Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cinque Terre and Rental Car Experience (Post #11)

Hope you are ready to read a long entry and don't mind the swearing!!

Lenny, my Australian friend (a finnochio, please do not look that up if you are under 18 years old and it is nothing big, just part of a joke we have) had the idea of renting a car and driving to Cinque Terre (the 5 towns on the western coast of Italy). He, his friend Thomas from Australia, and Nick from Long Island were up for the idea and asked me if I wanted to join. I had to think about it for a bit for a couple reasons. First of all, do I want to go to Cinque Terre in mid-March when the weather may not be that great? My response: I can go back again, and I can tell you I will be going back. My second problem was that none of them could drive standard transmission cars, (stick-shift or manual for those unsure) and Thomas can drive standard but Australians drive on the wrong side of the road. Do I really want to take a chance on driving in Italy after seeing some of these people drive? Did I know what all of the signs mean? How the hell do we get there? I don't want to be arrested because they never let Americans out of jail! Is my driver's license even valid? I thought about it for a couple days and talked to a couple people to come to this conclusion. Italians are stubborn drivers, but so am I and it cannot be that much worse than driving in New York City. Also, I am good at the fast-paced decision making in vehicles as well as going fast yet controlled. I did not know what all of the signs meant, but I knew most of them because they have similar signs that I saw in Aruba and common sense lets you figure out the rest. How the hell do we get there? Well that was a huge problem but one of the receptionists gratuitously offered his Garmin GPS to us when we were printing out our MapQuest directions. That solved that question! As long as I am smart I will not get arrested, and apparently my driver's license is valid. Plus, we put the financial contract under my friend's name so I wasn't completely accounted for!! Kelly from Cali was in the room when I made my decision and we asked if she wanted to go. She was hesitant but had heard good things about Cinque Terre and I told her to be spontaneous!! She decided to come along.

Lenny, Thomas, and I woke up at 7am to go find this stupid EuropCar place that for some reason we said we would pick the car up at 8am. We finally got there and online we were told we would get a Fiat Panda. I don't know if they ran out or what but the car given to us was the Fiat Punto. We were kind of disappointed because we really were excited about driving a PANDA; it just sounds awesome doesn't it? It was alright though because our silver punto pictured below was a good car.
It smelled brand new and looked it too. The inside was pretty awesome and a bit luxurious looking as well. Needless to say, I was ready to drive this Punto down to Cinque Terre in a foreign country!! We hop in and are on our way back to our residence! Within five minutes of driving, a tram pops up in my mirror and is bearing down on me. That was pretty nerve racking for some reason but no big deal. I find out that this standard is easier to drive than my Subaru Legacy (with a spoiler) back home because the clutch is not as sensitive in the Punto. We miss our turn and continue driving god knows where. There are barely any lines for the lanes so cars are all over the place. I get cut off, cut people off, pull a legal (I think) U-Turn, and finally make it onto the main street necessary to reach my destination. I get excited seeing speed limits of 70 and 60 but I remind myself that everyone but the USA uses the Metric System so these numbers are kilometers per hour...ugh! We arrive at Arcobaleno and take a few pictures. We walk inside with the keys feeling like hot shots as if we are on top of the world.

We have this car a day before our trip to Cinque Terre. We decide to be cool and go DRIVE to a gelato place. We don't have to walk, we don't have to take the tram; WE DRIVE! We reach Navigli where all of the gelaterias are located and try to park. Not one parking spot was found after driving for 15 minutes looking for a spot. Cars are parked bumper to bumper, on the streets, on sidewalks, all over the place. Consequently; we go for a forty-five minute drive and return to Arcobaleno gelato-less but that is ok because we have a CAR!

A couple of my friends were going to Budapest the morning we were leaving; only thing is they had to be at the airport by 5am. They offered to pay me to drive them, but I needed to get some sleep if I was the only driver for this entire trip. The five of us met in the lobby at 7am and hit the road. It was a relatively smooth ride the whole way. We played a new game Kelly introduced to us where you start with A and in a clockwise manner each person names an animal starting with the letter A, then to B, and so on through the alphabet. When you cannot think of one you are eliminated and last person in wins. The two Australians kept naming animals that they swear are in Australia that I have never heard of and when Kelly, Nick, and I would question them the other Australian assured us it was real. I still don't believe them! We ate peach rings and my Navigator Lenny did a great job directing me with the GPS while continuously finding Radio Stations in english that we could actually understand. The speed limit was usually 100 (kilometers which is about 60mph) and I stayed around 110 kilometers most of the time. Every car on the road passed me which KILLED me because I am usually the one passing all of the cars so I had to bite that bullet.

