our last day trip of the semester-Lucca

Kat began the morning by blasting that john legend song ‘good morning’ and ‘it’s a great day to be alive’ over the tv stereo, so obviously it was going to be a great day.  We drove to Lucca and first stopped at Villa Reale di Marlia.  We explored the gardens for a while and then went into the city center of Lucca.  The interesting thing about Lucca is that it is completely surrounded by an intact medieval city wall.  The size of the wall is really impressive and the green spaces that exist around the wall are used as a kind of city park space by the residents of the city.  It was really beautiful to drive around the exterior of the wall on our way into the city.

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We visited the Cathedral of St. Martin, piazza and church of San Michele, and the Guinigi Palace and Tower.  Close to the end of our day it started to rain…and then it started to really rain.  Actually the more appropriate word would be a downpour.  We were about to go see Piazza Anfiteatro and then walk along the city wall back to were our bus was parked, but we decided to cut the day a little short.  Its pretty funny that we started our day trips with a freezing cold and rainy day in Milan, and ended them with flooding rain in Lucca.


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I can’t believe that it’s already our last day trip!  This semester has gone by entirely too fast.  I’ve really enjoyed traveling all over with Giuditta seeing all these cities in Italy.  We only have a week and a half left at the villa before we all leave to go home or travel on our own.  It’s going to be bittersweet leaving Italy but I will be glad to be back home.


A nice weekend in Nice

Our weekend in the French Rivera was great despite some not so wonderful weather.  On our train from Genoa to Ventimiglia, the border station  between Italy and France, we met some American couples from Boston and Durham.  On the next train to Nice we met Trevor, a kid our age from Colorado who was traveling through Europe for a month.  He happened to be staying at the same hostel as us.  When we arrived in Nice, Bryan’s Friend Madeleine was at the station waiting for us.  She is studying French in Cannes and came to spend the weekend with us. We checked into the hostel and were told we were in room 10, off of the garden.  We went to the garden and there were a few rooms lettered A and B, but none of them were numbered.  We double checked with the lady at the desk and she said it was to the right of the stairs.  We tried our key in an unmarked door and it worked, but were still not sure if this is really our room because it had 8 beds instead of 6.  Whatever, we had a bed and we were hungry. After checking into the hostel we went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  On the way there, we stopped at an ATM to get cash and Trevor’s card was eaten by the machine.  Could anything else go wrong today? After dinner Courtney, Bryan, Madeleine, Trevor and myself went out to a bar called Wayne’s that someone recommended to us.  It was so much fun!  At the end of the night we decided to walk to the beach and put our feet in the Mediterranean.  It was freezing and we all took a couple of spills trying to climb back up the hill of pebbles from the water’s edge to the “beach”.  We came back to the hostel and wanted to shower, but realized that there was no shower head.  We went to the front desk and they said that someone would come fix it in the morning.  Morning came, still no shower head. Water just trickled out of a pipe about thigh high.  We affectionately named it the Gollum shower head, because thats what you would look like trying to shower in this thing.  We went to the desk again and they gave us a key to another room we could shower in and said it would be fixed soon.  We all finally got showers and while we were leaving the hostel to go to Monaco, the man at the desk said the shower was fixed.  That’s funny, we were just in the room and no one came in to fix anything.  But we believed him and went to the train station to buy our tickets.  The next train was in an hour so we came back to the hostel, which was right across the street from the station.  Curious, we went to check on the status of our shower…still no shower head.  So we went to the desk, again, and the man said he would come look at it.  He walked into the room, went to the bathroom and said, “oh, now i understand.”  Apparently “we do not have a shower head in our shower” was lost in translation. A few minutes later he came back with a shower head. We asked him to confirm that we were in room 10 and he said yes we were.  Finally living in a first world country again, we went to the station and took the train to Monaco.  We visited the Oceanography museum which also had a pretty great aquarium.  They had a shark petting tank.  They didn’t really behave like sharks though.  Some of them acted as if they had run into the side of the tank a few too many times.  Later we went gambling in Monte Carlo at the casino.  I allowed myself €20 to play the slot machines.  I cashed out when I was down to €16 before I lost everything.  Grandma Kaye-I guess your gambling luck is not genetic!  When i went to cash in my ticket I did have a streak of “luck”.  Someone had left a 5 euro bill in the machine, so in theory I ended up with more money than I started with!IMG_3756IMG_3776IMG_3781IMG_3934


While we were leaving the casino, someone pulled up in a fancy sports car and everyone outside was watching him park in front of the casino.  When he got out he slipped the valet a €500-I’d really like to know who the hell this guy was.  I’d also like to officially change my career path to become a casino valet.  We went back to Nice and ate dinner.  That night we went to Wayne’s again, and like the night before, ended up at the beach.  This time some of us were crazy enough to go swimming.  At least this time we could come back and take a shower.  When we came back to the hostel we noticed that the rooms had been labeled with computer paper with numbers written on them in orange highlighter…seems legit.  Only problem was our room was labeled #60, and the room next to us was #10. So were still not sure if we were in the right room or not.

