Ciao! A Semester in firenze

Every week seems to pass faster than the previous which means it's becoming increasingly hard to keep my days straight. My days are packed with one activity after another and honestly, i'm finding it difficult to set time aside for some R&R. However, I'm happy that I have the opportunity to constantly be on the move because I know my summer activities will include work, work, and more work. I'm soaking up my seemingly responsibility-free semester to the fullest. Life is tough when the only this I have to stress about is where i'll be jet setting off to the following weekend. Seriously, feelings extremely blessed to be here.

In my previous post, I talked about meeting some eccentric, local Italians while attending an aperitivo where me and four of my friends eventually got invited to their house for dinner.. WELL! Surprisingly, they reached out to us and asked us to come over for a homemade meal. The five of us discussed and came to a conclusion that it would be a shame if we missed this opportunity. Don't worry mom and dad, a leader at our school knows the group of people that invited us over, so it was perfectly safe. As the time got closer to make the trek to their apartment, I started to seriously dread walking through the rain for thirty minutes, even if it did mean a free meal. But BOY, am I glad I decided to go! Upon opening the door, we were greeted with kisses, hugs, and the smell of pasta fresh off the stove; not sure who was more excited, us or them. The group of four young adults that graciously hosted and prepared a mouth-watering meal for us each had distinct and amazing personalities. Before I describe the good stuff (food) heres a run down on each of them..

Simon is a photographer and artist originally from Rome who dyes his hair a new, spunky color each Wednesday. When we met him, it was silver. This week, blue. I don't think i've ever met a more welcoming, blunt, comical person in my whole life; my cheeks still hurt form laughing at his exuberant stories and jokes. Simon is definitely the ring leader of the four. Next, Elena is a hardworking, talkative bartender and model originally from Venice. I was even more grateful for her when I found out she stayed up late into the night preparing our three course meal after working a ten hour shift. What a woman. Cool/badass is definitely an understatement for Elena. Alessandro is a modern artist also from Rome. He was sweet and quiet. Alessandro didn't speak English well, so he would frequently nervously laugh when he became lost in the conversation. Last but not least was Ama, a skinny and tall young adult with long, sleek black hair. She is from Sardinia and works as an artist and piercer in Florence. I had so much fun seeing each of their personalities unfold throughout the night that just conversation alone would've been more than enough. BUT!! Fortunately, food was also part of the night.

As a small token of our appreciation, we brought a couple bottles of cheap wine (ballin on a budget over here), and a few of Elena's favorite beers, Becks. The menu goes as follows... Appetizers: bruschetta, ensalada russo, roasted zucchini and eggplant. Pasta: penne with pesto sauce and a vegan bolognese pasta dish. Dessert: tiramisu and a rum infused blackberry pie. WOW! My mouth is just watering thinking about it. Although the meal will probably be the peak of my food adventures in Italy, the experience as a whole was unbelievable. Elena and her friends welcomed us into their home as complete strangers and as the night went on, we felt like long-time friends. It was so rewarding comparing, contrasting, and sharing stories about each of our lives. Sadly/admittedly, if I had seen this group of people walking down the street, I would never have imagined myself around a dinner table with them. Thankfully, I now have four new, amazing friends. I already know this will be a one of a kind experience/ highlight of my study abroad experience. After several hours of talking, we finally left their apartment and the five of us girls decided it was only right to have them over to our apartment for a homemade American meal. Suggestions/recipes would be greatly appreciated.

On Wednesday in my Food and Culture class we had another food sampling.. this time CHOCOLATE. Our professor went to the best Italian Chocolate store in Florence, Vestri, and purchased various types of milk, dark, white, even lemon and whisky flavored chocolate. We only got tiny samples of each type, but nevertheless, it was a terrific way to start my morning.

