Gelato…I have made it into my daily reward.
Whether I successfully talked to an Italian – in Italian or it’s just a gloomy rainy day – I’ll find any reason to reward myself with delicious gelato. Every time I approach the counter one of two things occurs. Either I will have the combination of two flavors strategically planned in my head or I hesitate for about ten minutes attempting to formulate the perfect gelato combo. When ordering gelato, I usually get the smallest size which allows up to two different flavors. Since, I am obsessed with chocolate I immediately add that into the equation. Some of my favorite combinations consist of the chocolate covered strawberry (cioccolato and fragola) and “Nutella” (cioccolato and nocciola).
For more information on Gelato, I found a great article on the different flavors: http://www.italylogue.com/food-drink/italian-gelato-flavors-decoded.html
Flavors Tasted and Approved by me:
- Cioccolato fondente
- Fior di latte
Others or “Oddballs”
– Amanda –
My first experience in a hostel occurred when I went to Switzerland and it turned out to be a great one. Since I roomed with a few other random people from around the world I was a little nervous of getting my personal items stolen especially valuables. In our hostel we met an amazing new friend, Laura, who was from Australia. She was very nice and we talked a lot about her travels around Europe. She had been away from home for nearly a year. Her story was incredible and I was glad to have met her. The hostel’s staff was very friendly and helped us figure out our daily plans. They helped us contact the company in which we would go paragliding, enlightened us on the weather, and encouraged us to do various activities based on our budget and the clear skies. We couldn’t have had a better time while in Interlaken, Switzerland.
The hostel had a bar on the first floor where we checked in. My room was on the second floor. It was a mixed dorm – which I didn’t realize how much it was like a dorm until I got there. We shared three showers and three bathrooms with a couple other floors. Not sure how many rooms. But there were two floors I knew of and around six people in each room. I didn’t even realize that there wouldn’t be towels provided. And Laura was surprised when I told her I had not brought a towel. I think I had said I forgotten one, but honestly I had no idea that I needed to bring one in the first place. I luckily brought a t-shirt which I used as a temporary towel. I was overprotective of all my things and worried too much about my suitcase getting stolen. I put a lock on the suitcase, but before I went to sleep the second night I tucked my purse inside forgetting the key was clasped to my purse. The second before I went to bed I remembered my mistake. I easily broke into my own suitcase and retrieved the key. Now I had realized how pointless the lock was. And the lockers that were provided in the rooms didn’t even have the locking capabilities. You could shove a lock on it, but when you turned the knob it easily opened. Completely pointless. I felt worried for the rest of my clothes that sat helplessly inside the darkness of my suitcase. There were strangers in the room. But they were all harmless and nothing vanished from the locker while I was there. It was a very comfortable place, so I had nothing to worry about.
Walking through the bar of the Happy Inn Lodge to the very back around a corner and up the stairs – around a couple more corners to the room I called mine for two nights in Interlaken. There were three bunked beds pushed against three of the four walls of the room. The fourth wall had a window, sink, mirror, and one working outlet. It was a functional room, but smelled odd. I’m not sure if it was the feet of one guy in the bunk to the right or if it was the on and off smoking of the guy in the top bunk to the left. Possibly both. It was slightly sickening, but I survived the smell and was rarely in the room due to the many adventures I had while in Switzerland. It was the only unpleasant aspect of the hostel. The room was very warm compared to the shivering Italian bedroom I’d escaped from for the weekend and of course the low degree Celsius that chilled the outside.
As we talked with Laura about our future travels around Europe in the Happy Inn Lodge, we mentioned our trip to Budapest, Hungary. She immediately began telling us about party hostels around the area as well as others in Europe. She mentioned Retox and Grandio located in Budapest. I thought it was interesting how they had party hostels around Europe. I should have expected it from young travelers looking for an extra fun experience in the cities they visited throughout Europe though. I wrote down the names interested in finding out more about party hostels. In two weeks I would be going to Budapest with Ciera and Paolo. I mentioned the party hostel to Ciera partially joking about actually staying there and mostly thinking she would rather not. Instead, as an expert hostel-goer, she was very interested in the experience. It was something completely new and different. We talked to Paolo about the idea and he didn’t seem to care, as long as we found a place. I was very excited for the experience – they sent us an email about different activities that they would be doing as a hostel. The activities included a boat party down the river that divided Buda and Pest, but unfortunately we arrived the day after the boat party. I was a little disappointed in missing it because a girl we met at the hostel said it was very beautiful. The others were a pub crawl at the Ruin Bars and Sparty (spa party) in one of the baths in Budapest.
