Keepin’ It Italian: How To Keep In Touch With The Culture

Amanda Most

It only took three weeks for me to completely fall in love with Italy and never want to get on a plane back to America. It is easily the most amazing place I have been. With my home being in Arezzo and weekends spent adventuring through Rome, Positano and Florence, I’ve adapted to a lifestyle I’ll never forget. I’ve picked up on the culture norms, language, and ways of travel and have learned so much in a short period of time. I will without a doubt be back one day in the future, whether it’s five, ten, or twenty years from now. When I’m back in America, I want to make sure I don’t lose my connection to this wonderful culture. After some reflection and research here are some ways for you to keep in touch with the Italian culture.

Carleigh, Kolline and me (left to right) sitting under the Tuscan sun the first day we arrived!

Carleigh, Kolline and me (left to right) sitting under the Tuscan sun the first day we arrived!

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All Aboard! A Step-by-Step Guide to Train Travel in Italy

Stephen Markee

If you’re planning on visiting Italy one day, one essential way to see all the majestic cities is by train. The railroad tracks link just about every city in Italy, making it easy to get to all the beautiful sites and historical monuments. In Italy, traveling by train is the most preferred method for traveling. It the fastest, most convenient and lets not forget that driving and parking in Italian cities is a nightmare. Spending the last two weeks in Italy, we have traveled to Tuscany, Rome, Orvieto, Positano, Sorrento, Naples, and now getting ready to end our journey in Florence. In total we have stepped onto eight different Italian trains in the past three weeks!

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Arezzo Train Station Platform

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Not Your Average Joe: Redefining the Typical Study Abroad Student

What do you get when you combine a 40-year career, an award winning research publication, a handful of nearly completed college degrees, 6 kids and a gaggle of grandkids?

Meet Joe.

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Joe in Arezzo

Joe is experiencing Italy with the rest of the CCU students abroad, but he is absorbing the Tuscan sun with a different perspective than most students.

Like, 45 more years of perspective.

Originally from New England, Joe spent his first 20 professional years in the planning and development area of hospital administration. After that, he segued into anti-poverty work in Brunswick County, NC, which kept him busy for the next two decades. In love with the sunny and salty Carolinas, Joe retired to Murrells Inlet, SC. Of course, the term “retired” is used quite loosely when it comes to Joe. Not one to waste time, he enrolled in Coastal Carolina University about 4.5 years ago to start his Bachelor’s degree in marine science. A long-time lover of the water, Joe grew up wanting to be an oceanographer and finally found his chance to learn more at CCU.

But why go back to school now?

Joe’s answer: Why not!

“I’ve seen way too many people retire, sit on their porch all day, and just get old. That wasn’t going to happen to me.”

Joe declares that he has always loved learning and describes himself as just a “passionately curious guy.” CCU is the perfect place for curious thinkers of all ages; the university follows South Carolina state policy, which provides tuition exemption for all citizens over the age of 60. In Joe’s eyes, there are really no reasons he shouldn’t go back to school. “It gets me up every morning,” he says. “I’m busier than I was when I was working, but I’m a whole heck of a lot less stressed.”

Besides, Joe has a bucket list, and right near at the top is “go to Europe.” The only item listed above that? “Pass calculus.”

So Joe tackled his degree in marine science, and he did nothing halfway. In fact, he did a significant amount of research in marine science and won first place at the South Carolina Academy of Science. He even got his research published, a noble feat in any field.

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Joe with his awarding winner poster presentation // image via

But Joe wasn’t done quite yet, so he started toward another degree in biochemistry. And history. And creative writing. And sociology. And hey, Joe doesn’t discriminate, so he wants to get started on his English degree as well. He also enrolls in 6 credits per semester through Palmetto College, the University of South Carolina’s online degree program.

Oh, and in his spare time, Joe tutors at CCU’s Writing Center.

It seems like the better question is to ask if there is anything this man hasn’t done.

Well, up to this point, the answer was this: Travel abroad.

“I’ve always wanted to see Europe. Italy has always been number one on my list,” says Joe. “So I saw this program advertised and thought, ‘Hey, here’s my chance.’ I talked with my wife, and we agreed that this was the opportunity of a lifetime. Besides, there’s no way I could’ve planned all this on my own for a lesser cost.”

So far, Joe’s favorite part of the trip has been seeing all the churches. “I lost count after 40, but I’ve tried to see and go in churches in every city we’ve been to.” Highlights included going to mass at St. Peter’s in Vatican City and at St. John Lateran in Rome. “For a good ole Catholic boy like me, there is just nothing like it.”

Joe finds it interesting to compare how each church approaches tourism. “Some just go about their way, others really cater to the tourists. I went to a little church in Pisa that had incense burning, the priest up there doing his thing, a chant going on, candles lit… It was incredible.”

