Summer 2016 Bucket List

It’s the official FIRST DAY OF SUMMER 2016!

What a joy my last month and a half have been back at home.


This year, my personal goal is to be more intentional every single day. Since starting college at Loyola Chicago, it seems to me that time has been flying by so fast! I’m especially reminded of this when I’m home and I drive by my old High School.

Last Summer, I felt as though I didn’t get to do all the things I wanted to because of work, or time, or this or that. Instead of letting that happen again, I created a bucket list of the things I want to accomplish during my Summer.

None of these “must do items” are hard to accomplish for me. Everything is very local and budget-friendly! Some items are as simple as trying a new restaurant, others are a hike or just a visit to mundane shopping destinations.

Nonetheless, this is my fortified Summer “must do” list.


 Summer 2016 in Portland Bucket List

  1. Create a reading list 
  2. Have Brunch at Salty’s 
  3. Hike: Opal Pool
  4. Hood River day trip with stops at Doppio Coffeeshop, Mike’s, and Full Sail Brewery 
  5. Willamette Jetboat tour √
  6. Finish START my Scrap Book
  7. Print new photos from study abroad and Loyola   √
  8. Hike: Munra Point
  9. Watch a sunset from the Skidmore Bluffs
  10. See the movie “Nerve”  √
  11. Tree-to-Tree Adventure park
  12. Antiquing at Stars with my Mom  √
  13. Oaks Park for old times sake 
  14. Try every Ice Cream shop in Portland 
  15. Eat at Apizza Scholls 
  16. Eat at Pine State Biscuits  √
  17. Do a hike on the Washington side
  18. Visit Leach Botanical Garden (the Portland Secret Garden)
  19. Go to the Drive-in on 99W
  20. Go to Salishan with the family  √
  21. Be able to run 5 miles without stopping

I hope that by sharing my Bucket List you may be inspired to go out and do some fun adventurous things this Summer! Don’t let time pass by before you get to do, see, experience the things you want to.

Life is too damn short.

Thanks for reading,

Cassie


*Update: 12/22 complete as of 8/7/16

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My start at Oregon Summer musings

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Long time no write….I know, I know. The time since I’ve been stateside has just flown by (over a month since I’ve been home)! I have been living life happily and healthfully since Italy, but I still cannot fathom that it’s over.

My best friend Cassi (who studied in Prague) said it best when she said it feels like living in Europe was a dream. I wonder…was I ever even living in a wonderful and wild country like Italy? I am so lucky to say that I was.


Summer has been sweet. I am working three jobs that randomly landed in my lap. I am doing organizational management and office work at a massage therapy office, a law firm, and privately at individual client’s homes (tell your friends)!

Seriously I am in a strange place between thriving and feeling like I’m drowning. I love being busy and I do not do well with excessive down time. BUT, I also get caught up in the waves sometimes and I find that extremely unhealthy.

This Summer, I am a morning person. I am a runner. I am hard working. 
I am fun & wild & young. 

I am feeling the most "Cassie" I have ever felt.

Today is a gloomy and quiet day. I am happy to have finally found time to writr post because this is a way I can express myself and document my adventures.

I was especially motivated to finish my first Summer post after an amazing day yesterday. I got to hike with new friends and old, go on an awesome flight with my 2 best friends and boyfriend, and I finished the night off with Pub food and GOT with other friends. It was a social and delightful day.

When reconnecting  over Queen Anne sandwiches at the McMenamins near PSU, my friends and I got really inspirational and hilarious. My friend Shannon is so incredibly poised and intriguing (plus… I am hoping she’ll start a podcast). Her creativity inspired me to get back into my writing post-study abroad.

My friend Victoria is so tech savvy its intimidating. I’ve known her since we were tots and she’s so so cool! It was so nice getting to see her happy and flourishing. She does what she wants and does it so damn well. These girls rock & give me joy.

