Some Favorite Photos (thus far)

As you know, I’m currently enrolled in an introductory photography course, partly to learn how to use this ridiculously multi-faceted camera of mine and partly to just enjoy myself. Now that it’s been almost a month here in Florence, I thought it’d be nice to show you a few of my favorite photos that I’ve taken since being here, though I’ll include a few from when my parents were with me, too. Can never have too many photos!

San Lorenzo Market Stand: Venetian Masks

Papparadelle with Wild Boar at ZaZa's

Pepperonicini

Bellini, Beinget, aperitifs

Duomo at night

Roasted Nuts at the Rificolona Festival

Grapes on the vine

Vineyard

Milan and I

Brave Pigeons in Milan

Cathedral of Milan Center

Offering Candles with oil painting of Madonna and Child

Milan

Fashion is raging here in Italy right now with the start of Milan Fashion Week. Cities around the world are staging their own massive showcases of the latest moda, London prominently displaying bursts of color and vibrant sprays of feathers and fur, Milan parading the knit woolen parkas and high-heeled boots of winter time. This past weekend I was lucky enough to give Milan a bit of a run through, even though my friend Daniel and I really only had about five hours to do the city.

Day started at 6:00AM. Despite waking up on weekdays at the usual 7:30, that 1.5 hour difference nearly killed me. The ways of the college student demand being at least conscious at 2AM, so I think I only had about four hours of sleep that day, maybe a little less. Regardless, the train ride from Florence to Milan took nearly four hours due to delays, so I got plenty of sleep in before we made it to the city. Daniel managed to sleep some, too, though I think I got the most of it. I’ve always been able to sleep well in moving vehicles. Save planes. Planes are weird.

Milan was much more industrialized than I thought it would be. Granted, I hadn’t know that it was the industrial capital of Italy before I got there, so in hindsight the numerous plants and gaping steel wiring that seemed to be everywhere isn’t so strange. The contrasts between Milan and Florence were nearly staggering. Florence just seems to have a much more relaxed air to it. Not in so much of a rush. Of course, the crowds could definitely be attributed to Fashion Week craze, and when Daniel and I were spat out of the metro at the foot of the massive white cathedral, we were nearly run over by a gaggle of painted ladies dressed to their ears in animal print. I’ll admit, I was sporting a pair of snake-skin print jeans too…

In front of the Milan Duomo

Daniel and I wandered into the high-end shopping district, completely aware that everything would be well above our practical price range. Try as I might, I could never justify buying a purse of any brand for more than 30€, and even that price is pushing it. When the Gucci and Prada bags are going for at least 300€ for a decent sized one, I’d rather buy that military-style trench I’ve been eyeing at Zara for the past couple of days… Hmm… Of course, looking at everything was fun, and we discovered that Gucci has made a foray into the realm of chocolate. The guard kicked us out before we managed to get a picture of the gourmet, “G”-stamped bars. I bet Milka tastes better.

After a bit more trawling of the likes of Louis Vuitton and Swarovski, we stumbled upon a side alley that led to one of the many public fashion shows set up around the city. We managed to get some seats (but no goodie bags, since those were for the lucky ones who registered) and saw a showing for Paolo Casalini. Have no idea who he is, but his clothes were cute and as usual the models all looked the same but distantly gorgeous.

The show lasted hardly twenty minutes. I’m not sure if that’s average length, since one can only design so many outfits before repeats start showing up on the runway, but it seemed as if we were walking away from the piazza just moments after we’d sat down to watch. Regardless, it was awesome and I now get to say that I’ve seen a fashion show in Milan during Fashion Week. Shortly after leaving the venue, Daniel and I stumbled upon a hole-in-the-wall bakery teeming with Italians, all squabbling for a place in line and shouting back and forth between each other, obviously regulars for the lunch rush. Not about to let an opportunity pass, we shoved our way inside and snagged ourselves some dessert calzone stuffed with peaches, almonds, and ammaretti. Didn’t think to take a picture, and they were gone by the time I remembered that I actually owned a camera.

