I love traveling more than anything, but I'm sure as most of you know, it could quite possibly be the most mentally and physically exhausting thing on the planet. We were all pretty worn out from weeks and weeks of trips, so we decided to make this last weekend our Rome Staycation- which is just as amazing as traveling because Rome is one of the most amazing cities in the world.
Night one of staycation, however, did include a slumber party and eating way more food than I'm proud of. I am proud of the fact though that we made homemade brownies, mozzarella balls, and teriyaki chicken. Hot tip on cooking here (or any foreign country)- before you go to the grocery store do your research on what the names of the items are called wherever you are or if that country uses an alternative to that ingredient. We failed to do our research for some meals and ended up a few times with a cart 3/4 full of a meal and then realized that the other 1/4 of the ingredients don't actually exist in Italy. Now we've gotten the hang of things and we have our own shared pinterest board of Rome recipes- so basically what I'm saying is that our kitchen is exactly like an episode of Chopped.
Friday night included a lot of calories and our favorite movies, which was a perfect break from running around everywhere.
Saturday morning we visited the area of Piazza di Spagna which is where the Spanish steps are located. This is also the luxury shopping district so yay for looking at really cool things that you'll never be able to afford. The afternoon was filled with finding lots of really cool hidden areas in Trastevere (the neighborhood we live in). Trastevere is filled with really quirky and adorable restaurants and shops but also some really famous historical sites are tucked away here. We saw Villa Farnese and Palazzo Farnesina- which are two of the most famous places as far as Interior Design goes. They both belonged to the super famous Farnese family, who commissioned Raphael to paint the ceilings. Napoleon even lived in the palace for a while.
Sunday we took the metro out to the EUR district- which is where all of the really modern and Facist architecture is. It's really interesting to compare the monuments and buildings of Mussolini's Rome compared to ancient Rome. The area is also full of really amazing parks and museums so I would highly recommend a day trip to the area. We also went to the Roma vs. Milan soccer game at night and it was so incredible to see the olympic stadium and to witness Roma win in the most exciting game of the season.
Staycation 2016 was much needed and a definite success. I could live in Rome my whole life and still never see everything that it has to offer, so I've added a lot more weeks to my calendar to explore. It's easy to get caught up in traveling and wanting to go everywhere, but it really is so wonderful just to have a weekend to relax and explore your city.
Next weekend I'm heading to Barcelona (which is one of my ultimate dreams) and I'll get to see some of my favorite works of architecture, the Picasso museum, and the Salvador Dali house so basically I am going to be freaking out all week. Also it's the International Food Festival in Rome so pictures to come your way of me being the champion of calorie consumption.
I HAVE LIVED IN EUROPE FOR ONE WHOLE MONTH HOW CRAZY IS THAT? It's still hard to believe that time has gone this fast. This past week was another tiring one as I took, yet again, another weekend trip. This one however was with the university and was very historical and educational and IT WAS AMAZING. So, my advice for the week is to take every optional educational field trip that your program offers. You get to travel around with people who know the area (which is a big time saver for people who are directionally challenged such as myself) and people who know all of the history.
This field trip went south of Rome to Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, and Herculaneum. Even if you aren't studying abroad in Italy, these are MUST SEE sights for anyone who loves history or the most beautiful views of the sea in the entire world. We started off in Naples and visited the archeological museum, which holds all of the objects and sculptures from ancient Rome, Pompeii, and Herculaneum. You can see the Farnese Bull and the statue of Hercules from the Temple of Hercules, and the original mosaics of Pompeii, which are both incredible works of art. Naples is really amazing for its food also because IT IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF PIZZA. I have high pizza standards and I seriously had the best pizza of my life.
We then took a really cool hydrofoil across the bay of Napoli into Sorrento. Sorrento is SO beautiful. There are amazing restaurants and really cool shops with all sorts of handmade things. We got to go to an amazing restaurant and have a five course traditional Italian Meal. Our hostel was also a convent that was on the cliffside, and I got to wake up to amazing coffee and a view of Mount Vesuvius from the balcony. SERIOUSLY INCREDIBLE. We visited Herculaneum after breakfast (which is cooler than Pompeii from a design standpoint) and it was so surreal. It's hard to even fathom that you are looking at buildings, artwork, and even bodies that are over 2000 years old because of the way the lava preserved them.