My best friend Cassi, who you’ve met on the blog before, joined us at dinner and for our GOT screening as well (even though she isn’t a fan). I don’t think I could do just 1 sentence on what she and my other close friends mean to me. Maybe I’ll do a blog post just for her on January 14th!


Conclusively….

I am so thankful for all I have been given & the people who have supported me unquestionably….

My beloved Roman friends, those who welcomed me with open arms in Chicago, and my friends and family from Lake Oswego….

How can I show you my love and gratitude?

Note* this post is all over the place-but it is titled 
"Summer musings"

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Cheers to more fun & adventure.

 

Words of advice for future JFRC students

Alright so the time has come for me to pass down my knowledge to all the future JFRC students. A special shout out to all the people who contributed some of these tips!

I will be adding more and more tips as they come to mind.

Background information: The JFRC is in the Balduina (on Monte Mario) neighborhood in Rome. Monte Mario is considered the 8th hill of Rome (the 8th of the original 7 hills of Rome). It is about a 30-45 minute bus ride to the downtown city center of Rome.

The building houses the classrooms, dorms, gym, and mensa. Everything is in the same building which makes it a very small community. Pictured to the left is the courtyard. 


Don’t be freaked out about the dorm rooms-they’re nothing like the luxurious spaces of Georgetown or Fordham, but you’ll learn to call them home (or at least your place of slumber). Additionally, if there is a problem just email JFRCproblem@mclink.it and they’ll come and solve it ASAP. Submitted by Rachel Babbits

Don’t panic about the wifi-you’ll come to love not having wifi all the time and you really don’t need it (other than homework and the occasional social media update for the parents). Be present & love your time here! I IMPLORE you to not just stay in your room all day. Get out and explore Monte Mario, or at least sit and drink a Cappuccino at Rinaldo’s. Make yourself available without the distraction of social media. Submitted by Julia McCauley

Be confident when using your Italian-even the small things you learn the first few weeks while here. Overall they don’t care if you’re right, they just care if you’re trying. Italians are very friendly and love to chit-chat, so show them you are interested in their culture and you’ll be instant friends. Submitted by Aaron Carlson

Get to Mensa early-if you want the best yogurt and fruit options you gotta get there early. I have went ahead and posted the hours below for your convenience! Submitted by Kiki Peterson

The academics are not as much of a joke as people make it seem-especially as a Loyola student. You’ll have to readjust how you balance and use your time and live your life. Some of the other schools are just Pass/Fail or have audited classes, but for Loyola all your grades count. Make this your all As semester. Don’t overload yourself or take it too seriously, but understand that these things do follow you back to Lakeshore CampusSubmitted by Aaron Carlson

Do not judge the study trips by their price. Speaking from experience, no price could quantify the knowledge you gain by partaking in a SLA led study trip at the JFRC. Also, in reality, travel is expensive and you need to understand this before coming. Yes you can find cheap Ryanair or Vueling flights, but the costs add up. Don’t be nervous about this, just accept it and make the most of your time. Set goals for yourself and be confident that studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you just can’t put a price on.

Be patient & set limits. There are no secrets at the JFRC. The JFRC is incredibly small. I never thought that it would feel this small. But essentially, like I said before, you are living, eating, and schooling all in the same small building. There are no secrets at the JFRC, so get off campus & enjoy Rome. Also, take time to yourself. Take time to reflect on your experience in Rome & traveling and don’t just listen to what others say.

Even if you do have Wifi, do not just sit in your room. Jump around the building and find new spots to enjoy. I personally love sitting in Rinaldo’s Bar as it is very social.Use your time here intentionally as it goes by way too fast.

Practice your Italian. You’ll need it and you just can’t avoid it. Be confident & do your best to at least try to speak Italian to the locals. They’ll appreciate you more for it.

Get to know the SLAs & Staff. They have the best recommendations for places to see. Ask them questions and use them as a resource. That’s why they’re here. They have a lot of really cool things to say so listen up!

