make you just stand back and say, “woah”. For example, when walking around the city it really just feels like I’m in NYC or Boston (of course not the walking on cobblestone part but I’m used to that by now and couldn’t even tell you what the streets look like in America) until you turn the corner and see a ginormous, beautiful cathedral on one block and then a naked statue on the other.

The ambulances here are frequent and make a really different noise, its more like sing-songy. But seriously, people here must be dropping like flies or dramatic because we hear an ambulence at least 10 if not 13 times a day. No lie.

People can tell I’m American usually in two way: if I happen to wear my yoga pants to the 99 cent store (it’s RIGHT underneath us I can’t get dressed up for that) or by how fast I’m walking. Right now I don’t have much of a problem standing out as an American because there are just soo many, but that’ll probably change in the coming months.

Wine is not the only thing that runs like water – PIZZA does! Me and my roommates have been averaging about a pizza/pizza and half a day since we’ve been here. That’s EACH! Yes, if two of us try to split one we always end up ordering another to split too. However, I’ve miraculously managed to lose weight. I’m sure that won’t last. And today I’m actually going to see if I remember how to work out. But yes, the pizzas are cheap, delicious, and really thin. And we can usually take them to go!!

Free drinks here are normal (and safe) and happen often. People here love Americans and are always bringing up free shots and creating random one time buy 1 get 3 free drink specials. It’s pretty awesome. I won’t go into much about the nightlife because I know my mom will call me with an earful but it’s amazing, wild, LATE at night, and so much fun!

Piazzale Michelangelo

The past few days have contained school work, walking, eating and more walking. On Wednesday I had two classes with the same teacher, then Thursday is an easy day with only one class in the afternoon. On Saturday me and my roommates walked around and went to the Piazzale Michelangelo – it’s has the best views of the city! I took some pictures but then my camera died so I had to take the rest with my iPhone, which actually probably takes better pictures than my digital camera anyway. It really felt like being in a postcard because the views here are what comes up when you Google “Florence, Italy” for the most part. Besides the incredible views, we walked a little farther up hill to an old cemetery and church. Inside the church was so beautiful and peaceful. There were a lot of people, but you couldn’t talk or take pictures with a flash. The pictures from there are a little hard to see because it was so dark.

It got cold out really fast so after about an hour of sightseeing we left to go back into the city center…but we obviously had to stop at the chocolate festival! Luckily, the festival is right near our apartment and is going on for 8 days, so I’ll be a frequent customer. There were a ton of booths set up all with different themes and I got this amazing freshly baked donut filled with chocolate and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Michelle and Kayla got waffles on a stick dipped in chocolate fondue and then Hannah got a cup of strawberries with hot chocolate and whipped cream. We learned that “hot chocolate” in Florence isn’t a drink like in America. It’s basically chocolate melted and you eat it with a spoon. OH and also there was a group of people in tights that were throwing flags around JUST like in Under the Tuscan Sun. I took a video of it and will try to post it on here!

We also found a place that we can take out pizza and we get a discount so it’s only 5 euros and I found a bottle of red wine that was actually really good for only 2.50 euros. I’ve been trying to mostly eat my groceries and so have had a lot of fruit! Something I don’t usually get enough of at home. And I’m basically living on Frosted Flakes and PB&J. The jelly is weird in that it has little grapes in it. Tomorrow starts the first week of classes where I’ll actually have to take notes/listen/and do homework so that’s a bummer, but whatever because I’m in ITALY!

Classes Started

Two days of classes have already passed! I am obsessed with all my teachers and I can already have a conversation in Italian (an easy one!). Yesterday was Monday and I only had one class – Italian. I was kind of nervous going to it because I heard the professors speak only Italian, but my roommates reassured me that wasn’t true because how else would you know the simple words they were saying. Well they were wrong.

My professor walked into the room the first day and handed out the syllabus, asked “has anyone taken Italian before” and 10 heads shook “no”. Those were the last English words I’ve heard from her. I was absolutely mortified that first class when she just kept speaking Italian and I was so confused it like hurt my brain. I’m not used to being confused in class! But somehow, I got it. And now, two days later I can tell you my name, my age, where I’m from, the months, days of the week, seasons and tell time. WOW. I guess this really is an accelerated class! On Tuesday we had to stand up and talk about ourselves and that was only the second day! I’m so excited to learn so much more. I have this class every day and I’m really glad. Side note – my professor is the trendiest, coolest lady ever! She has the best shoes and makes a funny noise when someone slips and speaks in English and I laugh every time.

I found out today that Tuesdays are my busy busy day. I have class 9-11:30, 3-4:15 then 6-8:30. It’s not too bad because they’re all spaced out, but that many hours of classes in one day, even in Italy, is a loooonggg day. I started the day with Travel Writing, another class I was really looking forward to. It was really early in the morning for me (because I’ve been sleeping in so late…maybe I’m still jet lagged?) and the teacher had a British accent, which I obviously wasn’t expected so I was really thrown off from the start. We didn’t do much in class today, but overall it seems like a class I’ll enjoy and we get to walk around the city a lot and journal. It does have a bit of an “english class” vibe to it and by that I mean we were talking about narratives and themes (dislike) but whatever, I’ll live.

