Friday, September 25, 2009

Run Run Run

First and foremost, I would like to give a shout out to Matt - this ones for you.

SO, I am fully aware that I am providing you all with a post a week approximately and I am making sure that doesn't happen again - I have way too much to write about to only conserve myself to once a week.

As I stated in my last post, I would now like to talk about my school, Accademia Italiana.
As the sign reads, Accademia Italiana is a school for Art, Fashion and Design as well as for the Italian language and culture. I did not realize the fact that I would be attending a fashion school until a month or two before leaving. Just my luck. I would characterize my style as safe. I take no chances with my outfits and prefer to stay within the lines. Before I left for Italy, my greatest friend Anne flew from San Francisco and helped me pick out/buy my Italian wardrobe. The first few days I was here, I dressed in my comfort zone - there was no way I was going to be wearing frilly dresses with belts and boots/heels to class. The more I become established here and formulate my own sense of self, I have proudly begun branching out. For instance, last night I went out in my killer heels (previously mentioned in my first post), a high-waisted skirt with a kick ass belt and a baby blue shirt...with feather earrings!!! who have I become!? I don't even know...but I love it. entirely. I am owning my style and I attribute THAT to Accademia Italiana.

My Italian class (which I have four days a week for two hours) consists of half Americans and half Swedes. And those Swedes know how to rock their look - I'm not sure if it helps that they live in Europe already but they are uber confident and walk the walk (or is it walk the talk or talk the talk?!) when it comes to personal style. Everyone here in Florence wears whatever they want - seriously, whatever they want. So, anything you wear, you most likely will fit in - except if you are wearing gym shoes, cargo shorts, a polo or any t-shirt that has 'Firenze' on it, then you will be dubbed a 'tourist'. Oh, and if you are wearing a circle sticker on your chest, following a woman with her umbrella in the air, or are eating gelato at 8:30 in the morning.

Ok, back to school and classes. The school is located in Piazza Pitti, literally right across the street from this:THAT is the Palazzo Pitti, residence of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany - the Medici. My school is in a beautiful building and the top floor, the loggia, has a great view of the rooftops of the city. In order to get here, I have to walk across the Ponte Vecchio - the sole remaining original bridge after WWII. Swamped with tourists, the Ponte Vecchio is also known for the gold jewelers lining the sides. Here is another picture of my walk to school, across the Ponte Vecchio:The school also has a studio on the Lungarno (the road that follows the river Arno) which has a spectacular view. Seriously, THE best view of Florence. Here are some of my favorite pictures:
Looking out across the Arno to San Miniato al Monte and Piazzale Michelangelo.
Looking to the right down the Arno. The next bridge that you can hardly see is the Ponte Vecchio.
Palazzo Vecchio, Il Duomo e il centro.
Santa Croce. (my neighborhood)

Obviously, the city is beautiful.