The next day we went to the beach in Antibes.  Our beach day was a bit spoiled by some unwelcome rain and clouds, but it was still a great day.  I saw a guy walking a flock of puli dogs, so that pretty much made my day right there.  I also had my first bagel and cream cheese in 4 months and had an awesome dinner of fish soup and mussels, so I would say it was a pretty successful Easter all together.  We had a bit of an adventure getting back to train station, but eventually we got back to Nice.IMG_3938IMG_3947

In the morning, we went and explored Nice.  We went to this park on a hill, where there was a waterfall.  We came back into Old Nice and had lunch before saying goodbye to our new friend Trevor and heading back to Genoa.  The train ride back was a big struggle. We kept almost missing or actually missing trains and the one train we had intended to take from Ventimiglia to Genoa was sold out.  Seeing as it was the monday after the Easter holiday, not buying tickets in advance was poor planning on our part.  We eventually made it back to Genoa, even though it was much later than we wanted or planned.  Now its time to buckle down and crank out our final project that is due next Wednesday.



Day trip to Carrara and Pisa

    Today we visited Carrara and Pisa.  At 7:30 we were off in our baby bus to Carrara.  Our first stop was at the marble museum,  Museo del Marmo.  This was interesting to see how the marble is quarried and see a collection of all different times of marble from around the world.   After the museum we drove up to the marble quarries, where we had a private tour inside one of the cave quarries that were currently being worked.  The quarry is accessible through train tunnels that pass under the mountains above the city of Carrara-which are made entirely from white marble, by the way.  At the specific quarry we visited, three separate companies were excavating the marble.  One atop the mountain and two inside the mountain-one excavating up and one excavating down.  Hearing the process of how this is all done was really mind-blowing.  Our guide inside the quarry was pretty funny and was very informative.

We then drove to Pisa.  As we were leaving Carrara it began to rain, which was expected from what we saw on the weather forecast.   The weather also said that there was a zero percent chance of rain in Pisa, but the rain continued on our drive to Pisa a got even worse-at one point it was even hailing.  Once we arrived in Pisa the weather started clearing up, and after we stopped for lunch the skies were perfectly blue.  We went up to the top of the Leaning Tower and then visited both the baptistry and the cathedral.   I had been to Pisa before but was unable to go up to the top of the tower, so that was pretty exciting.

It’s really strange to think that we only have one last day trip left this semester!IMG_3678leaning tower PisaIMG_3686IMG_3698IMG_3699

Luzern Switzerland

This weekend started out great when we got out of Sevario’s class a whole 30 minutes early. We then took a train to Milan that arrived late and we almost missed our train to Switzerland. Once the train started rolling I reached for my bottle of Sprite I had brought from the Villa. Apparently the combination of the train ride through the mountains and me running through the train station had made the bottle build up pressure, because as soon as I began to twist the cap off, it shot off bouncing all around the train car. Everyone screamed and was looking at me as smoke rose from my bottle. We all started laughing after we realized what had just happened. Everyone else on the train was not amused by my exploding water bottle. I’m pretty sure they thought I had a bomb or firecracker or something.
Once we arrived in Luzern we checked into our hostel, which is apparently a Korean hostel. They informed us that our included breakfast was oriental style fried rice. We went out for dinner and then planned our next two days here in Luzern. Saturday consisted of going into town walking around the old city and the most photographed landmark in Switzerland, Chapel Bridge.



We went to see the famous Lion monument and then rented a paddle boat and went out on the lake. It was so beautiful and clear you could see to the bottom just about everywhere. The lake is also filled with swans, which was so cool!


Afterwards we had a picnic lunch by the shore and then went to Mount Pilotus. To get to the top of this 7000 ft peak, we had to take two separate gondolas. On the way up we saw sheep, cows, and the real life Ricola man blowing his big ass horn on the mountainside. The whole trip took about 30 minutes total. Once we were at the too it was about 20 degrees colder than down below and there was still snow covering the tops of the peaks. We went out to the roof of this building that had panoramic views of the city and the Alps. We even climbed a little higher to get some better pictures until it started to hail and we went back inside. The views from up at the too of the mountain were insane.  It was probably one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. IMG_7215




On the ride down the boys saw some paragliders floating down off the mountain and decided they wanted to do that, so they booked it for the next day.
Sunday morning, the girls went exploring the old city while the boys went paraglyding. We saw some cool old city walls and towers and most excitingly, some yaks!! They were so cool and hairy!



