Our adventure to the airport was a bit nerve-wracking, to say the least, but we made it. We flew from Malpensa Airport to Naples and then took a shuttle bus to Sant’Agnello. The bus ride in itself was worth the trip. Having no idea what this town was going to look like, we were both a little nervous we might miss our stop. When we arrived to our stop, we were just so exhausted we HAD to find our hostel, immediately! The town was pretty small and cute, full of hotels and little shops–we could tell it was a popular vacation spot during the summer. There were plenty of young teens running around trying to prove their coolness–either hanging on their Vespas or by carrying around their helmets, “Look at me.. I have a sweet strut. You know you want me.” Oh, the teenage years. It was nice to see some younger people around.

7H - The best hostel in Sorrento

Seven Hostel aka 7H - The best hostel in the Sorrento area. We slept in a dorm-style room with 5 other girls. The showers were hot, the beds were clean and comfortable, free internet, a bar/restaurant, breakfast served there.. very friendly people, a beautiful view of Sant'Agnello and the surrounding mountains from the roof terrace..., A+! I could live here!

The walk to find our hostel wasn’t too bad. It only took about 15-20 minutes through the perfect weather and beautiful scenery to find our perfect hostel. We were so lucky to have found out about this place.. palm-trees-a-plenty, sun and blue skies, an A++ hostel.. Ocean just a 15 minute walk away.. Another vacation away from vacation.

In addition to all these wonderful things, we made some cool friends in this town. The other travelers at our hostel were all fantastic people with crazy stories–two 18 year old girls from Toronto whom we shared a room with, a mother-daughter combo from Brazil (only the daughter spoke english), 1 solo traveller also from Canada (hilarious guy), another solo traveller from Seattle, and then there were a bunch of Kiwis and Aussies. It was interesting to say the least!

After a pleasant evening of relaxing and conversing, one of our new friends walked Aneisa and I down the street a few blocks to a great local pizza place. Big yummy pizza for cheap! The man who owned the place was very pleased with our italian enunciation–I wish I could remember his name. His pizza place was fantastic. We each ordered our own pizzas and Aneisa and I split a liter of Fanta. I’m not really a pop-drinker, but Fanta my friends, is quite refreshing.
The next day we hopped on the Circumvesuviana railway and headed south a quick 5 minutes to Sorrento. We explored the town and passed by the Leone Rosso, a restaurant recommended by many–we’ll have to go back for dinner. One of our new friends, Abhijit, a solo-traveller from Seattle, met us in Sorrento at the railway station were we caught a bus that would take us further down the Amalfi Coast. Rick Steves had a lot to say about this one, so we figured it was a must. The bus ride was about an hour long and took us around the “toe” of southern Italia. The drive was I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E. It was a curvy road anyone would render impossible for a large bus to take, but let me tell you, the driver conquered those pinhair turns like there was no tomorrow. There were a few moments I felt scared for my life, quite possibly because we were on the edge of the mountains and one slight mistake by the driver could cause us to roll, or more realistically, free-fall to the sharp, lava-rock covered ocean floor below. (Mom–you would have HATED it.)
The most incredible hour of being in a bus I have ever experienced. The Amalfi Coast.

The most incredible hour of being in a bus I have ever experienced. The Amalfi Coast.

So why was this roller-coaster ride so incredible you ask? Because I felt like I was witnessing Heaven on Earth that’s why. My pictures don’t really do it justice–it was a difficult task to get a good one through the dirty windows. But believe me, it was a beautiful sight I’ll never forget. Unreal.  

We had the choice of stopping in a few towns on the way, but we figured our best bet was to take the bus all the way to the town of Amalfi and then backtrack if we had time. We had to make sure we were on the last bus back up the coast, otherwise we’d have to take a very expensive taxi ride.
Amalfi was pretty cool, I think our conclusion was that we wish we had stopped in Positano instead. Amalfi is a very touristy town. It was really cool how the town is tucked up into the mountain-side though.. very cool. We looked around for a place to eat but unfortunately our hunger had some pretty bad timing. When it comes to be the 1-6 o’clock hours, most decent restaurants are closed so we had to settle for some mediocre food that’d probably been sitting out for good amount of hours. What came next was a little unexpected.
Abhijit and Aneisa

Abhijit (Seattle) and Aneisa (MN)

RAIN!!!!!!!!!! We wanted to get gelato so we hurried to another place closer to the beach and took cover. Outside the gelateria was a little covered area usually covering tables in a restaurant that was perhaps closed for the off-season. We waited there for the rain to stop while eating some delightful gelato.
While waiting for the next bus to come through for our ride back to Sorrento, we ventured out to the docks to witness a pretty excellent sunset.
Me and Amalfi

Me and Amalfi

YES WE CAN

November 4, 2008

At this moment I wish I was back in the USA to celebrate with my friends. I’m watching CNN.com coverage clicking back and forth from celebrating Obama supporters to McCain’s concession speech to news coverage, awaiting Obama’s speech in 20 minutes..

