I frutti della Sicilia!


Jessica15In Sicilia, there is a special type of cactus fruit called, ficudinnia. Most of the fruit you will eat in Sicily is fresh. There are fruit trees everywhere. Many people own a farm and are always working on it. It takes a lot of work. If you own a farm, all of the fruits you eat will be fresh fruits that were just recently picked from outside.

My nonna had many pomegranate trees. There was a tree right next to my balcony from my room that I was able to walk out onto the balcony and pick a pomegranate. There were also many walnut trees everywhere. People like to pick the walnuts and sell them.

jessica16–Jessica, SCSU ’17


Palazzolo Acreide and its Festivals



The town of Palazzolo Acreide is a small town located in the province of Siracusa, Sicily. The patron saint of the town is San Paolo but the main piazza is located near the church San Sebastiano. A very long time ago, there was a giant earthquake that buried most of the town and now the town is surrounded by valleys.


The piazza di San Sebastiano is the main piazza in the town of Palazzolo Acreide. It is located on the street, Via Corso Emanuale. This is the street that everyone comes to at night to socialize. Every night that street closes from around 7-10 and the people walk up and down it; it’s also where the main cafes and the only bar/discoteca are located. The town hall is also located on the main piazza.



Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Italy and it is located in Catania, Sicily. Mount Etna is so big that I can stand in my backyard in Palazzolo Acredie (78.8 miles away) and see it! One year when my family and I were visiting, the volcano erupted and when you looked out the backyard, all you could see was a black sky off in the distance!

When driving back to the airport after my trip is over, I always know we are almost at the airport because all you can see in front of you is the giant mountain!


jessica9These pictures are from the Feast of San Michele Arcangelo, which takes place on October 5th in Palazzolo Acreide; it is also celebrated the next week as well. Every church has their special saint who has their own feast day. The feast days are celebrated in the most beautiful way. Everyone in the town gathers around the outside of the church and waits until jessica8the statue of the saint exits the church doors, carried by a handful of men from the town. Fireworks and bombs are set off along with little tiny pieces of paper that are shot out and fly around everywhere. Everyone celebrates by processing with the saint around the town. The younger children lead in the front of the parade holding flags and banners and the marching band follows. Witnessing a saint’s feast is the most amazing experience.

jessica13Agrimontana is another festival that took place in Palazzolo Acredie for one weekend. This festival was for vendors who make homemade crafts. There were tents set up around the main piazza and there were also different food vendors from surrounding towns. There were folk musicians that performed on the steps of the Basilica di San Sebastiano. There was also a handmade swing set for the little kids that was made out of wood and was manually pushed by three different men.

–Jessica, SCSU ’17

Thanksgiving, Roma and other things

Ok so I know I have not been super great about updating, but I am going to be taking the time in the next few days to bring you all some insight on what I have been up to in the past month.

So the month of November was pretty uneventful. At the beginning of the month, they set up the Bancarelle which are the Christmas stands that remain open right through the holidays. For two weeks, french artisans and cooks brought the flavors of France. Then once they moved on, the Christmas stands reopened to typical Triestino goods ranging from homemade soaps, to local food and wine. Every morning on my walk to class, I passed by these Christmas stands and it really puts you into the holiday spirit.

The week before Thanksgiving, my coordinator at the University sent me an email about the American corner in Trieste that I didn’t even know existed up until that point. On the Friday a week before Thanksgiving, 11/22/2013 I went to the American corner to help cook and participate in a large Thanksgiving dinner put on for its volunteers and members. It was no Thanksgiving back home, but it was a nice substitute. The following week I would be off to Rome to visit an old friend, Luca, from my high school in Cosenza. It just so happens that I left for Rome bright and early around 7am on 11/28, Thanksgiving day in the US. I would arrive in Rome in the late afternoon and stay until Sunday morning.

