Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Le Giacche di Pelle!

So, coming to Italy I had a list in mind of gifts for myself. Leather jackets being one of them. And of course all other leather products... shoes, bags, gloves etc.

Day 3 in Firenze, checked my bank of america account online in the morning. My checking account of $714 was now down to $320. Ouch. That hurt me a little... apparently not enough though!

So I ran into Jackie and Christi who thought they had class at 10, but we didn't so we went to the Mercato Centrale and began the SHOPPING! In the first store Christi found a jacket that she liked. It seemed expensive to me, but she wanted it, she got it for 125 euro, and had no regrets about spending her parents money. Jackie and I both said it would be a good idea to bargain or come back later, but she handed them the card anyways...

Walked through the mercato a little ways when a man saw us eyeing the jackets... Uh Ohh... He made us come into his shop and insisted that we try on a few jackets. Saw Christi was wearing a jacket and asked if she had got it for 120. She said yes, so he gave us the offer of 110. Sweet 10 euros cheaper.. NOT ENOUGH! So I gave him my skeptic looks, told him I was poor, and shook my head. I didn't really love the first jacket I tried on, so as he persisted I buy it, I asked if he had other brown jackets. He brought a few, one of which I liked... again I looked skeptically and as he lowered the price to 100 euro I told him that was still $130 in America and I just couldn't spend that much... Down to 90... getting somewhere! Jackie shouted SETTANTA CINQUE, I didn't argue... Finally the guy said OKAY, I give you discount because you are beautiful and have pomodori (boobs?)... he looked at Christi and said she got hers for 120 at the other store because she had Buttones (buttons)? It was quite histerical. I was still skeptic about the price, but figured at 110 to 75 drop was pretty legit, and after he held his lighter to my arm wearing the jacket to show it was real leather he had my 75 eueros. Buyers remorse. After my card went through the machine I had a pit in my stomach and felt like I was gonna puke. Oh well, I wore my new jacket to class, walked immediately after the purchase toward eurocentres and slowly the pain of losing $100 went away.

We had grammar class... boring... but it was our only class of the day and I actually learned a lot of Italian, so after as a group we went to find the famous Antico Noe and Oil Shoppe that the previous year's class recommended. We were a little off course but eventually found it and I seriously had the best sandwich I have ever eaten for 4.50 euro. Vitello L'arrosto, Brie e Carciofi. Molto delicioso! After we walked around the city searching for cheap wine with the boys until around 5:00 then we returned alla casa to "study" and have dinner.

Claudia made us delicious ravioli con burro, insalata mista e le verdure di firenze. Tutto era molto buono. She is so nice our host mom, Sam and I did really well speaking only italian at dinner. That is where we learn the most Italian, it is perfect and we love it. And now as I write this we are full from Claudia's food, having a glass of wine and preparing to meet Anna and Sarah and then the rest of the crew out somewhere and have us some fun!!!

A dopo!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Finally settled in Firenze

Sorry that I haven't been posting regularly, it is a lot harder to keep up with than I had imagined. Today in Florence was our second day of classes. Yesterday we had our first orientation at Eurocentres, Sam and I had an interesting time trying to figure out whether to take bus 6A or 6B to get to Piazza Santo Spirito, and arrived 10 minutes late our first day. We met our professor, then prepared to take an Italian language placement test and interview. The test and interview were not very difficult and they soon told us what classes we were placed into, and whether we had to purchase Espresso I or Espresso II. After we learned a little bit about our program we had 30 minutes to go find lunch and plug converters. I being the cheapskate that I am, and aware that the best pizza is from the Forno showed the group a whole in the wall pizza place where I paid 2.40 euro for a generous portion of Potate Pizza. And boy was it DELICIOUS. I took it in hand and found Alex H to go searching for the store where we could buy converters... my computer and cameras needed to be charged BADLY. We wandered aimlessly then noticed a shop with a lot of light bulbs and entered to find it had lots of light bulbs and lots of converters...

Which converter to purchase?

We found a few different ones that appeared as though 2 prong american cords could fit into, but could not figure out which one was the right one to purchase. I asked the shop keeper and he explained the differences. Apparently there are two different sized plugs, whether it is 3 pronged or 2 pronged doesn't make a difference, because the middle prong is just a ground, and what matters is whether you know you have an outlet for smaller or bigger prongs... so they were only 2.20 euro so I bought one of each and prayed that I would be able to charge all of my electronics that night. Lucky for me we have BOTH of the outlets in our room so they both worked :)

After lunchtime we went back for Professor Benjamin's digital photography class. He gave us a course overview and then as a class we went off to purchase cell phones at Wind and then to the bus station to purchase monthly bus passes. Talk about stressful... 20 americans trying to figure out if the phone plan is actually legit and what everything actually means... I couldn't help but wish that it was only Vishnu, Anna, Sam and I roaming Rome all by ourselves. Smaller groups = WAY MORE FUNCTIONAL. But somehow mostly everyone managed to get a phone, and half of us managed to get bus passes, after some were told they could not get a discount because Union College and Eurocentres did not exist on the list of students. FIGURES. We then went to purchase Espresso II at the fentrinelli book store. After that was complete we were free to do whatever we wanted until class the next morning. Sam and I took off to find chapstick and return to eurocentres to use the internet and charge our things for a little, just in case for some strange reason our new converters didn't work.

When we returned home we went online for a while and then sat down to dinner with our new family. Mamma Claudia e nostro fratello Gabbriele. They were more than nice, and more than just good at cooking and filling our tummies. We ate more than we wanted, and had delightful conversation! Kinda... minus the whole Italian-English problemo. But everything went smoothly, we ate dinner ( a pasta with creamy tomato sauce that Gabbriele made), Lui fa il sugo! A potato quiche, fagioli and an easter cake for dessert (La Colomba). Tutto e molto buono.

After dinner Sam and I got ready to go out, we left the house to meet Anna, Sarah, Phil and Vish at Santa Maria Novella train station, and then we all headed off into the night to find a bar and potentially meet up with the rest of the crew who was at "the lions fountain". We felt like we were walking forever so we decided to stop in this chic back alley bar for a drink. Inside drinks were cheap and all of the music was american... boy do they LOVE gaga. After a drink, we set out again to find the Lions Fountain, which was literally 200 yards in front of where we had stopped. I took one look at the lions fountain and was immediately disgusted. This place was PACKED with americans, girls dressed ridiculously and a ridiculous frat like atmostphere, that I feel should not be allowed in Florence, and if that can't be helped, I should enver step foot in there again. It was seriously terrible. So we immediately left after we didn't see our friends who said they would be there and we walked back toward the bar we had our first drink at. We sat down again, I ordered a glass of presecco, YUM, and everyone had another drink, then we decided it was late and walking home would take at least 30 minutes and by then we would be dead, so we better hurry cause we had class. Walk home was easy and it was warm out, the difficult part was getting into our home quietly....


We felt so terrible, we tried turning the key every which way as quietly as we could, but we just couldn't make the door budge. Finally we heard Claudia get up and whisper through the door how to do it, as to not wake up Gabbriele. We felt horribly and apologized a million as we walked in the door. We did a quick facebook check, washed up and got into bed. Day 1 SUCESS.

Oggi e martedi. We woke up at 8:00, checked the facebook and email, washed up, heated up the coffee Claudia had left our for us (she had to leave for work early) and we sat down to eat a piece of bread for breakfast. We we're ready and out of the door by 8:45 to wait 15 minutes and get on the bus at 9ish. Rode the bust to S.M.N. then proceeded to walk to eurocentres to arrive at 10:00 for our first italian class. We arrived around 9:30 so we had a little time to kill and perused through the streets until it was time for class. Class went well, we spoke only italian, and I think I learned quite a bit for class number one.

At lunch break Anna and I got Paninis at GustaPanino, a place just to the side of eurocentres. I had one with mushroom spread, ham, and swiss cheese on wheat, it was delicious and only 3 euro. We then walked to find the famous Gusto Pizza that we had heard so much about from last years trip, and decided we were eating there for lunch tomorrow. We then walked across the river toward the duomo, we looked at all the high end clothing stores wishing we could afford even an arm of a shirt or a leg of a pair of pants, and continued toward the Ponte Vecchio. I stopped in a TIM store to update my phones plan... QUITE A DIFFICULT LANGUAGE BARRIER THERE, but it all worked out nicely. Texting 12 cents, calling 16 cents. Then we walked past an amazing case of gelato, Anna spent about 8 minutes deciding if and what she wanted, and ended up getting a cone with Melon and Blackberry gelato... we went to the register and were SHOCKED when told the price was 6.80 euros... cool she paid $10 for an ice cream cone. No regrets though, she enjoyed it, just reminded herself not to get ice cream so close to the duomo again!