At the end of the trip we were given two days to freely travel around the area. In my opinion, the Amalfi Coast could quite possibly be the most beautiful place in the world, so you can't really go wrong with whatever town you visit. We chose to go to Positano- which I would highly recommend if you want some amazing cliffside views and somewhere that's not really touristy. The whole town is built into the cliffside and you can only get places via stairs. I CLIMBED OVER 300 FLIGHTS IN TWO DAYS AND I STILL HURT BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT. The houses are really cute and colorful, the seafood is amazing (we actually attended a fish festival on the beach), and the views of the Mediterranean Sea are the best around. We splurged and rented a sailboat for the day to take us around the Amalfi coast. The water is so blue and warm, and we were able to see the Arch of Amalfi and swim in an explore all of the sea caves and the emerald grottos. I honestly can say it was probably the best day of my life. This trip was hands down my favorite so far, and I got to experience it with the coolest guide ever, discounted rates, and all of my friends. So if that isn't enough to convince someone to go on optional field trips, I don't know what is.
Next weekend is my first STAYCATION. The itinerary includes my first Roma soccer game, a makeshift hair salon in my apartment, McDonald's, and me pretending to be a chef- all very exciting things so stay tuned.
Enjoy these pictures of Positano :)
Wow, first off I HAVE BEEN IN ITALY ONE WHOLE MONTH ALREADY WHAT IS THIS. Clearly I am still getting the hang of things and trying my hand at adulating (some days go better than others with the whole being an adult thing), and the schoolwork is really picking up. I know, it weirded me out to that there was studying involved with studying abroad. However, I am really excited to get into the swing of things with this project because I truly believe there is nothing that could be more valuable in helping me get a job than this experience. While there are tons of places I would have loved to have studied, this is the one that I knew would help me grow the most as a person and a designer.
First of all, Rome is clearly one of the masters when it comes to good design so that was a no brainer, but then I had to consider all of the details. I chose this program because the semester project is working with an Italian fashion designer to design their flagship store at an actual site here in Rome. We were placed into pairs of designers and went through an extensive matchmaking process to be paired with a designer. My group ended up with a Roman Jewelry designer who hand makes everything from ancient Roman metals and jewels- seriously some of the most beautiful work I have ever seen. The challenges of the project are pretty big: the designer does not speak English (so I am learning Italian crash and burn style), the store must follow all European code guidelines for historical preservation and restoration, studying the psychology of European retail design, I have to learn how to do all of my calculations in the metric system, and many other various challenges. Seriously, how cool is that though? Who else can put on their resume that they learned a new language to be able to design a luxury jewelry store in Rome. So while some places may seem like your best option for studying abroad, consider somewhere that would present yourself with a challenge you couldn't find any other place in the world.
This week I will be traveling to Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples, and Sorrento to learn about ancient Roman retail design and how to incorporate that into my project, so stay tuned for an obnoxious amount of pictures of my designs.
I also went to Brussels this past weekend, which was absolutely amazing. It's the coolest, most diverse city and the people are amazing. We did our geeky designer stuff and got all worked up over French gothic and neoclassical architecture (woo), ate an uncomfortable amount of fries, visited the street market in front of the palace, took a waffle making class, and played in the grass at every park we could find (the only downside to Rome is the whole no grass thing). I would highly recommend the city to anyone with a free weekend. The beautiful views and the amazing culture won't disappoint.
That's all I have for you this week, but I'm sure my next post will be full of history and some sweet views of the amalfi coast. Make sure to check out my photos page also for a weird amount of waffle pictures.
Hey friends, so after a very stressful week of classes, I decided to book a last minute trip to Croatia this past weekend (last minute as in booked on Wednesday, left on Thursday). It was the perfect stress reliever of a weekend, as Croatia is so chill, beautiful, and full of history- definitely worth the spontaneous 15 hour bus ride. I've been trying to work on my spontaneity so I think this definitely earns me major points.
