The Grand Homecoming!!
I was welcomed back into the USA by kisses and hugs from my sister, Mom, and Dad! To celebrate my homecoming, my first meal was Chipotle! YUM!
A few days later, we hosted a “Welcome Home” party at our house. I decide to bring Italy back to all my family through Italian cuisine! We had three different types of pasta (pici with arrabiata sauce, penne with pesto, and just good ol’ spaghetti with marinara!). There were veggies, meatballs, artichokes, meat platers, cheese with the balsamic jelly from Modena, Italy. There was also caprese bites, Marco’s olive oil and my homemade focaccia bread, and salad greens with olive oil and salt (just like the Italians do it!). I even cut the fruit the way Roberto taught me! And for desert we had Baci, kinder chocolates, gelato, chocolates filled with balsamic from Modena, Italy. And, of course, Italian hot chocolate!!
Most importantly, all my family was there to welcome me home! I am forever thankful for all of your love and support! Thank you, thank you! Grazie mille!!!!
Here I am sitting on the plane headed back to LA with two hours of my adventure left. I really cannot believe that this whole experience is just about to end…I have the most conflicting feelings about this. On one hand I am so, so, so very excited and eager to get home and see my family and just be home. But at the same time I am so not ready to leave Italy, what really has become my second home. I have been so very blessed and am so thankful for everything I have seen, done, and learned. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have gotten to experience something this amazing and life changing this early on in my life! That’s why I think I am almost scared to return home. I have experienced and changed so much, that I am scared that everything at home will just be the same. I’m scared there will be no more adventure in life! I’m scared that after this amazing experience I will be expected to just get back to the “real” and “normal” world. I’m scared of everything I have missed in America, and everything I will miss about Italy. I really have no idea what to expect once I get “home”. But I know that if I can get on a plane by myself, fly to another country where I don’t know the language, be given to an Italian nona (grandma) who doesn’t speak a word of English, learn about another culture and language, spend a semester taking classes in a foreign language, and travel Europe for two and a half weeks…well, I think I can pretty much handle anything now! (:
Things I’m looking forward to in the USA:
- My family, Sally Jo, and Lucy!
- Seeing friends!
- Being in control of what I eat (and how much)
- Chipotle, Root beer, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
- Not wearing a scarf and being all bundled up the whole time
- Getting to go barefoot in the house
- Doing my own laundry (with DRYERS!!)
- Carpet and heating/air conditioning in the house!
- Internet everywhere and for free, and most importantly…it actually works!
Things I will miss about Italy:
- the people
- the Italian language
- Loriana, Luciana, and Roberto
- amazing and fresh foods
- new friends
- Kopa Kabana gelato (especially the flavor fondente)
- San Martino Pizza (Caprese and nutella pizza, and also the beautiful pizza man!)
- Sitting in Piazza del Campo with the sun beating down
- Cute italian bambini and cani (children and dogs)
- Adorable Italian old people
- Teaching my adorable kindergarteners
- My wonderful bed at Loriana’s
- Roberto stuffing me with delicious deserts!
- Wednesday Mercato
- My favorite reading spot
- SIS staff
- Having my window open in Luciana and Roberto’s house
- People watching
- Seeing my clothes drying outside the window
- TV shows “The Money Drop” and “Affari Tuoi”
- Italian hot chocolate
- Saying grazie, salute, mi piace_____, va bene, mi dispiace
Things I’m not too sorry about leaving in Italy (:
- Hiking up the ginormous hill of Fontebranda, or all the steps!
- Number 10 bus on Wednesday mornings due to the Mercato!
- “MANGIA! MANGIA! Julia, ma perche no mangia? Piena? PIENA? Ma PERCHE?!?!?” (with hand gestures)
- Teaching the horrible (most of the time) second graders
- Not being left alone when I’m sick
- Doves at Loriana’s house! I hate their weird chirping!
- Loriana trying to feed me weird fish all the time!
- Stinky (and questionable) cheese!
- Tiny, tiny showers!
It is not a goodbye to Italy and to life’s adventures, but just a “See you in 2014” and the start of a new one!!
Ciao Siena, Italy & hello Foothill Ranch, California USA!!!!
Last Goodbyes: Siena & Rome, Italy
We arrived to Siena in rain, but it was still so nice to be back! Ashley went to her host parents house to stay the night and I stayed in a hotel within the cities walls. It took me absolutely forever to find it, especially since it was downpouring. But once I got there it was just nice to relax! The next day I did some last minute shopping, and finally bought a wallet I had been dying for ever since I saw it!! I ate lunch at my most favorite pizza place in Siena for the last time! Ashley and I met up and got to hang out in the del Campo. It was such a treat because the rain had stopped and the sun had come out! Ashley and I went to go to the SIS building to see if anyone was there, turns out Gianca and Mike pulled up on their vespa just in time! It was so good to see them again! I even got to go up and sign the wall in the classroom (a tradition for SIS students). We said goodbye to SIS, and then I headed to get some flowers for Loriana.
I went over to see Loriana for the first time since she had gone to the hospital. It was so nice to see her, but she looked so different! She looked a lot older, and just really tired. But I could tell how happy she was to see me as well! I told her all about my travels, and we talked, I gave her the flowers and the gift I brought back to her from my travels and a card. And we took some pictures. She told me she had been in the hospital for over 20 days!!! She was very emotional, she kept telling me this would be the last time I would get to see her. I kept telling her no, it wouldn’t be. But it was so sad. She had tears in her eyes the whole time. Towards the end one of her friends/neighbors came to say goodbye to me. And then I said my goodbyes to Loriana who started to cry. I will always remember seeing her as I walked out the door. I am so forever thankful for her and all that she did for me. She was the perfect match for me! I am so thankful to have to spend the time I did with her!
Then I got on the bus and made my way to Luciana and Roberto’s. Sadly, Roberto was not there. But I told Luciana all about my adventures, and then handed her a gift from my travels and then a card and also chocolate cookies for Roberto (he has a huge sweet tooth!). I got my things and Luciana helped me get them out the door, and I said my goodbyes!
Ashley and I met with all of our luggage, and went to Kopa Kabana one last time. It was quite difficult since we were on a very tight schedule and had all our luggage, but it needed to be done! It must have been pretty funny to watch us with all of our luggage and try to eat gelato at the same time! We waited for our bus at Piazza Gramsci for the last time, piled our luggage on, and headed for Rome. The coolest part is that due to the slight bit of rain there was a double rainbow that we got to drive under. It was like the perfect way to end a perfect semester!! Once we got off the bus, it took us some figuring out how to get to our hotel. After figuring out which bus to take, we realized we had no ticket and had no idea where to purchase one. Luckily the bus driver was a very nice guy and allowed us to come on for free. It was kind of weird because we were the only ones on the bus, but Ashley and him chatted (he spoke Italian) and then Ashley translated things. He told us which bus stop to get off at and told us how to get to our hotel from there.
