Food, People, Landscape. The three best things about Italy. With emphasis on Food. I've been here since Sunday and every day I have learned something or have tried something new.
The flight over here was great except for a five hour layover in Frankfurt. Though it just got me more excited to arrive. On my flight to Venice I met an exchange student from Canada named Misha who is actually staying with Erika Raggi's family in Udine. We sat next to each other and talked for the hour and a half flight about our nerves and excitement about coming to Italy and trying to work on our language a little bit more. Though When I was at the baggage claim and met my parents the Di Berts, I wasn't nervous about anything. I just felt at home. We took advantage on how close we were to Venice and we had dinner at a restaurant on the floating city. This is where I first became addicted to mineral water and prosciutto. Everything was incredible and tasted amazing! Afterward I was very tired and I just wanted to sleep. So, we went to my cousins house who are also my second host family. They were very kind and excited to meet me but they cannot speak English at all except my older host cousin. I forgot to say that nobody in my host family can speak English! Knowing Spanish has been a lifesaver! Because, my family actually speaks a dialect of Italian called Friulano which is closer to Spanish than Italian is. I try to use Italian when I know the words but when I have no clue I use Spanish. So I am speaking Spanalian as of now but that will change to Italian soon hopefully. It is pretty rare to find people who know English in my district, Friuli-Venezia Giulia because in its history it has been taken over by man different empires and peoples.
I live in a town called Gonars, which is a very small town that is at the center of the intersection of two Autostradas, Alpe-Adria and Turin-Trieste.It is an hour to Austria and thirty minutes to Slovenia. Being close to the interstates make travel from Gonars to other places in the Friuli very easy. My city was a concentration camp in the 1940's and you see many memorials and murals in a lot of places in Gonars. You can also see both mountain ranges surrounding my district from my house, the Julian Alps bordering Slovenia and the Carnic Alps bordering Austria. Also my town is known for having a lot of bars and it has 24 in a town of 4,000 which I find to be funny.
I live in a home with two siblings one who is 12 and with one who is 10. It is very interesting having a little brother and sister because growing up I had two much older siblings. It is fun though since there is a big soccer field as a neighbor to my house so I play futbol there with my little brother. At home I play on the Playstation with my little sister who beats me every time we play NBA. One day I'll win. My mother is a music teacher and organist for the church in the center of the city so last Tuesday I went with her to the church to be in the choir. My dad works in the municipio of Pavia di Udine a town nearby. I stay on the third floor of the house which has taken some getting used to. Since I am very clumsy and I have fallen down the stairs about twenty five times already. I went to Udine on Wednesday to go see my school. Udine is a very big city compared to the other communes in the Friuli. This is where all the movie theatres , malls, and the hangout places are. It is about thirty minutes from my house and when I go to school I will have to take the bus.
My school is very large, and I was overwhelmed at first by the size of the buildings and the number of classes there were. I will be going to school there with a friend of the family named Eugenia who is 18 and will be showing me more of Udine when school starts Monday. Also on Wednesday I went to Palmanova which is a fortress city which is in the shape of a 8 pointed star with a big piazza in the middle and statues of famous Palmanovians all around. We had gelatto there like in every other town I have been too. It never gets old.
The food here probably has to be one of the best in the World. So much Gelatto and Pasta. My favorite flavor of gelatto so far here has to be Tiramisu which was out of this world.
When I attended the Rotary meeting yesterday in Cervignano del Friuli their food was so good. They had this ham thing that I don't know the name of but it was the best thing I've had so far here. One of my favorite things about Italia is that every small city and town has something special about it. Like a special clock tower or beautiful duomo or any monument that's represents the town. It is so great that the Sun is finally out here because when I first arrived the weather was chilly and rainy. The weather is perfect now not to hot and not to cold. Today my host dad has taken my family and I to visit his friend in Austria who is mayor of a town called Faak am See. So we are here for a few days. It is very beautiful to see the mountains from every direction here and to see the natural beauty. They are also having the European Bike Week of Harley Davidson here so its been really fun to see people from all over Europe in this small town with motorcycles and turning this tranquil town into a busy city. Thank You Rotary for giving me this experience! Especially thank you to Lea Stokes, Daphne Cameron, Natalie Correa, and Fanni Cszimadia for coming to Matanzas High School last year for the presentation. Thank You!
