Roma/Firenze/Amalfi Coast, che un’estate incredibile!

-->

I cannot believe that only a year ago I had just been settling into Milano. A year really goes by in the blink of an eye. To have the opportunity to come back was what I had wanted to do all along. Sometimes a person knows when they belong in a place, and in this moment right now, I belong here.

I seriously have had the most amazing summer, and I cannot believe how quickly it vanished.  After school finished, I had the pleasure of traveling a bit with my best friend Kathryn. We went down South for a bit of an adventure to Firenze, Roma, Capri, Anacapri, Sorrento and Pompeii.

Firenze was just a small little venture, a cross road between Milano and Roma, it was my fourth time, Kathryn had never been and of course had to go, after all it is where the Renaissance was born.

It had been my first time returning to Roma in about five years and I was the official translator, and I had no problem in doing so. It was a bit funny to me that someone had to rely on me to translate! Could it be the little American girl directing in the big city of Roma?

We ventured out every day, walked most of the time, and explored what the city had to offer. Had a gelato or two (or three), and lots of meals filled with delicious pizza and pasta. Capri, Anacapri and Sorrento aka the Amalfi Coast, were all a wonderful dream and beyond surreal (thanks to an amazing trip planned by Bus2alps). Fresh granite, exquisite sandals made by hand in front of your face and the freshest seafood you will ever eat in your life.

Pompeii was very cool to see, having been one of those events I learned about in school years ago; being able to see it for myself was unbelievable. They were an extremely advanced civilization and had invented the first plumbing system! They also were extremely physically conscious (and maybe a bit vain). They had an outdoor gym, an indoor spa, as well as a brothel house.  

Here are some photos, and my next posts will talk about the journey following the rest of the summer.. New York and Israel! This week has a lot of excitement coming up, beginning the fall semester tomorrow (finalllly), and going on a trip with uni to Biella and Turino. Tante belle cose!


Trying to be artsy photo of Duomo in Firenze

Graffiti is art

Never can have too many Italian flags

Just live street props, obviously

This is what I find in Piazza di Spagna..

Sign for a protest

Inside the Pantheon

Some type of Military celebration we stumbled upon..

To find Heinz in Italy is to find gold during the Gold Rush

St. Peter's Basilica/Square

Inside the Basilica

Overlooking Anacapri

Entering Anacapi

Anacapri dream

Overlooking Capri

Sorrento by night

Pompeii ruins

Artifacts of the civilization

Vintage fiat in Roma
Victor Emmanuel Monument/Il Vittoriano


We all know what the outside of the Colosseum looks like, now have a look at the inside
Piazza Barberini

If you're interested in learning more about the trip I did with Bus2alps, here's the link (also, ask me about it as I can get you a discount!)..

http://www.bus2alps.com/en/tours/138/the-amalfi-coast

If you're interested in learning about what the lovely city of Roma has to offer, I recommend this link..

http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome

Workshop with Tucano


Do you know what I love? Being happily surprised… first impressions can always be misleading. This past week at my abroad university, Politecnico di Milano, held a workshop. All of the students at the design campus were assigned to a company depending on their major. My program was assigned to do the workshop with the Italian company, Tucano. It is a company based in Milano that designs accessories for computers, ipads, iphones, etcera.

When I walked into the room, sat down, and looked at all the people around me, I was kind of intimidated. Once the workshop leader began to speak, and I realized, oh, this is all in Italian, I thought I was screwed for sure. I guess it was silly of me to think it would be in English, I mean I’m studying in Italy, I should be expected to speak Italian, no?

Gino Finizio was the workshop leader, he is a designer based in Milano, who has written books and lectured in many different countries on the subject of design, marketing and communication.  He really has a passion for educating young people, as we are the future of the design world.

I thought that being a fashion designer would never mean that I would be designing a product for technology, but when I think about it now, how could I assume that? The world of design is a vast one, architecture, apparel, product design; they all overlap and influence one another. The world we live in today depends on design, we’re always digging deeper for innovation, creativity, to go more forward with an idea, to improve and look beyond what has already been done. I had believed that most accessories for technological products had been designed before, but in reality the possibilities will always be endless.

Our task was to, in one week, design an innovative type of carrying case for Tucan, with a particular technological product in mind. I ended up meeting two lovely Italian girls from Naples and working with them, it really was a great experience. They come from a different background of design; their program is a lot more about conceptual thinking, where my program at FIT is more about construction. It was a nice balance. We were able to bounce ideas off of one another well. They were extremely patient with me and my (poooor) Italian, and I even got to learn some Napolitano dialect! Like, statt buono/buona, it means stay well.

We had to stay up the entire night before the project was due to finish, but it was worth it. In the Italian culture, it is extremely important to them to make a figura bella, meaning, a good figure, the way they present themselves is something of upmost importance. So we pulled through the night, filled with a lot of laughter, tea, and some delicious pasta! I definitely dozed off a few times, but in the end we got it done. 

They encouraged me to say my part of the presentation in Italian, reassuring me that I am well spoken, and it took a lot of courage, but I did it. My presentation wasn’t a hundred-perfect grammatically correct, but it was nice to see how supportive everyone in the room was. The son of the owner of Tucano shook my hand after my group’s presentation, and told me that I had officially received a honorary degree in Italian from the presentation. It was a gesture that I will always remember. Sometimes, being a little bit afraid and putting your self out there is a positive thing. I’m trying to figure out this whole experience one little brave American step at a time..

So overall from this past week, I have a few new friends, good memories, and a great innovative project to add to my portfolio.  This is the photo of the product we designed called the IPhand, specifically for the Ipad 2, oh and that's my hand! They woke me up at 3 in the morning to take the photos, ha..

P. S.. here's the company's website if you're curious...

http://www.tucano.com/

Workshop with Tucano


Do you know what I love? Being happily surprised… first impressions can always be misleading. This past week at my abroad university, Politecnico di Milano, held a workshop. All of the students at the design campus were assigned to a company depending on their major. My program was assigned to do the workshop with the Italian company, Tucano. It is a company based in Milano that designs accessories for computers, ipads, iphones, etcera.

When I walked into the room, sat down, and looked at all the people around me, I was kind of intimidated. Once the workshop leader began to speak, and I realized, oh, this is all in Italian, I thought I was screwed for sure. I guess it was silly of me to think it would be in English, I mean I’m studying in Italy, I should be expected to speak Italian, no?

Gino Finizio was the workshop leader, he is a designer based in Milano, who has written books and lectured in many different countries on the subject of design, marketing and communication.  He really has a passion for educating young people, as we are the future of the design world.

I thought that being a fashion designer would never mean that I would be designing a product for technology, but when I think about it now, how could I assume that? The world of design is a vast one, architecture, apparel, product design; they all overlap and influence one another. The world we live in today depends on design, we’re always digging deeper for innovation, creativity, to go more forward with an idea, to improve and look beyond what has already been done. I had believed that most accessories for technological products had been designed before, but in reality the possibilities will always be endless.

Our task was to, in one week, design an innovative type of carrying case for Tucan, with a particular technological product in mind. I ended up meeting two lovely Italian girls from Naples and working with them, it really was a great experience. They come from a different background of design; their program is a lot more about conceptual thinking, where my program at FIT is more about construction. It was a nice balance. We were able to bounce ideas off of one another well. They were extremely patient with me and my (poooor) Italian, and I even got to learn some Napolitano dialect! Like, statt buono/buona, it means stay well.

We had to stay up the entire night before the project was due to finish, but it was worth it. In the Italian culture, it is extremely important to them to make a figura bella, meaning, a good figure, the way they present themselves is something of upmost importance. So we pulled through the night, filled with a lot of laughter, tea, and some delicious pasta! I definitely dozed off a few times, but in the end we got it done. 

