A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Melissa_Scatena

Thank You Mom And Dad for Giving Me The World.

Interlaken, Switzerland
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Pisa, Italy
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Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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Barcelona, Spain
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Budapest, Hungary
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Paris, France
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Venice, Italy
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Dublin, Ireland
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Nice, France
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Florence, Italy
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The really are not enough words for me to express my gratitude and appreciation to my parents for providing me with such a wonderful opportunity to live and learn and travel throughout Europe for the past three months. I feel so blessed and I hope this little project can show how often I thought of them no matter where I went and how grateful I am for all they have given me throughout my life.

Melissa

Posted by Melissa_Scatena 13:11 Comments (0)

The Little Things

I feel like so much of what I have shared with my friends and family since I've been abroad has been about the big things: the places I've travelled, the pictures I have taken or the people I have met. But this adventure I have been on for the past month and a half has included countles smaller things that I would love to share.

There's really no picture that could capture the adrenaline rush I felt biking down the streets of Barcelona with the wind blowing in my hair or the way my heart melted when my grandfather emailed me explaining how him and my grandmother shared this same joy of traveling the word. I wish I could show you the look on my host mothers face as we taught her the single ladies dance and explained the influence Beyonce has had on America. You all would have truly been humored by the image of my clumsy self spilling my last free beer at the Heinekan Museum in Amsterdam in front of everyone. I wish you could have heard the incredible violinist on our Danube river cruise in Budapest that played an American classical song just for us so we could feel a little closer to home. I would love to capture the taste of a margarita pizza at Gusta in Firenze that has set my taste buds at a standard too high for my own good. Or the hilarious moment in Interlaken when my sled slid down the Swiss Alps right in front of me so fast that I was pretty sure it was gone for good. Or the feeling of pride and accomplishment I felt when I was teaching English in my Italian middle school classroom and one of the students finally felt like they learned something and gave me the biggest smile.

All of these moments are what being abroad, living and learning and seizing every single second is all about.

Three years ago tonight, I laid in a bed in a hospice center with my grandmom and watched her take her final breath. I thought about all the things I wanted to do in my life to live out her legacy and to make her proud. I remembered a note I had received from her on Facebook a few months earlier, that read "this is your grandmother sending love"..it was at that moment that I realized what that saying "it's the little things in life that really matter" truly meant. I realized it was the little things that you look back on and become more meaningful then all of the big things. I've taken that outlook with me everyday since and most recently, through this self-discovering, incredible, European journey.

I have never felt so blessed and so lucky. I'm learning more than I could have ever imagined, making the most incredible memories, meeting the greatest people, and having the absolute time of my life. I'm trying my best not to take advantage of any day because I know this time is flying by right in front of my eyes.

This post and this trip is dedicated to my family and friends and those who knew and loved my hero and my best friend, Janet Mintzer. I know how hard tomorrow will be for all of you. I take her with me everywhere I go. Feeling farther from home than ever tonight. Miss you all.

Posted by Melissa_Scatena 12:21 Comments (0)

Week 1: FIFA

Firenze, Italy

Starting to realize it's going to be impossible to update this thing everyday so were going to try one post a week updating everyone. Thank you for all of the love and support I've gotten. The comments I received from so many of my friends and family truly made my week. It means so much that all of you take time out of your busy days to check in and see what I'm up to. So please continue to do so!

This week has been unreal. It feels like I'm on a week vacation, it still hasn't hit me that I am actually living here. I have fallen so head over heals in love with this city and everyday I find more and more to obsess over. Between the food, the art, the people, the language, and of course, the wine, Firenze is truly the most incredible city in the world.

Week 1 Update Breakdown:

Classes:
This week we started our intensive Italian classes. I came in knowing absolutely noting in Italian. Literally, "ciao bella" was pretty much the extent of it. Through speaking with my house family, people on the streets, practicing with my friends, and taking Italian 101, in just a few short days I am feeling so much more confident. I have decided to switch into two sections of Italian, so six credits, meaning I only have to attend class one extra day a week, and my grade will count for both classes. Basically, if I get an A in Italian 101 and hand in all the paper work satisfactory, I automatically get an A in Italian 102 on Blackboard, which is sicckkkk. My other three classes are Italian Food (basically a cooking class), Italian Wine (exactly what it sounds like), and an IDLS Teaching Internship class where we go to a local middle school and help them learn English. All of which start next week. I am really excited about my schedule, it is definitely easy and realistic and will allow me lots of free time to explore and travel. My Italian professor Suzanna is the most adorable Italian woman ever. She's an amazing professor and so bubbly and fun. She's also a sick artist. Like you know how in high school you're teachers would draw stick figures for examples, she drew this.

