Week 14: The Last Post

As I sit here typing my last post, I am filled with immense sadness, nostalgia, and happiness for the semester I just completed. I’m proud of myself for working full-time all summer to save money, jumping into the unknown, and learning a new language at 21 (a feat that is much more challenging than when you do it in high school). I’ll miss the people, the food, and Villa Borghese more than I can explain.

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UCEAP Rome, in my biased opinion, is the best program EAP has to offer. In no other modern, metropolitan city can you see the same level of success Rome has with the modern interacting with the ancient. Next to the Ancient Colosseum from around 80AD, there are modern Metro stations, cars, and vespas whizzing by.

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Rome will always have my heart. At restaurants in the U.S. when I see they have caprese salad or bruschetta on the menu, I will feel sad knowing that they cannot compare with the small non-chain cafe’s I have had the immense pleasure of eating at.

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My professors were some of the most amazing teachers I had ever had. Both were majorly accomplished in their respective fields of Middle Ages Studies and Art History and were humble, intelligent, and made difficult course material digestible for the class. I’m proud of how much I know about the history of Christianity & global art crimes and how cultures protect their heritage. These classes contextualised dozens of monuments, buildings, and fountains that the untrained eye would just gloss over.

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I wish I could explain more about how you will ever-so-subtly change as a person after studying abroad. You will gain patience from waiting for the busses or slowly cooked, delicious food. You will gain intelligence from your classes that incorporate Saturday sight visits into the curriculum, even though all you want your weekends for will be travelling (WARNING: DO NOT TRAVEL EVERY WEEKEND because you will miss out on many things Rome has to offer). You will gain a global perspective on art, education, and politics. And lastly, you might gain a little bit of weight from all that pasta. Sorry.

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Here are some general tips:

  • Do not buy a bus pass…but don’t quote me on that. Rome doesn’t check very often to see if you bought a pass and you will waste over 30 euros a month.
  • Try limiting eating at restaurants to just once a day if you need to save money; grocery stores are super affordable and allow you to practice cooking.
  • Check your course syllabus at write papers at least a week before they’re due.
  • You are allowed one class to be pass/no pass, so chose that one carefully, and potentially one that cannot be used for GE’s or your major.
  • Gelato is about 2 euros for a small cup, so be careful. It adds up on your waist and your wallet.
  • Plan your weekend trips with Ryanair or easyJet at least a week ahead of time so prices don’t jump up.

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When people ask me how study abroad was, I don’t want to ramble or bore them with my specific experiences. The only way I can answer how study abroad was is simple: it was exactly what I expected. I made a bunch of friends that I have the fortune of going to school with at UCSB, learned a new language, ate some of the best food on earth, lived in a colorful neighbourhood with cobblestone lining the streets, and lived very much in the present. The last thing I’ll say about Rome is this: you don’t need to eat all the bread or see all the monuments to enjoy yourself. As long as you appreciate where you are, who you are with, and all that you’re learning, you will have the best time.

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Week 13: Athens and Santorini

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Welcome to Greece! This past weekend I flew over to what some people have called “The Original Rome,” due to Rome’s history of occupation and adopting Greek culture.

First thing we did was walk up to the Acropolis to get an unparalleled view of Athens and examined some of the oldest buildings in the world. In UCEAP Rome I’m enrolled in a class called “Art Crime and Heritage Protection,” where we learned about the Acropolis and some controversy over the structure.

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Long story short: Greece was at one point occupied by the Ottoman Empire. Under Ottoman rule, Lord Elgin reigned and decided he wanted to take some of the Parthenon back to Scotland with him. He brazenly decided to take the famous Parthenon frieze with him, now dubbed the “Parthenon Marbles,” or if you are British, the “Elgin Marbles.” But as karma would have it, he soon went broke back in Scotland and had to sell the marbles to the British government. And that’s why these marbles are in the British Museum and not in their original spot.

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And that brings us to this museum. The glorious New Acropolis Museum was built to assuage any worries that the British Museum had about giving the marbles back to a city that couldn’t properly house or care for them. Unfortunately, the British Museum has yet to return the marbles to Athens. Juicy stuff, right?

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On the walk down from the Parthenon, we got a glimpse at a theater from 161AD called the “Odeon of Herodes Atticus.” The most incredible thing about this theater is that it’s still in use today! And thanks to the renovations in 1950, you can enjoy concerts the way Athenians did in 161AD. That is absolutely remarkable to me.

