Author Archives: Hannah Shaffer

About Hannah Shaffer

I am 20 years old and a junior at the University of Mount Union. I am a public relations major with a double minor in business administration and psychology. I am an aspiring journalist and event planner. Some of my favorite things are: my family, friends, summer, iced chai tea lattes, traveling, reading, the Vampire Diaries and Taylor Swift. My inspirations include the blog "Cupcakes and Cashmere," all things coral or pastel and Pinterest.

Shaffer Girls Take Italy: Venice

Shaffer Girls Take Italy: Venice

Thursday: I can’t believe I’m in Venice with my sisters right now. I have been counting down the days until their arrival for months now. They’ve been in Italy for only a few hours and we’ve already had so much fun. When I first arrived at the train station in Venice, I was giddy with excitement. … Read more

Thursday:

venice

I can’t believe I’m in Venice with my sisters right now. I have been counting down the days until their arrival for months now. They’ve been in Italy for only a few hours and we’ve already had so much fun. When I first arrived at the train station in Venice, I was giddy with excitement. The countdown on my phone was alerting me that the event “SISTERS ARRIVE IN ITALY” was finally here. I had to hop on the water bus in order to get to the hotel. Although the ride to my stop was only a half hour long, it felt like five hours as I was so anxious to see my sisters and Val. I arrived at the hotel to find out that they did not yet arrive, so I did some exploring in the area. I was gone only five minutes when I decided to turn around. I headed back over a bridge that lead to our hotel to find three girls with large suitcases looking incredibly lost. I ran across the bridge and hugged them all at the same time as it was impossible to decide who to hug first.

venice2

Today we went on a gondola ride on the canals! Now I can cross one more thing off my Europe bucket list. It was even better than I imagined it would be. Linds got a chance to steer the gondola herself… or attempt to steer it anyways. Venice is so cute and it is amazing how the entire city is run by the waterways. I am so happy my sisters (and Val!) are here and am so, so excited for the next few days with them.

venice4

Saturday:
Yesterday it was pretty cold and raining non-stop in Venice. We had to walk on high boards to get across the piazzas since the water was so deep! Venice was literally under water. After breakfast we walked around and a bit and warmed up at a cafe with some hot chocolate. Me and Linds got Nutella crepes for lunch (Linds’ first one!). After the girls got caught up on some much needed sleep (I give them props for doing so well since I felt so tired for a week after I first arrived in January), we went to explore a little more of Venice. We came across the cutest bakeries, bridges and waterways. We stopped at a pizzeria along the way for dinner. Despite the cold, we grabbed gelato for dessert before heading back to the hotel for the night. This time I tried frutta di bosco (wildberry). I absolutely loved Venice and am so happy I got to experience it with Laur, Linds and Val. Now we are on our way to our next destination! Next stop: Florence!

Goodbye, Greece

Goodbye, Greece

Spring break was amazing and I am so happy I got to travel to Greece. It is so beautiful and we had perfect weather while we were there. I am leaving Santorini with capri tan lines, tzatziki stains on my jeans and so many fun memories. Due to many, many clouds, we were unable to … Read more

oiaSpring break was amazing and I am so happy I got to travel to Greece. It is so beautiful and we had perfect weather while we were there. I am leaving Santorini with capri tan lines, tzatziki stains on my jeans and so many fun memories.

Due to many, many clouds, we were unable to see the famous Oia sunset, but that just gives me an excuse to come back to Greece again one day! The last two days were filled with lots of hiking, beautiful scenery, fitting in last minute souvenir shopping, waffles and gyros and taking in as much of Santorini as we could.

oiagreeceAlthough I am sad to leave, I am also eager to be on my way because MY SISTERS WILL BE IN ITALY IN TWO DAYS! I leave early Thursday morning to meet them, and our good friend Valerie, in Venice and we will then travel for a week to Florence, Cinque Terre and end in Rome! I cannot wait to spend time with my best friends and experience more of Italy right along with them.

Make sure to check out my video here of my time in Greece! I apologize in advance for the low volume of the video at the end.

