My flatmates and I looked up flights to Italy and we found some cheap flights to Milan! We all couldn’t say no so we booked them! We started off in Milan and quickly found a place to get some pizza! I think I ate more pasta and pizza than I ever have over the weekend. The second day we took a trip to Verona. Verona was very much like what I pictured Italy to be like. The architecture of the buildings was exactly what I pictured. Verona was so beautiful and it really felt like spring time! We had a funny encounter with choosing a restaurant for lunch! My friend looked up places to go and she found a cheap place for us to go. Well we walked up to the restaurant and looked at the menu outside. To our surprise there was horse and rabbit meat being served!After a few laughs we ended up choosing a different restaurant! That was one of the most culture shock things that I experienced with abroad! We climbed to the top of a tower where we could see the whole city. Overlooking Verona was one of the most surreal experiences of my life! Italy is seen as this dream destination and it was so surreal to actually be there. I honestly felt so free in that moment. I felt like I had overcome so much this semester and being in Italy made me realize how vast the world really is. It’s so much more than just picture;physically being there changed my view of the world. Read More »
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Casey is Counting…the days until she can go back, the amount of money she has left, the number of memories she made, etc.
It’s official. I am back in the US of A. But before I talk about that, let me tell you about my pre-Christmas adventures!
The first weekend in December was my last real weekend in the UK, so I figured I’d make the most of it! First, I headed to Bath for the crowded Christmas Markets, where I stocked up on Christmas presents for my family, and the Roman Baths. It was quite a fun little trip! Next on the list of places I had to visit was Northern Wales. I got on my first train of seven for the day on my way to Blaenau Ffestiniog, a slate mining town, home to Bounce Below–the largest underground trampoline park in the world! I had a blast at the underground trampoline park! Then, I made it to the town with the longest name in the world–Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
One great thing about how UCC does finals is that it includes a study break that’s at least a week long between the last day of classes and your first final. I got a break of almost two weeks– two weeks I know that I could not spend the entirety of studying. Making sure to block off two solid days before my first final to study, I planned my “study break” around Europe. Read More »
I’ve mentioned before, I did very little research before deciding to study at University College Cork. I didn’t have a ton of options for schools that met my engineering course requirements; I knew I wanted to study in Europe. And I was adamant that, whichever country I ended up in, the citizens of that country spoke English.
People encouraged me to drop this restriction; it cut out France, Spain, Germany, Italy– so many countries in Europe do not first and foremost speak English, and what if I was missing out on a crucial experience by going somewhere that did? Read More »
Everyone told me that it’s impossible to spend four months abroad in Europe and not visit Italy. The country never appealed to me before, but while my mom was planning her ten-day trip over to visit me, the idea struck her to do a tour of Italy. I didn’t have any plans already in place to visit, so we agreed, and during my spring break we started for Rome.
The first thing that struck me about Rome was the density of people. The streets were packed with people speaking a slew of languages, wearing clothes from all different cultures. The second thing to strike me was how old some parts of it was. Our hotel was right across from the Vatican, and we started our first day in Italy with viewing the Sistine Chapel. To witness this masterpiece by Michelangelo from the early 1500s, a masterpiece I thought I’d only ever seen in movies, was absolutely breathtaking. But to then come upon the Colosseum, a infamous building that is nearly two thousand years old, was mind-blowing. How could this be here, when I’ve only ever seen it in history textbooks? We weaved down alleys to find our first Italian meal, and found it under the glow of lanterns and the sunset. I knew from that meal on that pizza and pasta would never be the same ever again.
I feel like the past few days have been a dream, they were so surreal and wonderful that I can’t believe they actually happened, but then I flip through the over 300 pictures that I have and I’m right back on the winding streets of Rome with some of my best friends complaining about how much we’ve walked and planning our next gelato stop. Until now, Rome has just sort of been a place that doesn’treally seem real. It’s a place of such immense history and culture you would have to spend years there to really be able to see it all. We had 3 days.
