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From Classmates to Travelmates

May 12, 2017
by Anthony Rotolo

While studying abroad, it is tempting to travel every weekend because all the cool cities and countries you have always heard about are only a cheap plane or train away.  Since I arrived in Florence, I have been traveling about 2/3 of the weekends and am having a great time filled with new cultures, sights, food, friends, and stories!

When people say that traveling Europe is cheap, they are right, especially when compared to the United States!  That doesn’t mean it won’t still dig a hole in your pocket though.  Lucky for me, about the time I started to feel like I needed to slow down on my spending for trips, CEA took all its students on two trips which were included in the cost of tuition. While these trips were not technically “free trips,” by the time the trips came around the money spent on tuition 3 months back wasn’t in the forefront of my mind. CEA plans these weekend and day trips to try to immerse them to the country they are studying in, since most students spend their weekends in other countries around Europe. This is why they also did trips around Italy for each specific class earlier on in the semester! The two “cultural excursions,” as I would call them, that CEA took us on were to Sienna and the Amalfi Coast, and they were amazing!

 Sienna, beautiful even on a rainy day!

The first cultural excursion CEA took us on was a day trip to Sienna, a small renaissance city about 2 hours south of Florence, still in Tuscany. Once there we were taken on a detailed tour of the city where we learned about the city and its history! Unfortunately, it was raining when we went on this trip, but we made the most of it and still got to enjoy the city! It was a beautiful city and since Sienna is not as modernized as Florence, we were able to get a nice taste of how a city functioned during the Renaissance. I also had the best biscotti I had in Italy while in Sienna, called “Ricciarelli!”

The second trip CEA took us on was one that our whole program was really looking forward to the whole semester. Our destination was Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast! This trip offered us an emersion into Southern Italy, which has a culture entirely different from that of Central Italy where Florence lies. We were taken to a Mozzarella di Buffala farm, Pompeii, a lemon farm in Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast.  At the farm, we were fed a meal of cheese, salad, tomatoes, cheese, bread, cheese, and more cheese…oh and don’t forget gelato! There have been few other times where I was so happy not to be lactose intolerant.

In Pompeii, we were taken on a guided tour and had the opportunity to hear from an archaeologist as he was searching for a hidden tunnel underneath the city. During our lemon tour, we were brought up to this beautiful little hillside farmhouse in the middle of a lemon orchard and were fed lemons, lemonade, bruschetta, and lemon marmalade. This was the first time I had eaten straight lemons, and they were amazing! I mean they are the best lemons in the world! We had two nights to explore and hang around the beautiful small coastal town, Sorrento. We spent the last day of our trip along the Amalfi Coast, which was beautiful. The drive was just as spectacular as the destination!

For me, this was the first opportunity for me to swim in 3 months, so spent a significant amount of time in the not so warm water. I can only imagine this place in the summer when the water is warm! While in Southern Italy I also had three of the best meals I have had in Italy. One of the dishes I had was a black linguine pasta with shrimp and cream sauce, the black linguine was made with squid ink. This trip was filled with amazing food, places, and culture!

 Fresh lemons in Sorrento!
 The Ancient city of Pompeii!

While studying abroad for a semester in a small program with a small group of people, it is easy to find yourself bonding with a lot of your classmates. Some of us come from schools with over 20,000 or 30,000 students, so spending a semester in a school with only 75 students can build real community among both the students and the faculty. The best part about these cultural excursions that CEA plans is that you get to travel and have fun with all your classmates and the faculty. Most of the trips you plan during the semester are only with your roommates or a couple friends, so traveling with all these people you know can be a lot of fun. That is why I say the best part about these trips was not just the cultural experience, but being able to share it with all my friends that I have made while abroad. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience for a lot of people, and it is amazing to share it with the people you meet while abroad!

 Just a glimpse at the beautiful Amalfi Coast!

Anthony R. is the Spring 2017 MOJO Blogger in Florence, Italy.  He is currently a Sophomore studying Business Administration at Santa Monica College.

Anthony Rotolo is the Spring 2017 CEA MOJO Blogger in Florence, Italy in Florence, Italy, and is currently studying at Santa Monica College.
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