Moving on... I am taking 5 classes. Italian class, as I already mentioned, is held every day (we have no classes on Fridays - to encourage traveling and such). I am in the beginners stage and so we are moving at a snails pace - which is a good thing for me - just so I can get the language down. I have been able to converse with a couple of Italians. Exhibit A: last night we went out to Moyo (a hip nice bar close to our house) and I was able to have elementary dialogue with handsome Niccolo. I have found that if you attempt to speak in Italian, Italians are extremely willing to help you out and teach you a few more phrases and words. Yesterday, as a class, we went to the main market next to San Lorenzo. We had to go around the stalls of fruits and vegetables and gather as many names as we could. The class is really great - it's a living learning experience. On Mondays, I have Italian Cinema. The professor is so passionate about his films that you cannot help but to feel for his words and the scenes and clips we see. Last Monday we saw a few clips from Rome, Open City... I had tears in my eyes. Italian art, especially cinema, comes from the heart. It is real. It is raw. It is beautiful. On Tuesdays, I have History of Italian Medieval and Renaissance Art with Rocky - what a hunk! He is handsome for sure but what really gets me is his teaching style and the amount of knowledge he has. Our first day he walked us to the Piazza della Republica and the Piazza della Signoria and talked about the history of Florence and the architecture and the roads and the government. I fell in love. Mom and Dad, I cannot wait to give you a walking tour of the city - there is so much here! I am so looking forward to the class as most times we will be learning inside museums, while looking at the actual piece of work. You can not get this experience in the States. This may be my most highly anticipated class - may be neck and neck with History of Tuscany, which I have on Thursdays. The other class on Tuesdays is Italian Style which encompasses all things Italian: government, current events, geography, music, media, family, food, sports, the Church, art, fashion. We are able to have class discussion about anything and everything. The teaching style here is so much more personal and encourages self-thought and participation. None of my classes at Ohio State have affected me as much as the few classes I have taken here. Last but not least, I am taking History of Tuscany with Dr. Niccolo Capponi. Google him. Just do it. His Palazzo Capponi was a huge scene in Hannibal, as he was the curator of the Capponi Library...the same library where I will be doing my research this quarter. Dr. Capponi has already taught me so much. He is big on teaching AND training us as historians this quarter. There are six students in the class. Last week, he took us to a nice little restaurant and we drank a nice French red while talking about our papers and asking Capponi questions. Is this for real? This is a class? I am in love with everything about it. His personal library has manuscripts going as far back as the thirteenth century with the oldest being an Illuminated cover page. When he took us to his Palazzo, I was speechless. My palms got sweaty because I was so overwhelmed with the magnitude and importance of what I was experiencing. I will never forget this.

Walking to school, I find that I often rush to get there, partly because I am running late and partly because I need to get past the tourist hoards as fast as I can. I regret this. I want to leave the house to give me plenty of time to get lost on my way to school. I still need to work on slowing down and taking it all in. I want to take back roads to school. I want to think about the day before I experience it. Florence is a city of such inspiration and life. I cannot let that pass me by.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Let Go...

Ahhh, the church bells of Santa Maria del Fiore. The bustling of the people and the rrring of the bikers weaving in and out of the crowd. A man whistles a sad, pretty tune outside my window.

...I just killed a mosquito. It has become a constant game between those buggers and myself. When I first arrived, I must say, I was defeated miserably...bites all over my body, including my face. I, however, wised up; bought a mosquito repellent that plugs into my wall, wore pants and long sleeves to bed, and shut the window. Now, it is just a matter of time before they become extinct in my room. It makes me really happy to think about that. The difference between then and now. I have gradually become accustomed to life here - I have crossed the line of tourist to local (at least, I would like to think so). Now, just to work on that Italian...

It has been 16 days since I arrived. 16 days that went by too fast and were filled with amazing moments.

I arrived in Zurich, Switzerland September 4 (Thursday) in the morning and caught a flight to Florence. There was a strong gust of unseasonable wind when we spotted our final destination that led us to be rerouted to Pisa. I was able to see the cathedral, the 'leaning tower' and the coastline from my plane window. It was happening! I was flying into Italy. A little delusional from lack of sleep and very hungry, I grabbed my bags and boarded a bus to Florence. It is about an hour drive between Pisa and Florence. Mom and dad, thank God I packed somewhat light - Sadie, that backpack has been a lifesaver...I had to end up helping one of my fellow Arcadians with her mega suitcases. Arriving in the Florence airport parking lot, we were greeted by Barbara (director of Accademia Italiana), and Iris (our main contact). We piled into vans and were delivered to our apartments. My expectations were far exceeded!! Our apartments are beautiful and large and airy with an awesome location...just a couple of blocks from il Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, and Santa Croce. Every day, the city seems smaller and smaller as I have gained a better perspective on where everything is - Florence is a walker's delight...I can walk anywhere.

