Sunday, February 21, 2010

Verona and Verona Carnival (Post #7)

Sorry it has been a little while. I have two more entries I will hopefully have up in the near future. Hope all of those in Rutland had a good weeks vacation!

On Friday, Feb 12th I went with some of my friends, Kelly and George from UCal-Berkeley, Juri from Australia, and Jess from Emory, to Verona for the day. We left at 730am to go to Centrale Station in Milano. Verona is an hour and a half east of Milano and the train only cost 18 euros round trip. During the train ride I realized it was going to be a great day in an ironic way. The five of us bought second class tickets. We do not know what it is like in the first class cabins but Kelly and I kept each other entertained most of the trip by joking about it what it must be like. Second class cabins were freezing; I mean we could see our breath. Those of you who know me know I wear shorts even in the coldest conditions back home whether its snowing or just flat out freezing. I was wearing jeans on this trip and I wish I had a blanket!! Kelly and I were joking how they probably turn the heat off in second class to make us buy first class tickets. Our regional train also stopped a few times on the track just to let the bullet-trains pass us (before merging onto our track) and we would joke that first class passengers are already in Verona whereas those of us stuck in second class are still stopped somewhere between Verona and Milano. We finally got there around 10am(ish).

The weather was beautiful, must have been close to 10 or 12 degrees Celsius. The sun was shining and it was not humid out at all THANK GOD because our 368 step hike up the Tower would have been absolutely miserable. I will get to the tower in a little bit. We went into the information desk at the train station in Verona and a lady was super helpful. She spoke very good english but we were trying to speak some Italian to be respectful and she thought it was a riot. We bought a 'Verona Card' for 10 euros which allowed us free entrance into 13 different buildings and historic landmarks which is impossible to get to all of them in one day. We took the bus from the train station to downtown Verona and we were hesitant where to get off. Juri started to get off and we lackadaisically followed. She made it off of the bus and the doors slammed in front of us before we could get off. The expression on Juri's face was priceless as she was somewhere in Verona now by herself as we drive away on the bus! We got off at the next stop and went back to where she got off but it was hilarious (if you didn't laugh then you had to be there to see it).

First place we went to was the Arena. It was the first real "Italian" building I have seen besides the Duomo aforementioned that is in Milano. When I think of Italy I think of Pizza, Pasta, and Colosseum-esque buildings.

This was completed in 30 AD!! At the time it could seat 30,000 spectators for large operas and amphitheatre events. It was absolutely gorgeous. The steps were twice the size of normal steps and the view from the top of the arena was breath-taking.

You could see Towers and Castles all the way across the city. It was a beautiful sight and was a fantastic start to an increasingly better day! I don't know about all of the blog readers but in middle school I didn't have typical bathrooms that you find everywhere now. Mine looked like the picture below which was pretty damn cool if you ask me.

It was Valentines Day weekend in Verona so there were hearts hanging from the street lights. We were also told that the annual Carnival is going to be taking place so we decided to grab some food and see a few attractions before we go to the center where the Carnival would pass. We ate at this very nice (not 5-star or anything) place. I was about to drop dead of hunger and the hostess I think could tell so he pretty much shoved little breadsticks into my hands. The waiter came over and spoke mostly italian and I actually knew what he was saying!! I was pretty excited about that achievement. We all bought our own pizzas, ordered a 15 euro bottle of Champagne split between the 5 of us and it was GREAT!

We walked down cobblestone streets consisting of endless shops as well as a handful of mouth-watering gelato stores with 1 in particular that caught our eye. George and I started talking to the very cute woman who worked in this Gelateria while the girls went to the ATM. We promised we would be back for gelato later!! We passed impressive statues including that of Dante Alighieri (yea I dont know who he is either). We aimlessly wandered for a bit and ran into Romeo's house. It was nothing special, I mean it is historic and all but was rather disappointing. You could not go inside and could not really take a good picture because of the narrow street preventing a good angle for a descent picture. We saw Romeo's "casa" so why not go find Giulietta's (Juliet obviously)?

We got there and the sign distinguishing that it is her house was covered in graffiti and what not which was pretty sad. We saw the statue of Juliet and the famous balcony which I have to admit I took a great picture of!

