Mishaps and Mountains of Fun

Colosseo in Rome!
Colosseo in Rome!

What a time to be alive! Missing trains, paying fines, and the best of times. The last week has been a busy one for me, but I was lucky enough to spend the 10 days before that with Nicole (my sister) and Stephen (her boyfriend). And we had QUITE the adventures!

Venice, on the Grand Canal
Venice, on the Grand Canal

After they arrived late on a Friday night, we immediately headed into Piazza Verdi to enjoy some beers, catch up, and plan for the next 10 days. Our exploration together began in Venice on Saturday and Sunday. And I finally got to go on a gondola!!! We had a fantastic time exploring the city of canals, and enjoying lots of wine. Although we did lots of walking, we saw just about all of Venice and it was spectacular.

Ponte Vecchio in Venice!
Ponte Vecchio in Florence!

Next stop was Cinque Terre. Nicole and Stephen had decided to go explore on their own as I had class on Monday, but that didn’t work out too well. Their train arrived late at the connecting station, so they missed their second train, and they decided to return to Bologna instead of waiting 4 hours for the next train. It was a bummer they missed that connection, but I got to show them my favorite city. We even climbed one of the towers and the view from the top was amazing!

View from the top of the tower in Bologna
View from the top of the tower in Bologna

Because I didn’t want them to miss out on seeing Cinque Terre, I decided to go with them on Tuesday. This is where their visit became very interesting. The cities were all beautiful and we had fun in each of them, but time came to head back to Bologna and rest before our next trip. We managed to get on the right train to La Spezia (our first connection), but in La Spezia we misread some signs and ended up on a train headed back to Cinque Terre! Ooops. We got off in Vernazza, the city Nicole and Stephen had liked best because it was the most alive with people, and started looking for the next train.

Cinque Terre: Vernazza. With Nicole and Stephen
Cinque Terre: Vernazza. With Nicole and Stephen

Unfortunately, there were no trains coming for at least another hour and a half, so all we could do was wait. Now typically this wouldn’t have bothered me, but, it was already 8pm and getting pretty cold. Also, we knew that getting to La Spezia was just a small part of our journey back, we would need to buy new tickets at that station and make several more stops before getting back to Bologna. Originally we had planned to arrive home around 10pm, now our earliest return time was going to be 7am the next morning!

Climbing across the closed - due to rockfall - Trail of Love
Climbing across the closed – due to rockfall – Trail of Love

Once we made it out of Cinque Terre and back to La Spezia, we planned out our next trains, bought our tickets, and headed out to see the surrounding city. And it was a ghost town. While there were lights on everywhere, shops were all closed and very few people were walking around. It makes sense since it was about 10pm and we were stuck in the city until about 1:30am, but we couldn’t even find open bars!? Luckily, we came across a small pub that was still open and sat down for some wine while we waited.

Leaning Tower of Pisa!
Leaning Tower of Pisa: at 3am of course!

Our next stop was Pisa, at about 2:15am. We hopped off the train, debated for a few minutes, then headed to see the tower. At 3:30am, we saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In my opinion, the tower was so much cooler at this time of night, no one around, and it added to the exhilaration of our adventure from Cinque Terre back to Bologna! I’d highly recommend a late night trip to Pisa (less tourists and crowds).

Late nights
Late nights in train stations

FINALLY we were headed to Florence, our last stop before Bologna. Funny thing about this was, we had planned to go to Florence later that day but all of our stuff was in Bologna! We spent about an hour in the train station, then around 7am we were headed back to Bologna. After such a crazy, sleepless journey we were all excited to be back. We got to Nicole and Stephen’s hotel, took some showers and a quick nap, then gathered all our stuff for the weekend and off we went!

Climbed to the top of the Duomo a second time! Florence
Climbed to the top of the Duomo a second time! Florence

Once we were back in Florence, from Wednesday afternoon to Friday morning, we had a blast! Things began going a little more smoothly, and I got to see a lot of new things I missed the first time I was in Florence. We even saw a rainbow over the city when we climbed to the top of the duomo!

Christmas in Florence!
Christmas in Florence!

After Florence, we made our way to Rome. This was my first time in Rome, and it was incredible! Although the city is much bigger than Bologna, and the other cities I’ve been to, I absolutely loved it. We purchased 72 hour bus passes, which worked out perfectly because we took the bus everywhere during the weekend. Nicole, Stephen, and I were in Rome from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, then they flew home to California and I took the train home to Bologna.

Sunset in Rome
Sunset in Rome

Rome is so exciting because there are so many ruins to explore and they are all mixed in with the city. Old and new. We were also lucky enough to see some amazing sunsets while in Rome. The way the ruins looked with the sky on fire behind them was just breathtaking. And it was so much fun finally seeing the trademark tourist things like the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain!