Joe’s adventurous spirit and propensity toward reading maps has allowed him to show up in a city, look at the map and conquer the churches around. “To me,” says Joe, “most of the beauty in this area is in the churches. The stuff that was in there, the years that went in to making them… Stumbling upon all the churches has been so cool.”

The amount of churches Joe has seen is impressive, but so is surviving doing life with three dozen 20-ish-year olds. “It keeps me young! Of course, there are some elements of ‘been there, done that,’ but there is also that element of keeping up,” chuckles Joe. “Mostly on the hills!”

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Joe enjoying an authentic Italian dish.

So who should study abroad?

Everyone, according to Joe. “If you have the resources, definitely do it. Here, you can view things with a different perspective and totally be yourself at the same. And I’m very comfortable being myself.”

Carolita, a Los Angeles resident, shared her experience in this article, proving that there successful study abroad can happen at all different seasons of life. If learning a language abroad sounds appealing, check out this site that offers programs from Argentina to Paris to Germany. If you’re South Carolina resident like Joe, be sure to review the complete list of lifelong learning programs offered in South Carolina here. In addition to tuition exemption for regular classes, CCU offers the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). Supplementary resources may be available to you through Veteran’s Affairs programs.

“I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I could,” says Joe.

Looks like he’ll have to start making a new bucket list soon. He passed calculus.

Tips for the Perfect Vineyard Tour in Italy

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The view of the hills of tuscany along with The Tenute San Fabiano the vineyard that I visited

Tuscany is famous for its rolling hills, beautiful countryside, amazing hilltop villages, and, of course, its wine. Tuscany’s wine reputation was founded on wines such as Chianti, Runello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Even though Tuscany is a great place to go on a wine tour, and I may be a little biased because that was where I stayed, all of Italy is great for wine tours. While in Italy, I would highly recommend taking a Vineyard tour.

Here are SIX tips to help you do it successfully.

1. There are a few questions you may want to ask yourself. When asking yourself these questions think about what best fits your budget and the amount of time you have. Here are a couple questions to ask yourself about the different tours you can go on:

  • Do you want a self guided wine tour? This is the cheapest option but it is all up to you to book appointments, drive to and from the location, and to communicate with the staff. Remember the more rural the area, the more likely it is for them to not speak English.
  • Do you want a private, customized wine tour? This is probably going to be the most expensive option but this way you will have a guide that handles all of the arrangements and it will be customized to exactly how you want it to be.
  • Do you want to be a part of a larger group wine tour? This is going to be more of a big bus tour to a big winery with lots of people. The advantage is that it is going to be a lot cheaper than a private tour and you don’t have to worry about driving. The disadvantages is that you are going to have a lot of lines, a lot of people that you do not know, and it won’t be customized to your liking.

2. Pre-determine your budget. A lot of factors go into how much your wine tour is going to cost you. Like I said before first you will have to decide what kind of tour you want and that will effect the price. What kind of winery you go to will have a huge effect. There are four different classifications for wines starting with the nicest DOCG, then DOC, IGT, and finally the most basic Vino da Tavola. The wineries that are classified as DOCG will have a higher price than the IGT wineries. Keep in mind that you might want to buy a bottle or two while you are there so make sure to bring some cash with you. Since you are getting it at the vineyard it will be cheaper than buying it in the store. We went on a private tour and got an added discount to our bottles.

3. Make sure to schedule an appointment. Most vineyards in Italy do not take walk ins. So you have to make sure that you have an appointment ahead of time, usually with a minimum 2-3 days in advance. This way you do not have to be worried about them being booked. Here are some wineries that I found in different parts of Tuscany in no particular order:

4. Big isn’t always better. Just because you go to a small winery does not mean that it is going to be bad wine. I would recommend going to a small winery because:

  • There is not going to be any big marketing scheme with different sales people harassing you and trying to get you to buy different products.
  • Most visits at small wineries will just be you and the other people you are there with. There definitely won’t be any big tour groups or lines to worry about.
  • More than likely you will meet the owner of the winery. We were actually able to meet the Count of Arezzo, who owns the winery and all of the land around it.

5. Stay close, taste local: If staying in Tuscany, there is likely going to be a winery just up the road from where you are staying. If you are able to find a winery near you I would recommend going to that because you do not have to worry about drinking and driving (Italy has become extremely strict with drinking and driving laws), you don’t have to worry about getting lost (see next point), and this way you can go home and open a fresh bottle of wine while telling your friends all about the area from where the wine was made.

6. Have a GPS, smart phone, or really good map: Tuscany is famous for its twisting winding roads and is extremely easy to get lost navigating on them. If you are using your GPS or smart phone make sure to have the maps downloaded before because from my experience the wifi at most places is not very good. City maps 2 go is a great free map app where you can download the map of a city before hand and not have to use any wifi or data to use the map. The one downside of this app is that it takes up a lot of space of your phone to download the maps. A really good road map might be your most reliable use of directions. Here is a road map of Tuscany that is recommended for tourists.

