Back to ‘Murica.

And now I’m back from outer space. You just walked in to find me here with that sad look upon my face. Probably because I didn’t want to leave Viterbo at all. Anyway, this is long overdue as I’ve been back in California since May 21st, 2013. Now, the only dose of Italy I get is when I’m out with my friend and bust out some Italian at the bar just because I feel like it and I’ve got a few IPAs in my system. 

Long story short, I spent my last few days in Italy nearly alone, since most people left on the group flight. It was lovely though and my walk through the city at 5 am to get the first train to Rome was beautiful and heartbreaking. I took pictures along the way as the sun was just starting to breathe a bit of light into the sky. I couldn’t bring myself to walk past the apartment that was my home for those 5 1/2 months and I was holding back tears the entire way. The Italians probably thought I was crazy or something as I sat alone on a bench at Porta Romana sobbing with my backpack, because I probably looked like I had only been there for a weekend. Little did they know, I had shipped two huge boxes of my possessions home the week before and my 55 lb suitcase was already in storage at Fuimicino.

After about 18 hours of flying and layovers I arrived at SFO in San Francisco where my parents were waiting for me. I immediately started crying as I hugged my mom, though I still haven’t been able to figure out what percentage of that was from having missed them while I was away and from being so upset to be going back to Chico, Calif. after becoming so settled and happy with my life in Viterbo. Though, my double double meal with a Neapolitan shake at In-N-Out did cheer me up a bit.

So, America the beautiful is a thing right? But upon my return, I couldn’t help but compare it to the gorgeous and historic country I had just spent nearly half of a year in. It really wasn’t measuring up. Then I realized that I was kind of comparing a dog to a cat. Dogs and cats are completely different species with different tendencies and different looks, though both make great pets. Some people prefer one or the other, and some like both. Well, I’m a dog person, but I definitely have a place in my heart for cats as well. America is the cat that I’ll always know and love, but Europe is the dog that I’ll always want to have with me. So, ultimate goal is to get a great PR job at a global company so I can move over there. 

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Field Study: Off leash on an island

For the third day of our field study, we were set free. Boy was it necessary too, because I couldn’t handle any more guided tours with such a huge group of people. Myself and most of my fellow USACers decided to go to Capri for the day. Capri is a small island off the coast of Southern Italy and it is gorgeous. Cliffs rise from the Mediterranean and the slopes are near the harbors are covered in historical, pastel colored buildings.

 

As soon as our ferry docked in Capri, we piled into two boats that took us over to Grotta Azzura. I didn’t know what to expect when I found out we were going to this Blue Grotto because little sheltered me had not heard of this landmark. Imagine my surprise when we arrived at a small cove that was filled with small boats manned by old Italian men and only a small hole in the cliff-side right at the waves.

We all divided into smaller groups of three and four for the smaller boats. I wound up with my friends Sabrina and Alicia, two of the other single girls in our program. As all of the boats got snatched up around us, we spotted the only young, attractive man at the oars. We hurried to the front of our big boat and grabbed his attention to snatch him up before anyone else could. We were the last to get a boat and go into Grotto Azzura, but we definitely had the best view while we were smushed down in the hull of that rowboat.

Inside the dark cave, the water glows blue because of the light that pours in the opening below the waves. One of the older Italian men sings operatically and his voice resounds in the cave and our very attractive guide explained the details of the cave, which I can’t remember because I was distracted by both his cute butt and the gorgeous glowing water around me.

When we came back out of the cave and the girls who had gotten boats before us saw how hot the guy manning out boat was, jaws dropped and eyes popped. My close friend Gina even whipped out her camera and took a picture of us all in the boat because he was so attractive. We piled back into the boat to go back to the main harbor and explore.

A smaller group of us went off together and bought tickets for the tram that takes you to the city center at the top of the island. We got these amazing frozen drinks called granite that were made with fresh fruit juice. Mine was melon flavored and it was the best slushie I’ve ever had. We then adventured around and found this garden atop the cliffs that had amazing views. We tried to eat our packed lunches there but were asked to leave by the groundskeeper.

Then we decided to find a beach and asked a local where we should go. He directed us to Marina Piccola. We had to take a small bus and then trek down several flights of stone stairs to get to the small pebbly beach. It wasn’t warm   enough, but we went in the water anyway. I stopped when the water was mid-calf, but at least I could say I went in the Mediterranean Sea on Capri. It was a very relaxing day just sitting there with my friends and exploring.

After having lunch there and taking the bus back up to the city center it began to rain. We went to get dinner at a nice restaurant because we wanted to get seafood on the island. Gina and I were not hungry so we ordered the fish that was on the menu for 5.50 euros. It was their specialty and it was delicious. However, it was 5.50 for 100 milligrams, and we got more than that amount apparently, so we paid 12 each for the 24 euro fish. We then left and had a glass of wine under the awning as the rain poured down.