The only blip on the trip down was some guy was RIGHT behind me. No joke he was probably 6 feet behind me while we are going about 60mph. I would slow down to annoy him and he would somehow get closer than 6 feet without hitting me. He probably tailgated me like that for ten minutes. He finally decided to pass me, but all of you who know me well enough could predict what happens next. Of course I flip this huge asshole off and the driver and the girl with him flip me off. Just to my luck, he slams on the brakes and gets behind me again. We finally get out of the tunnel (by the way there was a tunnel every 100 yards as we got closer to Cinque Terre because you go through at least a couple dozen mountains tunneled through) and he pulls over to the side of the road while simultaneously flashing his lights. He wanted me to pull over!! hahaha, I kind of wanted to pull over but everyone in the car told me to keep driving. If I would have pulled over he was either going to shoot me, try to fight me in which I would have gladly dropped him, or sworn at me because he would have realized I would drop him. He realized I wasn't pulling over and sped up and caught me. I passed a couple cars and cut back over to the right lane and tried to box him in, but somehow he was always able to get behind me. In the US I totally could have lost him, but he had the "home-country (opposed to home-field) advantage" and I wasn't confident enough to try to lose him in this rental car with my friends in it. Finally he turned right 20 minutes later when I turned left. The rest of the ride was smooth and views were BEAUTIFUL as we got closer and closer. The only time I stalled the entire trip was at the toll-booth which instantly Kelly and Nick made sure to call me out on it.

We got to Levanto where our Hostel was (minutes from the closest town of Cinque Terre). The hostel was great. We could park right in front, the lady at the desk was SUPER nice and helpful, and the rooms were pretty cool. It was a private room with 6 beds (3 sets of Bunks). This was Kelly's first hostel experience and within five minutes she had a memorable experience. She went to use the bathroom and locked the door. She couldn't unlock it haha. You could see the end of her key on the opposite side of the door through the keyhole. At first, you can see her slowly and calmly trying to figure out how to unlock the door. Shortly after, you can see her lose every bit of rational thinking and her calmness turns to a worried, frantic mood. Haha, you could see the key moving as fast as possible in any way possible. We sent someone to go get the woman at the front desk but by the time she returned Kelly somehow unlocked the door. THe result of the story: a good five minutes of entertainment and the woman at the front desk confiscating the key to prevent "Kelly Being Locked in the Bathroom, Round 2".

We have this unreal view from the window and this hostel is a 5 minute walk from the gorgeous coast and first beach I have seen in Europe. Anyways, we settled in the hostel, asked for recommendations for dinner, and walked ten minutes to the train station where we went to the farthest of the five towns to the South known as Riomaggiore. We walked up the first flight of stairs to get to the path that weaves through the cliff sides from town to town. As soon as I got up to the top of the stairs and took a left to head to the first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea hundreds of feet below I was speechless. I finally understood and could see for myself why Mr. Olsen, my "sister" Em, Mr. Lopes, and everyone else I spoke to RAVED about Cinque Terre. Mr. Olsen told me a handful of times that it was his favorite place in Italy, and I couldn't imagine why. I wondered how it could possibly beat Rome or Venice among other magnificent Italian cities. Just the natural beauty, isolated villages, preservation, and low population (very few tourists at the time as well) made it sky rocket to number one on my list of places I have visited (until I recently went to Prague).
In this picture above you see the beautiful blue water of the Mediterranean and the steep, detailed rocks making up the cliffs. Also shown is the path 3/4 of the way up the picture with the fence in front of it. In the picture below you see the backside of the second town of Cinque Terre. This second town is Manarola and you can see how eye-popping the view is. I found it amazing how these towns are built into cliff sides.

The picture above was taken after walking through Manarola on our way to Corniglia. The next two pictures are also taken on the way to Corniglia. Again you can see the path edged into the cliffs with the water crashing into them at the bottom. These towns are gorgeous by the way. I can't go into depth too much because they were relatively similar. All of them specialize in wine with the plentiful vineyards all over the coast. As you can see, it was great weather for the time of year we went. Kelly said it was supposed to rain the whole time we were there so I was quite depressed. It rained that night for maybe twenty minutes at best. Just like Verona when she said it would snow, we ended up having great weather. I am starting to like when she lowers my expectations and I plan on having a miserable time because it is an excellent surprise when the weather is fantastic!!
We met a very nice couple from Long Island who was visiting their daughter in Rome the following day. They were generous enough to take our picture on this very sketchy bridge because of the wobbliness. It reminded me of the swinging bridge from back home that I used to be petrified to cross (when I was little). They were very personable and were cute just slowly walking together enjoying their beautiful hike. We actually ran into them more than once from village to village and the guy recommended a good bar to go to.

This photo above may be my favorite picture of the trip. Not only does it capture the town of Manarola tucked into the valley behind us but it captures the beautiful mountains with the vineyards, the path we walked to get to this point, and the Mediterranean Sea below.

