Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Okay okay, I've been slacking.

This weekend we went to the Amalfi Coast. It was unbelievable. We stayed in a hotel that was only 33 euros a night, so I assumed it would be pretty low quality. Wrong. It was amazing. Im still in awe of the fact it was so cheap. It was close to the train station, it had a restaurant, free breakfast, a pool table, a nice pool, sitting areas, a bar, and our room had a balcony overlooking gorgeous mountains. Insane.

Saturday we woke up early planning to go to Capri but we had heard it was supposed to rain so we ended up staying in Sorrento. It rained in the morning but then it cleared up to be a gorgeous day. We did some shopping, then found this awesome area where you pay 10 euros and reserve your spots for the whole day. We ended up staying until it closed. Its this area right off the coast in the ocean, so your on a dock sitting in beach chairs, then you also have access to floats in the water, and we rented kayaks and spent the day relaxing on the beach. It was incredible.
Sunday morning we got up and went to the island of Capri. We rented a private boat, so just the six of us laid out on a boat as it took us around the island. We stopped at 3 or 4 underwater caves and swam through them. Afterwards we took the trolly up to the top of the mountains to see an incredible view, and had lunch overlooking the ocean. It was incredible.
After lunch and a little shopping we were all wiped out. We tried to leave early but that wasnt an option due to ferry times. Getting back to Florence was kind of a headache. We had to take the ferry back to sorrento, get our stuff, take a cab to the train station, take a metro train to the train station in naples, then get on the big train for like 3 1/2 hours to Florence.

I had heard people tell me not to go to Naples, because it was kind of sketchy. Well, our train/metro connection was there but I didnt really think anything of it. It was fine on the way there but on the way back crazy things happened.
First of all, when we got to the metro train station, we had been rushing to get there to be sure and make our train from naples to florence which we already had tickets for. So we get to the train station in naples and there is no one there selling tickets, and we have 10 minutes before the train gets there. We asked some guy who didnt really speak english and he said you had to buy them somewhere else? I dont know. Long story short, we all decided to risk it and get on the train without tickets. So we all get on, nervously, wondering if we'll soon be thrown into Italian jail. A few stops later, about 20 teenagers get on, all dressed in neon wild clothing with neck tattoos and piercings. Theyre all screaming and singing and chanting. We concluded they had to be some sort of gang. It was insane. They like took over the entire train. One kid was riding a razor scooter down the isles, three of them were smoking right under the no smoking sign then putting them out of the floor. I saw one girl kiss three different guys. They were all pushing and hitting each other playfully, then this one girl comes barrelling down the isle and stops RIGHT in front of my seat and gets into a huge screaming argument with one of the guys, of course it was all in italian so i have no idea what it was about. But she was trying to fight him and three other girls were holding her back as the guy got in her face and yelled at her. The bright side is that we figured, at this point, if the conductor or staff did come back there, checking our tickets would be the least of their worries, ha.
So it all worked out, we made our train and got back to Florence that night.

I can not believe I only have one week left here. It has seriously FLOWN by.
I havent been on the computer as much. We are trying to fit everything in that we havent done so far.

Yesterday after class I went to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. Basically a museum of vintage designer clothes and shoes. Pretty sweet.

Tonight, I am going to see some monks that chant before a worship service. Its supposed to be pretty cool. Then we are going up to a spot in the city thats supposed to have an amazing view to watch the sunset, thennn we are going out to a fancy dinner. Because of all our schedules conflicting, tonight it the last night we are sure the 6 of us roommates will be able to all have dinner together. Florence is supposed to be famous for their Florentine steak, and one of the professors gave us a reccommendation for a restaurant that is expensive but is supposed to have amazing Florentine Steak, so we're doing that tonight.

Oh! I also wanted to write about the secret bakeries. Coolest thing ever. A select few of the bakeries start baking their food late at night so that its fresh the next morning. So, if you know which ones and where they are, you can go anytime from like 12:30 to the early hours of the morning and knock on the door, tell them what you want and pay them and theyll give it to you, fresh from the oven, steaming hot. Its incredible.