We had about an hour before we had to catch our train back to Florence, so we decided to head into the Duomo and get some photos with our newly fostered knowledge of the manual setting on our SLR cameras. The white spires cut starker lines than the generous curve of Florence’s domed cathedral, but it suits Milan’s sharp and modern splendor, though the inside looked like every other cathedral I’ve ever seen. Having seen many cathedrals, I’m still awed by the magnificent architecture and the sheer magnitude of their age. These things have been standing for hundreds of years, some not even fully completed yet, and previously without the use of mechanical cranes or other modern technologies. I learned recently that the Florentine Duomo’s dome was built prior to its being placed on the actual church. I can’t imagine how they could have done it.

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Milan was an experience, and I’m glad I went even for such a short time. I want to go back to see the Last Supper fresco, but I’ve got a while left yet. I can’t believe that I haven’t even been here in Florence for a month yet. Granted, it’s been a while since being in the continental US, but I still feel like I just got here. The workload isn’t heavy, so it doesn’t really feel like school, just an extended vacation with a bit of side-study. We’ll see how things pick up around midterms. I recently discovered George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” series, including the HBO adaptation of “Game of Thrones,” and I’m hoping that will keep me occupied for a while. It’s been so long since I’ve read a good book series!

Food Paper Topic: Blood Wars Paid in Chocolate AND Modern Science and Cooking. I’ve been given leave to write them both, though only one will count for credit. My prof said he’d be a bit more interested in the Chocolate one, which I’m pretty okay with, seeing as I have the International Chocolate Festival in Perugia coming up in a few weeks and my subscription to Harvard’s YouTube channel just popped up a lecture on “The Many Faces of Chocolate.” Signs? Oh, yes.

Fresco and Cooking 2

This Wednesday we finally got started on actually painting frescos in my fresco class. The first couple of weeks were filled with theory study and a visit to the Santa Croce church, which contains some of the oldest frescos in Florence, done by Giotto (a contemporary and friend of Dante) and his students. The theory was quite interesting and covered your basic art history as well as extending into chemistry and a bit of anthropology. Granted, fresco emerged from the brightest the world had to offer, so it’s no surprise that we jumped from subject to subject when discussing its history. Apparently, the oldest discovered frescos occurred in Greece, though few remain due to some chemical composition or another. I wouldn’t want to bore you with the details.

In any case, I was terrified to start. Fresco kinda does this thing. Once you put paint on the plaster, it stays there. Like, forever. There’s a reason all those Egyptian tombs still have crap on the walls. It’s because the pigment is literally absorbed into the walls. You mess up, you scrape a hole in your wall and start again. No pressure. Oh, and you have to finish whatever plaster you put up, otherwise it dries with nothing on it and it doesn’t come down. Again, don’t worry about it.

Luckily, we’re not graded on masterful ability or genius renditions. Just simple, “Replicate this as well as you can with the time you’re given.” I think our professor would’ve been pleased with us if we’d just spread our plaster flat and that’s it. We all managed to get pretty far along, but with only four students, Titziano (my prof) didn’t have any difficulty getting around to help us when we had questions.

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Food class was just as scrumptious as the last one with a brand new menu and a whole bunch of neat little tricks. Granted, I can’t remember many of them now (it’s been a few days) but I wrote them down somewhere and I’ll find those notes…eventually. Anyway, despite having come prepared (read: having eaten prior to class to prevent fainting from starvation), I still got a little light-headed and had to sit down for a little while so I wouldn’t pass out. Must’ve been heat or low blood sugar or something. Regardless, I felt much better after we got started with the eating part of the class.

For our antipasti, we made Schiacciata al Olio, which is a form of focaccia, and I didn’t know that this particular dough is the same used in pizza. We’re essentially given a bundle of different recipes every time we learn something in this class, since a lot of things cross over in different recipes. (All pictures are up in the slide show) We made two versions, a stuffed focaccia con cipolle (focaccia with onions) and a simple focaccia with toppings. Mixing everything up was fun, since we did it straight on the table as opposed to in a bowl. You know how on food shows, the really “skilled” guys use their fingers to mix an egg into a volcano pile of flour on a flat surface? Yeah, I can do that now. Not that it’s phenomenally difficult. Just cool.

Primi piatti was Pasta e Ceci (thick soup with chickpeas and pasta). To be perfectly honest, I had no idea that chick peas and garbanzo were one and the same. I thought they were completely different. Goes to show you how having international experience can actually embarrass you in front of people. By far, though, this has been my favorite dish that we’ve made. I love garbanzos and this soup was absolutely delicious with puree and chunks of the beans threaded with rosemary, garlic, and spicy peperoncino flakes. I could have done without the pasta, but it was a nice addition, something extra to chew on hidden in the goop. Delicious goop, mind.

Here comes the more interesting part of the meal: secondo. There’s nothing exciting about petto di pollo al limone (chicken in lemon sauce), but there’s something to be said about the infamous Melanzane all Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan). Up until this past Wednesday, I’d never had eggplant before and heard horror stories from both my parents about slimy textures and a bizarrely bland taste. All in all, it didn’t sound very appetizing, and while the plant itself was pretty cool to look at, I wasn’t exactly impressed once the dish came out of the oven. The lemon chicken was very good, breaded somewhat like the chicken we had last year in Bracciano during the summer (Mom, you’ll remember), but I simply couldn’t bring myself to think anything other than, “Weird,” after trying the eggplant parm. My parents were right: it’s slimy.

Dessert definitely came as a surprise in the form of Salame Dolce, a sort of trick desert that looks exactly like an actual log of salame once rolled. Granted, it’s like the worst thing for you with straight up sugar, cocoa powder, butter, and dessert wine composing the majority of the “filling,” then you have some animal crackers thrown in just for fun. After dousing it in powdered sugar, you have a genuine false salame roll. Apparently it’s very popular come Mardi Gras time, so I’ll be looking forward to loads of it next spring!

Again, if anyone’s interested in the recipes, let me know and give my your email addresses! I can’t send it if I don’t know where to send it to!

On the way back to my apartment post-food coma, my friend Daniel and I ran into a crowd of people watching a street performer dressed like Charlie Chaplin. I have to say that if he’d done many of the things in his performance back in the States, he’d have been strung up for harassment. Of course, that made it all the more entertaining! Video footage up shortly!

Cooking Classes – Round 1

This is a long time coming, but, finally, I had my first cooking class with the lovely Mrs. F!! Granted, this happened last Wednesday and as usual, I’m horrible about updating on time, but let’s just get into the nitty-gritty. Mrs. F is an American woman from Iowa who’s been living here in Florence for the past 35 years, having married an Italian man (named Fabio) and settled in the city where she’d studied abroad for a semester. Actually, she just never left once that semester was done. Funny how I’m meeting all these women who just dropped everything to live out the rest of their lives here . . . Sign, anybody?

In any case, the cooking classes include five three-hour sessions encompassing the Tuscan meal, meaning four courses: antipasti, primi piatti, secondo, and dolce. After we learn about the respective history of each dish we happen to make that day, we get to eat. Of course, this all comes at a price and after factoring in the cost of the ingredients, time, and such, we all had to shell out 170€ to enjoy this little course. Not too bad, considering we’re going to be using these skills for a while, but I definitely haven’t been as frivolous with my money since dropping that cash.

Mrs. F. also provided us with a cookbook of our lesson-meals that she wrote herself entitled: Cucina Italiana: From Scratch. Appropriate, since we are literally building from the most basic up. I think we’re going to start every lesson with flour, water, butter, and eggs. She wants us to be able to use everything we come into contact with in a versatile manner.

Our antipasti assigned was meant to be Polenta piastra con pecorino (grilled polenta with cheese), but since Wednesday topped the charts at a whopping 92˚, we went for a cooler dish instead, a broken-down version of bruschetta whose name for the life of me I cannot remember. Basically, it consisted of hardened bread nubs watered down into crummy bits, cuts of fresh onion and tomato, and copious amounts of olive oil. Yes, Mom, I ate everything, even the raw onion.

