Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunset over Florence

With the Sovocool brothers on Ponte Vecchio

Last day in Italian class with Marco

Firenze! Then back home!

Before leaving for Florence, Stella had a big lunch for Ana Rose and I. Natasha came too, and we had a wonderful final time together. We made Natasha promise us to send pictures of her baby, which is due this upcoming week! Stella walked Ana Rose and I to the bus station (since Ana Rose was leaving for Rome the same time I was leaving for Florence). It was so sad for us to say goodbye to Stella after we’d become so close to her these past seven weeks. But we promised to be in touch, and I boarded the train exchanging “mi manchi e ti amo!” (I miss and love you!) with Stella. When I arrived in Florence around 3:30pm, Tom and Jimi met me at the station and helped carry all of my luggage to my hotel. They conveniently booked a hostel on the same street, and as I soon as I got checked in we were off exploring Florence! We walked by the Duomo, making our way to Ponte Vecchio. Along the way, we passed through many beautiful piazzas with a lot of statues. When we got to Ponte Vecchio, we took fabulous pictures – Jimi is a great photographer, and he took some very creative shots, especially when we passed the bridge and river a second time when the sun was starting to set. Next we found Boboli gardens, but instead of paying to tour them, we walked around the area, exploring not-as-traversed parts of Florence, and saw Pitti Palace as well. We then found a cute outdoor café to enjoy some pizza and pasta. Afterwards, I introduced Tom and Jimi to gelato! And then we made our way to Piazza di Michelangelo, which is past Ponte Vecchio, a “mini-hike” up a hill for an incredible view of the city. We could see all of Florence, and the Duomo looked so massive from this view. The bridges disappeared into the sun setting behind them, and we spent over an hour taking pictures and enjoying the sunset. We sat in the piazza, watching the sun illuminate the clouds with pinks and oranges. The mountatins in the distance turned a blue, purple color as the sun descended. It was such as nice night out too, so we took our time walking back. We passed a guitarist, playing and singing really well. He had attracted a large crowd, and we listened to him play several songs in the piazza. We headed back a little after 10:30 since I needed to get to bed to wake up at 5:45am for my flight home. But it was a great last day in Italy!

I’m now safely back in the States, after a day of hassel-free traveling! It’s been a joy having all of you follow me on my Italian adventures! Thank you!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The group after our final dinner


Last night was our last dinner with CET, and we ate at a great restaurant called Pizzeria Nonno Mede. It overlooked the city of Siena, San Domenico church, and the Duomo – a beautiful view at night, especially with the lightening storm lighting up the sky. We had a huge meal complete with antipastas, bruschetta, pizza, tiramisu, and wine. I definitely ate more at this dinner than any other! Afterwards, we headed to Niccio for our last contrada party and got stuck in a huge rainstorm during it. But it was a great end to our time here, soaking up some of the Sienese Palio culture. I need to keep this brief since are having one final goodbye lunch with Stella now. Then at 2pm, I’ll be heading to Florence to spend my last day in Italy with the Sovocool brothers (friends of John’s from Wheaton)! It’s bound to be a great day! I’ll be flying home tomorrow at 10am (Italy time) and should be returning by 6pm FL time, so I appreciate everyone’s prayers for safe and efficient travels. And thank you for following my blog while I’ve been away – it’s been exciting for me to share my adventures with you back home and know of all the love and support headed my way from America. Ciao!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Non credo e’ la fine

As my title suggests, I can’t believe it’s the end to my time here in Siena. I haven’t written much this past week because I’ve been busy studying for my finals. It’s a bummer having to study during my last week in Italia, but I finished up strong – and now have officially completed my undergrad! To sum up my week, in Italian class on Tuesday, Marco had a fun day planned for us. We played charades with new vocabulary words, did crossword puzzles, and wrote out scenarios for famous people, which the others then had to guess who it was. Tuesday was also my last Sienese Art and Architecture class because Wednesday was our final. After the final, however, we had our free gelato day! Also on Wednesday, Elena wanted a picture of us with Marco. Before the picture could be taken, though, he insisted on putting his contacts in and pampering himself for ten minutes, and then he made us take the picture outside because the lighting was better! Wednesday night was our last dinner with Stella too, since tonight we have our final CET dinner at a pizzeria. She made us her fabulous ragu pasta with eggplant. This morning was my written final and my two orals for Italian, and Marco was proud of how much I’ve improved over my time here. When I returned, Stella had prepared a wonderful lunch for us to celebrate!

