Italy

I told myself I would write this within one week of getting back to Hungary. Well, I guess I didn’t miss it by much at least. Honestly, I miss my office job a lot. I always had my work done on time (usually early) over the summer and I really miss that type of environment.  Someday I look forward to going back to something like that. But for now, adventure.

So I really didn’t expect to consider Italy one of the best places I went in 2017. My thoughts were that I had seen so many things last year that I had definitely already seen the most impressive things that I was going to see – temples in Thailand and castles in Slovakia, and everything else. I figured I didn’t get to be so lucky to enjoy the last place I went in a year as much as I ended up enjoying it. I was absolutely shocked. I really was so surprised how amazing the Duomo was in Florence. Confession: I didn’t even know what it was until I was standing there looking at it. The Colosseum was certainly impressive but I had no idea the rest of the Colosseum square looked straight out of ancient times with the arch and The Temple of Venus and Roma forming a triangle with the Colosseum. It was like a step back a few hundred (thousand ?) years. It was also super overwhelming. I hated Rome for the first four or so hours. I felt crammed and lost and alone. It was absolutely horrifying to step off the metro and see hundreds of people walk up the stairs in front of me to walk out on to Colosseo plaza and have hundreds more people wondering around and rip off tour companies trying to loudly convince me that I needed their tour in many different languages. I wanted to go home. I hated that I spent money to come to Rome. But after a couple hours and a tour of the Colosseum and Palantine Hill and a free walking tour, I fell in love with Italy again. I hope after seeing the pictures you feel the same way.  I also feel very lucky that nothing went wrong in my trip and I was able to end my first solo trip confident and excited about going alone again in the future.

I flew into Bologna on the 24th. I’ve always heard how horrible it is to fly around the holidays but I think it was one of the quickest boarding times I’ve ever had. It was definitely one of the shortest flights at around one hour. They barely had time to serve their overpriced sand whiches before it was time to put up the trays and land. Also, after about 10 flights on budget airlines, I have to say I don’t understand the horror stories. Every flight I’ve had has been fine. From the airport it’s a quick bus ride into the middle of Bologna.

These are pictures from Piazza Maggiore. The Fountain of Neptune is first. It was very nice and behind it was the huge tree set up for Christmas. the other pictures are from a building on the side of the square.The last is the church at that plaza, it was very beautiful and I only got yelled at for taking a picture I wasn’t supposed to take once.

These are the insides of the church. The picture on the left is what I got yelled at for taking. I think I answered in Hungarian to avoid being told to delete it. whooops.

These are more churches and the streets of Bologna. The churches were absolutely beautiful. I believe one was Santo Stefano and the other Santo Domingo but I don’t remember which was which. You can sort of see in the last couple of pictures, much of the sidewalk in Bologna is like a covered walkway from the building over top. They’re well known for them and at one point there’s several miles of connecting arches like this. I personally hated them. Structurally I get it. You can get a bit more space out of a city to build over top the sidewalks like this. But I have never felt more claustrophobic than walking through Bologna and not being able to see the sky. I felt small and trapped. I’m glad I know this and I while I really enjoyed eating my way through Bologna, never would I ever move here for this trapped-suffocating feeling/ reason.

I shamelessly walked to one Gelataria, bought the first gelato, and ate it on the walk to the second Gelataria. no regrats. not a single letter, or scoop. also, fried ravioli are lovely but so are fried tortellini. amazing. The first picture is the most typical dish for Bologna but it’s supposed to be tortellini instead of whatever pasta shape that is. I didn’t realize my mistake on reading the menu until after my food came out. it was still good.

To finish out my time in bologna, I took a tour from Amazing Italy. It was, well, amazing. I was really worried it would be terrible as it was the second tour I booked through Viator and the first was the disaster of a tour in Israel. I hesitantly approached the tour van on Wednesday to meet Andrea. This quickly turned out to be one of the best tours I took out of the ten or more I took throughout the countries last year. We started the day at a parmigiana factory. it was so cool to see the process. 1200 kilos of milk to 100 kilo of cheese!!! Andrea said that so many times for emphasis I’m surprised I don’t say it in my sleep now. I wish that I was able to post the videos on here of the process but WordPress doesn’t support it so I hope you enjoy the pictures instead and venture to my Facebook or Instagram for the videos.

