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!