As my time in Italy comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on my time here and the Italian culture. I’ve grown to truly appreciate the lateness of Italian dinners. At first, waiting until 8 or 8:30pm to eat was quite a challenge, and my stomach would be grumbling by 6:30. But now I enjoy having the last activity of my day being in community over a wonderful Italian meal. I love Italy’s concept of “slow food,” savoring flavors and taking time to enjoy each other’s company during meals, rather than scarfing down food and getting on with your own agenda, as happens so frequently in America. Instead, their days end by spending time with those they’re closest to. And of course, the food itself is one of the most memorable experiences, since so much of Italian life revolves around their meals, whether it’s the fresh bread in the morning, a coffee break with your professors, gelato with friends, or a big pasta dinner with family. I think Siena is my favorite place that I’ve visited in Italy, probably partly because of the natural attachment from calling someplace your home, but also for its history, quaintness, and community. It’s such a warm, friendly place, where you frequently pass friends on the street, where the owners of your favorite café know your regular order and ask how you’re doing, where I’m not afraid to practice my broken Italian because the Sienese people are so encouraging… I love walking Siena’s cobblestone streets, winding down the small alleyways and suddenly entering the huge Piazza del Campo. The history of the Piazza and the biannual Palio are so interesting, and sitting in the Piazza taking in the scenery and all of its people makes me think back to how many centuries of people have done just this same thing. Similarly, I will miss running around the Fortezza, seeing incredible views of the Chianti countryside and its mountains or turning a corner and suddenly Siena’s Duomo stands tall. I can almost imagine life in Siena’s medieval times, looking out upon its Gothic architecture. Most of all, however, I will miss Stella and her presence as a grandmotherly figure during my time here. I’ll miss coming home from class and sitting with her in the kitchen, as she prepares tonight’s meal, and practicing my Italian with her or getting her excited about the connection between Latin and Italian. I’ll miss meeting her family when they come for lunch or dinner and having her “oh” and “awe” over our latest pictures from our travels. Yet, not only will I take home over 25 recipes that she’s taught us, but I know we’ll keep in touch, just as she has with all of her students that she’s hosted. I’m sure that when I return to Italy some day, I’ll find myself back at “home” with her…

Well, I’ve rambled for too long and need to get packing and finish up last minute to-dos before our dinner tonight. I’ll be sure to post pictures of our Italian class soon and write about our last night in Siena before I head to Florence tomorrow, for my final day in Italy. Ciao!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Io ho in mente te… (I have you in mind…)

Sunday’s highlight was meeting Stella’s brother Antonello and his wife Agnese. They came over at 2pm for lunch with us – a huge, long Italian-style lunch I might add, which was a lot of fun. They are both very sweet and fun to talk to. Aneze is quite a bit younger than Antonello because they met when she was a student studying abroad in Italy. She is from France and did a home-stay in Antonello’s house when she was studying in Italy. It was a complicated love story but now they are happily married with a nine year old son. Antonello is an accomplished pianist, so he gave us a taste of some of the songs he will be performing at a concert on Tuesday. He played for us on Stella’s pianoforte after lunch. For lunch, we had a mix of foods, including a vegetable salad, hard-boiled eggs, sausage, cheese with jam, bread, and sardines. Then for dessert, Antonello brought us a big container of five different kinds of gelato which we put Stella’s limoncello fruit salad over – va bene! Lunch lasted about two hours and was a very nice study break! Late that afternoon it finally rained briefly – ushering a bit of cooler weather! So my run around the Fortezza was lovely and the coolness lasted into Monday as well.

Monday’s Italian class was quite entertaining because we learned a popular Italian song from the 60s and 70s called “Io Ho In Mente Te,” by Equipe 84. Here’s a link to listen to it: We had to fill in blanks left in the lyrics, then of course Marco had us sing it together! Afterwards, I had lunch with Ana Rose – our last lunch together at Café Alfieri, our favorite lunch spot! We sat outside in their garden, enjoying the afternoon before heading back to study for exams and start packing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hannah and I at the Bruco contrada party

The view of Siena's Duomo and San Domenico church from the Fortezza

The jazz musicians warming up before the concert