A Breath of Fresh Air

By: Sarah Schwartz

After last weekend, I never thought a trip could come close to comparing, but this weekend did. It was so different, yet still amazing. It was filled with making daily stops at gelaterias and exploring the beautiful wonders of northern Italy. Our long weekend started on Wednesday when we were given the opportunity to see L’Aquila, a city hit by an earthquake and is still destroyed seven years later. It was devastating to see a city that once had beautiful architecture and views to be in ruins. So many families lost everything and still are displaced, unable to return home. Walking through the streets of the red zone was traumatic; you saw homes cut in half with family belongings still there. We also passed by a university and dormitory and that is where it hit home because the civilians that died were around our age. I think it is amazing to be able to work with the organization Shoot4Change who made such a difference in this city. It gives us the chance to see the world in a different perspective and see how other people live differently around the world.

After the moving day in L’Aquila, we had a short stay back in Rome and then headed off to Florence. I love not looking at pictures before I go to the next destination so it leaves me with an open mind, not having any expectations. Once I stepped off of the train platform and onto the grounds of Florence, I knew this would be my favorite city. Its unique character made it feel like home and I will live there one day. I don’t know when, but the day will come! The cool weather made it even better because we didn’t have to deal with the extremely hot climate that Florence usually has. The vibe in Florence felt so lively and relaxed, where you couldn’t be anything but happy. The entire weekend we spent our nights walking around and looking for the best views to overlook while we ate our gelato. Also, Florence is the home of my favorite gelato. Thanks to Jordan, our bus2alps tour guide, we were able to taste heaven on earth from Gelateria del Neri.

On Saturday, we hopped back onto the train and headed over to Venice! Venice was so much fun; we visited the Murano glass factory and we were able to see a live demonstration of glass blowing. It was fascinating to see how within minutes sand could transform into a glass vase. I think I could sit there all day and watch the glassmaker make different items. Venice was filled with good food and getting lost in the streets, which I call mazes. It wasn’t my favorite place, but it was definitely an experience, especially with the square filled with pigeons…I am not a bird person. I’m sure there are pictures of me with a look of terror on my face. But don’t get me wrong, it was an awesome time and the boat ride filled with singalongs was the best way to end a perfect day. Next stop, Tuscany! On Sunday we spent the day shopping, eating delicious lasagna, gelato once again and learning about different wines. My favorite part of that day was being in the barn with all of the cows overlooking the beautiful landscapes. The different shades of green contrasting against the blue sky brought the hills alive. It was definitely a beautiful place to visit and I would love to go back!

Overall, this weekend was just what we needed. It was a time where we could just take a break and relax with a breath of fresh air. I can’t believe this was our last weekend trip as a group, but the fun doesn’t stop here, there is more to come. Once again, these amazing trips wouldn’t be possible without our Professors and bus2alps tour guides, Jordan and Shields.


Ciao Venezia!

By: Sara Whitman

Buongiorno Venezia! I was so ecstatic for Saturday, because we took the high-speed train to one of my favorite cities: Venice.

As soon as we arrived, Jordan led us to Dal Moro’s, one of the coolest eateries I have ever visited. This is a pasta take-out restaurant, where one orders a pasta dish and it comes in a take-out Chinese food container. It was ridiculously awesome and completely fresh, as we could see the pasta being made right there. I ordered Bolognese, which was very tasty.

From lunch, we walked around the corner to a glass-blowing demonstration at Vechia Murano. It is amazing how quickly a master can create a piece and how beautifully one turns out. The man created a vase and a cat during our visit. We then toured through the showroom and saw the amazing quality of glass that the factory makes. Of course quality and craft come at a hefty price—there was a chandelier for 10,000 euros!

After the glass-blowing demonstration, we had some time to ourselves, for another free couple of hours in another dazzling city. My friend Mitch and I got lost as we explored random streets of Venice. It was so fun to walk around unknown corners and see what we would find next. Venice is probably the most photogenic city I have ever visited, so I of course took many, many photos. Mitch and I eventually ran into our friend Chris, who joined us in our journey to get lost. We walked through the beautiful Piazza San Marco and past Doge’s Palace and Saint Mark’s Basillica, which has to be one of the most magnificent areas I have ever seen. Again, we did not get to enter the big landmarks or go to Murano, the “Glass Island,” but luckily I have been fortunate enough to visit in the past. We did, however, along the port, passed the Bridge of Sighs and into a non-touristy, residential area, where we found the Venetian Arsenal.