Andrea had one of the workers jump in my picture since I was the only one alone. The milk is in the huge vats until eventually hey pull out the big blob of parmigiana and a pulley system takes into the next room where the workers put them into the white bins and then they sit underwater for a while and eventually are stacked into the big room with all of the cheese on shelves to age for up to five years. inspectors come and use the small hammer to hear whether or not the cheese is good. “defective” cheese is still sold, it’s just not such a good quality and is cheaper. very few wheels are actually not sold and usually the reason for that is mold which is also rare. That’s the condensed version of a very wordy process. Afterwards we tried two differently aged samples and while parmesan isn’t something I would usually eat without crackers or something, this was more than good enough to eat alone, or actually, with just some wine. IMG_1060.JPGwine number one of the day.

then we moved on to the prosciutto factory. it’s a small family owned business with only three workers.

it’s a lengthy process to make good prosciutto. There’s a lot of massaging with salt and a lot of hanging around. It ends with the inspector ensuring it’s good to be sold with a horse bone tool poked into five different spots on the ham leg and smelled after each spot to test the quality. the visit was complete with tasting of course. After tasting probably the best prosciutto I will ever have, I think I can safely say it’s not one of my favorite foods. I think it’s just very boring and salty, probably not surprising after seeing how much salt is rubbed into the ham.

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Then we had a pit stop at the Ferrari museum and saw all of the old racing cars. It wasn’t so interesting for me but it did give some time to make room for the next few rounds.

The tour rounded off with stopping at a family run balsamic vinegar production. it was really cool to hear the owner talk about how making the vinegar works. They only take out of the smallest barrels in each line to bottle for production each year. Which means the harvest is very small. New grapes are boiled down into a juice and go into the big barrel. As the vinegar is taken from the small barrel, it is replaced by taking from the next small, and then the third is put into the second, and the fourth into the third, and so on. It’s a tedious process for a small reward. not to mention you have to wait 7 years before you can take any from the smallest barrel for the first time. But the owner said that each years vinegar gets better and better as it has been aged longer each time. The barrels in each line are made from a variety of wood to get a unique taste for each set. We tried the vinegar with cheese and then also on top of gelato. surprisingly, it was a good mix.

 

The final stop was at a family run restaurant for a meal teaming with home-made pasta. sadly, I seemed to have lost the third type of pasta and the dessert picture, but it was an amazing meal and I really would question anyone that left from there Hungary… it was also as much wine as one could drink. it was a fantastic way to end Bologna. Also, our waiter served all 15 of us and no matter who he finished serving out of his big dishes, he always put the extra past next to me. I honestly don’t know what I did to get that kind of karma, but it mustve been something really good. I was definitely living the Italian dream with a couple bowls of pasta on either side of me and bottomless wine in front. Afterwards, Andrea had the tour drop me off at the train station, God bless that man so I didn’t have to walk. I felt like I had an Italian dad when he told me all about how I needed to take a taxi to my hotel in Florence and I definitely shouldn’t be walking alone at night, aka 6pm. He was really beyond nice and I was very happy to have him as a tour guide.

So then Florence. I had booked another food tour for the next morning with Florence for foodies. I was again really impressed with this tour. I couldn’t have been happier with my tour guide Dina. She was so sweet and absolutely fantastic. When we were at the market and I said I was thinking about trying tripe, she automatically added it to the paninis she had ordered for us. Florence for Foodies is a hidden gem and I am only sad I couldn’t also talk one of the cooking classes they offered.