After that class I came back and napped and it was amazing.

Then I went to my Italian class again where we did our little speeches about ourselves and proceeded to not say anything in English. Rough life! Before my final class of the day I finally made it to the grocery store. I picked up eggs, oranges, bananas, grape jelly, turkey, bread and green tea all for 13 euros, which I would consider to be a deal but I’m not really sure.

My food & wine pairing class aka THE BEST CLASS EVER I CAN ALREADY TELL, was at 6. I made a lot of friends in that class right from the start! YAY! One girl was from Newton, MA – small world. The professor was wearing a purple shirt, purple eyeshadow, eyeliner and glitter so I knew I’d like her right from the start. She told us we’d be cooking every class and then eating and pairing wines. Amazing. This first class she prepared for us the poor man’s meal of pasta with onions and chile powder and I don’t like 2 out of those 3 ingredients but surprise, surprise, it was delicioso. She paired it with a rosé which was great too. Then we went on a walking tour around the city, stopping at all the best chocolate, gelato, wine etc places. We also went to the top of a department store (I forget the name but I’m definitely going back since I didn’t have my camera because who woulda thought that is where I’d end up on my first day of the class) where you get a whole view of the city and it looks like you can touch the Duomo it’s so close! We finished the tour early because it was raining but nothing could put a damper on that class (pun intended).

So Tuesdays may be my busiest days, but they’ll certainly be the best! Tomorrow I have Italian Culture & Society to look forward to, along with more Italian. Oh, and it’s the same teacher for both classes who I’m obsessed with so that’s a plus.

CIAO!

The Apartment & more

I love our apartment! It’s right in a cute piazza about a 2 minute walk to the Duomo, which is the exact center of the city. We were all nervous to see what our apartment was like because we’d heard things like “no hot water” and “tiny”, but my roommates and I were all pleasantly surprised when we moved in on Wednesday. It’s on the fourth floor, which means a lot of stairs but that can only be a good thing since it’s a required workout. We have two bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, dining room, kitchen and rooftop deck! Today was the first time I spent any time up on the roof and it was just so refreshing and relaxing. I’m hoping to layout up there come April/May! Our beds are cots but we all agree they’re actually pretty comfy. Maybe I just forget how nice my bed was at home, but I really like my cute little mattress. We have a lot of huge windows that open up right to outside – no screens or anything. They’re pretty old and don’t close all the way so it is pretty loud at night, but I haven’t had any trouble sleeping. Everything is really old, but our kitchen looks brand new. We haven’t used it yet because we never made it to the market today (oops!) but we are definitely going tomorrow. I can’t eat out anymore!

Today I had a lot of “firsts”. It was the first time I stayed in the apartment alone because my roommates all had to take an Italian placement test and I’m starting off as a beginner. I woke up to an empty place, took a nice hot long shower and finally finished unpacking. Then I went up to the roof to check out the weather and I spent some time writing in my journal. When they all came back around 1 they crashed and I was hungry so I ventured to find a sandwich shop for lunch. This was my first time leaving the apartment alone! My plan was to find a recommended place that’s a few streets away but when I turned down the street it was on the market was in full swing and it was a shady area where guys literally gawk at you so I didn’t want to go alone. So I turned and went towards home and decided I would go in a shop that looked good and if they spoke English I’d order, Italian I would leave (I can’t communicate much without my roommates! Hopefully this will change come next week). It took two tries until I found an awesome salad/sandwich place right outside my apartment. I ordered a panini that I didn’t know some of the ingredients but it had pesto and mozzarella so that just sounded delicious. I took it back to the apartment and ate it on the roof. OK now let me explain, I do not like tomatoes, like at all, but I do now. There were huge slices of fresh juicy tomato in the sandwich and I just closed my eyes and ate it anyway (my mother would be so proud!) and I actually said out loud to myself, “wow everything does taste better in Italy”. It was amazing. So delicious. I will probably go to that shop daily, and I want to try everything! So that was my first time eating something without picking out the tomatoes.

Then my friend Hannah came over and we started freaking out because other people have already started booking weekend trips to other countries and spring break! There are so many places I want to go but only so much $$. All I know is that next weekend we’re supposedly going to Venice for the “Carnivale”, which is like a huge masquerade party and basically the mardi gras of Europe.

We went to a Mexican place called Tijuana’s and got ginormous frozen margaritas. I had never had a margarita before so I got strawberry and oh.my.goodness it was HUGE! Like the size of my face. So unnecessary, yet so delicious. The food was good too, and we’ll definitely go again when we need a break from Italian food.

