Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
At the end of last week, the group decided to explore a bit of our Italian surroundings by taking an overnight trip to Perugia and Assisi in the neighboring province of Umbria. The journey to Perugia went off without a hitch, and was complete with a windy (side note: just had the major realization that windy (moving air) and windy (curvy) are spelled the same way. mind. blown.) bus ride through the picturesque Tuscan countryside, and two additional train rides. Italy, I found out, is very well connected north-south, but not so much east-west. Thus, what should be only an hour and a half away, took about four hours. We didn't mind the travelling too much though, as we had plenty of homework to do to and it was an adventure in itself- ensuring all the connections were made on time, the correct tickets were bought, etc.
When we arrived in Perugia around 3pm, we slowly began to realize after taking in our surroundings (the center of Perugia is literally on top of a mountain, we were at the bottom) that we had absolutely no game plan. The only things we knew for certain: we had virtually no time restrictions, and we had to go up. With no public transportation system in sight, we started walking. Hiking, rather, I swear the roads were at nearly a 90 degree angle...
After wandering upwards for about 45 mins, exhausted and with screaming feet (I made the completely amateur mistake of wearing my new boots which have about a three-inch platformed heel, my feet STILL hurt two days later), we discover that we have made it. Naturally, beautiful views insued.
that indicated their orphan status. I don't remember exactly what it was, but this means that there are lots of people in the region who have the same last name and an ancestor that hails from this orphanage.
Our tour guide, Zach.
This same church won third place in a contest for Europe's ugliest churches from the outside:
Basilica di San Francesco.
We then spent the afternoon wandering through the cute little streets, eating amazing pasta and gelato, and generally enjoying the sunny afternoon in this incredible country that I love more and more every day that I'm here.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Anyways, I had Italian with Evan and our professor, Ida Ferrari (yes, Ferrari), in the morning for an hour and a half. Then a 30 min. break until Italian Cultural History in which we ran across the street to Pizzaland for a snack. Eric and I ventured to try the "pigs and chips" pizza- pizza with hotdog and french fries and ketchup on it. Eric seemed to like it, but me, not so much. I was just craving french fries ok!
Both were pretty much just introductions, but I can tell having a two person Italian class will be very useful. Our language teacher speaks to us only in Italian, which will be yet another great opportunity for practice.
Yesterday we saw a taxi strike out the window during Italian class, which was a pretty cool experience. There was a bunch of honking and we went to the window to see that there was a parade of taxis winding down the tiny streets. Our cultural history professor warned us to expect a lot of strikes while we are here, as Italy's government is going through a huge transition right now.
The cultural history class seems great, our professor is an American who has lived here full time for about 20 years. I am amazed at how much I found out about Italy in only one session! This is the class we will be going with on our wine and cheese tasting field trip soon, and on our trip to Sicily.
Speaking of Siciliy...I watched The Godfather last night for the first time. What better place to experience it, right? :)
Sunday, January 22, 2012
1. I had my first gelato. Now THAT was a life changing experience. Seriously. Who knew ice cream could actually taste so much better here? And the sizes are much smaller so you don't feel like you're gorging yourself as you do at Cold Stone or Ben and Jerry's, but they do take care to pack it as densely as possible. They know what's up.
2. I had my favorite meal thus far. Overpriced pears and cheese. But not just any overpriced pears and cheese, ITALIAN pears with pecorino cheese all drizzled in honey. Words can't even describe. The setting I was in probably added to the feeling of pure happiness I experienced while eating it. It was a gorgeous, warm day on the Piazza del Campo, and I was excited about the prospect of having absolutely nothing to do but take in the amazing city around me. It was...perfetto.
3. I had my first encounter with olives. I hate olives. I'm in Italy...this is a problem. Luckily it was only in a Sicilian salad with fennel and oranges, so they were easy to pick out. But, it reminded me of the looming inevitability of having to eat one. I dread the day.
Friday night started out slowly, beginning with a few of the students meeting at a restaurant for an aperitivo, a five dollar charge for a drink and a plate of little sandwiches and snacks. We quickly realized this was not the place to be (despite the DJ who was playing, seemingly just for us) when we saw that even though it was midnight, everyone around us was ordering gelato, not drinks. Awkward. So when the place closed, we wandered a bit looking for something to do, because honestly, none of us had any idea what people did in Siena on the weekends.
Evan, Faith and I out on Friday night.
We finally came across this PACKED bar, with people standing all around it on the streets. There is a university in Siena, so we figured this was the cool place for college kids and decided to try it out. Upon our arrival, we found Gianluigi standing with many of his friends outside the bar, and we took this as our way in. He speaks very good English, so he is very easy to talk to and a great resource for learning about the language and culture, but when he introduced us to his friends, it was a bit more difficult. Evan and I ended up having particularly long conversations with two of his friends who spoke about as much English as we do Italian, so it was great for both groups to practice the other's language.
The experience here, though, was pretty shocking. After an onslaught of "Are you American? Where are you from?" etc. while attempting to order drinks from the bar, we couldn't help but just look around and laugh. Groups of boys were loudly singing drinking songs, or maybe team songs, because there is a soccer game today against Naples. I couldn't understand them either way. Once we ordered drinks, we learned the thing to do is just stand outside and maybe take a walk to the piazza, because there's a. no room anywhere inside to stand comfortably, and b. it's totally normal to walk around the city with drinks in hand! Something that doesn't go over so well in Charlottesville...
Last night we all tried to see a live play of Breakfast at Tiffany's with Christina, but unfortunately it was sold out for the entire weekend. Instead, we got gelato and she and her friend showed us some bars that are cheap and usually have a lot of young Italians in them. We hung out on the piazza, a very popular pastime, I've come to realize, and finally met up with Gianluigi and some of his friends at his apartment he shares with the three girls in the program.
Faith and I also went to a concert of the band that Stella's son, Francesco, plays in for a bit. They were very good! Granted we couldn't understand their lyrics, but the music was rock n roll and great. There we met up and danced with Francesco's partner and mother of Cosimo, Natasha, who is incredibly nice and who we spend a lot of time with at home.
I am very excited to continue to make friends with Italians and to see where my new friendships will go! I'm also, surprisingly, excited for school to start tomorrow. A whole new adventure begins...
Friday, January 20, 2012
Evan and I departing on our journey.
The view out Evan's window is ah-mazing.
In the museum of the contrada churches are every Palio ever won by that contrada, the Palio being the name of the prize as well. They are paintings done by a different artist every year, and they are stored in the crypt/museum of the church after a year of being displayed up above. The Virgin Mary is featured on every Palio, as the race, and Siena in general, is dedicated to her.
Some of la Selva's Palios.
Evan and I outside the Fonte Giusta restaurant.