I’m currently writing for Healthkicker.com- a health and fitness blog. I write some posts about Italy and traveling that you guys might be interested in.
Here’s one of them: The Italian Food Culture or, la cultura italiana di cibo
Hope you enjoy it, feel free to comment! (Hopefully nice stuff!)
Let’s just say, leaving Italy was one of the most difficult things I have had to do. I threatened to chain myself to the Duomo numerous times so I wouldn’t have to leaved. But I’ve been back in the United States for about three weeks now. I had to go back to reality and back to the rush of being a native New Yorker. As much as I love living in the land of the brave, who wouldn’t miss Italy and all the travel opportunities I had while abroad? (10 countries in three months- just saying).
So here is a list of things that I miss from studying abroad:
- The architecture- I made the Duomo my cell phone background because I miss walking past it every everyday, it’s not the same.
- Browsing the street vendors-maybe I want to treat myself to a one euro bracelet that day.
- The language- it’s a known fact that the Italian language is the most beautiful of them all.
- Field trips during my classes- field trips aren’t as common at my home college.
- The mini cappuccino machines by my classes- 50 cent cappuccino con cioccolata, yum!
- Traveling during the weekends with my friends- Prague, Istanbul, Crete, London, etc.
- The slow pace of life- okay, maybe I struggled with this while there (see above- Native New Yorker), but it’s definitely something I appreciate. We should enjoy life and all aspects of it, not rush through it.
- Italian pizza
- Pasta with amazing sauces
- Panino shops
- Just Italian food in general.
- Walking places and exploring the town- can’t do that in my hometown, which is unfortunate since I came home to a broken car.
- The store fronts- they’re so carefully crafted, they lure me in every time!
- People calling me bella- okay, sometimes it’s creepy, but other times it’s nice and acts as a good ego boost!
- Being mistaken as a native Italian.
- Having traveling and soaking in your surroundings as your biggest responsibilities in life.
I want to thank my parents, family and friends as well as Marist College and Lorenzo de’ Medici for the best four months of my life.
I will continue to write posts about looking back at my experiences as well as offering advice to those considering to go abroad.
Quando in Roma- When in Rome.
I spent this previous weekend with my friend in Rome, staying with a few of her friends from college. I am going to start off by saying that I was pleasantly surprised by Rome. For some reason, I always pictured it as a big, dirty city. But I was wrong, it is so much more.
At first, I thought of it as a larger Florence. It has wider streets and more people. But then I realized it has a personality of its own. People are friendly and the people are moving. There is a distinct mixture of old and new. As a city, it needs to keep up with the modern times. Yet, there are multiple monuments that mark it with its history. The Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain were constructed in the 18th century, Palazzo Farnese was designed in the 16th century (with contributions from Michelangelo), and the Bocca della Verita in the 17th century. And of course, there are the ancient Roman ruins that date back to the B.C. era. The Colosseum’s construction began in 72 A.D.
When I looked at the Colosseum and the ancient ruins, I tried to visualize it being intact and full of people (wearing togas of course) using the area. It is amazing that these ruins are still around, some untouched, despite the thousands of years on them. There are so many events, such as wars, that could have completely demolished them, but they are still around and act as a priority to so many people.
Friday and Sunday consisted of mainly exploring the sites (and pizza) of Rome, but on Saturday we went to the Vatican. First, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica and learned about the history of the many of pieces of art within the church. I was happy to see Michelangelo’s Pieta, which is unfortunately behind a glass wall because of someone trying to destroy it in the 70’s. The tour guide was very informative and actually able to work us through the crowds and fit everything in- the first time I saw an Italian rush since I arrived here.
We also saw a wedding at St. Peter’s, which the guide informed us that the honor is reserved for Swiss Guards. The guards are from Switzerland because of their neutrality in war and have a reputation for loyalty and discipline. Their uniforms, the somewhat comic looking blue, red, and yellow outfits, were designed by Michelangelo during the Renaissance. The Vatican likes to keep to their history.
We also learned that St. Peter’s Square is actually shaped as if arms were embracing the center, in order to make it more welcoming and inviting to others.
After St. Peter’s, we went into the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. It was a very moving experience to see all the art in front of me, in full form, as opposed to on paper or on a computer screen. It was surprising to see how tremendous paintings, such as “The School of Athens,” are and how they offer a much more powerful feeling in person. It makes one appreciate the work more, being able to see the detail and size of it.
