Friday, August 31, 2012

When in Rome, do as the Romans

But in my case, when in Arezzo, do as the Aretini and go to Prada. Here are the pictures I promised from the trip! The store is around 35-40 minutes outside of Arezzo and Giulia took us in her little Italian car. The drive there was absolutely gorgeous! I haven't seen hills or mountains since I moved away from California, so it was very comforting; I felt at home. The villas on the hills were beautiful, I envy all of the people who live up there (to a certain extent, of course).

The outside of Prada.

The inside; and this was just one area of the place, it was crazy! I also took these before the ladies came up to me and told me no pictures allowed. Apparently people come in here, take pictures, and try to make replicas?

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Whenever I feel shitty, I go to Prada."

That was the line of the day by my Italian friend, Giulia, as she drove us to the nearest Prada store. Prada is her favorite brand (she has 20 Prada bags, ladies) and she told us it only takes one visit to fall in love. And she was absolutely right. We walked into this humongous all glass store and were completely in awe. It looked exactly how I imagined it would and once it registered in our heads that we were actually in a Prada store in Italy, we scoured the place like little kids let loose in a candy store. I thought the bags were enough to fawn over, but I may or may not have died inside once my eyes hit the shoe area. And the best part is that everything in the store wasn't as ridiculously overpriced as it would be in America. You're getting everything straight from the source, so it's not as bad. I started off simple and went with a cream colored leather cardholder and that was enough to make me want to come back later on in the semester! If you follow me on instagram (zaharaplease), I already posted pictures, but I'll be sure to get some up on here after class tomorrow! In other news:

  • My roommates, Maddie and Olivia, and I just booked our hotel for our weekend trip to Rome from September 6th to the 9th ahhhhh! We're getting our train tickets tomorrow and then buying our tickets to see the Vatican Museum, St. Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, etc. I've read about all these historic sites my entire life and in about two weeks I'll get to see them in real life, just the idea of it is giving me the chills. 
  • We're going to start planning for the Amalfi coast and Barcelona in the next couple of days.
  • My classes finally start tomorrow.
  • I found out Giulia knows Chiara Ferragni; I saw the martini leather bag at Prada and went, "Chiara has that one. Do you know who she is?" and she said she's been to her house. Giulia studies in Milan and has a best friend who is a fashion major (who got her tickets to see the upcoming Prada fashion show (oh my god??)), so I shouldn't be surprised, but what are the odds?!
  • There's a parade going on outside my apartment for the joust festival at the end of the week.
  • I've had gelato almost every single day since I've been here. 
In conclusion, I guess you could say I've fallen completely in love with this place. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What a crazy first week

An Italian flag I saw in one of the neighborhoods during our visit to local shops.

Piazza Sanagostino!

Joust festival decorations! Our neighborhood's flag is the one in the picture. 

The Piazza Grande.

The other side of the Piazza Grande. 

The left of the Piazza Grande.

One of the streets (I think it's Via Corso Italia, but I'm not sure since they all look similar).

This past first week here in Arezzo has been quite eventful! My classmates and I have been busy filling out paperwork for our resident cards, sitting through orientation lectures and presentations, and spending time learning about the various shops here. In Italy, there isn't a Walmart where you can buy many things all in the same place (they have a Walmart-esque store called Billa, but it's definitely not the same). They have specialty places. A rosticceria, where you can find roasted meats and vegetables. A pasticceria, where you can find pastries. A gastronomia, which is kind of like a deli, where the chef creates food you can take home and prepare yourself or he can warm it up for you right then and there. Lucio, our student affairs director, told me that Italians prefer to go to various shops for things, instead of going to one giant store.

Speaking of all these specialty food stores, I've enjoyed almost every single meal that I've had here. On Wednesday night, we had a welcome dinner at this restaurant called Anticafonte. There are no menus because they just bring out a ton of food and you can pick what you like. When they say Italians love their food, they are not joking around. It was dish, after dish, after dish. At one point, Jessica (a classmate) asked one of our directors, "Does this ever end?! How many more dishes?"We started off with an antipasto/aperitivi (appetizer, hors d'oeuvre) and it was Tuscan bread with various toppings and a spinach quiche in the middle. Then we moved onto the primi piatti (first plate or course), which was this amazing tomato linguini. Words will never do justice to describe how delicious the food here is. And this is coming from a very picky eater. We then had a gnocchi dish, followed by a meat dish (which I didn't eat because I don't like meat), and finally, a lemon tart cake. And gelato? American ice cream has nothing on it. So far I've had coffee, cheesecake, and nutella and there is a gelateria on almost every corner of the town. I've found my newest addiction! The pizza here is also to die for and you get one as big as a table for around 5-7 euro.

Pizza and spaghetti from one of my favorite restaurants so far!

Piazza Sant'Andrea, I believe, with live outdoor DJs!

