After spending Christmas at home in San Jose, California and New Year's in San Francisco with friends, I took off again, this time to Europe, first to Italy to visit friends and then off to live with my dad in Istanbul for 6 months.
For all of January 2010 (3 1/2 lovely COLD winter weeks of January to be exact), I was in Italy. I met up with one of my best friends, Shawn, to stay with a friend's brother for a week and be touristy in one of my favorite cities... ROME. Shawn was teaching English in Spain all year and had spent the Christmas holiday with friends in Italy. It was amazing to get to spend a full week with him doing fun touristy Rome things and just simply hanging out. We did the Forum, the Vatican, and wandered the city for 6 days.
One of the most memorable things we did was we went to the Befana market in Rome, which is the most famous market of it's kind. What is the "befana" you ask? Well, according to Wikipedia... "In Italian folklore, Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5) in a similar way to Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus. This Italian gift-giving spirit is also known as Saint Befana, La Vecchia (the Old Woman), and La Strega (the Witch)." Honestly, it was kind of strange to see a witch associated with Christmas, especially a witch that gives gifts, right?
After Shawn left to go back to work in Spain, I spent the rest of my time in Italy with my dear Italian friend Carlotta, who had just gotten back from spending 6 months interning at the Italian consulate in Indonesia and traveling all of southeast Asia! We spent time at her house in Frosinone (a town just south of Rome) where Buffalo Mozzarella comes from (which is just about the BEST mozzarella EVER) and then took a roadtrip up north stopping in Florence, Bologna, and Padua to see friends of ours.
We had a lot of fun visiting and enjoying Italy. It was FREEZING cold, but we made the best of the weather. We even took a pizza pilgrimage down to Naples to see a UCSD friend! I love Naples! It's so dirty and ridiculous. Carlotta had never been, even though she lived in a town an hour away from it for years. Pizza in Naples is literally THE BEST pizza you can ever imagine eating. It is truly incredible.
Some say that it's the [dirty garbage] water and the [coffin] wood ovens that give the pizza there a taste impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world...
The day before I left, I popped off the button on my jeans, so clearly I enjoyed myself food-wise a little too much.... Hahahaha. Luckily Carlotta's grandmother (Nonnaaaa!!) was on hand to sew a new button on my pants.
Italy was a nice relaxing trip to see old friends and enjoy places that I had missed like crazy since leaving in July 2008 after my amazing study abroad experience. It was nice to be back, but I was ready to go on.
Next was a 5 day stopover in London to see another dear friend who was doing her master degree there at the time.