Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mi piacciono

A few things I like:

How wonderful my roommate Gloria is. I'm finally to a point where we can communicate beyond gesturing, so I can talk to her about my classes, ask her what's she's doing during the day, how she feels, and so on. Today I was in the room reading out loud to myself (to practice my pronunciation) and she came in to get something, but instead of just leaving she sat down and listened and helped me. It was just such a nice and simple gesture. I was reading Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", yes British poetry in Italian, and she said it was beautiful. Probably the poem, not my reading.

The fact that today at the mensa (university cafeteria) I sat and talked in Italian with a guy from Toga. Isn't that just crazy? My native language is English, his is French, and we got to know each other a little in Italian. I just love it.

Non mi piacciono:

The weather today--crummy and reminiscent of Edinburgh. But I got a lot of studying done, AND bought a bicycle! My friend Adriana and I went to a bike shop and bought some used road bikes so we can go on trips around Tuscany with the Siena cycling club and hopefully do some things on our own as well. I'm so excited! We're picking them up tomorrow and will of course be getting some little helmets and locks as well.

My intensive Italian class รจ finito. This is good because I will have more time to explore but sad because I have really enjoyed it and learned so much. So goes life though, time for a little change. I foresee March being a wonderful month!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Just kidding

No Assisi/Perugia trip for me this weekend. I woke up still very sick so my friends went and I stayed in bed :(

But it's ok, I'll make it up by blasting my Italian final next week and then spend the next weekend hopping through Florence again trying to see every work of art there.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Another week goes by

One of my favorite things that I have heard about Siena so far is that nobody has babies, they all have dogs instead. And it's very true. It's also why the population of the city is steadily around 50,000 (the same as it was before the Black Death). Really my favorite part is that all the dogs are very small, so I get to see all sorts of cute little puppies while I'm walking around. I assume nobody has big dogs because that would be too much like having a child for the Sienese.

On Tuesday night I went to a Tuscan cooking lesson which was very educational. For the first half hour we watched Elizabeta prepare some things, and she would occasionally have us stir something. But the real fun began when we made tortellini. I had no idea how easy it was to make pasta! All I need to do is buy myself a little pasta maker and I will go pasta crazy. We made pumpkin and cheese ravioli, with a spinach and potato casserole-type dish, and a custard topped with oranges for dessert. Yum! (See Flickr for a few fun photos:

The bad news of the week: I caught a virus somehow and I've been out for a few days. The good news is that it is a virus and not food poisoning from the cooking lesson, like we originally thought. Being sick in Italy is really unfortunate though, especially since today was the most beautiful day that I have seen in Tuscany. But it's ok, because I'm making up my losses by taking a trip to Assisi tomorrow with two of my friends. I'm so excited. My language partner Gian Paolo said, "You will like Assisi very much, there is much art." He knows me so well already.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sweet new kicks

I bought a pair of Italian shoes (actually made in Madagascar?) and they are wonderfully comfortable, stylish, and waterproof! Mom, aren't you so proud? I just wanted to show them off.

In other news, my espresso making skills are really improving and I haven't melted anything else. But I still owe my roommates a new pot.

Last night I met my language exchange partner, Gian Paolo, and he is wonderful! His English is much better than my Italian but he's very patient and nice. We talked for about two hours, mostly in English, but I found myself realizing how many Italian words I already do know. I apparently just need practice stringing them together, but Gian Paolo is there to help me. I kept saying weird things like, "Say what?" and "keep going up (the street)" and "freaking out". He had a little trouble understanding these, but I was there to help him.

Also, we had our first apartment dinner on Tuesday and four of us cooked for 15 people. It was really fun to sit around the table with our Italian roommates and some other friends for a few hours. After dinner we made Nutella and banana crepes! What a wonderful night.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A few exciting stories for you all this evening:

First of all, I am an idiot and I don't know how to make espressos on the stove even though it looks so easy. I tried to make one on my on for the first time and learned that you must put a certain amount of water in the bottom otherwise what little water there is will simply blow out as steam and the espresso pot will proceed to melt. I owe my Italian roommates a new pot. But there is really no hurry seeing as they own 4 or 5 of them.

On to better news: I took my first trip to Florence on Friday and it was wonderful! I went with my Medieval Lit class and our teacher Martino took us for a brief tour, told us a lot of interesting historical stories, pointed out some things Dante may have seen in his day, showed us his favorite linens shop, and then treated us all to triple scoops of his favorite gelato in Florence. I love Martino. He first took us up to the Piazza Michelangelo, so this was my first view of Firenze. I love being oriented to a city from above.

Saturday I woke up and decided to run away to Cortona for the day. I decided to run away at 9:05am and the next train was leaving at 9:40, so I really did have to run part of the way to the train station. I made it with ten minutes to spare, took a bus through the countryside then switched to a train. I went to Cortona with the sole intent of seeing Fra Angelico's Annunciation that is in the Museo Diocesano. It's a wonderful painting. There are probably four thousand annunciations in Renaissance art, but this one stands out to me as the most stunning portrayal of Mary's innocence and the angel's gentleness in telling her the news. I can't figure out what the gold words are coming out of the angel's mouth, but I like the way they unfurl toward Mary.

I'm putting some pictures up on Flickr, including a picture of the Annunciation that I illegally took. But it's ok because I also bought a little poster from the shop. It's been a good weekend, time to study for my Italian class now!

Ps. you can click on any of these pictures to make them bigger. I apparently have no control over the layout of this page, otherwise they would be bigger.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

We're off

After my first weekend adventure, coming back to Siena finally made it feel a little more like home. I went with some friends to Pisa and Lucca on Saturday, then met up with the rest of the group in Viareggio for the Carnivale celebration on Sunday. Apparently the Viareggio Carnevale is sometimes the biggest in Europe, so this was very exciting.

I have to say, Pisa is pretty nasty. Probably because it's overrun with tourists who just want to see the leaning tower, and besides that and the rest of the Duomo there isn't all too much. So, we were unfair to Pisa like every other tourist and just went and took some pictures then hopped a train to Lucca. Which was a good decision, because Lucca was wonderful! (I do have to say though, the Leaning Tower is just really funny. I couldn't look at it without laughing.)

It rained for most of the day in Lucca, but that didn't damper our trip. I think it really says a lot about a place if it's raining almost the entire time that you're there and you still love it. Like Siena, it's a medieval city with a wall and mostly pedestrian traffic inside the wall. But, Lucca is unique because the wall (or "mura") has a wide path for walking and biking and is lined with trees. The city is surrounded by mountains, so there are beautiful views no matter where you look. My favorite part was climbing an old tower that has trees growing on top of it. The vistas were amazing from up there.

I've put up all the pictures I've taken so far on my flickr site. You don't have to click through every picture, you can just look at the thumbnails and click on them if you want to see better detail, so it's pretty convenient.

I feel like I'm really studying abroad now. More adventures to come!