This was only three of the stops of the day. Breakfast, tripe, and wine made up about half the tour. I left so full I would’ve have eaten dinner but I wanted to go somewhere Dina had suggested for me. Everything we ate was delicious and Dina had so much information to go with everything. Did you know that to be a barista in Italy you have to go to school for six months? Did you know if you order your coffee standing it will be cheaper than sitting? Did you know an Italian will never take their coffee to go? So while everyone in America is taking their double mocha venti xl frap or whatever y’all get from Starbucks these days to go, Italians are at the coffee shop doing shots of expresso before work. If you ever go to Florence, Florence for foodies is a must. We also went to the Accademia and to see David. where Dina snapped a few pics for me.

a few random pictures from through out the city as well as a couple of the Duomo. The picture of me in it was taken by a random guy who sort of accosted me for assuming he spoke English after he got down on one knee to take my picture at the good angle. Ahhh, strangers.

I spend the rest of the day wandering in and out of a few museums and some streets. it was beautiful. I didn’t think I could look at art for so long but turns out I just have to be looking at things I liked and the attention span comes easy. Florence was amazing.

Are you still reading? okay good, time for the best part: The three course meal with a wine to match each one. Just kidding the best part is Rome but we are almost there. the beef tartar had me texting my mom and saying “ummm is this just raw meat, is this normal?” but the raviolis with wild boar sauce were to die for. the wine was pretty amazing as well. and now on to Rome.

IMG_1338ahh you can see the exhaustion on my face. It was a long few days. But a selfie (or many) was necessary after the couple hour wait in line and the big European dude that tried to fight me when he thought I was cutting him even though I had just purchased my ticket. crowds, I’m really not a fan. What’s my ultimate fantasy? Being able to go to the top tourist destinations and not seeing a soul around. Now that I’d pay a lot of money for. I still hated Rome in this picture. I didn’t come around to loving it until about this picture. this is the ruins of the temple of Venus and Roma. right across from the Colosseum and a stranger offered to take my picture and she took ten of me. being up on top of the hill away from the chaos of the crowd and surrounded by the old and new was just incredible. that’s when I decided I loved Rome.

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inside and outside the colosseum and palatine hill and everything in that area. it was incredible. It took me hours to see all of that winding up and down different pathways and inspecting everything. I was so blown away. it was really one of the coolest days I’ve had traveling. to finish the day I took a free walking tour and again lucked out with a great guide. we started out the Spanish steps, took a spin by Trevi, and ended at the Colosseum with a stop by the wedding cake aka the Altar of the Fatherland at plaza Venezia.

The picture on the left is St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. This is approximately where Peter was crucified and is also the church where the Pope comes out to give the blessing on Sundays at noon which unforutnately just happened to be about the time I went there. It was very crowded and they were doing a second security check because of it being NYE. So I didn’t go into the church because I would’ve spent all day in line waiting to see it. I also saw the Pantheon – tbh I’m just excited I didn’t call it the Parthenon to any Italian. the inside was stunning – did you know it’s also a grave site?

The top of the Pantheon is open and in the floor is a drain, truly impressive for the time in addition to how beautiful it is as well. the graves are the first king’s of Italy and the painter Rafaelo

To finish up Italy, in lieu of pictures from Naples, here’s a few more photos of food ranging from restaurants to train station, yes train station food. and an airport gelato. the street art is from Bologna and the lights on the bridge is from Florence. I was only in Naples for about 24 hours total and honestly… I didn’t liked it. I felt very uncomfortable as a girl. Lots of men made comments and tried to follow me and after walking over 50 miles in Rome, I was too exhausted to try and go out in the rain to see what hidden gems I was missing. Perhaps Naples is lovely; I don’t feel the need to go back and find out. I was advised by an Italian not to take the train to Naples like I had to Florence and Rome just due to it being unsafe. I also had taxi drivers screw me over out of taking the bus to the airport. They did the same to some Italian and we ended up sharing a taxi to the airport. Thank God because I was never going to find the bus with those guys telling me one way and other people telling me the bus stop was somewhere else and I was down to my last 5 euro. I also would’ve felt really scared going to the airport without other people in the car. Overall, just glad that was about the worst moment of the trip.

