Feasting in Florence with my Mama.

21-26 June 2012.  Thursday to Tuesday.

Gelato: Coffee Crunch + Cream

It was strange to arrive in Florence but not go directly to my little apartment on Via Giraldi.  Instead, my mama and I went to the B&B we had reserved, directly across from Mercato Centrale.  This was going to be more a tourist experience than a student/resident experience–having to live out of a suitcase and explore all of the most famous sights like I had never been here before.

We had dinner across the Arno at Gusta Pizza and gelato at a little Gelateria called “Perché No?” (meaning Why Not?).

The B&B provided us with breakfast at a cute bar down on the street corner.  A bar in Italy is not like a bar in the states.  Yes, it does serve alcohol, but also cafe and pastries in the morning.  Mom, especially, enjoyed sitting at the outdoor tables, before the leather market opened.  The weather still cool, before the day’s heat would set in, we enjoyed our cappuccinos and people watched before starting out for the day.  After breakfast, we crossed the street to the Mercato Centrale to explore the various food vendors.  The fresh fish was particularly interesting, with a pot full of octopus tentacles boiling next to the case of iced shrimp.

Around 11:00, we met up with my friend Krist, who had stayed in Florence for a month to kill time before joining the next group of students to participate in CalPoly’s summer Switzerland program.  We met at the SITA bus station to visit my dear Antica Marcelleria Cecchini in Chianti, one last time.  After raving about it the first two times, I was so excited to show Dario off to my mama.  He was there, working behind the counter.  We enjoyed our little glasses of chianti classico and crustini con lardo (toast topped with lard and Dario’s secret season salt–simply divine). We headed upstairs and enjoyed the outdoor tables, summer Tuscan sun, and vineyard views.  There is something picturesque about the Tuscan countryside; the landscape seems almost too accidentally perfect to be real.  Mom, Krist, and I dined on the usual meats and fresh vegetables.  This time of year, the Tuscan fennel was in season and was so tasty to dip into olive oil mixed with the season salt–so refreshing.

On the way out, mama and I got to stand behind the counter with Dario for a photo and he treated us to digestive shots of Grapa.  While behind the counter, with his huge arms squeezing us together as we posed for the picture, he announced in his deep voice: “To Beef, or not to Beef?!”

That evening, to counter all of the meat we had eaten earlier, we enjoyed a very local restaurant, Il Vegetariano (The Vegetarian).  Located near the train station at Via delle Ruote 30r, the crowd of visitors is young and Italian.  We enjoyed Lasagna and a delicious salad.  This was one of my favorite restaurants in Florence, excellent and healthy food for a good price.

Gelato: Pineapple

We met up with my roommate Alex, who had just returned from visiting her family in Greece for a month, to take the train to the Cinque Terre.  By 10:00, we had arrived in Riomaggiore, the southern most of the five towns.  We slowly walked up the hill to the great view overlooking the sea, wandered through a few shops and down to the harbor.  Next we walked along La Via del’Amore (The Walk of Love) to the next town of Manarola.  We enjoyed lunch at a little seaside restaurant before hopping on the train to Vernazza.  The previous fall, a massive rain storm had caused a huge mud slide, covering much of this town.  Over the year, the town was slowly excavated from the mud and many repairs had to be done.  I was very impressed by how much work had been accomplished since the devastating flood, and it was still possible to see the height of damage caused by the mud and water.  We really enjoyed the little beach and soaked in the sun.

The entire train ride home was quite entertaining.  The peddlers who usually pester visitors, selling silly items to tourists at places like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, must have just gotten off work.  As our train stopped in Pisa, tons of these men got on the train, with their bags of souvenirs and counterfeit Louis Vuitton bags.  They all seemed very nervous, as though they were trying to be sneaky by constantly changing seats and avoiding the conductor.

Hot and tired from a long day in the sun, we just crashed when we got back.

Gelato: Green Tea (while doing laundry)
Fogli di Procopio + Lemon and Basil (post dinner)

Today was the feast day of San Giovanni (St. John the Baptist) the patron saint of Florence.  This is a big day for the Florentines, full of activities.  After breakfast, mama and I headed over to the Duomo to see the festivities taking place at the 10:00 mass.  A choir was singing in the Baptistry and then a huge procession made its way into the cathedral for the grand, feast day mass to be held by the once Archbishop of Florence who had recently been appointed to Cardinal.  He was all decked out in new red robes.  Mama got a little teary eyed and said “I just love it here.” awwww….

We enjoyed sandwiches at Il Due Fratellini (The Two Little Brothers) before hopping on the bus to gather my huge suitcase and a box I had left with Krist, and brought it back to the B&B.  They were both so heavy!  We did some much needed laundry before meeting up with Krist to peek in on the Calco Storico.  This Historic Soccer is a brutal combination of Soccer and Rugby, with no rules and dates back to the ancient Florentines. It now takes place once a year, on the feast of San Giovanni.

