06 April, 2010

Okay, Okay.. it's been over a month

I've gotten numerous complaints about my lack of posting.. I am currently working on a MONSTER entry that includes Spring Break, trip to Germany, Rome trip with my classmates, and then Greece for Easter weekend.

But for now, since who knows if/when I'll get it posted...

Spring Break (27 February - 7 March) : family here, went to Pisa, Venice, and Rome. David had pizza for nearly every meal, Mom looked more stylish than ever!, Kimby managed to purchase both boots and a purse before I was able to find either (that has been my goal of what I wanted to buy before arriving in Italy.. finally did it!), and Dad's famous "OHIO" pose... that picture is to come...
Here are just a few snapshots from our Rome trip, and also the pictures I took from Amsterdam..

Amsterdam and Spring break

Germany (11 March - 14 March) : went alone and stayed with a girl named Katrin who studied abroad in America a few years back. Her family was super warm and fed me all my meals, and wouldn't allow me to pay for practically anything! Went on a trip to Bonn (including Beethoven's house), Koln (Chocolate Museum and giant cathedral!), a town whose name I can't recall with the German winery (the whole family went and we were given a tour), and then the bridge at Bremen which was a bridge blown up during WW2. I took a bunch of pictures (mainly for Grandpa) which can be seen here:

Germany - WW2

I didn't include captions, so it may be boring.

ALSO.. drove on the Autobahn which was TERRIFYING, but absolutely awesome. I've never been in a vehicle moving that quickly in my entire life.. I was too afraid to look at the speedometer (for fear of distracting Katrin's father), but when I tried to sneak a peek we were over 200 km/hour... I couldn't see the little pointer anymore..

I have more pictures, but will include them after I have some time to write up captions!

Rome (again) (19 March - 21 March) : The school paid for a trip for our whole group to go to Rome. We stayed at a pretty nice hotel and were given walking tours of the whole city. I didn't really pay attention very well since I had just been to all these places, but it was still beautiful. Weather was pretty nice the whole time. I bonded really well with some new friends :) They all go to Ursinus, and I'll actually be living with one of them next year, as a result of how much fun we had together this trip! (Her name is Amy... you'll see pictures of her eventually.. there may even already be some up!) We went to the SAME restaurant we went to with my family.. it's called Carlo Mente and has personal pizzas for only 2,50 euro!!! Amy and I ate there for 3 of our 5 meals....

Greece (1 April - 5 April) : Went to an island called Corfu. Took us over 24 hours to reach there... a 5 hour bus ride from Florence to Ancona, Italy followed by a 14 hour ferry from Ancona to Igoumenitsa, Greece, then another ferry from Igoumenitsa to Corfu, Greece, and then a 30 minute bus ride to our hostel. I went with a tour group that is geared for students studying abroad, but I didn't know ANYONE before going. I was a little apprehensive before going, but I made friends almost immediately!! I ended up spending most of my time with a rather large group of girls, and even brought other girls into the group, making our number upwards of 12 people! We had such a great time. I am pretty burned, because I laid on the beach almost the whole day every day. Not sure what the exact temperature was, but there was absolutely NO humidity, and laying out made you extremely hot to the point you WANTED to go in the water. The Mediterranean is completely clear and gorgeous. I'm working on pictures now... but be prepared to be extremely jealous. The hostel was directly on the beach, and I had a view of the ocean from my window. We also had a toga party one night in which we were given a pink silk sheet and had to make it into some kind of toga... no cutting allowed and no one had pins so it was rather difficult! The sunsets over the beach were glorious as well.
Only downside was the traveling back... the 14 hour ferry turned into a 16 or 17 hour ferry because of bad weather. We were unable to go the correct way back because the waves were so big, which made the boat rock all over the place. I, along with half of the people on the ship, became extremely seasick! When we finally reached Ancona, the bus ride that should take 5 hours ended up taking us nearly 7 because of horrible traffic.. Needless to say, I left Corfu at 4pm Italy time on Sunday and didn't arrive back home in Florence until 9pm Italy time Monday.

Pictures coming soon. I didn't take enough, so I'm waiting for all my new friends to post theirs so I can share with all of you!!

Hope this satisfies everyone's need for an update. I have started a much more detailed entry, but I have an Italian composition due today (which I need to do), and an Art History research paper due tomorrow (I guess I should start that?)... so I don't know when I'll have time... especially because I am leaving for Cagliari, Sardinia on Friday with my friend Brittany, and we're staying until Monday night. The following weekend (April 17-18), I'm going to Vienna, Austria with my friends Amy and Kristin. I'm running the Vienna half marathon the 18th! The following Saturday, April 24th, is the day I come home... I cannot believe how fast the time has gone!! Only 18 more days which is absolutely crazy to me, and unbelievably sad :(

25 February, 2010

Calcio... me???

