Monday, 10 August 2015

Last Day in Italy

Hello everyone! So today is my last day in Italy, and I've been filled with so many mixed emotions. Since my last post, we've traveled to Venice, which has ended up being my favorite city so far. It is just so full of history, and is very unique, I love it! Our time in Venice has been really laid back so far; we've mostly just walked around the city. Of course we had to do the cliche gondola ride, which was probably one of the most relaxing and cool things I've done on this trip. Other than that, we've gotten to see St Mark's Basilica, which is stunning from the outside, and we shopped around for Venetian glass. 
St Mark's Basilica (Under Construction)
Gondola Ride
Some of these glass shops are so amazing; it's hard to believe what these artists can do with just glass. One of the most popular things that you will see with Venetian glass are tons of little animal figurines. The sizes vary from smaller than your pinkie fingernail, to large animals that are used as centerpieces. It is also crazy how many different glass shops there are! You can basically find one around every corner. Also, the seafood here in Venice is divine! Every dish that I've gotten here that has calamari, prawns, or mussels has been delicious. If anyone is ever in Venice, I would recommend getting seafood!

I can't believe that my time here in Italy has run out. I have met so many amazing people, and have had the opportunity to get to experience this beautiful culture first hand. I just wanted to take a second to thank all of the Italian students that I have had the pleasure of studying with at the University of Trieste, without whom I would not have had the experience that I've had. So to any of you that are reading this: thank you for your friendship. 

I can't say that I'm not excited to be going home. Two months is definitely a long time to be away from home. The next time you hear from me, I'll be back home in Denver. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Milano 2015

Hi everyone! It's hard to believe that my trip is quickly drawing to a close. In exactly one week, I will be on my way home to Denver. I am definitely excited to go home and see everyone, but at the same time, it's sad that I'll be leaving the place I've called home for the last seven weeks. To celebrate one of our last weekends in Italy, we decided to take an impromptu trip to Milan and Verona.

Firstly, I think that Milan was my favorite city to visit thus far. It was such an amazing city with a lot more to claim than being the fashion capital of Italy. Milan is also the economic center of Italy, which is contrary to what you would initially think. I had so much fun in Milan; and although it is a pretty big city, it didn't feel dirty or crowded. I also appreciated that their Metro system was incredibly laid out (it reminded me of London or Madrid).

We got to visit the Duomo, which is the fifth largest church in the world. That was so imposing and stunning from the outside; pictures do not do it justice. From there we went to go walk around the fashion district. It was amazing! We passed stores from so many incredible designers like Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. We didn't go inside because we were pretty sure we needed a down payment to even enter the store, but window shopping was really cool. From there we went to Eataly, which was definitely an experience. The food there was delicious, but the atmosphere was weird. It was essentially a huge supermarket with mini restaurants scattered all around.
Duomo Cathedral

View of Milan

The next day, we went to the World Expo that is being held in Milan currently. This was probably one of my favorite days of this entire trip, even though it rained. We got the opportunity to see the world through the lens of food, and how the 145 countries that are participating are working towards sustainability and improvement in food production in their country. There were a few countries that got a huge pavilion to design, and the countries that I least expected had some of my favorite pavilions. Azerbaijan, Brazil, and Vietnam were by far my favorite pavilions, and I really feel like I learned a lot about their countries and what they do in terms of exports/sustainability. We even got to visit the United States' pavilion, and we had a little burst of patriotic excitement which was fun.

The next day we packed up and headed to Verona, which is the city that Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet takes place. Cool fact: Romeo and Juliet were actual people, and in Verona you can visit Juliet's house and see the balcony where Romeo serenaded his love. Other than that, Verona was just a really cool city, and I think that it perfectly captures what my preconceptions were about how Italian cities looked. It was definitely one of the prettier cities that we've visited.

Well that's all for now. I've got a Business Law exam to study for. We are headed to Venice before heading back to the States, so I'll try to get another blog post in before then. If I don't get the chance to, I'll do one back in the States. See you in a week Colorado!

**Note: This WiFi is the worst, so it won't let me upload pictures, so I'll do that when I have less awful Internet!**

Saturday, 25 July 2015

A Visit from Old Friends

Hello friends! So this week has been really interesting, mainly because it is the first week of my Business Law class. It's been an experience learning about American law in a classroom in Italy with Italians, especially since the American Constitution and American law is irrelevant to them. One thing that is really cool about the experience of learning about the Constitution with them in our class is that I have definitely looked at the Constitution from a different perspective, AKA the Italian perspective. The fact that they are so far removed from American law has added many interesting conversation/comparison pieces to the class that we wouldn't get the opportunity to have back in Greeley.

