Out and about

Today for class our professor led us up the long route to get to the San Miniato church, the site of round two of all of our speeches. The scenery was lovely, but the over a mile detour was a bit much. The view from the top, however, always makes the hike worthwhile. My speech centered around the Axis (Germany and Italy + others) power’s use of propaganda asserting that the Italians had cultural supremacy over the Allies (US and UK + others).

At Piazza Michelangelo
Hilltop Florentine villas
A Pasta Dinner

After the few miles hike, some friends and I felt like we deserved some gelato! We went to a place at the bottom of the hill, near my apartment called Il Gelato Filo. Gelato in Italy is unlike anything else in the world. AMAZING. I had dark chocolate and raspberry. The chocolate is so creamy and smooth, and you could tell that the raspberry was made from the fresh berries. For dinner I made pasta, of course. It’s so easy and cheap to make here. A big bag of pasta (feeds about 4) is only 58 euro cents and a really good jar of sauce around 2 euros. I think its so funny how this blog pretty much revolves around food, but that’s part of the culture of Italy and a huge part of life here!

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Getting into a routine

Yesterday and today have been regular days, revolving around my class schedule. Monday I start off with my Italian class. My professor is super fun and oh so energetic. It’s nice that he’s so enthusiastic because the class is pretty early in the morning. Later in the afternoon I have my public speaking class. Yesterday and tomorrow we are giving speeches based upon a couple of books about the monuments’ men who came in during WWII to protect pieces of art and architecture from the war. We gave our speeches around the Santa Trinita bridge, out in the public. It was an interesting experience.

That night some friends and I decided to order pizzas. It had been over a week since we’d had pizza, so it was about time! We ordered 3 “family sized” pizzas (50 centimeters around) from a pizza place close to my apartment. They were not what I had expected. Our sausage pizza, for example, did not have any cheese on it. It was still good, though. Their sauce had an extra delicious zing to it.

Focaccia e patate

Today I had Italian class and then went to my politics course. A friend and I ventured to the great big market after class to get a quick lunch. I ended up getting something that looked like focaccia bread with olive oil and thinly sliced potatoes covering the top. I’m such a sucker for anything potatoes, so I found it especially delicious! We sat on the steps outside the St. Lorenzo basilica and munched on our food while we were attacked by birds. Luckily I was not pooped on. Yet.

After lunch I had my Italian History course. The weather is starting to change a little (meaning, from 100+ degrees to 90), so professors have been leaving their windows opened to let in the nice breeze. Below are a few photos from outside my classroom window.

   

Quiet weekend

The Elon Centre in Florence only has classes Monday through Thursday, leaving us with a three day weekend. It’s really nice having an extended weekend so we can explore our city or even just recharge our batteries. This weekend has been one of the relaxing ones. Saturday was spent shopping for necessities (the 99 cent store is my new favorite place in the world) and catching up on some required readings. That night we cooked another delicious family dinner and went out dancing afterwards at a discoteca.

This morning I woke up extra early to make it to church. I was so excited I had found the one Lutheran church in all of Florence (one of 20 in the country). I put on a cute dress and a black cardigan and headed out the door. When I got there, the front door had a locked gate around it. It had a piece of paper with some writing on it, but of course I don’t know Italian or German enough to decipher what it said. I decided to wait around until 10:00 (when the service was supposed to start) to see if they just have the Italian mentality of flexible time. Then a little Italian man walked up to the door and I asked him if it was closed and he said yes, until September (the conversation was partially in Italian and English). Apparently Italians think it’s reasonable not to have church for the months of July and August. There were Catholic masses today, but the Lutherans get the short end of the stick…

 

 

After that mishap, I tried to make the most of my day. I went to a park to do some homework. It’s

Delicious cannoli

such a cute little park. There is an outdoor bar in the middle of it that’s always playing music. Some nights they even have live music. Mind you, this is a really little park, probably only a little bigger than my backyard at home. I guess they have to fit a lot of fun into a small space!  After leaving the park, I headed to the Conad grocery store where I bought my first Italian cannoli!!

Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa

All the students at the Elon Centre in Florence went on a 12 hour tour today, set up by our professor. There were three main stops on our tour, with a lunch in a chiante organic farm in the middle. We hopped on the bus early this morning near the train station to begin our travels.

Our tour was led by Walkabout Tours Florence and was fantastic. We started in Siena, learning about how the city is divided into contrada (districts) and each as their own animal. My favorite was the goose district! They use their animals for mascots in the great Palio horse race that happens twice a year, filling the city square with tens of thousands of visitors. We were shown one of the stalls where horses are kept for the race. There were pictures all over the city with images of the races.

