Tuesday, April 16, 2013

First Weekend of April: 5-7th

The weekend of April 5th through 7th was a busy one for me. Friday the 5th I went to Siena with my classmates at SRISA, Saturday the 6th I was in Venice with my good friend, Sarah, and on Sunday the 7th I took part in the Firenze-Vivicitta 10k run.

Siena: We all met up at the school bright and early for our bus ride to Siena. The weather wasn't nice for our trip to Siena. It rained pretty much all day and if it wasn't raining it was windy and cold. When we got to Siena the first thing we did was met up with our tour guide we were running late so we in a hurry through the tours. The first place we toured was the Basilica of San Domenico. The tour of the basilica didn't last long because we were late for the next building we went to. I don't remember what it was called but there were a TON of old, old books stored away there. We also got a great view of the Piazza del Campo, where we headed next. After we walked through the Piazza we went to the Cathedral in Siena. It is one of my favorites because of all the detail and decoration. It's pretty crazy. My friend, Olivia, and I went and got HUGE slices of pizza for lunch after our tour. After Pizza, since it was so darn cold out we went to a cafe and got coffee and hot chocolates. We stayed there for about an hour since it was nice and warm, we had plenty to talk about as well. After that we walked around some more and made a few other stops in shops and other cafes. It was a pretty cold and windy day so when it was time to go back to Florence we were all ready.

Venice: I went to Venice through Florence for Fun with my friend, Sarah. Everyone who was going to Venice through Florence for Fun met at the Santa Maria Novella train station where we got on our private bus. We watched the Italian Job with Johnny Depp on the ride to Venice. We actually had to take a train to Venice which was pretty cool and sad to admit my first train ride since being here. Shame on me, I know. Anyways, we got into Venice and we took a boat ride down the grand canal into the center of Venice, the Piazza San Marco. The first thing we did when we got there was go straight to the glass blowing demonstration. Venice is well-known for it's venetian glass. It was so incredible how fast this guy who did the demo, made this one glass horse. It literally took him maybe two minutes. So much talent. I wish I could have afforded to buy something for my family. It was absolutely beautiful! We had our free time for lunch and exploring after the demo so Sarah and I, along with a girl we met named Alejandra went and got some sandwiches. When we all met back up at the Piazza dei Leoncini we toured more of Venice, crossing the many bridges there are in the city. After some time of walking we got on the gondola and went for a ride. It was so amazing. I can't even explain to you have wonderful it was. There's so much action in the Piazza San Marco but as soon as you get in the gondola it is absolutely peace and quiet. It was so relaxing and beautiful. I think I could live in Venice ( I say this for every new place I see). I suppose the flooding would get old fast though. We had some more free time to shop around and then it was back to Florence for us.

Firenze-Vivicitta 10k: Sunday I woke up bright and early to prepare myself for the Firenze-Vivicitta 10k. I originally wanted to do the half marathon but you need some medical certificate, which could be obtained by simply getting a physical but I didn't want to go through the trouble of having to get that done here in Italy. I wish I could have ran my first ever half here though, but oh well. I woke up early and headed to Santa Croce where the start of the race was and picked up my registration number and free t-shirt. I went back home to drop off the free shirt before the race because I was planning on wearing my UW-Superior XC uniform. I don't think anyone knows how much it killed me to not compete this spring, but on the other hand I have enjoyed every moment here. The 10k runners were not being timed or anything so we all started with the half marathon runners. There were so many runners! It took me at least a minute and a half to even get over the start line! Once we got going I felt great. We ran by a few big things in Florence like the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio, so we all got another tour of the city. My finish felt nice until I realized I cross the half marathon finish like instead of the 10k finish. HA! It really didn't matter though because I wasn't being timed or anything and the finishes were right beside each other. The only difference was that people were crowded around the half finish instead of the 10k. So everyone clearly saw the dumb American in bright yellow. Ohhhh boy, haha. The snacks after the race were so good. I want to bring that back to America! They had strawberry smoothies, fresh fruit, EVOO on bruscetta, and more!! So good! The rest of my Sunday consisted of thinking of my photography project and how I was going to start it. I also got a head start on my paper for Italian Renaissance.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 22-24: Naples, Pompeii, and Sorrento

Hey everybody,
I know it has been awhile since I blogged but I have been really busy with school. I only have a couple weeks left and I have presentations to work on for pretty much all of my classes. I am also working on a digital photography assignment. I have 6 self portraits and 6 portraits of other people due tomorrow. I have five out of the twelve done so today will be my major work day. I also got all my midterms back and my lowest grade was a B+ I think! I am really happy about that!
Now to share a bit on my latest trip!

