Monday, April 26, 2010

Siena e Chianti

Venerdi noi siamo svegliate e pioveva. Friday we woke up and it was raining. A rather large bummer because we were headed to Siena with our class for the day to learn about the architectural structures in the beautiful city. Mauro came with us, and immediately escorted us to a cafe called A. Nannini to get cappuccinos, pastries and to use the bathroom before we started our long day ahead. I don't want to admit it, but I got a small creme filled donut, and it was probably one of the better pastries I've ever tasted here, so 5 stars for A. Nannini, especially since they didn't force you to buy something if you needed to use the bathroom!

After our coffee break and refueling station we headed off to Piazza Del Duomo. There we go to go into the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, the crypt, the baptistry and the cathedral. Inside the Museo, Mauro talked with us about Duccio's very famous panels that used to be inside the Cathedral. They were gorgeous, and so detailed. Here we learned about Siena as a city, and we also learned about the differences between Florentine and Sienese art, which we were able to see clearly after entering the Cathedral and comparing its interior to the Cathedral of Florence. Florence's Santa Maria del Fiore is BARE on the inside, with a a few monumental frescoes, where as Siena's Cathedral has not one bare wall, and is so intricate with every detail.

We also got to climb a section of a wall that was built to be an additional church in the Piazza, but they never actually completed it. Looking at the section of the wall which we were able to climb you could see the outline of a second church appearing. The central nave and two side aisle. What was finished was done in such detail, that there was not enough time for the completion of such a large project.

After we explored the Piazza del Duomo we had free time until we were to meet Maura at Piazza del Campo at 3:30. It was 2:00, so a few of us went to go find a cheap Pizza a Taglio place to eat. We found one that was sufficient after walking for 10-15 minutes. There I got a piece of Margherita for 1.40euro and a piece of pizza, that had two sides so it was closed, containing zucchini, mozzarella and prosciutto for 1.50. I had brought a water, so my lunch was only 2.90 euro to be VERY PIENO! After lunch we went back to A. Nannini to get a pick me up before Mauro's next lecture. I had a frothy delicious Cappuccino, and relaxed for a little bit until Acca wanted to fill his Gelato need. We walked around for a little, Acca and others got Gelato then we headed toward Piazza del Campo to meet Mauro and go into the Political Center.

We learned a lot inside the Political Center, it was very beautiful obviously. And we were free to return to Florence after he was done lecturing. I wish it hadn't been raining because I could have walked that city up and down multiple times because its just so beautiful. I had also wanted to go into the Church of San Domenico to see the relics of St. Catherine, but no one wanted to so we just went to the bus stop and headed back to florence!

While it took us an hour to get to Siena, it took us 2 hours to return to florence because of the traffic. By the time Sam and I got home we were so sick of sitting around in traffic, and we were hungry. Thank goodness Claudia was getting dinner ready for us, and the smell was keeping us alive! She made us a delicious soup that was perfect for the wet, cold day. And for dessert she made these little whole grain biscotti, using the ghiridelli chocolate chips I had brought for her. THEY WERE SOOO GOOD. And I got to eat as many as I wanted because they were "healthy!" No butter used at all, and whole wheat flour and grains! After dinner I was beat, so I watched New Moon in bed then fell fast asleep, preparing to wake up at 6:00am, to get to SMN by 7:30 to meet up with Tall Luca our Florence For Fun tour guide, who would be taking us to Chianti!

6:00am we woke up, got ready, ate breakfast and then went out to the bus stop nice and early because we had been having very bad luck with the number 4 bus arriving on time. It made us late ALL week! Well almost late, but gave me a LOT of anxiety, and I don't need anymore of that.

So the bus arrived on time... Figures. So we got to SMN 23 minutes early and just sat there waiting to see this "Tall Luca" who would be our tour guide. Around 7:30 we found him and the rest of our group who we thought would be students, but was actually a variety of different ages, which I was kinda happy about because older people are very entertaining (Zizi Linda).

We got on a bus as a group and headed to the small town of Greve in Chianti. There we stopped for coffee, pastries and the bathroom then we commenced on a steep hike up to the top of the small hill town. My legs were BURNING, but it was well worth the vista and the tiny little town atop the hill. We spent some time discussing grapes and wine, and the culture and work in Chianti then we headed back down to the base town where they took us to a very large and famous wine shop.

Inside there were so many different wines you could taste and it was set up so modernly. They had some sort of tap for each bottle of wine, which were placed 15 or 20 at a circular table, which there were about 6 or 7 of, then you could swipe a card that had money on it and it would pour you a glass of wine. Very cool! We had free time in the town for a little while, then we met back at the bus stop to take the bus up to Panzano where the real wine tasting at the Villa would occur.

We went to the Sassolini Family Villa, right in the center of the historic Panzano. Because of the wet ground our wine tasting and lunch was inside the villa at a large dining room table that looked out two large doors onto the front yard of the Villa. We obviously needed to use the bathroom right as we arrived, so Tall Luca pointed us in the right direction. Waiting outside the bathroom door the hallway was filled with old trinkets. There were two very large cabinets with probably 12 shelves each, shoved with perfectly aligned little toy soldiers. There must have been thousands of them in the cabinets. There were also bones of animals, and animal heads, and a suit of armor. So waiting in line for ten minutes for the bathroom wasn't a problem even though I had to go really bad, because the hall way was just so fascinating.

After the bathroom we got ourselves situated at the long table that fit the entire tour group, and we prepared our stomachs and our taste buds for the incoming wine and food. First served were crostini with olive oil that were simply delicious. They served us the first wine and then brought out bread and two platters of prosciutto and salami. The cold cuts were fantastic, I downed a few pieces and laid off the bread. They then served the next wine, and a vat of pasta al pesto. We all took as much as we could because we thought that was it for the lunch, and boy it was good. Thankfully, as they served the third wine they brought out another vat of pasta. The Villa owner and wine maker tried to describe the sauce and said it was made with Noce, good thing Sam and I had just had a lesson on kinds of nuts at the dinner table the night before, so we knew right away that it was a WALNUT SAUCE! This pasta was my favorite I had had all term. It was perfectly al dente, the walnut sauce was amazing, and the third wine complemented it very nicely.

We were a little tipsy and full after the third, in fear of the fourth wine to come we headed out to the garden to explore the front of the Villa and soak up a little bit of the sun. There was a green house stuffed with lemon and orange trees that Luca made me walk in to smell the intense aroma. It was the perfect relaxing afternoon with the right complement of food and wine.

I went back into the Villa and found all the older people of the group and started chatting with some of them. One of the men was a professor from George Mason here with 15 students and his wife and 10 month old baby girl Estella. She was so precious. It was rather entertaining because his wife was pretty drunk and was attempting to say whatever she could in Italian and was being very into it with her accent and hand motions, so it was quite entertaining as she imitated how she thought Tall Luca presented each of the bottles of wine and explained it.

While most people were still outside, the group inside inquired about the 4th wine, so he gave us all a try of that one. Which happened to be my favorite. Luca went out to find the others, slowly they all began to trickle back inside, and the wine producer took out the Vin Santo and Biscotti, not giving the 4th wine to the rest who were outside (I was lucky!). So naturally the Vin Santo was pretty bad, but the Biscotti was so good so I was fine just eating those. Then the Grappa came out. I took one whif and almost threw up so I found it wise to not try it. I let it touch the side of the shot glass and I licked that, and it was just awful. I can't imagine people actually drinking that daily after their dinner. YUCK!

After all of that we had the opportunity to buy his wine. I got a bottle of the 4th one because it was only 6 euro and was my favorite... I plan to bring it to Via Muto for all to try come June (if it fits in my luggage). Then we had free time for an hour to roam the town of Panzano.