The Vatican on a rainy day
The Vatican on a rainy day
Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

I had an amazing time exploring with Nicole and Stephen, showing them around Italy, especially Bologna!

Fontana di Trevi at night
Fontana di Trevi at night

Now, my last few days in Bologna are coming up, with one final paper due this week and all of my friends leaving by Friday. Luckily, I have a few extra days to spend in Italy, and Matt Lam is coming to visit!!! I’m so excited for our adventures to Rimini and San Marino, then a couple of days back in Bologna so I get to show him my favorite city before we fly back home to California!

My favorite people and the Colosseum
My favorite people and the Colosseum

Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx

Palatine Hill and the Roman Forums
Palatine Hill and the Roman Forums

Oh P.S. – Nicole wrote a little bit for me to share:
“Visiting Paulina in Italy was such an adventure! From the first night when Stephen and I arrived sleep deprived and jet lagged and went straight to partying in the piazzas of Bologna to getting on the wrong trains and having to spend the night in train stations and seeing the leaning tower of Pisa at 3:30am….there was not a dull moment during the whole trip! Thank you so so much for showing us around your home away from home Paula! You are so lucky to live in Italy and hopefully we’ll all be able to go back and explore more soon!”

Miss you, love you, see you soon!
Miss you, love you, see you soon!

Beers and a Bundle of Nerves in Brussels

Grand Platz at night
Grand Platz on Friday night

This weekend, I traveled to Brussels, Belgium with a group of eight other girls from my program. We left Bologna early on Friday evening. But spent Friday morning learning about the massacre/terrorist attack that occurred at the Bologna Centrale train station on August 2nd, 1980.

Delirium Tremens

We set off to have a great adventure in Brussels, hoping to travel to Bruges on Saturday, and enjoy as many Belgian beers as we could throughout the weekend. And we started Friday night with exactly that. Allie, Megan and I had arrived in Brussels later than our friends, so the three of us headed out to dinner and to find a bar afterwards.

Delirium Tremens beers on tap

Successfully arriving at Delirium Tremens, one of the most popular bars in the center of Brussels, we grabbed our first beers in Belgium! This bar was incredible; there were about 50+ beers on tap, and three different floors to explore. We ventured down to the bottom floor, which had some great music for dancing, and started chatting with some people.

One of many delicious beers
One of many delicious beers

At this point I had somehow managed to connect to wifi in the packed bar, and it was around 11:15pm when I got a message from my mom informing of the attacks in Paris. I didn’t know what to do in that moment. It was so strange learning that news. What really hit me hard was that I had JUST learned, that morning, about a terrorist attack that occurred in Bologna only 35 years ago.

Our "bar" Airbnb
Our “bar” Airbnb

Of course I let Megan and Allie know, and we returned pretty quickly to our Airbnb. Allie immediately contacted her friend in Paris to make sure she was safe. We stayed up for several hours discussing our thoughts, feelings, concerns, and looking for more news on the situation. Also knowing that we were only about an hour away from Paris kept us on edge.

The "Festive Flat" and friends!
The “Festive Flat” and friends!

Saturday morning, our big group sat together and tried to figure out plans for the day. We ended up nixing the decision to visit Bruges, deciding that we would rather stay in the center of Brussels and avoid taking the train. So we started our day with some coffee and waffles (of course!), then spent the early afternoon exploring and doing some souvenir shopping. We even found a chocolate shop that did a tour/presentation on making chocolate.

Manneken pis!
Manneken pis!

After lunch, we headed to our Airbnb to rest for a bit. Here’s where I should probably mention that our group of nine was staying in the “Festive Flat”. Our apartment for the weekend was actually a renovated bar, believe it or not! There was a full bar set-up, and stairs leading down to what used to be the underground club converted into a bedroom, of sorts. While the renovated bar wasn’t the biggest space, we all had a fun time, there were wines and beers stocked up (cheaper than buying them elsewhere!), and enjoyed the atmosphere of the Airbnb.

Manneken Peace
Manneken Peace

During our afternoon pause, we heard some more news. This time it was a lot more relevant to us. There had been several police raids earlier in the day in Brussels, and arrests made, which were in relation to the Paris attacks. Now we were definitely on edge. I didn’t know what to do. I was worried that something might happen near us, but I also thought about how the raids led to arrests and how we might be okay.

Kriek, cherry flavored beer
Kriek, cherry flavored beer

I wanted to enjoy my weekend in Brussels, but it was proving to be tough. As a group, we decided to head out in the early evening for a few more souvenirs and to grab some dinner. But around 6pm, we split into to two groups, some people heading back to the Airbnb and the rest of us deciding to grab some drinks close by. We tried to stay positive, and make the most of our time left in Brussels.

