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Day 104 L’ultima mattina e mi manca gia Italia

Saturday, 5:57 AM

And just like that…

Still haven’t even begun to wrap my head around it, but I’m leaving for the airport in one hour, and will be out of the country and heading home in less than four.

Had my last dinner — spaghetti al pomodoro, pollo, finocchi, biscotti.  Had my last celebratory glass of Vin Santo (which, out of all the alcohol I’ve had here, probably comes closest to being my favorite when it’s done right).  Finally learned the Italian word for ‘to return something.’

Took my last pictures with my host mom.  Finished packing.  Spent a few hours out on the street and on buses soaking in the last Italian I’ll hear for…I don’t want to think about how long.

This is not quite the last blog post here, as there are still at least a couple things I want to cover, but this is the last time I’ll be writing from Florence.  And all I find myself able to say is that this has been undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I already miss it like I can’t even believe.

BUT, flip side is that I’ve been away from home from far too long, and if I’m going to miss this city when I leave then at least I’ll get to stop missing everything (everyone) else.  And honestly, it’s hard to really let the melancholy sink in when I’m also feeling so ridiculously euphoric.  Home! Favorite people! Christmas!

 

So, Dear Everyone:

I’ll see you in 16 hours : D

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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Family, Food, Language, Persons & Peoples

 

(Day 88) Buon Ringraziamento

Thursday, 9:00 pm

Happy Thanksgiving, American people : D

Finally made it back in, and what I would like to do now is provide some variation from the bullet-lists and make up for the posting delay with a giant picspam.

However, what my internet and available time will *allow* me to do is post a couple photos (with more to come as soon as the month rolls over on my internet key) and do a quick bullet list.  So.

  • ROME, from last Thursday to Sunday night.  Second wind, feels-like-vacation time.  A *LOT* of walking, and on very terrible cobble streets.  A *LOT* of museums, which were much more enjoyable.  An exclusive trip up to the very top level of the Coliseum, normally closed to the public.  A likewise exclusive trip to the Necropolis, the preserved ‘city of the dead’ under the Vatican.  An amazing, once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Sistine Chapel almost emptied of people but all lit up — because we happened to be there around closing time when a famous soccer coach was getting a private tour.  (This also meant we could sneak photos, as the coach’s group was doing it and the guards were all lining up for photos with him anyway.)  Possibly the best gelato I have ever had (white chocolate and dark chocolate from a place called Giolitti’s) paid for by our professors after a walking tour.  And on Sunday, the Galleria Borghese found to be a new contender for favorite art museum: (A) I knew I had a good feeling about this place, and (B) Bernini’s sculptures are in actual fact better in person and I could not. stop. staring.  Oh, plus Raphael ❤

  

    Wait for it…

BAM. 

  • Got back into Florence late Sunday evening, and found that we now have a new house-mate.  The Brazilian girl who lived down the hall had departed Saturday (which we knew about), and in her place there is now a middle-aged Japanese woman who will be here for two weeks studying at Linguaviva.  She (Toshiko) already has a little Italian, but astonishingly mine is actually much better, so I’ve been helping her out at Gabriella’s request.  I like her, she’s friendly and enthusiastic and she gave me a Japanese keychain : )
  • Also, found out when we went into the city center Monday morning that Florence has officially switched over to Christmas.  Don’t know what the trigger was, but the grocery store is all decked out and so are most of the other retailers — and I know it’s all commercial, but Christmas lights!
  • Monday, Tuesday,  Wednesday — homework.  Now that we’re done with Italian class, all attention is turned to the paper I have to write for the Medici art history class (Raphael’s work as a reflection of Pope Leo X’s court), the final exam I have to take for the same class, the final project for Weaving the Tale (the creation of a visual narrative and a 2-page statement about it), and more sketches for the Studio class.  Two weeks, readysetgo.
  • Today, though, a little break in the form of a field trip.  It was still technically a class day, in that we visited a Medici villa (Poggio a Caiano) and talked about its signficance, but after that we got a tour of a little place that manufactures both wine and olive oil, and were then treated to a magnificent oil-based meal.  (And seriously, after all my time here I can say that Capazzano has hands-down the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted.)  It was a traditional harvest meal, and we were to think of it as our Italian Thanksgiving — there was wine, more wine, bread with spinach and beans, penne, slices of ham and mashed potatoes, and we ended on an apple tort (by special request of Jodie as a pseudo apple pie).*  Weather-wise it was a perfect day, and I think we all walked away pretty happy…and, in some cases, rather tipsy.  Made the bus ride interesting : )
  • Got back to Florence, did homework for a while, and geared up for dinner.  And I’m very glad I went a little light on lunch, because Gabriella had prepared bread, slices of turkey, peas, corn (which she is unfamiliar with, and apologized for making “with love but no experience”), and ultimately a very impressive apple crisp.  Yay non-English-speaking double Thanksgiving \o/
  • Tomorrow, of course, have to start walking off all the food, and then it’s back to work.  If there are any interesting developments I shall pass them along, and otherwise I’ll probably be back in Wednesday night or Thursday after we have gone to ~the opera~.
  • Buonanotte : )