Well I just recieved news. Apparently, even after the second fumigation, one of the rooms in our apartment still has bed bugs. SO, theyre moving us to a hotel for the remainder of the week. Im not really happy about it. We have to have all of our stuff packed and out by tonight, which steps on our plans. We've lived here for nearly a month, I have a ton of stuff to move. Not to mention, Im not ready to say goodbye to our Florence apartment :(

Thursday, July 29, 2010


This was my first assignment for photography. The quality isn't as good because I had to move them around a lot. The actual assignment was to take pictures of "textures" but when he actually explained it more I came to believe he actually just wanted a cohesive series of pictures. I dont know. He is hard to understand sometimes, but he liked mine so thats all that matters, ha.
I did comprhend that it was supposed to be a cohesive series of pictures that somehow signified your time here in florence, so I photographed my things in my apartment here. I guess the symbolism comes in through the contrast that only I see, through the familiarity of my things, in an unfamiliar and new place, like my apartment here.
Please ignore the random way the pictures are displayed, I could not get this webpage to work for me. Also, I couldnt get my favorite one of my shoes to upload :( So the series is incomplete, but at least you get the gist.
This weekend we are heading to the Amalfi Coast :) I CAN NOT WAIT. We are staying in sorrento, capri and pompei, then heading back to Florence sunday night. I cant believe this is already my last weekend in the program. I have one more week of classes, then Im off to Rome on my own, then back to the ole US of A.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I do not know what to title this.

Well, the good news is that it is immensely cooler here in Florence so far this week. It makes my day much more enjoyable. The bad news is that we are still having bed bug issues. Our apartment got fumigated Monday. We had been informed that it was already fumigated right before we got here. Anddd we are still finding bed bugs, so its getting fumigated again tomorrow. We have reason to believe the fumigators are not really doing their job. Personally, while I am not necessarily a FAN of bugs, I dont particularly get freaked out by them. Also, My room is the only bedroom without actual bed bugs. So, I only have one small bite. I might feel more strongly about it if circumstances were different ha. But I have much sympathy for my poor roommates who are being eaten alive by these "little beasties" as our Brittish land lord likes to call them. They are not happy. Say a prayer that tomorrow's fumigation does the trick.

Yesterday I was really not feeling well. Vicky has had a sore throat and after our weekend together I definitely picked it up. I had strep throat the week before I came, so its nothing compared to that, but it was enough to make me go to bed at 8:30 last night, ha. After a niiice 12 hours of sleep, I felt a lot better today. Hopefully Ill be back to 100% soon enough.

Today was interesting. There is an outdoor clothing market thats only open on Tuesday's that I wanted to go to. Two of my roommates went but since I wasnt feeling well the night before they assumed I wouldn't want to go, so they left before me, which was fine. I called and told them Id meet them there. I had a vague idea of where it was on the map but wasnt sure. I was looking at the map in the stairway of my apartment and a woman that spoke English asked if I needed help. I told her where I was going, and she told me to just hop on the number 17 bus. I hadn't used the bus yet, but in my semi-ill state, figuring out the bus sounded better than a 30+ minute walk. So I go to the train station and wait about 15 minutes for a bus that just says "17" on the side. I get on, and asked a girl next to me who spoke english if I was headed the right way. She informed me that I was on the right bus that was heading the wrong direction. I was on 17B, I needed to be on 17C. So by this point Im on the other side of town from where I need to be. So I get off and wait for the 17C bus. Get on that, but Im still confused. I guess they expect no tourists on the city buses because NOTHING is in English. And there is nothing that tells you what stop you are at, which made things difficult seeing as how I had no idea what this place looked like. Also, my international phone decided to stop working at this point, even though its been fine for the whole trip. The only people on the bus that spoke any english on the bus were just as comfused as I was. I ended up sitting next to a lady who spoke absolutely no english, but was still nice enough to want to help. So I was speaking to her in english and she was speaking to me in italian but we somehow communicated somewhat. What (I think) I got from her was that I was headed the right way, it would just take a while to get there. I would need to get off two stops past the train station. Well, by this time I had given up on the market because class was in about an hour and the market was on the other side of town from the school. So I waited until I got to a street that I recognized and got off. Unfortunately I was on a completely different part of that street than I was used to, so I ended up getting lost on my way to class as well. I got to the school about 10 minutes before my class. I was lost for a total of 3 hours. Somehow it didn't put me in a bad mood. All I could do was laugh about it.
Oh, also, I didn't know if you had to pay for the bus or not. Some people got on and did nothing, and only a few had a card that they punched. I found out afterwards, the card is for frequent bus riders, and you are supposed to buy a one time ticket to ride. Some buses check and some dont. Thankfully, I illegally got onto two that did not check tickets :) oops?
Class was better today. Now that I understand the assignment better, I can actually do it. He really liked my stuff today. Hopefully Ill be able to put it up soon.

