Wednesday, December 21, 2011

i ricordi

ciao tutti,
i am pleased to report that i am currently writing you all from the comfort of my very own bed. and boy is it nice to be back. since being home i have indulged in numerous delicious foodstuffs, enjoyed the company of friends and spent quality time with the family. tonight, for instance, my mother recreated thanksgiving dinner for me, and then an old friend popped over to decorate a gingerbread house. not a bad night, if i may say so myself.

it has been weird being able to buy beer (312, of course), and go to bars. i cannot say it is terribly exciting, particularly after a semester abroad, but it definitely makes life easier. tonight was funny though when my mother had me try two different kinds of wine to decide what to drink at dinner. ultimately, i ended up deciding that i did not want to drink as my liver is in dire need of una pausa and i still need to reacquire my affinity for wine after italia.

speaking of, i miss the damn country already. after a nightmare of a time getting home, as excited as i was to be back, i also immediately knew that i was really going to miss italia. if anything, telling people stories about it only makes it worse too.

in the spirit of everyone's obnoxious habit of looking back and reflecting then, (who am i kidding i love reflecting), i give you the following compilation of some of my favorite photos and memories from the semester:

outside of a beautiful abbey on our italian field trip. 
this was also the day that i tasted the best cheese in my life.

praha, where i was all too happy to recreate the outdoor sausage from a cart eating experience that we had had in vienna just a week before. 

the cafe that freud used to frequent that we stumbled upon in vienna. the sachertorte that you see pictured to the right was to die for. seriously.

the under the university dorm club that we went to with our friend kenny in budapest on a tuesday night. 
one word: polinka.

the spectacular view from the top of buda looking at pest

also a stunning view, this time of firenze from piazza michelangelo

a night out sitting at the steps of santo spirito drinking wine

and finally, a typical night at jj's, the bar of our little home town just outside of firenze called fiesole

if the past few days have been any indication, this break promises to be one chock full of activities and food, but then again, what more did i expect. no complaints here though, thus far it has been awesome to be stateside again. i must concede, however, that the travel bug got me, and i am already itching to get to switzerland for a few days before the semester in madrid starts. for now though, i have to settle for trips to michigan and florida, aka food and the beach, respectively. hopefully pictures to come from those trips soon. 

in the meantime, the baking/cooking log update stands at:
  • pumpkin bread french toast
  • white chocolate bark with pistachios, dried cranberries and apricots
  • christmas shortbread cut out cookies with a chocolate ganache
  • helping prepare a recreation of the family's thanksgiving dinner. yum.
whether or not the daily workouts will continue to fend off the aforementioned culinary activities, we shall see. the goal is not to gain back the weight lost in italia!(?)!

ciao for now!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

la viola

as always, this past weekend was an eventful one and in spite of the weather's recent turn, proved to be quite fun. on saturday we went to the opera to see a rendition of la boheme, and after a very italian dinner followed by a delicious gelato, it was a splendid performance. the fact that i was able to understand some of the lyrics projected above the stage was a lovely added bonus.

on sunday, braving torrential rain, the majority of us marched down to il stadio to see firenze play roma. wanting to have a genuine calcio experience, i decided to this time just go for it and get one of the traditional salsiccia covered in fried onions and peppers. it was amazing. the smell of my breath probably could have killed someone for the next four hours, but that is besides the point.

the mood at the game was awesome, and it practically gave me goosebumps to hear everyone jumping up and down cheering "giallo e viola" in the pouring rain (yellow and purple are firenze's colors). we sat in the curve, which basically amounts to the student section where the especially rowdy fans sit. thankfully this time no one on our side lit anything on fire, although there were a few flares set off.  

what was really cool was when at the end of the game, winning 3-0, everyone suddenly looked up to see that the sky had temporarily cleared and taken on a distinctly purple hue with the sunset. we all decided that it had turned viola for la viola.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

le foto

if you all are interested in seeing more point and shoot attempts at photographic documentation of my semester, god bless you. 

pictures from the beginning of the semester can be found here:

from fall break:

from my trip to roma:

and from my most recent wanderings:

send me emails/messages/what have you and tell me how you all are doing too please!

