The Heart of Perugia, Italia

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My apartment building felt like it was out of some vintage Italian film. [Via Bartolo]
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Some of the best afternoons were spent exploring with my camera.
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I fell in love with the details of Perugia, especially the flower pots from the balconies.

I’ve been meaning to write some love about my beautiful city for a while now. When I mean a while, I mean for months. I’ve put it off because I don’t really know how to give this city justice…but I sure as hell can try.

I believe each city has its own personality; Perugia really makes you fall in love so effortlessly. I love how the city feeds off of the energy of the people. It’s not just a beautiful city. It’s medieval history is vividly shown through this epic ‘underground world’ that reminds me of something out of Harry Potter. The heart–or the core of Perugia is in it’s authenticity. Its found everywhere– in every restaurant, the always tempting goodies at pasticceria Sandri on display while walking Corso Vanucci, and freshly made cannolis that always run out before lunch time from that cafe that I still don’t know the actual name of. Because food is such an essential part of culture and travel, I had to share a few of my favorites in Perugia.

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This photo was taken as the last (for now) time at my favorite spot
when my family came to visit after my backpacking trip.
Taken during our first week, roommate out for lunch at Pizza Med for our first time
Taken during our first week, roommates out for lunch at Pizza Med for our first time.
They are the best.

Pizza Mediterranea  Better Neaopolitain pizza than I had in Napoli. These brick-oven crafted personal pizzas will raise your standards for pizza, forever. Just trust me. My friends made fun of me because I literally ALWAYS wanted to go here. I have no shame because it’s the best. We even had an accidental tradition of getting Pizza Mediterranea after weekends of traveling because it was a comfort of coming back home to Perugia. On warm days, you’ll see locals taking their pizza to-go and enjoying it on the steps near Fontana Maggiore.  Best for causal lunch/dinner date [Piazza Piccinino 11/12 Da Antonio]

This nook pizzeria is perfect for a quick slice of pizza.

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La Taverna Try the truffle ravioli, a house specialty and Umbrian dish that made me not only like, but love truffles. Each table is treated with complementary champagne, a veggie appetizer, and their homemade chocolate liquor.  I can’t recommend this restaurant enough–it’s a true Perugian experience. Best for impressing your family and your hot date. [Via delle Streghe]

Caffe Morlacchi This coffee shop is usually filled with Italian university students quickly taking their 1/7 espresso by the bar. My roommate Sammi discovered this place the first week or so and it easily became my go-to space to study or meet up place for a pastry and espresso macchiato. The prices are student-budget friendly and they have live music every week.[Piazza Morlacchi 6/8]

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No need for any excuses to sit, relax, laugh, eat, and drink on the steps–
it’s just what you do in Perugia.

Internationally, Perugia is known for Umbria Jazz, a festival held in July in the center of the city (just near my old apartment) and Eurochocolate, the chocolate festival held in the fall. Baci is Perugia’s most iconic hazelnut chocolate that is hard to miss while traveling throughout Italy. I even spotted it in “Little Italy” in San Francisco and instantly felt that Perugian love. The best part is that Perugian chocolate isn’t the sweetest part of the city…it’s the insanely beautiful views from the hilltop city that make it unforgettable.

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I was so blessed to have my favorite view of Perugia just up the stairs from my old apartment.
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A view of Via Appia, one of the most photographed parts of Perugia.
A vintage postcard I found in CA a year before I came to Perugia. Took this photo the last day I left as a reminder of how far I've come to get to where I am today.
A vintage postcard I found in CA a year before I came to Perugia.
Took this photo the last day I left as a reminder of how far I’ve come to get to where I am today.

Huge thanks to the talented Stephen Doyle for creating this video, gives me goosebumps every time.

I make a little appearance presenting research from my semester internship!

For more about my program, check out the Umbra Institute website or feel free to leave me a comment!

“The Little Blue” is a blog created by two awesome friends/staff members all on Perugia. Early in the semester, I started collaborating with them by updating photos.

Photo series: Prague, Czech Republic

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Old Town Hall Tower & the astronomical clock
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Traditional street food of sausage and beer near the clock tower
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Street food dessert of almond/toffee pastries…one of my favorites!
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Feeling the peace at the John Lennon wall
Making my mark on the wall with one of my favorite quotes by  Mumford & Sons
Making my mark on the wall with one of my favorite quotes by Mumford & Sons
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I had to try this famous Czech beer!
Traditional goulash with sausage, onions, peppers, and bread dumplings in a creamy sauce
Traditional goulash with sausage, onions, peppers, and bread dumplings in a creamy sauce
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Easter decorations around the city
Prague Castle
Prague Castle

I couldn’t help but think of my full Czech grandfather during my weekend in Prague. In a weird way, I felt like a part of me was coming home.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

-John Lennon

Travel lust: Where I’m headed

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

One of my favorite parts of studying abroad is how I have the freedom and luxury in creating my own experience. It’s this unique opportunity where fantasies can spark into your reality. Most people don’t realize this though because they believe it’s too expensive/unrealistic, and the truth is that there’s definitely a strategy in booking flights, where to stay, and how to save your money. Living on a student budget has taught me that I need very little in my daily life (I can thank my trip to Honduras in high school for that as well). You need to be open for trading comfort sometimes in order to ultimately do what you want. Plus, better stories come from the times I’ve felt unsure of my personal comfort (my first hostel experience) and making mistakes along the way (my first solo-traveling experience in Cortona).  I’ve learned to get creative so that I can make the most out of my time abroad. Most weekend trips in Italia are spontaneous (mainly depending on the weather), because the Italian train system is so easy and relatively affordable.

