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! 

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