So much to say…

Ciao everyone! Finally Friday!

I’m ust sitting here in the dark, watching a movie (Year One it’s called, sub-par at best) with the roommates, drinking a chai tea latte.  Thought it might be time to play catch-up on the ol’ blog again!  Sorry about the delay…  I know several of you have been anxiously awaiting my updates!!! (And I love you for it)

Life is whirring past me at a mile a minute, as usual, so once again I’ve got a LOT to catch you up on (which has seemed like a rather daunting task lately, since I’ve done SO much in the last couple weeks– moving to a new apartment across the city, Roman soccer game, trips to Milan, Venice, and Vicenza, art history walks through Rome, school projects, so on and so forth).

Before that, I’d like to mention that I’m doing this blog not only so my family and friends can keep up with me, but also for myself to look back on and reflect and remember how I felt living here in Rome, and all that I did.  Today, I’m missing home.  I’m not ready to leave Rome yet, I still have SO much to see and do! But I am ready to be done with school, and all of us girls are really getting tired of each other.  It’s hard to be around the same people all hours of every day… I don’t do real well with too much togetherness, and there is a LOT of togetherness here. It will be very nice to get back home and have some quiet time to myself, go for a drive, and eat real food (Probably gonna lay off the pasta and pizza for a while)! I’ve given my mom a list of meals and treats I’d like when I get home–she just loooved that! It mostly consisted of beef in all its forms–pot roast, ribs, steak–mashed potatoes–Christmas cookies, Grandma Helen’s famous pecan rolls, the works… (Aunt Sandy, you’re in charge of that cheesey hashbrown casserole I’ve been craving–you know the one!)  It’s a little scary, and probably unnatural, just how excited I am about eating.

I’m also missing my Cedar Rapids visits to my Granddad and Aunt Sandy, I’m really looking forward to sharing all my pictures and memories with them!  Last week I missed my Grandma’s 90th birthday celebration, and all the family that came to celebrate with her. That was a little disappointing because I would have liked to help celebrate and see all the family from out of town that I never get to, but I don’t think I can complain too loud, because I was in Venice at the time, and had a wonderful trip! But happy belated birthday anyway, Grandma!

Ok. Let’s get down to brass tacks.

Where to begin? Last time I left off with my Florence trip and it was a BALL! I’d really like to go back if I could scrounge up the funds, but I think I’ll leave it for my next Europe trip–give me a good reason to come back. A few weeks ago my roommates and I got an email from our housing coordinator asking us if we’d be interested in moving to a brand new apartment, 20 minutes closer to school, near to all our classmates.  We’d be reimbursed for the costs of taxis to move everything, and they’d give us anything we’d need for the apartment if it wasn’t already there. We were a little apprehensive at first, we had gotten all settled in to our place near the Colosseum, we didn’t want to pack up all our junk again to move, and we thought it would really be more of a hassle than anything.  This new apartment is in what once was a convent, then converted to a hospital, and now an apartment.  The building consists of three wings, two of which are housing for study abroad programs, and one that serves as a rest home for the elderly who would otherwise most likely be living on the streets.  This seemed a little…interesting… But we figured there’d be no harm in looking at the new place, so we went along with the housing coordinator to check it out. Once we walked into the new apartment in Trastevere (the neighborhood) there was no looking back. Brand new everything! A huge living room where we all could sit together, a huge dining table where we all could eat together, 3 bathrooms for six people instead of just one, the place was huge! We were sold. So we packed up all our stuff and made the move across town, excited and ready for a new Rome experience for the 2nd half of our journey.

Unfortunately, all that glitters is not gold. Turns out the new digs weren’t nearly as magical as they made them out to be.  No hot water, no washing machine, no oven, no microwave, no heat, no blankets, showers that flooded, doors that didn’t lock, and six unhappy campers.  So we got on the horn with the housing office and kept hounding until things got fixed, and here we are two weeks after move-in and things are finally falling into place.  We got a washing machine last week, a toaster oven on Tuesday, and some men were here earlier today putting a lip around the base of the showers so as to prevent them from flooding. Seems like a lot of work for only 35 more days of living here! But we are enjoying the place, and much closer to school (which means I get to sleep in an extra 45 minutes!) and our classmates, so it’s been nice.

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The new livingroom, complete with couches and plant. Before this I don't think I had sat on a couch in two months!

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The HUGE bathroom Becca and I share that is attatched to our bedroom

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Our dinky little kitchen. Really, this is it--all you can't see is the stove top to the left. Not very big!

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A view of the dining area, the kitchen is off to the right and the couches were behind me when I took this

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We had a few spare beds, so I snatched one up--one for sleeping, one for all my junk 🙂

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Looking out into the courtyard. The old folks enjoy sitting out here in the sunshine, and so does a big fat white cat that I see running around every once in a while!

So we’re all settled in to the new place.  There are also ten more girls from our program in the apartment above us, so we had a fun little Halloween get together the day after we moved in.  We had to get pretty creative and use what we had for lack of costumes.  I put masking tape on a red shirt and threw a hat on, cut some glasses out of cardboard and painted them black and called myself Waldo from the children’s books we all loved as kids, Where’s Waldo… it got a little silly but we had a lot of fun with it!  Some of the other costumes were pretty good, we had a soccer player, a robot, an Amazon woman, a weather girl, a pirate and a few other good ones!

