So my art history class in Arezzo is basically the coolest class I’ve ever taken! Each Thursday we travel to sights to learn about Italian Decorative Complexes and a new part was just added where we learn about the actual process of making the art itself so we can appreciate it even more.

Two weeks ago we headed out to Assisi in Umbria to see San Francesco and all of its greatness. We hoped on a train early in the morning then took a bus up to the top of the hill where the basilica sits and we grabbed a light lunch before Kirk took us through telling us about Cimabue’s attempt at perspective with the example literally right in front of you! So amazing. Then we went up to the second floor where there were all of the freezes of the life of San Francesco and learned that supposedly when the earthquake struck 3 people ran to the altar and 1 to the door, guess which ones lived?

After our tour the rest of the class wanted to go home but 6 of us wanted to stay and explore so we walked around up the hill towards the huge fortress, getting gelato along the way obviously! I did not have my hiking gear on, but when we made it to the top and had the huge view it made everything so worth it. I cant even begin to describe the colors and the views from the tops of the hills in Italy but it is one of those experiences where you just can’t speak and have to pause to really remember that I live here in one of the most beautiful places in the world!

This past week we were able to learn about the creative process of making sculptures and frescoes by experiencing it for ourselves. First we went to the studio of a very famous tuscan sculptor who still uses the traditional bronze making process and uses granite for his work. He was a total nut but so fun to watch and learn from. Listening to his inspiration for his pieces and realizing the work that goes into them.

Our next stop was at an agricultural tourism site where they had vineyards, farms, and a hotel with an amazing pool! We had a lecture on frescoes then were able to paint them ourselves. Before I never realized how much work went into them till I was trying to lay the background sand and cementish mixture before i could even pick up a paintbrush! I now realize how all of the great artists felt and how much time and dedication these things take. Needless to say I do not have the attention span for it! But I was able to finish mine and it turned out fairly decent, I’ll post more pics later!

We were supposed to have a “light lunch” which turned into a 4 course meal consisting of appetizers, pasta, chicken, and apple pie with wine made from their vineyard. Needless to say it was a good school day and I learned more from experience than I ever would have just sitting in a classroom at ou!

So we just got back yesterday from Venice and Verona! Friday we had class and a meeting at the U.S. Consulate in Florence so we woke up and took a train there, then got off and walked all over the city with Kirk (our professor) who described all of the architecture and significance to us which was really cool. After that we stopped for a short lunch and gelato (we have a new appreciation for the gelato in Arezzo which was better and cheaper than Florence!)

We next had an appointment at the U.S. Consulate in Florence where they took us on a tour and then had a meeting about being safe abroad and what the consulate can and can’t do for us. It was a really small place in comparison to Rome so I will be interested to get my first tour of the embassy next semester to see the comparison! I decided that I am glad I’ll be stationed in Rome because there will be more going on there than there was in Florence. The speaker was really cool and told us about working for the State Dept also.

After our appointment we had a train to catch so we headed back to the station and got on a regional train to Venice with 9 of my other classmates. When we got to Mestre, we had 2 different rooms booked, so the other group thought they were close to this station and left to find it. We figured out how to get tickets into Venice then waited 30 minutes… ate mcdonalds (I know it’s bad but it was late and we were starving and stuck at the station!) then I navigated with a handmade map to find our hotel, but we weren’t staying in the actual hotel, we were staying in an apartment closer to the Rialto bridge, so we just picked up the key and then I had to navigate down to the bridge at 10:30 at night, but I can’t complain because Venice was beautiful by night and the location of our apartment/hotel was great!

When we got to the area we found our street which had an irish bar in front of it with a lot of locals that were so excited to see 5 girls together that they literally did a spirit tunnel for us when we walked by to the next road, it was really funny. Our apartment was on the top floor, but still not as many as to my own apartment! That night we just chilled and went to bed early for an early morning in Venice.

Saturday we woke up, got a coffee (or coke for me) and headed out to the sights! We took the water ferry to St. Marks, which was so great to be on the water without paying for an 80 Euro gondola ride! We hopped in line for the basilica right away and it was so beautiful inside! It was definitely Byzantine which was interesting to me since I’ve mainly only seen Gothic up to this point.

Everyone wanted to go the the Doge’s Palace next but the line was really long so we found a double pass at another museum close by that had no line, walked around this museum for awhile and then were able to later skip the line to get into the Palace.