Pizza dinner at A Casa Mia (My Home), a favorite of CSU Firenze students and locals alike.  Located near Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, the students usually congregated here for birthday dinners.

The feast day fireworks started at 10pm.  Shot from Piazzale Michelangelo, the best vantage point was the banks of the Arno.  The fireworks were themed with red, white, and green and after about half an hour of them, people started clapping, expecting the end.  But no, they lasted an entire hour.  The intensity of the fireworks kept the streets alive and vibrant as we walked home.

Gelato: Neve di Riso + Baccio

We spend the morning weeding through my suitcases and boxes, trying to fit everything into two 50 pound bags and two carry-ons.  I like to save everything, so it was tough to throw away my old Italian homework.  We walked to school to take some clothes to donate and to visit Connie and Ref in the office.  They were like our parents, always holding our hands as we slowly learned how to navigate in this foreign land.  We visited my old front door on Via Giraldi.  From the corner, we watched as some blond girl entered my home for the past year.  *tear*  Mama had visited Florence with my Oma 30 years ago, when she was my age.  She brought with her some of the photos she had taken and we tried to discover the locations.  We recreated some of the old pictures with my mom posing in the same spots.  It is amazing how little both my mama and Florence have changed in 30 years.

Lunch was at my favorite Panino shop.  Ke Ci Metto?, located at Borgo La Croce 52r, is one of the best places to grab a quick yet delicious panino.  I will go in and say to the owner “Qualcosa ti piace” (something you like) and he will quickly choose one of the many homemade focaccia breads (flavors range from spinach to corn, tomato to beet) and create the best sandwich.  But this is not just a sandwich, he chooses from a special spread, Tuscan meat, and accompanying cheese, all of which go perfectly with each other, and then pops it on the little grill so it is piping hot.  Aw man, so good! yummmmmmm…….

We took the bus up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo to meet Alex.  We enjoyed the view and I did a little shopping at the Benedictine Monk’s craft shop outside of the church San Miniato al Monte.  On the way down, mom and I enjoyed a sit-down dinner before heading back across the Arno to Santo Spirito, to see my friends one last time before we all headed our separate ways.

A final Italian breakfast, last minute packing.  We slowly dragged our bags to the station to catch the bus to the airport.  It was the same hot weather and crowds of people that had greeted me when I had arrived in Florence 10 months before.  We made it to the airport, our bags met the weight requirement, and we were on the plane.  I was sad, but mama and I still had one last adventure to enjoy before heading back to reality.  Ciao Firenze.

Next, and last, stop: London.

Gelato Anyone?

It’s the beginning of October and so comes the annual heat wave to California’s central coast.  I sit here, in my concrete architecture studio prison, trying to work on my thesis and sweating in today’s 99 degree dry heat, dreaming of gelato

23-27 May 2012.  Florence Gelato Festival.

The last week in Florence, while I was trying to study and write papers, my tastebuds were constantly tempted by the knowledge that an amazing festival was taking place just blocks away.  This was the third time that the gelato festival descended upon Florence, inviting the best gelato craftsmen from all over the world.  For 10 euro, I got a cool bag, a coupon allowing me to taste 6 different artesian gelati (plural of gelato), and a demonstration on how gelato is made.  Over the five days, I tasted so many different gelato and got many free samples.  In the end, I got to vote on which one was the best.

Gelato’s roots date back to 16th century Florence.  Did you know an architect, Bernardo Buontalenti, is said to have invented gelato?  And it was Catherine de’Medici, whose family is also from Florence, that brought gelato to France and then the rest of the world.

The flavors ranged from sweet to savory, fruit to chocolate.  I will always remember a Parmesan cheese flavored gelato that was topped with sweet balsamic vinegar and a piece of dried prosciutto.  It was — interesting.  But my favorite was the winning gelato.  Canadian Gelato craftsman created a simple gelato flavored with maple syrup.  It was awesome.

Since this festival does not happen every day, the least I can to, after living in Florence (the birthplace of gelato) for a year, is give you a brief review of the top five, must taste, gelaterias (gelato shops).

1.  Antica Gelateria Fiorentina
Via Faenza, 2  (located just around the corner from San Lorenzo)
Small cone (2 flavors): 1 euro
This small gelato shop provides some different, yet tasty flavors.  Try some of their “Gelati Gourmet” like Matcha (Green Tea) or Cuor di Pardula (orange, lemon, and saffron).

2.  Le Parlgine
Via Dei Servi, 41-red (between the Duomo and Piazza Santissima Annunziata)
Small cone (2flavors): 1.50 euro
They have lots of fresh fruit flavors like pear and banana and yummy flavors like After 8 (mint cookies).  My favorite combination was canella (cinnamon) with cafe.

3.  Gelateria La Carraia
Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25-red
Small cone (1 flavor): 1 euro
Located on the south bank of the Arno river, just across Ponte alla Carraia, is this hidden gelato shop.  My roommate Han found it and she recommends Yogurt with Nutella.  But I enjoy Torta di Limone (lemon cake).