Yesterday (the 4th) I wore my Obama tshirt walking through Florence to class and back. I felt so proud to be wearing it. I wanted people to know that I voted for Obama. When I got back from class I sat here on my computer waiting and waiting for the first polls to close on the east coast. By the time I went to bed, nothing momentus had happened–I figured I should get some sleep so I could wake up at a reasonable hour and start following the election again. I was definitely wrong about “reasonable hour”.

I got a phone call at a few minutes past 5:00am from my sister. (THANK YOU!) For those of you who don’t like math, that’s 8:00pm Pacific Time. It took me a second to realize perhaps why she would be calling me.. Surely the results hadn’t come in already..

When I came to my senses I had a jolt of energy–I wanted to know what had been happening at home! I opened my computer and was overcome with excitement seeing that Obama had 298 electoral votes.. OH MAN! Is it real?! I had to refresh my page a few times to make sure. I said to my roommate, “Aneisa….. Obama is President!” I wasn’t surprised she was awake–I wasn’t exactly thinking about being quiet at that moment. I wanted so badly to talk and celebrate with Obama supporters and be excited with people as excited as myself!** I wanted to cheer and yell! I wanted to open the window and tell Italy that our next President, MY President, will be Barrack Obama in 2009!

 

**Side note: My roommates find me rather silly, ie, when they saw what I was wearing yesterday they said to me, “You would.” Come onnnn.  I wonder how many people just didn’t vote because they were too lazy to figure it out. Three of my four roommates didn’t vote. Okay, it doesn’t matter at this point.. but still. I would hate to look back on this election and not be able to say that I voted..

Oct 11 – Recchia Vineyard

October 23, 2008

the grapes!

The yummy grapes!

The tiny backroads going up the side of the valley to Recchia Vineyards were a bit scary in our monster buses. The view however, was phenominal.

The tiny backroads going up the side of the valley to Recchia Vineyards were a bit scary in our monster buses. The view however, was phenominal.

Wine cellar

We got to take a tour of the wine cellars.

Wine tasting

Ripasso Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicelli, Recioto della Valpolicelli. We did a wine tasting and were able to taste the three main wines of the Recchia Vineyards. I think my favorite was the Amarone, with Ripasso in a close second. Recioto is a dessert wine... it was okay, but I don't think I could enjoy a glass of it because it's so incredibly sweet.

Me, Vanessa and Melissa

Me, Vanessa, and Melissa tasting our wine! They live upstairs in the same apartment building. Vanessa is from Boston and Melissa is from San Jose, CA.

Tour of the vineyards

Tour of the vineyard

Rockin’ the vote!

October 13, 2008

I marked the little oblong circle on my absentee ballot today… I can’t wait to put it in the mail! I feel so privileged to be able to vote and really have a say for my country. I have come across some students here who didn’t make the effort to get an overseas absentee and really don’t care to vote saying, “It doesn’t make a difference anyway.” I wish they’d come to their senses and realize it really does matter and they should make an educated vote. Mamma mia, the youth of today … We’ll see!

Today I decided I wouldn’t dress myself to fit in on the streets. I wore my favorite Cougar bball T, my backpack and my awesome EcoSneaks–these three things give me away. My black skinny pants would pass. Italian women wear heels and super nice clothes.. skirts, business suits, fancy fashion stuff.. I don’t know how they don’t get sick of dressing up all the time. Also, I don’t know how they keep their clothes looking so nice when everyone nobody has dryers.. After I wash my clothes and they dry on the racks, they are really stiff and weird! Infact, the elastic in my underwear is starting to not be so stretchy. There’s definitely somethin’ in the water.. (it smells like chemicals). Anywho, my backpack. That is usually an easy tourist-spotter; Italians wear handbags. I’ve started to notice that the younger kids use backpacks.. but it’s pretty easy to tell if they’re Italian based on the brand.

