Pre-Departure

A week before my arrival the nerves were setting in. I had a constant countdown in my head starting from the beginning of August right up until the day before my departure. As the numbers dwindled down to single digits I felt a combination of excitement, curiosity, and fear. I had only been to Europe once before for two weeks, but an entire semester abroad brought about a mixture of feelings I did not know I could feel all at once.

Studying abroad in Italy was my dream for as long as I can remember. I could not believe the time was finally coming when I would immerse myself in an entirely different culture in a place I had always wanted to visit. My trip did not seem real to me. I knew the reality of it wouldn’t set it until I was tucked away in my window seat of Alitalia. I did not know what to expect once I arrived in Italy. What would my apartment be like? Would I get along with my roommates? How many different schools were being represented at my new university? My head was spinning as new questions popped into my head every time I thought about my trip.

When I realized I only had a week to go before I embarked on this journey, I could not control my excitement. My suitcase was teeming with clothes I definitely didn’t need to bring (but when do I not overpack?) and my passport was ready to be stamped. Of course, I knew how hard it would be to say goodbye to all the people I love at home but I kept telling myself how amazing and memorable this experience would be.

Where has the time gone?

I cannot believe I have been here for 2 months already! I do not feel like it has been that long, but my family and friends say it feels like I have been gone much longer.

I have been keeping busy with small day and weekend trips. Midterms are finally over, and it was probably the most stressful week I have had since I have been here. Now I get to enjoy a 2 week spring break. I can’t complain much about that!

Over the last few weeks, I have visited Montepulciano, Pienza and Prague. I got to go to Montepulciano and Pienza through a field learning trip. They are both providences in Siena and absolutely magnificent. They each overlook miles of beautiful landscapes and vineyards. While I was there I got to do a food and wine paring in Montepulciano and a pecorino cheese tasting in Pienza. All the food in Italy is so fresh, which makes it taste 30000x better. Something I learned while in Montepulciano was parts of Twlight: New Moon were filmed there. It was cool getting to be there.

My next big trip was to Prague in the Czech Republic. Prague is a huge city, and is slowly becoming a big tourist spot in Europe. More and more people are starting to realize how beautiful the city is and appreciate all the amazing artictecturhe. I can attest that it is beautiful, and everyone should at some point in their life go there. Probably my favorite part about the trip was the food. The food in Europe in general is hands down awesome, but the food in Prague is a whole other level. When traveling to different places constantly I try and eat as many traditional foods as possible, because when am I ever going to get the chance to try them again. As it would happen there was an Easter festival going on while we were there. There were all these carts with handmade crafts, and lots of different food. We basically tired a new traditional food for each meal. We had huge sausages with cabbage mustard and ketchup in a hot dog bun, fired cheese on bread, fired dough with ketchup garlic and cheese, goulash soup in a bread bowl, goulash dumplings and turtle necks. Turtle necks are those cylinder shaped pastries usually filled with ice cream and strawberries you have probably seen on twitter or instagram. Yes, they are as good as they look. They can get a little messy , but it is worth it.

Prague was a whole new type of atmosphere much difference than Switzerland and Italy, and I am happy I got the chance to experience it.

Ciao Svizzera!

Another week in Florence has flown by. That means time for a trip! Next on the list Switzerland.

Let me just start off by saying Switzerland was amazing! My friends and I all had so much fun, and I would highly recommend this trip to anyone thinking about going. We traveled to Interlaken, a cute little town located between two huge lakes. The lakes there were a beautiful crystal teal blue, which looked so nice next to the snow capped mountains. Although the town was small, there was no shortage of things to do. You could go skiing or snowboarding, make chocolate, paragliding, sky diving, hiking, ice skating and more.

We decided to book our trip through one of the local traveling companies, Euroadventures. It is one of the more popular traveling agencies most study abroad students use. Their trips are affordable and cover transportation, lodging and sometimes breakfast. Only down side the transportation is usually done by bus. So traveling from Florence to Interlaken was not so fun.The bus ride ended up being 9 1/2 hours with two stops for bathrooms and food, but we finally got to our hotel around 3 am.

