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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Middle of Nowhere

Once you get past Florence this is all you see...

Population: 0

Rural Italy

Train view

Dolla Dolla Bills Y'all

My time in Italy has gone by so fast! This weekend is our last "free" weekend for travel.  Tomorrow after class we are headed to La Spezia and going to hike the Cinque Terre on Friday then Saturday we are going to take a train over to Milan and maybe do Lake Como/ Milan. Pretty excited from what I have read Cinque Terra is one of those things lots of tourist don't take the time to do but is totally worth it. One sure thing I have learned about Italy is it is expensive! Train tickets add up fast. I have been doing a really good job of managing my money, haven't been going to out eat or out to the bar instead going to the grocery store. I started adding up what I spent all my money on and it was mostly train tickets and hotels.  Train tickets especially, I think last weekend I spent close to 200 euros on train tickets alone.  My wallet will certainly be happy when I return back to the states that's for sure.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Torino

Po River

Torino was a nice change of pace from my Milan-Ferrari-adrenaline experience. The one thing I did notice about these cities was how active the people were.  Back in Perugia and southern Italy I hardly ever saw people going out for a run or bike ride. In fact I actually get strange looks from the locals when I go out for a run. Not the case in Milan and Torino, everybody was outside. Maybe because its flatter, cooler and there is actually space to go out and run I don't know. Torino is a city overlooked by a lot of tourists its a shame too, its very laid back and young compared to the rest of Italy. Another fun fact I learned, Torino was actually the first capital of Italy in the 1860s. But enough with the history lesson.
Long way down
I was all the way up there...
 Saturday night I walked around and stumbled into the Mole Antonelliana, which now is home to a really cool cinema museum.  I took the freakiest glass elevator, think Charlie and the Chocolate factory all the way to the top of the mole and got an amazing view of the city and the alps. Glass elevator, not the smartest idea for someone who is afraid of falling. It was so creepy because unlike a normal elevator there was no shaft, or at least you couldn't see it.
Well worth the view
After I settled down and my knees stopped shaking I walked to the Po river and through the main piazza.  Unfortunately by the time I made my way to the Turin Cathedral, home to the Holy Shroud it was closed. I did get to check out the Palatine towers which were kinda of in a sketchy area. The next morning I got up and walked to the other end of the city and saw some amazing views of the river and The Castle of Valentino. I had to walk through this adorable little park area that ran along the river. I was shocked how many people were out running, biking and rollerblading(?)! I made it back to Perugia and I caught the second half of the Woman's World Cup at the local pub.
Palatine Towers
In front of the Valentino Palace
Love it! 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Driving down the streets of Milan

When I was walking around Friday night I passed a Ferrari store, they were having a “Drive Your Dream Car" event.  A flashy red Ferrari California, a sleek black Ferrari 430 and an orange Lamborghini were parked out in the piazza. I stopped to look at the cars and assumed there would be no way I could ever drive one of those babies, so I didn't even bother asking.  Later on back at the hotel that night I laid in bed kicking myself for not asking if I could get at least a picture with one of the cars. 
Ferrari 430

Saturday morning I had just finished the “fashion district” when I stumbled into the same Ferrari store having the same promotion. Jokingly I went up to the sales lady and ask, “What it would take for me to drive one of those?” I was pretty shocked when she told me no problem I could drive it... for a pretty reasonable price. They would let me, a twenty-one year-old American girl drive a car worth over $200, 000?!?!?!  I went back and forth, was it worth it? I really wanted to, I mean come on who can say they drove a Ferrari down the streets of Milan? But at the same time after train tickets and hotels money is starting to get tight and I can afford to be wasteful. After a phone call to Mom (it was 6am over in the states) I got the confirmation I needed and signed the dotted line. I have never got out of a car and had so much adrenaline pumping through my veins. Words can’t even describe the feeling but I am gonna try nonetheless. 
Just a tad nervous
F430... my guide started getting a little picture happy

The sound of the engine, its response to me pushing down on the accelerator, the feel of the car gripping the road when accelerating into a tight turn, the jealous glances of middle aged men wondering what a young girl is doing in machine, no rather a work of flawless engineering art left me feeling in powerful state of content. It was a feeling I had never experienced before, even though it only last for twenty minutes I could see why people would pay so much money for a car. Previously the idea of spending 200k on a car seemed impractical and frivolous but now I get it, not saying I am planning on purchasing one anytime but I get it, I experienced the high. In the end it was totally worth it. I had an "experience of a lifetime" plus I got it on video. I have no idea how I am gonna upload the video but I will figure it out. Until then here are some pictures my guide snapped. 

