Life. In Italy. And Beyond.

Do you think they serve coffee at the coffeeshop?

Mimi and I went to Amsterdam!

It was beautiful. The people were interesting, and tall (of course).

We visited parks and museums and enjoyed local cuisine.

Our hostel had steep, steep stairs, just like everywhere else in the underwater city (most of the land of Amsterdam is below sea level).

Things were clean and beautiful, and as we walked, she and I could see ouselves in different cities. When there were huge, blocky buildings it felt like LA. With the nature, it looked like the SF bay area. Then you turn a corner, and the wide streets and masses of people remind you of New York!

Anne Frank’s House
Van Gogh Museum (which did NOT have Starry Night, but it’s alright there were tons of other clever, cultural works that I appreciated even more)
red light district 
fantastic northern architecture
Heineken Brewery
rode a boat in the canals
Indonesian/Chinese/Argentinian/Dutch food - all could literally be found on the same street close to Dam Square

There was this one café we saw the backside of from the other side of the canal. It had a beautiful outside sitting area with a tree with hanging lights, and we thought of how nice it’d be to go there. We actually happened upon it by accident a couple days later for some after dinner drinks. It was the most mint leaves I’ve ever seen in a cup of tea.

On our last day, we got to see the World Press Photo exhibition in the Old Church in the center of the red light district. It was so interesting to see the world through the lens of some powerful photographers: from the Olympics to the arranged marriage of children in India to the war in Libya to feminist activists in Ukraine.

It was a very unique, amazing time. And even the better that I got to do it with a friend from home-sweet-home Bakersfield.

Great parts of my day

  • random Irish teenager who started serenading me with “Call Me Maybe” as I walked by him and his friends along the River Liffey
  • the baby at St. Stephen’s Green who stumbled by me as he roamed the garden under the sun
  • the guy with a goofy smile while he walked by me on Suffolk Street, probably because a great song just came up on shuffle on his iPod (I get this same smile)
  • the Floris honey beer I tried at Porter House Central


Extraño hablando español.

Where ferrari come from

I’m headed out to the UK for the next…foreseeable future.

So on my last day in Italy for a while, I decided to spend yesterday in the nearby small city of Ferrara. It’s a place that some of the Spring Hill kids visited on the first weekend in Italy, but I missed out. They went to a castle, so I obviously had to go.


It ended up so much more than I could have expected.

I started with walking by some popular buildings. Cost too much to go in, so I admired the architecture outside.  This led me to a beautiful park next to / behind the Questura (immigration) office.  Interesting locations…
I walked around and let myself be consumed by the massive trees and warm air. I spent some time swinging and thinking about life. It was a nice break, kind of reminded me of the States.

The castle was fantastic. There were even dungeons! Never been in a castle with dungeons before. I got to roam around, see the art, read a little bit of information (not much, though, there was too much I wanted to see – I’ll read up on the history later) and climb to the top of the tower! Where I saw the traditional red roofs Italy always offers up that I appreciate so much.

I visited the gorgeous Roman cathedral, once it was finally open for the afternoon. Since I got there at 13:00 and it didn’t open up again until 15:00, I decided to roam around more. I happened upon the Via delle Volte, a street where the medieval merchants used to stay: it was kind of narrow and vaulted by parts of the buildings that connected the palazzi on either side of the street. It was so cool and I enjoyed thinking about all the history that’s walked through that street.

I found more churches that were lovely, the usual. One basilica was only half-filled with pews, so as I reached the back entrance on my way out I began to dance a little on what reminded me of a stage. Just that happy to be in a church.

I shopped a little, bought a thank you gift for my cousin who’ll be hosting me in Bristol, tried some local dishes, visited a museum full of Renaissance art that was once a grand home, and discovered a kind of yard of the Biblioteca Nazionale of the city. I finally got into my book, One Hundred Years of Solitude, while I sat in the sun and read.

After visiting the cathedral, I made my way back to the train station, but on my way I saw a giant dome with a statue in front just down the street. It led me to another park area, seeming to be one of many in Ferrara, and I found myself surrounded by little kids, families, and moms. It was a nice taste of the realities of Italian people and the kind of world they live in. It was beautiful, and it made me smile so much.

So green

We spent the weekend visiting different parts of the beautiful lush region of the north, Lombardia.

We started walking around his hometown of Villa di Serio in the province of Bergamo. It’s quiet, lush, and nice – very different than the Bologna that both Alberto and I live in now. I can see why he likes coming back home.

His family is wonderful. I hit it off with both his parents easily. His mother is very straightforward, kind, generous, and does real Italian cooking. His father is jolly and happy and very warm. Both are a little short and have beautiful light eyes, just like Alberto does. His brother has the similar light brown hair, but with a lighter blonde color that I’m sure Alberto used to have.