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Becca working hard on her Robot costume

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Waldo! Goofy, I know.

 

That Sunday after Halloween a big group of us bought tickets and went to an AS Roma futbol game at Rome’s Olympic stadium.  Took us a little while to  figure out which buses to take to get where we wanted to be, but once we did it was SO cool! We got to see a real Italian soccer game (AS Roma vs. Bologna), “our” team won 2-1, and it was very exciting.  All-around good day.

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My friend Jami and I inside the Olympic stadium anxiously awaiting game time

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Go Roma! Just about to score a goal

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A view of Mussolini's Olympic complex outside the Olympic stadium

So I’ve gotten you caught up a tiny bit, but I’ve still got so much more to say.  I’ll update again this weekend (hopefully), but I’ve already written a small novel and it’s midnight here, so I’d better get to bed.  Again, sorry it’s taken me so long to sit down and do this! I keep saying I’ll get better at it but I never do… oh well, there’s always next time! Speaking of which, get ready to read about my North field trip to Milan and Venice–that’s what’s coming next.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend! Thanks for reading,

-J

Feelin’ Brand New

CIAO!

How goes it? The first half of my week has been utterly ridiculous with projects and quizzes, but as of about an hour ago, I’m done with class for the week! And I am feeling GOOD and refreshed and ready for life!  And also I’ve got a liiiittle tiny bit of time to update the ol’ blog. Awesome!

This week was lame. A lighting showroom design project due Wednesday, with most of the work occurring Tuesday night, an art history quiz Wednesday night, that was not studied for on account of the design project…. woops… (Time management is not my strong point). But that’s all done with now, and I’m still alive, so all is well. And even better–class is canceled both Thursday and Friday for me! Hallelujah! This is such a good thing because my roommates and I are moving to a new apartment closer to our school on Friday, which is awesome, but means I have to pack all my stuff, plus all the stuff I’ve accumulated over the last two months…. Hope it all fits in my suitcase!

Holy COW am I behind in my blogging…. I’ve still got to tell you about Florence, which was all the way back to the weekend of October 16.  Let’s just say… TOP weekend!  I went with my roommate/good friend Heather and we had the best time! Friday we got into Florence around 5pm, found our hostel, then went exploring.  Our hostel was in the perfect location–only about a two minute walk to the historical sights of Florence–the Duomo and the Baptistry–so we went and found those, but unfortunately they closed to the public at 5pm–just missed it.  A little disappointed, we continued our exploring.  We walked past so many high-end retail stores (Hermes of Paris, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and countless others) that made me feel so out of place–not to mention poor!  We kept on walking until we found Florence’s famous open-air leather market!  I was in hog-heaven.  There were so many beautiful leather purses and wallets and jackets and so many beautiful scarves and souvenirs as far as the eye could see!! I got suckered in and spent too much money, but boy was it cool.

About a month before, we had made reservations for a Tuscan bicycle tour  at the recommendation of my friend Kristin who did the same tour last summer, so that occupied the majority of our Saturday. We had so much fun! Probably one of the best days I’ve had over here, and that’s saying a lot–I’ve had a LOT of good days! (Thanks Kristin :))  We met the tour leaders at 10am in Florence where we were then driven about 40 minutes outside of Florence to a castle in the countryside.  A duke and duchess live in this castle, which also doubles as a winery.  We got to tour the castle/winery, sample some delicious wine and olive oil, and climb to the top of the castle to see some breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside! BEAUTIFUL!

Florence's Duomo--pretty impressive

Florence's Duomo, impressive!

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Heather and I with one of the tour guides

The castle we toured!

The castle we toured!

After touring the winery, we hopped on the bicycles and started pedaling… The journey was about 13 miles, a big circle through the countryside and back to the castle.  I was a little (a lot) nervous since I haven’t had my rear on a bicycle seat in probably five years, but I survived the day and got a decent workout, too! We stopped halfway for some pasta, wine, and tiramisu (refuel the carbs, if you will), then dragged ourselves and our full bellies back to our bicycles to finish up the ride.  All in all it was a fantastic day, and I’d recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat! Tuscan Bike Tours: One day tours through Chianti–look into it next time you’re in Firenze!

Beautiful views of the Chianti region of Tuscany

Beautiful views of the Chianti region of Tuscany

About a month before, we had made reservations for a Tuscan bicycle tour  at the recommendation of my friend Kristin who did the same tour last summer, so that occupied the majority of our Saturday. We had so much fun! Probably one of the best days I’ve had over here, and that’s saying a lot–I’ve had a LOT of good days! (Thanks Kristin :))  We met the tour leaders at 10am in Florence where we were then driven about 40 minutes outside of Florence to a castle in the countryside.  A duke and duchess live in this castle, which also doubles as a winery.  We got to tour the castle/winery, sample some delicious wine and olive oil, and climb to the top of the castle to see some breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside! BEAUTIFUL!

