Monday, May 31, 2010

T-5 Days, Photography Complete!

So my plan to try and go places I've never been and explore constantly during my last week here has not gone as well as I had anticipated. I forgot that I am not bionic woman, and am quite the opposite, so I get tired a lot and I realized on mondays and tuesdays when I have 6 hours of class, that pretty much exhausts me enough to deter my exploring. But that doesn't mean I didn't accomplish anything today, I accomplished a lot!

Woke up early to go to Mamma's bakery to study Italian with some classmates. There I'm ashamed to say I ate a muffin. . A raspberry chocolate chip muffin, it was totally worth it. While studying we met two women who were drinking their coffee as well. One was from California, and had dropped out of UC Davis 30 years ago, but recently got a degree, and her friend a mother of 2 boys had moved to Florence 12 years ago and still lives here. Inspirational to me! I didn't get much of her story, but knowing its possible to move here and make a life, and speak fluent Italian IS POSSIBLE! There is hope for me yet!

After Mamma's we went to class, had jokes and fun with Veronica and Francesca, reviewed a little bit then went to get a quick lunch so we could return to Eurocenters to finish our photo projects that were due today. Our mission for lunch was Gusta Pizza, but as we rounded the corner we noticed the doors were bordered up and then it came to us.. It was monday, lots of stuff was still closed! So the group split up, Jackie and I daring to try a little supermercato's panini that a few people said were really good. Boy they were right! I had a delicious panino, with delectably soft, yet crunchy bread, mortadella, pomodoro, pesto and mozzarella, and boy was the woman generous with the mozzarella, she put an entire ball on, and the whole sandwich was only 3.50. Made me a little sad I hadn't ventured into the store earlier, in fear of leaving Gusta Panino, but at least I made it in once! And I won't lie, I preferred it to Gusta Panino, Gusta just has more ingredients, but the market was 100% more fresh, and the woman was so cute and old who was working there, so she got my points! Won't be going to Gusta this week, if I want a panino it will be from the little old lady again!

So after we ate we went back up to Eurocenters, I began burning my project onto its DVD in its correctly labelled Benjamin format. Chatted with professor a little before class, then started photo class and viewed everyone's final project. Wasn't a bad class, I got to work on my Mauro presentation a little bit and then Professor took us to the corner Gelateria, Santa Trinita, where I tried a 2 euro combo of ANANAS e YOGURT! (pineapple=bomb)

Then I ventured across the street to the Farmacia where I asked the store keeper what he had for mosquitos. He responded they had many things, creams, sprays, things for before and after, and asked which one I'd like. I told him I would need them all, THAT is how bad my face looks, and how bad my hand itches and how bumpy every part of my body is at fault of LE ZANZARE ITALIANE! I left the store with a ZANZA STOP plug and an anti itch stick that can easily fit into my pocket or purse so that I can apply it at any time, I'm really excited about it.

After the successful trip to the Farmacia I headed on home catch the bus number four for one of the last times of my time here, because tomorrow is June, so my monthly bus pass is up and I don't want to spend money on individual tickets. Just will have to buy one for Saturday to get to the stazione with my tons and tons of luggage (not looking forward to that). When I got home Claudia was there to greet me and apologize for not feeding us properly last night, it was wonderful to see her :o). We chatted for a little then I ran into my room to plug in my ZANZA STOP, praying it would work, and thankfully it seems as though it has done the job thus far.

Claudia came in a little while later asking for Sam because we had our cooking lesson starting soon. I wasn't exactly sure where she was, so I was the sole learning chef for the day. Claudia took me into the kitchen and explained how we would be making the eggplant and the sauce. In the sugo, there would be chopped up carrots, half an onion, celery, and basil (she never gives specific quantities, so i'm screwed when I reattempt the recipes!) cooked a little bit and the tomato would be added and heated and stirred.

For the eggplant portion of the meal, it was mainly on me. She showed me how to wash and cut the eggplant into slices. I then had to flour the eggplant slices, and put them in a frying pan that had already heated oil and a few pieces of sage (which I picked from the garden). While I was frying the eggplant slices, taking them out when they were golden brown (d'oro), she was putting hunks of parmigiana in the blender and finishing up the tomato sauce. When most of the eggplant slices were done I had to lay them down in a pot, layer by layer, adding sauce then parmigiana atop each layer of eggplant. When it came to the end, she told me I put way too much cheese on top and a little much sauce, but it was okay it was Lia Style Eggplant Parm. We put it in the oven to bake for 20 minutes or so then we sat down to eat it with a little bit of pasta on the side. The excess of cheese was the perfect amount to me! Samantha, Gabri and herself all enjoyed the creations of me, I was proud, and hoped I could remake the delicious dinner at home without herself. Doubtful, but I will try someday!

Dinner was delicious, I was forced to retell how I had made everything to Samantha in Italian. We watched the usual Viva Las Vegas tv program for a little, and then we figured what we would be doing for the remainder of the trip, discussed when we were leaving and what we would miss. Sad dinner, but to come in the week is a Tiramisu lesson, sauce making to bring home, and making biscotti al prato. Somehow I will be doing a LOT of cooking tomorrow, wednesday and friday before I go out to dinner with a friend. I felt bad having to tell Claudia and Gabri we wouldn't be here thursday (because of our class final dinner) and friday (because I was invited out), but they understood. When Claudia left the table Sam and I started talking in english in front of Gabri, suddenly he told us to stick out our hands and he lightly hit each of them chastising us for speaking in english and said solo parlate in italiano, Ops, we forgot! They are so good about not letting us speak english at the dinner table, i love it! I'm gonna miss them!

Almost done with the day, doing a little studying, watching an episode of Glee then off to bed! Get ready for exciting T-4 TOMORROW!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

T-6 Days and 106 Mosquito Bites

Sunday AM. Woke up at 9ish, ate a yogurt I had bought at the COOP yesterday. Can we talk about COOPs and Italian supermercatos and how I have so much fun exploring them? Seriously, supermercatos are definitely in my Italian Top Ten. They just make me HAPPY!

So Sam and I ate breakfast and did homework for a few hours before we left to go meet up with a bunch of people at the diner, to eat and do work. Monday we have our final photo project due and and Tuesday we have our architecture power point presentation for Mauro, so we had a lot of work to get done. I met Vishnu at the diner to do our power point around 1:00, they denied us access to the internet because it was so busy, so we just ordered food then prepared to go do our work somewhere else. I ordered a chicken wrap with mozzarella inside, it was a nice change from hard core italian food, but I won't be eating there again, save the American food for when I'm in America.

After lunch, we headed to the library to do work. Unfortunately the sign outside the library said DOMENICA CHIUSO, and we believed it so we went on our way searching for a place with WIFI and enough space to do our work. We decided to go back to my house and do work since we have a good work desk, so we walked back through Piazza del Duomo to use some of our Assaggios from the Gelato Festival, I grabbed a small taste of Stracciatella then we went on our way to catch number four to get to my house.

Vish and I worked on our project for a few hours then I went to a park to do a little reading, then I returned home to do more work and wait for Claudia to come home for dinner.

Sam and I soon began discovering the infestation of mosquitos in our room, and began freaking out. The amount of bug bites I have on my body is absolutely ridiculous. We didn't do many new things today, but we did commence our mosquito massacre. Claudia didn't end up coming home for dinner, so we made ourselves frozen pizza, bundled up in sweatshirt and sweatpants so that the mosquitos couldn't get to us. We worked more on our projects then started to go to bed when we noticed the ceiling COVERED in mosquitos...

