Some friends and I decided to spend our weekend taking a day trip to Siena and a day trip to Pisa. The weather outlook was great so we took advantage of it.
Previously I had learned a lot about Siena from art history. I was excited to see some of the works of art that I was learning about. It was very inexpensive to see most of the sites (8 euro package). The package included the duomo, baptistry, duomo museum, a library in the duomo, and to climb the remains of the unfinished addition to the duomo.
There is also the famous Piazza Del Campo. There is really no Piazza like it. The shape is that of a Roman amphitheater sloping towards their very old government building.Siena is mostly made up of brick. Italian cities all vary because,naturally, they build all of their buildings with whatever is close and easy in their area. Florence for example, is made from a dull hard stone (the name isn’t coming to me right now).
The church was stunning and the interior was the opposite style of the Florence duomo. Every wall was cluttered with some sort artwork or sculpture.
My favorite experience was climbing the old unfinished piece of the duomo. You get a beautiful 360 degree view of the city. We spent at least an hour taking in the breathtaking view.
Siena is famous for a few sweets. We went to the most popular bakery their and bought ricciarelli and panforte. Ricciarelli is a very soft cookie doused in powdered sugar. I bought both vanilla and chocolate cookie. They had a very almond like taste. Panforte is similar to a fruitcake. It is very soft and has chunks of fruits and nuts. It had a lot of christmas like spices and was delicious!
I didn’t have high expectations for Pisa. We had been told by multiple people that their is the tower and that is it. Some friends had only spent 40 minutes their because they thought it was so boring.
The tower was very pretty and looked like it would be an interesting climb. I didn’t do it because it was 15 euro, but it reminded me of a fun house. They have strict rules about children climbing it because they may get off balance and fall off.
Everything there is to see in Pisa is located in a large, open, grassy area called the field of dreams. The group decided to settle in and spend some time enjoying the day. We bought a few bottles of wine and spend a few hours just taking funny pictures with the tower. It is very comical to people watch in the field. All types of tourists are spread around doing the same classic “holding the tower up” position. I am not knocking it because I took many as well. Some people get very creative with it!
I was able to get into their duomo for free, but I decided to skip everything else. Just spending an afternoon under the looming leaning tower was a treat in itself.
The only food I tried in Pisa was a well known gelateria. I didn’t actually buy one but mooched off everyone else. It was actually some of the best gelato I have had in Italy. Though I have still yet to try Florence’s number one gelateria!
I wrote these last few posts very quickly, so if there is any spelling mistakes or gramatical errors I apologize. Hopefully more on Florence in the upcoming days! I also leave for Greece a week from today!
I was planning on going to Venice for Carnival but it fell through the day before we were to depart.. My host family told me that I essentially must go. They helped me find the cheapest train ticket. Even though many people from my school dropped the trip, a couple of us decided to quickly pack and leave for the weekend.
One of the best decisions I have made so far!!!! Venice is so gorgeous. I wasn’t sure what to really expect, but I was not disappointed.
A friend and I arrived before everyone else so we decided to get lost in the city. The canals were a pretty aqua blue and gondolas were everywhere. Every street on the way to San Marco’s square was lined with mask and food shops. Beautiful hand painted masks were being worn by many of the people there. We all wanted to fit in so we bought our own!
The people of Venice went all out with their costumes. Extravagant,colorful dresses filled the square. It seemed like a massive photo shoot all day long. The number of tourists was insane but it was still well worth it for the Carnival experience.
We spent one night at a campground where we ended up in the middle of a 40 person Italian get together. They ended up shoving wine and italian desserts in our face for several hours. Many of the desserts were specific to Carnival. None of the people spoke english, but it was still one of my most memorable experiences.
After exploring Venice for a few days we spent a few hours on Murano before we left. Murano is very famous for their glassblowing. Every single shop seemed to be selling beautiful glass items. We ended up going to watch glass be made and let me just say I think I found a new hobby. It is such an interesting art that takes a lot of skill. We watched them make a glass horse and a fruit bowl, which took them all of about 10 minutes.
In every city I go to I try to experience at least one food that is made or well known for that area. To my surprise, a very popular drink is caldo vino (hot wine). It was very delicious and kept me warm on the cold nights. It seemed to have a little spice to it as well (like cider).
There is no other city like Venice and I feel so lucky to have experienced it. I can’t wait to go back!
Florence is awesome. My host family consists of Luccia (host mom), Carlo (host dad), Leone (host brother), and Argo (host dog). They are great, I couldn’t have asked for a better home stay family. It is a 10 minute walk to school and 15 minute walk to the Duomo from my house.
My classes are Italian, entrepreneurship, photography, and art history. My favorite class is art history. It is extremely interesting to learn about famous works of art and to actually go see them. You really get an understanding of how Florence grew from being an ancient Roman city to debatably the art and leather capital of the world.
The food here is absolutely delicious. My family makes me dinner most days. Meals here start out with pasta, then some sort of meet and vegetable. They then have some sort of fruit and finish with dessert. Dessert consists of a dessert wine/liqueur and either cookies, a cake, or pastries. I have also been learning how to make many dishes from Luccia! My most recent one was caramelized pears with whipped cream. Leeks and artichokes are in season right now, so I have one or the other every night.
The culture here is very interesting and the people are fun! One of my favorite things to see are street performers. I have seen many different types, from making giant bubbles to making stunning chalk murals.
I have been attempting to try as many new things as I can. One well known Florentine meal that I tried was lampredotto which is the 4th cow stomach. I am happy to say I finished it, but it is never something I would like to get again.
I have seen many of the famous sites in Florence. The duomo is one of my favorite architectural buildings to see. I often run up to Piazzale Michelangelo to get the most beautiful views of Florence.
