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Planning, Italy and Sant Juan! July 15, 2013

Posted by mjmaurer7 in Travel Log.
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After getting back to Barcelona, the first thing I wanted to do was relax. I spent the last day of the break relaxing on the beach, and catching up on some work. Because I haven’t mentioned before, access to the beach might be one of my favorite parts of Barcelona :)

The next week was largely consisted of work and planning for my next trip. Monday was the feast of Sant Juan in Barcelona, and because the entire city had the day off, so did we. Most of the people in the program wanted to stay in Barcelona because they were tired out from the week break, but also because Sant Juan was a famous party in Barcelona where fireworks and bonfires on the beach lit up the night on Sunday. I knew that I wanted to go, but I also knew that this would be one of my limited opportunities left to travel.

Since nobody from Barca was willing to go, I asked some people from GTL what they were doing. As it turns out, they were headed to Italy for their long break. On Friday they would be in Florence, and on Saturday Cinque Terre. I was beyond excited because this worked perfectly with my plans, and I would be back in time for Sant Juan. I rushed the rest of the week to make plans.

Early Friday morning, I woke up at 4:30 to someone who we didn’t know drunkenly stumbling into our room (it was weird). However, I had to wake up that early anyway to catch my 6:30 flight. I flew to Rome, and caught the train to Florence.

I checked into my hostel and let the GTLers now that I was there. While I waited for the always difficult European communication to come through, I wandered around Florence. I found the Duomo, which isn’t that impressive considering it takes up a good portion of the city. Saying I was impressed by its size is an understatement. THE THING WAS HUGE. Eventually, I rambled on, finding my way to the Galleria Academia where Michelangelo’s David resided. The line was long, but I happened to run into a group of Australians who were going in. I joined with them, so we got to get a reduced rate and skip much of the line (meeting others is one of the best parts of traveling alone). The art inside was beautiful and massive. It’s hard to describe David without seeing it. I never imagined he was that tall, I couldn’t help staring. You get a much better sense of how amazing Michelangelo is when you compare David to other sculptures.

Duomo from Piazzale Michelangelo

Anyway, once I got out, I met up with the group from Lorraine. We decided to go the Piazza Michelangelo, which is famous for the best view of Florence. We took SO many pictures. We headed back to the main city, to the most famous, oldest bridge in Venice that the axis decided to leave standing during WWII. We ate dinner over the river. I split a Florentine steak and spaghetti with Parker Buntin. The steak was up there for the best steak I’ve ever put in my mouth.

The rest of the night was spent experiencing the city. We went back up the Piazza to see the sun set over Florence. We spent an hour watching a band play on the bridge with the sunset in the background. The best part of the night came after we had gotten Gelato. We wandered into a big square, where we happened to find an orchestra playing. All the while, vendors were throwing blue light up toys in the air, which slowly fell back down. They whole scene was surreal.

The next morning, we headed to the Leonardo Da Vinci museum before catching our train. Seeing Leonardo’s drawing ideas actually built was phenomenal. That man was a genius. Before long though, we were on the train to Cinque Terre.

When we got there, we split up so we could check in at our different hostels. I accidently took the long way to get to theirs. I was incredibly lucky though, because it put me on an amazingly scenic route. Riomaggore, one of the towns that makes up Cinque Terre, was situated in a valley on the Mediterranean. It was the most beautiful view of the coast that I had seen so far in Europe.

 

Cinque Terre

 

That day, we decided to hike up to a church on the peak of a hill next to Riomaggore. The hike was rough. I was pretty dehydrated, which was a huge mistake considering how hot it was. I knew the view was going to be worth it though, so we all powered through. We spent a good amount of time on that hill relaxing and taking pictures. The coastline was beautiful. We made our way back down, and started looking immediately for somewhere to eat. We got some pizza and pasta and chowed down. After, we made our way to the docks and the shoreline. The rest of the night was spent skipping rocks and relaxing. I went back to my hostel, which was a town over, discovered how a bidet works, and went to bed.

The next morning, I boarded a train to Milan, took a shuttle to the airport, boarded my plane, and went back to Barcelona by 5:00 PM. I felt pretty accomplished because I somehow managed to successfully plan two plane rides, two bus rides, and four trains by myself.

By the time I got back to my room, it was almost time for the Sant Juan. I went with most of the program to the beach with lots of fireworks. We were up late that night laying back on the beach and experiencing the fireworks. By the end of the night, the beach looked like a warzone.