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Because I wasn’t allowed to take photos in most of the New Acropolis Museum, I offer you this Lego structure they had in the museum. The geniuses behind this Lego diorama tried to imitate the Parthenon and built this as if the Parthenon buildings were fully intact.

Even though Greece is in economic turmoil, the Athenians don’t let you see that; they are focused on eating, drinking, their history, and enjoying the pleasures of life that their city has to offer. Some middle aged people that mainly enter Athens from their plushy cruise ships have called Athens “a dump.” To them, I say you did not focus on the right things. Did you wander the streets? Get lost around the winding alleyways? Stumble by musicians soothingly strumming their guitars? Because, if you did that, I don’t think you would connect the word “dump” with Athens.

Athens at night is equally spectacular as Athens during the day. After winter rain spells, the street reflects the neon signs, colourful graffiti, and appropriately hung holiday lights, creating a magical looking street scene that I never wanted to walk away from. And after two days in one of my favorite cities I had the fortune of visiting, I hopped on a quick plane ride over to the island of Santorini.

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Santorini in winter is a bit unorthodox, but after hearing it described as an “artist’s paradise,” I didn’t mind not being able to swim in the clear blue waters down below me.

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We rented a car and drove all over the island, visiting Akrotiri, the Pompeii of Santorini, saw breathtaking views of the volcanoes, encountered hundreds of cats climbing blue and white buildings, and found my favorite  place in the entire world: Atlantis Books.

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This little bookstore was paradise in paradise that I browsed for over an hour. Opened about ten years ago,  the shop was filled with books, posters, special editions of books that they made from their own printing press (!!!!!), and dogs and cats wandering throughout the store. I jokingly told the girl working at the front desk that I wish I could live here, to which she showed me that she did.

She told me that Atlantis Books often takes volunteers to run the store, do inventory, and sleep with the books on a bed above the store. After buying a classic Greek novel (Zorba The Greek) and a couple souvenirs for my family, I continued walking around the town of Oia.

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Santorini in general, and Oia specifically, felt like a ghost town to me. Being practically alone on the island, I could wander the streets without crowds, enjoy the panoramic views without people obstructing them with their selfie sticks, and actually hear silence- a paradox I immensely enjoyed. Weekend trips to big cities are fast paced, educational, and loud. This trip to Santorini was deliberately slower and much needed before finals. Plus, the entire airfare to Athens and Santorini totalled to about 100 euro, and I couldn’t pass that up._MG_3107

 

Week 12: Weekend in Rome

This past week was characterized by nights in Rome for me. Cooking dinners with my apartment, frequenting bars in Roman University neighborhoods, visiting beautiful museums built in the 1800’s, and watching a film at the smallest movie theater I’ve ever been to.

IMG_1297Our apartment decided to cook a house dinner this week which I thought was adorable. Italians see cooking and conversing as an art, and boy were we artists. We made a FEAST of pasta, bruschetta, caprese salad, grilled scamorza cheese, and fruit for dessert. It felt similar to being home and eating with family which was super comforting.

The next night, we went to a bar called Lancelot, just like the knight. I was recommended this bar by one of the Italian students in our class and was not disappointed. Tucked away discreetly in the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Rome, Lancelot had cheap drinks, an endless supply of boardgames for our table to share, and all the medieval decorations one could want. The Italian student from La Sapienza said this was a bar that a lot of local students from her university frequent, so if we wanted to go to a real Roman bar, this was the place to come. It was underground in every sense of the word (to clarify, you literally have to descend stairs) and I loved that.

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The next day, I went to al Palazzo delle Esposizioni to check out Impressionist, Modern, and Russian works of art. Unfortunately, they did not allow cameras into the museum so I couldn’t take photos. However, I wrote down the paintings that I really enjoyed so I could look them up later. This was my favorite piece from the Russia on the Road exhibit:

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I loved the perspective in this piece. It seems rare that the audience is placed in a painting; more often, they are placed farther away from the action or are peering in to a life that is not theirs. What I like so much about this one is that we are actually in the car with this woman, experiencing driving around Russia with her.

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Upstairs at the gallery had a large assortment of furniture, statues, tapestries, and more paintings. After the museum, we ate more amazing Italian food, and went to see the film The Lobster at the smallest movie theater I’ve ever been in. In Villa Borghese, there are a couple movie theaters. The Cinema dei Piccoli was the quite cozy for a screening. It almost felt like I was at a private showing of the film.