*The names of all these foods sound so much better in Italian: crostini con cavolo nero e fagioli, penne ai tre cavoli, arista all’olio nuovo con puree di patate, torta di melee.  Italian changes the off-putting ‘eggplant’ into my favorite ‘melanzana’ (which I can and will keep talking about), turns the baffling ‘pineapple’ into the ever-fun ‘ananas,’ makes plain broth into ‘minestrina’, and even ‘broccoli’ can be softened into ‘broccolini’ (which, incidentally, is delicious and is weirdly *the* thing on which I am most likely to overeat).  It is the world’s unparalleled language at dinnertime.

…But then again, English does have snickerdoodles.  Tough call.

 

(Day 79) Grazie

Tuesday, 9:33 pm

Shouldn’t be here, because I’m in the middle of studying for my Italian final (which is already tomorrow, and could someone please explain what happened there), but real quick:

  • Early class this morning, just bitingly nastily cold, and we actually ended up spending a half hour standing *outside* Palazzo Vecchio to discuss Donatello’s statue of Judith and Holofernes.  Great location, great statue, and I love being out in the morning more than just about anybody on this trip, but the enthusiasm does start to waver when toes go numb.
  • However, we then headed over to the Uffizi, and our professor was amazing and treated all of us to something warm to drink — and thus we ended the morning with a round of cioccolata calda, sitting by the window in a rooftop cafe that is, by the way, not cheap.  It was perfectly magnificent of her and way more than generous, so thanks again!
  • Had our last actual Italian class, went to an exhibit in Palazzo Strozzi, finally got our midterms back (went well, in case you were curious : ), and then our Rome orientation meeting.  Busy afternoon, but entirely enjoyable start to finish.
  • And back at the apartment, spaghetti carbonara!  Followed by melanzana, also known as ‘my new addiction’ and ‘eggplant’!  I’m still of the opinion that we get a bit too much food pushed on us, but on days like this I can also easily admit that the burden is bearable ❤
  • And following the excellent dinner, Gabriella actually went through her cupboards to find me another bag for Rome, because she knew I was going to have a little trouble making it work with what I had.  This is indeed way more convenient and it was remarkably kind of her to do that for me.
–And that’s Tuesday.  Basically nothing going on, but people were being nice all over the place and I guess I felt it was worth mentioning : )
Also, since this is likely the last time I’ll be in until Monday, one last randomly-chosen pic:

Just a corner of the interior courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio, right as you walk in the tall front doors (I’m literally standing in the doorway).  The courtyard opens up to a way more spacious chamber beyond, and all of this is only a tiny fraction of the palace as a whole, but this right here is the first thing important visitors would have seen when walking into the grand state palace / civic heart of Florence…and I think I kinda like it.  Makes me want to scrawl all over a hallway a little bit, and even though I never eat them it somehow reminds me pleasantly of Twinkies.

…Anyway, I really should be studying, so I’ll see you after Rome.  Great weeks, everybody!

