Friday, February 27, 2009

Falling for Florence

Today was the most beautiful day I’ve seen in Florence. I cannot believe I’ve already been living here for a month. I have become so close with my roommates, my teachers and even David, the guy who makes me a dopio cappuccino every morning before class. Even though I had two tests this week, I was surprisingly not stressed at all. Somehow walking streets studded with beautiful statues and countless churches makes studying for my History of the European Union class seem like such a small task.

On Wednesday I made a great discovery, a vegetarian restaurant, appropriately called: il vegetariano. It was a wonderful restaurant packed with Italians. My two friends and I were the only Americans (and English-speakers) there, which made figuring out the ordering and seating system a little difficult. The restaurant is cafeteria style but you have to pay for what you want before you can pick out your food, which means we had to trust the crowded room as a sign that everything at il vegetariano was tasty.

We were definitely not let down. I had a salad from the salad bar and shared a polenta con I’ funghi with my friends. After we finished we decided to share a vegan chocolate cake. It was delicious! My friend Emily has a dairy allergy so she was extremely excited to have the normally dairy-filled dessert!

Today we all slept in a little bit and then decided to explore the “Oltrano” or the other side of the river. We strolled across the Ponte Vecchio and wandered up into the hills a little until we found a restaurant I had heard of called La Beppa Fioraia. I feel like I keep saying this, but this truly was one of the greatest meals ever! We spent almost two hours at this beautiful, local restaurant set on a tree-lined street surrounded by rolling hills. I felt I was miles from bustling Florence and it was nice to get a little break.

After lunch we got gelato and sat on the stone wall that lines the River Arno and soaked up some sun. I am officially in love … with Florence. Walking around today I tried not to take the sights that I see every day for granted. Tomorrow I am going to Milan just for the day. Miss everyone back home!


Sunday, February 22, 2009

A video from Siena, Italy

Enjoy this short video from Siena, a beautiful town located in Tuscany and just an hour from Florence by train.


Siesta in Siena

I have learned planning trips can be quite strenuous. So, this weekend two of my friends and I decided to not plan anything but ended up having a wonderfully relaxing day in a city not far from Florence. We woke up and packed an overnight backpack, just in case, and headed to the Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence. We arrived around 9AM and by 9:10AM we were on our way to Siena. We did not know where we would be going when we got to the train station that morning, but once we got onto the train we were anxious and excited to arrive in a completely new city, just an hour away.

It has been pretty cold in Florence and in Europe in general. So when we arrived in Siena we were happily surprised to feel the warmth of the sun spreading over our bodies, at last some Vitamin D! I even removed my big jacket while we were walking for the first time since I’ve been here!

None of us knew anything about Siena so we bought a guidebook at the train station and started walking. We ended up in the Piazza del Campo, which is famous for its curved shape and its vicinity to the Palazzo Publico and Torre del Mangia.

For a while we just stood there, staring at the Palazzo Publico, the beautiful building that houses the Torre del Mangia, a 400-step tower that has a view of the entire city and Tuscan countryside. We climbed our way to the top and although my thighs were burning, it proved to be one of the most beautiful views I have seen in my life.

From the Piazza del Campo we headed for the Duomo, a beautiful black and white Gothic home to statues created by Michelangelo. The church is located directly across from an art exhibit we learned about from some American students studying abroad in Siena for the semester. The exhibit located in the Santa Maria della Scala Museum Complex focused on the genius in art found only through complete insanity.

The exhibit is called: Genius and Madness create the real artwork. After going through the first floor of the exhibit, which featured torture equipment and brain-normalizing technology, we were a little afraid to enter the floors above. Although some of the art was truly beautiful, the overall mood of the museum was depressing and very dark. We could not even make it through the entire exhibit because it was truly depressing.

After our somewhat traumatic but still educational and eye-opening experience at the Santa Maria della Scala museum, we felt it more than necessary to get some gelato. We sat in the warm sun and enjoyed our cones of the creamy Italian dessert.

After being in Siena for less than 24-hours, I must say that it is a beautiful city, but I could not be happier with my decision to study in Florence. Though it’s just an hour away, it is such an amazing city and so different from Siena. I love being able to call Florence’s narrow, cobble-stoned streets my home, at least for the next three months.


P.S. ... Siena video coming soon!