Viva la Roma!
School field trip to Rome! Okay well first off…Rome is HUGE. Just the other day I overheard a study abroad student who studying in Rome say that she feels like she hasn’t even seen all of it! We were lucky enough to have our teachers as our tour guides through important churches and piazzas and ruins and such! I have been once before and I still felt like I was seeing new things! The first day I had signed up to be on Peter’s tour. Let me tell you a bit about Peter. He is 60 (maybe??) crazy white/gray hair, red circle glasses, jeans, navy sweater, neck scarf (blue/yellow/white pattern) and a brown coat. EVERYDAY. He is half Spanish half Bohemian (Czech Republic-i think). Weirdest accent ever. Calls us “children”, “amore”, “squirrels”…and much more. Needless to say he is quite the character!! Everyone loves him and that first afternoon in Rome was overwhelming and I only caught a few of his words! We visited the Trevi Fountain (threw a coin in-I will be returning sometime!) and the Pantheon…so beautiful and is in the most random place so every time we walked by it I was not expecting it to be around the corner!
The next day I switched into another group and was able to hear much more! We went to the Colosseum and other churches….hmmm we did a lot but nothing much is coming to my mind! …other than the rain! It POURED!!! and genius Kelsey forgot her umbrella! I snuck onder my friends umbrellas until my right arm was soaking!! So I gave up and bought a cheap one from all the guys that had been shoving them in my face all day!! It was so much rain! The next and last full day was my favorite:) It sprinkled on and off through the day but it was mostly nice (thank goodness!) We were able to venture into Rome without and tours! woo!! Piazza Navona was one of my favorites!
We spent a lot of time around this piazza and found so many cute shops and it was full of traditional Italian restaurants. I also saw a dog that looked exactly like mine-that may have swayed my opinion for this area:) We ate at an enoteca (wine bar) called Mimi e Coco (very good!) and it was finally (kinda) warm enough to eat outside! It was exciting:) Sierra was flirting it up with the waiter (attractive…go sierra) and everything was great!! Then it started hailing!! Haha it was a riot. Everyone was trying to stay dry and for the most part people were out of the way…except me! I had to quickly squish onto the side of the table (i was on the end) and thank goodness i did it because two minutes later I would’ve been SOAKED! It was one of those experiences that I will always look back at and laugh!
Sunday we got up early and headed to the vatican! Pope Benedict (Papa Benedetto-as the Italians say) was delivering his last public speech before stepping down from being the Pope. It was a big deal! We got there about 3 or 4 hours before so we were sure we’d get a good view of him! And we did-it was so cool to see people from all across the world-literally- who had travelled to see him. There were spanish, italian, french, english, and I am sure many more languages being sung and spoken while we were waiting. When Pope Benedict finally came out he said a few prayers (in Italian so I was a little lost) and then began to thank everyone in all the different languages. I think it was around 6-7 languages that he spoke. It was incredible.
Well it has been a little bit since I’ve been on here… oops!!
As some of you may know there is a huge celebration during the first two months of the year in Italy, called Carneval. Richmond set up a trip (through the school) to bus to Viareggio, which is on the coast, to see their huge parade. … let me tell you-the “floats” were INCREDIBLE. So big! And each of them had their own music and special effects. I think most every one of them had something to do with political-ness…since it was during elections for Italy’s new Prime Minister. I knew nothing about it …so they were just artistic creations to me! They get all dressed up and have this cool confetti that is all rolled up and then you have to kinda blow on it and it unrolls! I never got the hang of it though…they also had just regular confetti – it was EVERYWHERE. I think twice kids threw it right in my face! It slightly hurt…but everyone had it everywhere so it made me fit right in!!
