Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Siena e Firenze

Two awesome weekends in a row.  We took a bus to Siena Friday morning, got in around 1:45pm.  I went with three friends here from ND. 

Our hotel was right in the center of the town, only a 5 minute walk from Il Campo.  The best part was that it was comfortable, and only cost us 20euro per person. So we checked in, got settled, then walked around for the afternoon.  Ate some pizza in Il Campo, which is the main square in Siena where the Palio takes place in the summer.
We didn't go inside the Palazzo Pubblico, but we did walk around and see the two main churches in Siena, Santa Maria Assunta (Il Duomo) and San Domenico.  The Duomo was one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen.  It was made with bricks of white and black marble, with some pink as well, which makes it striped.

That evening we met up with some other people from our program were in Siena and we went out for aperitivi. 

The next morning we left really early to catch the 7 am train to Florence.  We ended up having to jog a little of the way to the train station, which is always fun.  But we made it, and it was a really cool ride through northern Tuscany.  After we checked into our hostel (which was pretty nice for 10e a night), we walked around and checked out the major spots.  Saw Ponte Vecchio, climbed the Duomo, and walked through the markets areas.  A lot of the girls bought leather jackets.

Sunday we went to mass at Santa Maria della Croce, where Michelangelo, Galileo, and Dante's tombs are.  It was a really nice experience, the church is beautiful on the outside like the Duomo, and the mass was in Italian.  In the afternoon we did the Uffizi gallery, which is where there is a ton of art.  Took us two hours to walk through it all, but it was well worth it.  For dinner we went to this place near our hostel and the train station that our hostel owner Veronique recommended.  It was awesome, I wrote down the name and address so if I ever make it back to Florence I know where to go.  The food was actually cheap, but the pasta was amazing.  Then we played some Scopa in the train station and caught our 9:15 back to Rome.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sciopero = forget your travel plans

My bad on the last post. I just noticed that I titled it "G-men and Effervescence" and never talked about the wine tasting.  JCU hosted it at campus, and they brought in a certified sommelier who gave a presentation about how to taste wines.  He talked about how wines are evaluated and scored, and how you can tell them apart based on various qualities. One was effervescence, which we thought was a kind of a funny word.  The tasting was cool, I didn't like very many of the wines they gave us, but it was interesting to learn a little more.

In other news, national transportation in Italy will be going on strike tomorrow.  Conveniently when we will be travelling to Siena.  We already bought a train ticket for tomorrow morning, so hopefully TrenItalia gives us a refund.  And then I found a bus company that told us that services were still guaranteed tomorrow, so at least we'll be able to keep most of our plans in Siena and then continue on to Florence Saturday morning.  Then we're coming back late Sunday night.  So hopefully the strike ends on time tomorrow night so everything runs (relatively) smoothly the rest of the weekend.  And for anyone's future reference, strike in Italian is sciopero.  Good word to know, because apparently it happens a lot for no reason.  There's a whole website in Italian devoted just to posting when and where strikes are happening.  I miss America.

So I should have plenty of photos from this weekend when I get back, given the strike ends on time and we make it there, and back.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

G-men and Effervescence

Giants are in the Superbowl!!!! I got to watch the game because I skyped my parents and they pointed the camera at the TV.

We went to the Coliseum for class Monday, so naturally we Tebowed it.  The on-site classes are cool, but it's tough waking up at 8 to get to class at 9:15 and then walk around for three hours.  It's nice not having many textbooks or day-to-day readings though.  Getting ready for this weekend's trip to Siena and Florence.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Viaggio in Campania (o campagna)

The trip was awesome.  Friday afternoon wasn't great because it was raining while we were outside at Pompeii, but at least there wasn't anyone in the park.  We had lunch right when we got in, then got a tour of parts of the ruins.  Then we got back on the bus and drove to Salerno, a town over the mountains where the Allies first invaded mainland Italy, and Europe, during WWII.  It was a really cool town that is someplace we never would have gone if not for this trip.  We just ate dinner and then walked around afterward.  It was fun just wandering aimlessly with some of my friends, got some cool pictures and a few laughs, too.  Then a few of us hung out in the hotel afterward; I'm glad we're getting to know each other pretty well, we have a great group.  I'm sure it would've happened eventually, but it's nice that we've only been here a week and we're all getting along really well.

Saturday we got up and drove to a buffalo farm a little farther to the South in Campania; it's called Tenuta Vennulo.  It's an organic buffalo farm, and they use the buffalo's milk to make all sorts of dairy products, but chiefly cheese.  It is amazing.  We had lunch there, and they served us ricotta and mozzarella di buffala.  Best meal I've had in Italy yet, and all we had was cheese, bread, and some tomatoes on the side.  We got to have their yogurt and gelato for dessert, both of which were amazing.

