Venice Pictures

I am at La Ménagère right now with my best friend I call cappuccino. We get along very well:) My seminar teacher missed our 9 AM today because she forgot to set her clock back! There’s something to chew on. Daylight savings can really trip people up.

I’m sitting here reminiscing about Venice, so I figured I would post some more pictures from my solo pilgrimage because the wifi here is great. Enjoy! xo ~e.

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Happy Halloween

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween from Florence! Believe it or not, Europeans have recently adopted this silly American holiday; it’s apparent in Firenze and Venice. The bakeries have adorable Halloween cookies and cupcakes for display, and many shops have window displays with orange and black knick knacks.

Halloween was a lot more fun (and innocent) as a young child. I remember dressing up as a beautician one year and a pumpkin in my very early years and trick or treating in Manchester and Bennington. I loved how we actually had trick or treaters in Bennington because we sure don’t have any in Sandgate! I would always count how many pieces of candy I collected, and it would take a week or longer for me to finish it.

At Emma Willard, we celebrated Halloween on campus with fried food in the dining hall (once a year type of gig). Last year as a senior, I got to participate in the haunted asylum in Sage basement. It’s more fun scaring the terrified freshmen than being one of those terrified freshmen.

The college culture has twisted Halloween into a rather ‘trashy’ holiday. Girls (and guys) tend to dress up in costumes feminists (and parents) would not appreciate and party during the week and the weekend. I can see how it can be fun, but it’s not my idea of a well celebrate holiday. With that said, I do plan on going out with my friends tonight because everyone’s dressing up and going out to experience Halloween in Florence. No one has classes tomorrow because it’s All Saints’ Day in Italy, a national holiday. Mom and Dad, I promise I’ll be home no later than 1 AM.

Wherever you are in the world, Happy Halloween! Watch out for clowns! xo ~e.

Earthquakes & Daylight Savings

Sunday, October 30, 2016

I am back in Florence and gearing up for the second part of the semester! It’s nice to have a day to relax and unwind from my exciting travels and travails. Ibiza and Venice were the perfect destinations for my fall break. It’ll probably be the most memorable fall break I’ll ever have!

Central Italy has unfortunately been hit by another earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6. My friends felt tremors this morning as their beds shook, but for some reason, I slept through it. It is scary knowing that earthquakes occur here and can do devastating damage; however, Florence does not seem to be a place prone to very bad earthquakes. We can only hope that those who were affected more severely are safe. The country does seem to be in a period of uneasiness.

It’s daylight savings here in Florence, so we got an extra hour of sleep last night. It’s almost 5 PM, and the sun looks like it’s going to set any minute. I napped a lot today, grocery shopped, did laundry, and cleaned the apartment. It’s been really nice having the apartment to myself, but my flatmates should be home from Greece in a few hours; I’ll be excited to have them back.

What a fall break! xo ~e.

Venice Day 2

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Today was filled with a lot more wandering around and exploring! I woke up around 8 and had a very light breakfast (coffee and yogurt) in the hostel before doing some writing. I saw a few other young people and an older woman up and about. We all said hello but didn’t really get to know each other. Next time I’ll be more social because it is cool to hear what other people are doing.

I left the hostel around 9:30 and headed out for the day. My train left at 6:30 PM, so I had the entire day to myself in Venice. I wandered again, took lots of photos, and thought about authenticity. I went to the Rialto Market which was very cool. Lots of locals there buying flowers, fish, fruits, meat, and vegetables. That was one of my favorite places, reminding me of the Mercato Centrale in Florence. I bought a banana and a tomato for one euro as a quick snack.

For lunch, I had a bowl of wonton soup at a Chinese restaurant. I practiced my Italian, English, and Chinese all in one dining experience! After lunch, I wandered around a park where kids played on the playground and their parents read on red benches. I also called my parents because I was feeling a little lonely. The only people I talked to were waiters or store workers. Speaking of stores, I bought myself a Venetian glass necklace and some stationery:)

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I got fried fish in the early afternoon at a place called Acqua & Mais. People raved about this ‘authentic’ Venetian street food. It was rather delicious! Before I knew it, the sun was getting ready to set, and my departure time grew imminent. I went inside the church with the inviting steps and sat and wrote on its steps until I headed to the train station. I got takeaway noodles and decided to be brave and try the local Venetian cuddle fish sauce. The sauce turned the pasta black, but it tasted delicious!