See more than Shari Vari and the Abbey. Some personal favorites are Fabrica (amazing drinks and appertivo) and La Buca di Ripetta (amazing authentic restaurant by Piazza del Popolo). For the best cappuccino in town, go to Melí Melo behind Villa Borghese.

Get to know the Buses and Metro. They’re your only lifeline to the real world of Rome. Yes, despite popular belief, the JFRC is not right in the center of Rome. It takes effort to get off campus and go explore. Learn the public transportation systems so exploring will be a piece of cake.


Important Maps & Guides:

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For reference, here is the map of the Metro underground train. The red A line is the one with the stop closest to the JFRC campus. The stop closest to campus is Cipro. I, however, prefer getting off either the 913 bus or 990 bus at the stop Giulio Cesare/Ottaviano and boarding the Metro at “Ottaviano.”. It is less of a walk and a simpler transfer. Plus if you need a snack-there are some great restaurants and shops by Ottaviano! A Metro ticket is 1.50 per ride. You can use the ticket (once scanned) for 100 minutes on other busses and trams, but you can only use it to enter the Metro 1 time (always read the fine print)!

The Dorm Rooms & Courtyard

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Final thoughts: Roman Catholics, Protestants, and how the two come Together

Roman Catholics, Protestants, and how the two come Together


 If there is one thing I’ve learned this semester it is how incredibly complex Roman Catholicism is. From the saints to relics and from the arts to the Pope, there is a lot of history to understand and questions to be asked. Coming from a Protestant background, this is all new material for me. But, I have really enjoyed figuring out what it means, for different people, to be a Catholic.

Both Catholics and Protestants can easily distinguish how different the two traditions are. In the beginning of his book, Peter Stanford, author of Catholicism – An Introduction, says, “Catholicism places a greater emphasis than other Christian denominations on the force of its own traditions” (Stanford 569). An example would best be seen through the analysis of the act of prayer. In a typical Catholic home children are taught to pray every night before bed. Both children and adult Catholics traditionally pray before bed at home by kneeling aside their bed with their hands in prayer formation. Additionally, in Mass, prayers are often memorized and recited ritualistically such as the Hail Mary, Praying the Rosary, or the Lord’s Prayer. These Prayers are one of the strongest traditions in the Catholic Church. Stanford says, “the ‘liturgical prayer’ approach was used throughout the Church’s history to allow its leaders to place, above the views of individual believers, an officially sanctioned interpretation of the extracts from scriptures included in the cycles of readings to be used in the Mass” (Stanford 564). In addition, Catholics are expected to participate in the liturgy at mass, but personal prayer and daily devotions are personal matters and vary from Catholic to Catholic. In contrast, Protestant prayer tradition is much less structured. Protestants more commonly pray when inspired. For example, one may feel moved to pray to God when in the presence of a beautiful view or in a time of trouble. Although the two are praying to the same God and follow the same Bible, the Catholics and the Protestants evidently practice their faith through prayer in very different ways.

The differences between the two, however, do not stop there. Traditionally, Roman Catholics experience the Bible mostly within the setting of mass or formal Bible Studies. During this time, many Catholics rely on the Clergy’s interpretation of scripture and in most cases take the Bible literally. The most critical example would be how Catholics rely on the Biblical interpretations from the Pope as an appointed speaker of God. Instead, Protestant denominations typically encourage their pupils to pursue personal time reading the Bible. In addition, Protestants are encouraged to interpret and find meaning from the Bible on their own instead of just listening to the word of the Clergy. Protestants do not follow the direction of a Pope like figure, but instead rely on personal interpretation of the Bible for guidance through a faithful life. But for both denominations, Gerald OCollins, author of Catholicism: A Very Short Introduction, says, “As an inspired text, the Bible illuminates for millions of Catholics and other Christians the deepest reality of God and human beings” (OCollins 985).