Due to all the chaos before class I didn't get to eat so when I got out at 2:30 I was STARVING. Also due to my chaotic morning, I was a tad frustrated with the fact that, as amazing as Italy is, it can be exhausting to be completely out of my comfort zone. SO, me and Alyssa went to an American diner and got cheese burgers, fries, and milkshakes, a meal a rarely eat at home but I promise, a burger had never tasted so good, haha.

Afterwards, I admitted to Alyssa that I secretly wanted to go to the Serial Killer Museum that we passed on the way to class every day, and she confessed that she really did too, so we went haha. Call me crazy but it was so interesting. You get a headset that tells you the story of the specific serial killer at every station. Serial killers from past and present, and from all over the world; complete with Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper, and Charles Manson, and some I'd never heard of, even back to the first documented serial killer. Creepy music and blood and guts included. Haha but hey, at least I learned a lot, about something? ha. It was fun.

It is so funny to me some of the little things that are SO different here than in America. Here are a few that I've noticed:
1. They are so much more green than us. Everyone everywhere recycles. No where has air conditioning, and if they do, its not like America's air conditioning. The toilets have about a quarter of the water in them as american toilets.
2. The doors and the water faucets are backwards here. Like nearly all of their doors you push to enter and pull to exit. Their water faucets, the left is hot and right is cold.
3. Waitors here are paid a normal wage, so you aren't expected to tip. This can produce a few outcomes. A. the service is not as good some places because they're getting paid either way, or B. you can sit there for hours talking and they dont rush you out for a new table of tipping customers.
4. Water cost money here at restaurants, and it makes my meals much more expensive.
5. Homeless people here go about asking for money here in a totally different way. Instead of making signs, or getting in your face and begging, they sit or kneel, hiding their faces, I guess out of humbleness or shame, and simply leave a cup there for donations. Im not saying I think this way is better or worse, its just different and I found it interesting.

