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2018 Italy: Culture and Cuisine

2018 Italy: Culture and Cuisine

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Welcome to the blog for the 2018 Italy Culture and Cuisine Program!

July 3, 2018
Written by Caroline Dureault

We started the day by taking the Metro to the coliseum. We learned how some of the coliseum had to be rebuilt because it had been mined for the marble. From there, we walked to see other notable Roman sites, and went up on a roof to see the view. That’s where we met a seagull who Wyatt named Peter. Many of us got emotionally attached to Peter who was not a fan of Luna bars and could not get around the glass barrier. The view was incredible and we could see all of Rome. From there we saw the changing of the guard and the eternal flame honoring the fallen soldiers.

After that, we went to the Pantheon which had really intricate statues of many Roman gods. For lunch we went to a bread shop to get sandwiches. The lady working the counter was described by Kate as “the perfect cute Italian grandma.”

After a quick break in our hotel to recover from the heat, we headed to the Vatican. The vast amount of sculpture and artwork was beautiful. My personal favorite was the hallway where the walls were decorated with detailed maps of major cities in Italy, and the ceiling was covered in gold-lining and miniature paintings. Entering the Sistine Chapel with all the artwork done by Michelangelo was cool, even though it felt so hot with the requirement to wear pants. While we had a tour guide, I enjoyed viewing the art without her commentary more, as there were so many beautiful pieces and not enough time for her to cover it all.

While having dinner at pizza place we watched the Palio, which we had been introduced to in Siena. A few of us placed bets on which group would win, but in the end Wyatt won. We finished the day by visiting Piazza Navona and walking around Rome at night before returning to our hotel.

July 2, 2018
Written by Cloe Moreno

We gathered downstairs as some people were coming from their rooms and others from breakfast. We were getting ready to depart Siena. Devin called the bus company and we walked to their location. It was a three hour drive and as most of us drifted in and out of sleep, green filled the hills that rolled by the windows. The sights were accompanied by the viewer’s playlist flowing through their earbuds and occasional conversations sparked between the rows of seats.

We arrived at our hotel building at noon, just coming out of our calm state of mind. We then climbed the stairs to find out that there were two hotels in the same building, we then headed up to Hotel Nautilus, our hotel for the next two nights. There was a decision to rest a bit until heading out to explore. The decision to rest a bit was happily agreed upon because the weather outside was 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit).

When we were all hungry we ventured out into the heat and found our lunch spot. Many had pasta where you could order bucatini noodles (common in the area) if your dish paired well with that, or others ate pizza, which in Rome the pizza has a very thin crust. We walked back to our hotel realizing it would be best if we learned about Rome later in the afternoon.

Before we walked out of the hotel, we had to make sure that each of us had a pen because it turned out we would be writing a self-reflection that would then be mailed in three to five years from now. As some of the students used the map to guide us to our destination, we saw the buildings and shops that lined the streets. Rome is the capital of Italy with around two million people living there. We saw a bird from the coast that helps with garbage, the seagull. We stopped to get gelato before we melted first, it was delicious and was the perfect amount of cold to abate the heat. The place where we stopped to write our reflection was a nice little park near the Villa Borghese.

After we finished sitting in the park, we strolled around and saw various sites. We visited the Piazza del Popolo (people’s square) and learned that this is what travelers saw first when arriving in Rome. The square was also used for public executions, the last one was in the 1800s. An Egyptian Obelisk was placed in the center of the square during the reign of Sety I, three sides were carved under Sety I and the fourth side was carved under Rameses II reign. It is one of the tallest and second oldest Obelisks in Rome. Imagine having to carry that from Egypt across the Mediterranean Sea and then across Italy to that spot back in the 1500s.