4. Il Procopio
Via Pietrapiana 60-red
Small cone (2 flavors): 2.50 euro
A bit more expensive, but totally worth the extra cost.  They also have different flavors like Limone e Basilico (Lemon and Basil).  I sounds strange but it is so refreshing on a hot day.  Also try Fogli di Procopio (translates to Layers of Procopio) and so many delicious flavors are folded into this delicious gelato.

5. Gelateria Ermini
Via Vicenzo Gioberti, 123-red
Small cone (2 flavors): 1.50 euro
Located right between my school and COOP (my grocery store).  I often stopped at this historic Gelateria on the way home, and slowly it became my favorite gelato joint.  And I like to think that the cute Italian boy behind the counter (and I think the owner’s son) began to recognize me after a while.  The usual:  Neve di Riso and Baccio  (translates to Snow of Rice and a kiss).  Neve di Riso is a simple, milk based flavor that has bits of rice and it was the best.  Baccio is a blend of rich chocolate and hazelnut with huge chunks of hazelnut mixed inside.  The combination of these two flavors always made me happy as I slowly walked home from school.

Why is Gelato better than ice cream?  It’s creamier, it’s smoother, and, following the Italian tradition of using local products, it is just so flavorful and fresh.  Gelato anyone?

The End. But not really.

14-31 May 2012. The last three weeks.

The last three weeks in Italy flew by in a second.  It felt as though I closed my eyes after getting back from Ascoli and, when I opened them, I was on the train to Germany.

The first two days back from Ascoli, Art, Noah, and I spent most of our time in studio making last minute adjustment to our gastronomy center.

Wed.  16 May.
I was so happy with how our project turned out.  It was definitely not what I would have designed, but through a combination of ideas, our project was awesome! I think one of the best. And the professors were sure happy!  Achille was smiling through our entire presentation.

Noah and I were on opposite ends of the design spectrum. Noah created the forms of the building and designed the skin while I organized the program and made sure that everything worked out.  Art was the glue that held us all together; fixing the disagreements between Noah and I and just keeping the moral at an enthusiastic high while also designing a great interior courtyard and entrance.

the dream team. art, me, noah.

The gastronomy center evolved into a stadium for experiencing international foods.  It was a very introverted building (meaning that the exterior was low in profile and blended in with the surrounding city and all of the action happened once a visitor descended into the building’s center) that encouraged people to step down into the excitement within and taste the great things that the earth provides for us.

Thurs. 17 May.
Thursday I had my last Italian class and evening was filled with the last school dinner.  Some how the school arranged an amazing venue that was practically under the Ponte Vecchio.  The Società Canottieri Firenze is Florence’s rowing club.  Their clubhouse is located under the Uffizi Gallery and has a great lawn overlooking the Arno River.  We all dressed up in our finest and enjoyed a buffet while watching the sunset.


People in above photos (from top left to bottom right):  1. the venue. 2. the roommates: Alex, me, Kat, JC, Han, Sar, Sta.  3. JC & me.  4. EMM & me. 5. Sar, Kat, Gabe, me, JC.  6. with two of my Italian architecture professors: Marco Brizzi and Achille Michelizzi.

We had a little awards ceremony and a student compiled a cute video using footage shot by different students.  It’s kinda long… and my face does not make an appearance, but at least you can see lots of my classmates, teachers, places, and silly-ness.

Finals Week.  21-25 May.
A paper on Italian Cinema, a few exams and school was over.  The last event to look forward to was the arrival of the Florentine Gelato Festival.  Be patient, special post on just gelato comes next.  Let me just say. AMAZING.

The end of this week also brought the arrival of our yearbooks.  I am very proud to say that I worked and designed most of it, with the help of many other people.  It looked great!

Friday.  25 May.
One last day trip to San Gimignano.  I can’t believe I had not visited this beautiful hill town yet!  JC, Kat, Han, and I enjoyed the stone streets and the amazing view!  Everything about this town is picturesque and I think I got a little artsy with my photos.  I could see a fashion show taking place here.  We wandered through some cute boutiques and I found some locally crafted necklaces.


Friday night we had a final gathering at our apartment, with almost everyone from the school, to sign yearbooks and say goodbye to everyone.

Alex and Han enjoyed the cleaning supplies a little too much.

Over the next few days, I made many hikes up to Piazzale Michelangelo and had to say goodbye again and again to my favorite people as I helped them to the train station.

Kat and Sar left on Sunday, JC on Monday, Alex on Tuesday, Han on Wednesday.

Monday.  28 May.
I went with JC to Rome to help with her bags and to spend one last day together–even though we would see each other again in California, it would not be the same.  We took an early train, dropped her things at her hostel, and wandered past our favorite places in Rome.  We had gelato, sat on the Spanish steps, had un cafe, visited the Coliseum, and enjoyed a final dinner together before I got on the last train back to Florence.  I cried my eyes out.