That's all I can think of at the moment. Ill see what else I come across.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Wow, what a weekend.
Early Saturday morning me and two of my roommates, Alyssa and Vicky, took the train to Venice. Venice was the only city I said I would not leave Italy without seeing. I was so excited about it that I had finally decided that I'd built it up in my head so much that it couldn't possibly compare with the expectations I had in my head. Wrong. It was everything I imagined and so much more. Its by far my favorite Italian city so far. First of all, perfect weather. Since we were only there for the day we just decided to explore. I looked up a ton of lists online about what to do it Venice and almost all of them said, just get lost. I walked more this weekend than I think I've ever walked before. We just wandered around. We literally couldn't walk 10 feet without stopping to take pictures. It was so beautiful there. It seems like it should be an imaginary city. There is not a single car on the island, only boats and bicycles. I loved it. There were a ton of shops so we went in a bunch of those. Of course, the thing I wanted to do most in Venice was ride a gondola, but I head heard and read that they are around 100-130 euros for a short ride. Luckily, we decided to ask anyway. We paid 20 euros each for like a 30 minute ride. It was the most relaxing thing ever. Amazing. Afterwards we grabbed dinner then took Alyssa to the train station. She went back to Florence for the night because she wanted to relax and go to church in the morning.
Our original plan was that the three of us would go to Venice for the day. Our other three roommates, Jackie Cassie and Caroline went to Chinque Terra for the day, then we were going to all meet in Milan Saturday night. Well they decided to stay in Chinque Terra and we wanted to stay in Venice. We got lucky enough to switch our train tickets for Milan that night for tickets for the next morning for no charge so we got to stay in Venice for the night. Of course, since it was so spontaneous, we didn't have a place to stay. We tried one hotel that was booked, not to mention 150 euros a night. We went looking for more hotels and stumbled upon a hostel near the train station and got a room. Things went so smoothly we couldn't believe it. It was my first hostel experience. It was pretty cool. There was a big terrace outside out room on the 4th floor that overlooked the whole city. Awesome.
Now, for the cherry on top of an amazing day. We had seen signs earlier that day, that Norah Jones was playing a show that night outside in San Marco Square. I love her music and was so bummed that we'd be missing it, but since we got our tickets changed we got to see her! Well, not really see her, but hear her. They had the area around the stage blocked off but we sat near by and could still hear really well. I honestly felt like I was in a dream. We got a glass of white wine, and I laid in the middle of a Venice street, listening to Norah Jones singing Come Away With Me, with a perfect view of the water and looking up at a GORGEOUS starry sky. I saw two shooting stars. It definitely made top 5 for best days of my life. Needless to say, Venice stole my heart.
Oh, also, I haven't written about my Memphis friend yet. He was on a tour through the school of Venice, so he met us there for the last part of the concert. His name is Matt. On one of the first days of orientation, they made us line up across from someone you didn't know and find out three things about him. So, I line up in front of this random guy, and it turns out he's from Memphis. Crazy coincidence. He went to Houston High School and goes to Germantown Methodist, and works for Holland Studios. Weird. We know some of the same people. We just had to come across the world to meet each other. I guess it really is a small world after all?
Anyway, the concert ended around 11, and we had to be back at the hostel by 12:30 or they close the doors. So we leave, and realize we are literally on a separate island and had a lot of walking to do. We tried to take a water taxi but it cost 50 euros, so we nixed that idea. We saw a little ferry thing that was I guess the equivalent to a subway, but we had NO idea how it worked. We asked a guy and ended up RUNNING to make it on. We walked on as they were shutting the gate. We were the last people on an extremely crowded boat. I loved every minute of the insanity. We made it back just in time and got a good nights sleep.
So, this morning we were supposed to leave and meet the other three girls in Milan, but they waited to get their tickets and the time they needed to leave was sold out so they ended up just going back to Florence. So, me and Vicky spent some more one on one quality time in Milan, ha. Milan was okay. It wasn't really my cup of tea, but Im glad we went and I got to see it. In my opinion, its mostly just like a normal American big city. Since it was Sunday, a lot of the stores were closed, which was fine because its not like we would've been able to buy anything anyway, ha. There is literally any designer brand you could want; Louis Vuitton, Prada, Versace, Armani, and tons of others I'd never heard of. And for some reason, amidst all the luxury, I counted 6 McDonalds, haha. Before Milan I had only seen one.
We just spent the day window shopping and sat at a cafe for a while. Of all people, Im so glad I got to go with Vicky. She is a fashion merchandising major from LA. Since I know absolutely nothing about high end brands, she gave me the down low on a lot of it, and it was cool to see her in her element and get so excited about it. We had fun.
Most of the cities in Italy are walking based, and there aren't a ton of cars. Milan is an exception. Its the kind of city thats so big and spread out that you need to drive. We did not. Ha, again, I did more walking that I ever have, not to mention with my backpack full of everything I needed for the whole weekend. It was a wonderful, but tiring weekend.
We're back in Florence now. I plan on taking a niiice cold shower and hitting my bed-bug-free bed, ha. Speaking of, tomorrow we have to be out of the apartment for the whole day while its being fumigated. Should be an adventure.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Don't let the bed bugs bite.

I'm sitting here trying to remember the past couple days so I can write about them and I can not seem to think of all we did. Thursday I know we went to eat at a really good restaurant called Acqua al 2. They're famous for their blueberry steak. One of my roommates got it. It was interestingly good. Then we all stopped and got some gelato. As we were walking back to the apartment through the square by the duomo we came across an outdoor classical music concert. It was such an Italy moment. I loved it.
Today was a little bit of a rough day for all of us, but we're making the best of it and turning things around. Luckily, my day really wasn't too bad. My misfortunes consisted of getting very lost on my way home and walking completely across the city to the river before I realized it. Ha, typical. Im surprised this was the first time it happened. Before that, was class. As attractive as my professor is, I was quite frustrated with him today, ha. Through his thick accent, and the fact that English isn't his first language he can be very hard to communicate with. What my roommate Alyssa and I understood as yesterdays assignment was that we were supposed to take pictures of textures. Thats it. So we did. I had several pictures of various textures. Well, long story short this was not what he was looking for, and he was very straightforward about it. Not just to us though, to everyone in the class, so at least I was not alone, ha. The two sets that he did like were pictures of doors, and pictures of graffiti. Textures? Sure? Whatever.
Everyone else's luck seemed to be much worse than mine. My roommate Jackie went on a field trip to a winery today and their bus broke down, in this heat, for two hours. My roommate Cassie rented a bike and got so lost that she was off the map, and has to ask for directions to get back the long long way she had gone off course. My roommate Vicky is not feeling well. MOST of all our issue...bed bugs. We were warned. And we have them. Luckily, again, not me. But every other bedroom in the apartment has them. They're little black bugs that travel on your suitcase and bite you in your sleep. We found NESTS and EGGS on the back of some of the bulletin board in the rooms today. Fun stuff. Our apartment is getting fumigated on Monday, so we have to be out of it from 9am-8pm. What we're going to do for 11 hours, we aren't sure, but it should be a fun day of exploring.
Rumor has it, the high for next week is supposed to be 85. I dont know if I buy it, but if this myth turns out to be true, I will be a happy camper.
I think its about 3am here. We just got home from a fun night out, and we are leaving bright and early in the morning for various trips :). Me, Alyssa, and Vicky are going to Venice. We leave at 8am and are there until tomorrow night when we are going to Milan to meet our other 3 roommates, Jackie Cassie and Caroline. The three of them are going to Chinque Terra, then meeting us in Milan. Venice was the one place I was dead set on making it to while I was here, so I can not wait to see it. Its supposed to thunderstorm there tomorrow, so say a prayer that it hold off til after we leave.
Well, Im going to attempt to get a few hours of sleep before a fun filled weekend :) goodnight.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The David.

I thought I'd mix it up a little a post something thats not a mile long, ha.
I don't have a whole lot to say. Things get pretty routine here in Florence, but routine in Florence is way more exciting than the word "routine" implies.
Class is going really well. Its long (2 and a half hours) but I do feel like I've learned a lot already and I cant wait to really get started. I decided that the component that Im going to use to unite all of my projects in that class is vintage. Vintage editing, vintage subject matter, vintage everything. I chose this because A. I love antique/vintage things to begin with. They always catch my eye. but also because I think the beauty of Florence is that its old, and much of it has not been restored, but the old run down and almost forgotten look of it all is my favorite part. Cant wait to see what all I find.
After class today two of my roommates and I went to the Accadamia. We got passes that cost 40 euros that get you free entrance into all the state museums and several others, and also discounts for some musical and cultural events, but the deal sealer was that you get to skip all the lines for the museums. The thought of waiting outside for 3 hours in this unbearable heat to get into an art museum made me want to skip them altogether, and we cant have that. So, like I said, we went to the Accadamia. I was excited to go, but even though I am an art major, I sometimes have a hard time getting SUPER interested in ancient, famous art. But even so, I could NOT leave Italy without seeing Michelangelo's David. Well, my inner artist came out today. As I was standing there looking up at this incredible sculpture, I literally got chills. Its incredible to me to think that this intricate sculpture was once a gigantic rectangle of rock. He has muscles, he has veins, he has wrinkles. It's amazing. Last semester I had to do a tiny handheld sculpture for my 3D class. I could not imagine doing something that large, much less doing it centuries ago with less sophisticated tools. You're not supposed to take pictures but here's one I snuck with my iPhone... :)

Monday, July 19, 2010


First of all, correction to my last post. We ended up going to church at the Santa Croce church and it was in Italian. So, it was really cool. GORGEOUS architecture. Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo are all buried here. Thats a picture of it that I got online, on the right.

Oh my gosh.
I just got out of my first class and I have some free time until tonight's festivities start. I wanted to be sure and write about it now while Im still as ecstatic as I currently am. First of all, I may or may not be in love with my photography professor. He is a gorgeous Italian man named Pietro Paolini. Ha, but aside from that, he is an incredibly inspiring person and what he does, and therefore the focus of his class is PERFECT for me. It reassures me so much that I am meant to be here. Im here for a reason and Im gaining knowledge and making connections that will help me accomplish my dreams.

For those of you who don't know, my goal after I graduate, is to start my own magazine. I want it to be an outlet for nonprofit and humanitarian organizations to advertise and get their name out there. I want to tell the stories of those who are saving the world. I also want to focus on issues from all over the world in general; maybe issues that are not yet being taken care of. And I want to highlight the countries and culture of the countries in which all these issues are taking place. With all of that, and an incorporation of my art and photography background, I hope to produce an interesting magazine.

WELL, Mr. Pietro Paolini, is a native of Florence. He works with a collaboration of photographers here. He produces stories through his photographs of social issues from all over the world, then sells them to magazines....um, PERFECT?! I was in awe of the irony. What are the odds?

I have class Monday through Friday from 12-2:30. Today, we went around and gave a little background on ourselves. There are about 15-20 people in my class which is a lot more than I expected. Afterwards he gave us background on his life then started to tell and show us what he does.