Hello my glorious blog readers! Welcome to another addition of my spring break abroad. Destination: Milan, Italy. On this part of my journey, I traveled primarily alone, which was a unique and unforgettable experience. I was in Milan from April 15-18.
Before I departed for Milan, I spent a few days at Palma de Mallorca, Spain. This was intended for a nice relaxing few days on a beach, but it was mostly raining and chilly. Palma is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea. It has a beautiful cathedral with a nice city centre. I wish I was able to get outside of the city because it has pretty views and great hikes. I also realized how much Spanish I lost since I stopped taking it in high school. Whoops.
View of the city centre
A beautiful walkway along the city centre
Cathedral de Mallorca
Sunday, April 15 – I flew into Bergamo (about 45 minutes northeast of Milan) at seriously the smallest airport I’ve ever been in. I was in and out of there in about 15 minutes, and without an immigration check. Since I was in Spain before I arrived in Italy, I bypassed all immigration thanks to the Schengen Agreement. The Schengen area comprises of 26 European countries that eliminates border controls with other Schengen members. You do need your passport when first arriving into a Schengen country, but then you have free control to travel for 90 days in those 26 designated countries without stopping at border controls. The United Kingdom and Ireland are not part of the Schengen Agreement, so whenever I enter the UK and enter/leave the Schengen area, I have to go through immigration. It’s kind of a shame because I go to so many cool places, but I have very few passport stamps to show for it. But quite honestly, it is a massive time saver.
After arriving at the hotel, I went out for my first Italian dinner: penne arrabiata with pane, a glass of white wine, and a glass of champagne. There was quite an interesting mix at the restaurant. The two waiters were hilarious older men both fluent in English. They both made me feel welcome in my first night in Italy. The restaurant customers were also international, which added to the interesting mix of Milan. I found out very early that many Italians spoke English pretty well, and it could be that way because Milan is Italy’s industrial city.
Monday, April 16 – I checked out a travel book of Milan from the Cardiff library, and it had guided walks that I spent the entire day walking on. I walked to many different cathedrals, parks, ancient infrastructure from the Roman Empire, and castles. I stopped for a slice of pizza and ate it at the Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church that holds Da Vinci’s Last Supper. The great thing about Milan is that it is easy to get around; the city is not that big. You can walk everywhere, and there is an underground train system for fast travel.
A bridge at Parco Sempione
Alter at the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio
The best known Roman ruins in Milan, Colonne di San Lorenzo, date back to the 2nd Century
Naviglio Grande, a canal that used to be important for trading is now home to cute restaurants and bars
Tuesday, April 17 – I went on a walking tour of Milan that included going into the Duomo, stopping for a café break, and checking out The Last Supper. The Duomo was very impressive, but I wish I had a chance to check it out longer. I would have liked to walk up to the top of the cathedral; the views are supposed to be amazing. There were large stained glass windows with tapestries everywhere. After the Duomo, we went to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is between the Teatro alla Scala and the Duomo. The Galleria holds designer stores with extremely overpriced restaurants. We later stopped at a café where I had a cannoli and some tourists had tiramisu. I met tourists from all over the world, but my group consisted of mostly Americans. After walking a bit throughout Milan, we ended up at Santa Maria delle Grazie where we saw The Last Supper. You need tickets in order to see the fresco, and they sold out. Luckily, the tour provided tickets, and it wouldn’t be a trip to Milan without seeing The Last Supper. The fresco is held in the most unbelievable room ever: it is completely pollution free. They are very strict about the amount of people seeing the fresco at one time, which is a huge change from years ago when tourists could walk right in without a problem. The painting underwent a massive restoration that took 21 years to complete, and it seriously looked stunning for a 15th Century wall painting. There is another massive fresco on the wall opposite to The Last Supper, but no one noticed. It is quite unfortunate because it is a beautiful fresco, but people overlook it because of The Last Supper on the opposite wall.
