Archive for September, 2008

Molti Photographi

This post is going to be short and sweet.  I just posted more photos–check it out!  You can see me in action…painting, cooking, photographing (obviously…ha), and more!  Just click on the same link (Firenze Pictures).  Enjoy )


Ci vediamo


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Che Ganza!

Tomorrow marks my first month in Italy and I honestly cannot believe it.  Time is flying by way too fast.  My first week in Firenze was mostly spent getting oriented with the city, eating, getting to know Franca, eating, settling into my class schedule/daily routine, and…did I mention eating?  I haven’t been to any museums yet, but am planning on being quite the tourist when my mom comes to visit (in four days!!!).  We’ve got quite a jam-packed two weeks in store for us, from museum visits, a day trip to Siena, and a four-day weekend in Greece to visit with some of our relatives–I couldn’t be more excited!

It has FINALLY cooled off here and today it was actually chilly.  It’s starting to feel like my type of weather again–cool, overcast, and breezy (my fav).  Drinking my morning cappuccino is a lot more enjoyable now than when I was wiping sweat off of my brow from the walk over to the un-air-conditioned caffé.  And no, I’m not complaining.  

Things with Franca have gotten much more comfortable and we have actually had a few full-fledged conversations (with my Italian-English dictionary close at hand, of course).  She is incredibly sweet and patient with me, which is really all I can ask for, and greets me with a “Ciao Bella” every morning.  It’s difficult to find time when we are both home and able to sit and talk to one another–with her work schedule and my school/social schedule, there are often entire days that go by where we don’t see each other at all.  From our last real conversation, I learned quite a few new things about her; she works at her friend’s jewelry boutique that is literally around the corner from our house, she thinks that the quality of food in Firenze has gone down as restaurants have tried more and more to appeal to the tourist’s idea of “Italian cuisine” (I haven’t noticed a problem), and she loves collecting random vintage items from flea markets.  It just took me about thirty seconds to type that all out, yet it took me about 40 minutes to “decode” it all from Italian to English when Franca and I were talking.  I had the most difficulty understanding that she works in a jewelry shop, makes jewelry, but doesn’t sell her jewelry in the jewelry shop.  When I finally said in half English, half Italian, “Ohhh, so tu fai jewelry per tuo pleasure…?”, her enthusiastic “Brava!” told me I had hit the nail on the head.  Her jewelry-making is just a hobby–not her livelihood.  Phew!  That was rough…

Last week, my Italian teacher from Lido di Camaiore e-mailed me (all in Italian) to tell me she was taking the train from Lucca (where she is from) to Firenze on Saturday and asked if I would like to meet up.  After spending way too long laboring over a response to her e-mail (one which amounted to three sentences), we set a time and place to meet.  After meeting on the steps of the Duomo on Saturday afternoon, Maria (my teacher), her friend Claudia, another girl from my class in Lido, and myself all went to a nearby bar/caffé near Santa Croce and chatted over a glass of wine for the next couple of hours.  I tried to speak as much Italian with her as possible, but she speaks pretty good English so naturally, we would always revert back to that.  She did however, teach us a few bad words in Italian and ways to defend ourselves from sleazy “Guido-types”.  In fact, this post is named after one of the phrases she taught us…no, it’s not a bad word.  “Che ganza” is the Italian version of “how cool!”  After we said our “arrivederci’s”, my friends and I decided that next time, we are going to Lucca to visit Maria.  Pretty ganza, eh?

Before I wrap it up, a word on food.  I have been eating a lot of it.  My program gives us a certain number of restaurant vouchers per month that can be used at 32 different restaurants around Florence!  Good restaurants, too!  Some are smaller caffés that serve espressos and ready-made panini, while others are sit-down places that serve up to two courses for just one voucher!  Naturally, I’ve been taking advantage of this opportunity to try as many new places as I can.  One of my favorites so far was the place I ate dinner last night.  A small, hole-in-the-wall type of place that seriously had the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.  It also happens to be right down the street from my school.  It’s called Gustopizza and it is owned by two brothers who also own a small panini shop (Gustopanini).  Anyway, last night I ordered the “Gusto Pizza” (creative name, eh?) and it had fresh arugula piled high on top of the pizza, the ripest, sweetest cherry tomatoes I have ever eaten in my life, freshly grated parmesan cheese (CHUNKS of it), and fresh buffalo mozzarella.  Needless to say, I had no problem polishing the entire pizza off.  