He showed us series of photographs that make up each of his projects. For example, the first one was a political piece on South America and its government. He said he is not finished and has been working on it for about 2 years, making fairly frequent trips to South American countries.
Next was a fun piece on South American wrestling, then one on Silver Mining and the issues of slavery and child labor that are used in the dangerous silver mines. Then came a story about jails in South American and how when father's go to jail, often times the families do not know how to survive on their own so they willingly move into the jail, into rooms a little bigger than cells. They can come and go as they please, but it is necessary for them to be there because they dont know how to survive alone. Next, an documentary with photography and film about toxic waste in Naples. And finally, another documentary revealing that military leaders were keeping hidden ingredients that they knew were harmful around soldiers for military needs, but theyre now causing cancer in anyone who has been exposed. The social justice court is now holding these people responsible and making them pay the families of those who have lost loved ones because of their secrecy.

Several people in the class were sitting there bored to death but I could not have been more interested. Needless to say, I can not wait to see what these next three weeks will bring.

From what I understood in the basic overview of the class, we will end up with a diary type portfolio. Each assignment will focus on whatever we choose as our concentration...i think? Ill let you all know more when I figure it out.

Here is a link to the work of my professors collaborative projects. Click on his name to see his work... http://www.terraproject.net/en/home

Other events of the day..
This morning a few of us got up early and went to the market to get some food. Its so awesome. Its pretty much a giant fresh market or whole foods, but with Italian people working every stand, and all the food is extremely cheap. We got a lot of good stuff and I think we're cooking here tonight.
Last night we got home for the first time without pulling the map out. We were proud.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Italian Road Trip


Its a quiet Sunday afternoon here in Florence. I am currently the only one awake in our apartment, ha. You'd think it was the middle of the night. For those of you confused by the fact that I'm not asleep, no Italy has not changed me that much. I took a nap from 11:45 to around 4 today.

Wow, yesterday was incredible! The trip was BY FAR worth the 70 euros. We woke up bright and early and walked to the train station where we got on our bus, which was in fact air conditioned, making the trip much more enjoyable. Our first stop was Sienna. I was about to type that it was probably my favorite, but when I think about it, I'd like to say that about all of the stops we made. They were some of the most beautiful places I've seen.

Sienna is a quaint little historic town. I wanna say it was about an hour or hour and a half from Florence? We walked around and hung out there for a while, taking pictures and enjoying Sienna's beauty. Towards the end of our time there we were sitting in the shade in the middle of the open square in Sienna outside of a huge church. We kept hearing clapping from an open window but didnt know what was going on. Turns out there was a wedding because the bride and groom came out right by where we were sitting. It was a gorgeous wedding. Yes, I took pictures.
I've decided Florence is the best place to study, because its beautiful, historical, small and easy to get around yet there is a never ending list of things to do. We have access to anything we may need here such as food, medical attention, lots of English speaking people, places to go out etc, but also because its within traveling distance to so many more surrounding cities. If I spoke Italian and was planning on staying here for longer than a month, I would choose to live in one of the smaller towns like Sienna or San Gimignano. They are quiet and less touristy, which bring much more of the classic Italian character to them, in my opinion. (Disclaimer: Mom and Dad, this is purely hypothetical. I am not already thinking of moving to Italy. Promise. :))

Our second stop was for lunch. I felt like I was in a movie. Lunch was at an organic farm and vineyard in Tuscany. There we had the best meal I've had since we got here. It didn't hurt that we were overlooking an absolutely breathtaking view of the tuscan hills, complete with rows of grapes, sunflower fields, and blue skies. Gorgeous. I believe she said everything we ate was organically grown there with the exception of the cheese. We had garlic bread, then pasta with meat sauce that you could tell was hand made. Thats when I stopped eating ha, I was so full. (We had gotten a slice of pizza in Sienna) But they also brought out bruschetta and cheese and a caesar salad with fresh tomatoes. On the table there was white and red wine for us to sample. Then for dessert they brought us almond biscotti, but it was soft and amazing, not like the hard ones you can buy at starbucks, haha. They brought a dessert wine in a tiny wine glass. It was entirely too sweet and strong to drink alone, but was good when cut in half with soda water..ha.