Well, joined the CAPA intramural soccer team. We play against other schools with American students in the area.  Of course I'm HORRIBLE, but it was so much fun. I could only stay the first two games, because Laura was having a dinner party with a bunch of friends and I did not want to be late!  We got crushed in the games, but the scores didn't show it.. it was 3-0 first game (after the half only 1-0!) and I had to leave the second game slightly early (it was 2-1!) We actually were tied at one point.  The other teams have coaches and uniforms, tryouts and practices.  We just show up and hope we have at least 5 people (4 + goalie).  Since spring break is next week, they crammed all of our games into a 2 week period since we're missing one week of the 3 week season.  I loved our team though. We had a few good people, but they were realistic in their expectations of everyone, and supported us all. Our best player came out multiple times to give me playing time. It was really awesome, and I got to meet people from the other schools in America.

Then, after the soccer game, I arrived home around 8.  Laura had some friends who had already arrived, and they were sitting around the table sipping on wine and chatting.  It was a very different environment than that of America, but I loved it immensely.  They were all tra 20 and 22, so exactly my age!! I asked "parlete inglese?" (do you all speak english?) They all said no, just a little.  However, as the night wore on, two of the girls were AMAZING at translating things for me.  Of course, the words they used were simple but they'd give me the gist of the conversation.  When I tried to speak Italian, the Italian students all said they could understand me well, which was a huge compliment! A lot of phrases I simply do not know yet.  They helped me learn some new words.  A few times they asked me to speak to them in English, just slowly.  

Laura's dinner was very good.  She ended up having 12 people over. (I actually counted with the intention of writing the number here!) We stayed at her house until around midnight. We didn't eat until 10!  After that, we went to the pub around the corner and had a big table for all of us. It was such a fun night!!  Laura's cousins stayed at the house last night.  Laura's parents went out to dinner and a movie, and I don't think they ever came back! Patrizia had explained to me that she was going out because Laura had friends over, but I was unaware that "out" meant no return.

Today, I must study for my Italian midterm. I then have my family arriving in two days!!! I cannot wait for this to happen. I just hope that the snow is not a problem and they can make it out of philadelphia okay!

23 February, 2010


Had a wonderful weekend in Amsterdam, and of course took pictures. Obviously, knowing me, they have not been uploaded to my computer.  I have some midterms this week since Spring Break is next week, so I don't know how much time I'll have to get them uploaded.

Quick overview of Amsterdam: Beautiful city. There are canals that are sort of arched around the city and through it, so you must take little bridges constantly.  The streets are much wider than Florence and other Italian cities, so the cars are a little more modern. Trams, bikes, buses, and cars control the streets.  There are special pathways for the bikes, tracks for the trams, and roadways for the buses and cars.  I would NEVER EVER drive in that city.  I practically was getting run over just trying to follow the "walk" and "don't walk" signs. Within 15 minutes of arriving, we saw a man on the ground bleeding from the mouth and ear from getting hit while on his bike.  Needless to say, it's dangerous!!

As for the city, I blended in much better than I do in Firenze.  The city seems to be primarily tourists, which isn't always a bad thing.  My favorite part of the whole trip was the Anne Frank house. I'm sure most of you know her history - young teenage girl, Jewish, kept a diary during WW2, hid in the annex of a house with her family and 4 other people, eventually discovered, taken to a concentration camp, entire family except Dad dies.  There's her history in a nutshell.  Anyway, once the father returned to the hideout, he found Anne's diary and decided to publish it.  Throughout the house there are quotes from her diary on the wall, so you can really envision what it was like. I even am getting goose bumps now thinking about it and how emotional it was.  I would HIGHLY recommend a trip to Amsterdam just to see that, if anything at all.  Her father wanted to keep it unfurnished, so it just is empty rooms with descriptions of what was there.  The walls all have the original posters that the residents of the annex put up... as well as Anne's room with her pictures and magazine clippings.  Definitely an amazing experience.

I also went to the Van Gogh museum.  Not a huge art person, but since I was there I figured I should go.  There were a bunch of wings in the museum with countless artists (I didn't know any... except Claude Monet) and their works.  We were there quite a while, but no pictures are allowed, and can't say I can comment on much.  Saw a few works I recognized - Sunflowers was one. The Bedroom is another piece I know, but it was not there when we visited.

Red Light district was really disturbing for me. I couldn't imagine what life would be like for many of the women who make that their career.  Because of the mixed group reading this, I'll leave it at that.  Feel free to email me for more details on that part of the experience.

All in all, I really enjoyed my weekend.  We stayed at a hostel (my first one with other people!)  It had 12 beds to a room.. 6 bunk beds.  It was cool because everyone in there was between 18-22, which is exactly my age!  Nana, you'll love this... I MET TWO NORWEGIANS FROM OSLO!!  I told them every Norwegian word I knew, and they were laughing at my accent, but surprisingly knew every word I was attempting to say.  You all would be so proud.  There was another person from Virginia, two people from Great Britain, and then the 7 of us.  It was quite the experience!

I did not enjoy the plane ride there or back.  The way there was exceptionally tough... it was extremely windy so only one runway was open in Amsterdam.  We got to Amsterdam, and then had to turn around because of air traffic on the run way.  Our 1:50 flight turned into somewhere near 2:30 because of the traffic.  We were constantly dropping altitude because of the wind and weather.  I researched taking trains home from Amsterdam because I was so scared of getting back on!

Today will be a very busy day.  I have lezione di Italiano (lesson of Italian is how they describe it.. not Italian class), and then my Skype class immediately after.  Karli and Jeremy are cooking for Florka, so they've invited me to be one of their guests!  That will be a good dinner I hope.  Tomorrow, Laura just informed me that Patrizia and Guido are going out to dinner, so Laura is inviting friends over!! I'm excited to meet some Italians!!!

I better study and get ready for this Art History exam I have tomorrow morning.  I'm only an email away.


17 February, 2010

It's still bleeding...

Laura arrived home today from her two month study in Spain!  She is 20 years old.  Patrizia said she doesn't speak English, but Laura "not speaking English" is better than my Italian.  She was able to translate every picture she took in Spain except for the word for "dressing up in costume".  So yes, she is way better at English than I am Italian!

DISCLAIMER: Next section is gross. If you have a weak stomach, I advise you skip down to the next section.


I ate STEAK tonight in honor of Laura's return home from Spain.  I'm not sure how familiar you are with Italian steak, but they like it pretty rare.  So rare, in fact, that as you cut into it, your plate turns slightly bloody.  When I say slightly, I mean my potatoes were dyed red.  I think it would have been able to walk off my plate had I not cut it.  None the less, I LOVED it, WAYYYY more than American steak.  It was not as chewy as longer cooked American steak that I've tried.


The first course of dinner was some kind of rice soup with potatoes and vegetables. It was one of my favorite dishes we've had thus far. We also schiacatta (spelling?) bread, then the course of potatoes and steak, and then an AWESOME dessert tray.  There were so many little pastries, chocolates, cannoli, etc.  Of course, dinner ended with un cafe, as usual. Laura then showed us a bunch of her pictures.

Tonight also is a big soccer game - Florentina vs. Munich (German team).  The German team is undefeated.  Guido and Alessandro are both huge fans.  (Alessandra, their other daughter, and her boyfriend Alessandro came for dinner again tonight.)  That was on throughout dinner.

Today for Art History we went to a museum that had all the different outside architecture of Santa Croce church.  We even stopped by the shop that people recreate the outside pieces so that the originals can be stored safely in a museum, protected from the elements. I actually remembered my camera for once, which was good since I always forget it on Art History days.  Art History is a 3 hour class, but the first half is lecture and the second half we go on a field trip somewhere in the city to see actual art we discuss.  What better place to do this than Florence?!

I'll post pictures at some point. Ciao!

16 February, 2010

Cinque Terre

Went to Cinque Terre this past weekend.  It was absolutely gorgeous on Friday when we arrived, but then rained on Saturday. :(  Sunday was also wonderful.

Cinque is 5 in Italian, and Terre is lands. So, Cinque Terre is actually 5 cities connected by tunnels and pathways.  I stayed in Riomaggiore.  It costs money to walk on all the pathways however, and with the rain some of them were closed Saturday. I didn't mind a bit, because it was nice to relax a little from all the walking I've done the last month.  As of today, I've been here exactly one month and one day.  Time really has flown!!

Not this Saturday, but the following Saturday Mom, Dad, Kimby, and David arrive.  I booked the hotel for them yesterday.  We're planning on doing day trips from Florence, Rome and Pompeii for a few days, and then back to Florence.  It'll be a really fun time and I'm enjoying planning it for them!

I'm working on my plans for the rest of the semester.  I'd like to get to Greece, Vienna, Malta, and Croatia.  We'll see if I actually get to all of those places, but I think I have enough time.  They are proving to be a bit more pricey than I originally thought, however, so the sooner I book, the better.

Here are some pictures from Cinque Terre:

Cinque Terre

Ciao for now!

11 February, 2010

Almost forgot...

Took a special picture for you, Nana! (They had some fudge too MamaNett, but I figured it wouldn't be good in 2 months if I bought it for you)

Florence had a chocolate festival which I attended last week.  I got lots of free samples too :)

Sick :(

Was sick for the first time today.  Last week, Guido was throwing up all day.  Today, it was my turn.  Found out that Alessandra (my host parents daughter) was also sick today!  She has been over for dinner every night this week, so I'm sure we shared the germs together.  Patrizia even went to the doctor to ask about anything I could take, and they told her there is a virus that has been going around the last few weeks.  She gave me little tablets of who knows what, but told me they were natural and to just chew them up. I threw it up later... but it was still the thought that counts :)

Last week, the highlight was probably the Uffizi.  I went there with Jeremy who had been there once before already.  The ceilings were so intricately painted I was amazed.  For those who don't know, the Uffizi is considered one of the best art museums in the world. I wish I had a better appreciation for art so that I could understand what I was looking at.

We also had the octopus last week.  Patrizia's cousin from Argentina is visiting this week with his son.  They're staying with us, and so Alessandra and Alessandro (Alessandra's boyfriend) have come to dinner every night. Octopus was the big night, and I told them I had never eaten it before.  Guido is an awesome cook, and I really liked it. He had it mixed with vegetables in a soup-like mixture.  Before dinner, we had different meats that they had bought in Siena. I tried all of them! I don't know what any of them were haha.

Tomorrow I have an Italian quiz and then there is a possibility I will be going to Cinque Terre for the weekend.  Cinque Terre is 5 islands connected together by beautiful paths and also by train I believe? I'm not sure, but i'll soon learn!

Only a little over 2 weeks until Mom, Dad, Kimby, and David come to see me !!!  I really can't wait for that.. I'm starting to get a little homesick, especially after being sick today and missing my mommy :(

Oh, I'm considering going to Sardenia for a long weekend in April!  I found a pretty cheap flight (50 euro) on RyanAir, so I may book that tomorrow morning or this weekend.

Buona notte!

09 February, 2010

Siena, San Gimigniano, Viareggio Carnivale

Pictures from the past weekend... as a class, we went to Siena & San Gimigniano on Saturday, when it was pouring rain and freezing almost the entire time.  On Sunday, a group of us went to Viareggio for their Carnivale. Carnivale is all throughout Italian cities the month of February.  People get dressed up (young and old alike.. sometimes families even have a theme!) and throw confetti, shoot silly string at each other, and have a big  parade.  It's sort of like Mardi Gras in America, but much more clean cut.  It's family-friendly until the nighttime, where I presume it becomes more of a big party, but we left right after the parade so I'm not entirely sure.  Regardless, it was very fun!

Siena is a very quaint, medieval town in the Tuscan region, as well as San Gimigniano.  Siena is best known for their big horse race they have on August 16 every year.  The city is split into 17 districts, each with their own mascot.  The race only takes about 75 seconds, but it's a HUGE event. San Gimigniano is best known for their white wine.  Both are in the chianti region, which is Italy's famous wine!

A very wonderful weekend.  I'll give a brief synopsis of the past week later today, but here are a bunch of pictures and VIDEOS for your viewing pleasure :)

05 February, 2010

Finally, pictures from Modena & Verona

Updates on the last few days are coming soon... but here are some pictures "borrowed" from Amy & Brittany of our weekend trip!

Modena & Verona

01 February, 2010

Verona & Modena

Very fun weekend!  Left early on Saturday morning on a train to Modena, home to Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini. (In case you are automobile - challenged, these are all super expensive, very nice cars.)  Unfortunately, you must be an owner of a Ferrari to get into the factory, and the Maserati museum was a bit of a hike so we didn't see them. :(  We had an excellent, expensive lunch at a restaurant recommended in my guide book (Thanks Dr. D!) called "Ristorante de Enzo".  It's named after Enzo Ferrari.  Extremely good food!

There was a pretty church, and some little shops in the town. Cute place, but not anything I'd recommend.  We hardly saw any nice cars. :(  OH!  Check your balsamic vinaigrette at home. I bet it comes from Modena!  That was the other thing it's famous for.

We took a cheap train over to Verona, and had previously reserved rooms at a B&B there.  Got to Verona around 8pm, and took a taxi to our B&B. Found a cute little caffe, where everything was a la carte. The woman working there was extremely pleasant, and didn't speak any English.  It was fun sitting there and chatting. Saw the Roman amphitheater in the dark which looked gorgeous!  They also had an outdoor portable skating rink of some sort?  The B&B was actually very nice... especially considering we only had to pay 14 euro a person!  Pictures of all of this will come soon.  Unfortunately my camera died after two pictures so my friends took lots of extras for me :)

Left the B&B the next morning around 10, and explored the minuscule city. It was so beautiful, because a river surrounds three sides of it.  This is the town that was Shakespeare's inspiration for Romeo & Juliet.  The balcony that was supposedly THE balcony wasn't all that special... I give Shakespeare a lot of credit.  The amphitheater was my favorite part. It makes me super excited to see the Coliseum in Rome. Apparently it is 10x bigger than the amphitheater in Verona, which took my breath away.

We bought our tickets to return home the day before, so we had a very leisurely day waiting for our 7pm departure.  All of Verona can be seen in under 2 hours, and we had 9... That allowed us to go to many shops!  The clothing and items were cheaper in Verona than Firenze, I'm assuming because it's not as big of a tourist town?  Who knows, but it was fun. We saw a castle as well.

The dogs were not like Florentine dogs.  In Florence, most of the dogs walk with their owners without a leash.  They are not distracted by people running by, bikers, or even small animals.  They sometimes get slightly ahead of their owner, but act like a regular human being going down the street.  In Verona, the dogs acted like dogs I'm used to.  They were all on leashes, and like to sniff everything and everyone.  When they saw another dog, they became very interested in one another, and oftentimes barked at each other.  I cannot recall a dog barking in Florence thus far.  I'll have to listen for it.  They also hardly pay attention to each other in Florence, pretty remarkable.

Got back from Verona around 2130.  Patrizia made me two omelettes to complement the meat and bread that was already waiting for me.  I fell asleep immediately after dinner!

Today was calm.  Only one class!  Amy and I went grocery shopping, because we are cooking dinner for our professor tomorrow night!  Once a week, pairs of students come to his apartment to cook dinner.  We're the second group to go, and our dinner will be AWESOME.  We're following Italian recipes, and serving it like an Italian meal - 2 antipasti, 2 primi piatti, and 2 secondi piatti.  My camera is charged so I can take pictures of the meal we create!

Dinner was one of my favorites.  Pasta with a homemade red sauce, some kind of meat, and a special bread. The name of the bread I cannot recall, but Patrizia said it is very common to Florence. We then had a long discussion about languages, and she and Guido both are helping me plan when my family comes!  She got on the computer to help me look at train ticket costs, and wrote down the exact days they are coming so she can help me with hotels.  They want my family to come for dinner one night too :)  No octopus yet... and hopefully not then either!!

I love it here. Definitely am understanding so much more Italian every day. I pick up on pronunciations and words at ease now, and am pretty proud of myself. It sounds like nothing, but one of my big accomplishments today was going to the tabacchi shop and getting 5 stamps.  I pluralized the word for stamp ("Francobolli") and spoke entirely in Italian!  Very proud :)


29 January, 2010

Our Pets Heads Are Falling off

 ... name that movie.

Anyway, last night was not octopus, it was fish.  Not traditional fish in America, however, because I watched her cut off the heads and tails and pull out the bones!!  It actually was very very good.  Thursday is the night that their daughter and her boyfriend come over as well, so it's a big event.  There was this other dish that looked something like spinach and I absolutely LOVED it.  She wrote down the name, at the moment I cannot recall it.  Allessandra and Allessandro (host parent's daughter and her boyfriend) said my Italian has improved even in just the last week!

I was able to understand far more of the Italian spoken, and that felt pretty good :) I knew that they were talking about trains and something negative about them.  I thought it was the fact they took a long time, but when I asked, it turns out they were discussing how inefficient they are in Florence.  I count that as me understanding haha.  I taught them the word "silverware" or "utensils".  I wish I could have a video recording of 4 of them trying to say it.  Italians say their "r's" much differently than us.  That's why I'm struggling with saying the letter r here.  The two "r's" in silverware completely threw them for a loop.  We were all laughing pretty hard.  After dinner, I was exhausted.  It was nearly 11:30 by the time they left, so that's understandable.

This weekend I am going to Verona (where Romeo and Juliet took place) and Modena, which is home to many famous Italian car makers like Ferrari.  We are staying in a hostel in Verona and will return Sunday evening.  I am planning on having a quiet night since the train leaves at 8:35 am!

I am going to attempt to buy my first pair of Italian jeans at the shop by me. I walked their earlier this afternoon, on the way home from school, but they are closed from 1-4pm, which is typical of shops in Italy.  They open again from 4-8.

OH! We finalized all of our plans for our Amsterdam trip.  We found a hostel close to the city center, and bought our plane tickets.  We'll leave Friday afternoon, February 19, and return that Sunday night.  There are 7 of us going, and it is Mo's 21st birthday present to herself.  (She turns 21 the week before).  It will be a very fun weekend, and my first outside-of-Italy vacation!!

I'm off to buy my jeans and to the study cafe with the other young people.

Buona giornata (Have a good day)!

28 January, 2010

My Address...

I know some were asking, so here is my address while I'm in Firenze:

Alison Nolan
c/o CAPA Firenze
Via Pandolfini, 20
50122 Firenze

Be very cautious when sending me the giant care packages I know you all have ready for me.  To get through customs, you must pay 20% of what the value of the item is.  Although I appreciate the $5000 worth of clothes you're sending, I do not want you to have to pay the extra $1000 just to ship it.  Now, if you're sending me a $500 package, i know the extra $100 is nothing :)

Important to make sure you agree to pay all the custom fees though, because otherwise I may not ever receive it.


the octopus.

we're currently alone in the house together... he is in the freezer.


The rest of Tuesday was somewhat relaxing.  Stayed in and just got work done.  I went to bed early but I was able to Skype for a little bit!  Went back to that study place to get some things done as well.  At dinner, I asked what type of meat we were having, and Patrizia answered "Pollo."  [pollo = chicken] Guido jerks his head up and starts arguing with her in Italian.  I'm pretty sure I heard something along the lines of "this is not chicken, you are wrong" and she responding "it is easy to say pollo."  I think she wants me to learn basic words rather than trying to learn many different kinds of meat.  To make a long story short, I'm pretty sure I've been eating crazy foods all along. It explains why they eat so much "chicken"... It's probably best I don't know what I'm eating!!!

Wednesday I have so many classes and they are so long!!  A big group of us went to Appertivo at Rex's. It was an enjoyable event to socialize, but I love my host family's cooking way more.  We went out to a few places afterward, and enjoyed the city.  A friend, Lindsay, lives very close to me which we just discovered so we can easily go places together and then split a cab fare for a ride home.  I'm glad there is someone so close!

Today I only have one class, and not until 4pm :)  I think I am going to go shopping at a little shop around the corner of my house.  I saw a very cute dress and I'm hoping to find some skinny jeans too!  The prices in the windows were very reasonable.  I walk past this shop every day going to my bus stop and coming home.  I'd like to explore the immediate area around my house more since it's not the typical tourist area.

I didn't get the pictures up as fast as I wanted, but at least I finally have them ready now!  You can click here to see them:

Italy - Welcome Dinner, Sunset, Fiesole

Tonight Alli and Alli are coming for dinner again :) I'm off for a run and a shower!

26 January, 2010

There is an Octopus in the Freezer!

 .... yes, there is one in the freezer.  I'm pretty sure that is our Thursday night dinner.  Anyway, I was super busy the past week... as you'll soon see!

Wednesday is my busy day for classes, but today the art history class was cancelled. It won't start up until next week. We had a few extra hours, so I went to see Michaelangelo's David in Academia.  No pictures were allowed, but it was breathtaking seeing it up close and in real life. I'm not a person who's big into art, but it was something I will remember for quite a while.

Today was the big dinner welcoming everyone in the program.  It was a HUGE meal.I thought we were finished after the bruschetta, meats, cheeses, salads, etc... but no.  We then had three more courses of pasta and a chocolate dessert!  They liked us so much they gave all the tables bottles of champagne.  They claimed "this has never happened before" which we took with a grain of salt, but after conversing with students in the past, the claim was validated!  It was indeed the first time they loved a group that much!  The amazing dinner culminated with an evening in the city.

My host family has another daughter who is 30.  She and her boyfriend come over for dinner once a week.  We had some kind of meat which was delicious, and the table was covered by a tablecloth.  They played music, and it was truly a wonderful event.  They both speak English, so it was very easy to communicate.  You can tell that they are a close family, because everyone was speaking Italian loudly and quickly, very excited to catch up with one another!  We skyped Laura after dinner, so I was able to finally "meet" her!

After dinner we called it a night since they were here for 3 hours.  I'll look forward to that every week!

Friday only has one class!  I sadly do not remember much of what I did on Friday. I do know that I went to bed early since we had a hike planned for the next day. OH! A huge group of us went to see the sunset at Michaelangelo Piazale.  It was GORGEOUS seeing the city lit up by the last remaining sunlight.  We left the school at 3, and I didn't return home until 7.  It's amazing how much walking I've been doing.  Pictures from this sunset will be posted soon as well.

We had my favorite meal thus far for dinner. Some kind of pasta with a chicken-type sauce.  Loved it.

Hike in the Fiesole hills!  I have a lot of pictures from this, which I'll post very soon.  It was a gorgeous place, and a decent hike.  There were caves along the way and we were able to peek in some. This was the place that Michaelangelo had one of his servants try on the para gliding wings, and was the first human to "fly".  Sadly, this servant died, but they had a memorial for him marking the place where he took off.

Afterwards, we went to a pizzeria with excellent food.  A few of us decided to walk back from Fiesole to Firenze.  It was a beautiful walk, but rather long.  It took us close to 3 hours since were lost for a bit of it.

Saturday night a few of us went to Appertivi at Zoe's.  I think I explained this before, but Appertivo is when you buy a drink for 4-7 Euro, and then have access to unlimited food.  We made this our dinner, and actually met our professor there!  We went and had Gelato with him, and then went back to his apartment to chat.  It was late by the time we were done chatting, so I walked around the city for a little while, and then took a taxi home.

I slept in nice and late on Sunday :)  I woke up and went for the most beautiful run I have ever gone on.  When Dad comes to visit, I will most certainly take him on this route.  I passed by Michaelangelo Piazale, which is where all those other pictures from last weekend were taken.  Imagine those views the entire run!

By the time I finished running, it was getting later, so I went to the city to look for skinny jeans.  I went to the shops my host sister shops at according to my host mother.  We have them both in America- Benetton and Zara's.  I loved them both, but didn't buy anything quite yet.  I'll get to that eventually :)

For dinner we had soup with noodles in a broth.  I filled up on two bowls of it I loved it so much... but I didn't realize we still had two more courses!! It was meat and vegetables, so not my favorite, but the soup was excellent.

Monday I have only one class, but super early (830 am!)  I decided to go out and explore the city on my own since I was done at 10am.  I planned to walk around for a bit, get lunch, and then return home for a run.  Little did I know.... I found a "tabacchi" store (literally a tobacco shop, but they sell little trinkets, candies, souvenirs, and what i went there for- stamps).  It was my first conversation completely in Italian where I knew every word! My host mother and Italian teacher both gave me the phrase to ask for a stamp to mail something to America. He responded to me with the price, I paid him and said "Grazie" (thank you), and he responded with "Prego" (welcome). I was so proud :)

That's when the problems started. I wanted to find a grocery store because I had not been to one yet.  As I walked, I went in little shops to look at shoes and clothes, and then turned down other little ally ways to see what shops were hidden there. I even went into a bookstore and attempted to read the books intended for children ages 0 - 3 years old haha.  Anyway, to make a long story short, I suddenly realized I had no idea where I was, and spent the next 2.5 hours getting home!! I told Patrizia about it later that night, and she reminded me I can always  call her if I get lost like that again.  It actually was fine, because I was never scared since it was light out, but my legs were very sore.  I did not return home in time for a run before dark however :(  I do not want to run at night just yet, despite lights everywhere.

Before dinner, I found a little caffe that a lot of students were doing homework in! Germans were behind me, Italians were next to me, and possibly Swedish girls were on the other side of the shop.  It was two stories and everyone was doing homework and studying.  It was a bit of a trek, but I will most surely be visiting there quite often.

Dinner was marvelous as always.  Guido cooked it, but then left for the "Palestra" (gym) so it was just Patrizia and I.  It was some kind of noodles with vegetables in the sauce.  Molto bene!  I then met some friends at a music place a few bridges down.  We were the youngest people there by probably 20 years or so, but the live band performing played English songs for us, and I had a wonderful time.  It was a really cool place that I'll probably return!

Tuesday (today)
hmmm.. it is clear I should keep up with this every day so that I remember what I do, because a lot of it has already slipped my mind.  This morning when I woke up coffee was already ready for me, and I decided to just peek around the kitchen.  I wish that they would save left overs, but I've heard from friends that everyone throws them away.  I looked in the freezer to see what we'll be having for dinner, and lo and behold, THERE IS AN OCTOPUS IN THERE! I'm guessing this is for the weekly dinner on Thursday with the daughter, Alessandra and the boyfriend, Alessandro.  Not sure how I'll be feeling about it...

time for class now, but I will try to post pictures later today!

19 January, 2010

The last few days...

Quite a few updates... I'll go day by day

I ended up waking up a little later than planned, 11:30am.  Patrizia was very happy I slept in so late.  I think the jet lag finally was catching up with me.  The night before we all hung out at a little corner bar (bar in Italian means more of a coffee shop.)  We sat outside even though it was cold and just chatted =)

I went to Michaelangelo Piazzale alone Sunday morning.  It's crazy gorgeous with wonderful views.  Unfortunately, it was rather rainy, cold, and cloudy.  The area was still beautiful despite the weather.  There is also the first replica (I think) of Michaelangelo's David.  I had to climb a lot of stairs to get up to the top.  Some photos:

This photo on the left is the landmark for me to identify it.  I don't know what it's called.  I climbed many steps like the photo on the right to get to the top!

This is the David replica: 

I ended up walking about 11 miles total that day. I took 'Viale Michaelangelo' which is a very beautiful road my host mother told me I must walk on.  I took many photos of the view.  I put all the pictures from the day in an album, stored here: 

Just a preview of the views I saw this whole walk: 

I then went to Palazzo Pitti. It was a museum which at one point in time was a huge palace.  The artwork was gorgeous, but of course no cameras were allowed.  Behind the building is the 'Gardenia di Boboli' or the Boboli Gardens.  Because it was late, they were already closed, but I could see them out the windows of the Palazzo Pitti.
Palazzo Pitti: 

Stopped to eat lunch at a place where no one knew English, which made it fun.  The owner even laughed since he knew we had no idea what we were saying!  I got spaghetti e pomodoro. I know pomodoro is tomato, so I knew I'd love it.  Probably the best sauce I've ever had in my life.

At this point  I had been outside and walking for over 5 hours, so I walked the last 2 miles or so home.  It was just beginning to get dark and I was able to take my favorite picture thus far.  The Ponte Vecchio is the bridge you see in the background, a bridge with a bunch of shops on it:

I went back out that night after dinner and met a few people and just walked around the city.  Finally withdrew Euros from my bank account too!  It was a long but fun day :)

For dinner we had 'melanzne alla parmigiana con pomodoro e mozzarella'.  Patrizia couldn't find the English equivalence, but essentially it was lots of vegetables and mozzarella in a red sauce.  Might be my favorite dish thus far.

First day of classes! Only had Italian.  Spent the rest of the day walking around the city aimlessly, but it was very relaxing.  Got lunch at the same bar we had drinks at on Saturday evening.  I had some kind of panini with mozzarella and tomato.  Excellent as always!

Went to the Irish Pub to meet some friends before dinner.  Had risotto (I think that's what it's called?) for dinner.  Guido was sick, so only Patrizia and I ate. She made me try everything, including salami (Florentine style she explained.)  Didn't love it, but it wasn't bad.  Went back to the pub after dinner with friends, and met students from all over the world! I befriended students from England, Australia, Scotland, and even New Jersey haha.  Was a very nice night.

Today I had Italian class again, and also managed to get Skype to work for Abstract Algebra II at Ursinus!  Tonight we had hamburgers or something of the sort.  First hamburger in like 4 years I think.  I wouldn't say I disliked it, but it would not be my first food choice.  Tonight I will be staying in.  I'm very tired and took a little nap before dinner.  I have class at 8:45 am tomorrow so I hope to get to bed soon!!


16 January, 2010


Loved Firenze today! (Bear with me on the horrible spelling the next few words) We saw Duomo, uffizzio, Ponte Vecchio, Dante museo, and much more! We didn't go into any of the sites, rather we did a big walking tour of everything.  A few of us stayed and visited with Professor Florka (from Ursinus), and went out for una caffe afterwards.  We went to this place called Gilli which apparently is very famous.  The people serving the caffe behind the bar were dressed in suits!  Gorgeous city.  Absolutely love it already.

Had another wonderful dinner with my host parents.  Guido made pollo with a special sauce.  It smelled delicious and had olives and other things in it.  Of course, salad accompanied the meal and bread.  We ate really early for them tonight (1900).  I spent almost 2 full hours talking with them about sites to see and learning new words. Guido said that I spoke more than the other girls they've had!  They drew me lots of maps to show me new places to run and where to see Michaelangelo.

Tomorrow is a day on our own, so a bunch of us are meeting at 1200 at the Duomo to explore Firenze.  I will bring my camera and take lots of pictures :)  Tonight a big group is going to a pub to meet other young adults. I'm very happy that there are other people who live pretty close to me and are able to come back at night with me.  If it's very late, we can even split a taxi since we are so close.

Already I feel like I am picking up on the language.  Guido is more comfortable with me, probably because I was attempting to speak such broken Italian.  He spoke some English to me in a heavy accent.  It's really good having Patrizia because she is the interpreter for both of us.  I watched part of "che tempo che fa?" with them after dinner.  It means "what is the weather?" I didn't understand the show, but they said it was the most interesting one now.  Apparently people come on and advertise some new product, CD, song, movie, show, etc. and then the other portion is dedicated to talking about the weather.  Tonight the woman talked about donating money to Haiti.  I figured that one out all by myself!

I am very excited for tonight, and yes, I will be very careful and not walk anywhere alone!

First dinner

Wow. I'll start off by saying it's almost 4 am Italy time, 10 pm US time. I have stayed awake 30 hours, and then taken a 6 hour power nap to reawaken now. Not good! I'm wide awake.

Last night was my first dinner with Patrizia and Guido. Guido is the cook of the house. First we had real Italian bread with a fish spread on it. Patrizia didn't know the English equivalent word and I can't recall the Italian word. It had a strong fish taste, but of course I liked it. I had one and told Guido "mi piace" meaning "I like it" which opened the invitation for him to hand me another one. He then dished out my pasta dish with a red sauce... Pretty sure it was some kind of ravioli. Definitely not the frozen kind you get at home! Both Patrizia and Guido asked if I liked it and I was very enthusiastic with how much I loved it. He had scooped me out a GIANT portion and I struggled to finish my plate. I finally took down the last bite and Patrizia was asking me if I wanted more. I told her I was very full but thank you anyway because it was delicious! Apparently that means I wanted 4 more. I really thought I was going to puke.

I force fed myself the rest of it, because I would've felt so rude not cleaning my plate. They took away my dish and before I could thank them for the meal they had a new plate in front of me with "insalata", a potato salad thing. They told me all the ingredients (corn, potatoes, eggs, mayo, and oil). I said we don't use oil much at home and they looked at me like I was crazy. Patrizia's mother lives in the countryside around Florence and they use special tress on their land to make this homemade oil. Pretty cool stuff :)

Now it's 4:20 am. Perhaps I'll be able to get a little shut eye before our 9 am orientation. Patrizia is taking me there since she has a little jewelry shop nearby the Duomo which is where my school is. I'll be on the internet much more than expected since I can get it in my own home :)


15 January, 2010

I'm Here!

Finally arrived in Italia!

The plane ride from Philly to Frankfurt was not bad. They provided us with complimentary drinks the entire flight, and even gave us a satisfying dinner (I chose pasta with a cream sauce, bread, some kind of veggie/rice mix, cheese, and a brownie) and then just before landing gave us breakfast (bagel, cheese, fruit cup, and granola bar).

At Frankfurt we explored the airport waiting for our next flight to depart 2 hours later, and then that quick 1.5 hour flight to Florence! We went over the Alps, and I was able to take a few pictures using a friend's camera phone. I'll try to post that in a bit.

Immediately we were placed in taxis sent to our host families! Patrizia was here waiting for me, and showed me my room and gave me a tour of the house. I arrived here at 2:15ish
their time, which is 8:15 our time. I had not slept at all on the plane, so we're looking at almost 24 hours straight!

I took some pictures of my room! Those windows are doors that open into a balcony. Every room in the house has a balcony. The front rooms overlook the river Arne.

I also took pix of the cat, mostly for the animal lovers. i'm not sure if I'm a fan yet.

Guido just walked in.. he speaks no English. This should be interesting. Patrizia speaks very good English. The daughter Laura is in Spain until the end of the month so I'll have to meet her later.


14 January, 2010

Departure time: T minus 8 hours

I leave for Italy in about 8 hours! I'll arrive in Frankfurt, Germany around 8 am (their time), then it's a quick flight to Florence. We land at 1pm Florentine time, and are put on taxis to meet our host families.

I'm looking forward to meeting Guido (my host dad), Patrizia (host mother), and Laura (my 20 year old sister!).

I will attempt to update this as often as possible and put up pictures and stories of the places I have visited. I plan on going to Germany, Swiss Alps, France, and all over Italy.

Check back whenever you like to see what new things I have been up to!