When we couldn’t find the entrance to the tram to go down to the main harbor we wound up being lead down the longest, steepest walking path by a local. Needless to say, we got wet. Me less than everyone else because I had a small umbrella, but trying to share it got me my fair share of rain.

Gina, Alicia, Sabrina and I proceeded to have gelati e cappuccini at a caffe at the edge of the harbor. After we indulged ourself, we waited in the rain to take the ferry back with the rest of our USACers who had been off leash somewhere else on the island all day.

 

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Field Study: A head literally in the clouds

The second day of the field study we went to Pompeii. This was literally my favorite day. I have always wanted to see this place. I wanted to see people encased in ash and plaster and walk where the Romans walked before me. I wanted to see a bath house like the ones I learned about in 7th grade world history and a theatre in the round like I’ve learned about in my many theatre classes at Chico State. But more than that, I wanted to get to the top of Vesuvio that afternoon.

Pompeii TheaterWe started off on the tour and I realized I had forgotten the silly little one ear phoned radio we use for the tours so you can be wherever but still hear the details of what we are looking at. This forced me to literally stand right next to the tour guide, who by the way I found hilarious. We went through the theater first. It was amazing. The steps that people sat on to watch the dramas and comedies rose around us in more than a half circle as we walked into the area the stage was. As I took pictures of everyone else there, all of the sudden Stefano and Simone were urging us along because the tour needed to continue. The only photo I got of myself in the place I was most excited about was the selfie I took quickly before they rushed me away.

We continued through the streets and though the walls were broken down almost beyond recognition, I could imagine what it was like with men and women walking through the streets. They would be going to buy their bread and heading to the bath house to beautify themselves. All the while there would be a basic river of biological waste running down the street. Thank goodness they had raised stone crosswalks so they didn’t step in it.

PompeiiI also found out that Pompeii had been known for having the best prostitutes. Sex was apparently a favorite pastime for the Roman men. There was even a stone arrow in the street shaped as a penis directing you to the house of the lupanare, or she-wolves (aka prostitutes). When we finished up in Pompeii, we had a lunch of margherita pizza that was much better than in Napoli and then had the option to go hike Vesuvio. Of course, I went.

We arrived there and I realized I had not come prepared. I was literally wearing fashionable boots (not high heeled thank goodness) with tights and a skirt. As we started up the trail, I was slapped in the face by my ridiculously out of shape self for A) wearing boots and B) not ever working out. However, I made it to the top with a lot of huffing and puffing and pain in my feet and it was gorgeous. I literally hiked up into the clouds and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

At the top I took a limoncello shot with three of my friends and took a ton of pictures. Gina yelled into the smoking crater repeatedly to hear herself echo while I contemplated taking a rock. I didn’t, but I wish I did. I stayed up there at the top long after most had started walking back down because it was just so amazing.

In A CloudWhen the wind sent a thick cloud our way to engulf us, I was so excited. I don’t know what it was about literally having my head in the clouds but it was exhilarating. Hannah started taking video for her blog and even though she had announced that she was going to do that, I didn’t realize and got caught saying “I’m in a cloud!”

When we went home that night we had yet another five course meal at the hotel. After that, I was so exhausted that I plopped on my bed and drifted right off to sleep.

Pictures of my Pompeii and Vesuvio experience

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Field Study: Pizza and walking and tours, oh my!

Nearly all of the USAC students went on a five day field study in Southern Italy.  It started out with quite the long bus ride from Viterbo to Napoli on a dreary Monday morning. When we finally arrived, we were all exhausted and quite hungry. We had arrived a little later than planned due to our first bus breaking down and needing to wait for another to arrive and take us the rest of the way, so Stefano and Simone allowed us to get lunch as soon as we arrived instead of starting the tour. We walked to a castle first where we took a peek inside before continuing on to the restaurant where we would all get margherita pizza, which Napoli is famous for.DSCN5168

When we arrived there, we took up an entire dining room on the second floor. The tables started filling up with pizzas one person at a time, because in Italy, you get one pizza per person. Zack, Nathan, John and I sat with stomachs grumbling as everyone around us was served. By the time we got our pizzas many had already finished theirs. I honestly can’t see what all the hype was about; Napoli’s margherita wasn’t nearly as good as others I’ve had. Though my hunger did make it taste a bit better, I didn’t even end up finishing it and everyone poked fun at me.

