The Last Day & The Last Supper

The beginning of our last day in Milan, Italy was very rainy! We had to get a tour guide because in order to get a group in to see the Last Supper painting you have to book a tour through a certain Milan travel company.

So, our tour guide led us around Milan and through a Museum. She was very nice and a good tour guide, but having a tour guide and having to walk around wearing a headphone with her voice in it made me very thankful that we had Dr. Piperato & Professor Raynor to guide us around Italy and we did not have to have tour guides the whole time. But, having the tour guide was worth it because then we got to see the Last Supper!

I don’t know why, but I thought the Last Supper was little (like 5 ft tall or so). So when I walked in and saw that it took up a whole wall I was blown away! It is an incredible painting and it was very awesome seeing it in person. (They were very strict about no pictures, but I got a few sneaky ones).

Next we had free time until dinner! And it ended up clearing up and being a beautiful day PTL! So, for lunch we went to the same place we went to for dinner the night before because it was just so good. We brought some people who had not gone the night before and the workers remembered us and I think were very appreciative we brought them so much business! Next we went back to the hotel and turned in our last assignment and relaxed a bit before going back out to a few shops before dinner to try and spend my remaining euros.

Dinner was SO awesome. Definitely my favorite group dinner not just because the food was DELICIOUS (a ragu and then a yummy risotto for the main courses) but because it was filled with so much laughter and sharing of memories. Since it was our last night in Italy, we all shared our favorite moments from the trip and we also gave each other “superlatives.” It was an informal giving of superlatives so we just went around to each person and gave each other silly superlatives like “most likely to have to take a bathroom break” or “best facial expressions.” For mine I got:
-Best blogger
-Most contagious laugh
-Most likely to be friends with everyone
-Ray of sunshine
-Most surprising hiccups (for anyone that doesn’t know, I have had the hiccups for the last year and a half so everyone had to get used to them)
-Most likely to not realize the volume of my voice (sometimes I would get very excited and not realize how loud I was being)
-Best tan line (I have a gnarly Chaco tan line)
-Best reactions
-Most likely to find a delicious hole in the wall place to eat (my friend Brian and I would always find the best random places to eat and bring people to them)

Getting superlatives was so encouraging and it was very cool to know that people enjoyed my laugh and hiccups and all of the weird things about me.

After dinner we took LOTS of pictures and stood outside our hotel for a while because going in meant that we had to pack and that meant that we were leaving. We finally all went in and packed and after packing a few people came in me and Nikki’s room and watched Friends. (Our plan was to stay up late so that we could sleep on the plane the next day)

I ended up getting about 4 or so hours of sleep before leaving our hotel at 6 to go to the airport. Dr. Piperato & Professor Raynor had different travel plans so we parted ways after checking our luggage in. I am so thankful for them and their willingness to lead a group of 18 students through Italy! They are awesome people and I’m really glad I got to share all these awesome experiences with them.

I slept about 6 of the 8.5 hours on the plane so our plan of staying up late was successful. I am not feeling the jet lag yet but I can imagine that it will hit me tomorrow.

Now I am sitting in the JFK airport in New York it is weird but awesome being back in America. The Grand Tour was such an incredible trip and I am so thankful I was able to go on it!

I am going to post later with my favorite pictures and memories, but for now, ciao!

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Day Trip to Turin

Turin was a beautiful city and I really enjoyed our time there! We went up this huge tower (it was the highest museum in Europe!) and had an AWEMAZING (awesome+amazing) view of the Alps. It was really hot up on the tower, and it was so bizarre to think that miles away there were snowy mountains. Luckily there was an elevator so we did not have to walk up and down a ton of stairs!

We had free time the rest of the day so during our free time me and a few people went and got some yummy paninis and walked around Turin. There were lots of stands people had set up with homemade items so it was very cool to see all the items and explore the city before heading back to Milan.

The bus ride ended up being about 3 hours and when we got back to Milan I was so hungry because it was about 8:00! So, me and a few friends went out and got dinner right away. We got sandwiches even though I already had a panini that day. It was so good and hanging out with friends was a great end to the day!

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From Venice to Milan

The past two days have been fairly relaxed! It has been great to be able to explore these cities on our own, get lost, find our way back, and discover yummy restaurants while at it.

