Through USAC’s Verona program, they offer an optional overnight tour of Lake Garda close to the end of the session. It was one of those things that I thought, I’m only here once, I may as well go. I didn’t expect Lake Garda to be one of my favorite places I got to see.
The boat across the lake to get to a Limone, the city of
lemons, began the trip on a high note. While there, we toured a 14th
century lemon grove that was practically grown into the side of the mountains.
The town itself was practically untouched from modernization, giving us another
moment to step back into time.
Our next stop, via boat, was town across the lake, Riva. After a short tour, we hit the beach and walked around the coastal town. While walking about with a group looking for gelato, we even made another friend with a local cat! It was easy to see she was a neighborhood cat based on how cuddly she was. The cat reminded me so much of my own two black cats back home.
Lake Garda was a great trip to catch a breath and relax from the go-go-go attitude we all carried during our session in Verona.
A great part of the study abroad experience is that once you
get to your new city, nothing is stopping you from exploring the rest of your
new country. What I’ve learned is that Italy has a fairly efficient train system,
and its not that expensive either! One Saturday, a group of us took a train to
the Fashion Capital of the World: Milan.
Milan is an interesting city, starting with that it has so
much old mixed with the new. Unlike Verona and Venice-cities that go to lengths
to preserve every ounce of history they can-Milan proudly shows off the blending
of old architecture and the new buildings. Take the Duomo di Milano for
example: here is this ancient church that has withstood the test of time, and right
across the street is a strip of high-end stores.
We didn’t go into the Duomo that day, since some of our
group didn’t have anything to cover their shoulders, but we did manage to get
tickets to their museum. Inside, they had a scaled replica of the Duomo, as
well as the history and artifacts it used to house. Since its under renovation
and maintenance. Since its under renovation and maintenance, some of the
statues that used to sit around the top of it are now displayed in parts of the
While in Milan, leave it to the group of college students to find one of the only Starbucks in Italy. The building the Starbucks was built into is another example of Milan saying, “Yes, we can embrace the new without forgetting the old, thank you very much”. The Starbucks Roastery Reserve was built inside the historic Poste building in Piazza Cordusio, and everywhere you turn, they are paying homage to the Italian artisans and Milan’s history. After living on Italian coffee for two weeks at this point, it definitely wasn’t a let-down to have something that tasted like home (even though my drink was hands down better than when I get it in the States).
After our coffee break, we walked back toward the Duomo and checked out the mall close by. Most of them we only walked by the window. It was one of those experiences where you see the store front, look inside the window for a few minutes, and keep walking since there aren’t any prices posted.
Overall, Milan is another beautiful city you should try to see if you can. It’s one of those cities you can tour on your own at your own pace and still make it out just fine.
Recapping first full week in Italy, our group took a day trip to Venice. Stepping out of the train station, we could see why it was called the floating city: it’s a city entirely connected by canals and boats. It was an overcast for part of day, and it sprinkled a few times during the walking tour, but that couldn’t stop some of us from going on a gondola ride during our free time! Our guide was mostly silent, only speaking up when he wanted to point out an interesting landmark you may not see on the beaten path (“You know Marco Polo? He lived there.”)
Venice was a beautiful city to visit, with tons of little
hole-in-the-wall stores and restaurants to pop into when you needed a break
from dock workers yelling “Attenzione!” to warn you they were coming
through, regardless if you’re walking there or not. These dock workers are the
city’s main way of getting merchandise and orders from the canal to their
destination, since Venice doesn’t allow cars, trucks, bicycles, or motorbikes
in their city!
I travelled home today after about 2 months abroad and was able to do a lot of reflecting on my time and experiences over the past few weeks. From wine tours in Tuscany to exploring the tiny streets of Lake Como, from riding bikes in Amsterdam to stumbling upon corners of people playing live music in Paris, I’m so thankful for every place and person I was able to meet, and have some memories that I will cherish forever.
Out of my month in Paris, my favorite moments ended up not being all of the museums and statues I saw (although I did see a lot and really enjoyed them!), they were all of the picnics by the Eiffel Tower and along the Seine where I was able to feel fully immersed in the experience, in the city, and in the culture. I was in Paris for Bastille Day and decided to go to the Eiffel Tower for the celebration. There was a live classical concert and a huge fireworks show and it was one of the best nights of my summer!
I’m going to miss being in Paris but I know I will be back one day. I can’t wait for that day to come and until then I will be looking back on all of my memories from this summer!
While there are hundreds of articles, lists, blog posts, etc about “The Best Places to eat in ___”, sometimes the best way to have a memorable experience is to just get lost. Walk around the city you’re visiting, turn down random streets, go into shops that seem interesting, and check out small, local bookstores. One of my favorite things to do is just walk around, because you never know what you will stumble upon. So many cities, especially in Europe, have very rich and extensive histories that are represented in statues, buildings, etc. There is so much to learn just by wandering through parks and down roads that it’s important to take advantage of it!
Another thing I have loved during my time abroad has simply been talking to the people around me. I wish I would have thought at the beginning of my trip to bring a notebook for all the people I’ve met along the way to sign– people from Wales, Australia, Brazil, Turkey, and so many other places. It’s amazing how much you can learn from striking up a conversation with somebody. It’s so amazing to have the opportunity to connect with people from so many cultures and corners of the world. So don’t be afriad to introduce yourself to someone or ask to join a conversation that seems interesting, it could be the beginning of an amazing friendship!
When you’re bouncing from city to city, country to country, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the quick pace of it all. Feeling like you have to see every inch of every city is normal, and there is also always a slightly guilty feeling if you sleep in later than expected, need to take a rest, etc. One thing I’ve learned from travelling so far, however, is the importance of taking a step back and slowing things down. While you of course want to make the most of your experience in each place, sometimes forcing yourself to explore from morning to night can have the opposite effect. It can hinder your experience and lessen your appreciation for the things the city has to offer. So, don’t feel guilty if you don’t get to every historical monument, museum, or famous restaurant. It’s okay to slow things down and take the time to appreciate the things you do get to see and experience, and it makes the experience all the more memorable!
My time here in Prague is wrapping up quickly, and it’s so
bittersweet. Although I miss my animals and friends/family, I absolutely love
the culture, food, and overall atmosphere so much in Prague. I’ve been able to
try so many new things and new experiences I would never be able to get in the
US, and I’m just so thankful I was able to go on this trip. My classes went
really well, and it was awesome to be able to meet some locals through the
school. Although my program technically ends this Saturday, I decided to extend
my trip by a few days to travel to Amsterdam which I’m very excited about.
My experience here has made me want to investigate coming
back next year, possibly even for a potential career. The food is so fresh and
delicious, I’ve had the best fruit of my life here! I’ve been able to try pork
knuckle, beef goulash, kebabs, roasted duck, the list goes on… The travel is
also so much cheaper, I can’t believe I went to Budapest for only 40 euros round
trip! Budapest was so beautiful; we visited many gorgeous buildings such as the
Parliament House and Fishermen’s Bastion. The night life was a lot of fun as
well, but I still love Prague the most. So thankful this was the city I chose
to spend the majority of my nine weeks here!