When the boys were back on solid ground, we went to the grocery store and bought stuff for lunch. We then went back to the paddle boat place to rent a motorboat which we took out while we had our picnic lunch on the lake.  All they asked was if we knew how to drive a boat and if we could swim-super legit.  Afterwards we came back to the hostel and laid out on the balcony on the hostel in the sun. It’s crazy laying out tanning which you can see snow covered mountains in the background. We went back into town and grabbed dinner and took it to a park by the lake and ate. I’m just now realizing we didn’t sit down in a restaurant this entire weekend-all our meals we are outside at the lake. We then got ice cream and watched the sunset over the mountains. What a great ending to a perfect weekend.


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Milano Salone del Mobile 2014

Thursday we went to the Milan furniture and design expo. I could have spent all day in this place and maybe seen half of everything that was there. There was furniture displays kitchen displays and also displays of young designers that were really cool. I mostly walked around in the kitchen and gadgets side of things because I found that more interesting. We got a lot of free stuff from all the companies that were there. It was really cool to see all these new products that will be available in the coming year. This also pretty much set in stone the fact that I will never be able to afford the kitchen of my dreams-this show has introduced some pretty high standards of living!  In the afternoon, we went to Politecnico di Milano University to view some of the temporary installations for the upcoming World Expo 2015. We also visited some of the showrooms for the furniture designers that were present at the fair.

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Padova, Vicenza and Verona

The last two days of our travels were spent in Padova, Vicenza, and Verona.  In Padova we saw the current Renzo Piano Building Workshop ‘Piece by Piece’ Exposition, which was really interesting and inspiring.  In the afternoon we went to Vicenza to check into our last hotel and go see Villa Rotonda.  This was like being inside of every architecture textbook ever.  It was even more impressive in person than I would have imagined.  The next morning we went to Verona to visit Castlevecchio.  This castle was redesigned by Carlo Scarpa to host a museum.  The spaces of this museum and the attention to detail were really cool.  Scarpa even designed the displays for the artwork.  Afterwards we went back to Vicenza to meet again with Wilma and see some more Palladian works.  We went to Theatro Olympica, which was amazing!  I’ve never heard of this building before, which is surprising being involved with theatre in high school.  The wooden rows of seating were the original ones of the original 15th century building.  There were seven perspective scenes behind the stage opening that were used as scenery.  As Wilma told us, the interior of the theatre was dismantled and moved to a private villa during the war and afterwards reconstructed, and that is why everything is still original.

This was another really amazing trip, but I’m so glad to be back in the Villa for the last three weeks of classes.




Via Venezia

After around 5 hours of travel, by both bus and train, we arrived in Venice, only to get right onto another bus to go tour a few Palladian Villas.  We saw Villa Malcontenta and Villa Emo with our guide and Palladio expert, Wilma.  She is so knowledgable about Palladio and his works it’s amazing.  She loved to say that everything he did is “perfect”.  My favorite part of the day was visiting Carlo Scarpa’s Brion Cemetery in Treviso.  It was absolutely amazing!  I’ve never wanted to spend so much time in such a creepy place.  After all of this traveling we arrived in Venice very late Wednesday evening.  Thursday we spent most of the day in and around San Marco Square.  We toured the church and the Doge’s Palace.  Afterwards we took a lunch break and a group of us went to find this store that sells handmade sketchbooks.  This woman hand-makes every sketchbook in the store and she is the sweetest thing!  She gave us all discounts! Later in the day we visited the Olivetti Museum, Rialto Bridge and a museum designed by Carlo Scarpa.  We also got to take a mini gondola ride/taxi across the canal!  The next day we visited a few Palladian churches as well as the Punta Della Dogana Museum by Tado Ando and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.  Both I had been to before, but the Ando museum had a different exhibit going on, which was much better than the one on my previous trip.






A Day in Graz

Today we were up early to travel from Vienna to Graz by train.  The Austrian railway is so much nicer than any of the trains I’ve been on in Italy.  We rode though the countryside, which was so picturesque, and arrived in Graz around 11:30.  Our hotel was literally right in front of the train station.  We went into the city center of Graz and had lunch before starting a relaxing day of touring.  We mostly saw some very modern architecture, because Graz has been named a UNESCO city of design.  There were a lot of buildings that were ultra modern in their design, nestled into this historical Austrian town.  Somehow they didn’t seem too out of place.

