Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So over the weekend my blog with my best friend was deleted, not oopps let me fix this but gone completely. Two months and over 30 posts are completely gone, so to put it lightly we are heartbroken. Today I had the thought I wonder what happened to my Italy blog.... Well it somehow surrvived the blogger crisis. At first I wished it had been the other way around and been deleted to save my other blog, but I took the time to reread my posts and changed my mind.To summarize how I felt after reading my posts (it only seems fitting that I did so eating prosciutto con melone and wearing my uomo underwear; they are like shorts). The only way to describe it was
“Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”

So after a trip down memory lane I have decided that I miss these things the most!

1. Voices, I miss hearing my friends talk the most. I have forgotten what people sounded like and that makes me sad. I would give anything to hear Italian from those I met.

2. Fabrizio, the cafe owner, he would always talk to me and made sure we were looked after

3.Pear juice and bomboloni (I crave these!)

4. Hanging out with my Italian friends. They were so much fun, and it is sad how quickly I lost touch with them. It is incredible how much of an impact people can make on your life and probably don't even remember who I am. Thankfully I still keep up with a few of my Italian high school friends on a fairly weekly basis. They keep me up to date on the current music in the discotecca. It is amazing how much an email or facebook message can brighten my day.

In all I am thankful that my blog still exists if only for my own selfish use. I know no one will read this but sometimes feelings just need to be put down in words. Ciao ciao!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Due Settimane in Italia Bella

Two weeks traveling around Italy sounds like a daunting task but with all of the trains and buses that are fairly reliable traveling is easy. The only problem that comes up is when you have three months of stuff that weighs over 75 pounds to carry, only down fall. My two weeks started off in Florence where I arrived to cold weather and rain. Italy had just begun putting up all of its lights and holiday decorations so every street was decked out in the holiday spirit making even the rain seem trivial. My first day in Florence brought news of museum strikes. Every major museum, The Uffizi, The Galleria, and Pitti Place were all closed for Monday, Tuesday, and then also Wednesday due to a holiday. Instead I spent one day walking around Florence visiting all of the open churches, (thank goodness Florence Cathedral was still open!) visiting the markets, and stopping in the shops. On Tuesday I traveled to Siena which was a welcomed relief when everything was open.

Since the cold and the rain were growing tiring I was excited to travel south to Sorrento where I hoped would have blue skies, sun, and warm weather. I got the first two things on my wish list but the warm weather lasted for only one day and quickly turned quite frigid. Sorrento was a beautiful town on the coast and every street was lined with orange trees. Birds of Paradise and palm trees gave the town a somewhat tropical feeling. My first morning in Sorrento was glorious and warm! I was able to put away my jacket if only for a day. I went to Pompeii and Herculaneum and was amazed at how the two ancient cities were impacted by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in completely different ways. Pompeii, the more touristy of the two, was large and consisted of partial ruins, and remnants of mosaics but had large amphitheaters, and public meeting places. In contrast Herculaneum was almost completely deserted but had almost intact building with second and third stories, tables; barrel arched ceilings, and still had some original wood beams. Herculaneum really gave me the true feeling of what life in ancient Rome would have been like, and seeing Mount Vesuvius looming over showed me how there was really no time for escape.

My last two days in Sorrento included driving down the Amalfi Coast and taking a boat to Capri. The Amalfi coast is something that I think can only be experienced in a car, and a little one at that. The constant hairpin turns, tight tunnels and breathtaking views where to say the least an experience. We stopped in Vietri sul Mare to see some local pottery and a wrong turn lead us down to the beach and an up close look at the sparkling blue water. Capri was the coldest I had ever been in Italy. I think it had something to do with the wind but I was numb for the majority of the time. Anacapri was quaint, and the chairlift to the top offered stunning views of the island and water. Capri was full of shops and besides the cold was a fascinating place. One of my favorite parts about the south was the clementines that I bought. A two kilo bag was only a little over a euro and gave me the opportunity to eat twelve at a time. They were delicious and addictive.