We all met in front of the school at 7:30am on Friday to get on our private bus for Sorrento. It was a long bus ride but luckily we made plenty of stops. I think it took us around 8 hours to get there. We stayed at the Hotel del Corso in Sorrento during out trip. It was so beautiful in Sorrento. I would definitely go back. I didn't feel uncomfortable walking the streets at all. It was a nice, little town on the coast. After all of us had gotten our rooming situation figured out we headed to a Limoncello tasting. I personally wasn't a fan of the Limoncello but then again I am not a big alcohol drinker either. After the tasting we had free time to explore Sorrento. I walked around with a Emily, Rachel, and Olivia. We just checked out some shops and then went to check out the view of the Tyrrhenian sea. The temperature was perfect. After our long walk we decided to get something to eat. I forgot the name of the place we ate but I will ask my teacher today. We ordered a plate of octopus to share. It actually wasn't too bad. I was a little skeptical but it was pretty good. I also ordered asparagus soup which was really good. After dinner we had gelato at this pretty famous place. I got pear and ricotta with mixed berry gelato. Yum! I really haven't had too much gelato while here, I better start taking it all in before I am back home. After gelato we headed back to the hotel for our big day in Pompeii.

After breakfast we got back on the private bus to Pompeii. We had a nice long tour of Pompeii, our teacher Lorenzo was our tour guide for this. It was very interesting to see this ancient city and to get to walk the same streets people did so many years ago. The saddest part was seeing the bodies of the people who died in Pompeii. Their body forms were preserved from the ash of the volcano so you can see that they were trying to cover their mouth and nose or some bodies would be holding their child trying to protect them. I just can't imagine the terror in that moment. Mout Vesuvius was big and beautiful in the background of the town. My roommate and a friend went to the top of Mount Vesuvius after the tour in Pompeii also and really enjoyed it. After the tour we had some pizza then headed back to Sorrento where we could choose to go to Capri or Amalfi Coast. By the time we got back though we wouldn't have time to go to either and be back by 7pm for dinner. A group of people ended up going though and just skipped the dinner. I just stayed in Sorrento and walked the streets and coastline some more. It was a beautiful day. We had dinner at Da Emilia Ristorante. I split a plate of fresh seafood with Rachel and Olivia. I tried so many new things this weekend. There was oysters, clams, shrimp, anchovies, and octopus on the plate we ordered. It was all very delicious. I had so much fun with those girls. We had many laughs. After dinner we headed to the hotel for the night.

Our last day of the trip we packed up and headed to Naples. This is my blog so I am just going to be completely honest. Naples was a dump, in my opinion. It was nice getting to go into the Cathedrals on Palm Sunday and see what their services are like, that part I actually really enjoyed. It was great seeing all the people with their palm leaves heading to church to get them blessed. Naples was really dirty though. There was garbage everywhere. There was so commotion going on that it was hard to hear the tour guide also so it made learning the history very hard. We ate at the place where the Margherita pizza was invented, the food was so good. We were all ready to get out of Naples after that though. It was a nice long weekend of sunshine. We all had proof it was sunny out with our lobster red faces.
I had a blast this past weekend and would definitely go back to Sorrento. I felt very comfortable there and the views were beautiful! I'm on week twelve of school, I can hardly believe it. Only about a month and I am back in good ol' Wisconsin. I am going to miss this place so much but will be overjoyed to see my family and friends and of course Buster and Zoey.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring Break: Siena & Perugia (March 7-10)