Once we got to our hotel we found our room, and then went down for dinner since we were starving! Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed and there were no restaurants nearby the hotel. Our only option was to eat at the bar and all they could make was a grill cheese and chips. We headed back up to the room, and I finished packing a rearranging my things took a shower and went to bed. It seemed so impossible that this whole adventure was coming to and end. The next morning we threw on some clothes and headed downstairs to make it in time for our shuttle bus to the airport. On the shuttle bus I kept reading over and over again the email my Dad had sent me on how to do the whole airport thing. I was so nervous about making sure I did everything, and that everything would go smoothly. Ashley and I were taking two different airlines, and we had no idea if we would be able to meet back up again once we got threw security. Ashley’s airline came up first and we said goodbye. It was not only sad we were saying goodbye to each other, but I think we were also both pretty nervous about getting home safe and not running into any problems.
Finally it came for my turn to get off the bus, I grabbed all my luggage and figured my way threw everything. Every single step went perfect, and I ran into no problems and no waits anywhere. In fact I was done with everything in less than 45 minutes. So then I check my flight to make sure it was on time, figured out where my gate was, and even did a little bit of shopping. I texted Ashley to tell her I was inside and would get to see her! And I waited, and waited and waited. I decided I would go to breakfast, so I went and had a delightful breakfast and even went on the computer and internet. That’s when I got a phone call from Ashley crying. She said that her luggage was overweight and that her credit card wasn’t working to pay for the cost. She said her dad wasn’t answering his phone, and she had no idea what to do. I felt so sad for her! I know how scary and nerve racking that must have been! I couldn’t even imagine what she could do! I told her that everything would be okay and I would figure out someway to help. So I packed up my computer and went to go find someone who worked for her airline. It was a man working at a desk. I have no idea what his job really was, but I explained to him what was happening. Then he just stared at me and looked confused, so I explained it again. He immediately got up and had me follow him to Ashley’s airline’s gate area. He explained to one of the women what was happening, and then waited with me. I told her I wanted to see if I could pay for Ashley’s bags from up here. After her calling around to a few different people she was able to work it out! I was so thrilled, and happy that Ashley would be able to make it home okay! I couldn’t believe the kindness of the man!
Around this time it was almost time for me to board the plane, so I bought a water bottle and waited at my gate. I was so sad that I wouldn’t get to see Ashley one more time though! I boarded my plane just fine, and then we took off. The whole flight all I did was watch movies because I was experiencing the worst headache ever! I tried to sleep it off, I took advil, but nothing worked! It was awful! Finally the flight came to an end. I went through the passport gate just fine, and then I went to wait for my luggage so I could go through customs. Everyone from my plane waited and waited and waited. Then a lady came over the loud speaker and said that the door to the plane’s luggage compartment was broken and they were trying to open it. Then a few minutes later the lady came on again to tell us they had got it open and were able to get the luggage out, but then that they had lost our luggage and couldn’t find it! Everyone was like oh my gosh! How does that even happen!?! A lot of people, including myself, were worried about making it to a connecting flight. Finally, after almost an hour, I got all my luggage! Then it was time to go threw customs, which I was super nervous for. But it actually ended up being the most easiest thing ever! I just walked right threw, and then placed my luggage on the conveyer belt and then went to security. Then I walked into the “American” side of the airport. It was SO strange to be back, and I immediately noticed a difference! There were so many signs and things to look at (that I could actually read), there were so many different types of sodas and drinks, and it actually smelled different. It smelled like America! I grabbed a piece of pizza and headed to my connecting gate and got on my plane. I was SO close to home!
After Travels: Bologna, Italy!
We arrived in Bologna and found our way to our little Bed & Breakfast-type place and got settled in and went to bed. That night I woke up the our whole room shaking in a 6.0 earthquake! Our beds were rolling, the curtains were swaying, and when I looked to my left I saw a HUGE armoire that I’m glad was staying very still, but it still made me really nervous! Ashley, being a New Yorker, had never been in an earthquake before and she had told me she was terrified of them. I didn’t want her to freak out so I let her sleep threw it (I was amazed that she had!). After it was over I heard Italians (who are not used to Earthquakes at all!), start to get up and run around. They started to run outside, everyone was shouting and yelling. It was pretty entertaining! The next day we explored Bologna. However first, due to the earthquake, we had to check and see if our train to Siena would be running. A lot of trains, depending on what train tracks they used, would not be able to make it. When we got there it was packed! So many people trying to figure out if their train was running, or what would they do if it wasn’t. It was a BIG mess! Lucky for us, our train was working! The was a huge street market with jewelry, food, etc. So we spent a lot of time there. For lunch I got a rice ball filled with spinach and cheese, it was so good! I also had my very first cannoli which was delicious!! There were a couple of street performers, one of which had a backpack on with and life-size man and women from the waist-up dolls. When he bent over it made it look like his feet and hands were the dolls, and he made it look like they were dancing! It was amazing! There was also an older tough looking man with a motorcycle that had speakers attached to it playing his electric guitar in the middle of the main piazza. His old, weird and strange girlfriend was going around the group dancing so strangely. It was bizarre but very very amusing! Then we headed to the train station to take the train back to Siena!!!
After Travels: Madrid & Alicante, Spain!
The next day we woke up and headed to the train station to take our last train ride with Annie! On our way we worked on typing and finishing up our daily journal we were working on. I remember falling asleep a bunch, but Annie kept just typing away. Once we were about to finish up, all of a sudden the computer turned off!! We were all freaking out a little—we had been working on this journal forever! It had all of our stories, what happened that day, and our observations on the different culture and people! And when we turned it back on, it was all gone! We were all so heartbroken! We arrived very sad in Barcelona, Spain for a train layover. We had not only lost all of our hard work, but we would have to say goodbye to Annie! We had about an hour before our train would leave, so we decided to have breakfast together at McDonald’s. We all had pancakes, but apparently the Spanish don’t use syrup because all they had for us to put on our pancakes were carmel, chocolate or white chocolate sauce. It was still pretty good! We took our last picture together and said goodbye. It was very sad! Ashley and I made our way to Madrid, Spain. We found our hostel and got settled in and then headed out to do some sightseeing. It was SUPER hot that day, and I think Ashley and I were both disappointed with Madrid. It wasn’t what we had expected at all. So we decided to head back and grab some groceries and make dinner in the hostel. Ashley made fried plantains, and I had some queso cheese dip and chips. But the biggest disappointment of all was the rice and beans! It took them way too long to cook, and the kitchen closed before they had time to finish cooking. So they were both hard and pretty non-edible. The next morning we went on a hop-on hop-off bus tour. Then we headed back to our hotel to check out so we could catch our train to get to Algeciras, Spain so from there we could get to Morocco. Unfortunately, we did not realize that we couldn’t use our Eurail pass because we had to buy a ticket (I can’t remember the reason why). So we had not arrived there early enough to do so, so we missed it! There were no more trains leaving that day to get to Algeciras, so we were stuck! We wouldn’t be able to make it to our hotel there, and the next morning we wouldn’t be able to go to Morocco! We were crushed. After being super sad for a little bit, we decided okay well we will just head to our next location earlier than we had planned and skip Algeciras and Morocco all together. It was disappointing, but it was all we could do! So we went back to our hostel so we could use their internet to find some place to stay in Alicante, Spain. Ashley found a hostel so we booked it and then headed back to the train station to buy a ticket. We arrived at night in Alicante, and found our hostel. The girl working at the hostel was very interesting, as was the hostel itself. She wanted to give us a whole tour of the hostel, which was nice but never ever happens. There was a terrace, and when the girl showed it to us everyone at the hostel was hanging out there. I just got a weird vibe from the hostel and the people. It just seemed weird. So we kind of avoided them.