We then got a very long tour of the city and the sights. My favorite was the first place we went: Palazzo Reale. The main reason I liked it so much was because our hilarious tour guide told us about how people used to perform skits within the archways that line the inside of the courtyard and audience members could just walk around and view the different performances.

DSCN5173The tour was a bunch of walking that wound up bringing us  to Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli where many of us were too tired to really appreciate the history and beauty of the pieces we saw. It was here that my camera finally died and my energy level finally hit empty. We all piled back in the bus just as it started to rain and took a two hour bus ride to Sorrento, where we would be staying for four nights.

Hannah, Gina and I roomed together at the hotel. When we opened the door we were practically blinded by the hot pink color of the walls. We all went to the dinner that was provided for us by the hotel and received bread for antipasto, pasta for il primo, meat for il secondo with potatoes for il contorno, and a weird frozen chocolate pudding for il dolce. Then we went to settle in, but Gina and I decided to go out. We went to the little pub up the road and just hung out using the WiFi and checking out the buff, attractive but most likely homosexual bartender.

Pictures of my Napoli experience

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Update: This is my last update.

So rather than backtracking to let you know about my previous travels, I am providing you with photos and short descriptions from my travels. My apologies, but I have done so much in such a short amount of time that I just need to let you know about what’s going on now. I’ve gotten so behind that it’s too much to try and catch you up in detail at this point.

Carnevale in Venezia

A huge group of us USACers went to Venice to celebrate Carnevale. The group I stayed with was myself, Gina, Lia, Ali W., Sabrina, Alicia, and Jamil. We rented a two bedroom apartment in a great location. We got masks. We explored. We drank (often for free). We danced. We cooked an amazing meal. Overall, we just had an amazing time.

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Zurich, Svizzera: Chocolate, fondue and really attractive men

Lia, Ali W. and I went to Switzerland for a weekend with a few other USACers. I was hoping to meet up with my family friend DeDe who lives there but that didn’t work out sadly. It was cold and snowy but so beautiful. We went to a chocolate caffe, we saw hot men everywhere we turned, and we had delicious Swiss food and their classic cheese fondue.

A Night of Fun in Roma

Gina and I went to Rome one Saturday night just to go out to the discotecas. It was one of my favorite nights because we stayed at Hostel Alessandro Downtown where we did this really awesome deal. We paid 20 euros to drink for an hour for free at their pub, then play drinking games with them, then go with the group to a pub where we got in for free and a discoteca called AKAB where we also got in for free. We met two Australians who are living in London, an Irish girl living in southern Italy, and a hot Scott who works at the other Hostel Alessandro, Alessandro Palace and Pub.

Firenze for a Weekend with Gina

Gina and I went on a weekend trip to Florence where we spent two nights in a hostel. We met a lot of people during our free sangria sessions in the common room. The best of whom were two girls from Singapore who were a ton of fun, Chris from Mississippi who isn’t your typical Mississippian, and Zack from Wisconsin who is studying abroad in London.

Trebotti Wine Tasting & Orvieto 

We went on a USAC field trip to do a bit of wine tasting at Trebotti, a small family run vineyard that takes pride in their eco-friendly fine wine and olive oils. We got a tour of the place, including an encounter with the family’s donkey named Jane, and got to try one white wine and two of their reds. After this little trip we went to Orvieto, which is a city that was enhabited by the Etruscans before the Romans took over. We got to explore two of the ancient, man-made caves that sit beneath the entirety of the city.

Coming soon: The blog about the 5 day field study I just finished up!

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Mi dispiace! Now back on track: Bracciano.

So I’ve gotten a bit off track and forgotten to update everyone about the trips that I haven’t yet. We went to Bracciano a looong time ago. But let me just backtrack to tell you the story.

Bracciano (1)It was the weekend that many of our fellow USACers went to Siena for a few days. A smaller group of us decided to go to this little town between Viterbo and Rome called Bracciano because from the train we had noticed there is a big, gorgeous castle there.

We got on the train in the morning, spending 6 euro each for our round trip tickets. Upon arriving at the Bracciano stop, myself and four other girls from our group got off with no problem. We began looking around for the others, but could not find them. Apparently the door at the other end of the car was broken and would not open. The five of us stood on the platform just outside the working door waiting and yelling into the car for them. Just as the doors began to close, Nicole showed up at the door, pressing the open button frantically. All we saw was her banging her palm on the clear door as the train began to take off towards Rome once again.

Bracciano (2)

We just had to wait about an hour for the rest of our group to get off on the next stop and take the train back to Bracciano. We wound up at this nice little caffe where the barista put my name in my cappuccino con cacao!

