London, Venice and More Oh My!

While studying abroad, I have been fortunate to do a ton of traveling- both in and out of Italy!

My first trip was to Cinque Terre. It was my birthday weekend; my friends and I visited each of the towns in one day! Each offered a different experience but they all had one thing in common- an amazing view. Cinque Terre was only a 2 hour train ride from Milan, making it a super accessible but fun trip!

After that, I flew to Prague and London! My sister had planned to travel to Prague coincidentally during the time that I’d be in Italy, so we thought it was a perfect weekend to meet up. My sister is 6 years older than me and lives in another state, so seeing her had made me so happy- who knew we’d be in Prague, TOGETHER?! It truly made my heart full.

London has to be one of my favorite cities I have ever visited! It was so metropolitan, and nostalgic. Everywhere I went felt sophisticated and chic. There, I visited shops and pubs, walking along townhouses in Notting Hill, while stopping to drink tea or eat falafel pockets (which were SO yummy). Being in London made me SO happy. I definitely will go back to visit one day.

And lastly, my most recent trip that I did happened to be with my dad! At my university, we just had our mid-semester break and my dad was lucky enough to get some days off so, he flew all the way to Milan and we took a “road trip” of Italy. We went to Lake Como, Venice, and Florence. All of the places were so different from one another; it is mind-boggling to me how you can be in the same country yet certain parts are so vastly different from each other! All were beautiful in their own unique way. Visiting all 3 places were truly enriching, especially with my dad by my side.

Academics

Now that midterms are over, I finally feel like I can give you all a clear view into what I think about the courses I am taking here!

At SUNY New Paltz, I am quite ahead of course requirements. Because of this, my advisor gave me the freedom to take what I please and of what piqued my interest. So, here at Cattolica in Milan I am taking four courses: A Mafia Story: Its Representation in Literature, Cinema, and TelevisionFashion Images and the City of Milan: A Sociological Perspective on Modern Italian FashionCitizenship and Religion in a Multicultural Society: A New Clash of Identities in Italy and Europe? and The Female Character in Italian Contemporary Literature and Culture. All are vastly different from each other, and don’t necessarily have a correlation with my major and minor at home (which is Sociology with a Human Services concentration, and a minor in Deaf Studies), however, I do really enjoy them.

A Mafia Story: Its Representation in Literature, Cinema, and Television would have to be my favorite. In my Sophomore Year of high school (5 years ago) I was introduced to American mobster movies: Casino, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale… you get the idea. I was always fascinated on the topic, but only got my information about the mafia solely through these movies- I had no other outlets. In this course, I learn about the history of the ‘mafiosi’; how it originated, where it originated and how it is represented in both Italian and American media platforms. I even watched The Godfather for the first time as one of my homework assignments! This class has truly opened my eyes into a huge and important part of Italy’s history: specifically in Sicily. My professor is knowledgable and passionate about this subject, and it truly has rubbed off onto me.

Fashion Images and the City of Milan: A Sociological Perspective on Modern Italian Fashion is the only class that I’m taking that will give me credit towards my major (elective). Since becoming a sociology major, I can’t help but think of everything from a sociological perspective… its in my nature. However this class does more than that- it has taught me about important fashion designers, and how moments in history really affect the world of fashion. When I was little, I dreamed of being a fashion designer. I never really knew why but this class brings me back to that dream, but in a different way. I would never really consider myself stylish, but now I find myself wanting to express in the form of fashion and style, and help others too. It really is enthralling.

Citizenship and Religion in a Multicultural Society: A New Clash of Identities in Italy and Europe? is a class that took me by surprise. I didn’t expect to take it, and to be honest, it was sort of a last minute resort. I didn’t know what I was going into but it has been a pleasant surprise. In this course we look at the history of citizens and societies within Italy and Europe from a philosophical and anthropological perspective, and how these factors have changed over time with modernization. Its very complex, and I often fumble with my words, so I’ll spare you the details 😉

And lastly, The Female Character in Italian Contemporary Literature and Culture. I am lowkey, a literature nerd. I took two AP English courses in my high school, and a few at SUNY New Paltz- including The Novel and Women in Literature (which I highly recommend). The Female Character in Italian Contemporary Literature and Culture is another course I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to. We analyze female characters in books, operas, and movies written by both male and female Italian creators. Like I said, I love literature, and since I’ve taken a Women in Lit course at New Paltz, this class has been nothing but fun for me. I’ve found so many books outside of American and British literature that I now want to read.