In addition to the difference in Prayer-style and Biblical interpretations, a main difference between the two can be seen when entering a church. In regards to a Catholic entrance of a church Stanford says, “Outside of the sacraments, there is a variety of other devotions which have long been a part of Catholic life…making the sign of the cross as you enter a Catholic Church, with holy water from a stoup near the entrance. This is a form of cleansing and reminds Catholics of the baptismal vows” (Stanford 2527). On the contrary, Protestant denominations do not do this. Contemporary Protestant churches do not focus on ritualistic ideals such as a memorized prayer or using holy water to sign the cross. Instead, they focus their worship through passionate song, strong community, and deep reflection. Instead of simply glorifying and praising God, the essence of a Protestant Church service is to build a real and authentic relationship with Jesus. For some people, Catholicism can be considered “stuffy” or “impersonal” because of the traditions. Others, however, condemn Protestant churches for losing focus on God’s grace and lacking traditional structure.

The differences between Catholics and Protestants are clear and there are many others—including, for example, a difference of views on divorce, birth control, and heaven, hell, and purgatory. But, what hasn’t been recognized yet is how beautifully the two traditions can come together to create understanding. What once was a bloody and vengeful war between the two is now a peaceful coexistence. This coexistence is the leading example of reconciliation and genuine understanding between two different religious sects in today’s World. In particular, Pope Francis has been incredibly influential in promoting acceptance between all religions and coming together to promote love and peace. No matter the religious denomination—whether it be Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, or Atheist, experiencing a historical Catholic site, such as Saint Peter’s Basilica, is equally awe-inspiring because the arts have always been, since the beginning, incredibly important to Catholics. One can see this simply through the ornate Basilicas drenched in rich architecture. These houses of worship hold some of the most extravagant paintings and sculptures by many of the most famous artists. All of these detailed artistic features aim to celebrate the greater glory of God and reflect His holiness. Although this may not be personally important for one to become faithful, any person can recognize that for many these traditions bring joy to people and that it is something for all people to celebrate.

Because of the rich cultural experiences studying Roman Catholicism has brought me, I have learned that it doesn’t necessarily matter what denomination or sect of Christianity you identify or don’t identify with. Instead, being a person of the World gives you an unquestionable duty to continually seek understanding of other people’s beliefs and to constantly challenge your own. This is truly what life is about.


Works Cited
OCollins, Gerald (2008-11-27). Catholicism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Kindle Locations 985-986). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Stanford, Peter (2010-06-25). Catholicism – An Introduction: Teach Yourself (TY Religion) (Kindle Locations 2527-2530). Hodder & Stoughton. Kindle Edition.
Influences
Jarrell, Cassi. Personal Interview. Raised Catholic.
Sohlberg, Amy. Personal Interview. Raised Protestant.
 

Remembering my time in Belgrade, Serbia

This post has taken me forever to write and I kind of regret it. But, here I go-just a tad late!

Upon beginning my study abroad in Rome, I had no intuition that I would ever go to Serbia. But, the JFRC is really cool because the SLAs (student life assistants) each plan a “study trip” for the students to choose from and sign up for. The sign up process was chaotic and stressful but that’s beside the point (good luck future JFRC-ers)!

As my friends and I sat and listened to the presentations on all the trips, I was overwhelmed by the desire to do The Balkans trip.

And that is how it started…

Belgrade: outspoken, adventurous, proud and audacious. It is by no means a ‘pretty’ capital, but it’s gritty exuberance makes it one of the most happening cities in Europe. While it hurtles toward a brighter future, its chaotic past unfolds behind your eyes. Socialist blocks are squeezed between art nouveau masterpieces…”
–credit to Fran and Ryan’s itinerary for this accurate description.

On Friday March 4th, myself and 19 others flew to Belgrade, Serbia to begin our trip. We were all absolutely buzzing with excitement! This truly was about to be the trip of a lifetime.

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Friends and I in front of the Republic Square in Belgrade, Serbia.

Our trip was awesome because of our amazing tour guide, Jelena (you can find her tour guide Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Jelenas-Tours-262963950506457/?fref=ts).