After the bike tour we headed back to Florence to get cleaned up and head out to do some more shopping and dining, and experience the night life scene in Florence.  After dinner we walked aimlessly (always my favorite)–we found an awesome carousel that I just loved and took way too many pictures of! After dragging myself away from that, we walked about ten more steps to another piazza where a man was playing his guitar and singing some of my favorite songs (Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, Simon & Garfunkle’s ‘The Sound of Silence’, some Beatles)–very cool.  After dragging myself away from THAT, things got even cooler.  Heather and I were walking along a side street when we heard music, so naturally we followed the sound until we reached a small church that was nestled in the side of a building.  Inside was the most beautiful, powerful, breath-taking, dynamic organ music I’ve ever heard.  I don’t know if being in Italy made it that much more profound for me or what it was, but I sat myself down in one of the pews and just opened my ears to the music, which in turn opened my heart, and I felt like God was sitting right there next to me with His arm around my shoulder.  I loved that.

A carousel that I fell in love with

The carousel I fell in love with

Sunday we met up with a group from school to tour the Uffizi, which houses countless priceless works of art by the likes of Bernini, Caravaggio, da Vinci, and so on, and the Acadamia, which houses Michelangelo’s David.  Both were very impressive, and I’m glad to say I’ve personally seen what I used to only read about in books, but never imagined I’d actually get to see. Then again, I guess every day is kind of like that here in Rome! 🙂

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Michelangelo's David (a friend snuck this pic!) He's 17 feet tall!

 After the Academia, Heather and I ran back to our hostel to collect our bags, then met the rest of the group back at the train station around 6pm to head back to Rome.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Rome, but sometimes it’s really hard to want to come back here after having such a great, quiet, adventurous weekend away!  I definitely loved Florence and hope to go back, as most of my weekend trips have been!

So that’s about it for catch-up… Tomorrow will bring sleeping in, homework, packing and complaining, as well as some fun Halloween events. Friday we move. Saturday will bring more homework. Sunday I believe we’re going to try and catch a futbol game (soccer!), and somewhere in there I hope to meet up with a friend from high school  who is studying abroad in London and here for the weekend! Next Wednesday will bring a field trip up north to Milan and Venice, with a possible side trip to Vicenza, then back home to Rome on Sunday!  No rest for the wicked–so I’d better get my winks in when I can (aka now, since it’s already 12:30am!)

Talk to you soon, thanks for reading 🙂

-J

Oh, and keep those posts coming, I love hearing from you–makes me feel like all this writing is worth my efforts!

Learning to take the Good with the Bad

Hi Again,

You  might be surprised at another new update so soon when I just blogged a couple days ago and it usually takes me 12 days, but I just feel like I have a lot going on and a lot to say today.  So you get to read some more. I’m not going to tell you about Florence just yet, because there’s some other stuff on my mind at the moment and I feel like my blog is a good place to put it.

This week has been a tough one, folks.  Monday I was just kind of in a funk, as I told you in my last post.  I’ve successfully contracted a head cold or something like it, I’m tired, I’ve got no real motivation to do my school work, and I’ve been feeling as though something just isn’t right. This morning in class, I found out what that something was. Our group of kids studying abroad, about 60 of us, is split into three groups for Art History class, with three separate professors and three separate meeting times.  Last Thursday, one of the professors didn’t show up to teach his class.  He didn’t tell the kids he wouldn’t be there, and he didn’t let any of the faculty know.  Today we found out that Terry had been missing since Wednesday.  After finding a note in his apartment, saying simply, ‘I’m sorry, but I can no longer be alive,’ a search began. It was determined that he had driven his car to one of his favorite spots up in the mountains, gotten out, walked an hour or so, and then ended things.  I never met the man, but I’ve only heard the best things.  He’s worked with the Iowa State Rome Program for over 13 years. All of his students loved him and always looked forward to his lectures and walking tours throughout Rome.  One of our teachers said he met Terry for the first time just last week at the theater, had drinks with him, visited for a long while, Terry talked about all the great things he had going for him, and the bright things in his future–just four short days later it was all over.  No one can understand why he would make this choice, but hopefully it brought some sort of peace for him now.

I’ve never been in this sort of situation, where someone has taken their own life and I’ve been able to see the real quakes it has made.  What happens now? What happens with his family? What happens with his class, will it be divided into the other sections? How will it be graded? What happens to his friends? I’ve already seen the effects it has had on my teachers–some of them had been close friends for 13 years, they’re heart broken.  His students are heartbroken. I’ve even shed a few tears and I never got the opportunity to meet the man.  Tonight there will be a memorial service in his honor at our studio.  I’m going in support of my friends who knew him, and because I know it’s the right thing to do. There will be wine and bread shared, it will be treated as a celebration of life, and rightly so.

As sad and unfortunate as this has been, it is also a learning experience, as all things are.  As sorry as I’ve been feeling for myself lately, look how much I have to be thankful for.  I’ve got it so good–I’ve got a Savior who’s given His life so that I might live, I have a family who loves me, I have the best friends anyone could ask for, and a life that is and will continue to be so rewarding, even on the days when I might think it’s not. Every day is a gift, so who am I not to receive it with a grateful heart?