That’s it for this part, stay tuned for more!

Italia. casa di gelato July 27, 2012

Posted by sidsinha in Travel Log.
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Following my short stint in Madrid to meet a good friend of mine, I hopped on to one of the finest airlines in the world, Ryan Air, and found myself in Rome. [At this point if you are not familiar with Ryan Air I suggest you look it up.] Once in Rome, I grabbed some Chinese food (If you haven’t had Chinese food in Italy, I don’t recommend it) and met up with my group. It was nighttime so we decided to grab gelato and head to the Coliseum. It is definitely a sight worth seeing at night as well as in the day. Fine Italian gelato only enhances your experience. The next day we decided to cover much of the major tourist attractions of Rome: Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.

The following day, before setting off for Florence, we saw the Coliseum and the ruins in the morning. I can understand now why people rave about this Eternal City. From the earliest centuries to present-day, its rich history is very evident through the architecture, the food, the language, and the overall culture. I considered Rome a good city but one of the best cities (second only to Madrid) I have visited this summer has to be Firenze, or Florence as we know it. It was a fantastic mix of the past and present. Phenomenal, in fact. There weren’t too many major sites to see, but I think that’s what made Florence more special. My idea of a great experience is finding myself in a completely unknown city and roaming it to learn something that I never could have otherwise. Florence consisted of me doing just that. The Piazza Michelangelo, a spot offering a view of the entire city, was marvelous. The city of Florence, at the foot of the Apennines and outlined in red, boasted itself under the hazy weather that evening. Our time in Florence was rounded out with a fantastic Tuscan dinner followed by delicious gelato (Florence also had the best gelato in Europe…or the world for that matter) and live music. One of my favorite parts of a city is its market. Going to the market gives you feel for the city, I believe. Walking around, chatting [bargaining] with the vendors, and eating the market food gives me a sense of that culture.

The next morning was a bit rushed. On that day, we were to travel to, and hike, the five villages of Cinque Terre. But before that, we had to stop by the Leaning Tower, in Pisa. From Florence, Pisa was only an hour away. After taking the infamous picture with the Leaning Tower, we set off for Cinque Terre….

Cinque terre was simply breathtaking. from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, every village was unique. I had never been to such a place. It seemed as if everyone there were locals. Parts of the hiking trails literally meandered through the streets of town and in front of residents’ homes. I would liken Cinque Terre to an Italian paradise, and nothing less.

I had not thought that Italy would be one of my more memorable trips. I was completely mistaken. Italy, the people, the culture, the language, the food, and the gelato…Italy continually impressed me. I have become a fan. Below are links to my Italy albums. Feel free to enjoy them.

 

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150919874397713.401885.727097712&type=3&l=d29ef9a961
 
 

A Taste of Italy June 17, 2012

Posted by williamsessions in Travel Log.
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So after spending the last few weeks traveling from through Venice, Florence, and Rome, I’ve had somewhat of a taste of the culture, music, arts, architecture, and, of course, food of Italy. Being a cultural center for music and the arts, Italy had much to offer us in the way of museums and concerts.

Venice
My first impression of Venice was that it was quite overcrowded, with people everywhere. By the evening, however, I realized that the vast majority of the people I saw were tourists who had traveled to Venice just for the day.
Dr. Ciejka led us on a walking tour of the city where we meandered through alleyways and across bridges, stopping and pointing out important buildings or interesting architecture along the way. Of the most note was San Marco, a very beautiful and imposing church. On one of the days, we took a drive to Padua, where we visited the Scrovegni Chapel with its floor-to-ceiling Renaissance frescos, painted by Giotto. One of the afternoons, some friends and I took a gondola ride, a very unique experience. Our gondolier was very knowledgable about the history of Venice and pointed out some additional sights that we had not seen on our walking tour.