Grand Platz on Saturday night.
Grand Platz on Saturday night.

We were back at our apartment by 10pm, and all nine of us just spent the rest of the night talking and enjoying each other’s company. After a tumultuous weekend, it was nice to just relax. The next morning, we all grabbed some waffles for breakfast. Allie, Megan, and I walked into the Grand Platz while everyone else headed to the airport since we had a later flight. However, we ended up decided we didn’t want to hang around doing nothing, and made our way to the airport several hours before our flight.

Waffles of course!
Waffles of course!

Throughout the weekend, I got to enjoy several different kinds of beers out of numerous beers produced in Belgium, ate many waffles, and had some great discussions with my friends. While this was a heavy weekend, it was also extremely eye-opening to be in the midst of it. I’m glad I went with the group of girls that I did, we were all responsible and highly aware of our surroundings, and didn’t ignore the events occurring near us.

Maggie, Anna Grace, Laura, Emily, and I at Le Corbeau
Maggie, Anna Grace, Laura, Emily, and I at Le Corbeau

Yesterday also marked the countdown of my last month in Bologna. I won’t be traveling out of the country, but I will be going on a few more weekend explorations within Italy. So far, studying abroad has been the most incredible, shocking, overwhelming, and informative experience.

More of the Grand Platz
More of the Grand Platz

I’m curious to see how the last few weeks play out, but I’ll be keeping a higher awareness level throughout and coming home with many new perspectives.

Brussels, I will return!
Brussels, I will return!

Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx

Back To Bologna

Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca
Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca

Lately traveling and schoolwork has gotten the best of me, so I apologize for being MIA on blogging, but I’m back! I’ve got lots of travels to catch up on, but let’s forget about those for a while and talk about life in Bologna. This past weekend I decided to stay in Bologna, spend some time relaxing, and to take a break from crazy adventures.

Via Stalingrado, the bridge right next to my dorm/campus
Via Stalingrado, the bridge right next to my dorm/campus

However, it ended up being a crazy weekend anyways! On Sunday, there was an anti-immigration rally in the center of town. Matteo Salvini, an Italian politician who is an active leader of “the Northern League”, was a part of the rally and a main speaker during the event. While I didn’t end up listening to his speech in Piazza Maggiore, I found myself in some other shenanigans.

"First the poor." "We do not want fascists in Bologna."
“First the poor.” “We do not want fascists in Bologna.”

Adriana, Samuele (our Italian friend), and I went into the city for breakfast and decided to wander around the streets and see a bit of the rally. We ended up joining a crowd that was walking towards the piazza, protesting against Salvini. We even found one of our professors in the crowd taking photos! While other groups of protestors on the outskirts of the city got a bit aggressive, we were lucky enough experience the event with a calmer group of protestors.

It was very exciting to experience this event and especially to be walking with the anti-racism, anti-fascism groups protesting against Salvini and “la lega nord”. I’ve really grown to love Bologna. And this weekend just made me fall more in love. I’ve gotten to see so much of the city, inside and out, and I’ve met a lot of interesting people who have shared their view of the Bologna with me.

San Luca from a distance
San Luca from a distance

Sometimes a nice relaxing weekend without all the stress of travel can turn into a great adventure too!

Inside San Luca
Inside San Luca

Besides this thrilling weekend, I’ve had the chance to explore other parts of Bologna during my school days. I took a solo trip up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca and spent some time enjoying the panoramic views of Italy on a random Monday. I explored parts of the city I haven’t seen before, and came across the best chocolate shop in Bologna. And I even delighted in a night out with some friends in the program that I haven’t spent much time with before.

View of Bologna from the top of the portico walk
View of Bologna from the top of the portico walk

Just these little adventures around beautiful Bologna have changed my perspective of the city. And all my solo trips to and from our classroom in the center have allowed me the time to reflect on my time here in Italy.

HIdden canals in Bologna!
Hidden canals in Bologna!

Bellissima Bologna, I wish that everyone could get the chance to visit this wonderful city even if just for a day!

Tea shop I have to visit again
Tea shop I have to visit again

Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx

Fun In Firenze!

View of Firenze from the Duomo
View of Firenze from the duomo of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Florence was quite the adventure, oh my! While all of our friends were off exploring Poland, I met up with Lauren and Carson and we did some exploring of our own. However, our weekend started off a little bumpy.