When I first arrived at the party hostel, my first thoughts were that it was a mistake to stay there and that I would be way in over my head. I judged the place too fast, though. And by the end I loved the atmosphere and the amazing people I met from all over the world. One of the girls said that Grandio was one of the craziest party hostels she’s ever stayed in – and she had stayed in many around Europe. It slightly worried me, thinking I should have started with an easy-going party hostel first. By the end, I really enjoyed Grandio and I wouldn’t have minded staying for a few extra days. Grandio had a great atmosphere and a unique personality. The hostel room we stayed in was very different than the first and you could immediately tell that it was a party hostel. There were fifteen other people in the room I slept in compared to the five other people who shared a room with me in the hostel in Switzerland. When first entering the room, there were two bunked beds in a small room and then another doorway to a larger room with six bunked beds – three on opposite walls. There was a room with two showers and another room with a sink and toilet for the entire room to share. Since everyone was out and about, either exploring the city or hanging out in the community room down the hall, there was not any problems with it feeling crowded or anything. The experience was a great one.
All the people there were friendly. Overall, Budapest was absolutely amazing and I wish I could have had spent more time there. Still, I had a great time and saw so much of Buda and Pest. I absolutely recommend staying at Grandio to meet amazing new people and enjoy the exciting atmosphere. We hung out quite a bit with two other girls studying abroad in France. There was another rather large group that was studying abroad in Europe – I believe France as well – who all went to Vanderbilt. Others were from Australia, Germany, Great Britain, and many more places throughout Europe and around the world.
My favorite thing about hostels (party hostel or not) are the people I’ve met from all over the world. It’s exciting to hear their stories and adventures and language/accent.
– Amanda –
Interested in more information? Click links in text above or the following:
Happy Inn Lodge (Hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland): http://www.hostels.com/hostels/interlaken/happy-inn-lodge/3463?source=hcgadgenericsprpn1all&gclid=CMqUr-Kf37oCFQdY3godcjAA5w
Grandio (Party Hostel in Budapest, Hungary): http://budapestpartyhostels.com/pages/index.php?page=gr&cont=zero
Ruin Bars (Budapest, Hungary): http://travel.cnn.com/budapests-best-ruin-bars-051056
Sparty (Bath Parties in Budapest, Hungary): http://www.bathsbudapest.com/budapest-bath-parties
After taking two day trips, one on Friday to Reggio Emilia and one on Saturday to Asti and Alba, I was ready to take it easy on Sunday. When I got up, I decided to venture to a new area and attempt to find the open market. I was surprised how easily I found it. I was sure I would get lost. I only knew that it was off of the Nizza metro stop. I was ready to explore and see what the market offered. It was 11 am on a Sunday and the threat of rain lingered in the skies. All along the sides of the street lined vendors with food, clothing, appliances, and much more. Both ways down the street had stations for different items. I turned right first and observed the never ending path of different items to purchase. I mostly looked for clothing. When in Reggio Emilia and Alba, I noticed the clothing and shoes they had at low prices at many booths that ran down the middle of some streets. I hoped to find similar items. And I did. There was so much going on. People surrounded one booth giving a presentation on what looked like a lemon-squeezer. The people seemed very curious and interested in the product. The man had a microphone attached to him and he impressively showed and explained the exciting aspects of his product.
Not far from the man was a stage. It was empty at the time, but I imagine that someone performed or gave a presentation about a product. Across from the stage, two girls around 10 years old laid out some toys. I assumed they were old toys they had lost interest in playing with. It reminded me of what you would see at a garage sale back in the states. I continued down the street ogling at delicious food and pretty scarves. The streets were fairly crowded with people of all ages. Primarily an older crowd wandered down the street gathering fruits and vegetables, occasionally slowing down to eye some clothing.
