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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Litts > Venice

Spending time with my parents in Venice

Spending time with my parents in Venice

Ciao readers!  It’s been a while since my last post, but I am back to write about my return to Venice!  I did go to Venice for Carnival in February, but with the recent visit of my parents in Italy I agreed to face it once again.  My dad had already been to Italy years ago, but my mother had not.  So although I had visited Venice already, I was willing to back again.  I am so glad I went back, this experience was completely different.  My visit in February was all about Carnival, whereas this visit was focused on Venice itself.  Although this time the weather didn’t hold up.  I taught my parents how to make the best of it & we powered through.

For my last visit, Kara & I stayed in a hotel far from the action, whereas this time around the Litts stayed in an airbnb in the hustle & bustle of Venice.  I was also stoked to find that our airbnb had a dog!  I love animals =)

Our furry friend at our airbnb

Our furry friend at our airbnb

I did a lot more sightseeing this time around, which was wonderful.  I was able to actually see Venice.  The water was so beautiful.  However, I can’t lie you WILL get lost in Venice.  The water creates dead ends like its nobodies business.  Thank goodness for technology!  When we really did find ourselves in a pickle, I would guide us in the right direction with the help of my handy dandy google maps app on my iPhone.  I really would recommend having a phone plan that allows for data usage because I seem to use it time and time again.

Even bread is happy to be in Venice =)

Even bread is happy to be in Venice =)

We visited St. Marco’s square & the Rialto bridge.  Both were jampacked, tourists everywhere.  In my opinion though I still think Rome takes the cake for having the utmost tourists.  We went to a produce market, as well as a fish market near the Rialto.  I must say how much I love all of the food markets in Italy.  Food is so fresh here, so it is so cool to see row after row of fresh food.  As much as I am hungering for some of my American staples, we sure do love to make room for unnecessary additives in our food.  So I am enjoying EATALY.  This market was wonderful.  I even ran into 3 fellow Unicatt students during this adventure!

There are also dogs EVERYWHERE!  Italy has leash laws that differ greatly from America.

Another great experience was the Vaporetto ride around the grand canal.  It was very lengthy, we happened to somehow take the wrong boats.  But it was very relaxing (and cold) along the water.  I would highly recommend Vaporetti rides for those who plan to visit Venice.

10373781_10153288787703921_2097223406779063185_nAs a Jewish family I was very glad that we got to visit the Jewish Ghetto in Venice.  It was very powerful walking around the Jewish quarter.  Italy being a very Catholic country, I felt very comforted being surrounded by all things Jewish.  We visited a Chabad, and met the rabbi.  Being so involved in Chabad & Jewish life at New Paltz, this was a taste of Jew Paltz for me.  There were even Kosher places to eat around the Jewish Quarter.  I do hope to see more WW2 sights around Europe with my future travels.  Visiting the Jewish Quarter with my parents made that a special experience for us to share together.  Judaism has always been a big part of our family, especially having my older sister living abroad in Israel.

My parents & I returned to Milan on Sunday.  Now my parents are off in Rome while I continue on with classes.  I hope they have a safe trip back to America!  Till the next adventure!

Tamara

Litt selfie!

Litt family selfie!

Ready For My Closeup

On the set of Pomeriggio Cinque!

On the set of Pomeriggio Cinque!

The opportunities I have in Milan are truly mind-blowing.  This past Monday I was able to take part in the recording of a television show, as a member of the studio audience.  This is indeed something I have done before in the United States, so it was an interesting contrast to see what it was like in Italy.  The even cooler part was that this was for one of my classes.  Yes, this was a field trip for my Television, Advertising, Music: The Italian Approach to the Media class.

A screen grab from the episode itself

A screen grab from the episode itself

We were in the studio audience for the show Pomeriggio Cinque on Canale Cinque.  The show is hosted by Barbara d’Urso.  This really was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us.  Here is a link to the show if anyone would like to watch the episode:  http://www.video.mediaset.it/video/pomeriggio_5/full/lunedi-23-marzo_524295.html

Yes, the whole show was in Italian so I couldn’t really follow too much of it.  But just by chance I got really great screen time, so that was pretty surreal.  I kept gazing through the bright lights to the monitors, to see me looking back.  I especially appreciated this considering I had not made the cut for screen time when I was in the studio audience for the Rachael Ray show (one of my idols).