Tuesday. 29 May.
To take a break from cleaning the apartment, I took some architecture friends to see my Butcher in Chianti.  It was a beautiful day in Tuscany and we all laughed so much as the guys made lots of meat themed puns.  We had a “flesh fest.”  Sitting next to us was an American woman who had worked for Dario the Butcher several years ago and she told us the best way to order and introduced us to the butcher.  Our waiter also took a liking to us and gave us samples of other cuts of meat, shots of grappa, and also some of the tasty olive oil cake.  He let us try on his meat goggles and also had us hold him!?!  Another food coma.


Wednesday. 30 May.
Final cleaning, packing, errands, goodbye to Madi.

Thursday.  31 May.
My train to Germany was to leave at 11 and Fabio, our landlord, met me at the door at 10.  I was the last one to leave and handed over the keys.  It was a long walk to the train station.

I was sad that the program was over, but in a way I felt like I was just going on another trip.

– – – – –

“The best part about this whole thing is that you always carry a little of it with you.  Italy, your travels, your friends; this is all a part of you now.  Look at what you did in a year.  This is a beautiful thing.  Florence.” -Marco Cianchi, History of Florentine Architecture Professor

Architecture Workshop in Ascoli, Italia

9-13 May: Wednesday to Sunday.

Paolo and Lucca (sitting) with Christiano (grey sweater)

CSU Firenze Architecture got an amazing opportunity to go on one last trip (without all of the other majors) to participate in a workshop with the Università degli Studi di Camerino, an Italian Architecture school in Ascoli-Piceno, a small, hill-town located on Italy’s east coast.  A partnership has been created between this school and CSU Firenze for many years now.  The founder of CSU Firenze’s architecture program, Christiano Toraldo di Francia (he is a very famous modern architect and co-creator of Florence’s most famous firm Superstudio), now works at the Università degli Studi di Camerino.

Our trip began on Wednesday afternoon with a long train ride heading east and then south along Italy’s coast.  The east coast is not rocky like the west and is full of white-sand beaches.  We were met at the train station by some of the students we would do the workshop with and they took us to the hostel.

The town of Ascoli-Piceno is a cute, old city with lots of churches and stone streets, but unlike other small towns in Italy, Ascoli is always busy with the college students that attend the university.

Thursday.  Two of the Italian students picked us up in the morning and helped us find food in a cafe and then led us up the hill to the school.  The Architecture school has occupied an old monastery;  two courtyards are surrounded by many large classrooms and decorated with frescoes.  My group included one other CSU student, Juan, and three Italian students: Lucca, Paolo, and Letizia.  The Italian students had already done lots of research and studied the site.

That afternoon, we visited the site.  Massignano, is a very small town, with a population of 1,500 people.  Our site was originally an apartment building that had fallen into disrepair and has since been torn down.  Our job was to create a new public structure that would occupy the site and fit within the historical context.  The site was located just off the city wall and had a beautiful view overlooking a valley below.  That night, the mayor of Massignano gave us a tour of the town and fed us a huge Italian feast.  He even took us into the town’s ceramic museum.  The town specializes in ceramic and the museum had some very interesting sculptures.  My favorite was this water whistle:

Friday.  Working all day and well into the night…

Saturday.  We met with all of the professors, both from Ascoli and CSU Firenze and they reviewed what we had created in just two days.  I was pleased with what we had come up with and that we were able to communicate with Italian student who spoke as much English as we spoke Italian.  It was a challenge, but one of the best experiences in Italy.

We were given the afternoon off to explore the town.  Krist, Emi, and I decided to walk the path along the river that circled Ascoli.  We put our feet into the water and I had fun photographing the “puffballs” of pollen that clung to the trees.

Sunday.  We were up early to catch the train back to Florence.  This time, we took a direct, slow train, through the mountains back to Florence.  Long but beautiful.



Roma: architecture field trip

4-5 May 2012: Friday & Saturday.

Gelato: Tiramisu (a classic)

The beginning of May is dreadfully here and so comes the projects, finals, and good byes.  But first! CSU Firenze took its final class trip to Roma.

The bus ride was an easy three hours south of Firenze and passed through the beautiful countryside.  Mid spring in Italy brings the busloads of tour groups from all over the world, but also warm weather, sunshine, and blooming flowers.  It is a strange feeling to sit on the bus, entranced by the beautiful scenery, but also sad that a month from now it will not be an every day thing.

Beautiful wildflowers. The Poppies are Red rather than the Golden ones in Cali.

Friday in Rome was packed full of busyness; cars, people, peddlers, everyone.  We were led again by the same great professor who had led us around Napoli and he carefully explained everything you may or may not need to know about ancient Rome.  We begin in

Can you see the dome of St. Peters in the Vatican?
(second from the right)

the Forum, crossed over the Palatine Hill and over to the Coliseum.  Professor E. has such a wealth of information and makes learning about the growth and expansion of Rome and all of the hills fun and easy to understand.  We passed Trajan’s Column, the “wedding cake” (a monument to the unification of Italy), and visited the Pantheon.  By mid afternoon, we had to meet the buses and headed to the hotel only to be brought back to the city center for dinner.  We were on our own for dinner and a group of us went to Pizzeria Baffetto (baffetto = mustache) and enjoyed some great pizza.


