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Italia in 40: Day 9…#Historygasms and the Sea=My Perfect Day

I am still on 3G, so just be patient and I will add some (more) media to these three blog entries, eventually (probably Thursday night).

Today was AMAZING and quite possibly the best day I have ever had in Italy and the best day I have ever had as a history student! First, we went to Codroipo to an outdoor market and walked around. There were stalls for everything: clothes, shoes, scarves, plants, housewares, food, baskets, lingerie, toys, and everything in between. I bought some cookies for 60 cents and then we walked to my friend’s grandparent’s house, where her dad was waiting on us.


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From Codroipo we went out to Villa Manin, which was the country estate of the last Doge of Venice, Ludovico Manin.


My friend’s dad also said that Napoleon Bonaparte lived there at one point! Now, for those of you that know me, you know that this was SUPER COOL! If you don’t know me, let me explain:

1) I am a nerd.

2) I wrote my Masters thesis about the decline of the Venetian oligarchy, leading up to the fall of the Republic to Napoleon Bonaparte.

3) I dedicated the final chapter of said thesis to the shift of the nobility from a merchant class to a feudal nobility.

4) A large portion of that chapter discussed the buying-up of land on the terra firma and the adoption of the mezzadria (sharecropping) system.

So, guess what I saw today? An actual place where all of this took place! I was kicking myself the entire time because I know writing my thesis would have been a hell of a (helluva?) lot easier and more stimulating, had I been able to see this last summer when I was researching via Inter Library Loan and Google…>__<

They were setting up for some kind of food festival at Villa Manin and renovating the main estate, but we got to go into two small museums (one for weapons and one for carriages) and then into the back garden.

A French designer, who modeled it after Versailles, created the garden in 1714. There was a beautiful pond (it was crystal-blue and so clear), statutes and all kids of trees. I also heard a beehive for the first time…it was a little scary! The villa and garden would be a great filming location for any of you cinematographers out there.

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Walking around the estate and the gardens is free, but if you want to enter the museum in the main house, you have to pay (8-10 Euros) or get a Friuli-Venezia Giulia Card. Just like the Firenze Card, the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia has a card that provides access to museums, WiFi, and public transport!

After Villa Manin, we went to Aquileia, which was a prominent Roman city and the point of origin for many of the original inhabitants of Venice. We saw the basilica and baptistery of Santa Maria Assunta and passed many ancient ruins. I also mentioned Aquileia in the first chapter of my thesis. So, I basically got to tour the places I wrote about at the beginning and end of my thesis and beginning on Sunday I will be in Venice and get to see all of the places I wrote about in the body of my thesis! So exciting! #historygasm

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After having a short tour of Aquileia, my friend’s dad drove us to Grado and dropped us off. Grado is on the ocean and if you didn’t know, the ocean is my favorite place. Other than dipping my toes in the Mediterranean in Cinque Terre, I haven’t been to the ocean since August 2011!  In Grado, we got to have some seafood (spaghetti with clams), play in the water (got some epic GoPro footage I will share eventually), get some sun, explore, and do a little shopping (I got some cute stuff: two scarves, some earrings, and a scarf clip to match).

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On the way back to Codroipo we stopped in Palmanova, a huge fortress in the shape of a 9-point star. If you stand in the exact center of the fortress, the three gates leading out of the town are exactly 120 degrees apart on three on points of the star. It was cool! On the way out, we drove through one of the gates and it had two layers and all kinds of gears and mechanisms, which the inhabitants used to seal up the walls during attack.

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After all of that, we made it back to Codroipo. We bought a gelato and walked around the city to do a bit more shopping. We missed the bus to Udine, but thankfully my friend’s aunt drove by and she was able to contact her dad to pick us up.

We got back to my friend’s house around 7 and we had dinner (prosciutto, Prosecco, mozzarella, crackers, and tomatoes) and then dessert (pineapple)!

