This week we went on a group excursion to 4 different cities in Tuscany. This included 2 overnights where we would be staying in hotel rooms together. Before leaving for the trip, we signed up for rooms with who we wanted to live with. Our group ended up only signing up for one night together so we got randomly assigned for the other night. When I initially saw this I was kinda annoyed that they would make us sign up multiple times because its kinda obvious that if we sign up to live with someone for one night then you probably want to live with them for the other. After my initial shock I was actually though harder about what it meant. The two girls I was living with were actually people I know. Now I don't necessarily talk to them everyday but Its not like they are complete strangers. I was also still able to talk to my other friends it just meant we weren't going to be sleeping together. And finally most importantly, i would get to know two people better than I otherwise would. I was excited for the opportunity to get to know them better. I am realizing as the semester goes on that going outside of my comfort zone, while it may initially be nerve-racking, is actually something positive. Doing so allows for me to form more rewarding memories. When I think back on studying abroad I wont be thinking just of the monuments I saw but also the new people I met who otherwise would remain strangers my 6 years at Duquesne.
When we got to the hotel, I headed over to meet with the two other girls so we could get the key. When we got to the room I was relieved to see that our room had 3 single beds rather than 1 twin and a double to share. We ended up staying in the room just talking for an hour and getting ready for dinner. It was nice being able to get to know them better and realize that we have some things in common. The only problem we had was that they both are really into makeup so they spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I realized though, that all I had to do was just speak up and ask if when they had a chance if I could have a turn and they were both more than willing to allow me to.
This experience has allowed me to realize that getting closer to people is not a bad think. In Italian and a lot of European cultures, people greet each other with two kisses on the cheek. If people are willing to accept that as the way to greet each other then I think I can learn to live with some people I normally wouldnt in my own bed. Everty time I venture out with students from my own group, I am opening myself up to accept the Italian culture and of the cities I travel to.
Itinerary: San Gimignano, Siena, Lucca, and Pisa also known as Tuscany
Friday February 17
We leave nice and early at 7 am for our first stop San Gimignano. We head out to our buses that were split up based on what floor we live on. It was a nice system because then it meant one bus did not have alot more people than the other did. We also had this unspoken rule of you sit in the same seat every time we get on the bus which was nice. We get to San Gimignano where we begin our tour of the city. This trip is an academic excursion that Duquesne is sponsoring which means that whatever we learn on the trip we can be quizzed on. For my Christian art and architecture class, what we will be seeing this trip applies directly to our class so we are all assigned in the group that is with our professor. It is nice because she is an amazing tour guide but also sucks because rather than just taking in the cities we visit we have to be actively taking notes. Our tour starts at La Collegiate which is a church and also goes to the Chapel of Santa Fina. There were some amazing fresco paintings inside and it was cool being able to see how art differs in the different regions we visit. After the tour we have free time to get lunch and explore around the city. For lunch they don't provide us with it but they did give us 10 Euros to by lunch with. I can get used to Duquesne handing me money! We go off and find a pizza shop where we can get a huge slice for only 1.5 Euro! More money for gelato after! We get our pizza and eat it while walking around the city taking pictures. We then get some gelato and eat it while walking around and taking pictures. We wander in and out of stores and then it is time to go. Off to our next stop; Siena.
In Siena we continue our tour with my professor and visit the Palazzo Public and Battistero and Duomo of Siena. These were amazing churches, Baptistry and museum in Siena. We even took a whole school group picture after we finished our tours. By the time the tours were over it was time to head to our hotel and check in. We were exhausted after a day of traveling and touring. We get to the hotel and are assigned our rooms. We got to choose our roommates and I end up in a room that has one twin bed and one full. I end up sharing the full with another person which honestly was not that bad. We head out to find dinner around the city after we drop our stuff off and head out to find dinner. We all go in our separate ways to find a spot. I started in a group of 8 and then we broke into two groups of 4 going our separate ways. Somehow, both our groups ended up at the same restaurant. And then after we were discussing how funny it was another group of 5 showed up. And then half way through dinner another group of 6 showed up. It was so funny how literally a third of the student on the trip all ended up at the same restaurant in some back alley that had nothing special about it. The food ended up being really good and then we headed back to the hotel to shower and get some sleep. Tomorrow was another early day.