The Sistine Chapel was astounding. There was nothing simple about it. The detail, the movement, the placement, and the beauty- it is non comparable. I wish I could just grab a pillow and lay on the floor by myself, staring up at the artwork all day, pulling out each specific detail and listing what makes the artwork so special.
I would love to go back to Rome and spend a few weeks there. There is so much more to explore that I feel like the Romans themselves do not know of. I would also like to learn more about the Romans today and their mentality. I believe Rome can offer so much to those who open themselves to it.
Weekend update- parte due.
Yesterday, Saturday, my two friends and I took a train up to La Cinque Terre to spend the day there. Cinque Terre (“Five Hills”) consists of five villages on the coast of the Ligurian Sea; Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. We went to the first four, and they were absolutely amazing.
Each village has its own, unique charm. To get to each village, there is a regional train that goes up and down the coast. The first one we went to was Monterosso. Monterosso is mainly a beach with only a few shops. The beach was small and crowded, but we fell in love with the water right away. The water was blue and clear, unlike the muddy green at home. It was at the perfect temperature, it was like we were floating in a bath.
On the beach, it was easy to distinguish who was Italian and who was not (Speedo’s anyone?). Regardless, everyone was relaxing and enjoying the beautiful weather. Finally, we were happy about the unusually hot summer that Italy has been experiencing.
The next stop on our trip was Vernazza. Vernazza is more of a town than Monterosso and has a small port. The small, brightly colored shops are lined along the hill, with the doors open, welcoming the tourists to inspect their products. At the bottom of the hill, by the port, are three or four restaurants overlooking the water. The restaurant we chose had large, colorful umbrellas, where we happily sought cover from the sun. We sat next to an older American couple; the wife was reading from her tour book aloud to her husband, which enlightened us with some information on the town.
While waiting for the next train, we got gelato at a gelatteria named “Gelato, amore mio,” or gelato my love. A title that I can definitely agree with.
Our third stop was Corniglia. Instead of going into town on our right, we decided to be adventurous and go to the left, to a pebble beach near the train station. Getting down there was a huge process. There’s a path that follows the tracks, but then leads to multiple flights of stairs to get down to the coast. At one point, when facing a left or downstairs, we decided to go down. We get to the coast and it’s aligned with huge boulders. We then see the pebble beach we were looking for in front of us, with stairs leading to it from where we should have made a left as opposed to go down.
Instead of turning around, we decided it would be a good idea to climb all the rocks to get to it. As we progressed further, the rocks became more slippy and further spread apart. With waves crashing on the rocks, our balance became even more off. We finally decided that it was a terrible idea and to turn around and take the proper path to the pebble beach.
At the actual pebble beach, and the word pebble was an understatement, smooth round rocks coated the fifteen foot coast. We had to carefully crawl into the water and sit down on a rock, because, even off the coast, there were only rocks along the floor-no sand. Our lack of balance made things a little difficult, but the view was unbelievable. We would have loved to sit there the entire day if we could, watching the water roll over the rocks and the sail boats in the distances.
Alas, we had more places to visit. Our next place was Manarola. Manarola was also on a hill, with small businesses and homes aligning the streets. At the top of the hill there were signs with poetry (in Italian and English) of the Cinque Terre and its wine. There is also an overlook, where there is an magnificent view of the sea and port. There, we went right down to the coast where there was a cove, something like a natural pool. We swam in the water, climbed the rocks surrounding it, and watched the school of fish that stayed close to the rocks.
I absolutely loved climbing the rocks. I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so the higher we climbed, the more exciting it was. I could not jump off the highest point, for fear I may not clear the rocks below it, but we jumped in at various locations along the way. During the jumps, I was filled with so many emotions for the moment. There’s the excitement, the hint of pride for gaining the courage to do so, the terror that there is no turning back, and the appreciation of the view surrounding me. I just wanted to freeze frame it and never let go.
I was finally convinced to get out of the water and leave the cove. We were unsure of the time our train was leaving for home so we had to get to the main station (La Spezia) soon. We had difficulties actually getting home though, which will be explained in my next post roughly titled Difficulties Abroad.