After the Correre museum we found the other 4 girls and headed down some random streets to find a good place to eat. We stumbled across a very cute trattoria where I ordered seafood and all 10 of us chatted about what we had been up to all day. Next I found this store with some great old maps of Italy so I bought one and it is now hanging in Kara’s and my room in Arezzo!

Then we headed back to St. Marks to go to the Palace and when we got there it was completely flooded! They aren’t kidding when they say Venice is sinking I guess. We all had to take our shoes off and wade through to get to the other side, so obviously we had to stop and take 100 pictures! Some are above. The palace was cool and everything was basically how I remembered it from last time.

Next we wandered our way over to the Academia bridge to go the the Guggenheim modern art collection which was really cool because it had a lot of famous pieced that even I recognized and it also had a wishing tree which was a gift from Yoko Ono where you write down your wish and then hang it on the tree! It would definitely be a cute idea for a wedding or some sort of shower we decided.

When we left, we got lost which is what you are supposed to do in Venice! I just put the map away and we wandered till we were on the complete opposite side, then I found the main streets again and navigated us back to the Rialto. While we were lost we found the only dance club in Venice, along with a lot of residential areas and small stores that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I obviously had to buy one of the murano glass penguins too!

That evening I went and made reservations at a small restaurant by the canal and we all met there for dinner which was my favorite one so far. Everything was homemade and our waitors were so nice. The owner even came out to chat with us and he was so sweet, it was definitely the mom and pop kind of atmosphere I was hoping to find when I booked our apartment in the Venetian residential area!

The next morning we all got up really early to get on a connecting train from Venice to Mestre then to catch our next train from Mestre to Verona. I have also been to Verona before so when we got there I was able to find our way back to the main square (with a little help from Rick Steves) and then find Juliets house. We did the whole picture thing there and toured the house then had lunch at a cute cafe overlooking the 3rd oldest amphitheater in all of Italy. After this, we were kind of ready to leave because there wasn’t a lot left to do, but our train wasn’t for awhile so we basically all just spent the day relaxing, doing a little shopping (don’t worry I didn’t buy anything!) and people watching.

It was definitely nice to get out of Arezzo and see another area, but I also decided that I’m ready to start traveling out of Italy in general to experience other places!

Next weekend one of my best friend Kylie Bohanan is coming to Florence with the Engineering program so I will be able to see her and Ashley Zumwalt! Then the next weekend, I will be getting out my dirndl (traditional german dress) because Kara, Kate and I will be going to the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest in Munich!!

So I’ve officially been in Arezzo for a week now and have been loving every minute of it! Today was the joust which only happens twice a year and it was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced in my life. Living here during this time is like living somewhere between medieval times and the present and I love it! Starting from the day I came the different quartieres of the city were having parades through their streets and shooting off canons. I am not a proud member of the Porto Santo Spirito clan or as my roommate and I have preferred to call it “Gryffindor” even though we are not the colors I feel like I’m in Hogwarts mixed with OU/TX weekend!

Our classes are at the University of Siena in Arezzo and it is basically like every other school except you walk through beautiful tuscan trees to get there! There are also only three buildings which makes it a bit different than OU. My class there is the advanced italian class which is basically 2 semesters to 5 which is a bit confusing but our teacher is great so I’m excited for it. My other class is Italian Decorative Complexes with the director Kirk Duclaux and our first day of class was so wonderful! He brought in experts in the Arezzo area to talk about the city from the time of the Etruscans to present and we were able to go under the city to look at excavated etruscan streets and houses which were still in great shape. It is funny to think that basically by digging down a few feet anywhere in Italy you are likely to find some sort of ruins is amazingly cool and also a bit difficult for them to get building permits! Next we had an architect take us around describing what Arezzo used to look like compared to now and explained a lot of the structures. This definitely gave me a new appreciation for the town I’m living in.

Since the actual courses at UNISI don’t start until October I am only taking 2 classes at the moment which is pretty amazing! But I’m trying to fill my time learning more italian so that I don’t die on my first day of classes taught only in italian! What’s even crazier is that there isn’t even a schedule up for what the classes offered are or times yet, so I’m basically just waiting and hoping that two classes will work out with my schedule and transfer!