When I reached the end of the street I turned around ready to examine anything I had missed as well as explore the side I had not yet been down. At the various tables I saw pillows and blankets and a beautiful shirt that was unfortunately over 60 euros. Scarves for Juventus and Torino FC bordered the edges of one booth. Most vendors sat back and waited for customers to approach the table. They weren’t in your face with their product as I was used to seeing in malls back in the states. The booths that lined the middle of malls always had a person roaming around it. If you ever got too close, the person would immediately yap about their product to you. Not in Torino – instead they would calmly sit behind their booth or maybe float around it waiting for anyone interested to come to them. And that’s how most of Italy is with customer service. As a customer, you have to approach them with whatever you want. In most stores and especially at the open market, if you are interested in anything or have a question, you have to initiate. They will not approach you asking ‘how may I help you’ as it always occurs in the states.
There are millions of amazing places to go in Europe – it’s so difficult to decide which ones to go to during my four months here. In my second month, I definitely chose some of the best cities and had the time of my life at each one. The below are the places where I spent my weekends in October. I highly recommend each of the following!
1) Munich, Germany – Oktoberfest
I think this should be on everyone’s bucket list. Even though I only spent a day in Germany, I loved every second of it. Oktoberfest was so much fun! I can’t compare it to other Oktoberfests located in the states because I’ve never actually been to one (since I just turned 21). Munich was amazing though – at least the two streets that I saw and the entire fair that Oktoberfest consumed. I hope one day to be back, though. I really want to explore more of Munich as well as Berlin. The language is amazing and I wish I could learn it – I did attempt it with some Germans I met while there.
2) Interlaken, Switzerland – Paragliding and the Alps
I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my life. Every way I turn another tall green mountain blanketed in a thick white sheet. I can’t believe my life – I have been to the top of the Swiss Alps and glided around their significant beauty. If you ever get a chance – especially if you win the lottery – come to Switzerland. It was super expensive especially since we decided to go paragliding and then venture to the top of Schilthorn (around 300 Swiss Francs with just those). One meal is around 15 to 25 Swiss Francs. Super expensive, but it was worth every franc/dollar because of the amazing beauty of the Swiss Alps as well as the authentic Swiss chocolates, Swiss knives, and Swiss watches.
3) Reggio Emilia, Italy; Asti, Italy; Alba, Italy – Day trips in Italy
This was the one weekend in October where I stayed in Italy. I took a day trip on Friday to Reggio Emilia, a new location for those interested in studying abroad. It is a medium sized town and a happy medium between the large city of Torino and the small town of Viterbo. It is located near Bologna and was very cute. I greatly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone interested in studying abroad in Italy. It is the perfect place to study!
The next day I went on a day trip with the USAC group to Asti and Alba. In Asti we were able to explore a castle which had a museum about wine inside. We saw some nearby vineyards and then headed off to Alba for the truffle fair. At first I had no idea what truffles were, but they are kind of mushrooms that grow underneath the ground. They have to search for them with dogs smelling their location. They have quite a strong and unique smell – and from the spreads I had with truffles in them, they are very delicious. They are also super expensive – 300 euros for a hectogram (.1 kilogram or 100 grams).
4) Budapest, Hungary – Buda & Pest
I have officially been to Hungary! And it was amazing. I had so much fun although there were some struggles and traveling was stressful and painful and made our group slightly irritable. Overall, it was an experience unlike any other. And I am so glad that I was able to go with a great group of friends. We met such amazing people while there and I learned so much about Hungary’s history. We went to see a church and a castle in Buda our first day. They were absolutely stunning. The parliament building across the river was gorgeous. The next day we got a tour around Pest and went into a church and to the parliament building. I learned so much about Budapest and all weekend long I ate and drank traditional Hungarian foods. They were all super delicious. I had so much fun, and wish I could have spent more time there exploring Buda & Pest.
As I began my Italian Cuisine course, I was astounded at the fact that to an Italian there is no such thing as Italian Cuisine. This being extra ironic as I learned that Italian Cuisine does not exist in an Italian Cuisine course. Though this may come as a shock to a lot of you as it did for me, Italian Cuisine in the view point of an American consists primarily of pizza and pasta. At least those are the foods I immediately think of when referring to Italian Cuisine. Italian Cuisine in the view point of an Italian does not exist. Instead they divide their cuisine by their specific region. For example, in Torino they have Piedmontese cuisine. Instead of cuisine remaining consistent throughout Italy, cuisine is divided by the twenty regions in Italy. Each region cooks their pizza and spaghetti and gnocchi and so on vastly different from another region.
