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(Day 73) Countdown-ing

Wednesday, 9:12 pm

Ciao again : )

It appears that we’ve just dropped another week, so we are now officially down to 30 days left in Florence.  And, because we only have four class days before Rome and will have only 19 total days after, this means that it is already time to start panicking about what is left on the Florence to-do list and deciding what places/things are worth a final re-visit.  It is inexpressibly weird to be thinking like this.

It has only just occurred to me, for example, that at some point in the near future I will not be walking past the comforting orange-and-white mass of the Duomo every day.  Guys, there will be a *last time* I see the Duomo.

I’m sure that by the end I’ll feel like I should emote a little about all this, but let’s skip it for now and give the brief update for this week.  Which is as follows:

  • Yesterday, went for the first time to Santa Maria Novella, that church right next to the station that I’ve seen almost every single day I’ve been here.  Got a story about how people managed to ‘lose’ hugely valuable artworks by forgetting how they’d rearranged the furniture.  Got another story about how they’d put on sacred plays for special feast days, and would hoist people up to the ceiling and then swing them down the aisle so they could have a ‘descending angel’.  Spent about 20% of the remaining class time wondering what it would be like to zipline in a basilica.
  • Then, today, another ‘first’ when my literature class took us inside Palazzo Vecchio.  This place is a massive, massive fortress/palace that has been the ‘town hall’ since the medieval period, and some crazy stuff (as in violent crazy stuff) went down here, but suffice to say that it is a huge and important building and I’d only ever seen it from the outside.

  • As we’ve discussed multiple times in class, the outside is not exactly pretty, because it was really only there to be sternly intimidating in the face of invaders/angry mobs.  The inside, though, is all about diplomacy, which means that it’s still trying to intimidate but is now just trying overwhelm with opulence: i.e., there are paintings in there that may literally have more square footage than my house.  But of course I can’t show you that, because Florentine museum attendants insist that all the cool places are camera-shy.  *Sigh,* no foto.
  • Tomorrow, just have to give an oral presentation at Casa Buonarroti (the Michelangelo museum), take an Italian quiz in the afternoon, and go to drawing.  Work in the library Friday, meet up with a couple friends sometime over the weekend, prepare for the Italian final, start fourth-to-last week.
Here we go : )
(P.S. — Just to clear up any confusion, yes, I will be sad to leave Florence.  But yes, I am also beyond-words excited to get home again, and will be fully ready to get on that plane and come back and start making everybody cookies.  So pick out your favorite kind, and just know for dead certain that I *am* capable of having more than one emotion at a time and thus am still thinking about you and miss you guys and already can’t wait to see you again <3)
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Classes, Family, History, Persons & Peoples, The City

 

(Day 63) I Aten’t Dead

Sunday, 5:34 pm

Hokay, so it’s been a week.  Don’t actually have a ton to report yet, but I was starting to feel bad about the lack of updates so here it goes anyway:

  • Visiting professors this past week were uniformly excellent, or at least all the ones whose lectures I attended.  Learned about mythology, Etruscan banquets, art theft in WWII, and 16th/17th century musical hijinx; at that last lecture, got to watch a woman play a spinnet, examine a hurdy-gurdy, and ponder over the great unrealized potential of the piano-guitar.*
  • Extra-lecture-induced business ended Thursday night, and then I immediately had to switch over and start studying for our Medici class midterm.  Still working on that, so art history ahoy.
  • Yesterday night, turned the clocks back for Daylight Savings Time…which means that I will now be attending my 5:00 drawing class in complete darkness.  I think that deserves a *facepalm.*
  • Woke up this morning and realized that we are down to six weeks.  Or, more precisely, 39 days.  Am still not entirely sure how to feel about that.
  • On the other hand, definitely already excited about getting home again, and starting to make plans.  SOOO many plans.  (Also, while I remember, any home-people should let me know if they want anything from here.  Or more specifically if they want a scarf, mask, or tasteful statue of a nude man [David, other David, or angry-classical-youth-with-severed-head], because that’s what I’ve got access to.)
  • Also getting good and pumped for our trip to Rome on the 17th, for reasons mainly inclining to the nerdy.**
  • Have to get back to studying now, but have some random photos taken while walking to classes:
 
 
Catch you soon : )
*Not a keytar, but rather just a guitar with piano keys on it that were apparently responsible for pulling the strings taut.  The experts with us couldn’t tell how it would have been tuned (or played, for that matter), and refer to it as a failed experiment…which of course just means that we were one successful experiment away from well-bred citizens of the 18th century twanging away on keyboards to prove their musical prowess.  For all those pianoforte scenes in Austen…*sigh,* what could have been.
**My secret wish, which will probably not happen, is to get the chance to go see the Galleria Borghese.  It seems just a bit too off-the-beaten-path for a group that’s only going to be there for four days, but I keep hoping I’m wrong and I’ll finally get to see my Bernini.  Lord but I do love Bernini.
 
