Barcelona was absolutely beautiful! Not only was the weather perfect, but the city itself was amazing.  It reminded me a little bit of a city you could find in California.  It was relieving to find that the streets were easy to navigate through and the public transportation was extremely helpful.  Myself, Kara and Patrick arrived Thursday evening with enough time to get a bite to eat.  We went to a sushi restaurant which was a nice change from the immense amounts pasta and bread that we’ve been eating in Italy.  Afterwards, we went to a cool underground bar where we sat for a beer and took in some of the spanish culture.  

 

Friday morning, we woke up bring and early with a lot to do.  Our plan was to hit all of the Antoni Gaudi architecture, which Barcelona is known for.  La Sagrada Familia, La Padrera and Casa Batllo were the three buildings that we saw. 

 

La Sagrada Familia was absolutely incredible.  I didn’t know what to expect but the the modernist architecture was amazing. 

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La Padrera is a group of apartments that Gaudi designed.  I found the other two more interesting than La Padrera, but I did really like the balconies that surrounded the outside of the building.

 

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Casa Batllo was one of my favorite sights that we saw.  Located on one of the main shopping streets, it stood out among the designer stores.  You can really see how nature inspired Gaudi in this building and I loved the palette of colors that he used in his designs.

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On Saturday, we went to Park Guell which is another one of Gaudi’s designs.  Half of it was a public park and the other half you have to pay to get in to.  I didn’t think the 8 euro was worth it, but the view from atop Park Guell was breathtaking – a panorama of Barcelona.

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Later in the afternoon, we spent the day wondering through the streets of La Rambla – another larger shopping district of Barcelona.  There were a lot of cool markets and art stands, as well as food carts and craft tables.  We made our way down to the harbor where we strolled along the boats as the sunset.

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Afterwards, we took the metro to the magic fountain.  Every half hour from 7-9 the fountain lights up in bright colors to the melody of different songs.  The theme on Saturday night was Disney movies! 

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Ciao! It’s obvious that I haven’t blogged in a while and before heading to Barcelona this weekend, I wanted to update everyone on what I have been doing for the past month! So, the weekend following Oktoberfest I spent my first complete weekend in Florence without plans and it was wonderful to be able to settle in and explore that city that I had already been living in for a month.  

The following weekend, I also spent in Florence, but I also spent a day in beautiful Venezia (Venice) and attended a Fiorentina soccer game.  Venice was just as I pictured it would be: Throngs of tourists filling the narrow streets of the city center; and the strikingly aquamarine canals snaking their way between the buildings, dividing Venice into 118 little islands.  Though it was a short trip, we were able to see a lot of what Venice had to offer.  One of my favorite parts was the Murano glass blowing demonstration – the glass blower made a horse out of a ball of molten glass! 

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Another highlight of the trip was taking a gondola ride through the city.  You can’t go to Venice and not ride in a Gondola.  It was very relaxing, although the boats are extremely tippy!

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That Sunday, myself, along with Kady, Kara and Lauren attended our first Fiorentina soccer game.  Fiorentina is the Florence soccer team, and if you’re a fan, you’re a die-hard.  We were fortunate enough to be able to attend one of their biggest games against Juventus.  It was really intense: Fiorentina was losing 0-2 for the entire first half and then came back to win 4-2 by the end! 

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Tuscany came next! One of my best friends from home, Leah (who was studying in Lugano, Switzerland), arrived in Florence the following Thursday.  At home we work at an Italian restaurant and the owner, as well as some of the employees, were making a trip to Italy, so we were able to tag along for a few days! On Saturday afternoon, 10 of us piled in to a 9-person van and headed in to the country side of Tuscany.  We stayed at the Getteschi Vineyard in Montegrossi, which was a very small town outside of Gaiole.  The villa was absolutely beautiful, and I finally got the dose of fall that I had been missing in Florence!

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We spent the weekend drinking wine and eating the most amazing food I have ever had.  Chicken liver pate, pumpkin dumplings, duck, mushroom risotto, and soo so much more.  It was a great weekend spent catching up with some great people! 