The video is from the farm, the first pic is at the Pompeii forum, then the next two are from our night walking around in Salerno, and the last is of the cheese at the farm.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Heading out of town

Finally going on that donor sponsored trip to Pompeii and Salerno this weekend.  Everyone was getting a little nervous because we didn't get our itineraries until this afternoon, so basically last minute.  But it'll be fun, except the waking up at 7:45 tomorrow morning to catch our bus at 8:15am.  I'll be sure to take pictures on the trip and post them on Sunday or something.  In the meantime, here are some from the last couple days:

First is the Spanish Steps, went there today with people because the Anglo-American bookstore is near there. Second is the nave of Santa Maria in Trastevere.  Third is the sign from this bar/small club we went to the other night, I found it humorous.  Lastly is the shop near Trevi fountain which makes most of the vestments for the higher ups in the Vatican, including his Holiness.

I'll be back to posting on Sunday. A presto!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Romeing around Europe

So here's what I've got lined up so far:

  • This weekend an ND alum gave the OIS office money to send us on a trip somewhere so they're organizing us a 2 day, 1 night trip to Pompeii Friday, then a mozzarella farm, and then to Salerno, returning to Rome saturday.
  • Wine tasting through JCU next Tuesday night with a few of us
  • Next weekend (27 Jan - 29 Jan) a couple friends and I are doing Assisi and Siena on Friday, staying the night in Siena, then getting up and going to Florence for Saturday and Sunday.
  • Thu. 16 Feb. thru Sun. 19 Feb. most of us are going to Venice for Carnevale.
  • Thu. 23 Feb. thru Sun. 26 Feb. we booked a package thru Weekend Student Adventures (kind of a hassle because it doesn't include travel, but whatever.) to Gimmelwald in the Swiss Alps for skiing and other mountain hanging out/activities.
  • Thu. 1 March thru Sun. 4 March we found some cheap flights to Dubrovnik in Croatia for a couple of us to maybe spend the weekend there, haven't booked anything yet though.
  • Fri. 16 March thru Sun. 25 March (our Spring Break) I might be trying to do Munich, the Eagle's Nest (Berchtesgaden, or Hitler's home in the Alps along the Germany/Austria border), Prague, and finally Vienna with one of my friends.  I was thinking of doing St. Patty's day in Ireland, but I thought about it tonight and realized I can do Ireland over a weekend, I don't want to take up half my Spring Break on it just to be there for St. Patty's.  But we need to see if anyone else would want to go those places so it would at least be a small group.
  • Whenever: Train to Milan for a weekend, possibly to see an AC Milan/Inter vs. Roma soccer game
  • When it's warmer: Amalfi coast for sure.  That is one of my must-do trips, I just don't know how I'm going to do it yet.
  • Whenever: Dublin for a day and then Galway the rest weekend in Ireland.
Any thoughts/suggestions/input/help would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cibo (Food)

I love shopping here.  Shopping for food that is.  It's not like it is in America, it's more of an experience.  I mean they do have the supermarkets sort of like we do in the States, they're just not as big.  The open air markets and small stores are the places to go though.  For the most part, prices are about the same if not cheaper than in the US.  Meats, fish, and cheeses are still expensive, or at least they seem that way.  I have to remember to divide the prices by 2.2 because the prices listed are per kilogram, and there's 2.2 pounds in a kilo.  But the prices on most items are cheaper.  Examples: a decent bottle of Italian wine here is 2 or 2,30 euro; a 500g box of Barilla pasta (a little over a pound) was 0,80 euro; at the open air market in Trastevere I paid 1 euro for 1 kilo of yellow potatoes.

I've gone to the open air market the last two days and I've found that most vegetables are definitely cheaper there, and most fruit, too.  It's also just more fun to walk around the square and browse the different stands and the booths for the meat guys and seafood guys.  I got some prosciutto for sandwiches from one of them:
It's really good.  I made half a sandwich with my lunch of leftover pasta I made last night and one of the Sicilian clementines I got today at the market.  I think that's what I'm going to do day-to-day for meals most often: a sandwich and some fruit or leftovers from the night before for lunch, and then most nights I'll be able to cook.  Monday and Wednesday I have a class that ends at 6:45, but we eat later here anyways so it wouldn't be hard to just come back and boil some water or make a salad.  Plus it's much cheaper to buy food or groceries than it is to go out all the time.  So more money for when I travel.

Speaking of which, I need to book flights and hostels for a few of the trips today.


Okay so evidence exists that we went to the discoteca.  The bar had a photographer taking pictures, so here it is.  The two random guys on the left are Italian guys from Puglia that I was talking to.  The guy on the right is my friend Leo who's abroad, too.

But we started booking trips today: like our hostel in Venice, the Swiss Alps trip, and a side trip to Assisi, Siena, and Florence. More details to follow.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Wow. Amazing night saturday night, we went to Scholars for a bit, and then tried to get people to go to this discoteca in Testaccio, a neighborhood really far south.  The rounding up of people did not go as planned so we ended up going as a group of 6, and walking failed so we had to take a taxi there.  But it was awesome, we were probably the only Americans in the place but it was fine.  And there's other clubs and bars right next to it all in a strip so we'll definitely go back and check them out later.