As stated by Marcella Hazan, a famous writer on the food of Italy: “the first useful thing to know about Italian cooking is that as such it actually doesn’t exist. ‘Italian cooking’ is an expression of convenience rarely used by Italians.” As I have learned in my Italian Culture class, there is not much nationalism within Italy. Instead, regionalism remains most prevalent. It was stated in one article I read in Italian Culture that: “most people express loyalty more to a town or village than to the state or even the administrative region.” Where I thought I encountered an Italian instead I’ve met the Piedmontese, the Florentine, the Sardinian, the Milanese, the Neapolitan, and the Bolognese.
Norberto Bobbio, a veteran political philosopher, explains how “Italy is no longer a nation in the sense that in the new generation there no longer exists a national sentiment. Italy has become little more than a geographical expression and the Italians are becoming once more a common mass with no name.” I was surprised by this statement and even more shocked when out of 406 students surveyed, 41% of them were in complete agreement with Norberto Bobbio’s statement. Although, over half (58%) did feel national pride during sporting occasions such as the World Cup Finals and the skiing champion, Alberto Tomba. A famous quote from Massimo d’Azeglio: “With Italy made, we must now make the Italians.” This statement made after the unification of Italy in 1861 points out the division that was apparent in Italy. Although, there is patriotism revolving around food and football; the food still vastly varies across Italy.
Dickie, J. “Imagined Italies”. In Italian Cultural Studies: An Introduction. Eds. D. Forgacs and R. Lumley. Oxford UP, 1996 (pp. 19-33).
Richards, C. “Il Belpaese and le bella figura”. In The New Italians. Penguin 1995 (pp. 15-27).
Richards, C. “Regionalism and pasta sauce”. In The New Italians. Penguin, 1995 (pp. 79-108).
Richardson, B. “Questions of language”. In The Cambridge Companion to Modern Italian Culture. Eds. Barànski, Z. and West, R.J. Cambridge UP, 2001 (pp. 63-79).
Living in Torino has been amazing. It is such a beautiful city filled with friendly people and extraordinary history. Most buildings that complete the city of Torino are lined with shops on the first floor and then each floor above is home to an Italian. An assignment for my Elementary Italian Language course was to write about my apartment. Below is a little description with the translation:
Abito in via Genova, centotre. Il mio appartamento ha tre camere. Il mio appartamento è al terzo piano. Non ha un balcone. Il salotto e la cucina sono nella stessa stanza. Il mio appartamento è piccolo e il bagno è molto piccolo. Amo il mio appartamento perchè è comodissimo. Il mio appartamento ha tre grandi finestre. Il palazzo è piccolo e ha tre piani. C’è un negozio di arredamento casa al primo piano. Ho due vicini di casa al terzo piano.
I live on via Genova, 103. My apartment has three rooms. My apartment is on the third floor. It has no balcony. The living room and the kitchen are in the same room. My apartment is small and the bathroom is very small. I love my apartment because it is comfortable. My apartment has three big windows. The building is small and has three floors. There is a house decorating shop on the first floor. I have two neighbors on the third floor.
Continuing off of my short description…in Torino, I live quite close to school. There were three options when deciding on housing: near school, midtown and downtown. The entire USAC group is spread throughout the city of Torino in these various parts. I chose to live near school, originally thinking I might be in a dorm on campus. The university is nothing like the one I am used to back in Toledo. The various colleges, such as the business college, are placed all over the city. The business college, SAA, is one floor and very small compared to Stranahan which not only has a north and south building but also multiple floors. Walking to and from school is around a five minute walk from my apartment. Nearly every morning, Monday through Thursday, I walk over around 8:50am to get to my 9 o’clock class. There are no dorms anywhere in sight; everyone lives in an apartment around the city. The apartments vary significantly. I have seen quite a few apartments and each one is different from the other. For me, I only have one roommate and my apartment is very small. We share the same bedroom and bathroom. Others have multiple roommates and some have their own rooms. Of course the more roommates the bigger the apartment, but our apartment is very unique from the rest. Most have balconies, and those with balconies usually have two. I live on the top floor of the building and the roof cuts off half our ceiling. The ceiling is slanted and giant logs cut across. It is quite odd and I hit my head on them almost every week. In both mine and my roommate’s opinion: we have the worst apartment out of all the students studying abroad. Still, I love my apartment because I think it is cute and cozy.
