Ciao! A Semester in Firenze

Whoops, I'm waaaay behind on these blog updates. My bad. Here's a quick blurb on the last couple trips I've had. First up, Venice.

This is the second trip that my program organized for us, the first being Rome. It was so nice to have everything planned and booked for us- it can get a little stressful and time consuming trying to plan every detail of every trip. Our alarms blared at 7am, too early for a weekend, and we quickly made our way to the train station. We had two quizzes the following Monday, which I planned to study for on our train, but as soon as the train pulled out of Santa Maria Novella Train Station, I was out for the count. Next thing I knew, we arrived in the unique, sunny Venice.

Venice was an absolute dream. Obviously, no cars are allowed in the city due to the lack of roads so we only saw boats and ferries throughout our time here. As soon as we boarded our water taxi to our hotel, I immediately knew this would be one of my favorite cities. The water taxi took us straight to our hotel and I was pleasantly surprised when I found out i'd be bunking with three of my roommates, Maddie, Molly, and Josie. Even better, Josie's family arrived in Venice that day, so I had a large queen bed to myself because she decided to stay in her parents hotel. SCORE! After getting settled in, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed to St. Marks Square to begin our walking tour. My favorite part of the tour was finding a cute book store with a gondola inside FILLED to the brim with books. Here are a couple facts about Venice from when I was actually listening on the walking tour: a gondola is made specifically for the gondolier based on his height and weight. Gondoliers only row on the right side of the boat and his weight balances the boat so it is able to go straight and not in circles. No two gondolas are the same. There is only ONE female gondolier in Venice and she is German...wacky! The word ghetto was invented in Venice, specifically after the Jewish Ghetto. Last but not least, you can work up big appetite walking for that amount of time.

Dinner was literally next door to our hotel, so we scooted over for a huge four course meal of seafood, seafood, and more seafood. Because Venice is on the Adriatic Sea, the seafood is absolutely scrumptious. Appetizers started with a platter of assorted sea life, including crab and shrimp. The main course consisted of pasta with squid ink with large chunks of squid, a muscle risotto, and beef lasagna. Honestly, each item was really interesting but also really yummy. Our table got a kick out of how the squid ink died everyones mouth black... we couldn't stop laughing ate each other. For dessert, tiramisu. After dinner, about 20 of us Wisconsin kids headed for a night on the town. We jumped around to a couple different bars, singing, dancing, and staying out much too late. I feel so lucky that my program consists of mainly kids that attend Madison. It'll be awesome to still be able to hangout with everyone next semester. WOOHOO!

Breakfast in the morning was delivered directly to our room, making us feel like queens compared to our 99 cent cereal in Florence. The sun was out again, YAY, so we jumped on a boat and headed to the island of Murano, famous for its Venetian glass blowing. On the island, we immediately stumbled across a glassware house and were quickly ushered inside. The owner demonstrated a couple glass blowing techniques that were absolutely mind blowing. He made a beautiful glass vase in under five minutes and extremely intricate horse within two. We were all mesmerized. It was only right to purchase a few hand made glass items after watching it done in front of us! For lunch, a couple of us bought a few items at a grocery store and sat by the canals eating. The sun was HOT and the water was beautiful, all was right in the world. Murano was so breathtaking! I don't know how anyone could not NOT fall in love with this city. We didn't have enough time to visit the second island, Burano, but that just means i'll have to return...someday!

We couldn't leave Venice without experiencing a gondola ride, so we jumped back on the water taxi towards the San Marco area. I wish the ride could have lasted all afternoon, but unfortunately, there were more tourists than just us to make money off of so the ride was only about 25 minutes. After the boat tour, it was sadly time to leave this amazing city. I was nostalgic for Venice before even leaving, but it is never a bad thing to head home to Florence.

On Sunday, we had a field trip planned for one of our classes, Geoscience. The program i'm on required us to take one of two classes taught by a UW-Madison Professor. I clearly picked the better class, as our professor, Alan, basically promised us all A's on the first day of class because he wanted us to enjoy our time abroad. Alan is the kindest, friendliest person I've ever met. He clearly cares about each and everyone one of his students, almost as much as he cares about rocks. We departed Florence at 7am and headed to our first spot, a beautiful man-made reservoir to talk about hydro-energy. Alan's excitement was so evident, as was the lack of excitement from his students. We all put on a happy face because it was clear how giddy and happy he was to be able to see these famous rocks in person- he even had us pose for multiple pictures in front of different backgrounds. We stopped for an a delicious, yet filling four course meal in a cute town called Gubbio while listening to Alan's stories. Some of my favorite... him being trapped in Jail in China, working for Exxon-Mobil, and his flying a private plane over the US. He even told us about his $3 million dollar grant through the government to study rocks in the western US. All of our fingers are crossed for him! He's seriously the best. Our last stop of the field trip ended with visiting a quarry to see the Paleozoic and Mesozoic tectonic plate boundary. Alan told the group that he had read over 500 scholarly articles on this exact boundary. He was stoked. The bottom layer of the rock dated back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the top layer dated back to when no dinosaurs where living. So basically, you could see the exact time when dinosaurs went extinct. It was pretty neat! Although it was a long day, we were so happy to get to know Alan outside of his classroom and show him that we really do appreciate him... even if we may have fallen asleep in class once or twice.

Created By
Morgan Collins

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