Sunday, September 27, 2009

some bonding time with florence

Buona sera tutti!

After a conversation with Liz tonight about how we need to continue to spend time with Florence and not just in it, I felt compelled to share my weekend of half-Italian and half-American glory.

The adventures actually start on Wednesday when the program paid for us to go to a Fiorentina soccer game! We were so so soooo excited to get to go, even though we don't know anything about the soccer team at all. It was a lot of fun and we won! Here's a few pictures (you know you love the jerseys we bought)

The fun continued on Friday when we got up and walked over to the Pitti Palace to check out some of the museums inside. We looked at the costume museum and the silver museum, but no pictures because they weren't allowed. Let me just say that the palace is enormous and I can't believe any one family could live there. We'll most definitely be going back.

Also on Friday we decided it was about time to give in to our cravings for American food. We had recently heard talk of an American diner (being from NJ I was skeptical but excited nonetheless) and hunted it down for dinner. It was a delicious change from pasta and chicken. I had a huge chocolate shake, clearly made with gelatto, and a bacon cheeseburger and fries. I know it seems like a sin but I enjoyed every second of our meal.

Saturday we got up early and decided to take a stab at the train station, making our way without trouble to Viareggio where the beach is. We spent a short time at the beach (we didn't really account for travel time in our and returned home to Florence feeling relaxed but tired. We came home early because we wanted to go to mass in English inside the Duomo. It was really cool to get to go inside and so nice to finally get to mass (and we got ourselves on the email list for the youth group so that' awesome). I must say, though, the mass was a bit scary. The homily was super serious and there was a little notation in our readers that said only those without "grave sin" were permitted to recieve Eucharist. We went up, hoping for the best haha. We spent Saturday night hanging out and went out to a local bar for some good times and great tunes (aka the "Friends" theme song).

This morning we woke up and walked in the Corre la Vita, basically the equivalent of Relay for Life back in the states. There were a ton of people and we didn't really know what was going on, but we walked a 10k, passing some of the major tourist spots on the way and actually getting to walk through the gorgeous Boboli Gardens at Pitti Palace. We felt really great after we finished the walk, especially since our donations went to a great cause. After delicious sandwiches at our favorite sandwich shop, we headed back to our respective apartments for a nap. Earlier tonight Liz and I ventured back out to one of the Irish bars in the city to watch the Yankees/Red Sox game. Long story short we only got to see a few innings before the game was turned off to be replaced by soccer (typical) and the Eagles game (ew, why?) but we still had a good time and met some nice people.

This ends my play by play of my weekend. Sorry it's a bit dry and uncolorful, but I figured I'd continue to update everyone on my life over here in Italy. This is going to be a pretty busy week for me in the classwork department, but I'll try to remember anything interesting that happens and report back. I'm also working on an article to send home to the Defender/Echo that's a comparison of Italian and American men. It's interesting, to say the least, but moving along slowly. As soon as I finish, however, I'll get it up here. So that's all for now.

Buona Notte!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

photos, videos, and fun, oh my!

Hey all.

I'm not sure about the fun, but after a long day of uploading pictures and video, I've got some more treats from last week/weekend's adventures to share. Hope you enjoy. Check back soon!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Nextech, Pisa, and the Cinque Terre

Hello all,
I'm back from my weekend adventures and had an absolutely amazing time. Before I start on that, though, let's backtrack to last Thursday and the Nextech Electronic Music Festival.

None of us were sure what to expect on Thursday as we rode the bus to the Nextech venue, which looked to be an old train station turned large, empty, space. We knew Electronic music was somewhat similar to techno so, being from New Jersey, I had a minor idea of what was in store. However, we were not prepared for the strange lights, interestingly clad djs and participants, and trippy modern art that accompanied the festival. Regardless, it was a good time and an interesting cultural experience. We took artsy pics amidst the modern art, met one of the weird DJs, and did a lot of funky dancing in a huge room with blasting Electronica. It was strange and new for us, but I'm definitely glad we went.