Saturday there was a great antique market at the top of the city by the duomo where I was able to find some great stuff like antique wooden boxes, earrings, coins, etc. Then that evening was the joust dinner where we all went to my quartiere for a huge feast with all of the locals. This could not have possibly been any more fun that it was! We all wear our colors (blue and gold) then find our spot at the table and are served a 3 course meal by the young people of the area. At first we were at the wrong table so it was quite funny having to move all of our silverware and cups and food to a different table when we got kicked out of ours!

At our new table there was a rowdy group of italian guys next to us who came and taught us our “talking smack” song about S. Crucifero quartiera. When they came over they taught me and when they realized I had it down they were lifting me out of my chair and onto the bench to lead the chant. At this point I had no choice so I was yelling out our italian chant followed by the other OU people and our new italian friends, it was the funniest and greatest thing I’ve done in a long time!

That night after the dinner each group has a huge party and I was able to visit 3 out of the 4. This was a great way to meet new italian and practice my communication skills. Arezzo isn’t exactly a large city in Italy, but for the joust I’m pretty sure the population more than doubles for awhile which was crazy but also fun!

The next day is the actual joust where the streets literally flood with people decked out in their colors and cram into the piazza grande for the biggest event of the year. It is seriously like an OU student section, but with 4 teams! Each section is full of lots of hyped up young people with noise makers, smoke machines, flags, and all sorts of other stuff. Next there was a huge procession of all of the medieval people in their costumes with the band following. After them were the flag throwers which were amazing! There must have been 60 or more of them and they came and did their routines starting with the oldest going to the youngest. They jumped, flipped, threw and all in multicolored tights! I was very impressed with their skills, especially when a man that had to be at least 60 jumped over another mans flag and rolled on the ground. Next each quartiere came out with their jousters, men with bows and arrows and other costumed people.

I was prepared with my Santo Spirito scarf, feather earrings, and whistle so Kara and I cheered on our quartiere proudly! After around an hour and a half of processions and flag throwing the jousting began and it is really a short but stressful time. There are 8 jousters total (and no they don’t hit each other, I was a bit disappointed too). Each jouster only gets one chance to strike the Saracin (this large dummy with a target and a weapon in the other hand that spins around and can hit them after they strike the target). The target has a bulls-eye and then other areas which determine the score 1-5. 5 being the best and the hardest the achieve, only to be outdone by someone breaking their lance on the strike which means double points. But if you are struck by the weapon of the Saracin you lose all points!

The first to go was S. Anrdrea, the winner from last joust. After the first run everyone thought he had a 5 but it was determined by the judges as a 4. Next was my team S. Spirito who also got a 4, proceeded by S. Crucifero who astounded everyone by getting the perfect score of a 5. This was when the energy in the piazza rose substantially and it was great! S. Laurentino went last with a 4 so no one was completely out of the game yet.

What happened next was stunning and no one could believe it! S. Andrea took their 2nd (and last turn) and only scored a 2! You can imagine the “student section” at this point where they were yelling back and forth between Crucifero and Andrea, all I understood was that Crucifera was making fun of them and Andrea kept pointing to a sign stating that they won last time, it was seriously just like a football game!

Spirito was next and received another 4 which made us happy to have beaten Andrea, but Crucifero scored a 4 which meant they won unless Lorentino got a perfect score. The intensity at this moment was nuts since Lorentino is definitely the underdog of all of the teams here. The crowd got quiet as the jouster ran and hit the bulls-eye perfectly. The crowd erupted from all sides with either excitement or stress! This mean a Joust Off which is not a typical thing because normally ties are uncommon.

Things really got rowdy at this point and some of the horses were even a bit spooked. So out came Crucifero for their last attempt at the win. Instead of silence at this point their was crazy noise from all sides, either cheering on or attempting to distract, but the jouster didn’t seem to notice and went as hard and fast as he could so what do you know? He BROKE THE LANCE! People were going nuts and it took awhile just to clear the men out of the running area so that they could announce and bring out Laurentino. Since his score was doubled he received an 8 and everyone basically knew it was over, but Laurentino still had a great run receiving a 4, but not enough to win.

After the final announcement of the final scores the “student section” of Crucifero broke lose like at bedlam and climbed the walls to receive the golden lance. And I swear if their had been a goal post there they would have taken it to the ground within seconds! We all stayed and watched the madness for a good while before retiring home to have dinner and reflect quite possibly one of the top 5 best things I’ve ever done in my life!


I’m finally in Arezzo! In my apartment with Kara! Yesterday I left Castel Fusano and my classmates to meet up with all of the OU people at the airport where we had a shuttle that took us all the way to Arezzo, which was so nice because switching trains with lots of luggage is not the best.

