So I’m back from my long study tour, and it was AMAZING. This post is gonna be a biggy, so buckle your seatbelt and prepare to be here a while.
Saturday/Sunday (still in Copenhagen):
Saturday night I played Bingo Banko with my host family. It’s basically a nation-wide crazy televised bingo game, where anyone who wants to play can print out a bunch of cards (as many as you can keep track of) and compete for prizes. During the tv show, they play crazy games (including tattoo pictionary and beaver racing) and do silly things (asking people on the street random questions) to come up with the bingo numbers. There are tons of great prizes, from socks to refrigerators. You compete for first one row, then two rows, then a whole board, and if you get the right numbers then you have to be the first one to call in. The whole thing is super silly, and really fun. I played with Søren and Cille, and we each had 9 cards. Sadly it was not enough, and we did not win anything, but I still had a great time. The show is on every Saturday, so I’m sure we’ll try again soon!
I spent most of Sunday packing and double-checking my passport, camera, money, and other essentials. That evening Søren was nice enough to drive me to the train station, where I headed over to Allerød to spend the night at Allie’s house. It was fun to meet someone else’s host family and we played some pretty competitive Wii games with her host brother. Plus we had some leftover brownies and tea for dessert.
Monday (Day One):
Monday morning began bright and early with a pre-dawn walk to the train station. It was nice to be going with a friend, though, so if anything went wrong we’d be in the same boat. We got a random offer for a ride from a Danish guy in a big sketchy black van, but we decided to stick with the train. Luckily, all went smoothly and everybody got to the airport in time for our flight. After an hour-long bus ride and a quick stop to check in at the hotel, we were sent off on our own for Urban Awareness: Milan Edition. Team Awesome (me, Allie, Ansley, Colin, and Dylan) decided to go the low-key approach, and started out at the Parco Sempione. The park was absolutely gorgeous, especially in the beautiful weather, and we sat for a while on the grass just soaking in the Italian atmosphere. Then we continued on through the other DIS recommended spots to visit, and grabbed some cheap pizza for lunch. A great first afternoon in Italy.
best hotel ever. FREE soda and cookies in every room, refilled each day.
view from our spot in the park--Arco Della Pace
supposedly you get good luck from spinning 3 times on the "delicate parts" of the bull in the center of the Galleria
For dinner, we ate as a group at a place called Art Factory. First we got huge plates cheesy pasta with bread and little breadsticks, and everybody ate until they were full. Then it turned out we had a second course–mozzarella, tomato, and prosciutto. So yummy, but way too much to finish.
That night we had some free time, so Jenna, Allie, Ansley, and I went to a little restaurant-bar Ansley had spotted on her run earlier. Ansley and I had the most delicious margaritas, and it was lovely to just sit outside and chat for a while. We went home on the early side because we were all exhausted from the long day.
Tuesday (Day Two):
We began the day with a wonderful hotel breakfast buffet (I perfected my selection throughout the week–fresh machine-squeezed OJ, yogurt, cake, fruit, salami, proscuitto, and cheese, saving cookies for a mid-day snack) followed by our first academic visit. We heard from a researcher on subjective well-being, and it was really interesting, though it was hard to get in an academic mood with such gorgeous weather outside. Then we went to the Galleria D’Arte Moderna, which was beautiful. I mean, the art was great too but the building and gardens were gorgeous.
For our group lunch we went to a local sandwich chain (way nicer than Subway) and had paninis. I had a Fattore, which had salami, cheese, and something called aurora sauce. YUM.
At lunch, my friend Shuyao joined our trip because she’d had visa troubles that wouldn’t allow her to go to her own Scotland study tour. It was a shame for her to miss her tour, but it was fun to have her along.
That day we also got to see DaVinci’s Last Supper! Waiting to see it was pretty intense because there were a couple of airlock doors to go through, and there were guards around making sure nobody did anything wrong. As soon as we got into the room, some poor lady took a picture and one of the guards was like NOPICTURENOPICTURE and ran over to her and made her delete it. The way he was running I half-expected him to tackle her or something, but obviously that didn’t happen. The painting itself was really cool to see, even though it’s pretty faded and has had to be restored so many times. It was just crazy to be seeing something that old and that famous/influential.
Our next stop was a wine tasting at That’s Wine. Unfortunately we got lost trying to find it (a common theme of the trip) and the group was getting a bit cranky because most of us hadn’t eaten since lunchtime. Everyone was overjoyed when we finally found it, and our group completely packed the tiny little wine bar. The tasting itself was super fun, and I actually really liked all the wines we tasted. Plus we got some delicious bread, cheese, prosciutto, and salami to accompany it. After three glasses of wine, we all were desperately in need of dinner, so we tromped around as a group until we found a restaurant called Flash Pizzeria. The food turned out to be really good, and I had gnocchi and split some bruschetta with a few other people. Afterwards we got our first Italian gelato at a place near the Duomo, and it was definitely as good as the hype.
group picture in front of the Duomo
Wednesday (Day Three):
Wednesday morning we had an academic visit with Prof. Paolo Inghilleri and a couple of student researchers at University of Milan. It was a long visit, but really cool because we got to hear about real research that’s being done right now around positive psychology. We also got a tour of the University, which is in a very old hospital building. It was really beautiful, and it was hard to imagine being a student and having classes there every day.