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I have already felt like I learned so much Italian just from our two hour classes everday this week. It is also really helpful to learn through our homestay mama. As she has no problem correcting us and teaching us, as we help in her with American in return.

Food
Just warning all of you now, these pictures may make you a little hungry and a little eager to hop on a plane and join me in Florence.

Since our host mom only cooks us dinner 3 nights a week, we got to experience a few different Italian restaruants this weekend. They were each ones that were highly recommended to us by past abroad students, and they truly got better and better every night.

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Gusta Pizza (most amazing pizza EVER) & directly across the street from school.

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Il Gatto & La Volpe - Family Style Antipaste

Pasta & Chicken

Pasta & Chicken


Ristorante Pizzeria Il Teatro
They also gave us free fruit for dessert! The Italians love giving us free things at meals...be it dessert, extra, wine, shots, etc
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Nutella Crepe

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3 Steak Sampler at Aqua del 2

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4 Dessert Sampler at Aqua del 2

Valentino & Friends @ Aqua del 2

Valentino & Friends @ Aqua del 2


Valentino - our new friend, the owner of Aqua del 2.
Side note - Aqua del 2 is incredible. They have a restaruant with the same menu in DC, and I HIGHLY recommend it.

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Croissant from the Secret Bakery (this place is only open from 2am - 6am). Its shady but awesome and so close to our house. We are addicted. Dont mind the bite I have already taken...I just couldnt wait before I took the picture.

Its difficult to go into to detail about each restaurant or meal because there have already been so many stories and jokes behind each picture which I will be happy to share with you when I return home. By the way, I know youre all probably thinking. Uh oh Melissa has put up all this delicious food that shes eating, shell probably come home plus one hundred pounds, dont worry! We litterally walk miles upon miles each day and we cant really snack. One because were on a budget and two because were not allowed to cook in the homestay. So weve only really been eating at each meal. I also really hope I can bring home some recipes for my dad and sister to try and cook up some of these delicious sweets and incredible meals because I really dont know how Im going to enjoy the food in the US after all of these Italian dining experiences.

Night Life
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Salute (Cheers!)
Funny story about this... so our first night out we met a few nice Italians who were trying to teach us Italian and we asked them how to say Live in the moment or Carpe Diem. And they told us a phrase which Im not goin to write in case any of you are so curious that you would google translate it and that would ruin the story. So since that night we have been yelling and cheersing this phrase at every meal. Litterally I mean every meal. Like every nice restaurant we would yell it. Turns out, last night at Aqua del 2, our friend Valentino (the owner) gave us some free strawberry wine to taste and we did cheers and yelled that phrase. All of a sudden, he looks at us in disbelief and starts hysterically laughing. At that moment, we knew that we were the truly definition of stupid gullible americans. This phrase weve been cheersing all weekend is actually an extremely inappropriate phrase that should definitely not be yelled anywhere. We were all crying laughing and it was probably the funniest moment of our week so far. Just our luck! If youd like to know the phrase, whats app me and I will fill you in, but definitely cant be posting it on the world wide web.

Additionally, youve probably been wondering (or maybe you havent) what the heck FIFA is in the title of the post. It means F It [were in] Florence Abroad. Its kind of our way of saying YOLO, but much cooler. Everytime we want to try something new or do something crazy we say it. Its definitely helped us to truly live up every moment of this trip.

Speaking of every moment, we have actually been awake and enjoying Florence more since we got here than we have been sleeping. I havent gotten home before 4 am one day this week and I have loved every minute of it. We spend most of the time at different bars and clubs and then exploring the streets, meeting new people and practicing our Italian. Its actually so indescribable. Honestly, every day and every night has gotten better and I just cant believe it hasnt even been a week.

