Living in a Foreign Country

Ciao!

Time has been flying by here in Reggio Emilia. I still feel as if I just stepped off the plane, but I have been here for over three weeks already! I feel as if time moves faster here, but its probably because I stay busy. The first week here I was extremely jet lagged and just felt tired at odd hours. I am finally feeling like I’m adjusting to the time zone and that this is my new home for the next few months. I bought my own coffee cup and pillow..what else do I need?

When I was trying to think of subjects I wanted to write about, I was really struggling because there are SO MANY little things about Italy and Italians that I find fascinating. I’ve started to become use to how they act, how they speak, how they dress, how they eat, but it doesn’t mean I always remember that the shops close for 3-4 hours every afternoon for the siesta, for example.

Let me begin with one thing that continues to fascinate me every day: their food. I’m sure I don’t need to mention that it’s quite delicious (that’s probably implied of Italian cuisine). The part that’s so different from America is the way that they eat. Eating isn’t something that you do in a hurry. There is no fast food (at least not here), and speed is not a factor when choosing a meal. The servers do not bring you a check and constantly ask you “Is everything alright?”. They do not stare at you if you take your time. Eating is more of an event. At about 9 pm is the time that Italians begin to come out for dinner. My favorite part of this is the fact that most have an outdoor eating area and it looks rather pretty at night. Not to mention the fact that they don’t use as much preservatives here: eggs and milk are not refrigerated. They don’t go to the grocery store and stock up for the week like Americans..they buy what they need soon because it goes bad rather quickly (which is very sad when you’re only cooking for one).

The hours for businesses are also very different. This also gets a little annoying for an American that is used to 24 hour this and that. Things never seem to close in America. It’s a refreshing change, but sometimes you want to go to the store at 2 pm, or Sunday afternoon, and you can’t. Everyone disappears from the city at siesta time at 1 pm and suddenly they all pour onto the streets around 4 pm…it’s very odd to me still. I imagine that it’s great for them though, they get a break from working and can go home and truly enjoy their food. As I mentioned before, Italians love their food…except breakfast! Just a cappuccino and maybe a croissant is all they need. I’ll take my pancakes, bacon, and a mug of coffee- sorry, Italians.

Ciao!

MEO

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La dotta, la grassa, e la rossa (Bologna, Italy)

A few days ago I had the chance to take a trip to Bologna (the historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region), and it was really a beautiful city. I was expecting it to look similar to Reggio Emilia, but the architecture was much more historic looking. There was an abundance of preserved churches or chiesas, and the streets were lined with booths and markets. I saw so many different shops lining the streets that I couldn’t even keep track as to what was what. It is a large city of 375,000, and it is much more of a tourist destination than Reggio Emilia is. It was really interesting to see the difference between a tourist Italian city compared to a smaller Italian city. Bologna is the seventh most populous city in Italy, and the first settlements of the city date back to 1000 BC! It’s amazing how well preserved the city was in relation to it’s age.

The other students and I went on a guided tour of the city (FYI don’t wear a romper when you’re going to be touring a sacred church in Italy..I wasn’t allowed in) and we saw important landmarks– the Basilica of San Petronio (the fifteenth largest church in the world) is left unfinished to this day. I also saw the famous two towers of Bologna- Le due torri, which are left leaning and were built between 1109 and 1119. I saw the ruins of the ancient Roman road, which were visible below the Sans Borsa Library (see picture below). I was able to step foot at the oldest university in the world: the University of Bologna (pictures below) which was important for students in the medieval ages and looked beautiful to this day.

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My study abroad group in Bologna.

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One of my roommates and I enjoying un gelato!

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Pistachio gelato is where it’s at!

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I love the archways and tunnels everywhere.

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University of Bologna: the oldest university in the world!

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The University ceiling.

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Molto bello!

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I love walking down the streets and seeing fresh food everywhere!

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Practically the only way to get meat in Italy– fresh.

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The ancient Roman ruins!

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Funny story: I tried to order two other sandwiches in Italian and the waiter just said “No”, “No”, to what I wanted. I still have no idea why. Maybe my horrible pronunciations of Italian food? Finally I just got pizza, because you can’t go wrong with pizza. 

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Selfie with the ancient ruins!

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A street artist.

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Le due torri.

Ciao! Grazie mille!

–MEO

First Impressions

Just as I stepped foot on the plane to my flight to Germany (where I had a layover) I already began noticing differences between Europeans and Americans. I was lucky enough to sit next to a kind German woman heading home from the states. At the end of the flight when we had finally landed (8 and a half hours later), some people started clapping. The American girl next to me and I started talking about how this was very odd, and the woman explained that this was something Germans did as a way to thank the pilot. I know– clapping after a plane lands isn’t a huge deal, right? But its these really small differences that are most intriguing to me.

It has been several days since I landed in Italy and it has already flown by. The city is very beautiful and is similar to how I imagined Italy would be like. I live in the downtown area, so I am in the heart of the city (which has it’s pros and cons). It’s great to live right off the main piazza, and I am surrounded by so many shops, restaurants and cafes. Most younger people can speak a little English (enough to understand them), but its not quite as common with the older people.

I’ve come up with a list of some interesting Italian quirks:

  1. Restaurants will not serve dinner until beginning at about 8 pm. Don’t expect to rush through a meal either; you are meant to take your time and really enjoy your food.
  2. Italians are scary drivers. They will fit their little fiats through a crowd of people or a narrow street. Also if you have a green light to walk..they can still turn out in front of you- that was a shocker.
  3. Italians are also scary on bikes. You seriously have to pay attention.
  4. I had read somewhere that Italians tend to stare, and I found this to be very true. I think in America we think its rude to stare, but it seems acceptable here perhaps?
  5. Italian men catcall a lot more often than American men. Ciao! bella
  6. The food here is amazing. Come here for the food. Even at the grocery store a lot of the food is local or Italian.
  7. Espresso is going to be an acquired taste.
  8. I’ve had two Italian professors tell me that Italians are always late. Chaos is normal here. You do what you please.
  9. Things that are not free: bags at the grocery store, and water at a restaurant..
  10. That reminds me– acqua frizzante (carbonated water) is everywhere and I am not a fan (accidentally bought 6 large bottles of it of course).
  11. Smoking is still a common thing here. I was not expecting this one at all.
  12. Italians have hand gesture for everything. Today an Italian student taught me the gesture for “this food is really good”.

That’s all for now! Ciao!

-MEO

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Flying from Frankfurt to Bologna was very scenic!

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The view from my apartment window.

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Our kitchen, shared with my roommates.

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My room (and my roommate).

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First Italian sandwich with fresh everything. The food is AMAZING- even just a sandwich.

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I had to try real Italian spaghetti- it was so different  and the noodles had more oils and less sauce like in America. The wine was a local lambrusco.

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Reggio Emilia is where the Italian national flag was first adopted, so the colors are displayed in this fountain at night.