Saturday February 18
We wake up to the random sounds of the phone ringing that no one could figure out how to turn off. It turns out the school set up a wake up call but did not tell us so we weren't expecting it. I looked around on my table next to me and couldn't find the phone so I yelled out someone pick up the phone and put it down to make it stop. Luckily we eventually found the phone so we could hang it up. After that abrupt awaking we got dressed and headed down to breakfast. Breakfast was pretty good. There were lots of pastries, yogurt, fruit and coffee (or hot chocolate for me). I then headed out with one of my friends to go find postcards because we didn't get them the night before. After our adventure we headed back to the hotel to grab our suitcases and get back on the bus. We headed out to Lucca.
In Lucca it was the one city where we didn't have to learn anything so we had the time all to ourselves. I spent the time walking around with one of my friends. We spent the time wandering in and out of stores, looking at the amazing scenery, snacking and buying postcards. We also headed right outside the city to go to the church of my friends patron saint so she could see it. Lucca was really pretty and after lunch it was time to head to the hotel to check in.
We get to the hotel and it turns out I didn't sign up to live with the same people from the night before. We all got assigned to random rooms but I lucked out and got assigned to a room with 2 of my other friends. When we get into the room I was surprised to see three single beds. We all immediately collapse down on them. After struggling to get the wifi to work for a while I ended up taking a quick nap and then doing some homework. It was then time to get ready to go out. We had the option to go to mass or to walk around Lucca while mass was happening. I ended up walking around Lucca and it was interesting seeing it at night. After an hour we headed back to the church to meet up with our school before our group dinner. I was so excited for this dinner.
We get to dinner and sit down to amazingly set tables. Its interesting because every time we go to a group dinner they differentiate the vegetarians a different way. This time it was a laminated card that had my name and the work vegetarian. In addition, the servers made a seating chart indicating where the vegetarians were sitting. I really appreciated this. We were then all poured a glass of prosecco. They also placed a bottle of red and white wine on the table for only about 6 of us. Guess we will have plenty to drink! After toasting our meal begins. We ended up getting served 5 courses and they were all amazing. I left stuffed and remembering why I love going to eat with Duquesne. We headed back to the hotel and that was the end of the night.
Sunday February 19
Our morning starts out the same way as the day before but this time we were ready for the wake up call. We immediately grab the phone when it rings and hang it up. Turns out breakfast today was even better. There were scrambled eggs! Everyone was so excited to see something that we would normally have for breakfast. It is now time to head to Pisa! Sadly this was another academic city so we went on a tour of the Camposanto, cathedral, and baptistry. They were all pretty cool. At one point in the baptistry to prove how it was constructed to have perfect proportions and acoustics a woman started to sing and it was amazing to hear how it echoed around the building. It was such a cool experience that I am glad I did not miss. After our "class" ended we were given free time to take pictures in front of the leaning tower of Pisa, climb the tower or get lunch. I did not end up climbing the tower but I did enjoy watching people when they came down feeling sick because of the lean of the tower.
After this it was time to head back to Duquesne. It was an amazing weekend but tiring. I was glad to be back in my bed and not have to live out of a suitcase. It was also cool being able to get to see all these cities in Italy that I otherwise may not have seen.
On of the projects this semester involves working with students from a local Italian high school. While we were told that most of them speak English, their abilities all differ. For the first time meeting them they came to our campus where we were all wearing name tags.
Meeting my Italian partner was an interested and nervous experience. Before meeting her I was worried about whether she would speak enough English for us to have a conversation or if I needed to have google translate ready. I was also unsure of when I met her for the first time if I should go for the baci or the handshake. Usually on Wednesdays all I do is homework so I just wear sweatpants. However, I knew I should set a good impression and I should dress up. Turns out I wasn't the only one with this feeling. Before I knew it, the time was here and we were supposed to go upstairs to find our partner. I found it funny how no one would cross from their side of the room. On one side was the Americans all trying to decide whether to go for the baci or not and on the other was the Italian students. Finally, it was like the ice was broken as one person ventured into the unknown to greet their Italian student. From then on it was a free for all for finding your partner. I found it funny how one person wrote the name of their Italian partner on the back of the packet like you see at the airport. When I finally found my partner, I let her take the lead for what to do. She went for the handshake and I was relieved. It was then time to start the interview with each other; the moment I had been waiting for. It turns out her English was good so we could have a pretty good conversation. The only thing she needed help with was the spelling of Maryland and what the letter "y" looks like. She even translated for the other Italian in our group who did not speak that much English.