IMG_1992The preparation for the show was MUCH more relaxed than for US television.  The wardrobe requirements were simpler, and the seating was random.  I was also exhausted because I flew in that morning from Barcelona.  I went straight from Barcelona to class to the tv show.  But I made sure to keep my eyes open as much as I could.

I would not be opposed to doing something like this again.  I’m just excited to see what my next class trip looks like!  Till next time, thanks for reading!

Tamara

P.S.  No autographs please =P

My class with the host Barbara d'Urso

My class with the host Barbara d’Urso

 

When Life Gives You Lemons… Go to Rome!

Hey all!  I know it has been a while since my last post, I have just been so caught up in Milan truly embracing life.  I must say being in Milan for Fashion Week was quite cool.  But alas I am writing another post, about my latest adventure, ROMA!

Roommates Roam Rome!

Roommates Roam Rome!

The past week has not really been the best.  But that’s what is important with study abroad, you must keep in mind that not every day is going to be perfect; nothing ever is.  I do constantly remind myself though that even when times are tough, they are tough while I’m in Milan!  This reassurance was something I came up with in the shower one day, and it really does make me feel better time and time again.  Last week (and still even today) I unfortunately came down with some sort of illness.  Despite wanting to run around and play all over Milano, I knew as much as it wouldn’t be fun, I would have to slow down and rest.  I am slowly but surely getting better, which is good!  But that too is the thing about study abroad, some things are just out of your control.  One instance is weather, like when we planned our day trip to Switzerland, and it rained.  Another instance is illness, you really cannot control when you get sick.  So I had to embark on a journey to Rome this weekend besides battling sickness.  Which is why when life inevitably gives you lemons, drink that lemonade in Europe!

Mass in the Vatican City with the Pope!

Mass in the Vatican City with the Pope!

I really was a champ through it all, if I do say so myself.  Our first day in Rome, I had only slept for two hours, and I was sick but that didn’t stop me from seeing this truly magnificent city. I never realized how touristy Rome is.  It seemed scary to me that I spoke more Italian then most people we met along the way.  This meant when we tried to ask people for directions they were unable to help.  When studying abroad you really need to pool any and every resource at your disposal, I’ve needed to do this pretty much everyday and traveling is no exception.  My roommate and I were constantly running around, trying to make the most of our time in Rome.  This was also my first weekend trip which required a flight.  The weekend was exhausting to say the least!  However, it really was quite a trip!

I do have to go back to Rome someday though when the Trevi Fountain isn’t under renovation.  Although I knew it was under renovation, it still was such a disappointment to be in Rome but unable to experience it in its glory.  I did throw my coin in the fountain regardless though, so let’s hope there is still enough magic in the fountain for my wish to come true!

Roomies at the Trevi Fountain

Roomies at the Trevi Fountain

I am learning more and more with each trip I take.  I have never had to independently plan trips of such stature before.  The only way to learn how to plan a trip is by actually planning one.  The example that comes to mind was when my friends and I embarked on a journey to Lugano, Switzerland and didn’t really plan what we wanted to do when we got there.  Luckily Lugano is beautiful (despite the rain that didn’t rain on our parade).  But we got there and it was kind of like now what?  With trips that are as brief as these are, it is essential to make the most of your short time there.  Which is why I vowed to make the most of the next trip I took, by actually figuring out what I wanted to do.  So when it came time for Rome, my roommate and I were true gems and spent days planning, researching, and just sort of getting our lives together.

Wouldn't be a trip in Italy without Gelato!

Wouldn’t be a trip in Italy without Gelato!

However, when it came time to actually do the things we planned we hit some bumps along the way.  So my next tip for all of you readers, but more importantly for myself is: look at closing times!  Not once, but twice, we had made it all the way to our destination to find our locations closed!  I am a born and raised NYC girl who is used to everything being open all the time.  But hey, you learn the hard way.  Now I know for my next trip!

