RSS

(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.
Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 22, 2011 in Art, Classes, Food, History, The City

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

(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
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Art, Family, Food, Language, Persons & Peoples, The City

 

Tags:

(Day 51) BRB

Sorry nothing got in here last night, internet keeled over again.

Not too much to report anyway, though; yesterday was a really nice day, and I was still pretty attached to being lazy, so I just went for a walk through the center of town and then down by the river.

     

And, although I had money on me and would have been inclined to part with it had I met with something pretty, it stayed strictly a walk because yesterday was a Monday.  Monday, in Florence, is the day of the week for the half of the city that didn’t shut down on Sunday to finally do so — so you step out to try to go somewhere or do something, and niente.

But as I said, yesterday was a very pleasant day regardless, and today I think I’m going to attempt to make it into the Uffizi Gallery on my fancy museum pass.  After that…we’ll see what it feels like a day for : )

Also, just a heads up: if blog updates thin out a little over the next couple days, that will be because I am (finally) updating that student resources page.

….

P.S. — This ties in with absolutely nothing, but did you know that being in another country makes your internet automatically present itself in that country’s language?  So that if, for example, you go to look up the trailer for the “Avengers” movie, you will always get the Italian version first?

It is also important to note that Italians prefer dubbing to subtitles.  And that, for someone who is already familiar with the actors‘ Samuel L. Jackson’s voice, this is hilarious.

The Avengers (2012) guarda il primo teaser trailer ufficiale

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Culture, Language, The City

 

(Day 49) Doing Nothing, but with Great Vigor

Not much to report today, as I was sleeping a bit too much to have time to really start anything.  So instead, random updates related to Italian:

  • After about 7 weeks, I am at a basic (basic basic, and I cannot stress that enough) conversational level.  My Italian class is somehow behind all the other Italian classes, but one of my goals this week is to look through some grammar books on my own and see if I can’t speed up the process a little, because I would really like to improve my speaking confidence.  That’s not to say I can’t already speak (to a certain extent), but the only *real* win right now is how much I’m able to understand.
  • Example: The other day I decided to break out an old Josh Groban album to see if I could make out the meaning of the songs that were in Italian.  And I absolutely could (\o/).
  • On one hand, this is exhilarating; most of the words came easily, and this feels like a huge step forward.  On the other hand, it’s kind of wrecked these songs for me, as the actual lyrics are so incredibly intense and sappy that it’s really hard to listen to them without laughing: “I breathe you in the universe” / “I will live for you” / “Love will win!!” / etc., it’s all rather unfortunate : )
  • The big reason I’m proud of my level of comprehension is that I’ve never studied a romance language before.  Unlike many students here who have taken French or Spanish, and unlike the Brazilian girl who lives with us who speaks both Portuguese and French, I’ve got no familiarity bells whatsoever rung by the words I hear.  Absolutely everything is new, and I think that in light of that I’m taking it all in at a fairly decent rate of absorption.
  • Be that as it may, though, the nice thing about learning a language in the place where it’s spoken is that it is absolutely impossible to get a big head about your progress.  One moment you step out into the world feeling confident and on top of things, and then the cashier uses a word for ‘sack’ that you’ve never heard before.  *sigh,* hello again humility.
Overall, it remains a complicated situation, but I guess the briefest summary is as follows;

The other day, learned a new word in Italian — ‘bruciare,’ and it means to burn.  Immediately after this, learned a new word in English — ‘extradiegetic,’ and it means existing outside the narrative reality.  

I will have to be working on that gap in my vocabularies.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Classes, Language

 

(Day 48) BREAK

Apologies due again, apparently, because it is very clearly Saturday and not Friday 😦

SO, crazy week — between all that end-of-class stuff going on, my epic two-weeks-and-counting cold got way worse, and I ended up having to go to the doctor and start the dreaded antibiotics.  But none of that matters now, because we’ve made it; I took my test, I went to the last on-site visit, I did the readings, I (cut it very close but I) finished my paper, and I’ve accidentally gone and gotten about 14 hours of sleep so we’re finally good to go.

Also have I mentioned that I am on ~*BREAK*~.

Think I’ll just go ahead and do a brief run-down of pretty much everything that’s been up lately, but first I’d just like to say that I realize that I have answered basically no emails since around Tuesday or Wednesday.  That would be on account of me running back and forth between homework and passed-out-sleeping, so please know that I was not ignoring you and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

  •  Last Friday: This would be the first real fall day we had, and a day full of drizzles to boot.  Went in to work on the library for a bit, got a haircut (negotiated all in Italian, btw — and everything went just fine, but I am *so* glad it was just hair and not dental work or something), went to the ATM, and walked over to the nearby San Lorenzo market.  This would be the outdoor street market famous for its leather stalls (which are set up in front of actual leather stores), but you can also find notebooks, scarves, random touristy souvenir stuff, etc.  Started to downpour while I was there, and it was pretty fun to watch — shoppers scatter to the sides, stall cover extensions are pulled out and up, shoppers sidle back out, business resumes as usual with a lot more bobbing umbrellas.
  • Also Friday, another bus strike.  Italian unions, I have found, like strikes very much but don’t really seem to get how they work.  For example, they announce in advance that they’re going to have one, but they also announce when the strike (the ‘sciopero’) is going to end and at what points during the strike they will not actually be striking.  It is not terribly efficient, but at least I got to take the bus both ways.

  • Saturday: The trip to Lucca with Alex, Kari, Katie and Willi.  We went to just have a nice relaxing time in a quiet country town, and that’s exactly what we did — on what turned out to be just a really perfect fall day, cool and crisp and colorful.  Mainly we just walked around and looked at churches, because we are creatures of art historical habit and we couldn’t help ourselves.  Saw another saint’s corpse, and the churches themselves were beautiful, but there were two highlights of our visit and they had nothing to do with that: 1) The Caffe Di Simo, a beautiful old-fashioned cafe that was once frequented by the composer Puccini and which we were drawn to on account of its jaw-dropping pastry display, plus  2) The medieval city walls.  The nice thing about these is that they encircle the whole city and have had wide tree-lined paths put in, so you can actually walk up there with the city on one side and fields and mountains on the other.  Bellissima ^_^

  

  • Monday: Italian class and figure drawing.  The very first week of the drawing class, half of us did a drawing from a live (and nude — that seems to surprise some people) model, and then we switched with the other half and went downstairs to work on cast drawings in charcoal, and this last week we were back to figure drawing.  And no pictures to show you yet, but I think I may be improving a bit : )
  • Tuesday: Italian class, a literary discussion in the Weaving the Tale class, and then straight over to an on-site visit to the San Marco religious complex.  Fascinating place — but you will be spared the earful because I am tired.  (However, we *are* going back in a couple weeks to talk about the crazy-intense preacher who was arrested there, so maybe later?)
  • Wednesday: A lot of work on my paper for the Medici class, Italian in the afternoon, figure drawing in the evening.  And this would be the night that got my host mom really concerned, because the mutant cold was Very Not Good at this point.  Early bed times all around!
  • Thursday:  Had to be at the Bargello (a sculpture gallery with a pretty twisted history) by 9:00 am, and almost had a heart attack because my bus stop was ‘temporarily abolished.’  But that turned out to be alright, so just spent an hour and a half walking around the Bargello discussing Donatello, then a walk back to the school for another hour of class, a quick lunch, and our Italian class + quiz at  1:00.  Booked it over to the doctor to get there before the clinic closed, over to the pharmacy, over to the other side of the river for the final drawing class, dinner, and then a very sincere attempt to get my Medici paper done — which failed, because I fell asleep.
  • Friday: Up early in the morning to *finally* finish that paper, caught a bus downtown to turn it in, shared a great deal of confusion with other students over where to turn it in, figured something out, went over to the grocery store for lunch, ate lunch, back to the apartment…and at this point we get the 14-hour nap interrupted only by dinner.  And it was amazing you guys ❤
  • Today, Saturday, is the day Gabriella’s cleaning-assistant-man comes in, so I had to actually get up and shower in order to be able to vacate the house for a couple hours.  And finding a way to waste the time turned out to not be a problem, because a snafu with the buses turned what was supposed to be a quick trip to the store and ATM into a 3-hour sit-and-wait nightmare of hanging around various bus stops cursing #12 and making like a turtle to try to block the extremely bitter wind we had today.*

And I had other stuff I was hoping to say, which I will hopefully still remember tomorrow, but I have just this second gone exhausted again and I think we’re going to have to call it a night.  But I can promise that, for the next week, I’ll be able to get something on the blog each and every day, so hold on to your hats because here comes postage.

Round of emails tomorrow to everyone who’s sent me one lately, and ttys anyway to everyone else : )

 

*Because Florence is in a valley, wind is pretty rare here, because it takes more than a light breeze to make it past the hills and down into the city.  But this apparently means that the winds that *do* make it down are real thugs, so that’s fun.
 

Tags: , , ,

(Day 45) Sorry!

Hey everybody,

Apologies for not writing lately, and for not really writing now; we’re in the last week of classes before break, and this means that I’ve got a paper to write, a test to study for, readings and more readings to do, and not much time for anything else.  But, will definitely be in to offer up something on Friday — so see you then : )

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Classes, Meta

 

(Day 40 Again) That Bike Trip

Hello again 🙂

Alright, so trip to Venice is behind us, the Monday immediately following started up our first blown-out crazy-busy week of classes, Wednesday night we had the concert, and now we’ve hit the weekend and the first day of October.

Which is glorious.