On our last day in Venice (2 days ago) we went to The Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari church. It was awesome! I always love seeing the different architecture and artwork in churches and comparing & contrasting ones we have seen on this trip.

After seeing the church we had free time until dinner. With the free time a group of us walked around some some shops (I got a new dress I am very excited about), and got lunch and I got some canolis– I had been CRAVING one for a few days. Then we went back to the hotel and we worked on our drawing assignments, and I also read for a bit.

For dinner we went back to Bentigodi, the place we went for dinner the first night in Venice, with the chef Domenico. It was sooo delicious! I had straight up octopus…tentacles and all! And for our main course we had a yummy crab and lobster pasta. I always love group dinners because it is a great opportunity to build community in the group and hang out with everyone.

After dinner we went out for gelato (I originally said I wasn’t going to get any and then we showed up at the gelateria and of course I ended up getting some). After gelato I was SO FULL! We all went back to the hotel and hung out and took advantage of the wifi and I got to FaceTime my boyfriend Matt! Technology is so awesome- the fact that I could be halfway across the world but still be able to communicate with people from home is so cool. This trip has been SO incredible, but I have definitely missed my family mainly because I know they would love all that we have been doing.

Yesterday was our first day in Milan! The feel here is a lot like Rome– there is more hustle and bustle than the smaller cities like Florence & Siena…it has a New York-ish type feel. We arrived around 4 and then relaxed until exploring and finding a place for dinner around 6. While exploring we saw the remnants of a riot! Police were around a group, but we had missed all the action. We then grabbed dinner and gelato (I’ve gotta take advantage of every opportunity to get gelato, especially now that we only have a day left!). The gelato I got was dark chocolate and milk. The dark chocolate was SO dark! Next door there was a McDonalds and that was very different than the ones in the United States– there were limos pulling up and people standing outside in suits! You could only get in with a ticket, it was a very odd sight to see for us Americans…we are used to going to the McDonalds drive thru, not a fancy shindig.

Today we are taking a day trip to Turin! (Try saying that 5 times fast). And tomorrow is our LAST DAY! Wow, I cannot believe it!

Civediamo!

I Heart Venice

Yesterday and today were awesome days in Venice!! The past few days have been quite busy, so sorry about the combined blog days.

Yesterday we took a day trip to Padua, which was about a 30 minute train ride. It was raining the beginning of the day, but luckily I was prepared with a rain jacket AND an umbrella; these are items I am very thankful I packed, it has rained a bunch! In Padua we went to the Scrovegni chapel and before going in we had to get dehumidified! I didn’t really feel any different, but apparently I came out less humidified than before.

The church was beautiful! It had paintings about the life of Jesus done by Giotto. There was so much emotion in the pieces, and the colors were very vibrant. Like always, Dr. Piperato did an awesome job of walking us through all the paintings- it is funny to look around and see people not with our group join in and listening to her. After looking at the paintings we walked to the Church of St. Anthony. This was one of my favorite experiences thus far. There was mass going on, and it was so incredible to hear mass in a different language, and not understand what they were saying, but know that they were worshipping the same God I do when I go to church. PTL! (Praise The Lord)

Next we went to lunch and then we headed back to Venice. When we got back we had a short break and then went to San Marco. We went on a taxi boat, and the ride was awesome. In Venice they don’t drive cars, they all just have boats…it was a weird experience because it was just like taxis everywhere else, but we were on the water.

In San Marco we walked around side streets and found a place to eat dinner. I got some seafood gnocchi! (I have been trying to have lots of seafood here since Venice is so well known for its seafood). And then after dinner we went back to the hotel and hung out before bed.

Today was an incredible day!! We grabbed breakfast and then met with Stacy, a local artist who is good friends with Professor Raynor. We went to her house and she spoke to us about her life, and her art, and she is so legit! (Side note: her husband is Domenico, the owner of the restaurant we went to on the first night here). Stacy walked us around Venice and then we had an assignment where we got to pick something and we could draw or write about it. This trip has reignited my love for doodling letters and graphic design type art, so I found a sign and replicated some of the letters; I liked that we had a lot of freedom with this assignment.