Even though we were running on barely any sleep, we went on a walk to see Lake Thunersee, one of the two lakes surrounding the town, on Friday morning. After we decided to go on a nine mile hike up one of the nearby mountains, and the view kept getting better at each lookout point. After a long day of adventuring we learned how to make chococlate at the Funky Chocolate House. Why wouldn’t anyone want to learn how to make chocolate in Switzerland of all places! I am pretty sure I ate my weight in chocolate that night, and I have no regrets.

Saturday was a little more slow, but no less exciting. We explored the shops of the town and went iceskating. The ice skating rink was different than a normal one, because it was smaller rinks connected by multiple paths. Originally the plan for the day involved paragliding, but due to poor weather conditions it was cancelled. We did get lucky on Sunday, because they rescheduled us for a morning jump.

Sunday morning, we piled into a van that took us 20 minutes up a mountain and then walked another 5 minutes to get to the jump site. From there we ran one by one off the mountain into the air. It was the strangest feeling, because they tell you keep running even when you are no longer touching the ground. Before you know it you are soaring high above everything. It was one of, if not, the best experiences of my life. You glide through the air for about 15 minutes, which is plenty of time. The professional paraglider with me did tricks and took pictures and videos to capture the whole thing. It was the perfect way to end our trip to Switzerland.

I decided to take this upcoming week to explore Florence some more with my extra free time. I can’t wait to share what I find!

First stop Carnivale

This second week flew by. I already have a week and a half of classes under my belt and have already traveled to Venice for the weekend. Classes are going well. Even though they are two and a half hours long each they fly by, and I almost wish there was more time, because these classes are so interesting. I am fascinated by this culture everyday, it is much different than the US. Just to point out a few things. People here are very friendly and will say hi to you on the streets. All the food is locally grow and tastes very fresh. When you go out to eat the waiter or waitress does not hound you in hopes of turning over your table again, they want you to stay and enjoy your time with whoever you are with. They hold food very sacred here. Lastly, there is a much different definition of going out here. When people go out they go to pub have a drink with friends and just stand outside in the piazza’s and enjoy each others company.

To celebrate a successful first week of classes my four friends and I decided to take a weekend trip to Venice for Carnivale. Carnivale is an annual festival, held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter, the day before Ash Wednesday. People dress up and wear decorative masks, it is one festival you do not want to miss out on. On Friday morning we took the two hour train ride off the main land of Venice, and joined right into the celebration. We stayed in a beautiful apartment right along side one of the many canals that connect the city, got masks, took a gondola ride and enjoyed some the local cuisine and nightlife.

Once again the beauty of this place can not be accurately described in words or photos. The weather was beautiful and sunny so a jacket was not needed during the day. It is amazing, we were only a two hour train ride from Florence and you are able to feel a difference in the atmosphere. Both beautiful cities with many similarities, but each has its own vibe. Venice is more traditional and even more peaceful than Florence. While Florence has evolved to accommodate an American tourist lifestyle, Venice does not as much. The transportation is done by boat here, and it is amazing given the narrow sizes of some of the canals how they do not crash into each other.

Day two in Venice we walked along the carnival route which takes you around the whole island along the central canal. It all leads to Piazza San Marco, a huge square where everyone gathered to take in the costumes and giant cathedral and tower. It is definitely a sight to see. I wished I could have stayed longer, but train tickets were selling out fast and we had not booked a place to stay another night.

Next weekend I am traveling to Interlaken Switzerland!IMG_20160102_141643082 IMG_20160102_145119332_HDR IMG_20160102_161326490 IMG_20160102_154943489 IMG_20160206_110119031 IMG_20160206_141821046

It’s only been a week, and I already feel at home.

I have been in Italy for a week, and I can honestly say it feels like a second home to me. Just as New Paltz became a home away from home, Florence has been added to that list now too!