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So, finally, this past weekend I went to Amsterdam! On Thursday, Kady, Kara, Sean and I flew to the Eidenhoven airport in the Netherlands and then took a 2 hour bus in to the city of Amsterdam.  The traveling felt long, but it was so worth it once we arrived.  Amsterdam is an amazingly beautiful city, and makes Florence look like the slums.  Everything was so clean and every building was so beautiful.  We stayed at StayOkay Hostel on the outside of the city, though it took us an hour to find…it ended up being a really nice hostel.  Thursday night we met up with Kady’s friend who studies outside of Amsterdam who showed us around Amsterdam and took us to see the infamous Red Light District – which was a completely different world.  I knew what the Red Light District was but it took me aback to actually see women – and men – selling themselves in store windows.  Nuts.

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The next morning we took our time waking up after a late night of touring the city.  Our first stop was to Pancakes! Amsterdam which was a breakfast place that specialized in Dutch pancakes.  It was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip.  Dutch pancakes are much thinner than American pancakes but twice the diameter.  I had a goat cheese, spinach and pine nut pancake.  It was amazing.

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Pancakes! Amsterdam was conveniently close to the Van Gogh museum, which was our next destination.  The exhibition was called “Van Gogh at work” and showed his various styles of art.  It was really cool to see his originals, although we were all expecting to see Starry Night – which I recently found out is permanently in the MoMA in NYC. 

 

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The Anne Frank House was the next tourist destination on our list.  Although the we waited in a long and winding line for about 2 hours, it was really interesting to see the actual house which the Franks lived in.  Pictures that Anne has plastered on her bedroom wall were even still there.  There was no photography allowed unfortunately. 

 

The past few weekends have been a whirlwind of traveling and site seeing.  Next on my list: Barcelona, Budapest, Vienna and Paris! I don’t have many free days left!

 

Midterms and weekend trips have made it hard to find a time to sit down and blog! It’s been so long since my last post, but not to worry! I will be posting later this week on my travels to Venice, Tuscany, and Amsterdam!

This past weekend I went to OKTOBERFEST! And it was amazing.  We left late thursday night and arrived in Munich, Germany early friday morning.  I could do without the overnight bus ride, but I was so excited to be meeting my best friend Leah and for the entire weekend that it didn’t even phase me at the time.  I stayed at a camp ground through Stoke Travel, which really is a different world.  Geared heavily towards traveling college students, Stoke offered unlimited beer and sangria, a dance floor with music playing probably 20 hours/day and tents with pool floaties as mattresses.  It was quite an experience.  But, we didn’t stay at the campsite long.  After shoving our luggage into our two-man tent Caitlynn, Leah and I headed out in to the heart of Munich for a bike tour.  It was relieving to find that the public transportation in Munich is extremely easy to maneuver!  We arrived at Marienplatz, which is Munich’s center.  Coming out of the subway to see New Town Hall was breathtaking.  We walked up to a random bike tour called “Lenny’s Bike Tour” and it was perfect timing because they were just about to head out. And ironically, the owner of the bike tour company, Lenny, was from Maine! It was obviously very exciting at the time. 

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Anyways, Munich was absolutely beautiful and I immediately fell in love with the city.  I would love to return and spend more time exploring.  The English Garden was a breath of fresh air (literally) from Florence, there was so much green and the weather was perfectly chilly, like the fall day I had been missing so much.  

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On the bike tour, we made a pitstop a beer garden in the English Garden and had our first steins of the weekend!Image

 

After the bike tour, we thought it would be smart to purchase some dirndls (women’s traditional german dress) to wear to Oktoberfest, so we could fit in with the locals.  Since most dirndls are extremely pricey, our tour guide directed us to a discount dirndl store where we found them for no less than 50 euro.  That evening, with our dirndls on and clothes we had on in our shopping bag, we went to the Hofbraü Beer Garden in Munich (not the tent but the actual one).  It was a huge hall, full of people from all over the world drinking steins and being merry.  While there, we met people from Australia, England, China, and Germany.

