Napoli 

What happens when you take 120+ exchange students from around the world and bring them to Naples for four days? Crazy, wonderful things. 
The rotary clubs of Italy started hosting a countrywide orientation weekend a couple years ago for all the exchange students in Italy and this year, I was lucky enough that they decided to host us in the wonderful city of Naples. 

  
In Naples, we stayed at a hotel that had a view of it all- the mountains, the sea, the whole city of Napoli, and Mount Vesuvius. It was breathtaking during the day, but was especially jaw dropping  at sunset. 

  
Although we were only in Naples for 4 days, and two of those days consisted of being on a bus for more or less 12 hours, we had a jam packed itinerary. It’s amazing how many things I checked off my bucket list in less then 96 hours! Here are the highlights:

Walk through Naples: Our first full day in the south consisted of walking through the streets of Naples right by the ocean, eating pizza and gelato and pastries, visiting churches and a castle, and taking too many pictures to even count. I really enjoyed the 4+ hours we spent touring by foot, but next time I come to Naples, I’m definitely heading past the touristy part were spent the day in. Although the touristy port area was beautiful, there is definitely way more to this city than we were able to witness! And next time I come to the south, I am for sure finding myself a nice spot on a beach somewhere. 

  

                  
Pompeii: Ever since I did a project about Pompeii back in grade 5 at Castex, for this crazy teacher called Mr. D, I have been wanting to see first hand this ancient city. The story alone is fascist inning, so you can imagine how excited I was so be able to walk through the streets and  thermal baths (and brothels?!) of the Roman ruins. The guided tour we had was amazing- I normally like to do my own thing at museums and places like this but there was so much more information that you would have missed out on by walking solo. Pompeii lived up to my vision; ancient frescoes, crumbling pillars and stadiums, beautiful tile work, and of course, the frozen-in-time plaster casts of the citizens of Pompeii. The only thing that took away from the whole experience was the modern scaffolding and hordes of tourists (us exchange students included). But that’s what happens when you want to preserve incredible places like Pompeii to share with the world! 

   
    
 Meeting exchange students from around the world: With over 120 kids from almost every country on Earth, it was impossible to be bored. There was always someone new to say hi to, a new phrase in Finnish or Portuguese or Spanish to learn, and someone to watch dancing or singing or goofing off. I’ll admit that I was thankful to come home after 4 days to a quiet house, but I wouldn’t have wanted this weekend to change in any way. Life with exchange students is never anything less than extreme! 

   
    
 
Palace of Ceserta: This. Place. Was. Overthetop. I’ll admit that I don’t remember a single fact the guide told us, as it was the last day of our trip and we were all running on about 3-4 hours of sleep, but I do know that I was in awe the entire time. I’ll let Wikipedia tell you why, and then let the pictures of just 2-3 of the 1200 rooms do the rest, “constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples. It was the largest palace and one of the largest buildings erected in Europe during the 18th century. In 1997, the palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In terms of volume, the Royal Palace of Caserta is the largest royal residence in the world with over 2 million m³ and covering an area of about 47,000 m²”. What a place to call home sweet home. 

   
    
       
Other events in between the madness: A concert by a local young Italian band, a small performance of a classic dance of Naples, cake everyday for breakfast and 4-course lunches and dinners, and a couple hours of meetings every day. 

   
   

Napoli, I know we are only acquaintances, but can I come visit you again soon? I would really like to get to know you better. Also, send me the recipe for real Pizza alla Neapoletana. Or better yet, send me a pizza…
Ciao!

 Sarah

  

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A Walk in Pisogne 

Earlier this week, my host sister and I took a 15 minute car ride down the valley to a small lakeside town called Pisogne. I can see Pisogne and Lago d’Iseo from my town and it is beautiful from afar but WOW is it amazing up close! We parked our car in a small lot near a piazza close to the lake. Our plan was to walk along the sidewalk that wraps around this end of the lake, but 3 minutes into the walk I saw it…. A Gelateria. And outside this gelato shop were people eating the most beautiful looking sundaes and gelati I have ever seen (I have only been here for a week Saturday so I haven’t seen that many Gelaterias but I know some delicious food when I see it!). So, the only logical thing to do was try it out myself. And, ladies and gentleman, it did not disappoint. Just like at the Pizzaria the other night, the options were endless and all looked amazing. I picked two flavours that Chiara, again, recommended; pistachio and Stracchiatella. I was intrigued by pistachio flavoured ice cream and of course you can’t go wrong with cream&chocolate, so I dug in. HEAVEN IN A CUP. I will have to hunt down the local Gelateria very soon… 

Anyways, onto the walk. 

Chiara once said that walking is a very popular activity here and I can see why. The walk alongside Lake Iseo was gorgeous- sailboats and windsurfers floated by, green mountains on all sides, children playing on playgrounds. In the left, a street lined with adorable Italian houses and cafès and on the right, blue water with silver splashes from the sun. There is not more more to say about a walk, so enjoy the photos! 

   

The lakeside walkway

 
The 

Una piazza (note the palm tree on the right!?)