The duomo
The duomo

I took the train from Bologna to Firenze alone, joining Lauren and Carson at the station as they were arriving from Verona. None of us had wifi so we knew it would be difficult to connect, but once I had arrived at the station in Firenze I realized just how tough it would be! I waited about an hour in the station before deciding to venture off in search of our hotel.

The duomo
The duomo

When I reached the hotel and still hadn’t found my friends, I figured my best bet was to return to the bookstore in the station where I could connect to wifi and wait for them. Luckily enough, I made it back to the station and wifi about 15 minutes before their train arrived! Although it was about two hours after we had planned to meet, everything worked out just fine.

DSC_0192Now that we were all together, we headed to the hotel and hit our next bump in the road. Our hotel had been over booked and our room given to someone else! WHAT?! Thankfully, the hotel owner had contacted his friend – who owned his own hotel as well – and booked us a room for the same price. We were a bit disgruntled, but headed off to our new hotel ready to drop off our bags and begin discovering beautiful Florence.

DSC_0174While we were very happy to have a room, all three of us were a little put off by this new hotel owner. He was VERY Italian. And by that I mean he was a middle-aged man, who was ECSTATIC to have three young, female students renting out a room in his hotel. He told us that “voi belle ragazze” (you beautiful girls) need to be careful in the city at night, careful of the discotecas and the drunk Italians. It was nice of him to warn us, but it was a little uncomfortable with all the compliments and pats on our arms.

Inside the cathedral
Inside the cathedral

FINALLY! We settled into our room, tucked our backpacks into the corners, and headed out into the gorgeous city. Florence was incredible! Definitely worth the rough start. We managed to see the duomo and cathedral in the center of the city, and do a little bit of shopping on our first night there. After dinner, we even found the best margarita bar just a couple minutes away from our hotel.

Ceiling of the duomo
Ceiling of the duomo

Since we were a little hesitant about our hotel, we decided to stay out pretty late at night exploring, and found our way to a fun club! Lauren, Carson, and I danced the night away. We had a fantastic time, so much that we wore ourselves out and all fell asleep as soon as we returned to our hotel.

View from the duomo
View from the duomo

The next morning we had an early start which began with a climb to the top of the duomo. What an incredible view! Then took us to the Galleria dell’Accademia, which housed the statue of David and many other beautiful pieces of artwork. We didn’t explore many other museums in the city, but just walking around the shops and big streets was enough for us to have a great time in Firenze.

Firenze!
Firenze!

We made sure to stop by the margarita bar one last time before heading to the station to catch our train. A great idea, because we ended up buying a later train ticket which cost less than the one we originally planned to take and got to enjoy more time at the bar!

Statue of David!
Statue of David!

My adventure in Firenze was one I will remember without fail. It was the first time I experienced a hotel overbooking my room, but we made the best of our situation without complaining. One really important I learned about this first overnight trip was the importance of packing light.

Next time we'll all pack light
Next time we’ll all pack light

I thought bringing one full change of clothes and some pajamas would be perfect for two days in Florence, but by the end of our trip I had decided that that was too much! I had to carry around a big backpack with me all day, with my clothes and camera, since we were leaving in the evening. I could have mixed and matched a little better, and definitely packed a lighter bag to travel with.

Firenze
Firenze

In the end, Firenze was a fantastic weekend trip. And I can’t wait to show Nicole and Stephen around the city when they come to visit in November!!

Duomo down the street
Duomo down the street

Until next time, grazie per leggendo! XX

Milano Sei Meraviglioso

Piazza del Duomo
Piazza del Duomo

Milan was marvelous! While all our other friends were sleeping, Lauren, Carson and I hopped on a train at 6am and headed off to the fashion capital of Italy. We spent all of Thursday in the big city, and returned that night to an empty camplus since everyone else had left for a week-long trip to Poland.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

I’ll admit I had a pretty rough time waking up so early. But, it exploring Milano was definitely worth the lost sleep. Having learned from my experience in Venice, we grabbed a map and found our route to the Duomo di Milano. Along the way we planned to stop for an early lunch, and walk through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

The Duomo di Milano
The Duomo di Milano

The Galleria was gorgeous. All the high-end fashion stores and high-priced cafes fit so beautifully into the neat architecture. We stopped by a couple of the shops, and it took everything in me not to treat myself to a luxurious handbag or some other accessory. Good thing the Galleria was right next to the Piazza del Duomo, so we made our way out of the shops and towards the museum.

Inside the Duomo museum
Inside the Duomo museum

Another one of the many incredible churches and duomos I’ve been lucky to see, the Duomo di Milano was breathtaking. This trip to Milan was the first time I got the chance to enter a museum and the Duomo itself. Although they didn’t have any student discounts for the tickets, exploring the museum and Duomo was worth the price.