Bread, tomato, onion, olive oil mush thing = good

Accordingly, the primi piatti was supposed to be Pappa al Pomodoro (tomato-bread soup), but it was way too hot so that was shunted down the line of alternative recipes to Polenta Pasticciata, which is essentially a lasagna with cold polenta slices instead of noodles. It came out of the oven bubbling like a pit of hell, but it tasted divine (haha, oh, sooo corny . . . points for puns). I’m pretty sure that the two boys in my class and I finished off half of the dish to ourselves. Mrs. F keeps talking about how she often has to cook more for the boys in her class, but I’m pretty bent on convincing her that she has to cook more for me too.

Polenta Pasticciata

Secondo was the frittata di porri e patate (leek-and-potato frittata), and those of my family should know this because of that one time we did Iron Chef for Easter some four or five years ago (maybe more?). I think Dad and Marc were the pair with potato as the secret ingredient and they threw together a frittata. This one more resembled the Spanish tortilla, though there was definitely more egg than I’m used to. Granted, it tasted delicious and it was quick and easy to make. The only qualms I’d have about doing this at home would be the flipping part. Not sure how well that’d go. This was served with a side of fagiolini in umido (stew green beans) which were a bit soggy, but I like my green beans with lots of crunch. I pigged out.

Frittata di Porri e Patate

Fagiolini in Umido

Finally for dessert was the crostata di more (blackberry torte). If you’ve ever seen Paula Dean on the Food Network, you know that she loves butter. Apparently, so does Mrs. F. We put half a stick of butter into the dough, and boy could you taste it in the AIR when that torte came out of the oven. She told us that the torte could be made with a variety of jams in it, and as proof, we used a plum jam she’d made herself from the seasonal plums on sale at the market this month. The dough could also be used for cookies. Imma have to get me some flour next time I go to the supermarket. And some jam. This thing was delicious. I felt fat rolling myself home after that class was finished.

Crostata di More

All in all, I’m excited to be cooking again this coming Wednesday. I’ve taken a look at the menu, and we’ll be having focaccia, pasta soup, lemon chicken and eggplant parmesan, and some sort of sweet fake salame? Not sure about that one. Of course, I’ll try everything, even though eggplant has a funny texture. Slimy. Yay. I can hear thunder out my window now, and the clouds are booking it across the sky. I wonder if that means rain for tomorrow? Joy. Anyway, hope you’ve enjoyed the photos! If you’re interested in the recipes of my weekly classes, shoot me an email at via.firenze.sa@gmail.com or write a comment down below!

IMPORTANT: I have a History of Food class paper to write, and I have a couple of ideas for the topic, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on my choices. Let me know in the poll below, and I’ll announce on Wednesday what I’ve decided to do! Thanks!

Chianti

We all know what immediately comes to mind when thinking of Chianti and all its trappings: wine. Delicious, full, leggy red wine from the Chianti Classico region outside of Florence, bathed in Tuscan sunlight and fed from the rivers diverted by the Romans over two thousand years ago in a show of power and wealth. Yes. How can I describe last Friday in any other context? On our mandatory post-orientation outing, Palazzo Rucellai staff dragged us out to the Chianti region for a wine tasting and traditional Tuscan luncheon. We were dragging our feet. I’m sure you can relate.

We met at the train station in Piazzo della Stazione around 9:30 AM, and people struggled in droves to get there on time. Some looked like they hadn’t slept at all. Eventually, once everyone arrived, we all piled onto the buses and headed out through the gorgeous countryside. If you’ve ever seen “Under the Tuscan Sun” or “Letters to Juliet,” that’s exactly what everything looks like. Picturesque was defined by Tuscany.

Once arriving at the vineyard and villa-hotel Vignamaggio (google that), we were taken on a tour of the winery facilities and given in-depth explanations about the wine processes, including the distillation and bottling of various wines. It’s all very scientific, and I suddenly understood why CalPoly dedicated an entire major to this artform. After all, these people have been making wine for hundreds of years, this particular vineyard the product of over six hundred years of work. People need preparation to go into this sort of profession.