When we came home we decided to stay in and play cards and paint our nails, something I’m always down for. My boyfriend called all the way from Australia! It’s hard to talk with the time difference and long distance calling so it was so nice to hear from him! He’s on a trip to Port Stephens and I’m jealous he’s getting tan and I’m getting fat. Oh well, you win some you lose some.

Pics from the first few days!

iPhone Captures

Here are a few pictures I’ve taken with my phone! It takes a while to upload my real camera pics from iphoto to this because the internet isn’t as fast as in America!

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Getting There

WOW! I used to think that after flying to Tallahassee alone I could do anything, but now that I’ve traveled to ITALY alone (partially) I know I can do anything.

The first of my three flights that would take me to Florence, Italy was scheduled for 5:55 pm Sunday. Of course, my parents and I got there 2 hours early to check-in and be stress-free. Well neither of those things happened. When trying to check in to my flight, we were told there were problems with my connecting flights on my way home (in MAY) and for some reason they couldn’t print a ticket. Long story short we waited at the front desk for almost 2 hours on hold with so many different people from so many different airlines to get my ticket. By 5:20 my friends had already boarded the plane and I wasn’t even through security! They finally just printed out a receipt for my final connecting flight and told me I had to get the ticket at the Barcelona airport. I said O.K, kissed mom & dad, and ran through security and to the terminal, where it was just like from any movie and the door was closing and I was the last one let on. I found my seat in the middle of 2 older men and sat down in a complete fluster, not at all ready for the long journey ahead of me. Looking back, I am kind of glad it was so rushed only because I had no time at all to be sad about leaving. Once we were headed to London I was absolutely PUMPED.

Boston > London

This flight was scheduled to be 6 hrs and 20 mins. but ended up only taking a little over 5 hours. I watched the majority of a season of 30 Rock  and woke up the man to my left a couple times from laughing out loud, mainly because Liz Lemon was wearing a Chip Clip in her hair, and I just thought it was hilarious and couldn’t get over it. I got the pasta option dinner but didn’t eat the ravioli, instead just had some salad and pocketed my carrot cake for later.

London > Barcelona

Once we got to London I was all happy because the longest flight was over with and I was with my friend Ally for the rest of the way. However, once we went through a round of security (and they didn’t stamp my passport, which I was mad about!) we realized we weren’t on the same flight. My flight was already boarding (!) and Ally’s didn’t leave for another hour and a half! We said we’d meet up in Barcelona and I sprinted down three flights of stairs onto a terminal train and then up more stairs. Once again, I made it to the gate to be the last one let on. Luckily, however, the plane was practically empty and I got a whole row to myself. As soon as we took off I put up all the arm rests and laid across the seats. A nice flight attendant brought me over a blanket and pillow and I was out for the 2 hour trip. I woke up to the pilot saying “we will be landing in 10 minutes” so I sat right up and buckled up and immediately felt a wave of nausea and a splitting headache. I had to breathe into the paper bag thats always given out and the same flight attendant sat with me and rubbed my back. EMBARRASSING! I’m supposed to be a mature twenty-something-year-old traveling the world. Oh well, it made me feel better.

Barcelona > Florence

The Barcelona airport was completely empty when I arrived. No one else was going to a connecting flight, which I didn’t know, so I followed everyone to the EXIT (I saw no signs in English, dad!) but at least got my passport stamped. Once I was outside I knew I did something wrong and went back in just wandering alone in the halls for 20 minutes scared, nervous, worried, and upset. No one was speaking English! Somehow I found some security and just went through it and on the other side was the real airport with all the normal hustle and bustle one would expect. I asked three people where the “Vueling Airlines” desk was before I found it, and once I made it there – “no hablo ingles”. Cool. I tried to just point and give her my “receipt” ticket so she could give me the real thing. She looked at it then called someone and it was a flashback to 12 hours earlier when I stood waiting on hold for so long and almost missed my flight (and that was with my parents calling the shots and in ENGLISH). I knew deep down that I was going to be stranded in Barcelona the rest of my life. Thankfully, she got off the phone after about 15 minutes, probably because she saw I was crying, and gave me a ticket and waved me along. Finally, something went my way. It was three hours until my next flight and I had to get some food & water in my system, because I was still feeling queasy and gross from that last flight. My first euros purchase was an Evian water bottle and a bag of Lays Original – how exciting! Then I waited about an hour and finally Ally met me at the gate and I was no longer alone. The flight to Florence was quick and painless and I lucked out again with an empty row. Taking off from Barcelona was so pretty and when I saw the Swiss Alps it was the first time I truly realized what “a picture doesn’t do it justice” meant. It was absolutely breath-taking and indescribable.

I was on cloud 9 when we landed in Florence, but then found out it was raining (ew) and that they lost my luggage! I really shouldn’t have been shocked after the way my trip started out. Hopefully my bag will be here by tomorrow or the next day, and I do have enough stuff to hold me until then, but not much longer so let’s keep out fingers crossed it comes soon!