un piccolo viaggio

last weekend i decided to take a day trip to pisa and lucca, two small italian towns an hour from florence by train. the weather was beautiful, the food was fabulous as always, and i got to see the leaning tower of pisa!

the cathedral of pisa

the baptismal font

lucca's medieval walls

you can walk/ride your bike around the top of the walls. this was the only quiet spot that i saw. everywhere else it looked like the entire town was out for an afternoon stroll. at one point, old men were of course playing chess and dominoes   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

a casa

things are finally wrapping up around here and i absolutely cannot believe it. the first of december means that i have all of 17 days left in this beautiful country, and my god am i going to miss it. over the course of but a few short months i have truly developed a serious affection for italia. its people, food, culture, they all really mean something to me now. i am certainly going to relish my last few weeks here.

in the meantime, i thought that i might tell you all some of the other things that i have been up to. thus far, i have really focused here on my travels, as they have been some of the real highlights of this trip. that being said though, i have also had some amazing experiences five minutes from the villa here in fiesole and just down the "road of the ancients" in florence.

view along the walk down to florence from fiesole

one of our courses is called city of florence, and the entire purpose is to compel us to connect meaningfully with the city. the premise of it was that we would have four group meetings, involving lectures, trips around florence (to one of the many medici villas, for instance) and an individual project that came with 100 euro of discretionary funds. awesome, right?

the cathedral of florence

i chose to focus on the musical character of florence, and therefore had a wonderful time spending my funds on such activities as:
  • the tuscan orchestra, twice. think strauss, shubert, part, mozart.
  • a jazz piano concert, held of course in the room of an old monastery, complete with original frescoes. also of note is the fact that we sat with one of the villa professors and his artist friends.
  • a sunday morning at the fiesole school of music featuring the fiesole quartet
  • a spanish guitar performance at the biggest wine festival in tuscany
yet to be attended are the florentine opera featuring la boheme and an italian band called le luci delle centrale. for a taste of italian music you can check out one of their videos here:

experiencing the florentine musical culture here has been interesting to say the least. last night, for instance, i sat in front of 20 teenagers at the orchestra. certainly not a sight that i was expecting. live music cafes have also been fun here, and typically offer an eclectic mix of covers of american songs and italian rock. 

view from the top of the duomo. the villa is off in the distance.

amongst other things, i have also:
  • eaten at my italian professors house twice. difficult conversation, but seriously delicious food
  • climbed to the top of the duomo, brunelleschi's architectural masterpiece that never ceases to amaze me
  • seen the david. enough said.
  • gone to the uffizi with an encyclopedia/astoundingly knowledgeable art history professor
and last but not least, you guessed it, continued to eat and drink delicious food, gelato and wine. there really is nothing like a perfectly made cappuccino taken standing at the bar in the local pastry shop, watching the day go by.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

non ci sono le parole

tonight i write to you all just having returned from rome. what a trip. over the course of 72 short hours i saw life changing art (do i sound ridiculous? yes! and the worst part is that i am fully aware that i sound ridiculous!), visited amazing sites and monuments and to top it all off, dined spectacularly well. 

to run down the highlights:

the first night we started at the vittorio emanuele iii monuement, and then went to villa borghese, a serene and peaceful park just at the edge of the city. we then visited the villa borghese, renowned as one of the best private collections in the world. the bernini sculpture that i saw there was undoubtedly some of the most provocative that i have ever seen. and then there was caravaggio's san girolamo. it was an unbelievable way to start off an incredible weekend.

the next morning i stopped by the pantheon and marveled at one of the world's finest examples of architectural genius.

i then proceeded on to piazza navona

and then went and saw the widely advertised georgia o'keefe exhibit. was it totally a bizarre coincidence that one of my favorite american artists just happened to be exhibited in rome the weekend that i was there? was it perhaps odd to go see an american artist in rome? was it destiny? i ought to stop asking obnoxious rhetorical questions. regardless of the oddity of the circumstances, i practically danced my way through the exhibit i was so excited. it was spectacular. coincidence or not, i left the museum beaming.