Sunsets, Sailboats & Santorini

Sunsets, Sailboats & Santorini

This is the first year as far back as I can remember that I did not go to grandma’s with Laur to color Easter eggs. It has always been one of my favorite traditions… along with getting dressed up in pretty, spring dresses for the Easter church service and eating far too many Reese’s eggs … Read more

This is the first year as far back as I can remember that I did not go to grandma’s with Laur to color Easter eggs. It has always been one of my favorite traditions… along with getting dressed up in pretty, spring dresses for the Easter church service and eating far too many Reese’s eggs for a girl to count. Although I wish I was there with my family to celebrate, I can’t say that I’m hating laying out by the pool in the 70 degree weather in Santorini, Greece.

The past few days have been nothing but amazing. Best. Spring break. EVER! And we still have two more days ahead of us. I flew to Greece with my friend Olivia and we were greeted at the airport by Nikos, the hotel manager. He drove us to the hotel, giving us many restaurant and day trip recommendations and Greek 101 lessons along the way. After showing us around, he informed us that he was going to upgrade us to a superior suite! Needless to say, we loved Nikos from day one. After resting at the hotel for a bit, we got ready and went out for our first Greek dinner. We went to a restaurant called Naoussa, where I ordered dolmades, grapevine leaves stuffed with rice. They were… interesting. Not something I would ever order again, but I am glad I tried it. For dessert, we stopped at a bakery where I got milopita, a Greek version of apple pie with cinnamon. Definitely made up for the grape leaves!

sunset

The next day we got the full Greek experience. First, we had breakfast by the pool. Greek yogurt with honey, a Greek cake with jam and orange juice! I now love Greek yogurt with honey and look forward to it every morning. We then made our way to the city center, only about a five minute walk from the hotel. Most of the houses and buildings are all white cave houses with pastel blue, pink or orange domes and doors. The colors and houses make me so happy; they are the cutest in the world. We then took a cable car down to the port, where we got on a sail boat for a boat cruise to the volcano. We got off at the volcano and had over an hour to hike to the top and enjoy the amazing view. I loved this volcano hike much more than Mt. Vesuvius as it was so warm out and instead of snow on the volcano, there were gorgeous pink flowers and large straw umbrella awnings and benches to sit on along the way in case you got tired.

boatcruise

After the volcano, we got back on the boat to go to the hot springs. Once there, people began to strip down and jump in. Now you would think that when I saw everyone’s faces turning pale white when they jumped in and heard their gasps, I would have known better than to get in the water… but it appears that I didn’t pick up on those clues. A lady at the front of the boat saw me hesitating and promised that if I didn’t do it, I would regret it forever. So with that, I stripped down to my bikini and plunged into the Aegean Sea. I can’t even describe the first few minutes in the water. I literally could not breathe. All air was sucked out of me and I was left coughing for air and laughing from shock at the same time. It was the coldest water I have ever felt in my entire life. I was then informed that I had to swim 15 meters to get to the hot springs. So, after urging Olivia to hurry into the water, I began to swim like a fish. Olivia had to turn around and get back on the boat because it was that intolerable, but I was so determined. If only I knew that when arriving at the “hot springs,” the water would be only about five degrees warmer. “Where is it hot?!” I gasped when I arrived near the other jumpers. “Nowhere!” they all replied through chattering teeth. So, ten seconds later they all began to swim back to the boat. Not wanting to get stuck in the arctic cold water waiting in line at the boat’s ladder, I waited for five minutes and tried to build my courage to start back. God was probably a bit confused as to why I was so worried about the small swim, considering how He’s carried me through this entire study abroad experience so far, but I prayed the entire way back that I would have enough breath to make it back to the boat. HOT springs?!?! Yea no. Worthwhile experience? Absolutely. (We were then informed that there were storms and heavy rains for the past three days before we arrived and that may be why the water was so cold. Thanks for the late notice buddies).

donkeyride

Instead of taking the cable car back up to the city center, we opted for donkey rides!!! It was a bit scary as the old, Greek men were a bit rough and pushy and the donkeys literally ran up all 600 some steep steps, but it was one of the coolest things I have ever done. We then did some souvenir shopping and then I ordered my first gyro for lunch! It was so good! I can’t believe I would never try them before at the fair. We then went back to the hotel and relaxed by the pool for the rest of the afternoon before getting ready for dinner. We ended up at the cutest little outside restaurant where we ordered waffles. Waffles are apparently a big deal in Greece! Who knew? I ordered a waffle with fresh fruit and honey. It was delicious! The entire day felt like it was straight out a movie. I had the perfect day in Greece.

gyro

The next day we went to the Red Beach, apparently the only Red Beach in the world. It was cool to see. Along the way we stopped at a little house where a lady was selling homemade wines, honey and other small products. She let us taste the wine and figs, which reminded me of fig newtons from home. That night we ended up at another waffle place for a late dinner/dessert. This time I ordered a waffle with caramel baked apples, cinnamon and honey… with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. SO good! When we got back, Nikos said “Why are you girls here?! Why are you not out? Have fun! I take you out!” So, we agreed to go out the next night for dinner.