After drawing for a bit, we all went out to lunch and I got a delicious pizza. THEN, after lunch, WE WENT ON A GONDOLA RIDE!! We piled in 4 gondolas and rode around Venice and it was definitely a trip highlight. I cannot believe it! I actually rode on a gondola in Venice…how cool is that?! The gondoliers even sang and wore the cool hats and striped t-shirts, just like in the movies.

We went back to the hotel after the gondola ride and I napped! Like for a really long time…apparently I was tired! Basically until dinner I rested and it was wonderful. I have only napped 1 or 2 times since being in Italy, and this trip has been jam-packed busyness, so it was very nice to catch up on rest.

After my rest, a group of us went out to dinner. I wouldn’t say that we got hopelessly lost, but we definitely were very turned around. We wanted to go to a place a few people had been the night before and had said was really good. It was difficult to find it again, but we ended up finding it and the dinner was great, so it was well worth the delay.

I have really loved the city of Venice! It is so beautiful, and I am thankful that the weather held out today and it did not rain. We have one more day here tomorrow, and then we are on to Milan! I am not really sure what tomorrow will bring, but I am sure it will be awesome no matter what we do.

First Day in Venice

Yesterday we arrived in Venice! It was about a 5 hour bus, but we stopped in Ravenna on the way to break up the ride.

In Ravenna we got lunch, and it was so good! Back in Rome we got these sandwiches that were a mix between a quesadilla and a sandwich called a piadini. Well, Ravenna is the home of those tasty things, so of course we all got one for lunch. I knew the one I ordered had some type of salami and some type of cheese but I didn’t know exactly what to expect, and I ended up being very pleasantly surprised. Then, Ravenna is very well known for their mosaics, so we went and saw some and they are incredible! I cannot imagine how long it would have taken to put them together, and I think there are probably millions of pieces. I was very impressed! After the stop in Ravenna we were back on the road to Venice!

After arriving we took about a 5 minute train ride to Venice and right after walking out of the train station I was amazed. There is a river of water in between streets and it is awesome. We paraded around town walking to our hotel (I say parade because we all had our luggages and were walking single file and when the Americans arrive or leave town it is always quite a scene).

After we checked in we went out to dinner! Venice is known for its seafood and so our dinner was filled with a few adventurous items. I did not know what all the items were, but still tried, and really loved, everything. The appetizer had octopus salad (some people did not have theirs, so I ended up having 3 helpings), bruschetta, and a big shrimp/crawfish looking thing. Before dinner the chef Domenico brought out a HUGE fish and showed us what he would be cooking for us. So the main course was very fresh and of course delicious.

After dinner we walked around a bit to begin to get our bearings, but Professor Raynor said it is very likely that we will still get hopelessly lost.

It was a great first day in Venice and I can’t wait to explore the city more!

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Siena & San Gimignano

Yesterday we woke up and went to this little town about an hour away from Siena known as San Gimingano.

In San Gimingano we went to museum and sketched in a church and then went to lunch. We also had some free time to explore the town and since it was so small I feel like I actually got to see most of it. It was raining for most of the time that we were there so we didn’t get to explore as much as planned, but it was still a really fun day trip and I enjoyed the little town!

On the way home we stopped in a VERY little town called Monteriggioni, and it is about 30 minutes from Siena. It is a very little town, and when I say very little I mean that their total population is 42 people. We took some pictures of the awesome view and got some gelato and that was basically all there was to do! So, we went back to Siena and had the rest of the day off. My roommate Nikki unfortunately hurt her knee yesterday and was confined to her bed so we took the rest of the day and relaxed in our room and talked, and then me and Professor Raynor went out and got dinner and brought it back to the room, and then later a few people came over and we watched Friends and it ended up being a great night!

Today we had the morning off so it was wonderful to sleep in a bit! I got ready and then went out and sketched a bit and got lunch with a friend Brian and then brought lunch back to the room for Nikki.

At 2:00 we met at the Piazza Del Campo and went to an awesome museum and then the Duomo. It was a beautiful day at 2:00 and then by the time we were done at the first museum it was a torrential downpour and of course I did not have my rain jacket or my umbrella. It could have been worse, but I did get pretty soaked! And thank goodness for some kind friends who let me stand under their umbrellas (ellas, ellas, ellas, eh eh eh).