Yes actually driving
So sleek when you turned the car on it looked like the inside of a fighter jet

Keys to the whip

Field Trip

Class. O yes,  the "real reason" I am over in Italy. A group of 15 of us are taking two classes while we are over here for the month, Sports Marketing and Retail Management. We have class Monday thru Thursday each class lasting about twoish hours. Fridays we get off so we can travel and Mondays class is pushed back so we could come Monday morning. Ever Wednesday in lieu of class we go on a "field trip". The first week we went to a high end cashmere designer, Brunello Cucinelli took a tour then spend the day in nearby town.

This week we toured a local winery and then spent the afternoon in Assisi. The winery tour was amazing. Our tour guide was actually the Grandson of the man who founded the winery and spoke English! Listening to him talk about the wine making process I could just feel his passion for wine.  I hope one day I can be that passionate about my career, whatever it ends up being. He said it best wine making is "half science half art",  I never knew how technical and precise the process is. After we finished the tour his mother (her father founded the winery) came and said hello. And yes Mom and Dad I did do some shopping in the gift shop ;)

Santana Pictures

Rockin out to the sounds of Carlos Santana

Tad trippy

Santana was all about "Peace and Love"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Milan


Top notch hotel room, thanks DG!
 Horary, I am in Milan all checked into the hotel safe and sound. Big shout out to DG, she booked this hotel for me and it’s so nice, there is AC! So far I have gotten the impression Milan is different than other Italian cities, it’s the “new Italy”. From what I have read there isn’t a lot to see when compared to Florence or Rome. Of course there is “The Last Supper” and the Duomo but other than that I just have been walking around soaking it all up.

Castello Sforzeco
After dropping my bags off I walked around some, found an amazing Sushi place for lunch and ended up stumbling into the Castello Sforzeco. It was a tad disappointing as most of it was undergoing renovation but it was still pretty neat sight to see this 14th century castle right in the middle of a 21st century city. Apparently its time it was one of the largest citadels in Europe and used to house the Dutchy of Milan. One thing interesting I learned, unlike Rome and Florence who relatively came out of the bombings of WWII unscathed Milan and Torino were major targets for the Allied powers. Afterwords I checked out the Parco Sempione which was a giant park and saw the Arch of Peace.
Arch of Peace
I visited the Duomo, which is the 2nd largest church in the world only behind St. Peter’s (of course). I got to climb to the top of the church, which was pretty cool. Climbing things and checking out the view seems to be all I do on my weekends. Totally worth it though, seeing the intricate gothic fa├žade up close was amazing plus I got a bunch of cool pictures. 
Pretty cool huh?
Facade up close on the top of the roof

Next to the Duomo was the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is credited to being the first indoor shopping mall. It’s a street with a bunch of nice high-end stores covered by a glass dome. Friday night I ate dinner at a restaurant there, not the smartest idea. It was 20:30 (8:30pm) I was tired, hungry and lost trying to find a place that a guidebook recommended so I just gave up and plopped down. You know you are at a tourist trap restaurant when someone from the restaurant is trying to get people on the street to come in. My veal and rissotto was average at best and way over priced. It was nice to have something other than pizza, sandwiches or Caprese salad.

Dome of the first indoor shopping mall
The next morning I had pretty much the coolest experience I have had in Italy so far. So cool it's worthy of its own blog post.

Santana

Every year Perugia hosts the Umbria Jazz Festival. If you are like me you are probably thinking "big stinking deal".  I'll be honest, I thought that too. Actually I was kinda disappointed after first looking over the lineup. In years past Eric Clapton has headlined. Eric. Freaking. Clapton. I love Eric Clapton. Of course this year, my luck, no Eric Clapton. But someone on the lineup did catch my eye, Santana, as in Carlos Santana. Not as cool as Eric Clapton but he comes in a close second in my book. Tickets were a little steep for my college student budget (51 euros) but after going back and forth I decided to live it up and splurge.  A small group of us got tickets and it was definitely money well spent, he played a three hour set for goodness sake. I mean come on now, what an experience! Santana is one cool cat, an old cat, but none less pretty damn cool.  (I'll post some pics in a little bit. The wifi on the train is a little slow, fingers crossed the hotel is better)