Pisa and Lucca
Obviously had to get the touristy photo of holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa-check! Even more fun than taking the picture is watching everybody else take their own picture! There are these little cement pillar things that are about 2ish feet above the ground that people usually stand on and if you stand back and look at the whole scene it is hilarious. Also I don’t know what it is but there are so many Asian tourists!! It seemed like more than half of the tourists were Asian. They know how to travel! A lot of people say there isn’t much in Pisa other than the tower-but i really liked it! Ok maybe part of it was because we found the street with shop after shop… Ooh! AND…they have actualSIDEWALKS! Unlike here in Florence, where you have a foot wide raised part of the road on each side (ehem not a sidewalk people…), you didn’t have to be constantly watching out for crazed vespas or taxis maneuvering their way through the people! It was all very exciting:) After exploring Pisa a little more (….shopping…that counts right?) we hopped on the train to Lucca. P.s. I’m winning in this picture…also notice the casual bystander…
Lucca is only about 1/2 an hour away from Pisa and looks just like Siena-except not on a hill! We jumped off the train and headed for the city. Right as we got off I saw a sign saying “bike rental” -as a complete joke I said we should ride bikesthrough the city. My friends took it seriously and we actually rented bikes! Since basically all the towns in Tuscany (and basically all over Italy) are VERY old, most have city walls around them (created for protection way back when). Anyways! Lucca decided to transform their wall into a walk/run/bike path with lots of parks and such all around the city (which is very small!) We rode our bikes around most of it then dove into the adorable Tuscan town. The streets were once again narrow and had nonsensical directions…but isn’t getting lost the best way to discover a new place?! I’m pretty sure I almost ran over like a million people while I was being adventurous…I don’t know how people ride bikes in Florence! I would run into things and people every two seconds and get run over by the crazy Italian drivers (I should make a post just about their driving…). By the end of the day we each had 2 or more shopping bags (I bought just the cutest boots…obsessed) :) and were exhausted from all the train travel and biking that we started losing our minds-until we got some yummy margherita pizza in our stomachs!
oh and another thing…travelling on a boat, bus, train, plane…now matter how tired you are you WILL fall asleep.
It was a beautiful day in Siena when Megan, Sierra and I were wandering around on our last day waiting for our bus to take us to Florence. We were trying to decide what to eat as we were walking back to the hotel…when all of the sudden…we all smelled, what it seems like heaven would smell like…., fresh pizza right out of a stone oven. We had time to spare…and went on an adventure to discover this heavenly food. In just a few turns on the curvy cobblestone streets we found it. WE FOUND IT! Pizza. Italians have been getting it right since the first pizza was made. The crust was thin (but not cracker thin), and it had just the right amount of mozzarella, tomato sauce….and something else (but I’ve had many pizza’s since then…).
annnnnywayyssss….since food is great and Italian food is pretty much the best thing ever….I’ve made this category to list all my favorites (along with restaurant names). Now my goal is to make your mouth water…so if you can’t handle that…nah it’s worth it!
Io amo il cibo l’italiana!!!!
I went to a ‘calcio’ match last Sunday and it was crazy! Italian soccer is basically equivalent to American football…so I pretended that I was at the superbowl…it kinda works…? Italians are great fans. The crowd was singing. Literally cheer/singing the whole game! I have no idea what was being said but it was beautiful Italian chants all in unison…pretty impressive if you ask me! There were a few older men right behind us that were extremely entertaining to listen to (again-NOidea what was being said). I did catch “vai vai vai!”, which means, “go go go!” ( pretty proud of myself). No, but all in all it was awesome and I am definitely going to try and go to another game!
This week has been exhausting! It’s the first full week of classes (and I’ve been here for a month already?!) and it took a lot out of me! It is beginning to feel a lot more like…not home…but not a vacation anymore! I’ve got a good start on my routines and I am excited to see what this weekend brings!
I have officially been to all of my classes! For some reason it feels weird to be going to classes here…I guess I did sign up for a “study abroad”
Anyways my Art in Context class is going to be great-we meet at Santa Croce church tomorrow for class. My professor will be slightly difficult to understand…mumbling and strong Italian accent don’t necessarily go well together!
Mysticism and Magic. My professor reminds me of Dolores Umbridge…from Harry Potter. This only strengthens the feeling that we are learning to be witches and wizards. All we need are the gowns. Let’s just say this class will most likely cause many stories (and my stories are something else). You never know maybe my true calling is to be magical…and I just haven’t discovered it yet! Yep, that’s it.
Oh did I forget to mention that G. Dragnea Horvath is from Transylvanian? She is awesome tho-it is going to be very interesting!!
DRAWING AND PAINTING!!!!!! I’m beyond words excited about these classes:) My art professor, Frans (he’s Dutch), is just fabulous. Yesterday in painting we started painting an Italian still life (coffee cup, wine, wine glass, pasta, and tomatoes). Frans forgot the tomatoes in his office (our studio is not in the main building) and he was just beside himself that he forgot them!! Hahaha, “damn it the tomatoes!” was the phrase of the day. From the looks of the syllabus the things we get to paint are going to be soooo cool. Drawing is equally exciting! I’m excited about the class and the people in it! I am extremely pumped about everything we are going to learn and do!
