Meredith – Italy
Caio! I am sad as it is some of our last couple days here in Italy. This has been one of the fastest months of my life. I am so sad to leave this country and all the people I have met. This week we will be staying in Vico Equense and traveling to Pompeii, Positano, and Amalfi. I am so excited to visit these places!
This is the view from our hotel. It is a really nice hotel. We have a view of the coast, Mount Vesuvius, and a pool to lay out at.
On our second day we did a guided tour of the city of Pompeii. It was extremely hot this day so I was trying to find shade wherever I could. This picture below is one of the little amphitheater’s that they built.
The next thing we viewed was a body that had been covered in ash from the volcano that erupted over the city. The body decayed but the exact position of the body in their final moments remained the same due to the ash. This was really sad to see but a unique learning experience to actual see this city in real life.
Our last day was a day trip to Positano and Amalfi. This was one of my favorite days of the entire program. We had so much fun. We got to lay out on the beach of beautiful Positano and then take a boat down the coast to Amalfi and walk around that town. Positano was a beautiful place that had coloful buildings lining the mountain much like Cinque Terre.
One piece of advice: wear sunscreen. Two hours in the Italian sun will get you crispy. We all enjoyed swimming in the sea. One thing I will say is that the beaches will hurt your feet if you do not have shoes. Most of the beaches in Italy are made of rocks and it looks pretty but my feet say otherwise. Definitely have some type of water shoes or water resistant shoes that you can wear down to the water. Your feet will thank you from the burning hot sand and uncomfortable rocks you walk on.
I can not believe it is time to pack up and say our goodbyes. This was one of the best months of my life. I wish I could have fit a semester abroad into my time as ECU, but a world pandemic kind of screwed that plan up. I am still happy that I could take the summer abroad program and even happier that I chose the ECU Tuscany program. Linda Darty is one of the best people I have ever met and I know she has worked so hard to make this program what it is today. I was very impressed with how organized our whole month was. I talked to some friends studying abroad in Florence and they did not know what their itinerary was for the summer. So trust me, we had something to do every single day with a time schedule. This was so helpful so we could plan out what we wanted to do when we had free time. Now that does mean we did a lot of walking. We walked an average of 7 miles a day, everyday, in 90 degree weather. I definitely got my shoes worn in during this trip and it may even be time for a new pair soon. But for all the places we got to see, food we ate, and experiences we had I would do it all over again.
I hope everybody takes the chance to study abroad once during their time in college. I was able to make new friends that were from all over the world and new friends that I can not wait to run into on campus at ECU. Communicating in a different language, learning how people outside of the United States live and their obstacles, and learning how to not act like a “tourist” in a foreign city is something that I experienced and hope others get to experience during their time abroad. It really was the experience of a life time and now I will be taking a nap. Thank you for following along on my journey and I hope this made you want to study abroad one day too!
After we returned from our Cinque Terre trip, we had one class day before we left for Florence. I will add that this program is amazingly coordinated and planned. We typically take private charter buses on each trip we take. This is very nice since it is comfortable seating compared to the public train and you do not have to worry about train strikes (which is common in Italy). Train strikes are planned by unions and workers will not work the trains when they are protesting something (hours, conditions, pay, etc) and this can really affect travel plans. For Florence we were able to take the train since Certaldo has a train that goes straight to Florence and only takes about 1 hour. This was our first view walking into the city of Florence where the Basilica and Duomo is located. IT IS HUGE. The picture just does not do it justice.
During our time in Florence, we were able to visit the Bargello Museum, Uffizi Museum, and Academia Museum to see all the famous artworks that are housed there. My favorite piece was Michelangelo’s David sculpture that is pictured below. It was so much bigger than I pictured it being. One thing I noticed in Florence was how many students I saw there. I mean it almost felt like I saw more Americans than I did Italians at some points. I feel like it would be a different experience studying abroad in a place like Florence compared to Certaldo. I felt more immersed in a culture and language in Certaldo where I had to speak Italian whereas in Florence the workers assumed I would only speak English to them. Overall, it was a cool experience in Florence and I am glad I was able to experience such an artistic city.