March 7: As much as I disliked being in a car during spring break it definitely had its advantages. If we wouldn't have had the car for transportation we wouldn't have had the chance to see all the hills and country sides of Italy. That was the Italy I wanted to see and I am very lucky to have had that dream come true. We would stop and get out of the car every once and awhile and I would just look around at all the olive trees and vineyards, take a deep breath, then hop back in the car. It was truly breath taking.
Anywho, March 7th we packed up our stuff from Lucca and headed to Perugia. We decided to stop in Siena since it was on the way and that was a place where my aunt and uncle really wanted to go. It was a nice break in the drive to Perugia also. While we were in Siena we did a tour of the Siena Cathedral, the baptistery, the cathedral museum, and the crypt of the cathedral. There was definitely a lot to see. The chocolate festival happened to be in Siena as well so we enjoyed some chocolate. The rest of our time there we spent walking around and window shopping. We each got a giant slice of pizza for lunch before we headed off to Perugia.
When we finally got to Perugia it was already dark so we just unpacked and checked out the hotel. We were living like royalty that's for sure. It was like a palace. We stayed at the Brufani Hotel Palace. We did end up going for a little walk outside that night but it didn't last long because it was pretty cold and foggy. Oh, and I found my dream vespa!!
March 8: We started our day off with a wonderful breakfast at the hotel. We had met a couple at the bar the night before, Robert and Susan, who we also saw at breakfast. It was nice to be able to talk with some people about our travels. Meeting Robert and Susan has definitely been one of my top memories of my trip so far. They are seriously two of the nicest people you will meet. We brought a map of all the major things to see in Perugia and one of the first things we went to was the National Archaeological Museum. Right next to that was the San Dominico Church. It was probably my favorite church I had been in. It wasn't over decorated like the other massive cathedrals (of course it could have been because it was being restored). I like that the only real elaborate thing was the stain glass window at the front. I don't think you need paints or statues at every corner or a church to praise God. I also don't think that having the nicest cathedral or most beautiful cathedral makes you a better Christian. Honestly, some of the statues and paintings really freak me out and make me want to run out of the churches/cathedrals I have been in. So it was nice to feel comfortable in the San Dominico. The walls were white and there was plenty of natural light coming in along with plants. I liked it a lot. After that we headed to this art museum with more contemporary works. It was a very short exhibit but we found out about these museum cards you could buy that for students they were 6 euro and for adults 10 euro. The card allowed you to get into any of the 5 museums listed. It was a good deal since most museums are between 4-6 euro. Being a student definitely has its advantages :) We went to the Etruscan Well afterwards which only took 5 minutes to see but it was neat.
March 9: We first checked out the Exchange Guild (Collegio del Cambio) which was really neat. We were able to get into this place with our cards. This was where they exchanged gold back in the day. After that we went to the National Museum of Umbria. So much art, it reminded me of the Uffizi a lot but it was more spaced out so you weren't drowning in art. After that we decided to take a hike to the Sant'Angelo Church. The oldest church in Perugia. It was a circle shaped church which made it different compared to all the other churches I have seen. We used our last museum admission in the tower next to the church. At the top of the tower we got a spectacular view of Perugia. We did get lost trying to find the Sant'Angelo church so it was a long day of walking and rerouting. We spent our night window shopping and exploring the streets of Perugia.
March 10: Sunday was our last day together. We enjoyed one last amazing breakfast at the palace (Brufani Hotel). I even got to say good-bye to Robert and Susan. They gave me their contact information and said if I am ever in Cali to give them a call. I hope I find myself that way some day because I really enjoyed meeting them. The car ride didn't seem very long until we got into Florence. That's when the driving was unenjoyable. I just don't like being in a car in a city whether it is an American city or an Italian city, I just feels claustrophobic. We got the car back to the garage though and spent the last hours of light walking around together. We had lunch at the Clubhouse, got some gelato, and enjoyed the evening along the Arno. We watched as the storm rolled in and saw some crazy lightning. We said our good-byes and I headed back to my apartment before the rain came.
 I am so blessed to have had such a wonderful spring break and to have had the chance to share it with my aunt and uncle. I got to see the views of Italy I have been dreaming of. I am so in love with the Tuscan region, Tuscany will have a special spot in my heart forever. The people are so genuine and the land is so real and beautiful. The small towns reminded me of home so it was a comforting feel like I was in a familiar place. I will never forget this amazing adventure. 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spring Break: Lucca (March 3-7)