The other part of my week that has been fantastic is that my old friend from high school that was an exchange student in Colorado my senior year came down to visit me! It was really great getting to see Isabella again. She brought her friend, Ines, with her, and it was really great getting to know her. I had so much fun getting to show them around Trieste, and I realized that I've actually acclimated to Italian lifestyle and culture a little more than I thought I did. Being the one who knew what she was doing, and where to go was a liberating feeling that I haven't really experienced since I left the States. Overall, I would say that their visit was a success!

That was really all I did this week! Not really sure how the next week is going to go! I've only got around two weeks left in Italy, so I'll have to be sure to make them count!

Monday, 20 July 2015

When in Rome...

Hello all! At the moment I am back in Trieste, but over the last week we had our Inter-Italy trip where we visited Florence, Rome, and Naples over the course of 10 days. I think that this was my favorite trip so far, hands down. I think that this was in part due to the vast differences in culture from city to city. I'll go into a more in-depth analysis of the differences later on, but for now, I'll just tell you what we did.

In Rome, we hit most of the major tourist areas; the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Palatine Hill, and Vatican City. We also got the really cool opportunity to see the St Sebastian Catacombs, which are not as heavily traveled as the Colosseum. Rome was really interesting, especially since the city itself is really immersed in history, its like everywhere you look, you see a Roman ruin. It was also really interesting to see just how reliant on tourism Rome is. While I knew there would be a lot of tourists there, I didn't expect to see such a heavy influx of international visitors (silly me!). Another thing about Rome is that it is very hot, and very humid! That definitely made walking around the city during the day very difficult.
St Peter's Square
Spanish Steps
When we went to Naples, there wasn't much relief from the heat! It was definitely just as hot, if not hotter! The redeeming factor was that I got to go to Pompeii. In case none of you have ever been to Pompeii, it is single-handedly one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life! Granted I'm a bit biased as to what I find cool (anything historical always wins!). The ancient city is almost perfectly preserved, so we got to walk the same streets as the people of Pompeii thousands of years ago. The next day we headed to the island of Capri where we got to see the Blue Grotto. Something really interesting about the Blue Grotto is that the bright blue color of the water once you enter the cave is created by the sunlight outside the cave reflecting in. I have never seen water that shade of blue! After we visited the Grotto, we went to a beach in Capri and just relaxed! That was probably my favorite day of this entire Italy trip.
View of Vesuvius from Pompeii
Ocean off Capri

So now for some comparisons of the Italian cities. It is really interesting because each city is very different from one another. Rome was definitely what I expected, a big city. In Rome, it is definitely really easy to find someone who speaks English. Compared to Naples and Trieste, Rome was very Americanized. That was one of the only places I've been able to ask for a "split-check" and not be looked at strangely. Naples has some of the best Italian food I've had so far! The food is reason enough to visit Naples, but it's also nice because there weren't as many tourists as there were in Florence and Rome. In Florence, the atmosphere was much more relaxed than in Naples and Rome, definitely similar to Trieste in that way. Overall, it was such an amazing experience getting to see three of the biggest cities in Italy.

Well, now I am back in Trieste, and I've got to say that I definitely missed the quieter Italian life. Today, I started my Business Law class, and I am super excited to get to know the new Italians in our class. I can't believe that I'll be home in just over three weeks. Well that's all for now!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Ciao Accounting, Benvenuto a Florence

So to start off this post, let me just start off by celebrating the end of my accounting class! It's hard to believe that I learned a semesters worth of accounting in three weeks! I am just so glad that we've got a week off in between sessions to relax. Anyone who knows me knows that I can't relax; my solution: travel throughout Italy for a week!

The first stop on our "Inter-Italy Trip" was Florence. It was about a five hour train ride from Trieste to Florence, but that just gave me time to relax. We hit Florence, and automatically the differences between it and Trieste were evident. While Trieste is a smaller city, Florence is much bigger, yet it isn't as big as Rome. I was a bit unsatisfied with the fact that it seemed harder to find gelato in Florence than in Trieste, but, I somehow was able to get past that.

In Florence, we visited a lot of the main tourist points, the Accademia Gallery, Piazzale Michelangelo, and visited the city's fine leather shops (Florence is known for the quality of its leather). The statue David by Michelangelo is housed in the Accademia Gallery, and getting the opportunity to see a piece I have read about for years was amazing.