Around my apartment building there is a pizzeria (with Wi-Fi), a gelateria (Pianeta Gelato – Planet Gelato), and a home décor shop which is on the first floor of my apartment building. I go to both the pizzeria and gelateria at least once a week. Immediately to the right of my apartment building’s front door is a newspaper/magazine shop or ‘La Stampa’ (which shouldn’t be confused with a place that sells stamps). My apartment building has giant doors which both can be opened up to let residents’ cars in and out. Every day I’ll walk through the giant door up the “driveway” and around the corner all the way up, up, up the stairs to the top floor.
Entering my little apartment, I am immediately in my living room, kitchen, laundry room, and closet. When first walking in, there are two sofas and an armchair in the left corner. Next to the armchair is the kitchen table surrounded by four chairs. Immediately next to the table is a chest of drawers filled with kitchen ware: plates, cups, forks, knives, and other utensils. Awkwardly facing the chest of drawers is the washer machine and immediately to the right of that is the kitchen sink and then the oven and stove. To the right of the oven is the small hallway with the doors to the bathroom and bedroom. Still in the kitchen, on the right wall is the refrigerator and then to the right a giant wardrobe-thing with three sort-of closets. The left is filled with my clothes, the middle we have made into a pantry filled with food, and the right is filled with my roommate’s clothes. Now in the tiny bathroom there is a sink, toilet, a bidet, and the bathtub on the left respectively. The bathtub lines the back wall and the awkwardly slanted ceiling prevents any standing while in the tub and therefore only taking a bath is acceptable. The bedroom is decent sized and simple. Two beds with a chest of drawers between them and night tables on the other side. A cute couch with an unfortunate stain on it lines against the wall and our drying rack stands to the right of it under the window. That completes the tour of my apartment in Torino and gives the basic outline. Below is the rest of my description completed for my class and its translation:
Davanti al mio appartamento ci sono dei negozi. Dentro il mio appartamento ci sono della sedie e un tavolo. Ci sono due divani e una poltrona accanto al tavolo. Vicino all’armadio c’è una lavatrice e un forno. Vicino alla cucina c’è il bagno. A destra dei bagno c’è la camera de letto. Dentro la camera de letto ci sono dei letti e dei comodini. A sinistra dei letti c’è una finestra.
In front of my apartment there are shops. Inside my apartment there are some chairs and a table. There are two sofas and one armchair next to the table. Near the wardrobe there is a washing machine and an oven. Near the kitchen is the bathroom. On the right of the bathroom there is the bedroom. Inside the bedroom there are some beds and some night tables. On the left of the beds there is a window.
– Amanda –
While in a pizzeria a couple with their dog walked in ready to eat their dinner. Half-way through my margherita pizza, I noticed the dog had a tin foil pan filled with food. The couple had an outrageous amount of pizza split between the two of them as their dog quietly munched on his food next to their table. I barely noticed the dog as I finished my dinner.
The little girl across from us was noisier than the dog. Nevertheless, she was super adorable as she mumbled in Italian to her parents. It was a rainy Sunday evening as I sat in the pizzeria below my apartment with my roommate and neighbors. I ate a whole margherita pizza after being so hungry from traveling. It was around 9:00pm or 21:00 as I am trying to get used to the strange military time and the place had a young couple and small family and groups of friends scattered around. The atmosphere was friendly and the place was quiet and comfortable. We laughed and ‘awed’ at the little girl as she giggled and muttered in her cute Italian voice.
As we got up to leave, I watched the waitress bring the dog a bowl of water. It seemed unreal for a dog to be in a restaurant – for a dog to be served in a restaurant. I was impressed. The dog in the pizzeria was incredibly tame. No barking or fussing. All of the dogs that I have witnessed during my first month in Italy have been very well behaved. They rarely bark and their owners often let them off their leash. They never stray too far when they do. The only problem with the amount of freedom dogs get around the city is that you must watch your step when walking down the sidewalk. Owners won’t pay much mind to cleaning up after their dog goes to the bathroom, but still the tiny doggies that waltz around the city of Torino are super adorable and well trained.
