28 Sep | Kristen Thies | No Comments

Sunday, September 28, 2008 | Florence, Italy


Cortona is by far my favorite Tuscan city! We took an hour and a half train ride to the bottom of the city and then we had to find a way to get a bus ticket to the top.

Cortona is on a hillside that overlooks valleys of green trees. The buildings are about 4 stories high and the streets are full of enticing little alleyways. These are not alleys like you see in a city, they are cobblestone pathways that twist and turn and are perfect for exploring. We found one pathway that went right by a bakery and it smelled delicious!

We then walked through the town and went into a small leather shop where they had beautiful handbags. We started talking with the owner and it just so happens that she studied abroad in Italy when she was our age! She is British and during her first week of studying abroad, she met an Italian man and now they’ve been married for quite some time! How awesome is that! She also gave us directions to the best bakery in town called Cocoa. That’s right, chocolate. I probably don’t need to say this, but as soon as we left the leather shop, we headed strait there.

Cocoa is amazing! We all picked a tray full of little desserts and ordered the best hot chocolate. It was really thick and tasted like we were drinking melted chocolate. Ahh, we were in heaven!

We spent the rest of the day exploring. We picked some grapes from a vine and continued walking around with stained purple hands 🙂 The grapes were delicious and tasted exactly like Welches grape juice!

The trees and leaves in this city were beautiful! The brown leaves that were starting to line the streets led us up a very steep hill and at the top we found, of course, a church.

This city was simply wonderful. I actually liked not having to rush around or do any tourist activities. We just took in the lifestyle and beauty and were just content. It was a very calming and refreshing way to start our week.

In cooking this week, we learned how to make homemade pasta!! We made ricotta and spinach ravioli and served it with balsamic. We also made Pasta Norma, carbonara pasta and an apple pie!! Pasta Norma was delicious with fresh tomatoes, onions, eggplant and garlic. Carbonara pasta was pretty good too, but i’ve decided that I really don’t like bacon so I think next time I will make it without. The apple pie was also really easy. We just placed pie crust in the pan, put in sliced apples and a lot of sugar and then put it in the oven! Simple and delicious!

On Friday, the school organized a free trip for wine tasting in Chianti! They had three or four large charter buses that drove us to the Italian castle and then arranged for a tour and wine tasting. The grounds were gorgeous. There was a huge tree that was over 300 years old, a large wine cellar with large wooden barrels and a large fortress that had been added for protection during the war. The tour guide told us about the four different kinds of wine that we were going to sample. She encouraged us to try to pick out the different berries in the white wine and compare it to the smokey taste of the red wine. They also paired each of the four wines with food that complemented the flavor.

I am very impressed with the amount of student activities that the school provides. They have many different clubs such as slow drink club, dance club, photography club, music club, etc. They also have planned many free trips such as the wine tasting that we just went on, but also Florentine soccer games (which we have tomorrow night!), and ballet and opera concerts. It’s a great way to keep us involved, meet other study abroad students, and get to know more about Florence and the Italian lifestyle!

That’s about it for now!


The gang posing in front of a beautiful Cortona building.

The red grapes we picked in Cortona were delicious! They were really sweet and tasted exactly like Welches grape juice.

We were recommended this chocolate bakery called Cocoa by one of the locals. We bought a few chocolate pastries and some hot chocolate. It was divine and we plan on returning during the christmas season for some snow and cocoa.

The beautiful tuscan town of Cortona.

The gorgeous view of Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo just as the sun was rising.


