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Year Abroad Blog

Ciao a tutti!

The last few weeks have been pretty chilled but also exciting! I got back from Naples yesterday, which was an experience, and also had a few days up near the mountains last week. I cannot believe how quickly this term is flying by. The fact that I am considering booking flights home in June/late May absolutely terrifies me!

So, last weekend I went to Valbondione for the weekend, which is about an hour away from Bergamo and was absolutely freezing. I went with about 40 other Erasmus students and Italians, and genuinely couldn’t believe how beautiful the mountains were.  It was a chilled weekend, and an opportunity to get to know some of the new Erasmus students a bit better, as well as getting to know some of the AEGEE (one of the university societies in Bergamo for Erasmus students made up of many Italian students) members too. We ate a lot of home made pizza and played drinking games, as well as enjoying our own private disco every evening. It would be great to go skiing in Valbondione, as the mountains looked incredible, but the town itself was pretty quiet with not a lot going on. 

Beautiful mountains in Valbondione

Last week I was also so happy to have my dad over to visit, having booked to come over to see me for just a day and a night a few months ago, due to the extremely cheap flights. It was really good timing, because a few days before the mountain trip I had a problem with my eye and was unable to open it for a few days, resulting in me spending a lot of time and money on eye drops to try and get it back to normal. Being ill in a foreign country is honestly pretty scary, but luckily my flat-mate was nice enough to come with me to the hospital and waited with me and it’s all sorted now, thankfully.

Dad and I being tourists in Citta Alta

Anyway, having my dad over was brilliant because he loves Bergamo and is always so excited to see the city even though he’s visited before. We walked all around Citta Alta and then did a bit of shopping in Citta Bassa, before having an ice cream, an aperitivo and some cocktails. We also enjoyed the best meal I’ve had so far during my time abroad, at a Trattoria on my road. It was really reasonably priced, and I can honestly say I had one of the most incredible steaks I’ve ever had there. We both enjoyed it so much that dad booked for us to go again when him and my mum and their friends come to visit me soon! I also made him bring me over some of my favourite things from home, including my minion onesie, a Boots meal deal and some chocolate… I might be in Italy and thoroughly enjoying all the food, but I am missing some of my home comforts! 

My beautiful steak!

I’ve also recently just got back from Naples, which was a brilliant weekend away. I went with 7 others and we stayed in an apartment there for the weekend. I was shocked when I first arrived because the traffic and drivers in Naples are absolutely insane, and I don’t actually think I am over-exaggerating with that description. I felt terrified crossing the road, as no drivers are willing to stop when you cross, and the constant horns beeping was absolutely shocking. We arrived quite late on a Thursday so our options were a bit limited, but we visited a castle, which was impressive, with incredible views of Naples harbor, and there was a lot of history and artwork to take in and we then had some dinner and an early night. 

Castel Nuovo, Naples.

The next day we set off to climb Mount Vesuvius and visit Pompeii. I was unbelievably excited and it’s safe to say that I was probably annoying a lot of people by singing ‘eh eh oh eh oh eh eh oh eh oh’ all day (in honour of Bastille’s ‘Pompeii’) before even getting to Pompeii! Climbing Mount Vesuvius was a lot harder than I ever expected, the hills were extremely steep and there were lots of times when I thought that I would give up and stop going. But, I was able to persevere and the view when I reached the top was honestly so worth the near heart attack. I couldn’t believe how massive Vesuvius actually is, and it felt so surreal to be so close to it knowing its history and how many people it killed. 

Group selfie in front of Vesuvius!