Of course, the information was fascinating and the cellars equally mysterious, but we were really there for the food. And wine. But the food was more important in my opinion. I’m all for a glass every once in a while, but I’m finding that being in a country where it’s legal to drink, I’m not very interested in doing so. That’s not to say that I’m a wild child back home (I’m not) but I think there’s a sense of maturity here in regards to alcohol that eventually rubs off on you. Italians just don’t drink as Americans do. There’s a finesse to it, a sense of refinement and elegance from sharing an aperitif or bottle of Chianti between friends that’s absent back at home. I really like it. I want to bring it back with me.

Food: As you can see from the pictures, we benefitted from the hotel-villa’s hospitality in the form of a traditional Tuscan luncheon. Unfortunately we only had two courses, the aperitivo and primi piatti, but both were delicious and accompanied by two glasses sumptuous red wine cut from the same vines but aged differently. I wasn’t surprised to find the sweeter one more appetizing. Even as I’m writing this, I’m eyeing up the chocolate bar I just bought from the local supermarket. Mmm, sweets…

The aperitivo was incredibly like what my family and I would have in Spain for a snack after siesta. Various cuts of proscuitto and salami, some sort of cheese which I think was Pecorino, and toasted bread soaked in olive oil pressed from the olives on the vineyard groves. Primi piatti was a meatless lasagna with fresh rosemary and tomato sauce. Live vicariously through me in the following photos because that food was delicious.

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Shortly after we were released to explore the grounds, a couple of us banded together to investigate the vineyards. The grapes looked just as I imagine a Roman lord might have found them on his silver dessert platter. It’s somewhat overwhelming to know that this land was once walked by the greats like Caesar and Marcus Aurelius, that they drank wine grown from the same hills. That’s serious history. We sampled a few bunches from the vine, both red/purple and green grapes, and it was the perfect ending to that day. We ate from the earth after tasting what man can do to the materials given to him. That’s pretty inspiring.

Rificolona – The Lantern Festival

Man, I’m really slackin’ on getting these posts up! I swear, I’ve had this one ready to go for a few days now. Real life has a bad habit of eating my time. Not that real life is bad. It’s just busy. Really busy.

Anyway, last Wednesday I had a chance to see one of Florence’s annual spectacles: the Rificolona. It’s essentially a festival by children for children. Granted, there’s a bit of adult fun later in the evening involving a cultural dance performance and street vendors peddling their delicious wares, but all in all, it’s for the kids. Now, that is. There are plenty of origin stories for this festival, which includes the toting of lanterns through the city streets, ranging from the triumph of Florence over Siena to celebrating the eve of the Feast of the Madonna. I didn’t see much of the actual procession, but apparently the Cardinal led it. I knew that those guys dressed in ceremonial robes were important!

While the cultural aspects of the festival were not lost on many, I’m fairly certain that the real allure was watching all the little boys running around with blow guns trying to pelt the lofty lanterns. The goal was essentially destruction. Not even going into the possible fire hazards this could be sanctioned for in the States (the lanterns are lit with candles), a bunch of rambunctious boys with permission to spit-wad anyone in the vicinity is just asking for trouble. But it was good trouble. Girls gave as good as they got, and everyone really just wanted to see the paper burn into a heap on the ground once the night was through.

Prior to the Rificolona, though, I saw with my new friend, Daniel, an exposition of some dance studio out in the square behind Piazza della Republica. I’m not entirely sure where they came from but I was excited to see some Argentine Tango. Maybe this weekend I’ll hunt down that studio. I’d be totally remiss to stop dancing. (I’ve been dancing the Argentine Tango for nearly two years now.) This show was interrupted by moments of crowd dancing led by the professionals and everyone really got into it. I had a hard time of it, seeing as dancing with an expensive camera around my neck is not the best of ideas, but photographing everyone else making fools of themselves was excellent fun. They even played “Bomba,” a song I recall fondly from our earlier years in Spain. I definitely danced to that one!