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Tonight, there’s a Big Lebowski themed night at a bookstore so I’ll be headed to that. Arrivederci!

Week 11: Waltzing Around Vienna

This past weekend I took a trip by myself to Vienna (sorry mom and dad). Travelling alone was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had since being abroad. Not having anyone to help you get to the airport, find your gate, understand the language of the country you’re visiting, and the like. It was a little frustrating at times but ultimately made me a smarter traveller.

Once I arrived at my Airbnb, I put down my backpack, and walked down to Vienna’s city center to get food. I got a funky shrimp burger with mango curry sauce and french fries on the side. I tried not to eat to much because I was saving room for Vienna’s famous cake, the Sacher-torte. It’s comprised of chocolate cake with a little sliver of apricot jam in the middle. And it’s absolutely insane.

The next day, I woke up relatively early to get a start on all the museums. But first, I stumbled upon some ancient Roman ruins. Boy, were these people everywhere. It was nice having a little piece of Rome with me wherever I went around Europe.

I went to the Albertina gallery first, the home of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” It’s amazing how every piece of art here conveys such deep emotions for something that is just two-dimensional. He, as well as other artists followed Jæger’s aesthetic directive, “you shall write your own life.” I love that. Another cool thing about Edward Munch’s exhibit was that some of his quotes were painted on the walls to accompany his paintings.

Munch had one painting that stuck with me long after I left the museum. It was called “The Kiss” and it was incredibly bittersweet; it was a pair of lovers embracing each other with dramatic silhouettes framing their bodies. What’s so interesting about this to me was that the characters’ bodies looked like they were melded together, creating only one silhouette, giving the illusion that they were too attached to each other.

Munch repaints the same image over and over again, creating an unknown amount of duplicates of his paintings. This quirk made the gallery different than any other one I’ve been to. And of course, finally, I saw “The Scream.”

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After the Albertina, I went to the Leopold Museum, and the mumok. These two museums were located in MuseumsQuartier, a large courtyard with some of the best art in the world. The Leopold museum is best known for their impressive Gustav Klimpt and Egon Schiele collection.

After the museums, I biked around Vienna, ate great food (cream of pumpkin soup and so much apple strudel), and went to a Viennese movie theater. Another one of my favorite movies was filmed here, so I visited a lot of the same restaurants, Danube River spots, and record shops as they did. They were my tour guide, twenty years removed.

My final day in Vienna consisted of eating (more) apple strudel, bread, and excellent coffee. I only brought my phone and disposable cameras with me because I wanted to stay really in the moment on this trip, which is why some of my activities are missing on here. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Until next time, Vienna.

Week 9: Fall Break Part One!

Paris! Or, Parigi, as the Italians call it. Whatever your preference is, that’s where I was for the first half of my fall break. I relished eating croissants, walking through museums, and actually experiencing autumn.

First thing we did after checking into our hotel was to see all the sites; we walked to the Eiffel Tower, may or may not have got Chipotle, visited the famous bookstore Shakespeare and Company, and walked along The Seine.

I made reservations for our first night at super old restaurant called Le Precope, but after walking in and feeling horribly uncomfortable with the lavish decor, we quickly left. Le Precope was the classier, more intense version of Hard Rock cafe for philosophers and intellectuals. Their website lists Voltaire, Rousseau, Beaumarchais, Balzac, Hugo, Verlaine, Robespierre, Danton, Marat, Benjamin Franklin, and Lieutenant Bonaparte– who left his hat here as a pledge. So this place was kind of a big deal. Unfortunately, everything on the menu besides soup was well into the thirty to forty euro range, so we bailed on the restaurant and went the extreme opposite of bougie dining; instead, like adults, we went to a candy shop set up in the street and ate that for dinner.

The next morning, I checked out a couple filming locations of one for my favorite movies that was filmed in Paris. One of the locations was this amazing little cafe called Le Pure. Here, we grabbed lunch, drinks, died and went to heaven after eating this dessert. It was a poached pear, pistachio ice cream, and speculoos, and I would like to eat it every day of my life.

After the eating such an amazing meal (that I’m still nostalgic for), we went over to some gardens built on top of an urban area. That’s something I really love in cities, when space is utilized efficiently. We walked around here and all over the city, taking in the smells, sights, and monuments.