Climbing up to see Mount Vesuvius has also made me realize how unfit I have become; I am going to be doing a lot more walking up to Citta Alta from now on! The climb down from Mount Vesuvius was equally as difficult as the way up. The weather had worsened significantly which meant that there were strong gusts of wind and rain, so it was hard to see anything. The gradient of the slopes themselves also made this a challenge, and so if you ever consider climbing Mount Vesuvius (or probably anything similar) I would advise you to WEAR SENSIBLE SHOES! My docs were a bit of a life saver that day and stopped me from slipping down the hill and making a fool out of myself…

We then headed back towards Naples and visited Pompeii, and it was finally time for me to be allowed to sing ‘Pompeii’ and feel justified (yay), although I felt a bit too awkward to sing it too loudly as it felt a bit disrespectful… I was shocked once again by the sheer size of Pompeii: there were so many ruins and artifacts to see and the site where Pompeii is is like a big park that you can wander around and explore for yourself. I was shocked to see the plaster casts of bodies of some of the citizens of Pompeii, which had been preserved and kept in the positions that they had died in. Weirdly, one thing we all noticed was how short the people seemed to be from their bodies, and also from the doors that remained. As a 6 foot ish person, I had to constantly duck down through all of the doors of the sites!

Pompeii 

Pompeii- one of the plaster casts of a citizen of Pompeii

Pompeii is definitely worth a visit, and there is just so much to see and admire. Personally, I was interested by all the back-stories of the houses, but also by the columns, structures and mosaics that have somehow managed to stand the test of time and still remain intact to this day! Like the Colosseum in Rome, be prepared to see some scaffolding around the site because it is constantly being restored in order to keep it in the best condition it can be. But, don’t let that put you off! We spent about 3 hours wandering round Pompeii, even after our climb up to Mount Vesuvius, and I think we could have easily spent even more time there.

When we arrived back at our apartment in Naples we were absolutely knackered, but decided to visit the oldest pizza place in the world, Michele’s, which also happens to be in Naples (Google it, it’s actually featured in the Julia Roberts film ‘Eat Pray Love’!). It probably wasn’t the best idea after such a long day. As, because of the restaurant’s reputation, it also, unsurprisingly, comes with a pretty steep queue and waiting list system. We waited for about an hour, and luckily the wait was absolutely worth it. Michele’s is so well established and famous that it gets a lot of customers every night despite only serving two pizzas: Margherita and Marinara. It also only serves water, beer, coke and sprite, and its massive wood-fired oven means that once you’re seated and have ordered, you really don’t need to wait long at all. I think Italy is getting to me a bit, because the pizza was absolutely gigantic and very tasty, but I was still hungry afterwards… I am not really too sure about what to do with this development.

Tackling a world famous Michele’s pizza 

On our last full day in Naples, we took the ferry over to the Island of Capri, which is a beautiful small island just off the coast. Despite some money problems (I am steadily becoming even more broke, oops), we set off to Capri and as soon as I arrived any worries I had about money faded away because it is actually breathtakingly pretty to look at. 

Capri Harbour looking decent, I suppose…

We were very lucky with the weather on the day, and when we arrived we took the bus across the island to Anacapri, to visit the Grotto Azzurra (Blue Grotto). It resulted in another beautiful view of the island near the coast, and we paid €13 to have a boat ride in to the grotto. To get inside the grotto, we all had to duck down because the height of the entrance of the grotto was extremely low, and once we were in there it was beautiful. The blueness of the water looked like it wasn’t real, and the men that steered our boats sang to us as we were steered round the grotto. Afterwards, we headed to the ‘beach’ near the grotto, which sadly was more like a pile of rocks but still the view was incredible and we had a few bottles of wine and chatted in the sun before returning to Capri.

Grotto Azzurra, doesn’t really do justice to the blueness of the water!

A view of Capri

We then took the ferry back to Naples and enjoyed our last evening together, and all in all, whilst it was an expensive weekend, I feel so happy to be able to say that I have visited two extremely impressive historical landmarks, as well as seeing such a beautiful island. Seeing Capri has made me even more determined to visit Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast as soon as possible, and sending my pictures to my parents even made them interested in the idea of visiting there in the summer, which would be amazing!

In the next few weeks I have lots of visitors coming to Bergamo, so will hopefully be heading to Lake Guarda and Milan, as well as British night this week at the weekly aperitivo, which should be good fun. I also should probably fit in some university work too…

Ciao for now!

Ella x

Images are all the writer’s own.

 

My name is Ella Duffy, I'm 22 years old and a recent graduate from the University of Leeds. Proudly once was co-president for Her Campus Leeds!
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