Feasting in Florence with my Mama.

21-26 June 2012.  Thursday to Tuesday.

Thursday.
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?).

Friday.
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.

Saturday.
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.

Sunday.
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.

Monday.
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.

Tuesday.
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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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

Day Trips from Florence: Lucca + Bologna

29-30 March: Thursday & Friday.

A great thing about living in Florence is that it is located in the very center of beautiful Tuscany. It is so easy to travel to the near by hill towns or to travel north to some of Italy’s great motor-sport factories.

 

Lucca.

Located near the sea just north of Pisa, Lucca is a delicate little town that is perfect for a day trip from the warm, low-land Florence. Around the ancient center there is the original walled fortification that is shaped like a pentagon, with lookout points at each corner. This barricade has been turned into a walking path and park.

 

Jacy and I took the noon train from Florence and spent a lazy afternoon exploring and shopping. We walk along the wall, peering into gardens and enjoying the towers of the many churches. We peeked into a circular piazza that was a Roman coliseum. We enjoyed afternoon tea at a nice hotel and people-watched. It was a beautiful day and we soaked in the Tuscan sun. Inside the walls, the town was picturesque and we had so much fun wandering the streets and peeking into shops. I even bought a very cute pair of red, leather flats, and I love them!

We left Lucca around 7pm and were home in time for dinner!

 

Bologna’s Ducati Factory.

Ducati motorcycles are some of the most revered bikes in motorcycle racing. I joined Fran, Gabe, and JC on a tour of their factory and history museum. For a small donation to charity, we got to go inside the actual factory and see every step of construction that one of their bikes goes through. From engine assembly to body to testing, everything is hand done. The only step we did not see was their top secret product development lab. The factory in Bologna is very unique and assembles 6 types of production bikes that are street safe and can be sold to the public. Each worker is trained to complete and entire bike and follows each bike through all of its stages of assembly – this keeps the Ducati workers more alert because they are not doing the same, repetitive movements.

The historical museum was also very interesting, taking us through each bike created by the Ducati brand and through its racing success.

italian food at 2am

07 March 2012: Wednesday Morning

For our newest architecture design project, a gastronomy center, we got the chance to tour our site, a still functioning, wholesale, foods market in Florence. A local architect in Florence is also a prominent figure at this foods market and was very excited to show us around the site when it comes “alive” at night. At 2am, every morning, the market begins to open, as fresh fruits, veggies, meat, fish, and flowers are delivered to the market to be auctioned off to the grocery stores, outdoor markets, and restaurants.

My class arrived at midnight and were given a tour of the complex. We visited the fruit and veggie pavilion. There were crates full of colorful and beautiful, fresh food! We also got to see the meat market (complete with hanging carcasses), and a milk refinery (where milk bottled or turned into yoghurt or other products).

Italy is very proud of their food history and their food products. Since the onset of international companies and restaurants into Italy, like McDonalds, a movement for locally grown and produced ingredients began; aka. The Slow Food Movement. Food is eaten with the seasons and almost everything in the market is a “product of Italy.” I feel as though I am eating healthier because I know that most things are gown locally, therefore, they are more natural and without as many preservatives. Everything I cook is full of flavor and tastes great!

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.

Silvester: Our New Years in Austria + a trip to Rome

30 December 2011: Friday

Today we spent the day in Salzburg, Austria. We took a bullet train from Ulm to Salzburg; once again, enjoying the green grass and snow covered Alps. Snow flurries followed us the entire ride!

Arriving in Salzburg around noon, we enjoyed a short walk through gently falling snow to the old city center. We laughed so hard when JC stepped out into the snow for the first time. With a big smile, she shouted, “It’s touching me!” and immediately put up her umbrella!

Our first stop in Salzburg was Schloss Mirabell. The palace gardens were on my must-see list because part of the film Sound of Music was filmed here! You know the part where they jump up and down the stairs while singing “Doe, a deer?” That was here!!!