The travel was not fun. The first plan ride was about eight and a half hours, and the second was two hours. I did get lucky and catch some sleep on the plane, but regardless I was still exhausted by the time I actually arrived in Italy. I had lay over in Paris which went everything but smooth. Due to an hour delay leaving JFK International Airport I was pressed for time once I landed in Paris to get through customs again and make my connecting flight. The process was slow, and I along with twelve other girls in my program were told we did not make the flight in time and had to catch the next flight. After my study abroad advisor argued with the airline almost all of us were allowed to enter the plane. That was just added stress to the already stressful situation of leaving home for four months to live in another country. None the less, I made the flight and safely landed in Florence around noon.

Just when I thought things could not get worse I was told both my bags were left in Paris, and I would maybe get them the following day. At that point I just had to laugh about everything, because of course it would be just my luck to have this all happen in one day.  I did not worry to much, because I had planned for this and had extra clothes and stuff in my carry on. After all I was not left behind in Paris and had to take the next flight or not have any luggage at all. Understandably, my first impression if Italy was not the best, plus it was foggy, and I felt gross from traveling all day. I could not wait to get to my apartment, meet my new roommates and get something to eat. The apartment is nice and has all the basic necessities. I have three very sweet roommates named Nabi, Shaye and Sabrina.

After getting acclimated to my new home a few of us decided to walk around and explore the city a little. We saw the Ponte Vecchio and some of the duomos, and they were absolutely breath taking, the pictures do not do them justice. After seeing all that suddenly it did not matter the airline lost my luggage, the travel time was long or I had not eaten in twelve hours. I just felt so incredibly lucky to be able to call this city my new home, and get to enjoy its beauty every single day. That is the first impression of Florence that I actually count.

Also during my first week here, I began school. I honestly did not know what to expect the only things I had heard is that classes in Europe are much different and a lot harder than they are in the US. I did know there grading scale was going to be different, but other than that I was nervous to find out what exactly my new professors had in store for me this semester. After having gone to all my classes at least once now I am a lot more at ease. The school I am studying through, Florence University of the Arts, is organized very much like the academic structure I am used to at home. the teachers expect the same things with also an understanding we are also to here to travel and take in the culture. Many of my professors left time in each lecture to answer any questions we had about Italy. It is nice that majority of my classes once a week so the work does not get to over whelming. My most difficult class is probably my Italian class, because I have no prior knowledge of the language. I have it Monday- Friday for half of my program as a 6 credit intensive Italian course. I emphasise intensive. I am only three days into classes, and already speaking full phrases in Italian. I have never picked up a language this quick, and I took 12 years of Spanish. Being here has definitely given me strong motivation to learn as much of Italian as fast as possible.

Goodbye New York!?

visa-temp-residence

I leave for Florence soon, and I still cannot picture myself there. Saying goodbye to friends and family does not feel real. It has not yet processed in my head this will be the last time I see them for a while. I will be missing out on birthday’s, and holidays with family.

It feels like I have been talking and preparing for this trip for what feels like forever, but it is finally right around the corner. I do not know if I am ready for it entirely, there is still so much to get and pack before then. That is something people who have traveled abroad do not mention is how hard it is to pack. You cannot pack everything, but you need to make sure you have enough. Depending on where you are going, you do not know if you  will be able to buy the same things you are used to at home. It is not just clothes you have to pack but towels, sheets, converters and anything else you might need for a four month long trip. I am lucky my program provides linens, but that is not always the case.

Even though it is normal to feel nervous I am also extremely excited for what the next four months will bring. I have friends who are in different programs in Italy, who are already there, telling me how much I will love it, and they make me more anxious to be there already. I will miss New Paltz, my family and friends, but at the same time this is such an amazing opportunity it is worth being a little homesick. I am very fortunate to be apart of the 3% of college students who study abroad.

I think the part I am most looking forward to is the food. I am looking forward to living in what is considered one of the best food capitals in the world. I have only heard good things about the city’s cuisine from past travelers. They all say how fresh everything is, and I will never taste anything quite like it. I definitely plan to eat my way through Italy!