Rome in New Years: in the the plaza circus Maximus a dance company put on a show that just didn’t quite make sense but it was pretty cool to see the fire works at midnight and I had even made a friend to watch them with so it was pretty cool overall, but I have to say that Berlin was much more impressive a few years ago.

How did I get so many pictures of myself? Well, Andrea the guide was practically removing my phone from my hand at every photo op to take some pictures. After that, my go to was to find a person or two taking a selfie and ask if they would like me to take a picture of them. Usually they were more than happy to return the photo for me especially since I was alone. As my mom was quick to point out, this is really not normal for me. Me and my introvertedness should probably have just taken a selfie stick. I just don’t talk to that much to most people I know, forget strangers. I talked to more strangers while in Italy than I have ever planned to. Sometimes when I was completely comfortable sitting in silence and sometimes even I was grateful to share a conversation with someone.

So back to life in Hungary. I have one more week and then I move closer to Budapest at what is the semester change in Hungary. I will still be teaching 1-8th grade, just at a different school. my town name is Szazhalombatta (that was the first time I spelled that right without looking) and I’m hoping the move will give me more things to do after school. at least it’s a 30 minute train ride to the Buda side of the capital so when in doubt, I can alway stake the train in for a restaurant or even groceries. today I went to the Walmart of Hungary , Tesco, and was treated like an idiot when I picked up a single yoghurt even though there was plenty of yogurt alone instead of attached to three others. so no yoghurt for me. The worker wasn’t impressed with my English explanation Andy pointing to the aisle where I got my yoghurt but I wasn’t impressed with her thinking I didn’t know how to buy yoghurt when it was really her people who are doing it wrong. I’m sure she went home and told her family about the stupid English speaker at work today. sigh. The past two times I went, at least one of my items barcodes didn’t scan and the looks I got from workers was like I was trying to steal the bottle opener and whatever the other thing was. I don’t understand. But I plan to never go to Tesco again. The dad of the 4th grader I private tutor was pretty sad to hear I was moving but he was very surprised to hear I was living in Nyirpazony to begin with and couldn’t understand what an American would be doing here anyway.

Also, last night the carbon monoxide detector went off pretty late and so I turned off my heaters and cracked the windows and spent the night chilly after it told me the level of carbon monoxide was 75% higher than it should have been. ahhhhh adventures. when I told the problem this morning, the heaters were turned back on without being checked out so I’m just hoping I don’t have the problem again within the next week before I move. I really don’t know if there was something wrong with the detector or the level was actually high. I’ve been feeling sick and tired this week but there’s no reason that the level shouldn’t have gone back when the heaters went back on today. Nem Tudor.

With moving, the kids have been really bad this week and I’m assuming it’s because they know I won’t be there any more and they figure what I am doing doesn’t matter. It’s been beyond frustrating and I went through three games in as many minutes with my 6th grade this week due to their lack of effort/attention span. it’s been a fun week.

As far as the language goes, I can finally count fairly well, I know most of my colors, and I can sort of have a very basic conversation. I still can’t say that much but I can usually understand what people are saying based on context and I can recognize a lot of words when I see them. I almost had a full conversation this week with one of the janitors at school. It was a very cool feeling.

I have a lot of people who think they can just walk into my house. After the first time, I’ve been double checking my door is locked since I wasn’t so careful when an old man walked into my house one night about 7pm. however, this week I left my door locked for less than two minutes as I was coming in and going right out again and another man just walked in!! he seemed flabbergasted at my lack of Hungarian. And a woman came to my door this week and opened the first one and just stood there, didn’t even bother to knock, at the second when she found it locked as well. it was the strangest thing. when I finally did open the door, it took her a minute to realize I wasn’t pretending not to speak Hungarian and leave. I have literally no idea what these people are doing or what they’re looking for but it’s been really odd and I think I’ve been surprising them by being not what they’re looking for as well.

 

Learn Hungarian – Blue – kék (cake) ps. my brain still wants to speak Spanish to everyone

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