Let the massacre BEGIN

We went into the closet to find brooms, we spread out, climbed the tables and beds and began smacking flies left and right. I feel a little bit bad about leaving the wall splattered with mosquito guts, but if you saw my face and my arms, you would have no mercy for the mosquitos or the walls.

Finally we thought we had killed a decent amount of the mosquitos so I decided to go to bed. Around 2:00am Samantha and I found ourselves staring at eachother on the verge of tears because the buzzing and biting in our ears wouldn't stop. I put my ipod in my ears to ignore the buzzing and I curled into the fetal position and buried my body completely with coves. It was really hot, but I was eventually able to fall asleep.

Not a very exciting day besides the killing of the mosquitos, but I still enjoyed just being in Florence on a beautiful day!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

T-7 Days

Today starts my week countdown of days left in Florence. Unlike the majority of the group, my countdown is a sad one. I don't want to leave Florence, my host family or my Eurocenter teachers, if only it were a real 14 week semester maybe I would be a little bit ready to go home, but next saturday will be too soon. And get this! I'm not even going home! I get to travel for a month! The rest of the students in my group have been counting down the days and couldn't be more excited to step back on American ground, but not me!

Days here are numbered, and recently we have been finding new restaurants, new places to go out, and new museums that we haven't been to and I'm afraid there just won't be enough time to see it all!

I'm going to write an entry every day for my last 7 days in Florence, hopefully they won't be filled with descriptions of how hard I studied that day, but all the fun things I did along with a little bit of studying!

First off Friday we explored and found a relatively cheap restaurant for lunch after going to the Strozzi with Veronica and Francesca for class, gonna miss those ladies. We got to eat outside under a large umbrella and I had a delicious pasta dish with a mushroom and sausage cream sauce it was amazing!

Last night I went up to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset then met up with the girls at a Mexican Bar Tiajuanas. Service was horrible, but the food and drink was good. Got back home around 1:00, and knowingly set my alarm for 4:40, so I could wake up to take pictures of the Sunrise. I figured it wouldn't be so bad because I don't have class on Saturday so I could go out for a couple of hours way early and then go back to bed until forever.

So I was woken up by my alarm at 4:40, but didn't end up pulling myself out of bed until 5:12. It was okay though because I was still able to get some good shots of the sunrise. There were very nice colors in the sky this morning and it was relaxing to be in town with only a few people out and about. I stayed out until a little after 6:00 then headed back to my bed to fall asleep.

I woke up around 10:00 had breakfast and then got ready to go in centro to check out the Gelato Festival and to find a restaurant that my mom wanted to look at. In Piazza del Duomo we bought our tickets, 4 euro for 5 assaggi, then roamed the tents to spend our first ticket. We ended up at a homemade popsicle stand and I got a delicious Pompelmo flavored popsicle that was perfectly refreshing for the hot day. After that Anna and Sam went off to do their architecture project and I just went wandering aimlessly around town.

I checked out the Mercato Nuovo trying to find the right sciarpe for Zizi Linda. Also trying to find little gifts for people at home. I wandered toward the Santa Croce area and toward Antico Noe where I had a delicious baguette sandwich with Artichokes, Porchetta and Brie. From there I munched on my sandwich while I walked back toward the SMN area looking for Via del Moro, where a Buon Ricordo restaurant is situated. Everywhere I walked there were jacked italians walking around with numbers on their chests, apparently there had been a road race or some sort of event going on that I missed, the city is happening this weekend, thank god it isn't raining.

I wandered around for a while trying to find the road then I finally found it. I checked out the menu then went inside to get a Carta di Visita on order from my mom. I waited awkwardly in the doorway to get someones attention because I didn't immediately notice the presence of their business cards, and finally this little old man peeked his head around the corner, pointed at me and then came over to assist me. I ask him "avete una carta di visita?" and he hobbled over to a desk and gave me a small pile of his business cards. Success!

Walking through Piazza della Signoria I spotted a bride and groom, so I did the Marisa thing and chased after and documented their walk through the piazza. Like mother like daughter :)

I then started wandering back toward the Bargello and Santa Croce to meet up with Sam and Anna and do a little work and get a drink at the Diner where there was outside seating and wi-fi. Cristi, Jackie, Hannah, Alison and Phil all ended up there as well and we spent a relaxing afternoon sipping iced tea, doing work and chatting. Around 4:30 we headed back into the heat of the Gelato festival to use another ticket, I used it at a stand with gelato from the Gelateria Triangolo delle Bermuda. I got Caffe Crunch, it was molto buono. We roamed around with our gelatos then headed back to our home to nap before dinner and going out.

Skyped with the fam. A little sad I can't be home celebrating Alex's graduation. Let's bring everyone here to Italy, then celebrate?? Seeing Nonno Saturday, he seemed very excited and got me really excited. Can't wait to sip cappuccinos on the patio and do nothing all day, make some pancakes maybe? Sounds like a great life!

For dinner Claudia left us insalata and pesce. Healthy meal, no carbs, although we did find a package of New Yorkers- American Chocoalte Chip Cookies with 37% Chocolate Chips... whatever that means, they were good.

After dinner we walked into town to go to Santa Maria Novella to meet up with some friends. There was a huge stage in the Piazza so we were hoping there would be entertainment, but nothing ever happened. We hung out there for a while chatting, then went further in town to our normal bar Naima, where we found the other half of our group, we stayed out for a while and ended up going to a discoteca for a little while then returned home.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tre Cento Euro, e Molte Divertente!

225 Euro payment for Florence For Fun to provide a 6 hour each way coach bus ride, 3 nights in a 3-star hotel named Hotel Cavour outside of Sorrento, 3 breakfasts and 2 (3 course) dinners. Not too shabby ehh??

Didn't think it was too bad of deal, but some how I came home with having spent nearly 80 extra euro on I don't even know what! I didn't really care though because the weekend was amazing, and it was worth every penny I spent.

All week I continued to wake up early, trying to make good photographs for my final project. Every time my alarm went off, it proved harder and harder for me to wake up. Usually I am able to wake up in a second, so I am starting to worry about waking up for 6:00am practice next year. Hopefully I can get back into my 9:00 bedtime habits, and 5:30 am won't seem so bad!

Anywho, last week we got dumped with work, so aside from a Gelateria Medici run almost every night we were confined to the home, writing Mauro's paper, writing journal entries and studying up on our Italian. Monday through Wednesday were very relaxing, it was a little sad though because Claudia was away in Rome on business, so Samantha and I ate alone Monday and Tuesday, then Gabri and Claudia returned to the dinner table Wednesday, obviously with something delicious for our plates! We then delivered the sad news that we were going to Amalfi for the weekend and that we would be leaving Thursday at 6:30 and arriving Sunday around midnight, so we wouldn't be at dinner until Monday. They seemed a little sad, but I think they got over it pretty quickly!

Thursday I packed my little suitcase up before I left for class (I had bought it the day before for only 10 euros!). I left the very economical and convenient little suitcase stuffed to the brim at home while I had Italian from 10-12 and photography from 1-4. At the end of class I rushed home, made sure I had everything necessary for a wonderful weekend packed, and then I relaxed until it was time to catch the bus. Once again, the bus left me in extreme state of anxiety. Samantha and I had checked the bus schedule, a bus was to come at 5:57, 6:04, 6:12, 6:17 etc. We went out in time for the 5:57 bus, knowing it takes ten minutes to get to SMN by bus and obviously I wanted to be early for our 6:30 meeting time. Good thing all four of the buses that were scheduled to come, did not come! Talk about me FLIPPING out, even Samantha who is never worried about being late for anything was getting nervous, which was making me 10x more anxious than necessary. We called Anna just to tell her we were going to be late and to not let the trip leave without us, and finally by 6:27, bus numero quattro pulled up to our stop and we piled in with our suitcases and hearts racing. When we arrived at SMN it was nearing 6:45, we were late, but surprisingly we were not the latest of the group! By 6:50 our tour guide Cassandra had us walking to our bus, and by 7:00 we were en route for La Costa Amalfitana!