The next day we decided we would relax and go to the beach. For lunch we stopped off at a Mexican restaurant and got some nachos and guacamole to go. There was a little street market going on so we browsed, and I actually ended up getting a Spanish leather purse. It is super cute, but it smells sooooo bad!! We made our way to the beach and enjoyed the water for a bit. Unfortunately, everything cost money! We decided to pay for two beach chairs, we couldn’t find any towels. But then when it got too sunny I went to put the beach umbrella attached to our chairs up, but the beach guy came over and told me that cost money! But it was still such a lovely and relaxing day! We grabbed some frozen yogurt, stopped at the market to grab some food, and headed back to the hostel to make dinner. That night everyone else in the hostel was having a sangria drinking party, and the girl who showed us around kept asking for us to come join. We felt so bad to keep turning her down, but we don’t even drink! We decided to stay in and watched “George of the Jungle” instead!
The next morning we packed up and then headed out to explore Alicante. We first went up to the “Castillo de Santa Barbara”, which was pretty cool and had some really awesome views! Then we went in search of the bull fighting ring. Which we did ending up finding, but a little too late. They had closed it so we couldn’t get in or tour it! But still getting to see it was pretty cool! Then we went back to the hostel and took a shuttle to the airport to take our last Ryanair flight to Bologna, Italy!
After Travels: Avignon & Montpellier, France
The next morning Ashley and I got our laundry back from being cleaned which was so nice! Then we got on the train to go to France! We arrived in Avignon, France in the late afternoon/early evening and checked into our hotel. Our room was amazing! It looked like we were staying in a castle! There were two levels complete with a swirly staircase!! We felt like princesses! Then we headed out to check out some of the sights to see! We saw a beautiful small church, and then we found this park with a little pond and a lost baby duckling! It was so sad! But we were so relived when his mama finally found him! We went to dinner at this outdoor restaurant, and I had french onion soup and french fries! During dinner, just when we were finishing up, we noticed this guy in this piazza nearby just start dancing and then this girl, who was with him, started to join him. They were doing really weird dance moves. It was like they were either learning dance moves from each other, or having a dance off. But we could not stop laughing at all the funny moves this guy was doing! Too hilarious to even explain! Then we cuddled up in one bed to watch a “Cinderella Story” in our princess room. But of course, I ended up falling asleep!
The next morning we had breakfast, and did a little bit of looking around and shopping and also went to the bridge Avignon is known for, Point Saint-Benezet. We walked along it listening to our headset tour. I was having a major allergy problems ever since we got to France, I am not quite sure why. But it was especially bad this particular day. But what made it even worse is that when we went to the old palace, called Palais des Papes, they were having a whole flower festival. So then my eyes started to water like non-stop. So that was a lot of fun. Afterwards we decided to get some crepes, I ordered just a plain sugar crepe. Yum! We walked around and shopped a little, and we bought some friendship bracelets to remember our adventures and fun together! Then had some lunch before heading to the train station. I had a french-style grill cheese. They put cheese on both the outside and the inside! Yum!
We arrived in Montpellier, France at nighttime, and it was kinda a gross scary-ish type city. We had a really hard time trying to find our hotel, it took us like an hour. Once we found it we realized we were like a two minute walk away from the train station! After getting settled into our hotel we went out to find a quick dinner, and we found Subway! It was kind of a disaster trying to order a sandwich when we don’t speak their language! But our sandwich makers were very nice and sweet! It was our last night before Ashley and I parted ways with Annie who was heading to Pamplona, Spain to meet up with her friend who was studying abroad there. We stayed up until like four just talking about girl stuff.
After Travels: Lucerne, Switzerland!
When we were planning our travels before we left, we thought Chia would be staying with us in Lucerne, Switzerland as well. So we made arrangements at a hostel for a four person co-ed room. However, when we found out he wouldn’t be staying with us we changed our room situation to what we thought would be just a three person room for us three girls. However after arriving in Lucerne with nasty weather and then checking in, we found out what actually happen is they kept us in the same room and just cancelled Chia’s bed. So then there was an open bed in a co-ed four person room. The lady at the desk (who wasn’t very pleasant) told us that our other roommate, who was a guy, had already checked in! So we were very concerned and upset about this. But we headed to our room to meet our roommate anyways, he wasn’t there though so we got settled in and just started girl talk. Right in the middle of it we hear the door begin to open and in walks this tall and super skinny asian young adult boy. We say hello, and he just stares at us like he is SO freaked out. I think he was more nervous about us being his roommate than we were about he being ours! He was very quiet but said we could call him “Chin” (His real name, which is Chinese I think was too hard for us to pronounce). He was a very interesting guy! He would wear jeans to sleep in, he was always up before us without making a sound, and his bed was always perfectly made!
When we hit Switzerland we were just pretty exhausted from our travels. We had already seen and done so much! So we decided since the weather wasn’t very good in Switzerland we would just make this our rest spot. So we took our days here slowly. The next morning we slept in, got ready, and I met a cute cat outside our hostel. We had breakfast/lunch at this overpriced but very cute bakery. Then we took a train over to a nearby town where they had a glass blowing factory and we could even blow our own glass!! That was a pretty cool experience! Then we came back and decided we would make dinner so we headed to a market to pick up some food! I made some white asparagus which seems to be really popular in Europe, and then we also had risotto and bread. Annie had been caring around a box of brownie mix (thanks to her ungrateful and uninterested host brothers! Only kidding!), and so we made brownies. However, we didn’t have any vegetable oil so we used olive oil as a replacement. We also didn’t have a brownie pan so we used a cookie sheet. They were pretty messy, but tasted pretty darn good!! We also met another guy staying at the hostel who was from Canada named Jason. He told us he was planning to go hiking the next day since the weather was supposed to be clearing up, so we decided to go along with him.
The next morning we woke up, and then figured out our way over to the mountains to hike. Turned out to be freezing!! We hiked up for about two hours, until we made our way to a little restaurant where we got some hot coco to warm ourselves up. Then we took the gondola down the mountain because we could not bear the thought of having to be in cold weather anymore! We made our way back over to the hostel, and then headed back out to grab some more food and along the way we noticed a lot of swans nesting. Which was pretty cool! We enjoyed just relaxing and then had the same dinner, but this time brownies with ice cream! Then we got in our PJ’s and cuddled up on Annie’s bunk to watch “Easy A”.