Ha, I don't even know how to attack this picture. I used to make fun of people (usually oldER people but obviously not my young, lovely mother (emphasized the ER opposed to OLD)) who enjoyed sunsets. I never was intrigued by sunsets nor did I ever appreciate them. Well, I am officially a hypocrite because this picture is BEAUTIFUL if I do say so myself.

Here you see the view from the fourth town, Vernazza. Vernazza was probably my favorite of the towns we visited (we didn't see the fifth town, Monterosso because the trail was washed out). I liked it because it had a little bay surrounded by a small peninsula with the Church of Santa Margherita d'Antiochia RIGHT above this bay. You could walk out onto the peninsula type land (I guess you would say) and simulatenously standing on the rocks seeing exactly what you see above. The bay looks like this with a small beach and the Church overlooking these immediately to the right.

All-in-all, I loved this hike a lot and would recommend anyone who goes to Italy to ABSOLUTELY come here. The views will stick in your mind forever; I can already tell! The hike is relatively easy while getting a solid workout at the same time. It was even better because we took our time and told jokes and entertained each other throughout the trip.

We got back to the hostel, relaxed for a bit and hit the town. We went to a sit-down pizzeria and got our own pizzas for like 5 euro and they were good sized. A gelato for dessert was on all of our minds. After a half hour walk we finally found one thank god. On the way we checked out more of the town, appreciated some of the art, and the beach at night. There was really no place in Levanto to go out so we went to the hostel. Kelly said there were like ten girls downstairs somewhere so of course Nick and I go check it out. We ended up talking to two girls we met from Auburn for a couple hours. They were abroad in Rome and were very nice. They were from the South which was obvious because they used "yall" and told us WE had accents! haha Also another characteristic that distinguished their Southern heritage they had two names such as Mary Hester and Sara Beth. Anyways, we finally went to bed. Nick, Lenny, and Thomas woke up at like 7am the next morning to go fishing in the ocean in the FREEZING cold while Kelly and I gained as much sleep as possible. They came back later on and said it was a good experience but were miserable with the temperature.

We got back to the car and we found our car was sandwiched between two cars. Luckily an experienced driver such as myself with help from my friends telling me how much room I had we could get out quite quickly.

To finally wrap this blog entry up, we got in the car and drove through Genoa on the way home. I have heard great things about it, but we all hated it for the most part. The architecture like the rest of the country was phenomenal but it really was just a giant ship yard. Saw hundreds of smaller sail boats and what not in addition to a half dozen Cruise ships. Grabbed a bite to eat after my exceptional parallel parking and headed back to Milano.

I ate a sandwich Nick had made that was a day or two old. It was delicious but something about it...I can't even explain. It was like my throat instantly swelled up. Lenny asked me a question and I guess I kind of let out a gasp. Right then he knew something was wrong and was like "Big Sam (myyou alright? Hurry get this man some water!" haha. Everyone started stuggling looking for water as I kept driving and my navigator Lenny was calm and collective as could be. I finally got some water and could breathe. It was really weird, but my terrific Australian navigator saved the day. As a side note, everyone was impressed with my one-handed driving of our standard transmission Punto.

We go to return the car at the EuropCar near Central Station. Lucky for us there are four of them near it so we have NO idea which one to go to. We try the first one and the main one; it's closed. We remember we have to return the car with a full tank of gas so we pull into the nearest gas station. Our three options for FUEL are so ridiculous none of us even have a clue which one to use. Kelly calls the company and speaks to a huge asshole who apparently was like yelling at her and treated her with no respect. He finally tells her what option to choose. We then try to pay and nobody can read the machine because it's in italian and has buttons and pictures and random stuff all over the place. Some guy comes over and decides to help us. What a nice guy huh? I sure thought so. He helps us put "LITERS" (not gallons) of fuel into the gas tank (damn metric system). Right after he puts out his hand and asks for something in return for offering his help. OH MY GOD!! Instantly I look at this guy, and all I see is a huge target on his face between his eyes just screaming for my fist. WHAT AN ASSHOLE! I miss America where people do kind things without expecting something in return. I am sorry to be degrading in this section but I could care less. It is absolutely ridiculous how not one person in this entire city can do a favor for free. Every other place I have been people are nice. ITALIANS are nice. MILANESE people are like their own race from their own planet, they are ASSHOLES. HUGEEEEEEEEE ONES! I gave him a euro and told him to get lost. Me not punching this waste of space in the face was a huge victory for me. **Most of you know how I am and that if you treat me like a human being and with respect I will go MILES out of my way to be nice to you and do favors for you. These small things just send me over the edge. It is experiences like this that make me THANK GOD I am American where people can do a favor for someone without expecting something in return. Not that other countries aren't like that, but the US is the only experience I have of this.

