Bittersweet Endings

In my first blog entry, I wrote that I was sitting in a caffè in my hometown, longing to be in Florence. As I sit in my living room back home in Winchester, Massachusetts, I certainly miss Italy, but feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

In our final days studying abroad, my friends in Florence were losing sleep over the thought of coming home. I only cried once, compared to my friends who wept numerous times, which sort of made me feel like something was wrong with me. I loved my time in Florence, so why didn’t I feel sad to leave?

I adore so much about Florence: the food, the culture, the architecture, and the overall beautiful aesthetic. My host mom was also someone who made the city such a special place to me. I kept reminding myself that I’d be leaving all of these things behind, hoping that it would make me more emotional.

Upon reflection, though, I’ve realized that just because I wasn’t devastated to leave doesn’t mean that I don’t love Florence. Rather, I think I felt it was an appropriate time to leave. 5 months is a LONG time. A long time without sleeping in my own comfy bed, eating meals that aren’t just pizza and pasta, and spending time with the people I love the most.

Being ready to leave doesn’t take away from the fact that I loved every second of my time abroad. I got to visit countries that I’d only ever dreamt of getting to see, made memories that will last me a lifetime, and get to tell people that I lived in Europe!

I almost didn’t apply to this program because of fear; taking classes in another language, living with a host family, and being away from home for 5 months are pretty intimidating factors. However, my love for Italian culture inspired me to take the risk, and I am so grateful that I did. It definitely wasn’t easy, but I’m so proud of myself for getting through the semester, and highly recommend others to sign up to study abroad, even if it’s outside of your comfort zone. I can promise that it will be one of the best experiences of your life 🙂

Paris Perfection

Last weekend I fulfilled a life-long dream of mine: traveling to Paris!

This city was so special to me for a number of reasons. First, when I was younger, I had an obsession with the children’s book called Madeline, which tells the story of a little girl living in Paris. Because it was so rare to find characters with the same name as me, I immediately felt a connection with her, which included envying her life in France. It turns out that the name we share is very common in Paris; I saw streets with my name, and almost every grocery store sold the delicious, caky cookies known as “Madeleines”.

While I didn’t walk on any tight ropes or fly an airplane, I still felt as spirited as the Madeline character. Being able to send a selfie with the Eiffel Tower in the near background in my family’s group chat made me feel like a true adventurer, considering no one in my family had ever traveled to Paris. Seeing the 300 meter towel twinkle at night was a whole other sensation, and I probably would’ve been content leaving after only having seen that.

Fortunately, though, our travels didn’t stop there, and we went to various museums, including one of the world’s most famous- the Louvre. Da Vinci’s most well-known painting, the Mona Lisa, did not disappoint either, despite most tourists noting that its size is underwhelming. 

Two of my friends had been to Paris before, which is why they made sure to put museums on our schedule. I, on the other hand, don’t know much about art, and the only place I was adamant about us stopping at was a bakery. With our jam-packed schedule and differing priorities, I unfortunately was not able to enjoy an éclair or chocolate tart like I had hoped, but I did get to order an authentic crêpe at a restaurant.

Since I only have a few more trips left before I return to the US, I was starting to get worried that Paris wouldn’t make the final cut for our future plans. Fortunately, we made the decision to go at the last-minute, and after being enamored of the city, I can finally understand why it’s often referred to as the City of Love 🙂

Surprises in Sicily

I’ve gone on numerous class field trips in my life, but the one I went on through my study abroad program to Palermo, Sicily certainly takes the cake. Sicily is the most southern region of Italy, and this wasn’t hard to tell from the incredibly warm weather we experienced. While we did have a day of rain, the other two days were beautiful, making for perfect beach days.

