For the second reading I chose to read Travelers’ Tales Italy: True Stories by Anne Calcagno. This book is a collection of stories from various authors about their travels in Italy. All of them offer interesting and different perspectives. I chose to read this since by this point I have had the privilege to travel throughout many towns and cities in Italy. I have been as far south as Capri, through the mountains of Tuscany, up through Milan and Genova, and even to the Adriatic side to Riccione. During all of these travels I have talked to locals from all over and seen cities as well as the rural areas. Thus, this book sounded intriguing to me, as it works as a way to compare my experiences with others. I wanted to dive into the stories and see if they talked about the places that I have been or use the stories for inspiration about where to go next.
Many of the writers in the book had specific moments of revelation, inspiration, or admiration in Italy, which I can relate to. The towns and cities here have a charm to them that is hard to describe and unlike any other place I have been. It was interesting to read the stories of others traveling through Italy and experiencing this common feeling. These stories feel a bit dated to me, however they do act as ways for me to relate to my experience and reminisce on my experience. They help me to remember certain moments- like being up in the mountains of Tuscany or hiking through the terraces of Cinque Terre.
I also think the stories succeed in capturing the culture of Italy. Each one is told by an author who has worked on a farm, who has enjoyed cooking here in Italy, or who has experienced part of the classic Italian culture. The book does a solid work of capturing and illustrating life throughout all parts of Italy.
I wish I had been able to see the more diverse perspectives of Italy that this book covered. For instance, one of the authors tells about his artistic work accomplished in Italy. I wish that I had had the time to enjoy more. Instead, I felt as if I was constantly traveling around and going to the next place. One day I hope to be able to set up and vacation in a rural part of Italy to simply be able to take it all in and have a very different experience than the one that I had during this semester.
Overall I liked this book. It was not the most didactic or advanced read, but it was a leisurely read. I think it will be interesting for me to reread this or another related book years down the line to see how my memories and experiences have changed. I appreciated this book and the stories in it, as I really appreciate hearing about other’s experiences in a place that I love.
- La Pietra: Megan Cutaran
Italy is the home of a strong culture. There is a certain aura in the air and an essence throughout the cities. They are lively, like the people. They are vivid. Yet there is a feeling of simplicity. Life seems simpler here. People do not seem to have the same cares and worries as they do back in the United States. There is less importance put on making money and work, while there is a heightened importance of family and leisurely time. The city itself is set up to accommodate recreation. Large squares sit throughout the city with outdoor cafes bordering them. It is part of the culture here to take time to relax and enjoy. While in America people grab their coffee on the go, during a bustling commute, in Italy it is customary to stand at the counter and enjoy your drink. The do not even offer cups to take on the go. There is a completely different mental state here. No one seems to have excessive amounts of money or lavish, but it seems also as if no one cares to have that. The people are content with a life of having what they need and nothing extravagant.
It is going to be strange to return home and see this contrast, especially returning to New York, specifically. Everything is New York is faster and almost rushed. I rarely walk around New York on a leisurely stroll to just enjoy myself. In fact, I feel like I would get run off the sidewalk if I tried to do that. Instead, my movement in New York is usually just going from point A to point B as quickly as I can. I am going to miss the different mindset that I have here in Italy. I am going to miss the simplicity.
My life here has been pretty simple due to the structure of the program. I feel like living here is just easier. All of us live within a 10-minute walk of each other. It is only a 20-minute walk from one end of the center to the next. People in the program have found their favorite sandwich places and know the workers by name. There is a spirit in this place that forms a community.
Upon leaving Florence, I feel like I will really miss the mentality of this city. I am going to gain more appreciation for it while I walk the streets of New York and see the hustle and the blasé citizens. I do not think I had much culture shock coming here and adjusting to the city. It was a relatively easy adjustment on that end. However, I know going home will not be as easy.
I am extremely thankful to have been able to experience this different culture here in Italy. My first time abroad in Sydney, I did not feel as if the culture differed that much from the culture in the United States. Here, it has been very noticeable, and I prefer this culture. I wish that one day I could live here, but ironically I do not think I could because of the lack of jobs here. I still have the overall mentality of an American, but nonetheless I have the upmost respect for the culture of Italy.