Overall, it was a fantastic experience. I do not think I would ever rent a car here again, but I am really pleased that I had the experience and could share it with some of my good friends. Cinque Terre was beautiful and I cannot wait to go back. Everyone, thanks for the recommendation to come here. Please email me if you have any comments or questions or if you would like to see the complete album from Cinque Terre as there are some beautiful pictures., next blog will be Bologna/Florence followed by my visit to Prague. I leave on Friday to head to Rome where I have a ticket to Easter Mass at the VATICAN!!! Happy Easter everybody!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Vienna, Austria and a little Bratislava (Post #10)

From February 25-27 eight of my friends and I went to Vienna, Austria.

Just to brief you on the eight of them: Ewa and Jimmy are from UIllinois, Sam is from Purdue, Zain from Dubai, Pete from UMaryland, Liz and Anna from Babson, and Gail from Cornell.

I pretty much booked the whole trip (the flights and the hostel anyways) so I wanted to make sure I didn't let anyone down. It was also Jimmy's 21st birthday so we had to do something fun. I found a cheap flight to Bratislava, Slovakia which is about 40 miles away from Vienna. This was the first trip we would be traveling together. We were all pretty excited and got to the airport and made it relatively hassle-free through the whole way. We landed in Bratislava on Thursday night and took a Ryanair Bus to the center of Vienna. I had written down directions how to get to our hostel so I was prepared!! We bought our metro and transportation passes in Vienna and were on our way. Right when we got out of the metro station there was a "hotdog" stand called Wursteland or something! We all ordered Kasekrainers (described as being similar to kielbasa or Polish sausage). They were AMAZING!!! They are at least a foot long, thrown in a bun filled with mustard and ketchup. To our astonishment, the sausage was filled with cheese. Wow, little can I say besides the fact that I had four of them between then and Saturday afternoon when we left. They are almost good enough to be thrown in the same category as gelato!!!

The nine of us hopped on the bus and headed up the hill to where our hostel was located. The website called it the "Palace Hostel" so we got off where the address I had written down told us. We look up and see this GORGEOUS five star HOTEL called the "Palace HOTEL". We looked on the sign and it said the SAME exact address given to me by the hostel. You should've seen us jumping up and down and celebrating actually thinking it was our hostel. We couldn't believe it could possibly be our hostel. You can easily tell we are all new at this hostel thing if we expected this. We walk in this gorgeous hotel where everyone is wearing suits and walk through a red curtain entering the lobby made of pure marble. I asked where the Palace Youth Hostel was and he unfortunately sent us down the road 100 yards. We were a little disappointed, but kind of saw it coming even though we didn't want to admit it.

The hostel was pretty nice. It was a little out of the way when it came to location from the center but it had a spectacular view of city of Vienna as you can see below. It really was quite a view and this picture was taken literally 10 yards from our door.

We had originally booked two rooms for the eight of us and then one other decided to join us on the trip and booked his own room. The place was a little creepy at night so he slept in our room for the two nights. One room was the girls' room, and the other was the guys. Each room had 4 beds as you can see in the picture below, so there was 1 extra girl. I decided to sleep on the floor because it was way too hot up on the top bunk and of course because I am a gentleman, ha, so I gave up my bed to the fifth girl. I am sure all five of them in the other room were trying to convince the others to let them sleep in our room. In the end, Ewa was the lucky girl to come sleep in the room with the guys.

**Please don't judge the picture too much. You can see Jimmy spraying some cologne on Pete so he can smell it. I know it makes me question their sexuality so I understand if you do the same.

The first night we were there, since we arrived in Vienna around 10pm, we decided just to go for a walk down the hill to see if we were close to any restaurants or bars or anything displaying any type of civilization. Let me tell you that this night was very dark and it was kind of hazy. In addition, there were street lights out every now and then to make it a little bit darker! Saying that this place was creepy would be a huge understatement. It was a perfect plot for the scenario in a horror movie where everything goes terribly wrong in a split second and suddenly half or all of us are dead. As a result, we quickly walked back up the hill and went in to the hostel. After a little bit, we decided to call it a night and went to bed.

We woke up, enjoyed our free continental breakfast where cereal, bread and nutella or jam, cafe, hot chocolate, and yogurt was all offered. After a couple bowls of cereal and six glasses of hot chocolate I was ready to go. While we waited for the girls to slowly eat, the guys went into the recreational room where we watched a TV show in German, played foosball in which Jimmy and I tied 5-5, and played some Ping-Pong. Everyone showered, got ready, and we took a tram to the City Center.