Anna and I set off up the hill toward the church. We went past the famous butchery and went inside briefly, but we didn't see the famous butcher himself. We climbed toward the church, went inside then walked around the outskirts of the town, noticing that they were setting up for some kind of festa. I was a little jealous cause I have been missing the constant festas of the summer, but was reminded La Notte Bianca is friday so that will be a great festa and a little taste of the summer and whats to come!

Around 5 we headed back on the bus to Florence. Got home around 6:20 relaxed our legs and got excited for dinner. We had raw vegetables to dip in our oil and vinegar mixtures, fish and salad. And for dessert Claudia let us try some of her candied orange rinds that she had been putting tedious effort into the past two days. That woman is crazyyyyy, and a crazy good chef too!

Sam and I had originally wanted to go out, but no one else was so we decided against it and got a good nights sleep.

Sunday I woke up and walked to the Horticultural Garden where there was a flower market for the week. It was funny walking there and seeing all different kinds of people walking around with different large flower bushes through the city. I stayed there for a little while watching all the hustle and bustle then ran into Acca, and we both set off toward Palazzo Pitti.

We cut the huge long line at the Palazzo Pitti by going in the back entrance of the Boboli Gardens, thank god it was the last day of Free museum week. We walked throughout the palace, me looking for Caravaggio's Amore Dormiente. When I finally found it, I found myself staring at a gorgeously intricate frame labelled Amore Dormiente, with nothing inside. FIGURES!

After walking throughout the entire palace our stomachs were rumbling, so we crossed our fingers and walked toward Gustapanino, hoping that they had reopened. WE WE'RE IN LUCK! Gustapanino was open, remodeled and still selling the same good quality and good priced paninos. It made our day. As we sat eating our paninos on the steps of Santo Spirito we saw a group of people sprinting toward the doors of Gustapanino clearly ecstatic that it was open and we realized it was Jackie, Anna, Sam, Cristi and Avery. They ate their paninos and then we all headed to the boboli gardens to relax for the afternoon. It was a great day, beautiful and relaxing. We headed home around 5, relaxed in the coolness of the house for a little, showered, did a little work and then got excited for dinner.

Dinner was a delicious eggplant parmesan that was kinda soupy, but the best I have ever had. I ate A LOT of it and skipped out on the chocolate and candied orange rinds for dessert and the gelato. After dinner I ended up going downtown and meeting Anna outside SMN. We walked to Piazza della Republica where we stopped to listen to a very talented opera singer. We then went to find gelato. We went to the place Benjamin took us for Cassie's birthday which was a great bang for your buck. I got stratciatella and cafe, SO GOOD. And Anna made the award winning combo of Mango and Yogurt. So now I have to return there and get that at some point because it was just TOO good.

I caught the bus back home, content to go to bed and have a good start to the new week!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Penso che io parlo italiano meglio, ma non parlo correntement ancora! QUASI!!

I couldn't come up with a good title, so there is a little bit of the Italian I can "quasi" speak :o)

So Wednesday: Day of TWO museums

That's more than I have been to during my entire 4 weeks here all in one day! Crazy!

So I woke up early enough to eat and bus it on over to SMN then walk to the Bargello by 8:30 to meet everyone else whom I made a reservation for (Leader of the pack). Reservation was UNNECESSARY there were literally 3 people in line, aka there was no line, so we just waltzed on in, no ticket, no money necessary, I LOVE FREE MUSEUM WEEK, and saw the many many statues and sculptures that were housed in the Bargello. The Bargello was originally built as a house for the highest member of the city council, but then was turned into a prison, and now remains a museum containing many famous artworks by Donatello, Michelangelo, Giambologna and Della Robbia families. It was an amazing collection of works, but unfortunately one of the floors was closed (I think I started to figure out why museum week was this week).

After the Bargello we had a decent amount of time before class, so we went to see if the Florence For Fun office was open because we wanted to buy tickets for the Saturday trip to Chianti, so we went in search for the office. Took us way too long to find it and when we found it at 10, we realized it did not open until 12. Woops! So we just started our trek back to Santo Spirito to head to class! Class was class, and after class I rushed home REALLY quick to put all my heavy books away because I knew we would be going to the Uffizi later. So I made it home to Via Giovanni Fabbroni and back to Santo Spirito for a picnic that was being provided for us by Eurocentres on the deck, all within an hour. Eurocentres had bought sandwiches, so we got free paninis for lunch, and they also offered us wine and aranciata. I strayed away from the wine because I was so tired from waking up early to go to the Bargello, and I knew that if I had even a sip I would drift off soon after.

Since we got shut down from FFF that morning, after the picnic at Eurocentres, Jackie, Sam, Anna and I headed back to Via Della Pergola to purchase our Chianti trip before heading to the Uffizi. We were successful this time, and I only had a little but if agita from spending 40 euro on a day trip. I think my buyers remorse may becoming a little bit resolved... not really though, because we almost got convinced into signing up for the 200 euro Munich trip. It sounded so fun, Sam and Jackie were sold immediately, but of course me and my brain couldn't stop thinking about the decision on whether to go or not for the entire day. It was giving me hard core anxiety, and I didn't want to spend my Uffizi visit worrying about Springfest, Munich and 200 euro (shoot that does sound fun, I clearly still have internal conflict over the decision at hand).

So leaving that issue behind (not really) we went to the Uffizi to meet our party that held the reservation with us, we got our tickets very easily, didn't have to wait in line to get in, and only had to pay 4 euro for the reservation fee which Benjamin should be reimbursing us for, and we commenced our long journey up 4 flights of stairs and down two long hallways, 50 some-odd rooms and a bajillion paintings and sculptures. I gotta say it was pretty fantastic and I did appreciate it much more than when I was in the Uffizi 6 years ago, but I still think I prefer small galleries, with little amounts of artwork, so that it is easier for me to comprehend and become interested in. Regardless, I was glad I went, disappointed there were only 2 or 3 Caravaggio's...

OH THAT'S RIGHT! The second floor which was supposed to have artwork was completely bare because they were preparing a new Caravaggio exhibit... hint 2 of why they chose this week to be free museum week. You can't actually see ALL of any museum... they got us good those tricky Italians! So although we paid 4 euro total to see the Bargello and Uffizi, we were denied two WHOLE floors of artwork, and that is why they probably couldn't charge people to see half museums, but it was definitely worth the museum experience :o)

Let's see, we returned home, for dinner wednesday night I believe Claudia had a prior engagement and left us with delicious fettuccine covered in roasted garlic and oil (I left half on my plate ma!). Then she made a HUGE Caprese salad (ATE ALL THAT, DAD!! nom nom nom), and had a little bit of lettuce with salt and oil. Overall delicious dinner as usual.

Acca came over to do grammar homework with me, then we made our usual trip to Gelateria Medici. I had Pompelmo Rosso e Limone. It was so good, and we realized walking back that after you eat gelato you NEVER feel disgusting the way you do after you eat half a pint of Ben & Jerry's. It's glorious!

Slept like a rock!

Thursday, Giovedi, Jeudi.

Italian from 11-12 and 2-3. Solo grammar. I meant to wake up early and meet Jackie and Cristi at the Palazzo Pitti at 9. When I looked at my phone I had though it was ten of 8, so I had PLENTY of time to make it there, but then I realized it was really ten of 9, woops. So I had an awkward time between ten of 9 and class at 11, so I decided to go on a short 20 minute jog, which I had to do carrying the house keys, kinda annoying, but glad I did it. Then I got washed up and went to class.