We got back to Florence late that night, and a few of us decided to head to Gelateria dei Neri for dinner. I got the same flavors as I did the precious day, and I do not regret a single thing. We ate along the Arno, listened to music and had a splendid time.

Ciao Firenze

By: Sara Whitman

I cannot believe our second and last planned weekend of activities as a whole class is already over. I had yet another amazing weekend filled with delicious food and life-long memories in Florence, Venice and Tuscany.

Here is an excerpt from my way-too-long post about Florence with the Hofstra Romans. (Full posts will eventually be on my personal blog).


Ciao Firenze! Our first night in Florence was short and sweet. After a ride on the high speed train, we arrived at Hotel Victoria.

Immediately after arriving, we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat dinner at a lovely restaurant. We were served four types of pastas and the best bread sticks I have ever eaten, along with the best balsamic vinegar I have ever tasted. It was so sweet and thick. I am pretty sure I could have eaten just the bread and vinegar and have been content with the meal.

The next morning, we had a great breakfast at our hostel, which included hot chocolate, chocolate-stuffed croissants and some Nutella on the side, among fruits, cheeses and meat. For me, it was a chocolate dream and it made me look forward to each breakfast to come.

After breakfast, we met with a professor that Professor Hillebrand knows, who gave us a tour around his treasured side of Florence. It was interesting because as soon as we met him, he basically disdained the busy side of Florence where “all the tourists stay” and emulated the East side of the bank, which is where he lives. Our walk around Florence with him basically involved many stops at war memorials. It was an interesting perspective I did not expect to see.

After our short tour, we had a free afternoon. All of us decided to shop around at the outdoor markets, where I ended dup splurging on a genuine leather bag. We then went our separate ways as we got lost in the shops.  A few of us stayed with Jordan, our Bus2Alps guide for the weekend, who showed us around a bit. We of course visited Piazza del Duomo, and then saw the Piazza della Signoria and Piazza della Repubblica, which is famous for its markets and merry-go-round. We also crossed over the medieval Ponte Vecchio bridge, renowned for the shops built right on top of it and because it was pardoned by Hitler during WWII. Jordan also showed us an indoor market and brought us to Gelateria Dei Neri, which has the best gelato I have ever tasted in my life. One flavor was pure Nutella. Just chilled. It was heavenly. I also got cookies and cream, which was so rich and creamy. I could have eaten there every day.

Unfortunately, we did not have the time or reservations to visit the big spots, such as the Statue of David in the Galleria dell’Accademia or the Uffizi. Luckily, I have been to both before, so I was not too bitter about missing such great sights.

Florence is a beautiful city, and I am surprised to say that I enjoy it more than Rome. I wish we could enjoy it a bit longer.


One More Week Until Reality

By: Christopher Munno

Well our last organized weekend trip just ended, sadly. We visited some crazy historic places: Florence, Venice, and Tuscany. First night in Florence we all had an all-you-can-eat pasta special. The next night was so enjoyable. Almost all of us went to a karaoke bar and had a blast. Most of the girls and Jordan went up on stage and sung “What Dreams Are Made Of” by Hilary Duff. Then Mitch, Nick and Espo decided to do the same, but with a different song. They chose “All the Small Things” by Blink 182. The crowd went crazy for that song and their singing. Never did I imagine such a zoo of people in a karaoke bar.

After being in Florence for a day and a half we took the high speed train to Venice. There were so many tourists in Venice, but that didn’t matter. We explored the streets of Venice ate take-out pasta, observed a glass blowing demonstration and just admired the sites.

Sunday, the final day of the weekend trip, we took a bus from the station in Florence to Tuscany. We ate the world best gelato two years running. We also walked around San Gimignano. Back to the bus we went to our first of two vineyards to learn and appreciate the formation process to create wine from grapes. Over all it was a great weekend like always. I can’t believe it almost all over.

Sing for me, Venice.


By: Amy Wang

Venice is seen as one of the most romantic cities in the world. In Venice, you can see boatmen singing on the river, couples spending their time by the water, people having a party in the middle of sea, and vendors selling beautiful glass artworks.

Some of my friends told me not to have too much expectation on Venice due to its touristic nature. However, I was still amazed by its beauty. The whole island is made up by endless small alleys and river trails. Every turn brought you to a new surprise. Sometimes it led you to a church which has more than 500 years’ history. Sometimes it led you to a quiet spot where you could sit by the water all day long. I got lost in Venice most of time. However, it did not bother me at all. I know there were more surprises waiting for me.