After the south I spent a week in Rome, where the city is always alive. I saw all the ruins walked along the Tiber River and spent almost five hours in the Vatican Museum. On my weekend in Rome every minute counted so only saw the major parts of the Vatican. This time I was able to take my time in the museum and enjoy every exhibit. My favorite part was the Egyptian portion and the Etruscan pottery, both I had missed on my first time. While at the Vatican I saw large amounts of black smoke and later learned on the Italian news that there was a huge riot that involved burning of cars, smashing store windows, and police and people confrontation. After that I saw more police and Carabinieri everywhere. After four days of museums and ruins I was excited to experience an Italian IKEA. It was an interesting process getting there that involved a police officer who winked at me, correctly pronouncing IKEA, and waiting for the bus in the snow. Eating the Swedish Meatballs was a little taste of heaven! I was also able to see snow fall in Rome while waiting for the bus outside of IKEA. The snowflakes where huge, and filled the sky, but they soon turned into cold rain. Friday was crazy day in Rome, not only did it snow but I also walked through a huge thunderstorm and was soaked. My favorite person I saw in Rome has to be the man looking in the mirror on his Vespa to make sure his sunglasses looked ok on his head. Not only was it pouring down rain but it was also dark. The only thing I could do was try not to laugh and as soon as I rounded the next corner I burst out laughing. Another accomplishment in Rome was finding the tomb of my great, great, great cousin who was blessed in the 1990’s. This involved making a priest mad by asking him in Italian to please speak slowly and to repeat himself……. And having to call him three times when I couldn’t find the church to find out that didn’t actually have tomb (I found it the next day on the opposite side of Rome).

It was an amazing two weeks, and a final goodbye to Italy. I was sad to leave. For the last three months this has been my home and someplace I have grown to adore. Some of my favorite memories include the Balestra, Halloween, going to the discotecca, walking on the Strada, playing in the hot springs with Emma, staying up three in the morning with my best friends, making jokes in Italian, fitting three of us in a twin bed because it was so cold, and every other single memory that I have. Even though it seems like a dream the last three months were amazing, and my two best friends have already requested that I read my personal journal, the juicier version of my blog, out loud. We are all anticipating the laughs that will accompany it! Ciao Italia, I promise I will see you again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Goodbye Sansepolcro.......

Wow, how did my last weekend in Sansepolcro come so fast? It seems only a few days ago I arrived jet-lagged not knowing how to say anything in Italian. All I can say is it has been an amazing ride that I wouldn’t change for anything! I feel so lucky to have been in Italy for an entire semester with a group of remarkable girls in a town I now consider to be my second home. Between learning Italian, taking walks through the country, eating, meeting new people, and lots and lots of studying I have felt completely immersed in Italy. This semester has changed me in so many ways, and some I don’t even know. My friendships have officially been carved in stone and I would do anything for my girls. Putting them on a bus at three in the morning and watching it drive away actually felt like part of my heart was leaving.

After my Italian final on Friday I was finished with all of my work for the semester and it felt amazing! We kicked off our last weekend with our last trip to Scorpione, the local discoteca. Saturday commenced with a cleaning of the palazzo and the worst part of all was attempting to fit three months of belongings into one suitcase; I finally succeeded by sitting on mine. Our last group outing was a lunch out in Sansepolcro, that included a trip down memory lane and tears. I had to say goodbye to my Italian professor, Sara, Margarita, and Alessandra all people who have been such a huge part of my life, and family here in Sansepolcro. I finally saw Italian snow and managed to win my first card game against an Italian, something I was convinced wasn’t possible. I was able to say goodbye to all of the high school students who have become our friends and to Fabrizio, one of my favorite people here in all of Italy. Goodbyes are always hard and leave me wishing for only more time, but if anything it was an amazing day.

Sunday was another cold day further reminding me that I never thought Italy could be this frigid. After a coffee (my last time at Fabrizio’s café) and some more clothes to keep warm I was ready to spend my last day out in the streets of Sansepolcro. I took my mom to the Civic Museum and the Aboca museum and tried to soak in every detail about Sansepolcro possible. I am still in denial that I am actually leaving tomorrow morning and just thinking about the fact that I have to leave is heart wrenching. I have had a semester of a life time visiting new places, meeting new people that I can now call my friends, and even a little studying. I know that being here has changed me in so many ways, and some I don’t even know. I will cherish all of my memories forever. Now on to my next adventure…. Two weeks traveling the entire length of Italy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

“An Italian Thanksgiving”

So far in Italy I have had the pleasure of experiencing two holidays that are very typical and important in the United States. First was Halloween, which was completely different than my normal American Halloween but was fun with the added Italian twist. Second was the Thanksgiving dinner that Meredith College put on for the students and many of those important to us in Sansepolcro. I have never been more thankful for everything that has happened than when celebrating this holiday that is so strange to native Italians. For the last three months I have been completely and enthusiastically enjoying every moment in Italy, but how much I have learned, and experienced didn’t hit home until Thanksgiving dinner.