The first building we visited was the Austrian Parliament Building. Before I go on, we did not go into any buildings and am not really sure why. Some of them were closed, some weren't interesting enough to go into, and some I guess we just didn't really think about going in to be honest haha. The coolest sculpture I have seen to date (I am behind schedule on my blogs so I have seen the Statue of David which is now #1 since I visited Vienna) is pictured below with the Parliament Building in the background,
This statue known as the Pallas-Athene-Brunnen also known as the Athena Fountain. I ended up researching the history and meaning of this fountain a bit, and it is as interesting as the statue itself is. You can see the two bodies laying down in front of it. There are two more laying in the back which as a whole represent the four most important rivers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Danube and Inn Rivers are the front two in the picture and the back two are the Elbe and Vltava Rivers. The two women at the feet of Athena represent legislative and executive powers of the state. Interestingly enough, Athena is the goddess of Wisdom which makes perfect sense that all of these statues and allegories relate to the Parliament Building. We hung around and looked at the statues and architecture of the incredible Parliament Building and got a great group photo (Nice picture Ewa!)

We crossed the street as we headed to the Hofburg Square; home of the Hofburg Palace. I saw the most outrageous worded sign and had to take a picture. Can anyone try to guess one word on there? I certainly couldn't!! Haha this reminds me as I prepare you for my mini-tangent. These words on the sign were probably the shortest words I saw that weekend. Listening to us pronounce the words on the metro and all over the city was quite entertaining to everyone around us. We would obviously over-emphasize every little accent mark or sound imaginable to make it sound even more ridiculous. My friend took a picture of ONE WORD near the escalator that had so many characters it would probably count for a paragraph. I was very tempted to open a book written in German just to see the pages of long, illegible words. I bet books in Austria are twice as long as the same book written in English would be.

Anyways, back to the important stuff. A picture below shows Rathaus. Looks kind of like a cathedral some sort huh? Well it isn't!! In this deceivingly-cathedral looking building the mayor and city council sits. In normal terms, it is the city hall. We didn't walk to it, but as you can see it is a very pretty building and would like to check it out sometime in my lifetime.

Next we saw the Hofburg Imperial Palace. The President of Austria resides here. We went inside but it was closed so we could not explore. It is a very cool building with numerous individual statues and a couple of awesome looking lion statues which was the ideal component of many individual pictures. The Hofburg Square is a neat place because of the open area with a couple big statues, a passageway of trees leading up to it, and the City of Vienna surrounding it. In the picture below you can see the entrance to the Palace from a distance. In case some of you do not believe me for some reason that this is Hofburg, but really because I like the picture, here is my evidence!! Something about the architectural style catches my interest. It is also partly because the color of the structure combined with the color of the door and the trees nearby make it a beautiful picture.

The picture below shows a few of the neat and very impressive statues as well as the awesome Lion with the shield of the man he probably just ate.

Right across the street is the Museums Quarter. In this square rests a handful of museums including the two most popular imperial museums: the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Naturhistorisches Museum. These two museums have EXACTLY the same exteriors which was quite ironic yet neat at the same time. We had to pay to go in and most of us were being too stingy with our money (including me) so we did not go in any. The K.......Museum is the Museum of Fine Arts and the N......Museum is the Museum of Natural History of Vienna. To be honest, I wasn't interested in either of those aspects to enter either museum.

It started to rain so we decided to cut the exploring short and headed to a shopping section of the city. We just walked around for the most part, went to another square which consisted of outlets and restaurants. We all agreed on a place to eat, and I had some Schnitzel. I had always heard about schnitzel and never knew what it was. The schnitzel was excellent as it tasted sort of like a slightly sweeter chicken cutlet. We went to H&M and I bought a nice dress-shirt for a very good price; the first thing I think I have purchased that I haven't eaten, drank, or used for some type of transportation.

After the girls were done shopping, we went back to the hostel. It was raining so we just hung around the hostel until finally we went out to celebrate Jimmy's 21st. We went out and everyone had a good night. The next morning we woke up to check out and head back to good old Milano. It was a great trip where we all got closer, had a good time, and enjoyed the nice, english-speaking people of Austria compared to the asses of Milano.

No trip for me this weekend so hopefully I will catch up on the blog some more. Up next is Cinque Terre and our rental car experience! Hope JJ had a good birthday and hope everyone back home is doing well and enjoying the nicer weather! Keep up the emails!!

Email me at if you are interested in seeing any pictures. I have been posting them online but a couple people with less powerful cameras and lower photography skills than myself ended up copying my entire album which is a little ridiculous in my opinion so all of my pictures are now private. I am happy to share them with you if you shoot me an email.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Classes, Annoyances, and 2AM Football Game (Post #9)

Classes have begun...I am taking Marketing Research, International Relations, Business Strategy, and Management Consulting. Classes over here are a little different. Back home at RPI classes are usually 40-60 kids and the teachers know your name as long as you don't just hide in the back. Here I have a class online which I should probably check out sometime soon haha, a class with about 40 kids, and two classes with 150 plus students. I know that isn't very big for those who went to big state schools but for a private school in Troy, NY that's monstrous except for the occasional General Pysch with 250 kids. I thought diversity at RPI was unreal. Here our class is represented by at least one person from every continent (except for the obvious one). Class material is interesting to an extent. I feel like I have learned a lot of this back home in the US, but am definitely learning some and the farther we get I learn more and more. I give credit to Rensselaer Polytech for preparing me well.