Sunday, March 3rd:
As you read in my brief sentence of the last blog entry the ride to Lucca was complicated. Obviously none of us have ever driven in Italy so the adjustment to their roads was a hard one. The GPS didn't always give us the most accurate information on where to go but we got to Lucca so there really isn't anything to complain about. We drove through a lot of little towns and saw a lot of country on our ride to Lucca. I was just happy to be getting out of the city for a week. After we got to our hotel we decided to find this bridge that was suggested to my aunt and uncle to visit. Ponte del Diavolo - Borgo a MozzanoThe bridge was in Borgo a Mozzano and was called "Devil´s Bridge" or "Magdalene´s Bridge". It was a really pretty drive around the hills and there was a spectacular view of the mountains. We then spent a couple hours in the walls of Lucca and just walked around and stopped and had pizza. It was really good pizza at a little bar. It got dark pretty fast so there wasn't much time to do anything that night so we headed back to the hotel.
Monday, March 4th:
 We spent our morning in the walls of Lucca. We walked around and stopped into whatever churchs or musuems we walked by. Auntie Margaret and I climbed the Guinigi Tower (the tower with the trees on top) and enjoyed the view of Lucca. We enjoyed some lunch inside the amphitheatre at a little restaurent with tables set up outside. It was beautiful weather. I just enjoyed a cup of coffee and soaked in some sun. After lunch we walked the wall of Lucca then headed to the car for our journey to Viareggio. On our way to Viareggio we decided to look up the Micheletti Volkwagon dealership and see if we were related. We finally found the place and met a woman named Michela Micheletti. She spoke little English but called her mother who spoke good English. Her mother and my aunt talked for a couple minutes. I don't think there was any relation between us but it was fun for all of us. We said goodbye and as we were about to pull out of the parking lot they ran out and told us to come back in. Michela gave us a bunch of free stuff that said Micheletti Volkswagon on it. She was extremely nice and we had a lot of fun trying to understand each others language. Our drive to Viareggio was wonderful. It was frustrating with getting a little lost but we were driving around in the hills again which made the trip so worth it. When we finally got there I was so excited. My first time ever at the Sea!! I believe it was the Ligurian Sea. I put my feet in the water and collected some sea shells. It was great! We then walked on the big dock and enjoyed the sun for a few minutes then headed back to the hotel and called it a night.
Tuesday, March 5:
 Tuesday was our long drive to the Micheletti Winery. It was a good day for a drive though since it had decided to rain. We drove down the coast most of the way. It was south of Livorno where the windery was at. When we finally got to the winery we had to wait another hour for the tour so we went out to eat. I can't remember the name of the restaurant but its specialty was fish since we were by the sea. The Micheletti brothers spoke little English so it was a good test for myself to learn more Italian. I was able to understand quite a bit of what they were saying so it was fun to translate for my aunt and uncle the bits and pieces I did know. I bought two bottles of wine and they gave me one as a gift from them. We had a little wine tasting while we were there and the brothers showed us around the winery. They were very nice and I got my picture with them. My first ever alcohol purchase was from this winery! A good memory :)

Wednesday, March 6:

Last full day in Lucca. We were planning on going to Pisa this day but decided to spend the day in Santa Maria Del Giudice, where my great great great grandfather was from. We went to the church where he was a priest at one point. It is the only church there so it wasn't hard to find. Barely anyone spoke English there (which wasn't a surpise to me), so it was hard to find the information we were looking for. It was a really rainy day so we had decided to go find a coffee shop while we waited for someone to get to the church for us to talk to. The coffee shop we stopped in was called Bei & Ninnini's. We had asked the bartender if she knew anyone from the geneology chart that we had with us. Before we knew it we had everyone and their uncle looking for information on Micheletti's. It was funny watching everyone in the bar pass around this peice of paper. We spent a good hour or two there and watched the locals play cards. It kind of reminded me of Bergland, MI or Mason, WI; my two favorite small towns. The bartender found some information out about a Micheletti just out of Lucca so we went to find her, and we did. She said we weren't related though but it was fun to meet another Micheletti. It was a rainy day so we were pretty limited to what we could do. Luckily by around 4pm someone was at the church and had turned on some lights so we could take pictures. The excitement in my Aunt Margaret's face was priceless. I could tell she had waited for that moment for a long time. She also got some contact information that will hopefully will lead to more information on family.