As for accommodations, we had an awesome Hostel all to ourselves! The hostel is called Hostelche for any future Serbian travellers-I definitely recommend! The location is perfect & the staff are so friendly. Plus, there is free breakfast that they prepare for you!

March 4

On day one, the group and I explored the Nikola Tesla Museum (which is not related to Tesla the car). The museum is inside a brownstone type house that was donated by the family of Tesla. It is a quaint yet informative museum. The main feature being the electricity display. I found this extremely scary as I am deathly afraid of electrical shock and lightening. Nonetheless, I tried my best to enjoy it.

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This sphere holds Nikola Tesla’s ashes-a very unique urn.

We ended the busy day with coffee (a must do in any part of The Balkans) & dinner at The Three Hats restaurant in the Bohemian part of town. This restaurant was ridiculous-I don’t think we had enough food… (jokes). It was a very interesting experience as the place was absolutely packed with people. Live music blaring in the bathroom and a mysterious group of mobster men gambling behind a curtain in the back???

Note: smoking is permitted indoors in most of Eastern Europe.

The traditional food is served in this sequence: bread (literally the best bread i’ve ever had), salad (consisting of tomatoes, cucumber, and feta cheese-similar to a greek salad), a cheese and freshly sliced meat plate, and a huge platter of various cooked meats and potatoes (ranging from fries to baked).

OH and my favorite dish was some sort of bean dip. I do not know what it is or what it is called but it’s DAMN good. Put this on the bread and you’re golden.

Belgrade is known for its nightlife, so of course Jelena took us to a popping Jazz club. I had my first gin and tonic, which I didn’t expect to like as much! Aaron and I danced the night away and tried to look classy. I think we succeeded, but boy dancing is hard!

The traditional drink in Serbia is “Rakiya”which is a quince flavored brandy. This stuff is dangerous, but you must try it when in Serbia! A lot of times they make it fresh and homemade, which is always cool. Suggesting serving method for full enjoyment is chilled at 17 degrees C as an aperitif (before meal). Also, do not take shots of this-you are supposed to sip it (which I find somewhat impossible as it is very very strong).

March 5 and 6

Saturday and Sunday AM kicked off with an extremely informative walking tour provided by the amazing Jelena. A lot of our trip was focused on talking about the Serbian/Bosnian war of the late 1990s. We got to see the great and the not so great parts of this brutal history. A notable part of our tour was a visit to the Tito Museum. It talks all about the great work that Tito did to bring the diverse populations together into Yugoslavia. Whether you agree with him or not, the museum was very informative. His grave is also there inside the “house of flowers.”

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The house of Flowers where Tito’s grave is held. He is remembered fondly by members of Yugoslavia as a brave man who unified the diverse population of the Balkans area.

As a quick note:
“The Bosnian War was an international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. Following a number of violent incidents in early 1992, the war is commonly viewed as having started on 6 April 1992. The war ended on 14 December 1995. The main belligerents were the forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and those of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat entities within Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic Srpska and Herzeg-Bosnia, who were led and supplied by Serbia and Croatia.” –Wikipedia

The war was part of the breakup of Yugoslavia following the death of Tito.

This war was extremely complicated and all parts of the former Yugoslavia are still recovering from it. I encourage you, if you’re interested, to go read more about it. It is a war that, I feel as an American, was completely swept under the rug. Getting to see the implications of a war like this first hand (for the first time) was incredibly eye opening for me. My opinions and values were challenged immensely. My definition of and pride to be an American was especially challenged. But I know that myself and my fellow classmates needed this. I am forever grateful to JFRC for this experience.


We ended Saturday night with dinner at Little Bay restaurant. This place was sweet! It is in the style of an old Opera house. We were musically entertained by an awesome (and really hot) pianist and an extremely talented female Opera singer. They noticed we were American and even started serenading us with Disney songs. We all were singing along. It was a very nice bonding experience that I’ll always remember.

As for Sunday night, we wined and dined at the “???” cafe (right next door to our Hostel). This place is a very famous Serbian restaurant.

