Life in Tuscany. Florence + Cinque Terre + Chianti + Bologna

10 September 2011: Saturday
Gelato: Tiramisu

My friend Meg is visiting Florence this week. She is traveling for the semester through Europe with her art class from university. She has already spent a week in London, another in Venice, and is now in Florence before going off to Rome, Vienna, and Paris!

For the weekend, Meg, JC, Sar and I decided to take a day trip to the five coastal towns of the Cinque Terre. Any visit to Italy must include the Cinque Terre! It is so beautiful and the water is calm and warm. We took an early train to Riomaggiore (the southern most town of the 5) and explored the small town that was built into the hillside. We walked past the colorful houses and to a great view looking over the Mediterranean Sea and the other four towns: Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso.

After lunch, we walked the Via dell’Amore (Walk of Love) to Manarola. Along the Via dell’Amore couples have attached locks to commemorate their love and then toss their keys into the sea. We discovered a path down the cliffs with a small ramp into the water. We swam for a few hours and soaked in the Mediterranean sun.

11 September 2011: Sunday

architecture students enjoying their wine

This afternoon we took the bus to the small town of Grieve in Chianti. Grieve in Chianti hosts a wine festival to showcase the local red wine: Chianti. Traveling with a bunch of fellow architecture students, we had a blast sampling all of the different, local, wines including the red Chianti, Vin Santo (a sweet dessert wine; translates to “holy wine”), and Grappa (the moonshine of the Italian wine world).

12-16 September 2011: Monday-Friday
Gelato: Tiramisu + Crem de Grom (vanilla cream with gram cracker bits)
This is officially the best gelato I have had to date! The gelato is so creamy and they even mix chunks of lady-finger into the tiramisu! So so so so so good!

This week was very easy going with lots of studying and cooking. I did some laundry and hung it out the window to dry, I bought some fresh pasta from the Sant’Ambrogio Market and Sar made home-made Tiramisu in honor of JC’s 21st Birthday!

17-18 September 2011: Saturday + Sunday

It’s the weekend! A group of us took a morning train to the city of Bologna. It was an interesting weekend that taught me to anticipate the

Sar, JC, Jes, Fran, Gabe, & Al

unexpected. I had planned a trip to the Ferrari car factory, but our plans were interrupted by an unplanned train strike. Strikes have become frequent across the TrainItalia system in order to reject the cuts in wages. With that said, I will now plan my trips much more carefully and be open to a change in schedule. We will have to return to Bologna again!

Other then the previously stated disappointment, I had a very nice time in Bologna. Bologna is the food capital of Italy and is the birthplace of Pasta Bolognese and the modern university. I enjoyed walking along the arcades that line the streets and visiting the Basilica, leaning tower of Bologona, and an ancient university of science and medicine. Inside of the university are the many crests of the professors and students that worked at and attended the university. We also were able to peak inside an ancient operating theater. The archaic style of teaching was made known by the wood-carvings of the skinned human body and an giant marble slab (for operating). Class was only taught here during the winter months, to keep the operating room cool.

I enjoyed the good food, good company, and the rain!

19 September 2011: Monday
Gelato: Tiramisu + Crem de Grom… again.

School. Eating. Loving Life!

21 September 2011: Wednesday

This evening, after our Wednesday art class, JC, Sar, and I attended a short lecture on student travels in Europe. I was super excited because the lecture was given by the son of one of my favorite travel writers… any guesses?

Andy Steves, son of Rick Steves, gave us tips on how to best take advantage of our time abroad in Europe. It kind of turned into an advertisement for this new student travel business, but I got free food and a drink, and now I’m one degree closer to a famous travel writer!

22 September 2011: Thursday

I visited the Palazzo Vecchio today, not to take a tour, but to attend student welcome day. American students become a large part of central Florence’s population during the fall. The meeting was held in the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the 500) which used to hold the meetings of the 500 person council under the rule of Duke Cosimo Medici I. At the end, we were greeted with an appearance by Matteo Renzi, the Mayor of Florence. He gave a very nice and inviting speech. Matteo Renzi is very popular among the Florentines because he is young and has ideas for modernizing Florence.