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Have a good one, and be sure to hug the ones you love. I wish I could right now.

-J

Romans 5 says,

but we[c] also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Halfway Home

Hey Folks,

Hope you’re having a fantastic Monday, rather than a case of the Mondays… I, myself, am experiencing the latter.  It’s just one of those days today… I think I’ve caught a cold, I’ve got no motivation to work on projects, and I’m feeling like a poor, foreign, 5000-miles-from-home college student. I can’t think of anything better than being in Huxley, sitting around the table with my folks, maybe a fire crackling in the stove, or at the very least a space heater at our feet, just shootin’ the breeze about our days over some air-popped popcorn maybe–hearing about what kind of numb-skulls Dad got to deal with today, what research topics Mom had to look up for lazy college kids, what funny thing happened in class for me– that kind of night sounds pretty good today, and it’s hitting me hard that it’ll still be another two months (from today, to be exact) before I get to have that kind of day again.  I know you’re all grumbling to yourselves, thinking, but you’re in ITALY for crying out loud! Stop feeling sorry for yourself and go live it! and I know you’re right, but I think it’s ok to miss home sometimes. So I will admit that I do, and not every day is sunshine and roses!  Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’ll give you what you’ve all been waiting for (some of you haven’t been very patient, either (eht-ehm sister)!)

I think last we left off with Capri and Mt. Vesuvius two weeks ago. Now let me tell you about the most beautiful place I have ever seen or been to in my whole entire 21 years.  Last weekend, October 9-11, I went to a place called Cinque Terre, which is composed of five villages along the Italian Riviera on the coast of the Mediterranean.  Cinque Terre is a protected national park.  Over the years, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible “modern” development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars aren’t able to reach it from the outside. Tourists like us are drawn in by the walking paths that connect the five villages and the opportunity to see the beauty of the villages and coastline in a totally different way.

The five towns that make up Cinque Terre are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.  Heather, Alexa, Jami, and I got into Riomaggiore on Friday night after a four hour train ride, found our hostel (which was nicer than our Rome apartment by far), then set out to explore a little bit.  We had some dinner (I made the unwise decision to be brave and order the penne with scampi–the scampi still had its eyes and was staring at me through the whole meal. Never again.), then went to a gelato bar where we met some very interesting Australians and Canadians.  The Canadians were in town for their sister’s wedding (she was marrying a local Italian) and the Australians were there on what seemed to be an eight month holiday, living out of a van they bought for 600 euro. They were definitely a couple of characters, and had a lot to say about kangaroos!

Saturday morning we got up around 8 and got ready for our day, put on shorts and tennis shoes, and set off to buy a trail pass. Once we had that secured, we set off on our 9 kilometer trek through the five villages.

Cinque Terre, we started at Riomaggiore and worked our way to Monterosso

Cinque Terre, we started at Riomaggiore and worked our way to Monterosso

From Riomaggiore to Manarola was a pretty little hike referred to as the Via Dell’Amore (roughly, “Lovers Walk”).  It wasn’t all too strenuous, and it really set the tone nicely for what would be an amazing day.  The path is pretty much all paved from Riomaggiore to Manarola, cut into the cliff, and only took about 20 minutes. Instantly the views of the coast were beautiful, and during one stretch of the hike is a little tunnel where visiters have shown their love through the form of graffiti–there were a lot of cool things to see here, hallmarks left by past tourists.

Lover's Walk, couples have put locks all along here to show their love. Pretty cool.

Lover's Walk, couples have put locks all along here to show their love. Pretty cool.

Manarola in the background, the second of the five towns (ignore the goofy sunglasses)

Manarola in the background, the second of the five towns (ignore the goofy sunglasses)

The hike from Manarola to Corniglia was probably the easiest, and took about 45 minutes.  The hike was pretty low and flat and uneventful, until we realized that we had to climb 382 steps to get up to Corniglia! Not exaggerating… It took maybe 5 minutes to climb the stairs, and once we got to the top of the steps (get this) the street name was Via Lardarina. Lardarina! Exactly what I felt like after 382 steps! I had a good chuckle over that, as I wheezed my way back to a normal breathing pattern.

all 382 steps up to Corniglia.... woof!

all 382 steps up to Corniglia.... woof!

After Corniglia came the hike to Vernazza, and when I say hike, this time I mean it. It took about an hour and a half to get from Corniglia to Vernazza, and the trail got pretty rough and narrow in places.  There was lots of uphill climbing but some of the best views, paths through groves of olive trees and vineyards. Vernazza was our favorite of the five villages, with several places to eat and shop along the main road. We poked around here for about an hour and a half, had some lunch, then carried out the remainder of our day’s mission.