Helpful words and phrases to know:

The more touristy the area is, the more likely it will be for the Italians working at the winery to speak English. But for the more rural areas and smaller wineries it is not very likely they will speak English. Even if they do speak English you’re in Italy get out of your comfort zone and speak some Italian!

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Some of the wine and the olive oil that the Tenute San Fabiano offered

FOUR things to do while on your tour:

1. Ask how much it cost to ship wine home. Shipping wine back to the states is extremely expensive, especially for broke college kids. At the winery that we went to it cost 70 € in shipping to send six bottles of wine home and 110 € to send 12 bottles home. If that is too expensive I would recommend leaving a little bit of room in your suitcase so you can bring some authentic Italian wine back to the States with you. Keep in mind that at most airports if you go over the 50 pounds for your checked bag there is a 100 € charge.

They are very accommodating however when it comes to sending wine home. If you are someone that does not mind spending over 70 € on shipping know that they have that option. Just make sure you know your budget and how much wine you are going to want ahead of time.

2. Ask to try their different products. Most wineries have food products other then wine. When tasting the wine, make sure to ask if they have anything else especially if they make it at the winery. For example, the winery that I went to makes its own olive oil, which was fantastic.

3. Try the different wines. How many times are you going to be able to go on a Vineyard tour in Italy? Try all of the wines that they offer even if you don’t like it the bucket in the middle of the table is used to spit it out. They wont get offended; they have it there for a reason!

4. Wear comfortable clothes. Most wine tours are informal and there is no dress code. So especially if you are going to walk to one make sure to have sneakers and clothes that you are comfy in. The basement can also be really cold so if you are someone that gets cold easily even on a hot day you might want to bring a sweatshirt.

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The Tenute San Fabiano. The Winery that we visited!

My visit to the Tenute San Fabiano in Arezzo, Italy

This is a beautiful little winery located on a hill overlooking the city of Arezzo. We got a personalized tour with a women who spoke decent English. Since this was a smaller vineyard, we were the only ones there besides a couple workers. We got to see how they make the wine and where they store it. At the end of the tour we got to taste their wine and have some salami, prosciutto, bread, and their homemade olive oil. They produce five different kinds of red wine and two different kinds of white. We got to try two reds called Chianti Black Label and Poggio Uliveto and one white called Chiaro Di San Fabiano. As we were trying the wine the Count actually walked in, hung out, and took a picture with us.

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We got to meet the Count and take a picture in front of his mansion!

If you have the opportunity to visit an Italian vineyard, keep these tips in mind. Hopefully you will be able to successfully set up your tour, speak some of the language, and have an idea on how to act and what to wear at the vineyard. With these tips, you are sure to have as much fun on your tour as I did on mine!

The Italian Hair Salon

Katie Gajewski

After all of the hiking, walking, sightseeing, swimming, etc. chances are you want to take some time to relax and allow your body and mind to recover, which may mean going to a salon to alleviate the soreness or stickiness and feel refreshed. Or maybe you’re just like me and you want simply to have your hair done rather than do it yourself.

 

A lively afternoon in Arezzo

A lively afternoon in Arezzo


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Taste of Italy: How to Have the Best Cooking Class Experience

Taylor Cox

Attending a cooking class in Italy is definitely one of the best experiences you can have. You will learn everything there is to know about preparing an Italian cuisine. While taking a cooking class is an amazing experience; finding the right one to take can be hard. But these tips should help finding one a little bit easier!

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image via

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Mangiamo: 6 Practical Tips for Dining in Italy

Kaydee Culclasure and Kira Elton


Dining in Italy is truly a great experience. The food and drink are incredible and the atmosphere ties everything together as one of the best things to do while visiting Italy! To gain a truly iconic Italian experience, what better place to do so than at one of the many restaurants? That being said, there are several things that you need to know before you dine in Italy.

1) Attempt to Communicate in Italian: Most waiters are accustomed to working with tourists in medium to large cities across Italy, however it is important to attempt to communicate in the language to show that you’re willing to try instead of expecting them to cater to you. Don’t worry; it’s scary at first but it’s the thought that counts and it gets easier the more you do it.
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6 Tips When Buying Groceries At An Italian Market

Amanda Most

Just like we’re familiar with back home, the people of Arezzo go to a market (or in American words, grocery store) to buy a variety of household items and food. Although it might look similar at a first glance, once you start exploring you’ll realize it’s very different. When shopping, it might be a little confusing trying to find certain things since all of the labels are in Italian but luckily, the locals are very helpful and friendly. Follow these six tips are you’ll be buying groceries just like an Italian!

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Customers purchasing their items at the registers.


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Orvieto: Why You Should Go and What You Should See!

Carleigh Begin

The historic and beautiful Tuscan city of Orvieto is a must see if you come to Italy. The quaint town is full of handmade ceramic shops, delicious food, and ancient man made caves. Although there are many small, quintessential towns to explore in Italy, Orvieto is one that you should definitely experience once in your lifetime!

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