After the Duomo we went to the Lupa Contrada and were granted access to the oratory because Dr. Piperato is a member of Lupa (you are not allowed in unless you know someone, so it was very special). It was so awesome to hear about all of the traditions that take place within the contrada and being able to see inside their meeting place.

We had the rest of the night off and so a group of us went out to dinner and gelato and then came back and watched some episodes of Friends and then packed.

It was an awesome few days in Siena and I really enjoyed this town. Some of my favorite memories from this trip will come from Siena! Next we are on to Venice with a stop in Ravenna on the way!

Also, I decided on the Oca contrada for my personal contrada. It’s nothing official, I just wanted to pick one. The Oca are the goose and I like to consider myself a silly goose so I figured it was fitting. Go Oca!

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This Week on The Siena Games…

Yesterday we arrived in Siena! Siena is a really cool town; it is pretty small, but divided into 17 “contrade.” Each contrada has it’s own set of rules separate from Italian law, they have their own colors, they each have a rival contrada, and their own coat of arms, and they each have an animal symbolizing their contrada. I’ll get to how this plays into my day later!

When we arrived in Siena we were not able to check into our hotel yet, so we went to the “Piazza Del Campo” which is basically a huge town square, and we sat for a bit before going to the Duomo Museum. One part of the museum we got to walk up a huge tower that was a spiral staircase all the way up (it was very disorienting). Once we got to the top it was an AMAZING view of all of Siena and Tuscany. It was beautiful and I had a Piazzele Michelango-esque experience. Something to note about Siena: IT IS HILLY. And I’m not talking about dinky hills, these hills are ginormous, and once you think you’re done with one hill, you could possibly turn the corner and have to go up another.

Okay, back to the 17 contrade. Inside of each contrada (contrada- singular, contrade- plural) there is a fountain. When I think of fountain I think of a High Point University big, extraordinary fountain, but I later came to find out that most are actually pretty small. One of our assignments while we are here in Siena is to find at least 10 of the 17 fountains. BUT Dr. Piperato said we would receive extra credit if we found all 17, a nearly impossible task for newcomers to this confusing city…or so she thought.

While sitting in the Piazza Del Campo we formed a team of dedicated, determined, and enthusiastic individuals ready to commit to finding all 17 fountains. So, after checking into our hotel around noon, the 4 of us broke from the group and went on a mission.

We didn’t really have much of a game plan. These fountains could have been anywhere and we had only been in the city for a few hours. (For all you Harry Potter fans, I felt like I was on a hunt for horcruxes). Dr. Piperato had hinted us towards where 1 could be and so we went to that one first. The first one we found was huge! It was so big and obvious that we actually wandered around for at least 30 minutes because we thought it was too easy. But, after asking someone we discovered we had indeed found the Oca fountain. I will not go through my whole day because if I did that you would be exhausted just reading it. Basically FOR 6 HOURS we walked around Siena hunting the fountains; we bought a map, asked a lot of people for help, got frustrated, got VERY lost, climbed hills, backtracked A LOT, passed fountains we didn’t think were fountains, we even asked the Police for help, but by the end of 6 hours WE FOUND ALL THE FOUNTAINS!! It was such an exhausting day, but all of the hills and hard work was worth it when we got to feel the feeling of sweet victory.

My body hurt so bad by the end of the day, but we had a group dinner so I thankfully had a delicious meal to look forward to. I had just enough time to sit for a total of 5 minutes and then shower and get ready and then it was time to meet for dinner. PTL for dinner last night because it was SO GOOD. We had an amazing appetizer plate filled with bruschetta, prosciutto, cheeses, and salami, and then two pastas, and then a pork and a beef, AND a dessert. I was so full by the end of the meal, but I think we walked at least 10 miles all together in Siena so I definitely worked everything off throughout the day.

Finding all 17 fountains is up there on my list of cool accomplishments (I don’t actually have a list, it was just really cool). I felt like I was on a game show like the Amazing Race, or in a movie on a top secret mission. It was exhilarating!