By this point I’ve had standing reservations for a week to meet up with Katie, Leah, Kari and Willi to go on a 13-mile bike tour through Chianti, so it’s out the door fairly early on this Saturday morning and a nice leisurely walk down to the office of Tuscany Bike Tours.  Ours is one of several groups that are going, so we’re all separated into 3 clusters for the vans and off we go.

It’s a 40-minute drive out of the city to the start point of the tour, and we are reminded along the way that the Chianti area is…hilly.  Very seriously swoopy, swervy, up-down etc.

(Just so you know, that’s a drop-off past those bushes.  In Chianti, everything is a drop-off past the bushes.)

So, driving out, first thought is that the hills make for ridiculously stunning scenery.  Second thought is that I really hope I’m not in over my head here; I’ve been on a bike, yes, and I love bike riding, but I live in Iowa.  The roads are, by and large, flatter than a crushed crepe, I have never really had to bother with gears at all, and I probably don’t have the right muscles in place for this.

…Oh well, excited anyway : )

After a while our attention is directed to a castle on top of a hill.  This hill, and that castle:

This would be the starting point.

It’s a 12th century castle (the Castello di Poppiano), and it’s been in the count’s family for generations. Because yes, apparently a count and countess still live there.

…Life must be magnificent for some people.

Anyway, the castle is now home to the estate’s wine and olive oil business, and we got a tour of this before heading out on the bikes.  (And btw, there are several bike tour organizations that go through Chianti and include wine tastings, but this is the only one that does theirs in a castle.  Just saying.)

   

Further by the way, that guy in the right-hand pic would be Andy, one of the two people (the other being Keith) who run Tuscany Bike Tours.  Andy is Scottish, Keith is Irish, both are very nice, very funny and all-around excellent tour guides that now receive the official Thumbs-Up Seal of Approval : )

Up to the top of the castle for a look at that-there view —

  

— and back down to the courtyard for a tasting of one of the Chianti wines and a sampling of olive oil on bread.  The olive oil is the best I’ve tasted, and everybody praised the Chianti, but all the latter did for me was give me more confirmation that I just don’t care for wine myself.  *sigh,* guess I will have to become some other type of alcoholic.

Those who wanted to buy souvenirs were taken through the shop, and then we all met at the back door of the castle (man, the things this trip makes me say), where we were introduced to our bikes.

The bikes were labeled.  I got Batman.*

A quick run-down of safety stuff, they explain gears to a simpleton in a sentence and a half, we are given helmets and water bottles, and they show us the bag/baskets on the back of the bikes.  And we’re off!  With a little moment of dread as we huff and puff our way up the driveway!

–But it’s all good!  The first 40 minutes or so are pretty much all down-hill, flying through little towns and around bends and OMG IT’S AWESOME.

And just like that, first x-number of miles is over and it’s lunchtime.

Over the 10 years they’ve been doing this, Keith and Andy have built up a relationship with the family who runs the restaurant they take us to, just as they’ve built up a relationship with the count’s family.  It’s a restaurant well out in the country,  the atmosphere is very comfortable, we get lots of options for food, and everything is, as per usual, delicious.

  

On we go again, now influenced by both the wine from earlier (of which some had more than others) and very full stomachs.  Which are actually not a problem — another group of American girls on this bike ride was just picking at their food, worrying aloud about the calories, but our group just got down to business, put it all away like nothing, and walked out good to go.  As somebody said, we’ll need to enter some eating contests after this.**

And now we’re up against the scary uphill part — which is not bad at all.  We are led around the bottom of the hill, up a gentle incline that we’ve got a half hour to do, and then there’s one very steep section of road that is, as it turns out, optional.  Anyone who doesn’t want to to do it can take the van up, and we absolutely went with ‘smart’ instead of ‘brave.’  (All of us, that is, except Katie, but she’s just a badass and doesn’t count ; )

We ride for another half hour or so, and then it’s over — one of the very best days I’ve had here.  The ride felt great, the weather was perfect (and seriously, if you end up in a position to do something like this, do not go while it is still hot), and we give our profuse thanks to Keith as he drops us back off in Florence.

Just a note, though: if you come here and do end up able and willing to do this (and you should absolutely do this if you can budget it in), I’d suggest you go with Tuscany Bike Tours and NOT with I Bike Italy.  They are not the same, no matter how much I.B.I. wants to make it seem otherwise.

And again, that’s Tuscany Bike Tours.

 

So!  There’s last Saturday, and I still want to throw out a little about this past week, so we’ll see if I can get that in tonight or tomorrow.  But dinner and emails first, so in case I don’t get the chance to say it later, have a good Friday : D

 

*Other bike names included Marilyn Monroe, Tarzan, and Yo Mama.  Yes, the jokes were made.

**Btw, as far as the food, just thought I’d mention that across the ACM group as a whole, any weight gain has been completely negligible.  If you doubt this, please go back through these posts and add up all the times I say we’re walking.  And then add in all those times I don’t bother to mention it because it’s just a fact of life.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Food, Persons & Peoples, Travel and Touristing