JC, Sar, Arli and I broke off from the group to find gelato and wander our way past Piazza Nuvona, the Trevi Fountain, and met up with everyone at the Spanish steps.


Saturday we were allowed to partake in different excursions planned by the school.  I joined Professor E. again to tour the E.U.R. aka the Esposizione Universale Romana (The Exposition of a Universal Rome).  This complex of rationalist and neoclassical buildings were built for the 1942 worlds fair and were to celebrate Mussolini and 20 years of Fascism.  Though severely damaged during WWII, the complex was completed in 1960 for the Olympics in Rome and now houses many government offices and museums.

One museum we visited was the Museo della Civilta Romana (The Museum of the Roman Civilization) and told the story of the rise and expansion of Rome through very detailed dioramas.  I found the model of the Coliseum particularly interesting.  The model below shows how it would have looked with all of the exterior marble still attached.  I also learned that wooden rods (placed along the top) were used to hold up canvas sails to provide shade during the games.  The best model was in a huge room, easily 1000 sft, filled with a detailed model of ancient Rome.


After, we took the metro to the other end of Rome to visit Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI, the Museum of 21st Century Art.  This museum was filled with some very interesting art and displayed a (for me) confusing type of architecture.  The interior has so many layers and crossing pathways that it made me very confused and lost inside. I always felt like I was missing something while exploring the different exhibits.


We got to go inside Nervi’s beautiful, vaulted auditorium and watch some dance performances by local children and then poked around Renzo Piano’s Parco della Musica, a three theater complex for music performances (the roof is made of lead!).

On our way back to the bus, we visited Santa Maria della Concezione.  This church is very unique, at least the crypt is.  The crypt is decorated with the bones of the deceased Capuchin friars.  Within the series of rooms, all of the bones were organized according to their kind, and whole monk skeletons were set there in their robes to guard them.   My friend Emi really enjoyed it, I was weirded out.

The two-day trip to Rome was a fast one, but I got to see lots of great architectural spaces!

a blast from Italy’s ancient past: Napoli

16-19 March 2012 (Friday-Monday)

This weekend, my school traveled to Napoli in central Italy’s west coast with the theme of “ancient” and “Roman” following us everywhere we went. We got to visit tons of cool old “stuff” at Villa Adriana (near Rome), Herculaneum, Pompeii, Paestum, and Napoli’s Archeology Museum. The countryside near Napoli is how I had originally pictured Italy: rolling hills dotted with olive trees and Italian pine trees. I think it finally hit me that I was in Italy while we were walking through Villa Adriana (I know… it’s 7 months in and just now it is hitting me?!). It was a combination of the landscape and the well-preserved ruins dotting the hillside that really got to me. It was unreal.


Before going into all of the sites we visited, I think a brief history of the Roman Empire is needed. I sure needed it when we first got to Napoli and our excellent guide, Charles, did a great job of summing up their story.

– – –
A Brief History of the Roman Empire.
Roman history is broken into three eras: The Age of Kings (750bc-509bc), The Republic, and The Empire (31bc-).

The Age of Kings began with the twins Romulus and Remus who were suckled by a she-wolf. The name “Rome” has its roots in the name of their first king: ROMulus. This era was known for its agriculture, temples, and gladiators.

The Republic began as the small hill-towns grew into great cities. By now, Roman rule had grown to the size of the USA. A senate was established to create laws. They had a very strong military, and Rome became the capital.

The Empire (most of the cities I visited were destroyed during this period) was under control of a dictatorship organized by dynastic rule. There were five dynasties, beginning with the Julio-Claudian Dynasty and Caesar Augustus. It was during the Flavian Dynasty and under the rule of Emperor Titus that Mount Vesuvius exploded in 79ad. Emperor Hadrian built his Villa Adriana during the Nerva Antonine Dynasty around 100ad.
– – –


Getting up early is always the hardest, but arriving at Villa Adriana in the late morning was totally worth it. This royal villa was built in the hills around Rome to escape the heat during the summer. The huge complex was an architectural experiment, with a majority of the buildings designed by the Emperor Hadrian himself. I was in love with the place from the start. I was very impressed with how large some of the buildings were and that even the roofs were still semi-attached along with many well-preserved mosaics on the floors. With the arrival of spring weather, the temperature was warm, the birds singing, and a beautiful light was cast over the ruins. We got to walk through his bath complex, temples, and then rest in the shadows of the olive trees.


We left the hotel this morning for the nearby town of Ercolano, home to the ruins of Herculaneum. With a population of 5000 people, this was a resort town on the beach to the north-west of Mount Vesuvius. With the volcano’s eruption, this town was covered. The town of Herculaneum was covered in 65-feet of dense tufa stone that quickly carbonized the wood and bodies within the city, perfectly preserving the city, frescoes, and life that was taking place. Only one third of the city has been excavated and this site has given so much information to historians about Roman life.