After Travels: Munich, Germany!
This is when the beginning of disaster stuck. Of course we should have already guessed that there would be problems when we couldn’t find one single hotel room available in Munich due to the fact that there was a sewage convention (Or, as Ashley thought a sewage parade). But seriously, this isn’t a joke there was not one single room available. So being dumb teenage girls we decided we would figure it out in one of the previous cities. So in Austria we all got to work trying to find a hotel, not in Munich but in a very close nearby city. Annie found a hotel listed that was in a nearby city called Harr. So we continued on at peace. We were excited because we were finally starting our Eurail pass, so we got that all figured out and then waited for our train and got on. We were busy talking to each other and then this little German middle-age ticket man came to check out passes. We hadn’t quite figured out how to record the date and stuff, so we decided to ask him. Of course he didn’t really speak any English at all, so I was trying to understand what he was saying and then I tried to fill it in the way I thought he was telling me. However he said I did it wrong. So then I tried to fix it, but when I did try he slapped my hand! So immediately we noticed something wrong with this guy. We told him we were trying to get to Harr, Germany and that we already knew we had to change trains to get there. After about an hour, he came back into our area of the train and told us that it was coming close to Harr. He seemed very urgent. But we were calm and knew exactly how to change trains and everything. We couldn’t figure out what his rush was. Then he left, and about three minutes later he came back and started grabbing our luggage and throwing it into the little closed off area between the different train cabins. We were like what is going on?! Then he started to look panicked and brought his hands up to his face and straighten his back and then dropped his hands and bent his knees, and kept repeating it. We had no idea what he was trying to tell us, and when he realized that we didn’t know what was happening he started to bring both his hands up and pretend to bit his nails like he was nervous. After he would point behind him and then repeated the whole up and down dropping thing. We were all so confused but got our things, got off the train and waved goodbye. Then we had to figure out how to get to the next train platform to get to where our next train would be. We noticed there was an elevator to go down and then walk to our next platform and take another elevator up. When we were standing in the elevator, that is when we realized what he was trying to tell us. He was doing the up and down drop thing to tell us to take the elevator down and then up. When we realized we could help but to start laughing! When we finally made it to our platform, our train showed up in seconds, and that is when we realized why the man was in such a panic and rush. He knew there was a small gap of time and he wanted us to hurry!
But all of this was the least of our worries! When we finally arrived at Harr, Germany at 12:00 midnight we realized it was a very small dark town and no one else seemed to be around. The train station was closed, and oh! We had no address of the hotel Annie had found us! We started to freak out (or at least I did)! What were we going to do?! There was no internet service and the only person around was this creepy guy standing outside his car. At first some of us thought we could walk around and maybe find it, or wait here until morning. But finally we decided to ask the creepy guy (who ended up being a cab driver). He said he had no idea what this hotel was or where it was. We started to freak out even more! Oh my gosh! What were we going to do?!?! Right about this time another train pulls up, and an older nicely dressed man starts to walk towards the taxi. His name was Peter. The taxi driver explained to him our situation, but this new man has no idea about our hotel either. He takes out his iPhone and searches it, but when we find out it is actually 60 miles away we set into even more of a panic! On top of this he tells us there are no more trains coming threw Harr until morning. So we realized we are stuck here. A cab ride would cost something around 200 euros, which none of us have. So we can’t go to our hotel. But we can’t stay waiting outside the train station all night either. Peter starts making phone calls to people he knows who own hotels to see if they can take us in, friends who own Bed & Breakfasts. Nothing. Everything is full and unavailable! Then he finally says the things every smart person knows not to say “yes” to, “I will call my wife, and ask her if it is alright if you stay the night with us.”. He calls her and she says “yes”. What else was there for us to do?! No other options, so Ashley and Annie say “yes” and I reluctantly go with them. I thought I was headed straight into a trap. We were all dead quiet in the car ride to his home, I was silently letting tears roll down my face. Not only was I so scared of what could possibly happen, but I was also so scared to tell my parents and hear what they would have to say. We offered to pay for the cab ride, but Peter wouldn’t let us. When we got to his house we met his sweet wife. They offered us coffee and homemade by Peter cheesecake. All was very delicious. They showed us their guest room they had downstairs and we thanked them and told them we would be up and out of their way in the morning. Annie called her parents to tell them what had happened. And of course Ashley and I thought “Oh my gosh! She is going to freak!”. But when Annie told her mom this is seriously what she said, “Oh okay, glad to hear you are safe! Soooo!!! Tell us all about your Sound of Music tour!!!!” (Both of Annie’s parents love the Sound of Music). Our mouths just hung open. We could not believe her reaction! But we all got ready for bed and had such an amazing nights sleep. We woke up, got ready and packed our bags and headed upstairs to say goodbye. When we got there Peter was waiting for us with their whole kitchen table set up for a breakfast feast! I mean there was a whole basket with pretzels and bread, a cold cut meat plater (which Annie ate all of the salami of!), yogurt and fruit. I mean it was a feast! They were just SO sweet! While we ate, this sweet SWEET man went on the computer to try and find us a new hotel to stay at. He found one and helped us book it and then researched train schedules to figure out which trains and at what times so we could get there! Then he let us borrow his computer to send our parents emails. He then told us he would drive us to the train station we were at the night before, but then along the way he told us he would actually drive us all the way to the Munich train station! Once we got there we tried to give him gas money, and again he wouldn’t let us! Then he even parked his car and help us find Chia (Annie’s friend who we were meeting to travel a little bit with, his real name is Alex Chiapetta so his nickname is “Chia”). When we found him, Peter then showed us where the lockers were in the train station and helped us get our bags in. I mean this guy was the nicest man ever!! We said goodbye and so many thank you’s to Peter, our guardian angel!
Ashley, Annie, Chia, and I walked a little bit around the city and then we headed for lunch at the famous Hofbrauhaus! I ordered non-alcoholic beer which still tasted gross and just like the real beer! And I also got this delicious potato and tomato casserole thing! And then walked around a bit more, and headed back to the train station, got our luggage, and got on a train to take us to our new hotel! Our hotel was perfect in a very small German countryside town called Eggstatt. I don’t think there was like anyone else staying in the hotel, and I think it was all family run. But we put our stuff down in the room, and then headed out to explore and find some dinner. We found a beautiful lake during the sunset and then a little restaurant that seemed to have all thirty of the town’s people eating there! I had latkes and apple sauce. Then we headed back to our hotel and just hung out and then went to bed.
The next day we woke up, had breakfast in our hotel and headed to the train station to go back into Munich so we could get to the Dachau concentration camp, which I had previously gone to with my family but the other three had not been there before. So we spent some time there and then headed back into Munich to experience some more of the city. We got back to the hotel and decided to have dinner there, but of course since no one else was staying there it was just us. After dinner, since we had kind of made friends with some of the staff, the desk man/cook, Hans Wideman brought us some shots. YUCK! I felt so bad, but I tried one tiny tiny tiny sip and just couldn’t do the whole thing. So I gave mine to Chia. Poor Hans probably thinks we are such strange people, he probably thought “Young Americas who like to party and drink, they will love me for this!”. Ha ha!
