Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkins, etc.

Sorry again for the abandonment.
I guess it's nice to know I'm out and about and not spending my days abroad on the computer...?

Kate gets here in 2 hours! 

Paris and Rome were both amazing. I definitely need to go back to Paris at some point in the distant future. I'm hoping to go back to Rome before I come home, but we'll see. We didn't make it into the Villa Borghese (Caravaggio paintings galore!) so hopefully I can go back. 

Anyway, last night I made pumpkin risotto. It's delicious. And I'm making pumpkin pie at some point this week for Thanksgiving. Woo!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Excerpt from journal on Thursday, November 12th:

"I think I’m in love.

I accompanied Hope to the train station this morning, and decided to take a leisurely stroll back. I wandered through the markets in San Lorenzo, gawked at the Duomo, purchased tickets for tonight’s Amleto (Italian Hamlet!) at the Teatro Verdi down the street, got coffee at Il Cibreo (famous and old café/trattoria/theater complex), wandered through the Sant’Ambrogio market and bought olives and prosciutto, gawked at Santa Croce, pet a mangy poodle at the antique market, and bought another postcard of Il David.

It’s official. I love Florence. I mean, I really love Florence.

Christmas lights are being hung throughout the streets! I am ecstatic. As soon as the clock strikes midnight on November 26th, I am blaring Christmas music. I cannot wait to do the Christmas season Euro-style."

More soon! Paris and Rome details on the way! 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dear Blog,

Please forgive me for abandoning you.


Leaving in twenty minutes for Paris!
I'm meeting Hope there for 3 days, then she's coming back to Florence with me for a spell.
It's so unreal. 5 years ago we were in Museology class at the Art Institute looking at Toulouse-Lautrec's Montmatrte, the works of the Impressionists, Caillebotte's Paris Street, Rainy Day, and now we'll be there... It's supposed to rain all weekend and I don't even care. It'll be just like the Caillebotte, minus the dapper 19th century attire.

The last few weeks have been hectic. Two weekends ago, I went up North to Bassano to visit the cousins! I spoke (poor) Italian almost all weekend. It's really gratifying to know you can communicate in a different language. It's much different than speaking Italian in class, because everyone sort of knows what you're saying anyway, and you can say a few words in English to get your point across if you're having trouble. But when someone only speaks Italian, and you're able to converse with them, it's a nice feeling. Even if you're really terrible at it. 
I'll be going back there in early December, so hopefully my verbal skills will improve...
The cousins took me Asiago also. It was beautiful! And the cheese was awesome, of course. Then spent that Sunday in Venice (alone, but that's fine). I finally got to see the Biennale, which was exceeeellleeennttt. My mind was blown. 

Then last weekend, Margaret, Sarah, and I went to Amsterdam! It's a great city. However, I can't help but think that the prostitution and loose drug laws detract from the city's other great attributes. When you say Amsterdam, people think, "omg marijuanaaa, hookersss!" but there's so much more to it!

The Anne Frank House was intense. I was almost in tears by the end of it. Her father was the only one that lived, and when he returned he found out his entire family was gone. You really can't fathom that. I desperately need to reread the book. When I read it the last time I was so young that I had to look up "annex". At the end of the exhibition they had her original journal. It was so strange to be able to look at her handwriting.

Van Gogh Museum was great. They also had letters from him to his brother, so you could see his sketches and handwriting as well. He sketched like he painted, which I found really interesting. 

I guess that's most of it for now.
Florence is still amazing. I'm really looking forward to Hope coming here, and then for Kate to come over Thanksgiving break. I know when Dad and Maria came to visit, experiencing the city with them made me appreciate it more somehow. I'm not sure why. I wish you guys could come back! It was amazing having you here. :)

I'll try to write more when I get back. And I'll try to update more frequently even if it's just bulletpoints!!

Monday, October 12, 2009


I'm 21!

The weekend was excellent. Though the bus ride to Pompei was 7 hours long each way, it was bearable and I think everyone bonded. Sorrento is gorgeous and we saw Vesuvius. It's way overdue for an eruption, by the way. 

Dad, Maria, and I got gelato last night and sat in front of Santa Croce until I turned 21 at midnight. Then we went to this skeezy but charming American bar and I got my first drink as a 21-year-old: a Heineken. 

In Italian class today, my classmates sang "Happy Birthday" to me in Italian, Russian, Spanish, Serbian, Armenian, Chinese, and Bulgarian. 

And Venice was amazing. The canals are as mystical as I remember them. 


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oh, they're chili peppers. I get it.

Sunday evening I had my first encounter with peperoncini, and almost permanently damaged the taste buds of my roommates. I attempted to follow a simple recipe on the back of a frozen wild mushroom package (don't judge me - there's a lousy fresh mushroom selection at our supermarket), of which I only understood about 75% because it was in Italian. Italians aren't huge on measurements, so the recipe called for something like "some peperoncini"... which I interpreted as three small and two medium-large whole peppers. Apparently, one small one would have sufficed... Sarah was the unfortunate sampler, and We dumped loads of butter and cheese into the pan in an attempt to balance it out, but it was still unbelievably spicy. 