We walked back over the pontevecchio toward eurocentres in time for our Archittetura class with eurocentres professor Mauro Mussellini. We had class, sam and I walked back to S.M.N. stopping to buy some notebooks, returned to our house to meet the Nonna of Gabbriele, who is apparently hosting Alex and Avery. We chatted for a while and then went to hide in our room and recuperate. And here I am now.. I think you're all updated of my florence experience thusfar, so I'll try and write again soon!

Oh and I just want to say Thank you to Union College for making us pay more money than we probably should, we hope that you pay for us to enter any museum that we so wish to.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Siamo Arrivate a FIRENZE!!

I wish I could elaborate more, but I have limited time before my battery is dead. I just wanted to let everyone know that I am alive and having a GREAT time here in italy. We just had our first dinner with our host sister and her boyfriend. We learned BADABELLO! FUNNY!!! We learned so much already in just one sitting at dinner, it was crazy. Haven't seen the mom for very long, she had to go to work, and Gabbriele is with his father, but we will see them tomorrow. Class at 9:00, we have to figure out how to get to Santo Spirito, but we are good navigators and should be able to find it no problemo!

We finally asked for the internet code here at our home, but unfortunately, we both blew out our adapters (we think) and so we can't charge our computers, so I have to leave you here so I can let Sam use the internet with only 21% of my battery remaining!

We hope to get the charging problem fixed ASAP and we hope to have full power and internet by tomorrow night!

Ciao a tutti! BACI!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010




... and now we know why my ticket was so cheap!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Waiting in Anticipation

I keep thinking I have people to visit (which I do) and things to buy... ALL BEFORE I LEAVE IN ONE WEEK! But the reality is, I shouldn't be driving to Framingham everyday to rummage through DSW and TJMaxx looking for the right pair of boots so that I can roam the cobblestone streets of Firenze and Roma comfortably. I should be saving those dollars, preparing to convert them to euros, hoping the European economy continues to do worse than ours, so that the $$ is worth more, and so I can ultimately buy better looking, real Italian leather boots and handbags right from the sweaty Italian store keepers, instead of rummaging through the half damaged goods of TJMaxx. Thinking about this stresses me out. I only have one week until I have to leave my life of sweatpants and comfort behind me. This is why I keep going to Framingham, buying things, coming home, then going back to return them... because I plan to arrive in Italy stylish. But now I realize, that I want Italy to style me, so I have to have patience and wait a week until I can stick my tiny feet and large calves into fresh Italian leather... even if I have to pay the premium. Which leads me to another point of anxiety. I can no longer focus on being the money saver while I am abroad. I am going to have to spend the extra dollars to get the hand made Italian products, and the better glass of Chianti, it may be painful to come back with a bank account holding less than $1,000, but it's a sacrifice I am willing to make. I am only going to be spending a term abroad in Tuscany once (although I wish I could do more). My plan is to leave my structured and prompt life behind me for ten weeks, and embrace the experience like a true paisano.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Anxious to Leave

I've finished my finals, and all I can do is think about departing for Italy. That's why I created this blog...11 Days until I take off from Logan Airport and fly across the Atlantic to the rolling hills loaded with vineyards and sunflowers. I know Tuscany isn't going to look the same, as I have never been in March before, but perhaps tourists not shoved in every corner of every city will be a refreshing start to a new life the Italian way. I'm nervous about the slow stature of Italian culture. I'm used to getting things done when I want them done, and I am always on time, but I already know that is one adjustment I am going to have to make. My goal by the end of this blog is to have informed everyone of my travels, and let my family know I'm having a great time and actually learning Italian, so I can speak with them upon my return home. I hope that by the end these blog posts will be written in complete Italian, and without much help from my online translator :) I'm off to my brother's diving competition in NJ now, so maybe the next time I write you will be hearing about my battle with a suitcase and fitting 10 weeks of clothing and school supplies all in it! Fino al prossimo tempo! Ciao!