Last night at Red Garter, an American bar, we went for a happy hour my four closest friends and I (Chelsea, Peg, Meg & Blair) and ordered a beer tower. It came out with a sparkler on top and it was so awesome! We finished all of it which was pretty impressive, but it was actually the first time weve drank beer all week. Italian beer is much better than the Natty Light at JMU... no surprise there.
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These are the girls Ive been doing everything with and will also be traveling with me for most of my trips!
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From left to right (Chelsea my roommate, me, Meg, Peg & Blair...all of whom are also roommates down the street from us!)

On Saturday night we went to Space Night Club. It was the epitomy of fun. The entire JMU group got in VIP and we had our own stage to dance on together. We were being silly and crazy and even at one point got up to the balcony behind the DJs which is where I took this awesome picture.
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It was nice to have a chance to just let loose and enjoy some great music and dancing with all of my new friends. Sounds cliche, but it really was one of the greatest nights of my life. Were looking forward to heading back there for the "Fat Joe" aka the guy who sings "Lean Back" free concert in a few weeks.

Thats all Ive got for you guys now. Were heading to the Rome vs Florence "futball" aka soccer game on Wednesday, Pisa Friday and Sienna Saturday. We also just booked our trip to Interlaken, Switzerland the next weekend from Thursday to Sunday through a tour group called Florence for Fun where we have made some awesome friends who will be our tour guides and have totally been hooking us up and showing us around in Florence. We hope to do some skiing, snowboarding, or night sledding on the Swiss Alps and then choosing between skydiving, canyon jumping or paragliding depending how brave we are feeling. Weve heard awesome things about this place (adventure capital of europe) so we are super pumped for this to be our first trip.

Hope to hear from all of you who read all of this. Thanks again for taking the time and hope you enjoy reading about all of these awesome adventures.

Love and miss you all!

Ciao!

Melissa

Posted by Melissa_Scatena 02:31 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

✓ Get lost.

"Not all those who wander are lost."

Not quite sure why we put this on the bucket list because it has pretty much occurred a few times a day since we arrived. The first time was on purpose. Our first day Chelsea and I just wondered around trying to explore and ended up getting lost and having to trace our steps back through the pictures we took which was pretty funny. We came upon a lot of awesome shops, yummy looking restaurants and unique little stores. For example, we found this awesome wood shop that was based around Pinocchio and had all kinds of awesome hand crafted wooden things like coo coo clocks, toy cars, wooden dolls, etc. Pinocchio's Wood Shop

Pinocchio's Wood Shop

Chelsea also decided to splurge and buy a really cute sweater from Massimo Duty. Never too soon to start shopping I guess. Although, I am proud to say that Ive decided to keep my shopping to a minimum, so I could budget my money around eating extra meals, gelato trips, bakery sweets, and traveling. We'll see how long this plan lasts.

I'm finally starting to learn the difference between wandering and getting lost. We tend to wander on a daily basis to learn, to be adventurous and to discover. However, a lot of the time when we have a destination such as going to school or meeting friends for drink, we tend to get lost. This can be a little stressful and annoying, but after a few days, the times we have unintentionally gotten lost have become fewer and fewer. We started looking up directions on our phones and then screen-shotting them so that we can use them when we walk since we don't have wifi outside our house. This has been a life saver.

Today, I decided I wanted to take sometime to explore on my own and left my house with only my camera and my phone. I had no destination but just wanted to check out some of the streets and piazzas I haven't seen before. It was so relaxing, and beautiful. I found so many secret shops, breathtaking views, and took a few too many pictures. I think the past few days we've been trying to fit in as locals, so we've avoided most of the typical touristy things like taking pictures of everything. Today I was definitely a tourist and I was definitely lost, but I loved. I always seem to be able to find my way home and thats the best part.

I've promised myself I'll spend an hour wandering every single day forcing me to continue to explore and learn. It still doesn't seem real that I'm here and I have this amazing opportunity to live here. I don't want to waste a single moment.

I read a quote once that now makes perfect sense. It said "If you don't get lost, there's a chance you may never be found". This entire experience is about stepping out of my comfort zone, trying new things, facing my fears, and taking risks. I can not wait to see what else is in store.

Posted by Melissa_Scatena 09:56 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

New Country, New Language, New People

Let the adventures begin..