I now know the power of the peperoncino. 

Off to Venezia for the day tomorrow! Can't wait to see Dad and Maria in what I remember as being my favorite city in the country. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Most Overdue Blog Entry of All Time


It has been a busy week sandwiched between two amazing, hectic weekends.

Firstly, America, why don’t you have “aperitivo”? What a novel idea: Bars provide a smorgasbord of food and snacks when their customers buy drinks. It’s a win-win situation! Poor college kids get a free meal, and the bars make more money because people need to buy more drinks to get drunk on a full stomach. My roommates and I have taken advantage of this, minus the getting drunk part, actually. We buy a glass of wine (6 euro) but get a cheap dinner for free. The food is decent, and is usually an array of cous cous/rice/pasta dishes and mini sandwiches.

I guess I’ll chronologically go through the past few days… for my own recollection. And I’ll make some bullet-points for those of you with ADD (Danielle).

-Friday, Piazza Michelangelo, amazing views of the city and amazing nature walk.

Margaret, Signe, and I were feeling adventurous, so we climbed up to Piazza Michelangelo. It’s a giant piazza on the top of a hill northeast of the center of Florence. We took the traditional route up, about 3 million steps, until we reached the piazza. After taking about 3 million pictures, we continued upward toward a mysterious church at the top of the hill. So gorgeous! It’s called San Miniato del Monte and it also houses relics (“remains”) from him. It was dusk, so we watched the sunset from the top of the hill. Amazing.

We decided to take the scenic route down, which involved  a winding path though the woods. About halfway down we noticed a man walking a little ways ahead of us, and I didn’t pay much attention. A few moments later, we passed him, and saw him sitting on a stump in the forest… wearing a pair of women’s heels.


Apparently we stumbled upon someone with a dirty secret, who goes to secluded forests in the mountains and lets loose. Who knows. Maybe they were his wife’s heels? Or his mother’s? Norman Bates? Eeeh. He walked in them better than any of us could though, for sure.

The rest of the path was so beautiful! There were tons of grottos, overrun with vines, with schools of goldfish swimming in their ponds. I swore that day that I would take anyone who came to visit up that path to Piazza Michelangel.

-Wine tasting is awesome.

From the bottom of the hill we wandered along the river in search of the Florence Wine Festival. 10 euro for a glass and 12 wine tastings! Over 100 vineyards sampled wine in 6 piazzas on the south side of the river. We only got a couple samples, but we used pretentious wine terminology to describe them, and then wrote down our favorites. We got to taste wine from one of our professor’s vineyard. That was exciting.

-Siena and San Gimignano (super medieval!) on Saturday! Roommates went a purse-purchasing spree, and I also got an awesome owl wine stopper. Margaret’s birthday was great! Yay!

Siena was amazing, but super crowded. The hills are intense. We’re talking Seattle/San Francisco intense. The Duomo is unreal! It’s so ornate… it’s a lot to take in. We also went into Santa Maria della Scala, what used to be a hospital back in the day. The original frescoes were still there, and they had typical imagery of the time like saints, angels, etc. The arches however were covered with details of skulls and bones… How pessimistic! The saints and angels make sense, but if I was dying, I wouldn’t want to be lying on a bed under archways with skulls painted on them.

San Gimignano was also magnificent. It’s very small, very medieval, and much less crowded. The shops sold unique things for a decent price, so I splurged on a 3 euro ceramic owl wine stopper. I know, I know… I’ll calm it down with the owl souvenirs. Last one. For now.
It was also Margaret’s birthday! So in her honor, Sarah and I bought purses with her. Mine was actually on the cheap side, considering it’s size and it’s infinite coolness. I’ve been using it every day since, but I still need to get it treated. (I think they do that here…?)

So for Margaret’s birthday, we got all dolled up and went next door to our place for dinner. Then we headed to a few neighborhood bars to begin the epic celebration. It was a drama-free, good time!

- We saved Margaret’s underwear with a 12-foot long wire hanger contraption and my dogbone flashlight keychain!

Doing laundry here in Italy is always an adventure. Lately, the washer door has been getting stuck. When this happens, the only way to get it open without breaking it, is to do another cycle. They don’t use dryers here, so we have to hang our laundry on a clothesline out our kitchen window. Several times we’ve dropped things onto the balcony awning just below us, so we stretched out a wire hanger to reach out and grab the stuff we’ve dropped. One night, however, Margaret dropped a pair of undies waaay down, onto someone’s actual balcony. We ended up using my dogbone keychain flashlight (thanks, Mom!) to see, and stretched out 6 wire hangers to reach them. Our contraption and my excellent fishing skills saved the day! Sarah documented the event in photographs.

- History of Tuscany is pretty awesome, especially when the Count takes us out for wine.