After our first class we went to the Oil Shoppe, because we had two hours and it's kinda far, oh and Gusta Panino was closed under construction all week, SUCH a bummer! So we Oil Shopped it up. I had the most DELICIOUS sandwich EVAAAA. You can either order "healthy", "medium hungry", or "hungry", I chose the "healthy", a wheat focaccia. Inside it I got frittata, provolone, rucola, funghi, carciofi and a walnut sauce. It was beyond amazing, egg and cheese melted to perfection with the perfect vegetable complement of funghi, carciofi e rucola. Next time I go, no doubt, I will have to get the same sandwich, maybe add salami to it, we'll have to see.

After the Oil Shoppe we went back to our second class, learned a little, then went with a few people to see the Boboli gardens because that was also free! Gardens were gorgeous, especially when you don't have to pay 10 euro to enter them. We walked around for a while and found a grassy area with a view of the Duomo and we all just relaxed for a while, some reading and some listening to their Ipods, just having a nice and relaxing afternoon. I left the gardens around 5, walked around the Palazzo Pitti area, went into a shoe store where the salesclerk started asking me about photography because he saw my camera, and wouldn't leave me alone and made me NOT want to buy anything in the store because he was so darn persistent about me taking a picture of us together with all the shoes. It was a little creepy so I left quickly, questioning whether he actually was the salesclerk. It was bizarre.

For dinner Thursday we only had soup. But holy cow the soup was amazing, Claudia explained all the vegetables and grains she put inside, it was beyond good. She always explains how she makes everything, and she uses nothing that is bad for you, all whole grains, no butter, she is wonderful, so that must be the secret to her skinny little body, or that she works so hard every day, long hours then comes home and makes and amazing meal, hmph, she is too nice and she needs a vacation... woaaa sidetracked... anyways after the soup I was strangely really full and seemed to have a food baby growing inside me which was weird because literally all we had for dinner was the soup and then she served a piece of her home made grainy bread, corn and finnochio. Wasn't a huge dinner but felt huge in my stomach!

Regardless, Sam and I were craving chocolate so we walked on down to Medici. Always hopping with the local neighborhood Italians, and me in my sweet purple florence sweatshirt and black stretchy pants... let's just say I definitely impress the neighborhood crowd! not. I had 1.50 euro cone con Yogurt Ciocolato and Ciocolato. Yogurt has become my new favorite, it actually tastes like yogurt and isn't so sweet, and makes me feel like I am being quasi healthy so I don't have to feel bad about my gelato splurges!

So yea we didn't go out again Thursday, haven't been out since saturday we are just soooo pooped for some reason we just can't bring ourselves to go downtown, but thats okay. We went to bed early in preparation for our Friday's venture to Siena with the man Maura Mussollini!

Siena and Chianti soon to come! Baci!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Sorry it has been almost a week since I've last written, but no worries, when there aren't frequent posts it means I'm having a great time away from being stuck inside at a computer, so that's good news in my mind!

Anyways, I think I left off with last Wednesday which was a casual day much alike my Thursday. Because we were going to Venice on Friday with class, Benjamin cancelled our photography class because we would be having class in Venice and photo opportunities, so once again we only had our 2 hour class of Italian from 10-12 and then we had a day of freedom! It's sad that I can't exactly remember what I did that day, but I think we probably walked around town until 4 then returned home, napped, did some homework, and ate a delicious dinner made by Claudia per usual. I do know that after dinner we went out with Jordan, we met her at Piazza della Republicca, and ventured around to a few different bars and finally settled on trying a Kebab. Kebab stores are literally on every block in Florence, sometimes more than one on each block, and I had yet to try one, so Jordan and I decided to give it a shot. 4 euros for a wrap with a few french fries, some kind of thinly sliced meet, a few vegetables and a sauce, I gotta say it was pretty delicious, but no comparison to a GustaPanino!

Friday morning we had to wake up early to be at the train station by 9. Obviously I'm an anxious psycho and I woke up way to early and even though Sam wasn't ready and we had plenty of time to spare I HAD to leave for the train station because anxiety was just building within me. So I got to SMN at 8:35, ran into Liang, we went and got brioches, I had a chocolate one which was the first good chocolate croissant I've had (i've only had 3 mom). Most of them here have a chocolate pudding type thing inside rather than actual hard chocolate which is what I prefer and that is what the train station had! YUM!

Boarded the train at 9:25, I was definitely there WAY too early, but no worries I made the train! And we were off to VENEZIA!

When we arrived we all walked together to Aloggi Sofia which was kind of near the Rialto bridge. It was entertaining to see some people navigate the streets and the bridges with their unnecessarily large suitcases. But we all made it into the hotel safely and into our own rooms (which were pretty decent). We settled in and soon after embarked on our journey throughout Venezia. We we're hungry and Professor had suggested a place to eat so we went in search of that... Found it but everyone in the group followed us so it was crowded and I don't like traveling with a group of 20 cause its just too difficult so Anna, Alex, Sam, Liang, Sarah and I broke off. We wandered toward the Rialto and ended up grabbing a panino/rolatini thing to go from Bar Aperol! Then we were headed off toward San Marco. Acca and I couldn't handle stop and go motion toward there from the rest stopping into the glass shops and looking to buy trinkets, so we walked briskly to the piazza where we sat by the water and just hung out taking photos waiting for the others to appear from within the crowd.

Acca and I decided we wanted to take the vaporetto to the Island across the way with the church of San Giorgio (by recommendation of the mother). We left the others on the mainland (their loss), encountered a NASTY woman selling the tickets for the boats.

We started to ask her in italian... "Che baraca noi prendiamo per andare a S. Giorgio" ... she shouted back nastily " I SPEAK ENGLISH" She put me in a bad mood, mean lady. Anyways we bought tickets for the boat from the nasty mean lady who clearly did not want us learning her language because she knew ours and we were off to San Giorgio.

For some reason when we first arrived we didn't think to open the front door of the church. We walked around the entire thing, worrying that the church was closed and we had wasted money on the boat ride. Luckily we went back to the front and had the courage to open the door. Gorgeous church, what church isn't? We made our way to the back where the campanile entrance was, we bought our tickets that said elevator only, and we asked the vendor (in italian) if there were stairs we could take because we wanted to earn some gelato after the climb... but nope, no stairs, forced to take an elevator, which we rode up with french people, french people were everywhere in venice it was weird.

At the top we had gorgeous views of all the surrounding islands, and we had the pleasure of it turning 2:30 I think, and we were gifted with HUGE LOUD BELLS ringing right above our heads for at least 5 minutes. It was an experience but it left my head ringing a lot longer than the bells!

We returned to the mainland in search for Gelato before we had to go to our Professor's gallery opening in the Jewish Ghetto. We looked in numerous gelateria's none looked to our standards until we were closer to our hotel. We found a delicious place where Dan stumbled upon us while he was on his way back from trying to follow the W.C. signs to pay to use a bathroom. I got a cone for 1.50 euro with stratciatella and menta, my new favorite combo then we headed back to the hotel to change and go to the gallery. We then ran into the Benjamin's walking back to the hotel too, so we walked back with them and chatted for a little while and Professor Benjamin told us about a delicious meatball place we had to go to around the corner (we didn't end up having time).

We all met in the lobby at 5:30 to walk over to the opening in the Jewish Ghetto. We arrived a little before 6, and waited outside for it to open. In the Ikona Gallery Professor Benjamin's photos looked beautiful. I had never seen his work before so it was a really good experience for me, the photos were gorgeous, ranging from 1987-2005, black and whites from all over the world. It was a well put together gallery and you could tell how happy he was to finally have it completed!

After the Gallery and a little Prosecco, we all went to an osteria for Cristi's 21st birthday dinner. I had the menu turistco for 14 euro I got lasagne (nonna's is still the best), calamari, insalata mista and 1/4 litro di acqua! SCORE! It was a pretty decent meal, there was only one mishap. A fish was ordered and it came with bones, and someone was not thrilled with receiving a non boneless fish, so it was returned to the kitchen upon request, and a new pasta dish was requested because the osteria did not have any fish on the menu without bones. Went immediately home after dinner because we were waking up to take sunrise photos at the fish market.

Passed out immediately once my head hit the pillow.

Woke up to my awful piercing alarm at 5:45, immediately got out of bed, got dressed and washed up the went to the lobby to meet the 6am crew. We walked outside, walked past a surprisingly open bar with hot brioches, had to get one. Chocolate of course, maybe number 4? week 4, number 4, one a week, that's fair!

When we got to the market all the merchants were just in the beginning stages of setting up their stalls. All 15 of us who woke up swooped and surrounded the fish area with our cameras, snapping various shots of disgusting looking dead fish and alive crabs. Quite the entertainment. One of the stands had merchants who were really into entertaining us. This one man who seemed to run the show, Luca, kept cracking jokes at us, held his carving knives at me... others were throwing eels across the floor at our feet. They let us hold crabs and other fish, it was quite the entertainment and a great setting for shooting great pictures. Benjamin treated most of us to Cappuccinos at the bar on the corner of the market, delicious!

We were out taking photos from 6-8:30 trying to stay out of the workers ways. As the market began to get busy we were able to go to the breakfast that was included with our hotel and opened at 8:30. It was quite the good included breakfast, drinks of our choice, I had a hot chocolate and orange juice, then I had some yogurt, a brioche and lots of fruit. Oranges, bananas and kiwis! I now eat the entire Kiwi, Sam taught me... literally skin and all, taste SO good and more enjoyable, eat it like an apple, no work involved. She is a smart Kiwi eater that Sam!

After breakfast we returned to the hotel to check out. They let us leave our bags there while we explored the rest of Venice for the day. We took the boat to Murano where we hoped to see glass blowing. We wandered the island, looked at many glass necklaces and trinkets. Avery, Acca and I went into a glass art gallery. Gorgeous piece of glass, some looked like Picassos, there were also glass bamboo which were literally shivering in the wind. Made us all nervous so we left before we broke anything! Walked around the island in search for glass blowing. I guess all the factories and the museum are closed on Saturdays, but luckily on our way back to the boat we stumbled upon a man making little animals out of glass, so we saw him create a really cute elephant! Precious!

We got back to the Venice, I went to a photography gallery in the back corner of piazza san marco with Liang, Sarah and Acca, lot's of great photos inside, mostly black and whites. Some very very nice prints, I definitely enjoy looking at photography galleries over most others. After we headed back to the hotel to meet up with everyone, walk to the train station and head home. My legs were dead and I was beat so I was happy to sit on a train for two hours, and I was a little happy we didn't have to stay another day, because I would have been SO tired!

We arrived back in Florence. Claudia had left dinner out for us: fish, vegetables and some bread. Healthy dinner! Then we all went out, met Anna and people at SMN after a bus that we didn't think would come for a while stopped randomly for us at a place that wasn't even a bus stop and saved us from walking all the way in town. Strangely there was one other passenger on the bus and it happened to be Alexa, so together we all walked to a bar named Naima, got drinks there then continued on to finish the night at club TwentyOne. It was a fun night, we got our fill of dancing in and were back cozy in our beds by 2:00am ready to take advantage of the first day I have been able to sleep past 9! YAY!

Monday, Professor had us over to his apartment for a celebratory wine and cheese tasting for having completed our first photo project. Their apartment, a block up from Santa Croce, was huge and gorgeous. I wish i took pictures, hopefully he will invite us back so I can. We watched a slide show of all our photos, his wife Donna had prepared crostini, olives, and cheeses to compliment each of the wines. We tasted 2 Proseccos, a 3 euro and a 9 euro, a Chianti Classico DOC; Rosso di Montalcino [Renieri]; and Vin Santo (did not like that). And I ate the most delicious green olives I have ever eaten!

Today, Tuesday, we had Mauro. First I woke up early to check out the mercato in the cascine park with Anna, we walked through it having no purchases then walked back to school. I ate a Kiwi like an apple on the way back, we had class then breaked for lunch. We went to Nerbone again in the mercato centrale, got myself a porchetta sandwich, then left to find gelato with acca before our site visit at Santa Maria Novella. My favorite church in Florence so far, I may even like it better than the Vatican, but I haven't made that big decision final yet.

For dinner tonight Claudia used all the very ripe avocados, which have much greener outsides than the one's at home do, she made a delicious guacamole. Then we had a mix of cooked vegetables, peas, carrots, sprouts, a lettuce, and mushrooms, along side a 4 grain couscous. Delicious, and I am now in the process of passing out on my computer while writing this blog so I'm gonna say A DOPO!

Tomorrow I'm waking up at 7:10 to make it to the Bargello by 8:30 for our reservation. One italian class 11-12. Eurocentres is having a picnic for all its students at 1, then we have a reservation for the Uffizi at 2:30 then WHO KNOWS!!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sono Andata alla Partita di Calcio, Ale Viola!

Yesterday was an exciting day.

After 2 hours of Italian we went to Gusta Panino next to Eurocenter where we got Panini's to carry out so we could make it to Santa Croce in time for our architecture class. I got a 3 euro panino on a whole wheat foccacia with pesto, brie, prosciutto, pomodori, e rucola. It was quite good to say the least, and it was ONLY THREE EURO! Great deal!

On our way to Santa Croce we stumbled upon the Guide Book renowned Gelateria Vivoli. Since it was in all the books we decided we had to try it. We paid for our 2.50 euro (smallest size) gelati at the counter then went to choose our flavors. We were shocked to not have the option of getting a cone, and after being served our 2.50 euro gelato in a cup we were extremely disappointed by the very tiny portion and the gelato itself wasn't that great... never going back there again!

Our Santa Croce site visit with Mauro was actually very interesting. We learned a lot about the architecture of the different columns and different basic designs that were then licensed and changed progressively but all have the same basic foundation. We learned of the few vaulted ceilings/domes that have been named after Brunelleschi and his architectural revelations.

On our return home to the house Sam and I split up. I went with Alex H. to get him a ticket for the soccer game we would see that night. I waited in line for a little with him then went off to find a supermarket and walk back home. I found a Conad near SMN, and bought a 4 euro bottle of red that Sam and I would share.

At home Claudia asked us about dinner, then she ended up packing us a cute little panino picnic because she knew we were going to the soccer game and we would have to leave before Italian dinner time. We left the house around 5 of 7 and headed to meet everyone at Piazza Liberta. Sam and I were the second ones to arrive, but everyone began filling in. I mentioned if everyone had their tickets... good thing I did because Avery had forgotten his and had to run home quickly to get it. We all hung out in the piazza while waiting for Avery to return and the arrival of the others and once we were all there, we started our walking journey to the Stadio. It took around 30 minutes to walk there, and all of us were getting so excited to get there and watch the Inter vs. Fiorentina show down!

The streets outside the stadio were lined with porchetta trucks and shops selling Fiorentina purple knickknacks, shirts and souvenirs. We tried to get into the stadium as fast as we could, and we assumed our seats among all of the fans who had bought the cheap 8 euro free for all seating. All the Fiorentina fans began singing songs and cheering and I tried SO hard to understand what they were saying but couldn't for the life of me figure it out. I attempted to ask a neighboring Italian what they were saying, but he seemed to interested in the game and didn't really wanna figure out what I was asking him. None the less the experience was fantastic. We got to see a well played game of soccer and experience the culture of the stadium and tha crazy Italian soccer fans. Luckily we were not stuck in any riots, and I felt safe at all times (that's for you ma).