Ciao family & friends!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and stay updated on my super cool life in Europe. Feel free to comment on my post so I know you checked in and makes me feel like I'm not writing all this for nothing. Got to Florence safe and sound yesterday afternoon. Flights were easy, and although I felt like shit (stuffy nose, chapped lips, sneezing galore..yes i was that annoying girl on the plane), its safe to say others had it worse. A few people on our program got their flights canceled or delayed and their baggage lost. Luckily, my two huge overweight suitcases made to Firenze, and even found their way up our 89 steps to our flat. Yes you read that right, Chelsea (my super cool roommate) and I carried all of our luggage up the steps. It was worth it though, because when we got to the top we met our amazing host mom Myriam and saw the incredible place we will be living for the next few months. She was super friendly and although she only speaks limited English, we are able to hold wonderful conversations with her. She showed us the balcony and the breath taking view of Piazza Santa Croce. (See picture below)

View from our balcony!

View from our balcony!

I also forgot to mention that our first impression of Italy was our cab driver. He was so adorable and friendly but had serious road rage. We soon found out that all Italian drivers are crazy drivers. Literally felt like we were on a roller coaster and now walking around we can see that driving is no joke, they are ruthless and will drive through these tiny roads with their tiny cars not caring whose walking in the way. Super scary but awesome at the same time.

Anyway, after our tour of the home and my unpacking (which took far too long, the rents were right saying I brought way too much..whoops!), Chels and I decided it would be fun to check something off the bucket list right away. Side note- during our four hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany we made ourselves a bucket list for the semester, in addition to writing our first entries in our travel journals. We decided to check off: Get lost. See next post about entitled Get lost to hear more about that one, but lets just say it was definitely a success. Allowed us to explore the area around where we were living. It was no doubt, love at first sight.

We then came home for a delicious dinner with our host mom, her boyfriend Michele, Myriams sisters, and three other JMU girls who are living in the apartment but coming to our house for dinner. Also side note about Myriam and Michele, they are probably in their mid forties have been hosting American students for eight years now and have been together for even longer. Myriam is a dancer\actress in Operas and has the reputation of being the best host mom cook (obvs why we picked her). Michele (prounced Mee-shell) doesnt speak any English, is a little quieter, but is an avid rock climber. Super interesting dude. So anywho, they made us our first home-cooked Italian dinner. We had some pasta and chicken with melted cheese and ham on it, in addition to some classic Italian white wine. We then had a delicious salad and bread with some oil and balsamic and they even recommended we put some salt on it. You know me, I was like OH YEAHHHH. (Not really though, but I laughed out loud in my head cause I really do have an addiction to salt and I thought Id have to give it up while abroad...but I guess not. Instead of my mom hiding the salt like at home, my host mom ENCOURAGES it. How fab). So then the best part came after dinner, we had heard Myriam preparing this "cake" all day, so we were really loooking forward to dessert. She explains it to us and it turns out what they call cake is a bowl of homemade perfectly whipped chocolate mousse with nuts sprinkled on top. It was probably the most amazing thing to ever touch my lips in my life. I was only one to accept seconds when she offered because I just couldnt deny it, even though I was so full. It was that good.

Now that you are all drooling in jealousy, I will stop discussing the amazing food (hopefully all my posts wont be this long venting about it, but if its always as good as it was last night....they just might be). We ended the night by giving Myriam and Michele the chocolates, cookies, and American flag teddy bear we brought them as a house warming gift. We even wrote a thank you in advance letter in Italian. They totally called us out on our google translating but definitely appreciated the attempt. They even started to tear up a little when they were reading it which was super cute. We then preceded to pay 1.99 to buy the Bachelor season premiere on itunes because no show websites work outside of the US and we just couldn't wait. Fell asleep before the girls limo showed up because were exhausted, so hopefully well find some downside to catch up on that this week. Although, fortunately that is the least of my priorities.

This morning we went to James Madison University in Florence for our orientation we learned lots about pickpocketing and the dangers of alcohol, etc and got all our important documents and our Italian phones. They are super organized and experienced which made me feel safe. We then toook a walking tour with our director Alessandro, hes a super adorable italian man who I heard is going to be an incredible professor. Then we came home and had gusta pizza which we had heard amazing things about and it was actually even better than we thought.

Were home now. Im going to meet some friends for drinks and see Jamies apartment! Looking forward to another incredible meal tonight.

I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for checking in!

Melissa

Posted by Melissa_Scatena 13:40 Archived in Italy Comments (9)

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