When we got here we went to each apartment to drop off all of the students. Our apartment was the 3rd stop and after seeing where the other students are living I decided that I really like our location best!

Today my legs are killing me!! There are 87 stairs to get to our room with no elevator, and yesterday Kara and I had to take up 6 pieces of luggage (4 of which were mine…lol). We’ve decided this will be a good thing though considering how many carbs we will be consuming here.

Our apartment is great! Above us we have a terrace where we can hang laundry and sit outside and look over Arezzo. Our room is super cute and very bright. I was expecting it to be sort of old but instead everything is very new and I’m pretty sure from Ikea.

When we finished getting all of our stuff up the stairs Kara and I went to the grocery store and brought back food for the next week, then I had to cook! A scary thought, but even though I don’t cook much, my Grammies and Mom’s persistence of showing me how to do what there doing helped me remember how to prepare a good meal! I boiled gnocchi, fried fish in a pan and…. used store bought sauce because I’m not THAT good yet. But by the end I bet I will be able to.

I won’t lie though… I sort of forgot that you need to thaw the fish before you put it in the pan, so it practically exploded in the pan and a battle between me and the fish ensued where I ended victorious after removing it, rethawing it, and then cooking it again.

Next, Kara and I walked all over Arezzo seeing the main sights and getting gelato. We were pretty content. We feel pretty lucky to be here and have this experience in such a gorgeous little town.

After eating we cleaned up, unpacked a bit, and then met up with Kate to get my other bags that my mom and I had left with her. Then even though we were tired and icky we decided to go have a little dinner and a glass of wine at a great little restaurant. The food could not have been any better and so we decided that that will be our spot for every other Wednesday from now on!

I had gnocchi again, but it had some sort of meat in it and it blew mine out of the water but I decided that that is ok for now. After having 2 pastas, chardonnay, and chocolate mousse with raspberry we decided that it probably could not get any better than this!






Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain



Buon Giorno!

My mom and I arrived in Rome on the 23rd and have had a great time! After we arrived we went to meet our driver who was expecting me to be a business person so he was a bit surprised when I went and tapped him in my sweat suit. He also did not speak english at all, so I used all of my italian skills and had a pretty decent conversation!

We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast that didn’t have AC, just a big fan so my mom had a rude awakening. Then I made her get ready really quickly so that we could head out to the colloseum. We took the metro and that also freaked my mom out a little bit but she was a trooper! It was super hot but we got over it because we wanted to see the forum and colloseum.

We had a lot of fun walking around and taking pictures. We got lost in the forum for awhile but we were glad we bought our tickets there first because the line at the colloseum was outrageous! After touring it all we went and had snacks and a drink at a restaurant across the street.

The metro and heat was pretty hard on my mom and the metro does not go to all of the places we wanted to go, so I sucked it up and let my mom convince me to take a bus tour. And I will admit it did make my life a lot easier.

The next day we got up and got on the bus to ride around the city. We went the whole way round and then got off at the Trevi fountain to meet up with my Theta friends. We were early so we took some pictures and wandered the area. When we decided to throw our coins in the fountain I went first and then gave a coin to mom who just threw it like a baseball (instead of over her shoulder) and I got a pretty good laugh about that. When my friends came we took some pics and chatted but then we all had to be different places later.

We hopped back on the bus and went to the Pantheon, but missed our stop so we had to get off at the next one and walk back. When we got there we took some pictures, sat down and then got kicked out for mass to start so we had just barely made it.

After the Pantheon we went and found the bus again and went to have dinner by the Vatican, this was our first real meal of the trip because the hot weather and busy schedule didn’t allow us to much time or that big of an appetite.

On our last day we went to the Vatican museums, which were free because it was the last Sunday of the month. We stood in line for awhile, took some cute pics of nuns driving, on laptops, and other things you wouldn’t picture nuns doing. We did the whole tour, bought a really nice cross necklace for my mom at the Vatican and ate our first Italian pizza at the restaurant there.

We got a late start this day so by the time we wanted to go to the basilica the line was ridiculous so I told my mom we would come back before it close that evening. Getting back on the bus, we rode to the Spanish steps and did a little shopping then had dinner.

Around 5pm we headed back to the Vatican where there was now no line for the basilica but mass was going on and my dress wasn’t close enough to my knees so I sent my mom in alone to go explore and she said it was very neat to see mass happening in the Vatican.