This night was unforgettable. Besides the food, my favorite part was when we all stood up and went around each giving an individualized toast. The talks were all different, but in summary we each talked of how important it is to keep seeking knowledge and to keep pushing yourself to learn more and more about the hard and “embarrassing” parts of life. We each gave testaments and praises to the wonderful SLAs and Jelena for giving us this opportunity of a life time and we each expressed out gratitude for the amazing group that came along on the trip.

It was a great night and a  great testament to our Balkans Journey because we all got to come together and acknowledge the highlights of our trip (so far). I will always remember how well spoken and passionate Jelena was and how full of heart my fellow classmates were as they raised their glass.

Sights of Serbia

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Thank you for reading & being patient as I try to keep my content interesting and relevant!

Prague by photos

March 31- April 3rd, 2016

The following are some of my photos from my lovely weekend in Prague, Czech Republic. My two friends and I walked this town up and down. It has easily been one of my favorite trips. Traveling to Prague is a must do in Europe. The town holds a lot of diversity-whether it’s food, the people, or activities to do. It’s easy to find your heart left in Prague. Enjoy!


The Town

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The CastleIMG_3903IMG_3911IMG_3931IMG_3951IMG_3984

The John Lennon Wall

The Food

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DK for reading!!!

Experiencing Roman Catholicism part 6

Another rough wake up. No worries crossed my mind, however, because I was very excited to finally experience for myself the mystical Bone Church. Traveling to Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini was easy. I feel as though I am finally getting a hold of the Roman transportation system (which is an extremely daunting task-even for a Chicagoan)! I hope you enjoy my sixth day experiencing the splendors of Roman Catholicism in its birth place, Rome!

I learned a lot on this day. The Bone Church was unlike anything I imagined or have ever seen before. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed. I, however, will deem this site as a must see for any Roman tourists.

The actual church entrance (museum) was fascinating. I have always been keen to learn more about the different sects of Roman Catholicism. I enjoyed reading about the history of the Cappuccini-or the Franciscan Order. A funny thing is a single Franciscan is called a Cappuccino! Here, I finally learned the significance of the pointed hoods (which I had been wondering about since the Easter Processions) and the way that the Franciscans dressed (they dress in a cross shaped robe with tie around the waist). I also got to read a little more about Saint Francis of Assisi whom I have heard so much about while being at the JFRC.

I really enjoyed seeing another Caravaggio painting. This Church housed the portrait of Saint Francis himself. Caravaggio is one of the crowd favorites here in Rome and it’s easy to see why! For reference, his most famous painting is the crucifixion of Peter-which I finally got to see in person on this day!

Proceeding into the Ossuary Crypt (or the Bone Church), I was blown away. I will admit I was a little creeped out, but the Bone Church also intrigued me. A fact about the Bone Church I found cool was that the Earth in this “cemetery” is apparently straight from the holy land. The Catholics never cease to amaze me. Another thing to note is that this is a crypt for the Franciscans, so all the bones are of their brethren.

Next we had a quick viewing of the Santissimi Trinita dei Monti. I really enjoyed walking to this site because the weather was so beautiful. Of course, the Spanish Steps are also always a sight for sore eyes. We didn’t go in this church, so we proceeded to Santa Maria del Popolo. This church was pretty cool as there are two more Caravaggio’s housed here (saint Peter’s Crucifixion and the conversion of saint Paul)!

Next came Gesu e maria al Corso which I learned had an interior that was inspired by the famous Roman artist, Bernini. It was easy to tell upon entering that this cathedral is very influenced by the Baroque artistic period. After wandering this church, we ventured to Chiesa Di san Giacomo in Augusta which I have actually stopped in a couple of times! It is very popular and always crowded as it is on Via Del Corso. I really like this church because of the ceiling. The ceiling fresco has magnificent colors and paints a beautiful theological picture. I think this was one of my favorite stops because of the prayer. I got to reflect on the quote of the Jubilee year ”be merciful as your father is merciful to you” or “Mesecordia come padre.”