At the end of the game we were all a little disappointed Fiorentina had lost, but it was okay. We headed out of the stadium, Avery and I craving salt as we past the porchetta trucks with lines up the house, I snuck and weaved through the line and got us two porchetta sandwiches relatively quickly. They weren't nearly as good and hot and fresh as from the panino truck in Sora, but they were just the perfect end to a really fun day.

Munching on our sandwiches we walked back home toward the outskirts of town, and arrived back home before 12. Pooped from a long eventful day, I feel asleep immediately after my head hit the pillow and slept soundly until my alarm went off this morning.

Had a make up italian class today, so we had 2 hours as opposed to our usual 1 hour class on wednesdays. We got Gusta Panino for lunch again, this time I got Prosciuto, funghi spread, carciofi spread, provolone, melanzane, zucche and rucola... FOR THREE EURO... still blows my mind, and has yet to disappoint. Anna, Sam and I walked to the bridge to find sun and enjoy our sandwiches then we decided we wanted to do a little shopping so we walked toward San Lorenzo and the Mercato Centrale. I bought a real leather cross body bag for 15 and then we went inside the food market where we stood in awe at all the great italian creations. Such a beautiful place, who knew how aesthetically pleasing looking at hanging prosciuttos and balls of cheese could be to me. I loved every second of it and Anna and I planned to eat there for lunch tomorrow.

We returned home, I went on a run, showered, did a little homework and took a nap before dinner. The knock on our door for dinner to be ready brought us with a delicious Pasta Carbonara and some vegetables. Not an 8 course meal, I was thrilled. After dinner Sam went to go do her laundry, I did my homework and Alex H came over so we could write our italian retelling of the 3 little pigs together. We debated on going out, but then decided we would just go out for gelato at Gelateria de Medici and then go to sleep early so we could wake up to photograph sunrise :o) So gotta go to bed so I won't be dead tomorrow!

I'll update on sunday, Friday morning we leave for Venezia, to explore and to attend our professor's gallery opening, so should be a fun filled weekend! A domenica!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Photoless Day...

Yesterday was the first day of my term abroad where I did not even take one picture... It scares me that not one photo worthy thing caught my eye as I walked through the city yesterday. It also might have been because we were in class from 10-4 and then I went right back home. I also brought the Canon Power Shot out because I didn't feel like carrying the larger Nikon out, so maybe I felt like the Canon Power Shot wasn't worthy of photographing the scenes I saw... Who knows!

For dinner last night, Simone the veterinarian returned to join us, bringing another bottle of wine. I guess we only drink wine at dinner when he brings it! He also brought along his precious daughter Giulia, who is 8 years old. For dinner we started off with a huge bowl of raw vegetables in the center of the table. Gabbriele showed us how to make a sauce that each of us made on our own in our own little bowls. We put salt, olive oil and aceta di mela (apple vinegar)... then all of our hands dove in towards the center of the table where the veggies were and we dipped them in our sauces until all the veggies were gone! Then we had a risotto with peas and squid, and a fish dish for the secondi. Healthiest and smallest proportion dinner I've had yet this term, SCORE!!

Anyways, today I was up early and ready too early for class. There is a mercato on Tuesdays in Caschine park which I was going to wake up very early to make it to before class, but the forecast said rain so I was discouraged. Now I'm just waiting for the bus and am getting excited because we are going to see a Calcio game tonight!

Off to Italian 10-12, then site visit at Santa Croce with Mauro! A Dopo!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Just finished eating dinner. Something like a cordon blue patty thing, corn, artichokes and cheesecake made from ricotta. Not bad!

I had a relatively exciting past few days. Thursday noi abbiamo fatto gli gnocchi con Gabbriele e Claudia, e dopo noi abbiamo mangiato quasi tutto. We all got to shove our hands into the pile of smushy potatoes and flour concoction and we kneeded and rolled until Claudia gave us the okay. She put a few kneeds in making the dough look pretty then showed us how to cut it, roll it and cut it into the gnocchi. I tried to explain how my Nonna rolls each individual piece with her fingers afterwards and she said that it was too time consuming and not necessary... they taste the same with or without the fancy design!

So, we finally go to sit down to dinner and eat our own homemade gnocchi. YUM! You could tell which ones Sam had made because they were twice as big as the rest, and I actually liked the bigger ones better because they had a denser center! Claudia had made a light red sauce with marscapone for the Gnocchi and boy were they good and filling!

Dinner was wonderful because we had a dinner guest, Simone, who was the turtle's veterinarian. Poor Gabbriele's turtle was injured and he was pretty upset about it but happy that Simone was helping them out! We had chocolate easter egg for dessert and then excused ourselves from the table because we wanted to get ready to go out. We met up with the crew at SMN then headed off to Via Faenza to find a trattoria to sit and share a few liters of the vino della casa. Nice and relaxing evening, that ended up in "Florence Pub" where we stumbled upon Sam's friend Greg from WHS. Small city Florence is!

One class on Friday, then roaming the streets all day long trying not to return to my home stay. We walked to SMN to purchase our train tickets for our next days trip to Pisa. Successful! Even on a hungry stomach! We then headed to our favorite Panini place for lunch where I got a sandwich with Salami, Rucola, Carciofi, Funghi, Melanzana alla griglia, provolone and a funghi sauce. Soooooo GOOD!

After lunch we went to check out a gallery require for class in Palazzo Strozzi, then we went to buy tickets for a soccer game on tuesday. It was a very long process, we were probably 5th in line and it took 20 minutes to get through 5 people, because documenti must be shown for each ticket purchased so that they can fill out your information directly onto the ticket to prevent fraud I guess. So that was a fun/slow start to the weekend!

When we returned home, we napped and then ate dinner. For dinner we had a little left over gnocchi from the night before, and by a little I mean we finally got a not oversized portion for the Primi. And for the Secondi we had chicken which seemed to be cooked in flour and cooked pumpkin? and peas! First meal I have eaten that I felt was of good portions, I was quite excited!

Friday night we wanted to go out, but no one else really wanted to go out for some reason, but to our surprise Alex wanted to find a Karaoke bar and sing, so of course we had to go with him. We met him and Avery in Piazza del Liberta and headed in toward the Duomo. We had no luck finding Karaoke, cause our usual place was having a private party. But we ended up at a nice little bar called Naima where I had a glass of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, (2008 I think). A nice calm night for us, got back to SMN by 12:50 where we were able to catch the last bus home and were able to get to bed at a reasonable hour to be ready to catch the train at 9:57am the next day.

Stressed out already at 9:20 because our bus was not on time and did not come until 9:32 and I was freaking out we weren't going to make our train to Pisa. So many things giving me anxiety! ah! Luckily we made it, found Anna at our track who shuffled us to validate our tickets (thank god) and then quickly on to the train... thanks mama Anna :)

Safe and sound was the group on the way to Pisa... no validation problems, no wrong train, no wrong track. Everything went smoothly. We arrived in Pisa around 11:00 and found our way toward the center by 12:00 where we were entertained by watching everyone posing on the lawn trying to hold up the tower. So much more fun to see people leaning against nothing and trying and retrying to get their photos right. I sat their entertained by this, aware that in the next couple of hours I would be the one giving the entertainment as I tried to make the perfect pose for the perfect picture that never was able to actually capture... we ate lunch in Pisa, not even worth elaborating because we are positive the food came in packages, was microwaved and then put into a ceramic bowl. I had my first nastro azzuro of the trip though and it was nice and refreshing!