The next morning we got up to take our massive amount of luggage to the train station and it was pretty miserable, luckily all of the big bags we have are now staying in Arezzo so that was the only time we had to take around the big bags.

Since I hadn’t been able to upload photos until now, here they are. Looking back at them, I think they summarize the first three weeks of my trip well. That’s good for me because I haven’t had time to post as much as I wanted to on this blog. The Journey to Italy program is, by nature, go-go-go. I think if you choose to do a program that only lasts one month and then try to make free time for yourself, where you can sit inside and write a blog, you’re doing it wrong. There is way too much to see and learn for that.

So here I am, at home in Oklahoma, only now having the time to sit and think about my trip. I guess I might as well start with the photos.

This is something beautiful on the top of the Trevi fountain. One of the first nights that we were in Rome, most people in the group went to the fountain, a great people-watching spot. The fountain itself is gorgeous at night. The sounds of the water and people chatting keep the area buzzing with life. I threw one coin into the water, to guarantee that I would return to Italy someday. If I had thrown anymore, I would have risked falling in love with and marrying an Italian man, which is not part of my life-plan.

Top of the Trevi fountain

This is a view of Rome. I really loved exploring Rome. I guess I love Arezzo most, but Rome is a close second. It is a big city, full of people and food and art and history. There is no way to see it all. And no way to describe it perfectly. All over the city, there are fountains of fresh water to fill up your bottle. Since I am someone who won’t leave the house without water, I loved this. I bought three bottles of water on the trip back to Oklahoma because I kept having to go through airport security and am too neurotic to go without it. I couldn’t help but think about Rome.

A view of Rome

This is the Arch of Titus. I learned about it when I took my first art history class. I always liked it and never knew why. Now I love it and I still don’t really know why. That may not be the most fascinating thing to read, but there is something to be said for loving art without having a reason. I do a lot of that. Sometimes I find a reason.Sometimes I don’t.

The Arch of Titus

This is the Colosseum. And a topless man. I didn’t intend to take his photo, but it is an excellent representation of the way I experienced Italy. No, no, no, I’m not trying to say I spent time looking at ancient architecture and partially nude Italian men. The former -yes, the latter- not on your life. What I mean is that you can’t experience the beauty and history of Italy without also experiencing the culture of the Italians. Or, more accurately, you can but shouldn’t.

On the last day of class, my professor told us a story. She said she was standing in front of a big tourist spot, when a bus pulled up. Out of the bus comes a group of young Americans, looking worn out and like they’ve just been dragged all across the country. One girl turns to her friend and says “What city is this?” Her friend answers that she thinks they’re in Florence. Then the first girl says, in a completely sincere, awestruck voice, “Ah, Florence!” That would be .. oh.. almost ok if they hadn’t been standing in front of the Colosseum in Rome!

I got two things from this story. The first is that that’s no way to see a country. You should embrace the strangeness, get out of the tourist bubble, and try to learn about what you’re seeing. Attempt to order things in Italian. Failing is better than not trying. The second thing is that I am so glad my trip was not like that. If I had just wanted to see the famous art and buildings and then get back on my air-conditioned bus, I would have been completely out of luck. That is just not what this program is like.

The Colosseum

This is a photo I took of the floor of the Duomo in Siena. Not a whole lot more to it than that. Why don’t floors here ever look like that? Italy has beauty in spades.

The Floor of the Duomo in Siena

On to Florence. This is the ceiling of the Baptistry.

The Baptistry in Florence

Will you just look at that? Those colors, water, little boats? This was in Burano, a tiny island off of Venice. No matter how many times I look at the photos from my trip, I still can’t believe how many beautiful things I got to see. It was amazement overload.

Burano, an island near Venice

One day, we took a field trip to Michelangelo’s birthplace. It didn’t seem like that special of a place at first. There was a building. It was where he lived. And there was a small museum. I wasn’t enthralled until I saw the view. I have been in so many churches but I never felt so.. reverent as I did at Michelangelo’s birthplace. The nature that surrounded the house was so beautiful. The house was built up a steep trail, away from the town. It felt so peaceful and made me think. And take many pictures. Here is one.

View from Michelangelo's birthplace

This is a photo of my group, right before we went to our neighborhood dinner for the Joust of the Saracen. I had some definite team spirit, which is pretty unlike me.