Bus ride was long, hot and mildly uncomfortable. Stopped at an Autogrill where I got a pretty disappointing salad, and got to not be stuffed in a bus for 45 minutes. By 10:00 we were back on the bus, and by 2:00am we had arrived at Hotel Cavour. By 2:15 I was fast asleep, with my alarm set for 7:10.

At 7:10 my alarm went off, just as I had asked it to. Anna and I went up to the breakfast room at 7:15 in our Pjs, ate some cornflakes and drank some coffee. After we ate we went back to the room to get dressed for Capri. We were supposed to meet in the lobby by 10 of 8:00 so we could walk down as a group to Sorrento's port to catch the ferry for Capri. When we all met it was clear everyone was sick of the rain and ready to catch some rays. All the girls were wearing the sun dresses and guys were in shorts and t shirts, even though it was still a little on the chilly side, but we were praying for it to warm up, and it didn't matter if we were cold just as long as our skin saw some sun on the island of Capri!

On the boat ride over I was beyond tired from the journey the night before, so I fell asleep immediately and was successful at drooling all over myself. But it didn't matter because I felt rejuvinated once I stepped foot on the Island of Capri. Our first activity was a boat tour of the island (10 euro down) which I initially didn't sign up for because I prefered seeing the Grotta Azzurra (entrance fee 11.50), but our tour guide told us it was closed due to weather conditions and choppy water, so I decided I could spend the 10 euro on the boat tour instead. It was worth it! We visited the Grotta Verde and Bianca, and we boated past the Grotta Azzurra, and it was clear why it had been closed. Even if a tiny little row boat had attempted to get through the opening, heads surely would have been knocked against the top of the opening... not my kinda fun! We boated around the entire island, through one of the famed Faraglioni and past the houses, really mansions, of many famous people. We saw the homes of Sophia Loren, Julia Roberts, Mussolini's crows nest, and many others. After an hour we returned to Marina Grande and our free time on Capri commenced.

We took the Funiculare into the center with all of our stomachs growling. The plan was to grab lunch then walk through town and down to the public beach at Marina Piccola. Hannah and Alison's host family had recommended a restaurant "Gemma" that was somewhere on the Island of Capri and well known because of their pizzas. Their host family told them it was the best pizza one could find in all of italy (in their opinion). So we went off in search of "Gemma". I went to the Informazione and asked the woman "Sai un ristorante si chiama Gemma?" Lei ha detto SI! Then preceded to tell us it was simply up the stairs on the right, so close! So we gathered the troops, Cristi, Hannah, Alison, Katie and Jackie, and we went to go attest to whether or not Gemma had the best pizza in Italy.

They had a gorgeous indoor terrace looking out of Marina Grande which was perfect for us because it still wasn't quite warm enough for us to be wearing our dresses outside for lunch. All 6 of us glared at the menu and ended up each getting the Margherita. I wanted the capriociosa, but it was 11 euro, compared to the 8 euro margherita and there was cover charge to pay so I opted for the cheaper. I don't know what I missed, but I can certainly say that the Margherita was absolutely delcious, and was definitely one of the tastier pizzas I've had in Italy. Cristi splurged for Nonno's Soup along side her Pizza and it was really worthwhile. THE most delicious soup ever! Overall, the recommendation of Gemma was right on, the only strange thing was that there was a cover charge, and service was not included, so I ended up paying half the price of my Pizza in service fees, booo... the food was worth it though!

After lunch we started the excursion down to Marina Piccola. We stopped numerous times taking photographs, trying to figure out where we were actually going and buying GRANITAS! Granitas were our tour guide's favorite thing about the trip to the Amalfi Coast, and I had to agree. Freshly squeezed lemons and oranges in a bitter but sweet icey refreshing drink, the perfect remedy for overheating in the sun, which luckily started happening to us after lunch! Sun was out, we were walking up and down stairs, and the Granita was a perfect cool down solution. nom nom nom.

By 1:30 we made it to Marina Piccola, we laid out our towels on the rocky public beach and soaked up the sun. I immediately fell asleep, once again drooling everywhere, but it was the perfect relaxing afternoon. Around 4 we started the hike back up the cliff to get back to Marina Grande to catch the boat back to Sorrento. The weather ended up being gorgeous, only raining lightly for 20 minutes during our hike back to Marina Grande, and the day was deemed successful.

Upon our return to Hotel Cavour we all showered up and get ready for 8:45 dinner. We were served homemade spaghetti with tomato sauce, bruschetta, insalata, vino and ACQUA! The most amazing part of the meal was getting free unlimited water. It was simply amazing, and it was like we were living the life of high rollers who could afford ACQUA! Amazing! After dinner there were plans to go out but everyone was so pooped they just stayed at the hotel and hung out, I was even too pooped to hang out, I went straight to bed, and probably began the drooling fest again. Luckily, we only had to meet on saturday by 10 to go to Positano, so I was able to sleep until 9:10, grab breakfast and prepare for a wonderful day of nice weather in the town of Positano where Under The Tuscan Sun has given me hope to find a man like Marcello, haha.

By 10:00 Saturday morning we were on our way to beautiful Positano. The entire group ooed and awwed as we drove down the coast, teetering over the cliff edges and looking at the bright blue water and beautiful towns stuck in the side of the mountains. We arrived in Positano a little before 11:00 hiked down hundreds of stairs to get to the beach. Surprisingly painful walk, when we stopped at the bottom I couldn't stop my calves from shaking, it was ridiculous.

We were given 50 minutes to check out the city and grab lunch to bring on the boat tour which started at 12:00. We walked up into the town a little bit, then went to a panini shop that was recommended to us by our tour guides called Vino e Panino. There I had a sandwich made on crusty fresh bread with mortadella, mozzarella, pesto, insalata, and pomodoro. It was chuck full with fresh ingredients and beyond amazing. Better than any Gusta Panino I've ever had... I didn't think it was possible!

We loaded the boat with our paninos in hand and started up the coast. We first boated past Positano to a little are where we could do some cliff jumping... COOL! I was the second person to say I was in, everyone was a little hesitant about it, but numerous people ended up following me, another girl and phil after we reached the shore. We were a little hesitant to start scaling the cliffs, but a group who was already there assured us that it wasn't very difficult and we should be fine, so up we went! Some started at the small, but I was ambitious so I went to the highest ledge first and prepared myself to jump! Took me a few minutes, and the scariest part was climbing up the rock, but I finally got to the top and then was encouraged to jump, it was a lot of fun, and certainly a lot higher than any diving board I have been off, I think it was around 45 feet high, FUN FUN FUN! I jumped off the highest two more times, and off the medium one once and then we all swam back to the boat and continued the tour.

Next stop: Grotto!

We boated near a grotto further up the coast than the cliffs. We were pretty cold from jumping in the water and being on the boat because the sun went away, but they gave us the option of swimming through the cave. How could I say no? Despite the fact I was already shivering, Hannah and Alison dove right in (they didn't cliff jump), and then I followed. SHortly after me, Anna, Phil and Dan were on there way in and it was totally worth it. We swam through a cave with crystal clear water and cool rock formations. Hung out in there for a little while then swam back to the boat. It was so beautiful, and only made me wonder how much more beautiful the Grotta Azzurra of Capri could be.

After our Grotto experience we got back on the boat, and wolfed down our sandwiches. We were hungry after fighting against the waves to enter the cave. It was totally worth it! The sandwich tasted so good, and was the perfect thing for a boat lunch, and the driver began to bring us back to Positano where we would have the rest of the day FREE!

When we arrived back, we went to the bathroom, then went to the beach because the sun finally came back out and it was HOT! We layed out for a few hours relaxing, then around 4:30 we headed up through the town to find Granitas and the bus stop so we could get back to our meeting place to return to Sorrento (without walking up ALL the hundreds of stairs).

We returned to the hotel by 6:15 and dinner was set for 8:00. We showered and got ready, because after dinner we were going out on the town, woop woop. For dinner we had individual homemade pizzas (they were a little weird), salmon, roasted potatoes and rum cake. And of course WATER! Delcious dinner, and afterwords Cassandra led us into town to a bar that they always go to that has a large outdoor section with a dance floor, bar and tables. It was early when we first arrived so a few of us walked down the road to a gelateria names Primavera that is supposedly famous, and lots of famous people love it there. I thought it was pretty good (obv. medici is better). We strolled down the main drag of Sorrento with our Gelato then headed back to the bar. It was a lot of fun, we all danced, had a great time, and talked with some italians. All in all great night!

Sunday we checked out of the hotel at 10, loaded the bus and headed to Pompeii! Pompeii was great. We had an Italian tour guide who made our visit to Pompeii 100% better, and there was no complaining, because everyone was fascinated with Pompeii and its ruins. For lunch we ate at one of the places outside Pompeii, we had 6 euro pizzas from a dumpy little place, and surprisingly most of the group said that the pizza was the best they have had. Worth the 6 euro I guess!

After lunch, the bus drove us up Vesuvio as high as we could, until we had to get up and hike to the tippity top. When we got out of the bus it was much cooler than it had been down in Pompeii, and there was a crazy thunderstorm happening just over the top of another near by mountain. It was pretty cool. We got our tickets for the hike up, then started it ASAP because we didn't want to get stuck in a huge storm. The hike was pretty difficult, my calves were certainly burning, but we made it to the top within 25 minutes, walked the perimeter of the crater, looked at the gorgeous coast line below, attempted to find the city of Pompeii and only got a little bit wet because it just began to sprinkle.

The view were gorgeous, and it was definitely worth the hike. I can say I've hiked mount Vesuvio now! After we hiked back down, we loaded the bus, I was pysched to be sitting, and pretty excited that my own bed was in my future. It had been a long long long weekend filled with lots of things, and I was ready to do nothing! We pulled into SMN around 11:00pm, and I was safely drooling again in my bed by 11:45, successful weekend! I'd do it again!

Monday we had Italian class, photo class and then cooking class. We had a lesson with Claudia to make Gnocchi con sugo di noci. She made us do the majority of the work. I had to hammer the walnuts apart and Sam had to take the nuts out. She made us mash the potatoes, add all the right ingredients and start rolling out the gnocchi. I'd say we did 75% of the work with her guidance, and it was clear that we were working too slow for her liking but it was okay, she was patient! THe end result was fantastic. A few mishapen Gnocchi, but like Claudia says about her healthy 8 grain biscotti, "Brutti ma Buoni!". Great cooking lesson, and I think I remember all the ingredients so I am looking forward to making walnut sauce when I return home.

Our last weekend in Firenze is ahead of us. So crazy! Gelato Festival and Italian Food Festival this weekend and possibly a day trip to the Cinque Terre! Can't wait!

A dopo!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pioveva Sempre

I think for the last 2 and a half weeks, today (tuesday, may 18th) has been the only completely sunny day. It was a miracle!

I am sorry for my slow pace in getting up my weekend blog updates. We've been getting swarmed with work, and we are realizing we are running out of time here in Firenze, so the last thing I want to be doing is spending a lot of time updating my journal, pasting my receipts and tickets in, and blogging online. But I've managed to climb into bed a little early tonight, and I am content with writing my Roman experiences of this past weekend.

Last monday and tuesday all of our teachers decided to dump boatloads of work on us, so the first half of the week went by trying to get as much work done as possible. For photography we were told to start our final projects, which would be on a topic of our choice. I decided that I would try and put in the effort to make my project "Waking up in Italy". This idea consisted of taking photographs of the skyline in the morning and trying to capture Italians in their daily morning routines, getting coffee, reading the paper, setting up shop, baking etc. This proved to be harder than I had thought when both tuesday and wednesday I couldn't pull myself out of bed in time to catch the city waking up. What also didn't help was the groggy, rainy mornings, its been difficult getting up when there is no sun to entice you!

Anyways, despite all the rain, and the negativity from most of the group, I realized that it was week 7, which meant only 3 weeks left in gorgeous Florence with my amazing host family, and then I realized it was only bad weather. Bad weather in a great city, why are people so upset? We were still in Florence weren't we?

Walking home wednesday afternoon I got caught in a torrential downpour about 15 minutes away from home. More rain, it was normal at that point so strangely I found myself smiling widely getting drenched walking home and I loved every second of it. From then on I have found myself walking around with a giddy smile on my face because why wouldn't I? I was spending 10 weeks in Florence, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, if only I could get the rest of my classmates to realize that and appreciate both the amazing and not so amazing things of the city!

We went to Gelateria de' Medici a few times that week, meeting up with various people, trying various flavors. We obviously had amazing dinners made by Claudia, and the whole week we had Roma in our minds because we would be heading there with the class and Mauro early Friday morning. Secretly I hoped the rain would stop in Roma, because obviously things are that much better when its sunny, but even if it did rain I wasn't going to let that spoil the weekend.

Friday morning we woke up at 5:45, ate a quick breakfast and took bus 4 to SMN, we arrived in plenty of time, boarded the train with the class and relaxed until we arrived at Stazione Termini. I was very excited, especially because the entire train ride had been through rolling NOT RAINY tuscany! I was confident the skies would behave for us (at least for a little), so I wouldn't have to hear the constant complaints about the weather.

Lucky I was... When we arrived we immediately went to our hotel and checked in. Hotel Mariano behind Termini, pretty close to Santa Maria Maggiore, and definitely in a not so great part of town, very ethnic, chinese restaurants every few yards, but I was content. The rooms were nice and the continental breakfast that was included was very well stocked. Mauro gave us a half hour to go find coffee and rejuvenate before we started the real day, and thank god he had because I don't know if I would have been able to make it.

At 10:45 we started our Mauro weekend. Our first stop Santa Maria Maggiore. Our group failed at walking at the pace of Mauro, I always felt bad we were so slow so I was always the first two people behind him, which was probably 15 or so feet behind him because his little legs walk so damn quickly (I don't know how he does it). We learned about the Santa Maria Maggiore, its architectural wonders, its main artworks and chapels, Michelangelo's Cappela Sforza, (that were of course under restoration, so unable to be seen) and its importance as one of the first 4 basilicas in Roma, connected directly with the other 3 by major roads.

After Santa Maria Maggiore we went to a much smaller church a few streets down named Santa Prassede. This Basilica was much smaller, but just as beautiful as others we had visited. Inside its side chapel it held the relic of the Column of Flagellation, a piece of the column where christ was thought to be flagellated on. Incredible detail in all of the artwork and of the marble floor, and incredible windows making the perfect lighting for the Basilica.