Inside the Duomo
Inside the Duomo

To be honest, I don’t tend to find museums very interesting. They are always just filled a bunch of artifacts with little plaques describing what they are and where they came from. But, I decided to let myself really be captivated by the pieces displayed from the Duomo. There were some amazing sculptures built, and gorgeous stained glass windows which had previously decorated the interior of the Duomo.

Beautiful stained glass window
Beautiful stained glass window

After entering the cathedral itself, I was amazed by the architecture and all the small details that completed the beauty of the place. I found myself wanting to learn more about the history of the building and about Milan as well. We eventually made our way to the roof of the Duomo, which gave us an unbelievable view of the entire square.

Piazza del Duomo from the top of the cathedral
Piazza del Duomo from the top of the cathedral

Although I thoroughly enjoyed our time admiring the cathedral and exploring some of the shops around the square, I regret not going to the Milano Expo. I have heard some amazing things about the Expo, and if I get the chance, I definitely plan on returning to Milan before it ends.

Beautiful details
Beautiful details

I realized that I need to do a little more planning before I visit every city, so I know what I absolutely want to see and what I can go without. I’ll make sure to do some more research before each of my next adventures!

WIth Lauren and Carson in front of the cathedral
With Lauren and Carson in front of the cathedral

Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx

Views In Venezia

Venezia
Venezia

Another day another adventure! My latest day trip took me to Venezia, which is also known as the “City of Bridges”. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go on a romantic gondola ride. But, I did get to explore the beautiful city, small streets, and Piazza San Marco which was filled with lots of tourists.

The Basilica
The Basilica

When Adriana, Allie, Megan, and I first arrived in Venice, we crossed the Great Canal and followed signs heading straight for Piazza San Marco. By following the signs on the buildings, we were able to find our way through the much smaller streets and less tourist filled areas all the way to the piazza. I loved all the little streets and bridges, and I felt like I really got to see the city better.

Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco was so crowded! There were large tour groups everywhere, vendor carts filled with souvenirs, and of course plenty of locals. Although we were unable to explore inside the Basilica, we took our time enjoying the beauty of the architecture, and relaxed in the piazza for a while. It was a bit too crowded for us though, so we decided to start making our way back through the small streets towards the train station.

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Lovely canals

While I loved walking through the city and trying to find my way, I also learned that asking for directions and help was very important. We had been able to find the piazza because of all the signs, but making our way back was much harder. We didn’t follow the same streets, and ended up getting a bit lost. We asked someone for directions, and how to buy tickets for the water taxis.

Megan and Allie
Megan and Allie

If we hadn’t asked, we would have ended up walking for almost two more hours back to the station and would have missed our train back home! Thank goodness for those water taxis and helpful Italians giving us directions. I appreciated the boat ride, it was a great break from all the walking we had done and we got to see more of the city from a different perspective.

Beautiful gondolas!
Beautiful gondolas!

Venice was absolutely beautiful, and I had a fantastic time wandering around the city. For me, spending just one day in the city was enough. I would definitely go back for a gondola ride though! But I will for sure keep in mind anywhere I travel, that asking for directions will always be a good idea. Thanks to Venezia and all its confusing streets, I’ve learned a lot about the necessity of maps, and good friends to get lost with!

DSC_0703Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx

Sunset on the main canal
Sunset on the main canal

Cinque Terre-iffic!

IMG_1396I went on my first weekend adventure to Cinque Terre with a large group of friends. We ended up splitting into two smaller groups, but I had one of the most incredible experiences on this adventure. I spent my time climbing through the mountains with Allie and Megan, finding our way between the cities.

Monterosso
Monterosso

The five cities known as Cinque Terre are located along the coast in Liguria, a region in north-west Italy. We started our day in Monterosso, the northernmost city, and worked our way down through Vernazza, Corniglia, and Manarola, to get to Riomaggiore. While the cities had some similar characteristics, they were all beautiful in their own ways.

Monterosso
Monterosso

During this exciting first day trip away from Bologna, I learned learned a lot about staying positive and making the most of every situation. There were some moments of spontaneity as well, which made for an interesting day! Although we started off with a specific plan for our day, things got a little complicated, which is when we just decided to enjoy our time and go with the flow.

Monterosso from our mountain hike
Monterosso from our mountain hike

We started in Monterosso, where we the larger portion of an hour exploring the streets and some of the little city shops. Looking ahead, we had mapped out a route to hike along from city to city. But about after about ten minutes along the path we realized we need to pay €7.50 to continue the rest of the way. No way were we going to spare that precious money saved for our pesto dinner!