We also visited one of the four churches situated in the piazza, where we saw paintings and sculptures; two of the paintings were by Caravaggio. We walked a little bit more until reaching the Fontana di Trevi. This is one of the most famous fountains in the world and has appeared in several films over the years. In Roman times, it served as the ending point for an aqueduct that supplied water to Romans. Competitions were the rage during the Baroque period to design buildings, or fountains or other things. For the fountain, the winner was originally a Florentine won the design, but due to outcry it was re-awarded to Nicoli Salvi, a Roman.

We walked until we got to the Metro station where we hopped on and got off after a few stops. By then it was dinner time and the plan was to hit Tommi’s Burger Joint. The restaurant has Icelandic roots, but has become so popular that it appears all over. We had arrived a little early for our reservation, so we explored a shop called Tiger which had fun toys and cute office desk tools. Enough time had passed that we could find our seats which were outside. It was cool enough that your clothes didn’t continue to stick to you after you got up from eating which was a nice relief. The burgers were delicious along with the fries and we continued to sit and talk as the street lights beamed to life. Our walk back to the hotel was peaceful and we were all happy to be able to rest. It was realized for some that this trip was coming to an end, but for now to just appreciate the present and wait for the next day.

July 1, 2018
Written by Ummara Khan

Unity through division. This paradox captures the attitudes of the Sienese people during the Palio di Provenzano, a horse race which is held twice a year (once in July, and once in August). Walking up and down the hilly streets of Siena two days before the Palio, we saw buildings lined with flags representing the out of the seventeen contrade, or districts, competing in the Palio this year. The tradition of hosting a horse race in the Piazza del Campo dates back almost four hundred years. After centuries of attacking each other, the districts of Siena decided to replace the feuds, in which the people of Siena were trying to kill their neighbors, with an event that allowed pride for the different districts in far less violent manner. Today, the Palio consists of ten jockeys, each representing a different contrada, riding bareback three times around the track in the Piazza. As you can imagine, explaining the rules and the complete history of this ancient tradition would be overwhelming in a blog post, but I encourage you to check out the following link to learn more: https://www.discovertuscany.com/siena/palio-siena.html.

During our walk around Siena, I observed a group of teenagers hanging near the Piazza. Seeing their excitement for the Palio evoked a sense of longing in me to be a part of something so unique. People born in Siena have the right to be baptized –non-religiously- into a contrada (usually the contrada of their mother). Foreigners can also be baptized after they have lived in Siena for a considerable amount of time and have established strong relationships with the people. I entertained the idea of moving to Siena and baptizing myself for a while, but the inauthenticity of the experience soon dawned on me. Most of the people in a contrarda grow up together and being a part of their contrada becomes a fundamental part of their identity. How beautiful and rare it is to identify so strongly with a place and a tradition.

I will forget many of the facts Mike taught us about Siena (sorry, Mike). A decade from now, I won’t remember that Siena was once a major stop for individuals participating in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I won’t remember the tale of how Siena was founded by Sieno and Ascianio, the sons of Remus. What I will remember is that a smile danced across my face as I walked through the alleys of Siena, vibrant with colors and noise. I will remember how the bomb-like flare that marks the start and end of the Palio made my heart skip a beat. The booming voices of men, young and old, singing the songs of their contrade as they marched into the Piazza will ring in my ears long after I have forgotten the melodies of those songs.

Siena is one of the most underrated places in Italy. I will admit, though, that the lack of attention that Siena gets from tourists gives it its charm. The city’s rich history and unique traditions give it a personality that easily makes Siena one of my favorite stops on this trip. Siena has shown me part of Italian culture that I never knew existed. I hope that one day I can come back and watch the actual race rather than the trial one, although watching the trial race was thrilling! More than anything, Siena has planted a seed of desire in me to learn more about my own heritage. We all have roots that nourish us and help shape the people we become. May we partake in traditions of our own cultures that evoke the kind of pride that the people of Siena feel during this time of year. May we be fortunate enough to witness traditions from other cultures that showcase the beauty that arises from our differences.