I realized before I left, I literally knew zero things about Croatia so here all of my cool facts and pictures for you to hopefully convince you to visit this wonderful country.
My trip was centered out of Split, which is one of the coolest and oldest cities on the Dalmatian Coast (which yes Dalmatian as in the dog which there were tons of). Split is a pretty wild city centered around the Diocletian Palace- one of the most well preserved fortresses of all time. And IT IS ALSO WHERE THEY FILMED GAME OF THRONES SO I NERDED OUT SO HARD. I actually got to eat dinner in the palace one night, which was amazing and everything was super cheap. The Croatian currency is actually the Kuna, which are these cool little fish coins. One Kuna equals .13 Euro so it's pretty weird (but also feels fancy) to see a dinner bill that is for 600 Kuna.
We also took a cruise out to the Island of Brac- also incredible as Croatia is known for it's turquoise water and beautiful beaches. The boat ride was absolutely beautiful and the beach we were on had one of those wipeout courses with all of the inflatables- which made for some pretty good fail videos of all of our athletic attempts. There was great seafood, beautiful views of the mountains, and I can honestly say it was one of the most relaxing days of my life. Also a prime spot for taking very mermaid-like photos
We also did white water rafting, which was amazing. The river wound through canyons and was the most clear water I have ever seen in my life.
The highlight of the trip though was for sure KrKa National Park. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life. The waterfalls and the hiking was amazing and I could have spent weeks more just in the park. If you go to Croatia DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT SWIMMING IN THE WATERFALLS AT KRKA.
All in all, Croatia is a lovely country with lovely people and I would go back in a heartbeat.
Next weekend- Brussels with the roommates (stay tuned for pics from the Belgian waffle cooking class we enrolled in)
(also feel free to translate the title (a Croatian proverb)
It's hard to believe that I am coming up on week three already! I have been having the most wonderful time, but as always, you have to have a few rough patches to appreciate the good. I know that this is only the beginning of my challenges, but I've already learned so much and I know that will continue through my adventures.
Here are three challenges I have faced so far and how to conquer them:
1.) Navigating a new city
Navigation has been quite the undertaking so far. Rome clearly is gigantic and it wasn't exactly planned on a grid system or anything of the sort. As buildings fell and new ones were built, they were literally placed on top of one another, connected to each other, and so all of the dead ends and winding streets of Rome can be downright weird. The fact that there are no street signs also can create some issues.
My tips as far as navigation goes = MAPS.ME
It's an app like google maps but it runs without data (for those of us without an international phone plan such as myself). You simply download the map for whatever city you want when connected to wifi, and then you have it to use whenever. You can also drop pins on the map, so I would also suggest dropping a pin at every place you stop that you will want to come back to. We have made the mistake already of not dropping a pin and attempting to retrace our steps- which we have never found anything a second time. However, it has also been fun getting lost though. I would suggest walking wherever you please without a map in order to explore and find new places you like and then using the map to get back home of course. We have found our favorite gelato shop and a restaurant that serves fancy waffles as the result of getting lost.
2.) The language barrier
I've had quite a few awkward interactions due to my lack of knowledge of Italian. You can not assume that everybody knows English because, spoiler- they don't!
The easiest way to conquer this- take a class in the language! I was hesitant to do so because it is hard to undertake something as big as a new language. After just a few hours of class though, I've already found it ten times easier to understand signs, menus, and basic conversation when buying groceries, ordering food, or meeting someone new. Learning the language has also already helped with giving me a sense of belonging. Some of the challenges I have faced these first couple weeks sometimes made me feel a little out of place, but I have already felt so much more comfortable and at home with even just my basic understanding of Italian so far. It's been so fun and rewarding and all of the Italian people have been so nice and helpful in helping me learn.
3.) Cultural differences
This has probably been the hardest part because of my fear of offending someone or sticking out badly. There has been many mistakes made here, such as breaking the fruit sticker machine, holding up the bus line while trying to understand the ticket validator, and accepting the fact that they don't do coffee to go here.