  

Hey Dad- maybe you would like to sail here? I mean, its kinda pretty…

  
  

An attempted artsy shot?

  
 

 

Everywhere I look, there is a panarama waiting to be taken

 
Pisogne, I will be back! 

I Have Arrived! 

Ciao a tutti! I have finally arrived in Italy and so far, it has been like a dream. Sometimes, it is so beautiful or I am so amazed that it doesn’t feel real, it feels like I am watching a movie. I am falling in love with this place more and more every second I am here (clichè, but sooo true!) 

The before picture of my Rotary jacket!

The scenery on the drive to Darfo

  

Landing in Italy!!

 
I have been here for about a day and a half. I arrived at Malpensa, the airport I flew into in Milan, at about 11:30 AM on Saturday. It was a very long and very tiring flight as I could not get to sleep and the aeroplane seats are not the most comfortable in the world. But, all the movies and TV shows were free, so who can complain! I was greeted by my host dad Daniele and host sister Chiara. They had a sign with my name and Italian coloured balloons! Before driving to go home (which was one of the most beautiful (BELLISSIMA) drives I have ever been on!) I experienced my first Italian cafè! It was life changing. We drink coffee completely wrong in Canada; here, it is served in a small cup and is not bitter or watered down like at home. I was not a coffee drinker at home, but I can already tell I will be here (as I have already drank probably 5 coffees already haha). 

Instead of writing one long paragraph about everything I have done so far, I will put it in a timeline:

Saturday afternoon: On the way to my new town, Darfo Boario Terme, we stopped for lunch at a rest stop restaurant. It was very good, I had risotto (a very common dish in the north of Italy, made of rice), bread, and fresh fruit. Molto buona! The rest of the drive was spectacular- beautiful Italian towns, the mountains right front of us and finally the Lake Iseo. I will put a picture of the lake here to help you to imagine how amazing it really is, because I do not think words could do it justice:

Lago d’ Iseo

 
Saturday evening- We ate dinner with the relatives of my host family. I spend most of my time thoroughly enjoying my food (I will never get sick of pasta and bread) because I am so tired that all I can think of in Italiano is ‘si’ and ‘no’ 😉. 

The view from the back porch ❤

 
 
Sunday morning (this morning): After waking up at 9 am (NO JETLAG?!) and eating a breakfast of cafè and toasted bread crisp with marmalada and Nutella, we started our hike. Our destination was a church that sits on the side of the mountain behind our house. The walk through the small, winding streets of Darfo blew my mind. It is exactly like how you would picture an Italian town: yellow and pink and beige and white houses with balconies and windows full of flowers and hanging plants, fountains, lots of dogs and cats, trees of every fruit in peoples’ backyards and in miniature orchards, and motorbikes leaning against the street walls. The view from the church was spectacular- a full view of Darfo, and even all the way to Lago d’Iseo. Mariarosa says that most days the fog makes it hard to see the lake but today was perfectly crisp and clear. The hike was very good exercise as well as we were walking up a mountain, and I know I will be going on many more after this one!  

 

At the one of the many churches in Darfo

 
 
This afternoon- We really just relaxed this afternoon after the walk and lunch (salad and more bread). Before dinner, Daniele took me across town to see a lake in the mountain- Lago di Moro. Okay I am seriously getting spoiled with this scenery because mamma mia (this phrase is actually used!!) this lake was a dream. You can swim (he says it is cold but it is probably as warm as Georgian Bay this year, so very nice), row, walk to perimeter and get a gelato. Today there was a triathlon so there were many people biking up the steep path and swimming across the lake. It was a perfect day for it. Here, we met my counsellor as well. 

Lago di Moro- Bellissimo!


 Tonight: I was so excited today because the family said they were bringing me to get pizza at a pizzaria for dinner and let me tell you, it DID NOT DISSAPPOINT. First, we were given a glass of wine on the house (ah I broke a Rotary D! But the ‘no drinking’ rule is really no big deal here) and shared a plate of fries. I had la pizza with mozzarella, potato, spinach and asparagus (there were so many types of pizza I could choose from it was hard to pick, so I chose one Chiara reccomended) and it was amazing! There is a tradition here that I like which is to share a piece of your pizza with everyone at the table and they will give you a piece of theirs! This restaurant itself was as beautiful as its pizza. For dessert we had sorbetta (I think?) which is a sweet lemon gelato, it is more like melted ice cream as it is not frozen. We also had little merengue and coffee tartes. Two things I love about the food here (well, there is nothing I don’t like but anyways ;)): how when you order a pizza you get the whole pizza to yourself (which is important to a quantity eater haha) and how the food is light so even though you can eat a lot, you never feel grossly full. Daniele said it best today, “There are so many restraints in Italy because Italians LOVE their food. Also, many churches as well!” Well said Daniele. 

I will end this very long update by saying that I am proud to say I understood about 50% of what I heard spoken and can express what I want to say most of the time (mind you, what I can say is very simple and the grammar is probably horrible!)! Tip for future exchange students: Studying beforehand pays off! 

Grazie e buonanotte ! 

Sarah

P.S. Most of my posts won’t be this long, so you don’t have to worry 😉