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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Art, Classes, Family, History, The City

 

(Day 55) Lazy Days

Saturday, 2:34 pm

Break is winding down (noooooo), and I’m spending the last couple days going nowhere near homework and enjoying the hell out of free time.  Observe:

  • Yesterday, went to Palazzo Pitti (an enormous palace with about 6 mini-museums in it) and the adjoining Boboli Gardens.  This is one of the big historical sites that we haven’t been to yet for class, and as our museum passes get us in for free, figured there was no harm in checking it out.
  • Recommendation: CHECK IT OUT.  The building itself has a great back story,* the art in the Palatine Gallery constitutes (for me) a much better collection than found in the Uffizi, and it’s so weirdly large and twisty that it’s just a ball to wander around in there.

  (<– the back side of one wing : )

  • After a while in the house, out the back door to the Boboli Gardens.  The gardens are essentially a park filled with trees and hedge-lined walkways, and yes, it was very pretty — but far and away the best part of the gardens was just the chance to be way up on a secluded patch of hill at noon.  Florence has a lot of churches and a lot of bells, and getting out into the open where you can actually hear them all ringing together?  Awesome.

  

  • At this point I was done with Palazzo Pitti but still not ready to head back to the apartment, so walked back a ways along the river.  And this was very nice right up until I started realizing that the scarf wasn’t really cutting it anymore and the wind was kind of slapping me in the face repeatedly.

  • Solution = bus hopping, one of my very favorite time-wasters.  Go to random bus stop, board bus, get a little tour through new parts of the city, hop off whenever, board new bus.  Repeat until sick of violent vehicular bouncing.
  • End of Friday was just a lot of reading + internet, and then we get to this morning, where I have to get myself out of the house again because Saturday is cleaning day.  Another windy walk down through the city center, and I end up in Piazza della Signoria, parking it in the open-air sculpture gallery and doing a quick doodle for the sketchbook we have to keep for the drawing class.  Hooray for scribbling in public!
  • When I’ve been sitting on cold stone long enough to make my legs numb, over to Rivoire.  Rivoire is a fancy cafe that looks out over the piazza, and it is rumored to have some of the best hot chocolate in Florence*** — which is great, because for the month and a half remaining to us I have made it my mission to find the best hot chocolate here.  Go in, order at the bar, receive cup and keep standing at the bar (this place in particular is notorious for outrageous price hikes if you sit down), and finally decide that this is probably what it tastes like to drink a molten candy bar.  Wow.
  • Back to the house, more internet.
Over to you guys : )
*You know the famous Medici family?  Well Cosimo de’ Medici (basically the founder of the family’s wealth and position) decided to build a grand new house, a palazzo, in the middle of town.  Brunelleschi, THE architect of the Renaissance and the mind behind the dome of the Cathedral, created a design.  But this design was, in fact, a little too grand for Cosimo; he rejected it, and Brunelleschi supposedly pitched a fit and smashed the model.**  But then the rejected design is picked up by another Florentine banker, Luca Pitti — and generations later, when the Medici have become actual nobility, they buy the place and double its size and fancify it like you wouldn’t believe, ultimately building a private elevated walkway (the Vasari Corridor) all the way from the palace to their offices (now the Uffizi Gallery) on the other side of the river.  Just…wikipedia.
**Architects at the time apparently depended more on models than plans; that is, they actually built little wood mock-ups of their buildings to show what the final project would look like, and this was what got presented to their patrons.  For some reason I find this really fantastic.  In fact, one of my favorite parts of the museums here (and especially the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo) is getting to look at these models…and if I ever get bored and need a new hobby, building replicas of these seems like it might be more fun than ships in a bottle.
***Hot chocolate in Italy is called cioccolata calda, and it is not *actually* hot chocolate in the way we think of it — that is, its richness goes way beyond the taste of a liquid with powder, and it’s so thick that it’s almost like drinking hot pudding.
…But that sounds gross, so just know that I mean it in a good way.
 
