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

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

 

 

Adventure Awaits!

Ciao tutti! As many of you know, I am studying abroad in Bologna, Italy! Before I get all excited about my first few days in the city, let me tell you about my journey to the beautiful city of Bologna.

It all began with packing, and packing sucks. When it comes to packing for big trips lasting more than two weeks, things get tough. Every time I’ve packed a bag or suitcase, I’ve googled and youtubed, finding new tricks to packing more efficiently. While planning to pack only one large suitcase for my three-and-a-half month trip to Italy, my approach towards packing changed forever. I discovered a simple instruction video on Youtube.com, with just over 200 thousand views, teaching the “Army Ranger Roll” (T-shirt: https://goo.gl/rZK0qk and Pants: https://goo.gl/8cdZ1b). I glanced back and forth between my piles of clothing and my single suitcase, skeptical that even this method could help me. I was pleasantly shocked that halfway into my pile of clothing, I had only used about one-third of my suitcase. Don’t believe me? Just take a peek at the pictures of my neatly packed bag.

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With my packing out of the way, I was anxious to get on the plane and get to Italy. My friend Megan and I planned our flights together, so I wasn’t alone on my 20 hour journey. A few days before the big day, we discovered that another student would be travelling on the exact same flights as us, all the way from Los Angeles to London and then on to Bologna! We had a relatively smooth flight into Heathrow, London, where we had our first hiccup. While Allie – our new friend – and I had our bags being transferred through all the way to Bologna, Megan had to go through customs, get her bags, and check them in for the next flight. Parting ways, Allie and I quickly got to our terminal to pick up our boarding passes, and got through security. At that point we had three hours to pass while waiting for our flight, so we decided to idle at a cafe and fill up on some snacks and drinks (cheers to being legal in Europe!). It took Megan almost all three hours to finally join us at the terminal.

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The time passed pretty quickly, but as we were nearing departure we learned that our flight was delayed by about 30 minutes. I was a bit frustrated and worried about getting to campus on time. Although we were a little behind, the flight was short and soon we were in Bologna! We picked up our bags and made our way to the taxis. Thankfully, we found one big enough to fit the three of us and our large suitcases, and we were on our way! I was exhausted after a full day of travelling, and once we got our room assignments and grabbed some dinner, I climbed bed and slept like a baby.
Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx