Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spring Fever

Some friends!
The sun is finally shining again after a week-long hiatus and I couldn’t be happier at such a sight. Italians are out, children are running through the streets and flower vendors have taken root on nearly ever corner. However, forecasters are predicting snow come Friday, something that rarely ever happens in the city of Florence. What a buzz kill. Yet I could care less about this recent observation, seeing as how I’m a native northwestern Pennsylvanian and all too familiar with a brutal winter season. Regardless of temperatures, the mosquitoes have still been out in full force.
I am continuing to adjust well, besides the absurd amount of time it takes to do laundry (Remember? Two hours a load. Florentine apartments have VERY old plumbing) and the disarray of our disgruntled little flat. Living with four guys has been a challenge, especially with the cleaning schedule, or, in this case, the lack of one. Everyone seems to just eat, leave dishes and never touch them again. I know we are on a vacation, but common sense is clearly taking a break too. We have also gotten in trouble for the amount of noise radiating from our apartment several times, mainly because of the late-night gatherings of over 10 people who all want to talk at the same time and disclose their outlandish experiences of gelato and cheap liquor. Oh, Americans. I just sit in my room and read for class.
Speaking of class, I have absolutely nothing but positive remarks. My teachers are amazing (Especially my contemporary Italian literature one, a true Florentine who livens up class by making us read absurd works out loud) and the classes themselves are actually rather insightful too. I never thought I would say this, but my time spent learning is actually one of the better parts in my day. Who knew? They are all so unique and each professor brings a different perspective into the mix. Also, each seems to love what they do, which is a big plus when you have to do the job daily!                                 Homemade pizza in Pisa!
Aside from classes, I signed up to volunteer in the city during my time here, seeing as how I have no Tuesday, Thursday or Friday classes and don’t plan on traveling every bloody weekend like everybody else (I mean come on, half the students studying here haven’t even discovered Florence yet and I’ll be dammed if I deprive myself of not full knowing this city by the time I leave). As of right now though, I’ve signed up to archive material at the British Institute Library (One of the biggest collections of world literature in all of Italy) and also serve as a tour guide at the various churches in the area. No, don’t worry, the tours will be conducted in English and to people traveling from the states, but I would get to learn some fun facts and in addition, obtain a fancy ID card that would admit me to lots of things for free! Score! I might also decide to help teach Italian children English, and easy task that would not only benefit the kids, but myself as well I’m sure. In addition, I may also inquire after a small position at The Florentine, a little English newspaper highlighting the going-ons throughout the city. Even across the ocean and thousands of miles away, I can’t really take a break. But hey, I like keeping busy!

So to update you all a bit, since I last wrote, I’ve traveled to the small city of Pisa, you know, the one with that famous leaning tower which so many tourists try to hold up and then capture via digital camera? Yeah, that one. And yes, I was one of those silly, silly tourists. Oh well I suppose, you’re only here once, right? Back to the trip itself, I went with two friends this past Saturday and we departed by train from the Santa Maria Novella station, literally one block from my apartment. Hopping an afternoon departure, we sat for an hour in anticipation of good weather and beautiful scenery. However, shortly after arriving, there was a horrible rainstorm and we had no idea where this structure we had waited all day to see was hiding. I guess I was naïve to think we would pull up beside a grassy knoll and there, atop a field of green and a backdrop of mountains would be the tower. No. We had to trek miles through the quaint city of Pisa (Not so bad, seeing as how the layout and look was quite similar to Florence and there was some little festival happening) only to arrive at a pizza place where we gorged ourselves on delicious creations of homemade cuisine. Following a talk with the owner about the success of Obama, we left and finally found what we were looking for. Despite rain clouds and soggy shoes, the tower was gorgeous, as was the cathedral and baptistery that flanked it on either side. Following some rather cliché snapshots, we got dessert (Some wretched cake that we assumed looked good enough to eat, but was really some terrible concoction we still have yet to figure out!). After all of this hustle and bustle, we thought it best to head home.

