Italy | Northern Italy

One of the highlights of the curriculum of my study abroad class was the weekly field trips every Friday. Our class bus rides that last up to a couple hours allowed for group bonding time by playing various games (heads up, snaps is the name of the game the name of the game is snaps, contact, and an assortment of riddles). Fridays we took educational tours of areas around northern Italy to art museums and on weekends we went about our own excursions around and in Milan. trento

In my opinion, Trento had the best food of all the cities in Northern Italy I visited. Because of it’s close proximity to Austria, the food has a strong Germanic influence. I regret not taking photos or taking the time to learn the names of the food I ate because I liked those plates completely clean! All my photos of Trento are of the eerily quiet development area, these police man in the photo above, and a few video clips from the tunnel turned museum on the side of the mountain.

The Vittoriale is absolutely beautiful beyond belief. The moment we stepped off the bus, we felt like we were at a dreamy resort. Had we died and gone to heaven? I don’t know. We took a tour of Gabriele D’Annuzio’s mansion because we had just read his classic Italian novel, Pleasure. The house was overflowing and overwhelming full of trinkets and replicas of famous art. The air was dusty, the lighting was dim, and his decor was opulent. Unfortunately photographs were not permitted during the tour so I have no examples of my own to show, but in all honesty only the full effect of being in his unhumble abode will do it justice.

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After the Vittoriale, we visited Lake Garda, the bluest lake I’ve seen. The swans floated along the shore unfazed by the people wading in the shallow end or sunbathing on the dock. I opted out of swimming but I hear the rocks are not particularly kind to the bottoms of people’s feet. Instead of stuck my feet in the water and enjoyed the scenery that was capturing my heart.

My experience with Lake Como really can only be explained in three parts: the ferry ride, the swim and the journey home. Each were such separate experiences. The commute to Lake Como should theoretically only take two hours from Milan but due to our lack of research, we ended up on a four hour ferry ride to arrive at the destination of Bellagio (not without lots of negotiation with the captain of the ferry to let us off the hook for purchasing the wrong tickets of course).

After rounds of MASH, Aperol Spritz and looking for George Clooney’s lake house (which is largely covered in trees), we docked at Bellagio and bounded off, with no destination in mind. Our quest for a good beach continued for forty-five minutes to two hours (I lost track of time a while back into the trip) as we wandered aimlessly. We considered giving up and turning back several times before we stumbled upon a festival with a semi-secluded dock where people could swim. I cannot report back where exactly we ended up, what festival we decided to crash and much else about Lake Como other than to urge everyone to do their research before embarking on an adventure. Though the day did end well with a blissful two hours spent on a dock with watching friends jump into the water, great food and barely making it back to Milan (sprinting to the last ferry and train was an experience), it was also stressful, expensive and very dependent on good luck.

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Vicenza didn’t get the attention it deserved from me. My thoughts were shrouded in excitement for the train to Venice we had to catch later that day when I should have been admiring Teatro Olimpico (a theater that utilizes forced perspective on the stage to give the illusion of a greater space in a tight room) and La Rotonda (a truly marvelous villa also designed by Palladio).

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Bar for Aperitivo, watching the July Palio from Milan

When in Italy, make sure you go to Aperitivo one day or another. The idea of Aperitivo is some light snacks and an alcoholic drink (nonalcoholic drinks are delicious options also) to whet the appetite around 5 to 7pm prior to dinner. The photo above is from the day our TF Sarah invited us to have Aperitivo with her and watch the July Palio to give us a taste of what our life in Siena will be like. Needless to say we were energized by the experience.

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Milan Metro

The Milan metro was so central to my experience. It was the most convenient way to get around, something other people who live in New York or Chicago might overlook but being homegrown in California and now residing Los Angeles, I’ve grown to appreciate well designed and safe forms of public transportation.

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Main metro station in Milan

Residence Pola was the apartments we stayed at for our time being in Milan. Mama Pola, a warm lady with a deep smoker’s voice, is the manager of this little gem. The tiny room I shared with Kristina had warm pink walls and royal blue accent chairs. Our kitchen was largely dysfunction and cramped. Our bathroom had these faux hand painted tiles that make a dizzyingly intricate pattern. Our air conditioning barely worked but at least we had a little and I had trouble opening our door, which meant frequently getting stuck outside and asking Kristina, the great door opener, to let me in. Our place was not usually a place for gathering unless we were planning trips like Venice or Budapest. The small blue room was reserved for more social events.

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dysfunctional kitchen

The Milan Expo was simultaneously overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time. Perhaps the underwhelming affect came from not willing to shell out money to try to delicious food and the crash I was feeling from touring the Duomo and surrounding areas from earlier in the day. The sheer size of the entire exposition was overwhelming. Each country that participates builds their own impressively designed building to house some sort of personal presentation ( a walk through different types of local plants from Bahrain versus flashy, high tech Korea). Not everything was impressive, though much of it was. What I found particularly interesting was analyzing how different governments wanted to portray their country to foreigners and the type of messages (or propaganda) they want to send out. Please be mindful when going through, since the expo is largely government and corporation funded, these are the voices that are showcased in the Expo.

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Sunset at Milan Expo

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