Swan Song

Okay so although I still have a few weeks abroad in Europe, I do indeed leave the love of my life, Milan, in one short week.  To be honest, this kind of makes me wanna vomit.  To think that I arrived here almost four months ago, truly is something I cannot fathom.  Milan has been my home, and pretty soon I will have to say goodbye.

As I have mentioned in past posts, I really am a big believer in everything happens for a reason.  So to think that I almost let fear hold me back from coming to this amazing country is insanity at this point.  I am so glad that I left my inhibitions in the United States to come to this magical place.  Milan will forever be in my heart.

To think back to my first day where I cried like a baby when my adapters wouldn’t plug into the wall, I received the wrong keys to my apartment, my phone wouldn’t work, I was alone, and I ate one of the worst meals of my life, FINALLY I can think back and laugh.  Sure this experience has not been perfect.  But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.  I just feel so different (in a good way).  I have grown up so much here.

Lucky for me this experience isn’t over yet.  Although I do leave Milan in one week from tomorrow, I still have a couple weeks where I will be traveling around Europe.  So I have a lot to look forward to.

Am I ready to return to the United States?  I’m not really sure.  I mean I kind of have no say in the matter.  I have finished college, and now I must get a job, an apartment, and enter a new phase in my life.  Would I stay longer if I could?  Absolutely!  But regardless my time here will never be forgotten.  There was no better way to leave the University life.  For those who are unsure of spending their final semester abroad, or studying abroad at all for that matter, I must encourage each and every college student to look into it.

Leaving our mark in Barcelona

Leaving our mark in Barcelona

The people I have met through this program are some of the greatest people I have met in my life.  Milan holds a special place in my heart, but I know a big reason behind that is the amazing people here.  However, I must give a special shoutout to one special lady Kara Buzzeo.  New Paltz is small.  And yet there are always those people you do not know.  Kara and I both attended New Paltz, lived in the same hall, ate in the same places, worked out in the same gym, and yet it took coming abroad to Milan, Italy for us to meet.  I now consider Kara one of my true gems that I will take away from the Paltz.  My experience would not have been the same without her.  Yes, I will not be continuing on with her in the fall, in New Paltz, but I know she is destined for great things.

Maybe I will write another post abroad, maybe I won’t.  I just wanted to write this one now, to make sure I did it before leaving for the rest of Europe.

For now I will be galavanting around Milan, attempting to complete the things that I wish I had been doing all semester, but have neglected to leave to the last minute.  Also if anyone would like to help me pack, feel free.  Time to study for finals!

Till next time readers, continue to reach for the stars,

Tamara

End of the year celebration with my housemates: Bethany, and Allison

End of the year celebration with my housemates: Bethany, and Allison!

Save the Drama For Your Mama

Il Dottore Selfie

Il Dottore Selfie

So as most of you know I took a Dramaturgy course in Milan this semester.  Our class finished up on Monday, and we had our final on Tuesday.  This final was unlike any I have had in my four years at New Paltz.  We as a class had spent our semester writing a play, in true commedia dell’arte fashion.  We had two professors for this class: Laura & Stefano.  Laura spent the first half of the semester teaching us the history of commedia dell’arte.  Laura also helped us to write our scenes.  Luckily for me, someone who has never written a play before, we were able to work in groups.  With the help of Stefano we brought the words to life.

This was a long process.  We went through many drafts, many opportunities for editing.  Just when we thought we were done, there was always another change to be made.  Stefano made cast decisions, and then for the second half of the semester we blocked and staged our production.  I was cast as Il Dottore, the heavyset, old, know-it-all man.  This was quite the humorous role for me.  I have done a lot of theatre in the past, but I must say I have never done anything in the style of commedia dell’arte, so this was a first!

My mom actually sat in on the class a few weeks ago, so that she could see what I was up to.  Needless to say, seeing us all in the masks, she got quite a kick out of it.