I catch myself playing a game as I walk to class every day. Italian? American? Tourist? Once you get closer you can see if they are speaking english, italian, or another language.. but it’s fun to try and figure it out based on their body language, their clothing, or who they are walking with. Body language is a big one for the Italian women. They walk like they own the streets in their stupid 5-inch heels (yes, stupid and completely impractical, the streets of Florence are made of seriously uneven cobblestone, Hello sprained ankles!), nose turned up, never a smile, never acknowledging that there might be other humans walking on the sidewalk too.

Annnnnnnyways, here is the reason I mentioned my clothes in the first place: I was walking back from class and a guy was staring at me (normal), I minded my own business and just as I was passing him he said to me in clear english, “Are you really a Cougar??” I answered proudly, “Indeed I am!” He was too! We had a little chat about what I’m doing in Florence, etc. Small world, eh? GO COUGS!

And now it’s time for bed. Ciao ciao!

Coming soon… lots of pictures and stories from Verona, the Recchia Vineyards (wine tasting and tour), Lake Garda, and Venice!

il mio compleanno = my birthday
ho ventuno anni = I am 21 (literally “I have 21 years”)

mt

The "smile with your mouth closed because you were ordered to pose for a picture while chewing" smile.

Alllllright! So if you remember, I took a train from Bologna at 5:15am on the morning of September 30th, il mio compleanno. I arrived in Florence at about 6:15, walked to my apartment… 6:30… there was absolutely no way I would be able to wake up in an hour if I went to sleep. I went to class at 9am after not sleeping since the morning before. Yeah, so.. I’ve got a guilty conscience. I fell asleep once or twice in my first class (which is 5 hours long), “Kathryn! Wake up!” She still hasn’t picked up the fact that I go by Katy so I decided I’ll survive. Then in my Italian class (only an hour 15 min), my teacher laughed as he said to me “Katy, sei stanco?” (Are you tired?) My response, “si, molto stanco…mi dispiace” (yes, very tired…I’m sorry). “Per che?” He asked me why and I told him I went to see a concert in Bologna last night and haven’t slept.. “Ohhh cool! Don’t worry about it. You guys are abroad! I expect you to have fun and go places and experience things!” And that’s why Enzo is the coolest Italian teacher haha. For the rest of the class he kept making jokes about me nodding off while taking notes… and applying it to our lesson. He taught us the verb “to sleep”… and also made a joke that was a bit racist… While pointing at each student he said “Americana, Americano, Americana,…. Giaponnese…, Americana..” Mamma mia!

Onwards! Went back to apartment, ate, slept 3 hours.. At 8 my roommates woke me up, “WE’RE GOIN OUT! IT’S YOUR 21ST BIRTHDAY!!!!” There I was, all tired and completely worn out, not wanting to go… But it was 4 against 1–no way I was getting out of that one. Plus, they apparently already had the night planned out.

Chinese birthday dinner

Chinese birthday dinner

We went to a nice Cinese ristorante for dinner, then down a few blocks to a music club/bar called BeBop. BeBop has live cover bands every night and that night it was the Beatles! Sweet! I was very impressed with these Italians… they were very talented and did a fantastic job playing such well-known songs. Ya know, sometimes a band can cover a song and it’s absolutely terrible! For example, my favorite band is Incubus (duh), and if some unknown randoms decided to cover “Sick, Sad, Little World” they would probably sound terrible. Granted, “SSLW” is a much more complicated song than “Yellow Submarine” or “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”….Nevermind. Just nod and smile and pretend you get what I’m saying. Va bene.

 During the middle of the set, the band stopped and said they had an announcement…. “Is Katy here? Everyone it’s Katy’s birthday! Come up here Katy!” Oh gosh…… Yes they brought me up on the stage. I can be so awkward sometimes I just didn’t know what to do when I got up there. They handed me a mic and said “SPEECH!!” Aw man… What do I say what do I say…?! So I said, “It’s my birthday!! WOO!!” Man, I look like a goof.. “I hope everyone is having fun! I know I am!” *smacks hand to forehead* What?.. did I say that?!  Hahaah oh man it was a classic moment. Regardless of my stupidity, everyone in the club cheered and made a bunch of noise in approval and then the band proceeded to sing Happy Birthday. My nervousness continued… does anyone else feel super awkward when Happy Birthday is being sung to you and you have to just sit there smiling while everyone stares at you? Well I do! Perhaps I should have actually had a few drinks so I’d have relaxed a bit. In any case, I ….sang with them, replacing the “you” and “Katy” with “ME!” Man, I’m cool. Good times.

Errr.. pure awkwardness captured on camera.

Errr.. pure awkwardness captured on camera.

In all honesty, it was one of the better birthdays I’ve had.

