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 bus...no 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.