1253 hours of living the dream

So this is it – my last post. Reflecting on exchange as a whole, it has truly been incredible and one that I will never forget. I have to say I enjoyed every moment, every experience – and it was honestly all I could possibly ask for. Over the past two months I’ve come across so many new things and learnt SO much (both Italian and otherwise); it’s ALL been extraordinary!

I should also take this opportunity to thank my wonderful family and friends for supporting me the whole way through, without you all things wouldn’t have been able to turn out the perfect way they have…and also to anyone who’s been reading my blog. Sure, I’ll never know who you are and hence won’t be able to thank you personally – but it’s hard to believe that it’s been viewed a staggering 2000 times altogether!

Also to all my regà: grazie mille per tutto – vi manco già; ci vediamo presto, per favore! I’m definitely going to miss the Italian pronunciation of my name, as difficult as it was getting used to at first, and what everyone would call me in class given how much they love and thrive on abbreviations.

Although it felt so good to be able to wear a singlet, shorts and thongs this morning – I feel as though there’s a part of me still living in Italy. Walking the streets felt somewhat distant, and to concrete my musing, three shops on the main street have completely changed as of two months ago. But it’ll be okay – Sydney is still by far the place I call home and even though Italy was amazing in every way – it’s time to come back to reality. 1253 hours of living the dream. School starts on Monday, and I have a huge year ahead of me. But that doesn’t lessen the possibility of return next year, right? I know I’ll definitely be back…after all, I did throw my coins into the Trevi Fountain in Rome haha.

From day 1, my initial impressions were formed by immediately associating a new place I’d go to with one that I’d already visited in the past. In the end, the pastiche consisted of a little bit of Sydney, a bit of Katoomba, a bit of New Zealand, a bit of America, a bit of Canada, a bit of China, and even a bit of Mongolia. After all these signposts…I guess it’s time to make a new framework in my mind: Italy.

Grazie ancora, mi sono divertita. Fino a quando ci incontreremo di nuovo, arrivederci!

xxxxxxx

Serè

PS Just got back from the shops again – I actually meant to say seven shops had changed in some way instead of three…obviously wasn’t looking hard enough yesterday! [29/1/12]

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Albano Laziale – Roma Termini – Milano Centrale – Milano Malpensa Airport – Singapore Changi Airport – Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport – HOME

Italia. I miss it already. Even though there are so many things I’m looking forward to back at home, like seeing family and friends, SUMMER+not having to layer up…these short, yet two unforgettable months in Italy have probably been one of the best, if not the best time of my life.

As I write this on the plane from Milan to Singapore, our current ground speed is 1082km/h, cruising at an altitude of 10667m with an outside temperature of -42˚C.

By far the longest leg of the journey, my attempts (in vain) to re-adjust back to life in Sydney as quickly as possible by following [GMT+10] ended up in watching Suits, so now I thought I might as well take this sleepless flight hitherto in updating the shenanigans of the past few days.

The last day of school itself was paradoxically a joyous yet sad occasion. In the first sense, it’s so satisfying to think that I was able to fully integrate myself into a class of people who’d already been together and known each other really well for several years; at a local Italian ‘liceo’; entirely in Italian.

On the other hand, the fact that I was able to assimilate made it all the more harder to do everything for the last time, and say goodbye to the lovely people I’d come to know so well. We went out together as a class for my farewell party at a ‘fraschetta’… which was undoubtedly one of the best nights ever! It was SO much fun, and definitely the best way to end off my last night in Ariccia with the nicest people – LOVE.

Every day over the past two months, I think I’ve learnt something new or done something really exciting, and so for yesterday…I went for a spin in a Ferrari. Sure, might I mention here that I only just recently found out that my host family owns 6 cars, one of them being a Ferrari. It was SO cool, it was an old, almost collectible Ferrari…and we definitely got a few glances around town!

After wasting a lot of time with unnecessary bureaucracy at the post office to send off my parcel (including filling out the same form three times!) we finally left for Albano and caught the train to Termini. I think the reality of nearly being at the end of this amazing experience somewhat registered as the train slowly pulled out…oh the nostalgia!

Meeting up with the other exchanges from Australia in Milan was really cool, and over dinner at the hotel we chatted about our Italian experiences and adventures. I shared a room with Eliza for the night, and it was really nice that we could get to know each other, and just share random thoughts and memories together in Italian.  Surprisingly enough though, it was mutually agreed that at this very moment it’s easier to think and speak in Italian rather than English! Sure, we had our sporadic spurts of English words and phrases, but it was actually really fun – such an enjoyable night!

Morning of departure: From the beginning of the trip, I must say one of the moments I’d seriously been dreading was seeing the weight of my luggage on the check-in scales on return. So thanks to two months of being (very) wary and somewhat paranoid about it, in the end I only clocked in at 21kg. It was so good though, because I was somehow able to get a lot of shopping done here as well – oh yeah!