With only a month left of my study abroad program (scary how quickly time passes), I am narrowing down my priorities, and trying to figure out how to spend the 13 days– between my program ending and having to leave my apartment, before meeting up with my family mid-May.

If you had 13 days to go anywhere in Europe, where would you go?

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Well, here’s my travel plans, including a few at the bottom that have not been officially booked yet. Let’s see where life takes me.

Where I’m Headed:

Sevilla, Spain

Prague, Czech Republic

Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Italia

Istanbul, Turkey

Porto, Portugal

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Venice, Italia

The Cinque Terre, Italia

Belgrade, Serbia

Split, Croatia

Santorini, Greece

Where I’ve Been:

Perugia, Italia

Budapest, Hungary

Gubbio, Italia

Roma, Italia

Firenze, Italia

Siena, Italia

Paris, France

Barcelona, Spain

Marrakech, Morocco

Bologna, Italia

Cortona, Italia

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I have no idea where I’ll be a year from now, let alone 2 months from now, but I find beauty in not knowing who I’ll meet, where I’ll be sleeping, or what I’ll be eating. Let the adventures continue…

Perspective and studying abroad

“In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.”– Ansel Adams

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Lessons I want to remember, and welcome to the street of my apartment in Perugia!

I came across a post about “the reality of studying abroad”, and how a student believed that people intentionally try to glamorize their experiences on social networks, when in reality it’s just a façade and isn’t that special. I couldn’t help but think that studying abroad isn’t going to be what you want, if you don’t make it what you want. Always wanted to ______? Then go do it.

It’s an incredible opportunity— right in front of you.

An opportunity for you to decide how you’re going to spend your time and your money, depending on what you value and your priorities. I have no reason to judge anyones agendas for going abroad– hey, even if I didn’t know you, I’d probably think you’re awesome simply because you’re abroad. It shocked my friends when I said I’m 1 out of only 15 students that are abroad this semester from my college. A short conversation with a travel guide in Morocco resonated with me in particular. When I asked her if working for a student travel company, doing the same routes, to the same locations, ruined her passion for traveling, this is what she said:

“To be honest, no. I definitely need to take time for myself and travel on my own, but after coming home from studying abroad years ago, I realized that there’s still so much to see. And that’s what’s amazing.”

My professor in my cultural psychology internship is working on research about students changing after going abroad, and I don’t think it’s by accident that this happens.

Once we experience something exhilarating, something different, and we adapt to a culture, we learn how to embrace life in an entirely new way. 

I don’t believe we ever stop learning–searching for something that sparks our minds and warms our heart. That’s why I travel.

Weekend trip to Bologna, Italia

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Chiara and Meg
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Thinking of our friend Frida at this adorable floral shop
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Falling in love with these gorgeous flowers in particular
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I brought back asparagus to Perugia, all the fresh produce looked amazing
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One of many outdoor bands playing in the center square
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fresh, home-made for sale at a local shop

Known in Italia as a popular college town, Bologna has great shopping, outdoor musicians, and classic Bolognese pasta dishes of course. It reminded me of a larger Perugia. Our original “plan” was to eat our way through Bologna, stay the night, and leave for Verona the next day. We ended up staying in Bologna– we had to take advantage of the beautiful weather and keep eating pasta and drinking wine for 2 and half  hours (rough life, I know). My favorite area to explore is the market alley-way off of albergo delle drapperie, you can’t walk past the fresh produce and markets without feeling tempted to buy something.

After aperitivo (Italian tradition of pre-meal drinks and snacks), we met a group of friendly Italians from Milano celebrating their friend’s 23rd birthday at the table next to ours. We laughed when I got showered with gifts of a red rose and light-up mini mouse ears while we ate our dinner. Because they were some of the most sincere, non-creepy guys we’ve met this semester, we went out dancing after dinner and got a feel of the night life in Bologna. I know when I look back on this trip, I’ll be reminded of how this city brings out the fun and carefree side of it’s vistors.