All of the classes are an hour and a half except for my Business Strategy class which is THREE HOURS! Luckily that class is once a week or I would never have taken it. At RPI classes are an hour and 50 minutes and every class, regardless of the subject, I find myself drifting off and not hearing one word my professor says the last 20 minutes-half hour. These hour and a half classes are PERFECT in length because just as I catch myself drifting off and the urge to be rambunctious class is OVER!! I wish classes back home were an hour and a half. I also wish my school did not get rid of the foreign language program because I would have taken a semester of French and a semester of Italian. I took French from 4th Grade up through Senior Year in High School and if I took one semester in college I would be nearly fluent. I could have used that because a lot of kids here know French and that one semester would have made it extremely easy to have full conversations. BUTTTT our school eliminated foreign language completely in one of the most diverse schools in the country. Why? Beats Me!! Enough about this topic because I still wonder what the logic was there if any, but its absolutely insane.

Listen to this next part. Well, in your case read the next part. This has got to be the most interesting concept of studying abroad. All of my classes have more than one teacher. Management Consulting has two teachers, Business Strategy has two teachers, International Relations has three teachers, and my ONLINE class has three teachers but for all I know it could be a new teacher every "class". It is so weird because in Business Strategy one teacher will lecture the first half, you have a fifteen minute break, and you return and the other teacher lectures the next hour and a half. The teachers are never there at the same time and usually switch every other class. All of my teachers for the most part speak very good english and three of the main ones are very humorous and entertaining. Some of the names are ridiculous, like one is Carlo Alberto Carnevale Maffe haha. Also, the teachers are rather blunt here. Don't be offended by the following two examples because it is just an example and nothing is meant by it. One teacher was talking about production and mentioned Nike and its child labor of chinese or asian children. The teacher said don't worry it was a joke china man. It may sound a little harsh but it was in a nice tone and everyone knew he was just being humorous. The student wasn't offended. Next example is we were doing a case study for something in Africa and the teacher asked if there was anyone from Africa in the class. When nobody raised their hand he said I am looking for a real dark student, nobody in here is like that? Again, in a matter that nobody would be offended. They just are real blunt here, but I like it. Makes the class a little more interesting and I apologize if anyone took that to heart or anything.

Here is a list of annoyances I have been acquainted with over here in Italy:

1) Italians sincerely do have a staring problem. It has gotten so annoying that now when I find someone staring I give them the dirtiest look possible and out-stare them (works every time!) It really is obnoxious as hell and when I return I will never stare at anyone ever again because I truly know how disrespectful and annoying it really is.

2) Nothing is open on Sundays. Seriously. The HUGE SuperMarket that is compared to our Price Chopper is open every OTHER Sunday. Smaller restaurants, most cafes, stores, and etc are closed. It's a huge hassle.

3) Every thing you need closes at like 1 or 2 during week days! The International Student Desk is open until 1pm. The bank is open from 9am-12pm and then opens from 2pm-4pm. The post office closes by like 2pm. I mean is this a joke? I think I am going to move over here once I am done with school because it has to be nearly impossible that most Italians exceed 40 hours a week.

4) Dogs go the bathroom wherever they want (most frequently sidewalks) and nobody picks it up. I have saved my friends probably at least 5 times from stepping in a pile of you know what! Constantly I come out of nowhere and pretty much shove them to the ground to avoid stepping in it.

5) Italians are nice everywhere BUT Milano. Exchange students who know a little Italian (enough to get around, like me) speak Italian and usually ask them if they speak English (IN ITALIAN!). In Milano they always say no although you know they do. I have asked a worker in Milano if he spoke english, he said no, then spoke english to some other guy. I mean what the hell? You can ask almost anyone over here whether they are exchange students or students who live in Italy and speak english. Milanese for the most part are a$$holes. I mean there are nice Milanese people but for the most part they are complete jerks. We try to speak some Italian which they do respect, but yea, they are jerks. In Venice, Verona, Torino, Genoa, Levanto, and etc everyone said they speak English if you ask them in Italian.

6) Driving annoyances will be discussed two posts from now. I rented a car this past weekend (my blog is about 2 weeks behind schedule) and that was a WHOLE other story.

7) I am sure I have more annoyances that I just cannot think of at the moment.