Palatine Hill

Panorama of the Palatine Hill

Fortunately for us both scenarios ended up working in our favor.  One place that wasn’t open was a pizza place.  Oh well, we just ate somewhere else.  I actually had grilled chicken because everything in Italy is so carb infused.  As much as I do love carbs, it was a blissful experience to give my body some simple protein.  As for the other closed experience, my roommate, Ashley and I had planned on taking a free walking tour of Rome, which would end outside of the Colosseum, basically the biggest MUST see in Rome.  Well when we arrived after our walking tour, the colosseum was closed…  However, Ashley and I rallied on.  We did not give up!  Besides this being a must see of Rome, we had also already purchased tickets online.  So we woke up extra early our last day in Rome, and went straight from the Colosseum to the airport!  It was definitely tiresome, but beyond worth it.  We saw so much in our short time in Rome.  But, the colosseum was my favorite thing we saw in Rome.  It is just so magnificent to be there.  It was so breathtaking, I can’t even really describe it.  I am so glad we made it there.  I can officially mark it off my checklist of the seven wonders of the world!

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The Colosseum!

Alas like all good things, Rome too had to come to an end.  But I hope to someday be back, if for nothing else but to have a clear of construction, Lizzy McGuire moment at the Trevi Fountain!  Till next time, thanks for reading!

Tamara

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As seen in our airbnb

 

 

Just a Train Ride Away

Travel in my opinion is really what brings your study abroad experience to the next level.  You crank out so much money, and travel so far to come start your life in a new destination.  However, upon arriving you learn just how cheap, and how close other new, exciting places are to you.  You have to make sure you don’t go too travel crazy, but with study abroad, the world really is your oyster.  Or for any Friends fans, the world is your tub of ice cream and just like Ross we all must leave our comfort zones, and grab a spoon.

MK, Taylor, and I take on the Duomo!

MK, Taylor, and I take on the Duomo!

Now keep in mind I have only been away from the United States for three weeks, but I already have been so many places, and have so many more trips planned.  I have been around Milan, because you really should explore your home and become familiar with where you live.  I love Milan, and can’t wait to explore it even further!  Visiting other places also put my life in Milan in perspective, and I do not take for granted a single second how blessed I am to live here!

Touching Giulietta's right breast is a sign of good luck in love

Touching Giulietta’s right breast is a sign of good luck in love

Beyond Milan, I have also tackled the famous V Italian cities: Verona, and Venice.  As for Verona, what they say is true, Verona really is the city of love.  I was enamored by the culture that Verona had to offer.  LOVE is in the air, in this little Shakespearean utopia.  I made sure to touch both Juliet’s right breast, as well as write a note to her for her wall.  I think Juliet’s wall was one of my favorite things about Verona.  It is just cool to see how many people have written to her, and then to become a part of that.

#NPsocial in Venice for Carnival

#NPsocial in Venice for Carnival

The key word for my trip to Venice was: adventure.  That was the only way to describe it.  Our ESN network at school offered a trip to Venice for Carnival, however unfortunately it filled up rather fast.  Fellow New Paltz Hawk, Kara, and I were determined to experience carnival in Venice, truly a once in a lifetime experience.  For me as cheesy as it may have been, this article that I received via email months ago was one of my driving factors behind the voyage: http://ilovefreeconcerts.com/20-amazing-festivals-around-world-must-see-die/

Kara and I did make it to Venice for carnival, which is all I could have ever asked for!  The energy in Venice was just so electric, I was so in awe of the fact we had made it there.  Plus spending Valentines Day like this wasn’t too shabby either.  Don’t worry, I made sure to bring Kara some chocolate earlier that morning, because every girl deserves to have some chocolate on Valentines day.

Rainy day in Lugano!

Rainy day in Lugano!

Next up was my first trip out of Italy, however still by train.  Ironically enough traveling to Switzerland proved to be even closer then any of our Italian voyages.  I went to Lugano.  Despite the weather not compromising with us, paying in Franks as opposed to Euros, and one miscommunication where I set off an emergency exit, I bought countless bars of Swiss chocolate & hot chocolate mix at the Schokoland and ate countless free samples.  Being quite the chocoholic, this really made the trip worth it.

I am ready for many more adventures, all I can say is bring it on!  These once and a lifetime opportunities will not be taken for granted by me.  I am just ready for whatever comes next.  Thanks for reading!

Till next time, I leave you with this photo of the magic that is Juliet’s wall in Verona:

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Oh Wait I’m Here For School

Most beautiful college campus!

Most beautiful college campus!

Sometimes I really have to remind myself that I am here for school.  When you are jetting from place to place, eating the greatest food of your life, and living on your own it is very easy to forget that at the end of the day I am a student in this country.  However, I was very pleased with the gradual submersion into school at Cattolica.  I came to Milan a few weeks before classes started in order to take a pre-intensive Italian class.

