Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Time's flying

I'll have been in Italy for an entire month tomorrow, I still can't believe it. To think, just a month ago, I was packing my suitcase, practically freaking out and now I'm here and used to everything.

In this last month, I've:
  • Learned so much about myself as a person. I've tested my patience, my abilities to adapt, how I handle drama, traveling on my own, and how fast I can think on my feet when put in crazy situations. I can definitely say I've grown up a lot and this experience, so far, has changed my outlook on so many things.
  • Met a ton of amazing Italian people (Giulia, Lorenzo, Andrea, Lucas, Valerio, and my conversational partner Elisa, whom I met yesterday), along with Giulia's mom, who was a total sweetheart. She said some of the sweetest things to me, it almost moved me to tears, as corny as that sounds. 
  • Booked my trips to Munich, Amalfi Coast, Barcelona, Sweden, and Paris! 
  • Changed my work habits by starting assignments ahead of time.
  • Had almost 5 jars of's becoming problematic. 
  • Witnessed the joust and all the insane outdoor parties related to it. 
  • Stood wide-eyed in front of the Coliseum, threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain (while dying inside), sat on the Spanish Steps (cliched-ly so), practically cried while staring up at the Sistine Chapel, and couldn't believe my eyes when I stepped into St. Peter's Basilica. 
  • Been a lot more happier with myself, which is something really important to me. It's one of the reasons behind my love for traveling. Along with that, I've gained quite a bit of confidence as well!
And now for the dramatic and overly cliched, "I think I've found myself here" study abroad line that almost everyone uses to describe their experiences. It's absolutely true. How can you not expect to find out who you are when you're thrown into a million crazy situations, in a country you've never been to (that you've always wanted to visit), with a language barrier? If any of you are thinking about going abroad or are given the opportunity, take it. If you think you can't do it, trust me, you can. You won't regret it. I wake up every morning extremely thankful that I'm here. It was raining today and after I finished my Dante paper, I stood out on my balcony and just watched the rainfall over the Duomo (church) and the hills in the back and I suddenly missed this place, as if the next three months had already happened and I was back at home. Strange right? To miss a place while you're still there. It's hard to describe but it's how I felt. I've fallen absolutely in love with this place. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

La Giostra (The Joust)

My ticket! 

The streets got extremely busy before it started, it was crazy!

The right side of the Piazza where the judges are seated.

The flag twirlers from all four quartieri (quarters).

All the men from each quartiere getting in line as their riders come out. I was apart of Porta Santo Spirito, my colors are blue and yellow (and yes, I did make a remix to Wiz Khalifa's song lol), so my section is located on the left. Porta Sant'Andrea is the green on the right. 

The crowd reaction after we (Santo Spirito) won, it was INSANE!!

Each quartiere has a flag, here's my roommate with our's. 

The neat menu from the restaurant we had dinner at after the joust. So many varieties of pastas and sauces you can choose from and that made me very happy. Did I mention how amazing the food is here? 

My first ever authentic Tiramisu, which was divine. I'm addicted and have had so much since. It's getting up there with nutella, guys. 

My deepest apologies for the lack of updates! I was in Rome this past weekend, had a ton of homework, and got sick the other day (my luck, right?). So La Giostra del Saracino (the joust), where do I even begin? I don't have the words to describe just how amazing this experience was. Before I got here, all the directors and students would say, "You'll be there for the joust, it's insane!" and I never really thought anything of it until I learned about the history and witnessed it myself. I know, it may seem silly that an entire town dresses in medieval garb and has riders with lances jousting at a target--I thought the same--but it's so much more than that. This joust has been around since the 16th century and has defined this area of Italy. Many important people were present at these jousts in the past, including Hitler and Mussolini during the fascist regime. An entire year of preparation goes into this, a handcrafted lance (made by a crafter right here in Arezzo) is awarded to the winners, and thousands of people from all over the world come just to see it. It creates a sense of competition among the town, which is divided up into four quartieri (quarters/neighborhoods). Porta Crucifera, who came in second, Porta Sant'Andrea, who always wins, Porta del Foro, who came in fourth, and last but not least, the reigning champions, my neighborhood, Porta Santo Spirito! Can you tell I got pretty competitive over this? I may or may not have ran down the streets with my roommate after the joust, with my flag, singing "Santo spirito-oh, santo spirito-oh!" I also bragged about it for hours after, constantly asking all the other kids who were in different neighborhoods what place they came in.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bitten by the travel bug

  • Rome this weekend (September 6th to the 9th)! My train (the train ticket kiosk is picture above), Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica, Colosseum, etc tickets have all been booked.
  • Munich at the end of the month for Oktoberfest (September 21st to the 23rd). Long story short, one of my roommates, Maddie went back to America and she had booked her trip to Munich with Olivia, my other roommate, well in advance. Since she left, Olivia couldn't go by herself, so I'll be tagging along! 
  • We're currently working out the kinks for our trip to the Amalfi Coast, which we're planning for October 5th to the 7th. 
  • We (Olivia and I) booked our flights to Barcelona last night, for October 12th to the 14th! I didn't know whether to scream or cry out of excitement (I'm sure it was an awkward mixture of both), because I didn't think I'd ever see that day come. We'll be staying at the HelloBCN Hostel and we've been reading up on how to use the metro system and what places to visit. Since I've wanted to go for a while, I already have everything laid out and Olivia was like, "Girl, this is your trip, we'll do whatever you want!" She's down to see the Camp Nou stadium too, because her close friend is very much into soccer like myself. 
  • Cinque Terre is on the list as a day trip (or a one night stay) for the weekend of October 26th or 27th. It's about an hour away from us, thank goodness, because traveling is not cheap!
  • Paris will probably be the last place I visit, if not London or Austria, and it's probably going to be torture trying to plan that one (it took us around 3-4 hours just getting Barcelona planned). Some of the kids who've went through this study abroad program were able to visit as many as 9 countries while they were here, but they went during the spring and had spring break. I would love to visit that many, but with my course load, I'm not so sure it's doable right now. Flight prices are also a little higher in the fall, with Thanksgiving and Christmas being major holidays. 
  • I'm so excited to finally be able to see all of these amazing places. It's so strange to know that 2 weeks ago, I was boarding a plane to Italy and now I'm all settled in and getting used to life here. I'm so thankful for this opportunity and I'm impressed with my own abilities to adapt to new places so quickly (especially considering this is my first time living on my own), because I was worried I would be really homesick. So far, so good! 
** I've been pretty swamped with school work and sight seeing, but the joust festival was yesterday and it was absolutely amazing, I cannot wait to post details and pictures about that!