24 September 2011: Saturday
Gelato: Chocolate with Sicilian Orange

Happy European Heritage Day! I was able to visit the Laurentian Library for free today! The Laurentian Library is located within Basilica San Lorenzo. Commissioned by the Medici Family, the library was designed by Michelangelo to house the Medici’s large literary collection and to show off their interest in the arts. The library is a long reading hall with high windows that give off a very soft light quality. The benches use to have chains that locked the rare books to their shelf.

In the afternoon, a wine parade, called Bacco Artigiano, took place. The Tuscan town of Rufina travels the 20km to Florence with their “Carro Matto” (crazy cart). The parade walkers all wear medieval Florentine outfits and are followed by the cart, stacked high with 1500 bottles of Chianti Classico and pulled by two oxen. This symbolic parade blesses the new wine at the Duomo (Santa Maria de Fiore) and then presents it to the government at the Palazzo Vecchio.

25 September 2011: Sunday

Corri La Vita – The Life Race

Today was Corri La Vita, a city wide race/walk-a-thon to raise money for breast cancer. All of CSU Firenze was encouraged to join the entire city of Florence to walk for the cause! We started early, sporting our bright green shirts, Sta and Han chose to run the race while the rest of us walked. JC, Sar, and I wanted to take advantage off all of the free museums we could visit with our participation in the walk.

The race began at the Piazza della Signoria (where the Palazzo Vecchio is) and headed to the Duomo. We visited the Bargello, the old prison turned sculpture gallery, to see Donatello’s bronze sculpture of David (he is not as buff as Michaelangelo’s). We then headed across the garden to Palazzo Pitti and the Giardini di Boboli (Gardens of Boboli). After a water break, we explored the gardens and enjoyed the many paths and hidden sculptures. The gardens use a Renaissance style of forced perspective, making them look longer then they really are.

We ended the afternoon at the Museo Ferragamo. Salvatore Ferragamo was a famous shoe designer who’s company sponsors the race. The Florence based designer crafted shoes for celebrities like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. His shoes are quite extravagant and use many different materials including fish scales! For each of his clients he created a wooden foot model to design the shoes around. The celebrities had such tiny feet!

Tonight we visited Palazzo Strozzi for a very cool exhibit on Money and Beauty. It reviewed the evolution of Florentine trade, and the rise of industry, guilds, the Medici family, and the arts. Did you know that most countries used silver for their coins while Florence used 24kt gold for their Florins?

26 September 2011: Monday

We hiked up to Piazzale Michelangelo this afternoon to work on our landscape drawings for figure drawing.
But this evening was exciting because it was the grand opening of the new Gucci Museum in Piazza della Signoria. This was a very high profile event and Jennifer Lopez and Madonna were invited! Many people (including me) waited around to see if they would show up, There were many famous Italians there, including the grandson of the founder of FIAT and Franca Sozzani ,the editor and chief of Vogue Italia (who I recognized from “America’s Next Top Model”).

27 September 2011: Tuesday

It’s the last Tuesday of the month so it is free state museum evening! We went to visit the Uffizi Gallery and the Medici Chapel.
The Uffizi is best known for holding the art collection of the Medici family and for Botticelli’s masterpiece “The Birth of Venus.” I really enjoyed a temporary exhibition on the architect of the Uffizi, Georgio Vassari. The exhibit contained many of his original sketches and plans of the Uffizi (offices to the Dukes of Florence). It is so cool that these scribbles were created 500 years ago!
The Medici Chapel is located in Basilica San Lorenzo and was designed by Michelangelo to house remains of the grand dukes of Tuscany – mainly the Medici. The chapel was covered with dark stone and contained many sculptures by Michelangelo.

Florence is so old! I am actually seeing the buildings I learned about in my Arch history class and that my professors worship! I just can’t get over it!

3 thoughts on “Life in Tuscany. Florence + Cinque Terre + Chianti + Bologna

  1. Wow, you are doing a great job writing! What great memories when you go back and read about all your adventures.

  2. Love, love, LOVE hearing about your time in Italy!! Can’t wait to see you when you get back and hear all about your adventures!
    Ciao, bella!!

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