Not only are the classes intriguing, but the professors are all super sweet and compassionate. I express my worries to them, or even my curiosities, and they are always there to help and engage.

Overall, I appreciate Cattolica for providing us international students with interesting courses I could never take elsewhere, and for sparking a newfound curiosity within me.

0-100 Real Quick: Dealing with Culture Shock in Milan

This post is loooonngggg overdue. I’ve been caught up with traveling and assignments and just living my life that I haven’t had much time to sit on my computer and be consistent with this blog (which I will work on from here on out). However, tonight I am feeling motivated! I went out to dinner with my close friends that I’ve made here; it was the first time I stayed out past 9PM here in Milan. Being out late made me realized how living in Milan no longer feels like a foreign feeling, but like second nature to me. So, I thought, why not use this time to reflect on the changes and differences in cultural norms I experienced during my first weeks here in Milan.

The food here is all pasta and cheese and meat! Sounds like a dream to most right? As a vegetarian/vegan, I actually found it quite hard to go out to restaurants and find a vegetarian/vegan option, let alone find a vegetarian/vegan restaurant. However, I did make friends (unintentionally) who all happen to be vegetarian! We make it our mission to find good vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and we’ve stumbled upon a few so far.

Dress here also happens to be completely different than what I am used to. After all, I am in the fashion capital of the world! At home, I am used to wearing off-the-shoulder tops, jeans and my vans or boots everywhere I go- overall, super casual. Here, you are expected to be more modest yet still fashionable. Exposed skin definitely gets you some glares but it is something I’ve come accustomed to- my collar bones are my favorite feature, how can I not show them off? Another thing I noticed is that women wear sneakers with EVERY outfit which I’ve come to love and be inspired by. Women wear sneakers with slacks, jeans, dresses and so much more; I never considered sneakers fashionable until this point and now, I can’t stop wanting to buy them! I have a pair of Nike Cortez’s waiting for me at home 😉 Overall, being here makes me that much more into fashion and style; not to mention I’m taking a course titled Sociology of Fashion in Milan at my university here.

A social interaction I wish I could bring back to the states with me is aperitivo! Aperitivo is basically like Italians happy hour; you buy a drink (which can range from $8-$12) and then you either get chips, a meat and cheese platter or even a buffet depending on the establishment. Aperitivo is a great way to socialize with your friends after a long week of classes and have a good time.

I’m not going to lie and say that it was an easy transition coming to Milan- like I was warned by the study abroad advisors, I definitely did get frustrated about certain things not being as convenient as they were in America. However, it is safe to say that I finally am in a groove here in Milan, and I am really enjoying my time here.

Window to the World

This evening the sky is shades of orange, and of purple and blue. I can’t help but think about all the time I wish I spent with you. In my mind, collecting the things I want to say. Wait a lil while longer and you’ll hear on the 53rd Sunday.

Since coming to Milan, I’ve grown an attachment to windows and the sky, specifically to the colors the sky makes when the sun is rising and setting. This fixation on color and windows and the sky has followed me to wherever I go.

When I visited Prague, my accommodation had a beautiful window that I would sit next to at night and listen to the chatter out on the streets.

When I visited London, I visited a bakery which was strictly decorated in pastel colors: pinks and blues and greens and purples! It was visually stunning and gave me a sense of joy (not to mention the food was delicious.

 

When I’m in Milan, my favorite time of day is when the sun is setting; I am making myself dinner while the windows are spread open. I hear the sounds of garlic sautéing, families and children playing, or nothing at all. The sky turns into hues of orange and pink and purple and sometimes blue. That is when I’m happiest. That is when I am at peace.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During this time, I sit and reflect on a lot- the universe; my life; the people I hold dear to my heart; the world and how many people inhabit it, who have their own thoughts, dreams and aspirations; how there is so much this world has to offer. This is something that I will forever cherish and will use to ground me wherever I go. The feeling inside of me when I get to see such a sky, or such a vast amount of color, or an excellent unfurled window, is truly unexplainable. It makes my heart warm and sometimes like my heart is going to burst- that’s how intense it can get. Some people don’t understand why I feel this way, and some people do; the optimal thing I have realized from this is that not everyone needs to understand- if it makes me feel good and content, then I don’t need to prove it to anyone else.