The Roman home usually had a central courtyard with the bedrooms and dining room leading off this courtyard. Food bars were very popular and on almost every corner (these are still popular in Italy today). And the Romans loved to exercise and take baths; these large complexes were are part of their every day activity; complete with sauna and ice bath.

The coolest part about this site, is that a modern city, Ercolano, has been built over the ruins. No one knew that Herculaneum was below the soil until the 1700s when it was accidentally discovered.

We had a great lunch overlooking the ruins of another Roman city: Paestum. This city was passed along through many civilizations, from the Greeks to the Romans, yet, it always remained a trade city. It was put on the map because of a series of Temples that were built over 150 years. They are in fantastic condition and you can see how the building style changed with ever 50 year interval. It was sunset while we were visiting the temples and they looked so beautiful.


This morning, we visited the Archeology museum to see all of the artifacts that they discovered at sights like Herculaneum and Pompeii. We got to see some great mosaics, sculptures, and some interesting pieces that expressed the Roman’s obsession with erotic art. (I now understand why there is so much love going on in Italy).

We had the afternoon free, so I took the train down the coast to Sorrento. We ate good food, drank limoncello, and enjoyed the beautiful view of Mount Vesuvius. It was a great little town, hanging onto the cliffs. We watched the sunset and skipped rocks on the clear sea. Gabe and Al were even brave enough to go for a swim. Crazy boys! The water was still so cold.


CSU Firenze 2011-2012

Last day in Napoli and we finally get to tour the ruins of Pompeii! This city was huge! And still, not all of it is uncovered. Like Herculaneum, Pompeii was also destroyed by the volcano, but its southern position caused it to be covered with ash rather than lava. The ash was much easier to remove from the ruins. It also buried many people. Archeologists discovered the cavities where the remains had been and filled them with plaster, creating a perfect cast of the human figure. It was amazing how detailed these casts were, you could even see the expressions on their faces. It was so sad.

The drive back to Firenze was long, but we got to watch Finding Nemo a l’italiano!
“Pesci sono amici, non cibo!” aka. Fish are friends, not food!

spring studio in florence + a week-long architecture workshop

Noah + Art

For spring semester of 4th year architecture studio we are dividing up into groups and I will do my first group project. It is strange that I have not done a group project considering the fact that we will forever be working with our colleagues in architecture firms. I am paired up with two other guys. Noah goes to Cal Poly SLO, with me, and I have enjoyed and/or suffered through many of the same studios as him. Our other partner, Art, goes to Cal Poly Pomona. From the past semester, I have noticed that the SLO kids have been trained to approach architecture in a much more theoretical way; we design around the experience of the building and the spaces created inside. SLO’s sister school, Pomona, takes a more practical approach; the structural design is perfect and design is taken from geometry, over experience.

After a few weeks of working with them, I feel like the three of us balance each other out. I am always thinking of my experience inside the building and I am working towards a practical function. Noah is braver with his forms and will force our group to do some more abstract designs. Art questions all of our designs and is the middle-man, the guiding force, between Noah and me.

This semester, we will spend the total 12 weeks on a gastronomy center in Florence. This complex is to house food markets, promote the understanding of food process, and encourage people to learn about other food cultures. I think this will be a very fun project. Possible food tasting?

– – – – – – –

27 February to 02 March 2012

Chao, Me, and Art.

For the above dates, CSU Firenze had a workshop with a school in Milan. The Domus Academy students are working towards a Masters in “Urban Vision and Architectural Design.” It was an interesting experience to work with these older students. Each Florence group was given one Domus student. Chao is from North China and he was such a nice guy. He studied Landscape Architecture in China and is really enjoying studying in Milan. Chao was so talented when it came to site analysis and keeping us architecture students on the right track!

For the weeklong workshop, we were challenged with a transportation hub near Florence’s airport. We carefully studied the traffic patterns and surrounding site to develop a concept for a new train station, shopping area, and transit options into Florence’s ancient center.

In the end, our professors were very happy with our design. They had almost no critiques and were very impressed how we were able to reflect the current city fabric within the plan and flow of our site! An excellent review!

(^) Circulation on the site and an exploded axo.

(^) The Money Shot: this an aerial view of the site to show its context and relationship between the traffic paths.

Hej fra København

14-18 February 2012


Arrived in Copenhagen at 8pm to falling snow. It was as if Denmark was welcoming us! We took the metro into the city center and were greeted by our Cal Poly friends. We had yummy sandwiches and elderflower cordial at the restaurant Dalle Valle.

The view from my room!

We are all staying with a different one of our classmates. In Copenhagen, the housing situation is much different then ours in Italy. All of the university students stay in apartment buildings called Kollegiums. These dormitories are completely student run. The students have their own room in a long row of doors, share a bathroom, and a communal kitchen. We all got to meet lots of different people, Danish and International students alike. I am very happy to live in Italy and have my own apartment, but I think that my Copenhagen classmates have so many opportunities to meet the “locals.”