Monday was our final run-through, and despite (poorly timed) illness on my part, Tuesday we performed for the last time.  The show: The Tooth Puller can be watched here on Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLKQ_gNPa20

And with this my friends, I am done with classes, and in full finals mode!  Tomorrow I have the end of year celebration and then I am actually off to watch Stefano perform in a commedia dell’arte play at Piccolo Teatro!

Till next time!  Keep practicing those lines, and those lazzi!

Tamara

The Cast & Crew of The Tooth Puller

The Cast & Crew of The Tooth Puller

Prove Yourself Wrong Everyday

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Ok, so I am sure you are all wondering about the significance of my blog title for this post.  Normally, you can count on Tam for a pun, joke, essentially any type of humor.  And don’t get me wrong, I did have a couple of silly titles in the works, but none of them seemed to reflect my true feelings towards Cinque Terre (my latest adventure).  So the truth is this post is a little less Tam the ham and a little more real life.

This trip was my last planned group trip.  Anything else I do from here on is either on my own, or will be a carpe diem with friends.  After visiting Cinque Terre, a place that I honestly had never heard about before arriving in Milan, I must say I am in awe.  First off I must suggest that those who visit should decide to embark on the hike through the towns.  In my opinion, and others can fee free to disagree, the beauty, the essence of Cinque Terre can only be found in the hiking.  Sure, you can take a train from town to town.  But these towns are super small, and they sort of blur together.  However, this is not the case if you hike.  The hiking unlocks the raw Cinque Terre, and unfolds some of the most incredible views I have ever seen in my life

Manarola, Cinque Terre

Manarola, Cinque Terre

Brooke, Heidi, Taylor, MK, Madison, Alyssa and I mid hike

Brooke, Heidi, Taylor, MK, Madison, Alissa and I mid hike

This was the biggest group I have done a multiday trip with, there were seven of us, Brooke cleverly named us the Cinque Chicks.  Seven can be a difficult number to accommodate, it isn’t even, and it is quite large.  We lucked out, this really was never a problem!  These are some of my favorite ladies in Milan, and I probably couldn’t have accomplished as much as I did this weekend without them.  To be honest, at first I was kind of confused as to why we were going for a whole weekend, but upon leaving I wished we had left for Cinque Terre even one day sooner!

Cioppino at La Cantina di Miky

Cioppino at La Cantina di Miky

We arrived Friday in two groups.  Brooke & Heidi scouted out Monterosso earlier in the day, and the rest of us joined later.  Monterosso was probably my favorite of the towns.  It was on the larger side, as compared to the rest.  But most importantly to me was the beach.  My mother always jokes that she gave birth to water babies.  Although I disagree with my mother on many things, this is not one of them.  I love the water, it brings me joy, it brings me to life.  There is nothing more relaxing to me then soaking up some sun in between trips to the ocean/lake/pool/literally anything.  So to arrive Friday and see a beach really made me a happy camper.  Upon our arrival we walked around for a bit, and then Heidi and I dipped our toes in the crystal blue Mediterranean.  We grabbed dinner, I made sure to have seafood of course, and then we were off to our hostel.

View from 5 Terre Backpackers

View from 5 Terre Backpackers

Our hostel had the most amazing view, two cats roaming around, as well as hammocks.  Plus this was all for a relatively good price.  Definitely one of the nicer hostels I have stayed in.  I didn’t even realize but we had our own room, which was a nice change of pace.  I did not think there would be a room for seven!  One great thing about our hostel, was that because it wasn’t directly in Monterosso they provided daily, free shuttles.  Everyday I took the 9am shuttle to Monterosso, and the 6pm shuttle back to the hostel.

So Saturday morning we awoke early enough to enjoy our free breakfast of cornflakes and coffee, and then we were off!  I won’t lie, I felt like I was in over my head Friday when we got off the train to see how many people had walking sticks in hand.  I am not a nature girl.  I have lived in New York City for 22 years, and my ideal nature is Central Park.  Although hiking isn’t my forte, I knew I could not come to Italy without visiting Cinque Terre, so I figured I would suck it up for one day, and then Sunday, the beach would be my reward.