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First Class Experiences

As of today, I’ve officially been to all five of my classes. My schedule’s not too bad save for the fact that I start every day at 9:30AM, which is a nightmare. I always schedule my time back at ASU so that I get up for my first class some time around 11:30. This is something of a change. I’m up at 7:30 every morning just to make sure I have some mirror space, since we only have one useable mirror when the bathrooms are occupied. It’s a hard life here in Florence.

So. Classes. On Mondays I have Italian I, History and Culture of Food, and Fresco. It’s a long day, as Fresco is a studio class that has us working with materials for three hours straight, but luckily I have a break in between Food and Fresco, which lets me get some food before looking at frescos! Thankfully, I stumbled upon a little forno shoved in the wall that sells calzoni nearly a foot long for only €2, and they’re good. I only wish they had one with tomato sauce and mozzarella on the inside. Prosciutto and mozzarella is nice, but I keep remembering one calzone I had in Venice and it was damn good . . .

Anyway, Italian’s going well. Spanish helps a lot in regards to speaking, but I’ve heard the grammar can mess people up that follow Spanish too closely. We’ll see how that works out. My professor is very Italian, hand gestures, bright pants, and scruffy facial hair included. He’s very loud, though. VERY loud. My ears are ringing when I go to History of Food in ITALY which is taught by a GERMAN man with a Ph.D in nuclear history. Yeah, read that again. It’s still true. I did a “huh?” the first time I heard that, too. He was very thorough in explaining the ideals of the class, and my parents will tell you that the activities I get to do are worth a ticket out here just for a week of following me around class. Chocolate tasting in the Market anyone? That’s right. Chocolate tasting. Oh, there’s a 10 page paper, too, but that’s hardly anything to an English major. That’s a short paper for me, actually. I think a few kids might drop because of it, though. Not everyone’s majors require a lot of writing. I’ll probably be the only one to enjoy it. The paper topic is anything to do with food.

Suggestions?? Leave me a comment.

Fresco should be an interesting class, considering only four of us are taking it. Should be a very intimate setting, I should think. Our professor, Titziano, seems to think we’re like puppies because as soon as we sat down, he whipped out a box of cookies, saying they were for good behavior in advance. I’ll be a damn good puppy if he keeps bringing those cookies. The class content (the important stuff) has us mixing our own colors from scratch and essentially doing a review of the entire history of painting. Like, we’ll be making tempura or acrylic paint from scratch (with EGGS and stuff) and using the techniques to paint with them like the old age masters used. Gotta say, it was a call back to when I wanted to be an artist in sixth grade. This should be a fun class.

Today I had my first Photography and Dante’s Literature classes. My Dante professor is appropriately brilliant with multiple Masters and Ph.Ds from all over the world. He cuts a very distinguished Italian figure with his salt-and-pepper hair and smart vest, though he kind of ruined it by gushing over ACDC for a portion of the class. How it related to Dante I’m still not sure, but I’ll let you know when I figure it out. He did mention ending classes with gregorian chant music, so that should be fun. Photography sounds like a great class, too. My professor is from Alicante. ALICANTE!!! Family, how crazy is that? My prof. is from our summer home town. That was a crazy random happenstance. We shoot photos in the field on Tuesdays and do computer work/theory on Thursdays, so I’m switching from my side bag to my backpack because I just have too much crap to haul around now. Never knew I would be so weighed down with texts! Ah well. Should be fun anyway.

Now that a routine is finally getting off the ground, I think everything should fall shortly into place. I think some of the girls are starting to really miss home. They might not show it sometimes, but other times I’ve come across tears. It’s very strange to see that. I don’t think I’ve ever been so homesick before. I’ve just gotten used to being around so many different places now that “home” isn’t necessarily a place but a feeling. Upsides and downsides to that mode of thinking, I guess. We’ll see how everyone shapes up after the so-called “honeymoon phase.”

First Home-Cooked Meal!