I finally had History of Tuscany with the infamous Count. He and the course lived up to my expectations. The lecture was really awkward because he drolls on very slowly in his refined English accent, and pauses for long periods of time, and there are only six of us in the class so it’s really quiet. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. But the second half of the class was much better, when he declared, “I’m fed up. Are you fed up? It’s stuffy and hot in here. Let’s go get some wine.” and treated us to a glass or two each. The seven of us talked about a lot, spanning from family to regional foods, Monty Python, banned Bugs Bunny cartoons, and Thanksgiving plans. Apparently every year he cooks a giant feast and invites all of his students to the palace. Yes!!

-I am sick. It sucks.

Friday we all took a “sick day” and bummed around with the exception of a short walk to the duomo and to get gelato and cold medicine. Sarah is doing okay, Signe was feeling a bit under the weather, and Margaret and I both have horrible colds. I’ve been hacking and sniffling all over the place.

-Bologna is amazing! I love it!

Illnesses aside, Sarah, Margaret, and I voyaged to the nearby region of Emilia-Romana to go to Bologna! Bologna has Europe’s oldest university (!), a church that houses the basin that Pontius Pilot “washed his hands” in (!), and it’s known for awesome culinary delights such as Bolognese (meat) sauce, tagliatelle pasta, and tortellini! We ate a lot of good food, and wandered all over this amazing city. I really, really liked Bologna. A lot. I would study abroad there. I hope I can go back. Most of their museums were free, and there weren’t hoards of tourists, and it was densely populated with Italian students. It also was really medieval, which I love. There were also tons of fests and street fairs going on. So great.

Here’s hoping this god awful cough goes away soon! 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Historical History

In a nutshell, I’m dropping my Sculpture major, I’m taking History of Tuscany taught by a Count, and my Renaissance Art History class is mind-blowing.

I not sure what exactly prompted me to drop my studio class here (and as a result, my studio major back home), and take History of Tuscany instead. I guess I’ve finally just come to terms with the fact that an academic life is more manageable for me than an artistic one, so I’m sticking with the Art History major. I still plan on making art and what not, but I just won’t have a “degree” in it. With my double major I would’ve had to do a fifth year of undergrad anyway, and that fifth year can be used much better I think. Anyway, here in Florence I have virtually no studio space, and I highly doubt I’d be able to keep up with what everyone else has been doing back home in the studio. I also decided that taking the history class is a better opportunity. It’s taught by a Count and his family owns a palazzo on the river with archives that date back to the 13th century! Our project is to write a paper using research done in his archives as well as the other notable institutions around town (i.e. that sweet National Library I’m obsessed with.)

Anyway, I am through rationalizing my decision. What’s done is done!

We finally had our first Renaissance Art History class, and it was amazing. The teacher is brilliant and seems to know everything (in a good way). He even went off on a tangent explaining how the English word “secular” stems from the Italian word for “century” which is secolo, and how that’s because it’s relevant to the passing of time, blah blah, it was awesome. We went to two piazze during our first class, Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza della Signoria. I learned more during those 45 minutes than I ever have before!

Then, during my afternoon class, Italian Style, our teacher took us to a welcome ceremony for American students held in the Palazzo Vecchio (the Old Palace) where the Mayor was supposed to welcome the students. However, the Mayor couldn’t make it, so the Vice Mayor came instead. It was still fantastic. The ceremony was held in the Salone del Cinquecento (the Room of 500), that was commissioned by the Medici and has statues by Michelangelo and paintings by Vasari. Awesome.

Regrettably, History of Tuscany has been canceled today, so I won’t find out what the class is like until next week. This is very aggravating. Hopefully I made the right decision. Ugggh.

Italian is incredibly advanced. We’ve now reviewed six or seven tenses. I had only studied two of them… but so far I’ve been able to keep up. I really took a lot of Spanish in high school, and the structure and concepts are almost identical, so it’s not that hard to comprehend.

We’re going to Siena and San Gimignano on Saturday with our school, so that should be exciting. It’s also Margaret’s birthday, so we’re going to celebrate! It’s only her twentieth though. Whomp, whomp. 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fiesole Belongs to the Lizards / “Casual Rave. No Biggie.”

A great weekend! A weekend of discovery.

For one, did you know that Italian IKEAs are the same as all IKEAs? (Surprise!) The same, but still amazing. We bought cheap blankets because the ones they provided for us at the apartment are a little scratchy and suspicious looking. Actually getting to IKEA was an adventure in itself. The bus was a lot harder to find than we thought. I envisioned a sleek and stylish blue and yellow shuttle bus, but we actually just had to take a regular public tranportation bus. It took us half an hour to find the bus stop but it was all worth it.

Saturday we actually made it to Fiesole! It’s this amazing hill town about half an hour outside of Florence. It actually existed before Florence. The Etruscans settled in Fiesole sometime in the 9th or 8th century BC, and when the Romans tried to take over, they couldn’t quite capture Fiesole, so they started setting up Florence. But then eventually got Fiesole. Anyway, this place is covered in ruins. We had to pay 8 euro to see the good ruins, but it was worth it. There’s an amazing Roman amphitheater ^, Roman baths, an Etruscan-turned-Roman temple(!), and a museum with all sorts of relics.