Let's move away from the subject of food before I'm tempted to run to the nearest gelateria. Earlier I mentioned this week was eventful. Let me touch base on that for a quick second.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

First day in photos

Boarding passes for my flights!

One of the nifty shops inside the Rome airport.

The bus ride on the way to Arezzo, the town I'll be living in.

A town right outside of Rome that I managed to snap a picture of on the bus.

We made a pit stop to take a break so we could grab something to eat and of course, you know me, I went with Nutella & Go! Except the ones in Italy also come with this amazing lemon iced tea portion. Lemon and Nutella, who would have thought?! Such a weird combination, but so amazing.

The view from the train station once we got to Arezzo! My apartment isn't too far from where this picture was taken. How European are all the Vespas on the left hand side?

 What you see when you walk into my apartment.

 A little note the housing director left for my roommates and I with these popular Italian cookies.

And last but not least, the view from my terrace on the 5th floor. It's even more breathtaking at night when it isn't so hot. I'll definitely be getting more photos up soon, I've taken a gagillion others since Monday. I also had the craziest night tonight and will go into more detail tomorrow, it's around 2:30 am and I should be asleep but my sleeping schedule is off key!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Greetings from Italia!

For starters, the plane ride was horrendous. Before departing, I said "I really hope I don't sit near screaming babies," and what do you think happened? I sat behind and in front of screaming babies. They yelled and cried for the entire nine hours, so I didn't get any sleep and it was the longest flight of my life. I sat next to a really nice woman and this Asian guy traded me seats so I escaped being stuck in the middle and got the aisle seat. The airport was really humid and our charter bus was late, but the ride to Arezzo, which took 3 hours, was absolutely gorgeous. There are hills with houses every where and it reminded me so much of California. I really wish I could post pictures, but the wifi in my apartment is really choppy and flickr wouldn't work, but I'll try at the campus.

As for my apartment, the decor is amazing. It looks so stereotypically Italian, too! There's old fashion furniture everywhere, a glass chandelier, and old italian paintings, books, and tea cups everywhere. Our view is also insane because we're on the highest floor; you can see the churches and the Piazza Grande from my terrace. It feels so homey and I can't believe I'm getting to call it my own for the next four months. My place is also the closest to the train station, bank, and supermarket, which is really convenient. But there are also plenty of downsides. There's no air conditioning and we just happen to be on the highest floor where the heat hits. We were told we'd get fans and we were ecstatic to hear that but of course with my bad luck, they didn't work. Along with that, our shower didn't have any hot water (not that we were actually complaining because it was hot as hell and the cold shower was heaven) and our refrigerator refused to cool down so we had to drink warm water/soda. All of that stacked together on top of jet lag, fatigue, and heat lead to agitation and homesickness (I even got a cold sore, wtf?). Everyone missed the easiness that came with living in America for sure. It definitely taught me a lesson and made me appreciate my family, my house, etc. I missed my family so much, it was really difficult.

So far, I've learned/experienced the following:
  • The food is amazing and relatively cheap no matter where you go. I had a mozzarella, basil, and tomato panini for 2.70 euro today, gelato for 1.80, and a one liter water bottle for 27 cents.
  • Some of the stereotypes are actually real. For example, there was a couple that grabbed each other today, in the middle of the street, and passionately kissed for about 10 minutes. Totally a scene out of a movie! Another example is of the drivers here; they actually are insane and you don't have the right of way because my roommate and I almost got hit by a Vespa yesterday. Another is of the women. Most of them do indeed walk around with designer purses and they strut. Even 14 year olds. We all definitely felt inferior for a few minutes lol. 
  • Electricity is very different; you can't have multiple things plugged in at the same time or it'll blow the fuse box. We were told to wash our clothes with the washing machine at a certain time because if everyone in the building has their washer running at the same time, the electricity will go out. 
  • I've taken four semesters of Italian and I'm still intimidated to speak to people. Ordering food in Italian has been such a challenge. I have to form sentences in my head and it takes quite some time and I'm always nervous I won't understand what someone will say back to me. 
  • A huge percentage of people smoke and there's no rule for smoking in restaurants. I practically choked at the pizza place we were at last night. 
So far, it's been a crazy two days, especially regarding emotions. We were disappointed and agitated the first day and things were the complete opposite today once we got out and took our tour, had dinner at the campus, and explored the town. There's a music and popular dance festival going on right now, a running marathon throughout the town, and a jousting festival is taking place next week where all the neighborhoods of the town compete with each other and then party in the streets after. The town itself is beautiful and the old churches and buildings are breathtaking. I can't wait for classes to start and the heat to die down next week so we can actually enjoy being in our apartment!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Goodbye America, Ciao Italia!