Fact: in Italy, you must love dogs. They are everywhere and they can go anywhere with their owner. You’ll find little dogs in piazzas, along sidewalks, in malls and shops, in cafés and bars, in the metro, and just about anywhere. Where dogs would be strictly prohibited in the states, you’ll find the Italians with their dog, off leash, obediently by their side. Italians can be with mans’ best friend in any public place such as a restaurant or clothing store. It shocks me every time I see a dog in such a place. I couldn’t imagine seeing a dog inside the mall or a restaurant or Walmart or Krogers or Forever 21 or H&M. They simply would never allow it back in the states. But when in Italy, you’ll find them in the mall and restaurants and marketplaces and clothing stores. Most Italians have small dogs, but occasionally you’ll see a ginormous dog trotting alongside its owner. My love for dogs has increased immensely while in Torino. The dogs seem extra adorable here.
Additional Italian ways in the pizzeria include not being able to eat the bread until your lunch or dinner is served, water is never free and comes in a bottle, and you never tip. Even though the waiter will bring out the bread immediately, it is unusual to eat it before the meal comes. The Italians around the pizzeria never touched their bread until their dinner arrived at their table. Water is never free and most Italians enjoy ‘acqua frizzante’ or sparkling water. When in the pizzeria, I always specify that I want ‘acqua naturale’. In the pizzeria, the couple and the family drank wine and ‘acqua frizzante’ with their pizzas. They finish with a small glass of limoncello. After finishing the meal, I always have to ask the waiter about the bill. I never know what to do, though, because it varies from place to place. Sometimes they will bring the check to the table, but mostly you have to go up to the cash register and pay. After finishing, we all go up to the lady at the cash register. She is very friendly as we struggle to figure out how much we each need to pay. At restaurants the bill is never split into separate checks and the tip is already accounted for. As I head out, I stop by the window and glance through the window viewing the two men in the pizzeria as they roll out the pizza dough and prepare it for the next couple, family, or group of friends.
– Amanda –
For the short version of my post as well as more pictures and adventures around Europe from both myself and my marketing group, Lexi and Justin, click here: https://www.facebook.com/usacfall2013maketingblogalj
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Basilica Di Superga – high up on the hills of Torino reigns a gorgeous church. A must see when visiting Torino. Some facts I found on the Baroque Church: it was designed by famous local architect Filippo Juvarra and tradition says that Vittorio Amedeo II vowed to build the Church if Torino were to be successfully liberated from the French siege in 1706. Inside the awe-inspiring circular interior are a main alter, the Cappella del Voto (chapel) and a crypt with the tombs of members of the Savoy dynasty. Tragically, in 1949 a plane flying from Lisbon to Torino in bad weather crashed into the rear wall of the Basilica di Superga. On board was the Torino city football team. All onboard died; a plaque with a marble cross behind the basilica commemorates this tragic event.
Lingotto – only a few blocks away from my apartment on the rooftop of the old Fiat factory, is the track they used for testing their cars. A bubble room with helicopter pad floats in the middle of the track meant for important business meetings. Inside the old Fiat factory an art gallery includes famous paintings such as Picasso and a few floors below sits a ginormous mall with many shops to choose from. The mall surprised me, because of how similar it is to the malls in the States. You have the typical food court and many clothing stores and shoes stores and electronic stores and so on.
Museo Egizio – the second biggest Egyptian museum in the world, the biggest being the one located in Cairo. You have to stop by this museum. There are many artifacts, but the entire museum seems smaller than you would think. I thought I’d be spending a whole day going through many rooms filled with artifacts, but it only took around 3 hours to get through the few rooms. Though fewer rooms then I expected, each room was packed with amazing Egyptian history.
Museo Nazionale del Cinema – the Cinema museum is located in the Mole Antonelliana, a symbol of Torino. The museum holds many intriguing artifacts. Although the museum starts out a bit slow, when you reach the main room in the middle of the Mole you’ll have an amazing time. The rooms they have set up with clips are so much fun and the seats facing two different large screens are unbelievably comfortable. There is also an elevator that takes you to the very top of the Mole. I plan to return to the Mole for the incredible view of the city!