Florence
Florence was likely my favorite city thus far. With its combination of great architecture and beautiful skyline, it was a very pleasant city to visit.
We had a very busy start to our stay in Florence with a trip to the Accademia to see David by Michelangelo. Standing 18 feet tall, the sculpture is very imposing. After studying the sculpture, one may notice that the proportions of David’s head and hands seems not to match with the rest of his body. I learned that this is because Michelangelo originally sculpted David to be placed at the top of the Palazzo Vechio, high above the plaza. The exaggerated proportions of the head and hands would look appropriate from ground level. As it turned out, when people saw the finished sculpture, they decided that its beauty would be more enjoyed if it were set on the ground in front of the Palazzo Vechio instead. From the Accademia, we set off on a walking tour of Florence including visits to the Duomo and San Lorenzo. In the afternoon, we visited the Uffizi Museum of Fine Arts where we studied some of the great Italian artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
On one of the evenings, a group of students climbed to the top of one of the hills close to our hotel with a great view of the city skyline. From there, we had a beautiful view as the sun set behind the city. The Florence skyline is one of my favorites, especially at sunset.

Florence Skyline
Florence Skyline

Rome
Rome holds so much to see and do, it was impossible to get a full account of the city in our short time there, however, we made the most of the time and visited some of the great landmarks of the city.
During our first full day in the city, we went on a walking tour of ancient Rome. This included the Capitoline Hill, the Roman Forum, and, of course, the Colosseum. As an engineer, I was amazed at the advanced skill of the Roman architects in constructing such large and functional structures as the Colosseum, which could hold up to 50,000 people. Even considering the bloody battles that were staged there, the structure is extremely imposing and awe-inspiring.
The second day, we visited the Vatican where we saw the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican was extremely crowded with tourists, which made the tour progress slowly and with difficulty. Nonetheless, it was exciting to visit the Vatican and see the great work of Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel.
One of the most interesting experiences I had in Rome was not even on a scheduled tour. Some friends and I decided to tour one the Priscilla Catacomb, which was near our hotel. We learned that, located just a few feet below street-level, the catacombs contain 3 separate levels and about 8 miles of tunnels that hold approximately 40,000 tombs. Contrary to what many might think, the Christians in ancient Rome did not use the catacombs to hide from persecution, rather, they used them solely for the burial of their dead. Regardless, it was an uncanny but extremely exciting experience to walk among the tombs.
The last full day in Rome included another walking tour during which we visited the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and several churches in the area.

Now, after a two-day bus ride and a stop in the beautiful city of Lucern, Switzerland, we are in Ghent, Belgium, where we are enjoying fantastic waffles and chocolate!

ITALIA: gelato, pizza, and more gelato! July 17, 2011

Posted by shinjinidas in Travel Log.
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Italy was a lovely lovely country. I had visited Rome last year and had in fact met a President’s Scholar, who later became my PSMP mentor, at the Colosseum of all places! Our first stop was Florence, and what a quaint and cultured city that was. With such a rich cultural and artistic history, I was ready to be mesmerized by the world renown art, sculptures, and monuments, and was I! The birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence was the emblem of artistic intellectualism, and I experienced the beauty of the city through museums, the Uffizi, Bargello, to name a few. Of course, this was where my love for gelato was reignited.

One of my most memorable times in Florence was watching the sunset at Piazza Michelangelo, with several other eager tourists, and Oxford group students during dusk. Not only did we catch an absolutely gorgeous sunset, but we also viewed an awe striking skyline of the entire city! The Duomo, the baptistry, and the cathedral were all peaking brightly for us, and it was a beautiful night and a beautiful sight, one I will cherish. After Florence was the historical and political behemoth, ROME!

This was my second trip to Rome, and I have to admit, I think I loved it more this time around. Witnessing such crucial and important monuments, like the Pantheon, Colosseum, and the Roman Forum, up close was just mind boggling! In fact, we even saw what is commonly believed to have been the burial place of Julius Caesar within the Roman forum ruins. So much history, Rome had the foundation of future civilizations within its grasp, and to witness and revel in that glory was just inspiring and awe striking. Moreover, Rome has a very exciting big city feel, while still remaining relatively easy to navigate through. It really strikes the perfect balance for tourists. Of course, I gorged on yet more pizza and pastas here, not to mention more gelato. My last night in Rome culminated with an utterly delicious meal of fettucini with sausage, cream, and mushrooms, whose taste I can still remember! It was an absolutely fabulous time, not to mention, my one year anniversary since I met a few GT President’s Scholars within the colosseum as a rising freshman. Time flies!