La Vita è bella
Time has flown by! It does not feel like I have been here for almost 3 months but I have been enjoying every moment of this experience so far.
Now that I am getting used to school everything seems to have sped up. The month of September I started my first day of school, which definitely made me much more busy. I am in the 3D class which I enjoy a lot being in because everybody the class are my friends, and I love being with them. A couple weeks into school, another exchange student who was from Oregon came into my class and I was totally not expecting it. Its nice to have another exchange in your class, they understand what you are going through and what you are feeling. At first my school had me in the same class all day but then they said for me to get some credits I would need to go to other classes. So now I am in 5D and 4D for English and US History respectively and its been much better because now I feel like I am actually in school like everybody else trying to pass. In September I went to this mountain town called Gemona, for a weekend. Gemona is a town that is unbelievably beautiful because of its location on the mountain side. Thirty-four years ago it was destroyed by an earthquake that devastated the entire are of the Friuli. That weekend we went to the vineyards of Gemona and on a 10 mile hike to the top of the mountain. The views were amazing from the top. One weekend we also went to a town called Cividale which was built by the Longobarts a long time ago. It was incredible, they had a river running right through the city and underground crypts that were made by the Celts. At Cividale there was a nunnery which was built on an ancient church which you were allowed to go in. Also in September at Palmanova, which is the fort city near where I live, began the fair which is on every weekend at the piazza in the center of the comune. It is very fun to go on the weekends because there are different rides every week. I usually go with friends or with my host cousins/sisters. One day that I went I broke my camera on a ride by accident and that kind of was upsetting because it was my favorite camera ever. Also it was because the next day I was going to Trieste the capitol city of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and I was not able to buy a new one in time.
In October I went to Trieste by train with the other exchange student from Canada in Udine, for the weekend. That weekend Trieste was hosting the Barcolana regatta which is one of the largest sailing races in the World with over 2000 boats. We stayed at the house of an exchange student from Quebec. On Saturday we walked all around Trieste which is like San Francisco minus the trolleys. There are so many hills that walking wears you out. That night the city was filled with people from all over Europe who were in the race. It was so much fun. There was even a concert held in the Piazza Unita d Italia which lasted all night. The next day there was a bruncheon at a town called Muggia which is on the border of Slovenia. All the exchange students near were invited so we saw the entire race from the restaurant on top of the hill. When I got back to Udine that week, there was a festival called Friuli Doc. It is a huge festival which serves free food from all over the region, the city gets packed with people and traffic stops for the weekend. There was also a huge concert there and it was so much fun to see a different side of Udine. At the end of October we had a big lunch at our house for friends of my host family because it was the holiday. My host dad invited other mayors from cities nearby, and we ate for hours. November first was all Saints day and we walked from the church and we visited the cemeteries of relatives my host family.
In November I started playing volleyball at the school, which is really fun, because on the days we have practice we go to the city center afterwards. It has been hard being able to make all the practices because the bus schedule is kind of strange so it is hard for me to make all of them. One weekend I went with my second host family to Slovenia which was a lot of fun. We visited the mountains and we saw the bunkers where the soldiers fought in World War 1 and we also went on a very long hike up and down the mountain we were on. That weekend the weather was so strange. The fog was so thick you could not see the person in front of you and it was so cold but then it would get hot, then it would get cold again.
Last weekend I went to Grado, which is a sea town that is almost exactly like Venice because it has a lagoon, and canals in it. The sea was so calm, and different than what I have ever seen. We also went to Aquilea which was one of the largest cities of the Roman empire, there was so many ancient structures and relics, that archaeologists have found there.