They encouraged me to say my part of the presentation in Italian, reassuring me that I am well spoken, and it took a lot of courage, but I did it. My presentation wasn’t a hundred-perfect grammatically correct, but it was nice to see how supportive everyone in the room was. The son of the owner of Tucano shook my hand after my group’s presentation, and told me that I had officially received a honorary degree in Italian from the presentation. It was a gesture that I will always remember. Sometimes, being a little bit afraid and putting your self out there is a positive thing. I’m trying to figure out this whole experience one little brave American step at a time..

So overall from this past week, I have a few new friends, good memories, and a great innovative project to add to my portfolio.  This is the photo of the product we designed called the IPhand, specifically for the Ipad 2, oh and that's my hand! They woke me up at 3 in the morning to take the photos, ha..

P. S.. here's the company's website if you're curious...

http://www.tucano.com/

Ah: You’re moving to Milano for a year, what do you bring?!


I’m seeing a lot of posts/questions in terms of costs, items, etcera, etcera. I know, I totally get you’re all freaking out, over excitement, anxiousness! I was you less than a year ago, can you believe it?

How expensive is everything? What about groceries, apartments?
It seems one of the largest concerns is in terms of costs, which is completely understandable. I will definitely say, food here; way less expensive. There are a lot of outdoor markets; every neighborhood has one, usually once or twice a week, with really great items that are inexpensive. I will definitely say though, I at least go grocery shopping twice a week, as every thing is much fresher. But believe me, it’s so worth it. If you like to dine out frequently, of course then you will spend more money. The really great thing about Milano is we have what we call “aperitivo”, it’s like a happy hour but with a buffet of food, it’s about 8 to 15 Euros and includes a drink. It’s something enjoyable and fun to do with friends that isn’t too expensive, and is more casual than a sit down fancy dinner.

And in terms of apartments, generally a room is about 400 to 600 Euros a month. It depends on the neighborhood, if you are living in a single or double room, etc. It also may or may not include utilities. However, utilities, which they call “bollete”, meaning gas, light, water, is a bill that only comes every three months , and depending on how many people live in the apartment or the size, could cost you maybe 40 Euros maximum.

I won’t have the Fashion Design Bookstore across the street; will finding supplies be a problem? What supplies from NY should I bring with me?

One really amazing benefit about the program is one does not have to spend money on fabric! Most of the fabric is provided for third year-minus the corset/bustier project. You will need to buy paper/muslin, there’s a store called “3D” right by school, the owner loves FIT students and is so sweet and patient with me. And in terms of what to bring I strongly suggest bringing your favorite sewing supplies i.e. tailor’s chalk, pins, measuring tape. As well as markets, pencils, favorite marker paper. Do not bring a sketchbook, you can buy one here! And also, most definitely bring your favorite pair of fabric scissors!

How do I retrieve money once I’m there? Is joining a bank a good option?

And in terms of receiving money, I have a student checking account with TD Bank that charges me $2 every time I take out money overseas for the conversion exchange rate. By the way, most Italian banks have a 500 Euro limit to withdraw in a 24-hour period. Therefore, when I know my rent is due, I plan ahead in terms of taking out cash from the bank.  Also they don’t call it an “ATM” here, which refers to the transportation in Milano, instead it is called “Bancomat”. A lot of my classmates have accounts with Bank of America, which is BNL here in Milano, but I believe the conversion exchange rate charge is $5 every time money is withdrew.

What about banks here I’m sure is another option you’re wondering about. I had been thinking about doing it, but the process had become too complicated, a lot of banks here are completely closed on the weekend, and it’s a bit harder to go during the week since there’s full time class during the week. However, a classmate of mine I believe joined, the Sondrio bank, and had to pay a high amount in taxes, something like 150 Euros over the course of three months, but it is an option if you’d rather the money be wired over directly in the Euro currency.

 Will not being fluent in the language be a problem?

Ok, NONE of us are fluent! This entire abroad experience is what you make of it, and for some people, learning the language is not the biggest priority, but in my opinion it is extremely important to have basic knowledge of phrases and expressions. When people hear a group of students loudly on the train speaking in English, it’s kind of like a signal with flashing lights blasting off.

