Italian Adventures (and gripes)

10 Jul

Don’t get me wrong – I’m loving this experience. But as I round Day 10, the magic is starting to wear a bit and I can’t help but miss home.

Yesterday, we went to Cinque Terre (five lands). It’s this beautiful stretch of coastal Italy that consists of five towns that make up a national park. The homes are built into the hillside and there a few beautiful beaches and vistas. But getting there was unnerving. First of all, the train tickets don’t have any information on them – literally, no time, no date, no platform, nothing. We were able to find our first platform but when it came time to figure out where or connecting train was going to be, we had to find this departures schedule on a bulletin board (because the train scheduled on the monitors were different sorts of trains). The people working at the train station were not eager to help or explain – basically, if you asked they’d tell you the most concise answers. If you had to clarify, you were bothering them. Once we got on our train, I noticed a small warning on the back of the ticket (the only thing translated into English) that said if you don’t validate your ticket, you could get a fine. We later found out, that you have to validate your ticket at the place of origin before you get on the train (something a station employee should probably mention, no?). Thankfully, we didn’t have our tickets checked until our train home later that evening when we had already learned about getting validation. But aside from all that, my friend Sarah had navigated the trains in Italy (10 years ago!) but was able to get us there safely (not without missing our stop first though). We had left Florence with the intent to look for a room for the night in Cinque Terre once we got there, but by the time we did arrive I was ready to go back to Florence where at least I know the area a little bit. Fortunately, all the hotels were booked so I knew I’d be home that same day eventually. Needless to say – I’m not a fan of the train system. New York’s subways are infinitely easier to navigate.

Then there’s the case of the washing machine and lack of dryer. There’s no dryer because most of Italy’s utilities are imported and it’s not cost effective for Italian to own dryers. So, we have a drying rack. Lord. I have to air out my unmentionables in front of everyone (thank goodness I brought cute ones!) But back to the washing machine. It’s tiny. And I’m not confident in it’s cleaning abilities. Not to mention the fact that I can’t read the label on the detergent. And that I refuse to spend more than 1 euro (they have 99 eurocent stores here) on detergent or anything else pertaining to maintaining this apartment. Which leads me to my next gripe.

Study abroad did not translate to ‘living abroad’ in my head. I didn’t realize that they’d expect me to clean the apartment, which is fine until you put me in one with seven other people. Our kitchen is tiny and with seven other people (and their guests) it’s gross. Even when we first got here I wasn’t convinced the dishes were clean. And there’s something about a stainless steel sink that always makes me feel like it’s dirty. Therefore, I’m doing my best to live on one late lunch/early dinner out a day because there’s no way I’m cooking in these conditions (dirty dishes from everyone else’s cooking ventures, mis-matched everything, God knows what utensil I’d absolutely need an not have handy). And you’d think that if they want us to maintain a clean kitchen, bathroom, floors, etc. they’d supply us with, oh I don’t know, cleaning products? Nope. We have to buy them. I’m sorry, I thought I paid you nearly five grand to come here. You can’t throw in some damn Comet?? (I don’t even know if they have Comet here…) They do have the cleaning tools – mop, broom, buckets and a toilet bowl cleaner. Let me tell you about THAT for a minute. Our toilet brush is covered/stained with orange rusty stuff because it’s kept in one of those decorative stainless steel containers. And that orange rusty stuff then rubs off when you’re trying to clean. Ick.

That’s probably my biggest gripe – the amount of money it cost just to get here and now they’re expecting us to use our spending money on cleaning products and other things that aren’t ‘for fun’ or souvenirs. Granted, I’ve only spent 2 euro on those things (laundry detergent and toilet paper) but sooner or later, we’re all going to have to clean this place top to bottom (and yes, we’ll share the cost of the necessary products) but I would have very much appreciated these to be provided. And overall, there’s just something about cleaning things that aren’t yours and you don’t know who’s been there before. Imagine being asked to clean a hotel room. It’s just uncomfortable.

I’m just hitting that ‘wall’ – where you’ve initially had enough and want to go home (I’m craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and they don’t have peanut butter here. But man are they fans of Nutella…). But I think after today (I slept in, finished laundry, washed dishes, and did a light clean of my bathroom and will finish some homework and then go over to Sarah’s for dinner), I’ll be ok. Tomorrow I’m working on the group project and booking my trip to Venice. Tuesday we’re going to Pisa and Thursday we’re leaving for the weekend for Rome. I’ll get past the ‘wall’ and I’ll be home soon enough and back to my comforts.

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2 Responses to “Italian Adventures (and gripes)”

  1. Ness July 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    I went to Cinque Terre, but my study abroad program planned that trip because we were staying in Viareggio. As for peanut butter, I did have a friend who found some. She was staying near the Ponte Vecchio. Sorry, but I can’t help you with the store name. I didn’t miss peanut butter.

    Omg, I miss Florence. I had an amazing 4 months and we did all the trips too. Fortunately my apartment only had 4 girls in it, including me, and yes, paying for tp sucked. Especially since one of our roommates had some sort of irritable bowel syndrome and we “took turns” paying for it.

    Anyway, um…food! The food was ahhmazing. My favorite restaurants were Golden View, on the other side of the Ponte Vecchio. We could use our meal tickets there and they had this amazing 3 cheese pasta. There was also this awesome Greek restaurant that had the best gyros I’ve ever had and I’ve been to Greece ha. It’s Dianiso.

    Enjoy yourself and try not to think too much about being homesick. Silly advice, I know. Especially since I was crazy homesick for my last 1.5 months.

    Ohh and try banana gelato. Yum!

    • shan1087 July 15, 2011 at 6:30 am #

      Thanks for the comment! Four months?? Oh no. You’re stronger than I am, LOL. I’ve gotten over missing peanut butter, especially since my friend and I discovered crema di pistachio last night. Talk about aahhhmazing! Some people I know on this trip have talked about Golden View but I have yet to go there. They use their vouchers (I didn’t buy any) so I’ll just tag along next time they go. Banana gelato is next in line on my ‘gotta try’ list. 🙂

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