My last and most absolutely favorite destination in Italy was without a doubt VENICE! This city is very special for a number of reasons. First, it being completely built on water was a point of intrigue and fascination for me. Moreover, the city is unnaturally and unbelievably gorgeous! We arrived amidst a few showers, but were in for great weather afterwards. Although our hotel was a tad too small without any form of internet, we were situated in an amazing and a prime location, near several hotspots, including of course McDonald’s, from which we outsourced several hours of internet connection. I enjoyed every minute of walking and shopping in Venice- in the evenings, the weather would just be perfectly cool with a light breeze, and I would browse through murano glass jewelry shops and admire the beautiful craftsmanship of Venetian artists. There were a slew of shops and bustling restaurants on the strip of street our hotel was located on, and I thoroughly loved exploring each and every one of these quaint stores.

What’s more, the city has one main center stage canal, called the Great Canal, which was so interesting to see, as Venice has no cars, surprise, surprise! This was a peaceful and much welcome realization, as I thought the tourists and residents were so much at peace with walking everywhere. Although the water surrounding every inch of the pavements and walkways was an utterly gorgeous sight, at times, the stench was unbearable, as pollution and sewage affect the quality very much.

This city was also the one in which I bought the most souvenirs! I fell head over heels in love with the intricate murano glass bracelets, and bought 3 very delicately handcrafted ones, the first with ruby red colored crystals, the second with emerald green colored crystals, and the third with sapphire blue colored crystals. Of course, a trip to Italy would be incomplete without delicious food, so on the last night, I treated myself to a plate of penne pasta with crab, salmon, and shrimp! This was mind blowingly delicious, and I have vowed to visit Venice in the near future with my family. This was an unbelievably gorgeous city, and its spirit really connected with me in a very special almost indescribable way. By far, my most favorite city on this trip, Venice has now has carved a niche into my heart!

Florence, Italy June 14, 2011

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We have been in Florence (Firenze) for 4 days now! It is absolutely beautiful. June 1st, we arrived at the airport in Rome at 8:45AM (2:25 GA time.. eek!). Exhausted, hot and excited, we trekked through the baggage claim and out to the bus with our 50 lb luggage (I did it!!!) and equally heavy carry on. This is the first time the girls discovered that we packed too much.

Our bus driver, Jean-Pierre, drove us into Florence where we got our first hotel rooms, and had to carry our bags around. This was the second time we realized that we packed way too much! The Embassy Hotel is precious. The beds are 3 inches away from one another and the bathroom is teeny tiny. I’m living with Jessica this summer and we just happen to have the ‘party room’. Why? Because we have an awesome terrace! If you ever stay in this hotel, request room 806.

Night one, we went to a cute little pub that played Ben Harper and Dave Matthews (a nice little taste of the USA). We met a middle aged couple from Ireland who bought us all drinks! They loved my red hair and my mom’s maiden name (McEachern) and thought I was just sooo Irish. Next we went to a club called Space.

So this trip sounds like non-stop fun.. but where’s the “study” in this study abroad? We actually have class in each hotel. The first day of class was Thursday the 2nd. Jessica and I got locked in a staircase–typical– and were 5 minutes late to art. Professor Pearsall took us all over Florence visiting churches and museums. We walked what felt like a thousand miles in cute sandals rather than the oh-so-touristy tennis shoe. Our feet were then/are now/will be killing us… but beauty is pain, right?

That night, we all went to dinner together at a restaurant in the city. The owner LOVED America. He was wearing an Alabama pin and had a Texas flag in the restaurant. He seemed to be so hospitable by bringing us tons of appetizers, wine and pasta. The waiters were funny and nice, too. But by the end of the dinner, we were €25 in the hole– oops!

After a little party on the terrace, we roamed the city streets and hung out on some awesome stairs. A random Italian offered to take us to his club and not charge us a cover, so naturally we said yes! We met some other American students, some Italians, and had a blast.

Yesterday, we visited the Bargello and the Uffizi. Both were beautiful, but the Uffizi was sweltering hot! Europeans definitely don’t believe in the A/C like us spoiled Americans!

We had a couple of hours of free time around lunch, so Jessica, Kelsey,Jordan, Lauren and myself went to grab some food and hit up the stores around the Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio. Kelsey, Lauren and I were innocently walking along when all of a sudden, I stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of the busy street! I was looking straight at DJ Pauly D and Ronnie from the Jersey Shore! It took me a minute to realize that it was them, and I finally said something. He spoke with us for a little while, trying to get us to go to the pizza place where the cast works. We said we didn’t have time and he turned mean… but we still got a few pictures!