By then, it was time to meet up with more of my mom’s cousins! Andre (son of my mom’s Uncle Rup), his wife Barb, and their middle son Bene met us. They live in a small town outside of Salzburg and were so excited to come and see us. My mom was saying, they last time they met, she was 7 years old!

They gave us a fantastic tour of old Salzburg. They took us to a shop filled with hand decorated eggs that could be used for any holiday. This shop, maybe 1000 square feet was covered in these eggs! We continued to the beautiful Salzburger Dom and then to a really cool cemetery. The St. Peters cemetery is situated at the base of the Salzburg cliffs, with the huge Schloss Hohensalzburg perched above. Filled with old iron crosses, there could not be a cooler (both “wow” and “freezing”) place to be buried.

We walked past Mozart’s Birth house on our way to a great dinner. I had Christmas beer with a tender pork chop and bread dumpling. Yum!

At 19:00, we took the train on to Wien (Vienna). It is so nice to have family all over Europe. Hopefully I can come back in the summer to visit one more time before returning to the States!

31 December 2011: Silvester

What is Silvester? New Year’s Eve in Europe gets its name from Pope Sylvester I, who died on the 31st of December. We began Silvester with a trip to Schloss Schonbrunn for their Winter Market. We enjoyed looking at all of the crafts and foods we could buy there. One booth was selling pretzels in all flavors! Including a doughnut pretzel?!

Next, we took the metro to an old-amusement park (it was kinda weird) to see the world’s oldest ferris wheel. By this time, the Silvester festivities in central Wein were starting, so we headed to Stephansplatz. In front of the cathedral of St. Stephan a large stage was set up where a man was teaching the audience to waltz! Everyone grabbed a partner and was waltzing around the square as the instructor called out the steps! For Silvester, Wien has many booths along their pedestrian streets that were all playing different styles of music or selling hot gluhwein. We made our way to the Wiener Opera House where we visited a Würstelstand and bought yummy Bratwurst Hot Dogs (a large white sausage stuffed inside a roll with mustard and ketchup. So good!

As it became dark and cold, we went back to our bed and breakfast to bundle up and grabbed the mini bottle of champagne our host had given us before heading back to Stephansplatz. Now, a traditional Austrian umpapa band had begun to play. The conductor was so enthusiastic and entertaining to watch!

Just before midnight, we fought our way through the crowds of people towards Schloss Hofburg to watch the fireworks. Before midnight, people began to set their own fireworks off, and by midnight, fireworks were firing from every direction! A rogue one even flew sideways and hit the building next to us! Even though I was really scared, the atmosphere was so exciting! It felt like time square in NYC.

Happy New Year!

01 January 2012: Sunday

This morning, we took the ring trolley around the outside of the city center, looking at all of the state buildings. We stopped outside of the Rathaus to watch the Vienna Philharmonic play through a live broadcast. We enjoyed more Wurst Hot Dogs and Hot Chocolate while listening to the beautiful music.


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For afternoon tea, my mom took us to the Hotel Sacher for Sachertorte and tea. Sachertorte is a delectable combination of a chocolate-gingerbread cake with apricot jam, coated in a thick, chocolate coating. Fabulous!

After, we visited the Imperial Library in Schloss Hofburg. It looked like the library form Beauty and the Beast. This Baroque library is filled floor to ceiling with ancient books while the ceiling is painted with beautiful frescoes. Just down the street is a famous café and chocolate store called Demel. While I was deciding if I should buy this 3 euro chocolate bar, I noticed this woman running around the store grabbing everything in sight, not even looking at the price tags. I happened to get in line behind her and watched as her purchase grew, to 470 euro! My mom and I had to pick our jaws off the floor! And to make it even sillier, she paid with a 500 euro bill! I did not know they even made those! Next, she asked if they had a delivery service to her hotel, but declined to have it brought by taxi! I just began to laugh when I had to pay only 3 euro for my little chocolate bar (which was amazing by the way). Aah to be rich.

