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Study abroad in photos!

Florence

The Duomo

My last day in Florence, I told the lady who owned the grocery store near my apartment that I was leaving tomorrow and that I've loved getting to know her this past month. She responded by saying I brightened her day every time I came in and that she wishes me the best for the future and to come back and visit soon.


A week earlier my roommate and I were out to dinner and our waiter asked us whether we wanted dessert. Clearly joking, she asked, for free?! Soon enough, our waiter walked over with cheesecake and a huge smile on his face!


Despite living with no AC in 90+ degree heat, I would study abroad again in a heart beat. The people, the culture, the architecture, just everything was so incredible!


View from the Piazzale Michealangelo

The Piazzale Michelangelo has to be my favorite place in Florence! The evening of orientation, our entire study abroad group hiked up what felt like the steepest mountain until we eventually were met with the most stunning view. As we sitting there sipping our wine, people started dancing and ofcourse, we joined in too! We walked back down the mountain that night having fallen in love with Florence :)


Class was fun too. Mine was called the Digital Marketing of Tuscan Wine and yes, we did drink some wine (educational purposes only, ofcourse). From class field trips to wine tastings, we experienced Florence more as everyday residents rather than tourists.


Class wine tasting: white, red, and a darker red

The best part, though, had to be the food! I still dream about the fresh burrata, cacio pepe pasta (the better version of fettuccine alfredo), and of course, the incredible gelato.


pasta with fresh burrata

From limoncello spritz' in Amalfi to the famous cheese wheel pasta everything was so heavenly.


Best. Pasta. Ever. from Osteria Pastella

I knew I wanted to try the famous cheese wheel pasta from Osteria Pastella and it was certainly well worth the 27 euros. Reservations were booked out months in advance (definitely try to get a reservation in advance if possible), so we stood in line for over an hour before opening since they allowed the first 15 people in line to eat without a reservation (a good backup plan if you're willing to wait). The place is definitely a little bit of a tourist trap once I realized that no true Italian knew of the restaurant, but a very worthwhile tourist trap at that.


low quality photo, but pear and gorgonzola ravioli
Pistachio and goat cheese gnocchi

La Giostra is another incredible restaurant who's food I sadly forgot to get a good photo of. I went twice, once with my friend's incredible parents who were kind enough to adopt me for the few days we were both there before classes started, and the other with my cousins who by some coincidence were in Florence at the same time I was. The pear and gorgonzola ravioli was to die for! and the pistachio and blue cheese gnocchi was delicious as well.


Some other highlights included Aperol, limoncello, and Hugo Spritz', the most delicious ravioli in Amalfi, helping make pasta from scratch during a cooking class, and realizing on the second to last day that my favourite ice cream brand - Amorino - had a shop close by.


Ravioli in Amalfi with a stunning view

Aperol Spritz
Limoncello spritz

Pesto from our cooking class
Hazelnut and mango ice cream w/ a mango macron

Through our program, we had a couple of optional, additional activities that we could participate in, a pasta making class being one of them. We learned how to make authentic pasta from scratch (like the pesto seen above), a much more meticulous process than i anticipated, but so rewarding when we got to eat our delicious creations. We made an eggplant based appetizer, two types of pasta, and sorbet for dessert! I’m not a huge fan of sorbet, but this sorbet?? I could’ve had 5 more bowls. 


Cinque Terre



We travelled to a new destination each of the 3 weekends we had available, the first one being the picturesque town of Cinque Terre. It was absolutely beautiful, dotted with colourful buildings and and stunning beaches; we were amazed the moment we landed. However, Cinque Terre is one of the most popular places in Italy and therefore, it was insanely crowded. And by insanely crowded, i mean we had to walk for over 45 minutes, past 3 beaches that were completely full in order to find the fourth and final beach that had only 2 umbrellas remaining to rent. If we hadn’t gotten there when we did, we likely wouldn’t have even gotten that spot in the very back. Still, it was incredible and so worth the visit! Soon, my friend and I met people from Sweden and Denmark, there to escape the perpetual cold i’m assuming, who we went cliff jumping with. I’ve wanted to go cliff jumping ever since i knew of its existence, so it was fun to finally make that dream a reality. A highlight from the trip for sure.





We then headed towards our Airbnb La Finestra Sul Mare Drignana in Drignana Vernazza, expecting a decent place to stay for the night with certainly no expectation of air conditioning (our apartment in Florence had no AC with temps pushing 95 degrees F). However, the moment we walked in, we were amazed! the roof had the most incredible view, the owners of the Airbnb, Michele and Marco, took over an hour to explain every amenity available, including helping us find taxis. The hospitality was unmatched and we are forever grateful. We took the most incredible photos with the absolutely breathtaking view.


Friends and pretty views

When it came time to find dinner, we ended up missing the bus because it left early. Then, we spent another 45 minutes attempting to search for a taxi with no luck. Finally, we hiked up to the singular restaurant overlooking the mountains and graciously asked them if they would mind trying to call us a taxi, since their restaurant had closed 2 hours ago and we couldn't eat there itself. They too, had no luck. Instead of sending us back to the Airbnb hungry, they offered to open up their kitchen after hours and feed us. It’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for any of us and we all felt so beyond grateful. Honestly, it was better than any fancy dinner at a restaurant. We had an incredible view, were able to consequently support a small business who had already done so much for us, and they even had the sweetest dog to keep us company.