After, we made our way over to Musée de l’Orangerie. Although the Louvre has an impressive size, I prefer the smaller, more manageable museums to the former encyclopedic museums. This museum most famously houses Monet’s Water Lilies, as well as pieces by Picasso, Renoir, Matisse, Modigliani, Cézanne, and Derain.

In addition to viewing the paintings, it was really fun to people watch here. This group of women was so excited about the painting, talking loudly and gesticulating about it. On the other side, there were many older men on their cell phones in front of masterpieces. Whether they’re jaded from seeing these paintings in their youth or not, I found it pretty disrespectful. Those middle-aged men couldn’t stay off their cell phones for five minutes! And they’re worried about the youth…

These were a few of my favorite paintings at the museum. In addition to the amazing impressionist works, there was an exhibit called Who’s Afraid of Women Photographers? It detailed women’s contribution to the field of photography from its inception. What’s a bit disheartening is how eerily similar women were perceived back then compared to present day in terms of creating their own art. Much like the early days of the film industry, women were often put behind the scenes in editing labs, working long hours with dangerous chemicals and cutting tools. In the early days of  photography, women were also just put behind the scenes instead of using their own cameras. This exhibit is so important because it shows how history is repeating itself.

Our last day in Paris we ventured a bit out of the city to visit Versailles to see their gardens, palace, and the estate of Marie-Antoinette. Fun Fact: Marie Antoinette never said “let them eat cake.”

As beautiful as the estate is, I couldn’t help but keep thinking about how much destruction they caused for the people of France. It’s good to remember that even though this palace is impressive, the money to build it and upkeep it had to come from somewhere. By the way, they sell copies of Sophia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette at all the gift shops. After our amazing few days in Paris, we headed off to Dublin, Ireland to visit friends and see the beautiful country.

Week 8: Rome Film Festival

What is more Italian than watching great films? Some would argue pizza, but I wouldn’t. Living like a local here is more than just knowing which cafe’s have a higher ratio of locals than tourists; it’s about going to events you’re interested in and seeing people that have the same interests as you. Just like if you were at home, you wouldn’t meet local people from your college going to Disneyland or visiting Alcatraz Island–you’d see them around your city.

A couple friends and I took the bus up to the more north-side of Rome to attend the festival over the course of a couple days. We had tickets to see a Joel Coen and Frances McDormand talk; a talk with Wes Anderson and writer Donna Tartt where they discussed their creative process, Italian directors, and Italian films that inspire them; one of the early premiers of the movie Freeheld and Junun; and last but not least (as it was my favorite film of the three), Mistress America.

Wes Anderson and Donna Tartt’s talk was amazing to listen to. Both equally quirky people, they discussed Italian directors, films, and cinematography choices that influenced their careers. Interspersed in their talk was clips from obscure Italian films that they both picked out to show the audience and to discuss.

What I find curios about film festivals abroad is the language barrier in the Q&A’s. The Joel Coen talk lost much of the rhythm that Q&A’s naturally have because both the interviewer and the interviewees had to stop after they asked a question, or replied, so that the translator could repeat in Italian for the audience. This wasn’t to say that the talk was jolting to hear, but it was definitely a reminder that English is not the dominant language everywhere.

After the Joel Coen talk, we grabbed food at one of the many stylish places to eat the festival set up. We chose to do aperitivo, the classy way Italians grab a drink with an all you can eat buffet*

*it’s tacky to eat a lot, so really one full plate and a couple extra dessert items later.

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All in all, the festival was stylish, exhilarating, and classy. I’m so glad I went and got to hear some of my favorite directors discuss what inspires them to create.

Week 7: Two Days in Firenze

Last weekend I ventured up to Florence for a weekend trip in the capital of the Renaissance. I took Megabus, a transportation line known for affordable travel; the experience was pleasant, efficient, and comfortable. I listened to a couple podcasts and looked out at the Italian countryside until sunset. Go Megabus!

My B&B was a bit quirky, as is expected with Bed and Breakfasts, but this place took quirky to a new level. My room was themed Dante’s Inferno…and as such, had a ridiculous amount of red and paintings of Dante. Welcome to Florence/Hell?