I live with three other girls. Isabella is from Venezuela and she has brought life to the group - she is so resilient, beautiful and one of the most sincere people I know. Amanda is from Minneapolis and has become my close friend. Her style is all confidence and thankfully, she has assisted me with mine. She is deep and fearless. My roommate, Allison is from Austin, TX. I think I will be saying "ya'll" for the rest of my life now. She has such direction and wants to try everything and anything. She is an amazing cook and has me try all of her concoctions, lucky me! I have so much to learn from these girls and am so fortunate that I live with them. Our dynamic is really great. There are two other apartments below us, one with four girls and the other with eight. Another apartment of four girls is located in another building, as well as the boy's apartment. There are only 5 guys and 20 girls - it's a great group, I have grown close to many of them. My roommates! Isabella, Amanda, me and Allison. This was taken the day we walked on the roof of Santa Maria del Fiore (il Duomo).

The night we all arrived, we went to dinner, sponsored by Arcadia, where we met Tina Rocchio, the Resident Director of all the Italy programs who resides in Rome. Tina studied abroad when she was in college, fell in love with life here and never looked back. She has been in Italy for over 20 years. What a great woman! Anyway, at dinner, we had a selection of meats, cheeses and bread. Our main dish, however, rocked my world: pear stuffed ravioli. You have not tasted anything quite like it; it is a little bite of heaven. If you come to visit, I am taking you to that restaurant. We learned the importance of drinking wine with dinner and the appreciation Italians have for fine wine. Since that night, I think it would be safe to say, everyone has become 'winos'. We have learned to love the process of making wine and appreciate the 'legs', the smell, the flavor. A little taste of sophistication.

The next few days were filled with orientation through Accademia Italiana and Arcadia. During orientation, my apartment learned that cold showers should not be the norm...our hot water had not been turned on and each one of us had taken at least 3 cold showers. Perhaps it was a good thing it was so hot, as the showers were actually refreshing. Iris was shocked that we didn't have hot water and immediately called our landlord, Alberto, who by the way, is quite handsome! The whole thing was very comical.

We took a trip on Saturday (Sept. 6) to the Chianti region of Tuscany and stopped in the towns Greve and Castellina and had a wine tasting at il Palagio's vineyard. A view of the Chianti countryside from Castellina.

We had a sampling of four wines: Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, Merlot and a sweet white dessert wine. It was all so enjoyable. They fed us with so much food, we all immediately passed out on the one talked. It was a beautiful day. I am hoping to take my parents to Chianti when they visit.

I will write about Accademia Italiana and my classes in another post, as this one has become quite lengthy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Long Overdue

Hey everyone!

I am alive!

I have not been able to access the internet while I have been here and so, I have left you all in the dark. Florence is beautiful and my life here is so amazing. At the moment, I will not have internet until next weekend but all my roommates have it, so I plan to post a short blog before the week is through. The reason for this is because my computer is locked and I happened to not be in the apartment when our landlord was signing everyone in. I decided to run away to the Island of Elba with my roommates, Allison and Amanda, and camped on the beach last night. No big deal. Yes, Elba may sound familiar to a couple of you - it was where Napoleon was held prisoner.

I will post more about what you have missed up until now in a few days, but for now, I must give you a hook. Here is a list of adventures I have already experienced (in chronological order):
1. Never landed in Florence. Our plane was diverted to Pisa.
2. Pear stuffed ravioli.
3. Mosquitos.
4. Cold showers.
5. Wine tasting in Chianti.
6. Tour of my school. the view from the roof of Accademia Italiana's design studios is breathtaking.
7. Ventured the walkway of il Duomo - only open once a year.
8. History of Tuscany. Professor is a Capponi. meaning he owns a palace, a chapel and is allowing his students (4 in total) to use his personal family archives for our research paper.
9. ATM ate my credit card. I had no cash.
10. Sleeping in a tent, next to the beach, with wild boars roaming the vicinity.

I love you all and I want to hear about your lives! Update me!


Monday, August 31, 2009

Little Bit...

