Student Spotlight: Jason Carpenter, Study Abroad Fall 2012

A Story through Photographs: A John Cabot University-organized trip to Veneto.

Written by Jason Carpenter, a UCLA student who spent his Fall 2012 semester at John Cabot University.

Parte I: Esplorando la Città di Padua (Exploring the City of Padua)

This past weekend I spent a wonderful 3 days on a school-organized trip to Veneto, which is the region in which the cities of Padua, Venice, and Verona are located. The bus ride out there wasn’t bad at all, aside from having to wake up at like 5:45am, because the JCU staff showed the first seasons of How I Met Your Mother and Modern Family the whole way up. I was in heaven!  Upon arrival, I noticed that the hotel that we were staying at in Padua offered free bike rentals, so my friends and I decided to do a self-tour of the city while we had time before our guided tour.  As we rode around the city,  we got to see some spectacular views, which we certainly did not expect.

Here is one of the many awesome sights!

As we got further along towards the city center, the streets started to become cobblestone, with quaint arches along the sidewalk, emanating a very relaxed feel. It was wonderful.

As we continued exploring Padua, we came across a much larger piazza, which held a statue of a lion with a book. This symbol is very important for the people of Veneto, because it symbolizes peace of their republic.

As we were riding we suddenly came out into the open of this absolutely massive piazza. Little did we know, this piazza was Piazza Prato della Vitale, which is in fact the largest piazza in Italy and the second largest in all of Europe. Here is a photo of the beautiful grassy area, surrounded by a ovular body of water.

Fortunately, we found the way back to the hotel minutes before our guided tour was about to leave! Our tour was fairly interesting, taking us to a spectacular church, Basilica di Sant’Antonia. Here it is!

After our tour guide managed to pull us all away from the insanity that was presently occurring, she brought us in front of a place known as Cafe Pedrocchi, which was built in neoclassical style with Egyptian influence, and lives a double life, acting as both a cafe as well as the Risorgimento museum. It turns out that this cafe offers a special coffee known as the Caffe Pedrocchi, which is a mixture of mint, cocoa, and coffee, with a special heart-shaped cookie on the side. It was soooooooo worth it!

We took several photos on the lions in front of Cafe Pedrocchi, here is one of all the guys! We decided to turn in a bit early this night as the next day was going to be spent in Venice!

Parte II: La Citta che Abita sull’Acqua (The City that Lives on Water)

My second day began by taking a train out to Venezia, which is Italian for Venice. We had around an hour before our guided tour of the city started, so Jacob, Vinny, Austin, Bobby, and I went exploring a bit.

To our delight, we found a wonderful little pasticcheria (pastry shop) where we could get some yummy treats and some coffee. My neuroscience professor regularly talks to us about Italian culture and Italian things we should do, as well as Italian foods that we simply have to eat. He does this everyday for about 15 minutes before starting lecture. He told us that we have to get real Italian Canoli, so naturally that was my selection on this fine day!

So the five of us explored some of the shops of Venice, which have a couple primary souvenirs for sale.
1) Anything made of Murano Glass. This is because Murano is an island very near Venice that is fabled for its legendary glassblowers who’s crafts used to be so secret that if a glassblower left the island, it was considered treason and an assassination was put out for that person.
2) Masks in the true Venetian style. This comes from the very famous Italian holiday of Carnevale, which is the equivalent of New Orleans Mardi Gras with cooler masks.
Here is a standard shop selling masks.

Soon enough, our guided tour began, and this tour guide was the best that I’ve had. She knew what things were interesting to people of our age, she was fun to talk to, and she was smart enough to keep the microphone away from her mouth when she wasn’t telling us about something. Very nice lady!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JaDnNbzOHM&feature=plcp]
Additionally, there is something very important to Venetian culture, a movement to bring quality music to the people by performing in the streets, instead of forcing people to buy tickets to a concert to be able to enjoy good music. Therefore, all over the city there are a number of exceptional groups of musicians who simply sit down and ply their craft. Sadly, we were forced to keep moving and couldn’t continue to just watch these guys play all day. Here is a video of a group of string players rocking out some Vivaldi.

Our tour guide took us around many beautiful canals. Views like this are the standard in Venice. Our tour group kept going, winding through the tiny streets filled with shops of many a wondrous item, suddenly popping out at the Rialto Bridge above the Grand Canal.

Our tour guide walked us along the side of the grand canal, then we took a turn down several side streets that got progressively smaller and smaller until we appeared at a tower that looks very familiar, however it is supposed to be in a different spot. This tower is supposedly one of many that look very similar to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It turns out that this one was in fact built merely for looks and display of wealth and power. Those stairs that go all the way up have hardly ever been used.

Another interesting fact about Venice is that it only has one Piazza. Every other place that in other cities would be considered piazzas are referred to as campo. This is for two reasons:
1) The world campo in Italian translates to field, and all of those locations were originally fields that they replaced with these squares
2) The one true piazza in Venice is the most epic place, made even more epic by the fact that it is the ONLY piazza in Venice.
Here’s a photo of the Piazza San Marco in Venice.

At the end of this Piazza is the most amazing church I have ever seen, Basilica di San Marco. It is truly a tragedy that I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside of this church because it is stunning beautiful. The church itself was completed in the year 1071, but it took approximately 600 years to decorate it. The reason for this is because the entire inside is covered in 24k gold mosaics depicting various religious events.

After dinner, Bobby, Jacob, Austin and I were looking to find somewhere that we could procure a bottle of wine to drink in that Piazza Prato della Vitale (we were back in Padua) and hang out for the evening. Upon walking around a bit, we came across a wonderful enoteca. An enoteca is essentially a wine bar where they have a wide selection of wines available and you can buy them by the glass or by the bottle and just hang out. The employees at the enoteca were lovely, showing us their fine selection of wines, and helping us choose good ones at amazing prices.

Soon, a group of other Americans from John Cabot appeared and were hanging out with us in front of this Enoteca. Preparing to leave for the Piazza Prato della Vitale, suddenly a group of Italians came out and introduced themselves and started a conversation with us. They informed me that they were in fact leaving soon to go to the “best pizzeria in the world” and invited us. We made our way over to the pizzeria. It doesn’t look much different than normal pizza, but it was truly exceptional!

After enjoying our pizza, the Italians informed me that they were going to meet up with some friends at a wine bar and invited me to join them. One key thing that was really cool was the fact that we were speaking Italian the entire night. This was a great experience for me to build confidence speaking Italian and practice listening as well. These Italians were amazingly friendly and welcoming to us Americans and I truly appreciate the opportunity that they gave us to spend this night hanging out with them. This is the kind of experience that I came to Italy to have, and they gave it to me, and to Bobby as well. This was the greatest day ever! I got to see Venice during the day, and chill with locals at night. I was loving life at the end of Saturday!

Parte III: Verona

Verona has a couple cool things that are definitely worth mentioning. First off, there is Juliet’s balcony from Romeo and Juliet. Although they do not believe that Juliet actually existed, this is the balcony of the her family, which did in fact exist.

On the walk in there was a wall of love where thousands of people declared their love by scribbling it on the wall.

Another cool part of Verona is the street performers with very, very strange acts. Here is one of the more interesting acts: two Indians who managed to float. It was pretty easy to figure out how they did it, but cool despite that fact.

Finally, here is a shot of the river by Verona as well as the hill across the way.

This was a wonderful trip at a great cost. Thank you John Cabot University!

To see more of Jason’s excellent blog posts detailing his semester in Rome, please visit his blog: http://jasonsjourneysinitaly.blogspot.it/

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