The first building we visited was the Kunsthaus Graz.  This was a really crazy building.  The best way for me to describe it would be to say in looks like some kind of slug, alien blob that crashed into a building.  Underneath the skin of the building are rings of LED lights that can be controlled to create low-definition images that are then projected onto the skin.  Inside we saw some temp array exhibits that were pretty interesting, but the main feature was no doubt the building itself.

Afterwards we walked down the river to (insert name here), which is a cafe and playground combined with a bridge that is suspended over the river.  Then we went to a building that housed music and theatre programs for the university in Graz.  This building was super weird looking from the outside but the inside was really cool.  While walking back to the city center, we stopped for a break in one of the parks.  We then walked up to the top of the hill, where the famous clock tower of the city stands.  From up there you could see the entire city and we watched the sunset before walking back down to get dinner and return to the hotel for a good nights sleep before another early morning of traveling.

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 Vienna has been such a lovely city.  The fact that we have had amazing weather is just icing on the cake.  During our three days here we saw some of the big sights – St. Stephen’s cathedral, the Albertina museum, the Belvedere Palace and gardens, the Leopold museum, and some pieces of modern architecture.  We also saw many projects by Otto Wagner and Adolph Loos, as well as some funky architecture by Kunst.  The museums and galleries we visited had a very impressive collection, including some of my moms favorite impressionist painters. (many goodies coming home for you, mom!)

My favorite thing we visited was the Gasometer.  This was the storage tanks for gas that used to supply the city.  Before WWI, the infrastructure changed and the tanks were empty until the early 2000s when they were repurposed.  Now there are apartments, student housing, a mall, and other things for public use.  I wouldn’t say it was a very successful project, but I really loved the idea-and the original buildings themselves were really beautiful.

As far as meals go, we definitely immersed ourselves in the Austrian culture.  We tried Berner wurstel, bratwurst, and hot dogs that were served in a hollowed-out loaf of french bread.  We ate lunch two days in a row while laying in the park.  One night we all went to dinner together at a beirgarten called 7 Stern Braü.  I tried the spätzle, and it was delicious.  I made the mistake of ordering the regular size portion and it was literally served to me in a frying pan bigger than my head.  I will not comment on how much of that I was able to finish.  We went to bed early Monday night because we were headed to Graz early the next day.




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Andiamo a Torino!

Today we went to Torino.  This was the last major city in Italy I had not visited, so I was really looking forward to this trip.  This was such a beautiful city.  There was so much space compared to other Italian cities.  We had beautiful views of the Alps early in the day before the sky clouded up.


We walked down Via Roma to Piazza San Carlo where we saw the twin Baroque churches, San Carlo and Santa Christina.



Next we visited the Church of San Lorenzo.  This was a really beautiful Baroque church.  The longer we sat inside, the more interesting things I discovered within the church.  There were these cool voids in the four corners of the church that revealed paintings if you shine a light inside.


We then went to Palazzo Madama.  This was really freaking cool. Basically, the “Madama” wanted a more updated and fancy looking palace.  So she had one side of the existing Medieval castle and added a modern palace facade facing the square. The result is pretty bizarre.


Next we went to Palazzo Carignano, which was probably my favorite building of the day.  I fell in love with the facade, which was all brick, shaped and formed to create the detail and curves of Baroque style.  It was beautiful!


We attempted to go to the Mole Antonelliana, but there were too many school groups already booked for the day so we had to skip it.  This building was designed as a Jewish Synagogue, but is now home to the Museo del Cinema.


Finally we visited the Fiat Lingotto factory.  This was another very cool building.  Originally the Fiat manufacturing headquarters, it is now a shopping and event center that was redesigned by Renzo Piano.  On the roof of the building is the “test track” on which every Fiat made there used to be tested.  The entire assembly process followed this cool circulation that occurred from the ground floor up to the top for testing, and back down to the ground level where it was loaded onto a train behind the factory.  The poetry that went into designing this building is really beautiful.


I realize this blog is really exposing my architecture nerd side…

So time for some non-architecture related story telling.  Before leaving the factory and heading to the train station, Emily and I went to go use the restroom.  We told two of our classmates where we were going and not to leave without us.  When we came out, they were nowhere to be seen.  After about 10-15 minutes of wandering around, thinking maybe they noticed we were gone and were waiting for us somewhere, we decided to walk to the train station.  We arrived to find out that they only realized we were missing when they got to the station.  Luckily we were competent enough to know to just meet them at the station, otherwise this would have been a mess! So all 17 of us made it back to the villa safe and sound.