My Italian pre-intensive class

My Italian pre-intensive class

Referring to this Italian class as a pre-intensive is highly accurate.  I have never taken any type of pre-intensive course, and the truth is it is quite intense to say the least.  The class is two weeks for three credits.  I am not one to have a great aptitude for languages but despite some initial resistance I went into the course as open minded as possible.

This class really did help me so much, I feel as though I have such a better grasp for the Italian language after this course.  Of course I am not fluent by any means however, I think more than anything I just feel a little more confident in my own abilities.  The trick is you must be willing to make mistakes.  This class could not have been any more openminded, and non judgmental.  Our professor, Andrea was just the cherry on top of the sundae!  I really felt as though we worked together to complete this course as one.  In no way shape or form was this easy for me.  This course meant waking up everyday early for hours of Italian.  I would be lying though if I said I regretted taking this course, I am very pleased with my decision.

Our Italian professor, Andrea, slicing an AMAZING cake his wife made for us

Our Italian professor, Andrea, slicing an AMAZING cake his wife made for us

Fellow classmate MK and I enjoying our cake

Fellow classmate MK and I enjoying our cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pre-intensive course just ended Friday, and we started real classes Monday.  That was a strange transition.  We went from studying a lot, taking a final exam on a Friday, to starting over on Monday.  I am very pleased with how my schedule worked out.  This being my last semester, I really had the free rein to take anything at my heart’s content.  I am focusing on my passions for the media.  My classes include:  Dramaturgy, Methods of Illusion, and Television, Advertising, Music.  Dramaturgy, and Methods of Illusion are being taught with the same professor, and a lot of my fellow classmates are taking both courses.  These professors seem so accomplished; I look forward to learning from them.  There are also many field trips & guest lectures planned for these courses, which I am beyond excited for.  My earliest class is 11:30 and I have no classes on Friday, so I cannot complain about that either.  The classes are long, but full of interesting content.  I am just looking forward to all this semester has to offer!

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Benvenuto a Milano!

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Found this on the wall of my room in Milan, I knew it was where I was meant to be

I was so excited to get to Milan!  I got off the airplane and there were so many other people waiting to be picked up by the housing service to be taken to our individual apartments.  I met a lot of other girls from SUNY Albany!  It was cool that even across the world, I still had some fellow SUNY sisters.  We were divided up into cars, and taken to our apartments.  I was supposed to be the first drop off, however, they had the wrong keys for me.  I did panic internally a little, especially because I was the first person to arrive to my apartment, but I was calm knowing my housing service didn’t leave me alone.  Everyone else was dropped off, and then I finally got in my home.  Later that day though, my roommate Ashley from Buffalo State came home, so I was no longer alone.  We napped, thus messing up our sleep schedule, but eventually we got the hang of the new time difference.

My school id card!

My school id card!

Right away the next day we had to go to school for Orientation.  I had no idea how fast paced everything was, and how much we had to get done within our first week in Milan.  We got the hang of the metro very quickly considering how we constantly had to run obscure errands all over Milano.  We met so many people, in such a short amount of time!

Fellow SUNY sister Sarah and myself at orientation

Fellow SUNY sister Sarah and myself at orientation

The first week was jampacked, and our first weekend was that way as well.  But I was so happy to finally be home =)

Welcome to Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore!

Welcome to Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore!

Exploring snowy Milan with my roommate Ashley, and housemate Bethany

Exploring snowy Milan with my roommate Ashley, and housemate Bethany

 

Ciao USA

It is strange how many mixed emotions one feels before they get ready to study abroad.  I felt every single emotion humanly possible all at once.  I was excited about traveling to Italy, a place I have never been before, and have always dreamed of going.  I was nervous about the language barrier, having never learned a single word of Italian.  I was in anticipation of the carb haven which awaited me.  The month before I left flew right on by, especially because my mother was off to Hawaii for 2 weeks prior to my departure.  I also wanted to make sure I said all my goodbyes, and then some.  I ventured up to New Paltz for a few nights to say goodbye to everyone there, because by the time I fly home their semester will have ended.  I was also very grateful for the wonderful friends in my life who attended my going away party in Queens.