This weekend I am going to Venice again for the fourth time, and I am really excited because this weekend it is supposed to be really nice weather down in the Veneto. Today here in Udine it started snowing in the city, I have never seen snowfall and I was so excited seeing it! So much fell on the ground , and its completely worth bearing the cold. I have realized something since being here and it's that things are not better or worse they are just different. Best Wishes from Italy!
Its already been 5 months, now the weeks just fly by! The holidays have came and went, and now it is February. The last few months have been one of my favorites.
In December, the snow kept on falling for days at a time. It was amazing to wake up in the morning and see everything covered with snow. I went to Austria, again with my family to go skiing near a city called Klagenfurt. They had a huge lake that stretched for miles, it was so cold but it was so nice because they had a lot of hot chocolate. It was so hard skiing! I did not really like it a lot. Sledding was a lot more fun in my opinion.
The next weekend after that, back in Gonars it snowed straight nonstop for 5 days. The snow just kept on piling up and up. I didn't go to school because my parents said that it was unsafe for the bus to go up to Udine. So, it was just so much fun playing in snow which I have never done before.
For Santa Lucia, which is a holiday on December 8th, I went with my family to a restaurant in a town called Percoto which is a frazione of the city Pavia di Udine, where my host dad is mayor. They made every dish out of a single pig, it was so good!
The weather in December was so freezing, that it made me decide that I'm definitely a person who prefers warm climates. I don't think that I could survive in a place that got any more colder.
For Christmas, my family really got in the spirit of the holiday and put Christmas lights everywhere outside the house, and inside the house. We actually got a tree in Austria, whose leaves don't fall for months. Starting on Christmas Eve, friends of my host family would come to our house and just give us gifts of food baskets and little ornaments. Christmas Day, my family got me a new jacket that I like a lot, and they got my brother a sister a Play Station Move that makes games interactive.
The day after Christmas I switched "families" well I moved homes, actually I moved towns. From Gonars I moved about 10 minutes South closer to the sea to a town called Castello di Porpetto and I love it here. Even though I've moved families from the Di Berts to the Bolzans, I'm still in the same general family because they are cousins. Whenever we go on a trip anywhere my current host family and my previous host family go together. It's nice having a large family. It doesn't feel like I've switched homes at all.
The transition was very easy. Well moving from a different town was kind of weird. It felt like I started my exchange year over again kind of. This is because I was so used to everything back in Gonars, like I knew where all the streets were and I knew all the spots in town were. I had to get used a completely different place and different people. It was like arriving in Italy all over again.
Also when I arrived in Italy back in September it was still Summer break so I didn't have school. When I moved to Castello it was winter break and it felt like deja vu. In Gonars, there was a lot of young people my age which I really enjoyed having back there. Here in Castello it is just me and my sister Valentina. When I take the bus in the morning to go to school, there's like nobody which is such a nice from before, when it used to be full where I used to live before.
Moving towns really felt like my year was renewed, and I have to do it again when I move to Pavia di Udine which is about 25 minutes North. Then New Years, in the beginning of the day I went on ATVs which my family got for Christmas. We drove from Castello to Gorizia, which is a city on the border with Slovenia. Its one of the biggest cities in Friuli- Venezia Giulia. It was like 30 minutes away. When we drove back we stopped at Palmanova where we drove into the moat of the castle city, and we did some mudding. Which was so much fun! At night I went to Udine in the biggest Piazza of the city where I met some friends in the and there they had a huge fireworks show for everybody. The fireworks were lit from the top of the Castle of Udine which is on top of a huge hill. It was so beautiful!