First off you have to pay to hike, which I found odd.  Why must I pay to be at one with mother nature?  Oh well, no big deal.  We also had to make sure to use the bathrooms in the towns, because there were no bathrooms on the trails.  This hike truly is and was meant to be a whole day affair.  We were told the first part of the hike was the roughest.  In my opinion, we were lied to…

Don’t get me wrong, the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza was without a doubt nearly impossible for me, but I actually found part two of the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia to be the real beast.  Maybe most people find the first part of the hike the roughest because it is longer, but man oh man did I struggle.  Europe has faced me with lots of opportunities where I have had to push my physical abilities in order to take in all that is around me.  I am used to walking, we walk a lot in New York City, heck I don’t even have a driver’s license, but the walking I have done abroad is far more grueling then anything I have ever experienced.  Hands down though Cinque Terre was my Everest.

I am overweight, out of shape, and have eaten my fair share of pizzas in Italy.  Never, do I think I have doubted myself more so then I did on this hike.  I was embarrassed, and disappointed in myself.  It did make me feel better to see five of the others struggling just as much as I was (not Heidi, this was a walk in the park for her).  But I’m not sure if the other girls were as close to giving up as I was.  I just felt like my body could not do what I was asking of it.  Which is why this hike truly tested not only my physical limits, but my emotional limits as well.  If I was alone, there is NO doubt in my mind that I would have waisted the 7.50 euro, and headed back down to give up.  But being with these other girls, all of us motivating each other, stopping for breaks, water, and pictures in between, gave me hope.  I just wanted to be able to do what my friends were doing.  And spoiler alert, if you have not already gaged this from the title of this blog post, I was able to do it.  All seven of us successfully survived a full day of hiking, mostly uphill, on unpaved stairs.

Prove yourself wrong everyday.  Because this is what I did in Cinque Terre, and it truly impacted me far beyond what I could have imagined would come from a weekend trip.

Selfie time for Heidi, Alissa, and I

Selfie time for Heidi, Alissa, and I

And that is the thing, if I was unable to do this hike, I would have never been able to view Cinque Terre with the essential bird’s eye view.  I am proud of myself for pushing myself past my limits and completing what I nearly gave up on.  Proving yourself wrong is one of the most rewarding experiences you can face.  Truth is because of the shuttle we only had time for tre terre, however Sunday before our beach day, and before our train home, Alissa, Heidi and I trained to the other due terre.  So I indeed was able to see all cinque!

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

I think I was on a high from the hike, so this weekend really was just what the doctor ordered.  The towns were adorable, the gelato, delicious, and the beach relaxing.  Dear readers, please keep in mind all that I have said in this post.  Never give up on yourself, you are capable of anything and everything.

XO
Tamara

Beach day in Monterosso, in the Mediterranean Sea!

Beach day in Monterosso, in the Mediterranean Sea!

PS.

To all of those students (both New Paltz and elsewhere) who graduated this weekend, conGRADS!  I am technically a member of the class of 2015, so I guess this makes me a college grad!  I do believe this will all hit me a bit more, once I am done with finals.  Sure, I may never get to walk across the stage and collect my “diploma,” but I’m pretty sure Cinque Terre was an adequate alternative!

Sometimes you just gotta stop and smell the flowers!  Greetings from Corniglia, Cinque Terre

Sometimes you just gotta stop and smell the flowers! Greetings from Corniglia, Cinque Terre

Under the Tuscan Sun

Boboli Gardens!

Boboli Gardens!

