An American in Cortona

This May, I was fortunate enough to live in Cortona, Italy with the UGA Terry College of Business program. Largely known for its depiction in Under The Tuscan Sun, Cortona was the perfect way to experience small town Italian culture. UGA’s Cortona campus is a renovated monastery-turned-dorm at the top of the scenic mountain town. It was crazy how quickly it began to feel like home, almost 5,000 miles away from Georgia.

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Cortona is located in the farthest eastern corner of Tuscany atop a mountain. The streets and buildings are all made of stone with almost no greenery that is not in a pot, but this really adds to Cortona’s overall charm. The only flat street in town is Via Nazionale where all the shops and cafes are located. These are the cafes we would visit almost every day for a latte (only 1 euro!) and a pastry to work on our assignments. While the stone structures and streets add to the overall charm, the real charm of Cortona is its people. I honestly expected local people to not like us since we were American, but they were really patient and kind to us, as well as all tourists. UGA has had students coming to Cortona for the past 50 years, so they’re definitely used to us, but I think it helped that they knew we were genuinely there to learn about their culture. My favorite part of Cortona was its family owned, local artisan shops all around town. You could buy anything from handmade soap to custom designed clothing. While you might want to come prepared where your wallet is concerned ($$$) if you’re hoping to buy, it’s so much fun stopping in and meeting the owners and artists themselves!

Through this Terry College of Business study abroad program, we took an international business course and an Italian culture course. Our Italian culture course explored Italian art and literature, as well as the history behind it. By visiting local businesses and speaking with their owners, we learned fascinating information about the overall Italian business culture. I was most interested in two aspects: riposo and “marrying your employees.”

Riposo is basically the Italian “siesta” and it is still a very common practice in Italy. We had to wait until about 3pm to go to the cafe every day because they’d be closed from about 12:30 to 3 every single day. While I admit this definitely results in some profit loss and reduced productivity, it is genius from an employee job satisfaction standpoint. The mentality behind this practice is that employees aren’t living their entire waking life at work. This allows employees to feel as though going to work is an activity that occupies most of their day, but isn’t their whole life. They get to maybe nap, eat, or see family and friends during their break, which allows them to feel rejuvenated when they come back at 3 or 4pm until close around 7pm.

When I say “marrying your employees,” I mean that it is law in Italy that an employer cannot simply just fire an employee. An employer commits to employing someone for life, unless they do something insanely terrible or illegal. Even if they are a horrible employee, an employer is required by law to give them three warnings and then, if they do not correct the behavior, they can be let go. However, the fired employee has an option to appeal this, which can cost the employer thousands of dollars in legal fees, time and energy. While I say this, it is not necessarily a bad thing in the Italian culture. While lackadaisical employees can hinder productivity, often times it’s good for a business. This practice has encouraged the Italian people to see their job as a career and not so much so a stepping stone to the next best thing. For example, it was very common for 40 year old men to be a waiter at a restaurant and they took their job very seriously. Whereas at home in the US, a waiter is usually a bored college student trying to pay some bills and student loans. Waiters in Italy were always very concerned if you did not eat all of your food because they thought you didn’t enjoy the food. The success of the restaurant directly affects their chosen career, so they want to ensure customer’s satisfaction with their experience.

My favorite part of Italian culture is “aperitivo,” when everyone in town comes to the piazza around 6pm to sit, drink wine or walk around to talk to neighbors. It’s something both locals and tourists can participate in, which what I thought made this custom cool. This Huffpost article did a great job of explaining the historical significance behind it and the typical “aperitivo” food and drink. I didn’t know about Spritz before I went to Italy, but they are an Italian staple. I wasn’t a huge fan though, so I stayed with red wine most of the time! Italian’s eat very late, after aperitivo, so they usually eat around 9pm and later. The Italian culture believes eating is an activity for spending time with friends and family. In a traditional Italian dinner, there’s at least 3 courses and 5 courses is most common: antipasto, primo, secondo, contorno and dolce. I love Italian food, so it was great getting to try so many things each night. Some have asked me if we had to adjust to different portion sizes in Italy versus the “huge” American portions. Honestly, I ate way more food in Italy than I ever do at home in the US. While each portion may be small, a person gets full after 3 or more courses of carb-loaded food.

If you ever have the opportunity to not only go abroad, but live abroad, do it. I cannot stress enough how amazing it was to spend a month in this amazing little town. Immersing yourself in a culture so different from your own allows you to appreciate their way of life, but also your way of life back home. While I was very happy to be home, I already miss Cortona with every part of my being and I’ll forever be an Italophile.

More to come about my travels to Rome, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre and Venice! I just wanted to share about beautiful Cortona first! 

Insta the travel guide: Philly edition

In any industry, the most powerful marketing tool has always been word of mouth recommendations. As consumers, we trust our friends’ opinions. If they have a great experience, we expect the same. In our social media driven society, it’s only natural that word of mouth has gone digital. Instagram has made it extremely easy to share our ideas with our friends and strangers by simply uploading a picture and a caption. It’s my go-to travel guide because I tend to like seeing the sights and experiencing the cool, local stuff instead of the tourist crazed attractions. If I’m ever in a new city, I always follow about 5-10 local Instagram accounts to find the best of the best and I haven’t been disappointed yet. My very first WordPress post was actually about my great experiences with the Atlanta Bucket List account. Most recently, I used Instagram to make the most out of my trip to Philadelphia! While we were only there for a couple days, we made the most out of the city.

Start off the with the Places tag or hashtag of the city you’re in to see the most popular photo ops. We didn’t see too many unique sights this trip because my mom was not up to walking 15 miles a day, but then again, neither was I. It was too cold for this southern girl.

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Then, search for accounts with the city in the name. phillyfoodies and philadelphiafoodie gave us such a great recommendation for brunch near our hotel, we ate there twice! Green Eggs Cafe was amazing and I highly recommend the rosemary potatoes and the cookie dough stuffed french toast. They also led us to Federal Donuts, which is hands down one of the coolest custom donut places I’ve ever been to!

I’m vegetarian, but my mom had to make the tough decision on whether to try Geno’s or Pat’s philly cheesesteaks. She went with Geno’s and she actually said she’d had better before. Our Uber driver said Pat’s was better, so we maybe should’ve listened to him and not based the decision on the most photogenic building. 🙂

We found Bar Bombon the old fashioned way (Google maps), but this place is my #1 Philly recommendation y’all. The entire restaurant is vegetarian, and you wouldn’t even know. My mom, a carnivore, said this was the best place we went to the entire trip! Highly recommend literally everything on the menu.

Thanks Insta for another great trip!

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Use Instagram to get the most out of your city

This summer I moved to Atlanta and interned with Georgia Aquarium (the best decision I’ve ever made and I could talk about it all day). I’m not originally from Atlanta and I didn’t know what all there was to do in the city, so I followed an Instagram account that did everything for me.

ATL Bucket List highlights the trendiest and hottest spots of Atlanta. It focuses on local food and drink, but also frequently features attractions, street art and special events. The Instagram account was only created a little over a year ago in March 2015 and already has over 57,700 thousand followers (and increasing every day!). Alyssa, the account’s founder, has now expanded ATL Bucket List into a blogFacebook Page and Twitter.

Atlanta isn’t the only city to have this type of Instagram account. Nashville has a very similar account, Nashville Guru, and Chicago has an almost identical Chicago Bucket List. I’m sure there are many more cities with similar accounts that I just haven’t visited yet. If you can’t find a similar Instagram account for your city, I highly recommend starting one. Alyssa has become a major influencer in the Atlanta community in just over a year. This could have have easily been anyone! All it takes is one great idea and an Instagram account to gain a following. Through ATL Bucket List, she has gotten some exclusive VIP invites to special events, as well as free swag, from organizations like Chateau Elan and The Atlanta Beer Festival, to give away on her account.

Business owners should go home and pray that she happen upon their business. Just one post and 60 thousand potential new customers have been reached. These are 60 thousand followers there solely to get advice on where in Atlanta they should spend their money next. I am living proof that this is true. I saw these places posted on her account and tried most of them the next day. If you’re an Atlanta business owner yourself and ATL Bucket List hasn’t happened upon your business yet, Alyssa can be easily contacted by the email address located in her bio. If you really want to solidify your chances of being featured, you could always follow in Chateau Elan’s and The Atlanta Beer Festival’s footsteps by bribing her with free stuff. I’m sure she’d be willing to give your business a try then. 🙂