Throughout the day I also got to talk to my friend’s dad about politics in Europe, the U.S., and South America (her family migrated to Venezuela during the Depression era and only came back to Italy a few years ago), which was SO much fun. I love talking to people about their political beliefs, and specifically how their thoughts on economics shape their political beliefs!

Now, I have yet to get to the most awesome part. It turns out Friuli-Venezia Giulia is one of only 3 autonomous regions in Italy and THEY HAVE THEIR OWN LANGUAGE (one could argue that it’s a dialect, but whatever). Also, since elections are coming up, I got to see all kinds of campaign posters and even passed a campaign office for Lega Nord, a political party which advocates some isolationist and separatist ideas. Why is this cool? Well, I am a total sucker for languages and dialects and have been since I was a kid. I collect dictionaries and phrasebooks, if that gives you any indication of my obsession. Of course, the more obscure a language, the better! For my Ph.D., I really want to study the history of regionalist politics in Europe and specifically Italy. Everyone studies Irish and Spanish regionalism/separatism-and that is fascinating, do not get me wrong-but Italy is unique and so I want to study its political history!


So, to recap: I got to explore multiple settings from my thesis, I got to go to the ocean, I got to shop, I got to eat good food, I discovered a new language, I got to talk about contemporary global politics all day, I got to explore an autonomous region in Italy…it was literally PERFECT!

Before my brain explodes, I have to go.

Pictures to come!


Italia in 40: Day 8…Firenze>Udine

Howdy everyone!

So, I am at my friend’s house in Udine and only have 3G internet service, so I won’t be uploading pictures for this blog, but I will tell you about my day anyway.

This morning I checked out of my hostel around 9:45 and walked to the train station. I bought my ticket to Udine and then went to a cafe by the station. I had a Nutella croissant and a cappuccino before I walked back to the station. I found my train without a problem and sat with an older couple from South Carolina that were going to Venice for their anniversary. They were really nice, but I felt bad for them because they were using the Rick Steve’s guides and had NO clue what was going on or what to do when they arrived in Venice…

I got to Venezia Mestre station around 2 and immediately got on the train to Udine. I accidentally sat in the 2nd class section although I purchased a first class ticket, but it was alright. That train ride lasted about 2 hours and I arrived in Udine around 3, where I met my friend. We walked all around Udine and visited several churches, a castle, a library, a mall, a museum, and the city center.

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The museum we went to was the baptistery was attached to the Udine Duomo. It was so funny because the guide for the museum was a former history professor. He was old and drunk and was talking crazzzy! After the church we just walked around and I took lots of pictures.

Udine is really interesting. It looks very German and they have preserved the city SO well. There are barely any modern buildings! It is also only 4 hours from Austria and has a rich history, so the architecture is really unique and different than anything I have seen in the rest of Italy.

After we walked around the entire city, we stopped at a bar and I had a couple of glasses of wine (it definitely made my feet feel better, hahaha)!


We came back to my friend’s house and I met her parents and we had dinner (chicken, a Russian vegetable salad, bread, and cheese) and now we are just having wine and talking. She lives in Tavagnacco, which is a suburb of Udine.


Tomorrow we are going to Codroipo and Lignano. Hopefully I will be able to find WiFi somewhere so that I can add some pictures to this blog and write my post for tomorrow, but if not, I will write the posts and put them in a queue to be published once I get a better connection.

Hopefully I will talk to you guys tomorrow, but if not, just stick with me and I will have lots of interesting things to write about in a few days when I get to Bassano del Grappa! 🙂

Italia in 40: Day 7…A Synagogue, Peruvian Mother’s Day, and Crazy Football Fans

Today I walked from my hostel all the way to the Synagogue and Jewish Museum of Florence. The security was crazy insane. I expected that due to terrorism concerns, but you had to leave everything in a locker and walk through a full-body x-ray machine. They didn’t allow any cameras or cell phones, so I don’t really have anything to show you guys, unfortunately. If you go and are under 25, make sure you tell them and you get a ticket for 5 Euros rather than 6.50. I stayed for the English language tour and then bought a couple of postcards. I wanted to go to Ruth’s, a Kosher Vegetarian restaurant right next to the synagogue, but I got there 30 minutes before they closed and they turned me away. It’s Michelin rated and it looked so good. They have a cheese brick with hot pepper jam on the menu and I wanted to try it so bad…I’ll definitely go next time!

