Italia – Living Like a Local

Wake up

Espresso and Creme

Dress in most fashionable attire – they really do care




Take a walk around town



When living in Den Haag I had the pleasure of making a friend from Italy and going to visit his family in Tuscany. I stayed with them for 11 days, and I truly learned what it was like to visit a place where no one speaks English, and everyone knows everyone.

My time there was spent in Buoncovento, a small town 20 minutes out of Siena where a beautiful monastery and one of the oldest historical town centers in Italy is located. We also went to Siena, Florence, and Rome.

Siena is famous for its horse racing, much like Louisville, and twice every year the entire city is divided into teams who sponsor a horse to race through the town’s HUGE square. The entire city gets involved and the tradition itself is thousands of years old. You can get your best view of the square from the cupola in the cathedral overlooking it. A few fun facts, the top of this specific bell tower is wider, and heavier than the supporting pillar beneath it, so be sure to see it before it falls, it’s already several hundred years old. Also, the entire “square” is shaped like a seashell, and you need an aerial view to really see it! Siena is full of boutiques and amazing food, as well as a park that overlooks the city. Be sure to check out the backstreets, and you can find the famous horse stalls that house each teams race contender.

Florence, as everyone says, is one of the most artistic, beautiful cities in the world – built on a river, graced by bridges and blooming flowers on every wall. As we were there for one day, we went to the Uffizi, the Academia, walked over the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge built in 1345 housing some of the world’s most beautiful coral jewelry, summited to the top of the city to the Piazzale Michelangelo and went to an Italian bar – which really means a place to sit for hours enjoying a sandwich and wax philosophical about anything and everything – we witnessed to older men still sitting at the same table when we walked by 5 hours later. The Duomo of course is a must see, but my favorite part was the Piazza del Signoria which is one of the most politically famous squares in the city, and also has some of the most amazing statues.



There are no words to describe the city other than – see it, love it, walk everywhere, and do anything within your power to extend the trip. We began in the train station and walked northwest through almost every famous attraction to the Vatican. The people, the sites, the history, the fountains – there is nothing about the city I do not love. My favorites included the Villa di Medici gardens, the Arc of Constantine, and viewing the entire city from the cupola of St. Paul’s cathedral. My best recommendation is to visit with an Italian – you get a first rate tour if they went to secondary school in Italy – and better deals on entrance to everything – it turns out a set price is usually a lot cheaper if they realize you’re not American. 🙂


Final Notes

Visit Italy! The people, the scenery, the cities, the food! Bella!


Culture Shock – It’s Real, and It’s Really Helpful

America – home of apple pie, baseball, HBO, free refills, online music streaming, and “Biggie Sizing”

Going to Europe for the first time alone, I had no idea what to expect when you MOVE to a new place, in a new country. It turns out after 5 months of living there and loving it, you get used to bicycle lanes being more important than motorways, people spitting when they pronounce their G’s, taking your own grocery bag to the supermarket, eating raw herring with onions, and watching countless hours of futbol while someone teaches you AGAIN what “off-sides” means. In case it’s not obvious yet, my study abroad experience was based in Den Haag, NL.

When I flew back into the states, everything looked HUGE! The cars, the food, and the English was so quick! People were in a hurry to get things done, and it honestly took me a few days to get back into the swing of everyday life. However, I noticed a few things about how I act differently. Europe changed me for the better – I’m a lot more relaxed about how I go about doing nearly everything, and I almost prefer mayo to ketchup on my fries these days.

The main point of this blog is, immerse yourself in the culture you study abroad in, and do things the way they do them. You may learn your way isn’t actually the best, and you may even teach them a few things in the process. No matter the outcome, you will definitely have a new perspective on what “normal” is!

If you have any questions about life in Den Haag, feel free to email me at


Just Call Me Molly Malone

Well, we all know Louisville is full of Irish love – from Irish pubs, to Fighting Irish fans, to one of the biggest St. Patrick’s day blow-outs of all time. However, nothing compares to Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland itself on March 17th.

We began our journey out of Den Haag with a flight to Belfast, and then took a bus to Dublin. Things to keep in mind: Northen Ireland is on Pounds Sterling, and their airport ATM exchange fee is not travel budget friendly – however, it is the fastest way to get cash in your pocket. From the airport to the bus station, we took a taxi with a Dubliner to the bus station. A tip when talking to a Dubliner – never assume what they say is true, if you can understand them. If you CAN understand them, give yourself kudos!

The bus ride was uneventful, and from the station we taxied downtown to find our hostel. Hostels in Dublin on St. Patrick’s day are easily 100 Euro a night for a private, 4 person room, and could be much more if you don’t book in advance. Be prepared, and don’t be afraid to sleep on the floor, the trip is well worth it.

The next morning we took the free Sandeman tour around the city and saw everything from Dublin castle which proudly displayed Themis, the Goddess of Truth/Justice, unmasked and glaring – only in Ireland would a goddess supposedly blindfolded to represent unbiased honesty be waving a sword. We also saw St. Patrick’s cathedral – one of the most beautiful I saw in Europe, made entirely of gorgeous stone and surrounded by the grass that could double as green velvet. The statue of Molly Malone and a trip through Temple Bar – the mercantile and bar district rounded out the tour.

From there we went to the St. Patrick’s day parade, after of course, purchasing green, orange, and white top hats and loads of green beads – always try to blend with the locals. The parade, we found, is always themed around something other than St. Patrick himself. As Dublin was dubbed The City of Science, this year was a nautical, science fiction theme. Sitting on O’Connell street bridge watching the parade was one of the coolest, experiences of the trip not only because the costumes and performers were top-notch, but the people around us were from all over the world, including Louisville!

After the parade we continued our exploration through Temple Bar and the city park finding all sorts of interesting places. Dublin is a very diverse city with everything from a brand new shopping district that reminds you of Rodeo Drive but with riverdance performers on every corner, to some of the oldest pubs in the world, all the way to some of the most exclusive hotels. The city gives a very alive, but charming feeling! Our favorite Temple Bar find was a place called The Mercantile!

The next day we went to Trinity College to wait in line for a siting of the Book of Kells and the historic Phoenix park – I did not expect to see gorgeous palm trees in March. A travel tip when going to see the book, either show up very early in the morning, or book an appointment which cuts your wait time down to about an hour. From there, we took a bus back to Belfast, and flew home.

This was one of my favorite trips the entire 6 months, and I highly recommend visiting the city just once for the biggest, most historic, green party of the year!