Our next stop was a city called San Gimignano, which I just had to look up because I couldn't remember the name, and I still do not remember how to say it, but in English it means John the Baptist. This city was absolutely GORGEOUS, just as all of them had been, but of course by this point Id taken so many pictures that my camera died just as I walked through the gates. We all already decided we are going to share pictures, and I took a couple on my iphone. We walked around here for a while. San Gimignano also has the world champion gelateria, so I tried some of the worlds best gelato.

After this, we left on our way to Pisa. (Kristen, this is the city with the leaning tower....)
On the way there they stopped in a sunflower field and let us take pictures for a few minutes. This made my day, because sunflowers are my favorite things in the world. Then we drove about an hour and a half to pisa. On the way there the tour guide gave us some history of the town. She said the guy who built the tower did not mean for it to be leaning and was so incredibly embarrassed about it that he abandoned the project in the middle of construction. New people were hired to finish it, and they tried to straighten it as best they could. She said in reality its more in the shape of a banana than fully leaning. Later technology came along, and a builder came to the town leaders saying, if they wanted, he could straighten it. But by this point the leaning tower had brought so many tourists that they turned the offer down. I'd say this was a good call, because there is absolutely nothing else to see in Pisa other than the leaning tower. We got there, navigated through the hundreds of tacky vendors selling cheap knock offs of designer goods and made it to the tower. Its surrounded by people taking the classic pictures, where if you get at the right angle you can make it look like you're holding the tower up, pushing it over, leaning against it, whatever. That was a lot of fun. But like I said, Pisa is kind of lame. So after that, me and one other guy fell asleep in the grass by the tower while the rest of our group walked around in disappointment.

Pisa was our last stop, so after that we headed back to Florence. Most of us slept the whole way. It was an incredibly fun and exciting, but incredibly long day. We got back to Florence around 8pm, grabbed dinner at a local restaurant then went back to our apartments. We were all exhausted so we went to bed fairly early.

Before I left, I had decided that when I had the chance I would visit some different kinds of churches while I was here. I love to see the diverse ways that different people worship. Well, my roommate Alyssa is mormon. For those of you who don't know, my best friend Shannon is also mormon so I'm familiar with the religion, and I was so excited to go to an Italian mormon church with her. So we woke up this morning and actually five of us ended up going to the mormon church with her. We knew it would be in Italian so we went not really expecting to know much about what was going on. They sang beautiful Italian hymns, then the first speaker went up to speak. Mormon churches do not have pastors, the people in the congregation rotate giving a message. So the first speaker talked, and afterwards the bishop who was on stage noticed us and asked the girl who was a missionary on the row in front of us to translate, so she translated the rest of the service for us. It was so cool. She was on the opposite end of the row from me so I couldnt hear much, but it was cool to have the gist. From what I heard, they talked about the importance of family and about Adam and Eve. It was a really good experience and Im so glad we went.
Tonight we are going to a Catholic mass in the Santa Maria cathedral which is GORGEOUS. We looked up services in English so we will actually be able to understand what is going on tonight. There is also a service on Saturday nights in the Duomo in English that we plan to go to eventually. Tonights service is in about an hour so I need to go get ready so we have time to walk there.

Classes start tomorrow. Im very very excited. We are also planning our next trip. Lots of exciting things going on in wonderful Italia :).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ciao Italia!