The easiest way to conquer this is to do a little research, make some mistakes, and embrace it. The whole reason for this trip in the first place was to leave my comfort zone, so I have tried to learn and embrace these cultural differences as much as possible. As a perpetually early person, it's been hard to deal with the fact that things are never on time here. However, why aren't they on time? It's because Italians live very mindfully, which is actually one of the most beautiful things. They don't care if they are a few minutes late because instead of grabbing that coffee to go and running to work, they sit at the bar with their cappuccino and enjoy the coffee and the company. The differences can be frustrating at first, but once you begin to understand them and appreciate them, you'll feel much more at home.
To end on a fun note- this weekend my friends and I took a mini trip to Florence and Cinque Terre to test out our traveling/planning skills. A few minor bumps there (such as forgetting about 24 hour time and ending up with train tickets for 5:45 AM instead of PM). All in all, it was a great and beautiful weekend. Cinque Terre is a small set of five towns along the Mediterranean Sea. They are small fishing towns full of brightly colored, stacked houses (which you all have seen as one of the featured wallpapers on a Windows PC). We took a train from town to town and enjoyed the views, ate some awesome food, and swam in the most beautiful water I've ever seen in my life. Life is good.
(P.S. Currently in the process of planning a last minute trip for this coming weekend, so be on the lookout for some awesome photos)
Wow. One week in Rome and it's hard to find the words to describe everything that I've felt already. For starters, it's a beautiful city full of beautiful people but I will rewind back to the beginning.
Leaving the US was a bit of a blur because I basically had to go right from my summer job to the airport. Flying alone doesn't make me nervous but what curse do I have on me that I always end up sitting next to THE WORST PERSON ON THE PLANE. One of them was questionable (possibly a mob boss) and he ate a three pound bag of gummy bears and wouldn't let me sleep because he wanted to play solitaire. The second one on my ten hour flight to Rome was a very mean lawyer who was on the phone all night yelling at people to pay him and purchased three out of the four seats in our row so that he could lie down. What is the curse and how to I remove it?
Arriving in Rome was interesting to say the least. The airport is crazy but the streets outside of it are crazier. Thank the lord I hired a private driver, which I would highly recommend, to take me to my apartment because there is no way I could have figured it out myself at that point of my exhaustion.
My apartment is full of other students who are studying and they are quite adorable because we can have fancy design talks together and get excited about all things design related together. So yay, for people that care just as much about Baroque architecture as me and can name all of the different types of moldings.
So enough about me arriving, here are my initial tips for Survival (and fun) in Italy:
1. You will encounter crazy Italian driving everywhere. THERE IS NO ESCAPE. We are talking like Fast and Furious/ Mario Kart style stuff. I have witnessed three people now get knocked off their Vespas by angry car drivers. I'm surprised I'm still alive because Italians are the craziest and most unforgiving drivers in the entire world. When I said in my last post that I was excited to live somewhere where I can't reliably cross the street... I take that statement back. Never have I ever encountered a city where you have to give yourself a mini motivational speech in order to work up the courage to cross at every crosswalk. Please send positive thoughts my way for all of my street crossings the rest of my stay.
2. THE WATER AND THE BREAD ARE NOT FREE. You think that someone would have warned me about this, but here I am much poorer and a few pounds heavier because of bread baskets I thought were complimentary/ bottomless. When you go to a restaurant and food and drinks are already set up on the table for you, you pay for all of it if you touch it. Doubtful that I will learn from my mistakes though because I love and get excited about carbs more than the average person.
3. Take a walk, you'll get lost but it is okay. The first night Kara and I decided to explore our neighborhood. Around every corner in this city is something beautiful to see. There are random archeological digs every few blocks where you can see temples being unearthed that are centuries old. There are churches with the most extraordinary frescoes, and fountains in every Piazza. Walk around and I guarantee you will be filled with so much happiness from everything the city has to offer. You will get lost because signage in Italy is rather nonexistent, but it is so lovely and the people are very kind and willing to help you with your questions.