Needless to say, I am exhausted today. Today we went to San Gimingano, a cute little town about an hour away, but I’ll save those deets for another post later today.

Ciao! And may the odds be ever in your favor…

Info on the Contrades:
1. Aquila- goose
2. Bruco- caterpillar
3. Chiocciola- snail
4. Civetta- owl
5. Drago- dragon
6. Giraffa- giraffe
7. Istrice- porcupine
8. Leocorno- unicorn
9. Lupa- wolf
10. Nicchio- shell
11. Oca- goose
12. Onda- wave/dolphin
13. Pantera- panther
14. Selva- rhino
15. Tertuca- turtle
16. Torre- elephant
17. Valdimonte- ram

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Last Day in Florence Y’all

Today we woke up and were off to the Uffici! Even though I am not exactly a morning person, it has been great getting places early and beating the long lines. The museum was amazing, we saw some really cool pieces!

After that, Professor Raynor led my group around to a few places in Florence near where we were. First we went to this cute little bakery and I got my first cannoli since being in Italy! It was yumtastic! Then we walked some more and got gelato! (When in Florence, right?) Next we walked around some shops and sat and then for lunch a little later we went to this awesome cheap and delicious place called Fratellini. Their paninis were only 2.50 euros and they were so great! I got a goat cheese, salami, and fennel one and mmmm was it good! Then we were off to meet the rest of the group!

Next we went to the Borgello and had a drawing assignment. We had to pick a sculpture and draw it for atleast 1 hour. I ended up drawing for about 2 hours and boy does that wear you out! Everyone was pretty worn out from the museums and drawing so we went back to the hotel and some people napped. I attempted to upload pictures to Facebook but wifi here is just not as speedy as in the US and it never ended up working. I was glad to get to sit and relax for a bit at the hotel though.

We had an informal group dinner tonight at a delicious restaurant that I cannot remember the name of, but the pizza was great and that’s what truly matters. I splurged and got tiramisu for dessert and it was definitely worth the splurge. After dinner we went out for gelato but I passed because I had already had gelato, a cannoli, and tiramisu today so 4 desserts may have been overdoing it a little.

It was a great last day in Florence and I am excited to go to a new city tomorrow and see all that it has to offer.

Day Off in Florence

Today was an EPIC day!! I don’t remember if I have said this already on a past day, but today has been my favorite day yet.

First off, we had the whole day off PTL. So, I got to sleep in until about 10:00, which was so needed. Then I went down to the lobby, still in my PJs, and got breakfast. Until around 1:00 me and a few others made sure that everything for the assignments that were due today were completed. We basically went on a hunt for wifi. We got everything done and then went to the fresh market for lunch.

For lunch I picked up some cheese (I asked for goat cheese, but apparently that sounded like Brie and I got Brie. But I still like Brie so all was okay), bread, and salami, and made myself a meal. And I must say, it was delicious. After lunch we walked around some shops and got souvenirs!

Next, we went back to the hotel and got ready for our “chocolate walk.” The goal was to go to a few places throughout Florence and get some chocolate from each. Well, only the first place was open (a bunch of places were closed today), but I got the best dark chocolate gelato I have ever had from there and all the chocolate happy feelings were flowing and I didn’t mind not getting more chocolate from other places since the first was so good.

My favorite part of the day: Piazelle Michelangelo. You basically cross the river and walk up a hugemongous hill and have the most beautiful view of all of Florence. I was in absolute awe the whole time. Me and a few others sat outside on a hill for at least an hour or so and watched the sunset and it was one of those moments where I was sitting there and feeling like I was in a dream and not actually sitting in Italy and seeing what I was seeing. Then, as we were walking down the hill I saw one of my best friends from HPU my freshman year, Alexa!! It was the craziest thing ever: we knew each other was going to be in Rome at the same time and we tried to meet up but it didn’t work out, but I didn’t know the rest of her travel plans and she didn’t know the rest of mine. So how CRAZAY is it that we would be in the same place in Italy at the same time and be doing the same thing and happen to see each other. INSANE!! I am so thankful I got to see her!

We went to dinner at a place close to the bottom of the hill and then on our way back stopped and got gelato. So that means I got 2 gelato in one day!

WHAT A GREAT DAY!!

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