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Our final stop of the sixth on site was at Sant’Ambrogio e Carlo al Corso. The relics of the Catholic Church always interest me-I enjoyed seeing Peter’s chains and the shroud of Jesus. But it was very interesting to see Saint Charles’ heart. It was also kind of gross, but I am learning to understand the relics better after taking part in this class. At this site, we were asked to read the prayers at each side alter as they were in English. I found these very endearing. I used them as a platform to pray for my family members and loved ones, but also for those who need prayer that don’t often receive it.

In conclusion, this was my favorite on site to date. It is so lovely learning about the traditions of the Catholic Church, especially on a beautiful sunny spring day in Rome. These are the times I feel very connected to my spirituality and my university.

 

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The Relic of Saint Charles’ heart

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Thanks for reading!

 

Travelling to and getting around Lake Como 

This post is focused on getting to Lake Como from Milano Centrale Station because that is my experience! I hope anyone doing the same finds this post helpful.

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Milan to Bellano

If you’re wondering how to get to breathtakingly beautiful Lake Como from Milan, there are a lot of ways! But for Cassi and I, we decided to choose a town with easy travel options. We settled on the small lakefront town of Bellano.

Getting to Bellano is very easy!

All you need to do is buy a €15 round trip ticket from Milano Centrale to Bellano Tartavalle. You can do so by going to Trenord’s website and typing in the required credentials. From here, all you have to do is board the train and off you go on the adventure of a lifetime.

Luckily, the Bellano train station is centrally located and it will not be difficult to find your airbnb or hotel from there. I always recommend downloading the google maps app and then “downloading” the map of the city you’re going to. What this means is that you can have the map of your desired town to access offline. And for the most part, the GPS is accurate so you can follow yourself and get around easily.

I would also like to note that this same train stops in Varenna (one of the 3 most famous cities on this part of the lake). But, I have a bias toward Bellano-it is so quant and delightful!

Alright so you’re in Bellano (or Varenna or Belaggio or Menaggio), now what?

If you want to travel from place to place, it is very easy to do so via the intercity ferry. This ferry goes between Varenna, Bellano, Belaggio, and Menaggio. I recommend buying the day pass (it is valid from start to finish in your port city for 24 hours). The day pass was 15 euros. Cassi and I researched the times up and down to make sure we had time to hit all the stops. It actually was quite easy! We ended up being able to go to all of the cities in one day and we had a blast!

You can access the Navigation Laghi website here:

http://www.navigazionelaghi.it/eng/index.asp

Some things to note: the times are rather accurate on the time schedule and the ferries truly do only stop for the alluded time (usually only a couple of minutes). The times in red are the “jet boat” that costs an extra 1.50 euro per trip. Also, the hardest city to coordinate is Menaggio as it stops there less often. Make sure to plan ahead for traveling on the ferry because if you miss it, you may or may not be completely screwed.

Ciao & thanks for reading!

A day spent in Milano

My best friend Cassi and I did a day in the wonderful metropolitan city of Milan before heading for a relaxing two days on Lake Como. It was a short trip, but we both really enjoyed exploring the city. It reminded me a lot of Chicago & I easily noticed the differences between Naples, Rome, and Milan. Milan was more put together and contemporary. The streets were also significantly cleaner than Naples or Rome.

To me, Milan is a must see to round out any Italy trip. I thought it was a great experience, at least for me, to get to see such a wide range of Italian cities. I truly feel like after this weekend I have a much better grasp on what life is like in Italy.

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The famous Duomo Cathedral of Milan. This church is dedicated to St Mary of the nativity and is a Roman Catholic Cathedral. The architecture is gothic, which is easy to tell from the tall and plentiful spires! This Cathedral was unlike a lot of the others I’ve seen.

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The fountain in the western Castello neighborhood of Milan. This is at the entrance to the touristic site of Castello Sforzesco. Cassi and I particularly enjoyed walking through the Sempione Park which is directly behind the castle. On a beautiful spring or summer day, Milan is pure perfection.