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I made it on to my train and back to Florence safely. It was quite the pilgrimage, and I’m so glad I went by myself. Traveling alone teaches you a lot about the world and yourself. Some people never get to travel alone, but I’m proud to say I have in a foreign country as an eighteen year old. Venice is as beautiful as people describe it as. Certainly a must-see in Italy! I will post more photos when I have better wifi! xo ~e.

Venice Day 1

Friday, October 28, 2016

I had an amazing day filled with solo adventure today to Venice! The reason I came to Venice in the first place wasn’t for a typical getaway or vacation but rather a pilgrimage. Everyone in the FFE Program has to embark on a pilgrimage and write a fifteen page paper on their travels and what inspired their pilgrimage (research). As we’ve discussed in First Year Seminar, the word ‘pilgrimage’ often carries a religious meaning. Dr. Graham assured us that our pilgrimages did not have to be religious by any means, but they should be somewhat spiritual. She told us to go somewhere that’s connected to our passions in order to make it more of a quest than a vacation. I’m on a quest right now to explore the theme of authenticity, a word that has always intrigued me.

I was nervous leaving my apartment this morning. I knew I would be staying in a hostel all by myself, and I wouldn’t have anyone to really talk to for the next 36 hours. At the same time, I was also very excited. To me, authentic travel means going somewhere on your own and exploring the world through only your eyes. I don’t have any immediate distractions because it is just me.

I walked myself to Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station at 9:45, leaving me 15 minutes to get on the train by the time I arrived. I found my platform, and the train left precisely at 10:15- right on time. An American college student sat across from me (it’s very easy to identify them), and I asked her why she was going to Venice. She told me she was meeting her mom there, and they were going to go on a cruise in Greece. I didn’t catch her name, but I knew she was a math/econ major at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. She advised me to have a great year in Italy and said she was jealous I got to be here for the whole year. It’s hard to believe that whole year has become 3/4 of a year now.

It only takes two and a half hours to get to Venice from Florence on the fast train, so I was there by 12:30. As soon as I exited the train station, the Grand Canal stood before me. It is more beautiful than it looks in the photos. A big bridge was on my left with many tourists, a church with inviting steps was straight across from me on the other side of the canal, and water taxis and ferries lined the canal.

I found my way to my hostel, L’Imbarcadero, with the directions the hostel provided in my booking confirmation email. It was only five minutes from the train station and very close to the Grand Canal. A young woman checked me in and showed me to my room. It was spacious and simple– four beds, four lockers. There were three other girls around my age staying here. I said hello, but we haven’t said much other than that.

The hostel has a nice common space where I did a lot of writing, and two young European travelers cooked their pasta dinner not too long ago. I can eat breakfast here tomorrow.

I went out to explore Venice for the day and ponder authenticity. I brought a journal I bought in Ibiza and hope to fill it before tomorrow. I won’t go into a lot of detail about my actual pilgrimage because I hope to share my final paper when it is done.

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I rarely used my GPS because it’s a small island with no cars, so I felt like I could figure out where to go on my own. There were also signs guiding me to the main areas of the island which were all I needed. I went to St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), the Rialto Bridge, Campo Santa Margherita. I didn’t go into Doge’s Palace or climb the Campanile di San Marco because it was expensive, and there were outrageously long lines! I was not expecting so many tourists to be in Venice, but the whole city was crowded. I basically just wandered, sat, and observed. It was very entertaining and relaxing. I did sit in Campo Santa Margherita (where the college gang hangs out) to write before going to dinner across the canal. I went to a touristy restaurant, but I couldn’t be picky at that point, and I was hungry. The pasta tasted good to me!

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I got back to my hostel at 8:30, and everyone in my room is here and getting ready for bed. xo ~e.

