Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Buon Appetito



So, I have heard from some that my blog concentrates rather heavily on food.  Well, wait until you read this blog.  Since thanksgiving is coming up (for those of you in the States), I thought I could focus part of this entry on food. 

Well, I’ve found that in Italy, food is more than a part of life.  Eating, the way you eat, the way you cook, and the things that take place around the table are all part of the culture.  The Italian language makes constant references to food, even when it has nothing to do with it.  For example…you get soaked in the rain? You would be “inzuppato” or literally “dunked in the soup.”  When you’re really tired you say, “sono cota” which means you are “cooked.” 

My absolute favorite word describes that feeling of sleepiness and contentedness you get when you are absolutely stuffed.  In English we may call this a food coma, but in Florence we call it having “abbiocco.”  For me, food comas are commonplace.  I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but my host mom is an incredible cook.  Actually, she teaches classes out of her home to American students like us.  She has even let us participate in her cooking classes.  So far we’ve had two lessons with her.  I even get a little recipe book.  First lesson we learned to make one of my favorite things which is this tomato bread soup called “Pappa al Pomodoro.”  This is quintessential Italian comfort food and pure genius.  You ever wonder what to do with that stale bread sitting in the breadbox?  Well, I cannot let you waste it anymore. 


Here is the recipe for Pappa al Pomodoro (you will thank me):

Good for about 6 people. 

7oz. dried Italian type bread (usually without salt)
2 bouillon cubes
2 14 ½ oz. cans of stewed peeled tomatoes
About 4 cups of water
½ cup olive oil
Rock salt (to taste)
Fresh sweet basil (again to taste)
3 cloves of garlic
Red pepper flakes (if you don’t like spicy you don’t have to add this)

Place in a terracotta pot (or in a crock pot) all of the ingredients listed above before putting it on the stovetop.  If you do not have the crockery type pot, choose a heavy-bottomed pot.  The bread should be broken up a bit and the garlic and tomatoes chopped.  Cook on low, covered, stirring often so that the bread dissolves (some families…not mine, but others…like the bread in the soup to be more chunky. But this is all according to personal taste).  Cook for about an hour until the garlic is done and the bread has become a thick soup.  Be careful that it doesn’t stick!  It may be necessary to add more water.  If a smoother soup is desired, pass through a food mill using the large-hole disk or use a whisk.  Serve with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil, but NO cheese. 

This type of bread soup goes back centuries.  It’s like eating history, but yummy, delicious history… not the dusty, dry type. 

Since I’ve been here though, I have eaten my share of what many in the States may consider strange.  I’m sure you all remember my experience with rabbit (and how much I love it), but I have also eaten trippa (tripe), and laprodotto (a cow’s stomach lining). 

Here are some pictures of meals (not necessarily the strange ones...but all delicious ones):

Pasta!  

Giant sandwich with spinach

seafood and pasta



I must mention as a side note that I have acquired a new talent.  I can crack a nut using just one finger!  This may be a very useful party trick. 

Other great things (besides nut cracking) that have happened these last several weeks:  

Well, my two art history classes are becoming a bit more intense work-wise.  After this program ends, if I never see another Crucifix or Madonna and Child for the rest of my life, it may still not be long enough.  But, I love our professors, and wonder how it is humanly possible to retain so much detailed information.   

Sadly, we finished with our Italian classes last Wednesday.  I got 100% on my final (but in all honesty, it wasn’t that hard).  As my Italian teacher Umberto says, it was “Molto facile! Molto simplice!” (Very easy!  Very simple!)   

This is our Italian class! Last day :(


Drawing has become more interesting because I have begun to draw my FIRST male nude!  Not too different from the female…well, except for the obvious things.  Oh, and last week I finished my cast drawing of the face of St. Theresa in ecstasy.


