Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bologna e Le Cirque Invisible

Ladies and Gentlemen. Here is an amazing feat of imagination and laziness where I present to you: two events, in one post. Yes. That is right. For one night (and in one night only). Prepare to be amazed.

Okay. A bit cheezy but I just got back from the circus and my head is full of strange and qwerky thoughts (I should probably draw something right now, but I am writing to you. Don't you feel lucky?). But I am getting ahead of myself. I'm gonna tell you a little something about where I am going to live for a year first...

This past weekend I took a train to Bologna. Mostly just because I wanted to see it, but also because I had an apartment appointment. The train ride is lovely... a bit long (if you are taking the slow ghetto train like any self-respecting student) but you go through the forested and towered hills of Northern Italy which is... Bellissima!

Honestly I was a bit scared when I first got to Bologna... it didn't have the immediate beauty and prestige if Florence... and there was graffitti everywhere! But it grows on you as you walk around. Porticoes seem to be the unifying feature in Bologna. Which is good news because I hear that it rains like nobody's business in October/November.

My mission for the day was to try and scope out places to live. Which is very intimidating for me because I can only speak so much Italian and prevalent vocabulary words like "stove" or "heating" are not stored in my head yet. To boot I sound like a severely confused six year old whenever I speak (especially over the phone where I cannot use my outlandish good looks and charming demeanor to win people over). Anyway. I'll tell you about my first Italian telephone call in a moment... Near Via Zamboni is a side street lined with bulletin boards. And on these bulletin boards are layers and layers and layers of housing adds. People ductape their adds over other peoples'... some staple, others tap their add to the end of the one above so they are hanging like chains. I ended up with the first couple layers draped over my head like the hood of an old-fashioned silver-plate photographer. I ended up with pockets full of little tear off strips... oh dear.

Good news is I posted an add on an Italian "craigslist" and got a few hits... there is a fellow art student who sounds very kind. I called her the other day. It was officially my first phone call in Italian. I was so nervous that I spoke very quickly at first (and probably in a round-about way). There was a long, painful silence and then... mi dispiace, non ho capisco..? I didn't have anything prepared after that but managed to stammer out: stanza... ehh. Camera di letto? Appartamento. eh. And then she figured out who I was and what I was asking about and I apologized for my terrible telephone speaking and then we made an appointment. WHEW! Success! My only concern is that she won't want to live with me after hearing me on the phone. Oh well. Guess I'll stick to the charming in person. :)

LOOK! Julie blends into the bush!! Magic!

I should be in a circus. Maybe I will join an Italian circus and never come back to the States. Hmm.

Piu' Piu' Piu'

This video/song was playing in one of the Caffes in Bologna. I really like this song! I was reading up on it and apparently it is a collaboration with the Verve, Coldplay, and this singer... I obviously have an ear for the familiar! Will write you a longer post about Bologna soon. xx

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunshine, sea, and blue blue water

Today is a bit of an out-of-character day for Florence... I woke up to thunder and pounding rain this morning! I have to admit it was a nice break from all the heat. But it is the perfect day to bring you up to date!

Last weekend I went on a fabulous trip to Cinque Terre! We started on the via dell'amore at Riomaggiore. It is an easy but beautiful walk, paved and right on the coast. In Italy there is a tradition of writing your name and your significant other's onto a padlock and locking it onto something... you'll see them all around Italy. On lamp posts or bridges or railings... anyway they line the walk and it is fun to see them all locked to each other, like clusters of grapes. We just don't have things like that in the states. It was a very lovely walk and the ocean is just SO blue (not to mention the fact that smelling salt on the breeze was so comforting and refreshing!). So the via dell'amore takes you to Manarola (the second of the five towns). From there I took a short train ride to Corniglia (3rd town). From Corniglia I hiked to Vernazza. You can actually hike from each town to the next, but they usually close one of the paths. The hike is really lovely, at some points you are hiking through lush, almost tropical foliage, and then you curve around and the trees thin and you can see the coast, and behind you the coastal town that you just left, jutting into the water. Very pretty! Lots of steps up, and then, lots of steps down... At the end my knees were shaking. Not because I was tired, but because I had walked down so many steps!

The end of that hike has the best view ever... you have a beautiful view of Vernazza from above, with the ocean surrounding it on all sides. I think Vernazza is my favorite of the towns, it is layered along the cliffside, so as you come down from the hike you walk down narrow stairs and paths that take you to the narrow main street. If you walk down it, to the sea, you are treated to a lovely view of the bay with a place where you can swim and boats tethered to the cliffside and narrow caves. Very lovely.  From Vernazza I took another train ride (you can also hike but it is the most difficult and longest of all the hikes. I've heard the view is great though!) to Monterosso. It isn't picturesque and jumbled like the other coastal towns, but wider with almost french-inspired facades like in New Orleans. The beach is nice and wide, and you can lay down and tan, or go for a swim in the beautiful turquoise water... Ahhhhh. (Having a stawberry Margarita, sitting in the shade, and watching the the waves was just the icing on the cake!)

I think the trip was just what I needed to relax and breathe and get rid of all the stresses of living in a new city and struggling with a new language (and the difficulty of trying to express/be myself in said language).