Six of my friends and I got a football game going at 2am the other night on the basketball court. How did we possibly see you may ask? The courts are lit up for the most part. It was 3 on 3 and I played all-time offense, most often Quarterback (No I did not choose to play all-time offense, they chose it for me). MY TEAM WON!! Ha, I have never had a 100% chance of winning until now and it was a great feeling. We played until about 330am when the first team to eight touchdowns won. I threw the ball to every person a rather equal amount to ensure everyone had a good time. I also had a chance to play Wide Receiver which was fun and caught a couple touchdowns on some good throws from a couple different kids. It was surprising how well most of them could throw the ball. All six kids I played with are rather athletic so it was a fun, competitive game. I played with two kids from Boston College, one from the University of Illinois, an Australian, one from Oneonta, and one from the University of Maryland. Everybody caught a touchdown, made some nice plays, and just had a good time overall. It was the first event of physical exercise (besides walking) since we got here haha, as sad as that sounds. It really was a great experience and will stick in my head forever.

Sorry if there are any spelling errors. I usually triple-check my blog for errors but I honestly don't care in this one because I did not travel anywhere and am pounding out this entry at 1am. Hope everyone is enjoying the blog. I received about eight emails since the Venice blog which is excellent. I use your emails as motivation to keep doing this blog so keep 'em coming!! Next blog will include my trip to Vienna, Austria and brief showing in Bratislava, Slovakia.

I also want to CONGRATULATE the Rutland High School Girls Hockey Team for their excellent run who were stopped just short in the Division 2 Championship Game (coached by my sister-in-law!!) Congratulations also to the Rutland High School Girls Basketball Team and Mr. Geisler for their great run to the Division 1 State Championship Game.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Venice Carnival (Post #8)

THE VENICE CARNIVAL: I am sure about 75% of those who read this have heard of it and I'm sure a high percentage of that knows or has heard how AMAZING the annual carnival is. Well I had heard of it and heard how amazing it is. I may be a tough critic, but I was thoroughly disappointed. I have never heard of the Verona Carnival and it was 1,000,000 times better. After going to Verona during the Valentine's Day Carnival and based on how much fun I had which I am sure all of you realized by reading my previous post; I felt like it would be nearly impossible for Venice to compare. I will explain my reasoning momentarily.

Nearly all of my friends bought a ticket through Bocconi to go to Venice for a day. They paid 35 euros (about 50 USD) which included bus transportation to and from Venice (left Milano around 830am and left Venice around 730pm) and a meal. I decided not to because I figured I would just hop on a train some other time and go. Well, my roommate Vince and our friend Connor (both from San Diego State) were going to go with two Irish lads (David and John). They asked me to join so I figured why not; it should be a great experience. We went to the train station around 11am and bought tickets on the bullet train which were pricy but still didn't hit the 35 euro mark. About the train:

It was second class and unlike the Regional train my friends and I took to Verona, was much warmer. These Irish guys are from Dublin and were hysterical. I don't know if I appreciated their accent more or the fact they swore as much as I do. They apologized almost right off the bat and warned me that they swear a lot. I reassured them it was not a problem; I do not think they knew what they were in for ha. They pull out of their plastic bags some beer called FinkBrau Pils. Each one was 330 milliliters. They had 24 of them and costs a total of like 4 euro (6 USD) or something insanely cheap. Their goal for the 5 of us was to drink them during the 2 hour train ride which was not a problem considering we had 2 Irish guys with us. We cracked jokes the whole time and got more acquainted with each other. It seemed like no time when we got there.

We walk out of the train station and right away you see the mass amounts of people (mostly wearing masks), the sun shining on the water-filled streets, and the attractive buildings. It was rather breath-taking because of the crowd and the fact that it is VENICE. You hear your whole life about the water-filled streets and what not but never expected to really be here. John, Dave, Vince, Connor, and myself just walked around aimlessly really although slightly targeting St. Mark's Square where the big event was. We grabbed some pizza, surprise surprise, and continued our adventure to the Square. The streets became narrower and narrower and you honestly had to put your arms up and bulldoze through the people-riddled streets that were honestly the width of a SmartCar at best. After walking over a few small bridges crossing a "canal" we finally saw a closeup view of the Gondola as you see below. I did not get a chance to have a ride in one, but I am just glad I got a good picture of it as you see below.

We then saw the famous bridge of Venice; the Rialto Bridge.

It really was quite impressive and was the most structurally sound and impressive bridge I have seen here in Italy. We made our way up the bridge and had a great view of the main canal. The water was so busy with boats and gondolas that some were crashing into each other (no harm done). We snapped some photos and continued towards St. Mark's Square. After about a 35 minute walk we got to the RIDICULOUSLY packed Square. There had to have been 80,000-100,000 tourists there.

In the Square we saw the famous St. Mark's Basilica. The architecture was extremely impressive as this cathedral was MASSIVE. Take a look at the picture below. Some people went in and were standing on the balcony above, but we did not have much interest and wanted to look around. In Paizza San Marco also rests Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Clocktower, and St. Mark's Campanile all which you can see on my website at

We walked through the Square to the water where we saw San Giorgio Maggiore (an island of Venice). On this island lies the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore (imagine that!!!) that was completed in 1610. It was probably the most beautiful building I saw on this entire trip. I do not know if it was because of the panoramic view with the water and church together or the idea that it has a completely white facade with a tower attached or what. As you can see, the entire Island, Church, and View is unforgettable...unfortunately, this was probably one of the two best parts of Venice.