Walking into a Drug Bust

I know I mentioned it briefly but last weekend I went to Florence for the weekend with a group of my classmates. I did not however tell you of our little adventure the first night we were in town. After a dinner the group of us were sitting in one of the Florence's many Piazzas, people watching and trying to figure out where we were headed to next. I noticed before dinner the piazzas was not one of Florence's finest areas (i.e. there were a lot of homeless/ sketchy backpackers drinking beer out of brown paper bags).  Anyways after looking at the map we got up and started to head down a road back to our hostel. About 20 yards ahead of us was a group of four maybe five young Italian guys hanging on. We were probably about 10 to 15 yards in front of group of locals when out of nowhere a young Italian guy in everyday street clothes jumped in front of us flashed us a bag and asked to see our passports. I didn't even think about it was just instincts that kicked in but immediately I turned around and looked for one of uniform cops that was back in the piazza.  It didn't take long for me to find a police officer in a light blue uniform (further confirming the place was a little bit sketchy, that many police normally don't hang out in piazzas). I quickly looked back at the group and there were three cops in dark blue uniforms talking with my classmates and two other officers the group of locals and a police car was just pulling up as well.

Thankfully the cop I approached spoke a little bit of English and confirmed that the guy with the badge was actually a cop just a "regional" police officer thus explaining the different color uniforms.  I was concerned because they guy flashing the bag wasn't in a uniform and had heard stories of pickpockets posing as undercover police. I started to head back over to the group of my classmates. By this time the cops in the car pulled out a big German Sheppard who was sniffing around the area were the group of locals was hanging out. Again thank God, one of the police officers in dark blue spoke English and kept asking us if we had any drugs, of course none of us did. The English speaking officer was very nice and we chatted while another officer was on his cell phone apparently checking the passports of two of my classmates who had handed theirs over.

All I could think of while I was talking to the officer was the conversation I had with my Mom about the Amanda Knox case. A brief summary of the conversation was even though now all the evidence says she didn't kill her roommate, due to the language barrier she ended up answering "yes" when asked if she killed her roommate. Italian law isn't like the US, there is no innocent until proven guilty. All the cops need is a confession, does not matter if you understand what you are confessing to or not. So during the conversation when the cop kept asking us if we had drugs I started to get nervous. He explained to us that apparently the undercover cop smelled something in the area we were headed towards. After the cop on the phone hung up and gave back the passports he told us we were free to go. The whole ordeal lasted maybe twenty minutes but is sure felt longer than that. So lesson learned, stay away from sketchy areas.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Flying solo


All packed and ready to go

Perugia train station at 05:30
This weekend everybody is headed down to the Amalfi coast and Pompei. Since I was just there, (what two weeks ago? gosh it feels like that was a lifetime ago) I am on my own planning a trip to Milan and Torino. Yes, traveling by myself in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language does sound a little crazy and apparently Hotty Toddy Daddy isn’t too happy with this but o well. It’s a learning opportunity. It’s a challenge, a step out of my comfort zone, an opportunity for self-growth plus I want to prove it to myself that I can do it. Friday morning I have a 05:30 train to Florence then I go from Florence to Milan and should be there by 14:00. I spend the night in Milan and leave for Torino at 12:00 on Saturday and spend all day Saturday and then leave to come back to Perugia in time to catch the Women’s World Cup final Sunday night. Here we gooooooo

Monday, July 11, 2011

Perugia


So much has happened since I dropped mom back off at the Rome airport and met up with the group. I’ll just give you a quick overview. I am sharing an apartment with four other girls. Its pretty big for Italy standards, I have my own tiny little room. But of course the apartment doesn’t have air condition or a dryer so doing laundry its time consuming. I am taking two classes that I absolutely love, sports marketing and retail management. We have class late on Mondays and have off Fridays so we can travel. We started a beer Olympics League, complete with an official draft of course. So the plan is to have different drinking competitions and the winning team of each different event gets points.
Nice view from the city walls

The group in the city square

View from Brunello Cucinelli...not bad
 The first even was tower Tuesday, last week, each team had to drink two towers of beer. Wednesday morning was rough.  We had a field trip to a nice cashmere factory Brunello Cucinelli and then spent the day in Cortona, needless to say the league I think came to the consensus that Tower Tuesdays would not be a weekly occurrence.  This weekend I went with a little group to Florence and Venice. Wow! I could write an entire blog post just on our first day in Florence.