Helloooo everyone!
Its my first post from Italy :)
The trip here was long and rough, but I made it and thats all that matters.
I left Memphis early afternoon on the 13th. I flew from there to Charlotte and that trip was perfectly fine. Then came the 8 hour flight from Charlotte to Frankfurt, Germany. Thats where things went downhill. For starters, I was seated next to an extremely large man who complained for the first 15 minutes of the flight about how the seats were so "freaking teeny". The only thing worse than his body oder was his breath. Also, bless his heart, I guess he was semi-deaf because he was yelling when he spoke, then expecting me to reply but could only hear me if I was yelling back. We got a lot of stares. Needless to say, it was a less than ideal way to spend 8 hours. However, the flight actually went by semi-fast. I watched two movies, and unfortunately only slept for about an hour. It wasnt too bad. So, when we arrived in Germany I was a little nervous because I didnt have my boarding pass for the next flight yet, which, in the US is fairly normal, and it wouldn't have been a problem. That was not the case in Germany. I made it to the terminal where my flight into Florence was supposed to leave from, but in Germany you have to go through security again before entering the terminal, so I couldnt go past this point. By this time I had about 45 minutes to get to my connecting flight. The man sent me to the information desk. There a girl, in broken English, seemed to understand my problem and sent me looking for this other desk which I didnt not understand the name she was saying so I took a stab in the dark and was right. BUT then this lady sent me to another desk and so on and so on. By the time I finally got to where I was supposed to be and waited in a short line, my flight was leaving in 2 minutes so I had missed it. So this lady gives me a specific number and name of a desk and precise directions politely, in good English for the first time all day but this desk didnt open until 8am and it was about 7am at this point. So, I go to the bathroom to cry so I dont scare foriegners or look like a crazy American, give myself a small pep talk on how I am capable of doing this, then Im on my way, good to go. So I get to the desk early so Ill be one of the first in line. Mission accomplished, Im second. Lucky huh? wrong. I wait another 45 minutes for the desk to open, then once its open wait two hours behind this ONE Swiss guy. I was literally sitting indian style on the floor with my backpack in my lap. Then when I make it to the front the lady says "Oh, my apologies, I dont know why they send me people with your problem all the time. I can not help you here." SO, I again go on a wild goose chase looking for the right place and for people who speak English. Long story short, I get a temporary boarding pass, then FINALLY a real one for a flight at 12:30 that afternoon after 6 and a half hours in the maze that is the Frankfurt airport. Also, take into consideration that Ive had one hour of sleep and nothing to eat or drink since about 5:30am. Okay. The negativity is over, promise.
Because THEN, I made it to Florence :) Its incredible. It is what I expected in a lot of ways, and totally different than I expected in others. Im living in an apartment in the center of Florence with 5 roommates from all over the country. My actual roommate is Alyssa from Salt Lake City, Utah. The next room over is Vicky from LA, and Caroline who is actually from Chattanooga and she goes to school at Ole Miss. Then next there is Jaclyn from Cincinatti and today we just got Cassie from San Jose, California. We are all very different but, seem to embrace that about each other and appreciate our differences. So far we get along great. In the Study Abroad Italy program, since this is the last session its very small and there are only 10 of us, which is kind of cool because we have all been doing everything together. We've had two days of orientation which have been very helpful because they actually inform you on how to get away from touristy spots and live life like a true Itallian in the time we have here. The past two nights we have gone out to an area fairly close to our apartment. Im not sure what its really called but we've been refering to it at "the festival" ha. There's live music in several spots, DJs and dancing in others, some carnival games, etc etc. Its open every night during the summer.
So far the biggest adjustment has been life without air conditioning in 95-100 degree weather. Most apartments in Florence are not air conditioned, ours included. However we are learning the tricks. We have fans and we leave the windows closed during the day and open at night. It helps. Also, the school is on the other side of the city from our apartment, so it takes about 30 minutes to walk there as of now. Im sure we'll learn shortcuts as time goes on. I start my class on monday, and I am so excited. Ive already taken so many pictures. Im hoping the class will provide assignments that require that I think outside the realms of basic pictures of buildings and scenery and I end up with some pretty cool stuff.
Tomorrow we are taking a guided day trip to Tuscany through a place reccomended by SAI. We leave around 830am and get back around 9 at night i think. Im not sure what all it consists of. I believe its Pisa (the leaning tower), Sienna, and lunch and a small wine tasting in Tuscany. It should be amazing.
I could go on and on but this is getting long and its getting late. Im going to try to put pictures of the apartment up soon. I dont have the internet on my computer set up yet so I am using Alyssa's until Monday. Oh, we have also befriended the computer tech guy, Fabriccio (is the way Im going to pretend his name is spelled). He is our age and a local. He came out with us tonight and will hopefully be able to show us around to more local spots.
For those of you who dont know, it is free for me to receive texts, so text away, but it does cost money to reply so I may not be able to. Facebook is probably the best way to talk to me, and on there we can set up a time to skype! Miss you all :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

hello there.

I am leaving for Florence early Tuesday afternoon. Ah! I cannot believe its finally here. I wanted to start this blog so that all my friends and family can keep up with my trip, seeing as how I'm sure communication from the other side of the world is probably difficult :) I will hopefully be able to update this fairly frequently and post pictures as well.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the details of my trip...
I'm studying abroad for a month (July 13th-August 10) in Florence, Italy at the Florence University of the Arts. I will be taking a digital photography course that will transfer as a 3 hour art elective credit that goes towards my major. I am so excited, and I cant wait to get things going.