After that, Friday was spent relaxing and resting, aside from the 13 mile run I had to do for my marathon training. It felt great though and I'm proud to say it's 1/2 the distance of the actual marathon. I feel really good about training for it and on a similar note, I joined an AMAZING gym today. I figured since my SMC teammates started training today, I should start getting back to the pool and weight room. After a little trouble with the transit system, Liz and I found the gym and went inside. We got a tour from Lorenzo, a young guy who spoke decent English and was very helpful. I decided to join even though it is a bit pricey, because it's all inclusive: pool, weight room, cardio equiptment, classes, and DAY SPA (aka massage, mani/pedi, etc). So I'd say that was a success.

But backtracking from today and moving forward from Nextech, we come across my phenomenal weekend in Pisa and the Cinque Terre. We boarded busses Saturday morning and made the 1 1/2 hour trip up to Pisa. Once there we were given a tour of the small, walled city (there's not too too much to see, but of course the Leaning Tower, Cathedral, and Baptistry) and had a delicious lunch at a local place. After that it was back on the bus as we headed for the beach. The weather was supposed to be miserable all weekend, but Saturday we got lucky and it was warm and sunny. We pulled up to the beach area, changed in a bathroom at a local bar, and made our way to the tiny strip of beach that is free to hang out on (most areas are owned by businesses and charge for chairs). It didn't matter that the area was small though, because we spent the entire time in the water. It was so warm and nice and the Alps were just chillin in the background, no big deal. GORGEOUS.

Sunday we got on the bus and began our excursion in the Cinque Terre. Our first stop wasn't actually part of the 5 lands, but a por city right before them on the coast. We spent a little over an hour there, sampled some amazing pesto, saw a church, a castle, AND the grotto/cave where Lord Byron gained inspiration for some of his works. Again, no big deal. We then proceeded on a very wet (it was raining) boat tour of the rest of Cinque Terre, stopping in one of the towns for a delicious warm lunch of bruchetta pizza and the area's famous pesto. After that we hopped on a train to another of the towns and walked on the Lover's Lane to the final town (number 5) before hopping a train back to where we started. Lover's Lane is a trail connecting towns 4 and 5 of the Cinque Terre, and it's covered in graffiti and writing of people's love for each other, in addition to lots of locks, like on the Ponte Vecchio. The idea is to write the name of your lover and you on the lock, then lock it to something (fence, bridge, etc), and throw the key into the ocean (or Arno River, in the case of the Ponte Vecchio). That was a beautiful walk along the cliffs overlooking the sea too. I then promptly passed out on the bus home and arrived to a rainy Florence around 7 on Sunday.

All in all, however, it was a great weekend. We're so lucky to be able to have the opportunity to travel Italy with the program and have so much included (like the 5 course dinner we had on Saturday night with salad, soup, pasta, chicken, potatos, spinach, and dessert). We're also lucky for all the cultural experiences like Nextech that we're offered in Florence. The next one is coming up on Wednesday, a Fiorentina soccer game! I'm so so sooo excited about that. So stay tuned for updates about that trip but also for pictures and video from this weekend (they'll have their own post to save space and because they're not full updated yet)..


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Classes, if you can call them that

Hello everyone,

Before I start my discussion of my classes for this semester here in Florence, I'd like to report that today, whilst returning to my apartment, I passed two women is Sodexho uniforms! They're here too. It was a funny little encounter and it made me smile and think of SMC.

Anyway, the real reason I'm here is to give a brief overview of the fun classes I'm taking here in Florence at the Scuola Lorenzo de'Medici. I came over to Europe with 4 classes in my schedule and ended up adding another because I felt worthless hahaha. I now have 15 credits and feel much better about completing my credit requirement with ease.

Every student at LDM is required to take a class in Italian language, regardless of skill level. I'm taking Italian 202, which is the equivalent to 4th semester at SMC. That's super cool/nice since I've only taken 2 semesters before this and was able to skip ahead. In fact, we're still covering things I've already learned, so props to the SMC Italian department and Marisa for being a stellar professor. The only downside to this class is I have it Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (the only days I have class, hard life) at 8 AM! It's really tough to get up by Thursday morning, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. Maybe.

On Tuesdays after Italian I have Foundation Oil Painting. For 5 hours. I was really surprised about how long all the classes are here (3 of mine are 2 1/2 hours long). Anyway, we do get a half hour in the middle for lunch, during which I'm making it a habit of going to a specific sandwich place for the most delicious sandwiches around. Anyway, the class is really relaxing and nice and fun. I actually just came from working in open studio and finished my first painting! I'm sure it's not very good but it is an intro class. It's all shades of green and I feel like I'm green all over, including my clothes which I obviously can't keep clean.

Wednesday afternoons I have Food and Culture in contemporary Italy. THIS IS THE BEST CLASS EVER. For the next few weeks we're learning about regional foods in specific areas of Italy and tasting them. Yesterday I had 8 different cheeses (one was aged 5 years and was amazing), 3 different meats, 2 types of wine, 2 types of bread, and a risotto we made ourselves. We're going to be cooking at least 2 new dishes every week and eating them with wine for a delicious free lunch. There's also some sweet trips for this class that I know you'll here all about.

After that class I have Sociology and History of the Italian Mafia which is so interesting! There's a lot of information about the mafia I've learned already that I had no idea about. I know it'll be a busy course with lots of reading but it definitely promises to keep my interest and give me some insight into a cool part of Italian culture.

And finally, the class I added when I got here: Psychology of Crime. It's a pretty straightforward psych class, like we have at SMC. Lecture, notes, discussion, research paper, presentation. The subject matter is interesting, provides a nice comparison with the mafia class, is something I've never learned before, AND the class counts towards my major so that's a major plus.

And that's it for classes and such fun things as academics. Tonight we're going to the Nextech Electronic Music Festival, which promises to be a fun and interesting evening out. I'll let you know how it goes. If you don't here from me for a few days, it's because we're also spending the weekend in Pisa and the Cinque Terre, one of the most beautiful parts of Italy. Don't worry, pictures and video of both events are sure to follow!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm not technologically savvy

Buona sera tutti!

I'm sorry for bombarding you all with these videos and pictures as once, but I figured out how to post my videos AND how to post photo slideshows too. So enjoy these and look for more to come!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Ups and Downs of Firenze

Buona sera!

I'm currently sitting in bed and really should be sleeping, but couldn't stop thinking about my next update from Italy. As promised, I'd like to touch on some things that distinguish my current home from my normal home, maybe talk about what I miss, but also what I love about it here.

First of all, EVERYTHING is smaller here. The stove/oven is small, beds are small (and not that comfortable), portions of food are smaller (which is definitely not what I was expecting, Italy being one of the gustatory capitals of the world). The fridge is small, and the cars are all SUPER small, including mini 4 wheel pick up trucks.

Food shopping has been quite an experience, in good and bad ways. It's great to be able to buy fresh local food and to practice the language, but when heading to the supermarket for a large amount of groceries (which are fun to carry all the way home) it can be a bit of a challenge. All the labels are obviously in Italian, which isn't as difficult or confusing as actually reading the directions on how to cook specific things. I've been making it up as I go along. As far as cooking for myself, it's a hassle because I'm not used to it, but we're getting the hang of it. Tonight we managed to turn 3 chicken breasts, garlic, onions, tomatos, pasta, wine, balsamic, EVOO, and lettuce into garlic and balsamic marinated chicken, a small salad, and pasta with a white wine sauce that fed 4 hungry girls into satisfaction. We also conconcted some fondue treats from nutella, apples, kiwi, and biscotti cookies. Needless to say we're quite proud of ourselves AND may make a tradition out of bringing random contents of our kitchens together and seeing what we can make.

Unfortunately on the food side, Peanut Butter, a good old fashioned American staple, is not such an essential item here in Europe. It's been compared to vegemite for the Aussies. Aparently they think it's gross and prefer Nutella on everything. Crazy. But after some scouting of local food stores, I managed to find a small jar for a steal of a price, 2.90 euro. Terrible but I need it in my life. They also aren't big fans of salad dressings here in Italia, and stick to simple oil, vinegar, or balsamic. And as far as we've heard, cheddar cheese is nowhere to be found, which is a bit of a let down for one so accustomed to fine Vermont cuisine. Regardless, we're making due and still loving the fresh and delicious food we do have.

On a more positive note for Italy, it's gorgeous here, and so much fun. There's no shortage of things to do, even if it's just going for a walk. Yesterday and today I took wrong turns on my return to the apartment and ended up discovering some fun new sights and features. Literally every Piazza is different in some way, and I ran to the park today and got so distracted by everything in it that I'm not sure my time for the run was too impressive. On that note, tangent, nobody runs here (they all bike everywhere) and so it's a dead giveaway to our status as Americans when we're running down the bike paths. BUT I'm marathon training, so what are you going to do?

After dinner tonight my 3 friends and I sat down to begin plans for our fall break and our weekend travels. We've got a pretty secure list down of where we're going and when, so I thought it'd be nice to just list for you all some of the things/places you can look forward to reading about in the future:

The Nextech Electronic Music Festival in Florence
Pisa and the Cinque Terre
The Florence Marathon's Corre La Vita charity walk
Venice and Verona
A Florence soccer game
Opera night in Florence
The Eurochocolate festival in Perugia
Fall break in Ireland (Dublin and Galway), Spain (Madrid and Barcelona), and France (Paris)
Horseback riding in the Chianti region
Skiing in Switzerland

Those are the planned fun adventures for me this semester. Some are included with the program, and some will cost me, so we'll see how many I can afford to do, but as far as I'm concerned my semester is looking to play out in an amazing way.

That's all for now. I've got to get to bed. We're taking the bus over to Fiesole tomorrow, which is supposed to offer breathtaking views of Florence at any time of day. I'll be sure to take a ton of pictures. Check back soon for those and a review of the "classes" I'm taking while I'm here.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

omigosh Firenze


I'm so so soooo sorry it's been so long since I could update you on my life. I only got internet a few days ago and have been scrambling around getting groceries and getting ready for class and so on and so on. It's nearly impossible to recap the last week and the awesomeness of it into a reasonable sized account, but I can do my very best and promise to keep you update much more frequently as I continue my adventures here in Italy and beyond!

First of all, Italy is gorgeous. Or at least Florence, which is really all I've seen so far. But don't worry, traveling is all over my plans for my semester here, so you'll hear about all kinds of great places. Anyway, the first few days here we were oriented to the city with API. After meeting our roommates, housemates, and new friends, we had a dinner together on the rooftop restaurant at the hotel. The views from all over were breathtaking, and we didn't even care when it started to rain. The next few days were a whirlwind of tours, meetings, and delicious meals together (we knew we were going to miss that when it came time to cook for ourselves). We got a tour of the historical district of florence, where we live, and of the areas across the arno river, which have a lot of fun things to do and places to eat.

Friday we moved into our aparments. This was no easy task for us girls (my aparment building is all girls from the program). We each had at least 2 suitcases and a backpack to carry up the huge stone steps (and for my roommates and I that meant 2 floors up). Nevertheless, we made it and were SO SURPRISED at how amazing our apartment is. Each one is a little different, but we loved ours the most of course. I'm trying to find a way to upload my videos. Blogger isn't doing it for me, so we'll see what I can come up with.

The weekend was spent doing orientation activites like more tours, dinners, academic orientation, and meetings, plus going out and exploring all that Florence has to offer. Now that orientations are all over, classes have started and we're beginning to get inot a routine. I have clas Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I know that seems like a joke but it's a decent amount of class time. T/W/Th morning at 8 am I have italian 202, where the professor speaks only in Italian. I think I'm getting the hang if it though (until it comes time for me to speak to her haha). Tuesday after Italian I have oil painting for 5 hours. Gah! It feels like I'm really going to love that class though. Today (Wednesday) I also have Food and Culture with my roommate and a friend, and later Sociology and History of the Italian Mafia (I know, can you believe it?) Yesterday I added a course to my schedule, because I felt I could handle the extra work and thought maybe taking only 12 credits was a bad idea, so now I'm also registered for Psychology of Crime on Thursdays after Italian.

So that's my story so far, or at least what I can tell without boring you/writing a 3 page book up here. I've already got the wheels turning on a new post, so check back soon and I'll have it (I promise it won't be a week from now). Remember to check my twitter and facebook for updates and pictures. I'll post a few at the end of this post too. I'll be sure to let you know how the first week of classes finishes up, and check back soon for some fun treats including: differences between Florence and home, what I miss about home, what I love about Florence, my AWESOME upcoming schedule of events, and much more!

Ciao! -Christine