My group for the Joust of the Saracen

This is my view of Piazza Grande from the stands right before the Joust, during some procession. Usually, it’s just a piazza. But that night there was a long packed dirt trail, many horses, and knights. There was more filler than actual jousting, but the filler was pretty impressive too. Who knew flag-throwing could be so masculine? Even in tights, those guys were a little sexy. A little.

Before the Joust

I took many pictures while in Cinque Terre. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The pictures I like the best are the ones I took to document my hike. I hiked! Really, I did! This is a picture of a trail I just conquered, on the way from Montorosso to Vernazza.

A view from my Cinque Terre hike

This is from the end of the hike. We made it to beautiful Vernazza. We were hot, sweaty, and in great spirits. See those rocks down there by the beach? That’s where I sat to soak my hot, aching feet for awhile before exploring the town. Perfectly cool, blue water. I even saw a crab, starfish, and a sea urchin.

Looking down on Vernazza at the end of the hike

The last field trip we took was to Cortona. For one of our classes, we read the book Under the Tuscan Sun. It was set and partially filmed in Cortona. Our first stop was a local vineyard, where we got to tour the Barrachi winery. I saw tiny grapes and barrels of wine. Then came the tasting. It was a long, relaxing, late-morning wine tasting. I wouldn’t suggest 11 am as a good time for a tasting, but it was excellent nonetheless. I am certain it was the best wine I’ve ever had and they were very generous with the servings. The winery is a small, family-run operation, so the son spoke to us about his wine. He told us how it was made and how to best enjoy it.

The vineyard

This last photo is a view of Cortona. It is so exactly what you’d imagine a Tuscan town to look like. I expected for the stereotyped ideas I had about Italy and Tuscany to be broken down, but they weren’t. They were reinforced. Fortunately, I had no negative stereotypes before going. I just thought Italy was all food, beauty, and culture. And it is. Of course, there are many other layers and definitely plenty that I did not discover.

A view of Cortona

The lessons I learned while in Italy are still surfacing. For the most part, I had personal discoveries. That was a big goal for me in going abroad. I wanted to learn, but I also wanted to learn about myself in a foreign situation. And I did. I learned that I can fail and fail and fail at something and be embarrassed and be confused, but still be ok. I wanted to be strong and fearless, but I am not always. I can’t be. But there is one thing I can be: resilient. Call me a stupid American all you want, I’m going to keep trying. I learned many things about myself, including the fact that I will never get tired of pizza.


And that’s it! I’m home now. As little as I’ve blogged, I still enjoyed  sharing my experience. I’ll be the billionth person to say it, but studying abroad is worth every moment, every cent. Do it. It was only for a month, but it did something for me that I can’t explain. I came back with a new and improved perspective. I’ll leave you with a photo of my first attempt at baking focaccia bread at home:


This is my first post since arriving in Italy. It has been such a long week. Internet has been hard to come by, so I guess I’ll try to make this one count.

We arrived in Rome on schedule. The flights were fine. Well.. except the part where they wake you up a few hours after you fell asleep and tell you it’s morning. Now… the sun was up and shining, which was very convincing. But my body didn’t agree. The only good part was being handed coffee immediately.

I traveled with 3 girls straight from Oklahoma City. We met up with another girl in Chicago and a fifth once we arrived in Rome. The six of us got a deal on a van to our hotel in the middle of Rome. Well, it went nearly to our hotel. I consider wandering around a city, pulling luggage, being exhausted, and looking clueless is part of the experience. Rome was beautiful. I miss it. I feel like we were there for a long time. Each day, we got up, had some bread and coffee, and started our trek with our professor through the city. The weather was beautiful, but sunny. By the end of the day, we were all covered in sweat and groaning about our feet.

The buildings and art were amazing. There was this moment, while I was looking at a Bernini sculpture, when I realized that this trip was going to be significant for me. I’ve never cared for art history as much as a studio art major should. Seeing the work in person changes everything. Photos in books can be inspiring, but standing near a famous piece of art and realizing there is a reason that it’s famous does more. It’s moving. And then it’s humbling. It makes me feel like I can never be an artist because I need to improve so much. The thing about me, fortunately, is I find being told I can’t do something extremely motivating. Even if I am the one saying it. Oh I can’t? Watch me.

I’m leaving out a lot, but just know the academic side of things has been action packed and the non-class cultural experiences have been a number of things: enlightening, complicated, confusing, and hilarious to name a few.