In January, winter break was so nice to have. Not waking up at 5:50 in the morning was great. When the break first started, I went to Venice again but this time my host family took me. It's much better going to Venice with Italians then by yourself because it's like you have the best tour guides in the world and you don't feel like some tourist. When I went with my family, it was freezing! It was negative 3 Celsius, which is like 27 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind was so strong, it felt like an ice storm.
Then two days after I went back to Venice with an AFS exchange student from Oregon who also goes to my school, it was a lot of fun because there I met other exchange students we spent the whole day from Sunrise to Sunset.
The second week of the break I went to Ljubljana, Slovenia which is the capital. It was so nice, because outside the city there are a lot of caves that you can go and hike in that are huge. The city itself had so many bridges, and a castle that overlooked the mountains.
The following day school started once again, and I had to do that same routine all over again. Now, I'm used too it so it's not as bad. The weekend after school started my family took me to Verona, where we visited very good friends of theirs. They had two sons, one who was my age and another who was older. We saw everything like the Arena and we went ice skating. There was Juliet's house and balcony from the Shakespeare story, and the river Adige which was beautiful. We also went to the churches inside which were amazing. I've been loving this exchange since the day I got here, and I know the rest of it will keep getting better.
The past few months, have been pretty interesting indeed. Well in February, at the end of the month, Carnevale started and from the last week in February to March was basically a huge festival in Italy. Especially in Venice. I was fortunate enough to be able to go three times to see the festivities. On the 28th it was pretty gloomy at Venice but there was still the famous costumed people with their masks throught the city. Venice is a city, where the best way to see it is just getting lost, because you never know what you will find behind a certain street corner or canal. On the 5th I went again to Venice by train, which is only an hour, and that day was beautiful the sun was out, and it was a joy to be outside. That day in Venice since it was a Saturday, was packed with people. Police had to be on the stairs that go over the canals to control the flow of people that go in and out the city. To get from the train station to Piazza San Marco , was about an 1 and 1/2 hours by foot, when it usually took 15 minutes. Luckily, the city decided to make the Vaporetto, which is the water taxi, free for the day. Though it was still overly crowded, that you couldn't even move. I was a little afraid that it would actually sink. Oh yeah I was with other exchange students from District 2050, 2040, and 2060. On the 8th, which was Martedi Grasso, I went to again to see the last day of Carnevale. There was a huge concert in the center, and the city was decked out with all sorts of decorations. There was all types of costumes from Alice and Wonderland to the Smurfs. It was a sight to be seen.
The Last week of March, my family from America came to visit me. Which was one of the most amazing experiences ever. We started from Venice, and went Southwards stopping in Bologna, Florence, Rome, and Napoli. Then heading back northward to Milan. Then from Milan we went to Stockholm, Sweden. I've always wanted to go to Sweden, so it was like a dream for me. Though it snowed, and there was still ice in the rivers because it was so cold, I loved everything about Sweden. Then from Stockholm we went to London, England. London was amazing. It was very bustling and a lot of fun. The city was preparing for the royal wedding, so Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey were filled with people. Then from London we flew to Trieste, which is about an hour from my home. I love going to Trieste, and I was glad my parents were able to see the part of Italy where I am living, because to me I think its very special because we can ski, go to the beach , go to Austria or Slovenia all in the same region, Friuli Venezia Giulia. The day after my parents left, I switched families. At first, I thought the change was going to be very difficult but then I got settled in very quickly with my new family. My host parents have a vineyard in a city on the border with Slovenia in the hills, so we spend a lot of time there, and its absolutely beautiful. I also have three brothers, Carlo who is 25, Tommaso who is 23, and Michele who is 20. Carlo and Tommaso go to school in Milan, but they usually come home during the weekends. Michele goes to school in Udine, so he lives at home. During the much needed Easter Break, the weather peaked to near perfection. The sun was out every day. I went to Venice, with my host family to see there house there. Also I went to the beach, which reminded me a lot of Florida, except without the waves. It was very rexaling, and I'm so happy we had the week off of school. Time flies, but at least I'm having fun.