Sorry this was so late and I hope to add more about Florence soon!
Ireland has been an amazing experience. We ended up only spending one full day in Dublin and we weren’t really impressed. It is very expensive to eat and drink there. It was a very touristy area, to the point where it was a little overwhelming.
Mike and I spent a few hours touring the Guinness brewery which was a site in itself. We ended the tour enjoying a Guinness on the top floor with arguably the best view of Dublin.
That night we went on a pub crawl, which was one of the worst turnouts they have ever had (eight people I believe). It was actually a great experience besides the lack of attendance. There was a couple from norway, our guide from Ireland, an Aussie, a woman from Mexico City, and another American (excluding us three). It was a learning experience trying to comunicate and understand all the different cultures in one sitting.
The following day we made our way to Galway for a few days. We spent it seeing the wonderful sites of a great city. We ended up taking a bike ride to a neighboring city called Oranmore to look at a castle.Mike took his own path to a different castle but since my athleticism and bike were not cooperating with the distance, this ended up being the perfect trip.
The castle was very interesting. Sadly it was closed for the winter but we got to walk around it and on their dock. We then stumbled upon an old town cemetery which had very interesting and old tombstones. Many of them were worn to practically nothing but the oldest I could find was 1770. The ride home ended up along the coast and we still made it back in time to catch the sunset on the pier to Mutton Island.
We spent most of our nights visiting our friends we knew from the states studying their and mingling with the locals and study abroad students. There were many there and it was a great experience. I met some wonderful people that I hope to see again before the end of my trip. We were also informed that we had wonderful weather. The sun was out everyday which is normally a rare experience in this city.
The last great experience of Galway was going to the Cliffs of Moher. We took a bus which many many other scenic stops along the way. The drive in general was beautiful, but the cliffs were breathtaking. Monstrous cliffs with massive Atlantic waves crashing against it. There were at least four or five jutting out from the mainland. We even ended up sticking our heads over the edge to get a full view of the drop.
Before the cliffs we stopped at a cave. We had no urge to pay for the tour so we found a hike outside of it instead. It was a large hill that was extremely rocky and wet. The rocks were all extremely flat, so people got the idea to stack these interesting rock towers. They came in all different sizes and could be seen accross the entire hill. There was also walls built out of these same rocks to mark different plots of land. The walls went the entire way up! I would hate to have that job.
Galway was the best time I have had so far and it was a little sad to leave. The people, atmosphere, and views were out of this world. I hope to make it back before my trip is done.
I am actually now in Florence, Italy. It was a huge shock arriving in a country where english is a lot harder to find. It is a new experience getting around and communicating compared to the UK and Ireland. I am enjoying every second of it and loving the food!
I am not sure where to even begin! London was a fantastic time where I met fantastic people. Our host was awesome, as well as everyone who stayed their. We ended up missing our bus to Stonehenge so we enjoyed another day in London. When leaving the underground we saw an old small church and decided to find the entrance. Inside was the sweetest old lady who was open to us looking around. It was a cool experience to find a random church off the beaten path. We then saw a great street performer back in Trafalgar Square. He gathered a huge crowd and had everyone laughing. He then ended up putting his whole body through a tennis racket while standing on an very tall bike.
The last night we made our host, Ronald, some cheeseburger hot-dish We thought he could use a little midwestern food. The bus to Liverpool was at 8:30 the next morning. We got a late start and sprinted to the bus station. Timing seems to be a problem so far but we made it with not even a minute to spare! I slept the entire way so it just flew by.
Liverpool was a completely different atmosphere than London. It had more of a small college town feel. There were pubs everywhere and the nightlife was exciting. We ended up getting our hostel and then going to a dive bar. Everything was cheaper than London which was a nice change. We ended up stumbling on a bar in an alley that was full of 50 year old men. We thought why not and they had the best beer prices I had seen there. It was an interesting experience to go from a college bar to a pub where you are the youngest there by 30 years.
The next day we went to The Cathedral of Christ the King. Home of the largetst stained glass in the world. It was a gorgeous building and the stained glass made the entire inside glow. We then made our way to the Cavern Club. This is where The Quarry Men (The Beatles) debut. They had so many great pictures of them and all the other entertainers that had been and performed their. I got a pint and listened to some great music. They eventually started doing Beatles covers which were great. Every inch of the walls were covered with writing and initials.
When the pints were gone we made way to Albert dock which had a great view of the water. It had fun little shops and a wide variety of boats on the water. Our final stop before food was the Liverpool Museum which was interesting (mostly the Beatles stuff). We then made out last trip for food and went to our train/bus to Holyhead. We decided it would be a good idea to be early this time.
I slept throughout the train. The bus was a little more difficult because of the extremely drunk man from Ireland being loud and singing. It was funny to a point but then it got old. He offered me a han and cheese sandwich about 25 times.
When we arrived in Holyhead we went to the only only pub because we had 2 hours to spare. It was a very small town and a very small pub. We met some locals and Mike and I sang Jack and Diane for karaoke. We had to try and think of a pretty good American song.
The ferry ride to dublin wasn’t to long, but I didn’t get much sleep. We arrived at 6 a.m.. We didn’t many Euros on us (if any) so we decided to walk to downtown dublin instead of take the bus. We also assumed nothing would be open because of how early it was so we had time to kill. We walked for about an hour and a half and ended up in the downtown just intime to the the sunrise.
My overall experience of England was great. The weather wasn’t all to great in London, but once we left the big city the sun came out at least for a little while every day. I always thought Brits to be grumpy before I came here but I don’t think I met one mean person. They don’t always look cheerful when you see them on the street but I blame the consistent cloudy, wet weather. They were all extremely helpful and friendly and I can’t wait to go back.