The stained glass windows at the Duomo
Inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
With my cannoli!
At the Santa Maria delle Grazie on my way to see The Last Supper
Once the tour was over, I found an amazing gelato place that specializes in chocolate gelato. After a quick break at my hotel, I went out to dinner with a mutual acquaintance who was studying abroad in Milan. We went out for pizza, espresso, and cannolis at night. It was nice to see a different perspective of Milan through the eyes of a local student. We walked to the Duomo, and it was packed with people trying to sell you things. One thing I hated about the tourist places: it was crowded with foreigners trying to sell you useless things like stupid toys, umbrellas (even though I had one), sunglasses, etc. I found this everywhere I went, and I was always worried this was some elaborate scheme for them to steal my wallet.
My amazing gelato
At a chocolate bar enjoying a wonderful espresso
Wednesday, April 18 – I had a few hours to kill before my flight to Barcelona, but it was pouring. I toughed out the weather for one last gelato, and at the shop, I noticed two Americans ordering a gelato. They totally stood out with their massive backpacks and their mannerisms. At the airport, I ran into the same Americans from the gelato shop while in line to get on the airplane. I found out they were in a group of five students, all of them studying abroad University of Iowa students, and all of them from the Chicago area. It was completely unreal.
Italian word of the day: Bar. When we think of bars, we think of parties, alcohol, beer, whatever. When you see the word “bar” in Italy, be prepared for coffee drinks and desserts instead of ale.
I always think that when I am out of classes I’ll have more time, but somehow I still manage to lose track of time. April has certainly been keeping me busy that’s for sure. I just got back from my trip to Italy, I have 4 essays due in the beginning of May, and my family arrives tomorrow for a week of London fun. I think part of the problem is that I am definitely still in vacation mode. But I am determined to get back on track, so here goes the catch up blog.
Italy was fantastic fun; I’m still smiling about it. It was exhausting, but I managed to conquer Rome, Venice, and Florence all in about a week (8 days). Not alone of course, I was joined in this venture by a friend from home who is currently studying in Edinburgh. She came down to London for a long weekend and we hit a bunch of touristy places along with my aunt who happened to also be in London at the same time. It was very busy, but a lot of fun and it was nice seeing some familiar faces. I even finally made it down to the Globe to see what it looked like. Next step—seeing Shakespeare performed there.
After our long weekend in London, my friend and I took a plane to Rome for a couple days and then a train to Venice and after a couple nights we took another train to Florence where we spent the remainder of our trip together. It was a lot of traveling, but it was definitely worth it. There were beautiful things to see everywhere in Italy and the weather was fantastic (though I was forced to spend 11 euros on sunblock, but such is the peril of fair skin in a sunny country). Although everywhere we went was beautiful and fun, Venice was probably my favorite place. Partly this was because I knew it was somewhere my boyfriend at home really wanted to visit, but mostly it was because it was just beautiful and calm there. Even though it was a busy city, the lack of vehicles combined with the water everywhere gave it a great atmosphere. We visited a couple of the islands while we were there and Burano was breathtaking. I wanted to spend the rest of my trip there. Alas, my train and hostel to and in Florence were already booked. But it was worth leaving for the view from the Campanile in the center of Florence and the wonderful scenery in Tuscany that I saw on a tour we took outside the city one day. I definitely could have stayed in Italy much much longer, but knowing I was going back to London wasn’t too bad a feeling. I did miss it here. Although, I miss some of the food in Italy (We found a fantastic pizza place in Venice and the best pasta dishes in Florence. Let me know if you want recommendations). I’ve been eating school food and pasta since I got back (trying to salvage my budget lol).
The past week I’ve been slowly doing work on my essays (very very slowly), nothing really exciting there. I’m looking forward to the upcoming week with my parents, but I know that I’ll end up having to do some work because of my lack of progress this past week. Oh well. C’est la vie. I’m practicing my French for my family’s visit to Paris next weekend. So excited!