Friday, November 30, 2012

The One in the City of Many Rivers

My final days in Italy were spent in Venezia (aka Venice). After a bus ride from Ravenna we arrived at the docks on the main land. We had reserved a boat ahead of time so we didn't think getting to the island would be any problem. That was before we saw the boat. I should explain that we were a group of 24 girls, 2 adults, and 3 months of luggage per person. That is quite a hefty load. We thought that the boat company would plan accordingly, but the boat we approached was worrisomely smaller. However, with impressive skill our ship captain (that was fun to say) loaded all of us and our luggage. So space wasn't a problem, but we were still slightly worried that Titanic 2 might occur that day. We even sang "My Heart Will Go On" as we rode to Venice. Fortunately nothing went wrong and we made it safely to the city.

On the boat.

View from the boat.

We landed on a dock along the beautiful Grand Canal. Then came a challenge fit for an Olympic champion. We had to drag all of our luggage over bridges, through crowds, and down tiny side streets in order to get to our hotel. And the gold medal goes to..... (drumroll) the Siena Study Abroad 2012. We did it! We made it to the hotel. Our hotel turned out to be absolutely adorable! At this point I was high on love for Venice. It was gorgeous and our hotel was nice! Life was good.

Just a side canal

The Grand Canal from Rialto Bridge

Another canal

After checking into our hotel we ventured out to find lunch. That was when I realized that food in Venice was costly and touristy and not that good. But hey, it was still Italian food so it was still pretty darn good. After lunch we met up in St. Mark's Piazza and headed to the Doges' Palace. It is the building that used to house the government of Venice. It was SO beautiful. I have been in a lot of beautiful buildings in Italy, but normally they are filled with art so you don't really appreciate the architecture and design, but this building focused on it. It was a lot of fun, even if the security guards were very strict. When I attempted to dance in one of the assembly halls I was told that it was not a room for dance. I wasn't doing any harm! In the Doges' Palace we also got to go over the famed Bridge of Sighs. The Bridge of Sighs connects to the prison and was the prisoners' last view of freedom. Fortunately I was allowed out. In the armory Anne and I picked our weapons of choice and planned out our new lives as a lady knight and squire. I'm the knight of course (sorry Anne).

In the courtyard at the Doges' Palace

The Bridge of Sighs is the one in the back.

Then came the really exciting part of our day. We went on a gondola ride!!! So cool. We went at dusk and were accompanied by a boat with musicians. It was seriously SO cool. There is just nothing like riding in a boat down small canals and listening to O Sole Mio. How did my life ever get that cool? Also, I may or may not have freaked everyone out by mentioning that the boats could tip. Or maybe I just freaked myself out. I don't know. Luckily we made it and I'll never get to swim in the less than clean waters running through Venice.

On a gondola!

The final activity of our day was a group dinner. Some of the girls were heading out that night so it was our last time together as a group. Gah! I miss those girls. The food was pretty good and it was nice to spend one last meal all together.

The next day was Sunday and we had planned to go to church in the local branch. However, we learned that it was a long boat ride away on the mainland and so we decided to go to mass instead. We went to mass in St. Mark's Basilica. Well I'd say that was a pretty great place to go for my first mass. I actually really liked mass. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I understood. We spent the rest of the day just wandering around Venice and sitting in our room talking and enjoying each others' company. That night we went out for dinner at a restaurant recommended by Rick Steve. I had a full round pizza for the first time since Rome and it was SO good. I guess that was my last pizza as well. Sad day. After dinner we headed out in search of Grom and some hot chocolate. We never found it, but we did learn about how sketchy Venice is at night. The streets are almost completely abandoned and it's spooky. I think that might be because the streets are so small that they all feel like alleys and there are absolutely no cars. Quiet and empty. Not my favorite.

St. Mark's!

Grand Canal at night

Anne and I

The next day was my last full day in Italy :( Take me back! We started the day by feeding pigeons in front of St. Mark's. Now when I say feeding I don't mean throwing the food to them. I mean putting it out in our hands and having pigeons land all over us. Some of us were really enthusiastic (Anne and Libby). Actually, I am pretty sure that was the happiest Anne has ever been. Others were a little hesitant (Jenessa and me). And one was totally freaked out (Janelle). Janelle actually batted all of the pigeons away from her with an umbrella. 

My initial reaction

It got better

We then went shopping! Are you really surprised? I bought some glass earrings and new shoes... Yeah... I probably shouldn't have, but they're SO pretty. On this shopping trip we also went to Grom where I ate my last gelato (there are far too many lasts in this post). It tasted so good and life will be a little bit harder without it. That night we went out for dinner again. We sat around and told each other all about our favorite memories. 

