Hey look, it’s Friday.
Fast-paced couple of days, and I want to hit the highlights of each of them, but it’s going to have to be a little brief — getting up at 5:30 so that we can get to the train station so we can get on a bus to Monteriggioni and then a bus to Sienna and then a bus to Greve in Chianti. Dang.
So tonight, just that missed Wednesday: Fiesole and the Festa della Rificolona.
So if I ever needed to find my ideal retirement home / politically necessitated hideaway, this is probably it. It’s an ancient Etruscan (as in pre-Roman) town that sits WAAAAY up on a hill overlooking Florence — and actually, if you remember the view from the San Miniato Cathedral, think of this place as being higher up and directly on the opposite side of the city. Oh, and with a way better view. I’ll try to show why by taking a couple pictures when I go back up, but I’m not sure pictures (or at least any pictures I take) can really capture it; it just seems far more sweeping, and includes a steeper look down onto a more pristine area dotted with villas. The whole class was just staring out the side window as we wound our way up and up and up the hill — it’s gorgeous and serene and completely wonderful.
The town itself is still a town, and while it’s decidedly not part of Florence, a Florence city bus actually makes routine runs up the hill because it’s so incredibly close. To a certain extent, Fiesole seems like Florence’s best-kept secret; it’s a beautiful little town with its own history, and with easy access to everything Florence has, but it’s got a cozier atmosphere and cleaner air and cooler temperatures and, again, that amazing view. And, and! it’s so quiet, so not-overrun-by-tourists! (Hypocrisy? Where?)
When we went up, we were there for the Etruscan museum, which sits right next to the ruins of both an Etruscan settlement and the later Roman one that overtook it. So what this means is that we were there for rocks.
An actual archaeologist showed us around and narrated in very brave English, and while the class stuff would take too long to make interesting, do you see the two sets of stairs in that right-hand pic? There are two because when the Romans came into the area, they basically just built their temple right overtop of the Etruscan one; they thought the conquering of a culture just as important as any military victory, so whenever they came across a new people, they made everyone into ”Romans,’ and in this case that meant nomming right over the Etruscan place of worship without even bothering to clear out the old debris.
Again, it would take too long to make this as interesting as it could be, but when looking at these particular ruins, all I could think of was those fossils they find of gigantic prehistoric fish with other complete skeletons still in the stomach — and while this is not a funny comparison, I must have been pretty out of it because it made me giggle kind of a lot.
Not related to the educational stuff, but the Wednesday we went to Fiesole it was also the birthday of one of the girls in the group (Willi, whose blog is linked), so our professors gathered us together at the end of the trip and brought us little icy-cold cream-filled puff pastries to celebrate. I just want it stated for the record that these were arguably the best things I have had on this trip so far; they’re called bigne, and these were from a Fiesolan pasticceria called Alcedo’s that Kate (one of the program coordinators who’s actually lived in both Fiesole and Florence) says is the best place in the entire region.
The number 7 bus that goes to Fiesole runs right by my street and only takes about 20 minutes to get there. Yeah, I’m going back.
Festa della Rificolona (the festival of the lantern)
So this is essentially a children’s carnival. You can read about the history online if you want, but basically it’s an excuse for kids to come out late at night with pretty little lanterns* and have TONS of candy. Which, hey, I totally support : )
There was also music and dancing up on the stage, and prizes were handed out for the best home-made lantern. But there were also plenty of store-bought ones, which I know because Disney would not otherwise allow Lightning McQueen’s face on tissue paper.**
The Festa della Rificolona is actually associated with a religious holiday (which Italy has many of and takes very seriously, being so Catholic), and there were other parts of the celebration that I would have really loved to see — there was a component down on the river, with lanterns on boats, and there was an organ concert in the Baptistery, and the Cathedral’s outer walkways were opened to the public for free. But alas, attending any of these would have taken me away from dinner AND gotten me down to 3 hours of sleep. I could maybe have handled one of those…but then again, dinner is sacred and sleep is divine, so maybe not. Eh, I still got to see something pretty and ~extremely~ cute and this makes me happy.
Aaaand yep that’s it for tonight. Hopefully back in tomorrow evening to keep up the new additions, and in the meantime hope everything’s going well for everybody. Also, if you’ve emailed me and I haven’t written back, it’s coming very soon, so please don’t hate me yet.
*The lanterns used actual candles, so some of them would in fact suddenly go up in flames. But that was kind of cool and the kids thought so too, so no harm done.
**Also spotted: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Spongebob, Hello Kitty, Spiderman, etc., because apparently even obscure city-specific harvest festivals have gone commercial.