Transit in Singapore wasn’t actually too bad, party because Changi Airport is seriously one of the best airports ever. So during the few hours of waiting for our final flight back to Sydney, we ate heaps of food, went shopping, updated our social lives…and even visited the beautiful ‘butterfly garden’ inside! Running down the travelators with our trolleys (just for the sake of it, not because we were late or anything) towards our gate was SO much fun haha – and of course, done with the lovely Tessa and Christine among others.

The flight from Singapore to Sydney was SO packed but fortunately I was sitting next to good people so it was alright. I guess I didn’t previously realise how much I enjoy long aeroplane conversations with the random strangers next to you – fun times! There came a stage where there weren’t any movies left that I still wanted to watch, moderate turbulence, and a cacophony of screaming babies in the row behind…but for times like these, noise-cancelling headphones are definitely the best thing ever.

So in the end after about 30 hours of continuously being awake – I finally made it HOME. Welcome to Sydney, casa dolce casa!

xxxxxxx

Serena

[Liceo Classico Statale James Joyce – 3˚LA]

[A bit of time zone confusion – where am I?]

Departure in 48 hours

So it’s come around again. Departure in 48 hours…only this time in reverse. I guess I don’t actually get home until Friday night, but without travelling, trains, planes, hotels and transit, in exactly 48 hours I would have just boarded my train from Rome to Milan.

I’m feeling so ambivalent right now, and packing is seriously the last thing I want to do. I can’t believe how quickly the past two months have flown by, and just when everything is perfect…it’s time to say goodbye. I’ve absolutely LOVED every moment spent here, and it’s so sad to think that it’s all coming to an end in just a little while.

There are so many things I’m going to miss, like FRIENDS, the experience as a whole, the food, Italian (the language itself), just casually going to Rome, school… and even trivial things like catching different phases on Facebook based on what time it is, putting my jacket on the fourth hook from the right each morning at school, hearing the sound of an iPhone charging at the same time each night and saying ‘pronto!’ instead of ‘hello?’ when answering the phone…among so many others.

It’s all getting a bit real, tomorrow is my last day of school. The friends I’ve made are all so lovely, and it’s sad to think that I’m not going to see the people I’ve gotten to know so well for a while. But thank goodness for the Internet though, we’ll still be able to ‘chiacchieriamo insieme’ and now this gives me more leverage to start planning (and save up for) a return trip back to Italy!

Buonanotte Italia (Good morning Australia…literally!)

xxxxxxx

Serena

Roma – La Città Eterna

Yesterday was definitely one of the best days ever, spent in the beautiful city of Rome! ♥

In the morning we caught the train+metropolitana, had caffè al bar, wandered around the piazzas and then finally met up with Claudia (meno male) just in time for…our private tour of the Italian Parliament House!

It was SO amazing, il Palazzo Montecitorio. Unfortunately we couldn’t take any photos inside due to the stringent security measures, but I’ll try describing it as best I can anyways. Divided into two sections between ‘historical’ and ‘modern’, the place was enormous and the furnishings were just so beautiful. With red-carpet lined floors covering all the corridors, we walked through ‘Il Transatlantico’, saw the different rooms like ‘La Sala Verde’ [The Green Room] and ‘La Sala del Casellario’ [The Mailbox Room], and sat in for a segment of question time in ‘L’Aula’ [The Plenary Hall of the Chamber of Deputies].

But my favourite part was by far entering ‘La Sala Aldo Moro’ [previously La Stanza Gialla], ‘La Sala della Regina’ [The Queen’s Hall] and ‘La Sala della Lupa’ [The Hall of the She-wolf]. Inside ‘La Stanza Gialla’, there was a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling, and everything was shiny gold – insomma, it was utterly incredible! It was such an overwhelming feeling to be in the exact places you’d normally see on TV during press conferences and diplomatic agreements. And to think that I’ve now been to the place where all the politics of Italy happens, oh so official!

The decorations, fittings and artworks inside…seeing the original tapestries of the Medici family, among so many other priceless pieces of art. It was SUCH a good tour, and I absolutely loved every part of it, ah amazing! Made even better due to the fact our ‘group tour’ consisted of two people, for the most part the guide spoke to us in Italiano – and I understood a large majority of it! After they checked our passports at the first entrance though, we somehow managed to bypass mandatory security screenings completely?

After Parliament we walked the entire Via del Corso and went shopping! I must say, I am loving ‘i saldi’, and the shops on that street were SO good. (ZARA), H&M, Gap, Sephora…and all the other stores you can’t find in Australia! And for those of you who know how much I LOVE (and am an absolute sucker for) touristy souvenir shopping, I was able to finalise all of my token memorabilia for the trip! Fun times!

Time passed so quickly, to the point that we only had lunch at 3pm at a pizzeria. In the afternoon we revisited the lovely Trevi Fountain followed by Piazza di Spagna, which was honestly so much fun! In search of the perfect gelato, one of the highlights of the day was definitely eating WAY too much of it, more than once by the way – assolutamente buonissimo! But seriously, why does gelato (+flavours) taste SO much better in Italy?