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in Art, Classes, Family, Food, Persons & Peoples

 

(Day 77)

Sunday, 9:54 pm

Alright, we’re going to try this; I’m approaching the data limit on my internet key, but I feel like you guys deserve an update and some nice sunshine-filled pictures before we up and leave for most of a week.

Thursday, my art history/Medici class took us to Casa Buonarroti, the museum housing many of Michelangelo’s early works.  It became an automatic favorite because it’s just fun to look at; for one thing, it’s fascinating to get to see the drawings and sculpture studies that fed Michelangelo’s development, but quite independent of that is that it turns out that even Michelangelo’s quick-study early work is wonderful, all twisty torsos and floaty figures and everywhere that dynamic BAM quality that made him a legend.  Good stuff : )

Oh, also, they had another Renaissance architectural model!  *Obviously* you guys all remember those, because I mentioned them maybe once in an offhand footnote ages ago, but bottom line is that Michelangelo was once commissioned to design the facade of a church and he did and he built one of those models I love:

The rest of Thursday was just more school stuff, blah blah, and then this weekend was sunny and gorgeous and I got out of the apartment for a while:

 (Piazza Santa Croce)

 (Lower eastern side of the Duomo)

 (Lucky boar : )

 (Street artists working on a Raphael Madonna)

 (Random intersection)

(^ Piazzale Michelangelo, which I apparently really like.)

 

Traipsed around for a good long while doing errands, came back to a roommate-less room (reason being that she betook herself off to Amsterdam for the weekend, in case I haven’t mentioned), and have since experienced an utterly astonishing productivity streak; it’s been a little interrupted because of all the internet/list-making/stare-at-the-wall breaks, but I’ve had out-of-nowhere ideas for all my ongoing projects, roughed out outlines, done readings, made plans for personal work, and even got in some of those quick sketches we’re supposed to be doing.

 [~Per Esempio~ ]

Such a novelty to be actually on top of things : )

 

So, that was this weekend, and for this week we’re looking at a bunch of classes, work study, two on-site visits, an oral report, an orientation meeting, and our Italian final, all by Wednesday.  Thursday morning, off for Rome by 8:00 am.*

I may be back in prior to that, but if not, I’ll definitely be seeing you soon after.  In the meantime, happy rest-of-Sunday!

 

*Also, we got our itinerary for Rome, and YAY because we’re going to the Galleria Borghese *\o/*  …That is all  : )

 

(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 67) Another Thursday

9:22 pm

Been getting caught up in the sudden appearance of more homework than I thought I had, so sorry for the continued absenteeism — and thank you for your continuing patience to those who have sent me emails, I will have replied to all of you by tomorrow.

Still actually have stuff I have to do tonight, so this will be kind of brief, but I had a good day today and happy moods are worth sharing.  So:

  • This morning, everyone had to meet at Linguaviva at 8:00 so that we could all go down to the police station / immigration center and deal with the ongoing visa checks.  This necessitated getting up at an ungodly hour to catch a bus downtown, but it also meant that I got to wander around for a couple of minutes when the sun had just risen and the streets were still more-or-less empty.  The only people around were some nuns, and some vendors in a state of pre-pushiness as they set up their stalls for the day.

 

  • It is also important to note that the street in ^that picture^, with the stalls, smelled like apple fritters.  They have no such things here, so I know I must have been hallucinating, but it was nice.
  • The police station stuff was no big deal (although they got all our fingerprints, so I am now in the system D:), and after that we were all told to go to a cafe near the station, where our professor bought us each a drink and a pastry.  Day instantly better, and also meant I scored a free lunch ; )
  • Came up with an idea for my final paper in the Medici class, got books, getting started.
  • Had another successful exchange with a random Italian, and a fairly long one at that.  A woman came up to me at the bus stop to ask a question (I get this at least once a day, apparently me surrounded by other people at a bus stop = glowing symbol of trustworthiness), and I gave her a one-word answer and then apologized for not speaking Italian.*  She made my day by replying that she thought I spoke very well, with a ‘buon accento,’ and proceeded to pursue conversation for the entire 20 minute ride back to the station — and by God, ~I got it.~  Even though she spoke very quietly, and even though she ultimately insisted on using English so she could practice, talking with locals has been achieved \o/
  • In the evening, went to drawing class, and actually came up with a finished project that I don’t hate (or at least not yet).  Plus, we get to spend the entire time before Rome continuing to work on figures rather than casts, and this makes me one happy camper.
  • Learned over dinner that “mm” may translate into Italian, but “mmhmm” may not.  Requires further investigation, but made for a good talk.
  • I go in tomorrow morning to keep working on the library’s catalog process, and can already officially say that we’re almost done.  Or rather, that we’re ALMOST DONE! 😀
Have to do a project/paper and preparation for an oral report this weekend, but shouldn’t be bad.  Then it’s a week and a half until Rome, three weeks until Thanksgiving, five weeks til home.  Woah.
*Funnily enough, all of my truly successful conversations have started with me explaining that I don’t speak Italian.  God bless low expectations?
 