With my earrings

The last gelato!!

The last dinner :(

After getting back to the hotel we started our goodbyes and then headed up to our room. We had a compliment circle and shared our memories. Then I had to say good bye to those girls. Then the next morning I had to say goodbye to Anne. That was definitely the hardest goodbye. I had so much fun with Anne. We were pretty much inseparable. We were literally always together. We never spent a night in Italy apart. Anne, you'll always be my Italian sister.

And then I had to say goodbye to Italia. My experience in Italy was one of the best (if not THE best) experiences of my life. I grew so much, saw so much, ate TOO much, and made so many new friends that are so special to me. I will never forget it. Italy has made me who I am now and Italy will always have a very special place in my heart. Italy, thanks for teaching me the important things in the dolce vita. 

Ci Vediamo, Italia.

The One That Came After Siena

After leaving Siena bright and early on a Friday morning we headed off to Ravenna. The first part of the drive was really pretty. We drove through mountains covered in the orange hues of fall leaves. The ride was uneventful for the most part. There was one instance of near accident bladder fullness, but you don't want to hear about that. Let's just say that when an Italian says the rest stop is five minutes away it's actually over half an hour away... Va Bene!

After a few hours we reached our first destination, Sant'Appolinare. It's an early Christian church with some really old mosaics. And when I say really old I mean it. We're talking 400 AD. So yeah, that's old in my book. The church was really cool to see. I am so used to churches being elaborately decorated with gold leaf and sculptures and that mosaics were a nice change. The colors were so light and happy. Soft green. Gold. Cream. It was like springtime in a church. Outside the church we found some water buffalo statues. Photo op? We thought yes!

The church from the outside.

The beautiful mosaics

Why not kiss a buffalo?

So after our little stop we headed into Ravenna, or rather the ghetto of Ravenna. By ghetto I do not mean the previously Jewish section of the city (that's what ghetto means in Italian), I mean the sketchy part of town. It was in this area that we found our hotel. The Hotel Roma had been a source of excitement for me. I was staying with my best friends in Italy. It was going to be a party. At that point I hadn't seen my room yet.... Turns out our rooms had very interesting floor plans that were nearly impossible to maneuver three months of luggage through. Also, our room smelled a little bit like smoke. Even our towels were smoky! But that wasn't the best part. The best part was that our beds were leopard print. I am not going to lie that part was awesome! Also, oh so tacky. Let's just say that my first impression of Ravenna was not the best.

At this point we were set loose for lunch. After a bit of walking we entered downtown Ravenna. Fortunately, the city center is actually adorable. It kinds of looks like Main Street Disneyland (yes, that means I loved it). We ended up at a cafeteria that Rick Steve's recommended. I am not going to lie I was not thrilled about eating at a cafeteria. I thought it was intimidating and a little too mass produced for my new Italian taste. One piadina (kind of like a quesadilla) later I was convinced otherwise.

I told you it was cute!

With my piadina. I was obviously excited.

We then met up with the whole group and went to see more mosaics. They were all so incredible. The colors were just awesome and they were so different from everything else we had seen. I particularly like the church of San Vitale. Ravenna used to be part of the Byzantine Empire and you could really see that influence there. I may or may not have contemplated robbing the coins thrown in one of the fountains there.... Hey! I was pretty broke at this point! But I didn't do it. So be proud.

In San Vitale. Maddie thinks it looks like a Dan Brown movie.

The outside of San Vitale.

Just some of the mosaics.

After our educational visits we set out for entertainment and dinner. Of course my group did the most childish thing we could find. We rode a carousel! It was so fun. The worker gave us the strangest look when we bought our tickets. Also, riding a children's carousel when you've gained a lot of weight is not the best idea. My horse made thudding sound every time it came down... Yikes! The restaurant we ate at was VERY good. Ravenna is in Emilia-Romagna which is the most famed food region of Italy and it lived up to its reputation.

The Carousel

My tortellini in broth. Yummmmmmmm.

Our walk home (to the ghetto) was interesting... We were stopped by an elderly man speaking English to us in an American accent. We were surprised and talked to him for a while. Turns out he was actually Italian. We were shocked! I mean his American accent is probably better than mine. As we parted ways he told us not to walk towards the train station at night because that area wasn't safe. Little did he know that that was exactly where we were headed. Of course our sketchy hotel really was in a dangerous area! After a strange encounter with a white van we made it home safely, but not without a few freak outs on my part. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The One When I Had to Say Goodbye to My City

My last few days in Siena were really busy. I had finals and I had to pack so I didn't get to do anything too exciting, but it was still hard to leave.