The experience of Pisa was beautiful, even through Mother Nature woes, and only made me appreciate coming back to Florence, my home, even more. In relation to trips, I have some rather exciting news! I have scheduled, for the first weekend in March, a four-day excursion to the city of lights, Paris, France. Once there, I’ll shack up in a hostel literally steps from the one and only Moulin Rouge and dine on snails, caviar, and a selection of cheeses while gaping in awe at the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps even enjoy a cancan show, who knows? I’ve also booked my spring break trip, which, get ready for this…(cue dramatic music here)…includes an 11-day sprint across Ireland, Scotland and London (APPLAUSE!!!!). This, my friends, will be an adventure! In addition, I plan to hit Barcelona, Greece, Munich, Prague, Rome, Siena, Assisi, Milan, the Almafi Coast and maybe schedule some added day trips. I also plan to be poor for the rest of my life.C’est la vie.

More good news! I’ve also managed to take tons of pictures everywhere I go, ones I will certainly be sharing upon my triumphant return. Oh, and I forgot to mention I also went to the Uffizi Museum in Florence, a magnificent structure hundreds of years old and housing priceless works such as Botticelli. Sorry, no pictures allowed inside. Dammit! I know. But take my word for it, you would have loved it. Other than this, no new Florence stories, besides the usual nighttime adventures walking through Piazza Della Repubblica. This square, complete with merry-go-round, lovers tangled in a sea of knots and vendors selling roasted nuts, is a hub in the city and always full of people eating, shopping and engaging in acts of random love. I am also captivated by the window displays here. All of them are beautifully maintained and switched according to month and season. Like pieces of artwork themselves, store owners spend hours configuring them and making sure they appeal to the masses. I mean, in this square alone you have (throat clear) Fendi, Dolce and Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Zara, Bvlgari, GianFranco Ferre, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli and a host of others making it some prime real estate. There is also a new Ferrari store opening, one of only a handful worldwide. Wowza.

Yet in addition to all these beautiful things, I’ve too enjoyed some of the rather eccentric people who call this city home as well Such as:
-The man who plays Christmas songs on his flute all evening for spare change, even though it is now clearly February
-The man who dresses like a bird and has faux wings, a shaved head with a single curl and an unusual bird call that attracts awkward stares
-The two women who have the best food ever, which I get every Thursday, because Thursdays are for laundry and after almost five hours of waiting for clothes to be finished, I need a little homemade pizza with prosciutto or sausage, three chocolate cookies and a refreshing Coke in my life
-The suave Italian men catcalling women and using cheesy pickup lines to attract their attention. Like this one: “Excuse me Miss…You seemed to have dropped something….It is my heart” (I kid you not, I heard this one used! HA!)
-The 'creature' dressed in fluorescent gold spandex on the corner, impersonating an Egyptian goddess (wtf?) and twisting his body into various shapes. I got scared, so walked on the opposite side of the street
-And countless others who make this city a diverse breeding ground for creativity and abstractness. I love it here. 
I also have a new addiction, besides white wine. Espresso. Lots and lots and lots of delicious espresso. I do not know why, but it seems to taste different here and I drink it at least three times daily. A wired jolt for those study sessions let me tell you. Speaking of chores, my laundry is telling me it’s done, which means, I can finally go get espresso, walk along the Ponte Vecchio and gawk at amazing jewelry and buy a new scarf for the upcoming chill that’s about to hit! Sounds like a hard life, I know. Well, it is, but someone has to live it. Love to all.

P.S. While coming to the school to upload this blog, I bought Italian leather shoes. It was not an expected purchase, seeing as how everything I do is obviously on a budget. But real Italian leather shoes. They don't have those in America! Come one! I have wanted them since I got here and finally caved. They were worth it I must say.

ALSO, I have made lots of friends. Actually, really good friends. Some that are great for conversation, a good time out and a full night of fun. They are hard to find back home, so I feel lucky. Also, I met some authentic Italians who have taken a liking to us Americans. This, too, is fortunate for us, because they show us all the REAL Italian hotspots and are great company.

Il Duomo, beautiful cathedral in the center of town (under renovations of course, as everything here seems to be)

1 comment:

  1. How fun! Reading and re-reading your blogs has given me more reason to procrastinate from life here in the less-than-thrilling Pitt. I can't believe you've booked a Spring Break adventure that is absolutely amazing, and I love reading about everything you observe, both small and large. You're a great metaphorical tour guide!! Oh.. In Milan, there's this incredible Cathedral. It's huge and white. Find it. It's toooo amazing.

    I miss you!!