After we walked around Pisa until 3:00ish we decided Pisa was kind of lame and went to the train station to get tickets to go to Lucca. I was so excited to go see the little town of Lucca and wander its old streets! We arrived in Lucca's station around 3:45, went to the Informazione to get a map of the town and then we were off to find Alla Dolce Vita.

We struggled a little bit trying to figure out how to get inside the walls of Lucca, and once we made it inside we were all in awe of its beauty. We stopped to admire the walls, climbed up to see the view and continued on toward the hotel. We went past a cute pasticeria where the girls all bought little tiny fruit tarts, I resisted the temptation and we were back on our way. Right near our hotel we stopped at a cute little market where we bought two bottles of wine, a chunk of Italian Brie and a decent sized loaf of home baked fresh wheat bread to bring back to our hotel for Aperativo!

When we arrived at the hotel location.. which took a little figuring out, there was a note on the door that read: "dear guest, please call when you arrive and we can be there in 5 minutes, Fabio" We were a little sketched out about no concierge or anything, but after Fabio arrived promptly after my phone call and he showed us our room and our common kitchen we were happy to pay 15 euro each for the night. We unpacked our things, raided the kitchen for glasses, a bottle opener and knives, then we sat down to relax and make the plan for the night. The bread, cheese and wine were ALL delicious, and just right for holding us over till dinner.

We headed up to the walls of the city around 6:30 to watch the sunset. We watched all the bikers and joggers pass us by and we admired the beautiful scenery we were gifted with seeing. As the sun set our stomachs began to growl and we headed off the wall, into the heart of Lucca to find dinner. We stopped at numerous places, one including 'il leo' which had been in the NY times and was necessary to have a reservation in order to eat, so we continued on. We found a place similar to il leo, where we also got rejected and were told we needed a reservation. Disappointingly we walked away, but then we realized the tables outside were all empty for it was a little chilly that night, but we were hungry and the price and food selection were right so we asked for a table outside and we were able to sit down to a nice dinner. I had an insalata miste for a contorni, lots of bread and scaloppine marsala and some wine all for 19 euro. It was a splurge for me and totally worth it.

We all headed back to Alla Dolce Vita around 10:30, hoping the Yogurteria across the street would still be open. We were very disappointed when it wasn't and so we retreated to our beds. Early night for us but we didn't mind. I was surprised at the amount of people wandering through Lucca's streets, voices scattering, laughter cracking everywhere despite nothing being open. Tucked into our beds listening to the outside commotion (I think I woke up every hour and heard voice having fun constantly throughout the night, it was weird for such a small town) we all went to bed hoping for good weather on Sunday, but our hopes weren't good enough. We woke up to the boom of thunder, crack of lighting and pourring rain. It didn't seem as though it would clear so we put our dreams of biking the walls of Lucca away, decided we would come back again for a beautiful day trip and we headed out toward the Stazion. On the way we stopped at the same pasticeria, which was surprisingly the only thing opened in town and I had an apple filled brioche and cappuccino both for 1.90 euro. BARGAIN! We got back on the train and headed back to SMN, and told Lucca we would see him later!

Back at home, I stayed in most of the day skyping with mom and dad and a few others. I went on a brief walk up the hill to see the Duomo and all of central florence and then headed through the gardens trying to take decent photos for class. I retired back home, Claudia made us dinner around 8:15. A cordon blue type patty thing (not homemade I don't think), home prepared artichokes and corn. Delicious as usual, but not filled up to the brim with pasta as I write this blog post is quite the change.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hike Up To Piazzale Michelangelo and Some previous experiences

Italian 10:00-12:00
Architecture w/ Professore Mauro Mussolini 1:00-4:00

We arrived at class around 9:45 and walked up to class room "Roma". There we found a sign on the wall saying: "Union College, Francesca's Class is Cancelled Today" Yay! We didn't have conversation, but had to be back at 11:00 for our hour grammar lesson with Veronica. Most of our class stayed in the classroom and did their homework, but Anna and I left in search for a caffe with ciocolata calda. We walked down one of the side streets of Piazza Santo Spirito and stumbled upon Cafe Bianchi, just around the corner from the Pitti Palace. Here we ordered hot chocolates for ourselves and stood in awe as the Barista held our cups under the hot chocolate spigot and watched pure steaming chocolate trudge out. MOLTO BUONO. It was the best hot chocolate we had ever had, and it was more of a dessert than a morning drink, but definitely worth the 2.50 euro.

After we finished we headed back to the piazza where we both bought large carrots to munch on because we felt we had been lacking vegetables all week. We took my 2 for 30cents and Anna's 5 for 80 cents carrots over to the steps of Santo Spirito and found a patch in the sun and chewed on carrots while waiting for 11:00 to approach.

After grammar class we met up with Sam and Sarah and went across the bridge to find a hole in the wall panini shop we had seen a day earlier. There we all got sandwiches that sounded SO good and were a good price 3.50 euro, but as we bit into them we were utterly disappointed. My sandwich had Prosciuto, carciofi, provolone and a "tuscan pate", sounded delcious, but the pate just wasn't for me. I ate the sandwich anyways and headed to meet the class outside the baptistry a little disappointed.

Mauro Mussolini was very animated. We had long lectures, took MANY notes, got almost hit by 2 ambulances, multiple taxi cabs and mobbed by other groups of people. I actually ended up learning a decent amount about the Piazza and the ospedale and how everything used to be run while we were standing on hard cobblestone for 2 hours. We got to go inside the baptistry, the best preserved building in all of Firenze and then we climbed the campanile. I only mildly had a heart attack trying to climb to the top in my sparkly ballet flats... woops picked the WRONG shoes for that excursion (but in my defense we all thought we were just going into the baptistry). As usual the view from one of the highest points in the city was ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! It was so cool to look at and identify all the places we had been to in the previous week, and to see the other tourists standing atop the Duomo looking out at the city like we were doing from the Campanile. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Architecture HW: Go to Chiesa San Miniato al Monte... Crap he is making us go to ANOTHER church... oh wait TOTALLY worth it :o)

Wednesday we had only an hour of class and leisurely spent our afternoon. We walked to the Oil Shoppe, where there are mainly americans eating, but honestly, they have the BEST sandwiches I have ever had! I chose the "healthy #7" with Prosciuto Crudo, Carciofi, Funghi, Formaggio e Rucola.. they were out of Prosciuto so I substituted for turkey, and it was still BOMB. Melt in your meth panino on a wheat bread, heated to perfect, enjoyed on a curb of a piazza in the sun... what could be better? All of that without having to use the bathroom!

I snuck into a restaurant we had eaten in the day before, used the bathroom there, and I swear as I attempted to walk out nonchalantly the owner of the store mumble "brutta, brutta" under her breath. But whatever, I gave her business twice already and she denied us Aqua al rubinetto, so she can deal with me using her bagno!

After lunch we walked toward the Duomo, Anna and Sam wanted to buy some books to read. While they were in the bookstore buying way overpriced books, I wandered down the road popping in and out of clothing stores. We then headed back over the Arno toward Piazzale Michelangelo. From the river we saw the point at which we needed to hike high above on the mountain, contemplated bus number 12, but then decided a good calorie burn was necessary. We got in a mode, found the stairs and began to hike (and sweat, for me anyways).

Martedi: 6, Aprile 2010.

Gorgeous views of Firenze all the way up. We took periodic breaks reaching the top because none of us were dressed appropriately for the hike. Little did we know it would be that hot and that we would be climbing hundreds of stairs, but we sucked it up and reached the top where we found Alex H, Katie, Johanna and Alison on their way down. The views were just gorgeous, we could see the entire city and beyond to snow capped mountains far far away, to the rolling hills of tuscany and to a portion of an old wall and tower which once encircled all of Firenze. So beautiful, wish everyone could see it in person because photos just don't do it justice.