Study abroad changes you in ways you can never begin to imagine.  This is something that my sorority sister Kimberly instilled in me before I left for Italy.  Kim had the life altering experience of doing a summer study abroad program in London.  At first I wasn’t really sure if Kim’s hypothesis would prove to be correct.  However, I must say after three months abroad I truly feel like a new person.  One way I have changed is my adventurous spirit.  I have always been independent, the truth being that in originating from New York City, it is pretty much a character trait instilled at birth.  I needed to be independent in order to get around my humble home.  However, I learned quickly while abroad what a difference there was between being independent and truly having an adventurous spirit.  Sometimes I tend to doubt myself, my capabilities, and abilities to succeed in difficult obstacles.  Time and time again I have wanted to reach for the phone to call my parents and have them fix the obstacles in my path, but time and time again I have amazed myself with my resourceful attitude in order to fix any problem that comes my way.  I don’t think I realized how many problems I would need to fix abroad, things that I had never had experience with in the United States.  Plus I have the added challenge of a language barrier making it even more difficult to get things fixed.

As you see from my blogs, I have certainly been traveling the world.  This past weekend (despite being opening weekend of the expo in Milan) I decided to explore once again.  Unfortunately for me, my friends abroad did not have the same desire as I had to visit Florence.  I felt, how could I come to Italy and not see Florence?  So despite a lack of travel companions, I decided I would venture to Florence regardless.  Many people take solo trips abroad, however I was not sure I could succeed in this daunting task.  I delayed every step of the planning process.  I enjoy doing abroad research, so I was happy to find hostels, food, transportation, and activities.  But when it came time to book these things, I did not find motivation to do so.  I think I just kept waiting for someone to change their mind and want to come with me.  Finally right before my Ireland trip, I figured I want to book my hostel.  I needed something to be set in stone before I leave for Ireland.  So of course, since the trip was in one week, most of the marvelous hostels I found (one including a pool & sauna) were booked.  I had no choice but to settle.  I did go off to Ireland though with the satisfaction that I had managed to book something.

When I returned from Ireland I booked a day trip to the Chianti region, and a day trip to Pisa.  I felt I had to go to Pisa while in Florence, because they are so close.  How could I visit Italy, without seeing the Leaning Tower?  But I still hadn’t booked transportation.  I figured a train would have better availability by going to the station itself.  So the day before my trip I went to Central station in Milan to find a ticket.  Sure enough to my disappointment the only remaining tickets for Thursday were 116 euro one way.  There was NO way I wanted to pay this.  So after hesitation I dove into the world of bla bla car.  Two girls from my program had used it to get to Florence.  It is so cheap that I wanted to use it to go to Florence as well.  But once I discovered I was going alone to Florence, I wasn’t quite as comfortable with the idea.  Until of course that is, it seemed my only option.  I had to arrive Thursday, since I had a hostel reservation that night, as well as a trip to Chianti the next day.  So after lots of nerves I was able to find both a bla bla car to take me there, and another to take me back.

My next obstacle was waking up the day of my trip, to receive an email that not enough people signed up for Chianti, so they were canceling the trip.  Luckily, I decided to wake up early that morning, so I had time to deal with this situation.  I was given a refund for the trip & was able to sign up for a different trip with a different company.  Phew dodged a bullet there!

Chianti olive trees

Chianti olive trees

I was off to Florence without a hitch.  My trip was truly incredible.  There was something something so illuminating about traveling on my own, but more importantly accomplishing so much in a foreign place alone.  I was able to go where I wanted to go, eat what I wanted to eat, see what I wanted to see, sleep when I wanted to sleep, etc.  Every morning I found myself waking up early and by choice as opposed to feeling forced.  I wanted to get up and explore.  I never created strict itineraries, more like possible ideas of places I wanted to go each day.  It was such a fantastic voyage.

bought myself a little treat in San Lorenzo leather market ;)

bought myself a little treat in San Lorenzo leather market 😉

All'antico Vinaio!

All’antico Vinaio!