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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in Art, Classes, Food, History, The City

 

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(Day 16) Odds-and-Ends

Otherwise known as ‘cianfrusaglie,’ which is a great word.

Internet went a little wonky again yesterday, so here’s the ultra-fast recap of Monday:

Went to Orsanmichele, a building that is (and indeed has traditionally been) confused about whether it is a grainery or a sculpture gallery or a kinda-sorta church.  Spent about an hour and a half there listening to a lecture given by one of the professors — and since the lectures are actually interesting, we once again got random tourists stalking our group.

Not a great shot, but here’s the floor where we were spending most of our time looking at the sculptures:

Today, all we had scheduled was Italian class.  Tomorrow is our third quiz (for which I still need to study), and after that we have just seven days of class until the month of intensive Italian is over and we’re off to Venice.

Doesn’t feel *at all* like we’ve been here two weeks already.  Not to say that there haven’t been periods of stress (or hunger, hunger’s a big one) that have made everything drag, but apparently time is whipping forward in spite of that.  Also it still feels like Monday.

Change of subject, but I’ve been keeping a list of everything that being in Italy makes me miss about the American/Iowan/non-study-abroader way of life, and I think I’m just going to throw it right here:

  • FOOD:
  • Peanut butter
  • Sandwiches on soft bread (PB&J, turkey, etc.)
  • Cereal that isn’t a strange granola-ish corn flake lookalike — and people who have heard of Froot Loops and/or Captain Crunch.
  • Breakfast foods in general (toast, waffles, pancakes, eggs)
  • Decent chips
  • Tap water
  • Milk.  I don’t know what specifically is different about the milk here, but it’s…not right.
  • AMENITIES:
  • AIR CONDITIONING
  • Television/movies
  • Internet and cell plans that actually let you use your internet and cell phone
  • Water bottles
  • Ziploc bags
  • Cheap tape
  • Cheap post-its
  • Cheap paper towels
  • Cheap toiletries (shampoo, body wash, etc.)
  • Uniformly sized outlets
  • Doorknobs that turn
  • Public bathrooms you don’t have to pay for
  • Toilet paper holders that both hold onto the roll *and* let you change it
  • OTHER:
  • Sunsets (a flat horizon and a great view)
  • Clouds
  • Driving (i.e. not having to depend on an always-late bus)
  • Walks/jogs where you can safely wear headphones
  • Doing my own laundry
  • Baking — or, more generally, having access to an oven, stove, and microwave
  • Having a word for ‘pie,’ and for ‘cupcake’
  • Walking around in socks
  • Being able to criticize the Papacy without automatically offending someone
  • A closer sense of community
  • Non-polluted air and not being constantly surrounded by smokers
  • Not having to keep windows shut/covered against traffic noise and potential delinquents
  • Lack of tourist swarms
  • Cheap books (and being able to read them)
  • English

And, because fair’s fair, here’s everything I know I’m going to miss about Italy:

  • FOOD:
  • All of it.  But specifically:
  • Hard rolls
  • Uber-fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Thin pizzas
  • Pasta done right
  • Eggplant dishes
  • Apricot spread on fresh croissants
  • Tea with biscotti every morning
  • Bigne (those cream puff pastry things, and vanilla please <3)
  • Lots of other pastries I don’t know the names of
  • Gelato (obviously)
  • Excellent panini (as in big sandwiches with thick bread and meat and melty cheese)
  • Open markets daily
  • 3-course sit-down dinners with the whole ‘family’ (although I could approximate this at home)
  • AMENITIES:
  • Public fountains
  • Public trash cans
  • Public transportation
  • OTHER:
  • Hills
  • Having everything in walking distance
  • Beautiful buildings, artworks and museums absolutely everywhere
  • Being in a place with such a long (and documented) history
  • Having multiple options for places to go every day
  • Riding the bus (especially when it picks up speed in the tunnel)
  • Being surrounded by so many different kinds of people
  • Having one word for *all* of one’s aunts and uncles, and for *all* of one’s nieces and nephews
  • Every building warmly colored (red, gold, etc.)
  • Being in a country whose inhabitants seem generally conscious that different countries and peoples are interconnected
  • Being so close to to so many other countries
  • Multi-language bookstores
  • Italian music
  • Italian