The whole event started on Wednesday evening when four of us, Molly, Emma, Katy, and I, volunteered to make pumpkin pies for the next day. Little did we know that this pie making event would turn into a giant party that involved music and making homemade pie crusts. We worked as quickly as possible to make sure everyone at the dinner would be able to try the classic American dessert. The team work that went into the pies was incredible. I was mixing the dough, Molly was weighing butter, and Katy and Emma were helping make the filling and every other task that was needed. Somehow we managed to make five pumpkin pies in less than two hours! The task, if you can even call something that fun a task, flew by due to loud music, lots of laughter, and an amazing time. We are often made fun of in the palazzo because we are the “crazy girls” who are constantly finishing each other’s sentences, giving piggy-back rides, singing at the top of our lungs or found curled up together on a sofa, and this night was no exception. It cannot hurt to add that we were also extremely productive with our pie making skills.

The Thanksgiving festivities continued on Thursday with me helping make the sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows (I think the trend was for me to help with all the yellow/orange colored food). Thanksgiving dinner was held in the Servi and it was beautiful. The walk down the hall was filled with candles, trees, pomegranates, persimmons, and cornucopias filled with fruit. The dining area was cozy filled with long tables and elegant place settings. As the guests started to file in I was positioned outside greeting everyone and helping them with their coats. Dinner was interesting to say the least. Katy and I ended up at what most Americans would call the children’s table, which proved similar to dinner and a show. There were about ten children at my table and since there was some time between the different dishes they became restless. Soon after the appetizers I began to feel small hands on my feet and hear little voices coming out from under the table. The children would crawl all over under the table and also found a pillar with a ledge for jumping off. The little corner where I was seat ended up being the perfect spot for all of the children to congregate and run around. Another fun part about being near the children was watching them make their hand turkeys, another new American tradition that is now incorporated into Thanksgiving here in Sansepolcro through the Thanksgiving tree.

This Thanksgiving I seemed especially thankful. I am thankful that I have been able to spend my last three months in one of the most amazing places. I am thankful for Sansepolcro which has welcomed me in with open arms. I am thankful for all the new friends I have made here in Italy and who continue to show me a good time out and about. I am thankful for every kind Italian who has in one way or another helped me out, and- trust me- it is a long list. I am also thankful for my family and my friends because honestly I don’t know how I could ever live without them. This semester here in Italy has sealed my friendships in ways I don’t think I even know. All I can say is when we are apart for five minutes the world actually seems to stop. I am so incredibly thankful that I have spent a semester in Italy but with my thankfulness comes also the selfish thought of why can I not just stay a little longer! Sansepolcro has become my second home and I dearly love it here. Not to worry, I am determined that I will come back and visit, and everyone I have met here is welcomed to come visit me in good ol’ North Carolina. Y’all come on down, ya hear!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Four Days....

Today is Tuesday which means I only have four more days in Sansepolcro. Yes I am traveling for two weeks but the thought of not coming home to Sansepolcro in the happiest way I can word it is heart wrenching! How can I say goodbye to a place that feels like my home, people who have welcomed me into their lives, and is absolutely beautiful. Last night was my last dinner with my host family. After being fed entirely too much food (four types of pizza, and tiramisu) Molly and I sat and just talked to my family in the best Italian I could muster, which wasn’t too bad! Just sitting around the kitchen table with three year old Francesco running and climbing all around, Riccardo attempting to put together the toy we had bought for him, and Margarita (my adorable fifth grader) happily talking was really special. Between three papers, and two Italian tests I haven’t had a lot of time to think about leaving but when I take a breath the first thing I think of is how I cannot image what it is going to be like not living in Sansepolcro. How do you say goodbye to people who you might never see again, but have yet impacted your life in so many ways? In order to contradict these feelings I have recently begun to stay up late partly because of all the work, but also because I am honestly afraid of missing anything in my last few days. I absolute love it here and don’t want to leave. Too many goodbyes and not enough time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Perugia, Pisa, and Pancakes

This was my final long travel break in Italy and last weekend I sat, and thought where I wanted to go in Italy and honestly came up blank. The only thing I could think of was how much I am going to miss Sansepolcro. The conclusion I came to was that the only thing I really wanted to do was to stay and enjoy this little city I have grown to love so much! Sansepolcro has really become my second home, and I cannot imagine being anywhere else than right here! This weekend I was able to see Perugia, Pisa, and spend the time I needed in Sansepolcro.