4. Public transportation is wonderfully terrifying. Let's start out by saying the first train I saw it Italy was late because it was literally on fire. LITERALLY ON FIRE PEOPLE and everyone was super casual about it because I guess it happens a lot. They also have busses, trams, and the trains to different cities that all run on the same ticket which is good for 100 minutes. There is also no signage to help with with the routes or schedules, and the times are unreliable anyway. However, it all seems to be part of the fun and the lifestyle. It is so fun to hop on a tram and let it take you wherever it may be. I have found many cool places by simply hopping on the wrong bus. Italians also do not care about being late. They like to sit and enjoy things and are very mindful in their lives. They sort of have the "get there when they get there" mindset and always live in the current moment. It's quite lovely, so I guess a train fire every now and then does not phase them and they go about their day.
5. Again, take a walk IN THE ODD HOURS OF THE NIGHT. The main tourist areas are incredible, but they are more incredible at 2 AM. Clearly you need a walking buddy to be safe, but stay up a while longer and go for your walk then. The tourist places are completely empty and the lighting and views are magnificent. You won't regret it
I supposed thats all I have for now, but this weekend I will be traveling to Florence and Cinque Terre so stay tuned for some lovely photos of the sea and some good stories.
Time and time again, studies show that we twenty-somethings are the most unhappy stage of our lives. At least twice a day I declare that I am having a quarter-life crisis because I am trapped in this weird, pretend adulthood. Some days I wake up and say, "Wow, look at you, Liz, you young business professional." Then other days I wake up at one in the afternoon, never brush my hair, eat a twenty inch pizza by myself, and watch HGTV until some ungodly hour of the night. We twenty-somethings are unhappy because we are afraid and full of questions. How many times a day do you think about what happens when you graduate and have to enter the real world? Where you will go, if you will get a job, will you be happy are all ridiculously tough questions we ask ourselves excessively throughout our day.
For me, I think the answer to all of those questions was to stop asking them and buy a plane ticket. When I heard about the Rome study abroad program for the interior design students, I convinced myself that I was adventurous and signed up as soon as I could. The more I thought about it though, my twenty-year-old thoughts kicked in and I became apprehensive about the situation. I was so stuck in my love of familiarity, and all of the same questions flooded my thoughts for months while planning the trip. It would just be so much easier to stay here and go on with my same routine. However, In a weird turn of events, I started to think about who I was before I morphed myself into what was easy to be. I got angry with myself and these new habits and decided to ask myself some different questions. When is the last time I did something for the first time? When did I decide I was going to live the same year over and over and call it a life? To quote Maya Angelou, "No amount of security is worth the suffering of a mediocre life chained to a routine that has killed your dream."
Back to the title- "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there," was always my favorite Lewis Carroll quote and I think I finally realized it was time to start living that. I don't know where I'm going so I might as well stop relentlessly trying to figure it out. It was time to stop asking for directions and take the scenic route. We had travelled often when I was younger, and I missed that childlike feeling of the excitement of a new place. I want to study abroad because I can't think of anything more wonderful than somewhere where I am ignorant to almost everything. Somewhere where you can't read signs or reliably cross a street and you only have the most basic sense of how things work. I want my life to be full of that series of interesting guesses again. This trip is about finding all of the things I never knew I was looking for and reminding myself what a tiny spot I occupy in this big, beautiful world. There is something so powerful about saying, "to heck with it," and just wandering, living creatively, tasting, enjoying, all while stopping here and there. I am traveling purposefully towards a vague destination in love with every minute of my live.
So the next time someone brings up grad school or marriage at the Thanksgiving table, I will gladly send my grandma into cardiac arrest my admitting that I have no idea and I don't care to have one any day soon. And that brings me to now, two days from departure trying to throw everything together last minute as all good twenty-somethings would do. I am full of fear and excitement for this journey, but I'm ready to combat that fear with an open mind, a European airline regulation sized carry-on, and some clothes that don't wrinkle.
Only packing the essentials
I'm Liz Bixenman, an interior design student living in Rome for the semester. When I'm not doing schoolwork, you can find me wearing a cat shirt, reading a book, and most likely eating more carbs than I'm proud of.