At the top we went into Chiesa sel San Miniato al Monte, gorgeous interior and exterior and once again gorgeous view. Nice to be inside the cool church after the long hike uphill in the sun. After we looked around for a while we headed back down. Stopped for gelato, I got a 2 euro cono con stratciatella e menta, the menta was SO refreshing it was perfect and the chocolate chunks in the stratchiatella were SO good as well. We walked to Piazzale Michelangelo and enjoyed our gelato and the view then waited at the bus stop to take a excessively long bus ride back to SMN where I almost fell asleep numerous times. We made it home by 5, I went on a run got changed and showered then had dinner.

Cena: Delcious tortellini with spinach and marscapone. Fried and salted potatoes, spinach, spinach and ricotta quiche, and FAGIOLI (BEANS). For dessert a broken l'uovo ciocolata di pasqua, sam and I ate a DECENT amount of the dark chocolate egg while Claudia and Gabbri let us watch Scrubs in Italiano with them. GREAT DAY!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Buon Giorno!

Ieri noi abbiamo inconrato la nostra classe fuori dell'Uffizi. Era il compleanno della ragazza Cassandra. Sono provare molto duro per scrivere nell'Italiano adesso. E' difficile. Allora, Professor Benjamin ci ha portato a due Galeria Fotografica. Non siamo andati nell' Uffizi encora.

Okay that's enough Italian, takes too long to write and I have to leave for class soon!

Anywho, we met as a class at the Uffizi and Professor took us to two galleries in two hotels near each other. There were beautiful photographs and the hotels themselves were quite high end. Phil pretended he wanted a room for a night at the Hotel Art, and they offered him a room for 200 euro. We were shocked, we thought they would be going for MUCH more. After the galleries, we received our HW assignment, which was to write a journal entry no longer than a page about a photo we liked... loving the work load here ;)

After, because it was Cassie's 21st birthday, Prof Benjamin and Wife took us to their favorite gelateria and treated us all to a 2 euro gelato. SCORE! I got one with Ciocolata e Lampone. Era molto buono!

Sam and I then retreated back to Via Giovanni Fabbroni. I went on a run down the street and around the fortress. First run of Italy. Wasn't too bad because we have been walking everywhere.

I showered before dinner, and for dinner tonight we had a barley and vegetable soup (as the first course). It was really really good, and perfect because we were so cold in the house. For the second plate, we had lots of SPINACH, YUMM and two piece of some kind of fried cheese... Sam is convinced it was american, but I don't think that is possible. I thought it was more than delicious, Sam just kind of liked it, but ate it all anyways. We had some good conversation with Claudia, I made some complex italian sentences when she asked about my Nonna after seeing her yesterday on Skype. All in all a great dinner as usual!

We went out to meet the crew at the Duomo at 10:30, some club promoter said it was "Ladies Night" at the Fish Pub and Ladies got a glass of free champagne. How could I pass that up? Phil, Vish, Sam and I followed the guy back to his club, only to be told they ran out of champagne. Not cool! So we went back to the Duomo and met up with Katie, Avery, Johanna, and Alison, but could not find the others. Sam and I didn't really want to go out, I just wanted a waffle because I had walked past them everyday and had yet to buy one, so we left the group, and walked down the road to find a waffle.

Immediatly as I walked in the store the storekeeper asked if I wanted a waffle and then he just started yelling off everything I could put on it. Before I could even ask about the price I was sidetracked thinking about the chocolate, fruit, whip cream etc. he said he could put on it. I asked for chocolate and fruit. He made it and held it out to me. It looked SO good, until he took me over to the cash register to show me the numbers read 9.00 EURO Shocked, disappointed and pissed, I returned the 5euro I had taken out to pay him back in my wallet, and retrieved a 10 and reluctantly handed it to him.

Sam and I stormed away from the shop, took a picture of me and the 9 FREAKING EURO waffle, that wasn't even that good and we headed home. If the waffle had been 4 euro I don't think I would buy one again, so it was definitely a mistake in my book, but hey we gotta learn somehow right? ALWAYS ASK THE PRICE BEFORE YOU TAKE! If only we were allowed to return food.... I def would have done that! haha.

We were in bed by 12:30, had a quick skype sesh with Lindsay and Mom then set my alarm to wake up at 6:05 as I planned to wake up in time to catch the bus to the river and photograph the sunrise.

Brisk and Chilly this morning, but it was worth seeing the sunrise over the Arno. I took the bus 4 outside our house to SMN at 6:26, walked from SMN to the bridge and took quite a few photos that I think came out decently. I stayed on the bridge from 6:40 until 7:20, freezing I returned to SMN to catch the next bus back home so I could let Sam back in after her run, eat breakfast, drink coffee and collect my things for class. It's now 8:32 and I am still cold, but it is supposed to be warm today, so I'm gonna change, get ready and head back out to the bus stop.

Ciao! Buona Giornata!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

La Pasqua e Il Scoppio del Carro della Firenze

Buona Pasqua a Tutti!

Anna and I are all about the church and not missing the wonderful services it has offered us since we have been in Italy. Last weekend in Rome with Palm Sunday and this weekend in Firenze with Easter. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity we told each other, so despite returning home around 3am Saturday night we decided we would wake up at 8:30 and be at the Duomo by 9:15.

What an experience...

We arrived at the Duomo around 9:20, the Piazza had been fenced off between the baptistry and the duomo with an entrance opening toward the south west corner of the Piazza. Here about 12-15 Carabinieri stood chatting on their cell phones and smoking cigarettes. Two old women walked toward them and as the Carabinieri started to deny them access to the church we noticed them show the Carabinieri yellow passes and then tell them their names. Then the Carabinieri looked through a list and found their names and let them enter the church... So much for Anna and I getting in to see the main Easter mass! Oh well...

We set off toward Piazza della Republica to find a Brioche and conveniently ran into the Florentine flag throwers and a parade going through the Piazza. The Brioches could wait. We went to watch the parade and stayed until the cart of fireworks being carried by 4 large white cows went by, then we knew we had to get back to the Duomo. We ran up a side street, stopping briefly to grab a delicios Brioche con la marmellata di mele for 1 euro (shocked it was so cheap so close to the duomo) then continued toward the duomo to be bombarded with a huge crowd already forming.

We went to the other side of the Baptistry and positioned ourselves on the curb looking across the front of the Duomo with a perfect view of the Campanile. JK would be perfect view of the Campanile if I wasn't 5 feet tall, and there weren't 8 billion people above 5'6" standing in front of me... AWESOME, thank god that cart and the duomo are HUGE so I just looked up!

The cart entered the piazza and was positioned directely in front of the duomo. It was only 10:00, so we had an entire hour of standing ahead of us. We watched as the fire truck came, and a crane held people and positioned them to add things atop the cart and assemble the fireworks. Around 10:25 the 6'2" man standing in front of us decided to light a cigarette and blow all his smoke on us... wonderful.

We waited patiently, slowly getting more tired and wanting to find a cafe to sit and have a drink and we kept listening for the bells of the campanile to tell us it was almost 11. At 10:40 the bells rang for 10 minutes straight, and then there was 10 minutes till 11. We could hear the priest inside the church singing and we were getting really anxious for the display to start.

Right at 11:00 we saw a string from inside the church connected to the cart get lit and watched the fuse ignite the cart. Beautiful explosions everywhere, smoke covering the churches exterior and the piazza, and noise shaking the ground. Red smoke poured from the cart giving everything a very dramatic effect, then larger fireworks began exploding. For 15 minutes fireworks continued to explode off the cart and we decided it was totally worth the wait, and the smoke in our faces.