The entire city was overrun by lizards. They were all over the place. I’m pretty sure I saw about fifteen or twenty. Fiesole may have once belonged to the Etruscans, and to the Romans, but the lizards rule now.We wanted to try to get dinner at a non-touristy restaurant, so we decided to explore the rest of the town. Margaret and Sarah wanted to wait in a park while Signe and I explored a little further up the hill. We ended up stumbling upon the ruins of an Etruscan tomb! It was pretty small in size, but still pretty incredible. After peaking around, we noticed a little kitty in the bushes toward the back. I joked that it was an Etruscan soldier guarding the tomb in the form of a stray cat. It would’ve been funny, if the cat wasn’t really weird and dying. No matter how close we got (which wasn’t very close, eww) the cat didn’t move much. Signe had some food scraps so we left it on the ground about a foot in front of the cat. He got up and sort of started hacking, and then sneezed about twenty times and then picked at the food. He sneezed some more, and wheezed, and hacked, and started to follow us when we were leaving. Poor guyyy. I don’t think he had the energy to follow us all the way out. That or… some ancient Etruscan spell forbade him to leave.

Anyway, we ended up settling for a bar/ristorante with mediocre food and lousy service. Then we headed home to prepare for an evening of Electronicaaa.

Since we’ve been here, I noticed posters and flyers were littered all over the city for “Nextech” an electronica festival. When I think “festival” I imagine sitting outside on the grass, chillin, Lollapalloza style. But we were in for a surprise.

The venue was way northwest in Florence, and was this giant stadium-type structure. It was massssive. There were all these trippy video projections on every wall and the place was filled with the vibrations of booming techno.

I’m pretty sure that was a rave. Or maybe Europeans don’t “rave”? Was that just a 90’s American phenomenon? Regardless, electronica is awesome. And the atmosphere wasn’t weird at all. I didn’t see any skeezy, unsavory characters or drug use or anything sketchy like that. Europe is about the love! Oh, not to mention I only saw/came in contact with two Americans. And we spoke Italian. So cool. 

Friday, September 18, 2009

Freaky Friday

Buon Giorno, i miei amici!

I forgot how quickly four days of class fly by. I’m used to not having classes on Fridays (thanks, art school!) but the school days here pass even faster because we have each class only once a week for long periods of time.

Well, T.G.I.F. We have a busy day planned, but I doubt we’ll get to all of it. Our first stop is the Uffizi (finally!!!!!!!) but unfortunately not to look around, just to buy our memberships. It’s very exciting; we have free admission to every museum in the city and surrounding areas for only 40 euro! Yes, it’s steep, but I think admission is about 12 euro per person for the Uffizi. Did I mention we live two blocks away from it?

After we become “Amici degli Uffizi”, we plan to head over to the market in Sant’Ambrogio, behind Santa Croce (the giant church in our ‘hood) to stock up on quality fruits, veggies, and other miscellaneous, decently priced goods. I’m desperate for some mushrooms that aren’t funghi bianchi because I hate white mushrooms. Everywhere we’ve gone to eat has an array of mushroom dishes, chock full of exotic, flavorful mushrooms. But of course, our stupid supermarket only has white mushrooms. I have high hopes for our outdoor neighborhood market.

Following Sant’Ambrogio, we’ll be heading to the bus station to take a free shuttle to… IKEA! We actually need to buy things from there, so this isn’t your typical “I love Ikea, so I’m going to waste an entire day there because it’s awesome,” scenario.  I need to buy a cheap drop cloth for Printing on Textiles class (My roommate, Signe, switched into that class too!) and we need to buy wine glasses. And some plants.

Speaking of Printing on Textiles and mushrooms, the first pattern I’ll be printing is a bunch of clusters of mushrooms. One section of the pattern is dedicated to the funky underside of ‘shrooms. It’s going to be excellent. I hope.

After the voyage to Ikea, we’re going home, eating, chilling, and then getting ready to go to an electronica fest at a venue northwest of our house. It should be fun. And interesting.

That’s about it.

During the early part of the week, I was mostly occupied with classes and homework and True Blood. Italian is getting tough, but Margaret and I are sticking it out. We learned 3 tenses in 3 days. But our teacher took us out for gelato yesterday, so it’s all worth it.




I couldn’t find the Sant’Ambrogio market. That, or it ended before I got there. I did, however, stumbled upon an amazing "antique" marketplace on the way. By antique, of course I don't mean actual antique - I mean sweet vintage bric-a-brac. I couldn’t resist, and I got the most amazing brass owl bank, and brass owl bottle opener. They were really decently priced, really well made… and awesome.

Also, the lady told me the word for “owl” in italiano: gufo.

Too cute. Mostly because it sounds like “goof-o”. I thought owls were supposed to be wise?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday

It feels like it’s been two years since my last update.

