Arrivederci, Roma!  Last Bits and Travel Tips — June 19, 2015

Arrivederci, Roma!  Last Bits and Travel Tips

This is my last post in Rome (barring anything crazy happens before noon tomorrow). I can’t believe it. It has absolutely flown. I have completely fallen in love with Italy, and I’m already anxious for my next trip here and other trips in the future. All of that being said, I have learned a lot of interesting travel tips that the world should know about. 

1. Everyone says that Italians dress up all the time. They don’t. Bring your jeans.  All of them. You’ll be so thankful. 

2. It’s scorching hot 98% of the time, so bring cool things.                       ESPECIALLY SINCE

3. 98% of places don’t have air conditioning. This is a slight exaggeration, but not by much. Don’t anticipate it and you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you encounter it. 

4. You pay more for things if you sit down or if you have to be served. If you actually go up to the bar (that’s any restaurant not just “bar” in the American sense) and order, you’ll pay less. Drink at the bar, €5. Drink sitting at the place, €8. 

5. The metro is super easy and super cheap. There are only 2 lines, so it’s way easier than like the NYC lines for example. 

6. They don’t eat real breakfast. Coffee and croissant only. 

7. Dryers don’t exist. Washing machines are tiny. Detergent is very inexpensive. 

8. Don’t be surprised if you have to pay to go to the bathroom. Nature calls and she wants half a euro. 

9. Street vendors are everywhere. Be stern and then ignore them to get them to leave. They’ll come up to your tables in restaurants and everything. 

10. No one knows how to drive.  It’s a stereotype, but it’s so true. That being said, when you cross the street, just do it with confidence. If you doubt yourself, you look vulnerable. March on!

And I have some tips specifically for the ladies:

1. Toilets here usually don’t have seats.  Master the hover, my friends. 

2. A lot of the men are very aggressive here. Just be prepared for that. People here are also very touchy. Not necessarily always in a creepy way, but that’s real. 

3. Watch your taxis. Girls alone are supposed to get a discount at night. That doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you’ll get price gouged, so just be ready for that. 

4. Don’t bother bringing hair appliances. They’ll just get fried here, even if you have an adapter. 
I’m sure there are other things, but I’m also sure no one would read a longer list. See ya soon, USA!

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Cooking & Capri — June 15, 2015

Cooking & Capri

This weekend was absolutely amazing. We went down to the Campania region, which consisted of Pompei, Sorento & Capri. It was beautiful beyond belief. Absolutely breathtaking. So much history and so much beauty in one weekend was definitely tiring, but definitely worth it. It was great to have some beach time and learn a little along the way.   

  Tonight was also the night of our big cooking assignment. We were assigned dishes from a specific region to prepare and present for our class. Spaghetti with walnuts, cheese balls and meringue cookies were on the menu tonight from the Molise region of Italy. It literally took about 3 solid hours to prepare, but I think it was worth it. In Italy, the kitchens aren’t up to par, so it always feels like an accomplishment when you complete a meal. I definitely feel accomplished. 

Big changes, big buildings — June 12, 2015

Big changes, big buildings

Delayed post from yesterday. 

Yesterday was a pretty big day for me. I got on the subway for the first time all by myself and went to the colloseum all by myself!  These may seem like small feats for some, but as directionally challenged as I am, and coming from as small of a town as I do, it was definitely an accomplishment.   It is definitely beautiful. It’s itriguing to be immersed in so much history.  I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of people that would have filled it during an event. I couldn’t help but think of all of the people that died there for entertainment alone. It’s crazy. 

In the last few months, I’ve realized so much how introverted I am. I used to be afraid to do things by myself, but now, I absolutely love it.                                 The other day, I bought a colloseum pandora charm to add to my bracelet when I get home. It will always remind me of my independence:  getting on a plane for the first time and traveling like 6,000 miles, going out in a foreign country by myself, and doing all of these things without getting lost or taken. I’ve come a long way. 

Solo Shopping Adventures — June 9, 2015

Solo Shopping Adventures

This post will be short, but it Is definitely warranted. 

The past couple of days I’ve been exploring a bit by myself for the first time. I’ve done some pretty interesting shopping in this brief amount of time. 

Yesterday I went to a farmer’s market for fresh cherries and a sustainable eco friendly body shop where I got some olive based shower gel. 

Today I visited several local shops for odds and ends. In addition to the ridiculous sizing here, shopping itself is a tad different. In shoes, I’m a size 40. In clothes I’m a 46. One size fits all is very common here, and it definitely does not fit all. Trust me, I tried. 