Next, we took a private bus to Sienna. It was such a nice place. We were only there for an afternoon, but it was worth it. We saw art in a very small museum and then our professor sent us on a mission. In Sienna, there are 17 neighborhoods that all have different animal names and compete in a horse race. We were told to ask locals about their neighborhoods and which neighborhoods were their rivals. It felt like being part of the Amazing Race. Minus the physical labor and plus gelato. There is always gelato involved. I was lucky in that no one was mean to me and several people were very helpful. Some girls said that they were kicked out of stores for asking, even if they had already made purchases.

So far, people have mostly been nice. Lots of people have been unfriendly, but not mean. Some people, specifically men, have been overly welcoming. It’s a strange thing to be blatantly propositioned and (after firmly declining, of course) not even feeling that offended. I think I’d like to deck a guy if he was so blunt in Oklahoma. Here, it is easy to brush off.

We are in Florence now. It smells like cigarettes and leather. And food, if you’re standing in the right places. I like this city. The walls of the buildings are very tall and the streets are very narrow. There are more tourists here than I’ve ever seen in my life. The guides hold sticks with flowers or decorations on the ends or umbrellas to keep from losing their flocks. It’s very strange to be in a foreign place and hear so many American voices around. It isn’t what I expected, but I’m spending time on the beaten path. I wish I had more time here to better get to know the city, but we leave on Friday.

So far, I like both of my courses. The art history professor, Kirk, is great. I think I’ve learned a lot. I doubt I’ll be telling him any time soon, but I credit his teaching style. He calls it practical. I haven’t spent much time with the other professor, Stephanie, since she won’t be with us regularly until we get to Arezzo, but she seems very sharp and kind. These people are great sources of information. This program is one where you get back whatever you put in. I’m doing my best to get a lot back.

I may not have internet for a bit, but I’ll update when I get the chance.




Another delayed post! DIO MIO! Mi dispiace, for the delay!  Just when you think everything is in order, everything changes! It may not only be a lesson I take from studying abroad, but also one that seems perfectly suited for life.  If you are a student reading this and planning on studying abroad for a semester, listen to what people tell you about the emotions you will experience.  For me, I was listening with only one ear, thinking that it would be nothing like they said.  So after almost 50 days in Italy, the honeymoon is over.  But this doesn’t mean the excitement has ended by any means.  In fact, it has only changed.  For me, I have settled into this new identity, which at first seemed so foreign that everyday was a lifetime in itself.  The days seem to pass faster and faster now that the newness has frayed away.  With that in mind, I suppose something you might find a little less personal…


For starters, Vatican City sits to the west of the center.  Secondly, it honestly doesn’t matter where you are, there’s something to see on every street.  Thirdly, the Seven Hills of Rome are completely conquerable thanks to the subways that are relatively new and easily manageable.  I could go on, but Rome’s title as “The Eternal City” begs to differ.  A few of the OU in Arezzo students and I stayed in Rome for a weekend, surely not enough time, even for spirited university students, to see all that Rome has to offer.  Our first task was the looming cupola designed by Michelangelo that adorns St. Peter’s, Vatican City.  Not sure exactly how we would buy tickets, find the line, or even have enough time to go through the Vatican Museum (it has the largest collection of art in the world), we hopped on a metro bound for the Vatican.  Funny thing was though, the moment we stepped onto the street, there were at least five people offering guided tours.  Advice to all travelers, you should be weary of people offering you things, but when you are in Rome, just say yes.

Our tour guide was actually originally from Boston, and came to Rome nine years ago to finish her art history degree.  She’s been there ever since.  She was a certified Vatican Tour Guide, and said she had been in the Sistine Chapel over 1600 times! Imagine standing under what is debatably the most famous set of frescos adorning a religious structure in the world a couple times a week for a decade.  I can’t, and I don’t think I could ever get used to that idea.  And for our tour guide, it seemed like she was experiencing it like she had never seen it before.  Something that struck me deeply, (besides the fact that the Japanese financed the restoration of the Sistine Chapel because at the time the Vatican was broke!), was when our tour guide brought us to a sculpture known as the Laocoön, you could see tears in her eyes.  For some reason, I knew exactly how she felt: to be standing in front of the real object that has been published and republished as one of the triumphs of humanity not only humbles you, but at times is too much to handle.  Italy may be a popular place to study abroad, but understand, it is for a reason.