Friday, for the most part, was spent wandering around town. We postponed our trip to Pisa because our land lord was suppossssed to stop by to fix a number of broken things in our apartment (I feel guilty for complaining about anything being broken here though, because this place is still awesomee.) but he never showed! So by noon we decided to go out and explore. We got lunch and coffee at “our place”, the vegan-friendly caffé down the street. We had also been meaning to try the famous gelato of Vivoli, which had been recommended to us by my auntie, as well as one of Signe’s professors. Oh my goooodnesss. I had nocciola (hazelnut, as I usually do) and meringue! Oh my gosh, the meringue! Delicious! We really need to go back there.

-Awww. Look! No glasses. That lasted for a whole 6 hours.

I would consider abandoning this entry to run there and get some, but it’s rainy outside. And somehow, it’s hard for me to associate rainy days with gelato.

I’m actually really fond of the rainy weather here. For one, the tourists seem to recoil a bit. And for some reason the rain reminded me that I’m living here. I’m not sure why exactly.

This weather right now is absolutely amazing. I really can’t get over it. It’s chilly, overcast, damp… it smells like autumn. Autumn! I love weather that lets you drink hot coffee or wear a scarf comfortably. I just made espresso, and haven’t quite mastered the whole “caffe latte” thing yet. The milk sort of… coagulates at the top. Whatever, it’s warm and comforting nonetheless. By the way, I bought a great two-shot espresso pot on Friday. The one they provided here in the apartment had a layer of mold in it that I just couldn’t ignore. This is perfect though, because I was planning on getting one back home anyway.

Anyway, so after Vivoli, my roommates and I parted ways. I needed to get lost in the neighborhood for a bit, mostly so I could explore and see if anything “inspired” me. I have 3 big sketches due on Thursday, so I was hoping to find something exciting. And that I did. I headed east and ran into Santa Croce (the giant church in our area) and actually stopped to look at it for a bit. I wandered down the block a bit more and ran into this massive, sand-colored structure. Most buildings here have lavishly detailed facades, but this one was particularly elaborate. It had couples of little putti (those teeny cherubs) lining the top holding shields with various symbols and words in them. I think I recognized “Dante” and some different form of Aristotle. I knew this must have been something important. I had no idea what! So I followed the sidewalk allll the way around (this place is enormous) and finally made it to the front. It was the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze! Giant library! How fun! I went inside to snoop around but it’s very “members only”. The man told me I could join for free if I wanted, so I’m going to try to go Wednesday either before or after Italian class. Apparently, all I need is  a letter from the school stating that I’m a student here. I have several copies of that letter leftover from my visa application, so this should work perfectly!

After being (politely) kicked out, I got comfy on the steps out front. A handful of others were sitting outside too, reading or just relaxing. The library is right on the river, so there’s plenty to look at. Across the river, I spotted a giant hill with what appeared to be hoards of people snapping photos. It was dusk, so I could see the occasional flash. A woman, somewhat disheveled but in that chic, artsy/European way, was seated in front of me. I was feeling particularly outgoing so I asked her in Italian what that hill across the street was. She told me it was Piazza Michelangelo and it had some of the best views in the city. She said some other things I couldn’t understand, and eventually switched to English. She spoke perfect English, and told me she was from a small town in Chianti, grew up in Florence, but currently lives in Moscow. She’s only back here to do research. We spoke for a bit about the library, and she told me it houses everything ever published in Italy. Exciiitinggg! I have no idea what I’ll do with these things, but it will be fun to figure that out. Maybe I’ll just go around touching old books and manuscripts.

I asked her a million more questions about places to eat and go out, what’s cool, what’s not, etc. When I told her we lived around Santa Croce she began to suggest a great, little-known caffe that specialized in vegetarian stuff. It was our place! And she knew the name of it! It was no longer a mystery. Our place is called “Caffé Brac”. Good to know. She gave me the names of a few more places that I can’t wait to check out. Most of them are on the south side of the river, not far from our house, just over the bridge.When I got home just before dark, I cooked dinner for the roomies. It was nothing special, but I think it turned out alright. I just cooked some mushrooms with garlic (can’t find anything but white mushrooms for some reason! uggh) and mixed that in with pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. We made a giant salad to go with it too. Yummm.

Saturday was Pisa. It’s really easy and cheap to get there from Florence, which is nice. Though I can’t forsee us going there very often. The town itself is a little sketchy, a little unkempt in comparison to Florence. You have to walk for about twenty minutes to get to the tower, duomo, and baptistry, but it’s worth it. The tower is a lot shorter than I expected, but the duomo and baptistry were a lot more amazing that I had expected! The tower is a bit overrated in my opinion… but it was still fun to do stuff like this:

I also bought a beautiful bracelet… that was made out of a fork. No joke! It’s awesome. This guy heats the metal and bends it into these organic shapes. Signe got one too, and hers has a little amber stone.