There were a couple things that surprised me and one of then was the fact that she only has about an hour of homework a day and only for English. She was amazed to hear that I usually have 3-5 or sometimes more homework a day. I also could not believe that they get out of school around 1:30. I have never had that short a school day or that little homework. I was amazed that their school structure was so different. I think she also felt the same about ours. The other thing that interested me was the fact that she said that all she does is sleep, eat, and hang out. While I do these sometimes, a big part of our schooling is extracurricular. Whether its sports of clubs I usually had something every day after school. It was interesting to think that she has no homework and she gets out of school super early yet doesn’t have anything to do afterschool.
Meeting my Italian partner was a super interesting experience. While I went into it nervous I left excited to meet her again. I also feel like this experience is something we may never have the chance to do again and gives great perspective to how a simple thing like school changes with a change in culture. It also showed me that while trying to communicate with someone who may or may not speak english may be nerve-racking, I should not avoid it because the experience I get out of it are far greater than the ones I would get sheltering myself away.
Tuesday February 14
Today started out as a normal day of classes and going out to eat but it ended with having the best gelato I have had this trip or the last time I was here. Frigidarium which was about a 5 minute walk from where we had dinner is known for their Frigidarium flavor. This flavor consists of caramel and hazelnut with chocolate cookie pieces. If that doesn't sound good enough they top the cone with a whole chocolate cookie and then dip the ice cream into chocolate that forms a crunch coating on the outside. It was AMAZING. Not only did it taste amazing, we got two scoops with the chocolate top all for only 2 euros. This was an amazing cone and price for a huge scoop of gelato. We spent the rest of the night discussing how that is going to become our new Tuesday ritual. I cannot wait until next Tuesday.
Wednesday February 15
One of our assignments this semester involves pairing up with a local school and working together with an Italian student. Today was the day that we met the students. My partners name is Diana (shes 19 like me) and luckily her english is really good. It was pretty cool being able to learn about the differences between our schooling. One of the main differences is that she only goes to school till 1:30 and she also only has about an hour of homework a day. I cannot believe that our schools are so different. I took her on a tour of the campus and we had a nice conversation getting to know each other. It was an interesting experience and I look forward to seeing her again.
Thursday February 16
Today started out as a normal school day but ended with a wine tasting. One of our professors this semester is a well known tour guide in Rome and has given tours to actors and famous people from around the world. Well it turns out in addition to being a well known tour guide she and her husband are sommeliers. She was going to be leading us through our wine tasting this evening. We head downstairs after dinner to find what is usually our classroom transformed into a room where we can sit and experience this tasting of wine. The room was filled with snacks, glasses and even a program that included what we would be tasting. We had 6 wines total; 1 Prosecco, 2 white, 2 red, and a dessert wine. Turns out I don't really like wine. I definitely preferred the Prosecco over any of the other and the white over the red but honestly I would just stick with my glass of water rather than wine. It was a nice experience though to learn about the 5 S's of wine tasting. They are sight, swirl, smell, sip, savor. I am happy that I got to experience this and know the proper way to drink wine even if I don't necessarily like it. The best part about the fact that my professor lead the wine tasting was that I had class with her that morning, then saw her again for the wine tasting and then I would be seeing her everyday this weekend as she was leading my group on our tour around northern Italy. I am going to be spending a lot of time with my professor. Better make sure I brush up on my church design plans and fresco painting techniques. We leave nice and early tomorrow morning.