Our friend Jean took us all over Copenhagen today! We began the morning eating fresh Danish pastries; known as Wienerbrod in Danish. I had a yummy raisin roll and an almond pastry!

We walked to the waterfront to see the iconic Nyhavn Historical Harbor. This canal is surrounded by beautiful, colorful townhouses and storefronts and filled with old, wooden boats. The week before, the weather had been so cold, causing the salt water in the harbor to freeze. It was so interesting to see the boats stuck in their positions by the 12” thick ice.

Just around the corner is the Royal Danish Playhouse (Skuespilhuset). This beautiful theater was designed by Danish architects Lundgaard & Tranberg. Situated on the waterfront, I think it showcases the cleanliness of Danish design. The interior structure is covered in horizontal dark stone, while a glass curtain wall incases the lobby and café. The staff and cast rooms occupy the cantilevered roof structure.

We took the water taxi through the icy harbor to the Copenhagen Opera House. This building is very interesting, but I was not as impressed by it. Jean was saying that Copenhagen is not happy with the placement of this building. It is situated directly across the harbor from the Queen’s Amalienborg Palace and in line with the Marble Church. It seems that the new Opera House disrupts an axis created by the historical buildings of Copenhagen.

Just behind the Opera House is the Copenhagen University of Design and houses the Architecture School: KArch. Jean took us to the Senior Thesis Show and we got to see the work of the architecture students in Denmark.

We got a quick lunch and then took the train to northern Copenhagen to the Modern Art Museum: Louisiana. The train ride was very exciting as we tried to figure out their very confusing transportation system – we almost got in trouble with a very grumpy conductor, but she gave us a chance to get our tickets straightened out. (**learned: make sure you understand the Danish transportation system. They like to follow the rules.)

Sweden on the horizon!

Louisiana is a very cool museum that used to fill just one historical building. Over the years, the museum has expanded to other out-buildings and is connected by a series of brightly lit corridors with great view of the sea. The sky was so clear, we could see all the way to Sweden!


With snow falling today, Mic took us around the city center. Copenhagen is filled with many, pedestrian only, walking streets. All of the shopping and cafes line these streets. We got to visit their school, the Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS), peak inside Danish furniture shops, and even visit the LEGO store of Copenhagen!

We got to walk past the Queen’s Palace and got very close to her front door and guards. We finally made it out to the harbor again to see the very small statue of the little mermaid. Hans Christian Andersen, author of the story The Little Mermaid, was born in Copenhagen and is honored with this statue.

Next we visited Christiania. This neighborhood has been taken over by the “free-spirited” population of Copenhagen. They have declared this area a free state and the law enforcers tend to turn a blind eye to what happens inside. The “green-light district” very interesting and eye-opening part of the day!

We spent the afternoon in a great coffee shop: Paludan. This bookshop and café had the coziest atmosphere and served some of the best chai tea I have had in a long time. I think that the café is something that I miss in Italy. In Florence, the only place of get coffee is in a “bar.” Italians take a shot of espresso in the afternoon while standing at a counter. This does not give you the same satisfaction as sitting in a comfy chair with a large cup of tea and talking with your friends for an hour. When I drink coffee or tea, I like to enjoy it, not down it quickly just to get through the rest of the day. I had such a nice time enjoying the cafes so to relax and escape the cold outside.

We had a little group dinner tonight and then took a walk on one of the frozen lakes!


Today, the Copenhagen kids had class, so we were on our own. We took the metro south to some of the new apartment buildings that are beginning to sprawl into the countryside.

BIG, Bjarke Ingels Group is a Danish architecture firm that many of my professors like. The apartment building called “8” is in the shape of a figure eight with large courtyards in the middle. The individual apartments are raised slightly above the one next door, allowing each apartment to be connected by ramps. The surrounding countryside was just beautiful!

We spent another afternoon enjoying chai in a café ☺


Last day in Copenhagen. We took the morning slowly and I made French toast for our group breakfast. Finished packing. One more relaxing chai before heading to the airport.

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I really enjoyed the clean and industrial Copenhagen. It was nice to see our friends, laugh, and compare our new homes.

a little snow in Florence + the end of fall semester.

01 February 2011: Wednesday

It is finally cold enough! On the walk home last night, we were greeted with a light snow fall. Snow! In Tuscany! I can’t believe it was 90F just a few months ago. How quickly the weather changes here.

The small flakes wafted through the air and dusted my black coat with sparkling, white flecks. This morning, the rooftops had a light dusting. We have had some snow falling all day, but all of the architecture students were stuck inside with the final project looming in front of us. Nothing stayed for long, but it was a nice surprise!

One more week till finals…

06-09 February 2011: Finals Week

Finals is over! This was one of the busiest weeks ever; I am surprised that I got everything finished and was able to get sleep every night! The thought of being in London on Friday kept me going.

Over three days, I had three tests to take, a paper to write, and an architecture project to finished, and I am very happy with how they all went.