- Motion: Megan Cutaran
I never thought that any semester would beat my experience in Sydney, but this semester in Florence definitely did. I loved the city of Sydney, but my overall experience in Florence was unbelievable. I could not have asked for a better experience, and I would not have changed a thing. By studying here I was given the ability to travel throughout France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, and Morocco. I saw places that I have always dreamed about going to. I also met people that I am incredibly lucky to now have in my life. Living in this community in Florence has been very fun for me. Like I mentioned in my last post, Florence is very small. You can walk across it in 20 minutes, seeing people you know along the way. I liked that a lot. It made life here feel very simple. It was a relaxing week, while I would travel on the weekends. It was nice to be able to hang out with my friends all the time since we all lived so close together. I loved going to the bars at night, getting food on the way home, and being able to walk home with everyone since we live in the same area. This was my last semester as a full-time student, which I found very rewarding. I am lucky to have been able to spend it here.
I am incredible thankful for being able to study here for a semester. I really appreciate the people I have met along the way that made my time here such an easy and enjoyable adjustment. I am going to be very sad to leave this place and these people, but I am excited to all meet up back in New York. I know that the relationships I made here will last back in New York. I feel like I am now going back to an even better community in New York.
It is going to be weird to go back to New York and have the ability to compare it to Italy. It is going to be far faster of a pace. I think I will always miss living it Italy. It will take time for me to adjust being back in the states, but that will make me look back with even more appreciation for my time here.
Studying here gave me the privilege to experience European life. All the cafes, museums, bars, and restaurants were a privilege to be able to experience. I am very thankful that, although initially I did not plan on having a European college experience, I ended up deciding to do so. It was very different from my last time abroad. I cannot fully compare the two because they were so diverse, but this semester was more than I ever could have imagined.
Thank you to everyone who followed my posts! I hope you had an amazing experience abroad as well. For those of you who and going to have a hard time leaving it behind, I am happy that your experience was so good that it makes it hard to leave. For those of you ready to go home, congrats! You’re so close! We did it! But I hope that everyone enjoyed their time and adjusts back to life in the states without too much difficulty.
Arrivederci! And safe travels to everyone!
- Italian Car: Megan Cutaran
I couldn’t write this post without looking back to my post from my first semester abroad and seeing how my perspective has changed. The first tip that I gave was “Do not come in with any expectations,” which I completely stand by and and glad that I didn’t set expectations for Florence. I do not mean this to say that I do not think my set expectations would have been met, but rather that it is not possible to even imagine how life abroad is, until you live it. Everything is different- the food, the people, the culture. It is much better to go into it with an open mind to any experience that is to come, rather than building up in your mind what you want it to amount to. Florence ended up to be more amazing that I ever could have imagined. It was a ton easier to be abroad this time than it was when I went to Australia, even though the language and the culture here are more different. I know everyone always raves over the campus at Florence, but I promise that no one is exaggerating. Going to school on this villa feels like a vacation resort. It doesn’t seem real. The place and the people here contributed to making my experience phenomenal, and I am going to be very sad to leave it. I would recommend to everyone that if they are looking for a European study abroad experience to come to Florence. Here are some tips for those who decide to do so:
I HIGHLY recommending living in the city, rather than on campus. The commute is about 15 minutes on the bus, which is really easy. Also all of the apartments are extremely nice. I can see the Duomo from my street (Ricasoli)! It is amazing to have the chance to live right in the heart of Florence. Also, the nightlife scene in Florence is fun, so living in the city makes it way easier to go home.
Florence feels very safe. I know that everyone worries about pick-pocketing, but I never had a problem. As long as you are smart about walking with others late at night and holding your valuables, you will be fine! No one I know had anything stolen. They warn you about being smart, but if you’re coming from New York, then you will be a pro in Florence.
Florence has a charming small town feel. No matter where you go (on campus or in the city center) you will likely run into people you know. It is a fun, tight-knit community that I really recommend working to be a part of. It is so easy to meet people. You live close and see each other on campus. I recommend that people take advantage of that and put themselves out there to meet others. It becomes really fun when you do so.
Travel, but also don’t feel like you have to. It is really easy to go anywhere in Europe from Florence, but do not feel like you always have to leave Italy. Italy has so many places that are super easy to get to on the trains. Definitely take advantage of that!