Friday February 10
Our day starts out nice and early for our departure for Perugia. We head outside to catch our bus at 6:30 am. My goal for the bus ride was to do homework but it was pitch black out so that didn't work. I ended up taking a nap instead. Before I knew it we were getting off the high way and driving through the mountains to get to our first destination; truffle hunting. When we finally got up the steep winding mountain to the farm the view was amazing. You could see the whole city. I wondered for part of it how the bus could possibly make it up but apparently we had a very good driver who knew exactly what he was doing. When we get to the farm we are greeted by the tour guide, a truffle hunter, the truffle dog Camilla, and the owners of the truffle company. We start the truffle hunt which is basically letting the dog run around and sniff out the truffles. When she finds ones she starts to dig it up and then the trainer has to run over so that she doesn't eat the truffle (she ended up having a couple snacks). It was really interesting being able to see how she was able to find the smallest truffle. Once the truffle is found we then used a little shovel to dig it up and I even got to dig one up! Sadly i didnt get to keep it. After finding about 15 truffles we headed to the factory for lunch. We were going to be eating lunch that was everything truffle.
When we get to the factory we start out with a tour of how the truffles are cleaned and packaged. Then we head over for a little lesson about truffles. Finally it was time to eat. We sit down to lunch with no one knowing what to expect. The only one who had any idea of wether they liked truffles or not was are Assistant Resident Director in charge of the trip who had already done this excursion before. The first course was served which was just 3 pieces of bread with 3 different types of truffle on top with some olive oil. We were introduced to each truffle and then we were allowed to eat it. We glanced nervously each other before taking a bite. It turns out they were nothing like what I would expect. While I didn't love all of them, they were actually okay. I was excited to try them in some food rather than just the raw form. The next course was bread with different types of sauces with truffle in them. One of them was even a pesto with truffle which was pretty good. They also served cheese with honey infused with truffle, and flan with truffle in it. The honey was pretty good but I am just not the biggest fan of flan. Our next course was definitely the best one. They served us nochi with a cheese truffle sauce, mashed potatoes with truffle, frittata with truffle, polenta with truffle, and chicken with truffle. Everything was amazing but the nocchi was definitely my favorite. After that we had a light dessert that no did not have truffle in it and then lunch was over. I was stuffed. I never imagined that i would like truffle but everything i ate was super good. We even got certificates that we were "official" truffle hunter now!
After lunch we headed back onto the bus to head toward the Perugina chocolate factory. When we get to the factor we are taken on a tour where we first learn about the history. Perugina is known for their Bacio chocolate which is a chocolate hazelnut middle with a whole hazelnut on top and covered in chocolate. After learning about the history we are then taken to a tasting where we get to try 10 different types of chocolate. It was all so good. My favorite was one of the special versions of the Bacio which has candied chocolate pieces in it and is covered in extra dark chocolate. It was so good. Then we go on a tour of the factory where sadly we weren't able to take pictures but it was so cool being able to see the chocolate being made. One of the things we got to see super close was them making their chocolate easter eggs which was pretty cool. After seeing the chocolate being made of course the natural thing to do was to head back to the chocolate factory and try some chocolate because why not. Then our tour was over. It was so interesting seeing everything be made. The gift shop was the next stop where of course I bought some chocolate to bring back to school.
Off to the bed and breakfast where we will be staying for 2 nights. It was also where we will be doing the cooking class tonight. When we get to the place we are showed to our apartments. The apartments were super cute and the owner even baked us a cake for breakfast the next day. We got about 20 minutes to unwind before we headed upstairs for the cooking class. I was so excited for this part of the trip. Our menu for the night was onion pizza, margarita pizza, handmade pasta with tomato sauce, and tiramisu. We split into groups of about 4 and each group got go do a portion of the cooking. I ended up doing the onion pizza. The owner had previously made the dough because it needed time to rise so i was tasked with kneading it, rolling it out, and assembly. So i wasnt told what shape to make the pizza so I assumed a circle. Good assumption right? Turns out it was suppose to be a square so i made a perfect circle to only have to cut it. Then i had to put the toppings on which was just a TON of onions, olive oil, salt, and sage. As i was assembling it i was wondering whether this pizza would actually be any good. We sit down to dinner and the first thing out is the pizza. It was surprisingly very good. I never would have imagined it would be but something about Italy makes really simple ingredients taste 10 times better than they would at home. The other pizza was great also but my favorite part of the meal was the handmade pasta. Nothing compares to pasta that you make yourself. After finishing the tiramisu we headed to our rooms to collapse and go to bed. However, when we got to our room it was an icebox! It was so cold and we couldnt figure out how to increase the heat if we even could. We ended up huddling together in the bed together to stay warm. We got all 4 of us in the bed with room to spare! That really helped us warm up and then we finally went to our beds we were definetly warmer. We set our alarm for our early day the next morning.
