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un bellissimo fine settimana con amici italiani

Sofia Falzoni, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2012

After Reims (see last blog post), the next weekend trip I went on was to Italy. The main reason for the trip was to visit some of my best friends from Northwestern—actually, friends from my Italian class at NU.  I took Italian (on and off) for two years at NU, and I got to take literature and conversation classes, which are really, really small classes, so I became really good friends with the people in my class. I went to visit them in Bologna, where they’re studying abroad at the Universita’ di Bologna (which was actually my second choice for studying abroad).

I travelled with an airline called EasyJet—which was absolutely great! It leaves from Charles de Gaulle. I got to Bologna on a Friday afternoon, took the ‘Aerobus’ to the center of the city. My first thought as we were going into the city: “Everyone looks so… untidy!  Why are people wearing jeans? Why are people wearing tennis shoes out on the street?! Is that girl wearing a sweatshirt? Sweatpants? public?”

I stopped and thought for a second… just a few months back, I was one of those college students at NU waking up 5 minutes before class and going to Global History lecture in a sweatshirt and leggings. Not anymore. Now I’m in Paris, where students wear high heels and mini skirts to class (I don’t…yet). And after being in Paris for over two months, I’ve realized how accustomed I’ve become to the Parisian lifestyle…and I love it!

At the bus station, my friend Sofia (yes, same name as me) was waiting for me at the stop. Sofia squared, as we are called…together, we are the two most giggly, most hilarious partners in crime—it was great to be reunited.  I was staying at her apartment with her coinquilini for the weekend—we began walking toward her place and stopped into a café/bar place to see our other friend Michael, it was also sooo great to see him! He has been growing his hair out (and a beard) for the past ~5 months, so he was kind of unrecognizable…

Anyway, we got to Sofia’s apartment, settled in and I met all of her roommates. She lives with 5 other people—two other Italian girls, two other Italian and one American boy—and they were all so sweet and so welcoming. And the apartment was huge and surprisingly very clean.

That night, we went out to a restaurant/bar 051 to what Italians call “aperitivo”. This is seriously the best thing ever invented, and most bars in Bologna and around Italy have them. So it’s very simple, this is how it works: when you buy a drink at the place, you have unlimited access to a food buffet. Yup. I know, it sounds too good to be true. I couldn’t believe it. (Also, most drinks on the menu were around 6 euros… whereas in Paris, for that amount of money you get a beer only during happy hour…without food of course). Probably most people who go to Aperitivo, though, just get a  few items of food to snack on… as poor and hungry college students though, we would fill our plates to the top and go back for seconds… and thirds… and fourths… That night, we went out in a big group with Michael and Sofia and all of their friends, went to some of their favorite bars, went to Via Zamboni, which is the main student street in Bologna. The experience as a student there is just so different than Paris, because here we don’t really have a street or a piazza where the students from Sciences Po hang out—we go to different bars throughout the city, and different parties hosted by the BDE and the AS (which I talked about on my last post as well).

Anyway, we went home relatively early because we were heading to Florence the next day.

Saturday morning, Sofia, Michael, and I, took the train (TrenItalia) to Bologna. It cost us 13 Euros and it took an hour (On the way back though, we discovered a faster train (ItaloTreno) for 15 euros).

So we got to Florence at around noon, got to our hostel, which we had booked online at (I have used this website multiple times now, and I highly recommend it). We didn’t do much research on our hostel though, we just picked it because it was called “Hotel Paola,” which is the name of our Italian prof at NU.

And the hostel turned out to be very nice! We had our own room with 3 beds, and the location was good too. That Saturday, we kind of took easy, walked around Florence,  went to see the Duomo at Santa Maria del Fiore, which is…..INCREDIBLE.

Here’s a picture, but really, the picture does not even capture the magnificence of it…. it’s really so… splendid … in real life… unbelievable.. I’m kind of hesitant to even put this picture here, it does not do it justice. Also, it was reaaaally hard to get a good picture, because it’s so big… I didn’t know how to do it.. Anyway, here it is.


We kept strolling, walked through the markets on the streets, shopped a little bit, Sofia and I tried on leather jackets, but didn’t buy anything this day (little did we know…. We would go back the next day to a shop where the guys would remember us and bargain down the price a LOT)…

On our beautiful stroll on the Saturday afternoon we passed by the Ponte Vecchio.

At night, we went to eat some Bistecca Fiorentina (Steak) at a restaurant) which was de-licious. We ordered a large large plat to share between the three of us, and devoured it.

And of course, we ended the night with gelato.

On Sunday, we got down to business. We woke up early (at 8). And we had pre-bought our tickets to the two main museums in Florence (for anyone going to Florence, I highly recommend buying tickets in advance, because the line to buy tickets is really long) (you still need to stand in line to get the printed version of the ticket… I don’t really understand why.. but it’s much shorter). Anyway, so we got up at 8, had a quick breakfast at a café in the corner. We went to the Galleria degli Uffizi and to the Galleria dell’Accademia, where we saw Michelangelo’s David. They didn’t let me take a picture, though.

In the afternoon, we went up to this hill called the Piazzale Michelangelo where we had this great panoramic view of Florence—

we chilled there for a bit and contemplated the view before heading back down and catching the last train back to Bologna.

Monday was my last day in Bologna, and Sofia showed me around and we did all the “touristy things” during the day. We went up to the Due Torri (climbed up the stairs…) where we had a great view of the city.

It was impossible to get  a good picture of the Due Torri so here’s a picture from google images so that you have an idea of what I’m talking about:

We also went into some churches, into the Siete Chiese (which were my favorite—it was seven churches built one inside/on top of the other over the years)..

I was only in Bologna for two days, but my friends got to show me a lot about the student life there. Bologna is definitely also very politically active—there’s a lot of graffiti , for example

It was great to spend those 4 days in Italy and see my friends. I also spoke a lot of Italian all the time, which was great practice and a nice change from French! (I also don’t want to lose it!)

I had a great time in Italy- it was really fun to see my old friends and I had delicious food; however, I would not trade Paris for anything. Sofia and Michael kept telling me that I’m becoming a Parisian snob… so let it be, c’est la vie!

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