June 30, 2018
Written by Jeraly Escamilla

Our journey to Florence began with riding on a train and watching trees, houses, and blue skies pass as we rode along. After traveling on the train from Venice to Florence, we arrived at our hotel and finally got some decent WiFi! It’s amazing to see that WiFi has now become something that is just to speak to family, because even if we had WiFi everywhere, the surroundings are too revealing and new. We would hate to miss out on the opportunity to interpret them and what they contain.

We left our luggage in the hotel because our rooms were not ready for us to stay in, so we went out to eat gelato. It is going to be odd going back to America and facing the fact that I will be unable to receive the same tasty, real gelato that I have been consuming almost every day in Italy. When we finished our gelato and Devin and Charlie finished their animal guts, we made our way to the Galleria degli Uffizi and saw many beautiful sights on the way. Something that really captivated my eyes was the amazing and aweing sites of the bridges. The aesthetically pleasing sights of Florence were mesmerizing and hard to believe a city could be so beautiful. Not only was the glittering water pleasing to look at, but even glancing up at the amazing architecture of the city was something I’ll never forget.

As we began to approach toward the Galleria, I began to hear the different languages-not only Italian. There was diversity and abundance in the amount of people traveling to witness Florence’s art in both the city and museums. The moment I saw Michelangelo and Dante outside of the building, I knew that it was going to be something that I’d never forget.

We waited in line for quite some time and watched as Devin sign papers, stating that he wasn’t going to educate us on the paintings. I soon realized I was going to have to utilize my knowledge from middle school, to interpret and understand the paintings. The Galleria was overwhelming in the aspect of it containing so many amazing, descriptive, and rooted paintings and sculptors. Often, I enjoy people-watching because you notice many things about people. Something I learned from watching people in the Galleria was that not many people bother to actually take the time and analyze a painting. Many just took pictures and of them and that sufficed.

We had a time limitation of an hour and thirty minutes. Although that sounds like a perfect amount for just staring at paintings, I found that it wasn’t enough. This was because I could stare at the same painting, ceiling, sculptor, and any other art piece in the Galleria for thirty minutes, and I would still be unable to create my complete perspective on the painting. Also, I found that every time I would stare at it from a different angle, it would change my whole idea of the meaning because every detail had a part in the story the art was conveying. It wasn’t only the art in the building but also the windows that showed an amazing view of the city. You were able to watch people from the window and see that people are so different or so alike.

When we finished looking at the three floors of an abundance of art, we exited and were given time to roam. Personally, I needed a place to sit and luckily, we found a Duomo which gave us a great spot to sit, observe the church, and watch as people passed by. One of the best parts of Florence was meeting a fluffy, tiny dog, that was able to go on its hind legs and dance around as it tried to catch the treat I lead it with.

Soon enough, our time was over and it was time for dinner. The restaurant we went to had amazing plants, amazing food, and I was pleased with the conversations we had during dinner. My favorite part of every day has been dinner, because I have learned the most about people during dinner. Although Devin gives me a hard time on how picky I am, and Charlie critiques my choice in my way of eating and cutting my food, I enjoy the conversations and discussions we all engage in.

That night on our way back to the hotel, there was a moment where we stopped at the middle of the bridge to listen to a man play the guitar and watch the beautiful sunset. It may have only been me, but I felt like in that moment, we were all one. I don’t know if it was the fact that we were all taking pictures or if the combination of a guitar playing and the sunset being displayed, but it all made me emotional. I know that in that moment, it felt like one of the best moments we’ve had during the trip.

Soon enough, it was over but we all engaged in more conversations with each other on our way to the hotel, still admiring the glistening water. To me this day felt short, but that moment where there was music playing, no one complaining, a beautiful sunset, people taking pictures, and watching others unite as well, I felt like that was one of the best moments we’ve had so far. I wish to come back one day and have the opportunity to witness more sunsets and the union of people.

June 29, 2018
Written by Patrena Witt

Let me tell you all the reasons it’s awful to stay up all night… it’s solely because you can’t remember anything you did the day before.