The next day we over slept and missed our bus to get from our hotel to the train station, so that ruined our plans a bit. Chia decided he would take a taxi and go to see Neuschwanstien Castle, but Ashley, Annie, and I decided to stay and hang out around the lake and then leave Munich. So we said our goodbyes to Chia and then we headed over. I enjoyed just relaxing on the dock in the shade, while Ashley and Annie enjoyed a quick dip. Then we went back got our bags, headed to the train station, and then headed to Switzerland!
After Travels: Salzburg, Austria!
On our way to Salzburg, Austria we ate dinner and watched the ‘Sound of Music’ because it was filmed where we were headed! Towards the end of our train ride there was one older man left in our area of the train and he began to watch the movie with us, while humming and whistling to the music. It was fun! What wasn’t fun was trying to find our hotel in the dark! It took us a while, and a lot of walking but we found it! And when we did, who do you think was walking back into the hotel at the exact same time?! A whole group of Italians! We were so excited and told them we were just studying abroad in Siena. They freaked out and immediately embraced us like we were family! Then they started talking and talking to us, and telling us to meet them for breakfast the next morning. Oh, Italians! You’ve got to love them! We checked in, with a man who spoke no English. And to our pleasant surprise, our room ended up also being a mini apartment too! Ashley and I went down to try to ask the man at the desk if they had pots and pans to cook with. Boy was that hard to explain! After watching us act things out and he brought out tools (from like a tool chest) we gave up! Ha ha! Instead we enjoyed free internet, youtube videos, oh and who could forget the video we made of Annie rapping and Ashley doing her stomp dance moves!
The next day we woke to a beautiful surprise! Since it was so dark the night before, we had not seen the beauty of Salzburg yet! But it was sure amazing! We did our own little walking tour, and saw many of the areas used to film the ‘Sound of Music’! Of course we took TONS of pictures!!! We even bought a lock and put our names on it and added it to one of the bridges with locks all over. Then we threw the keys away into the river! For some reason the Austrians found us interesting and stopped to watch and take pictures of us! Ha ha! We found ourselves getting a little hungry and decided to stop off for a snack at a little coffee shop. We met the nicest waiter and his daughter the owner. I had an Austrian iced coffee (yummy!) and we shared a delicious Austrian waffle with raspberries (YUM!)! Afterwards we went past Mozart’s birth place. And I also asked for a stamp in German! The lady understood me!!! It was a proud moment for us all! Next we hiked our way up to the fortress while learning our German numbers (1-10). When we got to the top it was beautiful!! We decided to eat dinner up there, and I had a great Austrian salmon dish while we watched the sunset and had such a great time chatting up. We had such a good time we stayed until they closed!
The next morning we woke up, packed, and checked out wearing our sundresses to be like Maria because we were going on our Sound of Music tour! Ashley and Annie had a little mishap with misplacing their ticket. Which went something like panicking, running around a hotel, making a maid dig threw the trash, and failure to find it and leaving anyways. Then, of course, finding it in Annie’s purse! Our tour bus was packed and our tour guide was a little bit creepy and strange, but still very informative! We saw the lake and the house used for the backyard scenes, the gazebo, the church Maria was married in, had a delicious apple strudel, and we absolutely saw hills that were alive and we frolicked threw them! Then it ended on a strange/creepy note when we asked to take a picture with our guide and he told us, “Oh of course I would love to take a picture! Oh goodie, I have been waiting to touch you girls.”. Umm…YUCK! After that comment I chose to not stand next to him in the picture! Then we took a bus over to go up one of the nearby mountains and we took a gondola to the top. There was still TONS of snow and it was a fantastic view! Then we went to visit the house used in the Sound of Music! I even “threw” rocks at the window just like Rolfe! Then we decided to take a long walk back along the river to our hotel. We saw a kid’s playground that we couldn’t resist, and then ate dinner at an Italian place where the waiter spoke Italian! Then we headed back to our hotel to grab our luggage and next headed to the train station to get to Munich, Germany!
After Travels: Budapest, Hungary!
We arrived in Budapest, Hungary and immediately we were confused. The language was SO confusing, all the signs looked crazy!!! When we went to an ATM to get money out we couldn’t even figure out where, how, or if we could change the language! So we gave up on that. However, we did find a lady at a desk selling tickets for a shuttle bus that would drop us off at our hotel. Thank goodness she spoke English. Another big difference is that the money was so hard to believe that it was real. When we asked her how much it would cost, we were expecting about around 20 euros/dollars. Our mouths dropped when she said about 5000 forint (which is their currency). It actually turns out that 5000 forint converts to about 22 dollars. Another funny thing we couldn’t stop giggling about was that just like we say USD (US Dollar), the Hungarians use HUF. Since we didn’t know how to correctly say “forint”, we just kept calling them “hufs”. This provide us with a great source of entertainment throughout our whole time in Hungary. And although I’m not proud of it, one of our favorites was “What the HUF?!”.
The fun only continued when we were dropped off at our hotel, which actually was more like apartments. The area we were dropped off in looked creepy and was covered in bars/pubs, and being there at night only made it worse! We couldn’t quite figure out where our apartment was. So I cannot tell you how many times we walked back and forth down the same street, while with our luggage trying not to make eye contact with anyone. At one point we were waiting outside an apartment building when these two mid-to-late twenty year old guys came up to us. We could immediately tell one of them was drunk. Now Annie being the sweet Montanan who is always friendly to EVERYONE (no one is left without love!), was also friendly to this man. Ashley and I however, were very weary of him. He at first was asking normal things, but then he kept asking us to go to a bar with him or hang out, or get a drink, or he would buy us a drink. He also kept moving closer and closer until we were liked backed up against a wall. I kept trying to send him the “Get the heck away from me!” message, his friend got the message and kept trying to get him to leave us alone. But Mr. Drunk-Creeper wasn’t exactly getting the message. There was the sweetest guy inside the apartment complex and he noticed what was happening and that we were uncomfortable and he asked us if we would like to come inside. We, of course, all said yes and walked ran inside. However, Mr. Drunk-Creeper thought it was an invite for him as well so he tried to come in also. Our guardian angel however told him “No. Just these girls. Don’t you see you are making them uncomfortable?!”, and then he closed the door. Ah! Such a relief! He was so nice!
Finally we figured everything out, and we ended up at the check-in desk to our apartment. That’s when we realized how awesome the people were in Hungary! The guy at the check in desk was just SO relaxed and super mellow! I mean, like almost like they are dead. And it wasn’t just him. Everyone we met was so nice, but just so relaxed!