Apparently if you rub the right breast of Juliet you will have good luck in love.

Bring on the good luck!! Apparently it doesn't work miracles right away and by analyzing the picture we can see George is rubbing the wrong breast making his luck stay the same. His facial expression agrees with the theory!

We walked into Juliet's house and found out it is a lot bigger than we thought. There were probably five different levels throughout the house. We saw some pottery, fireplaces, and most importantly her bed. Honestly, I am not into this type of stuff and find it a little boring. It was cool to see the historical sight, but it just isn't what I am interested in. We walked to Torre dei Lamberti (which since I am lazy will call it TdL); an 84 meter tall tower built in 1172 and was struck by lightning. TdL was restored in 1464 and the clock was added in 1779. Our Verona card enabled free entrance or we could pay 1 euro to climb the 368 steps. We decided to be adventurous and walk up the stairs; arguably the biggest mistake I have made in Italy yet. After 100 steps I was sweating and realized how quick someone can get out of shape. As a result, I was highly regretting this decision. 268 steps later we reached the top and it was completely worth it because of the indescribable view and the result of many lost calories. This means I can have more gelato when we get down! I took many pictures of the view below and chose this one. I posted all of the other pictures I took on the trip on

We then hiked back down the Tower steps and went to the center for the Carnival Parade. It truly was awesome. As I write this a week after it happened, I have been to Venice and some other cool smaller places. Nothing has compared to this parade. I don't know if I was just in a super good mood or what but this festival was AWESOME! There were 4-wheelers, police cars, grandpas on bicycles, gorgeous girls dancing, and much more. Kids, Adults, and the Elderly were throwing confetti in people's faces and silly string being shot aimlessly and recklessly wherever your heart desires. Everyone and everything was COVERED in confetti and/or silly string. Kelly repeatedly got belted in the face by confetti by random Italians; it was priceless. It is almost a shame I came to this so early in my trip because it will be very difficult to beat the time I had in Verona.

We then walked to a castle. I am sorry if this ending gets boring; I am just so lazyyy and bored writing this at 130 am when I have class in 7 hours!! The view from the Castle (Castel San Pietro) was incredible and we got some good group shots off. From the castle you get a view of Verona surrounded by the Adige River.

We hiked back down and went to the Church/Cathedral. It is known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Matricolare. It was the most beautiful church I have ever been in. I knelt down and prayed for a little bit for everyone back home, my newly acquired friends, safety in traveling, and my dad watching above. Now when my mom asks if I went to church I can technically say Yes without sinning! I think this is the most beautiful picture I have taken so far because of the spectacular architecture, religious significance, and overwhelming beauty and size. This picture was taken from the back of the church (sorry its a little blurry but I wasnt even supposed to take a picture in the church).

We then went back to the gelato place where we ordered amazing gelato (as expected) and saw the cute employee who we had ensured our return. She did not remember us but I was not going to let that ruin our day! The carnival had gotten even bigger as floats BLASTING music passed down the streets. People were dancing in the streets, still spraying silly string and throwing confetti, and now free wine was being passed around left and right!! Could this place get any better? More confetti! More silly string! Free wine and Kelly being targeted by strangers with confetti! Unbelievable! We were all dancing in the streets singing and throwing confetti, listening to American music! haha As we left to catch our train the tower we had HIKED up was illuminated. I do not even need to explain my thoughts on this because I know you all will have the same reaction I did. I CLIMBED THAT!!! WHat a fantastic day, the sights, the sounds, and the time I had with my friends will be permanently engraved in my head. All pictures are posted on the website above for you to check out including two slideshows! Next blog will be my trip to Venice which was certainly NO VERONA.