Saturday February 11
Today started out with yoga. We headed down the hill to the casa yog were we were going to be lead through our yoga class. Having not done yoga before it was an interesting experience. I definetly ejnjoyed it an would maybe do it again. However, there was one weird part where the leader was able to suck his stomach in so it was like an inch thick and it was kinda creepy. After a nice meditation session we headed back up the hill to change and relax for a little bit before lunch. The owner cooked us lunch and it too was really good. We had pesto pasta which was also hand made and amazing. After lunch we had some free time again where we did some homework and then we departed for the city.
Perugia is a reallycool city. We were given time to walk around, shop, have a snack and look at the scenery. There was one spot in town where you get a really good view of thescenery around us and we made sure to head back around sunset. We spent our free time doing a ton of walking and then it was time for dinner. Dinner was another great 5 course meal. However, i was exhausted by that time and loved the opportunity to sit down. After dinner we head back to the bed and breakfast which was actually warm. We were exhasutedbut we packed up because we left earl he next morning for Assisi.
Sunday February 12
Assisi is situated on a mountain and to go anywhere you have to walk up a ton of hills. I think i ended up doing the equivalent of over 70 flights of stairs from walking up the hills. We go to mass where I was freezing and then we go on a tour of the city. It was very interesting learning about the history of the city. We then had some free time to do some shopping and get lunch. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to our meetin gpoint to get on the bus to head back to Rome. I immediately fell asleep on the bus even though I planned to do some homework. Before i knew it we were back at campus. This weekend was amazing and it was great getting to see parts of Italy that I might not have been able to see. While this weekend was exhausting it was amazing. Now to go do some homework to prepare for this next school week.
2nd week of classes are done. It is great being able to get into a normal schedule again. Sadly, I already have a quiz next week so I will be studying hard for that. The classes all don't seem too bad but I usually have about 70 pages of reading that is due for each class (or for my film class a 2 hour movie). Luckily, the classes are all interesting so the reading is not too bad. Tuesday we went out to dinner again with our vouchers and this time I got eggplant parmesan. It was really good. I love being able to sit at the long tables having a hour long meal getting to meet knew people. The bus system is getting a little bit easier. There is an app we can use to determine when the bus should be arriving in front of the school which sometimes works. The worsts its been has been 10 minutes late. This helps prevent the need to leave 2 hours early for everything. Other than getting the lay of the land and figuring out the best schedule, this week has been relatively uneventful. I am excited though for this weekend were I will be doing a cooking class and truffle hunting. Stay tuned for next week where I will tell all about my trip starting nice and early on Friday.
On of my favorite things this week was riding a bus other than the normal 3 I ride daily. On my way back from my on-site class all we wanted to do was get back to school for lunch. We were hoping that when we got to the bus stop in Boccea we would be lucky and the 906 wouldn’t be too far away. However, this was not the case and when we got to the bus stop the sign said 45 minutes. We waited for the sign to cycle again before we got disappointed. Turns out the 906 just didn’t like us today and the only one listed was the 45 minute away one. We all looked at each other and then decided that we would try taking another bus to the end of Boccea and then walk the rest of the way. This meant we only had to walk one mile instead of two. We examined the bus sign and then chose a bus that had 8 stops in Boccea figuring if it only had 2 it might not stop where we needed it to. The ride was interesting because every time we approached a bus stop we wondered should we get off here or wait it out for another stop or two. We successful got off where we needed to and then we began walking. About 5 minutes after we started walking the 906 passed us. So, it turns out the sign was wrong. Whoops. As we continued walking thinking why didn't we just wait for the bus, I began to take in my surrounding. We were walking through Rome! It was a beautiful day and there was nothing to complain about. The thing that I loved the most about this experience was being able to notice things that I would never have been able to on the bus. For instance, there is a garden store on our street. Who would have know. Whenever we drive past its speeding on a bus with fogged up windows. There was also a food truck parked outside what I believe is a school and amazing views. The fields were all so green and the views we get of surrounding areas and neighborhoods were amazing. The typical view a person sees when they go to Rome is of the major attractions; the Trevi fountain, colosseum, and Spanish steps. Not the suburbs that have beautifully colored homes. The oranges and yellows of the houses is something that we typically don't see in the United States especially where I live outside DC in a suburb.
