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By taylorclark17

As midterms are rapidly approaching and I make plans with friends and family to travel during my fall semester break, I still made sure to continue to check off my Italian bucket list and visit the cities of Parma, Pisa, and Lucca this weekend.

As of now I have been in Italy for approximately six weeks and although my Italian literature and history courses have been extremely interesting, like any other college semester, its often nice to a break from studying and enjoy some sightseeing with friends. I find it has been the best way to improve my fluency in Italian and even become informed on the rich cultural histories of certain areas of Italy. As I learned in Pisa from my tour guide, during the Renaissance era, Italy was divided into city-states therefore most citizens simply took pride in the their specific city-state and region as opposed to evoking more of a national pride that we see prominent in Italian culture today.

...continue reading "Pisa and Parma and Lucca, Oh My!"

By taylorclark17

I cannot believe it is already October! The semester is flying by way too quickly! Since it is now officially fall in Italy, this week I decided to attend some of the fall- related activities occurring in and near Florence such as this year’s Festival Di Gelato at the Piazzale Michelangelo and even went on a tour of the ‘Castelnuovo Berardenga’ wine and olive oil vineyard in Chianti, Italy with classmates.

Learning about the detailed science behind the process of wine and olive oil making such the double fermentation of the grapes and the fact that cold pressed olive oil is called ‘cold-press’ because it is oxidized in a container that must be stored at 20-25 degrees Fahrenheit was very interesting. Following the vineyard tour was a wine tasting that included a sampling of well-known Chianti region wines and lastly a fabulous brunch at ‘Ristoro di Lamole’, a great restaurant in the Greve section of Chianti. All of the food was delicious, but I must say that my favorite dish was the antipasti (appetizer); ricotta stuffed ravioli.

Going to the gelato festival with friends was also a lot of fun. The Festival featured gelato companies from throughout Italy including ‘Baldiani’s’ and even distributed Nutella flavored ice cream. Throughout the day, the public was allowed to electronically vote for their favorite gelato flavor at the festival (I picked the Buontalenti from Baldiani’s! It was DELICIOUS!)

After stuffing my face with gelato, my friends and I took a stroll through Santa Croce, the Ponte Vecchio, and finally Santo Spirito where I finally was able to enjoy some fantastic pizza at ‘Gusta Pizza’ a well-known pizzeria in downtown Florence and hear some music from a live band playing in front of the steps of the Duomo.

Well, needless to say I have done WAY too much eating this week, but I am enjoying every bite. I have learned that enjoying meals with friends and family is a respected cultural custom in Italy and I feel so lucky to be able to take advantage of immersing myself in new tastes, sounds, and sights in Florence every day.

That’s all for now. A dopo! (See you later!)


By taylorclark17

Author Ray Bradbury once said that “We travel to be lost”. I can certainly say that I experienced an amazing adventure of being ‘lost’ in beautiful scenery and fun adventures this past weekend during my trip to the Amalfi Coast. My trip included visits to the towns of Sorrento, Positano, Capri, and last but not least, Pompeii! Although visiting this many places in a matter of three days left me beyond exhausted, it also awakened me to embracing the astoundingly beautiful natural landscapes of Italy.

While sitting on the ferry ride that transported me from my hostel in Sorrento to Capri, I saw beautiful caves including the blue, red, green, and white grottos as well as a natural rock formation of the Virgin Mary. Also during my visit to Capri, I rode a chairlift to the top of the island, known as AnaCapri. The panoramic view atop AnaCapri was breathtaking and on the way down, I enjoyed some limoncello at a local restaurant with friends.

Fast forward to Saturday morning. I, along with about 100 other study abroad students boarded buses to Positano, which is approximately a thirty minute drive from downtown Sorrento. During the drive, I was amazed by the beautiful ocean view of the Mediterranean Sea. The beach was of course even more stunning once I arrived and sitting on Positano’s infamous black sand, swimming, and enjoying a Pizza Magherita made the day one my most unforgettable experiences ever!