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On my way there I passed the former children’s hospital and they are apparently turning it into a museum!

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After leaving the museum, I decided to walk east and then go down toward the river, but right as I was leaving the synagogue area I walked by a church and thought I heard South American indigenous music and so I peaked in and saw some old women dancing in the courtyard of church. I walked in an noticed everyone looked Peruvian, but I just started taking pictures and then walked into the church. I saw a brochure and the Peruvian consulate in Florence was hosting a Mother’s Day celebration!

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It was so neat! After seeing that Peruvian halal store the other day, I wondered if there was a large Peruvian population here, but today answered my question. I wonder how the Peruvians came to Florence and why. According to Peruvians Dispersed: A Global Ethnography of Migration by Karsten Paerregaard there are over 100,000 Peruvians in Italy today, which is astonishing because the tour guide at the Jewish museum said there are only around 30,000 Jews in Italy!

After that I walked all through eastern Florence and down to the Arno, so that I could walk down the river to the street near my hotel and check out the Muslim area. On my way along the Arno, there was a procession of football fans chanting and going nuts because Torino won their match today! There were pockets of fans chanting and marching all over the city!

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I also walked into some awesome churches.

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I realized it’s an Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Somalian area and there were some cool restaurants and markets I wish I could have checked out. There were zero women around though, so I just went back to Via della Scala where my hostel is.

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I ate at this cool place called La Grotta di Leo and I got a large beer, appetizer, a plate of pasta, and sat outside for 15 Euros! Definitely check it out if you are in Florence! I tried liver for the first time by accident and it was actually good, different, but good!

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After eating, I just went back to my room and repacked my bag. I live in North Texas and this semester I met an Italian student that is from Udine. I am going to visit her tomorrow. I will stay with her for two days before heading to my next destination. We will be doing some crazy things, so the next two days should be action packed! 🙂

Italia in 40: Day 6…Laundry, Beer, and a Sunset

Today I woke up and took my laundry to a place right down the street. It said “self service” on the window, but I went in and some lady came in and collected my money and put the soap in. It was 8 Euros for soap and to wash and dry one load! I couldn’t believe it. While I know that you can live anywhere on a budget, I really don’t understand how most people afford to live in Europe. If you just lived a comfortable life, you would have to make at least $100,000 a year and that’s if you didn’t have kids. Most of the restaurants I’ve seen, if you got a full Italian style meal (appetizer, first and second course, dessert, and a drink) it would be 50 Euros per person. Not to mention bills like gas, electric, water, rent, clothes, transportation, and food. I would really love to know how people afford it…if you know, please leave a comment below!


While waiting on my laundry, I decided to have lunch at a restaurant. I haven’t been to a restaurant since I’ve been here because I’m trying not to spend a lot of money, but I wanted to eat at one today. I got two beers and a plate of pasta in olive oil and it was 23 Euros. Something you should know if you come to Italy (and probably other places in Europe) is that most places charge a fee to sit and eat. If you are just drinking they usually won’t charge you or it will be less, but if you are eating there is a small fee. My food and beer were delicious and the weather was nice though! I was in a carbohydrate induced coma, so I went back to my room and took a short nap before I went and got my laundry.

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I came back to the hostel and folded and put everything away, laid my outfit out for tomorrow, straightened up my bag, and got everything ready to pack tomorrow, then decided to go back across the river since that’s my favorite spot.