Once everyone arrived we trekked over to the castle and got our tickets for the tour of Castello di Orsini-Odescalchi. It looked like something out of a storybook; walls built from stone bricks weighing more than I do towered high above our heads and I could just picture the days when guards kept watch from atop the cylindrical towers.

While we waited for the English tour to start we let Lila, Nicole and Caleb’s toddler daughter, run and play to tire herself out. As a team we would stomp our feet to create a barrier when she would attempt to scamper past us and into the parking lot. She would just giggle and turn around running in the other direction.

That’s the thing about kids, they’re just happy. Sure they might fall and cry for 5 minutes but then they’re fine and happy all over again. I wish adults were more like children some days. I wish people never grew out of appreciating the simple things.

When our tour guide finally arrived at the gate and lead us in we were all snapping pictures left and right. That is, until we were told we couldn’t take pictures once we were inside the castle doors. Of course though, I have a lot of beautiful pictures of the courtyards, views and outer walls.

Bracciano (31)My favorite part of the tour though was when we got to the very end of the string of huge rooms with high ceilings and we learned the story of Isabella Romola de’ Medici, who married Paolo Giordano Orsini, the Duke of Bracciano. The story is that she was a very unfaithful wife and would have men who stayed with her each night, but they would disappear in the morning. Where did they go? Apparently she would send them out a secret passage, but instead of escaping the grip of the Duke as they thought, they would fall to their death. The door that is now sealed off in  Isabella’s closet area supposedly lead to a deep pit filled with blades.

Well the Duke learned of her infidelity and strangled her in anger. Back in the day, this was a normal thing to do as a husband because your wife was your property and if she was unfaithful, of course you could kill her.

After our tour we wandered a bit, took a few more pictures and had a couple kebabs near the castle. It was a lovely little excursion that cost me a total of 18 euro. I’d say it was money well spent and I got a lot of gorgeous pictures and lovely memories.

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Woes of 1 Broke Girl Abroad.

So I came here with less money than most who go abroad: 5,000 United States Dollars. That translates to 3,842 Euro. When you arrive and there are one time payments of 160 for your permit of stay, 100 euro for books, then you pay 155 per month for rent each month and 43 for a month of utilities (in which you did not run the heater and froze your ass off) and then you need to buy food, but meat costs at least 2 euro for one meals worth of chicken and vegetables add up even quicker… oh my goodness I can’t express how much it costs to be in Europe. 

And of course, I don’t want to come all the way over here and not travel because I am so close to so many amazing places that I want to experience. But then you go to those places and they cost even more because they are so touristy. 

Not only is it the traveling that gets to you, it’s the fact that all your friends who came abroad have come here with significantly more financial support than you, often double if not more. So they’re always throwing around money like it’s no big deal and everything they want to do costs money. But really, what is there to do in a freezing cold small Italian city that doesn’t cost money?

You could go spend time outdoors but the cold literally cuts right through your jacket, scarf, and the 3 layers you’re wearing underneath. You could go sit in your apartment, but you won’t be able to use the internet because only Gina and Riley (the lucky ones) have wifi in their apartments and you’d also freeze because it costs so much to run the heater that you don’t and you can see your breath inside. You could go to a bar and use their free WiFi but then, that’s not really free because in order to not be the self centered American just taking up space you must buy something. 

Literally, it’s just so expensive here. Then you travel, and you think you’re getting such a great deal because you got a cheap hostel and really cheap flights on a crappy airline or a cheap train on Trenitalia (need I say more). But you’re wrong, because you get there and you have to go out to every meal. Well you don’t really have to but all of your fellow travelers want to because they can afford it. 

It’s all very frustrating. Mainly because I know I could save money if I just became a hermit, but obviously, I’m much too social to do that. And obviously, I don’t want to not travel. So far the places I want to go that I haven’t booked as of yet are Germany and London. I can do without Portugal, mainly because no one I know plans to go there. I don’t think I can make it to either one of those destinations though because I simply am too broke. 

So tell me, what’s a girl to do who has a month and a half of rent left to play, plus whatever the utilities end up being for that time, plus the cost of food and probably clothes (because both pairs of jeans she brought developed gaping holes), plus the cost of food, etc. during the travels already planned and paid for, and whatever else comes up?

I’ve got no idea. But if anyone has an answer I’d appreciate it because at this point I’ve got to do all of that on 727.20 USD, which translates to 559.21 Euro. 

Oh and did I mention I’ve been ill for about a month now and even my Italian teacher has been telling me to go to the doctor? Only, the doctor costs 50 euro to visit and you don’t get reimbursed till you get back to the states. 

Not a good day in my neighborhood. I just want to be able to afford to do what I came here to do, experience and learn about different cultures. I don’t even want to go back to America, but I can’t afford to stay here 😦

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