After our long day, we had a two hour music class. Dr. Ulrich is so awesome and taught us about ballet, Tchaikovsky and Swan Lake. (We’re going to see it tonight!) Then we all climbed to the highest view of Florence, and it was breathtaking! We ate dinner in a little pizzeria overlooking the city.

This morning we went to the Medici family’s chapel, which was amazing. We have free time from 11 until 7:30! We went to eat lunch at the Jersey Shore cast’s restaurant. I am the worst at directions in Europe, and it took us forever to get there (sorry guys). We saw Sammi Sweetheart, Vinny and Pauly D this time… but it wasn’t as exciting. More bizarre than anything else. Now everyone is napping while I blog! We will be getting ready soon to go to the Swan Lake ballet tonight. I can’t WAIT to see it!


Tomorrow morning we’ll be heading to Rome for our next tour. I hate to say goodbye to Florence, because it’s great! I feel like we’ve learned the city in every way only to leave it… but I’m not complaining. I mean, we get to do this fall in love with a city thing 8 times before we even get to Oxford! I’m having a great time and making some new great friends (how could I not, group 2 is the best group of all time), and I can’t wait to write about Rome in a few days!

Firenze, Italia: Renaissance Revisited June 11, 2011

Posted by Joseph Mattingly in Travel Log.
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Firenze, or Florence as most English speakers know it, is most notable as the birthplace of the Renaissance, and thus, too, is its fame today (though I hear the city is also gaining attention through a certain television program that represents everything that is wrong with America, which I’d rather not discuss).  When we arrived in Florence from Vienna (see the previous post) 13 hours after our departure, it was raining enough to flood the streets to a point where the police closed the streets and our bus driver deposited us 700+ meters from the hotel to venture through the streets-turned-canals.  (Guess I missed the memo to pack my submarine…)  Apparently we were nice enough guests that the rainy weather decided to stick with us for all of Florence, as it rained most of our stay in the Tuscan capital.

The first full day in Florence (6 June 2011) we explored the narrow winding streets (not on grid layout:  minus 3 respect points for Roman city planners) of Florence and toured the Santa Maria del Carmine, a famous Renaissance church with even more famous paintings.  The following day was reserved for exploring the Bargello, a museum with lots of famous sculptures, and the Uffizi, a gallery with more historically significant paintings than the mind can imagine.  Unfortunately, the Italians have an incredible phobia of people taking pictures of their artwork (paintings and rocks alike), so my apologies for not supplying appropriate pictures.  The last day in Florence was spent in the Accademia, better known as the residence of Michelangelo’s David, the colossal size of which cannot be appreciated in any other way than right beneath it, and the Medici chapel, the powerful Florentine family’s ultimate display of mon€tary pow€r.  (Okay, so Euros didn’t exist back then.)  In all, Florence is a fantastic city, but it’s really easy to get really tired of the narrow streets, rainy weather, and the constant whistling of the Carabinieri.

Postscript:  Since I’m drafting this in Roma, I might as well talk about the trip from Florence to Rome with regards to our pit stop in Pisa.  It is with a grand scowl that I must report that for all the great things the Romans did for engineering (they must have gone to Georgia Tech…), the rest of Italy made up for in bad engineering (well, you know where they went…).  Yes, the tower is still leaning and very much so, though apparently all further leaning has been halted by the use of hi-tech concrete and such.  As you may have suspected, the Leaning Tower is the main attraction in Pisa.  This is certainly true, evidenced by the 15 euro fee to enter the tower which we all hastily bypassed.  Even so, Pisa still made for a great photo-op.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Mia culpa...

Despite the writing of this post in Rome, the Rome post will come sometime later–probably in Venice.  So, until next time, ciao!

July 2-5: Italy August 10, 2010

Posted by Stefanie Olivier in Travel Log.
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During our long Independence Day weekend, we decided to visit three different Italian cities. We got to Italy by taking a Ryanair flight. (Can you believe it costs lest than twenty Euros to fly from Germany to Italy?!?) In order to finally arrive in Venice, however, we had to take another train trip from the airport, the ending of which was a very unusual experience since the train tracks were surrounded by water and little else. It felt as though the train was traveling on top of the water. Unsurprisingly, my eyes were glued to the window during that part of the train ride.

