buon natale

Where does my heart belong, where does my soul find peace? Where is home when home is constantly changing? Where is a heart, where is a person, where are one’s thoughts when the world is constantly shifting? Where, where, where? Here. Here I am content. In a life I know I will look back on and envy. Here is pure, serene freedom. Here on this train, here in a new city, there with my thoughts, away with my fears as I clothe myself in the presentness of this very moment. This moment where I sit on this lonely train from Cadenazzo, Switzerland to Zürich. This moment when I hear the sound of the wind, I feel the swiftness of the train as it glides across the rough, bumpy train tracks. Here I sit, on to a new place, a new city. A new city with new faces, new buildings, and new experiences. I press on and embrace this time of blessing not only for myself but for all of you, readers. I hope to take you along with me. I hope you can catch a glimpse of the life of a nomad, a traveler, a vagabond.
My thoughts are everywhere at this moment. Some say good things are only so for awhile and must eventually come to an end. Though at first this saying may seem true, it is not. Though good experiences do inevitably come to an end, the memories, the thoughts, and precious moments can last a life time. I believe that love shared, the unity, and comfort one feels when with others, makes moments last a life time. Why is this? Because love defies time. This abstract idea, love, knows no adversity because despite miles and miles of distance, despite times of difficulties, and despite our human flaws, love prevails. Love is a force that has the ability to save lives, to heal hearts. So why am I talking about love when my title is “buon natale” one may ask? Because that is exactly why, because Merry Christmas stands for so much more than superficiality. It stands for love, for a time of kinship, a time of unification.
This Christmas was quite different from all others I have had. As a child I remember the smell of freshly baked Christmas cookies, of sweet frosting as I decorated the sweet treats, covering them in sprinkles. I remember the music, the joy, the laughs, the precious memories. The memories when my family, despite the trials of the year, all came together under a veil of love. I remember the brisk winter days, the cold wind that once brushed against my small, childish cheeks. I remember the smells of cinnamon, of evergreen trees, of the smoke of a fire. I remember the special, simple moments where my family would bundle up all together and watch a Christmas movie or share a meal. All of these memories, all of these moments of love and joy,will never leave me. Though my family has changed and it is no longer simply my mom and dad, myself and five siblings, but others too, I count it all as joy. The evolution of my family has been beautiful and I am so thankful for them. As you have read, Christmas and family are important to me. Yet, this Christmas, I was not with my family in America. Though apart from my parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews, we were together in spirit.
This Christmas, like I spoke about in previous posts, I spent with my family from Milan. My second family in Milan is a testimony to the power of love, to the strength within a family. When my great grandfather, Giovanni left for America I’m 1904, our family, though worlds apart, remained in contact through letters and photos. In fact, the money from the work of Giovanni and his brother Frank, was sent back to Italy, with which my family built a home that has been lived in for three generations. I loved being in the home, it was so special!
Well, Giovanni and Frank had a sister named Pasquelina. Pasquelina was married and had a child named Maria. When Maria was married she had a child named Cesare. Cesare was married to Lidia, and they had two children: Monica and Silvia. This Christmas I spent with Cesare and Lidia, with Silvia, her husband Fabrizio and her son Emanuele. Also, with Monica, her husband Ricardo, and their 11-year-old son Umberto. These eight individuals are all so special to me and it was so great getting to unite my family here in Italy and my family in America. My family in Italy love their history and it was so special to them as well that I spent Christmas with them. From the first time I met them a little over one month ago, we had a connection. A connection through the love our families had for each other in the past, a love that surpasses all of time!
I arrived at Milano Centrale around 5:00pm on December 22. It took two hours, however, for me to find Emanuele and Silvia, due to miscommunication! That time in Milano Centrale was a bit overwhelming since I was exhausted, but it was well worth it! That night was quite relaxing, we had a sweet little dinner all together at Monica’s house (where I stayed) which was so special. Dinners in Italy last hours. And my family is no exception! First the antipasti, the first course (usually pasta), the second (salad or something similar), dessert, café (espresso), and finally a digestivi drink! Afterwards, I watched “The Christmas Carol” (in Italian) with Umberto. I quickly fell asleep but it was so nice to watch a movie all bundled up near a twinkling Christmas tree and a warm fire. The next morning I slept in and later headed to Silvia’s house where we cooked and prepared for Christmas! We all had dinner together at Cesare and Lidia’s house! I love that many of our days-everyday-was centered around meals together. Meals that were centered around love and community. After dinner, Silvia, Monica, Umberto, Emanuele, and I all headed to a movie called “Il Ragazzo Indivisible.” Though in Italian I understood the film completely and I loved it! Though there was a language barrier during my visit, I understood almost everything they said during our conversations and my study of the Italian language definitely helped with my linguistic ability! After five days with the family, I definitely feel more proficient than before! On Christmas Eve I opened the packaged I had received from my family one day prior and I found delicious peanut brittle (I waited until Christmas to open up the sweet gifts and to read the notes). I shared the peanut brittle with the family, it was so nice to have a taste of home (literally) with me on Christmas Eve! On Christmas Eve I also helped Monica prepare lasagna, it was so fun cooking with her, we made one entire vegetarian one for myself! They were so thoughtful and understanding since I don’t eat meat! All of the antipasti they made were new, vegetarian, recipes, it was the sweetest. That afternoon we had lunch at Silvia’s house where we spent a good deal of the afternoon! Afterwards we headed back to Monica’s house where we made sugar cookies! They had never had American Christmas cookies, so it was so fun to make them! Umberto and I did most of the cooking and baking, but everyone helped decorate the cookies! They turned out to be very good! The entire family came to Monica’s house for dinner and we then headed to midnight mass at a nearby church. They had told me there was a special Christmas choir, but I was not prepared for the beautiful music that I was blessed to listen to! Though the church was more modern and plain, the mass was beautiful. I loved listening to the amazing choir, the long vigil mass that was very long, seemed to me to end too soon! I could have listened to the music all night. One of my favorite songs is the classic song, “Hallelujah” it’s a song sung by many, one artist including Imogen Heap. Near the end of mass, after communion, the church sand the gorgeous song and it brought me so much comfort and peace.