So there we are, and I’ll probably add on to these lists as the semester progresses.  There won’t be a ‘winner,’ as it’s next to impossible to call one place objectively better or worse than the other…but I will admit that the lack of peanut butter has become a real sticking point ; )

Have to go start taking care of business, but should be back tomorrow.  A domani : )

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Art, Culture, Food, History, Practicalities, The City

 

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Day 13, cont’d, and All Caught Up : )

Sunday, 5:48 pm

What you are now looking at is the city of Siena.  Stop two of the three-town tour on Saturday, and the main purpose of the trip, it is a large town on the top of a hill (as most of these medieval places tend to be).  Back in its heyday it was one of Florence’s greatest rivals/most bitter enemies, and it was actually conquered by Florence at one point — an historical tidbit that neither city has really forgotten.

To start off, we went to this place:

The Basilica of Saint Catherine of Siena, who did not lead a happy life.  But main thing to know is that this church is actually pretty creepy — aside from the general themes of death and suffering (both Catherine’s and Christ’s) in all the paintings and decorations, they also have relics of Catherine in there.  Which, for anyone not raised Catholic, means that they’ve got a couple of her body parts on prominent display.  The idea behind a relic is that a saint’s body, being incorruptible, provides a link between the material world and the spiritual afterlife — and the same holds true for a relic, aka any piece of a saint’s body.  Especially in the medieval era, relics were a pretty big deal (at one time, the Catholic Church actually decreed that every church needed a relic under the high altar), which means that at the time Catherine lived these things were still much sought-after.  So, while she died in Rome and was meant to be buried in Rome, one devout man made sure to sever her head and one finger from the corpse and spirit these precious remains back to her hometown.  Where you can now see them.

I think it is meant to be heartwarming.

Anyway, after that we trekked up to the Siena Cathedral.  And the walk was interesting, because apparently Siena takes its being-on-a-hill-ness very seriously.

  

It is difficult to demonstrate just how vertically-inclined these streets are, but just keep in mind that in neither picture am I tilting the camera up.  And every single street was like this, and I didn’t actually take any pictures on the steepest streets because I had to suddenly start concentrating on not falling back down.

Fun fact: there are absolutely zero obese people in Siena.

So *wheeze wheeze*, but being on an incline actually makes approaching the cathedral a little like magic; green and white marble starts to loom at the end of an alleyway, and suddenly you get the urge to call it an ‘ascent’ instead of a climb.

  We approach from the back, heading up the stairs…

  …there is phantom violin music as we pass through the archway…

  …and there’s the cathedral!  Along with some random woman                                                                             leaning jauntily on a cane! \o/

Siena built its cathedral at the same time the Florentines were working on theirs, and there was intense competition to out-impressive each other.  Florence tried to do it with size.  Siena tried to do it by covering every single inch in something expensive.

  

Beautiful, of course, but standing in that room with a 360 view is like living in a kaleidoscope o.O

After the cathedral (more talk about pulpits and such), lunch break — and a trio of us managed to go out and find cheap slices of pizza very literally bigger than my head.  Which is actually not as bad as it sounds, because Italian pizza is so thin that one could — and this has been tested by other members of the group, mind — have an entire pizza to oneself and not get full.  Thin pizza ’tis BRILLIANT.

And after lunch, another big building:

This place is the civic center of Siena, and it is located in the middle of a *huge* piazza.  I couldn’t get a picture to show the size of it, but it’s shaped like a giant bowl / upside-down circus tent — so the overall effect is like an enormous sloped stadium with this building down at the front.  Also there is an extremely ancient tradition of running an annual horse race in there?  The Palio di Siena, for anyone who wants to watch videos of it on YouTube, but keep in mind that the piazza’s bowl shape makes it a really dangerous race, so those squeamish about possible accidents should maybe not pursue that.

(Also, I swear this blog post is almost done : )

After cruising around that building’s frescoes and interior chapel, we got back on the bus and turned north again for the return to Florence.  But, we still had a final stop to make in “Greve in Chianti.”  So:

Greve in Chianti

Greve is a small town that is apparently more-or-less the headquarters of the Chianti wine-making region, which is to say that most of the rules about which wines get to call themselves Chianti are decided there.  This is interesting in itself, but we made the hour-long detour because they’ve actually got the annual wine festival going on right now, and anyone who wanted to could pay 10 Euro and get 7 samples straight from the vendor.  I didn’t do it myself, but judging from the 15-or-so students who did, I’m going to say they were potent samples, so you certainly get your money’s worth : )

And then Jodie gave us each an amazing almond cookie from a Siena pasticceria as we got on the bus. Because the program leaders just do things like that ❤

And that’s everything!  A total of 12 hours, at least 8 of which we spent on our feet.  One feels rather accomplished.