By taylorclark17

I’ve only been in Florence for two weeks, but immersing into this new culture is going so well that I feel as though I have been in Italy much longer. I have already discovered a panini café that I have been frequenting with friends and as of yesterday, I can officially say I have tasted gelato at Florence’s infamous Piazza del Mercato Centrale (Central Market)! It may however take me a little bit longer to improve my navigation skills considering that I can’t even count the amount of times I have gotten lost, walked in circles, and even got on the wrong bus while trying to make it back to my host home. Thank goodness for Google Maps! Yet, in spite of my directional challenges, the sights I have seen and information I have learned about the religious and politically history of Italy this past week were incredible.

This week, I began taking classes at SUF (Syracuse University in Florence). My courses include Sex, Politics, and Religion in Italian Literature, Comedy in Italy From Ancient to Modern Times, Mediterranean Food and Culture and Italian II. Although initially I was nervous about adjusting to academic life in another country, I find much of what I am doing here for my classes is similar to my first week of classes at GW such as downloading course packs off of blackboard and waiting in long lines at the bookstore. The topics I am currently studying in my courses are extremely interesting. For example, in my Sex, Politics, and Religion in Italian Literature class, we have been analyzing Dante Alighieri’s Inferno and discussing what the author is perhaps arguing about the theory of religion versus what the author is arguing about Christianity specifically.

This look into the prominence of Christianity in Italian culture was useful knowledge for the highlight of my week; my field trip to Assisi! Located about 2 hours south of Florence, Assisi may be one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited! Its most famous landmark, The Basilica of St. Francis was constructed in 1228 and features paintings done by Giotto di Bondone, an Italian painter from the 13th century whose work is said to have been studied by and possibly influenced Michelangelo. Also in Assisi, I visited the Cathedral of San Rufino and Basilica di Santa Chiara, both of which were also constructed in the 1200s.

Overall, the past two weeks have been quite the whirlwind, but I have enjoyed every second! Can’t wait to see what’s in store next!

By taylorclark17

Considering that I have spent much of my time in Florence exploring the infamous monuments and museums in the city, this weekend I decided to stay a bit more local and visit locations within and near the neighborhood of my host family.

My host family’s apartment building is located in Campo di Marte, a neighborhood that is within walking distance of Stadio Artemio Franchi, the home stadium of Florence’s soccer team; ACF Fiorentina. It should be noted that aside from the screams of cheering soccer fans that occur when games are held, Campo di Marte is overall a very tranquil, residential neighborhood.

On Friday morning, as I strolled down Via Centro Stelle (Hundred Stars), which is about two blocks from my apartment building, I was greeted by young children and an older couple sitting on benches outside ‘Pasticceria Villani’, the local pastry shop. Hearing a friendly “Buongiorno” from strangers in the morning is something that I love about Italian culture. It reminds me that here, simply saying good morning isn’t a shocking act of kindness, its simply expected from all people of all ages.

Once I met up with friends who also live in home stays in Campo di Marte, together we walked to ‘Badiani’, a local gelato shop, where I tasted the best dark chocolate gelato I have ever had in my life and then boarded a bus to Fiesole, a town about 15 minutes outside of Campo di Marte. At Fiesole, I saw the ‘Teatro Romano’, a historical ruin of a Roman amphitheater that offers beautiful views of the countryside of Florence. Another great feature of Florence is the abundant greenery. On the way back to my apartment building I noticed the beautiful plants spread throughout a local park. Usually the only greenery I see during the semester is passing the quad on the Vern while hopping on the Vex back to Foggy Bottom!

In closing, I found that exploring local sights and eateries in my home stay neighborhood was a great adventure. Choosing to study abroad and immerse myself in another culture for a few months has so far been extremely rewarding, yet it is at times also somewhat lonely. Therefore, I can understand why some students may have apprehensions about being thousands of miles away from their friends and family for a semester or longer. However, what I would say to these students is that by getting acclimated to practicing the daily customs and routines practiced by the citizens of my host country, such as wearing a ACF Fiorentia jersey or enjoying some coffee or gelato in the park, I feel as though I have embraced a new community of friends and family that is equally welcoming and kind. When I do this, I feel less lonely, less homesick, and so much more at ease.

