Composite: Spain, Italy, England

Wow, how long has it been since I’ve updated? A week? Maybe two? I’ve been without internet for a while. A lot has happened since then. It’s actually hard to believe that so much has flashed by in under a month, and as I sit here in Sheffield, England, writing to you, I’m still having a difficult time reconciling that just last week I was in Florence, Italy and the week before that Alicante, Spain. Food for thought.

Leaving Spain every year is met with dread by every member of my family for various reasons: the end of summer, the beginning of school, the nightmare of packing, the sudden lack of sun and available beaches, etc. The list could go on forever. I don’t want to bash the United States, but really, after languishing on a Spanish beach for the better part of two months, California/Arizona just doesn’t measure up. Sorry. I’m sure that my friends who take off to the lake for the summer would have the same opinion. After all, leaving the lake (or beach) means going back to school.

This year, however, the family got a bit of a reprieve before the mad rush for school supplies, talking to teachers, and preparing the classroom. Unlike most trips that end in a flight out of Madrid, we decided to spend our last summer week in Florence, to get the lay of the land as it were. After our week, my parents and brother would travel to Milan for their flight back to San Francisco and I would head out to the East Midlands airport to stay with my aunt and uncle in Birmingham. I think I’ve said all that before?

In any case, getting a peek around Florence before the start of term was a golden opportunity. Granted, Palazzo Rucellai has yet to tell me where exactly it is I’m living or who I’m living with, but the administration staff was kind enough to point out the central locations where the apartments would be situated. Piazza San Marco and near the Duomo. Prime spots, right? Now if they’d just tell me the building… Not knowing aside, my family and I took the time to traipse through the city and, of course, eat our way through some delicious Tuscan food.

Before we get to food, though, I have to mention the Uffizi. The Uffizi is the largest museum in Florence, famous for housing Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and “La Primavera” among others. It costs a bit of money to get in, and I’d advise buying tickets in advance to escape the massive line that loops the building and the piazza. It might be an extra €4, but it’s definitely worth it, especially since temperatures were soaring to 40˚C the day we went.

Uffizi exterior

Though we all saw the same paintings and sculptures, I’m sure that Dad is the only one who could reliably give any explanations about them. I have no idea how Mom manages to see everything since she’s exiting the room ahead of us when we’re just starting the previous. Moves like lightning that woman. Ian and I were lost causes after a while. After being battered with masterpiece after masterpiece, I regret to say that they eventually blend into one massive blob of ink and oil color. I can say, however, that there were only three Caravaggio’s in the entire museum and I was MOST disappointed. He was my favorite when studying Renaissance Art in high school.

Having taken in a bit of the visible culture, we were all set for some great Italian food. I’m sure everyone automatically thinks pasta and pizza, and I won’t lie, there was a lot of that going around. I think I had at least one pasta dish every day. Mom keeps telling me about the different tastes of the noodles themselves, but honestly I can’t tell. They all taste the same to me. I’m more concerned with the stuff they put on the noodles, be it green, red, white, or all three. Pasta’s just pasta. Of course, I run the risk of being lynched by my Tita Sue for saying that, but don’t worry! I’ll figure out the differences eventually!

Tagliatelle with wild boar meat sauce

I have to extend a big “thank you” to my cousin, Rafael, for telling us about the “Eat Florence” app for iPhone/iPad. That app was a goldmine. An overview for you curious kids out there: Eat Florence provides a list of easy-to-find, cost-ranked restaurants, food stands, kitchen suppliers, and gelatarias all across the city. You can view the inventory of locations by neighborhood, type, and cost, and with location activated on your device, you can calculate how long of a walk you have in order to find someplace to eat. I think we managed to hit about five of the places provided out of nearly thirty. It’s a great jumping off point for people interested in good Tuscan food, but sometimes wandering the streets proves lucky too.

The time finally came, though, that we had to pack off to Milan and Pisa airports respectively. There wasn’t a tearful goodbye, but I wasn’t in the car off to Milan so I can’t speak for my parents or brother. I didn’t cry, though. Sorry Mom. I think it was harder to leave Florence than it was to leave Alicante, despite knowing that I’d come back in just a few weeks (ten days now, but who’s counting?). The city captures you very quickly and I find it’s reluctant to let go. Not that I mind of course, but it’ll be hell trying to go back to States after this year, I think.

Staying in Sheffield was strange when compared to Florence. Everyone speaks English, for one (and isn’t it strange that it’s strange?), and the food doesn’t nearly measure up to Italian standards. It’s also cold. Very cold. Arizona definitely did a number in conditioning me for hot temperatures. That being said, however, Sheffield is a charming little city. The houses are typical English houses, and I had fish and chips the other day wrapped in newspaper, still greasy and hot from the frier. There’s an element of gentility here in England that doesn’t match the flamboyant rush and color of Italy or the leisurely beach life of Spain. I can’t say that I’d live here, but I wouldn’t mind visiting once in a while.

Now I’m in Birmingham with my Uncle Ian, Auntie Ruth, and cousin Stephanie for the remainder of my holiday. It’s been years since I’ve seen them and succinctly: they’re a riot. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun being teased for my American-ness. It definitely puts a spin on the idea that my friends think I’m very European and British. Ha. Haha. I’m VERY American, but that’s alright. I might be somewhat Italian by the end of this whole junket.

Tomorrow I’m heading back to Italy for the start of term and orientation. I’m not quite nervous, but sometimes I’ve woken up in the morning and mentally double check the contents of my suitcases. I’ve been lucky to have had help in preparing for this year abroad, but preparations can only get you so far. I’m not concerned about the year at large but the start of it. So long as I hit the ground running, I’ll be fine, I think.

PS: I have three videos for you all, but since I restored my computer, iMovie has been taking a long time to finalize its projects, so those’ll be up within the week. Hopefully.


5 thoughts on “Composite: Spain, Italy, England

  1. Hi Nikki,
    I love your blog! You’re a great writer. I feel like I’m walking along side you. So glad you’re having such an adventure.
    Adam leaves next Monday for Japan. 😦 It would be great if he’d do a blog too.

  2. Great insight into “you”!!! This blog is def. a great idea for those of us (your family being scattered around the globe so much) who don’t get to see you very often: we’ll know you a bit better after a year of this!!! Keep it up! You make us travel too: thank you! (And yeah… you are American to us 😉 Takes a bit of everything to make a great mixture!!!)

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