On our last day we took our last few finals and then the school hosted a giant goodbye lunch for us. The food was great, but the company was even better. I am going to get all sappy now and tell you that the 23 other girls that I went with were incredible. I've made some of the best friends and definitely the best memories. Before I went I was worried that a group that large of all girls would have drama all of the time, but there was almost no drama. Our group was so fun and friendly. I have learned so much from them and I miss them all! Reunions winter semester!! After the lunch we had a little goodbye celebration. Anne and I made awards for everyone in the group and handed them out. Anne surprised me with the Obi Wan Kenobi award, because apparently I am a great mentor. Thank you my young padawan. Then we watched a video that one the girls had worked really hard on making. It was great! And a total tear jerker. We had so many great times together. From the most interesting hotel staff ever to funny gelato jokes to va bene we will always have so many great memories.

Then came the really hard part. Anne and I had to say good by to Marco and Paola. I loved living with them. They were so kind and so funny. I will always remember them! After giving them notes and a gift we looked through pictures together. It was fun to see more of their lives and to show them our families. We ended the night with an excellent dinner courtesy of Paola. I miss her cooking already!

After dinner Anne and I headed of to the campo to meet up with the other girls. We talked, reminisced, and just enjoyed our surroundings. A lot of the girls got gelato, but Anne and I were to full. Not that that was unusual. We were ALWAYS full.

Last night in the campo.

The next morning we headed to the bus and took of Ravenna. There may or may not have been cry fest. Va bene! I am still mentally kicking myself because Anne and I forgot our fried apples and never took a picture with our host parents.... I guess I'll just have to go back!

Oh Siena! I love you. I love your old buildings, your cobblestone streets, your market, your piazza, and so many other things. Gah! I miss you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The One Where You Lived a Day in My Life

Sorry it's been a long time since I blogged, but I've been traveling. I'm home now so I will pick up where I left off.

In Siena Anne and I realized that we had lots of pictures of all of the exciting things that we did in Italy, but none of our everyday life. As a result we decided to do a "day in the life" day. So I'll let the pictures do the talking and you can marvel at Siena. Also, it's really long so no offense taken if you get bored.

Anne at our front door.

Road #1 on our walk to school (check out the olive trees)

Road numero due

The beautiful antiporto that we pass everyday

The worst/most confusing intersection in all of Italy

The cute little crosswalk stop signs.

Our local gelato shop that closed before we could eat at it.

The fantastic bakery we pass every day. It always smells delicious!

The city gate

The piazza you enter into

Cute little church

Another road to school

The cute sewing store (Mom, you'd love it)

My favorite door in Siena. It's to the theater.

The Monte di Paschi Piazza. This is the oldest bank in the world. Sometimes we eat in front of it.

A pharmacy sign.

The fanciest bakery in town. 

A chain gelato shop with amazing gelato!

Just a view of the campo.

One of my favorite stores!

Oh you know just another beautiful street in a medieval hill town.

A boar head. Not sure what to say about it...

The five star hotel in town.

The final road to school.

Filling my water bottle at the turtle fountain.

The door to the Italian Hogwarts.

Hallway in the school.

We ran in to Theresa and Haley

Entryway to our part of the school.

Reppin' BYU

The Contrada Mural in the Student Lounge

The also like U of U (boo)

My Italian Class (I don't like thinking about the person who took this picture)

My book

Where I study

On the way to lunch with Jenessa and Anne I found a beautiful vespa

The only Napoletano Pizza in Siena. Lunch here we come!

My pizza.


I found a gnome on the walk back to school.

Just a view on the way back. That's the Basilica of San Domenico in the distance.

Jenessa's sewer (bahahahaha funny story)

We passed the Baptistry 

Up the stairs....

and to the Duomo!

Isn't it gorgeous?

European coke is way tastier and helps me get through the tough days 

History of Paradise class... ugh.

The view from our classroom.

The student lounge.

Libby found a carrot.

To the campo for some fun on the way home!

Beautiful at night.

Love this building.

We danced.

Then we Voldemort hugged.

Then we played a game (here we are landing in Italy)

Just a store I like.

My favorite store in Siena (yes, it is for men)

The road home.

I like to play with the plants

Hallway to our room.

Our host parents on their wedding day.

And this is how every night ends.

Yeah I know my life in Siena was awesome!!