If you do plan on traveling a lot, though, make sure to check for flights out of Pisa, Bologna, Venice, Rome, and Milan and compare the prices! Because it is really easy to get to all of those airports. Also note that the train to Milan is the most expensive though.
Recommended restaurants: Osteria di Santa Spirito, Osteria 13 Gobbi, 4 Leoni, Mercato Centrale, Il Gatto e La Volpe, Oibo (Aperitivo)
I loved my time here, and I hope anyone looking to go abroad considers Florence. I randomly applied to Florence without knowing anything about it, and after visiting multiple cities in Europe, I really think I made a great decision! Also pizza and pasta for every meal is always a plus!
- Via Roma: Megan Cutaran
It had always been in my plan to go abroad again. My sister went for a year, so of course I should be able to do two semesters, as well. From the day that I started college, that was my plan. I would do sophomore spring abroad, and then follow with junior spring abroad. I guess I did not think of all that would entail. I never thought it out completely.
I thought of abroad as this awesome, fun experience. Of course, it is. But there is also so much more to that. I have learned more through traveling the world than through any text book I have studied. More life lessons have come out of this experience than I could ever have imagined. I also did not realize how temporary life begins to feel, though. Even from my first experience abroad, I should have noticed it. I left so much behind by going to Sydney. I set off on this adventure for myself because it was part of my plan, but I never guessed that upon returning home, my life back there would be completely different. I guess it’s hard to think about how even though your life seems like a bubble in this new place, your life behind continues to move on- without you. I left behind relationships that consumed my world, and returned to a whole new life to face on my own. But after all of this, I was happy.
I really did not think I would go abroad again. I thought I had my fun, and it was time to find stability. It was time to buckle down and start my life in New York. After losing so much by going abroad the first time, I had had enough. I was exhausted. But then I started to realize all that I had gained, despite the small amount I had lost. I had formed close friendships and lived in what is now my favorite city. I had gained so much more through my time abroad, it made what I lost seem insignificant. So when it came time to apply, I applied to Florence. When I got accepted, it wasn’t even a question. I was going. I was going to risk it all again.
Those who are meant to stay in my life are going to. Those who fade away, perhaps aren’t meant to be there. The friends I have made in Sydney are awaiting my return, and I know that the second I get back it will feel like I never left. They did not hold me back from my time in Florence, but rather were happy that I was doing this for myself- for my plan. Now, I get to return and show them the photographs and share my cherished memories of my travels. I am happy. More importantly, I know who I value in my life, and who values me. I know who I have in my life, and I appreciate them even more for it. So, although it felt like taking a chance by going abroad again- perhaps risking my relationships all over again- this was my chance to prioritize myself and realize the strong bonds I have with others that will never fade, no matter where I am in the world.
- Roomies: Megan Cutaran
This post could not come at a better time since I recently went on a trip to Capri, where EVERYTHING went wrong. So here’s how it went:
My friend Connor asked if I wanted to join him and two other guys on a trip to Capri. I did not know a thing about it, but it sounded like a good time, so I said I was down. He booked an AirBnb, and I found us train and bus tickets. That was it! We were set to leave in two days.
We all met up at the train station in the morning to take the train to Naples. Our train was delayed, so we waited and chatted- not really a big deal, as delays are common in Italy. Finally, the train arrived and we walked down to our carriage and took our assigned seats. We sat for a few minutes before other people approached us, saying that we were in their seats. We looked at all of our tickets, and it turned out that we had been double booked. Being the young, Americans, we had to give up our seats, leaving us to struggle to figure out the problem with the conductor. There were not enough seats for the entire journey, so we had to exit the train in Rome and transfer to a different train to Naples. We were able to do so, and finally made it to Naples. Once in Naples, we took a taxi to the port and got totally overcharged, but at that point we just wanted to get to our destination. We boarded the ferry to Capri, relieved to be on the last leg of our journey.
When we got off the ferry we looked up at the amazing island of Capri. It was stunning! I was so excited to spend the next two days there. We had to figure out how to get to the AirBnb, so Connor called the owner and asked for directions from the Port of Capri….
Turned out WE WERE ON THE WRONG ISLAND! Connor had booked a place on Ischia, a nearby island. Hungry, tired, and a little frustrated, we began to look into ways to get to the other island. There were none. We would have to go back to Naples and then take a different ferry to Capri, but we would not get there until nighttime. We decided to try to find a hotel, so we followed signs to the “center.” Turns out the center was up on top of the mountain, so we ended up hiking up there. At this point, so many things had gone wrong, we just wanted to throw our bags down and get food.