The next morning we had breakfast, which has a good deal with our apartment/hotel. We met the waiter that we had both mornings in Hungary, who was super nice but also really mellow. Then we headed for a day of relaxation to the Szechenyi Baths. We enjoyed the whirlpool, sun, and yummy drinks! We did a little bit of sightseeing and then hopped onto our hop-on hop-off tour bus of Budapest. So much to see! And this bus tour gave us a packet of tickets for good deals or free stuff! One of which was a free Hungarian soup called “Goulash Soup”. It was delicious! There were many beautiful views! Then we ended the day with a free water cruise down the river! We decided to walk back to our apartment, and since we had a kitchen we also decided to cook our own dinner! We stopped by a market, and picked up some food to make. We made pasta with a slightly hot peppery sauce, with spinach and bread while we watched Tangled.
The next morning we woke up, packed, and checked out. Then we headed to breakfast and learned some Hungarian words, such a “viszlat” which means “bye”. And when it was time for us to leave, Ashely and I ran up to our waiter and we counted to ourselves “One, two, three” and then in unison we said “Viszlat!” and waved goodbye. Afterwards we went to the ‘New York Cafe” (which the Hungarians refer to as ‘The Most Beautiful Cafe in the World’). And boy is it! It is beautiful! We each had a different drink, I tried hot chocolate with hot pepper, this is because Hungary is known for using lots of spicy peppers! I wanted to try something special that represented the country! We mailed some postcards, bought train tickets to Austria, saw some important buildings, and I magically found a statue with my favorite person shown on the 500 HUF! That was quite a celebration! We ran to McDonald’s grabbed some dinner, ran back to our apartment, used the bathroom, grabbed our things and hurried off to the train station. We were hoping and praying we weren’t gonna make it to our train! Thank goodness we did!
After Travels: Rome, Italy!
Well I woke up said my goodbyes to Roberto and Luciana and then headed into the city. I walked all the way over to the Post Office to find out they didn’t open for another hour! I was in a panic! That only left me an hour and half before I had to be at Piazza Gramsci to take the bus to Rome to start my adventures with Ashley and Annie!! That also wouldn’t be enough time for me to take my things back to Luciana and leave them there and deal with it when I came back. So now I would only have thirty minutes to send the box and make it to Piazza Gramsci as well! I texted Ashley to let her know that I would have to take a different bus to Rome and I would just figure out how to meet up with them there. But then I realized I had Ashley’s bus ticket!! So then she had to leave early to pick it up from me and then head to catch the bus. I told her to stall as much as she, and Annie, could possibly and maybe I would be able to make it!
So I waited, and waited, and waited! The guy to open the store was, of course, running late! It made me panic even more! Then he finally got there and I rushed in, he got me a box and told me to fill it. The only catch was that I had to write down everything that went into the box to know that it could all be approved to be sent to America! Ugh! There was absolutely noway I was going to make it, but I still kept moving as fast as I possibly could! Before I knew it I had filled the box, filled out the delivery slip, and paid. I was off and running with five minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave. I had to run all the way from an alley off of the del Campo all the way to Gramsci, so I was literally running as fast as I could. I am sure I looked SUPER ridiculous! But when I got to Piazza Gramsci I saw Annie and Ashley standing outside a bus waving at me. I had made it! I threw my luggage under and then hopped on the bus. I was so amazed and relived! It was both a bad and excellent start to our adventure! Ha ha!
Once arriving in Rome it just felt so surreal that this amazing adventure was about to start! We really had no plans, just a go with the flow for two and a half weeks. Which if anyone knows my Dad and all his planning that goes into trips, knows that this is the complete opposite for my usual trips. It was both terrifying, yet liberating! But we decided to start our trip with eating of course, and where better but a gelateria! This is around the time when Annie and Ashley both decided that we should speak one hour of Italian each day so we don’t forget the language…this did NOT make me happy. I was looking SO forward to getting away from Italian, hearing some other languages but most importantly speaking English! But I went along with it anyways. Unfortunately some miscommunications happened with each other during our hour of Italian and instead of ending up at the Vatican City, we ended up at St. Paul’s Basilica! But we just went with the flow and enjoyed it. It was huge and beautiful, plus I had actually not been there before! Then we headed back to the train station to take a charter bus to the airport. After arriving we ate dinner and headed onto our Ryanair plane to Budapest, Hungary!
Week 16: “Arrivederci Siena!”
Monday was also my last art class with Fabrizio. Before hand I went to my favorite spot to read (which is right near his “studio”) to do a mini photo-shoot with my book, the best reading spot ever, and myself. Lame, I know…but I’m happy I did it! And then I headed over to Fabrizio, where we still did not finish the painting!!! Ah! He kills me!!
Tuesday and Wednesday we finished our finals and turned in those awful term papers (I was so glad to just turn them in and be done!). I was SO nervous for my Italian Cuisine final! We had to be in pairs, and then go up group by group into a private room with Marco and Fiora to be asked and then have to answer questions about the course and what we learned in Italian. I mean I was SO nervous!! But once I got talking it went very well, I think! It was the biggest relief to be done!
Wednesday I had my Italian final. It was so hard and took me forver! But once again so nice to be done! Afterwards we had to fill out a review on SIS, teachers, classes, host families, etc. And then we went to the last Mercato we would get to go to in Siena. It was so sad! But I got some awesome things! That evening was also our final dinner. So we met back up at SIS and took the mini bus to Gianca’s house where he surprised us by giving us a cherry tree to plant in the garden. So we dug a whole, put the tree in, and then we watered it (which was my job). It was so special and nice to get to leave our mark in Siena! Then we all got in different staff members’ and teachers’ cars and drove to a special and far location in the countryside for our last dinner on a winery (I think?). I was lucky enough to get to go in Antonella’s car! We took tons of pictures with all different combos and classes and then headed to a little apertivo. And finally to our delicious dinner, where many speeches and thank-yous were given (and a few unforgettable moments!!). Then all the tears set in and everyone started to cry and say goodbyes. For me it was when I gave Antonio a hug goodbye! It wasn’t necessarily because of Antonio, even through I love and am so thankful for that sweet man. It was when I realized I would never see him again, and if I do it will never ever be the same experience it was. I realized I will never ever get to relive this experience again, even when I come back to Siena someday. It was a very emotional night.
Rachel left Thursday morning to head to Rome for her flight home. I was so sad when she didn’t even say goodbye to me! She had to catch an early early bus and I told her I would be up to say goodbye for sure! I woke up early early as well to start packing but I guess she didn’t even know I was awake because the next thing I noticed was that no one was home and then I looked out my window and Rachel and Luciana were at the top of the hill leaving! I was so sad! But I finished packing as much as I could and then went into the city to meet Annie and Ashley at Salicotto to finalize plans for our after travels. I also went around the city buying last minute gifts including my beautiful olive tree branch necklace that I had been in love with the whole semester! And also a pair of the worlds cutest black leather Italian boots.
Like with my packing to come to Siena, packing to leave didn’t end up much better. I was planning to have all my things packed early so I could take them to the school and have the school keep them for me while I went on after travels. However, it took me longer than expected and I didn’t think the school would still be opened. So instead I asked Luciana if it would be alright if I kept my luggage at her home until I returned, and thank goodness she said yes! The only problem then is when I weighed my bags on their scale, I thought they weighed too much. So then I had all these things I needed to send home. So I thought, “Oh it won’t be a problem, I will just go into the city before leaving and take my things to send home then.”.