Next stop: San Pietro in Vincoli housing the relic of St. Peter's Chains. Also Michelangelo's last version of the tomb for Pope Julius II. Moses, Rachel and Leah also within the Basilica. No stopping now! Almost noon, off to the Colosseum, quick 25 minute lunch break, ate a terrible panini because of how close we were to the Colosseum, then began our colossal tour! Having Mauro with us in the Colosseum and the churchs of Roma made me realize how much more you can appreciate and enjoy the artwork when you have background knowledge and significance, especially when its coming from a very little and animated Italian man. The Colosseum was of course GREAT, everybody enjoyed being in there and it was the first time I had seen the 95% of the class content with the present situation. We had free time to roam the greatest ruin of Roma and then we were off to the Foro Romana.

We were lead to the exit of the Foro Romana and had to walk around the perimeter to find the right entrance. It was nearing 3:00 and we were running out of time, so Mauro embarked on his mission of speaking quickly, walking quickly and only naming important sights (which is everything so that didn't really cut out time haha). We explored Ceasar's palaceon top of Palatino hill, inside the Roman Forom, we saw the Triumphal Arch of Settimius Severus, Basilica Giulia, and inside the Imperial Foro we saw the Trajan Basilica which was so huge and heavy it was obvious to us how its collapse had happened and we saw the political building of the forum.

Nearing 5:00 we were told we would have an hour break before we met up at the Quirinale to see the Caravaggio exhibit. We thought it was a pointless time to have a break so we suggested we go straight to the Caravaggio and Mauro thought that was a great idea because he was pooped and didn't wanna wait any longer either. On our way we walked past a photography gallery, lucky for us Benjamin wanted to stop and waste our hour of free time with the photography exhibit where I found a photograph with a younger version of me, and we still didn't end up getting to the Caravaggio exhibit until 6:00, so our great plan of finishing an hour early was spoiled.

The line at the Caravaggio exhibit didn't appear to be too long, but boy were we wrong. Luckily the rain had held off all day until we made it under the tented portion of the line, an hour into waiting. Everyone was starting to get delusional from being so tired, not thrilled to hear we would have to wait in line for at least an hour and 45 minutes, and to know that when we exited the exhibit to find dinner we would be in cold torrential rains, which had started as we entered the covered portion of the line.

I wasn't the happiest camper waiting in line, but I didn't complain, only to my mom when she called me while I was waiting in line, and then because she was so jealous I was about to go see the exhibit I put my tiredness behind and prepared to see what Marana and my mom always got SO excited to go see and to hear about other people going to see his art. Finally when we entered the museum two hours later, around 8:15, I was not disappointed. I had never got to see a collection of Caravaggio's works, only sporadic ones placed in churches, and before this trip I never really appreciated art. Now when I was staring at 23 of Caravaggio's canvases I realized how incredible of an artist he was, and why Marana and my mom drooled over his work. I was not at all upset we had to wait in a two hour line, although a reservation for the group would have been preferred, and I would have been able to focus more of my attention on the artwork if we weren't so tired from a full day of Mauro, but it was okay because I still appreciated his work SO much!

After the exhibit we ventured out into the rain in little groups to find restaurants. Boy were we hungry! We found a restaurant on the way back to our hotel, not the greatest, but the right price. We sat down, got water wine, bruschetta, and Phil and I split a Pizza Capriciosa (had an egg in the middle it was SO good) and a plate of Carbonara (which was just okay), but I was content to be sitting and in good company. There were not complaints at dinner, and we had a wonderful time getting soaked on the way home trying to figure out where the hotel was. I refused to take a cab, and I made everyone walk right behind me through the rain. It was entertaining! When we finally arrived I was so psyched to hop into bed and immediately fall asleep, and I was thrilled our meeting time in the morning was generously 9:50 (Mauro was more lenient than my mom! I would've been up at 8:30 with her!).

Day 2: Roma

Breakfast at the hotel, pretty delicious, although students weren't allowed to order cappuccinos, only professor and wife, so I settle for tea, wasn't a problem. Met Mauro at 9:50, left the hotel by 10:00 and made our first stop at Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, a large, immense church situated right on Piazza della Repubblica. It was already raining which was a little bit of a disappointment but it was fine. Maruo was tired and we were moving quickly today! After we headed to Santa Maria della Vittoria, where all the art history nerds were psyched because Bernini's L'Estasi di santa Teresa d'Avila. Won't lie it was pretty impressive. Moving quickly on we stopped at Chiesa di San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, beautiful little church, peculiar because of its elliptical plan and oval dome. After that we stopped in another Bernini church Sant'Andrea al Quirinale where we walked in on a wedding ceremony (MA, I PHOTOGRAPHED THE BRIDE!!!).

Moving on from there we walked briefly past the Fontana di Trevi, Mauro wouldn't let us stop, just walked past it so the class couldn't complain he didn't take them there! Then past the Pantheon, past Sant'Eustachio (Mauro was impressed I knew it had the best coffee), into Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi where two Caravaggios remained on the walls of a chapel.

We were slowly seeing 80% of Caravaggio's works that weekend. From there we went to Piazza Navona where he let us free for 45 minutes to have lunch then meet back at the Pantheon to go inside it.

Sam and I walked to Campo dei Fiori to find a place where we had eaten a delicious salad before. We rushed there in the pourring rain, enjoyed splitting a massive salad with corn, tomatoes, and mozzarella and then we got a piece of pizza to go ready to meet up with the group at the Pantheon at 1:00. Mauro gave us a talk about the history of the Pantheon as a Pagan church and then of its architecture and how it had been transformed. Then around 2:00 we started heading toward Villa Borghese which would be our last stop with Mauro and then we would be free for the rest of our time in Roma.

At 3:00 we entered the Galleria Borghese, I remembering how my mom had gotten squirted with a water gun by a little boy outside, and how me and my friends had posed in the garden with my dad, becoming Charlie's Angels. Great times! Mauro took us through the Gallery, not spending too much time in any room, and giving us the perfect amount of details on the contents of the museum. There were so many spectacular sculptures by Bernini which were absolutely beautiful, and so many other great pieces of art by the most prestigious Italian artists and their followers. By 4:45 we were free to go!

We walked back in small groups, my group stopping at a supermarket to by some snacks to indulge on in the hotel before we went out to dinner. We took naps, got ready and hung out in our rooms for a little, relaxing, enjoying each others company and then we went off to the Jewish ghetto and back to Il Portico where we knew we would find the best food for the best price. We had a delightful dinner with for 12 people. Only had to wait 20 minutes. Everyone was so psyched we had brought them there, I think only two people had to pay more than 12 euros for more than enough food, me being one of them because I got the Carciofi pasta special! It was well worth the extra 3 euro!

After dinner half of the group went back to the hotel (those who were waking up at 8:00 to go to the Vatican) and the other half went out to Campo dei Fiori to check out the night life. It was a great night, and lots of fun was had!

Day 3: Roma

Woke up around 9:30, went down and got breakfast, showered packed up and put our stuff in the holding room downstairs where we were told we could leave our things while we explored Roma on our final day. Guess what!? IT WASN'T RAINING! By 11:00 we had checked out, and were on our way to Piazza del Popolo to see the final Caravaggio resting in one of Santa Maria del Popolo's chapels.

In the Piazza there was a strange Polizia presentation going on for children and others. They were demonstrating the strength of their attack dogs and how well they were trained, (it was a little scary) and they had Polizia cars, choppers, bikes etc on display in the piazza. We hung around there for a little bit watching then we went into the Church. We only got a quick glance at Caravaggio's painting before we were ushered out on account of a mass beginning. From there we walked to the Vatican, I was the tour leader, showed people around. From the Vatican I made people come to Cafe San'Eustachio with me where I finally got my Cappuccino, that was SOOO good, the place was packed so we got to take our coffees to the curb and sit in the sun.