from there, i bounced along to the castel sant'angelo, an interesting fort/mausoleum/castle structure. then there was the vatican. oh man the vatican. the museums, it need not be said, contain some of the world's finest art. despite the fact that it was my second time being there, i was nevertheless stunned walking through each of the rooms. rooms of raphael followed by michaeangelo. 1st century roman statuary. so much magnificent art. i ought to start thesaurus-ing because i think that i am going to run out of superlatives for describing the weekend.

after touring the vatican museums i went to st. peters, saw the pieta and cursed michaelangelo for a minute for being so darn talented at 23. i then made it up to the top of st. peters right at sunset and saw some amazing views of the eternal city.

the next morning promptly turned into a photo binge at the colosseum as i walked around imaging gladiator playing out before my eyes. i felt rather like a 5 year old boy with an overactive imagination in fact.

anyway, after meandering through the roman forum, it was finally time to go back to firenze to the villa that it is somehow appropriate to call my temporary home.

oh and throw some of the best food and gelato that i have ever had in the mix and we can call it a trip, alla fine.  

Monday, October 31, 2011

gli undici giorni: i dettagli

i hardly know where to begin.

it might be best to just try to breeze through some of what we did, in the hopes that along the way i will recall the major points. we did so much that it will be difficult!

to start off with, we got to verona thursday night and toured the city. it was beautiful. the fact that shakespeare was inspired to write romeo and juliet there makes perfect sense.

then friday morning, at an ungodly hour, we had a bit of a fiasco at the airport but somehow made it to vienna. my god the culture there is amazing. to say that vienna is a city of culture does not even begin to describe how much there is to see, do, hear, eat and drink. as with each of the following cities, we literally walked vienna into the ground trying to take advantage of our time there, and i think that we can safely say that we did.

what we saw:

the vienna secessionists at the leopold museum, where i picked up a new artist of note: koloman moser. 

the hapsburg summer residence, aka the biggest palace i have ever seen

extravagantly decorated churches

and free concerts everywhere we turned

then after a wonderful evening aperitivo in milan (an apertivo is an ingenious italian institution that requires a post of its own, more to come on that later), we took off for budapest monday morning, and boy was it a departure. our friend kenny informed us that it is considered a major faux pas to describe hungary of the czech republic as eastern europe, but so-called "central europe" is definitely no western europe. stepping off of the plane and getting into the soviet era metro cars alone was enough culture shock to knock your socks off. the fact that we could no longer even decipher the language (the german of austria is slightly discernible despite its proliferation of syllables) only compounded our sense of unfamiliarity. to be cliche, it was a definitive "we are not in kansas anymore" moment. as noted yesterday, i unfortunately do not have pictures from our brief time there because it was raining, but will post some as soon as catherine and alex post theirs.

budapest is oftentimes described as a smaller version of vienna and indeed the cafes there were just as splendid as those in vienna. the turkish baths though, a distinctly budapest institution, were wonderfully different and unique. to be able to sit in a heated pool outside at the end of october and after a long day of walking was blissful, to say the least. 

after budapest we spent a full afternoon and evening in milan, and of course enjoyed another amazing aperitivo. while rather aesthetically underwhelming, milan definitely has a distinctive character. just walking down the streets you can tell that it really is a young, cosmopolitan city. in fact, we flew in and out of there because it is significantly cheaper than anywhere else in italy. you can literally get anywhere from there, and for a reasonable price too.

although it was really nice being back in italia and being able to understand the language, prague the next day was the an absolute blast. in total we spent three days in the city, and it was a great way to end the trip. between the partying, the touring and the eating, it would probably be best not to say which consumed the most time, but it was undoubtedly a fun city!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

gli undici giorni

buona sera tutti,

i am pleased to report that i am still alive and made it back in once piece from an absolutely unbelievable 11 day trip through europe. and here is the kicker: in spite of some harrowingly (i am fully aware that i am making up words here) close calls, we actually managed to make every single bus, train and airplane. quite the feat when you consider that we took 6 flights, 4 buses, 3 trains and an array of local buses, trams and old soviet era metros! 

where we went:




i wanted to add some scale here

budapest, which i unfortunately have no pictures from because it was raining. i will be borrowing pictures from alex and catherine soon though.

and prague

more details on the trip to come tomorrow!