On Friday I decided to revisit Perugia, since the last time I was there the city had been overtaken with chocolate. A ride on the smallest two car train had us there in a little over an hour. Since I had already visited Perugia I had a vague idea of where I was going (which is always nice). I was able to do enjoy the historic architecture and actually see all the shops. After what seems like a week of rain I finally saw a hint of sun on the way, and also in Perugia! We met up with three of our friends from Citta’ di Castello for lunch at a small but very nice restaurant. The restaurant was down off a side street, and not someplace I would have been able to find on my own (the street was a little dark), but it had a cozy atmosphere and delicious food. Having lunch with three Italians is to say the least an experience. It was helpful to have suggestions on what to order, and added another dimension to the conversation. At times I felt as if I was in a tennis match; I would try to understand the fast flowing Italian but by the time it took me to catch a few words and piece them together and attempt to decipher the meaning I was too far behind. I have come to the realization that to understand Italian I need to be spoken to very slowly, loudly, and in simple sentences. We all walked around Perugia and found a Grom, which now in my opinion the best gelato I have had so far in Italy. The ride back to Sansepolcro was significantly quicker because we were in a car (thanks Nico!) and also gave a stunning view of all the city’s lights in the distance. The day was rounded out perfectly with a movie and all of us curled up on the sofa!

On Saturday I took a trip to Pisa. Even though I was told that the only thing to do in Pisa was to take a picture with the leaning tower, that was exactly why I wanted to go. I couldn’t even fathom leaving Italy without the stereotypical picture holding up the tower. We traveled three hours to reach Pisa and the saving grace was that grey skies managed not to soak us. We took our pictures with the tower (we got a lot of laughs over the whole thing) because we looked a little ridiculous. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is more commonly known in Italy as La Torre di Pisa and is a freestanding bell tower. The tower is leaning because of a weak foundation and unstable soil. It was completed in three stages over a period of 177 years. I know it might sound funny but, trust me, the tower is really leaning, and quite odd looking. Restoration on the tower (cleaning of the stone) began in the 1990’s and is due to be finished at the end of this year. One of my favorite parts of the trip was watching a tourist group being unloaded and immediately begin to walk on the grass. This was funny because there were clear signs that forbade anyone to walk on the grass. As we started back towards the train station we wondered (with a smile) where the l’erba polizia (the grass police) were!

On Sunday we made pancakes for our Italian friends. We had lost a bet, so we had to make pancakes (we didn’t mind though!). Italian card games are much more challenging when you play with Italians who have a whole system of signals. Another reason why I think they won (I am a very competitive card player) is they would tell each other what cards they had in Italian; this completely unfair because we had no language that we could speak in that wouldn’t be understood ( if only I knew pig Latin). Getting everything together to make the pancakes was an adventure. Since our bus from Arezzo to Sansepolcro would have us getting in after the grocery stores closed ,and they are not open on Sunday, we decided to do our grocery shopping in the time we had (it wasn’t very long) in Arezzo. We ran into the store and began to grab eggs, milk, flour, chocolate, butter, orange juice, and a few other necessities. It was a miracle that we made it onto the bus with all of our bags and back to Sansepolcro without one egg breaking. About twenty minutes before our friends arrived the next morning I had a slight moment of panic when I realized that I needed baking powder for the pancakes to be fluffy. Luckily Dr. Webb helped me find some in the palazzo and graciously let us use her kitchen to do the cooking. Thankfully everything went off without a hitch! It only took us about an hour after the guests arrived to have the food ready but I think the pancakes were worth the wait. I spent the afternoon working on a puzzle (it is 1500 pieces, and we hope to finish it before we leave) and since the constant downpour of the day had yet to stop we all decided to put on our raincoats, hats, and umbrellas and take a walk in the rain. Even though it was cold, and we ended up completely soaked, the walk was relaxing and had us in the café enjoying a coffee when it was finished. Wow, another spectacular weekend!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Gubbio, Family Dinners, and Friends"

I have less than a month left in Italy, and it seems that every day I fall more in love with this wonderful country. I feel like a plant that has finally put roots down in my new home and in a short time I will be uprooted! It seems that as soon as though I have a grasp on the language, culture, and feel part of the community (no longer like a tourist!!) my time here starts to wind down. My saving grace is that every day seems to bring new adventures and new experiences, and great memories. My first Italian family dinner, new acquaintances, and another beautiful Italian town were just a few things packed into another spectacular weekend in Italia.

