Ciao from Italia Studyng abroad in italy

Le Fonti Winery in Tuscany

Traveling to Italy

Traveling internationally is something I have never done and originally I was going to book my own flight separate from AIFS so I reached out to all the students from Professor Fellow’s email and asked them to contact me if they were also considering traveling separate. (Pro tip: reach out to other students in the program so you can get to know each other and help each other out prior to departure). After numerous hours of researching flights I just decided to book my flight with AIFS because it would alleviate the stress of me being alone in a foreign country until everyone else got there. On the day of travel, I met up with my new friend Vicky (who is also in this program) and went to LAX together! This helped a lot because she helped me navigate through the airport a lot smoother than if I was alone. I highly recommend booking your flight with AIFS if you are unsure of flying alone or to a place you have never been before. The flight was a little bumpier than I was expecting it to be and I got maybe 2 hours of sleep total, but when we finally landed in Switzerland I had a sense of ease. The flight from Zurich to Florence was really short but once we landed in Florence I could finally relax. After getting my luggage and walking with everyone else outside to meet AIFS and get our roommate assignments I got a rush of hot, humid air blown in my face. Florence has weather very similar to Home but definitely more humid than I’m used to.

Italy has always been a place I wanted to travel to but never made it a priority. So having the opportunity this summer to get school done and really engulf myself in the culture was the best decision I have made this year. When I initially applied for this study abroad program I was trying to figure out what I wanted in life personally and professionally. So far, I can say this trip has helped me find out more about myself than I already knew.

This was our first night in Florence! We all went to dinner together at this restaurant called Lo Spuntino which means “the snack” in English

Just some pictures from my first few days in Italy

Eating in Italky

Before coming to Italy, I was expecting the best pasta, pizza, wine and gelato I’ve ever had! Unfortunately after arriving I realized that’s not always the case. Don’t get me wrong; the food is pretty good and the wine is a lot better than wine at home! But the gelato was something I had to hunt for. I tried about 5 gelato places in Florence and every time I was disappointed. It either tasted too bland or freezer burned. I almost lost hope until one night I decided to try the gelato place on the corner of the street I live on. The main reason I had not tried it earlier was because it looks very basic from the typography outside the building and really didn’t have a name besides “Gelateria”, so I was skeptical.

Gelateria on the corner of Piazza Santa Maria Novella & Via della Scalla in Florence, Italy.

This is by far the best gelato I found in Florence! They have a wide variety of flavors and hand make them in the morning for the next day (since it is best to have gelato refrigerate overnight). I learned very quickly that the other Gelateria’s with bright colors and intriguing typography does not mean they have good gelato, all it means is that they are appealing to the tourists to go into and you are probably getting ripped off. (Not to say all expensive/fancy gelateria’s have bad gelato, just from my experience in Florence they don’t). This is the only gelato I will get from now on because of how original and rich the flavors are. All of the staff is very friendly and also speak minimal English so it is easy to do transactions. I recommend at least trying to speak in Italian, just because it is showing respect to them since you are in their country. They are also very helpful and will let you sample a few different flavors if you’re unsure. (Pro-tip: Italians usually eat gelato in a cup, but I suggest trying it on a cone just because it’s that much better)

A New Experience

When we all decided to go to Venice, trying to find a place for everyone to stay became difficult. As expected, everyone on the trip has different budgets and expectations of where they want to stay. Some did not want to spend more than $15-20/night and some were skeptical of a hostel. It was not up to me to figure out all the details but I enjoy planning things so I was looking for places to accommodate all of us. Hostel Mestre got great reviews online and had a very reasonable price point so everyone agreed that this place would be fine for our weekend excursion. It was very easy to find and kept up very nicely. It has more of a hotel vibe to it; which was cool to see for a hostel! One downside was the 8 girls I booked for were not all in the same room because their biggest female room only had 6 beds which was not communicated to me when I booked it. So I decided to go in the separate room and Emily volunteered to come with me. This actually helped me because I got a real hostel experience! If I was in the 6 bed room with all my friends I would have loved it and more than likely stayed in a hostel again if there were enough people to fill a room. But since I was separated it was a different outlook on hostels. I HAD to lock up my stuff, I HAD to leave something on my bed so my sheets weren’t taken and I HAD to be overly respectful for the strangers I had in my room because there is no comfort level with them. (Pro-tip: if you are more open to traveling and don’t mind sharing your personal space with people a hostel is a good place for you, if you like your privacy do not stay in a hostel)

The major reason I would not stay in a hostel again is because I like my personal space and I like my privacy; two things you don’t have in a shared room. Hostel Mastre corrected the problem when Emily’s sheets and towels were taken, but I had already felt violated of my space so it ruined it for me. I also had a girl above me who made so much noise when she came into our room at 3:30AM which disturbed my sleep. It could have been way worse of an experience but I’m glad I got to check it off my bucket list and that I had Emily with me to experience it!

Some photos of our arrival day in Venice, heading to the island of Burano (known for its colorful walls)
Created By
Amanda Hodgin

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