Keep up the emails with statements and questions! None of this is possible without my mom giving me the wonderful support to study abroad as well as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute giving me the opportunity to attend Bocconi. Thanks again!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Superbowl and Such

So I watched the Super Bowl in center Milano in a place called Bar Magenta. It had two big flat screen TVs (the first flat screens I think I have seen so far). The place had close to sixty people there to watch the game. 80% of the crowd were Americans desperate to find a glimpse of American football. American football clearly isn't a priority over here; probably because a lot of the Italians are tall and skinny or just small in general and couldn't take the physicality of REAL football. It was a pretty cool atmosphere as people were cheering for both teams. I was rooting for the Colts because I am a huge Peyton Manning fan and him grasping a second Super Bowl title would have hurled him into one of the best 3 Quarterbacks of All-Time. It was a pretty boring game in my mind probably because there were NO commercials!! Every ad was ESPN America so I did not see one traditional commercial which we all know MAKES the Super Bowl even more interesting. I "YouTubed" the ads and really enjoyed the ETrade commercials as always. Anyways, Congrats to the New Orleans Saints. The city deserves it after enduring Katrina and Drew Brees is a class act who deserved a ring by his performance all year. I wanted the Colts to win but don't have anything against the Saints either. This was the first Super Bowl I have ever watched where I was not lopsidedly rooting for one team (usually because I am rooting for whoever is playing the Patriots). The game ended around 345am here in Italy so it was a very long night. I also ate a delicious sandwich there called a Campagnolo, I believe. It had salami, tomato (which I took off eww), some type of ham, and a very delicious sauce which I wish I remembered the name of.

The Italian Crash Course is over thank god. It was very informative and I can now get around for the most part with a little struggle. I can order a pizza in perfect italian! The course was definitely useful but 5 hours a day is just absolutely ridiculous. I could go on a tangent about the length but I did in my previous post.

Somewhere between 9-11 of my friends and myself booked a trip to Vienna, Austria for the week of February 25th!!! I found a cheap flight from Milan to Bratislava, Slovakia. The airport in Bratislava is 37 miles away from Vienna in which I found a shuttle that takes you from Bratislava to Vienna roundtrip for 15 euros. I booked a very nice hostel in Austria for us which even has its own Mini-golf "court" as they call it!!!! It also has Wi-Fi, Foosball Tables, and all that good stuff! Might be a little tough to travel with all of that in my hostel ha. I hope to make it to Salzburg, Austria which is about an hour away but the time just might not allow it.

None of you probably care but the highlight of my day today was the fact that the cleaning ladies finally came to room and CLEANED IT!!! They finished at 12:04 pm (6:04 am in US Eastern Time). It has been almost a month since they cleaned it and only skipped our room so my roommate and I are super excited about that. This time I did not skype stalk them as I mentioned in my previous post.

I continue to love my gelato over here. My favorite flavors as of now are Cioccolato Fondente (Dark Chocolate), Stracciatella (Pretty much our Chocolate Chip), and Fragola (Strawberry). Enough with this paragraph because I am practically drooling at the thought of these flavors.

Pete from Long Island and I went to the Milano Centrale Station (the main train station) to look at tickets. It is a beautiful building with an amazing architectural style and modernism inside. We found some cheap tickets but mainly wanted to see how it was ordering tickets and if we were smart enough to operate the self-service ticket machines. Buying train tickets online is defective because you register and then it does not let you log in. If it does work for some miraculous reason, your credit card won't work. It really is just false hope.

My roommate Vince and I might take a weekend trip to Venice this weekend for the famous Venice Carnival. We will see if it falls through!

Anybody who has any recommendations for places to visit or MUST SEES please comment or email me. Also, keep up the emails as I love to reply to those of you who are interested by my blog!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More Milan Adventures (Post #5)

I have now been in Milan for 15 days. The weather is slowly getting better as the sun appears more often even though the temperature never seems to increase. As I write this at 1:30 am on Thursday morning, I am sitting in my room eating a pathetic imposter of my newfound love; gnocci. It is not the real gnocci even though it looks astoundingly similar. Four of my friends are in my room doing Italian homework and eating a cheap version of gnocci. Gnocci is defined as the italian name for thick, soft noodles/dumplings. Between gnocci, gelato which I will get to, and nutella I feel like I have not lived the first 20+ years of my life!! These are 3 of the most amazing foods I have had and never really knew about them before arriving.

The Italian crash course continues to be very informative yet boring at the same time. Classes are 5 hours a day and I am not one to sit in a room and learn that long without getting rambunctious. I do not care if it was a 5 hour class about American Football or Nutella or Pepsi or anything, I still wouldn't be able to give my undivided attention for that lengthy period. My italian is coming along though as I can have choppy yet effective conversations with shop-keepers and even my friends. I have a friend from UIllinois who only responds to texts if they are in Italian; I can say I text him the least.