Central Torino (downtown) – where all the night life occurs and fancy stores line across via Roma, it is a beautiful downtown area with many museums. A place you must experience at any hour. There are always things going on in the piazzas downtown. When passing through I’ve seen a football event with many children running around, a Fiat 500 car show, and a day where a bunch of Italians dressed as zombies…
Bicerin Café – the oldest café in Torino and extremely delicious. They offer amazing chocolate and coffee for all to try. You must stop by the café and view the church across the street from the outside and inside. It is absolutely beautiful!
– Amanda –
The weekend began a bus ride to Genova, a coastal city with a good amount of tourism. With a popular aquarium and a 360 view of the city from a glass elevator, Genova was a gorgeous place to begin the weekend adventure (unfortunately we didn’t have time to go to the aquarium). Although filled with pretty sights and a lovely church, Genova was surprisingly nowhere near the highlight of the trip. Exciting aspects of Genova included a historical bomb in a church and a pink fountain representing breast cancer awareness. After a short tour of the city and quick window shopping, we hopped back on the bus and headed toward our hotel in Santa Margherita.
The views got even more beautiful. We had a short tour of Santa Margherita and had delicious focaccia! I had a pesto focaccia and a sausage focaccia. The pesto one was amazing! And there began my obsession with pesto. We finished exploring around the city through a garden and then by the beach. My amazing Denver friends and I immediately found a cute bar with an amazing view of the beach. We ate cheese and bruschetta and drank wine. I had Cinque Terre wine from the Liguria region. After being classy little ladies we wondered the city, stopped by the hotel, and found a place to splurge on dinner. I had to get gnocchi with pesto. And it was amazing! Dessert was a lemon sherbet with vodka for me, an apple pie and ice cream combination for Hayley, and a chocolate mousse for Ciera. The night was now upon us and we enjoyed the last bit of it by the Ligurian Sea. And to think the real adventure hadn’t even begun.
The next day started an early train ride to Cinque Terre. After an hour and a half to the fifth city, we got out and started our exploration. I loved Riomaggiore, the fifth city. The fifth and the second city are in close competition with each other for my absolute favorite. Both had amazing sights and food! We climbed many stairs that day and began by trekking up to reach gorgeous views. The water was beautiful and blue! Houses were splattered around the mountains in soft yellows and oranges. I couldn’t get enough of all the mountains and houses and Italian flags waving proudly amongst the beauty. Flowers and churches and boats were among the many amazing sights around Cinque Terre. As lunch time approached we found a little restaurant near the waters. I was hesitant to eat seafood, so afraid that I would ask for fish and see every inch of the fish. Eyeballs and tail and fins and all. If I took one look at the whole fish that I had ordered for lunch, I would never be able to eat it. So I ordered a simple tomato and mozzarella salad… vorrei caprese…while Hayley and Ciera got lobster gnocchi. A half of one lobster sat on both of their plates. I could never. We all enjoyed the house wine together, though.
It was now time to explore the next city. After accidently getting on the wrong train, we arrived at the first city instead of the fourth. It was a happy accident. I guess you could say. And from there we began our two hour hike from Montorosso to Vernazza. The amount of stairs was unbelievable, but we kept going up millions of stairs and around tight mountain sides. It was all worth it. The views from the top were breathtaking. We saw vineyards and cute houses along the way. Taking the hike step by step and embracing the moments. After two hours of a long and mostly painful hike, we finally saw the second city, Vernazza. The USAC staff’s favorite city out of the five – Vernazza was beautiful and exciting. We rewarded ourselves immediately once in Vernazza with gelato. I got stracciatella and caramel cream. The caramel was amazing! We went to the edge of some huge rocks near the sea and took a nice long rest to continue our recovery from the nice long hike. It was so peaceful listening to the waves crash against the rocks and stare across the sea and up into the mountains. After grabbing focaccia, we made friends with stray cats and ran into many different USAC groups in Vernazza. We especially enjoyed the quiet little beach hidden away and I learned about sea glass. After searching for a couple sea glass souvenirs, a group of USAC girls kayaked their way into the beach ready for cliff diving. I was so disappointed in myself for not bringing a swimsuit but was happy to be dry because if I would have remembered a swim suit, I would still not have remembered a towel. I joined their group momentarily for some funny and amazing photos. It was a great time especially watching them hilariously struggle to get back on the kayaks.