Week 15: “Fun, fun, fun!”
Monday was my last day with my precious kindergartners. We did a quick review of everything we had learned and then we played a version of four corners/musical corners that I had made up. I played a fun kids song (that I actually had got while taking my Music for Kids class at CLU) and played it while the kids went running around the room. When the music stopped they had to run to one of the four corners and then I would go around to each corner and tell the kids in that corner to show me the color ____, or act like a ____, or show me the number ___, of show me ____ face. I was so surprised and proud to see how much they had all learned! They had seriously learned SO much! Then we had time for a game, and I let them decide. Of course they choose the Hokey Pokey! So we played that for a while and then I sat them all down in a line and got to take a picture with them! Then I handed them the little Mickey Mouse lollipops I brought them, and they loved it. And finally we did our goodbye song, but I let them lead it and they did it so well! Then I said goodbye. It was so bitter sweet!
The next day was extra special because Ashley, Annie, and I received our Eurail passes in the mail! Most of this week I just worked on my term papers. I would go to class and then come home a type away, most of the time ending up on facebook or youtube through!
Friday some of the girls and I decided to celebrate the last day of classes with climbing la torre (tower in the del Campo). So we did that, I however did not go all the way up the very tippy top due to my fear of heights (and what happened on the Leaning Tower of Pisa a few years before). But it was a really cool thing to do to wrap-up our time in Siena! Then afterwards we met the rest of the group and Marco at Scuola di Cucina di Lella to use Lella’s kitchen to finish up the process of making Limoncello. This time adding the sugar and vanilla powder and boiling.
Saturday was an SIS excision to the beach! While people played volleyball Annie, Sally, and I enjoyed a very long chat. And then we just enjoyed soaking up the sun. Since it had been months since I was able to do so I was extremely pale! Even after putting on pounds of sunscreen, I still burned! (I still have a bizarre looking tan on my back!) Rachel and I walked along the shore and found beautiful sea shells. And then afterwards we all packed up and headed to a near by city and got some yummy gelato (banana and coconut—ultimate flavor combo and super refreshing!). Then we walked backwards down a little alleyway because supposedly hundreds of years ago a couple did the same thing to bring good fortune in love!
Sunday Rachel, Ashley, and I went to gioco del calcio (a soccer game)! It was Siena verses Milan. Apparently the Siena soccer team is not good at all, and Milan is very good. It is also common for the Sienese to find another team, such as Milan’s, to cheer for as a home team instead of Siena. So many of the Sienese there were actually cheering on Milan’s team. In some strange mishaps and circumstances, we ended up actually sitting on Milan’s side instead of Siena! And boy were those Milan fans very very proud of their team! There was one section of the stands that were literally on their feet cheering the entire time. There were also a couple of shirtless men in the bottom row who didn’t even watch the game, but were actually leading the cheers like they were the cheer directors and had their back towards the field! There were even some smoke bombs, and HUGE Milan flags. It was also pretty funny because I actually ended up sitting next to one of my second grade students! i felt bad for Rachel who was really into the game, while Ashley and I just laughed about how funny the Italian’s athletic stretches are! We could not stop laughing! It was really cool to experience something that was such a big deal to Italian culture!
Week 14: “The Horrible and the Delicious”
Monday I went to classes, and the stayed in the city for a bit to finish my book in my favorite reading spot. But then I finally came home. When I got home Loriana wasn’t home, which was very unusual. And then I went to my room and my bed hadn’t been re-made and clothes were still out and not put away (this is very unlike Loriana). The I noticed my phone, and that Gianca had called me and also texting me saying that he had something important to tell me. So I called him and he asked how I was and I said I was good, and then he told me that something had happened to Loriana. He said they weren’t exactly sure what is was, but it was serious and they thought it might have been a heart attack! I was in shock! I was SO scared and SO sad! He told me they were going to have to have me change host families. And at first I thought “Oh, I can totally stay here for a few nights by myself. Loriana will be back soon, I really don’t mind”. But then as he started to explain more it started to sound more serious and like it was going to be a permeant change. I started to get emotional and cry for the first time since being gone from home. I was so scared for Loriana and not knowing what was going to happen to her, and then the thought of having to leave Loriana’s home which felt like my home too and then move in with a new family. It was all too much! I didn’t want to have to start over with a whole new family! I loved Loriana. And I cried for her. That’s the first time I realized how important she was to me. I remember just getting off the phone, and just sitting on my bed and crying. Then I realized I was going to have to pack my room, a room which was not nearly prepared to be packed yet! But Gianac told me just to pack enough for the weekend and then we would figure out the rest after. As I was packing and crying, I heard the door to the home open and then three of Loriana’s neighbors came in and started hugging me and crying and saying everything was going to be okay. Then they left and I finished packing and then took some pictures of Loriana’s home so I could remember it. Finally I went down to the bus stop where Mike picked me up and took me to my new host home, which was actually the same host home as Rachel! I was so relieved to know that there was another person there with me! I met my new host parents Luciana and Roberto (I finally got my little old Italian host dad that I wanted!). But it was Whitney’s birthday, and Rachel and I had already made plans to join everyone in celebrating her birthday at Zest. I was emotionally drained though, so when part of the group decided to go to karaoke. I decided I would head home and get some sleep!
The next day I was told that I needed to go back to Loriana’s to pack everything and leave for good. I still really had no idea what was going on with her, it was still really scary. All I knew that it was for certain, and official, that I would not be spending the rest of my time in Siena with Loriana. That was really hard news to hear. It was especially hard because I knew I had a lot of hard things coming up— finals, term papers, and then saying goodbye! But there were still a bunch of fun things to look forward to as well! The hardest, and most challenging, part however happened that day. Rachel and I headed to Loriana’s to pack everything up (I am still so very thankful for Rachel and her helpfulness and kindness through this whole process!). I gave a brief tour of Loriana’s house to Rachel, and then we got down to business! It was going to take a while (and it did!) because I had SO much stuff, and had even accumulated more since living there. It was also hard because it wasn’t like I knew a week in advanced and could start getting everything together to be packed. Nope, instead my stuff was everywhere! And dear Loriana, likes to find the
perfect place hind my things, epescially in places where I don’t even know where they are! But we tried our best, but we had to hurry if we were going to catch the last number nine bus (which is the easiest pick-up from Loriana’s). We also needed to hurry because it had been raining during the day, and we didn’t want to get caught in the rain with all of my luggage. So I took some last minute memory pictures, and a video tour of Loriana’s so I could remember (I had no idea if I was going to get to return to this home ever again!). Then we made our way to the bus stop, and of course the second we get downstairs with all my bags it begins to rain! Ah! So we took turns trying to get my bags to the bus stop, as little wet as possible. Only to find out when we got there, that we had missed the last number nine bus! So then we had to rush all the way down the huge hill, with all my luggage, and with it raining to the bus stop for the number 10 bus! Thank goodness we made it! Now the only problem was getting all my luggage on the bus quickly. Thank goodness again, a Liz (another SIS student) just happened to be on the bus and was able to help us! So we were on the bus for about 6 minutes and then had to get off for Rachel’s bus stop (which I might add was not near her apartment at all!). So Rachel, Liz, and I threw all my luggage off the bus into the rain. Then Rachel and I had to hurry down a hill with bags chasing us to get to her home an hour and fifteen minutes late for my first dinner with my new host parents! It was quite a night(mare)! I can remember being so full of adrenaline, and just so confused and sad. That and added with all the rushing, that I literally felt like I couldn’t eat at all and was going to be sick. But I had to eat because it would be SO rude to an Italian family not to eat all their food. That night was so strange, just seeing all the differences between Loriana, and Roberto and Luciana. And also having another American there with me. I just remember feeling so strange and like I was starting all over again!