Remember, this is a cultural experience, and part of understanding the culture is becoming familiarized with the language. Believe me, they think it’s the cutest thing ever when an American tries to speak Italian. And when I make a mistake, the response I usually get is “che dolce”, how sweet! It is also a culture about respect, knowing when to address someone in the formal, or informal mode is important.

How do I do this whole packing thing for a year?

I brought with me two large suitcases, and a carry on. I’m not going to lie, to pack for a year is really difficult, and Milano is a city that experiences all different types of weather. Boots are a must, rainboots being the most essential, when you pack them put things like socks or tights in the inside of them to save space. And jackets/coats are a necessity; I only brought one heavy winter wool coat, a durable type of anorak, and a leather jacket. It’s substantial, but I definitely wish I had brought a raincoat. Also, bring lots of warm gloves and hats; it is cold in the winter!

Do not bring large bottles of toiletries, unless it’s something impossible to find in Europe. I brought with me a small set of toiletries for when I first arrived. But if you have a favorite brand of face wash or something, bring a bottle of it if you can make room in your luggage. If it’s something you CANNOT live without for a year-bring it. You really need to think about the essentials, not about the things you won’t be able to bring. Shoes and outwear in my opinion, are probably the most essential things.

And electronics, of course computer-bring it in your carry on luggage. I don't know about for PC computers, but for Macbooks, Apple sells a world adapter kit, best 50 bucks I ever spent. Leave your blowdryers/straighteners at home, usually the wattage is too high to convert with an adapter. There are plenty of electronic stores that sell inexpensive ones. I also left my American cell phone at home, and bought an inexpensive one here. Most European cell phones are prepaid, it's too expensive to call the US with it per minute, but it's free for you when anyone calls, so generally I have my family call me. Another great option is Skype for contacting overseas, you can buy credit and call any number for 4 cents a minute.

Per favore, don’t stress! It’s really nice in the first three weeks you are here, you will only be focusing on your Italian studies and finding an apartment. You have time to adjust and explore for a bit. This is the experience of a lifetime, and don’t get caught up with all the things you will not have here that you once had in NYC. There are positives and negatives about both, but you are going to learn so much about yourself and the Italian culture. Why do you think I decided to come back for a whole ‘nother year? And if anyone has other questions that I haven’t answered, please do not hesitate to reach out, either on my Facebook or email, alexis.drattell@gmail.com.

Ciao, a presto agli studenti nuovi!




Ah: You’re moving to Milano for a year, what do you bring?!


I’m seeing a lot of posts/questions in terms of costs, items, etcera, etcera. I know, I totally get you’re all freaking out, over excitement, anxiousness! I was you less than a year ago, can you believe it?

How expensive is everything? What about groceries, apartments?
It seems one of the largest concerns is in terms of costs, which is completely understandable. I will definitely say, food here; way less expensive. There are a lot of outdoor markets; every neighborhood has one, usually once or twice a week, with really great items that are inexpensive. I will definitely say though, I at least go grocery shopping twice a week, as every thing is much fresher. But believe me, it’s so worth it. If you like to dine out frequently, of course then you will spend more money. The really great thing about Milano is we have what we call “aperitivo”, it’s like a happy hour but with a buffet of food, it’s about 8 to 15 Euros and includes a drink. It’s something enjoyable and fun to do with friends that isn’t too expensive, and is more casual than a sit down fancy dinner.

And in terms of apartments, generally a room is about 400 to 600 Euros a month. It depends on the neighborhood, if you are living in a single or double room, etc. It also may or may not include utilities. However, utilities, which they call “bollete”, meaning gas, light, water, is a bill that only comes every three months , and depending on how many people live in the apartment or the size, could cost you maybe 40 Euros maximum.

I won’t have the Fashion Design Bookstore across the street; will finding supplies be a problem? What supplies from NY should I bring with me?

One really amazing benefit about the program is one does not have to spend money on fabric! Most of the fabric is provided for third year-minus the corset/bustier project. You will need to buy paper/muslin, there’s a store called “3D” right by school, the owner loves FIT students and is so sweet and patient with me. And in terms of what to bring I strongly suggest bringing your favorite sewing supplies i.e. tailor’s chalk, pins, measuring tape. As well as markets, pencils, favorite marker paper. Do not bring a sketchbook, you can buy one here! And also, most definitely bring your favorite pair of fabric scissors!