There is a syndrome known as Stendhal Syndrome, named after a French author of the 19th century of the same name, who after visiting Florence in the early 19th century, experienced a dizzy spell and fainted.  The spell of confusion is now classified as an actual psychosomatic illness certain people may experience when viewing art.  If one thinks that he or she is at risk, AVOID ROME.  Renaissance architecture, strangely enough, with its clearly defined floors and orderly façades, is becoming a thing expected in every Italian city for me.  However, Baroque architecture, with its extreme proportions, heavy use of undulation and dramatic diagonals, and complete saturation within the city of Rome, certainly left me Stendhal-ed.  From Saint Peter’s, to the Baroque artist Caravaggio’s exhibition celebrating the 400th year of his death at the Scudiere del Quirinale, it was like I was in Stendhal hell, or heaven–depending on how one looks at it.  Looking at paintings by an artist, whose work has survived longer than the United States of America has been in existence, solidified my new perspective on time, which I have been trying to make sense ever since entering “Old Europe.”  The following day, making sense of the Roman Colosseum and Forum was simply futile at that point.

My friends and I were officially Stendhaled.

Laocoön at the Vatican Museum

Laocoön at the Vatican Museum

Another church in Rome-this ceiling is a barrel vault! Optical Illusions!

Another church in Rome-this ceiling is a barrel vault! Optical Illusions!

Well, 26 University of Oklahoma students and I have successfully made it to Arezzo, Italy!  Sorry for the delay in updates, but the internet can be tricky, or expensive, to access.  Arezzo is located in Toscana, about 75 kilometers south of Florence, if one is taking the A1, or “Autostrada.”  Just a couple weekends ago, in fact, two of my friends and I joined my landlord on a journey to Florence (Firenze as an Italian would call it) to attend a jazz concert.  Approaching Florence at night as we zipped past European semi-trucks, which appear to either be completely out of control or abiding by the lower speed limit required of them—much like Illinois actually, my landlord pointed out the orange glow emanating from behind one of the countless Tuscan hills, which are a hallmark of this area of Italy.  The curve of the Autostrada brought us through a tunnel and then all of a sudden we descended the off-ramp in a tight curve, paid our toll, and were on the streets of Florence within seconds.  Needless to say, at that point I had no idea where I was.  The place we arrived at was actually called “American Bar,” with a second more memorable name, but alas, I was a bit too distracted by the “American Bar” sign’s pink letters glowing under a massive building with an colonnaded façade.  But that’s Italy, and the jazz concert was certainly a night I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

This past Sunday, however, three of my friends and I decided to take a day trip to Cortona, about 30 kilometers south of Arezzo, near the border between Toscana and Umbria.  This hilltop town may sound familiar for some not so historical events that took place with the release of the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, in 2003.  Frances Mayes’ blockbuster novel incorporating almost every known stereotype of the Italian countryside, especially that of Tuscany, has caused a huge increase in tourism to this town since its release.  Whether it was Diane Lane’s performance, or the arrival of Sandra Oh’s pregnant belly, Cortona had definitely felt the Hollywood effect.  In a cafe on the main square, Piazza della Repubblica, in fact, there was a large black and white photograph of Diane Lane and who I believed was the owner of the cafe.  After contemplating how, even in this hilltop town of the steepest roads and sidewalks I’ve encountered so far here in Italy, an American actresses’ face could somehow be staring back at me with some strange familiarity solidified how I think that many Americans’ impression of what Italy is can be rented at your local video store.  But I have to include myself in that group, because I remember the impression Under the Tuscan Sun had on my early perspective of what Italy is too.

After visiting the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusco, founded in 1727, which is an extremely important museum full of Etruscan, Roman, and Egyptian artifacts, and includes the library of Onofrio Baldelli (website here:, we visited the Diocesan Museo, where Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, works by Pietro da Cortona, and other important works seem odd for such a small town.  Yet, that’s Italy, and certainly something one should understand about this place: 60 percent of the world’s art masterpieces call Italy home.  And with that much art, there’s always something to see.  A family friend told me before I left for Italy, “Go into every church in Italy, every one of them is somehow worth it.”

And on that note, I’ve included two pictures.  Certainly no picture could capture the view from the top of Cortona, where a Medici Fortress lies and is used by the local population as a gathering place for special events.  Just another day in Italy.

Cortona is located on the hill in the distance

View from Cortona's hill

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