The Goose District

After visiting Siena, we made our way to an organic farm called Fattoria Poggio Alloro. They gave us a little tour of their farm and then led us a beautiful diningroom overlooking the tuscan countryside. We even had views of San Gimignano (our next stop). Lunch was beyond delicious and was served with four different wines: one white, two red, and one dessert wine. The food was all organic and grown on the farm with few exceptions.

Pasta Bolognese
Meats, cheeses, salad (served after the pasta course)
Biscotti and dessert wine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following lunch, we headed to the hilltop town of San Gimignano, called the Medieval Manhattan because it has tall towers. Our tour guide told us before we left the bus that this city was famous for two things besides the towers: purses and a gelato shop. Naturally, I felt obligated to experience both! She said that we would be able to find the gelato shop from either the long line outside or the “world champion” sign placed atop the door. We certainly found it without difficulty. The pear and chocolate gelato I sampled was so wonderfully creamy yet refreshing at the same time, it was unmistakably a winner. Along the walk up to the gelateria, streets were lined with leather goods. I bought an adorable leather dark brown purse with a black leather bow on the front. For 20 euros, I couldn’t help it! My favorite part of this city, however, were the beautiful views it offered.

Our last stop was to ultra famous Pisa. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves 🙂

  

San Miniato al Monte

Even if students are not enrolled in the Art History course here in Florence, they are still allowed to participate in the fun activities. I decided to take full advantage of that opportunity this afternoon. I may have been tired after already having three classes in a row prior to the time in which the Art History class meets, but I was determined to see the San Miniato al Monte for myself. In January this year, I hiked up the steep hill where all the post cards for Florence are photographed, but we were stopped at the lower level as the basilica was gated off. Thankfully, it was opened today, offering the very best views of Florence.

Inside the basilica are Roman frescos and impressive, larger than life mosaics. After our professor ended her tour, some students left and others went to hear the monks’ chant. I stayed behind to be a part of this, but we got more than we bargained for. It ended up being a whole Mass, communion included. It was a little awkward for me for various reasons, but it was still a beautiful service, nonetheless.

A few steps outside the ornate church are where you will find the most famous views of Florence at the Piazzale Michelangelo. There’s even a replica of the David and many tour buses can be found parked outside, so you know this spot is a must-see!

Piachere!

Classes started today at the Accademia Europea di Firenze. I had my first Italian class today at 9 am. It seemed to move pretty quickly for just the first day. I learned how to introduce myself and say my nationality as well as some basic descriptions of people. My professor seems nice, but doesn’t want to speak to us in English at all, so it’s difficult understanding her at times. I met with a friend after class and headed to a stationery shop. Along the way we passed the hotel where I stayed during my January trip to Florence. After we visited the stationery shop, we visited a giant market. We never could figure out its name, but oh boy was it huge. It was filled with all kinds of food: meats, vegetables, fruits, and desserts. We ended up buying a couple of roast beef paninis and ate them at my friend’s

View from friend's apartment's rooftop

apartment. Later we met up with some more friends and found a 99 cent store. I only bought some hand soap, a reusable bag, and a peach iced tea, but the store had so many different things inside. Pots, pans, food, clothing, and school supplied lined the aisles. Our next stop was a place called Coin. One girl was told that it was Florence’s equivalent of a Walmart or Target and that you could find everything you’d ever need there. I bought my much needed hair curling iron/straightener there, finding one product that had replaceable heads to do those tasks as well as crimp you hair. I’m pretty interested to try it, but Florence is so hot; I don’t know how long my hair would stay styled for. Later I had my general studies course. We are required to read a ton of books for this class, but they all seem interesting so far. Our first set of books are about the Monuments Men (or Venus Fixers, as the Italians call them) who rushed to save Italy’s most precious works of art from the actions of WWII. After that class, we had a meeting with all of the professors in our programs, were handed out syllabi, and were convinced as to why we should switch to that particular professor’s class. My schedule is pretty set if I still want to graduate early! My Italian Politics course has only 6 students as of now, but luckily I love having small classes.

That busy afternoon caused my friends and I to work up quite a hunger. We decided to cook dinner tonight. We went to the grocery store (Italians do this every day) to get our ingredients. On the menu was bruschetta and  penne pasta with marinara. Thankfully, one of my cooking buddies has worked as a chef at restaurants and led us in preparing a delicious meal. Sooo good and inexpensive!

No I am just preparing for tomorrow’s classes (Italian language, Italian history, and Italian politics) while listening to the restaurant downstairs and right outside my window pack up for the night. I’d say Italy’s a really cool place to be, but that’d be a lie. It’s way too hot, but definitely a nice place to be.