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Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Classes, Language, Persons & Peoples, The City

 

(Day 53) Pro-Procrastination

Thursday, 9:56 pm

It only took me most of my break, but I’m finally feeling good and productive; spent most of today tearing back and forth between readings for class and a couple sketches and lots and lots of notes about ideas for my senior art show, and while I have *finished* nothing, I have put an admirable amount of energy into getting things kinda-started.

So that’s good : )

But now, while I still have a bit more I’d like to get done tonight, I would really like to waste some time first.  So quick run-down of the last couple days:

  • Tuesday involved some readings and some skype time and an embarrassing number of naps.  But, woke up in the evening and was rewarded by a very nice dinner out with another student and his parents; Alex is one of the few ACM-ers staying in Florence over break, and he and his family were kind enough to have me join them.  All three incredibly nice people, and English speakers to boot hallelujah* — so once again a very big thank you : )
  • Speaking of that dinner, though, it did have its sinister side; this would be because we had wine and bread and ravioli and gnocchi and salad and legumes and steak and sweet potatoes and meatballs, and the next day I STILL WOKE UP HUNGRY.  Be warned, people, this program does seriously warped things to your stomach.
  • Wednesday morning I finally worked up the fit of energy needed to haul myself over to the Uffizi Gallery, so we can now cross that off the ‘to do’ list.  A wonderful museum and well worth the time (especially when you actually get to skip the wait time because you’ve got a free pass \o/), but the trouble is that so many of the really heartstopping works by Italy’s great artists wound up making their way into France’s Musee du Louvre that I feel spoiled by having seen that museum first.  …And this is probably blasphemy but I still prefer the Venetian Accademia.
  • Some random Italian man is right this minute singing out in the middle of the street.  One presumes drunkenly, but ?
  • Today, woke up to storms, which is always fantastic.  Kept my pedestrian self in out of the rain all day, plowed through a ridiculous amount of academic article material, took internet breaks as necessary,** found a totally demented faux-American-English song recorded by an Italian in 1973 (which, hip thrusts aside, gives a pretty nice idea of what this language sounds like to everyone else), and…well, here we are.
Back to work : )
———————————[For reasons unknown this thing is eating lines between paragraphs.  Sorry]——————-
*Still loving Italian, and I am dead set on getting the hang of it eventually, but by this time I can readily admit that having to attempt it every single day is a bit exhausting.  And frustrating, especially at dinner; between Nino, Gabriella and Alessandra, there’s pretty much always adult-level conversation going on (not to mention the times when Nino and Gabriella’s grown children are over), and I can’t really add to it without immediately dragging the whole exchange back down to grade school and feeling like an idiot.
———
The revelation of the moment being, I think, that I just miss talking.  After all, even as a typically non-talkative person one still gets attacks of loquacity, and I think that what I could really use at the moment is just the opportunity for a good old-fashioned rant delivered at high speed and drawing on a superfluously complicated vocabulary somewhere south of the vernacular.
———
Guess I’m just not a fan of baby steps.
————————————————————————————————————————————
**Not at all related to anything study abroad, but I really enjoyed this, and if it is not the nerdiest thing you have seen all day then I owe you an apology cookie:  The Dance Your PhD Competition
 
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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Art, Family, Food, Language, Persons & Peoples, The City

 

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