:/

Sometimes,  I have to actually remind myself that I am in Europe and doing all the things of always dreamed of doing. It’s not that I’m ungrateful and forget that I’m extremely lucky to be seeing much of Italy at such a young age, but it’s as if reality just has never totally sunk in….

Venice!

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My trip to Venice!

So after my intensive italian course final, Suzy and I caught a train to Venice for Friday and Saturday…. the beginning of Carnival! It took about two and a half hours to get there, which felt like days because we were so eager and exited. But when we arrived, we walked outside the train station and were immediately on the Grand Canal! We then boarded vaperato, number 1, which is quite slow, but it allowed for great sight seeing along the waterway. We stayed on the boat for several stops, but decided to get off at one of the ports along the canal because it was taking too long to get anywhere lol.

We made our way into the city, and we came along a small piazza, where there were several performers performing for a small crowd of people. One of them was an old man, dressed in Venetian Renaissance clothing who was singing beautiful opera.We stayed to listen for awhile, but then ventured away from the piazza, down one of the side streets, which was lined with small bakeries andl mask and costume shops! I stopped in on of them and bought a beautiful carnival mask, made of black metal wiring. For a couple of hours, we continued to explore many of the quaint streets just to take photos. But during  this time, I also went into a bookstore and bought Carnival’s 2014 poster of the year. It’s of puppet that is strung up from the stars and she is also holding two masked carnival character puppets.

When the sun was setting, Suzy and I finally reached Saint Mark’s Square! The basilica was beautiful, as were the other ancient buildings surrounding the square. The square had a magical essence to it. Per6aps because of Carnival’s festivity, but also I think it’s because Venice seems timeless. The city hasn’t really hasn’t changed much for many  centuries. The buildings and waterways are the exactly as they were in the15 th century, with really no modern additions because there’s no space to add anything. There are no roads for cars, just boats. Also, the people nowadays even celebrate holidays and festivals in which people from many generations back did as well.

After exploring the area around Saint Mark’s square and getting dinner, Suzy and I caught a vapereto to Lido di Venice, where our hotel was located. The hotel was very nice and the breakfast the next day was amazing! The croissants were to die for! Suzy and I both decided to stuff as much food in our bags as possible so we could eat later for free. We were about on our fourth croissant and our third baguette into our bag, when my purse got knocked over and everything came spilling out in front of everyone. I couldn’t stop laughing because the entire time we were trying to be as sneaky and discreet as possible. It truly was karma lol. But after collecting our food and ourselves lol, we checked out of the hotel and made our way down to Lidos beaches. The weather was overcast and partly rainy, so the beach was completely empty. Suzy and I walked around by ourselves and gathered lots of beautiful shells! After that we got a boat back to Saint Mark’s square and explored some more. We went into a famous art museum and looked at a lot of very old art. To be honest though, I’m not much of an art person. I know that’s bad, but I’d rather be outside exploring ;/ …But no much after that, we then got a train back to Milan… meep :,,,,,,,(

Verona and Riva del Garda

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Trip to Verona and Lake Garda

The weekend after the Bergamo trip, we decided to visit Verona and Riva Del Garda. It took about two hours by train to get to Verona, which is located east of Milan near Lake Garda. Verona is a beautiful town, rich with romance and history. The streets of Verona are lined with old, ‘italian’ styled houses, and the walkways are made of pink limestone, which gives the town and even more romantic feel. There are at least two castles, both of which we saw when we visited that day. We also walked around and saw Verona’s small arena, Juliet’s balcony, and hiked up to a hill overlooking the city and it’s surroundings. Overall, Verona was very pretty and had very unique features and sites.

However, my favorite part of the trip was the second day…We got a bus to Riva Del Garda after seeing Verona, and checked into a hotel Saturday night. Because it was dark when we got into the town, we had no idea of the natural beauty surrounding the area. Therefore, we we woke up the next morning and peered outside the window, we saw enormous, jagged mountains all around us, with the morning’s mist lingering between the mountain’s crevasses. We ate breakfast as quickly as possible, so we could get an early start on the day. The first thing we did when we checked out of the hotel was to go visit a nearby waterfall. We paid 5 euro to get in, but it was definitely worth it. The waterfall was located within a cave, which was carved out by years of weathering from the water. We traveled inside the cave, and not long before we were rained down upon by the waterfall’s mist, soaking our jackets. There were several different passages in the cave to explore, all leading to the massive waterfall! I tried to get pictures, however, I was too afraid of my phone getting water in it, so I was unable to… :(

After the waterfall, we made our way down to the lake. Lake Garda, which Riva Del Garda is built apon, is the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen. The water stretches so far that it looks like it may even be a bay to the ocean.. It is surrounded by huge white capped mountains with small Italian villages built along the water’s edge. It’s beauty is so indescribable that it’s hard to put into words. ..Riva del Garda and the lake don’t even look like something of this world, perhaps something you’d see in heaven. So, Suzy and I just sat near the water taking in all it’s natural beauty for about an hour, trying to take a mental picture because our camera’s couldn’t justify it’s true magnificence.

