Tag Archives: Italy

Cin Cin To 2013: Looking Back On My Time In Business School

Happy New Year everyone! I hope last year was a time you will look back on fondly, and that you are bursting with excitement and optimism for what 2014 holds.

I must say 2013 was a good year, and not just travel-wise. Not only did I accomplish one of my academic and professional goals of getting my MBA but I also realized my dream of living in another country. And one so culturally rich as Italy at that! When reading back on some old posts, I came across a quote I found last January by IESE professor Pankaj Ghemawat:

“Research shows that living abroad expands your mental horizons and increases your creativity. However, merely traveling abroad doesn’t produce this benefit. Executives report that it takes at least three months to become immersed in a place and appreciate how the culture, politics and history of a region affect business there.”

– Excerpt from “Smarter Managers for a Semi-Globalized India” in The Smart Manager Magazine 

I feel fortunate to have spent the last year and a half in Europe where I learned so much that extended past the classroom. Indeed it was a very challenging year both academically and personally, but it’s those difficulties that build character, broaden mindsets and ultimately humble us. And because SDA Bocconi has such an international class we all gained insight into each other’s cultures as well. One day I was learning how to say “good morning” in Greek and the next how to write my name in Japanese. Then my German classmate was giving me professional advice for any resumes I may send to Berlin (include a photo!), while another classmate and I were noting the cultural differences between Venezuela and India when it comes to introducing a date to your family. Together we learned from each other while still being able to laugh at our own stereotypes. As Ghemawat said, it is this kind of invaluable learning that facilitates cross-cultural understanding, promotes international business, and makes us more open-minded and well-rounded individuals.

Thanks to my classmates and the school for making this past year at Bocconi so memorable!

     

      

      

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Walk Like A Venetian

Venice. One of the most talked about places in Italy, yet for some reason I hadn’t made my way over before. But as soon as I took my first vaporetto ride (Venice’s ferry metro you could say) I understood just why this city is on so many people’s bucket lists. It really is such a beautiful and unique place.

Venice is a lot bigger than you may think –  you can spend hours getting lost in all of its small alleys. It’s also one of those places that becomes a ghost town in the evenings, which may also be why its such a romantic hotspot. As you will see in one of the below photos, there is noticeable flooding around town which makes you wonder just how long Venice will be around for. It’s ironic that the tourism industry is the biggest source of income for the town, yet the constant flow of cruise ships coming through only contributes to the erosion of its infrastructure. This was protested so much that a ban was passed just this month that will put a size limit on the cruise ships that come through starting next year. In any case, I’d suggest making it over there one way or another next time you’re in that part of the world.

Fun fact: Hemingway was a regular at Harry’s Bar, a spot founded by Giuseppe Cipriani back in 1931. The bellini that is so well loved (by yours truly especially!) is said to have been created there, and I made sure to enjoy it when I popped in. Remember the bldg in Paris I recently dined at that Hemingway used to live in for a few years too? Maybe a trip to visit all his old haunts would be a fun tour.



 

 

Where to stay: We stayed at Al Ponte Mocenigo, which is about a 15 minute walk from Rialto and removed from the craziness of all the tourists. This is definitely my favorite hotel I’ve stayed at in all of Italy (and all of Europe this past year) – not only is it affordable and the customer service is fantastic, but the rooms are super charming with wood beam ceilings, murano glass chandeliers and Victorian style decor.

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Five Cheers for Cinque Terre

Now that summer is officially over ::nooo:: and the dreary weather returns to Milan, its about that time for me to look back and start daydreaming about happier spring days — can you tell I’m a Californian? So after far too much delay, lets revisit one of my personal favorite places in Italy, the fabulous Cinque Terre…

As many of you know, Cinque Terre is made up on five small towns along the Italian Riviera. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a few years now, and the right opportunity came when Dory and Marissa told me they were visiting. They arrived on a redeye flight and by early afternoon we were already on the 3 hour train ride to Monterosso, arguably the best of the five towns to stay at. Like most of my recent girls’ getaways, we nixed the standard hotel room scene in favor of an apartment rental we found through HomeAway. The place was cute, about a 10 minute walk from the water, and while it culminated with a 100+ stairmaster workout to get to our rooms, it had a beautiful view and was affordable for my grad school budget.

Cinque Terre couldn’t be easier to get around in. Not only are the five towns within hiking distance of each other for the more athletic/adventurous, but its also connected by trains which run quite frequently. We already had our game plan ready: hike through each town, rewarding ourselves at each new place with a meal, a drink, or a gelato. Perfect, right? Until we got to the first trail and were told that the hiking trails were closed due to the storms and chance of mudslides. Hmm, this is going to make that gelato much harder to justify. Grudgingly, we ended up taking trains to each stop instead of hiking, but in Vernazza we found that the trail was only partially blocked off and were able to wander over to some killer viewpoints anyway. Some of my b-school buddies were also in CT for the weekend so together we explored the other towns, only skipping Corniglia because we were racing the sun and Corniglia has many, many stairs to go down before reaching the water. Although I regret not making it to all 5 towns, I’d say we did pretty damn good for just one day.

Monterosso

Vernazza

Manarola

Riomaggiore

For our second day of exploring we headed over to Portovenere, one of the other gems on the Ligurian coast  just a short bus ride from La Spezia. Portovenere is a beautiful quaint town with a castle overlooking the sea and many restaurants and shops that line its narrow alleyways. Tip: if you do make it over for a day trip, in addition to having the seafood (no brainer) also make sure to take some pesto home with you – one of the things the area is best known for. Overall, the weekend was incredible — sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am to be just a short train ride away from paradise. Oh Italy, no wonder you’re such a charmer.

Portovenere




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The Soapbox Chronicles: Why The World Needs Football

So the latest news is that Balotelli’s coming over to AC Milan and the Milan fans of the city are stoked. He is such a beast of the field. It’s fun to have a new player to talk about and get more people excited about football and going to games, and it’s coming at a pretty convenient time too…

I grew up in Cali playing soccer. Wait, rewind, I tried out tennis, basketball, the clarinet, the piano and soccer, but soccer was the only thing I truly loved. When I spent a term on an exchange program in Spain, I was thrilled to be a part of a culture that embraced The Beautiful Game, whereas back home soccer was not nearly as popular. My friends and I would get frustrated everytime a big match would be on but our favorite bars weren’t playing it, and I would constantly gripe that we should have been born in Europe or South America. But we eventually did find our football bars in NYC (where all the expats were hiding), and a few friends and I even joined a co-ed team on Friday nights. Of course, a part of me was still pretty jealous about all the football love going on in the rest of the world.

So naturally you can guess just how excited I was when I found out I would be living in Milan for a year while getting my MBA. Finally, I’d be among people just like me! I was so happy imagining going to games, reading updates about players in the newspapers, playing matches with my classmates….

Wait, what? Did I hear that right? Girls don’t play football in Italy? Back up.

Instantly my dreams were crushed. How come in a country where football is religion half the population doesn’t take part in the sport? I know that girls get into rooting for their favorite team and go to watch the games, but I’m surprised that there isn’t more active participation for women. Well, that needed to change.

As some of you may know, a few of us students decided to start up the school’s Football Club this year. Aside from weekly games, we also made it a point to have the first co-ed football tournament last term. It was so great to get back out on the pitch again. We had five on five games going, and I was reminded about what I love so much about the sport. No matter what current issues we had with any classmates, when it came to game time we HAD to work together. Crossing, calling for the ball, (willingly) passing, scoring, celebrating… all of the stress and frustrations that existed back in the classroom melted away. Business school is such a group-focused program, and even though during this time the goal (yay for puns!) is to learn to work better with people that have different styles and backgrounds, it doesn’t always happen as effortlessly as we’d like. But on the field, when it’s either work together or get beat down by the other team, I was pleasantly surprised at just how well the teams all united. And what was even more fun is that it was such a great opportunity to get to know my colleagues better, especially the ones that I am not currently taking classes with. High-fiving, commending each other on that great assist, yelling at each other to make a mad dash for the goal (in the most positive, supportive way of course!) – all of this sure beats catching up over drinks at aperitivo. It would be wrong for the girls to not be able to enjoy this, too!

So even though I wasn’t as thrilled back home with the lackluster appreciation for the sport, now that I look back on it I wouldn’t trade anything for all the practices, games, tournaments, and orange slices I’ve had growing up. It’s ironic that it took coming to Europe to realize how fortunate I am that football’s such a welcomed sport for girls in North America… now let’s see what we can do with Italy! More on the formation of the SDA Bocconi girl’s football team to follow!

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Crash Course in Italian: Apartment Hunting

December is here! Time for hot spiced wine and decadent desserts, christmas lights on the streets and glittering christmas trees at every corner. And today marked Milan’s first snowfall of the season too! ‘Tis the season to be jolly! Except for those pesky 5 projects and 6 exams that are due in the next two weeks. And then theres the small issue of that apartment hunt…

For those of you that don’t know, I’ve been busy spreading yuletide cheer to those far and near by calling up strangers multiple times a day with the most friendliest “BUONGIORNO!”  I can muster and basically inviting myself into their homes. Due to some inconvenient circumstances I’ll most likely be moving soon, and in an attempt to reduce the burden on my stress level and my wallet I was hoping to do so well before finals hit. Everyday after school this week I’ve been filtering through school emails, bulletin postings, website listings, and yes even the AFFITTASI signs plastered on buildings around the neighborhood. While it has unfortunately put a dent in my study time, in terms of building my language skills its been pretty helpful – it’s quite possible I’ve spoken more Italian in the last two weeks with landlords than since I moved here. The best part is that when I apologize and say I only speak a little Italian, they continue to speak at the same speed. So I try my best, but making appointments to see places when you only understand about half the conversation can sometimes lead to, errr, interesting situations…

Apt #1) Checking out a 1br that an alum tipped me off to. The apartment is a little far, but its in a great area and just a stones throw away from all the good shopping (WIN.) I meet the landlord, a nice man who I’d guess to be about 60 years old, at the bus stop and proceed to have a lengthy conversation in Italian with him about where I’m from, what I’m doing, etc. Great street, great building, but upon walking into the apartment I realize the the 1br I thought I was seeing was actually a studio with a pull out couch for a bed. What are the chances that he probably told me already? I’d say 75%. And the probability that he was hitting on me when he told me I’m beautiful and invited me to coffee or gelato? NEXT.

Apt #2) Ok, this time I’ve seen pictures of the place, I’ve talked to the guy a bit on the phone, I know what I’m walking into right? Thought so, until I shook his hand, and then shook the hand of his roommate (or MY roommate) who would also be in the apartment. He also threw in a good MBA/NBA joke that, due to my mental translating delay, only registered a good 5 seconds after he had laughed and I had already stared blankly at him. Woops.

Apt #3) Alright, I have a good feeling about this one. I had a 5 minute phone conversation with the landlord, texted him a few times, and got a pretty good description of the place. I meet with him and he mentions something to the effect about the girl being there for another two weeks, no big deal. I walk in, look around, notice that theres two single beds instead of one – not the best thing but I work with the landlord on that. As I’m wondering if I could see myself living here, the girl (a Bocconi undergrad) transitions into English and starts telling me about how shes doing an exchange in the fall and is leaving in Sept. Ok…. why is she telling me this? Ahhh, its because she doesn’t WANT to move in two weeks, but the landlord may be kicking her out if she doesn’t find a roommate. Information that was most likely relayed to me before I walked in. So suddenly I was faced with the options of either living with this chick or kicking her to the curb if she can’t find someone to live with and taking it for myself. Awesome! Needless to say, I did the classic “Don’t call me, I’ll call you” move and peaced out as fast as I could.