Ciao Milano!

I landed in Milan bright and early on a September morning. It was chilly and sunny, which is the perfect weather for me. It had blown my mind that just 8 hours before, I was in NYC, in my home, with my parents and my pets, all of whom I hold close to my heart. I was excited, yet super nervous to start this journey, especially without my parents, siblings or even best friend to hold my hand through it all- literally.

When I stepped off the plane and into the airport, everything felt normal. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary or different; people in the airport spoke English, and there were other Americans in close proximity considering we had just gotten off of a plane that departed from JFK- my main concern was getting from the airport to my apartment which was an hour away. I made it to a train called the ‘Malpensa Express’ which connects you from the airport to the central train station in Milan. My 5 foot 3, 135 pound self trucked my 80 pounds worth of bags and luggage across towns, transferring from the airport, to the Malpensa Express, to the metro. What an experience! I was so determined and focused on getting from one point to the next that I couldn’t even think about anything else.

However, when I got to my apartment, that is when reality set in. I am here. IN MILAN. WHERE I WILL BE LIVING FOR 3 MONTHS. Is this real life? I couldn’t believe it. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion, I couldn’t help but cry. I knew that these next couple of months would bring intense change for my life, and although I knew that it was necessary for this change to occur at this point in my life, I wasn’t exactly ready to step out of my comfort zone and accept that it was going to occur starting now.

Arrivederci NYC!

Since my summer began, all that had been on my mind was my countdown until I would be in Milan, Italy. The range of my emotions were quite extreme- I was excited yet nervous, curious yet anxious. I had no idea what I would be flying into, considering the farthest I’ve been from home is to Hawaii- and that still is part of the United States! I’ve always had a desire to travel elsewhere, out of the United States and dive into cultures where I could only daydream what they were like. Yet here I was, about to travel to Europe for the first time, and completely immerse myself in Italian culture.

When choosing where to study abroad, Italy was on the top of my list; the Italian diets consists mainly of carbs and fish (both of which happen to be my faves), the Italian culture is so rich with history, and the university I will be studying at had courses that both sparked my curiosity while fulfilling my major requirements here at New Paltz. Day and night I would think about Italy- what I would eat there, who I would meet there and what I would learn there! Questions started to arise in my mind: Would I come back fluent in Italian? Would living in Milan make me more fashionable and push me to experiment with my style? How much pasta can I eat that is humanly possible? It all felt so surreal that I was going to actually be living there for an extended period of time.

As my summer dwindled to an end, and saying my farewells to family and friends, I couldn’t help but be ecstatic to embark on a new journey that would hopefully be a transformative one. Saying goodbye was definitely hard and tears were shed, but I knew what is to come will surely be amazing.

Bard…Not the Most Italian Name?

One of the coolest cities I visited in Italy was actually very close to Italy’s French and Swiss border. Bard, Italy is unlike any other place I visited during my travels. Its scenic, winding roads give you the chills as you experience views of quaint villages nestled into the Alps and the aqua blue water of the Dora Baltea River in the Aosta Valley. I don’t think I ever took so many consecutive pictures at once; each time I took a step further, there seemed to be a better photo for me to capture. All I’m saying is make sure your iPhone Camera Roll is cleared out or you have plenty of memory in your camera before you make the journey!

Aside from the amazing views, there is also a lot of history behind this Italian city. It is home to Fort Bard (Forte di Bard), which dates back to the 1800s and the Napoleonic era. If you have the time, I highly recommend taking a guided tour of the fort. While learning some key facts about Italian history, you will also be graced with a panoramic view that will truly take your breath away. There are several levels that ascend and each consecutive level offers an even more detailed view of the one before it. If you choose to take the tour, you will reach each level via a transparent elevator. This was by far the most scenic part of my trip; I simply could not look away as everything beneath me became smaller and smaller, yet so stunning at the same time.

After your tour, reward yourself with a freshly prepared Italian meal. If you don’t feel like wandering, the uppermost level of the fort has a conveniently placed café for you to take a rest and grab a bite to eat. I myself did not eat there, but when does any café in Italy disappoint you? (Hint: never). If you walk away from the river for a few minutes, you will discover a hotel called Hotel Stendhal e Hôsteria “La Pôsa Bertolin.” Within this hotel there is a dining room that serves the most delicious lasagna–you simply cannot go wrong. In addition, this could be your home for the night if you wish to stay overnight and have a little extra time to spend in this historical city!