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The main touristic shopping square in Piazza del Duomo. This view is very famous for anyone who knows anything about Milan. Even though I usually try to avoid super tourist-y places, Cassi and I enjoyed a reasonable lunch here at La Locanda Del Gatto Rosso (as we were eating at an off time and were starving)!

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As for food…

You must try the restaurant Panzerotti Luini.

Panzerotti are like mini calzones or “pizza pockets.” They come in sweet or savory flavors. The plain baked Mozzarella and Pomodoro was amazing. Cassi and I enjoyed it as a snack, but you could easily make a cheap meal out of this place as well. They are on average 3 euro for one. It is a great deal and truly delicious. More detailed information can be found on Trip Advisor about Panzerotti Luini. You should definitely try this place out.

Ciao & thanks for reading!

A quick trip to Pompeii & conquering Mount Vesuvius

 Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in 79 AD that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and several other settlements.

Vesuvius has erupted many times since 79 AD. In fact, it is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years.

Today, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living in the surrounding area. It is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world.

Now, you can hike up the mountain and explore its sides and crater. The mountain is 4,000 feet high. The entire crater is Lava rock and it’s pretty freaking cool.

I am not going to lie, the hike is tough-even for me, an avid hiker! It is kind of like climbing up a sand dune because you slide a little backwards with each step. Nonetheless, it’s a MUST DO.

Here is how the trek to Vesuvius works:

After arriving in Pompeii, you take a Trolly-like bus to the base of the mountain. Watch out, the seats are limited and the handles are very very dirty if you’re standing! Just a tip, bring wet wipes! From there, the group meets a sort of military bus that takes us up 3,000 meters. The last 1,000 meters is for us pedestrians to hike up.

Although it was a foggy day (due to the thick marine sky), the view was very very cool and a once in a lifetime experience.

Something that I did not expect was the little cafes and souvenir shops at the top of the mountain. My family and I decided to do the hike and sights on our own, but in addition to the cafe and souvenir shops, you can also get hooked up with an official tour guide offered in most common languages!

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Pompeii

Just a couple facts, both Pompeii and Vesuvius are in the Campania region of Italy just outside of the city of Naples. Originally, Pompeii and other cities destroyed in the eruption were buried under 20 feet of ash. Today, the city of Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In my opinion, the city of Pompeii is very run down and dirty. Other than see the ruins (which are very cool) it is not much of a site. It was very different than other parts of Italy-or should I say the more “glamorized” parts of Italy. Without the tourism, the town would be essentially nothing. There was a lot of trash everywhere which always is a wake up call for me. It’s hard to see such natural beauty, like Vesuvius and the Ocean, and then see heaps of garbage making up our land. It put things into perspective of how diverse the Campania territory is.

Go to Pompeii strictly for the ruins. It does not take a whole day, maybe just half a day to do both Pompeii and Vesuvius. Both trips are also rather inexpensive when compared to American tourism. As for my final piece of advice…eat lunch somewhere else-all the food there is very “americanized” and low quality. If you’re feeling very proactive-you can even pack a yummy snack & lunch!

The ruins themselves are HUGE. I had no clue…but literally imagine this “museum” being an entire city. It isn’t just a couple of things, it is literally the entire ancient town as ruins. I would suggest getting a guide book or map or even a tour guide. My family and I were completely overwhelmed when we went-we didn’t know what anything was and there were no descriptive signs. We just kind of looked at the sites and guessed!

In case you’re wondering about transportation to and from Pompeii and Vesuvius, I will provide a brief explanation below:

From Sorrento, you go back to the train station that you most likely took to Sorrento from naples. The Train is called the “Circumvesuviana” (Note: it is pronounced CHIR-CUM-VES-OO-VEE-AHNA). From there, you get off at the Pompeii stop. It takes about 30-45 minutes. Often, the train is crowded, so look up the departure times beforehand and get there early!


Thanks for reading and Ciao Ciao for now!