28 Sep | Amanda Porter | No Comments

Sunday, September 28, 2008: Tour of Italy

Ciao! It’s difficult to think that it’s already the end of my last weekend in Tuscania!! Our group moves to Rome this Friday. Last Friday the school organized a trip to Villa Lante.  It is a garden and park with several fountains.  It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been thus far.  Three …


24 Sep | Amanda Porter | No Comments

Wednesday, September 24, 2008: Tour of Italy

Ciao, This past weekend was my first travel adventure.  The school had organized a morning trip to a close city, so the three girls (Allison, Elizabeth and Gabby) and I decided to go and knowing that it would make catching the train easier.  We met at the train stop and toured the Etruscan Museum.  We …


21 Sep | Kristen Thies | No Comments

Sunday, September 21, 2008 | Florence, Italy


This weekend was a travel extravaganza! On Friday, my roommates and I took a bus up to Siena, which is a beautiful town in the tuscan region. The city was more quaint than Florence, and it was nice to be able to meander through the streets without having to dodge masses of tourists. For lunch, we treated ourselves to a nicer restaurant where I had some of the best Italian food to date. I ordered tomato and olive pasta with bread crumbs. This kind of food that I am going to miss when I return home!

The rest of the day was spent exploring the Duomo, Baptistry, Museo de’ Opera and getting caught in a rain/hail storm! We climbed a tall, narrow, windy staircase to an amazing lookout point onto the city. We were so high up that our hair was standing on end from the electricity in the sky! Probably not the wisest idea to be on top of a tall building during a hail storm, but, we survived with really cool pictures.

Saturday morning we left at 5:30 a.m., not-so bright and early, and embarked on a five hour bus ride to Pompeii. In between sleeping, I snuck peaks of the warm tuscan sun streaming through the foggy hillsides. Everyone else on the bus was sound asleep and I felt like that morning was my little treasure.

First on our itinerary was a three hour walking tour of Pompeii. It is huge and very eerie to think how quickly nature wiped out this entire city. We saw a few molds of the people and their positions and expressions of horror gave me goosebumps. One little boy sat with his knees close to his chest and his hand on his head, praying that he would make it through. I try to imagine the fear that these people felt when the threatening cloud came plummeting in, and I just tear up.

Our next stop was Sorrento, a beautiful beach side city. I was so excited when I saw the water! Huge bodies of water are so comforting and remind me of home!

The school paid for our very first three course Italian dinner. Many formal Italian dinners have more courses than three, but compared to the pasta we make for ourselves at home, this was luxury! I sampled some nice red wine and ordered a mixed salad for my antipasti, beef dish as my secondi piatti, and chocolate cake for dessert! After dinner, our entire group of about 50 people walked downtown to sample limoncello, the lemon alcoholic drink that Sorrento is known for! We took our samples of limoncello and our shocked and squirmy faces afterwards were hilarious. Limoncello wasn’t our favorite, but it was nice to try it. We enjoyed the white chocolate covered almonds, lemon cookies, and biscotti much more.

Capri is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We spent hours getting lost in the city and exploring its many passageways and breathtaking views. We then met up with our two professors and they took us to their favorite restaurant. My friend Tara and I split a gnocci dish with tomato sauce and we spent the meal talking with Luca and Marco (our professors) about Italy!

We had about one hour left and my roommates and I decided that we could make it down the 20 minute hike to the beach and back to the ferry in plenty of time (eek). When we finally made it to the pebbly beach, it had started raining pretty hard. We spent about 5 minutes in the water and then we had to begin our hike back up the windy hill. The rain was pounding so hard and we were all completely drenched and completely in love with Capri! It was glorious and one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life. God taught me something that day: don’t EVER let an opportunity pass you by. Be spontaneous, live adventurously and don’t be afraid to get a little wet and dirty.

This was week two of classes. My cooking class was based around the antipasti. We made bruschetta and crostini with different kinds of meats and cheeses. I absolutely loved the bruschetta and the crostini with mozzarella cheese and olive oil. Tara and I made some for our roommates later in the week and everyone loved it!

I also tried a new gelato place, called Perche No! I grabbed a cone and then spent some time gazing at the Arno. It is so nice to be able to just go and relax and take in the beauty without having to be constantly behind a lens. That is one thing that my photography teacher told us. He said that it is healthy to go some places without your camera. To just enjoy a place and really get to know it and then go back and photograph it. I know I will be returning MANY times to the Ponte Vecchio. I love it so much.