Sunday I met up with one of Aunt Mari’s students, Tracy, who was visiting Florence from Milan. We got some lunch and ventured into the giant marketplace near the train station. Some of those vendors are brutal. “No, I don’t want it. Leave me alone. I just wanted to know how much it was. NO, I don’t want a special price. GAAAAH.” We got gelato (yesss.) and wandered around a bit more. My sandals finally took their last step that day, and one of them snapped. That was fun. I flip-flopped/hobbled for three blocks until I found a place that sold shoes. Fortunately we weren’t in a touristy area, so I got a decent pair of sandals for a pretty cheap. Good times.

Today I only had Italian class. It was pretty difficult… as expected. The first half was good, I participated a lot, etc. But the second half was awful! She had us do mini-conversations about stuff, and she chose two people and gave them a scenario. Margaret and this other Arcadia girls had to talk about buying a ticket to Pisa, how much it costs, and when it leaves. I had to talk to the Romanian guy (we actually call him “the Romanian”) about getting a new haircut and style! WTF!? I definitely do not have the vocabulary for beauty shops. So I looked like an idiot. But we had fun with it, and I asked him to dye my hair half blue, and half pink, but he suggested giving me a purple mohawk instead.

Speed-learning Italian tonight, and then preparing for a long day tomorrow. Hoping to have the Paris trip booked with Hope by Wednesday morning! Excitinggg.

P.S. Someone in our building is cooking something awesome. I think is smells like lamb… but I’m not sure. Mmm.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Numero Due!

Thursday. Giovedí.

Printing on Textiles, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Italiano, 12:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Mixed Media, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Eek! I am no stranger to a hectic schedule chock full of 3-hour studio sections, but jeez! The Textile class is at the Fuji studios near the train station, which is about a twenty minute walk north, in the opposite direction of the other two buildings I have class in. I actually don’t mind though, because it forces me to head a ways away from our apartment and explore a neighborhood I might not have visited that often otherwise. My textiles teacher is from Milwaukee, and seems to be the epitome of the kooky, fragile, awkward sort of “art teacher”. When you ask a question, she gives an answer, but then defends the answer for about five minutes too long, as if you didn’t agree or something. Eccentricities aside, I like her, and I cannot wait to start our projects. (And she really knows her stuff! She’s tight with the folks that print patterns for Cavalli! She also showed us some work, and she made a giant quilt with over 300 pieces that made the solar system as well as all the astrological signs and symbols. Very cool.) We’re basically printmaking, but doing it on fabric. Which means I can put whatever patterns I want onto whatever fabric I want! We can make patterned scarves!!

With any luck, I can master these techniques, get a burst of inspiration, open a boutique in a few years, and scrap the grad school plan. Just kidding. Sort of.

The other students seem pretty interesting too. One of them is an Austrian girl I met in Italian class. Her English is great, and she’s really nice. Another girl I get along with in the class is from my program. We bonded instantly over our shared aggravation with some of the girls from our program and their denim booty shorts and scummy flip-flops. Another girl is from Milan and said she hates Florence because it’s too small and the people are very closed-minded. I found that really interesting.

When I got to the Accademia for Italian, I found out that they didn’t demote me and I was still in the super advanced level! However, she told us that we were expected to know all the tenses and that we were only going to be briefly reviewing them. So… I have some major cramming to do this weekend. To be honest, I’m really happy to be in a class with people that have studied for several years when I only did one measly semester. There are five or so people from my program in the class, and then a little Eastern European club in the back with a guy from Romania, a girl from Russia, and a goth Bulgarian girl.

After Italian, I went to the other art building (which is only a block away from the apartment!), bursting with excitement for my big studio class, Mixed Media. To my disappointment, the class is a lot more structured with guidelines for projects, etc… when I assumed it was sort of an independent studio. The projects are… okay… but more along the lines of “Art 101”… But I spoke to the instructor and he said I could just do my own thing. Hopefully this all works out, because I need credit for that class for Sculpture! Aaah.

We just returned from a pretty tasty and affordable meal from a restaurant about 20 minutes north of us in a much less touristy area. Signe ordered raviolli con salmone e noci (salmon and nuts!!) and it was amazing! Margaret and I split some sort of sample course thing, but in the future I will choose just one dish because I feel like you get more a feel and appreciation for what you’re eating when all of your energy is focused on it. Does that make sense? When we had two tiny scoops of three different pasta dishes is was a bit chaotic and I feel like I didn’t get a chance to really thoroughly enjoy any of them.

And before I forget!!!!!
Just after I wrote the last blog, we went out for dinner at this magnificent little hidden bar/ristorante two doors down from us (our third time there). ODDIO!!! Ohmigosh! It was great. We still don’t even know the name of the place. There is no sign on the door, no name on the menus, nothing. My love affair with this place started Tuesday morning when Sarah and I stopped in there for a quick caffé latté. The outside is very nondescript and from the street looking in, you expect a typical bar with one or two tables. But no! Once you walk in, the bar opens up to a beautiful courtyard shaded by white linen awnings with a mini-library behind. It’s very modern, primarily furnished and decorated in white, but with touches of greenery and cozy, old-world charm. Sarah and I went up the cash register to pay, our hands full of euro change, expecting to pay 3 euro each for our caffé lattés. To our surprise and delight, our total was 3 euro! Such high quality stuff in an amazing environment for so cheap. Margaret, Sarah, and I went back yesterday morning for more caffé, and this time we met the owner and he gave us a menu to keep. It gets so much better! The menu is mostly vegan, and vegetarian fare, for such great prices! And we aren’t talking rabbit food. When we returned for dinner that evening, the place was packed. We were surrounded by all Italians (major plus!) and it took us about an hour to order, and another hour to get our food. So. Worth it.

