Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fiesole & Livorno

Just updating on two little Tuscan side trips taken while school has been going on in Florence. The first one is to Fiesole, alittle hill town I had previously been to when hiking in the hills. My friend Laura and I took a quick 2 euro bus trip there and back and found some pretty amazing sites while we were there. Best part is it was Italian Culture week so all the sites/parks where free access to everyone.

Fiesole ruins!

Laura !

Me posing with the arches!

Amphitheater in Fiesole

Duomo again!

Second trip was to Livorno, a large port city not far from Pisa. Once more Laura and I knew we wanted to go somewhere with ocean so Livorno it was. It was a cute little city with lots of greenery and lots of launching of cruise ships and navy ships.

Interesting chairs!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Buona Pasqua!

Happy Easter Everyone! Buona Pasqua!

Easter in Florence is quite the event, beginning at 12 midnight when every, and I mean every, bell tower in the entire city rings out in celebration for Easter Sunday. Laura and I went out onto her terrace to listen to it but we did not join the candle light vigil ontop the hill of San Miniato, this tiny church on a hill and also one of Florence's oldest lead the bell procession that evening.

Laura and I did attend easter service at the Duomo though, as well as the "Scoppio del carro" or "Explosion of the Cart" festival. This historic festival is held in Florence every Easter, a giant precession with an elaborately decorated cart, pulled by white oxen and followed by drums and horns, is pulled all the way from across the river Arno to the main square of the Duomo between the baptistry and the central doors of the cathedral.

When the Bishop ends the service inside the cathedral a dove-shaped rocket flies out of the church and lights the cart's fireworks where the congregation gets the witness a fantastic display. What an amazing way to celebrate Christ's rebirth!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Italy v. America

Heres alittle bit of cultural differences I've been learning about Italians as I've lived with them these past couple months. There are people who speak English but it is few and far between where I live in Florence unless I go to a souvenir store or some store in a very touristy area. I wouldn't have it any other way though because while I'm here I want to speak Italian, not a language I can speak anytime when I go back home.

* Italians do not believe in ice, it just doesn't exist. I had a spider bite earlier in the semester and when it was suggested to put ice on it to stop the swelling I had a devil of a time finding even an ice pack.

* Homes are heated with radiators and there are no air conditioning units anywhere unless you go to a hotel. Even bars and restaurants lack air conditioning because it is unneeded, these places are designed so the large windows open like doors and let air flow in and out. Residences use a series of functional shutters in order to air out the home. Also as far as appliances go Italians don't do dryers because of the energy it wastes, they hand the laundry on a line.

* Traffic signals are a guideline, walk at your own risk even on crossings, especially in Roma. Stop signs are also optional so don't walk unless your sure you won't get hit!

* Italians love a clean street, street cleaners are constantly cleaning the streets and sidewalks in order to keep the city sanitary.

* It is considered odd to get your food to-go, Italians like to relax and enjoy their meals whether it be in the bar they bought it in or chilling at some nearby piazza.

* Italians do not know how to anticipate, which probably comes from their lack of personal space. I have more then one occasion ran into someone trying to avoid people on the sidewalk or in a piazza.

* Italians eat late on all occasions and dinner can last up to three hours. Which is no surprise considering all the courses one has at dinner. Cappuccino or espresso is commonly served after the meal as a sort of palette cleanser.

* Places of business are more likely to be closed on Monday then they are on Sunday.

* The take on drinking anything alcholic is very different here too. I know back at my university I had roommates that would drink to get drunk and just drink way too much in general. Drinking is an art form here in Italy, rarely anyone gets drunk in public except the idiot American students living here. In Florence drunk American students seems to be a popular joke among the locals.

* Metric metric metric!!!

* Staring is an invitation, so if you don't know someone don't stare at them directly.

* It is my experience that no Italian really hates Americans, there are two types of Italians: The ones that are curious and will try to practice their English on you and the ones that just simply don't care.

There are certainly more differences but that is all I have for now. Perhaps there will be another installment!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What Have I Been Eating?

Because I have alot of meal/food pictures I have not posted!

Fruit Parfaits Laura and I made with kiwi, strawberry, pineapple, and red oranges!

Ambrosia is my new favorite gelato flavor, it contains honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg! The Persiano isn't bad either!

Pomodoro, basilico, mozzarella, e ricotta in calzone form.

Shepard's Pie, cause I was feeling nostalgic for home!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hiking in the Alps

So the weekend after Spring Break I went with the university on a trip to Verona, Garda Lake, and a small town in the Italian Alps. Sadly this was my last full blown trip and it really makes me realize my time is limited in Florence now, sad but at the same time I know there is tons more stuff I need to see and do so my friend and I have made a list!

Anyway, back to the Alps trip. I have always been a real fan of hiking and general outdoors, I was a girl scout who had the opportunity to frequent summer camp and I have backpacked/rock climbed/whitewater canoed with Outward Bound. So when I heard of an opportunity to take my hiking shoes to the Alps I was all for it! First we stopped in Verona, the city best known for it's Roman Amphitheater and the Story of Romeo and Juliet. Sorry Shakespeare fans but all the sights from the book are fakes, toursit attractions. (Juliet's balcony, tomb, etc.) Shakespeare probably never went to Italy, just read manuscripts on feuding families. Still, it is a very gorgeous city!

Next came our trip to Garda Lake and Sirmione, a lovely resort peninsula with Roman ruins, gorgeous sights, and a boat ride around the peninsula!

After the lake we stayed in a Hotel in a small town outside Garda Lake, I got together with some friends and we went out for a short night around the little city. The bars and restaurants were bustling with people watching the Milan football game verse some other Italian city, all I know is they were winning and there were alot of Italians not too happy about it! Here are some sites:

The next day we traveled to Pinzolo so we could meet our guides for the hike. They were awesome guides but knew limited Italian so we all got to use our Italian in attempt to talk with them. They were really good sports about it and showed us some pretty amazing sites, there was even still some snow and ice on some of the trails which made for good pictures.

Me going into an ice/moss tunnel!

It was a wonderful time had by all, I only wish we could have stayed longer!


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spring Break: Pisa

Second part of my trip consisted of visiting Pisa, Italy. Home to the ever famous Leaning Tower and la piazza dei Miracoli. Many times when a person thinks of Pisa they automatically think the Leaning Tower, but there is so much more there to see!

From a top the Leaning Tower overlooking Piazza Miracoli.

Campo Santo di Pisa

A Gothic style church perched precariously on the edge of the river.

Some pretty interesting graffiti found on the way to the hotel.