That night I wore pajamas my mom had sent me in the Christmas package. At home, it is a tradition for all of the girls to get matching pajamas and wear them on Christmas Eve/Christmas day, so it was so special that overseas I got to keep the tradition going! Christmas morning I opened up the gifts my family sent me as Umberto excitedly opened up his gifts as well! The package from my family was not only filled with Christmas treats, new pajamas, new Christmasy socks, but also movies! They sent me two of my all time favorite Christmas movies “The Polar Express” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” Sadly, the DVDs did not work in Italy since they are American discs, I will hopefully try to find somewhere to play them before the break ends! My mom also sent me another DVD that I think was trying to give me a hint, it was a four disc compact of different Nicholas Sparks movies. Is my mom trying to tell me something? I’m perfectly happy and content without romance in my life! But, really, it was a funny surprise, who knows maybe sometime I’ll really need a cheesy pick-me-up and the movies will be just the thing I need. Either way, it was a funny gift to open. After the gifts, I opened my notes from my family (I know I reversed the order but it’s because to me the true gifts from my family are their loving words). I received notes from my mom, dad, godparents, and my sisters Mariana and Juliana. The notes brought not only tears to my eyes, but when I translated them for Monica, she cried as well. The words from my parents were filled with so much love, as were those from my sisters. I know I. The future, when I am facing any difficulties I will read the notes from my family, and I’ll know everything will be alright. After presents and notes, I helped Monica, Ricardo, and Umberto prepare for the family, whom would come to Monica’s house later that afternoon. When the family came it was a joyous event! Ricardo’s brother and parents along with Fabrizio’s mother joined the Christmas celebration as well, which was so wonderful. Everyone was so sweet, caring, and so loving. We had our huge meal that lasted nothing short of four hours as we enjoyed each others company on the special holiday afternoon. Fabrizio’s mother made a traditional Italian Christmas bunt-shaped bread loaf for everyone, however because it has meat and cheese in it. She made me my own small little bunt-shaped loaf without meat. I could not believe it. She was someone I had never met, yet she selflessly went out of her way for me. After dinner we all watched the polar express in 3D (in Italian of course). It was funny for me to hear the different voices used for the characters in the Italian version of the movie. The family was so sweet, too sweet actually and they actually got me a gift. As if hosting me was not enough of a gift! They wrote the sweetest note to me and gave me a comfy, soft owl blanket! One that I am currently curled up in on this train! One of the most heartwarming moments was when Cesar and Lidia gave me a gift and a card. What was so special was that their card was written in English. They are both nearly 80 and don’t know any English, so for them to take the time to write me a note in my language, meant the world to me. It brought tears to my, Silvia’s. And Monica’s eyes as well.
The sweet note reads:
“Dear Amelia, this Mary Christmas for we are specialy- we hed to like to know you. We ere heppy to celebrate whit you this hope. Wishes your family- Mary Christmas- and many chiss for (you) we-!!!”
How sweet is that note? It warms my heart and makes me so so happy. I’m sure my grandparents would be so happy to see our family united! This note is such a sweet example of my family and our history- doing things for others though it might be hard for us. It was not easy for Lidia to write the sweet note, yet she still did. I love my family.
This Christmas passed with ever so much love and so much joy.