After we got to the train, I really wanted to make it to another city before the night ended. Unfortunately upon arriving to the third city, we noticed the emptiness of the town and then the huge amount of stairs we had to climb (365 to be exact) and decided to go back to the first city to take the train back to our hotel in Santa Margherita. After waiting around 45 minutes for the train to go back to the first town, we finally arrived in Montorosso. We then struggled to get our train tickets. The ticket machine would not accept cash or credit cards. Only debit cards and you had to enter a pin number. Fortunately, we met a great group of study abroad students from another program. They were from all over America and were studying in a city near Venice. They were very friendly and helped us buy our tickets. With an hour until our train arrived to pick us up, we immediately went for some more gelato. Since we skipped dinner, we splurged on a delicious amount of gelato. I got stracciatella and chocolate and hazelnut. After demolishing the top layer of gelato which was the stracciatella, I enjoyed the best combination of gelato: chocolate and hazelnut. Best known as nutella! I ended the night standing quietly on the beach listening to the soft crash of the waves, my favorite sound. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.
Sunday was another early morning and we headed to Portofino, an extravagant and expensive and exclusive area for the rich and famous. The on and off rain did not destroy my spirits, though, and after taking a boat to the town, I wandered the city shooting photos from amazing heights. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the gorgeous castle on the hill, but I did climb the stairs to a church with unbelievable views. It was a rainy and pleasant place to end the entire trip.
We returned by boat to Santa Margarita, ate focaccia for the last time by the Italian Riviera, grabbed our bags, and got on the train heading back to Torino.
– Amanda –
Feel free to click on smaller photos for a better view!
Downtown, gliding through via Roma and in the piazzas young and old couples stroll by. Public display of affection occurs in the U.S. especially around high school and college campuses. Back in America I see less of it between the older couples and too much of it between the high school couples. Here the teenage boy cuddles and kisses his girlfriend. Later a couple in their mid-twenties smooches in the middle of the piazza. Numerous couples who have probably spent the past 25 years together stroll through the piazza arms intertwined with each other’s. An elderly couple walks hand-in-hand down via Roma seconds later. Not only does the affection between Italian couples seem 100 times greater than the affection between American couples, but the atmosphere of downtown is relaxed and calm. American couples do present daily acts of P.D.A. but in Italy when you walk down the street there is constant affection between the couples. If they are not kissing or hugging or cuddling on a bench, they are clasping each other’s hands. It is clear that they are a couple. In my eyes, any bit of distance between two Italians immediately means they are not a couple.
Whether with their significant other or with friend, tonight everyone enjoys the soft summer evening and strolls through downtown. A typical downtown at this time, for cities I am used to, is chaotic and loud. Fewer couples quietly wander the streets of Toledo or Cincinnati on a Saturday night at 10pm, and more crazy college kids and groups of teenaged friends loudly storm throughout the city. Here, music escapes from a pizzeria down the street and delicately sings in the background.
As time passes the night gains a slight chill to it and clouds fade the moon in the sky. I claim this night in mid-September as the official end of summer. Families walk by with young children playing. A small group of girls giggle past. Like most places there are always those dangerous parts of a city, but in this part of Torino, I feel completely safe. Two churches outline via Roma that leads back to the metro. A procession circles around the piazza praising The Lord in Italian phrases.
Though Torino seems close to perfection one aspect I notice as I venture around the new city is the splatter of paint on the gorgeous old buildings. As I walk down via Roma, pass the shops filled with expensive merchandise and throughout the piazzas, the amount of graffiti shocks me. With all the beauty of the buildings and statues and quiet simplicity of the night, the slash of the graffiti on the beautiful walls always surprises me. For me, it takes so much away from the gorgeous buildings that claim so much history.
The buildings framing each piazza are gorgeous. On the first floor they are lined with shops, pizzerias, cafés, bars, and gelatorias with the floors above the homes of Italians. The architecture is unbelievable and adds so much character to the city. I had always seen pictures of Italy and the architecture that Italy proudly owns, but to see the buildings on my own and take my own photos of the piazza makes a world of a difference. The soft night in Torino presents everything that the city stands for. There are louder areas and discotecas with raving twenty-somethings, but with the law against being loud from 10pm to 8am most of the city remains a light hum during the late hours.