That night we got all dressed up and went with Nikos, and his friend George, to Naoussa. He made reservations for 10 p.m. and told us it usually gets very crowded around then since Greeks eat dinner around 9:30 p.m. every night! And I thought 8 p.m. was late for dinner in Italy! He recommended that I try a traditional Greek dish called moussaka, a sort of casserole with ground meat, eggplant and potatoes. I never thought I liked eggplant and I am definitely not a fan of any meat besides chicken, but when will I ever get to come back to Greece? So, I ordered moussaka and loved it! It is my favorite dish I have had here. It reminded me of lasagna, but it was even better.

We sat and talked for over two hours and learned so much about Greek culture. We learned that without donkeys, Santorini would not be the same as it is today. When building cave houses, the Greeks would have to hang by harnesses. There was no way to put rocks on a truck or cart so high up, so the donkeys would carry the rocks up and down the narrow paths. Without them, the architecture would be completely different. Also, most of the buildings have arcs and domes because of an earthquake that previously shook Santorini. The construction of the arcs allowed for more stable buildings.

I asked Nikos if he plans on staying in Santorini for a while and he said he doesn’t make plans anymore. “When you make plans, the gods are laughing,” he said. After much insisting that we were way too full, Nikos and George still ordered two traditional Greek desserts for our table to share. When I tried to give Nikos money for our meal, he said it was an insult and that they covered the bill. George drove us back to the hotel and said goodnight, followed by “be my Facebook friend!”

Palaces & Bike Rides: Caserta

Palaces & Bike Rides: Caserta

Day 5: Caserta I love bike rides. And waterfalls. And gardens. And sunshine. And I loved the perfect afternoon I had in Caserta. Today was our final day of the field study. After an early breakfast, we loaded the bus with our luggage and set off for Caserta. Our trip took longer than expected because … Read more

Day 5: Caserta

I love bike rides. And waterfalls. And gardens. And sunshine. And I loved the perfect afternoon I had in Caserta.

Today was our final day of the field study. After an early breakfast, we loaded the bus with our luggage and set off for Caserta. Our trip took longer than expected because there was a strike at the local train station, causing more people to drive and a lot of traffic on the roads.

royalpalace

When we arrived, we met our guide to tour the Royal Palace. We learned that King Charles of Bourbon wanted to move the capital from Naples to a safer location, so he chose Caserta, a city easier to defend. From the center of the Palace you can see the four main squares, as well as the garden to one side and a road leading straight to Naples on the other side. All of the rooms in the Palace were pretty, but my favorites were the rooms dedicated to the seasons. The spring room was so colorful and flowers were everywhere.

palace

We were free the rest of the afternoon so I found a sunny spot in the garden to eat lunch, write in my journal and finish my field study homework assignment.

bikeride

Afterwards, Tyler and I rented bikes and set off to explore the rest of the garden. I have missed bike rides so much!!! We got to see all of the pretty fountains and waterfalls during our bike ride. All of them symbolize mythological creatures.

The last statue at the top of the hill of the garden is of Diana, the goddess of hunting, who was supposedly beautiful and admired by many. She caught a hunter, Actaeon, spying on her while she was bathing one day and got very upset, so she turned him into a deer. He was then killed by his own hunting dogs!

fountain

This afternoon was absolutely beautiful and so peaceful. The scenic bike ride, sunshine and waterfalls made for the perfect ending to this fun week of traveling throughout southern Italy.

Check out some highlights of my fun traveling throughout Southern Italy here!