What I initially was a little hesitant on doing became one of my favorite things. I gained a better appreciation of where I was living. I also think learning how to take another bus is more important than getting back to school 20 minutes earlier. This experience was a really interesting one for me because I was stepping out of my comfort zone. Rather than sticking with only the buses that I know exactly where they went. I both gained a new view of where I was living and the confidence to ride the bus system without having the route planned ou
Now, while that was my favorite experience there was also one situation that I disliked the most. This weekend we traveled for Florence where while Duquesne helped us with some things we were left with all of Sunday to ourselves. I am someone who loves to have a plan and schedule to hold onto. However, the people I travelled with are very much the opposite. We spent all of Saturday doing the planed schedule of Duquesne and then while at dinner, when everyone was around, we discussed our plan for Sunday. The plan we made was super important because one of the people in our group was living in a hotel with a different set of people to make all 12 of our housing cheaper. However, she wasn't friends with them just doing a favor. Anyways we had the plan of on Sunday we would get to the bell tower at 8:15 right when it opened. I set my alarm for 7:45 giving myself 30 minutes to get ready which was more than enough. Well, when my alarm went off I woke up to all the lights off and nobody making any noise. I looked around the room where four of us were sleeping and made eye contact with the one other girl who wakes up at 6:45 every morning. I texted her why no one was up and she wasn't sure. However, our other friend was going to be coming to our place any minute to drop off her bags. She had to check out of her hotel early while we could stay in our Airbnb until our train left at three. I ended up getting ready super quick so I could go outside and meet our friend, however, before I left the other girls in the room told us that they would come meet us at the bell tower at 9. We figured they might not have stuck to their original plan, at least they were planning on still getting up and not wasting our last day in Florence. Soon enough it was 9 am and pouring out. They were nowhere in sight. At 9:30 we decided enough and that while they might not care that we just wasted an hour and half waiting for them to get up we were going to enjoy our time and go on with our day. We ended up climbing the bell tower where they eventually joined up with us. While I was initially very frustrated with them for making the plan and not even being able to keep it, I was grateful that we didn't let that stop us.
While I will always someone who prefers, a schedule made, I am learning that it’s not everything. I also learned that while we may be a group of six who are all friends, it doesn't mean that we must stay together. While I was frustrated schedules aren't everything. It is the experiences that we are forming and nothing says these experiences must be done in a group of six. Breaking out of my comfort zone is important and doing so will allow me to grow personally, socially and professionally.
Friday February 3
Time to catch our first Italian train. We get out of class at 5:15 and our train leaves at 7:50. It is about a 15 minute bus ride and a 20 minute metro ride. However, the bus is super unreliable and it could take over an hour to catch it. Turns out when we get out of class we are in luck. The bus is leaving in 15 minutes so we sprint upstairs to grab our already packed bags and run to the bus stop. We even have a couple minutes to spar. We end up getting to the train station with about an hour and a half before our train so we spend the time getting some dinner. We are finally given a track number and head to the train. The train is one of the fast ones so we should be in Florence in about an hour and a half.