Friday I awoke and headed straight to the Boboli Gardens.  I took a bus although I certainly could have walked.  I walked ALL OVER Florence that weekend.  It is small, and yet every turn there is something new to see.  The view at Boboli was impeccable.  I’m so glad it was recommended to me by friend Sarah, studying abroad in Florence.  After Boboli I headed off to All’antico Vinaio for a quick lunch.  Florence had a ton of amazing looking sandwich shops, but I must say I was glad this was recommended to me by both Sarah & my Unicatt friend Kim.  The line is a little crazy, but it really is worth it.  I had no idea what to order, I just kept looking at what others had.  I do wish in retrospect I asked the men working behind the counter what they would recommend, so I could have gotten the best of the best.  However, I was quite satisfied with my sandwich.  Yum, Yum!  After the sandwich, I was off to Chianti.  Chianti was so beautiful & green.  I went with Caf tours, and I would certainly recommend that.  I booked Caf tours for Pisa as well.

Leaning Tower of Pisa!

Leaning Tower of Pisa!

The next morning I was off to San Lorenzo for a leather shopping spree.  My oh my did I drop some euros on leather!  I bought two purses & a wallet.  I tried on a jacket and liked it but anytime I feel rushed I don’t like to shop.  So I didn’t buy the jacket then & there.  I figured if I really wanted it I would go back.    I then headed to Pizzeria O’Vesuvio for a ricotta stuffed pie.  This was another place Sarah recommended, but it is also where the cast of the Jersey Shore once worked as well!  The pizza was delicious.  So it was pizza before Pisa.  I am very glad I got to Pisa but to be honest, if I could do it again I would go independently without a trip organizer.  I feel like I could have saved money & stayed longer.  But hey you live and you learn.  I am glad I got my picture with the Leaning Tower, because after all isn’t that the main reason to go to Pisa?  I did make sure to get some gelato in Pisa because I had some free time and that’s the perfect way to pass time.

Gusta Pizza @ Gusta Pizza

Gusta Pizza @ Gusta Pizza

That evening upon my return to Florence I ate dinner at Gusta Pizza, a place both my roommate and Kim had told me about.  I ordered the Gusta Pizza and it certainly was one of the greatest pizzas of my life!  Both of the pizzas I had in Florence were Napoli style, so I must fit Naples into my future travel plans for sure!  Gusta Pizza did have a line but it was so worth it to wait!  All good things are worth waiting for.

NUTELLA ICE CREAM!

NUTELLA ICE CREAM!

After eating my meal I hiked up Piazzale Michelangelo.  I do mean hiked!  That is quite the hill.  But upon arriving at the top you can find one of the most magnificent views overlooking Florence.  But of course my reasoning for the trek was for the 2015 Gelato Festival.  It was so cheap and I ate a ton of gelato.  Every flavor was something I had never tried before.  To be honest, after the hike & pizza I was unable to complete all of my gelato, but don’t fret I certainly made a dent.

Michelangelo's the David

Michelangelo’s the David

Sunday morning I woke up earlier then ever in order to check out of my hostel and wait on line for the Academia.  I am really not a big museum fan, and despite being a New Paltz Hawk, I am not super into art.  But my father recommended seeing the David, so I figured why not?  I waited on line for only thirty minutes!  Then even better was getting into the museum for free!  Since it was the first Sunday of the month.  So this made the visit even more worth it.  The David really is pretty magnificent!

Camp Poyntelle Lewis Village alums in Florence

Camp Poyntelle Lewis Village alums in Florence

After seeing the David I grabbed a Subway sandwich and headed to San Lorenzo to buy a leather jacket!  Then I was between a free walking tour & the Galileo museum (another place Sarah recommended).  Unfortunately for me I decided upon the museum despite breaking one of my cardinal rules.  I neglected to look up the museum beforehand, so I got there and it was closed.  Bummer!  I should have picked the walking tour!  I started walking to the tour, even though I was late.  But all of a sudden I heard “T-Litt, Tamara?”  It was my ex co counselor from camp, Sandra.  Perfect timing!  I didn’t even realize she was abroad in Florence, because so many camp friends are abroad there.  I knew she was abroad but didn’t know it was in Florence.  It was perfectly timed for me!  I spent the next two hours with her before heading home to Milan.  Safe to say this was another successful trip!

Till next time readers!

Tamara

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