Tursday, March 7: Off to Perugia!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring Break: Florence (Feb. 28- Mar.3)

Hello everybody!

My spring break was so amazing. I decided I am going to split this blog entry up into the different towns we stayed in. I will start with Firenze, then Lucca, and then Perugia. I had a chance to see a lot and do a lot with my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Mark. I will do my best to get every detail in each entry and include pictures.

Thursday, February 28:
Thursday was my last day of midterms. I had alread completed my Photography, Contemporary Art, and Italian midterms the day before and only had my Italian Reniassance test left. After I had gotten that over with I met my aunt and uncle at the Hotel degli Orafi. The hotel was like a palace so it was fun to get to relax and live like royalty. We headed to the Pitti Palace once I was done with my midterms. The Boboli Gardens were alread closed so we were only able to get into the palace but that took up most of the night anyways. There was plenty of art to look at. The Pitti Palace is one of my favorite places to visit so I didn't mind being there for my second time. We then went to Bucco Mario's for dinner. The food was amazing. I would have never found this place if the guy at the front desk at the hotel wouldn't have suggested it. The waitors were wonderful and the food was excellent. They even gave us a box of chocolate chip biscotti and an apron. Pretty cool!

Friday, March 1:
We got up early and had break fast at the hotel. Good Lord, the food! There was cheese, salmon, proscuitto, fruit, bread, EVERYTHING! The best breakfast spread I have ever seen! I definitely didn't have a problem with eating cheese for breakfast, afterall I am a cheese head. We decided to spend our time around the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore. We went inside the cathedral first and then I told me aunt and uncle we should do the tour of the Duomo. So we did that first, good thing too because if we would have waited any longer we would have been stuck waiting in line to climb the dome. It was perfect timing. It was a lot of stairs but so worth the view at the top. It is just so hard to grasp the idea that I had climbed a dome that was made so many years ago. Everything is so old here and historical. We then decided to climb the bell tower. Perfect timing again there! We were in the tower as the bells were going off. Any of you who are Facebook friends with me probably saw my cheesy video of my excitement about the bells. It really was neat and another great view. After that we went back into the Cathedral to finish looking around. It was to the Medici- Riccardi palace next. I am very lucky to have my museum card to get into so many places for free. It can get pricey going into all the museums. We ate at a restaurant called Za-Za's. It was delicious. It was there where I tried my very first glass of Micheletti Wine. It was really good along with the food. Our last adventure of the day was to the Acedemia to see Michelangelo's David. The statue never fails to amaze me. It is so massive I just can't believe someone made that! And the detail is just so amazing.
Saturday, March 2nd:
Our first stop was the Uffizi. This was my forth time being to the Uffizi and I always notice something that I haven't observed from the previous visit. It is like art overload when you go there. At least for myself it is. I do love all the art, it's just a lot to take in at once. My aunt and uncle really enjoyed it though which made me happy. After the Uffizi we headed back to the Medici Palace where the Dali exhibit was going on. It has been there since February I think. It was really cool. Surrealist art. I loved the statues. There was one of this large snail with wings that I just thought was really neat. We ate at a couple more places today as well. The place we ate at for lunch was great. It was definitely a hole in the wall. It was called La Mescita Fiaschetteria, I believe. It was very quiet and relaxed. I got some kind of pasta with 4 cheeses. I loved the blue cheese. The place we ate at for dinner was by our hotel. It was called Osteria dei Baroncelli. All the food has been wonderful. I got some kind of crepe thing with cheese in it. We enjoyed some gelato afterwards and headed up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for one last sight of Florence before leaving for Lucca the next day.

Sunday, March 3rd:
Sunday we packed up from Florence and headed to Lucca. The ride there was frustrating because the streets here are crazy and the signs aren't always easy to understand. The country was beautiful though! Read more in my next entry!