The day after Christmas, we all (except Cesare and Lidia) headed out quite early for a grotto or cave that was about an hour away. We went caving for about three or four hours! The cave was so beautiful, it was such a fun adventure crawling around, getting muddy, and looking at the beautiful fossils! After caving, we had lunch at a beautiful point where we overlooked various lakes and mountains. After lunch, we headed to the church and monastery of Saint Catherine di Sasso. Walking in the church was so sweet and the church and monastery are built alongside a gorgeous lake! We stayed in the church for a bit where I had a chance to think, pray, and to thank God for allowing me to have such beautiful people in my life. As we walked along the lake there was an amazing sunset filled with different hues of pink. It was absolutely enchanting. We also stopped by the small gift shop where Monica and Ricardo insisted on buying me the natural medicine that the monks made at the monastery to keep my immunity up and to give me more energy. It was so sweet of them, I cannot thank them enough for all of the kind things they have done for me. (This semester has definitely been hard on my body and I have been tired and making energy lately, it meant so much to me that they were so thoughtful). We then headed to a small restaurant run by the church and all had hot coco. It was by far the best hot coco I have ever had, without a doubt! It was not too thick, not too thin, perfectly sweet, creamy, and chocolaty! It was a perfect end to an amazing day. However, that was not the end of the day! That night, (last night), we headed back to Cesare and Lidia’s house where we all shared dinner. I truly felt apart of the family as we all sat together, ate, conversed, shared stories, and loved on one another. We even had time to call my dad, which up Cesare’s face, which gave me so much joy. Cesare has had a hard last couple of years since he had cancer near his mouth and had and large amount of his mouth removed in an extensive operation. It is hard for Cesare to both eat and talk. I love being in his presence. Though it can be hard understanding him, I am getting better, and I can know understand what he is saying. When he eats, everything must blended, I can only imagine how hard it is for Cesare since a large portion of their family time together is spent around the dinner table. Despite the difficulties Cesare faces he always brings me so much joy with his beautiful smile and I love hearing the stories about his exciting, adventurous life! He also loves playing pranks! On Christmas morning while I was helping in the kitchen he pretended to be on the phone with my dad and he said “Oh hi Tony Joe, yes Amelia is right here!” Lidia kept insisting it was not really my dad but I believed Cesare! He then reached into his pocket and pulled out an old photo of my dad, put his phone away, and started laughing. I began laughing too as I realized it was a little prank and his face lit up, it was such a moment of pure, sweet joy! Monica explained that Cesare loves to play jokes and I told her how my dad used to play jokes as well! We both agree it must be in our blood! We also agree that being adventurous must run in the family as I love adventure as does my entire Italian family, it is so special! I love that we are all so similar. Well, back to the dinner last night- it was wonderful and I cannot even begin to express how much my family means to me: both in America and in Italy! After dinner and lovely conversations we all kissed goodbye and headed out.
Today, December 27, has also been a great, very special day for me. When I woke up I began to pack my things, I found a USB in my package from my family. When I plugged the USB in I found videos from my family- videos for Christmas and of my sweet, adorable nieces and little wild nephew! Cara, Patrick, and Autumn even made me a video saying “Merry Christmas” and they also talked about how they missed me. I cannot believe how thoughtful they are and the fact that they took time out of their busy schedule to make me a video. Umberto, Monica, and I watched the videos in awe. I don’t know how I got so lucky with my amazing, loving family. Why me? Why am I so lucky to have them while others don’t have as loving of a family? I’ll never know, I know that for sure. But I do know that I am so thankful and I will continue to pray for and thank God daily for my family. After a peaceful morning together, we all headed out to Silvia’s house where we had a wonderful lunch. Monica even packed me up dinner and cookies for me to bring along with me today! How thoughtful of her!
This morning I wrote little notes for everyone and when I gave them to my family members they were received with so much love, thankfulness, and joy. I know, however, no thanks will ever be sufficient for all they have done for me and all the love they have so willingly given me. After lunch everyone headed with me to the station and Cesare and Lidia (who were not at lunch) met us at the Gallarate train station. The last minutes together we so so precious, I cannot stop replaying them in my mind… As I got on the train everyone waved goodbye to me with a smile and sweet little Umberto ran after the train. As the train raced away and my Italian family became small little black dots and eventually disappeared from sight, I was left filled with nothing short of pure joy and thankfulness. My scenic, restful journey today has only increased my joy. Also, the kind train attendant on my train to Zürich is a wonderful reminder that there is care and love everywhere in the world, even on a mid-afternoon, regional train ride. So, as I head towards the final leg of my winter break European adventure, I will go forward striving to love others and share this joy that has overtaken me.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.









We arrived in Vienna around 8:00pm on Friday December 19th. I have a dear friend who lives in Vienna, Elida whom I wrote about in a previous post. I met Elida while I was on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage over the summer. Elida and I made plans to meet in Vienna on that very Friday night! After we checked into our hostel in Vienna, Lacye and I rushed to a local vegetarian/vegan restaurant, Landia, one that Elida claimed was near our hotel! It was near our hotel, however, due to poor iPhone map directions, we got lost and did not arrive to the restaurant until around 9:00pm. Seeing Elida was so so special. I knew we would meet again but it was so special to see her, I have missed Elida so much! After a quick drink at the restaurant we stopped by a local falafel shop where we bought the best falafel I have ever had! We then went to Stephens Plaz. where the cathedral is and where we would meet my dear friend Hannah, a Pepperdine student, who embarked on the Camino with me as well. It was special to see both Elida and Hannah all together. The four of us headed out to a small cafe where we chatted and caught up for hours.
The next morning Lacye and I accidentally slept past our alarms and did not wake up until nearly 1pm. At first I was sad that I missed half of a day that I could have spent in Vienna, then I realized that we both needed the extra sleep, as both of us were beginning to feel sick. Where was the first place we went on that Saturday afternoon? Back to the falafel shop! We also stopped by a fresh juice bar which I loved, it was like being home again!
After breakfast/lunch we headed to Stephens. Platz. where we visited the grand cathedral then toured the cathedral’s catacombs. The catacombs were not As much like a scary movie as the ones I saw in Sicily. After the catacombs we headed to a nearby church where a a quartet was playing beautiful Christmas music. After some here we looked at some nearby Christmas markets then took the underground to the Vienna’s opera house. That night Rigoletto was showing at 6:30pm and we decided to wait in line for standing tickets. We waited for around an hour and a half and got tickets for €3! The Opera house was incredible. I was quire underdressed in jeans and hiking boots, but it was wonderful nonetheless. During the Opera the man who played Rigoletto actually got I’ll and by the third act another man came out and played his part. It was so interesting, I had never seen that done before, especially in such a prestigious place!