Every day and every night seems to be a new adventure and only 1 thing is a given. With the friends I have, it is that we are going out 90% of the time whether it is to a "discoteca", dinner, or simply getting lost somewhere in Milan looking for a place we have no idea where it really is. The clubs here are pretty cool mainly because it possesses a friendly and modern atmosphere. All of them so far play mostly American or techno/electronic music which everyone loves. A good fraction of the people you will find in the clubs are Exchange students since a lot of these are promoted by Bocconi University itself. We often leave the dorm, or should I say hotel, around 9pm or 10pm and will return anywhere between 2am and 4am haha.

You kind of have to be here to completely appreciate this next brief story but if you have seen the movie "The Hangover" you will understand it more. Somehow 2 of my friends, Cathy and Gail, and I are always last to get a taxi and are stranded somewhere in Milan. The comical part about it is that we always sing "And we're the three best friends that anyone could have..." because its ALWAYS the three of us, never anyone else!!
Go to if you want to completely understand it or just watch the aforementioned movie!! We always eventually get a taxi and it never costs much because we have already walked across half of Milan before we find one.

Anyways, we tried aperitivo for the first time last week and just had it again last night. For those who do not know what that is, it is a popular concept here where you order a drink for a set price and have unlimited complimentary food shortly after. There is a table or two at the front with a variety of pastas, rice, bread, potatoes, and more delicious food that I couldn't even try to explain (mostly because I don't know the name!). It is a friendly atmosphere as well with light music playing in the background. Right after, we went to try GELATO. It was FANTASTIC. It is similar to ice cream but honestly, I can't even explain it. I got 3 scoops of like a cookies and cream and chocolate, can't wait to get more. My friend bought strawberry and I am so anxious to try it! Gelato really lived up to my expectations!

As time goes by, everyone makes more and more friends which obviously leads to more and more stories. I don't think it would be possible to have as many hysterical stories as my friends and I have so far. I would love to tell them all but it would take too long and some might be either slightly inappropriate or slightly offensive so when I arrive back to the states, you can ask.

Today the cleaning ladies came to my floor as they do weekly to clean our rooms (obviously). I have been here for 15 days and they came on the first day I was here where I told them I did not want my room cleaned since I had been here a single day. They have not come until today. I wanted to see if they would actually clean my room so I skyped my friend Pete from Long Island (he is here in Milan for the semester) and I angled my laptop for a perfect visual of my bed. I made my screen black but my webcam still worked. We sat in his room for almost two hours waiting for them to clean my room. We heard the doorbell on his laptop but we didn't know what it was at first. I checked his door to see if anyone was there; nobody was there. Nobody was in the hallway so we rewound the movie we were watching to see if it was in the movie. No doorbell in the movie. We finally realized it was the doorbell we heard through skype from my room. Usually they just barge in and clean one's room; they completely skipped my room again wasting two hours of my afternoon; sweet.

I am too lazy to read my blog and see if I mentioned it but my roommate arrived a bit ago and is from San Francisco. He goes to San Diego State, poor guy huh? He is a great roommate because he is social, shares common interests, and we are respectful of each other's space and sleeping times. He is an athlete which is a huge plus and is going with me to watch the SuperBowl at a bar this Sunday night (Monday morning here in Italy)!!!! 11 of us played basketball the other day but I will explain that later because I am getting sick of writing for now. Wish I could hand this in as some type of homework since this is probably longer than any essay I have ever written.

Six of my friends and I just booked a trip in May to Greece for four days!! We are flying into Athens for a very good price and I cannot WAIT to see it. We are going to book a couple hostels and definitely take a ferry or something over to the popular island of Mykonos. The only problem with this trip is that I might miss a Thursday class which everyone who knows me knows how saddened I am by this. I feel terrible about missing a class, but there is a first for everything right? haha Later we also might book a trip to Cagliari, Sardinia for a nice vacation to the beautiful beaches. I found roundtrip flight tickets for 30 euros (45 US dollars) so we might as well for that price!!!

I will post pictures soon and hope everything remains well in the US for everybody. I miss everyone in the States and will continue to edit this as I am introduced to more entertaining experiences. For those of you who are reading this in New England, stay warm!!