I ordered “gnudi”. Yes, it’s pronounced “nudie”. Anyway, I guess it’s like tortelloni filling sans the pasta shell! So it’s basically balls of cheese, spices, and whatever else. It was so flavorful, and so rich! Aaaah. The girls all ordered various types of stuffed pastas, like ravioli and tortelloni. We all shared and it was glorious. We also shared the most exquisite bottle of red wine. It wasn’t as heavy as the chianti from Il Palaggio, and was a little more fruity. The best part was, the meal was only 40 euro, which is pretty cheap for what we intended to be our “first day of school splurge dinner”. 10 euro a piece. Not bad?

We vowed to go to that place at least once a week. For coffee, food, or otherwise. Maybe I can work there. Illegally. I can’t wait to take everyone who comes to visit there!

What else? Not too much. Looking forward to this weekend. Tomorrow our landlord is stopping by to fix a couple things, and I plan to do a lot of studying for Italian and sketching for Textiles. Saturday we are going to Pisa and Cinqueterre!!! Very exciting. Sunday? Is up in the air.

I’m also looking forward to booking a trip to Paris with Hope soon for November. Hopefully I’ll be able to visit her in Denmark, as well as Rebecca in London, and the NYU folk in Prague! Yesssss. I’m shopping around for some super cheap deals. My roommates and I also desperately need to go to Bologna. “La Grassa” The Fat City. They are responsible for marvelous things like tortelloni and tortellini, and all kinds of fantastic culinary delights. Oh, like bologna for example. Plus, it’s medieval.

Finally, my new favorite word is “allora”. Italians say it before everything. It’s the equivalent of “so…” or “well…”.

Va bene, amichi. Ciao!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Beginning


At last, without further adieu, I present... my very first post from Florence.

I hope to record a lot on this thing, mostly for the sake of my own memory. Some days I may need to resort to a bullet-point list of the days activities, but for the most part I intend to be as descriptive as possible! Hopefully. We'll see. 

The voyage here was actually pretty pleasant. A little exhausting, but it went without a snag. Didn't miss a connection, didn't lose anything (can you believe it!??!), and I actually really enjoyed the six hour layover in Heathrow. I wandered through the international terminal, took a nap next to a large group of obnoxious, but charming swedish pre-teens, and read quite a bit of my Italian book and "Wine for Dummies". I also splurged on a 2-pound (four dollar tall latte) at Starbucks, and a ten-pound (twenty... dollar...) alarm clock, just in case my phones didn't wake me up for the 6:30 am train from Milan. 

Magically, I found my way to every place I needed to go, including in the Milan airport. The hostel was great too. I was warmly greeted by two Japanese girls and an English dude who were staying there. The lady who ran the hostel was so matronly, it was wonderful! She helped me call a cab in the morning, even after I had to wake her up at 6 am to give her the key and to check out. Eek. 

Even the train from Milan to Florence was an enlightening experience. I was able to assist an Italian mother and daughter who asked me if the train went to Rome. I said, “Roma dopo Firenze.” Which means, “Rome after Florence”!  Simple, yes, but I was just glad I was able to say something that she understood. She must’ve thought I was, or spoke Italian because then she and her daughter started speaking to me, but I could only understand some of it. The mother went to buy them some refreshments, and while she was gone an English couple came and asked the girl if her mother’s seat was taken. I was able to translate and helped resolve the issue. Apparently there are assigned seats on the tickets, and the Italians were in the English couple’s seats.

Lugging my enormous orange suitcase and unassumingly heavy duffel around was not fun. But I made it, and that’s what counts! I arrived about 5 minutes early for orientation. There I met my roommates and our advisors and other helpful/authoritative people. Honestly, I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better bunch of roomies. I feel like I have something huge in common with each of them and the four of us just sort of click. Four is good number to have in an apartment, and so far it’s been working really well.  They’re extremely bright, and collectively I think we realize the potential of this opportunity and intend to make the most of it. We all chose “international roommate” as opposed to “American roommate”, but since there weren’t

 enough internationals to house us with, they grouped us together. Each of us has been out of the country several times, and I think we have a pretty good grasp on what and what not to do to avoid being your typical American tourist. I’ve been trying to weed out the clothing in my wardrobe that seems even slightly American… The real benefits will come once we refine our language skills. One of the girls knows about as much Italian as me, and the others never took it, but are picking it up quickly because they’ve studied other languages.