That being said, I did indeed go clothes shopping today. I went into one store and found something I liked and asked to try it on. Within minutes, I had an older Italian lady barging in on me to see how I was doing, while I still had my pants around my ankles. Awkward. But after we overcame that, she the proceeded to tell me how great I looked in the dress. Especially my chest. Which she then decided to touch it to illustrate the point. Awkward. 

I spent some time with her because she was more or less my consultant within the store. She picked out some nice things for me, and kept telling me how nice I was and how pretty I was inside and out. She may have just been doing her job, but she made me feel awesome. 

All in all, it was a very interesting experience and I came away with some nice Italian goodies. On to the next store!

A Series of UnFLORENCEunate Events… — June 7, 2015

A Series of UnFLORENCEunate Events…

One of my most epic life stories took place yesterday.  Our program took us to Florence for a day trip, and we had the option to stay over night. We had free travel there, a great walking tour with an amazing guide (from Pennsylvania, no less!), we got to see The David, had free gelato and a nice free lunch. All of that was fine and dandy. It wasn’t until we were on our own that the plot thickened…

We take the best cab ride ever to our condo for the night. He blared “YMCA” the entire ride, danced while driving, and did high speed circles round the square. Kudos to this guy. So we get to our place (which at first appeared to be under massive construction), check in and everything is fine. We go to leave and lock ourselves out. It was one of those trick doors, you see. One of those where you have to look at it just the right way to get it open. (This is also the same time that one roommate’s phone fell out of her pocket and shattered.) We didn’t manage to look at it just right until the owner walked the two blocks to help us come in.  He probably thinks all Americans are idiots now…

Moving forward, we finally leave with intentions to go to Pisa! We made it about 3/4 of a mile when another roommate’s nose decided to start profusely bleeding in the streets. Better yet, we didn’t have any tissues to help her, only tampons. So there we sat on the side of a Florentine sidewalk, shielding our wounded friend from passersby so that they wouldn’t see the tampon in her nostril. After the blood rush subsided, we took her home to clean her up, thus delaying the trip once again. 

We decided that if one more thing happened before we got to the station, it was a sign from God that we shouldn’t go. We got to the station without any further mishaps, but the chain of events definitely was not over. First of all, we missed our train by literally one minute and had to wait for the next one. Once we arrived in Pisa, yet another roommate ended up being locked on the train and she ended up jumping about 6 feet from the window onto the platform. As we were arriving on the ground level of the Pisa station, we met up with our friends that had adventured before us, where we were informed that the tower was at least a 20 minutes walk one way, which was definitely a problem because the last train for the night left in less than an hour. 

Tensions were high, but we decided to press onward. We couldn’t find a cab, so we broke off into smaller groups and started walking. We were just about to give up when a dilapidated car comes screeching to a hault inches away from myself and one of my friends. It’s filled with our 4 travel buddies and a very large native African man.  This man struck up a deal with one of the girls (the window jumper, actually) to take us to the tower and be there within 5 minutes. Well, we were definitely there within 5 minutes. 

We took pictures quickly with intentions to have our new “taxi friend” to take us back to the station. Everything was perfectly on schedule until the wretched nosebleed decided to appear again. We realized that we wouldn’t make it to the station in time after cleaning and comforting her, so we just accepted that it was our fate to take the bus home.

We relaxed after the time constraint was lifted.  We took more pictures before it was completely dark and just enjoyed the scenery of the tower. For €10, we got an awesome pizza and a bottle of wine, which we enjoyed together near the base of the tower under the first Italian stars that we had been able to see. It was perfect, almost like a scene from a movie. All of the drama and trauma culminated up to this beautiful moment between new friends.  I’ll definitely remember this night and how perfect it was and how much we had to go through to get it forever. 

  

— June 5, 2015

Haven’t posted in a few days so I’m going to play a bit of catch up. 

This week has been very interesting to say the least. Class started in Monday, and I absolutely love what I’m doing. Food is so much more than just food and it’s exciting to learn more of the cultural aspects behind it. It’s also awesome to take a class where a big portion of your class time is tasting and reviewing food and wine pairings. We also went on site to two of Rome’s most well known markets. What a wonderful experience for an aspiring recreational gourmet!