When I was back in the states and saw that Coldplay was touring Europe while I’d be abroad…. I was stoked! Maybe I’d travel to another country to see Coldplay …And then I saw the dates in Italy… in Bologna–only an hour’s train ride from Florence! I bought 2 tickets, hoping I’d make a friend who liked Coldplay enough to pay $86 and a buy train ticket to come with me.

Fortunately, I found a girl in my ceramics class. Her name is Mo (aka Maurine), she’s from New Jersey, and she’s a total goofball. We didn’t really know each other going into it, but we got along great and had a fantastic time!

Waiting for my panino with my free beer. The 50-something man next to me was trying to expl

Waiting for my panino with my free beer. The 50-something man next to me was trying to explain to me how this vendor worked.. Italians are very gesticulate people. He knocked his beer off the counter and spilled it all over my arm and a bit on my pants. He felt terrible and so he bought me and my friend Mo some birre! (birre=beers, birra=beer)

As I hoped they would be, Coldplay was ..incredible. I nearly cried I was so overwhelmed with joy haha. Well worth the adventure! The venue was fairly small–definitely not as big as Key Arena. The Italians by me all seemed to be quite ecstatic and enjoying the music as much as I was. Pretty much everyone knew all the words, even the girl next to us who spoke absolutely no english. It really is amazing how music can be so universal and affect someone the same way it affects me.. even though they don’t understand the words, they can feel the emotion and the excitement through the music.. They can feel overtaken by the sad yet content and comforting feeling of “Fix You” …or a rush from the marching beat and triumphant strings of “Viva la Vida”…. Perhaps they might be moved by the atmosphere of live music, ..the rhythm physically pounding in their chest…

Coldplay

Coldplay

Mmmm, sigh. End ramble.

Allora, after the concert there weren’t any trains to take us back to Florence until 5:15am, so we had to kill some time. We slowly strolled into an expensive hotel and used their bathroom.. taking our time.. enjoying the warmth.. filling our waterbottles..
 
Anywho, so we went back out into the dark, cold night to try and find another “shelter” and grab some food. Low and behold, the great Golden Arches appear down the street! Yes my friends, we went to McDonald’s. While eating my curly fries and Crispy McBacon, I swatted at the flies landing so gracefully in my ketchup and tried not to glance at the sketchy, staring dudes sitting in the corner. I was not about to sacrifice my warmth and shelter to get away from a creeper. Give them a split-second of eye contact and you’re in for it!
 
How silly is it to bring in your 21st birthday eating McDonald’s in Bologna, Italy? Pretty silly I think. I was okay with it though, Coldplay made up for it. After McD’s closed, we went 2 blocks down to where many interesting people gather at night, the central train station. Let’s just say it was such fantastic people-watching, if I closed my eyes I would regret it (because I would either, a) be attacked by a strange individual, or b) miss something hilarious. There were many a-stumblin’ homeless crazies who were, quite possibly, using mind-alterin’ substances that in fact, could lead to a combination of police, unconscious drug-users on the ground, ambulances, and run-on sentences… no need to go on really. Well there was a woman who ran by outside while removing her brassier. I’m not sure why she would do that in such cold weather. We watched a short man with a hunch-back in a purple sweater try to pick-pocket everyone in the station. And some old dude slapped another dude and then flipped him off while yelling some obscenities in Italian. OH!! There was another old dude who was legitimately crazy. It seemed as though he was preaching something to the people in the room.. he was so intense.. like he was trying to prove something to everyone, make them believe something. I asked my new Serbian friend, Aljosa, what the man was saying, but Aljosa said he couldn’t understand at all because he was using a different Italian dialect. He stomped around getting close to people’s faces like he was angry, but he wore a huge psychopathic grin on his face.. His eyes darted all over the room looking for someone to acknowledge him…. it was the most interesting thing to watch. Even I knew it was psychobabble and I didn’t even understand the words–the guy was a serious whacko!
 
Aljosa's shoes. Yes, they are Sonics colors, but nonetheless, the Seattle skyline.

Aljosa's shoes. Yes, they are Sonics colors, but nonetheless, the Seattle skyline.