"It is in the moments of decision your destiny is created." I wonder what Anthony Robbins' thought process was when he formalized that statement. Had he just made a weighty decision? Was he reeling from the effects of one made much earlier in his life? Perhaps he was purely commenting on life in general. Of course, we all know that what we choose becomes our reality. Our life is simply the culmination of numerous moments of doubt, moments of truth and moments of confidence; all the inner workings of coming to our decisions. We are what we make ourselves to be. Wow. Just think about that. The power we have within ourselves is limitless and awesome. I was watching the latest episode of True Blood (my guilty pleasure) and something that was being discussed struck me. The Queen Sophie-Anne was relaying to Bill Compton how every mythological and supernatural creature throughout time has willed itself into being. Whether out of necessity or out of desire, powers were obtained purely by sheer will. Fiction aside, that is an intriguing argument.

Now, you ask, what does that have anything to do with Florence, studying abroad, or even me? I would like to think it has everything to do with everything. Our inner drive, making us who we are, guiding our every decision, propels us to our next adventure, our next uncovering of meaning, of purpose. The capability to achieve our most sought out dreams comes from within. We have the power to be. Sometime within the next four months, I hope to gain a greater insight on what my purpose is in life, and how I am to affect the world. That is a mouth full. Perhaps I should take it one day, one experience at a time.

On to the updates: I received my student visa last Wednesday and have not let it out of my sight - the first night, I had my passport out on the dinner table! (It has been such a huge relief now that I have it - I feared that I would not get my passport and my visa before I left). On Thursday, I was emailed the housing and participant list from Arcadia University. You can imagine my excitement as I frantically 'friended' everyone on facebook - let the facebook stalking begin! (only joking - but not really). There are 21 girls and 5 guys in my program with Arcadia - I'm not sure how many students attend Accademia Italiania though. I will be living in an apartment a couple of blocks away from the Duomo! Perhaps a 20 minute walk to school (which includes a nice walk over the Arno!). I couldn't be more happy with my location! I will be living with Isabella (from Miami, FL), Allison (from Austin, TX) and Amanda (from Minnetonka, MN). It's crazy to think that these girls will soon be my support system and hopefully great friends. The closer it gets, the more I am able to breathe and consider what is actually happening. I was quite nervous yesterday. Today, I am not.

On Saturday, my parents graciously threw a going away party for me! We were in the kitchen Friday night cooking Grandma Grace's famous meatballs, wearing our aprons (my request) and listening to loud Italian music. (I'm sure when Sofia walked in from work, she was a little surprised to see Mom and Dad still up and functioning at 10 pm) The party was really enjoyable: two of my best friends came, Emily and Sadie, and my uncle Albert came with his kids and Dan - we all had great conversation and a fun time. My uncle Chuck and aunt Kate also came - it was so good to see them again! My friend, Chris made an appearance later around the fire and proceeded to grace us with his mad juggling skills (no, really, he juggled fire). All in all, it was a great night and I had a blast. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Packing has not been started (should that really surprise anyone? :)) to the dismay of my parents. My mom has concluded that I just like the rush of waiting to the last moment for everything. I would never admit to that. It is simply an issue of my lack of gumption (as I so eloquently argued at Chipotle) - I am fully aware that the packing will be completed before I leave and therefore I am in no rush to finish it.

I am heading to Columbus tomorrow to welcome in a new school year with my two dear friends, Sadie and Emily, in our full of character, ever so dirty, house. I'm hoping Alfred, our little cockroach visitor, will decide to steer clear of the bathroom. That little bugger...

Wednesday will be my last full day in the States with my family. Jessi, Mom and Dad have taken the day off to be with me. Sofia will be working in the morning and will hopefully be able to hang out for a little bit. I will most likely be unwillingly packing and persuading everyone to watch movies with me.

I leave Cincinnati around 11 in the morning on Thursday. My flight does not leave JFK until around 8 for Zurich. I should be in Florence Friday afternoon around 2 their time. I will try and provide an update for you all while traveling. Wish me luck! I love you all - it means so much to have such a network of support!