The best restaurant w/ the sweetest puppy!


Amalfi



Our second weekend we traveled with Bus2alps, a tour agency that caters to college students and other young people wanting to travel on a budget through pre-planned packages for destinations all over Europe. 10/10 recommend traveling with them - such an incredible experience! Because this was my first time traveling on a student budget and staying in a hostel, I really didn’t know what to expect. My expectations were blown out of the water, though, when we were picked up in a comfortable, air conditioned bus and were told that the “hostel” would really just be like a massive hotel with many of us in one room. The 7 hour journey where we reached at 4 am and had to be up at 8 am the next morning ensured that we made the most of the trip. 


View from the top of the cable car

Our first stop was Capri. We were able to see everything from the Blue Grotto to the picture perfect boutiques lining the narrow streets. We drank Limoncello Spritzes surrounded by lemon trees, took a cable lift to see the most picturesque view, and yet still had plenty of down time to explore! We went to a cute little restaurant off the beaten path where we were surrounded by lemon trees and even though i’m usually not a huge day drinker, a limoncello spritz was a requirement to truly experience the culture, of course. Along with some (window) shopping because nothing seemed to cost less than 4,000 Euro, a friend and I took the cable lift to get the best view of capri and wow, was it beautiful, both the journey up and down as well as the view itself.


a bunch of us on a boat we found in Positano

The following day was a relaxing beach day at Positano. The best part about the structure of the weekend was that somehow Bus2alps (100% endorsing the company love love loved my experience) found a way to pack quite a few activities and excursions into the itinerary while still providing us with plenty of downtime. Not only were there quite a few of us from our own study abroad program there, but we met so many other college students and young travelers! From finding a public boat and taking a bunch of photos together on it to meals with the most stunning views to finding the most charming boutique, Positano was definitely one of my favorites :)


Views from Pompeii

We ended our Amalfi excursion with a visit to Pompeii. The historical tour was incredible! Despite it being painfully hot, it was pretty cool to hear about the centuries of history behind each room and monument, especially regarding how quickly society has advanced and flourished. 



Spain!



Our third and final weekend we headed out of Italy and went to Spain. Instead of staying in Barcelona city, we decided to stay in a small beach town about an hour out called Sitges. It was the most adorable, peaceful town with such friendly locals. That Friday, we just relaxed on the beach and explored the area! While we were under our umbrella, for what felt like the millionth time, a man who was selling trinkets came up to me and asked where I was from. Interestingly, that barely ever happens in the US, likely because of being a more diverse country, but in Italy, I was asked upwards of 20 times in just 4 short weeks. I know some people may take offense to the question, but i’ve noticed that 99% of the time it’s out of curiosity and with good intentions. I did realize though, that I don’t really know how exactly to answer it? Logically, I would be from the US because born and brought up here, but I know that’s not the answer they’re looking for. What they mean is what’s your ethnicity, which is such an easy question to answer, but just not the normalized method of asking. I’ve had taxi drivers show me photos of them in front of the Taj Mahal (very wholesome), tell me stories of their experiences visiting, and even give me discounts (the best perk for sure), which was honestly so beyond unexpected but fun.


Gaudi's house

The following day, 2 of us decided to go into Barcelona for the day and it was so much fun, not necessarily because of Barcelona itself (although the city was great in itself), but more because of all the people we met along the way. As soon as we made it to the main train station, we mapped how far we were from Sagrada Familia, expecting it to be maybe 0.5 miles. It was, in fact 2.5 miles. We panicked a little, wondering if we got off on the wrong stop accidentally? Thankfully, we didn’t and caught an inner city metro to Sagrada Familia and figured out where we wanted to go from there. We both wanted to see Gaudi's house, me because I had learned about the architect in Spanish class and wanted a tour of the inside and my friend because she wanted a photo of it. We both ended up doing the tour, though, and it was certainly well worth the price tag.


Interior architecture of Gaudi's house

Afterwards, we attempted to see Park Guell, a place that was on my friend's bucket list and something I also wanted to see. We took the metro and hiked all the way up to the entrance only to find out that all tickets for the day were sold out :( We tried to see if there was any possible way we could go inside, but tough luck.


The outside of Park Guell since that's as far as we could go lol

We soon realized that we were starving and ended up finding a cute cafe down the hill. At that cafe, we met 2 other girls who were also studying abroad, but in Paris and had come to Barcelona for the weekend. We all chatted about how our respective trips were going and and how the experience was just going way too fast. As I asked for the bill, I realized that the cafe employees had started playing Bollywood music and were speaking in Hindi to one another. I spoke back to our server in Hindi and his face lit up as he asked me questions about where my family was from, where else I've visited, and more. I even joked around and asked for a discount and much to my surprise, he actually said that if he hadn't already rang us up, he would've given us one. Most of all, though, I know that I'll forever cherish these random stories and experiences connecting with people around the world, where they become a small part of your story and you become a small part of theirs.


We soon made it back to Florence for our last week (it flew by way too fast :(( ) and checked off a few more destinations off our bucket list. Of course, we had to see the Uffizi gallery, where I wish we had purchased an actual guided tour. It was so massive that it was way too overwhelming to try to go through the museum on our own, but still an incredible museum with so many beautiful pieces to see.


The Uffizi !

Study abroad was the most incredible experience that I would recommend to everyone! I definitely can't wait to be back in Florence one day :)

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So glad you loved the experience !!

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