28 Oct | Amanda Porter | No Comments

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: Tour of Italy

Ciao. This was the “Week of the Churches.”  While it may seem comical in a city of more than a thousand churches, my professor did indeed chuckle at me, I am proud to say that I went to 10 churches this week. The first church was the basilica of Saint Clement.  It was one of …


23 Oct | Kristen Thies | No Comments

Thursday, October 23, 2008 | Florence, Italy


I’ve spent many of my blogs talking about all of the classes and traveling that I have been doing, but I think that studying abroad encompasses a lot more that just those. Yes, it is about seeing and doing and learning as much as you can, but it is also about living to your greatest extent. You have the opportunity to start making yourself into exactly the person you want to be and this can be both challenging and exhilarating.

You’ll find yourself in an entirely new culture and lifestyle, surrounded by people that you have never met before. The only comforting and dependable thing is yourself and it is up to you bring yourself to this new country. To be brave enough to allow your own unique personality traits shine, and find comfort in being exactly who you are. If nothing more, this short, life-changing trip should leave you with a greater sense of confidence in who you are and greater love for living life through your own heart. 

Studying abroad has been quite different than I thought it would be. Italy is beautiful and amazing, but I never thought that I would have a bad day in such a wonderful country! I guess I had this idea that everyday would be fantastic, but there have been days where I have really missed home and days where nothing was going my way. Living in Italy has become a reality, not a dream, and I love it. I am living, and breathing, and laughing, and loving in a place that is not mine permanently – but for the time being, I can call it my home. 

I hope that when you go abroad, you will take every opportunity live a little bit fuller. Take traits from others and intertwine them with your own, pick up a new hobby, walk around the city by yourself, have a conversation in a different language, make new friends, and look at everyday through your own smile of your own heart.

With love,


20 Oct | Amanda Porter | No Comments

Monday, October 20, 2008: Tour of Italy

Ciao tutti! My first week of classes in Roma has come to an end.  This past Friday I went on a trip with the school to a region of Italy called Umbria.  We met at school pretty early especially considering the transportation strike.  Despite the complications that that created, we all got on the bus …


19 Oct | Kristen Thies | No Comments

Sunday, October 19, 2008 | Florence, Italy


This past weekend, Tara and I went to Venice! We woke up at 4:45 on Saturday morning and arrived at the train station at what we thought was early, only to find that the train we wanted had already left! We had finally missed our first train! It was bound to happen and at least it was a weekend where we had the flexibility to move our travel day. The next day, we repeated our early morning ritual and thankfully were able to get on the 6:30 train to Venice! The first train took us one stop down to the next station where we had to catch the train to Bologna. We were a little worried about this train ticket because it had assigned seating, and we weren’t sure if we could use it for a different day. Needless to say, we went anyway’s and we were fine! We were so anxious about getting on the train that we jumped on without validating our tickets. So not only did we have a ticket for the wrong day, but we had no validation. Perfect.

The train from Florence to Bologna was apparently a night train! We got on and all of the cabin doors were closed with people sprawled out on the seats. It was pretty creepy. Tara and I walked down about 3 cars until we finally found a cabin with two people who weren’t sleeping. When the train arrived in Bologna, we jumped off and quickly tried to find the train to Venice. We looked at the huge board and saw that the Venice train was at bin 11 and was leaving in 10 minutes! We ran to the other side of the station, found bin 11, and there was no train and no waiting people. We had looked at the arrivals instead of the departures! Our train was actually leaving from bin 4, and as we looked over, we saw our train to Venice zip by. We laughed, our second missed train!

Needless to say, we were very excited once we got to Venice. We walked outside and there were hundreds of people navigating the narrow pathways along the water. This city is so magical and I instantly fell in love with the glistening water, smiling gondoliers and rows of colorful glass shops. We only had about 5 hours in this wonderful city, but that was long enough to know that this is one of my favorite cities and I must come back some time in my life!

On Wednesday, my friend Tricia and I had a museum day! We have decided that every Wednesday afternoon we are going to visit one of Florence’s many monuments, museums or churches. We started this week with a smaller contemporary art museum and the Santa Maria Novella. The church was gorgeous and it was amazing to be in this church that I had studied numerous times in my art history courses! Next, we headed to our favorite bakery, grabbed a fragole tart and went to a park near the huge fort to have a relaxing rest of the evening.

That night, Tara and I cooked for our roommates. We made lemon and artichoke risotto and bruschetta! In our cooking class, we had made saffron risotto, which was delicious, but we thought we would try something new. The risotto turned out pretty well, but it was a little crunchy because we didn’t cook it long enough. We probably should have tried it before we served it to everyone, but oh well, live and learn.