Apparently, the day started off with hiking up to the best view of Florence. At the top of this hill you could see Florence far and wide, from mountain to valley. Filled to the brim with terracotta colored roof tops and bright buildings. But of course, whatever goes up must come down, so down we went.

We then visited a green and white church, where we split up and ran around the back allies of the city. With that came sweat and hunger, resolved only by various foods found in the market, the front of which looked mildly sketchy. My lunch consisted of dried fruits and fried chicken.

Bellies full, we took back to the streets to further fill ourselves with gelato. And off to see the original statue of David. He stood so much taller than I would have ever expected him to. As we passed into yet another room full of busts and statues that stood taller than life there was one that is still engraved in my mind. She laid on top of a bed and looked so lifelike we were terrified that she would sit up.

As we headed back to the hotel, we found a carousel and the little kid in most of us lit up. About five of us paid 1 euro to climb aboard the horses and ride around 6 or 7 times. Later on in the day, we went to dinner and as we headed back, we all wanted to learn how to bird call through our fists.

So lesson learned, when going on a trip half way across the world, don’t stay up all night. You’re going to want to remember EVERY SINGLE THING that happens. Unless you’re staying up all night to watch the sun rise with all your newfound friends…

June 28, 2018
Written by Nancy Espinoza

It was our second night in Venice and only two things seemed to stay constant: the Sunshine and Cold Nights. This was something unusual to me, because my everyday life seemed like a routine. While here in Venice, different people and different languages appeared every which way. Granted it is summer and tourists are everywhere, I’ve still come to see its true significance as the island on water.

On this day, we were set to explore the three commonly known islands based on their extraordinary gifts. The three islands made me understand three completely different things about Venice. The “Island of Glass” or Murano made me understand the delicate nature of our world and how most of us want to protect that delicacy. Although we want to protect it, most of us end up neglecting it, and sometimes breaking it entirely. This showed me that through hard work and patience, we too can create a masterpiece together.

The “Island of Lace” or Burano exposed me the beauty of “ancient” wisdom and human kindness; its Pastel Wonderland embraced the tourists with all its might. The colors gave a reason to wander around for those searching for more. This Pastel Wonderland led me to an elderly man who spoke from his heart. He didn’t shy away from my many questions. He led me on a colorful journey through his art and English-translations. He told me that every once in a while, he goes out to draw the exact same scenery, but not once has it every turned out the same.

The third island was the Deserted Island or Torcello taught me that silence is okay, even if you’re traveling as a group. With only 10 inhabitants on the island, I was able to self-reflect and be one with nature. I heard the birds and saw the young tadpoles in the water. I heard the animals and saw the insect fly away. I appreciated the silence and sounds of nature whispering in my ear.

Through these islands, I was able to examine my whole trip, and it was only the beginning. Finishing up with our guided tour, we explored the art world in Venice. Through various different methods of studying and playing with the art, we were able to enjoy it all together.

After getting to know the art, we all went on our merry way to “free time”. This free time consisted of eating and shopping, even though dinner would be following the “free time”. Dinner always included a scavenger hunt or being on the lookout for the restaurant. This particular restaurant greeted us with open arms, and fed us until our bellies were full. The owner came out to greet and speak to the group about the three course meal. He had taken into consider everyone’s dietary needs, as our group included vegetarians, a vegan, and meat eaters. It was the best hospitality any of us had every experienced in Italy, 100% recommend: Osteria Ai Do Pozzi. We all laughed and cried that night, because of their amazing patience in dealing with us kids.

We were all sleep deprived and high on life, when coming back to the hotel/apartments. All in all, this trip has been amazing, and I can’t wait to see what the future has instore for this group.