On Thursday I went to my last day of teaching the second graders. I honestly cannot remember what we worked on my last day. I think it may have had something to do with numbers. But I do remember explaining what pudding and pie was, and drawing pictures on the board. It was really hard to describe the difference between pudding, and custard and yogurt (which the kids kept calling it). I also remember that when the teacher left to use the bathroom, the kids started to go a little crazy so I started to count out loud from one up (like it was a game). Slowly and slowly more and more kids started to help me count until we were all chanting all the way up to 145! They were so proud of themselves and loved it so much! When I asked to have a picture taken with the kids so I could remember them, the teacher told me she wanted to but would have to ask. Apparently this school needed to get permission slips signed before I could take pictures with them. She asked and was told “no”—biggest disappointment! So then I asked if I could take a picture with her, and she said at the end of class. So I waited, and at the end of class when I went to go take a picture with her she said she wish she could, but it was the end of class so she was leaving. I was like huh? So confused! So all I was able to get were pictures of the classrooms, and the area around the school. Then one of the classes surprised me with pictures they had drawn of themselves to give me. They were so cute!
After our teaching, Veronica and I had to rush to get to an SIS cooking class at Scuola di Cucina di Lella (which is in the same building as our school). Lella, the owner and chef, taught us her Italian recipes in Italian and we go to sample and help cook. Everything was delicious! We had Pici pasta with Arabiatta sauce (very thick noodle pasta with a spicy tomato sauce), Pappa al Pomodoro (Italian bread and tomato soup), and Tiramisu! Everything single thing was like the best Italian food I have ever had!
The next day, of course, was our last mid-term exam. It was hard but so nice to be done with! And later that day we also had a limoncello (lemon liqueur) making class with Marco! It was going to take a few get togethers before we all finished. But during the first one we just watched Marco and Spencer peel lemons and place it in the alcohol to soak. That night a small group of us came back into the city to hang out at night in the del Campo. It was nice, fun, and relaxing!
On Saturday we came to school to have a wine tasting (BLAH!). I tried a sip of all, but all were disgusting! The only one that wasn’t so extremely horrible was the lighter pink one. Then we all crammed onto the little buss to take us to Antonio and Lavina’s home for the ‘Garden Dinner’. It was fun, delicious, and just an all around good time!
Week 13: “Mia famiglia e qui, a Siena!”
The next day I literally was on trains all day, making my way from Nice, France back to Siena, Italy. For half of the day I got to travel with my family as they made their way to Portofino, Italy. Unfortunately, I did not get to join them there because I had to be back for classes on Tuesday. So I headed home to Loriana!
On Wednesday after my classes, I went home and I packed again and headed over to the Siena train station to welcome my family to Siena! I was worried because it had been raining all morning and I thought it was going to ruin the plans for the special day! We were so extremely lucky though, because about thirty minutes before my family arrived the sun started to show and the rain went away! It was a miracle! However, it was still very cold! We had to hurry though, because it was my parents 25th wedding anniversary and my Dad had been working for weeks planning an amazing day/evening for my Mom! So we took a taxi to our hotel, Grand Hotel Continental, which fortunately was within Siena’s walls!! We had about thirty minutes to change into our fancy clothes and then we would be meeting the photographer in the lobby. We took pictures in the lobby, and then in front of the hotel, and then all along the main street, and then in Piazza del Campo. It was pretty funny though because everyone in Italy looks the same and stays covered up, and here we were the crazy Americans! We were all dressed up, having our pictures taken, and then wearing sandals (a big “No-No!!” to Italians when it is not summer!). So people were staring and most certainly wondering who the heck we were!! Finally the embarrassment came to an end and we hopped in a car and were driven to Montestigliano, a tiny little Italian Tuscan countryside town. This is where we had the ceremony in the cutest little chapel. Afterwards we took even more pictures, and as the sun got lower and lower it got colder and colder! Finally we got to head back to Siena and we went to dinner at Antica Osteria da Divo. It was a delicious dinner, and such a happy day!
The next morning Amanda and I woke up and headed over to Nannini to grab some breakfast and then Amanda joined me for my Italian class. Afterwards my parents met us and the I took them on a little tour of Siena! And of course I took them to get some gelato at Kopa Kabana!! Afterwards I brought them on my bus to visit Loriana and see my home! Loriana of course showed them the whole house, and then tried to stuff them full of torta and (really old) vino! It was pretty interesting, yet fun trying to translate for my parents and for Loriana! The best part though is my parents got to experience Loriana’s “creeping” when we left! She waved goodbye to us from every single window! Afterwards we went to dinner in the Piazza del Campo, which was my first time even though I had been there for months!
The next day, I went to classes and then we headed to the duomo. And we had some more gelato, I showed them my favorite spot to read, and then we went to dinner at the most delicious restaurant in Siena, Caffe Bar. I had been there only once before with a bunch of friends from SIS, it was the place where I had the best ravioli ever! The only catch is the owner/waiter only speaks Italian! But all of us had a most excellent dinner!
The next day was rainy again, but we headed to Montepulciano. This is actually where the Italian scenes from New Moon (the Twilight series) were filmed. So we had to take pictures in front of all the doors, because we didn’t know which one was used in the movie! We went to lunch, and then another winery, and then to the local duomo. And then I showed my parents more of Siena. Including the turtle contrada and then we went to our last dinner before they headed home.
The next morning as we were walking around Siena we noticed, one by one, different contradas being represented by young men with their contrada flag. We then noticed that they were all walking in the same direction, towards the duomo. Then we heard and saw this group of men that we similar to a marching band, only they were older and wearing funny hats and tights. They were also walking in the same direction so we decided to follow. Finally we reached the duomo and that’s where they all were! And then the “band” started to play as they entered the duomo, and the flag boys followed in a single file line. I still have no idea what was happening, it must have had to do with the contradas? Then we went to the Torture Museum, had lunch, took our last photo together and then said our goodbyes. My family headed towards the train station in their taxi and I took the bus home to Loriana. That night Loriana made me her delicious Minestrone soup. Little did I know that would be the last dinner I would have with her…