Took a breather from hiking to snap a picture with the coast

Took a breather from hiking to snap a picture with the coast. My eyes matched the Mediterranean that day

Heather, Jami, me, Alexa, stopped for a picture with Vernazza in the background

Heather, Jami, me, Alexa, stopped for a picture with Vernazza in the background

Vernazza to Monterosso was a pretty intense hike. This stretch was another hour and a half, and by far the steepest, most narrow trail–a little scary at times. I’ll admit, I did some whining on this stretch, like when I saw that there were a million steps up, and not like normal people steps, like Goliath sized steps. I thought it might be better if I sat at the bottom of the steps and waited for God to send a helicopter to come save me from having to do any physical activity. Life-flight never came, so up the stairs I begrudgingly went.  It was all worth it, though, because the end of the hike offered beautiful views of the sandy beaches of Monterosso, and a feeling of accomplishment. All in all the 9 km (5.6 miles) took us about 5 1/2 hours to complete, and made for a wonderful day.

First glimpse of Monterosso, not disappointing in the least!

First glimpse of Monterosso, not disappointing in the least!

After exploring Monterosso for a while, we caught the train that connects the towns back to Vernazza to do a little more shopping, then back to Riomaggiore to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean.  After the sun went down we went back to our hostel and got cleaned up, then out to grab some dinner.  We were pretty exhausted after our day, so we turned in relatively early for the evening.

Content.

Content.

The next morning we packed up, checked out of our hostel, and jumped on a train to Pisa, since it was on our way back to Rome.  Had to check out what the Leaning Tower was all about, you know!

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The week following Cinque Terre went pretty fast, Heather and I went to Florence for the weekend this last weekend and had an equally wonderful time, which I’ll tell you about next time…. but so many great weekends in a row has led to an insufficient amount of sleep (and dang-near insufficient funds in the ol’ bank account–probably should slow down on the spending!) and therefore a weakend immune system.  This girl is pooped, with a ton of homework to get done in the next few hours.  But I couldn’t leave you nice folks hanging any longer, so I thought I’d sacrifice my homework so you’d have something to keep you entertained for a short while.

Thanks for reading!

-J

p.s.- Papabear, did you notice I hiked in my DARE shirt? Just keeping the trails drug-free! Ha!

… and then I climbed a volcano.

(I started writing this yesterday, but it got so long that I had to finish it today… so pretend you’re reading it yesterday, please!)

Hello again, and happy Tuesday.  I hope the day is a fine one for you. I know one person in particular who is having kind of an exciting day–my granddad! Orrin Stephen is 99 years old today, October 6. What a milestone! I so wish I could be there to help him celebrate this momentous occasion with some KFC and a dip or two of DQ soft-serve, but we can be certain that in about 2 months and 2 weeks we can celebrate together! I miss you, Granddad!

So where did we leave off last time? Ostia-Antica. That was Wednesday.  Thursday and Friday was a school-planned field trip, and Saturday and Sunday we were free to do our own traveling.  Overall, the weekend was pretty great! For school we got on a train bright and early, boarded at Termini station in Rome at 7:15 and got to Naples around 11am or so. Once we got to Naples we grabbed some lunch, then spent a few hours exploring and sketching some of the treasures in the National Archeological Museum.  After the museum, our instructors took us on a walk through the streets of Naples. They didn’t really watch the time, though, and by the time we caught the bus to the train station (most foul bus ride of my life–we won’t get into that) we ended up missing our train to Sorrento, where we would be spending the evening.  No worries, though, trains come about once every 15-30 minutes.  Let’s just say one visit to Naples is enough for me, and I won’t soon (ever) be returning.

National Archeological Museum housing the Farnese collection and ruins from Pompeii and Herculaneum, among other treasures.

National Archeological Museum housing the Farnese collection and ruins from Pompeii and Herculaneum, among other treasures.

Atlas and the Globe

Atlas and the Globe

Our lovely walk. Ew.

Our lovely walk. Ew.

So after Naples it was off to Sorrento! Thanks heavens, Sorrento was polar opposite of Naples.  It’s a coastal town, very touristy, and beautiful.  We spent the night in a new, quaint little hotel, and it was probably the nicest accommodations I’ve had since the Marriott in Athens, if not home.  Once we got to Sorrento we had about an hour to unwind and settle in, then it was time for the finest 5 course meal I’ve had since I’ve been here, if not ever.  We went as a group (all the Interior students, all the Graphic students, and all the instructors) to this beautiful restaurant downtown Sorrento.  It was basically a lemon grove in the middle of town–very cool.  We had a lot of fun, got served a TON of food, and ate it all like it might get taken from us.  After dinner got over (around 10pm) our teacher, Pia, thought it would be a great idea for everyone to go to the local Disco!  No one passed it up and it was a pretty good time.  I learned that not only is my instructor skilled in the field of interior design, she can also do a mean Mashed Potato. That lady can really cut a rug! She was going crazy–it was hilarious! Wish I would have recorded it.

One of the first things I saw in Sorrento--some ruins that looked pretty magical

One of the first things I saw in Sorrento--some ruins that looked pretty magical

Ristorante Parrucchiano Favorita--very good! (should be for 28 euro a plate)

Ristorante Parrucchiano Favorita--very good! (should be for 28 euro a plate)

Friday morning we got to bum around a little bit again.  It was raining, so the instructors wanted to wait it out a while before we headed off on our next adventure.  We had a nice little breakfast at the hotel (much better than those continental things back home), got ready, and caught a train for Herculaneum.  Herculaneum was a wealthy city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.  It is better preserved than Pompeii because it was covered in lava rather than ash from the volcano, so buildings still have roofs intact, murals and mosaics are still as beautiful as the day they were created (most from the 4th century BC) and there’s even some furniture there.  Very cool stuff.  Once we got there we spent a few hours exploring the ruins, sketching and taking pictures.