While admittedly I have a lot of work to do before I can master Italiano, I always admire those people who, when visiting or moving to a new country, are not afraid to speak the language even if they don’t know how to say things perfectly.  Its the kind of student and traveler I want to become. After all, they say the best way to learn something is to make mistakes first, right?

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@%&#$!

So there I was, enjoying a cappuccino from my fancy new espresso machine and looking over school emails. I had taken a kickboxing class the previous evening and also gotten a decent night’s sleep, two things which are hard to come by in my program. Then I was off to the police station to pick up my Permesso di Soggiorno (residence permit) before heading to school for Italian class. Everything was going smoothly – this was the last of the paperwork I needed done for the time being – and then… wait, why am I locked out of the police station? But its 4:24pm, the exact time of my appointment! The guy on the other end of the intercom casually tells me to come back on Friday. Uhh, but my appointment’s today, and I had to blow off a group meeting for this, not to mention I don’t even know if I can come back on Friday, and doesn’t anything ever go according to schedule here?!

Within 30 seconds, I had gone from calm & collected grad student to just plain crazy American girl, stomping down the street and talking to myself with exaggerated hand motions. And then I took out my frustration on the first person I came in contact with, which just happened to be my friend and classmate (Mo, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry!) The truth is that this is just one in a long list of things that have not gone according to plan since I moved here… let’s just say that Italy isn’t exactly known for its stellar customer service. It took me about an hour, and too many biscotti, to calm down and realize I was letting this get to me more than I should. And it reminded me of a piece of advice that my admissions rep, Tyler Henderson, told me when I first let him know about my acceptance:

” My suggestion is just to embrace the chaos that will ensue as you handle all the logistical details. If you let it overwhelm you it will, so just enjoy it!”

Woops, maybe I need to stick a post-it of this on my bathroom mirror. Last year, I remember having a discussion with my cousin when I was visiting him in Chennai about how chaotic life in India seems: people crammed into buses, crossing the street in a way that makes New York jay-walking seem like child’s play, hundreds of people out in the street. It can be overwhelming to someone who is not used to that environment, but amidst all the madness it still keeps going. And even though Italy is worlds apart from India, its way of operating is still very different from what I’m used to. But that’s just one other thing I will be learning this year, and didn’t I want to do this program to learn about another culture and work environment anyway?

In any case, they may not have the best customer service, but Italy sure knows their coffee! 1-1.

Today’s tip: First lesson of becoming Italian – learn to shrug it off!

September 2011:

Me: Uh, I just flew in and there’s no trains going to Milano because of a train strike, so I’m stranded in Bergamo. $@%#!

Alessandro: Welcome to Italy!

Me: …

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Benvenuto! MBA Welcome Week at SDA Bocconi

Last Monday, after an all day affair of precourse exams,  90 bright-eyed MBA students flooded Bocconi’s main campus to kickstart Welcome Week with our opening ceremony. After a short but succinct presentation with various speakers including our Dean and Director, we mingled with faculty and staff over dinner. It was a great opportunity to chat with professors, alumni and our career services staff in a more personal way. It also got us excited for what was in store for the rest of Welcome Week. As our Director Gianmario Verona explained, each of the upcoming days would be devoted to a different focus: Know Your School, Know Yourself and Your Class, Know Your Career, and lastly Know Your MBA.