We both felt sick and tired so after the opera ended around 11:30pm, Lacye and I headed back to bed. It’s hard to travel and rest, I have learned. Though I am traveling, this is my break, so I’m not trying to push it! The next day, Sunday December 21st was Lacye’s birthday! We woke up early and had the breakfast that was provided by the hostel. That morning we met a brother and sister from Brazil who were traveling, they were the sweetest! The man even gave Lacye a cookie since it was her birthday, it was a sweet, kind, genuine gesture. After breakfast we headed towards Vienna’s palace. When walking through a gorgeous park we visited both a botanical garden and a desert garden, it was so special form Lacye on her birthday. We then went to the Christmas markets and explored the Castle’s grounds. We then headed to a famous Thai restaurant and had lunch there since Lacye’s favorite food is Thai food! After the restaurant we explored the city more and saw other famous monuments including the Parliament. We then headed on a bus to Grinzing and Kahalaning where we could over look the entire city during the sunset. On the bus we met two young men from Isreal whom since they were traveling to the same area we were, traveled with us! Elida met us there and we all conversed for some time. It was sad saying goodbye to Elida, but I think she will come visit me in Florence next semester, at least I hope. After our time on the mountain, we headed to new Christmas markets in search of a ice skating rink so we could ice skate on Lacye’s birthday. Sadly, after searching for about an hour we did not find one and learned that their ice skating rink does not open until early January. I hope we can ice skate in honor of Lacye’s birthday while in Paris. I bought my Italian family (in Milan) traditional Austrian Christmas cookies and a card to thank them for hosting me these next upcoming five days. Afterwards we stopped by a few cafés and talked! I really hope Lacye enjoyed her birthday, it was so special to share it with her in Vienna.
We returned to the hostel around 12am and I then packed everything up and prepared to leave at 6:00am this vary morning! Lacye will spend her Christmas with her friends in Switzerland while I spend it in Milan with my Italian family. This morning I woke up and headed out quickly. When I got to the train station at 6:05am when I realized that my train was to leave from a different station! I quickly rushed to the subway in order to catch my train, I made it just in time! My train was to Venice, then from Venice to Milan. I am about to arrive to Milan shortly. I am very excited to spend Christmas with my family! I hope you all have a good Christmas.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.












We arrived in Salzburg from Münich around 9:30pm. I immediately fell in love with the city when I first set my eyes upon it. We arrived in Salzburg at night of course, so it was too dark to see anything. On arriving to the city we were exhausted and I was beginning to feel ill, I’m sure due to lack of sleep, so we went to bed early. The next day, December 18th, was my 20th birthday and I am so happy I got to spend my birthday in such an incredible place. When we arrived to our hostel I immediately asked the woman at the desk about The Sound of Music Tour. She then explained that there were tickets I could buy in the hostel for the tour the following morning, on my birthday! Lacye and I decided to both splurge and buy the tickets. They were €35, which was totally worth it to me! The next morning we met with the other tour goers at around 8:45am, we then headed out to the meeting spot of the tour. At 9:00am we all boarded the large, colorful bus for the tour. I was so excited, I did not know what to expect at all. As we drove out of the city I was taken aback by how gorgeous Salzburg was. Our first stop was at a lake I’m the mountains. Here we saw the lake and house that was used in The Sound of Music, it was a breathtaking view! Next, we headed up into the mountains as we listened and sang along to the classic Sound of Music soundtrack. It was surreal to drive though the lusciously green mountains while singing songs including Edelweiss. We stopped at an adorable scenic spot that overlooked the small mountain villages on the outskirts of Salzburg. The architecture and layout of the villages reminded me of the cities in Val Gardenia at the Dolomites. We then stopped at a small hidden village where we saw the gazebo that was in sound of music’s 16 going on 17. After this stop we headed farther up the mountains and stopped at the small village that held the gorgeous church that held Maria’s wedding in the movie. It was nice to sit in such a special place, in silence, while praying silently in a magnificent sanctuary. After we explored the village for a bit we went to a suggested restaurant and each got a strudel. Instead of cake this year I had homemade apple strudel in an Austrian mountain village, it was special to say the least. After our time in the adorable village, we headed back to the city. Lacye and I explored the fountains and gardens in Salzburg then I stopped my a cute little dress shop. I have always wished to try on the Austrian styled dresses and my dream came true! After the stop at the small boutique, I found a small trail we decided to head towards. We ended up taking a small hike through the gorgeous hills that surround Salzburg. We walked up to the great fortress and saw various other monuments. The view was remarkable and the crisp, cool air was refreshing as brushed against my cheeks. I could not help but thank God as I looked down at the city below me. After our walk we headed to some cute Christmas markets where I Christmas concert was taking place! After exploring the markets we headed to dinner at a local Indian restaurant. Indian food is one of my favorite kinds of food and it’s hard to come by in Florence, so it tasted better then ever. After dinner we headed to the top of a huge hotel and looked down on the beautiful city as we drank and said “cheers” to a glass of champagne. After our time at the beautiful hotel we headed back to our hostel. Every night at 8pm our hostel would show the movie the Sound of Music and we made it back just in time to watch the film; it was the perfect end to a wonderful 20th birthday. I couldn’t have asked for a better day!