This past weekend, I met a longtime friend, Meg Klister, in Naples. Before arriving in Naples on Thursday, I had a vision that it would be a swanky, uppidy part of Italy. Turns out, I was wayyy off the mark. Naples ended up to be, for lack of a better word, shitty. The alleys were dingy and trash filled every street in the city. I was having a hard time getting pumped about another weekend away from Florence, so when I arrived in Naples, I was even more bummed. However, once I finally tracked down Meg and our Airbnb, I was instantly happy that we decided to plan a trip together. When I walked into our apartment for the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised. We had a huge terrace all to ourselves that overlooked the entire city of Naples and the harbor. I must admit, a birds eye view of the city was spectacular. Meg and I popped a bottle of champagne and sat in the warm sun as we exchanged laughs and stories about our adventures abroad. Our kind airbnb host even brought up some yummy pastry items for the two of us to munch on. After our glasses were empty, we ventured out into the city trying to find the "nice part" of Naples for dinner. Honestly, I don't really think there is a "nice part" of Naples. Nevertheless, we found a cute, small restaurant and enjoyed delicious, authentic Napoli pizza. We ended up hittin' the hay a little earlier than normal, which was a nice change of pace.

It felt amazing to wake up Friday morning fully rested for the day ahead! The train station we needed to depart from was LITERALLY across the street from our Airbnb. We decided to buy a super cheap train ticket to Pompeii! Originally, Pompeii was not on my must-see list, but I am extremely happy we decided to go. The train was dirty, a common theme in Naples, but short. When we arrived in Pompeii it was a warm, sunny and 67 degrees. Meg and I both had huge smiles on our faces the entire day. After some consideration, we decided to splurge and buy the 11 euro walking tour of Pompeii. I am never disappointed when I pay a little extra to have a tour guide share interesting facts and show the most important part of the scenery before me. Pompeii was no exception. I still cannot wrap my head around how the entire city was covered in ashes and rocks for nearly 1500 years after Mount Vesuvius exploded in 79 AD. It's amazing how much you can tell about a civilization just by studying their remains. I could rant about all the interesting facts I learned in Pompeii, but i'd rather do that in person, so hit me up when I'm back in the States!!

Our tour ended around 3pm and with the whole day still ahead of us, we decided to hop back on the train and ride it to the end of the line to Sorrento, Italy. Sorrento was a gorgeous, small town right on the coast; the views overlooking the Mediterranean Sea were breathtaking. Sorrento was everything I thought Naples was going to be: beachy, bright, and beautiful. Meg and I grabbed a couple Italian beers and stumbled upon the perfect place to watch the sunset. As soon as the sun disappeared into the horizon, we realized how hungry we were. We meandered back up the into the town and enjoyed scrumptious gnocchi and red-wine. I was thoroughly enjoying my conversation with Meg when we realized it was time to go. We ran to the rain station in order to catch the last train back to Naples and luckily made it just in time. By the time we arrived home, we were both exhausted and collapsed into our (sorta) comfy bed. Right as we were dosing off, fireworks started going off in the distance. Meg and I stumbled onto our terrace and watched the entire show- it was spectacular.

Coincidentally, I woke up early Saturday morning to go to the bathroom and when I looked out the window, a gorgeous sunrise was taking place right before my eyes. I could see the whole thing transpire right from our terrace; it was the perfect way to start my day. A couple hours later, I woke up again but this time to sunny, blue skies. On our agenda today: Capri, Italy. Around 11am we boarded a ferry to the Island where CapriSun was named after. As soon as we stepped off the boat, I was in heaven. Meg and I decided to take a chairlift up to the very top of the Island; however, it was cloudy so the visibility was slim to none at the top. Being above the clouds was still really cool and the views while taking the lift up made the experience worth it. Next, we went to the other side of the island and found a cute garden where you could see the famous Capri rocks. If this site was good enough for Dolce & Gabbana to film a commercial, then its sure as heck good enough for me. Originally, Meg and I had plans to visit the Blue Grotto while in Capri but because of the high water levels, it was closed for the day. What was at first a let down, turned out to be a perfect day. To cap off our time in Capri, we grabbed some scrumptious gelato. I got mint chocolate chip (first time since being in Europe!!!!) and nutella. Might have been my favorite combo yet. On our ferry ride back to Naples, I couldn't help but thinking about how excited I am to return to the Amalfi Coast with my Florence friends at the end of the semester.

My time in Naples was odd, but exactly what I needed. It was really good to see Meg and share countless laughs and memories. I have a quick turn around this week as I leave for DUBLIN on Wednesday! Ireland was my #1 destination before coming to Europe, so i'm over the moon excited. To top it all off, I'm staying with my friend since preschool, Kristin Cherrier. I can't wait to visit the Guinness Museum, Cliffs of Moher, and to get in touch with my Irish roots.

Wish you were here

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Morgan Collins

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