Carli, outbound to Italy

October, November, December and now January. The past 3 months and a few days have gone by in a flash, and I can't believe that I have already been here for 4 months. Four months in my favorite country, with the most amazing people, the most delicious food, and the most breathtaking views. The days seem to go by faster and faster as time goes on….I really wish that they would slow down because theres nothing I want more than to stay here as long as possible.

October seemed fast and full of season changes, new foods and pumpkin carving. It was my first time seeing the leaves change colors and the temperature dropping little by little each day. I don’t know how I’ve lived so long without seeing Fall before.

My first host family always laughed at me for taking pictures of leaves, but to me, it was a big deal since I grew up in Florida. I introduced them to the wonderful American tradition of carving pumpkins for Halloween. My host sister, Chiara and I had so much fun making our own Italian jack-o-lantern and then cooking and eating the seeds afterwards, which is one of my favorite Fall treats.

To celebrate Halloween, I went to Venice to stay with my friend Jennifer (another RYE student from California). We had a blast walking around Venice dressed up as a cat and gypsy until we finally realized that everyone was dressed scary, but us. LOL. It was one of those things that you just don’t get the memo for! The next day we went sailing all around Venice with her host family on her host father’s sailboat. It was a perfect windy and sunny day, which is not so common in Venice, so we we’re lucky. October came to an end very fast and it was time for me to switch host families. I am so thankful for the time that I spent with the Menegazzi family. They taught me so much about the Italian culture and were the first perfect family for me. They will forever remain as family :)

November was full of change! I moved to my second host family, The Baldassarre! Gustavo, Barbara, Bianca and Maria Giulia live in a two story home in the center of Pordenone with the perfect view of the mountains behind their home. I absolutely love living in Pordenone because I am so close to the center of the city and also to school. It is so easy to just walk into the center and grab a bite to eat, or the daily cup of coffee, that is now needed (Really... I can’t live without it).

My host sister, Maria Giulia is 19 and studying in Pavia, a small city close to Milan so she comes home for holidays and long weekends and we always have so much fun together when she comes home! I went and stayed with Mari in Pavia for a weekend and we had a blast Christmas shopping, sightseeing and traveling to Milan for the day to see all of the wonderful things that city has to offer, plus she is the greatest travel partner. My other host sister is Bianca, she is 13 and is in the last year of middle school. She is an arithmetic dancer and also a great artist! I love having a little sister around! Barbara and Gustavo are such amazing host parents! They are both so loving and caring and I am so happy to be living with them!

At the beginning of December I changed schools. I was really not happy at the artistic school for many reasons and now I am attending a Linguistic school in Pordenone where my classmates study French, English and German. I am so happy to be at my new school and I love my class so much! My class is all girls and one boy because a Linguistic school is not very popular amongst Italian boys. Everyone is so sweet and has been so welcoming since I arrived!

Soon after I arrived at the new school it was already time for winter break! On the 23rd of December after Bianca’s winter dance recital we drove four hours south to Civitanova, a small town on Adriatic Sea where my host mom’s mother lives. We spent Christmas Eve there, where we ate a huge “Feast of the Seven Fishes” dinner with all of their family members and stayed up until midnight for “Babbo Natale” to arrive and bring presents.

On Christmas morning, we woke up and drove another four hours south to Naples to spend Christmas with my host dad’s side of the family. We had a huge lunch with 50 of their relatives. It as such an amazing experience getting to see how Italians celebrate Christmas compared to my family back home. We stayed in the center of Naples in their aunt’s apartment where we had our own room to ourselves overlooking Mount Vesuvius.

Everyday we woke up late, took our time, casually walked the streets, through markets and shops, truly living like the Napolitans. One night in Naples the temperature reached below thirty and started to snow. It was the first time I had ever seen snow fall from the sky and I was so happy that I almost cried. (Really...there's a video to prove it!).

For New Years Eve, we shot fireworks out of their grandma’s balcony, bouncing them off the buildings in front of us - it was crazy! I was told to be careful that the New Year’s tradition in Naples is for people to throw things out of their windows; however I didn’t see anyone actually do this. Later in the evening, we walked to the city center to watch a fireworks show being shot from the Castel Dell’Ovo. It was amazing and the fireworks were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s safe to say that I fell in love with Naples and I am so excited to go back in February with Rotary.

One day during our Naples trip, Maria Giulia and I traveled to Rome by train for the day. We started our day early at the Colosseum and made our way to the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and many of the other important sights in Rome. We had so much fun wandering around and spending our time popping in and out of shops to keep warm (It was 35 degrees and very windy that day). We ended the day by sitting on the Spanish steps and people watching while eating warm chestnuts made by a street vendor. I can’t think of a better way to spend a chilly winter day in Italy but in Rome!

I can’t believe that it is already 2015!!! I am so happy that I get to start the New Year in Italy, and so incredibly grateful to be here. I am constantly still doing and seeing new things, and I am so happy that I can finally consider Italy my home (my Italian ancestors probably like that too!) .

Yesterday, I went skiing for the first time in Piancavallo, the mountains in Aviano which is about 30 minutes from Pordenone. It was my first time skiing! I was absolutely horrible at skiing, but I had the best time ever with my host family. Lots of laughs and sore muscles for this Florida girl.

The 9th of January was such a sad day for my inbound district because that is the day that my two Rotary Youth Exchange friends Libbi and Tom returned to Australia. I am so sad that they are gone, I have grown so close to the both of them. But now, I have a great reason (in fact, two great reasons) to visit Australia!!! They will both be missed so much by everyone in our district but we will all see them sometime in the future! On the bright side, the new year is sure to be filled with many exciting upcoming events and adventures!

Stay Tuned! Ciao! Bacci!

Carli