Our last night in Florence consisted of a cooking class. This was my favorite activity we did in Florence. We learned how to make a spinach ricotta quiche, pear pecorino ravioli, and tiramisu. It was delicious and we all got to eat what we made. We had so much fun learning how to make the pasta and hoping I can try to recreate it when I get back home.
After we returned from Florence, we had one final class day in Certaldo and ended with an amazing final dinner at Bar Boccaccio’s. This was one of my favorite places to eat and the staff was so nice to us. We will be traveling for the remainder of the program until we leave and fly out of Naples!
This week we are traveling to Rome, Vico Equense, Pompeii, Positano, and Amalfi. Our first stop was Rome for 3 days. In Rome, we got to visit the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, the Coliseum, and the Trevi Fountain.
When we got to tour St. Peter’s Basilica there was a service going on inside. The choir voices filled the space of the basilica. It echoed throughout the whole church. It was something like I had never experienced before.
Overall, I thought Rome was a huge city and it kind of reminded me of New York City but with more history, art, and architecture. The pizza was amazing, and the shopping was amazing. And for all my Zara shopping addicts, there was a four-story Zara in Rome. I put a picture down below for some proof.
Next, we will be traveling to Vico Equense. This is a small village outside of Naples that sits on the coast. I am so excited to be on a beach again!
This past two weeks consisted of classes and a lot of travel around Italy. I am taking Italian Literature with a professor from Florence, Italy; Yoga, and Art Appreciation with Linda Darty. Italian Literature consists of reading short stories about Italian cities or people and then discussing it in class. I also like that we talk about cultural differences and how we view the western world versus how Italians view the western world. The typical class day for me in Certaldo consists of yoga at 8:00, breakfast after, and then I get ready and head to art appreciation. After art appreciation, I go eat lunch and do my readings for Italian Literature and then head to the classroom. It is usually 6 when I finish classes so it’s time to get ready for dinner. We all eat dinner together as a group which I enjoy!
After some class days this week we were finally able to travel to some cool places! We went to Volterra and San Gimignano for a day trip. When we got to Volterra we were able to watch a local make a bowl out of alabaster. It was very cool to watch this trade being done. He had a whole shop full of items he made that we could buy.
After we left Volterra, we went to San Gimignano to eat world champion gelato! It was delicious!
After the gelato, we visited the Duomo di San Gimignano. This church had images depicted on the walls telling biblical stories, almost like a comic book.
We finished the day with a tour and dinner at a family farm in Tuscan vineyard. This was a family run farm where we were served about 8 courses and ate overlooking the vineyard. We were able to see their crops, animals, and learn about the wine-making process. This was definitely one of my favorite days. The views were amazing, and the food was even better.
Our next trip was a day trip to Siena. In Siena we visited the Duomo di Siena. This was a beautiful church that was so much bigger inside than it looks. It blew my mind that the people built this centuries ago and it is still in great condition.
We were able to climb a steep and narrow tower to the top that overlooked all of Siena. It was beautiful!
Our next trip was a weekend in Cinque Terre. This was my favorite place so far. All the buildings were so colorful and the weather was perfect. We were able to hike in between the villages and then go exploring all 5 villages that make up Cinque Terre. We stay in Monterosso, the biggest village, but it was fun to go see what the other villages looked like. Below is a picture of me in Riomaggiore.
Below is a picture that I took in the middle of Monterosso. It is truly beautiful everywhere you go and the towns are filled with lemon trees everywhere.
On our way back to Certaldo we were able to stop at Pisa and take your typical tourist picture with the leaning tower of Pisa.
These past two weeks have been amazing and filled with so much adventure, learning, and exploring. I am so excited for our next trips and wish time would slow down. It’s too beautiful here!
I have arrived in Venice, and it is beautiful! This was the longest plane ride I had ever been on, and we were served a chicken and rice dinner (surprisingly good for airplane food).