I was even more fascinated by my surroundings, however, when we took a ferry to our hostel in Venice. Venice is truly unlike any other city in the world. It seems like all the buildings are drifting in the water just like our ferry was. After we grabbed some of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted in my life on the way to our hostel, we set out to discover the city. This city is ideal for souvenir shopping. Venetian masks, Venetian glass jewelry, and leather-bound journals were everywhere to be seen, especially on the Rialto Bridge. After doing some window-shopping, we devoured some Italian gelato next to the water and then took in the sights while traveling in the ferry all around Venice. We finally stopped and relaxed within a Venetian park (Yes! A drifting park!) before buying “gondolas” for dinner. We finished the night in a café that was streaming a world cup game from its large television. We went to bed with sinking hearts when Uganda lost.

We took a train to Florence the next morning and ate some more pizza and did some more souvenir shopping when we arrived there. I have to say, Italy is definitely the place to buy souvenirs! Their open-air flea markets are excellent! After checking into our hostel, we visited the Duomo (whose outside decorations make me think of the candy house in the story of Hansel and Gretel), the Uffizi Gallery, and the Ponte Vecchio (one of the few remaining medieval bridges in Europe). On the Ponte Vecchio, we danced along with some gypsies to their music and then hurried back to our hostel to ready ourselves for the evening. That night, we signed and stapled a Georgia Tech t-shirt to the roof of one of the Florence’s most famous Irish bars.

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I was sad to leave Florence the next morning, but knowing that we were on our way to Rome made me feel much better. Once we arrived there, we bought tickets for a “hop on, hop off” bus tour and then sat on top of the double-decker bus while it drove all around Rome. It was amazing to see the modern architecture mixed with old architecture mixed with very old architecture, and this kept on amazing me throughout the two days we spent there. The first stop where we dismounted the bus was the stop next to the Trevi Fountain, where we made wishes, filled our water bottles from water spewing out of a wall, and bought gelato from San Crispino, a shop that is judged to be the best gelaterias in Italy. I sure thought so, anyway! We finished of our day with a visit to the Coliseum and then our trip the next day with a visit to the Vatican.

Florence July 25, 2010

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Fishing back through old blog posts not yet posted.  Looking back, it has been an unbeliveable summer and I am not even finished!

Watching the sun set on Florence

Final day in Florence.  My body is sore, feet aching.  But it has been beyond a blast.  If this is a glimpse of my life for the next four weeks, I absolutely cannot wait!!!  The internet over here has been iffy and quite frustrating to work with.  One minute it will work, the next it will be off-line.  We will then head to a restaurant or gellateria (gelato shop) and buy food or gelato only to discover that we can solely access Italian websites! (more…)

Ciao! June 9, 2010

Posted by Megan Sweeney in Travel Log.
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We are just finishing up our three stops in Italy and so far the trip has been amazing!  It’s hard to believe I have only been here for two weeks; we’ve done and seen so many things in such a short amount of time, which I thought would have worn me out by now but I am still hanging on.  (I think all the excitement of exploring a foreign country with 43 friends is helping.)

Our first destination was Florence (or Firenze in Italian).  There we stopped in Santa Maria de Carmine, the Uffizi, the Accademia, and Bargello (the last three all in one day).  All the art and architecture was beautiful and learning it by seeing was definitely more interesting than in a classroom like the first week…  A group of us also splurged and paid the eight-euro to climb the 463 steps to the top of Il Duomo—definitely worth it!  Parts of the stairs going up and down were terrifying but the view from the top was incredible. (more…)

Greetings! By Cole Ellertson June 9, 2010

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Guten tag! And in the words of the great Miller Templeton, “Good morning sports fans!” I am in Vienna, Austria arriving yesterday after a long but beautifully scenic trip through the mountains of Northern Italy. My Oxford group has now left the marvelous country of Italy after residing within the cities of Florence, Venice and Rome and visiting the town’s of Sienna and Padua.

Our journey began after flying  into Rome and busing to Florence, where the quaint architecture of this urban environment, its central river, and of course the marvelous Duomo of Florence (designed by the great Brunelleschi) ;) created a truly captivating scene. The highlights of Florence for me included the great Italian food, running along the bridges over the river in the afternoon, climbing at sunset to the Piaza de Michelangelo for some amazing sunset photographs, and hearing about the rich heritage in art and music engendered here. (more…)

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