Alright, I’m off to hit the books for a bit and then to the cooking class I signed up for through my school!  We are learning how to make vegetable-pesto lasagna, vegetable souffle, and tiramisu!  I’ll let you all know how it goes…

P.S.–I posted a few pictures from Florence (link is on the right under “Blogroll”).  More to come soon!

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Firenze, Ti Amo!

Ciao! I arrived in Firenze two days ago and I still feel like I am living in some sort of dream world. I honestly have never seen a more beautiful city (sorry, Paris). It seems like everywhere you turn there is a gorgeous church, sculpture, building, or museum–all of which are laden with romantic histories about who built them and why they were built. I haven’t even been to all of the famous sights here and I am already salivating. But let’s rewind a bit…

Saturday, at around 3:00pm, I arrived at the front door of Franca Spinelli’s apartment building. After ringing the bell and stepping inside the front doors, the most petite and fragile little Italian woman I have ever seen stood before me at the top of the stairs. She rushed down to help me with my bags (all 75 pounds of them) and kissed me on both cheeks. I was so overwhelmed with the heat, the weight of my bags, my anxiety, and her kindness that all I was able to squeak out was a, “Ciao Franca!” I, of course, had planned out (using my handy-dandy Italian dictionary) exactly what I wanted to say when I first walked in but my nerves got the best of me and it all went out the window.

After showing me around her adorable little apartment, she took me to my room and let me unpack my things and get settled. After I had gotten situated, I found myself aimlessly wandering around my room, desperately trying to find something to do to avoid going out in the living room and struggling through a “conversation” with Franca. As soon as I was able to recognize this thought pattern, I forced myself to go out and talk to her–I didn’t choose to live with an Italian woman just to hide out in my room all day! Long story short, we ended up talking for a good 20 minutes and between my poor Italian and her poor English, we did pretty well! She busted out some photos of her family and even told me she’d like to take me to her brother’s grape vineyard where he makes Chianti…at least, I’m pretty sure that’s what she was saying. In any case, it was a good first conversation and while I haven’t had the opportunity to converse with her much lately because of our opposing schedules, I definitely intend on making a valiant effort, however terrible I may sound. Things are still a little awkward, but I’m hoping they will improve with time.

In other news, I had my first class yesterday morning…painting! The majority of the class was spent walking into town and purchasing supplies (all 100 Euros of them…ugh!) but we did get to start painting in the last hour of class! We are painting the facade of Santo Spirito, which happens to be around the corner from my house. Let me tell you, for those of us who are perfectionists (I won’t mention any names), painting is a GREAT exercise simply because, it will NEVER BE PERFECT. Yes, I know, those words make me cringe, too. Although my first sketching of the church (done with acrylic paint) is not exactly Monet-material, it’s mine. Our class is three hours long, so my Professor is hoping we will be done with it by next Monday. I’ll definitely take a picture of the finished product so you all can see.

Mondays are my short days, so after painting ends at 12:15, I am free for the rest of the day. Yesterday, I grabbed a quick salami and mozzarella panini from a nearby gastronomia (deli) and just wandered by myself around the city for a good three hours, stopping of course at a caffè to refuel with some espresso. The caffè I stopped at was no ordinary caffè, it was Caffè La Terraza-the restaurant on the very top floor of La Rinascente (the Florentine version of Macy’s). The view was incredible and definitely made up for the overpriced espresso. After taking my time and drinking up my surroundings, I was heading home when I decided to stop by the knit shop I had seen a couple days ago for purely nostalgic reasons (not because I can afford Italian yarn). I had wanted to go in right when I saw it, but I wasn’t sure how much English they spoke and I chickened out. I am SO glad I finally went in yesterday because I am now best friends with the woman who works there! The owner of the shop, Beatrice, speaks very little English, but she was so sweet and actually helped me with my Italian! I managed to communicate to her that I wanted to bring my mom back because she knits and she would be here in 9 days. I kept apologizing for my limited Italian skills and she kept reassuring me and saying that I was helping her with her English. She told me it was embarrassing that after all the years of dealing with English-speaking tourists, her English was still not good. I told her that this seemed crazy to me considering that she is living in Italy and should not be expected to speak any other language but her own! Still, she said, she wished she knew more. After exchanging names and “piacere’s”, we said we’d see each other soon. I intend on keeping that promise.

That’s it for now. I’ve gotta go grab some lunch before my class in an hour. Sorry this post was so long! Check back in the next couple of days for pictures of Firenze! Ci vediamo!

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