Monday, April 23, 2012


With time winding down, I'm finishing up the last few trips, the last few papers and writing my last few blogs.
Place setting at a Chinese food place
Emily and I had lunch at a nice Chinese food place in Siena last week. We were missing home a bit (we both  have Chinese food places we go with our fathers) and it was awesome. It's a bit bizarre to see Chinese translated to Italian and then English, but it was fun. And delicious.

Our second cultural trip this weekend was to Umbria. We went to the cities of Perugia, Bevagna and Assisi. You may recognize a couple names, Perugia especially, because Cesca was there last year, and I'm sure she could tell you tons more about it than I can.

Our tour guide explaining things about
the Etruscans

A bishop was thrown out of a window of
this church

In the city center

The Cathedral and Fountain. Also, finally some sun!

Still as lovely as I remember!

Umbria is beautiful

Personal pizza at one of the best pizza places in town!

om nom nom chocolate
We didn't have a ton of time in Perugia because we set off to Bevagna. It's a tiny city, but what's interesting about it is they still keep up medieval crafts as they were done centuries ago. It had begun to pour at this point, but it was very cool to see the workshops!

how they used to make paints

the painter explaining how to make a bigger painting by
combining two pieces of wood and smoothing it out

showing us how they put the gold flakes on 

Lady weaving a basket

A silk maker/weaver

Candle making!

paper making
After a bit of panic because our bus was broken down, we made it back to Perugia for dinner. It was a 5 course meal at one of Cesca's favorite restaurants! (I found that out after- the school had chosen it).

The next day we headed off to Assisi- famous for being the birthplace of St. Francis and St. Claire

Where Saint Francis died

his church- there's a pilgrim finishing his journey on his knees
but I didn't see him till after I took the picture. I wasn't
trying to be rude

No pics inside but it is a beautiful church!

A street performing dressed as a Franciscan Friar

Lovely views

The parents of St. Francis

The door to his parents' house

Lots of nuns around!

Emily and I went to a tavern that serves
semi-authentic food- my sandwich had
pork cut straight off the pig

we wanted the giant nutella!

San Francesco

Santa Chiara

Heading out of Assisi

I forgot to write about my cooking class, so here's some quick pics of that. It was delicious (though it took about 3-4 hours to prepare- Tuscan cooking takes time!)

Homemade pici- a typical Tuscan pasta

the menu

Our teacher

I have one last major trip left- Sardegna and Sicily, and only 17 days left. I miss home and I want finals to be over, but I will definitely be sad to leave this wonderful place. But let's not dwell on it! I have 17 days left to enjoy it! Ciao for now!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Liz visits Italy!

Approximately 1 year ago, Liz and I were in Italy together, along with Andrea, Casey and Sarah. If you recall, we attempted to go to the Vatican museum and ended up walking around the ENTIRE COUNTRY. Liz and I, knowing we would be returning, made a vow to somehow see the Vatican Museum (most importantly the Sistine Chapel) during our second round of studying abroad. 

We barely accomplished this task, but we did it!!! After 2 plane delays and my hour-late bus, as well as the massive line around 2:30, I was certain we would never make it into the museum. I waited for quite a long time around the vatican, ready to hop in line when necessary. It was kind of fun. Sick of being accosted by tourist traps, a guy walked up to me and started asking about some skip the line deal or something to that effect. I stared at him for a while with a slightly confused look and he said "English?" to which is tilted my head and frowned and he said "no? ok..." and walked away. Sometimes it is fun to pretend you don't understand, just so they'll stop bugging you!

 And, despite the horrible weather (downpouring all day; my pants were soaked) Liz made it to the Vatican at about 3:40. The line had disappeared, and in we strolled. The ticket office closes at 4 (so we really cut it close) but the actual museum doesn't close until 6. There were tons of people inside, making our pace slow but steady as we headed to the Cappella Sistina.

You of course have to walk through like 3 courtyards
before the museum. But the statues are cool!


Thinking man

Huge staircase to the exit
I took lots more pictures but they're all of artsy stuff that you can see on my Facebook if you're interested. No photos are allowed of the chapel, but Liz and I are sneaky and daring: if you're one of our friends on FB I think you can see it here.

 After getting Nutella crepes ("That's probably like 500 calories of nutella..."-Liz) we hopped on the bus home and ate dinner with my host mom.

Another dismally rainy day in Siena didn't show off it's beauty, but we did see some cool stuff.