That’s all for now! For all you prospective study abroad students: Pick a country and go exploring!

By taylorclark17

Last night as my host mother drove me through the Piazzale Michelangelo, I was mesmerized by the picturesque view it provides of Florence. The lights from surrounding buildings illuminated the Duomo beautifully and for the first time, I felt assured that I have just begun experiencing what will be a wonderful college semester abroad.

Flying in a group flight from New York all the way to Florence was definitely beneficial because I was able to get acquainted with numerous students in my program, all of whom study at various colleges across the US. The flight was long, but the adrenaline of meeting new faces and making conversation about what sights we each wish to visit while in Italy or personal anxieties overpowered my exhaustion of traveling for 13 hours. Once we arrived in downtown Florence Wednesday afternoon, I was amazed by the campus of my program provider, Syracuse University Abroad. Nestled amongst other small Italian villas and cafes, The Syracuse University Villa Rossa campus is stunning. Its ‘limonia’, a lemon tree garden which has been converted into an outdoor study lounge has so far been my favorite place to sip on a cappuccino and read. The SU Florence faculty and staff I have met have all been very friendly and I am already extremely excited to begin classes this Monday!

Although I was initially nervous about the process of getting assigned to my host family, within a few minutes of meeting my host mother, I felt more at ease about learning to adapt to living in a new household. My host mother, Donatella Nardi, and her daughter Francesca were extremely welcoming and kind. In just five days, Donatella has introduced me to over five different types of Italian dishes including Florentina bissteca, coccoli, and pasta carbonara. While my Italian is still progressing, Donatella and Francesa are always helping me build my vocabulary. Although we may be separated by different cultures, each day I find that there are more similarities than differences between my host family and my own family.

It has only been a week, but so far I am very pleased that I chose to study abroad this semester. The sights I have seen, people I’ve met, and food I’ve tasted in just the past few days have been invaluable experiences and I can’t wait to make even more memories and share them with the GW community.


By billienkatz

Before embarking on the study abroad journey, I was bombarded by people (both friends, family and professors) who said it would be a major lesson in independence. This was almost insulting at times because I view myself as an independent person to begin with. Over the course of the past few weeks, especially since I really started jet setting around Europe, I've started o understand what everyone was talking about.

There is a sense of adaptability, resiliency, and go-with-the-flow attitude that is necessary while studying abroad, and in turn this manifests itself into a new form of independence. For the first time in my life I've been navigating myself around foreign cities where I don't speak the language and have limited access to WiFi and can only occasionally rely on google maps. For example, this past weekend I took advantage of having a Thursday off of school and took a five day trip to Rome and Florence. I was flying round trip in and out of Rome, and faced with taking the train from Rome to Florence and back again. I had already taken the train in Spain and had expected the process to be flawless and easy; however, as you can probably assume it was not.

First, I speak no Italian and despite what I thought before arriving, it really isn't recognizably similar to Spanish. Then, once I couldn't figure out the lines at the ticket office and weird number calling system (I had number A312 and they were called N4 and R109) I decided to give it a go at the ticket kiosk, which didn't work either. I don't have the chip in my debit card that all the European machines read, so my transaction was unable to be completed.

I should also mention that it was now approximately 2:23 and I had to get on the  2:31 train that was the last one going from Rome to Florence until the next morning. Low and behold, and only after  being forced to tip the man who helped me figure it out,  I was en-route to Florence. While this obviously isn't my most applicable example, its what has happened the most recently.

Overall, what I'm trying to get across is that everyone was right, being abroad does teach you an entirely new sense of independence that Ive never had to utilize before. In addition, in the process I have learned a lot about myself and how I approach and react to certain situations. For example, I have learned that I really value traveling with my parents and utilizing curbside check in, and that the world doesn't stop turning if I have to wear the pants and sweater multiple times in a row because my trip destination was colder than expected and I can only fit so much in a RyanAir approved carry on bag. Finally, I have learned that there is always room to grow as a person and learn more about yourself, and for me this has been my most powerful realization.