Southern Italy Field Study: Naples & Pompeii

Southern Italy Field Study: Naples & Pompeii

I have been waiting anxiously since January for the Southern Italy Field Study and it surprisingly came so soon! Throughout this past week, I had the opportunity to visit Naples, Pompeii, Capri, Amalfi and Caserta. I was so excited to find what the south had to offer. Day 1: Naples A 6 a.m. wake up call, … Read more

I have been waiting anxiously since January for the Southern Italy Field Study and it surprisingly came so soon! Throughout this past week, I had the opportunity to visit Naples, Pompeii, Capri, Amalfi and Caserta. I was so excited to find what the south had to offer.

Day 1: Naples

margheritapizza

A 6 a.m. wake up call, five hour bus ride and a bus transfer later, we finally arrived in Naples around 1 p.m. Our first stop was a restaurant for the famous margherita pizza for lunch. It was hands down the best pizza I have ever had! EVER. It was thicker than pizza in Viterbo and so fresh. A full, straight out of the oven, mouthwatering pizza was placed in front of each of us. Most of the students finished their entire pizza but no matter how delicious it was, I could only stuff myself with two large pieces. The boys were more than happy to take the rest off of my hands though.

graffiti

The remainder of the afternoon and evening was spent with a tour of the city. We saw many piazzas, a pretty cathedral and an archaeological museum. One thing I noticed about the city was how much graffiti there was! It covers so much of the city. It is so sad that there are ugly markings covering beautiful fountains and buildings. We now have a two hour bus ride to our hotel in Sorrento. We are going to Pompeii tomorrow and I am most excited to hike Mt.Vesuvius!

Day 2: Pompeii

vesuvius

I just hiked up Mt. Vesuvius! I can’t believe that I can now say I climbed up a volcano in Pompeii! My first thought: freddo! Brrr. My second thought: bellissima! It was well worth the time and cold.

pompeii

After breakfast at the hotel, we made our way to Pompeii and got to see the ancient ruins. It was really interesting to see the old town and get a glimpse into how they lived back then. We learned that since there was no drainage for rain or sewer water, the water ran down the deep sloping roads. The citizens used large rocks as crosswalks, so that they did not step in the dirty water. In the rocks on the side of the road, we saw holes cut out, which were used for “parking spaces.” The citizens would tie up their donkeys or horses there when they were going into a shop.

pompeii2

One difference I noticed today between Pompeii and Viterbo was the many, many orange and lemon trees lining the roads. Since the weather is warmer here, I am guessing that it provides more ideal weather for them to grow. It was so nice outside today and I hope the sun is shining again tomorrow!

La Vita Bella: Amalfi & Capri

La Vita Bella: Amalfi & Capri

Day 3: Capri Capri is absolutely beautiful! This morning we took a ferry ride to the island while the sun was shining and the weather was warm. Once we got to the island we bought tickets to take a boat to the Blue Grotto! Once outside the grotto, we took smaller boats (each boat held … Read more

Day 3: Capri

Capri is absolutely beautiful! This morning we took a ferry ride to the island while the sun was shining and the weather was warm.

bluegrotto

Once we got to the island we bought tickets to take a boat to the Blue Grotto! Once outside the grotto, we took smaller boats (each boat held four people) to get inside the cave. We had to all duck down really low to enter the cave. Inside was amazing! The water was an unreal blue color and the sun made the water sparkle. Although it was a bit expensive, I would have definitely regretted it if I missed out. It was the highlight of my day and a once in a lifetime experience!

The rest of the afternoon we took the railway up to the city center and walked around to all of the shops. They were all very ritzy and the city reminded me of a resort area. Capri is the most “high end” location I have been to in Italy. We even saw pictures, near a hotel, of celebrities that have vacationed there, such as Anne Hathaway!

While walking around, we followed our noses and treated ourselves to some gelato after smelling fresh waffle cones from half a mile away. The lady at the gelateria was making waffle cones right on the spot and I got to try bignolata (cookies and cream) gelato for the first time! Yum!

Capri is now my favorite place I have been to in Italy (alongside Florence). It is so beautiful and I am so happy I got to spend the day there.

Day 4: Amalfi Coast

amalfi

I am IN LOVE with Amalfi. It is BEAUTIFUL! Besides the rough winds, the weather was perfect! The sun was shining the entire day.

amalfi2

We had a tour of the city and the cathedral when we first arrived. Then we had a not so fun tour of a paper mill museum before we were free for lunch. Some of us grabbed calzones at a little pizzeria and then walked around the city a bit.