The school and faculty seem excellent as w

ell. I was really worried that I’d be attending an American founded school filled with American students abroad… but no! The school is very international, and has had some impressive guest speakers, mostly from the fashion world - Vivian Westwood, Ferregamo, and Moschino, to name a few. The school has about 30% Italian students, and the rest are from a variety of countries around the world. I’m desperately hoping my Mixed Media and Printing on Textiles courses are with Italians and other Europeans.  

Amazing. I’ve written 5 paragraphs and I haven’t even gotten to our apartment, the wine tasting in Chianti, or the food!

Our apartment is the exact one I found on Google Earth- an arched doorway on a smaller street just east of the church of Santa Croce.  It’s spacious, it’s bright, it’s airy. It’s also on the third floor, which is only accessible by a never-ending series of uneven and winding stairs. The apartment far surpassed what I expected. We have two bathrooms! And all of the furniture is from Ikea. We’ve been having some electrical issues though. Two of our outlets didn’t work when we arrived, and a fuse blew last night. Also, the mosquitos (zanzare – sounds so menacing!) are brutal. They seem to be even more stealthy and harder to catch than the American ones. According to one of our roommates, le zanzare are repelled by mint mouthwash, so we’ve been dribbling drops of Listerine on our skin before bed. God, I can’t wait until they all die. Chilly autumn come sooner!

Gelato. Prosciutto. Cheeeeeeeessseeeee. I’ve had gelato everyday since we’ve been here. It’s interesting to see how the prices vary depending on the location. One gelateria charged 4 euro for a small cone, while one a little further out was only 1.50 euro. Prosciutto and good cheese is so affordable. Last night we bought sizable portions of brie, taleggio, and the creamiest goddamn gorgonzola I’ve ever tasted, each for only about 2 euro each. The prosciutto is excellent and also only a couple euro for a somewhat large package. And the mozzarella and tomatoes are divine! Insalata Caprese done right!

Chianti is only about a half hour bus ride from the city. The entire Arcadia program, about 25 of us, went on the trip. We first went to Greve, then Castillina (really beautiful), and finally to Il Palaggio, a historic vineyard that produces Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, three varieties of olive oil, and some other varieties of wine.  One of which is a desert wine, typically a “holy wine” called Vinsanto?. I couldn’t stand it. The strong alcoholic scent of it made me feel nauseous. The Chiantis were pretty good, and they presented t

he wines with foods ranging from pecorino (sheep’s cheese) with chutney, bruschetta, prosciutto, olive pate, and a Tuscan bread soup (amazing!). At last, I can drink wine openly, and do so with class. Plus, I finally know what I’m doing. We practiced “tasting” the wine. Swirling, looking, sniffing, gurgling, etc.

Me with giant historic barrel of Chianti Classico:

We had quite the adventure Saturday evening after orientation when we attempted to find the cell phone/internet venue we had a coupon for. We were so caught up in getting to know each other and got so sidetracked by sights, shops, and old buildings, doorknockers, and balconies, that we ended up walking in the opposite direction of the store. It was a good time regardless. Later that evening, after an unsuccessful quest for a good pub to watch the Italian soccer game in, we finally found some fun spots to hang out including a Latin pub called Salamanca. 

Us lost:

- From left to right: Sarah, Margaret, and Signe (Sig-nee)

FYI, Italians don’t drink to get drunk, and I think that’s awesome. I’m not really a big fan of drunken stupidity, and much prefer it when people can carry on a good conversation when they’re out.

Yesterday we went up to the top of the Duomo, but were able to walk around the building on the terraces that they open only one day a year. Which was yesterday, obviously. It was amazing, I got some fantastic photos.

Along with a bit too much clothing, I brought my cynicism to Firenze. And I am directing it at American tourists. As of yet, I love everything here, except the tourists. Yes, I know. I’m a tourist. I’m American. I’m occasionally obnoxious, ignorant, awkward, and arrogant. But I hope to keep all of those things in check. Half of the Americans I see are students like my roommates and me, but I just can’t stand them. It’s hard to explain. I think a number of reasons contribute my resentment. Some of them are just obviously not making an effort. Others are, but eventually I see through them, and then somehow I end up feeling like a fraud myself. Someone who studied abroad told me that when you meet Americans abroad, you share some sort of kinship or “fraternity”. I feel the complete opposite. I want Florence for myself and my roommates. This is completely irrational, I know, but I can’t help wishing it were that way. I’m being possessive of a city that I’ve been in for… 5 days. Perhaps I’m being over eager to really “assimilate”, and maybe a couple months from now, American company will be comforting or something. But I doubt it. I guess the most positive thing I can take from this is that I need to do my best to avoid perpetuating the stereotype and to really make an effort to absorb everything from the culture.

Finally, today was our first day of class. I only have Italian on Wednesdays, and I found out I was placed in the highest level! It was pretty intense, but I think I can keep up. There will be some shifting around but I sort of hope I stay in the more challenging course. When the teacher asked me how long I’ve been studying Italian, and I said only one semester, she was impressed and said that I spoke beautifully for just one semester. This was all in Italian, of course.

Tomorrow I start the hard ones! Mixed Media and Printing on Textiles will be taught in Italian!