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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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!