I am so glad that we are learning to cook while we are over here. One of my roommates, Katie, is an amazing cook and she is going to start giving us lessons each week! So not only will we have our Italian cooking class, but we will have our cooking with Katie that will expand beyond Italian food. I am very excited to be able to go back and cook something other than plain pasta and tomato sauce out of a can!

Goodbye for now!


16 Oct | Kristen Thies | No Comments

Thursday, October 16, 2008 | Florence, Italy


This weekend we spent two days in Milan and Lake Como. I’ve heard a lot of bad reviews of Milan, but I actually quite liked it! The train station was really neat, and yes, even though it did make me feel “small,” I loved the architecture. We grabbed our tickets for Milan to Como, after we finally found a machine that would take cash, and then wandered around until we found the entrance for the underground metro. My “Let’s Go Europe” book told us to take the M3 to the Duomo, so we bought our tickets and then hopped on! It was so exciting and I wish we had transportation like this in California!

As we walked up the stairs from the metro, the duomo was right in front of us! It is in a beautiful piazza with lots of different people and many flying pidgeons The gothic architecture and the stained glass on the inside was wonderful, especially when the light streamed through. I can see why so many churches have stained glass – it is a beautiful symbol of God’s glory. Hannah and I sat on the benches in the central nave and soaked it all up. 

We then walked down in the Galleria Vittaro Emanuele that had many high fashion shops (of course) like Prada, Gucci and Louis Vitton. We then ate at Cafe Zucca, which is a famous cafe that people would go to after an evening at La Scala. We sat at a little table outside, drank the most delicious cafe latte that I have had yet, and watched the various models stroll by. 

After the wonderful afternoon of conversation over coffee, we headed towards La Scala! It was gorgeous! We walked into one of the boxes in the theater and gazed in awe. I got goosebumps and of course teared up again. The theater was lined with individual boxes and I could just imagine ladies in large, pouffy dresses sitting in front of their handsome dates who secretly whispered sweet nothings in their ear. 

Next, we took a train to Como. It was only 1 hour, so it went by very quickly! When we arrived, we weren’t exactly sure where to go, so we just started walking in a direction that we figured was close to the water. We eventually found the ferry station at 6:30 pm and bought our tickets for the last ferry out at 7:10 pm. We were very close, I’m glad the train wasn’t late! We then went to a small bakery and ordered some hot chocolate to take off the chill. 

When we got off the ferry, our hostel was only about a 5 minute walk from the dock. When we walked in, a friendly man in a stylish pair of overalls and tattoos up his arm checked us in. Our room had 3 sets of bunk beds and our own bathroom, which I think was pretty nice for our first hostel experience. 

The next day we went on a hike in the hills of Menaggio. We hiked to a church that we had actually seen the night before, the only building lit on the entire hill, so decided it would be fun to see what it looked like! The hike took us through beautiful tall, green trees and WWI trenches! When we finally reached the top, the view over Lake Como was gorgeous. We could even see the snow-covered Alps peeking through in the distance.

Four trains, two metros, two busses and three ferries later, we were home. I was very proud of our group. We had navigated ourselves through a place that we really knew nothing about! We had used the Italian that we were learning in our language classes and left the weekend with a greater sense of confidence.

Tuesday evening, our cooking professor arranged a huge Italian dinner for our class at one of his friend’s restaurant. It was a true Italian-style dinner: three hours long with four courses.

We started off with a glass of white wine and warm, crispy bread. Our antipasti was composed of salmon, barley and shrimp, bresaola with ricotta and spinach and fried asparagus. The primi piatti was creamy risotto, which happened to be one of the dishes that we had made that morning in class! Next came the secondi piatti: sausage, potatoes, and my favorite, strips of steak with arugula and flakes of parmesan cheese. I had never eaten cheese with steak before, but now this is definitely going to be a staple.

Our stomachs had taken just as much as they possibly could, yet somehow, we all found a way to squeeze in some tiramisu and limoncello. Our dinner finished around midnight, stomachs full and hearts happy to be in Italy. 

The duomo in Milan. This gothic architecture is refreshing after all of the renaissance architecture in Florence!

Hannah in a WW1 trench that we passed on our hike in Menaggio.

This was the fashion street that we explored. The little cafe we sat at was right at the beginning of the archway on the left side.

Beautiful Bellagio.

The view from our hostel! We could even see the Alps peeking through on the left!



14 Oct | Amanda Porter | No Comments

Tuesday, October 14, 2008: Tour of Italy

The last week was quite the whirlwind of traveling.  We had a week off of school so Gabie, Elizabeth and I went to Vienna and Prague. Our vacation began early Tuesday morning.  We had a 6:30 train to Milan.  Our train ride was nice and quiet.  I got to watch the sun rise, which was …



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