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The next morning, I woke up super early to grab breakfast and start my day before the museums got too crowded. I got a Firenze Card which saved me valuable time waiting in line for tickets and museum entrances. This allowed me to visit all the must-see museums and churches in Florence in a short amount of time. I really recommend getting this if museums are your priority and you can spare a little bit more money. The first gallery I visited was the Uffizi Gallery, housing works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, and my favorite of the museum, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.

After that, I headed to the Galleria dell’Accademia where the statue of David is housed.

Because I had the Firenze Pass, I thought I should check out a few museums that I normally wouldn’t spend time in. I decided to go to the National Archaeological Museum because it housed many Etruscan pieces that I learned about in one of my classes in UCEAP Rome. (Note: these weren’t the Etruscan pieces but I found them beautiful.)

Next, I headed to Dante’s old home, now converted to a museum that displays relics from his life, recreations of his stories, as well as other preserved works of art.

On my climb up the 400 steps of Giotto’s Bell Tower, I stumbled upon something gross. Elena, I hate whoever loves you and wrote this. There’s a ridiculous amount of pointless graffiti like this throughout national monuments in Italy and it really needs to stop. After I cooled down about Giotto’s Bell Tower, I made my way over to the Duomo. There, I climbed 463 steep steps to the top of the church. It was raining when I climbed, making the enormous trek more bearable because of the spurts of wind coming through. As difficult as the climb was, the view of Florence was totally worth it.

Florence is especially beautiful during and after it rains. It was so cute to see all the little umbrella people from high up in the Bell Tower or walking around. It made the medieval town more colorful.

Later that afternoon, I went to The Boboli Gardens, a beautiful park situated behind the Pitti Palace created in the 16th century. It was a very welcome break from scaling the mountain of a church that is the Duomo.

It’s often said that things are more beautiful from far away than up close; I think the same is true about the Ponte Vecchio. Walking one of the original bridges of Florence, was dizzying due to the traffic from high-end jewelry shops. They cluttered up the bridge and seemed out of place to me.

I ended my two days in Florence with the best possible thing: food. I had a typical Tuscan meal complete with pizza, wine, and an assortment of cheese with honey drizzled over it. Now back to Rome!

Week 6: Monster Gardens & Caprarola

Scared yet? Well, you should be. It’s October: the time when ghouls, ghosts, and monsters come out to play while we dress like them and eat buckets of candy. I’m all for continuing this tradition, but I don’t mind deviating from the norm a bit while I’m abroad. I traded the spooky monsters for surreal monsters on a day excursion provided by UCEAP Rome.

We headed in our bus across the beautiful Italian countryside to the Monstri Park in Bomorzo, an extensive garden filled with statues intricately designed to mess with the viewer’s mind.

There’s a mermaid with a resemblance to the Starbucks logo, a cerberus (a three-headed dog from mythology), monsters battling, and many more twisted statue scenes to behold.

The question a statue of a sphinx asked at the entrance of the park is “is this art or is this madness?” Perhaps this is an allusion to the riddle of the sphinx, “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?” The park is filled with several of these fun allusions to mythology and monsters while being coy about why this was really created in the first place.

This park was dreamt up by the wealthy Orsini family that wanted a dream-like escape from their political tension with other members of the aristocracy. While having too much wealth is a bit gross to me, I am not as opposed to wealthy people that dream up surreal gardens instead of buying multiple luxury cars.

The sculpture (shown above) was a great visual representation of their familial pride. “Orso” in Italian means “bear,” and by adding the suffix “ini,” the meaning changes to “little bear.”

It’s no surprise that Salvador Dali spent some time here and enjoyed the bizarre figures resting in such an expansive park. Is the camera slanted or is the tower? (Hint: it’s the tower).

After we walked all over the park, we took a short bus ride over to the quaint town of Caprarola. There, I had one of the best meals of my life and walked around Villa Farnese, a castle owned by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, also known as Pope Paul III. Unfortunately, I ran out of film for the castle but got to enjoy waking around the magnificent grounds.

Week 5: Cooking Class in Taste-evere

 Cooking is an active process, and because of that, that I made a video to show the class in motion.

I’d like to tell you that I’m basically Mario Batali now (or any other famous chef of your liking). UCEAP Rome offered a cooking class for us in Trastevere on Wednesday and it was incredible. Our menu, or rather the dishes we would prepare is as follows:

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Focaccia with salsa verde, homemade orecchiette with eggplants and basil pesto, meatballs, grilled vegetables, and panna cotta with plums, walnuts, and honey. Here’s a taste (unfortunately not a real one) of the focaccia with salsa verde.

