Let the Adventures Begin…
Written by Katie Carpenter May 29, 2019
Being situated in the foothills of a small town away from mass tourism allows for a glimpse of what it’s like to live in Italy. This may just be me, but it’s easy to imagine Italians leading these romantic, fantasy-like lives where everything is perfect and every meal is fantastic. But guess what…Italians are just people too! They aren’t always eating outside on patios sipping vino and twirling pasta with a fork. Yes they do this often, BUT there are more similarities between Italian and American culture than you may think!
Being able to observe this life firsthand is what I love about Paderno del Grappa. It’s real. It’s authentic. It’s an open window into Italians’ way of life. As you walk around campus you see moms dropping their children off at school and stopping at the bar (coffee shop) for an after-school snack. High school boys are playing soccer and heading to the gym for an evening workout. Locals stop in the bar for a cappuccino and croissant to help get them through the usual grogginess of an early morning.
As a new student in Italy, know that the first week of school takes a tad bit of adjustment. Do not fret! Being placed in a different country takes some time and getting used to. Go easy the first week and make sure you’re getting enough sleep so that you can fully appreciate everything that is going on. Before you know it you’ll secretly be excited to get back to class after your travel weekends. The routine of class is nice and gives you a sense of purpose while being abroad. The teachers are fantastic and I am genuinely intrigued when sitting in class, although sometimes espresso is needed to keep me awake. Luckily, this is Italy! Grab an inexpensive espresso macchiato at the coffee machine on campus for that extra energy boost. Then grab another one later while you study (which is what I’m doing right now)!
Verona and Lake Garda: Gems of Northern Italy
What did I do this weekend, when I was finished with classes? I started out in Verona. An underrated place that I highly recommend for a relaxing, stress-free experience. Great food, attractions, and people. Locals filled the streets which was a nice surprise. Italians were there for a fun weekend filled with shopping, eating, and socializing with friends. The car ride there was about an hour and 45 minutes, giving us a lengthy evening to explore the streets and sit down for a nice dinner. On Saturday we went on a food and wine tour. I want to stress how important and beneficial it is to take advantage of local tours! They give you a chance to learn about the local secrets, learn about the culture, and taste food from the city’s hidden gems. You also meet people that you never would have had the chance to meet. We were in a group with a couple from Sweden so not only did we learn about Italy, but we learned a few things about Sweden. My recommendation is to download the app GetYourGuide and browse through the wide variety of tour options before you travel.
Our tour started at a café where we tasted coffee beans and were exposed to some of the different processes in which the beans are turned into coffee. Although I am no coffee connoisseur, it’s entertaining to listen to those who have a passion for this sort of thing. They notice the subtle differences in the taste of the beans and somehow enjoy the very bitter drink. We stopped in a family-owned grocery store where we tasted aged Parmesan and salami. Sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, olives, and all the cheese you could ever dream of filled the glass cases. Jars of pesto and bucket-sized bottles of olive oil surrounded me. Was I dreaming? Our third stop was wine tasting. I am much more fascinated by the winemaking process than I am of tasting the wine so it was neat to learn about the history of the wines and the regions in which they are made. Afterward, I ate possibly the best gnocchi I’ve ever had. Fast food pasta. How great does that sound? Why haven’t Americans caught on to this? Fast food pasta beats fast food burgers any day. Fresh pasta is made everyday and it takes two minutes to throw together. They pour butter over the top which added to my daily intake of (I don’t want to know how many) calories but it was worth it. Our last stop was a gelateria and there’s not much to say other than I tried someone’s pistachio flavored gelato and I ended up more happy with my usual choice of strawberry and chocolate.
On Sunday we made our way to Lake Garda, which is the largest lake in Italy. We were in Sirmione, Lake Garda which was more touristy but it was beautiful and worth the trip. We visited ancient Roman ruins and took a boat ride where we got an up-close view of the gorgeous mountains and light blue water.
- (Do this in advance) Buy tickets to either a concert, opera, or play at the Verona Arena. This is similar to the Roman Coliseum but they hold events inside which is amazing. I wish we had planned this earlier so we could have experienced this. You’re handed a candle as you walk in and later everyone holds their candle up against the backdrop of the stars above you.
- Don’t spend time walking through the streets filled with clothing stores…rather, find a great cafe and taste all the food you can!
- Visit Castelvecchio
- Whenever you see buffalo mozzarella on the menu, order it.