 

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Dinner was delicious and after each having 2-3 steins, Caitlynn, Leah and I were ready to head home.  We went to bed early Friday night because there was so much in store for Saturday.  Saturday morning we woke up at 5:30 to catch a 6:45 bus in to Munich.  The beer tents fill up quickly so in order to get a table in one of the most popular, the Hofbraü, we had to be willing to make some sacrifices, like sleep.  We arrived to the Hofbraü beer tent at 7:30 am and had to wait in a mass of people for an hour and half until it opened at 9.  The moment the guards opened the doors to the beer tent was probably one of the most terrifying moments of my life. Literally unable to go anywhere but forward, I went with the rest of the shoving crowd through the door of the tent.  And then it was madness, people sprinting everywhere trying to find an empty table, but so exciting at the same time.  We ran around in circles for a minute or two not exactly sure where the perfect table was and then settled on the closest one, nervous that we wouldn’t find one at all.  We ended up a standing table with a group of 4 Russian men who were so much fun.  They bought us this weird white sausage – it looked really scary but tasted surprisingly good, steins, sandwiches and pretzels.  The feeling of being on the inside of the Hofbraü beer tent is kind of indescribable and I recommend that everyone should experience it.  Everyone was singing, and standing on tables chugging their beers – it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  Each stein is about 9.50 euro and then its suggested to tip the waitresses, otherwise they won’t come back to take your second order.  

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In Germany, instead of saying cheers, you say Prost! and look the person your “prosting” with in the eye.  I think we probably “prosted” every couple of minutes.  It was a very exciting day and couldn’t have been more fun.  Since we started drinking at 9 in the morning, we were home and in bed by 6 pm.  Although, some people continue drinking late in to the night.  The next morning, we went to Dachau, which was the first concentration camp opened in Germany.  It was really interesting to see what the concentration camp actually looked like.Image

 

The trip that I took this weekend was “indimenticabile” (unforgettable)!  A group of us from Accademia Italiana took a trip through FlorenceForFun to the Amalfi Coast.  FlorenceForFun was definitely worth the price. They provided guided tours, planned day trips and transportation for the whole weekend; making it much easier for us to sit back, relax and enjoy everything that Amalfi had to offer.  The trip from Florence to Sorrento was about 7 hours on an overnight bus.  We left at 6:30 pm and arrived in Sorrento by 2 am with a break for dinner at an (very overpriced) autogrill along the highway.  Since we arrived to Sorrento at 2 in the morning, there wasn’t much to see or think about besides finding our rooms and crashing.  I shared a room with three other girls: Lauren, Kady and Kara.  The hotel had a kind of funky cat smell and was pretty cramped, but we were so excited for the upcoming days that it didn’t even phase us.

With 5 hours of sleep under our belts, we woke up early the next morning for breakfast: which only included a croissant and a roll every morning.  By 815 the whole lot of us with FlorenceForFun was out the door and headed to the beautiful island of Capri.  We took about a 45 minute ferry ride from Sorrento and arrived in Capri by 10 am.  Capri is definitely a place I will never forget.  We started the day with a private boat tour around the island, which pointed out all the major landmarks like the Blue Grotto and the Tunnel of Love.

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The water was a bright crystal clear blue and I just couldn’t wait to go for a swim! After the boat tour, we rode the funicular up in to the center of Capri where there shops and restaurants filled with tourists.  Once at the top, we hiked down the other side of the island to a small public beach where we had an amazing seafood lunch overlooking the water

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The rest of the afternoon was ours after that, and we spent it well.  Jumping off of rocks, floating in the water, and soaking up the sun on the pebbly beach.

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I was so sad to see this perfect day come to an end, but we had so much more ahead of us.  The next morning we woke up in time to get a quick bite to eat and meet the rest of the group in the lobby to leave for Positano.  Our bus ended up coming over an hour late but that didn’t bring our mood down at all.  I can easily say Positano is one of my favorite places in the entire world.  The winding streets leading down to the sparkling water were aligned with innumerable shops, markets and restaurants – all so alluring.