This week was also the kick off of the dance club! We had latin american dance on Tuesday and belly dance on Wednesday! I love latin dance and I am very excited for latin night next week where our school has been invited to a club for some salsa dancing!

I hope you all are getting exciting about studying abroad! I am absolutely loving it!

I love Siena! We found a beautiful look out spot where we could see the entire city and rolling hills of the tuscan countryside.

Wandering the paths of Capri with our waffle-cone gelato.

Tara and I on our tour around the island of Capri. The water was so blue and wonderful!

The sky and water in Capri looked like a beautiful painting.

Family picture as everyone takes a quick break from traveling.



17 Sep | Amanda Porter | No Comments

Wednesday, September 17, 2008: Tour of Italy

Greetings from Italy! Life is now into full swing in this quaint Italian town.  Classes are finished for this first week.  One of the great things about going to school at LDM is that every week they organize free side trips.  This Thursday after class our group took a tour of the largest volcanic lake …


7 Sep | Kristen Thies | No Comments

Sunday, September 7, 2008 | Florence, Italy

Buon Giorno!

My name is Kristen Thies and I am blogging to you from Florence, Italy! I have been here for about a week now and my roommates and I have been spending these past few days exploring Florence, getting settled into our apartment and adjusting to a new culture. It still seems so surreal that I am in Italy and I often find myself forgetting that I truly am in a different country. Yet, every time I step out onto the narrow cobblestone path, veer out of the way of a racing vespa and hear the melody of the surrounding “ciaos” and “buon giornos,” I am warmly reminded that this renaissance city is not a dream.

I am living in a three bedroom apartment on Via Faenza with roommates from all over the states. We are all unique in our own ways, but we get along wonderfully and have been spending a lot of time together. Our first evening, we celebrated Hannah’s birthday by getting slices pizza at a pizzeria and hanging out on the steps of the duomo. We felt like true Italians, soaking up the surrounding art and sounds of the city as the sun said its goodnight. I think this is one of the greatest benefits of studying abroad, you have the time to remove your tourist hat and actually take in and learn from the culture.

Yesterday, my roommates and I went on an adventure up to Fiesole. It was our first experience with the Italian bus system and besides having to run to catch the first bus and the small problem with one of us validating our ticket the wrong way, I think we did pretty well! We picked up a map of the city and went on our own little walking tour. We found one spot with a breathtaking view of Florence and the tuscany region and spent a lot of time taking pictures! We then spent the last 2 hours venturing through a church, monastery, cemetery and admiring the gardens and rolling hills. We topped our trip off with a refreshing cup of gelato and then headed home with very tired feet.

Classes will be starting tomorrow and I am very excited to get some structure into my schedule and learn more about Florence! I am taking Beginning Italian, Travel Photojournalism, Current Trend in Italian Cuisine, Ballet, and one more art class (either Expanding Creativity or Leonardo da Vinci: The Renaissance Genius at Work). I will definitely be giving you more updates about my classes as the weeks go by!

That’s about it for now! We’re getting ready to go out for a small shopping trip and then heading to watch the evening lantern processional by Santa Croce!

Please feel free to send me any questions you might have and I’d be happy to answer them!


This is a picture of Hannah and I next to the Arno river!

Tara and Hannah admiring the Ponte Vecchio.

Three roommates making the initial hike up on our walking tour of Fiesole

Hannah in front of the gorgous view of Florence. Can you see the duomo?!!

Marci, my roommate, and Tara posing in front of a cute Italian car.




  •   169 Main Street
    Greenville, PA 16125

  •    Call: 866-922-7623

  •    Mail:



40 Under 40 Award Quickbooks Intuit Small Business Award



Athena Study Abroad • Big World. Made Smaller. © Copyright 2005 - 2020