Monday, February 27, 2012

The most popular song in Italy

Ok, bear with this short and semi-mindless post because Cesca and Mom have my camera so I can't post any pictures of what we did in Florence yet, but they're coming to Siena tomorrow and I am super excited! I can't wait to show them around and for them to meet Paola! This meeting, however, will be quite interesting, considering my host mom doesn't speak English and my mom mom doesn't speak Italian. Hello, translating duties!

In other news, the weather has been wonderful here and we've been enjoying it to the fullest. We've also been enjoying the Italian culture by way of music. Italians love American music. This was obvious to me the first day when the first song I heard on the radio in Italy was Moves like Jagger. I now want to present to you the most popular song in Italy (ie, the one we've heard the most that isn't American):

Please note the essential dance moves. Also note that this song is not in Italian! It's in Portuguese. What makes it even stranger is that it's Brazilian Portuguese! There's a big difference.  Apparently Italians don't like their own music...

I hope you have enjoyed this small taste of Italian culture. Ciao for now!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Contrada Hunting

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Siena. Many of my friends had decided to travel this weekend, but the few of us that remained here on Friday decided that a 'Contrada Hunt' was in order. Remember how I told you about the 17 Contradas of Siena? Each one has it's own distinct fountain somewhere within the contrada, and we decided to find them all!

Here are the results of our adventure:

Mapping out our route

Contrada della Torre- my host mom's contrada
Technically, since I live outside the city walls, I'm not in a contrada, but people keep their affiliations for EVER so, since my host mom is a Tower (though the symbol is an elephant with a tower on it's back) I am too.

Validmontone- Ram. This fountain is not marked with
any contrada symbols

Charlotte and I at Nicchio- the Shell

Pit stop to look at baby bunnies

Leocorno- the Unicorn

Civetta- Owl. Literally an owl on a pole

Oca- Goose. No contrada markings, it's an old
Etruscan fountain they adopted as their own

At Selva (which means wood), whose symbol is
the rhino

Pit stop to look at stuff in the Duomo,
then to map out the rest of the trip

Aquila, the Eagle

The tortoise, or Tartuca

Onda- The Wave. Symbol- dolphin/fish... thing

Pantera, The Panther
The snail, or Chiocciola

We stopped often to admire the beautiful views, like this one!

Contrada della Giraffa- Giraffe 

Bruco- the caterpillar

La Lupa- the she wolf

Il drago- the Dragon. No dragon present,
but the boy is playing a game and the
one ball is painted the colors of the

Victory at Istrice- the Porcupine contrada and the last one to find!

After walking at least 5 miles, we were exhausted. But we felt SO accomplished because we had found all of them in one day. It was an excellent adventure. 

Well, I'm off to meet Cesca and Mom in Florence for the weekend! SO EXCITED!!! 

Ciao tutti!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Il Duomo

Since my mom thinks I don't post enough, I'll do a quick post now, updating you on my life since Venice. Well, since I'm sick I've been trying to sleep more (which is NOT happening, there's waaay to much to do here) and relax, but there's always something going on.

Monday is my catch up day, so I skyped and chatted with the family after working on some Italian homework. I really only do the homework for my Advanced Italian class, because the readings are 'suggested' in my Econ and Black Death classes and every time I open my Presence of the Past readings (ie- Art History) I cringe and shut it. I'm sorry. I'm all for artistic expression but I really don't care who every person is in every work of art in Siena. Especially since the readings and the class are in Italian. I know it will help out eventually, but I'm just not that into art.

Tuesdays are a full class day, though we did manage to squeeze in a movie. Star Wars. Old school. I don't know why, we just wanted to watch it. Fun times.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I have Presence of the Past. Tuesdays I set and try not to die of boredom as my adorably fashionable professor explains the significance of every person in every painting ever. Though today the class turned out to be quite useful, because we were discussing the paintings on the floor of the Duomo in Siena. Wednesday is class field trip day, so we headed over and got to see the works of art up close and personal. For free, which is pretty prime, considering our ticket gives us access to a bunch of other museums in Siena. I get tired of museums pretty quickly, but I might check one or two out soon.

Here are some pictures of our trip today:

Erm. Some painting in La Sala delle Lupe. All I remember is
that you can tell a city was at war during the time the painting
was done if the city is in the left hand of a person in the picture

One of the original She Wolves. Romulus and Remus
are also super important in Siena
La lupa, or 'she wolf,' with the children is the symbol of Rome, as the founders, Romulus and Remus, are the twins who were fed by this wolf and went on the create the greatest city ever. Or something like that. Siena adopted this symbol as well to state that they too wanted to be great like Rome. During the Renaissance, a new myth was created. It states that Remus had twins named Aschio and Senio, who were also coincidentally fed by a she-wolf and went on to create Siena. Don't listen to that one. It's a lie that they made up waaaaaaaay after the Roman she wolf was present in Siena.