How do I retrieve money once I’m there? Is joining a bank a good option?

And in terms of receiving money, I have a student checking account with TD Bank that charges me $2 every time I take out money overseas for the conversion exchange rate. By the way, most Italian banks have a 500 Euro limit to withdraw in a 24-hour period. Therefore, when I know my rent is due, I plan ahead in terms of taking out cash from the bank.  Also they don’t call it an “ATM” here, which refers to the transportation in Milano, instead it is called “Bancomat”. A lot of my classmates have accounts with Bank of America, which is BNL here in Milano, but I believe the conversion exchange rate charge is $5 every time money is withdrew.

What about banks here I’m sure is another option you’re wondering about. I had been thinking about doing it, but the process had become too complicated, a lot of banks here are completely closed on the weekend, and it’s a bit harder to go during the week since there’s full time class during the week. However, a classmate of mine I believe joined, the Sondrio bank, and had to pay a high amount in taxes, something like 150 Euros over the course of three months, but it is an option if you’d rather the money be wired over directly in the Euro currency.

 Will not being fluent in the language be a problem?

Ok, NONE of us are fluent! This entire abroad experience is what you make of it, and for some people, learning the language is not the biggest priority, but in my opinion it is extremely important to have basic knowledge of phrases and expressions. When people hear a group of students loudly on the train speaking in English, it’s kind of like a signal with flashing lights blasting off.

Remember, this is a cultural experience, and part of understanding the culture is becoming familiarized with the language. Believe me, they think it’s the cutest thing ever when an American tries to speak Italian. And when I make a mistake, the response I usually get is “che dolce”, how sweet! It is also a culture about respect, knowing when to address someone in the formal, or informal mode is important.

How do I do this whole packing thing for a year?

I brought with me two large suitcases, and a carry on. I’m not going to lie, to pack for a year is really difficult, and Milano is a city that experiences all different types of weather. Boots are a must, rainboots being the most essential, when you pack them put things like socks or tights in the inside of them to save space. And jackets/coats are a necessity; I only brought one heavy winter wool coat, a durable type of anorak, and a leather jacket. It’s substantial, but I definitely wish I had brought a raincoat. Also, bring lots of warm gloves and hats; it is cold in the winter!

Do not bring large bottles of toiletries, unless it’s something impossible to find in Europe. I brought with me a small set of toiletries for when I first arrived. But if you have a favorite brand of face wash or something, bring a bottle of it if you can make room in your luggage. If it’s something you CANNOT live without for a year-bring it. You really need to think about the essentials, not about the things you won’t be able to bring. Shoes and outwear in my opinion, are probably the most essential things.

And electronics, of course computer-bring it in your carry on luggage. I don't know about for PC computers, but for Macbooks, Apple sells a world adapter kit, best 50 bucks I ever spent. Leave your blowdryers/straighteners at home, usually the wattage is too high to convert with an adapter. There are plenty of electronic stores that sell inexpensive ones. I also left my American cell phone at home, and bought an inexpensive one here. Most European cell phones are prepaid, it's too expensive to call the US with it per minute, but it's free for you when anyone calls, so generally I have my family call me. Another great option is Skype for contacting overseas, you can buy credit and call any number for 4 cents a minute.

Per favore, don’t stress! It’s really nice in the first three weeks you are here, you will only be focusing on your Italian studies and finding an apartment. You have time to adjust and explore for a bit. This is the experience of a lifetime, and don’t get caught up with all the things you will not have here that you once had in NYC. There are positives and negatives about both, but you are going to learn so much about yourself and the Italian culture. Why do you think I decided to come back for a whole ‘nother year? And if anyone has other questions that I haven’t answered, please do not hesitate to reach out, either on my Facebook or email, alexis.drattell@gmail.com.

Ciao, a presto agli studenti nuovi!