Vernazza from our mountain hike
Vernazza from our mountain hike

So, we decided to take the “red” route which we were told was free. What we didn’t learn until about an hour up the main road, was that the red trail would take us three hours up to the top of a mountain and down the other side into the next city. However, the hike turned out to be an incredible adventure! The views we had looking back at Monterosso, and forward at Vernazza, were breathtaking.

Vernazza
Vernazza

What we didn’t spend on taking the shortcut hike was a great time talking and joking about our big adventure through the mountains. Allie, Megan, and I laughed about our desperation to avoid paying leading us to this big, wild trek. We all managed to have a great time, and rather than being upset about the three hour difficult excursion, we stayed positive and gladly enjoyed each other’s company and the beautiful views we were lucky enough to witness.

Corniglia
Corniglia

Since we managed to escape the cost of the original trail, but spent a good portion of our day in the mountains, we ended up taking the train to the other three cities. Ironic, right? We didn’t want to pay €7.50 for a hike, but decided we would spend a total of €5.40 to avoid trekking another three or more hours between each of the next cities.

Manarola
Manarola

Corniglia was our next stop after Vernazza, but we didn’t find the city too interesting. From stepping off the train, we spent a total of about 15 minutes in the city. Then we were off to Manarola where we enjoyed a delicious gnocchi di pesto dinner with a bottle of wine between us three. Manarola and Vernazza were my favorite cities, hands down. Lastly, we met up with the rest of our friends in Riomaggiore where we did a little wandering, shopping, and eating gelato.

Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore

Although things didn’t go according to plan, I had one of the best days since arriving in Italy at the beginning of September. By deciding to remain positive even through our long haul between the first two cities, I found the experience much more exhilarating. We figured that complaining wasn’t worth it at that point, we just had to go with the flow of our choices and make the most of our situation. Plus, we got in a GREAT workout during our escapade!

Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore

I’ll always remember to keep a positive attitude in difficult situations, especially after some of the crazy adventures I’ve found myself on so far. Sometimes it might be worth the €7.50 to get a little extra time in each city. But for the three of us, spending priceless time finding our own way across Cinque Terre was much more memorable. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing about that unexpected day and the path we chose to take!

IMG_1383Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx

Classes and Curiosities

I know talking about school and classes can be boring, so I’ll do my best to keep this short and sweet! While my week was pretty busy, I had some great experiences and learned a lot about being spontaneous and going with the flow.

Last week I officially began the “study” part of my study abroad program. I had originally planned to have Fridays and Mondays open to allow more time for weekend trips to exciting places. However, some of my classes ended up having different schedules than what I planned for. Not a problem, I’m still very much happy with how everything turned out and I can still swing some great weekend trips.

All the classes I am taking apply towards my core degree units and major units: Advanced Italian, World Religions, and Filmmaking (with a focus on human rights issues), and a Humanities course in which I participate in an internship!

I start working this week and I have to admit I’m very nervous. For my internship I will be volunteering with Piazza Grande, a volunteer organization working with the homeless in Bologna by reintegrating them into society in a dignified way. This seems so daunting, especially because I’ll be expected to put my knowledge of Italian to use, more than I’m used to. But I’m ready for any challenge, and no matter the work I’m asked to do I hope my creativity will get me by!

I’m eager to see how my classes develop, and I’m ready to immerse myself in society through my internship. While last week was just a teaser, it was a great introduction to how the rest of my semester is going to look. I even got to dress for a rainy day, have some movie wine nights, and find the perfect gelato place! I’ve only got one class each day, so I will still have plenty of time to enjoy the city center and relax during the week or even plan some spontaneous trips.

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First day of classes

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Rainy day!
Rainy day!

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Alma Mater Camplus
Alma Mater Camplus
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City views

 

 

 

Being busy with classes was no excuse for the first week. I couldn’t let anything stop me from enjoying late nights with friends! I discovered just how much fun it is to make impromptu plans, joining friends on last minute gelato runs, or booking train tickets to cool cities. If I had decided to stay in my room, I would never have found the gelato place that drizzles chocolate into the bottom of the cone. I would have never enjoyed the conversations with new friends. If I chose to avoid spontaneity I would never have had the adventure of a lifetime this weekend!

Sometimes I know when its best to stay in and have time to myself, and other times I know when to enjoy the company of other people. I learned a lot more about some of the other students in this program, just because I took the risk of missing out on a couple of extra hours of sleep. And I’m glad I did. Unplanned adventures, experiences, and relationships always turn out to be the best ones. Here’s to many more!

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Late night gelato
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ITIT Caffè breakfast
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Graffiti is everywhere in the city
Old parts of the city!
Old parts of the city!