Immediately after it was finished, Anna and I booked it to a side street. We had had enough crowding and people for one day. We walked past a small church called San Michele and decided it would actually be a good idea to attend a mass. Katie called us and said she was trying to get into the Duomo, so we went to check it out. We saw people getting in the side door so we ran to get in... In the massive inside there were SO many people, tourists everywhere and no pews to sit in. We decided mass in the infinitely smaller church of San Michele would be a better way to celebrate easter so we speed walked back to the church and found ourselves a pew. We attempted to sing the songs in Italian and we ended up really enjoying the Italian mass It was a tiny little church but had a beautiful interior and was totally worth it.

After mass we went in search for food. We ended up at a small place near Antico Noe and the Lions Fountain and had Paninis for lunch. We both had a panini with fritata, carfiofi and asiago. It was pretty darn good for 4 euro. I had a cappuccino to warm up and she had a ciocolata calda, which tasted BOMB cause it was unsweetened.. so much better than swiss miss! After lunch we were tired and it was around 2:00. It had started to rain slightly so we took our umbrellas out, paid for our lunch and left for our homes. I walked to SMN and took the bus back to our house. Got home around 2:30 where I took a long nap.

I woke around 6:00 and went on Skype. I skyped with Alex who apparently in the middle of doing the dishes and I interrupted him. Told him about the "secret bakery" we had found the night before then waited for the Dad's family to arrive at my house in Wayland so we could do a large Skype session.

At 7:00 the family was at my house and I got to see everyone at home. It was nice to see everyone but I wished I was with them. Nonni was adorable trying to see me on the television and wondering if I could see her, and she told me we needed a sign language cause she couldn't understand me and continued to show us the motion for "F U" but don't think she realized that's what the motion of under your chin means today.

It neared 8:00, Claudia still wasn't home and Sam and I were getting nervous we weren't going to be fed on Easter. Around 8:05 Claudia, her daughter, Chiara and boyfriend arrived and cooked us dinner. We had very long dinner discussing movies and other things. For dinner we had an intersting bread and tomato concoction. A fettucine with meat hand made by the Nonna (Avery and Alex's host mom), and lamb of course along with some peas and spinach for the verdura. It was delicious as usual and after we resided to our bedroom.

Skype session 2: The Serafini side...

The volume and commotion of this skyping experience was on a whole other level than the D'Ambrosio side. Nonna demanded I bring the computer to Claudia, so I obeyed, they chatted for a few minutes, it was so cute. I talked with Toni, Serena, Nonno, Lisa, Phyllis and Sandy...

It was so nice to see everyone's face today. Thank you skype. And now it is 12:30, no class tomorrow yay for Pasqualino, but we are going as a class to the Uffizi at 3. I had a great Easter in Firenze, quite the experience! BUONA PASQUA!

A dopo! Baci!

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Last night Sam and I had made the plan and told the group who wasn't going to Chianti to meet at SMN at 11:00 to take bus number 7 up to Fiesole (because that's what our lonely planet guide told us).

Sam and I woke up at 10, planning to eat and leave the house by 10:40 so we could be at SMN by 11:00 in order to meet everyone. We were arrived a few minutes past 11 to find that no one from our group except Katie was at the Station. Late people give me anxiety, thankfully Vish and Phil called to say they would be 20 minutes, so I calmed down. We assumed Anna and Sarah were with them because they live near each other so we waited outside SMN in the sun anxious to leave for the hill town of Fiesole. As phil called to say they got off the bus we began to walk toward their location, Sarah called me on Anna's phone to say that they just woke up...

That was fine by us, but there was NO WAY we were waiting even longer at the station so we found Vish, Phil and Gabby and went on a quest for the bus to Fiesole. Avery and Alex hadn't been there either but they told us they would meet us in Fiesole, so our adventure began. We were told to go to Piazza San Marco to catch bus number 7, so we trekked over to Piazza San Marco, found the bus stop for #7, let Sarah and Anna know how to get there, then we got on the bus and we were off.

The bus ride was beautiful leaving the city. It just so happened that Avery and Alex got on the bus at the next stop so we had most of our group together on the bus. As we began to climb higher up the mountain, making sharp turns up the mountains face in a bus not built for the small curvy street, we began to see the most beautiful views of Firenze through the mud spewed windows of the bus.

As we neared the top, the bus dumped us in a beautiful piazza at the base of the city. There were trees and art everywhere, and as a group we establish we should begin by walking up and to the right so that we would be able to find unbelievable views of Firenze.

We walked up a few steep hills, made a few good turns and soon found us all hanging with our jaws open. The most breath taking views of the city laid before us and beyond that the fields and groves of Toscana made us all realize we picked the right place to go abroad.

We hiked through the city for a while, walking the perimeter, stopping to take photos and to watch the master photographer Alex H. crouch, and lie in various positions, and wish for better light in order to capture the true beauty of Fiesole.

We were getting hungry as Anna called to say they had arrived. We couldn't explain our exact whereabouts so we hoped that we would run into the eventually. As we were climbing a wall to see a better view and to have a little fun wall climbing action we heard Anna's voice rising up from the other side of the hill. FOUND THEM!! So everyone was together, and everyone was hungry together so we went to find a place to eat.

We walked back to the Piazza where the bus dropped us, and while the group was looking for a place to eat, I was determined to find a terrace with a few so I ran up an IMPOSSIBLY STEEP hill, found a cute place as my phone began to ring, and I was forced to run back because the group found a place to eat. I wasn't upset because where they had found was a cozy little place and we were able to eat a decent meal for 9 euro which excited me because it was under my lunch budget for the day, YAY!

After lunch, I told the group I was going to walk back up that impossibly steep hill because I knew although I hadn't made it to the view, that there would be a breathtaking view and it would be worth it. Sarah and Gabby contemplated not going, Gabby took the bus back into town, and the rest of us headed for the hill... Sam tried to run up it... little did she know that after the bend in the road (where you couldn't see further) the road became more steep. As she rounded the corner she stopped in her tracks. It was hilarious. All of us got a nice calf burn walking up toward the first flat part, but it was COMPLETELY worth it. These views were even MORE gorgeous than the ones we saw before. Alex H prayed for better light, taught me a few things about my camera and we all just sat there in awe. It would have been funny to count how many times we said something like "That's gorgeous" or "This is unreal" as a group because I think something positive was said by someone continuously until we returned back on the bus.

At the tippity top of Fiesole was a church that Anna and I explored. Everything was beautiful, nothing was even a little bit disappointing. We walked down the back side of the town through a garden and came across a beautiful cemetery. We walked through it, looking at all of the beautiful graves, and intriguing pictures of those who had died long, long ago. We watched as friends and family of the deceased came and left flowers and prayed for their loved ones. It was all a beautiful experence, simply an amazing day trip to Fiesole.

We got back on the bus around 4, took it back to Piazza San Marco, and as a group went to find a gelateria. Anna lead us to one that her host mom's friend had told her was one of the best in Firenze. I didn't get one because I knew 2.50 euro for a small was too much, but I tried a few peoples and it was true. The gelato was DELICIOUS. I probably should have bought one for myself, but the little tastes were enough for me to cherish the good flavor.

The group then split up, everyone being very tired. We made a game plan to be on facebook later so we could make plans for the night. General consensus was: we wanted to go to a small bar and have a nice pleasant low key night.

Now, I wait for Claudia's daughter, Chiara, to make us dinner, and after who knows what we will do. All I know is that I need to walk around and find some delicious gelato later and I will be molto contente :o)