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

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

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.


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.


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.

Exploring Firenze and Toscana

02 Sep 2011: Friday
Gelato: Wine (and it is amazing!)

It is finally Friday! My first Italian test is finished and we get to meet up with my CP Architecture friend Miche. Miche just finished a summer study class in Switzerland and is now traveling through Europe. Miche will be crashing with us for the next few days. Our first houseguest! We did some sight seeing: Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio and the south side of the Arno River. We hiked outside of the city center and up to Piazzale Michelangelo for the most amazing views of central Firenze! A must see!

On the way home, we stumbled upon a great pizzaria! Gusta Pizza (via Maggio 46R) had great pizza, a great atmosphere, and a good price. We got to share one of the large tables with two police officers.

04 Sep 2011: Sunday
Gelato: Matcha (green tea) + Cuor di Pardula (orange, lemon, + saffron) in one cone!

Today was the day of double mass! and it was so great! We went to high mass at Duomo! This was so cool! The average tourist must stand behind a fence half way down the nave. But since we were going for mass (Sar calls it the “Catholic Special”) we got to sit directly under Brunelleschi’s amazing dome, listen to mass in Italian, and smell the incense.

This evening we hiked back up to Piazzale Michelangelo to visit the church of San Miniato al Monte (St. Minias on the Mountain). This church has an adjoining monastery and every evening at 5:30 the monks hold mass. The best part though, is that the monks sing their mass. Their singing radiates through the crypt, below the alter, as the monks sing their prayers. But before entering into the church for mass, we got to witness the end of an Italian wedding. It was very cool to see all of the stylish Italians dressed in their Giorgio Armani suits.

05 Sep 2011: Monday

After class today, Sar, JC, Miche and I visited the Ospedale degli Innocenti, another great building designed by the great Brunelleschi. The Ospedale degli Innocenti, or the Hospital of the Innocent, was an orphanage and a nunnery. Mothers could place their babies on a rotating door and give their child to the nuns to care for. The nuns would teach the child a trade so that when they grow up, they could have an occupation. I first learned about this building in my architecture history class and it was great to see it first hand!

07 Sep 2011: Wednesday

We started our figure drawing class today. All of the architecture students are required to take this class. Now, when I heard figure drawing, I knew we would be drawing people. But guess what they were wearing… nothing! I was slightly shocked when we first started, but I have taken it upon myself to be mature in this situation. I am very happy with how my first pencil sketch turned out and my drawing teacher is very enthusiastic and supportive!

Today was the Festa della Rificolona (festival of the paper lanterns). Tomorrow is the birthday of the Virgin Mary and this festival is thrown to celebrate the eve of her birth and to remember the farmers who would travel out of the hills by lantern light to sell their goods. There was live Tuscan dancing and folk music and each of the young children were holding colorful lanterns (store bought and home made). I noticed one of the first differences between the US and Italy. Let me set the picture: the small children are carrying paper lanterns that had candles on the inside. The kids that are 8-12 years old walk around with pea-shooters and have one intention this night, to shoot down the lanterns and make them catch fire! This would not happen in America! But the combination of the glittering lights and the fun music made for a great atmosphere.

08 Sep 2011: Thursday

Happy Birthday to the Virgin Mary! The terrace of the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore) was open to the public once a year to honor this day. JC, Sar, Alex and I got to climb up to the base of the dome, have panoramic view of Florence, and even walk inside the church along the balcony next to the rose window. It was very cool! From this position on the dome, you can really see how the Duomo is the center of Florence. All of the major streets radiate off of the plaza.

09 Sep 2011: Friday

Our first class field trip was today. We visited the small hill town of Monteriggioni, Siena, and ended the day with dinner at Machiavelli’s house.

Monteriggioni is a walled hill town one hour outside of Florence. This medieval town was build by the city of Siena to be a fort against the attacking Florentines. Monteriggioni is preserved very well. Except for the modern shops and cars, you would think you had just traveled back into the dark ages.

Still within Toscana, Siena was the opposing super power to Firenze. It has a beautiful town hall, duomo, and is home to Il Palio (a horse
race around the sea shell shaped plaza). Even though Il Palio is during the summer, you can still see the rivalries of each district (17 in total) because each area of Siena is decorated differently and sport their colors and flags. My friend Arl and I tasted a traditional Sienanise desert. Ricciarelli are soft almond cookies are they are so good!