We had lunch as a group at Original Pizza. At first only one type of pizza (pepperoni) showed up and we were pretty disappointed because it meant only one slice per person. But after a few minutes, another pizza came, and then another, and it seemed like they just kept coming and coming. I think we had four or five pizzas in all, and my favorite had gorgonzola cheese and corn. We also got dessert, either ice cream balls or Italian ice–even more delicious when it’s paid for by DIS!
After lunch we got to go individually to the Duomo, but since everybody went at about the same time it was sort of like a group activity. This was what I’d been most excited for, because I’d heard the views from the top of the Duomo were spectacular, and I was not disappointed. At one point we thought we’d seen it all, but luckily the elevator man closed the lift and told us to go down the other side. In the process of looking for the “other side” we discovered the stairs up to the very top of the roof. Moral of the story: the Duomo is HUGE, and there’s always something more to see!
We also went inside the Duomo, which was HUGE. I could’ve spent an hour just looking at all the details and exploring the place, but we wanted to get the most out of our free afternoon, so we only took a brief tour around. It was dark inside, and you weren’t supposed to take pictures anyway, so I have no pictures for you all, but I assure you it was really amazing. For dinner we had a quick bite from a food cart near the Duomo and did some shopping at a designer department store. The clothes were so wonderful but so expensive and we left quickly to avoid further temptation. That evening we had a visit at the La Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (apparently they are located all over the world) and go to speak with a woman about the importance of meditation and peacefulness in daily life. The whole atmosphere was very calming, and it was really interesting to hear a different point of view on well-being.
After the visit we searched for an open pasticeria because Ansley really wanted an Italian Napoleon, but almost everything was closed. We ended up at a little place near our hotel, where I had a huge cannoli. Yummmm.
Thursday (Day Four):
Thursday morning’s academic visit was one of my favorites, because we were talking with Antonella Della Fave, one of the first positive psychology researchers ever, and the most important one in Italy. She and her fellow researchers talked about their work and gave us a lot of great information on how the positive psychology principles we’ve been learning about in class can be applied in practical research. Even the presentation was three hours, it went by really quickly, and I think we were all sad to be leaving at the end of it.
We had a fancy group lunch with risotto then pork with wildberry sauce and potatoes. The restaurant was dark so my pictures didn’t turn out very well, but the food was scrumptious. After lunch we got espresso courtesy of DIS. In the afternoon we visited with Dr. Morandi at Ayurvedic Point, and learned about Ayurveda as well as traditional medicine in general. It was probably my favorite visit because he talked to us about the philosophy of traditional medicine and how he approaches his Ayurvedic practice as a Western medicine-trained physician. He emphasized how Eastern and Western traditions should work together, rather than competing, and his perspective was really fascinating. I definitely want to learn more about Ayurveda and how it can be applied to a psychological context.
That night we got the evening to ourselves, so Ansley, Allie, and I took some relaxation time before going out to dinner. I took a marvelous bath (with jets!) in our hotel room, and it was great to get some time to just chill after having such a busy week. For dinner we met up with Jenna and her Italian friend she’d met a few years ago while being a camp counselor. We found a nice place with outdoor seating by the canals, and splurged a bit on fancy food and some wine to accompany it. For dessert we went back to the hotel and found a gelato place nearby, and I found my new favorite flavor–crema.
Friday (Day Five):
Our last full day in Milan began with another academic visit with Antonella’s researchers. This time it was focused more on disability and positive psychology, which was really cool because it was very different from the other research we’d heard about the rest of the tour. As a surprise at the end of the visit, we each got Kinder Bueno bars from our tour leaders. Then for Liia’s birthday they took us out to free gelato, the best gelato I had that week. It was a place called Gelatissimo, and unsurprisingly the owner was very happy to have forty customers at once.
I got Crema Catalana and Pistachio--delicious!
We had the afternoon free, so Shuyao, Jenna and I walked through the Parco Sempione (neither of them had gotten to see it the first day) to the Pinoteca di Brera, an art museum that was highly recommended by, well, everyone. I know next to nothing about art history, and the captions were all in Italian, but the paintings were mostly from the early 1800′s or the 1500′s. There was a ton of religious art and many depictions of the Virgin Mary with Jesus. I love art museums, but I’d never seen such old art before so it felt like an entirely new experience. My favorite painting depicted a young woman, relaxing in a chair while shirtless. I know nothing of the context of the painting, but she just seemed really relaxed and content, and it was a nice contrast to all the stark religious imagery.
For our last night, we had a group dinner followed by a jazz show at Blue Note Milan. Everybody got dressed up for the show, and it was fun seeing everybody all fancy (though a lady at the restaurant apparently thought we were in high school). It was dark in the restaurant so my pictures are not spectacular, but we had three wonderful courses–pasta, sausage with veggies, and flan! We also each got a glass of wine or soda to accompany the meal.
tried using the flash for the second course--not a great result (but the food was delicious!)