Unfortunately, I had a limited amount of time during my visit in Bard. If it was slightly closer to my base in Milan, I would have easily made another trip or two before departing my beloved Italy. However, I did travel to Brusson, Italy from there. If you’re feeling adventurous and nature-driven, I highly suggest you find a way to get there. I had the pleasure of taking a group trip there on a double decker bus, which, in hindsight, probably was not the best idea on extremely narrow, winding roads leading up and through the Alps. A word of advice: if you make the trip to Brusson, take a small car that can handle the tight turns and small lanes! Brusson is situated within the mountains and has great trails and waterfalls if you are more into the nature and outdoors-y side of Italy. Once you enter the village, you feel as though you have entered a different world. The inhabitants of this area in Italy are so secluded and truly have the place to themselves. It’s hard to put into words, but if you go you’ll see what I mean.

I wish you luck in your travels! Buon viaggio!

Milan Calling!

Spending a semester in the fashion capital of the world was one of the best decisions I have ever made. If you haven’t been to Milan, it’s time for you to book a trip there. Right now.

Milan is a magical city. The first time I laid eyes on the Duomo, I could not believe my eyes. There is not enough time in the world to study each individual detail of this immaculate cathedral. Taking a walk inside–or to the top, if you’re willing to wait–is even better. You suddenly feel small and overwhelmed as the Duomo swallows you up in all of its Milanese glory. Throughout my three and a half months in Italy, gazing upon the Duomo was just as exciting each time I saw it.

To the left of the Duomo, you will find the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is filled with stores that most of us cannot afford, but walking through this mall is simply a treat. If you’re like me, you’ll dress up in your finest clothes and wander through the Prada store imagining you have an endless supply of money to feed into your shopaholic tendencies. But in all seriousness, this gallery is absolutely beautiful for a leisurely walk or window shopping.

Just outside the Galleria you will find my favorite gelateria, Cioccolati Italiani. I honestly could have eaten here every day if I didn’t have a fear of doubling my body weight. Anything you order here will not disappoint you, but I highly recommend getting the hot chocolate. It is nothing like your typical Swiss Miss instant hot cocoa; Italy has surpassed this by a landslide. Instead of a watery cup of hot chocolate, you will be served a steaming cup of thick, creamy chocolate that almost seems as if it were a candy bar before you received it in liquid form. I would do anything to have a cup of it right now, but I’m hoping you will get it in my honor.

If you’re looking for the world’s best cappuccino, I know a place. I’m proud to say I was a regular at  Cremeria Buonarroti. My order was identical each day: “un cappuccio con cacao e un brioche con crema,” or “a cappuccino with cocoa powder and a brioche with cream inside.” Absolute heaven. To this day, I have never had a better cappuccino or better service at any of the cafés in Italy. I happened to walk in one day since it is right in front of the Wagner metro stop, and ever since that first day, the cutest Italian barista would start making my coffee as soon as he saw me walk through the door. I would do anything to go back and sip on a cappuccino while people watching at my usual window seat.

I hope this isn’t news to you, but the food you eat in Italy will be the best food you ever consume in your lifetime. I still fantasize about the many (too many?) meals I enjoyed during my time in Milan. One place in particular is Don Raffaele Trattoria Pizzeria. This may have been my favorite pizza spot in Milan. They have varieties of pizzas that are so fresh and wholesome–nothing like the artificially cheesy and greasy pizza we are so used to eating. The waiters also bring out baskets of fried dough and zucchini just in case you need a few more carbs, which you always do. Be sure to check it out!

So, what are you waiting for? Get moving and book your trip!

Bergamo: An Italian Treasure

When you think Italy, what cities come to mind? I already know the answer: Rome, Florence, Venice…the usual go-to cities when your destination is the fabulous Italy. While these are all great cities and are popular for a reason, I was lucky enough to discover a hidden gem of a city that should be at the top of your list when traveling to Italy. Bergamo is by far my favorite city in Italy. If someone told me I could live there, I would have my bags packed in ten minutes (okay, maybe more like three hours, but I have a serious overpacking problem). One of the coolest things to note about this magnificent city is that it has two parts: La Città Alta and La Città Bassa. La Città Bassa, or “low city,” is the part of the city that is at ground level, while La Città Alta, or “tall city,” is that part that is raised above the rest and gives you the most breathtaking views.