The next morning we woke up and explored the stunning city further. We walked along the beautiful bridges, through the tiny,crowded streets and visited a beautiful church where we sat and prayed for a bit. I then headed to the Mozart museum which is in the house where he was born and raised in Salzburg. Lacye didn’t want to go to the museum so we separated during this time. I loved the Mozart museum, it was remarkable. I saw letters from his father and mother, original pieces that Mozart had wrote himself. I also saw his childhood violin and the small piano he wrote various pieces on. I loved the museum and I felt that I was not only going for myself but for my family, especially my mom and sister Juliana. Both my mom and sister are wonderful musicians who I know would love to go to the Mozart museum so I went for them, I hope they can go themselves someday, I know they would have loved it. After the museum, Lacye and I took a bus back to the small mountain village where the Sound of Music gazebo stands. We went to the adorable Christmas markets in the small town. I loved the red Christmas decor that was present throughout the markets! After we frolicked in the fields in the mountains, marveled at the beautiful tree reflections in a small lake and revisited the gazebo, Lacye and I took a bus back to the city. We quickly picked our bags up from our hostel then headed out to Vienna! My time in Salzburg was magical and so wonderful, I know I will return someday! Until then I will hang onto the fond memories I have of the truly remarkable city.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.









After the wonderful two days spent in Berlin we headed to Münich early the morning of the 16th. We actually missed our original train on early Wednesday morning, because of this we did not arrive to Münich until around 5pm. At around 7pm we went to a restaurant that a hostel worker suggested, it was a famous Bavarian restaurant near to our hostel. When we entered the restaurant we were shocked to find long tables filled with people drinking beers and talking, it was a true German experience. It was exactly what I had originally thought Germany would have been like. I was unsure of what to do or where to sit and a waiter was not helping me. So, I asked a woman who was standing nearby me and she said “Come sit with us!” So, I though Lacye seemed a but apprehensive followed the woman to the table and sat with her and 5 men, all whom were speaking loudly in a language I could not understand. I quickly began speaking to a guy Who was in his early twenties who sat beside me, he did know some English so that helped. Micheal, the name of the young man, was very kind and it was great talking with and getting to know him better. I also talked to his friend Mattaies. The guys explained that they were both training to be Bavarian police officers and they were extremely friendly to both Lacye and me. Lacye and I each ordered and enjoyed a traditional Bavarian meal. I could not believe that we had gotten ourselves into this interesting, truly German experience. After dinner Mattaies and Michael volunteered to show Lacye and me around Münich. Though this sounds strange, I am good at detecting people’s authenticity, so I knew the two young men were trustworthy. They showed us various historical points in the city and we enjoyed great conversations. The next morning Lacye and I headed to Dachau, to tour the first World War II concentration camp that ever existed. I have studied about the holocaust for years yet nothing could have prepared me to step foot into the gates where so much torture and murder took place. We arrived to Dachau concentration camp after a train and a 45 minute walk. Lacye and I both separated and walked through the tour with an audio guide on our own. It is something someone should experience without others, it’s a very difficult, eye opening, individual experience. The tour took around 4 hours and was not a pleasant experience. I began with the outer grounds, then did the museums, then toured the inner grounds where the victims slept, worked and were tortured endlessly without any remorse. The most difficult part of the tour for me was the final portion when we walked through the crematorium and the gas chambers. It was unreal to see what I had only heard of and seen in books and movies. It was a very emotional experience standing in such an eerie place where so much murder took place, where so many innocent lives were stolen. The rainy, grey weather matched the horrid place we then stood in. Even thinking back to the death factory that I saw, gives me the chills. In the middle of the outer grounds there stands a monument for the lives lost. The worse thing about all of this is that there can be thousands of monuments yet nothing can ever change what happened and the pain that was experienced. At the far end of the concentration camp now stands a Carmelite convent where nuns devote their entire lives to prayers for the victims of Dachau and the holocaust. It was so strange to walk into all of the chapels that now stand in Dachau, it was strange yet somehow beautiful to see how various religions made sanctuaries side by side; a Russian orthodox chapel, a catholic memorial, and a Jewish monument; all united together.
After returning to the city Lacye and I went to our hostel and picked up our backpacks that we left in the luggage room. After picking up our bags we headed to the Christmas markets once more. This time we visited different ones that actually took place on the land that Oktoberfest took place just a few months ago. We went to various tents, most of which had live music. One tent actually had vegan “meat” sandwiches that I enjoyed, Lacye even got one and she loved it as well! It was well worth the five euro I payed for it. Around 6 or 7pm we headed out to the train station to make our way towards our next destination, Salzburg. Though our visit in Münich was short, I fell in love with the people and the city, I hope to travel back to Münich again in the future.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.