I have learned that in Italy family is the foundation of life. On Friday I had my first dinner with my host family, which was even more exciting because I teach two of the three children! Molly and I had dinner with Sara, Giorgio and their three children Margarita, Riccardo, and Francesco. Margarita is in my fifth grade class and Riccardo is in my first grade class. The youngest son, Francesco is three and the most adorable little Italian boy ever! Molly and I were warmly welcomed into their home that was filled with the aroma of tomato sauce. Little Francesco (or Franci as he was fondly referred to by his parents) peaked from behind his mother’s legs and Riccardo smiled shyly. Dinner was very cozy with all seven of us seated around a table eating pasta with tomato pancetta sauce, roast pork, bread, and to my surprise French fries (I found out later that three other families also served French fries). I first thought that my family served us French fries because we are American, but after I asked the children if they liked them I realized that they are a stereotypical American food that has been incorporated into Italian culture. Between Molly and me, we were able to keep a steady flow of conversation in Italian. I loved my family, and they made me feel instantly at home.

This weekend I was also able to hang out with my new Italian friends whom I made on Halloween night. Italians around my age are very fun to converse with, but much to my dismay still correct my Italian when I speak (I guess it can be a plus for improving my conversational skills). I have learned new card games, or learned the correct way to play the Italian card game Scopa (I was told on multiple occasions that I was not playing correctly). I also taught them some American card games which I think they enjoyed. Most surprising is how we communicate. It is a mixture of Italian and English with the Americans explaining a concept in Italian and then the Italians translating to his friends who didn’t understand, and the Italians trying to explain something to us in English when I could better understand in Italian. It’s all very confusing with two languages flying around, but at the same time fun!

On Saturday morning (quite early in the morning) we all took a bus to Gubbio, a town about an hour’s bus ride away in the region of Umbria, and a town that dates back to the Bronze Age. Gubbio is also known for the discovery of the Eugubine Tables, or a set of bronze tablets that are the largest surviving text in ancient Umbrian. Before I traveled to Gubbio the only knowledge I had of the town was it is the arch rival of Sansepolcro (Sansepolcro plays Gubbio in the Balestra or cross bow tournament), and according to all of the local Italians I asked there is nothing to do in Gubbio; it is only una bella citta or a beautiful town. Similar to Sansepolcro Gubbio is also a walled town, but the buildings are almost entirely built of stone whereas Sansepolcro contains primarily plaster covered buildings. I was thrilled to find out that we would take a chair lift to the top of a hill to see the Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo (the night before I had been told that the chair lift might not be open at this time of year). The chair lift consisted of small bird cage shaped ‘chairs’ that held two standing people. The difficulty was that they never stopped. Two of us would stand on large red dots and as the chair rounded the corner we would jump in with the assistance of a worker who would then latch the gate. Getting off was a similar process that involved using the arm of a cute young Italian to hop down. The lift carried me up to the top of the large hill that provided the backdrop on the beautiful city of Gubbio. About 20 feet below my feet was a rocky and tree covered terrain that was dotted with the last of the fall colors.

The Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo is named for its bishop Saint Ubaldo Baldassini who helped Gubbio win a battle in 1151. The church held the large wooden prisms that are used to hold small statues of Saints in the Corsa Dei Ceri, or a run, on May fifteenth that carries the statues from Gubbio up to the top of the mountain. The wooden prisms are each four meters tall and weigh about two hundred and eighty kilograms. In person they are very impressive! The area near the Basilica was surrounded in trees draped with moss and lichen, giving it a distinctive and regal feeling. After visiting Gubbio I was able to see a section of rock just outside of the main city that was once part of the sea bed but had been uplifted. This portion of rock had a section with a high level of Iridium, which is an element not commonly found on earth but mainly in meteorites. This section of rock represents the K-T geologic boundary. The K-T boundary is a geological formation that has a band that separates rock from the Cretaceous and Tertiary period. This rock has been tested to see if it can provide evidence for a meteorite being the cause for the death of the dinosaurs. Being able to actually touch a rock that is about a million years old and significant to the science community was exhilarating!

I have visited so many neat and wonderful places in Italy and it is heart wrenching that my time here is winding down. I love trying to use my Italian as much as I can but I have also found that Italians love to practice their English with us (making it difficult to choose). Gubbio was another charming and fascinating city I have visited and like Sansepolcro has rich history and traditions. A movie night, a Sansepolcro soccer game, cooking class, studying, multiple trips to the café for coffee, and lot and lots of homework rounded out the weekend.