When our Holy Cross advisor informed me and my classmates that she scheduled an 8 hour cooking class for us, I was far from excited. I didn’t want to miss prime tanning hours, and wasn’t sure what we could possibly be doing for that much time. However, my mentality immediately shifted when I found out that our lesson was going to be instructed by the Duchess of Sicily (!!) The sweet old woman taught us how to cook a delicious Pasta Norma (one of Sicily’s most famous dishes), swordfish, and a homemade gelatin dessert, which we got to enjoy over a fancy dinner in her dining room alongside the Duke of Sicily.

While it was hard to top that first day, our second day was pretty close- and still made us feel like we were royalty of some sort. We struggled to find a taxi on our way to the beach, but fortunately a man on a carriage of some sort offered to take us. The compact, windowless vehicle that barely fit 5 may not have been the safest car I’ve been in, but it was definitely the most fun.

On our last day, we indulged in more Sicilian delicacies: arancini (fried rice balls), cannolis, and gelato on brioche rolls (don’t knock it ’til you try it!)

Sicily was full of firsts for me, and I hope that’s not the last time I visit that special island.

Adventures in Austria

Another country unlocked! This one wasn’t very far from Italy, and only took an hour to travel by plane.

Vienna, Austria wasn’t necessarily on my list of places that I wanted to visit, so I was a little apprehensive when two of my friends asked if I wanted to join their plans for the weekend. However, I knew that I didn’t want to waste a weekend, especially because we only have so many weeks left to travel, so I booked a flight.

Upon my arrival, I wasn’t exactly happy with my decision to come; this was because it was pouring and freezing. By “freezing” I mean 45 degrees, which feels a little embarrassing to say as a Bostonian and college student in Massachusetts who endures much lower temperatures, but compared to Florence’s temperatures, this felt brutal.

Unfortunately the poor weather lasted our whole trip, but our experiences made up for it though. The first night we ate delicious Vienna sausages (which I’m pretty sure are just hot dogs) and then explored some local bars. PS credit cards alone won’t get you by in Vienna- make sure you have cash! We didn’t have much on us and we weren’t exactly the waiters’ favorites.

Although food is typically the highlight of my trip, the art and architecture won me over in this city. We walked around the Schönbrunn Palace, and admired beautiful gardens and fountains. Across town, we visited the Belvedere Museum, where we saw both modern art and the classics, such as Klimt’s famous piece, “The Kiss”. I wouldn’t consider myself a museum-enthusiast, but this specific painting took my breath away.

Vienna pleasantly surprised me with its unique charm. I can only imagine how much more I would have liked it if the weather had been nice.



A Nice Change

Last weekend’s destination spot was Nice, France! When my friends proposed going to France, a few things came to mind when I thought about the country: the Eiffel Tower, éclairs, and the Mona Lisa. Aside from the delicious pastry, I soon realized that I heavily associate the city of Paris with France. With that being said, I was surprised when I found out we’d be going to a different city, and truthfully, I had never heard of Nice.

Despite my skepticism, I was exited to go, but getting there was a bit of a challenge…En route to the station where I was supposed to take a bus, I realized that I left my passport at my house in Florence! My friends assured me that I’d have enough time to go back and still make the bus, but after spending nearly an hour in a taxi, I was not able to get there before the bus took off. Fortunately, I was able to take the next-bus-out later that night.

Unfortunately, the fiasco didn’t stop there. Once I got off the bus, I felt relieved that I had made it, and all I needed was a taxi ride to the station. Simple right? Well it would have been if the taxi services that I had called spoke English, like their websites promised. I then resorted to different app’s on my phone, and after an hour of trial-and-error, I finally got ahold of someone who could take me to my hotel where my friends awaited me.

There are many reasons why this city is my favorite I’ve visited so far, but the main one is because of it’s beautiful beaches. I could be biased because at the time I hadn’t encountered a beach, or any warm weather for that matter, in months. Regardless, the pebbles, palm-trees, and bluest water I’ve ever seen are unmatched.

The food was certainly a plus, too. From fresh fruit at markets, to cheese boards, to creme brulée , my taste buds were very happy.