The week was filled with a lot of information about the breakdown of the program, and getting to know the ever-so-important Career Services and how we can best work with them in the search for our dream jobs. Wednesday was devoted solely to learning about our own personality styles as we studied the results of the Myers-Briggs test which we had taken in the previous week. Although I have taken several personality tests in college, I found this discussion to be very helpful in learning what qualities I possess that I will need to be aware of when working in my class groups this year. Furthermore, it helped me understand the range of diverse personality styles of my peers and how we could best benefit from our differences. While I won’t go into the play-by-play of each day, I will say that I was very impressed by how SDA Bocconi chose to incorporate certain elements of Italian culture into the program. And by this, I mean more than simply enjoying aperitivi together (even though those were great too!) For instance, on the first day about getting to know Bocconi, we had an art curator take us on a tour to talk to us about various contemporary art pieces around campus. Along with the art theme, we also created our own “masterpieces” in groups which surprisingly demonstrated a great deal of creativity and ingenuity from a class which may be stereotyped as being strong in financial/consulting skills but lacking in artistic ability. Also, we had a special guest presentation about Italian culture and business with Beppe Severgnini, a well-known and highly entertaining Italian journalist. The highlight of the week came on Friday when, after a night of reading a case study about the wine industry, we were led in an intriguing case analysis by our director as an intro to the many case studies we will break down during the year. After spending the morning analyzing the wine industry in Europe, we then piled into buses and headed to Franciacorta to visit the Berlucchi winery. Berlucchi is a small but successful family owned business that consists of only about 75 employees and caters mostly to a domestic market. There, one of our marketing professors gave a lecture on the industry before we were given tours of the winery and taught about the wine-making process. It was a fun and engaging day of learning and I’m pretty sure that it can go down as the coolest class field trip I’ve had yet (second has to be learning about life in the 1900’s at the Stagecoach Inn in elementary school.) I think I speak for my classmates when I say that we are all very excited for what we’re going to learn at SDA Bocconi and by living in Italy, and for how we are going to better ourselves professionally and personally this year.

Artwork at Bocconi University

Berlucchi Winery

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My Love Affair with Italy

I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with Italy. It’s as if we are in a long-distance relationship and I am the needy girlfriend that can’t get enough. But when I sleep, I dream about swimming off the coast of Capri, jumping off rocks and dancing in circles in the water just drunk with happiness. When I wake, I think back to playing football in the streets of Viareggio on a cool spring day, pretending to be Toni, Cannavaro and Buffon all rolled into one. I pine for the risotto milanese and mozzarella di bufala I had in Milan, the incredible mussels from Positano, the Fiorentine and tiramisu we made in Florence during our own private cooking class with our friends from Florencetown, and the endless supply of limoncello that we drank in Capri under the lemon trees of da Paolino. And I miss the dancing: the outdoor club outside the football stadium in Rome that Alessandro took us to, the unforgettable Music on the Rocks that’s carved into the cliffs of Positano, the famous Anema e core in Capri which requires dancing on tables with tambourines with people of all ages and lots of singing (and its neighbor, Number One, which also has fantastic live music), the nightclub in Rimini with 10 of my closest hostelmates, and the incredible night out at La Capannina in Forte dei Marmi with my good friend Ale.

It’s no surprise I visited Italy 3 times in one year, and that I am already plotting my next escape over. What is it exactly about Italy that keeps me coming back hungry for more? Yes, it’s beautiful but there are so many other beautiful places in the world, so why is it that out of all the places I’ve been to its Italy that has stolen my heart? I think it comes down to the feeling I have when I am there. Or more like the person I become when I am there. I slow down. I take time to savor the meal in front of me and enjoy the refreshing glass of wine in my hand. I spend hours at the table engrossed in fantastic conversation with my friends, and have an eternal caffeine high from the many espressos throughout the day. I let myself go and adopt a care-free mentality, not getting overwhelmed by the stress in my life but instead focusing on and celebrating the amazing parts of it. I open my mind and learn so much from the different perspectives of the fun and interesting people I meet each day. And well, as far as the beauty, I do get taken aback again and again by just how gorgeous each new place is.  I really do think Positano is heaven on Earth, Steinbeck was dead on. Overall, I really think that the Italian lifestyle complements me – I can’t help it, I’m smitten!

If you haven’t been to Italy and are looking to make your way over, here are the places I stayed at during my trips. Feel free to contact me for more info, I can’t talk about it enough.

Florence:

Hotel: Montebello Splendid – Even though it’s a nice hotel, I wouldn’t recommend it. The rooms are small, and its practically impossible to change your reservation should you need to (warning: they will NOT refund you.) I think it’s a little overpriced and you can probably find better accommodations elsewhere.