Month #2 in Firenze

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I’ve now been a student Florentine for two months and one day, and the time couldn’t be going faster. This second month in Florence has been a lot of lesson learning. I’m learning more about my budget, thinking about what I need to do more of (exercise) and less of (eating gelato and not exercising), and figuring out balance. I have a better handle on classes especially now that midterms are over, but it is challenging to balance classes with exploring the city, traveling, and running errands, etc…

My Italian has gotten better, but I’m nowhere near fluent. I am proud of being able to order food at cafés and gelaterias in Italian. In Pisa, I told the woman working that I was American and studying in Florence in Italian, and I thought that was progress. It was nice being in Pisa because not as many people spoke English there, so it was full Italian immersion. If I had full Italian immersion, I’m sure I could pick up much more Italian. I’m working on it!

I feel much more comfortable in Florence because I have a much better sense of the city and where things are located. Two months ago I had no idea how to get from place a to place b. Now I do! I’ve given directions to people a few times. It’s moments like those when I feel like a real person living in Florence.

I had my first international travel experience for fall break (Ibiza, Spain) and am looking forward to my solo trip to Venice tomorrow. Traveling here on trains and planes is so common here, and it’s nice to experience it. I promised myself I wouldn’t do international travel until my second semester (aside from fall break), and I’m sticking to that promise. I don’t plan on traveling a lot in November, and I will be traveling a lot in December and January. I definitely have the train system figured out here and am taking advantage of the convenient train system.

I still haven’t experience severe feelings of homesickness. I miss the people back home, but I don’t wish I was living back home right now because it is so different and exciting here. I miss Emma Willard more than I thought I would. Emma will always be a part of me, and it’s the people and experiences there that prepared me for this year and the rest of my life.

I decided to sign up to volunteer at a local Italian school to help teach the young children English. I’m very excited to volunteer once a week on Fridays! More to come on that and it’s another way to add to my experience abroad. I’ve always liked spending time with kids.

My parents have officially booked their tickets, and I couldn’t be more excited for them to visit. We are going to explore Italy, Germany, and Greece together! My friend, Fayla, is also coming after finals for a week. We plan on meeting Juli in Rome for a couple days too!

Lots to look forward to. I can’t believe we’re a quarter of the way through the year. My goal for the next month is to really take advantage of opportunities in Florence and work more on my Italian. xo ~e.

Returning to Florence

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

All vacations come to an end at some point. Olivia and I got up at 8 AM and had breakfast again from Lidl on the jetty. It was another gray and cloudy day, and we didn’t end up swimming. The temperature here is about 75 degrees, and the water was probably 70 degrees. The water looked more clear than yesterday, but it still wasn’t that gorgeous Formentera clear blue. We do know that Ibiza has water like that too when it’s sunny!

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Breakfast on the jetty

We took a final walk to Ibiza Town and got a few more goodies at Natura then said goodbye to the beach. It will be greatly missed! I’m not sure when I’ll be back at the beach again. Ibiza was a perfect fall break location though.

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My travel partner, Olivia

I called a cab at 11:30 to take us to the airport. Everyone speaks English for the most part, but I kept speaking in Italian! I have no Spanish background whatsoever, and Italian is closer to Spanish than English is. It was funny stopping myself from saying “Grazie” and saying “Gracias” instead. The cab driver drove 90 MPH, and it was scary. We’re still here though!

Our flight was not delayed this time which was nice. The airport in Ibiza is huge for an island! I had a window seat this time, so I got a nice view of the water and island. It reminded me a lot of my trip to St. John a few years ago. It’s sad leaving a place I may never return to, but it’s okay because I have the memories and experiences of that place.

In Ibiza, we didn’t see any other Asian people. We saw a lot more hispanics than in Florence though, and people were much more casually dressed. We enjoyed seeing kids walking to school in the morning with their parents, and cars actually stopped for pedestrians (unlike in Florence).

We got to Pisa in the afternoon and had a few hours to kill before our train back to Florence. Our bags were heavy at this point! It’s always nice coming home. I unpacked, cooked and ate dinner with Colleen, and did laundry. I’ll be traveling again on Friday to Venice!

Ibiza certainly was a great escape. I miss the island life already! xo ~e.