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Piazza Maggiore
Piazza Maggiore

Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx

Greece In All Its Glory

I’m back from Greece! And let me tell you, ten days was absolutely NOT enough time. So much to see and do, we were always moving at a quick pace. From Zakynthos Island and ocean fun, to the mountain town of Arahova exploring the ruins of Delphi. Then to Athens learning about immigrations issues and exploring the Parthenon atop the Acropolis. Ending our trip in Nafplio, we had a free evening exploring the first capital of Greece.

There were so many incredible things we did, even in the short days we spent at each location. I was lucky enough to experience some of the most incredible views in Greece, and meet some amazing people. Our first guides, Polyna and Arsen, were so down to earth and humble. They showed us the beauty of Zakynthos and taught us many things about the environment of the island. From Arahova to Nafplio, we had the pleasure of adventuring with Ioanna as our guide. She pushed us with some tough hikes/climbs, and shared some in-depth details about the history of the places we visited.

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Ioanna
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Polyna & Arsen

Let’s start with Zakynthos. I won’t ramble on about everything, just a quick list of what we did. We roomed in cozy “bungalows” for two nights while on the island. Our first day started with a visit to a locally owned winery, followed by a trip to an olive oil factory. Then we spent two hours relaxing by the Ionian Sea and ended the night with a Greek celebration. On the second day we did a short morning hike through some olive groves, then spent the majority of the day on a boat; we saw turtles, explored some underwater caves, and caught some evening sun rays on Turtle Island.

Our "bungalow"
Our “bungalow”
By the Ionian Sea
By the Ionian Sea
Had to support the local vineyard by purchasing a bottle of wine!
Had to support the local vineyard by purchasing a bottle of wine!
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Traditional Greek dinner and dancing
Traditional Greek dinner and dancing
Traditional Greek dinner and dancing
Day at sea!
Day at sea!
Day at sea!
Day at sea!

Our next adventure took us to Arahova. From the ocean to the mountains in less than one day! We explored the ruins of Delphi, and enjoyed dinner in town. The next day was comprised of a hike to a goat shepherd’s house, where we were treated to some fresh bread, goat cheese, and wine! The trek back down from the hike was much tougher than I expected, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the amazing views we got to see from our trail. At the bottom, we were treated to another meal, spit-roasted lamb, with lots of other dishes and of course, more wine. The rest of our evening was free to explore town.

View of the city of Arahova
View of the city of Arahova
Hotel room view
Hotel room view
Theatre from Delphi ruins
Theatre from Delphi ruins

From Arahova, we moved on quickly to Athens! Upon arriving in the early afternoon we explored some of the ruins in the city and then headed to dinner. The next day started with a meeting with the International Office of Migration, learning about the massive amounts of immigrants entering Greece, as well as a little bit about the human trafficking issues. After a heavy morning, we climbed up the the ruins of the Parthenon! Our stay in Athens was short, but jam-packed, and after a evening of drinks with Ioanna and some of my other classmates, we got ready for our next day departure to Nafplio.

Some graffiti by our hotel
Some graffiti by our hotel
Meeting with the IOM
Meeting with the IOM
The Parthenon!
The Parthenon!
View of Athens from the Acropolis
View of Athens from the Acropolis
Parthenon and Athens
Parthenon and Athens

Nafplio was GORGEOUS. A small town, full of history. We had the option to climb up 999 steps to the top of Palamidi Castle and I had to jump on the opportunity. The view was well worth it. We spent a single night in Nafplio, so most of our evening was spent enjoying the town’s little shops, and the same thing the next morning. Leaving Greece was difficult, but this little town on the coast was the perfect end to an indescribable trip.

Castle top!
Castle top!
Nafplio beauty
Nafplio beauty
Found a water polo course on the edge of town, in the sea!
Found a water polo course on the edge of town, in the sea!
Best Italian gelato, in Nafplio
Best Italian gelato, in Nafplio
View from Palamidi Castle
View from Palamidi Castle

I am still in shock that I had the opportunity to visit such a beautiful country, and learn about more than just where the best tourist spots are. And to think this was a mandatory trip, for course credit?! I feel so lucky to have met Polyna, Arsen, and Ioanna. All incredible individuals who offer so much of themselves to the world. I truly appreciate everything that these kind souls did for us, and hope to visit them again in the future so I can soak up more of their knowledge and beauty.

Being surrounded by beautiful views, and even more beautiful people (inside and out), led me to doing quite a bit of reflecting. While traveling on the bus from town to town, or relaxing in my room after a long day of adventure, I took time to look inward.