In the evening, we went to the opera. Just before the curtain opens, you can buy standing room tickets. For only 4 euro, we got to watch Die Fledermaus from behind the ground-floor audience. It was the perfect place for watching the opera. Only catch, you have to stand for 3 hours. It was a great experience to watch the people with seats come into the opera house, dressed in their best cloths, drinking champagne. Played every New Year’s Day, Die Fledermaus by Johan Strauss II, was very witty and funny and all in German. The great thing about this opera house is that they have subtitle screens to help you read along in English.

02 January 2012: Monday

Our last day in Wien. We went straight to Schloss Schonbrunn to tour the summer home of the Habsburg family. I learned that Maria Theresa was empress of Austria. She gave birth to 16 children, one of which was Marie Antoinette, future queen of France. This palace was beautiful and elegantly decorated with the distinct simplicity of Asian influence.

We then made one last trip into the center to Stephansplatz to visit the Manner cookie shop. They make tastey chocolate wafer cookies. I also got Schoko-Bananen, a banana flavored mousse coated in chocolate.

Our last stop was inside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral where we took a tour of the crypt. We ventured deep below the cathedral to see the jars containing the organs of the Habsburg royalty, many pits of bones (even ones that died from the plague), and an ossuary (bones stacked on top of each other to save space).

At 16:00 we had to catch the train back to Munich. This train was so crowded that JC and I had to sit on the floor most of the ride. Once in Munich, we changed to a night train back to Florence. This was an “interesting” experience.

03 January 2012: Tuesday
Gelato: Café + San Crispino (Honey)

We arrived in Florence at 6:30 this morning and went right to sleep, wakening up around noon to pack again for an overnight trip to Rome. My mom had been to Italy once before, but never to Rome, so I was really excited to go with her.

We arrived in Rome around 15:00 and went directly to the colosseum. We wandered around the outside (they closed early that day) laughing at the men dressed up as gladiators interacting with women tourists. The sunset was very beautiful to watch as it set behind the Forum.

We visited the Pantheon (built as a temple to all gods, it is now a catholic church). This ancient temple has an oculus in the circular roof that is open to the elements. It had rained earlier that day and we could see the remnants of the rain on the floor just below the opening.

For dinner we ate at La Baffetto. We had to arrive early to get a table inside because this is one of the most famous pizzerias in Rome. In a very orderly fashion, we were led to our seats, ordered right away, and watched the chefs make our pizza in front of the ovens. I had a calzone and it was so good! Buy the time we left, there was a long line waiting to go inside to eat pizza. We were seated with a very nice girl. She is form Slovenia and is studying Italian in Rome for one week. She had such a passion for the language and was so happy to be here experiencing Rome! She took us on a little tour of the ancient center, past the Trevi fountain to a Il Gelatoria di San Crispino. We ate our gelato in front of the beautiful Trevi Fountain and then tossed in our coins for good luck and a hope of returning to Rome.

We walked to the Spanish steps before heading to our hotel.

04 January 2012: Wednesday

This morning we visited the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. We waited in a long line to enter the beautiful church! We saw many preserved popes and the alter designed by Brunelleschi. Built over St. Peter’s (the first pope) burial sight, St. Peters Basilica is the largest cathedral in the world, has the longest nave, and the tallest dome. We sent a postcard from the Vatican City post office to Tante Elk saying, “we went to see the pope, but he was taking a nap!”


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Finally, we returned to the colosseum to go inside. This place is so cool! Even though all of the seats are gone, you can still imagine the 40,000 people that sat in this stadium watching the battles take place below.

Our last stop was the Palatine Hill and Forum. I think this was my favorite part in Rome. Very few people were there and it began to rain, giving the ruins a clean, shiny appearance. It still is amazing to think that people lived here thousands of years ago!

05 January 2012: Thursday
Gelato: Caffe + Crema de Grom

Today is Mom’s last day. It was a difficult day for both of us, to enjoy Florence together for one last day. Lots of organization of stuff to bring back to the states. A dinner trip to Fiesole. Grocery shopping. And the day was over already.

06-08 January 2012: Friday – Sunday
Gelato (08 Jan): Ambrosia + Biscottini

The weekend was devoted to being lazy and getting ready for the start of Fall Semester – Part 2.
Friday was the Ephany, the arrival of the three kings to visit Jesus. We went to Piazza Duomo to see the live nativity scene. We saw live animals, a kids choir singing Christmas songs (I recognized some of them! Same tune, but sung in Italian), and we watch the long parade of people dressed in historical costumes. Finally the three kings arrived. Led by the arch-bishop of Florence, they offered their gifts to baby Jesus.

09 January 2012: Monday

School again full throttle.
New Studio Project: Italian Design Museum + green space

10-23 January 2012
Gelato (10 Jan): Biscottini + Pistacio

The past two weeks have been busy with school, studio, shopping at the January sales, and catching up on this blog! I have been working with my mom and uncle, via email, to organize the information about our family tree that we discovered in the cemeteries while in Germany. I went with JC and Sar to the town of Prato for a small exhibition of Italian futurist architecture firm Superstudio.

Enjoying Italy and la dolce vita!

Buon Natale! Frohe Weihnachten! Happy Christmas!

15 December 2011: Thursday

This evening we had a school Christmas dinner at a nice trattoria near the Medici Chapel in Florence. We dined on antipasti, eggplant parmesan, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and panettone. Everything was tastey and the company was great. I sat with Madel and a friend of hers that was visiting Italy from a study trip to Sweden. I knew that she also went to Cal Poly but it was not until I met her that I realized that she is roommates back at Cal Poly with one of my best friends from high school! It is so funny how small our world is!

17 December 2011: Saturday
Gelato: Crem de Grom + Tiramisu

19-22 December 2011: Mid-Terms

A week full of studying and little sleep. Not much different then finals week at Cal Poly. I had my Florentine Architecture midterm on Monday, Grammar and History of the Renaissance midterms on Thursday.

Wednesday was “d-day;” the day my final design for the Uffizi Gallery exit was due. The exit had to include a café and also fit into the historical context of ancient Florence. For this project, I was thinking a lot about what the renaissance was. The Renaissance is a re-birth of classical ideals. I studied the evolution of proportions and styles, and then added a third phase to the evolutionary tree. Following the styles of Mies van der Rohe, I developed this project: –>

23 December 2011: Friday
Gelato: panettone and mandarin (Italian Christmas combination)

She is here! My mom arrived last night to visit me in Florence! This had been the longest time I have ever been away from my mama! 4 months is too long. With the end of my last final on Thursday, I practically ran to the train station of pick up my mom.

Today, we walked around to see all of the sights and I gave my mom a thorough lecture of Florentine architecture. We visited the Palazzo Vecchio and David, the Ponte Vecchio, we bought her a pair of leather gloves.

In the evening, we hiked up the hill to the Piazalle Michelangelo. The city of Florence had set up a beautiful frosted Christmas tree in the Piazalle. For dinner, JC, Sar, and I took her to Gusta Pizza for some real Florentine Pizza!

24 December 2011: Saturday and Christmas Eve

We slept in and in the afternoon, we went to the central market to buy some food for our Christmas Eve dinner. She had so much fun looking at all of the strange cuts of meat, cheeses, and vegetables. For dinner, I made meatloaf patties and green beans. Sar joined us and made us one of her wonderful Tiramisu! I was even able to find “A Christmas Story” online to continue our tradition of watching it every Christmas.

After dinner and presents, we took an evening stroll through the streets and made our way to the Duomo for Christmas Eve mass. It lasted 2 ½ hours! More then a Sunday mass, there was an hour of singing and verse reading before mass began. Led by our favorite archbishop of Florence, we enjoyed the smell of incense and the revealing of baby Jesus (in my opinion the best part)! I had never seen the Duomo so full! It was such a fun experience!

25 December 2011: Christmas Day

Buon Natale! (meaning “good birth” or Happy Christmas in Italian).
Mom, JC, and I got on the train this morning to visit my family in Germany again! This time, we are staying with my mom’s cousin Mari and her husband Wolf (daughter of my Tante Git, sister of Barb). The train ride was so beautiful, just like the one to Vals. This time, we went through Austria, past Insbrook. We arrived in Ulm in the evening, just in time for Kasespatzle!