Finally, we headed back to the hotel around 4, we grabbed some food, ate outside and then waited for the group to arrive and head to the train station. The train ride back was peaceful through the country side, and the sky was doing the most interesting things it was so beautiful. Everyone was content with finally being able to relax, we were always on the go in Roma, and returning to our homes in Firenze was looking very enticing. We finally arrived home around 9:30 where the dinner left for us was a can of sweet corn (because Claudia knows how much Sam likes sweet corn) and two frozen pizzas in the freezer. Luckily we weren't hungry, so we split the can of corn, unpacked and then fell asleep FAST!

Great weekend in Roma, I still haven't gotten enough of it, and I am excited to head back with Suzanne, Alex, Bill, Jacob and Jeff. It's going to be a great time everytime I'm there... how could it not be? After all its Roma!

Costa Amalfitana questo fine settimana! A dopo!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Torino con Serena!

All week I was a little anxious to finally be leaving for Torino on thursday to go visit Serena who I hadn't seen since 9th grade, and I was nervous to be completely surround by all all Italians for the weekend. I don't know why I was nervous, because it ended up being an amazing weekend!

Thursday I went to Photography class with all of my things ready to bring to Torino. I had a little difficulty escaping from class a few minutes early in order to make it to SMN in time to catch my train. It wasn't a problem though, I was there in plenty of time and as I checked the board the train was going to be 5 minutes late anyways, so I strolled around the station waiting for the train to arrive. They were pretty precise about the 5 minute delay, because the train ended up leaving the station exactly 5 minutes after it was scheduled to leave, not too bad I thought.

On the train ride I read and slept, only getting a little nervous about spending the weekend with Serena. As the train approached Porta Nuova in Torino, I gathered my things and waited for the train to stop at the platform where I would hop out and scan the crowd for Serena who was supposedly waiting. She wasn't on the platform where the train had arrived, but I walked toward the main doors of the train station and surely enough there she was standing, and scanning the crowd for me with her boyfriend. I approached them from the side so they didn't really notice me, but as I tapped her on the shoulder and said her name she turned around and gave me two big kisses and introduced me to her boyfriend Alessandro. We walked toward the underground tram that would take us to her house outside of the city, and she explained everything she had planned for the weekend, how we would be going to the disco that night, and how she was so thrilled for me to finally be there with her. She made me feel so honored and I was so happy to make her really happy as well!

So we took the tram and then got in Alessandro's car and arrived at her apartment 40 minutes later. Gaetano and 4 pizzas were waiting there to greet me. We greeted each other then sat down to dinner, each to his own pizza. I had a regular margherita, and it was delicious! After dinner Alessandro waited for Serena and I to get dressed and made up and by 9:45 we were off to the disco.

We arrived way too early and had to wait until 11 to be let in because Italians are never out before then, but we had to go early because Serena had class at 8:30 the next day. The first half our in the disco it was empty, and I could already tell that I would be the only american in the building even if it did fill up. By 12, the place was PACKED! And as I presumed, only with Italians... Soon every third person in the discoteca was smoking a cigarette, and people started dancing. The dance floor was packed, they played a few english songs, but then the rest were italian and the DJ was entertaining in Italian. It was a true Italian experience. We danced for a while, left by 2 and were home by 3, excited to wake up at 7 to go to the University! As I took my clothes off I was shocked when I realized that my dress REEKED of smoke and there was nothing I could do about it but tie it up in a plastic bag and shove it in the bottom of my back pack. It was gross!

So Friday we woke up at 7, took an hour long bus ride to get to her univeristy that was right across from the Olympic stadium, COOL! I attended law class with her, only dozing off a few times. I got to meet a few of her friends who were really excited to speak english. One bought me a coffee, very nice people. And one had studied in Utah for ten months so his English was very very good!

After class we went back home to make lunch and take a nap before going out to see some museums. For lunch Serena heated up the left over pizza and made a pasta with vegetables and I cut up strawberries that we ate with whip cream for dessert. I slept until 3 by accident, then we rushed in centro to make sure we had time to see the museums she wanted us to see. The center of Torino was gorgeous (even in the rain) and very different than Florence. We went to the church where the Shroud of Turin was on display, and gazed at it for a few minutes then left to go meet up with Erika, one of Serena's friends. We chatted with Erika for a little while in a Piazza, she spoke English beautiful and was really excited she could speak with me, then we all headed toward the famed Museo di Egizio of Torino. The largest Egyptian museum in the world, next to the one that is in Cairo. It was a cool museum, i really only enjoyed the mummies and the large statues, but it was definitely worth the 3 euro.

After the Egizio we rushed out so we could get to the Museo del Cinema before it closed at 8. On our way we walked past Grom Gelatera and Serena and I got gelatos for our Merenda! Grom is truly a great gelateria, and I learned that it was apparently started in Torino, so I got to eat it in its original location!

Licking our gelatos, we slowly walked toward the Mole Antonelliana which houses the Museo del Cinema. This museum was more expensive than the Egizio, but was by far 100x cooler. It was interactive and had a lot of interesting content on movies I had seen and actors I knew of, and everything is always more interesting when you have a little background, so I really enjoyed myself in that museum. If only we had more time because we only got to see two of the four floors before getting kicked out because it closed at 8, and 8 o'clock came very quickly!

When we exited the Mole Antonelliana we went to a Piadineria across the road so that Erika could grab a bite to eat because she wasn't able to have gelato before because of stomach issues. We chatted a while then walked back toward Via Roma where we were to meet up with another of Serena's friends Adina who was supposedly beautiful. And that she was! Beautiful and so nice, we all went to a bar down the road that was very well known and we were able to have an aperativo buffet and drink for only 8 euros. So I got myself a plate full of cheeses, crostini, olives etc, and had a delicious margherita, then had a fun time telling the girls what American Universities were like! They were sooo nice, I had a great time!

After we had our drinks and finished eating, we met up with Erika's boyfriend and his group of friends. They wanted to find a hookah bar, so we went off in search of one they thought they remembered. On the way we ran into a clothing store that was till open at 11:00! So we HAD to go in! All the girls rushed in, I was freezing cause I didn't bring the right clothes for the much more northern city of Torino, so I bought a nice grey scarf for 5 euros, I got the same on as Adina and Serena bought the same one but in white. That store was smart to be the only one open at that hour, I'm sure they got a lot of business!

We asked directions from the cashier for where the nearest hookah bar was, and soon enough we had our purchases and we were off in pursuit of the bar. We found the bar probably 5 minutes later and were very happy to go into the crowded room and stay away from the cold outside. We got tea and hookah for 5 euro a piece, it was a fun time. Adina, Serena and Erika constantly keeping me in the conversation, it was very nice! By 12:30 we were DEAD TIRED, so we walked to the bust stop with Adina and waited for number 101 to come. It finally came around 1:10, we were so tired I kept nodding off on the bus, and we finally arrived back at her home a little before 2:00. I brushed my teeth and immediately climbed into bed, a bed has never felt so good, I swear. I was beyond tired it was ridiculous.

Saturday we woke up around 10, I ate a little breakfast then we headed for the center and stopped near Porta Nuova to get lunch before heading to the Venaria Reale (a palace on the outskirts of Torino). Serena was craving chinese food, so we walked around a found a precious little chinese restaurant where I ordered chicken with almonds and white rice, for under 6 euro, it was a nice change from the constant Italian food I'd been eating, and it was an inexpensive choice too, so I was content with satisfying her chinese food craving with her.