The train ride is uneventful and it was also super empty. I ended up having no one sit next to me which was great. When we get to Florence we hustle to where we will be staying; an airbnb. 6 of us will be staying in a one bedroom one bathroom apartment. I guess mornings will be alot of jumping over people trying to get ready. When we finally get to the place and walk in it was super nice. It was well decorated and clean. We decide on who is sleeping in what bed and who is sharing a bed with who and then it is time to head out and explore the city. Our first stop, the Duomo. Our place was only about .3 miles from the Duomo so it was amazing being able to walk for less than 5 minutes and it suddenly appeared in front of us. We stop to take pictures we a group of guys ask us to take their picture for them. Turns out they were students from Washington State. What was the likelihood we found another group that spoke english. After taking pictures for them and them doing the same for us it was time to walk around a little more before heading back and getting some sleep. The next day starts out super early with a tour of the Duomo.
Saturday February 4
This trip is one that Duquesne sponsors. While they do not do everything for us, they do take us on the tours. We meet in front of the Duomo at 9 to be assigned to our groups and given our listening devices. The tour ended up being super interesting and informative. The tour guide was great and made everything come to life. After the tour it was off to Tour the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo. There we were able to see some very interesting statues before heading to the roof for a view of the Duomo. It was amazing. After that we headed to the Academia Gallery to see the David. It was amazing. I could not believe how tall the David was and how Michelangelo was able to make him continue to stand all these years later. I am definitely happy that I decided to go on the trip. We now were given an hour long lunch break. I ended up at a pizza shop were I go a piece of pizza with some vegetables on it. It only cost 2,70 euros and it was a super big piece. It also tasted great. After resting it was time to head out on our tour of the city.
The second we got to the meeting place for the tour it started to pour. Luckily I had my rain coat on but I wish I remembered to grab my umbrella from the bottom of my backpack. I ended up sharing one with the different people around me. Our tour guide decided to start the tour at places that were undercover. We were able to see the different architecture of the city, small road barely large enough for a car and we even saw a replica of the David. However, this replica was outside and because of its location in front of a very tall building it looked about half the size of the real David. I could not believe that they were both the same size but I guess our eyes can trick us. However, nothing I had seen today was as amazing as the scenery of our last stop. Ponte Vecchio. This is a bridge that houses the gold shops of Florence. However its location over the water next to yellow and orange apartments makes for an amazing view and pictures. After stopping for a photo shoot and to learn some history about the bridge it was time for a gelato break. Despite the fact that it was still raining, kinda windy, and cold because we were by water free food will always be accepted and this gelato was amazing. Just what we needed after walking all day.
After our gelato break it was time to part ways with our tour guide and gave us some free time. We headed to the bridge to look at the jewelry (it was all so beautiful but expensive) and then we slowly made our way back to the room weaving in and our of markets. There were so many leather bags and scarfs for sale. There was mass at the Duomo so while my friends all went to that I went into different stores that I encountered and then headed back to the room to get ready for dinner and warm up a bit. After dinner was one of Duquesne infamous multi course meals. I was so excited. Turns out my excitement wasn't well met. While the food was good the portions were tiny. They served the food family style, but only enough for the 6 people sharing to get about 5 noodles each. We did however, go through at least 15 bottles of water which since you have to pay for water in Italy, made up for the small portions of food. After dinner was over it was time to head back to the room before our day of exploring tomorrow.
Sunday February 5,
We have today to do whatever we want. Our train does not leave until 3:13 so we have a lot of time to get souvenirs. Our day starts out early at 8 am to get ready. Luckily, its still raining outside so I guess we will all be bundling up. We head out to breakfast before walking throughout the whole city. Our first stop was to head back to bridge so that one of the people in my group could buy a necklace. While she was buying a necklace I strolled up and down with another friend admiring all the jewelry and being stunned by some of the outrageous prices. afterwards we then admired the view some more before heading back to visit some markets. We ended up stopping on one market that had a lot of leather bags and scarfs. While some got bags, I headed over to the scarfs. I ended up purchasing one after negotiating with him to lower the price. Now I had something extra to protect me from the rain. While wandering into and out of different shops we eventually made it back to the Duomo. There, we ended up getting pizza to bring back to the place. After walking back trying to avoid as many puddles as possible, we finally made it. We sat down to eat our food which tasted amazing after walking so much. Despite walking around the city for a couple hours, we still had 2 hours before we needed to be at the train station. The train station is only a 5 minute walk so we don't have to leave too early.