  
I also hit up Ostia Beach on Tuesday since we didn’t have class (it was like the Italian Fourth of July).  That was a blast. It was a little crowded for my taste, but beautiful nonetheless. I just absolutely love being near the sea; it calms my heart. It’s also interesting that there aren’t really shells here. Instead, there are precious pebbles. I collected several pieces of marble and granite (at least I’m pretty sure they are, anyway).  It was really cool. I’m also getting like a real tan, and I’m not really sure how to handle it…

  
We’ve also hit up a couple of pretty rad museums. There is a Louis Vuitton exhibition set up downtown which was very interesting. Normally I wouldn’t be into that, but I’ll do just about anything with free admission. It was very technologically savvy and a bit avantgarde. Definitely interesting.  Then we moseyed over to the museum on Barberini plaza. There I saw many very beautiful paintings, but most prestigious were a painting by Raphael and the portrait of King Henry VIII.  

  
   
I’ve been getting braver, too. Still trying new foods and I’ve even taken a couple of cabs by myself!

Rome is being good to me, ya’ll. Stay tuned. 

Il Papa — May 31, 2015

Il Papa

Today has absolutely been one of the most exciting days of my life. We all woke up at 4:30 AM to go to the Vatican. We were literally like 5th in line. Since we were so early, we practically had the museum to ourselves, at least in the beginning. 

The Sistine Chapel is all they make it out to be and more. It was absolutely breathtaking. It’s amazing to know that one man had enough talent to create all of those intricate artworks in the name of God. I nearly cried. I was dumbstruck. It was so strange to see one of the most iconic pieces of history. I remember studying Michelangelo with my daisy Girl Scout troop, coloring pictures lying on our backs. Completely full circle. Definitely a peak experience. 

We also attended the Sunday blessing on St. Peter’s square. Even though I’m not Catholic, it was absolutely humbling to see the Pope and receive his blessing. Though I couldn’t understand the majority of what he was saying, I could tell that it was very uplifting and warm. It was such an amazing experience and it made me feel closer to God. 

It’s amazing to be in a city with so much world history. It gives you a lot of perspective. 

  

Act Your Age — May 28, 2015

Act Your Age

One of my goals for this trip is to stop living like such a grandma. As much as I love old people, I’m a little young to adopt their lifestyle. After flying for the first time all on my own and surviving by myself in a foreign country, I realized I’m the only thing stopping me from doing awesome things. I’m making a point to try new things and eradicate my comfort zone while I’m at it. 

So far, I’ve tried several small new things.  I had my first authentic pizza and authentic espresso today. I also tried bruschetta for the first time, which was a big deal because up until this point, I’ve hated tomatoes. In addition to all of these tasty  things, I had my first gelato. Gelato is life, let me tell ya.  

 There are only 9 other people in my program, so I think it helps that I’m in a close knit group. I usually really suck at making friends, but this group has made it so easy.  We’ve already had so many unique experiences and it’s only day two!  I can’t wait to see what the next 3 weeks will bring. 

Here’s to figuring out how to act 21 (but still responsible! Definitely responsible!) instead of 81.  

 

Ciao, Roma! — May 26, 2015

Ciao, Roma!

So, I decided to be that guy and start a blog about my travels. I tend to usually be that 1/1,000 person that crazy things happen to, so I figured I should have a central location to share the stories.  Though I’m starting this blog to reflect on my study abroad experience and share travel tips, I could definitely see myself carrying this over into other aspects of my life. 

Yesterday, I took my first solo flight (pretty much my first flight since I was too young to remember the first one) and it was a bit daunting. Baggage is daunting, boarding is daunting, and connecting is the worst. Luckily, U.S. Airways has pretty much the most friendly and most helpful staff ever.  That being said, if anyone has a fear of flying, know that if I can do it, anyone can. 

I’ve been in Rome less than 8 hours and I’ve already learned some very valuable things:

1. Technology makes travel so much easier, especially if there is a language barrier. iPads are great translators. 

2. You have to put your hotel room key into the wall to keep your lights on. Super energy efficient, but super dangerous if you’re forgetful. 

3. Don’t flood the bathroom. This seems simple, but I managed to learn about that today. Evidently, Europeans don’t care for full-sized shower curtains. This is especially detrimental when you have an adjustable showerhead that likes to turn outward. 

4. Wine is pretty much cheaper than water. You can get water for €2,50 or wine for €3. Check your prices!

5. They take that “al dente” thing seriously here!  Pasta here has a definitive bite to it. I guess I’m just used to U.S. limp noodles…
Stay tuned for updates!