Overlooking the ancient city of Ercolano (Herculaneum), with the new city in the background, and Mt. Vesuvius in the way back!

Overlooking the ancient city of Ercolano (Herculaneum), with the new city in the background, and Mt. Vesuvius in the way back!

The doorways were Me-sized! Must have been some little people.

The doorways were Me-sized! Must have been some little people.

A reeeaaallly old mosaic. Still beautiful.

A reeeaaallly old mosaic. Still beautiful.

After Herculaneum we were free to do as we pleased, the field trip was over. So we headed back to Sorrento.  After leaving the train station we stumbled across a stand in a square that was surrounded by a flurry of people. Of course we had to go poke around, and we’re glad we did! It was a family mashing grapes and making wine and grape juice and handing out huge grapes and this wonderful mousse cake–all for free! The little boys doing the mashing were the cutest little hams I’ve seen, it was so great.  So we finished our drinks and cake, grabbed our bags and continued on our trek to find where we would be staying for the next two nights there in Sorrento. Or so we thought… Turns out our hostel was about an hour walk outside of Sorrento in a town called St. Agnello! We finally found it after a train ride and a mile of uphill walking on a deserted alley with all of our baggage.  Woof. I was a sweaty mess by the time we found the hostel, which was painted lime green and orange, called a youth hostel, had bunk beds, and ants everywhere. SICK. Oh–and get this–it was called the SORRENTO Youth Hostel. SORRENTO. It wasn’t even in Sorrento!! Ridiculous.  After we finally found the hostel, we cleaned up and had the owner drive us back to Sorrento so we could have some dinner and do a little more shopping. It ended up being a fine evening.

Really gettin' into the grape mashing!

Really gettin' into the grape mashing!

Please see 4th item: "After using the toilet, please use your toothbrush to clean it and then close the lid of the water." Uh.. Excuse me!? What kind of a cheap hostel is this??

Please see 4th item: "After using the toilet, please use your toothbrush to clean it and then close the lid of the water." Uh.. Excuse me!? What kind of a cheap hostel is this??

Saturday was by far the best day ever.  The sun was shining, the roosters were crowing (literally) and we were up bright and early.  We ate some “breakfast” and had Giovanni (the hostel owner) drive us to the port where we caught a ferry to the Isle of Capri! The ferry ride was gorgeous, with great views of the Sorrento shore/cliff line, but nothing compared to what we saw once we started closing in on Capri.  Everything about it was gorgeous. I’ve never seen, or even imagined, bluer water in my life.  The cliffs were gorgeous, the buildings were gorgeous, even the boats were great.  I loved everything about the day, which included a boat tour around the entire island, a 12 minute ride in a chair lift to one of the highest points, shopping, and dipping our tired feet in the Mediterranean.  Couldn’t have been better.

A view of Sorrento as we were pulling away

A view of Sorrento as we were pulling away

Welcome to Capri!

Welcome to Capri!

Capri is known for its lemons

Capri is known for its lemons

Look at that water!

Look at that water!

On the chair lift--check out that incline

On the chair lift--check out that incline

Beautiful birds eye view

Beautiful birds eye view

After spending the day in Capri we caught the ferry back to Sorrento where we had some dinner, did some more shopping, and went back to the hostel.  We were pretty tuckered out from exploring and the sun, but it was a great day! Sunday morning we got up, ate breakfast, checked out of the hostel, told Giovanni goodbye, and set out for our next adventure.  And what an adventure it was! We decided to jump on a train and get ourselves to Mt. Vesuvius, where we would go on to climb the darn thing! We took the train to Pompeii, from which we hopped on a bus that took us partway up the volcano, and from there we hiked up to the top! All the way to the crater. The climb wasn’t too strenuous, and the views were exquisite.  We even saw some steam rising from the crater! But we were assured that the lava was down 8km from the top (about 5 miles), so we were pretty safe.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to fit Pompeii into the day before we headed back to Rome, but all in all it was another awesome day and I’m so excited to be able to tell people that I’ve climbed Mt. Vesuvius!

Partway up the bus stopped so we could hear this man tell his story. He survived the 1944 eruption when he was 16.

Partway up the bus stopped so we could hear this man tell his story. He survived the 1944 eruption when he was 16.

Made it to the top! And get a load of that view

Made it to the top! And get a load of that view

Looking down into the crater

Looking down into the crater

After Vesuvius we took the bus back to Pompeii, where we caught a train to Naples, and then a train back to Rome.  The weekend was a huge success and I look forward to the next trip!! Coming up next weekend: Cinque Terre, so stay tuned 🙂

Thanks for reading this small novel–I told you I had tons to catch you up on!! Have a good one.

-J

So much to see see in Assisi (and Ostia Antica!)

Buonasera, Pals!

So I have soooooo much to catch you up on in the recent events of my life. I apologize for being a blog-stranger. A blanger if you will.

Let’s see… where to begin.