Saying goodbye to my summer staff at Asian Fusion

Saying goodbye to my summer staff at Asian Fusion

Sisters of Kappa Alpha Gamma chapter of Kappa Delta Phi N.A.S. at my going away party

Sisters of Kappa Alpha Gamma chapter of Kappa Delta Phi N.A.S. at my going away party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily, just by chance I was flying on the same flight as another New Paltz student, Kara, so I had the comfort of knowing I would not be alone upon my arrival.  I was also fortunate enough to have the knowledge that the housing service in Milan would be at the airport upon arrival to whisk us off to our individual apartments.  Considering my lack of prior exposure to the Italian language, these were blessings for me.

Selfie with Kara at the airport

Selfie with Kara at the airport

There was a lot that had to be done before I left.  My flight was the same day as the Super Bowl, which was unfortunate however, Milan trumps football any day.  My parents took me to the airport, and I was off to the biggest adventure of my life.

Saying goodbye to my dad at the airport

Saying goodbye to my dad at the airport

Kisses from my mom at the airport

Kisses from my mom at the airport

Panic on the Streets of London, or, How To Spend Five Hundred Dollars in Three Days

Okay, I am skipping ahead in my story here, but this part of my story might just be the best part, or at the very least the most important part, and since I’ve recently made sense of everything I experienced in London, I feel the need to skip ahead a bit—I will fill in the blanks of the other two trips later. This all happened in a period of three days, from April 23rd, 2014 to the 26th. Let me be clear once more: chronologically, this takes place AFTER my trips to Florence and Rome, right at the tail end of my spring break.

My trip to London, I decided to go alone. Most other places, you can go and people will want to do the touristy things that everyone does, and fun is had for all and you see everything that you wanted to see. London, I was a bit more picky in what I wanted to see. I didn’t want to feel rushed. I would’ve went with other people, and probably would have been pouty for half the time, but it just seemed to work out that I would be on my own for my London adventure.

As I got off the bus at Victoria Station, I knew I was in for a wild ride. I was down the street from Westminster Abbey—a quick stroll, and I would be able to cross something off of my list. Or I could take a ride on the Underground to find my hostel. I had two giant bags of clothing and supplies (including my laptop), so I was torn between what I should do. Deciding to brave the journey, I walked down the street towards Westminster Abbey, with pounds of luggage weighing down my already tired shoulders.

Westminster Abbey was certainly a sensory overload (and a wound on my bank account—for students, it’s 15 pounds to enter). So many famous people, so much history. Coronations, crownings, royal weddings—it was all at my fingertips. An obvious highlight was Poet’s Corner, where Geoffrey Chaucer is buried. Touring around the building, I knew that there was just so much that i was missing, or that I would never understand—significances I couldn’t even hope to understand. It’s simply a building with too much history. I was in shock—I, the lowly little Long Island boy, was in the same place as some of the most important people in history. I endeavored to see as much as I could, but eventually left for my hostel, not wanting to spend a whole day living in the past.

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My hostel was the worst part of the trip—built into a bar which was probably on the verge of bankruptcy, there was no care or sympathy to be had at the Arsenal Hostel. You had a bed to sleep in and simply hoped for the best in all other respects. Supposedly, there was a free quote unquote breakfast, but I never saw a crumb of cereal, or anything resembling sustenance. The room smelled of dirty unwashed hippies (and not the good kind). The shower had two temperatures—cold, and ice cold. Luckily, I planned to spend as little time in that sinking establishment as possible, so I didn’t worry too much about it. I had a bed to sleep in at night, and that was all I could hope for.

Heading back into the city center, I came upon the Piccadilly area Waterstones, the “largest book store in Europe.”

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I was quite subdued for a few hours, sifting through foreign versions of books I already owned. The red, complete UK copy of Lord of the Rings was calling to me, but I resisted. Instead, I picked up a copy of Morrissey’s Autobiography for half price (it had a single rip in it). It was a book I had been craving to buy for a while, and London seemed like the perfect place to buy it. It accompanied me for the rest of the trip, and fit the constant soundtrack of The Smiths that was blaring somber tunes in my ears.