It was the most surreal and indescribable experience I have yet to have so far. The joy and contentment I had to finally see one of the best friends I made in Italy after four years was amazing and unbelievable. I felt like I was in a dream the whole time I was there. I kept pinching myself to make sure it was real. We kept in close contact when I left Cosenza after my exchange program ended four years ago. And yes seeing someone on Skype every so often counts as seeing them, but it doesn’t compare to actually being in the same space and time as them. We caught up during my days in Rome and he showed me pretty much everything. Being that he lives in the outskirts of the city, we had to take the subway to get into the center of the city. Our first stop, you guessed it, the Colosseum. You see it in pictures from various view points and think ya ok it’s large and an architectural masterpiece, but when you see it in person right in front of you when exiting the metro it is a whole other story. I am pretty positive that my jaw hit the floor. I was in awe and completely without words to the beauty that was in front of me. We went into the city around 3pm so the sun was beginning to set, and that kind of lighting with a city like Rome is absolute perfection. He took me all around the city. I saw the Spanish Steps, the government building where Mussolini spoke to the people during the years of Fascism in Italy, Trevi fountain and Campo dei Fiori. My favorite part about Rome was not only the surprise of seeing the Colosseum so close right after exiting the Metro, but it was seeing the Pantheon and then going inside. What an experience. Once again another building that you can admire in photos, but to see it in person is another experience. Once again I was at a loss for words and the scene literally took my breath away. Rome was beautiful and leaving was so so hard. Not only leaving a beautiful city but leaving one of my best friends in the world was also difficult. I hate goodbyes and wish that we had more time. But lucky for me I would go back to Cosenza for Christmas with a friend of mine from Trieste. Lucky for me I would be able to see not only Luca, but then everyone else who I haven’t seen in four years.

When I returned to Trieste I had one more week of classes before mine finished for the semester. The following week I, my friends Arjeta and Genti would organize a weekend in Vienna, Austria. Vienna needs a full other post for everything that we saw and experienced.

Until next time


The Hills are Alive With the Sound of Music

So on 12.13.2013 my friends Arjeta and Genti and I went to Vienna Austria for a lovely weekend visit. We left Trieste on Friday evening, and arrived in Vienna on Saturday morning at 8am. It was a very long overnight train ride. I slept probably 3 hours total during the whole trip. We were all exhausted but there was no time to sleep, we had exploring to do. We saw the entire city in a span of two and half days. Every building, every cathedral was absolutely amazing. The architecture was a marvelous and I was without words. We saw the main street where there were all of the shops, then the grand Cathedral at Piazza Santo Stefano. We saw the national library and the plaza where Hitler made his first speeches during the fascist reign in Austria. We saw the parliament buildings, the University of Vienna and countless gardens.

Day 2 we went to another Garden and saw another palace. The view was absolutely breath taking. We also went to the local amusement park near the Madame Tussaud’s of Vienna. We even went on one of the roller coasters. We walked along the Danube river and admired the contrast between the old city and the newer modern one, just on the other side of the river.

Day 3 we went to the Belvedere Palace. It was beautiful and wonderous and literally took my breath away. It was grandiose and absolutely marvelous. I could only imagine it during the spring and summer when the flowers and plants have all bloomed. From there we went to have lunch and then on a long journey to try and find the Chocolate Museum. We ended up at the opposite side of the city and needed to take a different train to reach the museum. By the time we arrived, it was closed, we were cold, tired and hungry. We had a good laugh about it though at the end and left Vienna that Monday evening. After two and half exhausting days of non stop walking, eating and admiring the beautiful city of Vienna, we finally were on our way home on another night train. We arrived in Trieste once again Tuesday morning. Upon getting back to my dorm, my friend Moira (who I would be spending Christmas with) texted me asking if I wanted to change my bus ticket to leave for Cosenza from Friday 12/20 to that wednesday 12/18. I said of course!! The sooner I returned to Calabria the better!! So from one mode of transportation to another I repacked my bags and we headed back to Cosenza for the christmas holidays. Though I am bummed I won’t be spending Christmas with my family this year, I am extremely grateful that I was invited to spend it with Moira and her family. We have been home now for a few days and her family has made me feel welcome and so comfortable as if I was with my own.

