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.


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. 


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.


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.

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!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Willi --

    Mike (cousin Glenda's Mike) here. I'm enjoying living vicariously through you with this blog. It helps ease the withdrawal (Glenda and Emily and I spent two weeks traveling around Italy back in August). Aren't the Italians just great? The men can be a bit pigs, to be sure, and their politics is totally screwed up (these days, whose isn't?), but there's a really lovely gentility that just seems to live deep within the Italian personality (although, be sure to make it to Rome for a visit -- that may kind of test this theory a little bit).

    I envy you the long extended time that you have to savor the fabulous art all around you. One of the things I loved was just how woven it is to the surrounding environment. Things that over here would land in some museum or another are just an everyday part of the neighborhood over there. It's really quite fabulous.

    Keep blogging. This is very enjoyable.