To end the day, we went to the house of Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli was born in Florence and became a rival of the ruling Medici family. Machiavelli eventually took over the political scene of Florence for many years before being exiled by the Medici family. Machiavelli was exiled to this house just outside of Florence where he wrote his political masterpiece The Prince. His house has now been turned into an upscale restaurant and produces wine from the same grapes as when Machiavelli lived here 500 years ago. We got to eat some great traditional Tuscan foods including Crostini (toasted bread with yummy toppings), Ribollita alla Toscana (a thick bread and vegetable stew – so good), Tiramisu and the house wine!

JC sampeling the Machiavelli wine!

Bella Toscana!

Florence: the beginning.

25 August 2011
Gelato: Pistachio

The flight from Stuttgart to Florence was very nice! I sat looking out the window the entire time! The green plains of Germany suddenly turned into the Alps and then into the golden hills of Italy. The Alps were just amazing! The rough peaks held lakes and little villages on its slopes.

After a quick one-hour flight, we landed in Florence! Instead of taking a taxi, I decided to be adventurous and navigate the bus! CSU had booked a hotel for all 120 students and I found it easily. I was assigned two great roommates (just for the week in the hotel); Carl is from SD State University and will be studying art at Florence’s Accademia. Madel is form SF State University and is studying History and Classics.

Madel and Me

It was great to meet two new people right away. Madel and I have continued to do things together because we both enjoy discussing history and movies (like King Henry XIII and “The Tudors”).

Our hotel is very cozy but we do not spend much time here! We are too busy exploring!

26 August 2011: Friday
Gelato: Melon

Friday was the first day of orientation! We met many of the advisers and staff at our school and were sent on the hunt to find our apartment! My two friends from CP Architecture, Sar and JC, and I are going to be roommates. After exploring many apartments, we have not found the perfect place yet.

Activities involve exploring this beautiful city and getting accustomed to the crooked streets that will spit us out at Santa Maria Novella Train Station when we are trying to go to the Ponte Vecchio!

27 August 2011: Saturday
Gelato: Coconut and Banana

It’s Saturday and we found an apartment!It is the cutest place! We will live only three blocks from the Duomo and just on the edge of the ancient, Roman center. The apartment is on the 4th floor (3rd in America) and we have 88 steps to climb to our large and brightly lit apartment. There are seven of us total, including JC, Sar, Kat, Ale, Han, Sta, and me! Our place is very large, with five bedrooms, allowing us to have our own spaces. We move in on 01 September!

28 August 2011: Sunday
Gelato: After 8 (Chocolate cookies in Mint Gelato!)

Today, Sunday, we went on a walking and history tour of Florence. Our school director walked us around the historical points and also explained some of the interesting cultural habits of modern Italians and Florentines, like hand gestures, gypsies, and political parties. Florence is a unique city with a very old past. The Arno River flows east to west with the city radiating out. The old center, including the Palazzo Vecchio (town hall), Ponte Vecchio (old bridge with the gold shops) and the Duomo (Santa Maria de Fiore) sit just above the river. I live and go to school on the east side, towards the church Santa Croce.

30 August 2011: Tuesday

Tuesday was the first day of Italian class! I found out that Sar, my apartment roommate, and Madel, my roommate form the hotel will be in my class. My professor is very cute and is very good at explaining all of Italian’s complicated grammar. I’m a little worried because I don’t really have a background in any of the Latin languages. Sar has taken six years of Spanish and is picking up Italian like nothing! I’ll get it eventually. I still have 9 months to learn it!

Tonight, we went to the Accademia. The last Tuesday of every month, Italy’s state museums are open to the public from 7-11pm. The first thing we had to see was Michelangelo’s David. It was absolutely amazing! Originally sitting outside of the Palazzo Vecchio, David’s marble statue was moved into the Accademia to preserve it’s beauty. Jacy and I sat staring at it for about half and hour. Brilliant!

01 September: Thrusday
Gelato: Pera (pear)

Han, Sar, and JC in the kitchen.

my bedroom

a room with a view!

Move in Day! It’s Thursday and after class, we finally got to move out of the hotel and into our spacious apartment! It is so nice to unpack and relax. We have a great view of two courtyards where we can hang our laundry and watch our neighbors. I feel like I’m in the Alfred Hitchcock movie “Rear Window” with James Stewart and Grace Kelly. I get to sit in the kitchen and eat my breakfast with a live “show” going on just outside of my window as I watch my neighbors get ready to start their days. It’s better then TV! JC and I are sharing a great room. It has a very rustic feel, with white plaster walls and exposed wood beams that support the exposed brick floor from above. I just love it!

Ciao for now!