Even though I came with two friends I have already met so many more people and we all clicked fast. It is interesting that this summer group ended up being all girls (which I love)! We did a lot of exploring the first two days and were able to see a lot of Venice.
We are doing a lot of walking this week. Since the island does not allow any cars, you must walk everywhere. This is me pictured below in front of St. Mark’s Basilica. It is in one of the major squares that Venice has.
Besides this main square pictured above, the streets of Venice are often small and tight. In the picture below, the streets are called calles. The street names are painted on the buildings, but it is very easy to get lost. Venice is an island and has many canals that weave throughout the island.
This is one of my meals I had in Venice. It was a delicious pasta dish that I had with an aperol spritz. This drink can be found anywhere in Italy, especially Venice, as we noticed many people drinking them throughout the day. Learning the appropriate actions in a restaurant setting has probably been one of the most interesting things I have experienced. For example, you sit down at a table outside (if its nice weather of course) and the waiter/waitress will approach your table, water is not free, and they typically do not split the check for multiple guests. This became something we had to adjust to fast. We either had one person at the table pay and venmo each other or if we could all pay in cash, we could contribute our portion in euros. However, this seemed to be quite a task at the beginning, but we have gotten use to it. Additionally, the servers do not get tipped and they are in no rush for you to leave your table so another party can sit down. It is very relaxing to not feel rushed at a dinner because I have felt that at some points in the United States. I also learned that most of Europe does not have air conditioning. As someone who likes to sleep in a cold and dark room, this was probably my least favorite thing. But once we got a fan for our room all was well and I slept like a baby.
The picture below is another picture of Venice going over one of the bigger bridges. I learned it is illegal to swim in the water in Venice due to so much boat traffic.
Here is another one of the beautiful pieces of architecture that Venice has. I mean this place is covered with beautiful places to shop and eat. We had a lot of free time during our time in Venice since the classes have not started yet. We will be traveling to Certaldo Alto to begin classes soon. I have really enjoyed getting to know everyone and exploring Venice. I have really enjoyed my time in Venice and doing some shopping, eating, and touring. This is a big tourist city, so the shops are really cute and they also have a lot of designer stores. Overall, I enjoyed being able to come into the program and not have class for the first couple days and being able to take in the new culture and atmosphere. I am excited to see what else we discover during this month.
We have arrived in Certaldo Alto! The village sits up on a hill and has the most amazing views overlooking the Tuscan countryside.
This week we will be starting classes. I am taking yoga as my KINE 1000 credit, art appreciation, and Italian literature. Everyone here has been so nice, welcoming and excited that the “Americans are back”!
Ciao for now,
My name is Meredith Bullard and I am a rising senior at ECU studying Biomedical Engineering! I will be taking you along this month as I start packing for Italy and travel throughout the country! I had started looking at study abroad programs ever since my freshman year in 2019 and since COVID cancelled many, this is the first time I have been able to travel abroad. I will be studying abroad in Italy for about 1 month and traveling all throughout the country, starting in Venice and ending in the Amalfi Coast. I decided to do the ECU Tuscany program since it fit best within my degree plan, and I heard it was a great program through the study abroad office. This program travels to Venice, Certaldo Alto, San Gimignano, Volterra, Siena, Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, and the Amalfi coast. Our main location is Certaldo because the University has apartments in the village. I can only have a carry on for my month stay in Italy, so I have ordered packing cubes off amazon. I have found these to be a great help in tightly packing a lot of items. Packing clothes for Europe has been one of the most challenging tasks on my list. I know the style of Europeans is much nicer and cleaner than what I am used to seeing in Greenville. I am excited to explore new styles and see what the fashion is like in Italy. So far, I am packing tennis shoes, sandals, skirts, jeans, and simple, everyday tops. My awesome director, Linda Darty, said we will be doing a lot of walking and exploring so I am also trying to pack for the comfort route as well. I found that making a packing list has helped me stay on track of what I need to go buy or throw in my suitcase. I am so excited to start this trip. I am surprisingly not very nervous to be in another country and thrilled to take on this new adventure.
I am so excited, and I will see you all in Venice!