Week number one of trip number two is officially over. I’ve been as busy as possible since I got here with orientation, exploration, two trips, and amazing meals. The perfect first week in Italy, minus the weather (it’s rained literally everyday).
On Tuesday, we had orientation meetings and learned more about our jobs and the different buildings that are associated with IES abroad, the company that’s hosting us here, and how to get to them. We learned about the staff, details about the program, and basically everything that we’re going to need to know.
Early Wednesday morning, the rest of the Lehigh students and myself woke up bright and early to go see the Last Supper: a very fragile fresco by Leonardo Da Vinci, that is very difficult to get tickets to go see. It dates back to the late 15th century and is one of the most treasured works of art in Italy. It even survived World War 2 when its building was bombed. We were herded with the rest of our group into the room, were allowed fifteen minutes with the painting and then were told to get out. Inside, the lighting is very dim (flash is definitely not allowed) and they only allow a few people in at a time for maximum preservation. It was definitely striking to see.
After that we had a long, and useless, safety seminar and then that evening we had a wonderful walking tour through center city with Roberto, the director of IES Milano. He was very knowledgable and pointed out many things that I feel would be easily missed without knowing the right people. We say the majority of the historic center and also the ever expanding financial district. I was very proud to answer a question about the Savoy kingdom and it’s crest during our tour and I think he may have been a little impressed.
To cap off orientation, and as somewhat of a reward, IES took us all to a spa. It was absolutely beautiful and everything was so luxurious. I had never been to a spa before and I will say it was definitely worth it. There were drinks and food, and we all just went from hot tub, to sauna, and back again. It was wonderful and situated right next to an old wall from when the Spanish controlled Milan and Northern Italy, so you’re in this modern spa but you don’t forget the history that surrounds you.
On Thursday, we had our first of two fully paid trips. We were taken to Stresa on Lake Maggiore, in order to see the beautiful islands of Isola Madre, Isola Superiore, and Isola Bella. These were islands that were summer homes for some of the richest in Europe over the years. The trip was fantastic except for being rained on the whole time. Lunch that day was even more incredible than usual as we had fresh fish from the lake.
On Friday, I got together with the other Lehigh students (+ Kari who is a student on the regular IES program but has become an honorary Lehigh student for rest of the program) and planned a weekend trip to Florence. So, we got to bed early Friday night and then woke up even earlier on Saturday and hopped on the high speed train to Florence. After trekking through the rain trying to find our rented apartment for the night, we had a fantastic day and a half there. We got to go to the Accademia Museum which houses the David sculpture, climbed the tower of a palace for a fantastic view, and did some bar hopping through a beautiful, but incredibly touristy, city.
We took a bus back Sunday afternoon and then everybody crashed as work starts for all of us Monday morning. I can’t wait to get started and to see even more of this wonderful country.