This would have been part of the Duomo, if not
for the plague. Work was halted as people fell ill
and the city ran out of money to complete the whole church
And now we go to the inside of the Duomo

The she wolf with Sena written over it. You can tell it's a Roman
she wolf because of the tree behind her. See, I'm learning stuff.
The other animals represent other cities in Italy

The ceiling of one of the rooms in the Duomo

Pretty cool

I think this is one of the first representations of
the Madonna in the Duomo. Not 100% sure.
There's only so much art history I can absorb

The Last Supper in stained-glass window form

In other, less artistic but still exciting news, I met my language exchange partner today! Her name is Veronica and she's from Sicily, but studies here in Siena. We wandered around the city for a bit, alternating in English and Italian, and even got gelato from Kopa Kabana. Alright, so it was my second gelato of the day. That's la vita italiana for you. Anyway, it's great to have someone else to practice with, so now I have my host mom, a language partner, 2 classes conducted all in Italian and the IES staff to practice with. Sometimes I feel like my language skills haven't improved at all, and then some days, like today, I feel pretty accomplished. I have good days and bad days with Italian, but with all these chances to practice, my comprehension is bound to increase!

Ho un quiz domani e devo studiare!!! Ciao for now!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Masquerade! Mascheriamo la realtà!

My very own, Made-in-Venice, Carnevale mask!
Ciao tutti!!!The title of the blog comes from the ever appropriate Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, this time in Italian. The song was perpetually playing in my head this past weekend as the majority of the IES Siena group ventured north to the city of Venice for the phenomenon known as Carnevale. Now the title of this post translates to "Masquerade! We will mask reality!" which is definitely a theme in Venice at this time of year. There was a lot of unreal stuff walking around, let me tell you!

Venice is famous for this 17 day celebration preceding Lent. It has costume contest, masks, parades and a multitude of other activities that all end up involving confetti. Like seriously, that city will NEVER be clean. And while I would never voluntarily put myself in a situation where I'm surrounded by millions of people in small alleyways on a normal day, Carnevale was an exception.

If you had told me 5 years ago, heck, maybe even last year, that I would be exploring Venice during it's most famous weekend, I might have laughed. But that became a reality this weekend, and it's a weekend I'll never forget!

It really isn't fair how pretty Italy is.

Here are some pictures chronicling my awesome and mask filled trip to Venezia.

Venezia is a great place to eat seafood. What a wonderful
display. The lobsters were still moving...
My bed in the hotel room. 10000x better than Paris. Those
striped walls were cushiony 

I call this one "creeper pic" because I took a pic
of a little kid. But it's a Pikachu!!!
Kids dress up for Carnevale as well. I saw princesses and small animals running around the canals every time I turned a corner! Carnevale is kind of like Halloween and Mardi Gras combined, I guess. In a strange, Italian way. Soooo really, taking a pic of someone's kid isn't that creepy, right??

Moving on...

Since Venezia has no streets, all public officials and citizens use
boats to get around!

Tourists can take the water buses like Erica and I!
We may or may not have accidentally taken the bus without paying a few times. But hey, if your ticket offices are closed and you're stranded, what are you gonna do??

Anywhere you venture in Venice during Carnevale is likely to have at least one or two pairs of people in costumes, some fanciful, some noble, some both!

The decided to skip the creepy white masks and
go for the werewolf vibe

We didn't just look at costumes though.

In the Jewish Ghetto, this is how you can tell a
building is a synagogue- 5 windows like this
We had a tour of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, the oldest in Europe. It housed 200 people before the Nazis invaded and took them to concentration camps. Only 5 of them returned to Venice. Venice was a desirable ghetto because Jewish people weren't discriminated against as harshly as other places in Europe.

We also squeezed in a trip to Murano, the
island famous for glassblowing
But of course, we had to take part in the festivities!

Confetti. A necessity. 
And do some touristy things

We took a gondola ride. He didn't sing.
Oh well.

The gondola was named Veronica. Obviously after
one of my best friends from home
Now, Gondolas are overpriced but they're on tourist's must-do list. The gondola took us through quieter parts of the city and was very relaxing, although when people see a gondola coming they want to take pictures. I can guarantee we were in no less than 20 random people's pictures in our 35-ish minute ride around Venice.
The Wine Fountain. Of course we had to try it. Delicious!

Yummy! We tried the hot wine. 

Costumes for Carnevale can cost THOUSANDS
of dollars. It costs a lot to look that creepy
and beautiful at the same time
At night we got our Carnevale spirit on. Complete with
random people jumping into your pictures!
On Sunday, our last day in Venezia, we decided to head to Piazza San Marco for what were I guess the Opening Ceremonies of the day. This included the releasing of a dove and a zipline of what I was told was a former Olympic athlete, meant to symbolize strength and courage. Ok, so I didn't listen that closely. I was expecting an actual zipline. She ended up going about .2 miles an hour, but it was really beautiful, in retrospect. Though, at the time, we couldn't stop laughing...

People waiting for the opening ceremonies on Sunday

A symbol of strength, the bird-woman zipline
kicked off Sunday's celebration

#1 job I would hate in Venezia- confetti sweeper.

And so, despite the fact that we had to move at a snail's pace most of the time because of the crowds and the fact that I returned with a cold, I had a wonderful time in a beautiful city that I never imagined I would see. Carnevale in Venezia is one of those things you hear about in Italian class and never expect to see, but to see it live and to be there to enjoy it was wonderful, and it reminded me why I wanted to study abroad. To experience these amazing things first hand, instead of seeing them in pictures. Now that I am, I'm so happy with my decision to come and study here.

PS- Sorry this one is a bit all over the place. This blog editor is HATING me today.