Anyway. Missing you all. I've had a craving for my californian summer this week. xx      

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rooftops of Florence

The Rooftops of Florence!

A friend has an apartment with a rooftop terrace. The other night we were up there until it got dark... drinking wine, showing each other our families, and watching the glow of a citronella coil (and also the next door neighbor through the window...) Thank you ladies for a wonderful night! 

(Then I went to SPACE and danced until 4am. Hehe.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Being Sick, Stressing out, And buying Ramen.

I've finally gotten sick. It was a long time coming... Today after class I slouched home and proceeded to watch My Fair Lady with tea. I then passed out while watching my fair lady, and woke up to Eliza screaming at what's-his-face the misogynist. I then moved the party to the bedroom and slept for about 3.5 hours. I managed to make it out of the house to buy some milk and chocolate croissants for tomorrow. Ah well. It is cool and raining here, which is a nice break.

Now I am pretty darn awake and trying make my brain work faster so I can finish my homework. Not that much the complain about though. I am sniffle-nosed in one of the most beautiful cities! (And I had a wonderful cappuccino at my caffe today. I swear, the way our lovely old barista pours the milk into the espresso shot... it is so tender and artful. Mmm.)

Oh yeah. I also went to the asian market (which is a severely under-stocked) and bought some ramen, almost solely because I have been alternating between eating spaghetti and cous-cous. Not that ramen noodles are any better for me...

A bronze cast in the
Women's/ Madonna's chapel.
Some more images from Siena...
this is marble inlay

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thinking day

Some music I've been enjoying recently. Kinda bittersweet feelings to them... Very uneventful day. Slept in late and did my homework.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

2 Weeks In

Hi there. So I have finally calmed down enough to sit down, and make a blog. For those of you who don't know exactly what the hell I am doing in Florence (most of you who are bothering to read this probably do)... here is a brief summary:

I arrived in Florence on the 15th of June. I am studying Italian at one of the language institutes here to prepare me for going to University in Bologna. Whew. I'll be over here for a year, which still makes my head reel...

A lot has happened since I've been here, but I'm just going to give you a few highlights. A lot of the things that stand out in my memory are significant because they are milestones on my way to feeling like I actually belong here. Sometimes it is just a cafe barista that chats with me in Italian despite my terrible accent and sub-par vocabulary... or a local that laughs at my joke (which if you think about it is amazing since I tell terrible jokes in ENGLISH)... or a cheese shop owner who recognizes me and gives me discounts (and really good recommendations). Anyway. I'm starting to feel more comfortable here, and that makes learning so much easier. 

A Beloved Cappuccino at our favorite Caffe... That's my house-mate Julie.
You can tell how awesome the Cappuccino is.

 I'm reading Harry Potter in Italian (Harry Potter e La Pietra filosofale). There is lots of nice, relevent vocabulary there... Including "muggle" (babbano/babbani). Ha! I've been attempting to dress/act like an Italian (failing). It is very difficult to look so effortlessly put together. The locals can spot us from afar... Which means you are labeled before you even speak. 

 I think my favorite part so far is the relationships I am forming with the people in my favorite cafe... There is a cafe I always go to during my break from class. The barista has finally started chatting with us (my classmates and I), and there are other "regulars" who show up at the same time as us who have started to say good morning. One lovely older lady actually chatted with us. It always makes me feel hopeful and happy.... because a lot of florentines are fairly reserved and very judgmental of tourists, especially americans.There was also a really nice guy at a used bookstore (where I was trying to find Harry Potter). I explained -very lengthily- that I was an american student learning italian and I wanted to read a novel and did he have harry potter?? He looked around for a bit, but said he couldn't find it. He told me to wait, and then disappeared into the back. He reappeared and gave me a text book, "So that I could learn Italian". So sweet!

Yesterday we went on a field trip with the school to Siena and San Gimignano (a medieval hill-town). Siena was wonderful and very beautiful. The Palio horse races are happening there tomorrow, and the whole city is super excited. People were walking around today with their supporting banners tied around their necks. We went to the churches and some museums... but then as our lunch break ended it started to pour... and then to HAIL. This proved to be a vocab opportunity with the restaurant owner (Grandine= hail grandgrandine= really big hail... I might have misheard that... )  This morning it was clear skies and really hot, and by afternoon gob-stopper chunks of ice were falling from the sky. AH! It kept up for quite awhile, and eventually we had to run through the streets in our summer dresses to get to the meeting point. Of course, no one was there. So we camped out in a courtyard for awhile, and wrung out our clothes. Lightening and thunder and the works, and by the time everyone managed to meet up, we were soaked and there was no more time for the rest of our tour in Siena. 

Post down-pour... I am mostly dry after wringing out my clothes in a courtyard.
Ten minutes after this photo was taken it started to pour again...

Most people were done by this point, and opted to head back to Florence. So the big bus went back, but I figured that since I was already soaking so why not just go to San Gimignano? By the time we arrived it was all blue skies and really nice and warm. We had about an hour to wander... and I bought some meringues and nutella biscuits to keep me company. (ha!) It is such a beautiful city. The streets are really narrow and the towers really high. Everyone is super mellow and sweet and didn't mind me poking my nose over walls and into churches. 

San Gimignano

Until next time...