June 26, 2018
Written by Maggie Seye

Venice is a city filled with rich history and beautiful sights. We started our day off eating breakfast on the roof our apartment in Verona. After enjoying the lovely view, we took a train ride to the Venice. We watched the green of the Italian land and the orange tops of buildings pass by as we headed towards the city. Venice (or “Venezia” as the locals call it) is composed of the mainland and the islands. We pulled into the station and walked out into the light.

We saw the Grande Canal and many gondolas and transportation boats on the water. Venice has no cars and all transportation to and from is done by water. We had to wait a bit, while our apartment situation was being handled but we stayed entertained by the pigeons and the Grande Canal. We then walked to a restaurant next to the canal. I loved having my delicious lasagne while gazing at the beautiful water.

Next we headed to the boat bus, to get to our apartment in another part of Venice. I think everyone can agree the river was absolutely gorgeous. I watched in awe as the beautifully crafted gondolas passed by. Equally beautiful, were the buildings. I learned from Devin that the front of the buildings were made with marble and the sides with brick to save money, while also impressing people. Marble or no marble, I was still very impressed.

I saw the mayor’s office and many more important buildings. We arrived at the dock and (much to my disappointment) got off the boat. We walked to our building, got settled, and then headed back out again. We passed by many shops and stands filled with tourist items.

We saw St.Mark’s Bassilica and headed for Doge’s palace. The palace is massive, which can fortunately hold the great amount of history entrapped in its walls. We split up in groups and took off in different directions. My group headed towards The Institutional Chambers where the important parts of the government (like the Great Council, Senate, and Full Council) were housed. Every single room (I mean every single one), had me entranced and my jaw dropping to the floor.

Incredible paintings draped the walls from top to bottom with the most intricate details. Each painting tells a story and each one was told with the finest artistry.. One of my favorite areas was the weaponry room. It was mind blowing to actually see the ways of wars (I definitely would not have wanted to be a citizen of one of the cities that were conquered). My group and I wandered around the prison area marveling at the cells and dark passages. It was very creepy and any person walking down there terrified us. We passed the Bridge of Sighs were prisoners would peek out into the city on their way to their cells or the execution block. They would let out a sigh as they saw the beautiful outside.

We journeyed into the Atrio Quadrato (Square Atrium) which was used as a waiting room for the government. No matter where you looked there would be a beautiful painting. The paintings hugged and danced with my eyes and I wish everyone could see the beauty. We reunited with the group and headed out into the square. We given time to shop around and it was very fun walking around the various shops. Allie helped me exchange money and it was a blast looking at the various items. We had dinner at a great restaurant and my pizza was very delicious. As we walked around the square, we stopped by a quartet where we heard lovely violin playing (making my ears very happy and my mind panic about my lack of practice).

Finally, we headed back to the apartment and looked out into the beautiful Venetian night. My friends and I agree that no photo or even video could truly capture the glittering water and colorful beckoning lights. I think from now on, when someone speaks of something captivating and mesmerizing, the word ‘Venezia’ will pop up in my mind.

June 25, 2018
Written by Wyatt Parker-Chappelle

I write this following a very nice bike ride through the city of Verona. We were out an hour longer than we should have been, resulting in a minor sun burn on my half, amazing photos and lots of laughs. Today started early for me personally, I found myself unable to sleep due to being so excited. So I woke up and talked to my parents, before getting ready and packing for the day. I ate cold pizza from the night before and then we all gathered for the train ride. The train reportedly was very fast but I was not awake to prove this.

Once we arrived, we started walking and instantly I felt the difference between Verona and Milan. Although Milan is very pretty, it is very industrial and I had a hard time becoming emotionally connected to the city. Verona hit me almost instantly after stepping out of the train station. There was a large building with very old architecture and I fell in love instantly. We walked maybe a mile before getting to our hotel, which took me a bit off guard. We had to enter along the alleyway, and the doors were tall and heavy, making it a bit weird to get our bags in.