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I didn’t spend much time in the town because the beach was calling.  A group of about 11 of us each paid 5 euro to be water-taxied to a private beach where we spend the entire day in the water  as well as cliff jumping.  It was so worth it, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

 

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Today, I have officially been in Florence for one week! I can’t believe it’s only been a week with all of the things I’ve been doing.  This weekend, a group of us from Accademia Italiana are headed to the Amalfi Coast.  We’ll be visiting Positano, Capri and Pompeii.  There is a great program here for study abroad students called FlorenceForFun which provides discounted and guided trips all over Europe!  I will definitely be putting up a post after I return!

 

This week was our first week of classes! I am taking Italian Language – we had to take a placement exam the first day that I was so nervous about but I was very relieved to find out that I was placed in the Advanced class!  Also, Fashion Illustration – it is what it sounds like.  I’ve decided that with every blog post, the title will be a new vocabulary word that I’ve learned. So, this week we worked on a couple sketches of models standing in “contrapposto”, which is most easily described as a popped hip so that the model’s hips slant the opposite direction as her shoulders.  I am taking “Collection 1″ as well which is going to be alot of work but worth it in the end I think.  The teacher seems like he has a lot of experience in the fashion industry (including designing for Salvatore Ferragamo).  Finally, I am taking History of 20th Century Fashion where we watch a movie in class almost every day!

 

I’ve also been eating some amazing meals here – as you would expect.  There is a great pizzeria 2 minutes away from my apartment called Gusta Pizza. Definitely some of the best pizza in Florence.  Also, there is a restaurant near Ponte alla Carraia called Dante.  Not only is there free wine (& unlimited) for study abroad students, but the food is absolutely amazing.  I had some of the best lasagna I’ve ever had last night (sorry dad)!

After a very smooth (but long) trip from Boston to Zurich to Florence, I was so excited to have finally made it to Italy.  I and a few other Accademia students were picked up from the Florence airport (in a mercedes benz minivan) mid-wednesday afternoon and brought to our apartments scattered throughout Florence.  I live in the Santo Spirito neighborhood which is on the Oltrarno (the other side of the Arno River).  It’s the perfect location – outside of the hustle and bustle of tourists and very close to my school.  My apartment is much more modern than I expected, with red glass counters/cabinets in the kitchen, a spiral staircase, and sleek mirrored closets).

On Thursday and Friday we had orientation at Accademia Italiana where I was given my class schedule (Includes: Italian language, figure drawing, collection, & history of 20th century fashion) and  we had a tour of the school’s facilities, as well as the city of Florence. It was really cool to see everything, but between the jet lag and dehydration from the 90+ heat, I was definitely relieved to return back to my apartment after such a long day.  I am currently living with one other roommate, an italian girl also studying at Accademia.

With orientation starting almost immediately after arrival, I didn’t have time to run errands and really settle in to my apartment so today me and a few of the girls that live across the hall went to Mercato Centrale to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables.  We also went to the supermarket and bought food for dinners and breakfasts. For the past few days, I have spent a lot of time navigating my way through the maze of streets and have come to find that I have a pretty great sense of direction (thankfully)!

The view from the workshop terrace at Accademia Italiana!

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It only hit me that I am leaving for Florence tomorrow night as I lay in my bed at home for the last time until May.  There has been so much to get done within the last few days that I haven’t had time to stop and let it sink in that for the next 9 months I will be living almost 4,000 miles away from home.  What an adventure it will be!  With my 2  wheely suitcases stuffed to the brim (one weighing in at 49.5 lb. and the other at app. 35 – both to be checked) and a carry-on backpack full of miscellaneous, last minute items, I finally feel ready to embark on the trip of a lifetime.  As a mark of the first of leg of my journey I have decided to keep a public blog to act as sort of a daily journal as well as an outlet to keep friends and family updated!  I’ll try to post as much as possible as there will be many exciting experiences to come! Enjoy!

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