We walked around the lake for awhile before we had to catch a bus back to Milan…And that’s when the bathroom situation became a problem…Let’s just say, if you have to use a public bathroom, the worst place on Earth to be is in Italy. There are NO free public bathrooms at all.After venturing around for a good half hour, I came across a little building that looked like a mini spaceship, which had a bathroom sign on it, so I was relieved! However, it cost ,80 euro to get in and the timer starts from 10 minutes. The inside was absolutely disgusting. It was a hole that was elevated from the ground with crap and piss everywhere.,,,ughhhhhhh, and you had to press a button to get 2 sheets of wet toilet paper from a machine….it was mentally scarring. But that bathroom wasn’t as bad as the one at the station…this ‘bathroom’ was a literally a hole in the ground. It reeked of urine, and to be honest it was quite hard not to pee all over the place, so I understand why it smells so bad.However, the trip was overall pretty amazing, besides the bathrooms that is. Riva del Garda has definitely been my favorite place I’ve visited so far.

Bergamo!

 

About a week ago, Suzy and I took our first mini-trip to Bergamo, which is a small town located to the east of Milan. It took 3 different trains to get there because the ticket we purchased was not direct to Bergamo…ahhhhhh! But, after about two hours we finally reached our quaint destination, hidden in the valley.

When we got there, Suzy and I walked from the train station to our hostel, and dropped off our bags. We met two Australian girls that were staying in the same room as us, and later had dinner and breakfast with them the next day. After getting situated, Suzy and I explored the old town on the hill overlooking the rest of the valley. We visited the Piazza Vecchia, which was an old square that had a beautiful fountain in the center and old buildings outlining the perimeter. We also visited the Bergamo museum and read about the history of the town. Bergamo is much older than I ever imagined! Archeologists found ancient remains of shops and homes from 100 AD under the ground near Piazza Vecchia. Bergamo was once apart of the Venetian Empire, which stretched much farther west and north than just around Venice, and it was a major trading post.

After looking around, we decided to get food before we crashed at the hostel. We went into a tavern off of one of the touristy streets and both had delicious sandwiches! We made our way back to the room and slept a good 6 hours, then woke up around 2 am and skyped our parents haha!

The next day we had breakfast with our Australian roommates. The breakfast was served buffet style, which was nice because I could steal food for later hehe ;) We decided to explore more of the upper town, so we took a vernacular to the highest part of the town. At the top, there was an ancient castle, which we went through. The inner halls and stairs to the castle where so dark, damp and small that it was tricky to navigate our way. However, when we eventually reached the top, there was a spectacular view of the town and city below with the surrounding mountains all around! You could even see several snow capped mountains that were behind the black hills.

Altogehter, I think Bergamo was a wonderful little city nestled in the hills. I am glad I was able to visit this town and learn more about it’s history and people. I would definitely recommend going here to anyone visiting northern Italy.

First week in Italy!

I’ve now been in Italy for about a week, and have done lots of exploring in and around Milan. The city is huge, and there’s so much to do and see! I’ve visited the city’s famous Duomo, being it’s most recognizable point of interest, and La Scala, the famous opera house. Several days ago, there was a dedicated performance to a composer that recently died, where the opera house’s doors were open and the orchestra played from within, allowing for the music to radiate into the streets for the people to hear. This is the third time in 300 years where this has been done to commemorate a famous musical artist.I’ve also been to several of the different areas in the city, including my favorite,Brera, which is full of cute cafes and art museums. On Friday, I visited my University, and walked in and around the campus. It’s full of picturesque,old buildings and green courtyards, with students all around. They all seem to wear dark clothes, puffy jackets, and smoke. I’ve noticed that most Italians are smokers and are all very thin…even though there’s so many goodies to eat :D

The streets surrounding much of my school and a majority of the city are so ‘Italian’ looking. The buildings are all warm colors, such as yellow or peach, having ivy covered walls, and small terraces overlooking the city. Nothing is really very modern looking, compared to the States, which makes you feel as though you are in another time. Also, the food here is to die for! One of my favorite places to stop in and have a dessert is Cioccolat Italiani, The store itself looks like something out of Rhode Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with several chocolate fountains and pastries piled high! There are so many flavors of gelato, not just chocolate, which are all amazingly rich and creamy. Today, I order a scoop of white chocolate gelato with warm,liquid chocolate filling. It was so delicious!The shop is close to my apartment that I know I will be going there too often.
 
The city’s public transportation is great! At first I thought navigating my way through a foreign city would be very challenging, however, the transportation system is very easy to learn. I’ve only been here a week and I’ve already gotten my metro card ,and have figured out how to get around by tram, metro, and bus. The only thing you have to know is where your stop is. The card itself was pretty inexpensive because I’m a student and it allows for travel in the city without having to buy a one-time ticket at 1,50 euro all the time.

 

At first when I moved into my apartment and began exploring the city, I found the language barrier to be incredibly challenging. Getting simple things done, such as exchanging money or changing the SIM card in my phone, to be very difficult. Not very many people here speak good English, so it was pretty overwhelming getting anything accomplished. However, now that I’ve been here for a week I realize that I just needed time to adjust to this foreign city and the language. I find it easier to communicate with people now that I’ve accepted that not everything is going to be as easy to get done as in the States, and it’s all part of the experience of traveling abroad.