I then ordered a scoop of strawberry (fragola) and banana gelato before hopping on a boat for a ride on the Mediterranean!

The boat ride took us down the coast so we could see Amalfi from a different perspective. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was fun to see celebrity houses, such as Italian actress Sophia Loren, and extravagant hotels along the coast. We also saw the watch towers used in the past to spot invaders or approaching enemies. We learned that the walls of Amalfi are all painted white because of how hot it gets during the summer months. The white walls are meant to reflect the sun, that is reflected off of the sea, away from the city.

coast

The Amalfi Coast was much more than I expected and I am so thankful for the sunshine and beautiful weather.

Sicilian Surprises

Sicilian Surprises

The first word that comes to mind when I think of my trip to Sicily this weekend is: wet. We probably picked the worst weekend of the month to go as it was cold and raining nonstop (with some hail and unrelenting winds thrown in the mix) for the first three days of our trip. … Read more

The first word that comes to mind when I think of my trip to Sicily this weekend is: wet. We probably picked the worst weekend of the month to go as it was cold and raining nonstop (with some hail and unrelenting winds thrown in the mix) for the first three days of our trip. Unfortunately, my Italian language teacher said that Italy is experiencing a very unusual spring, the coldest and rainiest they have had in years.

garden

However, the second and third words that come to mind are: gorgeous and delicious. I came across many Sicilian surprises during my trip, such as the breathtaking views of the crystal clear water and to die for desserts. Regardless of the cold and rain, the views in Sicily were beautiful! The water along the coast was the prettiest teal color that I have ever seen. You couldn’t even attempt to paint or photograph the colors of Sicily and do it justice. The palm trees, cactus’ and tropical flowers also made me feel as if I was in a resort.

pizza

The food there was also my favorite I have had so far in all of Italy. I made sure to have a slice of thick crust, Sicilian style pizza since you can’t get that anywhere else in Italy. Throughout our days in Sicily, I also tried fried calamari, a calzone with ham and cheese and a delicious sandwich with potatoes that was seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon, a specialty in Sicily. It was very good. The desserts were also the best I’ve had. I made sure to try a Sicilian cannoli. Since I didn’t try a slice of Cassata cake, I got Cassata flavored gelato… but I found that I am not a fan.

cathedral

After arriving in Palermo we explored the city and got to see some of the major sites. While Kevin and Tyler went to a crypt, Henal and I decided to split up and go see two castles instead. The next morning we went to an open market where there were tons of dead, skinned animals (even goat heads!) and tons of smelly seafood. I strayed away from the fish and animals, but purchased a few blood red oranges, which are grown in Sicily. They were delicious, a lot sweeter and less sour than regular oranges. My favorite thing in Palermo was the cathedral. It was gorgeous inside and out.

market

Friday morning we woke up early to catch a bus to Catania. Although the first day was rainy and cold, Saturday we were lucky enough to have some sunshine! We went to an old greek theater, walked to some pretty cathedrals and saw the main gate to enter the city. Our hostel was right next to Castello Ursino, so we could see the castle at night from the terrace! Although Catania itself was pretty, my favorite thing may have been the two and a half hour bus ride to get from Palermo to Catania. The views of the coast, the mountains and green fields of Sicily are amazing.

cannoli

I may be returning from Sicily with a broken umbrella (it didn’t make it through the vicious hailstorm), sopping wet socks and shoes, and most likely a few extra pounds of weight, but I am also returning with fun memories from a beautiful place I won’t forget!

Travels to Siena & Pisa

Travels to Siena & Pisa

However exhausted I am left after a weekend of traveling, it is always beyond worth it. A total of 10 hours of train time in two days took me from Viterbo to Siena, Siena to Pisa and Pisa back to Viterbo. The trip started out a bit rocky as Dom, the friend I was traveling … Read more

However exhausted I am left after a weekend of traveling, it is always beyond worth it. A total of 10 hours of train time in two days took me from Viterbo to Siena, Siena to Pisa and Pisa back to Viterbo.