In terms of the city’s atmosphere, I felt it was incredibly peaceful. The city’s unique architecture rivals that of Florence, but is certainly less crowded with people and cars, making for a more pleasurable city center experience. The people there seem to walk in a more relaxed way, and live more laid-back overall.

I’m so very happy that my friends chose such a NICE travel destination, and I hope to return someday (with a passport in hand).

Family in Florence!

Thinking back to the weeks leading up to my departure for Italy, I remember worrying, “How am I going to survive a whole month in a foreign country before my family comes to see me?”. Little did I know that I would be so acclimated to and comfortable with my life in Florence, that when my mom texted me about the logistics of meeting up with her, my dad, and 3 brothers in Rome, I would be shocked that a month had already flown by. 

The five of them decided to travel to Rome before Florence, so after they had landed, I met up with the group while they began to explore the city. I’ve done a lot of sight-seeing for the past two months, but nothing will top the view of seeing my family for the first time after being apart so long. It was so special knowing that my favorite people in the world were going to be able to experience one of my favorite places in the world. 

I could pretend that it was a perfectly normal family-trip, but things are never perfect nor normal when we are together. Some of our chaotic moments on our first day, to name a few, include:

  • Giving my last euro to my brother Peter to use to make a wish at the Trevi Fountain, only for him to use it on a gelato instead
  • The same brother sneaking off from the group approximately six times to go to McDonald’s
  • My brother Albert telling Peter that his lungs will “get stronger” if he doesn’t use his inhaler, resulting in Peter feeling out of breath on minute 1 of our 3 hour tour
  • My dad saying “Gracias” instead of “Grazie” every time he went to thank someone, even though all of his kids reminded him not to do it the next time
  • My family taking me out to dinner to celebrate a belated-21st birthday, and then the waiter bringing complementary Prosecco to the table to everyone except my brother in high school and myself, because he assumed we were underage. Keep in mind the drinking age in Italy is 18!

Since all of these events occurred within our first hours of being together, I’m sure you can imagine just how dysfunctional the rest of their visit was. With that being said, I’m so lucky to have been able to make these funny memories with my family in such an amazing part of the world. I wouldn’t have wanted our trip, or our family for that matter, to be any other way 🙂

Galway Getaway

One of the reasons that I chose to study abroad in Italy is because of my heritage, as my mom is 100% Italian. However, my dad is almost completely Irish, so I felt it was only fair to visit Ireland too. Seeing my best friends who are studying abroad in Galway having a blast via social media may have been a bigger factor in my decision though…

The fun that I saw from afar certainly translated to my trip. The second I got off of my bus, my friends welcomed me by taking me to a pub (it was 3:00 in the afternoon might I add). Little did I know it but this was a glimpse of what my trip would consist of- we spent 75% of our time in pubs. I’m definitely not complaining though, I’m now a huge fan of hard cider and “Baby Guiness” shots.

I learned that people are not just spending time in pubs for the alcohol, but because of the amazing live music that so many have to offer. From traditional Irish folk music to covers of modern songs, the performers brought a special ambience to each bar.

“Special” is certainly a word I’d use to describe Ireland. Everyone is so friendly, even my cashier at the drug store gave me such a sincere “have a great day!” I hope I inherited more Irish genes than Italian ones in terms of kindness, as the people I encounter daily in Florence aren’t necessarily the friendliness. I can’t wait until I can return to beautiful Ireland, but for now I’ll keep the other homeland company 🙂


Best of Barcelona

I was apprehensive about leaving Italy for the first time since I’ve been here, but Barcelona did not disappoint. My trip can pretty much be summed into two words: sights and snacks.

In terms of sights, I went to amazing tourist attractions. I’ve never been to Barcelona before, but luckily one of my friends with whom I was traveling had been a few years ago with her family, so she knew all the important spots to visit.