His grandparents live in the downstairs flat of the 2.5 story house. Which had grass and a yard and a garage! It was so nice to be in a real home again. With a dog, too. Thomas, the loud old golden lab who just wants to be played with constantly.

We visited the città alta of Bergamo a couple times. It’s just a 15 minute drive from his house. Città alta is and old medieval area with limited access to cars. It was full of rock or cobblestone streets and a fantastic baroque church and a castle and views of the mountains and the beautiful green area surrounding the city.  It’s very romantic walking along the walls at night and fun and bright during the day.

We got kind of rained out in Milano. We walked through some of the high fashion areas, walked through the galleria (which truly resembles the western civilization’s idea of commercial centers for shopping that developed at the end of the 19th century), and visited the cathedral of course. The Duomo was absolutely beautiful. Pictures I have seen always portray something gaudy I think. But in person, it was gorgeous. A ridiculous amount of sculptures on every inch of the exterior. And then the inside is just as beautiful (unlike some other cathedrals I’ve seen…) It’s very dark, giving a contemplative atmosphere to the church. It’s very high with many paintings and frescoes. Magnificent.

And then we climbed to the top! A very wet experience. The rain had started again by the time we got to the top of the roof. I could see a lot of the metropolitan, skyscraped city. I liked it. Very industrial, like I’ve been told. But I’m sure there’s a culture worth experiencing. Kind of reminded me of Paris with the gray background enveloping the cityscape. Maybe I could live there sometime.

We headed to Castello Sforzesco afterwards. We didn’t make it into the museum because we were soaked, but like always – I was excited to walk around a castle!

His parents and I went to the small city of Sirmione for the day.

It takes up a peninsula extending into the largest lake in Italy, Lago di Garda. We saw some ancient ruins which I got to climb on a little! Alberto and I walked around the castle that is the fortress entrance to the quaint true Italian part of the city.  After walking around and climbing to the top, we had to wait inside the walls for a little bit for the pelting rain to stop. It was cute.

We had beautiful views from the peninsula of the three regions the lake is a part of: Lombardia, Trentino, and Veneto.  Seeing the sun shining through the clouds as the rain stopped was beyond beautiful. Then after dinner, we saw the sun setting over the mountains that looked purple and majestic. The water was an unrealistic beautiful turquoise that I swear Monet must have painted himself. To top it all off, there was a double rainbow as we walked back to the car. So much beauty.

On our last day for the weekend, we rode around on his vespa for the afternoon. We rode all over the Bergamo province, up and down hills, so many turns. Not gonna lie, it was just a little scary at first. Going near 60 miles and hour with basically no protection. I just lightly rested my hands on his waist. And that was called…safe? But it was great, feeling the wind, basking in the sun. Riding by small towns and vineyards, sitting in a park for a break.

Did I mention how great it was to be in a family setting? And how much I enjoyed non-café, non-mensa, home-cooked food? Bliss.

Some things to note

I learned at dinner tonight some good-to-know things about food outside of the States, along with some other international tidbits:

  • the rest of the world calls it jelly, not jell-o like it is in the States
  • peanut butter is not something people yearn to try (even though it should be…)
  • jelly and jam are interchangeable in the States, but it’s just called jam everywhere else
  • Graham crackers, not really going to find them abroad
  • s’mores are something to be appreciated
  • in Japan, school starts in April/May
  • down under their break is three months for Christmas since that’s there summer, their first semester is at the beginning of the calendar year - crazy, I know
  • Scotland is like us in the states: first semester/quarter/term in the fall


The four of us went to Greece for Tess’s 21st birthday for several days, where we met up with Katie and her girl, Roxanne.

It was a TREK to get to the Pink Palace on Corfu island.

  • train to Florence = 1hr
  • bus to Ancona = 4hr
  • ship to Igoumenitsa = 18hr
  • ferry to Corfu city = 2hr
  • party shuttle to hotel = .5hr

So after over a day of travelling, we were at our little spot in paradise for the weekend!

It was fantastic for my Bolognese self to be reunited with the Florence musketeers: Hannah, Landon, and Tess.

We of course got in the mood by chowing down on kebab on the cruise ship through the Adriatic before basking in the sun a little bit.  Then we danced the night away on the “dance floor” at the top of the boat…until Landon cut his foot. Don’t worry; he survived.

On the island, we tanned on the beach, played with the cutest little white newborn fluffball of a puppy at the restaurant along the sea, frolicked in the Ionian Sea, partied hardy for the birthday girl’s special day (which luckily fell on the night of the toga party), ate real Greek food, and got to ride ATVs for a day!!