Got my first taste of how crazy Italians are of soccer, I mean calcio, yesterday.  The boyfriend of the sister of my friend Leo who's living across the hall lives in Rome, in a neighborhood south of Trastevere.  He's a big Inter fan, and so are his friends.  The Milano derby was on last night, which means that Inter was playing AC Milan, so we went to his apartment to watch the game.  Needless to say, they were quite animated throughout.  Inter won 1-0 so it turned out fine.  We also cooked dinner beforehand.

Had my first class this morning, it's an on-site class called Power and Politics. pictures below:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Smells Like History

So JCU sponsored an afternoon for students to go walk around the city for a bit, go to this cheesy ancient Rome reproduction place, and take an open bus tour.  It was actually cool, it gave us the opportunity to act like tourists for the afternoon, and take some cool pictures.  The reproduction place was called Rewind Rome, it's a joint venture with Columia or Universal pictures or something, they combine stuff from Gladiator.  Overall it was cheesy, and a little long at times, but okay.  We had to do some activities in small groups as a competition, and one of them required the group to dress one of us in all the legionnaire garb, including armor, sword, and helm.  Guess who got "volunteered"?  Yeah... photographic evidence is on Facebook, it will not be going on here. But here are some photos from walking/busing around:

After we got back we stopped back at campus for a little bit, and we got lucky because the doctor was still there giving physicals for people who want to try out for sports or use the residence's gym.  Honestly one of the weirdest things I've experienced.  It was only 5 minutes, not comprehensive or thorough, but weird.  All it was was this machine that took some sort of readings.  Only we had to lie down, and then the doctor brings out these tentacle looking things with a couple clamps and some suction cups on them, all of us had no idea what was going on.  He just put them on our bare skin, the machine made some buzzing and it took some readings I guess, and that was it. It was just really bizarre.

Travel tip: it is possible, for 7 euro, to get a good (quality and size) pizza and split a liter of wine with a few people for dinner.  We found this nice little pizzeria a few blocks down the street last night on our way back from campus.

Met our RA this morning, he's pretty cool.  He's from Houston, but he's never been to college in the US, he has only gone to JCU.  And then we have this Navigation 101 thing this afternoon in groups.  They take us around and show us practical things in the neighborhood and around the city, so hopefully we can pick up a few things from that.  We still haven't really gotten completely settled in.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Una passegiata

Actually the paperwork for the permesso was pretty painless, luckily the people at the ND Architecture program do most of the work for us.  It gave us a chance to go to that area of the city so we walked around afterwards for a couple hours.  Saw the Pantheon, walked through il Centro, Piazza Navona, and finally got to visit St. Peter's square.  It is still decorated for Christmas, there was a nativity scene and a huge tree in the square right next to the obelisk.
So yeah it was fun to just take a walk all around the city, although I'll have to get used to walking so much on the cobblestones: it's different than the grass and sidewalks at ND.

A bunch of us are getting together and cooking dinner tonight so I think I'm going to make pasta e fagioli with some broccoleti e cavolfiori con l'aglio.  Just like my family used to make, I'm thinking of you guys and missing you.

We have to take a bus tour tomorrow afternoon around the city starting at the Coliseum so I'll have more pictures to post. A presto!

One down, four months worth to go

Day one is over and I'm still alive and kicking.  We went out as a group last night to dinner and to a couple bars in Trastevere and Centro Storico; it was fun.  I'm still feeling the jet lag though.  I took some pictures throughout the day so I'll post those later, right now I have to walk across the city to the ND Archie building to fill out paperwork for the permesso di soggiorno.  Italian bureaucracy: always a pleasure.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Well I finally got here.  The flight wasn't too bad, I just didn't get much sleep because a baby did not stop crying the entire 9 hour flight. 

Got into the apartment, turns out most of us ND guys in the residence are right across the hall from each other so it worked out well.  Kitchen is kinda small for four guys, but other than that it's a nice place.

We have a bunch of orientation things this afternoon (which is weird because I would still be asleep right now back home), but I will be posting pictures and other things either tonight or tomorrow.

Monday, January 9, 2012

24 Hours

Only one day left in the States.  Nervous, excited, anxious: all emotions I'm feeling right now.  That and the pressure of trying to pack my life into two suitcases and a carry on.  Space Bags and a very long list are making the process a little easier, but I'm still afraid I'm going to forget something small that they won't have in Italy.

I'm trying to decide where I should go for my first weekend/day trip.  I was thinking Florence since it's only an hour or two by train so I could just go for the day sometime this week or next week.  Classes haven't even started yet and I'm already loving the fact that I only have class two and a half days per week.

Nowhere else but Notre Dame.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Only five days left until I leave.  It still hasn't quite sunk in yet that I'm leaving, even though it's all my parents talk about.  One thing that I have realized is the fact that I'll be eating a little bit better than DH food this semester.  Something to look forward to.

116 hours and change to go.