The main ingredient for this was olive oil, as I found out. One of the instructors came over and just doused the salsa in it, creating super rich flavor that I didn’t expect.

The class was so enjoyable because we cooked, then ate what we cooked, then prepped more food, then ate that food until the very end. It was relaxing to be able to enjoy every bit of food we prepared because it allowed time to savour each course. Check out this making of our pasta and veggie dish…

Making the dough for the pasta:

Cutting the pasta dough into little “pillows” and then morphing them inside out into what the chefs called ears:

Cutting up and adding breadcrumbs to the veggies:

The huge takeaway from the night was that the best food you can eat isn’t crafted with a million ingredients or years of schooling; it is made from scratch with simple, fresh ingredients. The chefs were having none of the prepackaged business we find on every aisle in the U.S.

Week 4: Cinque Terre and a Little Slice of Pisa

Last weekend was a great weekend. Not because we took our Italian final (not great), but because a lot of people from the program decided to celebrate with a trip up to Cinque Terre (the great part). Cinque Terre is a little gem of Italy that consists of five neighboring towns with amazing sea views and a lot to explore. There are cliffs, churches, hiking trails, beaches, and all the amazing seafood you can possibly eat.

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I thought only millionaires could afford to vacation in places like this! The trip was very affordable, mainly because I stalked the Trentitalia train ticket website and got my tickets both ways for around twenty-five euros, and my hostel for only thirty-five euros. Crazy, right? All this for that little? (I promise I do not work for Cinque Terra tourism board, but I’m just extremely happy with my trip).

My group that travelled together woke up at 5am to be at the train station at 6am, which was no easy feat. Luckily, the three hour train ride up was smooth enough to sleep on, although we still had to pay attention to when we needed to switch trains. An upside to waking up to take a train at 5am is that you get an unparalleled view of the sunrise along the Italian countryside.

After we successfully transferred twice, we were greeted with a beautiful view of the coast of Cinque Terre. I forgot how much I missed the beach! Growing up along the coast and attending school at UC Santa Barbara made me accustomed to cooler weather and spoiled with the option to swim or hang out on the sand whenever I want to. Even though I’m on the other side of the world from Southern California, being at the beach made me feel like I was experiencing a little bit of home.

Once we arrived in our town, Riomaggiore, we got to our hostel and dropped our stuff off. The location of my hostel was a bit unexpected, as it was a fifteen minute walk up a steep cliff. Check out this view though:

Once we trekked back down to the main part of the town, we got food at a little cafe with amazingly soft bread. I ordered seafood pasta and wine because I heard that Cinque Terra is known for their fresh seafood. After we enjoyed our food and people watched, we went to Riomaggiore’s little rocky beach. It was secluded and eerie looking and wasn’t the right atmosphere for us, so we took a short train ride over to Monterossa, another one of the five towns in Cinque Terre, to meet up with more people from our program.

At Monterosso, also known as heaven, we rented lounge chairs and relaxed on the beach. Once the sun came out more, a few of us went swimming in the perfect water that was overlooked by luscious, green cliffs. We stayed in Monterosso for a couple of hours before it got too cold at night, then headed back to Riomaggore to get ready for dinner.

We took a train over to Manarola, another town here, for some pesto pizza which was amazing. It was so rich that I couldn’t finish it, but eating the leftovers cold in the morning was just as good as eating them fresh out of the oven the night before.

Something cool thing about going to Cinque Terre is that everyone had a different experience there. Some people chose to be quite active and hike all of the trails there, while I opted for a more mellow stay and spent most of my time swimming at the beach and eating great food.

Returning to Rome was more eventful than leaving Rome because I accidentally missed my connecting train and saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This happened because I waited on the wrong platform, hopped on a train to Florence, quickly realized the train was going to Florence, ran out of said train, and talked to the ticket office about what just happened. I had to wait two hours to take the next train home. And what’s a girl to do in Pisa for two hours?

That’s right, I saw it in all of its crazy glory. But the most ridiculous part of it wasn’t the structural slant; it was the fact that most of the tourists posed like they were holding up the tower. And this wasn’t a shock to me (that people posed with big statues like this), but it crazy that everyone was doing it. I didn’t partake in the madness but had fun watching it play out in front of me. Notice how everyone is on the grass…

Needless to say, I missed Rome.