Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Truly Rewarding Experience!

Would I do study abroad again? Yes!
My experience with study abroad was phenomenal because I made some lifelong friendships. Spending time with others, seeing them everyday, and making lasting memories with them is an experience that stays with you. Spending every day with these people, you're bound to make friends. Sure, there were some stressful moments like rushing to catch the Metro in Rome, finding our way around by using a map and asking for directions during our free time, and a little unexpected rain but little things like these are impossible to avoid. They teach you something though; they teach you how to manage yourself in a foreign country; they force you to become more independent; they teach you that there is so much to explore, so much more to see and experience beyond what you already know and beyond what already is so familiar to you. They inspire you to expand your horizons. I had never been abroad before. Now that I've been abroad once, I want to go again and again as much as I can. It truly is an experience that stays with you. Beyond the photos you may take or the ticket stubs or souvenirs that you may bring back, there are the memories that will never fade and the friendships that were formed. You come back a more mentally enriched person. People are interested in picking your brain and are curious as to what you have experienced and what you have learned about the country you visited, about the culture, the food, the daily life. It truly is amazing. I took a travel journal and I started writing in it but about three days into the trip I stopped because there were simply too many things to write about and all I wanted at the end of each day was to get some sleep. With so many beautiful places to go see, there was no time to get bored!

Out to lunch with our Margherita (cheese) pizzas!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Days 9-12: The Campania region and Mt. Vesuvius and a little more of Rome with a visit to Pompeii

We visited the city of Naples today in the Campania region. Naples is known for its rich history, art, culture, and gastronomy. We visited the National Archeological Museum, housing one of Europe's most valuable archeological collections. Next we set off for Sorrento!
Sorrento, Italy is perhaps the most beautiful place we visited during our tour in my opinion. We had a beautiful view of the Bay of Naples and our hotel was just a short walk away from the water.

DAY 10
Our tour bus took us up halfway and the rest of the way up, we are on our own. You can purchase walking sticks/canes for 2 euros to help you on the climb up.
We also took a guided tour of Pompeii. The once thriving Roman city was buried in ash following the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The excavations of the city walls reveal the basilica, forum, baths, theater, and amphitheater.
My friend Audrye and I at Pompeii

DAY 11
Today we are taking a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, including a tour of the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, highlighted by Michelangelo's ceiling the Last Judgment. Our tour continued with the St. Peter's Basilica, the center of Catholicism. Highlights of the visit include Michelangelo's Pieta and Bernini's Baldacchio Over the High Altar. We concluded our trip with a visit to the Trevi Fountain, where it is believed that if you toss a coin into the fountain you are ensured a safe return to the Eternal City. We also stopped by the Piazza di Spagna, home of the famous Spanish steps.
Taking a jumping picture at the Trevi Fountain

Tossing our coins into the Trevi Fountain to ensure a safe return!
Trevi Fountain

The Spanish Steps

DAY 12

Days 6-8: When in Rome...

Before heading to Rome, we had to stop at the small towns of San Gimignano and Siena. These towns were such a great change of pace after the hustle and bustle of the city. San Gimignano was my favorite small town we visited simply because the landscape was so beautiful! The town is known for its 13 towers, built by various nobles in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The lush, green landscape of San Gimignano
Siena was once a rival to Florence and it is considered one of Italy's prettiest medieval town. We first visited the Duomo de Siena which houses the Piccolomini Library, containing the cathedral's collection of illuminated manuscripts. We then spent time in the Piazza del Campo, a lively square in the center of the city.

Piccolomini Library inside the Duomo

Piazza del Campo
So many things were done in Rome so I will be brief with just the highlights of Rome.


We took a tour around the Colosseum, considered the greatest symbol of Ancient Rome's glory and power. It was completed under Titus in 80 AD and could hold 55,000 spectators. We also explored Palatine Hill, the fabled spot where Rome's first settlers settled under the direction of Romulus.

We also visited the Pantheon, one of the best preserved Roman monuments which also houses the tombs of Italian kings Emmanuel II, Umberto I, and the painter Raphael.

The oculus of the Pantheon allows the light from the heavens to enter

We saw the Pope!
Pope Benedict XVI emerged from his window to address the public on the morning of Sunday June 10th.
at The Vatican

Day 5: Can't get enough of we're going back!

We had a great time in Lucca and Pisa but we still had so much on our itinerary to see in Florence so we went back to good ol' Firenze.

First off, we visited the Accademia Gallery where we saw Michelangelo's David in all its glory as well as Boticelli's Madonna and Child.

Then we took off for the Piazza del Duomo. The cathedral, tower, and baptistry exhibit Florentine art from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. The baptistry's bronze doors were designed by Ghiberti. We had the option to ascend the bell tower or climb the narrow steps to the top of the Dome. I chose to climb to the top of the Dome and let me just say, the view was breathtaking. The long and claustrophobic climb was worth it!
The beautiful ceiling of the Dome

The Duomo

The beautiful view from atop the Dome

Inside the Duomo

What a view!

After the Duomo, we visited the Church of Santa Croce, which features the tombs of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Dante, and Galileo (some of Florence's most influential figures).

Afterwards we hung out at the Piazza della Signoria, an open-air plaza of sculptures.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 4: Day trip to Lucca (Bike Tour) and Pisa.

DAY 4 

We enjoyed a bike tour of Lucca with its very scenic landscape and medieval walls. After our rewarding bike ride, we had a little break to enjoy the scenery. Here is a picture of my group of friends. We grew quite close during the trip and we plan on hopefully going together to another study abroad tour with the Honors College next summer!

Founded as a Roman colony in 180 BC, Lucca's city center was shut off from traffic in the
17th century, making it a pleasant place to wander and explore.

In Lucca, our first stop was at San Martino, a magnificent cathedral with its Romanesque and Gothic interior. Then we visited San Michele in Foro, a church displaying Saints Helena, Jerome, Sebastian, and Roch by Lippi, student of Boticelli.

Posing for a picture while taking a rest and enjoying the beautiful scenery in Lucca.


During the Middle Ages, Pisa's strong navy and powerful trade position brought enormous wealth to the city. After several conquests and the silting of the harbor, it fell into decline. Now Pisa is primarily visited for its interesting architecture. The Leaning Tower still stands today as it did when it was completed in 1350.
Piazza del Duomo, containing the cathedral and baptistry

Days 1-3: Departure and a little taste of Florence.

DAY 1 A view of the Alps Mountains from the plane! I look out the window and all of a sudden I see these snowcapped mountains emerge from within the clouds.

Ciao Bella!    IFIRENZE!

Our first stop after checking into our hotel was the Piazzale Michelangelo. There was an amazing panoramic view of Florence's domes and towers.

Today we visited the Uffizi Museum, which is home to one of the most famous collections of art in the world. Its European paintings from the 13th to 18th centuries include works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Rembrandt, and Rubens.

Then we went to tour the Pitti Palace with its museums and the Palatine Gallery with works by
Titian, Rubens, and Raphael.

We enjoyed some free time before the group had to meet up for dinner and right across from the Pitti Palace there was a Segway renting shop. It was 20 euros for an hour to rent a segway to explore the streets of Florence on your own so a group of friends and I decided to do it!

On Segways in front of the Pitti Palace