I had the best gelato I have ever had in Italy. I know there is a lot of debate about this hot topic, but I definitely suggest visiting Gelateria La Carraia, if you are ever in Florence.It is conveniently located right by the Ponte alla Carraia, so you can chill on the bridge and watch the river and people.


I decided I’d watch the sunset, but then I remembered I had all of my cameras in my bag, so I filmed it! It was so beautiful.


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After leaving the river, I figured I should pick something up for dinner since I hadn’t eaten since 2ish and I didn’t want to go to my room only having had gelato. I went back to my store (it’s called Uno Rosso and here is the link to their Yelp page). On the way there some dumb boy on his bike kept riding around me and trying to spray me with something in this aerosol bottle…it smelled like cologne, but I wasn’t sure and I didn’t want him to spray me in the eyes and try to take my purse or something, so I yelled at him. There is a one block area by my hostel (Via della Scala/Via dell’Albero/Via Palazzuolo/Via Canacci) that is the Muslim area and during the day it’s been fine for me, but the other night I heard some guy yell at this American girl that was walking by about Obama and war and tonight I sensed some hostility and heard a few hisses (I assume because I was over there after dark), so yeah, just be careful. I might go walk over there tomorrow and take some pictures during the day. Once I made it to my store, I got a salad, but he only charged me .90 cents for it because it wasn’t super fresh since it was late, and a bottle of wine and some water and went back to my room.


SN: There are some awesome Arab markets that are worth checking out on Via Palazzuolo and the area may be larger than a block, but that is the only part I’ve explored.

It’s Saturday night so the street by my room is so busy. There is a pub called Joshua Tree that I can see from my room and it looks so fun. My hair is still wet or I would have tried it out tonight. That’s one of the only things that sucks about being a female, solo traveler…I don’t really feel safe going out to drink or dance at night. I’ve already seen a group of American kids pass by and two guys get into a fight in Arabic, so I’m sure tonight will be action packed.

I want to get up and go to Mass tomorrow, but a lot of the churches have signs that say tourist aren’t allowed and I also don’t have a dress that is church appropriate, so we’ll see! If I don’t go to Mass, then who knows what I’ll do tomorrow. I want to do something fun since it’s my last day in Florence, but I’ve been to all of the museums (except the Accademia) and my Firenze card has expired. I might try to go back to the Jewish museum and synagogue because I saw a really good Kosher, vegetarian restaurant that I wanted to try or I might check out some other gardens.

Anyway, I will talk to y’all tomorrow! 🙂

Italia in 40: Day 5…A Belated Throat Punch, Flying by the Seat of My Pants, and an Argentine

So, I forgot to tell you guys something yesterday. I almost punched this ratchet woman in the throat. In the Church of Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi (Dante’s church) there is a shrine/monument/memorial to Beatrice, of course. Well, apparently people bring letters here and leave them for her. Well, I was in the church, just sitting and admiring and this group of Americans came in and were talking all loud. There was a lady in the group and you could tell she was trying to be the tour guide of her group. So, she starts telling them about Beatrice and Dante and walks over to her monument and there is a basket there full of letters, and what does this bia start doing? PICKING UP THE LETTERS AND READING THEM TO HER FRIENDS. No. Full stop. Tap the brakes lady. Who does that?! Don’t get me wrong, I am always intrigued to read the notes people leave for saints and whatnot, but I would NEVER, ever pick up someone’s intimate letter about their love life and read it like a magazine. I gave her the stink-eye from HELL and walked out.

Anyway, today was AMAZING! I didn’t know what I was going to do when I woke up this morning. I had planned to go to Pisa, but last night two of my friends on Facebook said I should go to Cinque Terre instead; I took their suggestion. I woke up at about 9 and left my place about 10. My hostel is literally 200 yards from the train station, so it is REALLY convenient. I went to the station and got my ticket to Cinque Terre and I bought the return ticket too because I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to get a return ticket later on. I had to go from Firenze S.M.N. to Pisa Centrale to La Spezia to Riomaggiore. Now, mind you, I have only seen Cinque Terre in magazines and books and recently saw a classmate give a presentation about it-that’s it.