After we were done in Florence, we headed to Rome, which is way more humid, and way hotter! Since I've still got a little more time in Rome, I'll talk about it in a later post. Until then, ciao!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

London Calling

Hello all! So this last weekend we visited London! I will get to that later, but let me just say, time here in Europe has flown by! I cannot believe that I am almost done with my accounting class, it feels like we just started it yesterday. To be fair, it's only a three week class, but that's beside the point. I'm taking the final for it Thursday, so I'm going to be spending most of my time this week studying for it. It's a good thing that I was able to relax this weekend in London.

Let me just say that London is a beautiful city. Regardless of the fact that English history is my favorite subject in history, the city itself is awesome to walk around. We got to visit Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben all on the first day. Sadly, Buckingham Palace does not open for tours until the 27th of July so we only got to see it from the outside. Even though we couldn't go in, I still loved being near something so historic.
Buckingham Palace
The first day we walked about 11 miles (calculated on Google Maps after the fact), so for Day 2, I was exhausted. The most rejuvenating factor about Day 2 was that it was the 4th of July! The fact that there are so many Americans in London only helped bring the spirit of the 4th to Europe. We started the day off by going to the Tower Bridge, followed by visiting the Tower of London and seeing the Crown Jewels. Following that, we saw the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre which was amazing. We went to a classic British pub, and there we found the most refreshing sight on the 4th of July for an American: 4th of July decorations everywhere! It really made it feel like home for a little bit.
Tower Bridge and the Thames
Tower of London Entrance
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
To finish the day off we visited the London Eye, which was amazing because you could see all of London from the very top. To top it all of it was at sunset, so the view was spectacular. The perfect ending to the 4th of July was when we saw fireworks while in the Eye, from what we could only assume was the US Embassy. I'm not 100% positive that it was them, but it seemed appropriate. Overall, I would love to visit London again, and was a bit sad that we had to leave.
Sunset from the London Eye
That's all for me today, I have to go study so I can actually pass accounting. Until next time!

**I forgot to add in the initial post that when we went to see the crown jewels at the Tower of London, the baptismal items were gone from their spots. In their place was a sign that said "In Use". It occurred to us that we were in London for the christening of Princess Charlotte! I think that seeing the "In Use" sign was way cooler than seeing the actual items.**

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Bienvenidos a Madrid

This past weekend we visited Madrid; the place that I have always dreamed of going. Let me just say that all of my dreams of what Madrid would be like did not even come close to how amazing it actually was. The people of Spain are so friendly and willing to help, it reminded me of home. Not to mention, Spain is just so beautiful. There is so much history everywhere you look, it makes it really difficult to leave.

First we visited the Museo Nacional Centro del Arte Reina Sofia which houses the Guernica by Pablo Picasso. Having studied Spanish for so long, I was so excited to get to see this painting in person. The painting takes up an entire wall and it depicts the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Just being in the presence of such a historically important piece was amazing. The Reina Sofia also houses some original Dali pieces. I am personally a fan of Dali, so it was really awesome getting the chance to see them up close.

Museo Nacional Centro del Arte Reina Sofia
We also visited the Museo Nacional del Prado, home of many paintings by El Greco, Diego Velasquez and Francisco de Goya. I could have spent days in this museum! Unfortunately we only had a few hours, so we had to prioritize what we wanted to see. I would say we probably got through a third of the museum. After we visited Buen Retiro Park and saw the Crystal Palace. The day we went they had all of these cushions set up inside the Crystal Palace for visitors to grab and lay down on. They had strung all of these semi-transparent pieces of cloth all around as well. It was really nice to just lay there for a while after walking around all day!

Crystal Palace in Buen Retiro Park
The next day we visited Toledo, Spain which is about a half hour train ride (we took the bullet train). As soon as we stepped off the train it looked like we had stepped back in time to medieval Spain. All of the buildings had such ornate details, with the streets being purely cobblestone where we were. We explored the city a bit before venturing to the Toledo Cathedral. The Toledo Cathedral was easily the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen. Construction on the cathedral began in 1223 and it took over 200 years to complete. The details in the cathedral were what made it so spectacular.
Toledo Cathedral
Toledo Cathedral

Toledo Cathedral
Overall I would say that our trip to Madrid has been one of my favorite parts of the trip so far. All I can say is that I hope I get to visit Spain again sometime soon!