So, how exactly do you get from Bassa to Alta? There are buses that take you up, but why do that when you can take the funicolare? The funicolare is an adorable little cable car run by one man throughout the entire day and is honestly one of my favorite parts of Bergamo. As you ascend, the view becomes better and better and if you’re a quick photographer you can snag a few photos on your way up!

Once you reach the top, you can explore this little slice of heaven. If you go on a weekday, preferably in the fall when there are mostly Italians and no tourists, you will find that you never want to leave Bergamo. You could spend hours going up and down the narrow little streets that somehow manage to fit cars, but not without grazing your body as they pass by of course! There is really no right or wrong way to go. I went down as many different streets and paths as I could, though some may have been a little off limits! Anything for the view though, am I right? Some key spots to hit definitely include Caffè del Tasso, Mimi la Casa dei Sapori, and Santa Maria Maggiore. Caffè del Tasso is easily one of my favorite places in Italy. As soon as you walk in, you feel like you’ve gone back in time. I don’t know how else to describe it, so you’ll just have to see for yourself! If you’ve never had European hot chocolate, you’re in for a real treat since it is basically a steaming cup of thick melted chocolate–my mouth is literally watering. If you’re not into that, a simple cappuccino will do. Mimi la Casa dei Sapori is a perfect dinner spot. It’s important to remember Italians like their down time and are firm believers in taking breaks here and there. So when you’re walking around aimlessly wondering why no restaurants are open for dinner until 6:00 p.m. or later, keep this restaurant in mind. This was one of the only places that served dinner a little on the earlier side, but it may have been one of my best meals in Italy. I had the most amazing homemade ravioli with a sage and butter sauce; please order it. Perhaps even order it twice. For one meal.

Santa Maria Maggiore is a gorgeous basilica in Bergamo and is absolutely worth taking a walk around inside. Hopefully you will stumble upon it and be as amazed as I was with the intricate architecture and detailing that is seen in many European countries.

If the pasta doesn’t fill you up, you might notice Bergamo is big on desserts made with polenta, specifically polenta cake. As you pass through the streets and look into store windows, you will see polenta balls of all shapes. They are super tasty so be sure to grab one.

Now for the main attraction: the view. Honestly, my best advice is to just keep walking and exploring until you find a spot with the best view. You’ll know it when you see it. If you are able to go when the sun is setting, I can promise you will not be disappointed with what you see.

The rest is up to you. No matter which stores you stop into or which restaurants you decide to eat at, I can assure you will be glad you put Bergamo on your list of Italian cities to visit.

Arrivederci ragazzi!

-Jennifer G. Galvin

Milanese Withdrawals

After being home for about a week, I realized how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad. Just as my advisor said before I embarked on this journey, every day was not perfect. I had my ups and downs and days of missing home a little more than usual, but overall I am extremely proud of myself for following one of my dreams of studying in Italy.

I can’t help but be extremely critical of any Italian food I eat here in the States. No plate of pasta will ever compare to the many (too many?) dishes of pasta I consumed in Italy. Put simply, I was spoiled. I had authentic Italian cuisine at my fingertips for three and a half months and, I can assure you I took advantage of it. Of course, I miss the people there as well. I was lucky enough to meet a great group of girls from Chicago, but some of my friends are not as easy to reach. I’ve already decided that I need to return to Europe within the next few years. The withdrawals have set in and I need my Italian fix!

As much as I miss Europe and its ridiculously cheap flights to surrounding countries, it feels great to be home. I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw my family waiting with open arms for me at the airport. I couldn’t wait to share stories and pictures with them from my many adventures. It was refreshing to return to the States and catch up wirh loved ones, especially for Christmas. But Italy will always hold a place in my heart. This semester was one of my best ones yet and provided me with everlasting memories, friendships, and life lessons. It was not an easy trip to make, as I went on my own and was filled with fear and worry but it was absolutely worth it. I honestly don’t know why every student who is able to study abroad does not take advantage of this outstanding program. There is so much more to this world than we realize until we actually go out and explore. I saw so much but, at the same time I feel as though I haven’t seen nearly enough! Looks like I’ll be making a trip back to my beloved Europe very soon…

Thanks to anyone who followed me throughout this journey!

Un bacione xx