ASSISI

Last weekend, September 26th, the design program chartered a bus to take a group of us (whoever wanted to go) to Assisi for the day.  Of course, no one turned it down.  I didn’t have any expectations, as I had no idea what Assisi was. The bus left our studio around 8am, and I was excited from the git-go–the bus was a double decker!  My roommates and I grabbed the front seats of the top deck and had the best seats in the house the whole 2 hours of the ride.  Once we got there, I was astounded.  The views were breathtaking, the village was gorgeous, and the cathedrals were wonderful. We were free to do our own exploring through the town, so we roamed around, grabbed some lunch, did a little shopping, and toured the St. Francis and Saint Claire cathedrals.  Then around 5pm we packed back up in the double-decker and headed back toward Rome.  The day was definitely a great one!

Assisi as seen from the city below

Assisi as seen from the city below

A new friend I made in Assisi, he wanted a picture :)

A new friend I made in Assisi, he wanted a picture 🙂

St. Francis of Assisi's Cathedral

St. Francis of Assisi's Cathedral

Interior of St. Francis Cathedral

Interior of St. Francis Cathedral

Enjoying Assisi and the finest gelato I've had yet! Caffe and Pistacio... YUM.

Enjoying Assisi and the finest gelato I've had yet! Caffe and Pistacio... YUM.

Assisi

Assisi

The scarves Italy is known for--so tempting, I want them all.

The scarves Italy is known for--so tempting, I want them all.

Sunday, the 27th, my roommates and I went to one of Rome’s biggest markets south of Trastevere (or maybe it’s west… I can’t seem to get my bearings here). The place was HUGE and had more than I could have imagined. I bought two “Cashmere” sweaters for 18 euro (what do you think the liklihood of them being real cashmere is? Yeah, I say slim to none, too.)

A tiny glimpse of the street markets in Rome

A tiny glimpse of the street markets in Rome

Monday and Tuesday were pretty uneventful… Just chaotic with school (the norm), working on floor plans using triangulation, and retail spaces, and learning about watercolors, and how to make books… Kid stuff, I’m sure! Wednesday was pretty great, we took a few hours out of class and hopped on a train to a place called Ostia Antica. It’s probably about a half hour from Rome, and it’s a huge area purely of ruins.  These ruins were excavated beginning in the late 1800s, but most of the excavating was carried out by Moussolini from 1938 to 1942.  The ruins date back to the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C.–it’s so surreal to walk into  a room or look out over ruins and realize you’re standing in the footsteps of someone who has been long gone for well over 2000 years. What did they look like? What did they do for a living? Were they funny? Did they have a family? or pets? or a boat? And what about 2000 years from now? Will people be excavating the ruins of Wal-Marts and KFC’s in Iowa, and learning about way way back in 2009 AD when the Great Obama ruled over all the land formerly known as the United States?  Anyway, Ostia was real cool, and we had a great afternoon running around the ruins! It would be a great place for a game of Hide-and-Seek.

Tile mosaics on the floors of what used to be thermal baths

Tile mosaics on the floors of what used to be thermal baths

A bar/serving area in a storefront where hot food could be purchased (McDonalds, Ancient-style)

A bar/serving area in a storefront where hot food could be purchased (McDonalds, Ancient-style)

Community Restrooms? The Latrines! A room full of crappers. Apparently the ancient folks weren't shy.

Community Restrooms? The Latrines! A room full of crappers. Apparently the ancient folks weren't shy.

These frescoes have some staying power... 2300 years? I'm impressed.

These frescoes have some staying power... 2300 years? I'm impressed.

Looking out over the ruins.

Looking out over the ruins.

So that’s a little glimpse of my first half of last week… TONS more to come, since I was on a field trip Thursday through Sunday, but it’s already 1am and I have class tomorrow! This will have to tide you folks over for now…

Talk to you soon, thanks for reading!

-J

Wanted: One winning lotto ticket and a Tuscan villa.

Ciao!

Been a busy week here in Rome. School is definitely picking up and therefore severely cutting into my vacation! It’s been a bit of a stressful one, but it’s Friday, so I won’t complain!