After lunch we went to find the bus that would take us to the gorgeous Venaria Real. Once again it was a 40 minute bus ride where I was dozing in and out. Luckily when we arrived the sun was peaking through the clouds and it was turning out to be a relatively nice day. We bought tickets for the Garden and the Palace. We went to the Gardens first, in fear that if we went into the Palace it would be raining by the time we exited. The gardens were beautiful, but Serena was disappointed because she had hoped to see more flowers in bloom. It was mainly a garden filled with green bushes, it was beautiful, but a little color here and there would have made it even more magnificent!

We walked through the grounds and then into the Palace. I won't lie, I found the building itself much more beautiful than any of the art work that was housed inside, but it was a beautiful place and I was glad she took me to see it.

Nearing 4 o'clock we were so tired, and needed to get back because Alessandro was picking us up at 7:30 to take us to his friends birthday party dinner at a restaurant in the center. As we exited the palace and walked back toward the bus stop, we stopped at this place called Yo Yogurt, which I had seen before in Lucca, but it had been closed, and I told her I had to go in and try it. It was a frozen yogurt place that you could choose to put almost any toppings on, so for two euro I got a cone first filled with warm nutella, then yogurt was added, then strawberries and then more nutella. It was pretty darn delicious, and the perfect afternoon pick me up!

On the bus ride home I obviously was dozing off, the guy sitting across from me made fun of me and told me to watch my bag. He was nice, I was a little embarrassed cause I was trying so hard to keep my eyes open but I literally did not have the energy to. It was not a good state to be in!

We arrived home around 7, because I made us stop at Porta Nuova so I could buy my return ticket home and there was a long line to get tickets. So there was no way Serena would be ready by 7:30, but we got ready as quickly as we could. Ale came a little before 8. Serena was still getting ready. I got to spend a little time with Gaetano as he showed me some of his pictures from an island he had recently been to. We were finally in the car by 8:30 and arrived and parked and showed up at the restaurant "Pizze e Cozze" around 9:30(late). Serena was glad I was with her because she didn't know any of his friends, so we both were awkwardly thrown into the situation. It ended up being quite alright though! Serena ordered my food for me, she got me an oyster and Pizze e Cozze (a pizza piled high with mussels and had a few calamari beneath). I was shocked when it arrived in front of me because I was a little unsure of what she had ordered for me, but it was all part of the experience! It was a little weird to eat fish on pizza, but it really wasn't terrible, and the oyster was quite delicious too!

We were really tired after singing tanti auguri and eating pastries, too tired to go out dancing with the birthday crew, so we said our good nights, kissed everyone then headed back to the car. I got to ride shot gun because they wanted to drive me through a beautiful piazza. The piazza they showed me which I forget the name was so beautiful and there were massive amounts of people roaming around through out it. After we passed it, I immediately fell asleep in the front seat, who knows why I was so tired, but I was so grateful to arrive back at the apartment and be able to sleep in the next morning before heading back to Firenze.

We slept till 10, be woken up by a call from her grandma who was on her way over to bring us breakfast. Breakfast being a vat of gelato! I had never eaten gelato for breakfast, so I really tried a lot of new things in Torino. It was kinda nice waking up to gelato, I certainly didn't have any complaints! After her grandma fed us gelato, she headed out, Serena started making lunch so we could eat before she brought me to the train station and I started packing up my things and getting ready to leave.

I was actually really sad to leave Serena, she was always alone in her house cause her dad is always working or running a marathon, so she enjoyed having me there and I was kind of like her sister for the weekend. I was glad I got to spend time with her and I hope that I will have the opportunity to go back to Torino when the weather will be a little nicer, or that Serena can come hang out with me at Union College!

Overall a great weekend filled with new things:

Hookah Bar
Pizze e Cozze
Gelato per Colazione.


a dopo!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Il Primo di Maggio, tutto e CHIUSO

The past week was probably the best thusfar, despite it being midterm week. The weather was gorgeous all week, Gustapanino was back open and the only homework we had was to write a paper and study for our Italian midterm.

Monday: Italian and Photo Class
Lunch: Gusta
Dinner: Small Plate of Pasta w/ red eggplant sauce. Zucchini and Marscapone Fritatta. Milka Chocolate Bar.
Highlights: Getting an I <3 Gustapanino Sticker!

Tuesday: Italian and Mauro
Lunch: Gusta, Gelato from Santa Trinita (Stratciatella and Cookies)
Dinner: Guests tonight! Walked in the kitchen right as 2 ladies and Claudia were popping the SPUMANTE! Animated dinner. Dish of Raw Artichokes and Avocado in Lemon and Oil sauce. Cooked veggie mix on couscous. Vegetarian "Saetan" creation. Delicious.
Highlights: Maura being 20 minutes late, class getting to enjoy the 80 degree weather in front of San Lorenzo and met up with Greg from Wayland and went to Twice, a club where lots of dancing was going on.

Wednesday: Two hours of Italian (1 make up hour)
Lunch: Gusta (can't get enough!)
Dinner: Left out by Claudia was Linguine with a creamy sauce, Grilled prosciuto and cheese (literally). Melted chocolate chips we found into the leftover rice pudding type cake we had the night before.
Highlights: Stayed at Eurocentres from 12-6 studying for the midterm. Wrote 75% of Turner paper.

Thursday: Italian and Photo
Lunch: Gusta (No crudo today b/c I got a HUGE charlie horse in the middle of the night from what we believe was high salt intake and dehydration, not fun!)
Dinner: Steamed artichokes with pancetta and oil. Cooked Zucchini concoction with Faro. Cooked eggplant concoction with Couscous. Red wine because Claudia had another dinner guest! (we only get wine when guests come)
Highlights: Seeing a slideshow of Professors photographs, very impressive. Thinking the italian midterm was PRETTY easy. The Faro :o) NOM NOM NOM. We also discovered Paperback Exchange, a bookstore that buys back, makes exchanges and sells english books for very cheap. We love reading here so it was a nice find!

Friday: Italian, La Notte Bianca, 85 degrees and SUNNY, no chance of Rain.

Went to class, where half of both classes were gone do to weekend travel to Munich. Read an intersting and 80% truthful article Francesca printed out for us in Italian about drunk Americans in Firenze.

Gusta Panino, derrr. Then we went to this place recently discovered called Mama's Bakery, which is an american bakery a block away from school that sells bagels, brownies, muffins, cupcakes, and other non italian delicacies. People have been craving american food recently so a few cupcakes were bought and shared. Then as we made plans for what we were going to do that night for the Notte Bianca we decided we also needed Gelato b/c American cupcakes just really can't be compared to anything Italian which we realized again. It was nice to have a taste of home though. So Hannah and Alison took us to their favorite Gelateria, La Carraia, which is just on the corner near the other bridge, not Ponte Trinita. I had Stratciatella and Fondente, and I agreed that La Carraia was one of the better gelaterias, huge amount for 1.50 and great taste. I now prefer La Carraia to Santa Trinita which is many people's favorite. As we ate our melting Gelato quickly we decided that we would picnic that night in the Cascine park, I was to meet Alex and Dan outside the horticulteral garden in our neighborhood at 5:30 to go find a supermercato and meet everyone at Cascine at 6.

Went back home around 2, finished up my Turner paper so I would be work free until Tuesday, took a long nap then rushed to meet the boys. We started walking toward Cascine not finding a supermarket anywhere, so we ended up having to go past the park, making us very late, but we asked someone where a supermarket was and we were able to buy two loaves of whole grain freshly baked bread, an etto (?Mom?) of mortadella, little roasted chickens, two hunks of cheese (provolone and brie) two giant bottles of red table wine, 1.5 liters of water, a gatorade, a tea and a carton of strawberries for 18 and some change. It was quite the bargain for a wonderfully planned picnic.