Keep in mind: I am only and art HISTORY major



The last few weeks I had been stressing about work, the end of the program and other silly things (like what am I going to do with the rest of my life).  Thankfully, a few weeks ago my Italian family brought us to their little house in the Tuscan countryside.  They call it “il castello,” and they go there almost every weekend.  It’s not actually a “castle” per se, but it has fantastic views, a grove of olive trees, grape vines, fruit trees, and lots of other little treasures.  I got some really great pictures of the Borgo (little town) and the surrounding area there.  There is nothing better for the nerves than some time in the countryside away from the hustle and bustle of a city center. 

In campagna


La mia famiglia italiana.  


Speaking of cities…Our program took another big trip this past weekend to….wait for it…ROMA!  I don’t know what it is about Rome, but I can’t wait to go back already.  We went to see St. Peters, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and I even got to see the very bones of St. Peter himself who was buried right below the church.  Our tour guide happened to be a priest in training from Oklahoma, and for a while I felt like I was back in the states.  I saw so many works of art that I had only seen in pictures before.  This happens all the time in Florence, but in Rome, every time I turned a corner there they were:  the ghosts of works from classes past.  I saw several pieces by Bernini (the Baldachino, the Seat of Saint Peter, the Four Rivers Fountain, the Trevi Fountain, all the statues in the Villa Borghese).  Also, I finally got to see Caravaggio’s paintings of St. Matthew.  I had to fight the urge to hug some of the ancient works in the Vatican (of these were the Belvedere Torso and Laocoon).  I know this is weird, but because these works appear in so many art history classes, they are almost like old friends.  Oh, did I also mention that I got to see the Pieta.  I mean THE Pieta, the one by Michelangelo. 




Michelangelo's Pieta

Laocoon

Belvedere Torso


Well, It’s official.  I am definitely a nerd.  If my sincere love for ancient sculpture and food didn’t confirm it, this next thing will.  

I mentioned a long time ago that I was working on my senior thesis here.  To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t going as well as I planned.  For the first half of the program I wasn’t particularly focusing on my thesis.  Incidentally, however, I don’t think I could have done much formal research without first learning some Italian.  Anyways, for a while now my professor and I have been trying to get in touch with foundations and study centers where I could find resources on my topic.  We found this place called the Fondazione Michelucci.  This place is an entire center devoted to archiving the work of Giovanni Michelucci and providing resources to those interested in studying his work.  So, this afternoon I took the number 7ataf bus up into the hills of Fiesole overlooking Florence.  I only had a vague idea of where the foundation was.  To be honest, given my sense of direction, it was a miracle that I found it.  The foundation looks just like a normal house, complete with housecat, as I realized once I was inside.  When I arrived, I met with a few of the people who run the place and chatted for a bit about what I was writing, what resources I hoped to find there, etc… 

My Italian is really rough, but they didn’t seem to mind.  I try to live by the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle when it comes to language now.  And, just like that, I had an armful of heavy books filled with letters, photographs, and newspaper articles from the 1930s.  I was even shown political cartoons about the station I am studying.  Blueprints, floor plans, you name it.  It’s all there, nestled away in the Tuscan countryside.  Mind you, all these sources are in Italian.  What better way to improve my reading and comprehension skills (but it will definitely take some work on my part)!  Today, I just skimmed the titles of things and read a little bit.  If I thought something was important, instead of making a photocopy (which would cost me) I would just snap a photo with my camera.  I plan to return on Friday morning for more of the same.

Seems there are good things to come yet.  Now that I am nearing the end of this blog, I would like to acknowledge those readers who (thanks to good ole’ mom and dad) I have heard so much about.  It makes me giddy with delight to know that people are actually reading, and I hope, enjoying this blog.  Because I love hearing from my readers…if you leave a comment and your e-mail I will send you a recipe for “salami dulce” aka: the best Italian dessert I have ever had (no worries vegetarians, no pigs are harmed in the making of this dessert). 

To my grandmother and cousin Grace, I would like to wish you a happy (belated) birthday!  Also, thanks to those of you at Sedona Winds (you know who you are) who have followed my experiences here.  To all my family, friends, and unknown readers I would like to say “grazie mille" (Thanks a million).


 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Un Buon Viaggio!