I had an amazing weekend last weekend. I told you about how we couldn’t get to Florence, but it turned out to be a great thing because Heather, Becca and I got to go to Tuscany instead! Siena, more specifically.  Getting out of the city and out to the countryside was wonderful.  The people of Siena all spoke English really well and were very nice.  Getting to Siena was a bit of an adventure… Our train left Termini at 6:56am, and it takes about 20 minutes to walk from our apartment to the train station, so we left our apartment around 6:20am and booked it to the station. Once we got there we asked an employee to direct us to our platform, which was aaaaaalll the way at the end, honestly about a 5 minute walk.  By this time it’s 6:50 and we don’t even see anything that resembles the Destination we’re supposed to be looking for, and there’s no train on this platform. So we ask some older Italian men where we’re supposed to be, we show them the ticket and they say, “Ah si si.. due.” Due? 2? Platform 2? Honestly? We’re on platform 25! So we now have 5 minutes to run back to where we started which took 5 minutes to get to in the first place, plus another 5 minutes to get to where we need to be. So we’re running through Termini station like idiots, I’m not a runner, it’s not even 7am yet, I’m wearing a plastic rain coat, sweating like a wildebeest, just a hot mess. Finally we find this elusive train, but we haven’t validated our ticket yet so the conductor won’t let us on. So we run around a few more minutes, find the little validater box, and board the train. WHEW, what an ordeal! So we’re finally on our merry way. But the fun isn’t over yet. We have to switch trains at a station called Chiusi, but we don’t know where it is or how long it’ll take to get there, or if there will be an announcement as to when we need to get off the train. We ask the man sitting next to us and he says, “don’t switch trains, this goes all the way to Siena.”  He was wrong. We found Chiusi, got off the train, and thankfully found our way to our second train. Our ticket says to get off at a station called Sienalunga, so we’re riding along and we’re at a stop, just waiting to continue, and as the train starts moving away from that particular station I look out the window only to realize that we’re pulling away from Sienalunga! Umm…. not good. So we stop a man who works on the train and is walking the aisles, a little bit freaked out that we’ve just missed our stop! But he assures us that we haven’t, and every stop after that he says to us, “Not yet!” Thank heavens!  The train ride was about 4 hours of nonstop anxiety, but we made it to Siena without ever being on the wrong train!

We got to Siena around 11am, walked the 20 minutes from the train station into the city center to find our hostel and check in and drop off our stuff.  The hostel was so cute! We had a private room with 3 beds, there was also a kitchen and a dining room that we could use. The owner was a man named Michael who was very nice and helpful in telling us where to go and what to see, he spoke great English and was so hospitable. My first hostel experience was a great one! So we dropped off our bags and headed back into the main square in the city, Piazza del Campo. We grabbed a bite to eat, then headed into the public castle (Palazzo Pubblico), where we climbed 330 steps (ouch) up to the top of a tower (Torre del Mangia) that gave us the most gorgeous panoramic views of Siena and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.  So great!  After we made our descent, we headed over to the Duomo di Siena, a cathedral originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263, that houses works by the likes of Donatello, Bernini, Michelangelo.  It’s completely marble, mostly a black/dark green and white striped, the floors are covered in images depicting scenes from the Old Testament, there’s amazing sculptures and frescoes and architecture throughout… Definitely a site worth seeing. 

After exploring the Duomo, we decided it was time to grab a snack and do some shopping!  Siena has tons of great shops and that’s how we spent the remainder of our time there.  We probably could have made Siena just a day trip, but it was nice to get away for the weekend and explore somewhere other than Rome. A nice change of pace.  Since Tuscany is known for it’s amazing wines, Chianti wine in particular, we decided to sample some with our pizza dinner and head to bed early Saturday night so we could get up early on Sunday, check out of the hostel, and continue our exploring until our train left at 6pm.  It was definitely a great weekend. If you’ve ever thought of visiting Tuscany, DO IT! I’d love to go back!

This Saturday, the 26th, we’re heading to Assisi for a day trip with a group from school. I hear it’s gorgeous and a must-see, so I’m pretty excited to get there and take some pictures.  Next week should be pretty great, too. Today is my last day of Italian class, and we’re heading on a field trip Wednesday afternoon for a few hours to a town called Ostia that’s on the coast, then Thursday we’re heading to Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, and Capri! I’m SO excited to see the blue grotto in Capri. I’ve looked at some pictures on the Internet and it looks like absolute paradise! I’ve always wanted to see Pompeii, too, so I know that it will be awesome. Should be a great four days.  It’s so weird to realize that I’m currently living the best days of my life to date! In the here and now! So much to look forward to. I kinda love it. 🙂

Anyhoo. I’ll post some pictures of Siena for you to enjoy.

Talk to you soon!

-J

Me, Heather, Becca. Just getting into Siena to the Campo!

Me, Heather, Becca. Just getting into Siena to the Campo!

Palazzo Pubblico with Torre di Mangia... You want ME to climb THAT!? I don't know...

Palazzo Pubblico with Torre di Mangia... You want ME to climb THAT!? I don't know...

Totally worth the climb. Check out that view!

Totally worth the climb. Check out that view!

Just hangin' out with Duomo (Black/White tower in the background)

Just hangin' out with Duomo (Black/White tower in the background)

First up-close and personal glimpse of the Duomo

First up-close and personal glimpse of the Duomo

Happy.

Happy.

The entrance to the Duomo--Spectacular

The entrance to the Duomo--Spectacular

For Ma--beautiful stained glass depicting the Last Supper. Wanna try making this when I get home, Mom? ;)

For Ma--beautiful stained glass depicting the Last Supper. Wanna try making this when I get home, Mom? 😉

DSC02120

Michelangelo's St. Peter. Using elements from his previous works--the face of Moses and the hand of David

Michelangelo's St. Peter. Using elements from his previous works--the face of Moses and the hand of David

Donatello's St. John the Baptist

Donatello's St. John the Baptist

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Interior of the Duomo

Interior of the Duomo

Loved the green shutters

Loved the green shutters

Hanging out in Campo a couple hours before we caught a train back to Rome

Hanging out in Campo a couple hours before we caught a train back to Rome