The panorama from the duomo

Finally made it up here

Liz was too scared to climb this high up
I showed her Piazza del Campo (much cooler in the sunshine) as well as some of the contrada fountains and the duomo. We also made a trip to a museum I'd wanted to visit for a while: the Torture Museum. Let me say, I have no idea how people came up with these devices, but my god are they brutal!

Liz reading a probably horrifying caption of some instrument
of pain and torture

We then hung out a lot with my Siena friends in their apartment. Liz's program is mostly homestays so she doesn't get to hang out at friends' apartments a lot, plus she and Emily got along great because they both LOVE Harry Potter. It was a great weekend, despite the rain. We fulfilled our goal and had a blast! 

I was even productive after she left! Despite my hatred for art history, I'm mostly done with the paper. Hurray for productivity! (sadly, the only reason I had so much time to be productive was because a soccer player from the Livorno team died and all the games were cancelled in order to mourn him- gotta love the massive respect Italians have for each other in that regard. America never would have cancelled all the games for a fallen player). On a lighter note, I'm going to a cooking class tonight! Gonna make some homemade pasta!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Weekend

It was a whirlwind of a weekend as Easter came and went. I spent a lot of time working on a few things for the future like my schedule and a few homework assignments for the first part of the weekend. Emily's family was here so we went out to lunch at a great Osteria and it was fantastic. Saturday, her family left and she was feeling a little blue so I went over and we watched The Hunger Games and the first episode of Game of Thrones. I also spent a lot of time with Paola's family and visiting friends this weekend since they've all been in and out of the house. 

Easter Sunday, after some trouble with transportation (who knew that Easter is an exception to the limited holiday bus schedule? They don't even run at all!) I arrived in Florence to hang out with my awesome English teacher from high school, Mr. Spero. It was really surreal to be meeting up in the middle of Italy for a few hours. Just one of those things that I never thought would happen. We spent some time wandering around the city and the market and catching up on life. It was great to see a few faces from home for Easter; it's tough being abroad because either semester you will miss some important family holiday that will make you feel homesick.

Chilling with Dante, no big deal.
After the group had to return to their hotel, I returned to Siena to have dinner with my host mom, starting with the blessed eggs. Here in Italy, it's a tradition to take boiled eggs to church on Easter Sunday and have them blessed. You then start off the meal with these blessed eggs as a sign of hope and prosperity. So different from the US- we just color them!  

Monday, due to limited bus schedules (again- the Monday after Easter is a holiday as well) Charlotte, Emily and I decided to pick a random stop on one of the train lines and get off. A friend told us that Certaldo was cool, so we decided to check it out, not knowing much about it.

Turns out there's a medieval city atop a hill just a few minutes away from the train station, so we headed up there. It was a lovely, beautiful day (unlike Easter, when it rained. It rains every year on Easter in Italy, apparently).

walking up to the old city

view from halfway up

cute path

Standing in front of Boccaccio's house

Governor's Palace

soaking up the sun

I want to live here

We decided to eat lunch at a little restaurant called "A Casa Tua" which means "At Your House." It was delicious and really inexpensive. I got gnocchi al ragu and they served it up in a frying pan! It was adorable!

homestyle cooking!

Emily got Pici, a typical Tuscan/Sienese type of
pasta- kind of a thick spaghetti
After a delicious lunch, we wandered around the beautiful city for a bit.

The Tuscan countryside

Charlotte was happy to chill in the grass- Siena is beautiful
but doesn't have much green in it

Emily and Charlotte doing yoga in an olive grove

Emily didn't want to say goodbye to the olive
trees yet

Cool building
After descending from the hilltop on a little tram, we decided to get some gelato before heading back to Siena

I got nutella and 'smurf'
It was an excellent and relaxing ending to a wonderful weekend. It was just what I needed to recharge for the surely hectic 4 weeks that await me. 2 10 page papers (1 in Italian), 3 oral presentations and 4 exams await me, and with class cancellations, end of the semester trips and visiting friends (Liz arrives Friday!) I don't know when I'll have time to do it all. Oh how I wish these grades didn't count for my GPA! Alas, time to work on my paper for Maddalena. Art History isn't my thing, but my topic about subjects in art that killed themselves is a pretty interesting, if not terribly morbid, topic. More to report after this weekend! I'm even going to a soccer game!!! Forza Siena!!!