26 December 2011: Monday

Today is the feast of St. Stevens and a state holiday in Bavaria. We took the morning easy. JC and I explored the yard around Mari and Wolf’s house. They have five pet peacocks! We had fun looking for and collecting the tail feathers of the beautiful male peacock. They also have two geese and tons of chickens running around their yard.

For lunch, we went to my Tante Git’s house for a post-Christmas supper and then ventured through the town where my grandma was born. We enjoyed good conversation and more Christmas cookies then any one person should consume.

I tried a new type of cookie who’s recipe comes from my great grandma. Made from the Quince fruit. This fruit-roll-up type cookie has a sweet, yet bitter, taste and is so tasty!

27 December 2011: Tuesday
Munich

Up early today to tour Munich. We began the day at Schloss Nymphenburg. Home to King Ludwig I and birthplace of King Ludwig II (he later built Schloss Neuschwanstein). This palace is a simple version of Versailles in Paris, but the frescoes and paintings will give Versailles a run for its money. King Ludwig I began a collection of portraits called “The Gallery of Beauties.” This collection included 36 portraits of the most beautiful women the king had ever met; from a cobbler’s daughter, to some of the noblest women in Bavaria.

We continued into the center to find a very old cemetery. Everyone from my mom’s side of the family is buried here. It was such a creepy cemetery, with vines growing over the tombstones and the overgrown trees blocking the sunlight and casting strange shadows on the dirt path. We explored all of the sights in the center (rathaus, St. Peters, Frauenkirche) and had bratwurst and beer at the Victualienmarkt.

Our last stop of the day was at the Olympic park and BMW Welt! The Olympic park had three pavilions made of fabric lofted over a large open space. BMW Welt (World) is the museum and factory for the BMW cars. The museum and showroom was designed by architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au. This space was fantastic with different platforms and spaces for soaking in the beautiful automobiles. We even saw some original vintage cars, including the BMW Isetta.


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Dinner was in a traditional Munchener restaurant. We ate schnitzel and spatzle!
The drive home after was full of excitement. Wolf is not afraid of the road! On the autobahn, he pushed the car to 190 km/h. That is about 120 m/h. The fastest I have ever been in a car!

28 December 2011: Wednesday

This morning was lazy and so was the afternoon. All we did was eat today! My Uncle Mich came from Stuttgart to visit my mom and we had a wonderful brunch of meat, cheese, eggs, and pfannkuchen (German pancakes).

We kept eating at Uncle Mar’s house. Gert made some wonderful desserts and we enjoyed coffee with whipped cream! Tante Git, Barb, Tante Wilt, and another Wolf joined us! In our family, we like to count names. The same names tend to show up over and over again throughout a family tree. Names like Rupert, Martin, and Hugo are uncountable in our family!

This evening, we drove into Ulm to visit a German Medieval festival. We drank gluhwein (like mulled wine) and ate some hot snacks. It was so cold that night! To fight the cold, the festival supplied hot wooden baths that people could pay to sit in. Weird if you ask me. But people were enjoying it.

29 December 2011: Thursday

Our last day in Germany. We took the drove down to the Allgau again to play in the snow today! Wolf and Maria have several traditional wooden sleighs and we had so much fun flying down the snow-covered hills. We had a picnic lunch of liverwurst and pretzels with hot apple juice! The Alps were covered with clouds most of the day, but around 13:00 the clouds began to lift. We could see deep into the Alps as the snow began to fall. It was so beautiful and JC’s first time seeing falling snow.


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Dinner at Barb’s with Schupfnudeln (long potato noodles) and sauerkraut.

Tomorrow we head to Salzburg. I am sad that we must leave Germany so quickly! I feel so welcome here. I’m falling in love with Bavaria.

