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!
Ciao! At the time I’m writing this, it’s been about just
over 3 weeks since I first stepped foot in Verona, Italy, after eating from
local restaurants, moving into the Residence, and getting some-semblance-of-adequate-sleep,
I can proudly say that it’s finally hitting me: I am in a different country. I think this reaction has been delayed because
I have been go, go, going non-stop since the first connecting flight. When we first walked through customs, our USAC
(University Studies Abroad Consortium) program director has kept us busy. Between
group dinners, orientations, and tours of the city, there hasn’t been time for
it to really sink in that we are far away from our home country.
My favorite part of the first full day was the city walking
excursion and the free time that followed. Our guide gave us a tour of Verona.
He took the group down the ancient streets-some over 2000 years old- and gave
us a compact version of the history of the city and Italy itself. We learned a
little bit of everything, from Castelvecchio (“Old Castle”), to the true
history of the Capulets and the Montague’s rivalry (Juliet’s balcony was
actually constructed after the famous play came out), to Ponte Pietra (“Stone Bridge”).
Each of these locations holds a special place in Verona’s history and helped
shape it to be the city it is today.
For the free time that followed, I grabbed lunch and gelato
with my roommates, and then we set out to discover the city on our own. Our
first stop was Castel San Pietro (“St. Peter’s Castle”), where we took the
Funicular up the incline to get to the top. The views from the castle
boundaries were breathtaking: you could almost see the entirety of the city
from there! Since the castle is under renovation, guests could only walk the
grounds, but it was definitely worth the one euro trip up. From there, we met
up with friends for dinner and finished exploring the city.
At the end of the day, I gained new insight into the city I
will be calling home for the next six weeks, an appreciation of the art and
history that can date back 2000 years ago, and 24000 steps that I definitely
felt the next morning.
The next few posts will be catching up on the adventures I
have taken thus far.