After Frankfurt, Lacye and I headed to Berlin. I didn’t know what to expect from Berlin, so I was blow away by the beautiful city. We arrived around 2pm and checked into our hostel, St. Christopher’s. Our hostel had a great, popular bar and restaurant below the rooms, which turned out to be quite fun. After checking in, we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant where we got Thai food. I began to talk to the owner there who turned out to be a very nice man who had traveled the world. He gave me travel advice and I enjoyed talking with him. After dinner we headed to the Christmas markets. By this time we had already seen 4 other Christmas markets in other cities, but Berlin’s markets were unique, colorful, and exciting. Lacye and I actually went on the children’s carousel, it brought us back to childhood for one moment. Afterwards we headed back to our hostel where I met a woman who was originally from Europe but had moved to China. She explained that she was only in Berlin for one night and she wanted to explore the city. After I asked the bar workers advice on where to go, Lacye, our new friend, and I headed out into the city. We visited the Berlin Wall, though it was dark, it was an amazing moment to see something that has so greatly shaped not only Germany, but also our world’s history. After exploring the city and going to a cafe, we went back to our hostel. It was a great time, one of my favorite things about traveling is meeting people, so I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know our new friend! The next morning Lacye and I decided to go on a walking tour sponsored by our hostel. As we headed out we met two new friends, Brad and Chris from Australia, we also met a girl from China and another from Japan. Our tour was lead by a young man named Theo, he was witty and had a great sense of humor so that made for an interesting time. On the tour we visited most of the large monuments in Berlin including a beautiful, unique Jewish memorial, the Berlin Wall, and we even saw the region where the Cold War almost took place, and we stood above the bunker where Hitler killed himself. Berlin is not only a beautiful, artsy city with good vibes, as you can see it is full of rich history, which was exciting for a history geek like me. Throughout our tour we began to get to know Brad and Chris better and we went to Christmas markets with them, which was great. I love hearing how individuals in other regions of the world view Americans and I love hearing about American stereotypes as well. I have found that everyone seems to have something to say about our politics, economy, and healthcare system. My individuals that I have met during my travels seem to be better educated on American history and politics than most Americans are, which I find quite interesting. After visiting the various Christmas markets throughout Berlin, we headed back to the Berlin Wall and explored other monuments in the city. We had planned to meet up with my friend Bailey (who is studying in London but was visiting Berlin) and Debbie (a Berlin native) but after almost two hours of searching for them and miscommunication we gave up. We then headed back to St. Christopher’s around 7pm where we had dinner, I was excited to find that they had a veggie burger, it was delicious! Brad and Chris met up with us later on and we all explored the city together that night. Both Lacye and I really I enjoyed our time with them and we both agree they were some of the nicest people we have ever met! I absolutely loved Berlin, but what I think made the city one of my favorites was not only the city’s beauty but the fact that I experienced the city with others. I think that life is about relationships, friendships, and meeting new people, that’s what made Berlin so special to me. I hope to someday travel back to Berlin but Lacye and I both agree that it could never be the same without our new friends. I challenge each of you to reach out to others, to make a new friend, or to smile at a stranger, it is these small acts of kindness that make life so exciting and worthwhile.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.










I was told Frankfurt was a very industrialized city, similar to New York. This set me up not to have too high of expectations for my time there. However, I was surprised to find that Frankfurt, the money capital of Germany, is stunningly beautiful and I had a wonderful time in Frankfurt! After a long day of traveling and visiting Heidelberg, we decided to head back to our hostel and relax. Our hostel actually provided free pasta dinner every night, had a nice bar, and had free breakfast as well! After dinner we relaxed with the other travelers in the lounge and then went to bed. The next morning Saturday, December 13, we woke up early, I was excited to explore the city! In Frankfurt we headed towards the Christmas markets (surprise, surprise) where we got fresh fruit and walked around during the crisp morning! We then explored and wandered through the city, visited the center area then went to flea markets. I got an adorable watch at the flea market, it was so fun. After the flea market we passed a grand church and I instantly knew we should go in. As I stepped into the beautiful cathedral I heard an angelic voice singing. I then found out there was some sort of concert going on. I sat and relaxed as the building was filled with a sweet, angelic voice that seemed to calm my spirit.
After more exploration of the city we saw the euro monument outside of Germany’s central bank which also interesting. We then went to the top of a large shopping mall and sat on the roof staring out at the grand city. Afterwards, we headed back to the central markets as it was quite nice and found the most adorable market area. It had a carousel, adorable decor, and it was truly magical! After spending time there we decided to go back to the church we had visited earlier, we found that mass was about to begin! I really wanted to go to the mass as I had never been to one in Germany before, when Lacye (my travel buddy) agreed I was so excited. The church, the mass, the music, everything was beautiful. It brought me so much peace being in such a serene building. After mass we headed back to the fresh food markets. I bought fresh kale and veggies for a huge, delicious salad! We then went back to the hostel where we ate dinner and relaxed. I actually had a few applications I had to work on, so this worked perfectly. My time in Frankfurt, though short, was truly remarkable. I really did love that city and some of the moments I had there were so special. The next morning we took a two hour train to Berlin, where my adventures continued on.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on.
Peace and love.