Such an enjoyable and unforgettable day, I can’t believe everything is starting to wrap up though – in exactly a week I would have just landed back in Sydney…just in time for school – non voglio partire!

A dopo!

xxxxxxx

Serena

[Palazzo Montecitorio]

With a touch of class

This time round, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to boast of it but last night I went to a concert at the Sala Santa Cecilia, Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome. None other than…Mozart’s Requiem with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under the musical direction of Antonio Pappano.

I guess the one word that first comes to mind is ‘refined.’ And that’s exactly what it was, in addition to both the venue and the music being absolutely amazing! Sure, we didn’t have the greatest seats (it was a sold-out concert though) but the acoustics were fantastic and it was just generally so extraordinary!

The concert also featured Rossini and Haydn, opening with ‘La scala di seta: Sinfonia’ followed by ‘Sinfonia Concertante Hob. 105’ respectively. Suffice to say the highlight of the night was by far Mozart’s Requiem. The soloists, choir, orchestra and conductor were phenomenal, and everything was just so perfect. Happy days!

xxxxxxx

Serena

The land of coffee, pasta, pizza, lasagne, bread, cheese, gelato…

So it’s only really just occurred to me that I haven’t actually mentioned the idea of food much, and considering how much I love food – and the fact that I’m in Italy…

Well I don’t know where to begin, but in short: the food is absolutely amazing! To a certain extent, it’s somewhat different to the clichés available overseas – for example, the thought of having pineapple on a pizza is frowned upon, as well as ‘mochas’ referring to the little coffee pot (moka) used to make coffee instead of the name of coffee with added chocolate..?

But having tried more variants of pasta than one could ever imagine, I can now officially say that I’ve experienced Italian food, the authentic way. The day I first arrived, we went out for dinner at a pizzeria, and to my utmost surprise – the pizzas are HUGE.

Although I’ve always been the one who opts for an extra slice of pizza…the concept of ‘slices’ doesn’t exactly exist here. Everyone orders their own pizza, and they’re at least 1.5 times bigger than the ones you normally find in Sydney! So that night was just a bit awkward to say the least, given I felt full after a single slice – and only managed to finish half of it in the end. But over time (and practice), I can now finish one of these giant pizzas by myself in its entirety!

Spending last week in a completely different region of Italy was really interesting, in that we had the most incredible types of bread and cheese available everywhere. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of vegetables (yes, I use the term ‘vegetables’ loosely) like olives and fennel but when added to bread the Italian way, it’s actually so delicious! And the cheese…ah!

Moving onto dessert: proprio buonissima! Gelato, chocolate, nutella crêpes, strudel, tiramisu, struffoli, cannoli, panforte, pandoro, panettone, cheesecake, biscotti…the list goes on…

I’ve gotten to the stage where not having pasta for either lunch feels like something is missing; but I can’t say I’ll ever get used to having dinner so late ie 9:30pm sometimes! So while I’m having this incredible culinary adventure though, I must say it is DEFINITELY taking it’s toll elsewhere!

Buon appetito!

xxxxxxx

Serena

[Just a small snapshot of the amazing food! Ps the picture of the pizza by no means captures how enormous the plate actually was – trust me]

[Lunch]

Routines

7:00am – first alarm goes off.

7:15am – second alarm goes off.

7:30am – third alarm goes off.

7:45am – fourth alarm goes off.

8:00am – fifth and final alarm goes off.

If I haven’t already mentioned, school starts at 8:20am – so somehow within 20 minutes I manage to get up, get dressed and do all that, have an hugely delicious breakfast and walk to school. It’s incredible, I don’t know how I manage to pull it off but it works every time, every single day.

I guess this week, the fact that I’m now so immersed into the daily routines of life here became blantantly apparent to me – but also the fact that in just over two weeks I’ll be back at home in Sydney again. Although somewhat masked, I’m already feeling as though I don’t want to leave this place. Everything is just going so, so well, and disrupting that would just be inopportune. The past month+ has been absolutely amazing, and I’ve honestly thoroughly enjoyed every single moment of it.

Alright, so two weeks isn’t exactly a legitimate time to get all sentimental…but it’s not entirely unsolicited given my train ticket from Rome to Milan arrived today by courier. Which brings me to the next thing: my care-package sent from the fam. I still have no idea where it is, or what happened to it, but it should have arrived a good four weeks ago…?

I know the Italian mail system is notoriously reputed especially towards the south, but Mel’s Christmas card arrived yesterday (thanks Mel!) so it can’t all be terrible?

Anyways, in other news today was a great day at school – the feeling you get when you’re able to surpass the goal of continuously hitting 30 shots in volano (with one of the nicest people)…yes!

xxxxxxx

Serena

[Speaking of postage, I love how ‘post’ is spelt ‘poste’ in Italiano, just sayin’]