Once we climbed the 3 or so flights of stairs, we left our bags and walked to the roof where a small dining area surrounded by greenery, over looked the entire city. I found myself gazing over it while I waited for the group activity to start. Once we walked down to the front door, we were all met with an older Italian woman who greeted us brightly and asked us a few introductory questions, before marching us to the van which carried the bikes.

Hilarity ensued shortly after, watching 10 students struggle to get on bikes is amazingly funny to me. I also had my issues, but they mainly came from the pastel purple helmet which was many sizes too small for my head. As we started to go, we saw a stunning blue river lined by red brick walls and pale shorelines; I could see a three arched bridge down the way with duel points on the top of each battlement. The red brick stood out against the deep blue sky and pale blue waters, looming behind the bridge was a bell tower which stood as a monument to the heart of Verona. At this point we started to move again down the river, passing street by street until we came to a church which had a line pattern up its sides white stone and red brick. I was told moments later that this was believed to be more stable, because in the years prior to its construction, Verona was ravished by a massive earth quake. This pattern is found often in buildings of this era.

The church itself had a large rose window, around it was a gray ring with 4 images. The top most image was a king, and following it to the right showed him falling, and the furthest below was him laying upside down, crownless and naked. Then we saw the same image of him falling turned up, so he was rising, then the top carving again. The inscription was said to have meant this was the wheel of fate and how one day you can be at the top and some days at the bottom.

We road further, a student fell behind and we had to wait for her, this was only the start of the delays, and the laughs. Once we started going again, we followed the leader who then took us across the large brick bridge and we got a slightly closer look at the large bell tower. I could tell this city would grow on me in a matter of hours. As we went, I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear. I grew closer to the other students. Short distance bike races allowed for some laughter, while we grew closer as a group. We also grew closer to the city, traveling down the alleys and streets watching the stones pass we slowly gained a greater appreciation for the city. Personally I’ve traveled a lot, but I would have never guessed a bike ride would be something I enjoyed so thoroughly. Towards the end we were heading back to the place we started at, when suddenly we couldn’t find one of the teachers and a student, we all stopped and the leader went back and found them in front of the gate to enter the court yard of Juliette. The leader came and got us and we all met up for a photo shoot and the last attraction of the ride. Verona will stay deep in our hearts, minds and dreams for years to come, and I hope to one day return to that court yard and see the place Shakespeare once write so fondly about.

June 24, 2018
Written by Charlie Lowe

The trip didn’t really start until the day was almost over. Most of the day was spent travelling and waiting. It’s not that it wasn’t worth the wait, it certainly was, but my own lack of sleep made the first few hours of being in a whole new country pass by in a blur. At first glance, the city of Milan didn’t look too different from any busy city you might find in America. You wouldn’t have been able to tell it was Italy if it wasn’t for the difference in language and the shape of the power outlets. For me it really sank in that we were somewhere entirely different when we reached the castle. We were walking through the streets, past the store fronts and crowded buildings, and there it was, a castle, moat and all. The moat wasn’t in use, it had more cats in it than water (at least four that I saw) but still, moat. Inside the castle wasn’t treated with any special reverence, without the moat and the high walls it was like any other public park. From there, we were all properly introduced to one another. Complications in traveling had us all separated up until that point, with different groups coming from different places, and what better place to discuss traveling plans than just outside a castle.

From there we headed to The Duomo. Walking to the Duomo gave us (or at least me) a more accurate view of Milan. The streets were a maze of high class clothing stores and lemon trees. The Duomo itself was striking. The Duomo itself was breathtakingly beautiful, and was certainly the highlight of the day. The Duomo was without a doubt, the most impressive architectural structure that I have ever seen. It was carved from pink-white marble, and seemed to almost glow in the sunlight. We spent an appropriate amount of time gawking at it from below before we climbed an exceptionally tall stairway to reach its roof. From there we wandered around some more, tried gelato, and eventually had our first real Italian meal. Most of us had some variant of pizza, and the rest of us had different types of pasta. I had the gnocchi, and it was delicious.

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