We took a short train (no longer than 2 hours) to Frankfurt, it was now Friday, December 12th. After dropping our belongings off at our hostel in Frankfurt (it was literally across the street from the train station). We then headed back to the train station to spend the day in a small, nearby city Heidelberg, Pepperdine has another international program here. Heidelberg, after hearing about how darling the city was, we knew was must see while traveling through Germany. As we stepped out of the station I was shocked to find that the city looked large and very modern. However, after a short bus ride into Heidelberg’s city center, there was an immediate transformation. The city now looked like a fairytale Christmas wonderland minus the snow! We walked the adorable Heidelberg streets and also visited the city’s Christmas markets. I was shocked at how different the markets were from the others we had previously visited! In Heidelberg the markets were not only selling Christmas ornaments and Christmas decor but also many beautiful, Indian-looking products. There were many beautifully designed bags and Aztec looking items, bright colored lanterns and a beautiful array of stones being sold as well. I was so pleasantly surprised and it was a colorful sight to see. After exploring those markets we decided to roam the city. I found that there were various sweet, local coffee shops, it was adorable. I loved the comfortable feel of the city. We then hiked up to the castle and bought an inexpensive ticket to go inside of the castle. The view from the castle was breathtaking. When in the castle’s interior we found that there was a Christmas market going on there as well. We looked through the cute items and I marveled at the sweet moment in the fairytale like city. After the castle we found other little markets and food tents. We sat in one of the tents and had hot coco as we watched the sweet children ice skate in a nearby ice rink. After our hot coco I wanted to find Philosopher’s Way, a very famous walking path. We sound the beautiful path and hiked (more so walked) in the nearby woods. Again, the view from the top was great! When we finished our 2 hour walk we headed back to the train station and headed back to Frankfurt. Heidelberg was absolutely stunning and I hope someday to return.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.








Nine days, two countries, and six cities later, here I sit on my way to my seventh city, Vienna. So far I have visited Nürnberg, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Berlin, Münich, and Salzburg. Each one has been amazing, an exciting adventure. I bought a global EuroRail pass that I have been using all break, it has been working wonderfully. I have the Rail planner app that without wifi tells me train times that do not require reservations. So, for all of these trips thus far, I have just hopped on a the trains and searched for an open seat! Most trains do have open seats, only once so far have I had to sit in the ally way between the different train compartments.
I will try to talk about each individually because they are all such special, treasured places to me. This post I will talk about Nürnberg, Germany.
I finished finals on Tuesday and I left Wednesday morning around 4:30am. After three stops in various cities, I made it to Nürnberg. I met with my friend Lacye around 6pm and we headed towards our hostel. We stayed at the Five Reasons, which was a beautiful hostel right next to the city’s old wall. The hostel was very clean and spacious, I loved it! I immediately met a girl named Megan. Later, as Lacye and I walked through the Christmas markets, we happened to bump into Megan yet again! Before coming to Germany I didn’t know what to expect from Germany or even the Christmas markets. Before coming to Europe I had been to Chicago’s international Christmas markets, which I always loved, but I was not prepared for the wonder and beauty of Germany’s markets! The markets were magical. Christmas music, sweet smells, bright lights and beautiful colors, the excitement of Christmas in the air, the families wandering about, the sweet little trinkets and gifts being sold, all of this contributed to the magical feel of the area. I felt like a child again as I walked through the beautifully lit aisles. While at the markets we again saw our new friend Megan who was with another traveler Bernadette, from Australia. We had a wonderful time with our new friends, we even visited the largest punch bowl in the world, which happens to be in Nürnberg. After a fun night of warm conversations we headed to a small local café where Lacye and I chatted over hot coco. The next morning we decided to head to the Nürnberg rally site on the city outskirts. The rally site is the area where Hitler and the Nazis would meet and talk about strategy and plans. It was an eerie building and very sad to walk through. I had an audio guide tour to lead my way through the building. There was a lot of information on the tour that I had never heard before and it was interesting and sad reading about the events that took place in the building that I stood in. After a few hours in the building we walked around the back of the ginormous structure and headed to the outdoor rally site, whenever you see Hitler giving a speech outside in front of thousands, it was here. I stood in the exact spot that Hitler stood when he invoked so much hate in peoples hearts, I stood in the spot where he said mere words, but words that would lead to the death of over 11 million people. It was not a pleasant moment, it was surreal actually. As I looked from that dreadful spot, I stood where Hitler once saw thousands of people, soldiers, easily manipulated pawns, yet what did I see when I stood in that very spot? I saw soccer fields, I saw football fields, and tennis courts. I could not imagine playing sports in such a space.
After the rally site, we headed back to the city. We explored various areas of the adorable city, found an adorable bridge and walked to the city’s castle which had a gorgeous city view. We then went back to Nürnberg’s Kinderweihnacht or Christmas markets! We found a beautiful region with a sweet little carousel. After a wonderful night out in Nürnberg we headed to bed. The next day? Frankfurt and Heidelberg!
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.








end of the year

So, after four months of new experiences, Florence life, exams, and travels, my semester has ended. These past few months have been extremely formative and I have grown drastically. It is strange for me to look back at myself, who I was, and my old perspective on the world, with this new worldview that has become apart of my character. I cannot stress how thankful I am for this year, my new friends and these beautiful opportunities I have been given. But, all things good have to come to an end. And my semester did. Let’s look back though, three weeks ago, because my perspective has definitely changed now that final exams and school stress are not apart of my life anymore!
I was asked to lead house church the day after I came home from Milan with my family. I decided to focus on peace; within ourselves, the world around us, and how we should each try to spread peace in all that we do. It was a time all together and I am so blessed to have had that opportunity to lead!