I will have an update coming soon about Christmas in Calabria but for now I will leave you with this.

I wish you all a very very very Merry Christmas and a healthy and Happy New Year.

Parents: I miss you guys so much every day and will be thinking of you all this holiday season. Thank you so much for always supporting me in all of my endeavors, big and small. I cannot wait to see you guys in March, it is going to be so much fun!!!!!!! Hugs and kisses from me to the both of you. The greatest gift I could ever receive was the opportunity to study abroad again and I could not have done it without you both!

Brothers: I miss you both like you wouldn’t believe and I hope you enjoy your breaks. Nicky have fun in Puerto Rico and though we are celebrating our birthdays this year on opposite sides of the world I will be thinking of you. Cam man!! Help out daddy with cooking this year 😉 and make sure when you guys take a part the tree in January that it doesn’t fall on anyone like it did last year hah! Both of you give babiest munch a whole bunch of hugs and kisses from me! And if you get together with the Yorktown Cooks you better take them down in Just Dance and Charades for me!!

FAMILY & FRIENDS: I love you all and miss you all so much. I am wishing you all a very happy and healthy holiday season.



Some October Fun

IMG_0873So the days have been flying by! We eat, study, sleep… in that order. Because our friend group is quite large,  getting ourselves organized is like telling a class of first graders to quiet down. Basically it’s impossible. The weekend after I went to Milan, there was a special event in Trieste called the Barcolana. It is an internationally-known sailboat race that takes place in the Gulf of Trieste every second sunday in October. This race is preceded by three nights of celebrations including an ongoing fair on the harbor from Thursday to Sunday afternoon; each night, there are different activities, which consist primarily of different performers in the main Piazza.IMG_0842
Saturday evening, we went out to get a taste of the fair, grab a beer at a pub in Trieste that crafts its own beer and  listen to some live music in the main Piazza. Sunday morning, we were up bright and early to start our ascent of the mountain. IMG_0888We walked on a path called Strada Napoleonica, a long-ish walk, in order to get a great view of the race and the gulf. From the vantage point, you could see the whole entire city and then some!IMG_0861

That same afternoon, our group disintegrated;  three of my friends and I went to go see il Castello Miramare and the Gardens of Castello Miramare. It was such a beautiful day, I found myself falling in love with Trieste all over again! The castle was beautiful, the gardens were breath taking and we even saw a few jellyfish hangin’ out in the ocean below.

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Fast forward from that weekend and to HALLOWEEN!!!! Ha… in between the Barcolana and this past weekend, our schedules resumed as normal and we ate, studied and slept once again. However, on October 31, we celebrated Halloween Italian style!1450752_10201592910318894_1016034076_n

And I know what you are all thinking: it must be the same as in the US. Well, yes, the kids dress up and go trick or treating and the teens and university students get dressed up and go to various parties in the discos, but the American idea of finding a costume is much different than what they do here. Instead of dressing up as one specific person or thing, they paint their faces extravagantly to mirror faces of skeletons or something much scarier than what we consider to be a costume in the US.1450856_10151881207481696_4616880_n There is no rhyme or reason to these costumes, only that you make your face look as scary as possible. Then you go to different parties or around town with your friends, admiring the spectacle.1383994_10201592913718979_1637795526_n

Well that’s really all on my end!
Stay well and until next time


Some reflection and advice from Italy

October 4th 2013

I am still in a state of shock and awe that my life has become something so incredible! Week three came and went in a flash, and I still have ten more months ahead of me.  Life here is turning out to be a lovely box of chocolates! Every new adventure brings perspective.  I mean seriously though I just casually took a four hour train ride–which turned into six because of some technical difficulties–to one of the most well known cities in the world: MILAN! The following few paragraphs are thoughts and reflections I had while on my journey to the Western side of Italy.