My 21st birthday was on Monday, and although it was a hard day missing everyone and being in a completely different everything it got a million times better:) My best friends here and cousin Seth went out to a homey family style dinner for what seemed like went on for 20 minutes but we were there for like 3 hours! It felt so nice to have family and didn’t hurt that Seth’s been here since September. So after we left dinner (last ones out…and they were cleaning up) Seth took us to the Piazza del Michelangelo (or something like that). After about 9million steps we finally got there. Let me tell you…this was just the icing on top. Seriously was the coolest thing I’ve ever done with great people. Man am I lucky.
Alright so learning a new language is hard…end sentence. We went to class every day from 9-1 (with a much needed “pausa” right in the middle! I usually got classy and purchased a 50eurocent cappuccino from the…wait for it…vending machines. It was actually pretty good! (I could use one right now while typing this…). We learned a lot of how to get around things. Like if you are in a restaurant and want to order spaghetti with tomato sauce and a glass of red wine you would say, “vorrei gli spaghetti al pomodoro e un bicchiere di vino rosso”. I’m pretty good at ordering a glass of Chianti, I mean it is made within the hills of tuscany…so why the heck not?! If you are in a bar (which is really a cafe-I still call it a cafe) and wanted a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino you would say, “Prendo un cornetto con cioccolata e un cappuccino”. Grazie (grat-z-eh), prego, per favore (per favor-eh), ciao, buongiorno, buonasera, buonanotte…you hear these all the time! ”Ciao, grazie!” -especially when you walk out of a store.
Speaking of stores we went to while waiting for a ristorante to open in Siena (because everyone eats at like 8oclock!) we found this super cute little (fancy) thrift shop and I was trying on everything in sight, naturally:) The shop owner (commessa) started to bring me things to try on! At one point I was wearing a full length fur coat (those are suuuuuper “in” over here) with purple sunglasses that covered a good portion of my face, and a super large white floppy sun hat thing…IT WAS AWESOME.
We got into Florence January 26 (26 Gennaio) and after climbing what seemed like a million and a half stairs we got to our apartment! WOO! Since today is my birthday (21 baby!) my friends and I went out to dinner last night (they are so great). I had the most amazing dish…it was some type of tortellini with pears…sounds weird? You don’t even know…it was the best thing I think I have EVER had. (Darn I should’ve taken a picture!!) After, since I live about 20 minutes from my friends…and it was dark…and it is dangeroso to walk alone at night, my lovely friends walked me home! (Don’t worry mom-I will never walk alone at night!)
oh yeah and the creepy Italian men have begun… “bella mamma” which I think means hot mama was creepily whispered to me as I walked past yesterday…it’s hilarious. I will keep you all posted of the Italian men.
View of the center of Siena from the top of the “Fortezza Medicea” where the Medici’s camped out while conquering Siena. A Tuscan sunset:)
One week in Siena down…one more to go! If anyone ever gets the chance to visit here, do. It is the quintessential historical and traditional Tuscan town. (Que bellisimo!) It is surrounded by a huge wall that goes all the way around the town. (Well there are more modern buildings and homes outside of the walls…but the real thing-the “centro” (ch-en-tro) is within the walls). Siena is most known for the Palio held each year on July 2 and August 16. This has been going on since wayyyyy before the US was even a place…like 13 or 1400′s. Each “contrada” (‘neighborhood’-there are 17 of them!) has a horse that races around the main square called the “Piazza del Campo”. (it’s all about the horse…if the jockey falls off it doesn’t matter as long as the horse reaches the finish line!) Before the actual horse race the horse is brought in to it’s contrada’s private chapel and is blessed. (It’s all about the horse…it has it’s own stable and sometimes members of the contrada stay in the stable with it) Before the race there is also an elaborate parade through the Campo where members of each contrada “strut their stuff…” dressed in the colors and other things of their contrada (each contrada is named after a different animal). The winner gets the palio, or the prize, which is a huge banner that a local artist makes. The only requirement for the banner is the Virgin Mary and usually contains the other symbols of the 10 contradas that participated in the race (not everyone does because it is not a big space!!).
We are also taking a class in Italian (learning the language…but my “insegnante” speaks almost all in Italian!) My brain hurts while just typing all this out…4 hours a day learning a different language…and then every other part trying to get by knowing the little we know…it’s exhausting!! But so awesome. I think I am going to learn and be able to actually use Italian better (just in these 2 weeks) than a whole 4 years of Spanish in high school…
Let’s just say this past week (I’ve only been here for a week?!) has been a whirlwind of new culture, language, and people. Ciao i cappuccini!! (hello cappuccinos!)–saving my life one espresso at a time
Ciao! A domani! A presto! Buongiorno! Buonasera! Arrivederci!
Ta-Ta for now:)