For my History of the Italian Renaissance class, I got to write a interesting paper on Savonarola, the crazy Dominican priest that took the Florentine rule form the Medici family and became one of the first protestants against the Roman Catholic church (Martin Luther studied his speeches). It was very interesting to research and analyze how his persuasive speeches of condemnation persuaded all of Florence to follow him.

For studio, we were given 4.5 weeks to design a Museum of Industrial Italian Design. The design for this project was inspired by the river and the idea that the Florentines are afraid of it. Florence has experienced many floods throughout its history, most recently in 1966. In the center, many of the buildings turn their backs on the river and don’t really interact with it. I wanted this museum to become the bridge between the people and the river. By keeping the museum on columns the river is allowed to flow below the museum while also keeping the art protected.

North Italy: a field trip.

27-29 January 2012

This weekend the architecture and studio art students went on a field trip to northern Italy. We visited so many places and saw some of the buildings that I have been dying to see!

The cities: Padova, Vicenza, Mantova, Verona, and Parma


Capella degli Scrovegni.
We began early this morning, driving with the bus to the city of Padova. We had an early appointment at the Capella degli Scrovegni. This small chapel has some of the most intricate and well-preserved frescoes in Italy. Created by Florentine artist Giotto in 1307, the city of Padova has gone through every mean to preserve the delicate plaster. Before entering the chapel, we sat in a dehumidifying chamber for 15 minutes so to remove any moisture and dust from our bodies, after which we could only be in the chapel itself for 15 minutes. In places, we could see the beautiful base sketches where the plaster had fallen off.

After the chapel, were had a bit of time to wander through the streets of the old center. It is nice to visit towns that are not major tourist destinations. We get to use our Italian more and see how the Italian people really live.

Villa Emo.
Palladio wrote four books on architecture that laid out laws for architects to follow. These laws were based on his observations of the “ancients” or the architecture of the Greeks and Romans he had seen while traveling through Rome and Greece.

Our next stop was Villa Emo. This villa was designed by architecture god Andrea Palladio.Villa Emo follows the classical rules set in his books. Palladio created a monumental center building for the family to live, with two wings that encompass the surrounding countryside. The interior living spaces has beautiful light quality and frescoes. I would love to live here!

Tomba Brion.
Our next stop is one of my most favorite architectural projects. Designed by my favorite Carlo Scarpa, the Brion-Vega Cemetary is absolutely amazing. This tranquil garden-tomb does something to you. With an amazing view of the alps, this spot brings you peace; I can see why Scarpa requested to be buried here.


The Brion family founded the Italian electronics company Brion-Vega and hired Scarpa to design a tomb within the San Vito cemetery. Scarpa has an amazing eye for detail and understands light. Each space glows, creating a heaven on earth. With Japanese inspired designes, each detail has a function. The chapel is so beautiful and showcases Scarpa’s ability to use circles, as doorways, in his designs (he is one of the few architects who can use circles successfully). My favorite moment in this project is the door between the garden and the pavilion on the water. The door is raised and lowered by counter weights. As the glass division is raised and lowered into the floor; from the outside, you can watch the counterweight and gears move. It is so cool!

Theatro Olimpico.
Palladio was born in the city of Padova, but his projects can be seen all over the Republic of Venice. The city of Vicenza is crawling with Palladio’s works. Our first stop in Vicenza was the Theatro Olimpico.

Built in 1580, this theater also takes inspiration from Greek and Roman amphitheaters. With curved seating facing the stage, every position has a good view. Behind the stage, doorways give view to a built city street that is in perfect perspective. This section shows how the back part of the stage is short, but the shape of the buildings allows the sections to look real from the audience.

We wandered through Vicenza back to the bus. Our hotel is in the city of Parma (yes, Parmesan cheese is from here). We enjoyed a group dinner at the hotel and got to taste Parmesan Risotto. Yum!


This morning we took the bus to Mantova. We explored many beautiful churches and also the Duke’s Palace.

Villa Te.
This villa is just outside of Mantova and was designed in the Mannerist style. The more exaggerated sibling of the renaissance, mannerism’s paintings are much more flamboyant and brightly colored. This party house for the duke is filled with many fantastical frescoes, most notably The Fall of the Giants.

Last stop of the day was Castelvecchio in the town of Verona. This is the Verona of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette and we were able to visit her house. There is a large, bronze statue of Juliette, and legend says that if you rub her, you will receive luck in love.

Renovated by Carlo Scarpa, Castelvecchio was the old fort on the river of Verona. It has now become an art gallery, with the museum itself as a work of art. Again, every detail was thought of. Visitors are led around the art and up onto the ramparts with a view of the city.



Our last day in Parma was very cold and windy. We even got a bit of snow in the morning! Our professor led us through many churches, down small streets, and to a renovation project by Italian Architect Renzo Piano. For Lunch I had some more yummy Parmesan Risotto.

All in all, a great trip! I think it was the best field trip with my school. Best trip? because we were traveling with a much smaller group then usual, and also it was geared towards our interests. So, great architecture and great food!