As I sit on the train, I am two hours away from the fashion capitol of the world! These solo journeys offer time for thought and reflection and so I am doing just that.  I am recalling my first days coming to Italy and getting acclimated within my first weeks.  I was all kinds of nervous and excited at the same time…Talk about sensory overload: sprinting through airports to catch all three of my flights, grabbing two buses to get to school…lets just say it was an exhausting 48 hours.  I was so anxious to get this solo journey over that I didn’t give myself ample time to reflect on life and the journey I has ahead of me.  Now that I am sitting on the train to Milan, I am no longer afraid to travel alone. My fears have all but disappeared.  Instead, I am calm and reflective on life, as I take in the coastal scenery leaving Trieste to the rolling countrysides of the interior of Italy.  Literally four hours from one tip of the country to the other.  Impossible.  Amazing.

Though I miss the company of travel companions, I do enjoy this time to myself.  You can always find a sense peace and inner calm on those solo journeys.  

I think for the first time I have actually fallen in love with life itself.  I have fallen in love with breathing in new and exciting experiences.  I find myself struck with wonder and awe at each new place I visit and see.  I feel like a new born child opening their eyes to the world for the very first time.  Everything is so new and interesting.  

And on a more personal note: To mom and dad.  I finally read your letters to me that you wrote before I left.  I am going to go to all of those places before I leave.  You better BELIEVE it.  Heck maybe you guys can meet me in Dublin for a beer!

And a little advice to all of you contemplating going abroad:

Though the process may seem daunting at times and overwhelming at certain points, and you may think, ‘how could I leave home for such an extended period of time?’….I beg you to reconsider.  When you leave it is not a goodbye, but a ‘see you later’.  Know that you will change and things at home will change, but no matter the changes, those still important to you will be there when you return.  They will miss you and maybe be a little sad, but above all else, they are excited that you made the decision to go abroad.  So I say this, if you do decide to go abroad, know you made the best decision ever in your life.  Aside from deciding what you are going to have for breakfast this morning.

I’ll leave you with some things to think about:





And with that, I leave you because I have a whole country and a whole continent to explore before July 2014!!

Make good decisions and even better mistakes.  Always trust your gut, make life how you want it to be and rock every single second of it.



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La Prima Lezione!


Well the time has come for classes to begin here in Trieste. Sadly my short summer vacation has come to an end and the time to hammer down with my studies has arrived. Although I live right next to the main campus, all of my classes happen in the middle of the city. So I have two ways to get to them: I can walk an hour or I can take a 20 minute bus ride and then walk fifteen minutes. On days that it is far too cold to walk to and from the center of the city everyday, I will take the bus; but when it is so mild and beautiful –as it has been for the past few days–I walk. It is great exercise and also a great way to learn my way around the streets. So far so good! I have not gotten myself too lost yet… The hard part is coming back because once you go down hill, you must always come back up! It only stinks when it is around lunch time and it is so hot with no shade to hide in. Luckily I only have one course that starts this week, and the rest  come the following week.

I can already say that there is going to be a lot of reading involved, along with memorization of the content to prepare me for the oral exam that I have to take to obtain credit for the course. My material thankfully in this first course will last me into the first couple of weeks in November, and then I will have a few weeks off to study for my final exam. The only writing I will be doing, it seems, is note taking! And my new best friend just became the library!! All of my books can be found there thankfully, though I might try to purchase some of them as well depending on the prices (of course).

After such a whirlwind of a week, I almost forgot the real reason I was here, which is to study and work hard just like I would back home. I am so excited for this new challenge and to learn in a completely different way than before. Each class will be two hours, three times a week with the expectation from our professors that we not stop studying and learning once we go home. This is going to be a busy semester! Thankfully with the gradual start comes no Friday classes. And with this I head to Milan next weekend to visit a friend from high school!!

Every day I find with each new adventure and obstacle there is a new found sense of independence and confidence that comes out from some where deep within. Never before have I felt more independent than I have in these last few days. I am forever happy that I made the decision to go abroad alone my senior year of college. If you can conquer a foreign city and a foreign language you can conquer anything life throws at you!

until next time photo 1