Under The Tuscan Rain

[Originally posted by Kevin Heil, a Hospitality Management major here at CSU. He is studying abroad in Seville, Spain for the Spring of 2015. You can find his blog directly here]

Look up pictures of Tuscany and you’ll see sun drenched hills filled with vineyards at sunset. I wish I could tell you that’s what I saw but instead I got rain the entire time. Don’t get me wrong though it was an amazing trip and after all, I was in Italy so that right there is an unforgettable experience! Plus I got to see where Hailey will be spending her semester and the new place she calls home.

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My first experience of Italy consisted of a disgruntled, old taxi driver who knew zero English or Spanish so I pointed to the general area I needed to be and we were off. He took me straight to my destination in once piece but then I’m pretty sure he charged me double. I wanted to say something but then again I’ve heard stories from people who mess with foreign cab drivers and it does not end well, plus it was pretty late at night. I paid the man and decided I was not going to take another cab in Florence, ever.
The next day came and just as the forecast said; it was 100% chance of rain. Despite the rain I wanted to see Florence. We did a ton of sightseeing this day and it was very cool! We started just by wandering, and found the replica statue of David. The real David is in the Galleria dell’Accademia, but that cost about 10 euro so the replica was just fine with me.

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Next, we saw the Arno River and the famous Ponte Vecchio. Also tried some of that Italian Gelato they all talk about and it might just be because I was in Italy, but it is A+!

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Then it was time for the Duomo. For only 10 euro we were able to climb the bell tower, go inside the cathedral, visit the underground tombs, and climb the actual dome. The views are amazing and by the time we got to the dome, the sun decided to come out for sunset!

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When we got down we went out to dinner at a small, local place next-door to Hailey’s flat. I had pasta with bacon, sausage, mushrooms and tomato sauce and it was very yummy. Oh and wine of course! (I added the Parmesan but I was told that wasn’t very Italian of me). Friday, Hailey wasn’t feeling well so her roommate took me out to experience some of the nightlife.

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Saturday we were all a bit sleepy so it was a late start to the day, but it was raining again and very cold so being outside in the morning did not seem too appealing. The rain cleared in the afternoon and we decided to walk to Piazzale Michelangelo to see views of the city. Also we needed to celebrate Hailey’s roommate’s birthday so we got some Prosecco and OJ to have when the sun went down. The views are amazing and the city is pretty amazing going into the night. That night, we made dinner we had bought from the local market pasta lady. It was handmade ravioli with spinach and ricotta and they were BOMB! Completely stuffed, Hailey and I went out and met some really cool Aussies who we spent the rest of the night with. After a few hours at the bar we wanted to visit the “secret bakery”. Hailey went the first week and here’s what you do:
1. Drink at the bar until about 1:30am
2. Navigate the alleyways until you find the door to the ‘secret bakery’
3. Knock on the secret door and wait
4. Suddenly a baker appears at the back door with Nutella croissants
5. Pay one euro and enjoy!
The only problem now is that the ‘secret bakery’ was no longer a secret. Herds of drunken Americans (and angry local Italians) filled the street surrounding the bakery begging for croissants. We were told the cops were on their way but the stubborn (mostly girl) study abroad students would not budge. After no further progress we left to go home, said bye to our Aussie friends and went to bed…croissantless.

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Sunday was another full day of adventuring and it was my first train trip because we went to Pisa! We were all so tired and besides the leaning tower of Pisa, there is not much to do there at all, especially on a Sunday. We had an excellent lunch though and it was finally a nice sunny day so walks by the river were nice and relaxing. The tower is cool to see in person and it was fun acting touristy to get the typical Pisa pictures!

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Now exhausted from the weekend I’m sitting in Florence airport trying to kill 4 hours as the Barcelona flight is the last flight of the day from this small airport. I’m excited to get back to Barcelona and I have another week of school then it’s off to Seville with my program! I can’t wait to explore more of Spain!
-Ciao

And finally, I’m here!!!

Dakota Green is a sophomore at CSU majoring in Fashion Merchandising and minoring in Business Marketing. She is spending Spring 2014 studying abroad at Richmond University in Florence, Italy. You can find her blog directly at http://ciao-dakota.blogspot.com/.