The trip started out a bit rocky as Dom, the friend I was traveling with, forgot his wallet on a train when we made a switch on the way to Siena. After about 15 minutes of panic and attempting to explain to the train officer his situation, he was then told that his wallet had been found and would be available for him to pick up in Orvieto. However, he was left without it for the remainder of our trip since the town was four hours in the opposite direction of our destination.

piazza del campo

Everything went much smoother from there. When arriving in Siena, we saw there was a chocolate festival right in the middle of Piazza del Campo! But in an attempt to be healthy, I purchased a cup of delicious, fresh strawberries. Ok, fine. A cup of delicious, fresh strawberries with chocolate drizzled all over them. It’s still fruit though, right?

strawberries

My favorite thing in Siena was the cathedral. You would think that after all of the cathedrals I’ve been to, at some point I would get bored, but I am always so impressed at how absolutely beautiful they are. The inside was incredible. With dark blue accents, lanterns with lit candles and a ceiling full of stars, I felt as though I stepped into a dream. Another amazing thing inside the cathedral was the “Libreria Piccolominea,” the most colorful room I have ever seen!

cathedral

After exploring Sienna, Dom and I went to dinner where I had my first gnocchi! My favorite blogger, Emily Schuman (writer of Cupcakes and Cashmere), raved about the gnocchi she had in Siena when she traveled to Italy, so I wanted to give it a try! I am glad I did because it was really good and now I can say that I had first gnocchi in Italy!

After dinner we walked around Piazza del Campo a few times, enjoying the lit up piazza, brisk weather and the much needed walk before dessert! We then purchased gelato (what else?) and walked around the city for a while longer before calling it a night.

pisa

Saturday morning we woke up, grabbed breakfast at a café and jumped on a train to Pisa! My favorite part of Pisa was the Leaning Tower – of course. Although many students say it’s “so touristy” to take the typical picture holding up or pushing down the tower, I was so excited to! It rained off and on but the weather was beautiful and the sun was trying it’s hardest for us, peeping out from behind the clouds from time to time.

leaning tower

I am so glad that I got to travel to Siena and Pisa this weekend and am already looking forward to my next trip in just three days. Next stop: Sicily! …but first, sleep!!!

Thinking About Tuscania

Thinking About Tuscania

Yesterday for Travel Writing and Studio Art class we ventured to the town of Tuscania. When checking out Tuscania before our expedition, I found that it was called Toscanella until the 19th century. The town was founded by a man named Ascanius. It is said that he found 12 pups in town; hence the name … Read more

Yesterday for Travel Writing and Studio Art class we ventured to the town of Tuscania. When checking out Tuscania before our expedition, I found that it was called Toscanella until the 19th century. The town was founded by a man named Ascanius. It is said that he found 12 pups in town; hence the name Tuscania, as the Latin word for dog is “canis.” The city was built during the 7th century and was mainly important because of its “strategic position” compared to surrounding cities, which aided citizens of the town during Greek invasions.

saint peter

We got the chance to see the Church of Saint Peter (San Pietro), which is considered one of the most beautiful churches in the Lazio region. Kevin and Tyler were insistent on me squeezing in between metal bars in the basement, leading into complete darkness… just for fun. Regardless of the fact that it was near impossible for even a lanky seven year old to fit in between the bars, the thought of successfully squeezing in to find that I was then stuck inside the black hole of darkness, surrounded by either rats or dead corpses, just didn’t seem like an appealing thing to do on your average Tuesday in Italy. After continuous begging and pleading, I made a deal with Tyler that I would come back to Tuscania and go through the bars to the other side. First, he just has to fly to Paris, go to the Eiffel Tower, buy a Nutella banana crepe and bring it back for me. Oh, and it has to be warm of course. We shook on it, so it’s official. And the waiting begins.

santa maria maggiore

We also got the chance to see the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. This is actually my favorite church I have seen so far in Italy! It was so interesting on the outside and really different from all of the other churches I have come across in Europe. I read that the two columns at the entrance were actually copied from the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. I have always found that it is the unexpected, spontaneous or unique things that end up being my favorite and most memorable. I believe I took up to 10 of the same exact picture of this church in hopes that I wouldn’t forget it.