After a grueling week of putting things into my suitcase, taking things out, weighing, and rearranging, everything is finally packed (still bitter about the 50 lb weight limit, guys). My important documents/ converted euros are also ready to go and my Mom cried once (I'm pretty sure the airport's going to be flooded with tears tomorrow). It's really late and I should be asleep considering I have a flight to catch, but sleep is hard to achieve when your siblings are forcing you to watch The Lizzie McGuire Movie omg. It's so crazy to see all the famous monuments in the movie and know that I'll be on my way to see the same things--minus the Italian popstar imposter-- in less than 12 hours! How am I supposed to sleep?! I've had plenty of sleepless nights due to restlessness or anxiety but at this point, I'm really excited to travel and just see all the places I've always wanted to see. I'm also kind of looking forward to see if I can understand Italian when people are speaking it at a million miles per hour. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I plan to take advantage of it and not allow any worries to bring me down.

I hope everything goes smoothly when I go through security and I'm crossing my fingers that I won't have to take anything out of my suitcases, even though I've weighed them a million times. As for the plane ride? Praying that I'm not seated next to any screaming babies or awkward people. I haven't been on a plane for about four years (a trip to Canada) and that time my ears popped so badly, I thought I went deaf and it took two hours for them to go back to normal. I also almost broke my toe and was, unfortunately, seated next to a drunk guy who stepped on it twice. I may or may not have wanted to jump out of the plane that time. Tomorrow, I'll be connecting to Rome from Chicago and when I land, staff from my school will pick all the students up and we'll be taking a three hour bus ride to Arezzo, which is in Tuscany. Since it's clear I won't be getting much sleep tonight, I'm hoping to catch some zZz-s on the plane and bus (let's be real, I'll probably be too excited/anxious to sleep). As for this blog, I'll find out how strong my internet connection is once I land, but I'll be updating about my travels and experiences through instagram (zaharaplease) and my twitter :)

Ahhhhh I still can't believe it asdgkjshgh! Italia, sto arrivando presto, non vedo l'ora!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Let the packing shenanigans/stress commence



With a little over a week left until I depart (I am internally screaming!!), the time has finally come to figure out what will make its way into my suitcase and what will sadly stay behind. Do you know how hard that is to accomplish when you have a 50 lb weight limit hanging over your head? It looked like a hurricane destroyed my room once I threw everything on my bed in an attempt to see how much I could fit into my suitcase. It's apparent that my love for shoes will not allow me to follow the packing "advice" (using that term loosely) that was given to us by the study abroad advisors, which was "don't pack too many shoes." You can never have too many shoes. My goal is to take one giant suitcase, a carry on, and my backpack. So far, I've been able to fit all the clothes I want to take, a few pairs of shoes (lol yeah right), and two of my books and my total weight came out to 35ish lbs. So far, so good! If my toiletries and other personal items bring it above 50 lbs, I'll transfer some things over to my carry on. Adding another bag is the last resort and I'm hoping I won't have to do that.

Along with packing, I realized I'll have to make sure I have room for anything that I may bring back with me. And there's a pretty long list of souvenirs I need to get...oh boy. I, for one, am not a huge fan of this 50 lb rule. Girls should be given an exception and have a 70 lb limit instead. How much better would the world be? Cramming four months worth of things into one giant suitcase so you don't have to take another, so you can avoid paying a useless fee, while having it weigh 50 lbs or less? Get out of town.

Just seeing all of my clothes and shoes inside of the suitcase was a roller coaster of emotions, though. I was excited, anxious, and restless all at the same time. I'm having a hard time grasping that I won't be living at home, but will be living in an apartment. In Italy. And this is all going to happen in about a week. Who would have thought I'd ever reach this point? This entire journey has been my biggest accomplishment. None of my other awards or scholarships can measure up to the drive, perseverance, and hard work that came along with making this childhood dream a reality. Moving along from my touching monologue, I still have a million things I need to take care of regarding my departure, along with trying to fit in time to see all of my friends and family. I slept over at Theresa's (old co-worker from my summer job) new place on Friday night, have a dinner with the girls from my Italian class on Thursday night, and my Dad's trying to fit in breakfast the morning I leave. Speaking of my Dad, he came up to me today and had this huge smile on his face and went, "It's coming! My baby's going to Italy! Buongiorno! (insert words he made up that he thinks are Italian)!" It threw me completely off guard, because he usually stresses out about things being in order instead of getting excited. My heart melted at the sight of it all. See how easily I can get off topic and just go on these tirades?

Anyways, crunch time has arrived and hopefully I don't drown in stress!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Everything is slowly coming together


All of the books I'll be taking with me have finally arrived. Thankfully they're all pretty small, hopefully they won't weigh down my suitcases too much! 


The hunt for all of my make up/toiletries/etc officially began yesterday. 


My mom gave me her luggage set not too long ago (I squealed forever) and since they're sitting across from my bed, I wake up to them every morning and it's daunting/exciting to know I'll be packing them in less than two weeks. 


I also decided to take on an internship while in Italy, so I've been attempting, lazily so, to get the paperwork finished. It will enhance my language skills and will boost my resume (and we all know how obsessed I am with my resume looking polished). Fingers crossed that I get one of my top three choices!