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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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.

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!

Berlin. A return to Deutschland.

I love Berlin! It’s not a city for the vacationer, but for the traveler. What is the difference? A person on vacation is looking for a relaxing time, to be pampered. Berlin is for the traveler. It is a city full of different foods and people, a terrible history and a fascinating present and future.

26 October 2011: Wednesday

We got into Berlin late, so we did not do any exploring. We spend time looking around our huge hostel and planning out our next few days. Our hostel is in what was East Berlin, the communist sector. I found it interesting that you can still see some parts of the communist rule around the city. According to Rick Steves, the people of Berlin voted to keep the communist crossing signals in East Berlin. When you walk into West Berlin, the signals change design.

This was my first time staying in one of these hyper-hostels and we met many interesting people. For example, the four of us were staying in a six-person room and we had one other guest staying with us. Rob was from the Netherlands. Just picture him, long black hair, leather vest, a total 50-year old rocker. I later found out that he is in an underground rock band, meeting up with his German band mates before they start their tour of Europe. I am so thankful that we had Fran traveling with us!

27 October 2011: Thursday

This morning we took the metro to the longest bit of Berlin wall still standing. It has been turned into the east side gallery; artists have painted murals all along the wall, reflecting on the time under communist control.

By now it was time for lunch and we had the best german fast food! Bratwurst and Fries!!!!! It was so good! If you are ever in Berlin, you must stop at Konnopke’s Imbiss. Situated under a railroad track, I was told by a local Berliner that this restaurant has been open since before WWII. It was even able to stay open in the communist sector during the cold war. Yum! I want some now!

This afternoon, we visited the Berliner Fernsehturm TV tower. This tower was built under the control of the Nazi party. There is a ironic story associated with this tower: Since the Nazi party rejects religion, it is interesting that when the sun is shining, a cross is reflected off of the ball of the tower!

We walked past the rathaus and to the Swiss embassy by architect Rem Koolhaas. We could only see the outside, but this building still shines with the smooth modernism that is swiss. We saw the Berliner Dom (Berlin’s Protestant Cathedral-like church), the Neo-Classical Altes Museum, and had fun sampling all of the International foods that have invaded Berlin. Fran was happy to eat Asian Takeout at Happy Noodle while JC and I were overjoyed to have Boba Tea!

This night, we went into the Pergamon Museum. This unique museum gets its name from the temple that was deconstructed in Turkey and taken, stone by stone, here to Berlin where it was reconstructed within this museum. There were many huge, ancient facades and countless artifacts dating back to antiquity.

28 October 2011: Friday

This morning we took a tour of the Reichstag. This building holds the meeting room of the new German Republic. The original building was built during the first German Republic, it was almost destroyed during the Nazi take over, and has been recently restored with a new dome by British architect Norman Foster. The dome is made of glass with ramps winding up the inside. An audio tour took us through the history of the German government, surrounding architecture, and the design of the dome. The glass construction represents the transparency of the new Republic.

We walked through the Tiergarten park, enjoying the fall colors, past Brandenburg Gate, to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews by Peter Eisenman. This memorial was very cool. Hundreds of concrete blocks rise out of the earth at different heights with the earth sloping down, creating a forest of concrete for an entire city block.

We met up with my roommate Kat, who was traveling during PLP break from Vienna to Berlin and we took her to the yummy Konnopke’s Imbiss for Bratwurst again!

29 October 2011: Saturday

Today was a very thought provoking day. We walked from the hostel through the city center to Daniel Liebskind’s Jewish Museum. I think that the museum building itself was so cool and brilliantly designed. Unfortunately the exhibit on Jewish culture took away from the impact of the museum itself.

Liebskind, a Polish Jew, was born just after the end of world war two and grew up in its aftermath. He moved to America when he was a boy and became an architect. He has been using his skills as an architect to create some very impactful museums (also one in San Francisco).

The original building for the Jewish Museum still stands with Liebskind’s metal “scar” stretching out behind it. There are several axis used to create the shape of the building. Between the axis, the “voids” become moments of contemplation. The Holocaust Tower is a tall, unheated room with just one light source, used to remember the victims of the Holocaust. The garden of exile holds 49 trees on columns with the floor at an angle giving a very disorienting feeling, the same feeling given to the refugees as they escaped to their new home. And the Memory Void held thousands of faces cut out of metal. This art installation was to represent the innocent victims of the war. You are able to walk upon the faces; you are forced to trod lightly, with the metal pieces overlapping and banging together… just watch the video…

This museum’s architecture was fabulous. I now understand why all of my professors are always raving about it.

For lunch, we found a Schwäbisch restaurant (food from Bavaria). I was so excited be cause I got everyone to try Käsespätzle!!! It was so good!

We hurried to the Neues Museum, museum of Egypt and antiquity, to see the bust of Nefertiti, before going to the Typographies of Terror Museum (TTM). The TTM was absolutely fascinating. It went in depth into the rise and fall of the Nazi party. It explained how the party gained so much popularity throughout Germany and put faces behind its leaders. It is so interesting how the party pulled Germany out of a depression after WWI while secretly destroying so many lives. The new pavilion that houses the TTM was built on top of the foundation of the original headquarters for the SS. A must see museum in Berlin.

30 October 2011: Sunday

Kat met us at the hotel this morning and the five of us took the train out of Berlin to the town of Dessau. The Bauhaus, school of Architecture was established here by German modernist architects Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rhoe (#3 on my list of favorite architects). Cal Poly sent five architecture students to study here for two quarters and we were excited to visit them and see the renowned school.

They met us at the train and gave us a tour around the small and quiet town of Dessau. It was Sunday so many things were closed. There is a very large theater in Dessau that is said to fit the entire population of Dessau (over 40,000 people). I was told that Hitler planned to make Dessau the new capital of the Nazi regime and therefore began building some very large, but now unnecessary, projects.

We had lunch in a small beer garden and spend several hours talking and laughing. We ate Bratwurst, kartoffelsalat (potato salad, but German and amazing), fresh bread, and an apple tart. We wandered slowly back to the train, enjoying the fall leaves and crisp air.

31 October 2011: Monday

Our flight left very early this morning from Berlin, arriving in Milan at 8am! We took the bus into the Milan center, exploring the beautiful Galleria and the Milan Duomo. The Galleria is a glass covered shopping center dating back to 1865 and selling the top Italian clothing like Gucci and Prada, and housing The Seven Stars Galleria Hotel (the only 7 star hotel in the world!) Also, there is a mosaic of the crest of Torino, a bull. For good luck, you are to step on the bull, just like Fran is doing. That spot in the floor is worn through to the concrete below!

The Duomo gathers its elaborate gothic style from the French. This cathedral is also home to many catholic relics including recently dead popes and cardinals (I could even see their hair poking out from under their death masks… weird if you ask me).

We had lunch at a bakery called “Princi.” It is a local favorite and we had to push our way to the bar to order the yummy and fresh focaccia bread! The train home was smooth and relaxing after our fun trip.

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

10 September 2011: Saturday
Gelato: Tiramisu

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

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

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

11 September 2011: Sunday

architecture students enjoying their wine

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

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

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

17-18 September 2011: Saturday + Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

School. Eating. Loving Life!

21 September 2011: Wednesday

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

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

22 September 2011: Thursday

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

24 September 2011: Saturday
Gelato: Chocolate with Sicilian Orange

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

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

25 September 2011: Sunday

Corri La Vita – The Life Race

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

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

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

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

26 September 2011: Monday

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

27 September 2011: Tuesday

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

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

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!