Our first spot was the Sagrada Familia. This 172 meter Catholic basilica was nothing short of breathtaking. I learned that construction began at the end of the 19th century, yet it is still under construction today! The church’s outside sculptures portray biblical scenes, and the inside is equally as stunning, with stained glass windows lighting up every corner of the church.

Another sight that we went to was the Carmel Bunkers. This spot is at the top of a hill that allowed us to see a stunning view of the entire city. We went at sunset and took photos, but pictures cannot do the jaw-dropping sight justice. I highly recommend going if you’re visiting this city, but do not recommend wearing boots during the hike 🙂

Now, the most important part, food! Although I’m very grateful to be eating authentic Italian food everyday, I have to admit that I was eager to eat anything that wasn’t pizza, pasta, or a panini.

When we first arrived in the city, we stopped at La Boqueria, a food market that sold anything from fresh-squeezed juice to fried octopus. When it came time for dinner, most restaurants didn’t open until 9:00 PM! One of the nights we went to a small tapas restaurant, and actually ran into a group of other Holy Cross students who were studying abroad in Rome! Such a small world.

Overall, it was an amazing weekend with beautiful views and delicious food!


Falling in love with Florence

This week I finally arrived in Florence! It has been a whirlwind the past few days, but I have loved every moment!

I moved in with my host mom the first day that I arrived, and she has really made it easy to adjust to being 4,000 miles from home. She is even more kind than she was in our emails from the months leading up.  It has definitely been a challenge to converse with her solely in Italian, but I already feel myself learning and understanding the language better.

When I’m not at home, I am attending class for my pre-university class, which is in a building in the center Florence. After the first day of class, I finally got to explore the city. Just when I had thought that my neighborhood in the outskirts of Florence was pretty, the heart of the city took my breath away. Seeing the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or the “Duomo” as it is referred to here, in person every day is magical, as it was something I only ever saw in my school textbooks. I also got to visit the Palazzo Vecchio Museum with my class, where we viewed breathtaking art and got to see a stunning view of the city.

Last, but not least, the food. From the night that I got here and tried my host mom’s homemade gnocchi, I knew that the food here was on a different tier. It truly puts any Italian-American meal to shame- even Kimball’s famous chicken parm.


There is so much about Florence that I have fallen in love with so far, and I am so excited to continue to explore the city and wherever else my study abroad experience takes me!

The Weeks Leading Up

As I’m writing this blog entry, I’m in a coffee shop in my small hometown in Massachusetts. I’d much rather be writing this from a caffé in Italy, but alas, I won’t be studying abroad in Florence for another week and a half. 

Sipping Italian coffee and being in a city that doesn’t have such cold winters are among a few of the things that excite me to be in Italy, but I am also a bit nervous- five months is a long time! I’m going to miss those closest to me, and it’s difficult to comprehend being in different time zones from them. 

I’m sure once I’m there I won’t want to leave, but in the meantime, I’ve been keeping myself busy so that I don’t ruminate too much. For the past month, I’ve been working as a hostess at a local Italian restaurant. Aside from giving me a taste of Italian food (literally and figuratively), working has been a nice way to save up money for expenses abroad. 

I’ve also been brushing up on my Italian, as all of my classes will be taught in Italian, and I will be living with a woman who does not speak English. To go about this, I’ve been using the app called DuoLingo, which gives me daily practice questions. 

I know that the thing I should be focusing on the most before I leave is packing. This is a bit difficult because I can only bring so many items in my suitcase, and I’m not sure which clothes in my wardrobe are most appropriate for European fashion. The latter has been my biggest roadblock in packing, and has even led to rather excessive online shopping. I know that’s a trivial issue though, and my mom reminded me, “you’re there to see Italy, not for Italy to see you”. 

These upcoming days leading to my departure have certainly been chaotic and stressful, but I know once I arrive in such a beautiful country that I’ve always wanted to go to,  most of my worries will cease. 

My next entry will be from Florence- I hope you stick around to read it!