So I successfully navigated my way through the train stations, but I realized why I have had such trouble. I have never had to read a train ticket or schedule and I just had to learn it on the fly. So, here’s a tip for any other naive travelers like me: when you look at your ticket and it says your destination, that may or may not be the destination of the train your supposed to get on. Like, you may be going to stop 23 of 35, so the train your supposed to get on will be called/listed as the final destination on that line, not the destination on your ticket. So, when you get off your train at a connecting station, don’t look for a train going to your destination, look for the train going to the final stop on the line you need to be on. Also, they have paper schedules printed at all stations in Italy, but make sure you pay attention because the holiday, weekend, and weekday schedules are all jumbled together on one page, with a very confusing key at the bottom.

I arrived in Riomaggiore and bought a Cinque Terre Card for 12 Euro. You get unlimited access to the trains in the area and the national park and walking trails, so it’s definitely worth it (if you get caught w/o a metro ticket the charge is 50 Euros)-you can also purchase WiFi access if you want it. After purchasing that I decided to go to the most northern village. I went to Monterosso al Mare and walked down to the beach.

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I found a few pieces of sea glass and put my feet in the ocean, but this village was realllllly tourist-y. There were a bunch of women on the beach charging for massages and I thought that was such a smart idea! I hadn’t eaten and it was like 2, so I got a gelato and an espresso, before heading back down the coast.

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I didn’t stop at Vernazza or Corniglia, but I went onto Manarola since it was closer to Riomaggiore and I was paranoid about missing my train to Florence. I wish I would have spent the entire day in Manarola. On the train to Manarola I met a Korean woman that had gone to Georgetown. I knew she was Korean because I saw her guidebook, but she asked me where I was from and after I told her, I asked her the same and she said she was Korean so I said, “Anyonghasaeyo” and she was all happy.

Manarola is PHENOMENAL.

Everything you think about Cinque Terre is Manarola. When I got to Manarola I walked to the center of the town and started up this trail near a cemetery (I want to be buried there-seriously), but broke away from the group and just started walking up random steps. I got to an area with all these private vineyards and gardens and kept walking on any trail I could find.

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I finally joined back up to the actual trail and went into the Church of San Lorenzo. There was a list of men on the bell tower, whom I assume were killed at sea.

On the trail to the church there was a crucifix on the mountain and all of these old people were hanging out around it and leaving flowers and chatting.



Little did I know, that was just the start of the Jesus! There were all of these stations of the cross on the mountain and apparently at certain times of the year they light up at night! It was so interesting. You may think you love Jesus, but Manarola loves Jesus more than you, haha!

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After the church I walked back down towards the sea and decided to get some food. I just put it all in my bag and caught the train to Riomaggiore. Once I arrived at Riomaggiore I ate part of my dinner and then hopped the train back to Florence.



On the train I met this Argentine guy that was visiting Italy with 7 of his family members (wife, kids, brother, dad). His dad had immigrated to Argentina after the war and they were all back to visit for the first time. I spoke to him in Spanish for 40 minutes and even used the ‘vosotros’ form! First he asked me what the next stop on the train was and I accurately told him. He thought I was Italian, but I told him I was from Texas and he said that I didn’t look Texan, but that I looked Italian…my response: QUE BUENO! His accent was really difficult to understand, but I was able to respond pretty accurately, and say “…y vosotros?” a lot, hahaha! I couldn’t remember past tense very well, but I was super proud of myself for remembering vosotros form.

I didn’t get back to Florence until 9:30. I left the station and stopped at this pastry shop and go two mini Nutella Cannolis and went back to my room. I had an awesome day and feel so confident now, since I was able to successfully navigate and talk to people! So happy I went  to Cinque Terre. Today was EPIC!

(here’s the sunset from the train…this picture is horrible doesn’t do it justice, but it was the prettiest sunset I’ve ever seen)