Sunday (today) was a day off, which I spent both out in the city center and on Skype.  Tomorrow we have a class visit to Orsanmichele.

So on we go : )

 
 

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Days 11, 12, and 13

Saturday, 7:49 pm

Allora: went to three towns, walked *a lot,* got an itty-bitty sunburn, witnessed much churchery, and have now returned home after 12 hours out and about.

Like pretty much everyone else, I am both tired and extremely ready for dinner.

But first:

Day 11, Thursday

  • Went to Florence’s Museo Archeologico (i.e. the archaeological museum), and the same archaeologist who showed us around Fiesole narrated a walk through the museum.  It was pretty cool, but only figuratively, because otherwise it was omg hot in there.  And stuffy, and we spent rather a lot of time going over a lot of details in a lot of display cases.  All of us, I think, had good intentions for paying attention and learning more about the pre-Renaissance history of Florence and Italy, but after 2 hours, pretty sure everyone was feeling…fatigued, I guess.  Idk, it was just physically draining, and speaking for myself I know that our tour guide didn’t get nearly as much of my undivided attention as I would have liked her to have.  So, if I can find the time, definitely going back.  (Added temptation: this heavily Etruscan/Roman artifact museum also has a weirdly high number of Egyptian antiquities, always welcome.  I guess I had known that there was a lot of interaction between the Italians and the Egyptians [because otherwise Caesar and Cleopatra wouldn’t have happened], but for some reason still considered them entirely separate worlds.  Surprise score : )
  • Thursday on the whole was a long day, but at the end of it I got the best dinner I’ve had here so far.  Simple spaghetti, then chicken + a side of greens, then a spectacular fruit tart, and every bite a torture to my very soul as I compare it to the cafeteria food I’ll be getting back to in 3 months.  Come January 5, the air shall be rent with lamentations.  But oh well.

Day 12, Friday

  • Big thing for this day was that I lost my old roommate and got a new one.  But I want to skim the details on that when I talk (finally) about the homestay, so all that’s important for right now is that it happened.

Day 13 (Today), Saturday

  • Oh boy.  Today was the day of the three-town trip, and it was a bit of a doozy and it felt like one.
  • First off, up early to catch the early bus to meet at the train station by 8:00, and then we stumbled on to a private bus and were driven out to the small town of Monteriggioni.  Monteriggioni is special because it’s still got its old medieval walls intact.  Thing is, most towns used to have big city walls (on account of it is a proud Italian tradition to have hardcore inter-city feuds), but most of these walls were unfortunately either destroyed or purposefully dismantled over the last 500 years in an attempt to modernize.
  • But Monteriggioni was just too little to care about looking gauche — and so, in the spirit of those people who still sport 80’s hair, it continues to rock its outer ramparts.  The town as it currently exists is a tiny sort of place (way smaller than Grand Mound, for those of you to whom that means anything), but it looks pretty much just like it did centuries ago.  So that’s fantastic, and then you add in that the weather was perfect and that it’s up on the tippy-top of a hill out in the middle of Tuscany with a beautiful outlook, and it was overall just a really great start to the day.

    

  • Also, I think most of us were really happy to leave Florence and get out into the Tuscan countryside for a while.  It’s still wonderful in the city, but we’ve been running non-stop for two weeks now, and the excursion out to fresh air and wide open spaces was precisely what was needed to erase any stress and make everything better.  (And oh!  They’ve got hills here!  My Iowan self wants to call them mountains, but they’re hills, and either way very beautiful to look at <3)
  • We got to stay in Monteriggioni and enjoy the view for only about 15 minutes or so, and then it was back on the bus to continue south to Siena.

…which I will tell you about tomorrow, because it is now dinnertime to be followed immediately by a much-needed early bedtime.

Best of weekends to you all : )

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Classes, Food, History, Travel and Touristing

 

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Day 10: The Reboot

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.

Fiesole

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.