tuscania

When posting a blog the other day, a quote by Gustave Flaubert appeared to the side of my screen. The quote read, “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” While I was walking around Tuscania, I was taking in the city while snapping away with my camera, but I never took the time to sit down and reflect on how I felt about the town. Now that I sit here to write, I realize that Tuscania left me with many questions. While exploring, we seemed to be the only ones on the streets. Most of the little shops were closed, it was a dreary and rainy day and there were black crows looming all around the towering buildings. The town was mysterious and eerie. Where was everyone? Why wasn’t anyone on the streets like in Viterbo? As the town has remained ancient through the years, do the citizens here live life just as they did back in the 7th century? Looking back at and reflecting on my pictures taken, I now appreciate the beauty and mystery of the town even more. You can’t see anything like those churches in Ohio, let alone the United States. All of my questions have left me wishing that for just a day I could go back to the 7th century and see how the citizens of Tuscania lived and find some answers!

Why Hello, Spring!

Why Hello, Spring!

It is officially March and yesterday was the perfect spring day in Viterbo. It was about 55 degrees and there were no clouds in sight. I woke up Sunday morning and ran to the park, where there were kids playing soccer, moms pushing strollers and cute, old couples observing from benches nearby the fountains. It … Read more

It is officially March and yesterday was the perfect spring day in Viterbo. It was about 55 degrees and there were no clouds in sight. I woke up Sunday morning and ran to the park, where there were kids playing soccer, moms pushing strollers and cute, old couples observing from benches nearby the fountains. It was so nice to be able to run outside in the warmer weather and not have to wear a jacket! After my run I went back to the apartment to grab some homework, an apple and yogurt, and then made my way back to the park to do some reading in the sun.

winery

This past Friday we went on a field trip to Tre Botti Winery for wine tasting! While I do not care for the taste of wine, I made it my goal to find a wine that I liked while I was in Italy. What better place, right? However, I have now decided to accept that I am just not a wine fan. We were taken on an outside tour of the vineyards, mostly only seeing Jane (the vineyard donkey), since near everything was dead due to the winter weather. Then we were taken inside to have lunch and have a tasting of three wines. The winery family made us pumpkin soup, a tray of cold cuts, roasted potatoes and pecorino cheese with jam on top for lunch. I promised myself to be adventurous while I was abroad, so I tried a little bit of each. Surprisingly, the pumpkin soup was really good. However, I think the fact that it warmed me up from the freezing cold may have something to do with why I liked it so much. The cheese was another story. Although I am not sure if I will get the memory of the horrible taste out of my mind for another few weeks, I am glad that I tried it! We tasted a white wine and two red wines. I preferred the white wine the most. Italians LOVE their wine! We were told at the winery not to swallow it right away, but to leave it on your tongue to savor and appreciate the taste and quality.

orvieto

After the winery we were taken to a nearby town called Orvieto. We went to see “Underground Orvieto,” where there are old Etruscan caves. The cathedral in Orvieto was beautiful! I loved it. Inside there were many stained glass windows. Behind the altar there were four vertical rows of 11 stained glass windows each. Each window told a different story with characters, animals and settings. I wish I could show what it looked like, but we were not allowed to take pictures. After the caves and cathedral, we were allowed to explore a little before heading back to Viterbo. There were cute ceramic shops everywhere. I made sure to purchase a postcard since I am attempting to get one from each town/city that I visit!

bracciano castle

Saturday I went with Kevin, Henal and Tyler to another nearby town called Bracciano. In Bracciano there is a huge fairytale castle and the eighth largest lake in Italy. We saw that the weather was supposed to be nice so we decided to pack lunch and a blanket to have a picnic by the castle and lake! It was a great day and I fell in love with the little town. Signs of spring were everywhere. Henal and I came across a tree with pretty, pink flowers blooming, so we decided to take a few for our hair. However, springtime bees also come along with springtime flowers and I don’t think those bees were too happy with us for picking a few of the blossoms.

lake

We had quite a hike from the castle down to the lake, but when we got there we found the perfect picnic spot. Two white swans came and swam near us during our picnic! After lunch we went on a tour of the castle. Although the inside was pretty, the view from the top of the castle, looking out onto the town and lake, was my favorite. It was so pretty!

Castles, lakes, swans, picnics, flowers, friends, gelato (Oh yes, we got gelato too of course. This time I got Nutella flavored!) … it was a perfect day trip and successful weekend. I am so excited for the warm weather and am crossing my fingers that it’s all sunshine and springtime from here on out.