My first weekend update, parte uno:
Within the past couple of weeks, while running, I came across something that seemed similar to a fair; it was a street filled with vendors and restaurants. When I was there though, all the places were just opening up so I could not get a proper read on what was happening. This past Friday, I decided to convince my friends to join me to this fair, which I learned was called La Festa Democratica. It is supposed to be a celebration of the political party, but while there it did not seem like the main focus. We actually forgot it even was about politics until a woman handed us stickers explaining it.
For something that we had such little information about, we had had such an amazing time doing it. There were restaurants lined up with tables on the side, a few carnival games, rides (which we were too big for apparently), and sangria stands everywhere. There was even a kickboxing ring that encouraged the guests to put on gloves and try it out. The guy in charge of the kickboxing tried convincing me to join in. I know some kickboxing, so I was really tempted to, but I’ve never actually gone against another person, so I was afraid to test that out in front of everyone.
On the streets, there were even a few stages set up for dancing; some live and some with a DJ. The live performers were so involved with all the people dancing, joining them while singing. We had an amazing time submerging ourselves with the locals and dancing to the Italian (and some Spanish) music that they played. I also realized that Italians dance much better than Americans, even the younger kids. While we make crazy, jerky movements (or is that just me?), they actually feel the rhythm of the music and can move their hips with it.
There weren’t many tourists at La Festa, which was a nice surprise from typical Florence. It was finally a chance to see Italians get together and celebrate with food and dancing.
La Festa Democratica is open for a few more weeks, so if you are in Italy and reading this- definitely check it out.
Cercare- To search.
My big thing before I left for Italy was that I did not want to look like a tourist. The fashion I figured I would eventually pick up, but I would not allow myself to walk around with a map. That rule lasted about an hour; it’s quite difficult to navigate without one.
The past few nights we have decided to look for inexpensive restaurants to eat at for dinner. We would pull up the restaurant on Google Map and then mark the location in our own personal map. Good plan, right?
The first night, we accidentally left our map at home and were convinced to eat in a more expensive restaurant by a persuasive Italian (see previous post). The second night, my roommate and I met up with my friend from home and her roommates. We had the map this time- nothing was going to stop us.
The five us wandered up and down the streets, map in front of us, looking for the location of the restaurant. For my fellow Harry Potter fans out there, I started picturing it as the Room of Requirement. I guess, we weren’t thinking of the proper thing at the time or we didn’t walk past it enough times, because it decided not to exist for us.
Later on that night, after a lot of getting to know you and catching up conversation, a few of us decided to look up pubs. Again, we had the map out and marked up.
We found it this time. Except it was closed until September 1st for Ferragosto.
Last night, we were more than determined to find the restaurant from the first night, La Mangiatorria, which online, boasted of cheap and delicious ravioli. Three of us embarked to where we believe the trattoria was and wound up at the Piazza Felicita (online it said the restaurant was located in Piazza Felice, was it the same?). So of course, we pull out our big map, standing in between two fancier restaurants, and could not find another piazza with a similar name. Disappointed, yet still determined, we wandered down the street past the Palazzo Pitti (which was not part of the original plan; I was wearing wedges- poor choice on the cobblestone). At every food establishment we passed, we would quickly check the prices to see if they were in our budget.
Exhausted and hungry, we decided that at the next place we saw we would just deal with whatever the price is, sit down, and enjoy our Italian meal.
The next place we came across, at first glance, looks like just a pizzeria. The menu was outside and we realized there was a restaurant in the back- and the prices were actually very reasonable! I was so excited that we finally found a good place. My friend then points up at the sign and simply says, “We found it.”
We found La Mangiatorria. And it was everything it promised to be. We were greeted by a petite middle-aged woman who was thrilled to speak English to us and to serve us our ravioli and gnocchi. Over dinner, I constantly repeated that we were going to return to this place, befriend the woman, and eat the delicious pasta all the time. Living the Florentine life.
Although the map had failed me in many ways, it has at least given me a general idea where to search. It seems that even if we have a plan, things do not always go according to plan, and that sometimes just stumbling upon a place offers a bigger reward. We just have to accept the fact that Florence has a mind of its own; its going to surprise its visitors. But it is important to keep going and exploring to see what’s available. And it’s okay to use a map.