Ciao a tutti!

It has been what?  Three or four weeks now since I last posted?   Well, I promise not to make you wait any longer.  I know you are all probably sitting on the edge of your seats just waiting for my next blog post and can think of nothing else.  You know, because I am the center of the Universe (If you have not picked up on the sarcasm by now, something is wrong).

Anyways, I just got back to Florence this past Saturday from my fall break.  I know I said in my last post I would talk about Lucca but I am super behind and Lucca wasn’t as interesting as my recent trip.  All you need to know about Lucca is that they have really good pizza and that it is a beautiful city surrounded completely by green grass and biking paths.  A prefect day trip, especially if you want to see some fall colors. 

Lucca!


Anyway, back to my big trip! I spent my time during the break traveling to London, Dublin and Edinburgh.  I feel so accomplished now because I managed the majority of this on my own!  Yes, I’m a big girl now.  At first, my plan was to travel with another person.  Unfortunately, plans fell through in a big way, and I was suddenly facing a solo trip through Europe.   At first I was okay, but as the trip drew closer, panic ensued. 

Panic for me just involves a lot of questions: 
Do I have all my plane tickets?  What if my phone doesn’t work when there is an emergency?  How will I find my hostel?  What if I can’t find the airport bus?  What would I do if my stuff got stolen?  Where do I go, what do I do, who do I trust? 

All of these things went through my head at lightening speed.  I even typed up an involved itinerary for the next week so I would feel better.  Now, not to say planning ahead doesn’t pay off, but I really shouldn’t have worried so much. 

Here is the best piece of advice I can give in this blog to those in search of adventure (stolen from a previous blog…you know who you are):  TRAVEL ALONE.  Ditch the people you know and just travel for yourself, BY YOURSELF. 

Think about it, what elements make up the best adventure movies?  Interesting characters, action, romance, good music?  You name it, I found it all on this trip.  For those who want the real juicy details you can contact me separately (5 euros ahead please.  I no longer write for free as traveling is expensive).  

Otherwise, for time’s sake I will just hit the highlights of the trip.

After drawing class last Thursday I booked it to the train station with my giant backpack to catch a bus to the Pisa airport.  Everything went smoother than expected and I was already feeling better by the time I boarded the plane to London.  I arrived in London rather late and was relieved to find that the cabby my cousins (whose place I was staying at) sent was still waiting for me.  Can’t say he was very happy, but then again, I had no way of knowing that customs would take nearly an hour and a half.  I slept in the next day, but ventured out into the city just in time for lunch.  I had no plan really, and no map, so I just memorized where the train station was and wandered around to the places that looked interesting.  This turned out to be a fantastic technique!  I stumbled upon the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and a few other well-visited sites.  

View of London from the Millennium Bridge


Saturday I got to spend some time with my cousins.  I was able to see a couple markets.  At one I rediscovered my favorite childhood games: mancala!  There was a stand selling all these games with colored marbles and the guy selling them played a couple rounds with us.  Granted, he beat us rather quickly, but he also sells the darn things.  Other highlights included seeing “Big Ben” (actually not the clock apparently), Buckingham Palace, and a wonderful dinner at an Indian restaurant in the evening.


My last day in London I went to see the Tate Modern.  I took a quick tour of the museum and saw some Diane Arbus photos and Monet’s Waterlilies!  Swoon. 



After, I met up with my cousins and we took a tour of this wonderful flower market and sat down for lunch at this great cafe.  


Delectable!  



However, out of everything the street musicians at the market were my favorite part.  Check out this video of the tuba player we saw:

video


Next day was the beginning of my real adventure! Early Monday morning, completely alone, I set my sights towards Dublin.  I arrived really early that day so I went in search of a place to eat breakfast.  I found the sweetest little cafĂ© off the river where I sat and enjoyed a cup of tea and a scone.  I couldn’t think of a better breakfast to have on a cold morning in Dublin.  

Early morning in Dublin.  The purple building was my hostel!


Anyway, this time I was smart enough to buy a map of Dublin at the airport and, using my same “wandering” technique, I went in search of places to see.  This time with the map, however, I would know where I was when I got there.  I was able to discover St. Patricks Cathedral, a beautiful park near Trinity College and, most importantly, a pharmacy where I could buy a hairbrush (imagine up to this point I hadn’t really brushed my hair since I left Florence). 
Note to self:  always remember to bring a hairbrush when traveling.  This is especially important when you have thick hair that can turn into dreadlocks easily.

First day wandering:  found a lovely park.  


That afternoon and that night I discovered something about myself.  I LOVE HOSTELS.  The reason is because I really enjoy meeting all sorts of people.  Hostels are kinda perfect for this sort of thing.  I met a girl from Australia, a couple guys from the states, and a random Italian from Sardinia (who I chatted with in Italian!)  .  The thing is, when you travel alone, you aren’t really alone.  Honestly, you just meet people you don’t know already, or wouldn’t have met if you were with someone you knew.  In the afternoon I went to the Guinness factory with this guy I met at the hostel.  We got rained on a lot and were really happy to get our “free” pints of Guinness when we arrived at the factory.  

Had to be done. 


That night I visited a couple traditional Irish pubs and one dance club with this other guy I met from Boston.  The music, the beer, the dancing and the atmosphere were all spectacular!  At this point I was really enjoying Ireland, but also ready for bed because I had been awake since 3:30 that morning. 
Tuesday was a little more relaxed.  I went to the National Museum and that night I introduced a couple American girls I met to the movie Pulp Fiction.  We went out and bought a bunch of junk food before watching the film in the hostel’s very own Cinema (equipped with leather couches and a pull down screen).  It kinda made me miss college dorm life. 

Next day I took a tour of the Irish countryside and the cliffs of Moher.  It was an unusually beautiful day and we could see all the splendid scenery perfectly.  I spent the day with a group of Australian girls that I met on the tour.  We visited a farm where I got my fill of animals and nature.  For me, what was especially nice was being able to play with the farm dogs.  Let’s just say these dogs are really spoiled.  Many of the visitors and I gave them plenty of attention.

Puppy!


I'm sorry, but I had to add at least one cliche picture from the Cliffs.  


Overall, my last day in Dublin was fantastic!  Next day, I had another early start as I was flying on to Edinburgh, Scotland!  I actually met one of my classmates from the ACM program at the airport and we spent half the day in Edinburgh together.  It was nice to see a familiar face for a while.  We went to Holyroodhouse (which is the Queens official residence in Scotland) and toured the house and gardens.  Afterwards, we saw an exhibit at the Queen’s Gallery featuring some works by Hans Holbein and Albrecht Durer.  My Hostel in Edinburgh was in a great location and had a very relaxed and youthful atmosphere.    

View of Edinburgh from the Castle.  


That night I met a couple girls from California and went to a few pubs and the next day I went out on my own to visit the well-known Edinburgh castle.  After touring the castle and having a hearty lunch there I walked around a bit and eventually made it up to this park that overlooks the entire city.  It was beautiful, but also cold, so I returned to the hostel thinking that was the end of my trip. 

More of Edinburgh.  Last night.  


Little did I know… 
In my dorm I met another Hostel-goer who invited me to tag along with him to the Elephant House cafe (famous for being the place where JK Rowling began to brainstorm her famous Harry Potter series).  We met with this girl from Spain, and between the three of us, and between 3 languages (French, Spanish and English) going back and forth we managed a pretty interesting evening.  Overall, it was a wonderful end to a wonderful trip!

Any questions?  You can contact me at wmendelsohn12@cornellcollege.edu.  Also, donations to the “Broke and Traveling Student Fund” are welcome (It’s a joke… well, the “Fund” part anyways).              
 
     
 
    

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Aaaaaalllooorrraaaa...

Ciao a tutti!

First of all, let me say thanks to those of you who have let me know that you are reading my blog, or those of you who I’ve heard have been reading it.  It’s good to know I’m not just sending information into a massive void.

So, let me first say that Venice was absolutely better than I could have dreamed.  After finishing my Italian exam on Thursday I got a good night’s sleep because early Friday morning we set out for Venice via charted bus.  I sleep really well in moving vehicles for some reason, so the three-hour trip was no problem.  Upon waking we were picked up by a private boat!  



I can’t even describe what it feels like when you get your first glimpse of Venice, but it’s pretty incredible.  



The boat took us to Murano (famous for their glass work).  This is the place where crystal glass was first invented.  We visited a glass workshop and got to see some glassblowing in action. 




We hung around Murano a bit longer before heading to our hotel in Venice (by boat again). 
Our hotel was really nice and in a quiet location.  Considering how I am so used to Florence and the noise, this was a welcome treat.  After settling in at the Hotel we headed out into the center of the city to see Palazzo Ducale.  After a tour, some other girls from the program and I decided to explore a bit during our free time.  I thought Florence was confusing, but it is way easier to get lost in Venice.  I am proud to say I didn’t get lost (but then again, I wasn’t exactly navigating either).  We did, however, spend some time searching for a good place to buy gelato.

Pure happiness.  Drips and all.


Once our mission was accomplished we sat and people-watched.  This is a past time that I rather enjoy here.  I love to see how people interact with each other, how they dress, etc…

My favorite sightings:
 1st- The couples:  In Venice and in Florence I have seen the cutest couples (young and old).  The younger couples sometimes dress alike (for example- guy has a yellow shirt, girl wears a yellow dress) and can often be seen making out (or nearly copulating) in public.  PDA is not really my favorite, so I find the older couples more interesting.  It’s especially entertaining when you can tell that the woman wears the pants in the relationship.  A sighting in Venice for example:  An elegant older Italian woman walking in front of her husband holding a long stemmed red rose (possibly purchased from a Venetian vender at her bequest).  Husband follows behind as she yells to him in Italian.  I can only assume his response would have been something like “yes dear.”

2nd- Nuns in large groups eating gelato:  I don’t know what it is that I like about this.  Maybe it’s just the novelty of seeing a group you typical associate with abstaining from certain enjoyments (don’t read too much into that) actually taking pleasure in something as small as an ice cream.  If only life were that simple sometimes.   

Okay, before I get too into detail…
After people watching we went into the church near Palazzo Duchale where we were given a private organ concert.  While we listened to this haunting music the church put on a light show, gradually lighting up all the amazing mosaics that covered the inside of the church.  After, we returned for a wonderful dinner at the hotel. 



The next day I woke up early to catch a walking tour led by one of our incredible professors.  We went into a few different churches around Venice.  In the afternoon, after grabbing a quick panino at the train station, we headed to Padua to see the Arena Chapel (also know as the Scrovegni Chapel).  The frescos that decorate the walls of this chapel are by Giotto and I was so glad to know so much about the decorative program already that seeing the chapel in person was magical.  Also, they only let you into the chapel for 15 minutes at a time. 

We came back to Venice later in the afternoon so we were able to spend some free time exploring again.  One of my friends and I decided to visit the Jewish Ghetto and see what the Venetian synagogue looked like.  It is rumored that the very term “ghetto” originated there.  

Venetian Synagogue


That night almost everyone in the program headed to a “campo” for some drinks (in Venice they only have 1 piazza, the rest are just called “campo”).  The weather was beautiful and the nightlife was, as usual, really enjoyable.  Some silliness may have been involved.

Our last day in Venice was probably my favorite.  In the morning we went to the Galleria della Accademia (an art museum) and I got to see more works of art that I have, until this point, only read about or seen in books.  It is so different to see works of art in context.   It is definitely more powerful and meaningful that way.



In the afternoon, we had time to look at some VERY modern art in the Venice Biennale.  Each country has it’s own pavilion in this giant complex. 
Here’s an article about the show that I saw at the U.S. pavilion:  http://www.npr.org/2011/06/02/136897424/a-tank-an-organ-and-smart-power-at-the-venice-biennale

Other noteworthy exhibits were located in the French, Swedish, German, British, and Korean pavilions.


Look familiar?  Way to go Korea!



Attached by the beard.  Maybe an allegory of bromance?


After visiting this show it was back to Florence on the bus.  Although we were exhausted from the trip, Monday marked the beginning of classes.  This past week has been a lot to get used to.  Now I have an entirely different schedule because I am done with intensive Italian and now have 3 other classes (2 art history and one drawing class).  I am curious to see if I can readjust to a semester plan, considering I have become so used to the block system that we use at Cornell (One class every three and a half weeks). 

The drawing class is really neat so far.  We are using this technique called “sight-size.”  It’s entirely new to me, but produces very realistic drawings.  This past week we were copying cast sculptures in charcoal, but next week we switch and start to draw the live model. 

Noteworthy events during the week included:
A Gershwin Concert!  They had a large orchestra surrounding a piano, and even a full choir during some pieces.  I almost cried during some cello solos because I miss playing so much.    

This past weekend was a bit more restive.  I visited my first Italian bar!  It will be weird to go back to the states and get carded.  Here, it is so relaxed that I don’t even have to worry about bringing an I.D. with me to a bar.  I have a feeling the more “restrictive” rules in the states will be part of my reverse culture shock upon returning to the States.

I also went on a 13 mile bike tour in Chianti this past Saturday through “Tuscany Bike Tours.”  If you are ever in Florence I highly recommend them.  They picked us up in Florence, drove us to this castle where they make wine and olive oil.  We even got a tour of the castle and the wine cellars and were taken to the top of the tower where there are some really amazing views of Tuscany.  Afterwards, there was a wine and olive oil tasting.  The wine only loosens you up for what comes next:  the BIKE TOUR!  We biked around the vineyards and olive groves for a while and stopped for a large lunch at this restaurant.  Afterwards, we biked some more and returned to Florence happy campers. 

In the tower of the castello.




I’m a bit sore now, but have had yet another incredible week. 

Food side note-  The other night I had rabbit and chicken liver.  Yum!  Oh, and after dinner tonight we had biscotti (no worries I'm getting the recipe) dipped in a shot of Moscato (I believe it's a type of dessert wine).  My favorite gelato flavor is still salted caramel but mojito is coming in as a close second.    

In the next week or so you should look for updates on my upcoming trip to Lucca!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Blogging is hard...

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while.  Once I got into the routine of things here it became harder to pick out what was blog-worthy. 


The weekends are usually exhausting but always worth noting on here.  Last weekend the program took us to Monterigioni, Siena, and Greve (in Chianti).  This past weekend I spent with three friends in Orvieto.   

Before I get to that exciting stuff, however, I should outline what a typical day is like in Florence for an ACM student.  Since the majority of my days these past 3 weeks are like this, it deserves some note. 

8:00- Wake up to the chiming of church bells (not unlike at Cornell)

8:20- Colazione (breakfast)- Usually this consists of a choice of fruit, caffe latte/espresso, toast with homemade jam, cereal, yogurt and on special occasions, a torta (a jam tart) or some biscotti.  In Italy, it is very uncommon to have eggs for breakfast.  
    
8:45- Wish everyone a “buon giornata” and leave for Italian class!

9:00- 10:30- After hoofing it up 4 flights of stairs (more like 8 at Linguaviva) we have class. 

10:30-11:00 - Una pausa (a break).  This is usually spent going on facebook or chit-chatting with friends (speaking of chit-chat, the Italian word for it is “chiacchierare”.  This is a word I have yet to master, but intend to by the end of this program). 

11:00-12:30- More Italian! 

12:30- Pranzo! (Lunch!)  This usually consists of cheese, bread, fruit and vegetables from a nearby indoor market. 

One thing I particularly love about Italy is how fresh the produce is.  Grapes have pits (and flavor) here and everything is seasonal.  I think people would eat more fruits and vegetables in the states if it weren’t for all the preservatives and alterations that destroy the flavor of the food.

2:00- 

These past few weeks the afternoons have consisted of class meetings, and small trips to museums art shows. 

Recently we took a small tour of Orsanmichele, which houses some impressive and important works by Donatello, Verrocchio, Nanni di Banco and other artists that lived during the late 14th and early 15th century.

I also visited an exhibit with works by Rodin and Salvador Dali that were meant to go along with the work Dante's Divine Comedy.  The entire show was very striking and great work on the part of the curator. 

Dali and Rodin


I have also had a few class meetings that were just introductions to the courses I will be taking starting next week.  Right now we just have Italian class. 

4:00- 

For these first weeks we’ve had a lot of free time in the late afternoon.  Sometimes I return home, other times I will go to the Oblate Library to study Italian. 

I mentioned earlier that Oblate is a fun place to go because a lot of young Italians hang out there.  However, they must think we sound hilarious practicing our verbs.  Imagine someone coming to your library and repeating things like “I go, we go, they go, he/she goes” over and over. 

Sometimes on my way home I will grab a gelato.  Generally I will sit in the Santa Maria Novella Piazza and people watch for a while.  The longer I am here it is easier to spot who the tourists are amongst the Italians, especially other Americans.  I know it’s sad, but I am not very proud to be an American here.  Sometimes Italians will ask me “Sei Italiana?” or “Sei Spagnola?” (Are you Italian?...Spanish?)
“No, Sono Americana,” is generally my sorrowful response.  At least I blend in a little.

Today, an Italian asked ME for directions.  I was really close to home so I was able to point her in the right direction.  But, important thing is, she thought I was a local! 

Oh, and fun fact:  My apartment is right above the more high-end shops in Florence (ie: Gucci and Roberto Cavalli).  A lot of the sales women I walk by everyday look like they just stepped out of Italian Vogue.  Did I mention that Italians really know how to dress.  Well, they do. It’s like an art form.  Here, to make a good impression or to have a beautiful figure is to “fare la bella figura.” 

8:00 pm-  Cena (dinner) with my host family.  I have been doing my best to record most of the things that my host mom cooks. 

Some things of note: 
Pumpkin cooked with rosemary, olive oil, and other spices.  It looks like cooked carrots but is so much better. 

Schiacciata all'uva: A classic, seasonal I may have mentioned before (but now I have pictures!).  



Honestly, every dinner I’ve eaten here is worth mention.  Not enough space here.  Plus, I believe this is turning into a food blog.   

NOW I can catch up on the last two weekends.  As I said before, I have been to Monterigioni, Siena, Greve (in Chianti) and Orvieto.

Monterigioni was just a quick stop on the way to Siena: a cute, very small, fortified town.

Monterigioni


Siena I actually liked even better than Florence.  We visited the Cathedral and some other important spots.  We got to see some old frescos that had just recently been uncovered below the main church and we were also able to view the fairly well known “Good Governance” fresco in the old government building.

Oh, Ciao Siena!


We left Siena and stopped in Chianti for, what else, but a wine tasting.  I didn’t pay the 10 euro to go around a taste, but I did spend 5 euro or so on some gelato and a cup of wine with fresh peaches thrown in. 

Wine country!

Gelato! One of many.


Wine and fresh fruit in Chianti.  Nuff said.


The next week, I took a train with some friends to Orvieto, a small mountain town in Umbria (check out the video below).  Like Monterigioni, it is fortified, and therefore, surrounded by tall walls. Orvieto, like Fiesole, has drastic views and is known for its old Etruscan caves and a special white wine that is made in town and stored in similar said caves.  To get to the town we had to walk up a steep hill.  There is a nice little public park at the top.  I got some good sketching in there.  After, we ended up having an incredible dinner at a restaurant we found in a guidebook.
Note:  The best restaurants are the ones that are hard to find.  This one we got to through a narrow ally.

video


This week we have to put our noses to the grindstone as we prepare for upcoming classes and our Italian final.  As a reward at the end of this week we are going to Venizia for 3 days.  Can’t wait!
A dopo!