Two posts in one day! Had to show everyone this. We stayed in tonight and made dinner for the first time on our little stove! A roommate and I made dinner together, Jillian having wanted pasta and pasta being part of my dish to begin with. She made this great tomato and onion sauce to go over her penne, just a bit of water and veggies simmering over the fire until gooey, and it was really great. The tomato was succulent and bursting with flavor (I think she bought it from the farmers market going on in Piazza della Anunziata), and I might just start to like tomato while I’m here . . . The onion was biting and a perfect foil to the smooth red sauce.

Penne with tomato-onion sauce!

I seared some chicken pieces that I cut up from a breast I bought at the supermarket with a simple rub of salt and pepper. Fried up in butter and olive oil, it was paired with penne pasta doused in olive oil, cream raspberry-balsamic vinegar and salt/pepper. I also indulged in a little white wine. If that was the wrong color someone please tell me!!!

Chicken, pasta with balsamic/olive oil/salt and pepper!

Finally in Florence

So I’ve been in Florence since Wednesday, and I can’t even describe how busy I’ve been. Even at ASU, orientation didn’t take three days. Then again, we spoke the same language in Arizona (if not the same slang), usually ate the same food, and couldn’t get arrested for making a bunch of noise in our dorm rooms at three o’clock in the morning. Florence is a big cultural shift from college life at Barrett. I expected no less, but I think my roommates are still reeling from the differences. I can’t say how often I hear the word “America” or “American.” They miss home. Rather, they miss the fixings of home.

Orientation covered a lot more than I thought it would. Aside from the copious amounts of paperwork to fill out, we were introduced to all of the professors, administration, and locations for classes. We got our books, schedules, and signed up for some September extra-curricular activities. All in all, it seems a lot like school. Nothing’s terribly different, save for the fact that we’re in Florence. We have three day weekends with the promise of attendance the other four days of class. I’m looking forward to the routine of classes. Honestly, this floating around with no set plan is starting to get old. I’m not sure what to do with myself. Definitely glad that classes start tomorrow.

My door on Via Giusti!

Anyway, I’m living in Via Giuseppi Giusti, 30 for this semester with six other girls. They’re good fun, though a little more interested in the bottle than I am. I don’t think they’ve done a lot of traveling outside of the US, so I sometimes feel like I’m imposing my knowledge on them. I do mean well, but I can see how my interest in helping could be taken as condescending or patronizing. Not that it matters, I’m sure we’ll all know the city equally well by the time they leave. Oh, I’m the only student staying for the academic year, by the way. As a result, the entire administrative staff knows who I am. Awkward.

Today was our first free day and I was the only one up at a reasonable hour. I decided to take a little stroll through the city, and since I had to buy an umbrella, it was a great opportunity to do a bit of shopping. Unfortunately, I hadn’t counted on it raining before I could get to a shop with a reasonably priced umbrella. Luckily, though, I’d just ducked into a little cafe to have a drink and snack when the downpour started. I had a front-row seat to the Duomo’s piazza emptying as people scurried for cover under massive stone eaves and the awnings of pizzarias. A bellini and chocolate bigné and I was set.

After the rain let up, I did a bit of shopping at Zara and H&M. I bought some perfume, my umbrella, a pair of black flats, and some nail polish to cover my horrendous fingernails. I’m flattered (and kind of embarrassed) to say that I got a lot of looks/whistles from various men, thereby disproving that only blonde ladies get catcalls here in Florence, but it definitely brightened the overcast day. Every girl could use a self-esteem boost in the form of a hot whistling Italian man. On the way home I went to the San Lorenzo marketplace, where all of the leather goods are sold, to pick up some wine toppers since the corks never seem to fit back into their bottles once we open them. I really hope they don’t break. We’ll see. If they do, I know the stall where I can get them cheap.

Tomorrow classes start, and Palazzo Rucellai is a fair walk from Via Giusti. Add to that my first class starts at 9:30, and I have to be up freakin’ early. Ugh. My dad got a kick out of that, though. Back at ASU, I’ve made an effort to schedule my classes as close to noon as possible. I’m not a morning person at all. Anyway, class update on Tuesday after I’ve been to all five of them! Hope everyone’s having a good day. Bye!