It’s moments like this- of pure exhaustion and stress- that are a normal part of traveling. I’ve realized that things like this happen, no matter what, it just comes with the territory. Lucky for me, the group I was with also seemed to understand this. We joked around and made the best out of it. Everyone was very understanding, which I was thankful for because drama on top of this stressful trip would have been a lot to handle.
We ended up finding a hotel and enjoying our time of Capri. Everything after that went pretty smoothly. This instance was just a reminder that sh*t happens while traveling. But that should not stop you from exploring and enjoying your time. In our case, I was happy that overall we still enjoyed our trip- even if it did not go as smoothly as possible.
- Capri: Megan Cutaran
This quote has been true in my life for quite some time now. I have always loved to travel. Growing up my family would vacation for a few weeks each year. Whether it was on a beach in Maui or in the mountains of Colorado, I loved everywhere I went. I think this is what sparked my curiosity to explore. No matter where I go, I always want to keep going. I want to see as much as I can during my lifetime.
During my four years in university, it was always my plan to study abroad. From day one, I had it in my mind that I would go abroad during the spring of both my sophomore and junior years. I never thought that I would actually follow through with this plan, but I am grateful everyday that I did. Once I started going, I never stopped.
I have a craving for traveling- for being where I am not. t started in high school. When I started looking at colleges, I knew I wanted to see a new part of the country. I knew I wanted to get as far away as possible. So naturally, this Cali kid picked up and moved to the big city. Then I made my next jump, by relocating myself across the world. I went to Sydney my sophomore year, and I absolutely loved it. I stayed afterwards to travel Asia for a month, before returning back to Los Angeles for a month. Then, I got restless and went back to New York where I thought I would stay. That lasted about 4 months before I decided it was time to get out again- I applied to Florence. I traveled more during my J-Term, and then in the beginning of January I packed up and headed to Europe. Since arriving here on January 9th, I have been all over Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Greece, and Cyprus. I am gone almost every weekend, off on my next adventure.
All this travel sounds glamorous, and don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely amazing. It has been the best 2 years of my life. I have learned more and seen more than most people do in a lifetime, and I am loving taking it all in. But, it isn’t easy. It takes adjusting. Since 2013, I have not been in one place for longer than five months. In that I have lost connections with friends and loved ones. Leaving always makes me realize what I have and sparks my appreciation for it, but one thing that I had to grow to accept is that not everyone will fight to stay in your life. But that is OK. Traveling and getting out is important and should be prioritized, and in doing so it proves who is meant to be in your life. That is one of the biggest lesson this has showed me, and I will always be grateful for that. And for every person that I have lost connection with, I have gained way more through the people I have met along the way.
I do not know when I will stop craving more. I do not know if I ever will. I debated if this quote has a negative connotation or a positive one. I didn’t take it as “I do not want to be here” or “I do not appreciate where I am,” but rather I took it as “there are always more places to see and more lessons to be learned.” I will always want to keep finding new places, because in my opinion it is the best way to learn more about my life and the world.
- Cyprus: Megan Cutaran
Walking Through Firenze
Each step is different, although the pathway is the same. Like the streets of New York, the city is ever changing. Cars drive quickly through the narrow streets. Motorbikes vroom through the alleyways leaving a loud residue amongst the neighbors. A city that was once calm, quiet, alone, now swarming with people. Accents of all types fill the streets. Americans easily spotted, since I, too, am one of them. Walking equals weaving, as you try to take on the streets. Past the Duomo, through the piazzas. Sitting, eating, enjoying the public space. The atmosphere. The simplicity.
The smells, the sounds, the pitter patters of footsteps on the cobblestones- all unique to Florence. Unique to this experience.
It’s the complete essence of Firenze that makes it its own. Not just the buildings, the streets, the Italian flair. It’s the atmosphere. The sounds, the crowds, the breeze, the rain.
Walking through Firenze.
I tried to utilize repetition and vivid description in this piece. I think that Florence, itself is very repetitive and vivid. The streets are alike, row after row. The daily routine repeats. The colors of the buildings and the Duomo, mixed with the charisma of the people give Florence a vivid and lively feel. I hoped to capture that in my writing to not only be physically describing the city, but also to represent its atmosphere.