48 hours in Barcelona, España

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Obsessing over all the fun postcards-best I’ve seen yet
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Trying a new fruit at the Mercat de la Boqueria
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Sam picking out the label for her candy “happy pills”
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Jessica under wire art
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Casa Batlló at night
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The line to get take out
"todos" (add everything) deliciousness sandwich
“todos” (add everything) deliciousness sandwich
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View of the city at Park Güell (another work by Antonio Gaudí)
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La Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudí’s most famous works in Barcelona

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Sexy. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of Barcelona (I was maybe influenced by the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona). Colorfully radiant, interesting art by the infamous Catalan architect (Gaudí) seems almost randomly placed within this metropolitan city. My immediate reaction was how friendly and confident the people are, and how the city comes alive at night. As our second stop on spring break, the less than 48 hours spent in Barcelona was a refreshing break from the overcast chills of Paris. The sun reminded me of southern California and I felt completely content just walking down Las Ramblas. Another study abroad student and good friend of Sammi, Jessica, was awesome and gave us an insiders only tour of the beautiful city. We shopped in the gothic quater, which reminded me of streets in Italia, took a tour of all the goodies at la Boqueria market, where we met two Italians and bonded. At a tapas bar, we ate a couple different tapas (small plates) as the football game was on and I suddenly felt the urge to yell along with everyone at the TV screen. We even got to experience the best kept not-so-secret anymore for any college student: Bó de B, and pretended like it was normal for us to start going out to a club at 2 am. This made us feel slightly Spanish/Catalan, even if it was for 2 days.

A change of pace

Midterms are over! I’m feeling the excitement & anticipation of starting my 10 day spring break adventure. That craving for something new and inspiring. There’s something about packing up and just leaving– feeling ready for anything that comes my way with an open mind. If you had the chance to travel, where would you go?

“For those who can dream, there is no such place as faraway”

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I’ll give you a hint where I’m going…  3 countries including 1 new continent. Sending good vibes as I travel, here’s some peaceful music I just discovered &  can’t stop listening to:

Pieces of home

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I was reminded of my family’s overwhelming support & thoughtfulness this week during midterms when I received a care package filled with some of my favorite things: fuzzy socks, dark chocolate, a handwritten letter from my mom, & other goodies. I’ve been fortunate enough to skype my family every other week, but reading my mother’s kind words really resonated with me when I thought about how incredible they are supporting me and my crazy passions.

That’s love.

I’ll be honest, at times living abroad can seem a little uneasy when you can’t just pick up the phone and hear your twin sister’s voice (I decided to save money and not buy an Italian phone). Learning how to keep up with my family’s life back at home was tricky at first,  but I’m starting to figure it out by planning skype dates on Sundays when I’m back from traveling & when my family isn’t working. Timing is key. To my friends, thank you for the sweet letters! Getting mail here is like getting a piece of home delivered.

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Today’s lunch special

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It’s a rare case, but sometimes I can’t always eat pizza & pasta. I decided to whip up something different with what I had in the fridge between my classes, & this meal turned out accidentally amazing.

Prepare: cut half a small garlic clove into tiny pieces to add to the chicken for flavor. Start by sautéing cut veggies of your choice with an ounce of oil olive. In a separate pan, grill a thin piece of chicken until cooked.  For the cheese lovers like myself, add slice of brie to melt across the chicken. I love combining rucola (arugula) to my meals as well for a healthier component.

A Glimpse of Firenze and Siena

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Sampling at a market in Florence

A weekend in Florence (Firenze) for travelers means shopping at the leather market, standing starstruck admiring the details of the Duomo, trying not to stare too much at Michelangelo’s David, & exploring Ponte Vecchio in the afternoon. I did all of this, minus seeing the David. I know, I know. But I’ll be back.

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I had the best gelato in Siena, even though this photo was taken in Florence. When traveling in Florence & Rome, you need to get away from the tourist attractions in order to 1. Get an authentic Italian meal, 2. Not get ripped off & feel like an idiot. A general rule should be: if the menu includes hot dogs, hamburgers, or a Greek salad–run away fast and find a place with the menu in Italian. That’s what’s going to reassure you that your meal isn’t on the same quality as a frozen hot pocket. I highly recommend trying La Martinica on Via del Sole. Get the house specialty of spinach & ricotta stuffed ravioli in a lemon cream sauce. Trust me, it’s still my favorite pasta dish I’ve tried, & that’s saying a lot for the amount of pasta I eat.

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Laundry out to dry at a local home in Siena

Siena is a small & charming authentic city in the Tuscany region that reminded me of Perugia. The locals would greet one another kindly and I hardly ever heard English– unlike my visit to Rome and Florence. The friendliness of people really depends on which region you’re in. The most interesting part of Siena is their contrades. The city is divided into 17 districts & they compete against each other twice a year during a horse race that occurs in the center of city called Di Palio. The Sienese take it very seriously since it’s rooted in medieval history & it’s a time that gives sentimental value to their culture. My class on Contemporary Italian culture had the opportunity to see a behind-the-scenes look at the “Eagle”contrada which was especially unique.

The Duomo di Siena
The Duomo di Siena
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The silk flag of the winning district
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“I guess I should say ‘ciao!’ since I just took his photo…”

Exciting new travels coming up in the next week or so, feeling beyond blessed for the opportunities. Shout out to my family and friends who have been incredibly supportive and thoughtful –you’re always on my heart.