East Italy: Arezzo, Urbino, and Ravenna

29 November 2011: Tuesday
Gelato: Opera Italiana + Yogurt and Nutella

30 November 2011: Wednesday
Gelato: Biscotti Natale (Christmas cookie)

02-03 December 2011

This weekend we had another field trip. This time, just for students taking social science and history classes. Since I am taking History of the Italian Renaissance, I got to go!

Friday.
Arezzo

We had to catch the bus super early, but by 8am we were in the small town of Arezzo. Fun fact: the movie “La Vita è Bella” aka “Life is Beautiful” was filmed in this cute town and Arezzo was the birth place poet, Patriarch, and of architect, Georgio Vasari (later to be the main architect of Florence and Cosimo I). We only had time to explore the walled city center. We were led through the town on a very extensive tour by one of the Art History professors. She knew absolutely everything about early Christian art and architecture.

We began our tour of Arezzo in Basilica San Francesco (there is one in almost every town in Italy) to see the marvelous frescoes that had recently been restored. These frescoes depicted the history of the true cross.

We walked to the church Santa Maria della Pieve complete with huge bell tower. The coolest part though was the interesting façade made of many different re-used columns. Behind this church was the Piazza Grande where many scenes from “La Vita è Bella” were filmed. Here is a clip from the movie, if you forward to minute 5, you can see how they used the piazza!

In the Piazza grand is also a long loggia designed by Vasari. If you compare it the Uffizi Gallery in Firenze, they look very similar. We also visited the cathedral of Arezzo and the Basilica of San Dominico. Our last stop before heading to the next town was the birth house of Vasari. The building itself and the frescoes inside were done by him. Very impressive!

Urbino

Urbino has a much different feel compared to Arezzo. This town was built on a hillside and has a large fortress like palace perched at the top. The Duke of Urbino was a military superhero and good friend of the Pope during the 1500s. His palace has been turned into a museum that houses one of the most important collections of Renaissance art. The Duke’s study was beautiful, covered in perspective designed wood panels.

Renaissance painter Raphael was born in Arezzo and we were able to visit house and see some of his early paintings completed before he was brought to Florence by the Medici. Last stop in Urbino was the Oratory of San Giuseppe. Dedicated to Joseph, father of Jesus, the Oratory is made of two small chapels; one in a baroque style and the other with simple frescoes. The painter of the frescoes had a real sense of humor. He was a very good painter, but some people had strange expressions, children were causing havoc, and a dog was licking himself. Funny stuff.

Urbino was my favorite town on this trip because of its hillside location and beautiful view.
For dinner, we had a class dinner at a local restaurant. Decorated only with pictures of chickens, we were served 5 courses of different pasta and rabbit. Which I ate. And it was good, better then any chicken I have ever had. Yum.

Saturday.
Ravenna

After yet another quick bus ride to Ravenna, we began yet another day of non-stop information about this town. Ravenna was a major seaport and capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. All of the churches had beautiful early Christian eastern mosaics.

We visited so many great locations including the Mausoleum of Theodoric, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Arian Baptistery, the Neonian Baptistery, Basilica of San Vitale, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Basilica of St. Francis, and the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe. We went to every single building on the UNESCO world heritage site! It was interesting to compare the different mosaic styles, find the stories of Jesus, and discover mosaics of the different rulers like Emperors Justinian and Theodosius.


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I also found out that Dante was buried in Ravenna. Born in Florence, Dante was exiled to Ravenna for his political writing. He wrote all of his divine comedy here and always longed to return to his Firenze.

We learned so many things and saw so many different things that the day is almost a blur!

Why I’m in Florence: Studying.