- Duomo: Megan Cutaran
I do not understand how people used to travel without technology. That is so millennial of me to say, but from my experiences I have noticed a strong dependency on technology to make travel possible. Whether it is used for booking hotels and flights online or locating sites with Google Maps, technology is what has allowed for most of my travels to go smoothly. It definitely makes everything accessible and easier while traveling through new places. Plus, technology makes it extremely easy to document my travels on social media. But as nice as it is, sometimes I enjoy going off the grid and going old-school- phone free.
I pay for my phone in advance, and when my balance runs out I find do not rush to refill my credit. There is something nice about not worrying about being in constant communication with others. It is sad that in this day and age I need an excuse to be off the grid, but I really do use the excuse that my phone is out of service to step away. There is something refreshing about it. It allows me to fully be in my physical location. I do not have to worry about what I am missing or who I should be talking to. Instead my full focus goes into what I am doing. It is nice to, at these times, not feel tied to anyone else. For these moments, nothing else matters.
It is crazy to think how much technology now plays a role in daily routine, though- almost like an addiction. From what I have witnessed, when everyone who does not have phone service gets back on wifi, they become zombies. It is almost worse than having a phone throughout the entire day, because it is as if all those little times checking a phone gets added together and funneled into one time. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Messenger- all need to be checked and caught up on once back on wifi. Wifi even dictates plans. Hotels have to offer free wifi in order for them to have a shot at being chosen as a place to stay. It is necessary in order to make plans for the next day or check-in for flights. Even though, at times, one can go off the grid, I’d argue that that does not mean less time is being put into using technology. Rather, it is just done at a different, more concentrated time of the day.
Technology can be the biggest blessing, but also a curse. There are many benefits that come out of it, but it can be extremely consuming as well. I try to focus on where I am in order to balance my life with my media presence. It is a weird part of life nowadays, but I do not see this going away any time soon. I don’t even think that I would want it to. I like being able to post my highlight pictures on Instagram. I like being able to look back at my photos wherever I have internet access in order to appreciate my past travels or to show my friends my favorite places. I think that technology has added to the overall travel experience and has allowed me to go further around the world than I ever could have before, while still staying connected to my loved ones. I makes it easier to be so far from others, when at the click of a button I can communicate with them. But it’s all about the balance. Technology use for travel needs to be utilized in a way to only add to the experience, and not be overused where it takes away from living in the present.
- IMG_5994: Megan Cutaran
For this assignment I chose the suggested reading, “Italy, A Love Story: Women Write About the Italian Experience.” This book appealed to me because even from the title I could tell it would be relatable. So far my experience in Italy has felt like a dream. I have enjoyed the culture, ventured through many parts of the country, and formed strong relationships on the way. I was intrigued to read about other women’s experiences in the wonderful country to be inspired for the rest of my time here.
The stories from the book touched on the food, the romance, and the culture of the people. From just my short time here, I can already relate to the women in this book. Overall, this book is not about each individual part of Italy, but rather it is about the land as a whole. It explains through narrative perfectly how one can fall in love in Italy. This is not about falling in love with a significant other- as Italy does have a reputation for that- but it is about falling in love with the land itself. Italy has an ability to captivate it’s habitants.
My favorite aspect of the book is how it told stories of many parts of Italy. Women from parts of Italy such as Milan, Rome, Sicily, contributed to this book to further describe the essence of Italy. It was interesting to read the stories from these cities, since I have been lucky enough to visit them myself. Traveling through Milan and Rome, I fell in love with the architecture, the food, and the people I met along the way. People have been very accommodating. Do they have that typical Italian sass? Of course! But that is what adds to this country to help define it. The architecture is also an amazing aspect. The duomos are magnificent and intricate. It amazes me to be in a land with so much history and see the buildings that were created long ago, without the modern technology that is available today. This book does a great job capturing all the aesthetics of Italy to further drive home how easy it is to fall in love with this country.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. It was an easy and entertaining read. If you want to read personal experience about Italy and its tradition, this is the perfect leisurely read. After just seven weeks in the city, I can relate to this book and can contribute my own similar stories that captivate the wonderful spirit of Italy.
- Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 9.55.12 AM: Megan Cutaran