On ATV day, we rode around probably half of the island. We rode through little towns, stopped at a small (honestly, kind of ugly - don’t know why they chose it) beach, went to a beautiful hilltop for lunch by a monastery, I got to rock out to some music while driving..

  • driving is loosely used - I went a little crazy with passing people, skidding, riding on only one side of the vehicle - it was AMAZING

I raced my friends a little bit, we got to see farms and orchards in the countryside, and there were so many wonderful cypress trees all over the island.
It was such a GREEK experience!! But I didn’t see enough temples. I’ll have to save those for next time.

I also tried ouzo, the licorice liquor that’s well-known in the country. It was pretty good.

Oh, and Landon and I got to share a HOTEL ROOM, not hostel, just to ourselves that looked over the ocean.

Well done Tess. Good birthday pick.

That’s our beach up there at the top of the post!^^


The homesickness is coming.
Make it stop.

I have so many times where I’m so happy to be in Europe, experiencing the new. And there are those short moments when I remember a specific memory, a time, a person, a feeling - and then I remember where my heart spends most of its time.

Frankfurt, stop being so cool. You’re making SF look bad

Such good times in Germany.

Have I mentioned yet how different it is than Italy? The entire place is so orderly. So clean and straight, but not in a Stepford way. It’s just simply nice.
Beer here, not wine.
And the people are very to themselves, not pushy, fairly neutral clothing. The language is interesting, probably now on the list of native tongues to immerse myself in. Definitely far different than English than I expected.

Dippemess is a biannual fair the city puts on after Easter and again in the fall. It’s like an American county fair with various foods and carnival games and the best, rides!
Sebastian and I played a balloon-popping game where I popped 8 and only won a heart that was like 6 cm! Oh well, still won and got to practice my aim.
Ate some bratwurst, a Capri-sonne (basically a Capri Sun…which came first?), had a schokokuss (“chocolate kiss” filled with marshmallow cream with a flavor of your choice). We did bumper cars which was great, so weird to be back in a car-like object at the wheel!
Rode one of those spin-you-really-fast-and-the-g-force-is-hard-too rides. It was so fun. Haven’t been on carnival/fair/rollercoaster rides in too long. Then came the best part: you know that feeling you get like you’re about to do a full circle over the swing? Well, there was this ride that had that: you moved so fast, moved up-side-down while already doing a flip on this giant swinging lever-like ride. It was the best ride I’ve ever been on at a fair, even better than the Zipper. Crazy, right?

The Turkish people gave me a haircut. I’ve never seen someone put so much care into using clippers. They did a good job: I look extra Italian with really short sides and regular length on top. Sideburns are a nice touch if I do say so. The back has this crazy faded shortened length as it goes down. The guy definitely took some liberties when I had Sebastian translate to him “just a trim, to clean it up”!

We went to the Nacht der Museen last night. It’s a night where for a certain price, all the museums open their doors and everyone moves between them. We went to three different exhibits before the crowds got to us. In the old cathedral, there was an exhibit on the regalia of the Emperors of the late Middle Ages. Then we went to a couple regular art museums. Then there was the gourmet erotic art coupled with awkward Santa Claus art. This was supposed to be a comical exhibit. It was, but it was also to see people and sausages in scenes that one would never expect.

The skyscrapers and the old churches and the pre-WWII quaint, northern European look plus all the green areas (so many parks) makes for beautiful sights when walking around.

Walked around with the sun shining and some light showers, some of the clearest, most crisp weather.

We had a traditional German breakfast the last couple days: breadrolls with jams, yogurt, honey, bread, cheese. Fantastic. Then today, we mixed the banana juice and the orange juice to make some tasty orangenbananesaft.

More traditions:

Coffee (which after living in Italy, I only take black) with cake (baked apple goodness that wasn’t too sweet) on a Sunday afternoon.

So much beer. Not like an excessive, drunken (*ahem* Americans) amount, but just simply part of the culture. And they have wheat beer, as opposed to the usual barley: a better taste. Beer at dinner, beer at the fair, beer with a snack, and even earlier this evening beer after church with the youth people. IN THE CHURCH. haha, only in Deutschland.

Lots of bread.

Rode an apfelweine-mobile where they play traditional apple wine songs while you get to drink the beverage of the eponymous name. It was nice, something very different.

They have bookshelves on streetcorners where people open the glass door to borrow or trade a book! It’s just a thing here that anyone can walk up to and take part in! Wish we had that in the States.

After the fair yesterday, we ran into a bachelorette party. You pay certain fees to take a picture, have a kiss, have a shot, etc. It was cute, and Sebastian says it’s very common in Germany. They spoke perfect English, like almost all Germans, and had fun with it. I paid a Euro to have a picture with them.