Next, I took a pilgrimage to Denmark Street, the site of the Sex Pistol’s old flat. I expected to see a plaque, a dedication—anything to signify that the punk giants who had proclaimed “Anarchy in the UK” had made their mark on London. Instead, I saw a basic guitar store, and no stamp of greatness. I guess Johnny Rotten’s last words on stage with the Pistols fit well with their legacy: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

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Just as my disappointment had hit critical max, I turned around, and right behind me, directly across from the flat, was a bar with a sign for live music. Live punk music from Finland. Was this a dream come true? I entered the 12 Bar Club, unaware of the spiritual journey I was about to go on. Up first were two acoustic acts: a Dallas Green-style guy whose voice touched the airwaves like whiskey-stained piano keys; and a tall girl who towered over the place with her anger against the men who had wronged her. I loved every second of it. The highlight, though, was the touring band—The Blush, all the way from Finland. Elements of Joan Jett, Peaches, Gwen Stefani, Green Day, influences I will forever be perplexed by— they all combined in front of my eyes to wake everyone in the room up from their respective comas.

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After the show, I went up to the band to compliment them. I bought a copy of their demo, and they seemed so pleased to meet a kid from America. They signed it excitedly, and asked if I could hook them up with some places to play in New York if they ever came. I gave them my contact information, and went to bed that night dreaming of my own place in punk history.

The next day was part of my reason for coming to London when I did: the opening night of Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare’s Globe, the reconstructed circular open air theater along the Thames. Getting my tickets in advance, I was to be a groundling—a commoner standing in the yard. When I got to the Globe, my heart stopped; it was perfect. The outside took me by surprise at how it towered over the Thames in its Elizabethan conjuring way.

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Inside, I was greeted by a more morose set than is typical of the globe. The ceiling as adorned with a circular black awning, mirroring the domed Pantheon in Rome. The stage was covered in black silk, setting the tone for the gruesomely bleak performance. Smoke poured out of the stage as actors emerged through the clouds. Unfortunately, the lighting for stage and the smoke did not make for great photography, and the Globe doesn’t let you take pictures when actors are on stage.

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Watching Titus Andronicus was the best performance of my life. I’ve never been so moved by a production before. People always ask, “Why is Shakespeare so important?” Seeing this in front of me, I had empirical evidence as to why. The play was not for the faint of heart, and people have been known to faint. Having the highest bodycount of any of the Bard’s plays, the blood really piled on. A girl next to me had to leave at one point, crying. It was that emotional. As Lavinia came out on stage, hands chopped off, covered in blood, tongue cut out, a crazed look in her helpless eyes, I think every single person in the room wanted to run up on stage and comfort her. There was no nagging notion in the back of your head that this was all staged—this was pure pain personified, and it hurt to watch.

I can say without a doubt that this was the highlight of my entire stay in Europe. I had felt the magic of the stage like never before, and was transported to a whole other world.

I experienced more during my stay in London—way too much to name or describe here. The Crown Jewels, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, fish and chips, strawberry beer, breakfasts with baked beans, the absolute worst coffee I’ve had in my life, aimless wandering, and stories to be told. I can’t fit them all here, but feel free to ask—I’m dying to tell. I also have over a hundred pictures from the trip, a testament to the duty I felt to document my stay.

As my bus left London in the hours between the late night and the early morning, the city lay still. I passed Westminster Abbey under the cover of night as The Magnetic Fields sang to me about a butterfly that could never be made to stay in one place. All My Little Words. I realized that this trip taught me that I could truly survive on my own, with the comfort of no one else to fall back on. I was self-sufficient and could fend for myself. In my head were all of those strange fantasies everyone gets from time to time, about just slipping away to some unknown city and leaving everything behind. These are the kind of thoughts that comfort us when the weight of our constructed world seems too much to bear—they aren’t a representation of our real desires, just shadows on the cave wall to get us through. I slept the whole way home.

Traveling alone is hard—it’s emotionally draining and very isolating at times. It’s certainly not for the easily stressed or the easily frightened. If you don’t talk to anyone, you’ll find yourself helplessly alone. In my experience, though, all you need to do is to have the openness to that solitude. I’m a pretty solitary person, I’ll admit—so it wasn’t hard for me to adapt to being a fly on the wall. Others, I would say that you should just make sure you’re in an emotionally sound place when you go. I recommend traveling alone heavily. I learned so much about myself just by existing in a foreign environment on my own. Loneliness can be underrated sometimes. Travel alone, if you can. They don’t romanticize it in folk songs for nothing.