We ate, relaxed and had a wonderful time sitting on a grassy patch inside the cascine. Around 9 everyone met us who had eaten with their host families and we headed toward SMN and in town to see what was going on in the Piazzas for La Notte Bianca. When we arrived you could tell the atmosphere was different. Usually there are a ton of people in centro every night, but tonight there were MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF PEOPLE. There were stages set up at SMN and Piazza della Republicca. Music was playing, street preformers were out. I got to try and blow out a clown's torch that he had done a juggling act with. My small lung capacity was not match for the lit torch that was probably heavily soaked in lighter fluid, but i'm sure it was entertaining trying to watch me blow it out. Around 12 we were craving ice cream, and I mean ice cream, not Gelato. We had walked past Ben & Jerry's and the smell that emanated was just SO good we had to get some. I felt a little guilt, but when it was only 2.50 for a huge cone with two different flavors I didn't think it was too bad. And I just can't help but love chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate fudge brownie, so it was worth it! After we all wolfed down our ice cream, we headed our separate ways very tiredly and preparing to wake up early to catch the train to Certaldo where we would be staying Saturday night.

Saturday: Primo di Maggio

Woke up at 8:00, ate breakfast (yogurt with a few cocoa krispies, yum) then caught a bus at 8:50 to get to SMN. Half way there I realized I forgot my train ticket, I contemplated getting off the bus, but I knew I wouldn't be able to make it back in time to catch the train to Certaldo at 9:27, so 4.20 euro went down the drain... Met everyone at the station, got a new ticket, validated it, found the right track number then got on the train headed towards Empoli where we would for some reason have to get off and take a bus to get to Certaldo. When we arrived in Empoli we were tempted to stay because there was a large fest with music and balloons going on right outside the train station, but we had told the hotel to pick us up at 11:00, so we got on the bus to arrive at Certaldo station at 11:00.

When we arrived we waited no less than 5 minutes for the hotel car to arrive. We had to take 3 separate cars to all fit because their van had broken down, but it wasn’t a problem and we arrived at Fattoria Bassetto within 10 minutes from when we arrived in Certaldo.

We checked in and explored the premises, put our bags in our rooms, checked out the bathroom (which had a great view when sitting on the toilette), explored the cabinets of the kitchen and then walked around the outside and then decided to walk to Certaldo. Took us about 25 minutes to walk to the top of the hill where Certaldo Alto sat. The vista from the city was absolutely gorgeous, and the tiny enotecas placed sporadically down the main drag added to the quaint effect of the small hill town. We explored every corner of the tiny town, walked down a small ally where I noticed a delicious smell was coming from and we stumbled upon a gorgeous restaurant with a terrace that had primo piatti for under 9 euro. As a table 8 out of 10 of us ordered the Spinach Ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach and covered in a creamy oil and sage sauce. We only got 3 large raviolios, but it was fine because it made us savor the taste. We also drank 8 bottles of water and a few people got delicious looking contornis and bruschetta.

After lunch we walked through the town one more time, then decided we would go down into the more modern Certaldo and find a supermarket where we could buy ingredients for our dinner back at Fattoria Bassetto. We searched the entire town only to be disappointed by every new road we walked down because all of the doors were closed and EVERYTHING was closed. We knew holidays were important to the italians, but we were unaware of what Primo Di Maggio (labor day) meant. The only thing we could find open was a Gelateria, so we had some gelato as we contemplated what our choices were for that nights dinner. We realized we would have to walk back up and dine in another restaurant in Certaldo Alto because that is where the only stores and restaurants were open. After talking for a little while, people started remembering seeing pasta and cold cuts here and there, so Anna and I were nominated to hike back up the hill and find the right complements to make a meal.

We found a small shop where wine and a few other products were being sold. We explained to the storekeeper that we were in a bind because of it being Primo di Maggio and everything was closed, we wanted to picnic and we were on a budget. The store keeper immediately said that he would be more than happy to help, started listing things that we would need to have a good dinner and knocked the price of his cheapest 8euro wine, to 5 euro. We bought 3 bottles of his uncle's Chianti for 15 euro total, bought a large Salami for 15 euro, got a small chunk of pecorino for free, and spent 10 euro on another large hunk of pecorino and foccacia.

Although the guy at the first store helped us out greatly we still didn't have any pasta, so we had to go back to the main street of Certaldo Alto and continue the search for the perfect ingredients. We found an enoteca where they were selling lots of home made pasta, we bought 3 bags of a colorful home made pasta for 4.20 euro each, and spied a large bottle of white wine in their cooler that didn't appear for sale but we inquired anyways. The vino bianco was 4 euro so we bought two bottles of that along with the pasta, held off on the sauce because it was very expensive and we figured we could just make a butter and herb sauce with things that were already at Fattoria Bassetto. We took our purchases quite satisfied and started our hike back down the rocky terrain toward Fattoria Bassetto carrying 5 bottles of wine, 3 pounds of pasta, 2 hunks of cheese, a log of salami and a bag of foccacia, SUCCESS!

When we got back we relaxed for a while, played some cards and read outside, we took 25 minutes cat naps then started to prepare the dinner for 10. A little hesitant about how to make a pasta sauce with the ingredients we had, we picked 3 different kinds of herbs from the herb garden, one being chives for sure, the rest unknown (possibly oregano and rosemary). Avery and Phil started helping us out with the sauce while we boiled the pasta. We ended up having quite the fun adding half a bottle of white wine into the skillet, sautéing the herbs and then adding butter to the concoction along with salt and pepper to create one of the most interesting and best tasting sauces Italy has ever seen (NOT). But it really wasn't that bad, especially since we were hungry! We cut the cheese and salami, set the table, set the bowls of pasta out, opened the wine, sat down to dinner, made a toast and started inhaling the food that we worked so hard to prepare. It was a great dinner with great company, filled with lots of laughter and no regrets that we were missing Union College's Springfest back home. I think being at a Villa in Tuscany is going to top my first springfest experience and will tromp the ones to come as well!

After we finished our large feast we all just hung around outside for a while chatting and taking photographs. We we're a little lame and went to bed before midnight, but we were all perfectly content with the happenings of the day.

Sunday morning we woke up to the pitter patter of rain on the roof... great. Obviously it wanted to rain while we were in Siena for the second time, so we rearranged our plans and decided we would go walk through San Gimignano quickly, so we checked out at 11, arrived at the train station to figure out how to get there. We had to take a train to Poggibonsi then take a bus from Poggibonsi to San Gimignano, then to return to florence we would take a bus back to Poggibonsi then get a train to Florence. We waited an hour for a train to Poggibonsi, when we arrived we realized we had to wait another hour and a half to get the bus for San Gimignano, then we realized once we got there that we didn't know what times we would be able to get back with the stupid holiday bus and train time tables, so we walked around Poggibonsi trying to find SOMETHING to do, there was nothing because it was Sunday and a Holiday... double whammy, so we got on the next train back to FLorence a little bummed that the rain could control how much fun we had.

But we weren't disappointed with the weekend at all, it was definitely a very fun time. When we got back to Florence we all went to get a bite to eat together. I walked home in the rain, got soaking wet and was glad to be back at home to take a hot shower. Claudia left me floured chicken and steamed veggies for dinner, it was nice to have the house to myself for a relaxing sunday dinner, I watched a little television then went to bed!

Story Of Our Lives...