[Originally posted January 21, 2014]

These first few days in Florence have been beyond busy. About 16 kids in the program lost their luggage between London and Florence (luckily I wasn’t one of them!), which delayed the process of getting in quite a bit. But once we got to our hotel we only had time to drop off our stuff before dinner. We took the long way to our restaurant in the middle of town so we could see some of the major sights at night. We then had dinner in an incredible building (some sort of castle or historic landmark) with huge gold chandeliers and teal blue walls with the most amazing art. Our meal was four courses long: pumpkin risotto, spicy penne pasta, stuffed turkey and veggies, and tiramisu. Our school also provides wine with dinner, which we thought was interesting, but we had a briefing on the Italian way of drinking. It’s actually illegal to be drunk in Italy (which is probably why American students are looked down upon so much), and they usually only have one drink, or they go to aprevito where they have a couple drinks and appetizers after work and all drinking stops at nine. Our cultures are so different, and I love it. After dinner a group of us girls picked up a bottle of wine on our way home (after our lecture about how to drink responsibly) and went back to the hotel. One of the rooms had a window that led to the roof so we went out and looked over the city then chatted for a little before bed.

We have a complementary breakfast at the hotel… And Italian breakfast is veryyyy different than what I’m used to. It consists mostly of meats and cheeses with herb tomatoes and espresso. Our second day we had a meeting to register with the police then we had a walking tour of the city after a quick lunch (real Italian pizza and gelato mmmm!). The walking tour took over 3 hours! We must have walked miles! Their intentions were good, they wanted to point out the major landmarks and bus stops and such, but honestly we were all too tired and turned around to comprehend any of it. The best part of the tour was the fact that we found our apartment! It’s is on the cutest corner right by the ponte vecchio, above a super market, and across the street from a wine bar. I absolutely can’t wait to move in! All of the apartments are spread throughout the city. Although it’ll be sad to be away from everyone in the program, it will be nice to not look like such tourists walking down the streets in a group of 100! After the tour we came back and had dinner at the hotel. We had salad, roasted chicken (I got caprese salad), gnocchi, and cake. Even though our feet were killing us and we were exhausted, Lexie and I wanted to see the broncos game so we decided to go out. We went to a bar called The Red Garter. It was kind of an American bar and it had football on in one room and karaoke in another. We only stayed till the 4th quarter because we desperately needed sleep but we’ll be cheering them on in the Super Bowl from 50,000 miles away!

On Monday we started Italian boot camp… We’re packing 45 hours and 3 credits into two weeks. It’s really intensive, but even after the first day we can communicate with the locals better… Thank goodness! Our school is about a 35 minute walk from the hotel, but luckily it will only be about a 2 minute walk from our apartment. The school is on a small street tucked away from the city. It has an adorable courtyard and the actual classrooms are all on the second story. The classrooms are small and the teachers are amazing. After school we grabbed a light lunch of bruschetta, then headed back to the hotel for more meetings (which almost all of us slept through). We had a nice dinner in town which consisted of more bruschetta, lasagne, chicken (I got caprese again), and chocolate cake. Once again even though we were EXHAUSTED we decided to go out (I forget what a full night of sleep feels like). We went to a bar called Lions Fountain. This is known as the study abroad bar and there were almost no locals there. There are signed college Tshirts hung up on the ceiling from past American students and there are different shots dedicated to popular colleges (we took the Richmond shot in honor of our first day of school at Richmond University Florence). They played American music the whole night and it was so fun to hang out with the people in our program.

Today we had boot camp again in the morning. We had a coffee break where we all did a shot of espresso and got a cappuccino to get us through the rest of the school day. We had more pizza and gelato for lunch then we headed back to the school to sign up for our excursions for the next month (wine tastings, soccer games, day trips, cooking classes, etc.) Now we’re back at the hotel resting before dinner. Dinner is in town again tonight and prosciutto, ravioli, Chianti beef, and Lemon Bavarian is on the menu. We are coming straight back to the hotel after we eat to pack up-we have to be out of our hotel rooms before we head to boot camp tomorrow because after school WE GET TO MOVE INTO OUR APARTMENTS! We have to order wifi for our apartment and set it up we our landlord so I probably won’t have internet for another week, but once I do I’ll make sure to upload all of my pictures!

Until then,

Caio!

Dakota Green 1