Remember to post comments and send emails!!! Also, if you would like to connect with me on Skype, my username is nataliemarielima. I will be sure to add you if you provide your username as well!

Ciao for now!!!


Friday, August 14, 2009


I suppose I should fill you in on why I will be doing said adventure.

I have always wanted to study abroad. Always. I am completely obsessed with traveling. Ok, not really - but I do it every chance I get. The experience of being a foreigner is eye opening. That subtle panic you feel when you sit down at a restaurant and realize you have no idea what the menu says and better yet, no idea what the waiter just asked you is exciting. Walking along the streets admiring the antiquated buildings and the locals going about their business, you smile to yourself because you have a secret - you're not from here...act cool. Realizing that life is not so different than you had imagined it would be - we are all the same, possess the same humanity regardless of the language we speak. I appreciate that. Perhaps being an observer is my forte.

There is a certain magic that I feel when I am in Europe. It's like when I am in Barcelona, or Rome, or Florence, or London, for that time, I have that connection with all that makes those cities beautiful. History. Studying and reading about the broad subject is nothing compared to the thrill and absolute high you get from experiencing it. That personal recognition of the significance all around you makes me tick. And so, I made the decision to study history in Europe during a quarter of my college years when I was in high school. Thanks to Mrs. Butz's AP U.S. History class, I became committed to studying history. I entered Ohio State with a declared major and have enjoyed all of my history courses, without exception. During my junior year, I took an Italian Renaissance course designed to look at the 13th and 14th centuries. Professor Davis' sarcastic, crude and hilarious perspective of Italian history made it real for me. I immediately signed up for his sequel course during Spring Quarter. I was captivated by Italy and its story. During the middle of Winter Quarter, I decided to apply to study in Florence, got accepted, and slowly, my dream was becoming my reality. I now know that if I decide to further my education, I will surely focus on the Italian Renaissance.

Another key aspect of my decision to study abroad was selfish. I wanted to do it for myself. Only for me. So, I consciously decided not to study with friends or anyone I knew. The next four months will be entirely new. Entirely alien. Entirely mine. I don't know where I'm going to live and I don't know who I will be going with. On the surface, I love that idea. Deep down, it scares the shit out of me! I already know I will grow and develop throughout this experience - I will be way outside my comfort zone. I would be kidding myself if I did not recognize that.

I have exactly two weeks left in the states. Still waiting on my Student Visa - it's making me hella nervous. These past few days I have been real lazy and laying low and unsuccessfully trying to block all that I have to do out of my mind. Perhaps I'll get into gear tomorrow... (haha)

Well, I must get back to watching T.V. (wow).


Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Shoes

I just received my killer shoes! I bought them at ALDO and ordered them in my size. I fell in love with the black leather NIEVES and had to make it happen. I am wearing the beautiful things as we speak, or as I write. Paolo Nutini says it best, "I put some new shoes on, and suddenly everything is right." Perhaps it was just coincidence that when I sat down to write this first blog post, the doorbell rang and my shoes were delivered, or it may have been fate, and now my mood is lifted permanently. I think this is the most excited I have been in a while. Italy, here I come!

Ok, so Student Visa is nearing its final stages, tuition is payed for, flights are booked and three more weeks until I embark on the most amazing trip of my life. You know when you get that feeling that you are exactly where you know you should be? That's how I felt when I first visited Florence in 2006. My dream is coming true, and I made it happen - with the support of my parents, sisters and friends, of course!

So, I will be posting to this blog every now and then before I leave, updating you on my progress and my feelings before leaving. Once I am in Florence, I hope to post every day or so with an update on my experiences and life in Italy. I also want to post my pictures as they are being uploaded, so stay tuned!

I welcome any comments or emails from family and friends, so keep them coming! I will also post my address and phone number once I receive them. Also, if you are looking for a vacation spot from now to December, I will gladly host you!! Just let me know!

Ciao for now!