The amount of walking finally caught up so we decided to take this time to relax and do some homework. Before we knew it it was time to head to the train. We get there and we are early so we stand around staring at the military officers with their huge machine guns. When our train finally gets into the station we board and choose our seats. This train, because it is a slow train, is situation with 4 seats facing each other. We all sit in our own row facing one other person. It was amazing because we were able to spread out and get comfortable for our 3.5 hour ride. I love when the trains not full!
Turns out the slow train is not slow just because of its speed but also because it had 12 stops between Florence and Rome. Luckily the train did not start to get full until 3 stops from home so I only had to share a seat with someone for about 30 minutes. The train ride was filled with homework, sleeping, and people watching as they got kicked off the train. Turns out they really will cook people off the train when they don't have a ticket. When we finally got to Rome we were so excited to get back. However, our train seemed to stop at the farthest track possible. It was at lest two full trial lengths until you reached the main platform. We were in Rome yet we were so far away from being back at campus. We still had the walk to the platform, metro ride, and bus ride before we were home. Luckily we had very good timing for the metro and bus so we barely had to wait. By the time we got to campus it was time to have dinner and I was starving. The night was then filled with showering and some homework before an early bedtime. Florence was an amazing trip and I am glad that I went on it. I cannot wait until next weekend for my trip to Assisi, Italy.
This week was the start of classes but it was also the first weekend where I could travel throughout Italy. After an exciting orientation period that I wished would never end, it was finally time to start learning again; the real reason that I am in Italy this semester. My favorite thing that I did this week was eating dinner at a table that was half people I already knew and half that I couldn't even remember their names. Every Tuesday and Thursday for dinner we eat off campus somewhere. This Tuesday January 31, we to eat at the old bear. Before dinner however, I have an onsite class where rather than sitting in a classroom for 3 hours, we meet at some point in Rome. This week we met at the Capitoline Hill which was very cool. Once class was over a group of about 15 of us set out on the adventure to figure out where dinner was. Turns out we headed in the wrong direction before we pulled out a map but that’s all part of the experience. When we finally got to the restaurant we ended up having to be split into two tables. The table I ended up at was a table of 8. Two of the people were ones who are physical therapist like me and the rest were ones who I recognized but had never talked to and didn't know their names. When we sat down at the table we did the customary going around the table saying names and eventually later at dinner our majors. While the dinner started out slightly awkward not knowing anyone, it ended up being one of the best dinners I had. The food was great and the conversation never stopped. Because we didn't already know everyone it was interesting being able to get to know one another. We discussed what summer jobs we had, sororities/ fraternities that people are in want to join and at one point the topic of wisdom teeth even came up. No topic was off limits.
this experience has taught me that while I typically try to hang around people I already know, I should avoid that, go out of my comfort zone and talk to new people. I do not regret for one second not trying to force myself to the front of our group so I could try and sit with the people I already knew. While this may not be a situation I would have typically chosen, only been forced into. I now know I will get more out of this trip if I try to meet other students than just focus on those who I came to Italy already knowing.
Now, while I loved going out to eat after class, attempting to get to my 8 am on- site class was super stressful and something that I did not necessarily like. On Thursdays, our class begins at 8:30 am at a random location throughout the city. This week the meeting spot was in front of the metro stop Colleseo (can you guess whats there?). We set out with directions of what we had to do. Get on the 906 in front of school, take it into Boccea, get on the metro, get off the metro at Colleseo, find the exit and stand there. Thats not too complicated. However, as we were standing waiting for the 906, it kept getting later and later than when the app said the bus should be there and it still had not come. We had left an hour and a half early like they said but I was still worried that we would not make it on time. When the bus finally came I let out a huge sigh of relief but could not help look at my watch the whole time. I am someone who loves to be early to everything. 15 minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is super late. I could not help but think we should have left earlier. When we finally got off the bus we ran to metro and then hopped on. It was so crowded and every stop further it got more so.
I'm Sabrina Kirsch a sophmore physical therapy student at Duquesne University. I will be spending the spring semester of 2017 in Rome, Italy where I will eat my way through all the gelato and pasta they offer. My goal is to see everything possible and visit as many countries as possible.