Shuyao didn't want her flan, so I ended up having 1 and 3/4 flans (what is the plural of flan?!)
I didn’t think the day could get any better, but it definitely did. The jazz show was simply amazing. Allie, Ansley, Jenna, and I got bar seats right on the balcony so we got a good view of the performance. The singer was Luca Jerman, accompanied by several musicians and a couple of backup singers. His very first song was “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, which I had just downloaded the week before, and it pretty much set the tone for the night. Everything about the performance was amazing and his voice was really incredible. Luca Jerman was also accompanied for one song by another singer, who turned out to be a really famous Italian singer who won a singing competition show followed by an Italian music award. Apparently he was taught by Luca Jerman, which was why he showed up for the performance. Everyone in our class was buzzing about it afterwards, and it was a truly perfect way to end the trip. Plus, on the way home, Shuyao and I found Spongebob randomly painted on a wall.
Saturday (Day Six):
Saturday morning I had a perfect last breakfast, including a creme puff covered in chocolate mouse–obviously a great way to start the day. We loaded all our stuff onto the bus and departed for an afternoon at Lake Como. The lake was so beautiful, and the town was adorable. It was nice to see someplace other than Milan, which is beautiful but has a lot of cars and busy streets (stark contrast from Copenhagen).
After getting our lunch money and directions from our guide, Shuyao and I headed over to the Funiculare, a gondola-tram-thing that takes you up to the top of one of the hills surrounding the lake. When trying to find it, we first went up this tiny alleyway, thinking we were headed the right way, and we were surprised that nobody else was around. Then when we reached the top of the hill we came out onto a regular busy street, and were really confused. We asked a woman where to find the Funiculare, and she told us we had to go all the way down the hill, and it’d be right there. OOPS. Turns out what we’d thought was a cafe was actually the ticket office.
walking through the little town
We were starting to get hungry, so we decided to try to find some lunch up on top of the hill. We wandered through the streets for a bit, starting to wish we’d paid more attention to the map of the town near the Funiculare station. Finally we decided to ask for directions from a guy at a small grocery store. He pointed us to a little trattoria tucked away in a side street. The restaurant was adorable, and there were only about three options for each course. Shuyao and I decided on two different pasta dishes because we didn’t want to spend too much. What a great choice. After a long wait, the waiter brought out our pasta, and it was the best food we had all week. The ingredients were really simple, but it was all super fresh, including the pasta, and we felt like we were experiencing the real Italy.
We decided to head back down again for dessert, and we found a gelato place by the docks that looked really good. The woman there spoke only Italian, so it was a little difficult making our orders, but the gelato was delicious, as always.
We walked back into town and explored a street market there for a while, and I bought a scarf. Then we went to see the Como Duomo (haha I couldn’t resist), which was obviously much smaller than the one in Milan, but still very beautiful.
On the inside the ceilings were very detailed and and covered with gold embellishments, but I didn’t take any pictures because you’re not supposed to (though many people do anyway).
On the way to the airport, we did a positive psychology intervention where everyone filled out positive comments about everyone else in the class, including themselves. Later on everybody received a packet with all their positive comments. All the comments were so thoughtful, and it was really nice to end the trip with a positive feeling.
We arrived in the airport way too early because of the lack of traffic, so we had about an hour to waste before we could check our bags. Ansley, Allie, and I sat at some tables and shared all our Italian purchases and ate our last few snacks leftover from the hotel breakfast. Once we finally got to check our bags, we checked out a gift store where Allie bought a souvenir and then went to find something to eat. There was only one choice for food in our terminal, but it turned out to be really good. I had a sandwich with prosciutto, cheese, and arugala, and a pastry for dessert.
My sfogliatella (lobster tail). It was (to my surprise) really delicious--my own farewell to Italy.
Unfortunately, when we got back to Copenhagen at 10pm, it turned out that some of the trains were not running. Luckily Allie and I were together so we searched for a solution. First we went from Nørreport to Central Station to figure out what was going on. All the info booths were closed, and when we tried to figure out the bus we needed, we couldn’t find the stop to meet it. In a stroke of genius, Allie ended up buying a hot dog while we figured out what to do. We asked the man at the hot dog stand if he happened to know anything about the buses/trains, and he told us that if we took the one train that was running to Hellerup, we could catch our train from there. We went for it because we had no other ideas, and fortunately he was correct. We each ended up getting home at like 12:30am, but we got there!
Told you it would be a long post. Now it’s time for me to prepare for a return to a normal schedule, homework and all. This trip was better than I ever thought it would be, but I’m so glad to be back in Copenhagen. It is so nice to be in my own room with my own bed, and I’m actually really excited to return to my normal commute tomorrow morning. It’s funny how Copenhagen has become my new home and frame of reference as I travel around–even American money is starting to look foreign!
Arrivederci and vi ses!