Okay new topic. Aljosa! (al-ho-suh) Aljosa is my age, from Serbia, and is also studying in Florence but at a different school. He speaks Serbian, Italian, English, and wants to learn Russian. He told me his major was something to do with tourism but I couldn’t quite understand if that was correct… In any case, he was wearing shoes that had the Seattle skyline on them!!!!! I was so stoked to see that!! We were instant friends haha. He has never been to Seattle but he liked the shoes and started to ask me lots of questions about where I am from and what it’s like. …Likewise I asked him about Serbia. Anywho, cool kid, super kind-hearted, soft spoken, new friend. We will try to meet for an “aperitivo” this week so I can practice my Italian. (Aperitivo is basically an appetizer with a drink. You buy a drink for 6 or 7 euro and then there is basically a buffet of snacks.. At least that’s how someone explained it to me, I haven’t actually tried it yet.)

Basta! Enough!
 
In conclusion, I have 2 new friends (Mo and Aljosa), I can now confidently navigate the train station, I had an awesome day before my birthday (which gets its own post and comes next), I went to McDonald’s in Italy..?, and ..I can check something really awesome off my Bucket List… “Go to a concert in another country.” SUCCESS!
The only thing I regret is not buying a tshirt to add to my collection. Maybe Coldplay will swing through Seattle when I’m back…. though I’ll probably be in Pullman. Hmm. We’ll tackle that one when it comes. Ciao ciao!
My adventure! -

My adventure! (click picture to open a bigger clear version)

 From La Spezia we took a boat to Portovenere. Portovenere is located in the Gulf of Poets..appropriately named I think (if you experienced the beauty of this place, you too would want to write poetry.. the pictures don’t do it justice!) From there we took another boat in the direction of the Cinque Terre and had a nice boat “tour” (the anouncer lady explained the towns as we passed them). Once we docked in Vernazza we had a mini walking tour and then an hour of free time. I decided to do a little hiking.. took some video. From there we took the boat to Monterosso, which I liked the most of the five towns. We had a walking tour and then 2 hours of free time in which I grabbed a traditional Monterosso meal, Spaghetti al frutti di mare and then went swimming in the sea. Afterwards we met at the train station and took a train to Corniglia. Unfortunately we only had 10 minutes of time here… Then we started walking the Via dell’ Amore aka Lover’s Lane. The old long road was covered in awesome graffiti. The view out to the sea was just phenominal….honestly, I have never seen water have such a vibrant color! When the road came to an end we had passed through Manarola and arrived in Riomaggiore. Again we only had a few minutes of time here to grab a snack or a gelato and then meet at the train station. We took a train beack to La Spezia where we plopped our exhausted bodies back on our bus and drove back to Florence!
 
 I think I would really like to go back to Cinque Terre and do the full on 6 hour hike through the hills, visiting each town on the way. I was sad that we didn’t have more free time to explore.. but still very glad I was able to visit this amazing paradise!!!
 
– PORTOVENERE –
Portovenere -

Portovenere - These buildings are apartments! They are tall and skinny but very deep. This line of buildings used to serve as a wall to protect the town. Nobody dared living there because it was too dangerous--you could be taken by the pirates or killed much easier than if you lived back in the town.

Portovenere -

Portovenere - This is walking in the street right behind the apartment buildings that you see above.

Portovenere -

Portovenere - The church of St. Peter. When we walked inside this church, it was still decorated with beautiful flowers and whatnot from someone's wedding earlier in the day. Talk about an incredible destination-wedding.. $$$ !Portovenere - My glam shot.. haha. This is me sitting on the edge of the church that you see in the picture above. Look at that amazing sea! It goes on forever!

Portovenere -

Portovenere - This is the boat we rode to Cinque Terre.

 

– CINQUE TERRE –

The boat ride to Cinque Terre

The boat ride to Cinque Terre

Vernazza

Vernazza - This is the view from the top of my little hike. You can go up a lot higher but you have to have professional gear and buy a ticket to get passed the gate.

Cave in Vernazza

Vernazza - This cave brings you out to a super-cool area where you can rock climb a bit. Amazing view! I would have taken a picture or two but it would've been difficult to keep myself from falling in the water and taking a picture at the same time 😉

Riven in Vernazza!

Riven ..in Vernazza? (This one is for you Jami and Michael....)

Spaghetti al frutti di mare

Monterosso - Spaghetti al frutti di mare (Seafood spaghetti: muscles, clams, prawns, and crab! YUM!)

crab, mmmm

Monterosso - You might not be able to tell, but that's a crab arm/claw hanging from my mouth.. haha. I was trying to suck the meat out of it and decided it would be a funny picture.

Tyrrhenian Sea!

Monterosso - Heading out to swim in the extra salty, extra beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea. It was surprisingly refreshing!

The beach at Monterosso

The beach at Monterosso

Lover's Lane / Via Amore

Lover's Lane / Via dell' Amore