On our second night in Zakynthos, I thought a lot about what might be stopping me from getting the best experience out of everything. I realized that I had always been the only thing stopping me from being outgoing, or from fully enjoying every moment. I thought to myself, “Don’t let yourself be the wall that you cannot get past.” I know I must be open to everything, willing to let things affect me in ways I can’t put into words, and stop being afraid of change. While concept isn’t new to the world, it took me some time to finally figure it out for myself!

I’ve also come to realize how wonderful it is to be disconnected from the world of technology. While I enjoy sharing my travels via Instagram and Facebook, I feel so much more in the moment when I leave my phone behind and truly open my eyes to what is around me. I saw just how often my generation uses cell phones to capture pictures, and how desperate we are for any spot of wifi to connect with our parents and friends from home. I’ll do my best to continue capturing photos, but rather than taking hundreds, a few will suffice and I can enjoy the moment without technology interrupting.

Although a bit long, I’ll end my post with this: relationships are everything. And I’m not talking about romantic ones! Meeting people, engaging in meaningful conversations, indulging in late nights with laughter and new friends to create lasting connections around the world is priceless. I am so thankful for my time in Greece, and our wonderful guides who we grew close to in a short amount of time. After getting to know Polyna, Arsen, and Ioanna, they all truly meant it when they asked us students to return any time for future visits (maybe with families of our own!).

I can’t wait to make more connections as I start my first week of school, and look forward to the rest of my time studying in Italy!

Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx

City Sights and Late Nights

I love exploring new cities. My first two days in Bologna were spent doing just that! While I only got those two days, before a heading off to a 10 day trip to Greece, I discovered a lot about the city I am calling home for the next 3 months.

Tuesday began with an excursion into the center of the city. Two of my roommates had gone on the orientation tour that I had missed, so they took Megan and I on an abridged version of the same tour. We walked by tons of cute cafes, bars, some grocery stores, and some other small shops. I also got to see two of the three beautiful piazzas in the city. The piazzas are very central spots within the city. Since Bologna is mainly a university town, many students come to the piazzas in the evening, bringing bottles of wine with them to sit on the ground and enjoy the company of friends. That’s a tradition I’m definitely going to participate in while I’m here! Wine is a huge part of every day life in Italy, and Allie said it best: “Here, every hour of the day is wine o’clock.”

IMG_0699Boxed wine 🙂IMG_0650and Prosecco!

After our city sight-seeing, I had to attend a quick information meeting regarding the Italian class I will be taking and I met a few more students in my study abroad program. Getting to know all of the American students studying here in Bologna shouldn’t be too difficult, seeing as our program is only hosting about 40 students in total! The majority attend Spring Hill College, since the Bologna program is called the Spring Hill College Italy Center, but there are about 6 other students from Santa Clara University and a select few from other universities. We had some time to relax, then it was off to the city with our program director for an informational night. Pizza was provided, and we learned the scoop on the two optional trips throughout the quarter; Poland and Paris! I made sure to introduce myself to a few more students, and arranged plans for the rest of my night.

IMG_0680Returning to campus, my roommates and I were joined by a fellow Santa Clara student, Derek. We ended up walking through campus to a little shop on behind the dorms, and grabbed some drinks while continuing our self-introductions and interesting conversations. Our first night in Bologna was winding down, but it wasn’t over yet. Tuesday was my first night out! The girls all got ready, we met up with Derek and headed out. Our first stop, we found a small bar called Café Paris (I thought I was in Bologna?) and started with some €1 shots! Looking for something a little more lively, we decided to explore further, making it all the way Piazza Maggiore.

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However, we didn’t find anything as exciting as Café Paris so we made our way back to grab another drink. Back at the bar, I learned the value of speaking up and making friends. We began to chat with some local Italian students and after a few minutes of conversation, they invited us to a discoteca! It had been a long day for all of us, so some girls headed back to the room, but I was not about to miss out on a great night. A few of us accepted, and joined the Italians on their way to the club. Soda-Pops disco-bar was amazing. A “secret” underground club, we made our way down into the loud music and crowded dancing. Although my friends and I didn’t end up staying too long (we were exhausted from the long day), I had a great time. I made some new Italian friends, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and it paid off with a night of adventure and entertainment!

Wednesday became my relaxation day. I had nothing to do, so I managed to sleep in. My roommates and I spent a little more time at the shop behind campus, and ventured into the city for some delicious gelato! Besides that, we spent most of the day indoors with our boxed wine 😛 and packing for our trip to Greece. We had planned to go out to the city again that night, but the wine got the best of us so we spent our night laughing and bonding. A great choice because the next morning we were off to Greece at 7am!

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Greece is a ten day mandatory trip, as part of our program. I’m eager to explore and enjoy some gorgeous, warm weather, and return ready to start our classes. Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx