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!