2-3 November 2011: Wednesday + Thursday

Real school started Wednesday. We had a full day of architecture studio and presentations. Before leaving for the PLP break, we were assigned a small case study project to explore the beautiful architecture in Firenze. I was assigned the bridge of Ponte Santa Trinita, one bridge to the right of the Ponte Vecchio. Originally I thought this bridge would have no information, but I discovered it to have a very long and interesting history. The first bridge was built in the early 1200s, it was destroyed a total of 4 times and rebuilt 5 times. After the 3rd wooden bridge collapsed after the Arno River flooded, Florentine architect, Bartolomeo Ammannati, constructed a stone and geometrically stronger renaissance bridge in the 1500s. It stood for 500 years before being destroyed by the Nazi army during WWII, and has since been reconstructed from the original stones that were dredged from the Arno. I had so much fun researching this bridge. I discovered that the local library of Florence (which I now have a library card for) has a huge archive of ancient reference books. I was able to skim through an engineering book that gave the statics analysis for the bridge that was published in the late 1700s! It was so cool!

My studio project for the fall (due 21 Dec) is a new exit to the Uffizi Gallery. It will be cool to see what we design and how we interact with the interesting site and the context of this old city.

My Italian conversation class will be different then the last class because it is more of a cultural class in Italian. We are to discuss major figures in today’s culture, architecture, food, holidays, etc.

History of the Italian Renaissance will also be fun. My professor is a real kick. He is very funny and knows some of the strangest facts about people in Florence’s history.

04 November 2011: Friday
Gelato: Cinnamon + Café (really good combination!)

05 November 2011: Saturday
Gelato: Amaretto + Persimmon

We found out today that a TEDtalk was taking place in Florence, so on a whim JC, Sar, and I tried to attend. Our attempt was successful! We got some cool tote bags and official badges and got to listen to some very interesting lectures – however they were all in Italian… and I could only understand about 30% of what they were talking about, but it was still really cool!

One was partially in English. An Italian born professor at UC San Diego has developed some very cool software that can scan artwork and show the layers hidden behind the paintings. They have applied this technique to Botticelli’s Primavera and da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi. Through this software they can see the touchups made on paintings and see what is hidden beneath, including da Vinci’s beautiful sketches that lie below the sepia paint. So cool!

11 November 2011: Friday

It is nice going to school here in Florence. There are two things that really stick out in my mind: 1. No school on Friday; I know this may be insignificant to some college students, but Cal Poly Architecture requires school 5 days a week! 2. When we learn about someone or something in history, we can take the train a few hours and visit where they lived.

This week in History of the Renaissance, we learned of St. Francis of Assisi. Did you know that he was a poet? And was one of the first people to use modern Italian in its written form? So, JC and I took the train three hours south to the town of Assisi.

This small hill town is picturesque. The view over Umbria was breath-taking. JC and I enjoyed wandering the perfect streets and visiting the many churches that perch on the hillside. The most important one is the basilica of San Francesco (St. Francis) which includes two churches stacked on top of each other. The upper was the oldest, dating back to early Christian style architecture, while the lower church was more gothic in style and covered in frescoes depicting the life of San Francesco. Below the lower chapel is the tomb of San Francesco. It was really cool to be down in the tomb and to see how admired this saint is and how his life has influenced so many people. This tomb is a pilgrimage spot for so many people, including monks and nuns of the Franciscan order and I can now see why my Tante Elk wanted me to visit.

10 November 2011: Thursday
Gelato: Lemon Pudding + Almond cookie

13 November 2011: Sunday
Gelato: After Eight + Opera Italiana

15 November 2011: Tuesday

My friend from Cal Poly, Mic, is visiting us from his study in Copenhagen this weekend. On his last night here, we decided to climb Brunelleschi’s dome! The venture up the dome was quite the experience. We hiked up the spiral towers to the terrace of the dome where we could look into the eyes of the giant frescoes that grace the ceiling. Then we hike through the double layer dome to the lantern. On the journey up, we could see the pattern of brick used to construct the dome. The size of this dome forced Brunelleschi to develop a new type of construction. Instead of using wooden framework, they built the dome in rows with a herringbone pattern.

From the top, we had a beautiful view of the city. Each monument was lit up. We could even see our apartment!

18 November 2011: Friday

Yesterday, 17 November, was my 22nd birthday. After a long day of classes, I came home to an amazing meal prepared by my great roommates. Sar and JC slaved over the stove and made lasagna and tiramisu! We had a bunch of friends over and enjoyed each others company and lots of laughter!