I texted my friends who were there and told me they were near these blue curtains or something which we could see from where we were. Everyone was crowded in an area in front of the Basilica watching all of these people wearing RIDICULOUS outfits. I mean I swear to god these outfits they were wearing were absurd. Some women wore dresses, if that is even remarkably close to what you call these things, that took up probably the whole damn width of the streets I mentioned that a SmartCar couldn't even fit down. Some people appreciate these obnoxious, dressy outfits, but you all can hopefully tell I am not one of them. Apparently the Venice Carnival is ALL ABOUT the masks and these costumes which resulted in utter disappointment in that aspect. Like Verona, I expected silly string, confetti, and total chaos. Instead I get ridiculous costumes, whatever. I am not going to explain anymore of this part because I am getting disappointed and upset while writing this at 2am.

The Irish lads brought us to the Irish Pub to watch the France vs Ireland Rugby Match. Ireland got demolished and I hate to be biased towards American Football but it is just soooo much more entertaining than Rugby or Soccer or anything else I have been persuaded or forced to watch. I don't know all of the Rugby rules which makes it a justification for me to not enjoy Rugby as much. I expected big hits and what not but there were not any. They are tough because they do not wear pads and are goin at it but I mean there aren't any huge hits. In football you see guys getting their helmets knocked off, Wide Receivers getting helicoptered in the mid-air, and Quarterbacks getting massacred. I entertained myself by ordering a couple sandwiches and saw some other exchange kids enter and sit in the same corner as us. One of them was a girl that I noticed from my Italian Crash Course who I wanted to figure out what her name was; the only thing I knew was that she is from Connecticut (guys know exactly what I am talking about. Any pretty girl that you see a few times makes you HAVE to find out her name; or maybe its just me, whatever). I finally found out that her name was Nicole, and she was with a couple friends who all ended up joining us the rest of the trip.

Before we left the pub a soccer game came on TV and some of them wanted to watch it. Vince, Connor, and I were hungry and bored out of our minds so we went to grab some food. If I had to watch a SOCCER game RIGHT after that RUGBY game I no joke would've deceased of Boredom. Anyways, I bet none of you can guess what we ate! PIZZA!! The three of us split a massive pizza and were still hungry, so Vince and I each grabbed another slice. We went back to the Pub, got the others, and walked around more. They were hungry so they grabbed some pizza. Nicole had an extra slice and kindly offered it to me. I wasn't going to reject that offer. This slice made my pizza count to about 6; what a great day (besides the joke of a Carnival). A few of us then got gelato...mmm!! We heard there was a fire show in Piazza San Marco so we walked back.

This fire show, like the parading in the outfits, was a joke. It was simply a couple guys spinning things with fire on the end. It's the same stuff we have all seen in movies and tribal rituals or celebrations; nothing truly spectacular. After this, the square and streets turned into a MONSTER party. It was pretty sick (cool) actually. There was like a 5 minute parade but I wasn't going to complain because it was a lot better than those costumes. This parade and a sudden crazy party pumped me up and encouraged me to put on my cheap mask Nicole gave me. This is shown below!

We met some people, danced around with all of the tourists and locals, and let the time fly by. There was another Bocconi group/trip that had a "fleet" of 4 buses of Exchange students so we figured we should try to get on and not pay for a train back to Milano. The bus was scheduled to depart at 245am. The main 5 of us really did not feel like staying up ALL night to catch the first possible train to Milan departing from Venice at 530am. We snuck on one of the double-decker buses, Vince and myself on the bottom and Connor, Dave, and John went on the 2nd floor. Of course with our luck, one of the trip advisors did a name check for everyone on the bus. We had heard a couple girls got sick and what not so Vince and I got our name on the list. We were on the bus for what seemed like forever because they said if people on the list come they will kick us out and blah blah blah. The whole time all we could think was that we are gonna get kicked off and we would have to take a taxi to the train station and stay up all night in the cold and what not. Finally around 345am the bus doors closed and we were SAFE to go home!! Thank God! Vince, Nicole, and I had a very interesting conversation nearly the entire 3 hour bus ride. We made it back to Arcobaleno around 7am and I slept until about 5pm the same day.

Overall it was a good trip. The Venice Carnival itself was rather boring and disappointing but Venice was beautiful detailed with famous, architecturally beautiful buildings. The pizza and gelato was great, the party in the streets at night was fun, and I finally found out the name of the pretty girl from Connecticut!

Any questions or comments email me at, I will reply ASAP. Also, my next post won't take very long to write because I am trying to catch up. Also, my mom told me its National SONS Week! I find it ironic that Mothers and Fathers get a day but we get a week!! Ciao!