Hostel: New Ostel  – Cheap hostel close to the train station. The staff was very nice and they have a good outdoor area to relax and mingle, but I would stay elsewhere if I return. There are no lockers in the rooms, and the rooms seem a little outdated. It also took me a while to walk to the main part of the city which was a big inconvenience.

Positano:

Hotel Miramare Positano – Highly recommend! Great location, decent price, beautiful views from your balcony, and wonderful staff. There are so many places in Positano, all at different price points, but everything is so closeby that I don’t think its necessary to spend a lot of money on a more expensive hotel there.

Capri:

Hotel Weber Ambassador – Also highly recommend! Right up the street from a great beach, not at the center of town but there is free transportation, small rooms but the price is right and you have a killer view off the room balcony.

Rome:

Hotel Fontana – Recommend for a good budget hotel. This is a decent hotel that’s right outside the Trevi Fountain (our window faced the front of the fountain, that was pretty rad.) The price is good, the service was good – I really have nothing bad to say about this place. Enjoy!

Bergamo:

NH Bergamo – This was a little out of my price range but seeing as there was a train strike in Italy and I wasn’t able to leave Bergamo that night I couldn’t really be too picky. The hotel is fantastic though –  nice look, great free breakfast, free wifi in the lobby. Bergamo is such an adorable town (and the people are pretty fabulous!) so you should definitely stop by for a day or two.

Rimini:

Hostel: Sunflower City Backpacker – This hostel was so fun! Ok, the good and the bad. The staff there is great. They include everyone and make sure that you are having a good time. The bad is that the rooms are kind of old, and the bathrooms are a little scary. Like shower over the toilet scary. But I will admit that the atmosphere of the place made up for the room and I’m really glad I stayed there. Rimini doesn’t have that many options for good hostels, so this is probably one of the better choices.

Fiorentine - Just part of what we made during our cooking class in Florence.

Music on the Rocks with some of our new Positano friends.

Marina Piccola beach in Capri

Rimini

Lake Como

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Positano

“Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”

– John Steinbeck

Teaser for my upcoming post about my rather unhealthy (but delectable) obsession with Italy – stay tuned!

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Firenze

Now I remember why I love Italy so much. Because the Italians spoil you to death! Firenze was fantastic. I was only there 24 hours but loved it. I wasn’t planning on going, but a friend who lives there asked me to stop by so I scrapped my night in Venice and headed south. Venice is too romantic anyway and may have killed my travel buzz, next time! I met up with my friend for dinner and I was greeted to Florence with great food, even better wine, and interesting conversation. We went to one of his favorite restaurants and ate, and ate, and ate. Oof! Everything he ordered was amazing, including the risotto that was originally a mistake on the menu because they mixed the wrong ingredients, but turned out to be delicious so they kept it. Gah, I love the food in Italy! My friend said that I should spend a month in Florence and that he could find me a nice apartment for pretty cheap. Definitely something to remember, that soils be fantastic! Anyway, he suggested walking around the artisan shops on Via Santo Spirito so that’s what I spent the following day doing: slowly walking past every boutique shop and peeking into every artist’s studio. Very cool to see. After wandering the streets for a few hours, I returned to my hostel where the owners kid proceeded to attack me, showing me everything he owns and managing to stick things in my purse when I wasn’t looking. I can only hope he didn’t take something when I wasn’t looking. Cute kid, but man I am so not ready for one of my own. On the other hand, Aja is so ready, and Monica just popped out her second! Congrats, Mo! I’m coming in December – deja vu!

Ponte Vecchio

So my last hostel was in Florence – I survived!! Phew! There were a few times where I wasn’t sure if I would, but other times I felt like I was at a high end hotel or a good friends apt. All in all, I would definitely hostel it up again. Hostelworld.com is the best.

On my last train now to Milano. Eagerly waiting for my welcome drink and snack. First class, I’ll miss you! See, Italy does spoil you.

 

Quote Book
Florence friend: I love my mom. And I’m not just saying that because I’m Italian.

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