Just right before I thought I had seen enough about Venice, I bumped into a Spanish family who was traveling in Venice for a day. They were singing some Italian songs by the river and enjoying the sunshine. I could not stop myself from joining their beautiful melody for the rest of day. Along our walk, the grandmother told me the stories in Spanish. Her 16-year-old grandson translated them into English for me and shared with me about his life. Shortly after, we crossed a bridge and started to walk further from all the tourists. Then, I walked into another world. It was an island called San Polo. Unlike Venice, this small island just sits there quietly and waits for people to discover it. It may not be as beautiful as Venice. Somehow it has this magic to make my heart so peaceful.

That afternoon, I did not do any shopping. But I got one of the most precious things in the world: friendship. This is the reason why I love traveling so much. You never know where you will be and who you will meet the next moment. You may not be able to see the whole world on your own. But you can always see further through other people’s eyes.

An Unforgettable Weekend

By: Christopher Esposito

This weekend was another one I will never forget. It was half work and half play. I had never thought I would be back in Florence, Venice, and Tuscany.

The Hofstra Romans did something not many people can say they have done. We traveled to the broken city of L’Aquila, which was torn apart by an earthquake seven years ago. Despite the time that has passed, little has been done to try and rebuild the city. We traveled through the ruins with the Shoot4Change group to get as much documentation as we could to help them with their project. To me, it seemed as if time stood still. The most chilling part about it was seeing a memorial for college students who lost their lives in the earthquake while they were sleeping in their dorms. After being told about what we were going to be doing with Shoot4Change, actually traveling to the site and seeing the city was a totally different experience. The TV production students as well as the public relations students on this trip spent the day working vigorously to put together our project and see just how much we captured during our short time in L’Aquila.

On the other hand, we got to explore and tour Florence, Venice, and Tuscany. All three were fantastic and the pictures we took will be great to look at while we procrastinate during class. I cannot believe there are only 10 days left in this gorgeous country.

Traveling North for the Weekend

By: Lauren Acone

As the third weekend has come and gone it finally dawned on everyone that we only have two more weeks together in Italy. Realizing this made us all more aware to make the most of the time we had. Although this past weekend was much more relaxing than the previous weekend trip, we still made every second count and saw the most of each city.

We arrived in Florence on Thursday night. We quickly came to the realization that it was 10 to 15 degrees cooler in Florence than it had been in Rome, something no one was prepared for, but we made it work. After arriving we went out to dinner and I finally got homemade gnocchi! (something I have been waiting this entire trip to get).

(imitating the statue)

The second day we traveled around Florence. We went to a beautiful church with simple yet calculated architecture. We saw the reminiscence of the old wall around the city, walked around the non-tourist areas to see how the locals lived, got a delicious lunch, and went shopping. We got to go to the leather market, which is kind of like canal street in NYC, but with real leather instead of fake. To end Friday, we hiked up a hill that overlooked the entire city, just in time to see the sun go down. It was magical.

On Saturday we got back on a train and started to go to Venice. Venice was beautiful. We got lunch at a take out pasta place and sat on a bridge overlooking a canal and watched the gondolas go by. We also went to a glass blowing company and watched how glass was made, it was amazing how quickly they could make the glass sculptures. After that we got lost, actually lost, in Venice. We got to roam the streets for hours shopping and taking amazing pictures until we found our way back to San Marco Square. I wish I had more time in Venice, but that just gives me an excuse to come back to see it again.

On Sunday we got to go home through the hills of Tuscany. We went to the medieval town of San Gimignano which was unbelievable to see. There were so many towers that overlooked the beautiful hills of Tuscany. We also got to see Tuscan pottery in the town and eat the “World’s Best Gelato for two years in a row”. The gelato was good, but the view was even better. On our way home we stopped at a family owned restaurant that has been around for three centuries. The food and view were amazing. Finally we went to a farm to see how they raised animals and grew crops to make olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We all tried to get selfies with the cows, but they were more interested in the hay. We did get a great photo-shoot with everyone and the rolling hills of Tuscany behind us.  Finally we had to leave the beautiful Tuscan countryside, now one of my favorite places in the world.

Overall it was another amazing weekend. I wish we could have spent more time north of Rome, but the time we had there was well spent.