Before break we also did a thanksgiving dinner (on Tuesday instead of Thursday because of exams that week). The night before the dinner we all baked pies all together: Apple, pecan, and pumpkin! At home I make rolls every year for our dinner so I decided to make rolls for my entire group! The visiting faculty professors let me use their kitchen and myself and two other friends baked my special rolls! I was asked to do the opening thanksgiving prayer which was such an honor, especially as we all stood together, holding hands, united. We then each shared what we were thankful for. It was beautiful! The next week we (all the Pepperdine students) did a Christmas dinner and gift exchange at the villa. It was so much fun! That last week of school was actually very busy, not only with studying but with activities. We did a Christmas celebration, a formal gala with a five course meal, gingerbread house making, dinner at our director’s house, and other fun activities too! Though it was stressful with studying, it was still fun!
I have learned so much this semester, mostly the importance of family and relationships. I live to be in communion with others under love.
Now I am traveling for winter break! And, I can finally talk about my amazing experiences during my winter break in my blog posts to come!
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.





















My father urged me all semester to contact my family from Italy and visit them. Little did I know the amount of love I would receive and the amount of joy I would feel when I visited my family in Milan. I headed out for Milan early Saturday morning and I met some other college students on the train as well. It’s always nice to meet other local students and meeting people is one of my favorite parts of traveling! When I arrived in Milan I was greeted by two women, a man, and Manuelle who is my age. It was strange that I had never met any of them yet some kind of family bond brought us together. Soon enough these strangers became individuals I love and trust. After breakfast we headed towards the duomo. I didn’t expect much from Milan but I was immediately shocked by the beautiful cathedral. When I entered the majestic, gothic building I was awestruck. Stained glass is always my favorite part of a church and this stained glass was some of the most beautiful stained glass I had ever seen. As the sun shone through the colored glass it reflected thousands of hues of colors on the interior columns of the church. I could not take my eyes off the beauty! We then walked to the top of the duomo where we saw a gorgeous view of the city. The city was decorated perfectly for Christmas and everyone seemed in tune with the holiday season. After exploring the city we headed out to lunch! It was quite wonderful and I fell in love with the city, not because of its beauty but because of the company with whom I was traveling. We then went to a gorgeous art museum where I saw many famous pieces by Raphael, Caravaggio, Pacaso, and more! It was wonderful and I could write pages and pages about my thoughts and how I felt when in the presence of such amazing pieces. After the art museum we headed to my family’s home in a nearby city. We skyped my father, which was a highlight, I could tell he was genuinely happy,which made me even happier. We had dinner at Cesar’s house the father of the two women (Silvia and Monica). When I walked into Caesar’s home I was greeted with so much love and joy, it was unreal. Cesar’s wife would not stop hugging and kissing me. I felt at home right away and the also made me homemade vegetarian pasta and fresh salad, bread, and dessert. Sitting with my family at dinner, being in communion with one another under so much love, was by far the best moment of my semester. Their love was exactly what I needed. I had had a difficult week prior due to the stress of finals and tests but being there and spending that moment with my family seemed to make everything alright. That night we looked through old photos from the early 1900s of my family that moved to America from Italy, it was so special! Caesar also informed me that the vary house I was in was built solely with the money sent by my relatives that moved to America. We looked at the many letters that were sent between our family in Italy and in America. We also attempted to piece together the relationship between our two families but it was not easy. We know we are related but we just cannot figure out how. I think they’re similar to the relation of second cousins. That night I stayed at.Monica’s beautiful home where I sat by the fire and was taught by Umberto (her 11 year old son) how to play guitar. Monica also showed me her little ceramic making studio where she makes, paints, and glazes ceramic pieces. It was the sweetest! She says I can make them with her someday, I cannot wait for that day! After a quiet night with Manuelle and Umberto, I headed off to bed. Monica had prepared a comfy bed for me as well-how kind of her! The next morning we headed to breakfast and the entire family came to Monica’s home, they then invited me to stay with them during Christmas! I am going to stay with them this Christmas after I finish my travels through Germany and Austria- then I will head to Milan where I will spend 5 days during Christmas with my family. After breakfast we headed towards a mini pilgrimage where we hiked up a mountain that had various chapels along the way that depicted scenes of the life of Jesus. It was a beautiful place and it was even better because I was with beautiful people. At the top of the mountain we got lunch, fresh pasta, and all talked for hours. I felt so loved and like I truly had place, there with my family. After lunch all of them took me to the trains station- they all gave up their afternoons for me! They traveled the 40 minute car drive and 3 metro stops to the station to see me off! It was such a kind act of love I could hardly believe it! After kisses and sweet farewells we were all in tears. I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I would be back soon. And, I left Milan feeling loved, appreciated, and cared for which was more than I could have ever asked for. It was this that helped me push through my last few weeks of projects and final exams. As I was leaving Milan, they chased after the moving train, waving and smiling with so much love. Two days can do a lot to a person and those two days not only gave me joy but taught me how to love in a far deeper way. A few days after my return to Florence I hand wrote letters to my family members, in order to keep up the tradition of correspondence through letters going. I cannot wait to spend Christmas with my loving family, until then I will continue to travel on.
Stay true, live justly and always travel on. Peace and love.