Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Firenze-practically the home of Renaissance Art

We got to go to Firenze (Florence) twice during the last 2 weeks. It is a pretty cool city, but it has WAY too many tourists. The Cathedral is amazing and is full of the Florence lilies, which our teacher said the French stole as their "Fleur d'Elise".

Inside it is pretty empty for an Italian Cathedral. There were a couple of amazing painted glass windows and pictures.

This is the door of the Baptistry - beautiful. The construction of the cathedral dome and the door of the baptistry were up for a competition and  two rivals got the different projects and they tried to outdo each other. I don't know which one was better, but they were pretty awesome.

To the left is a small shot of the dome. During a thunderstorm the huge golden ball on top of the dome fell off and so they hired Benjamin Franklin to make it safe for more lightning attacks.

To the right: one of the great painted glass windows. Below: the top of the Baptistry. It's pretty cool and there is a picture of Christ being baptized by immersion rather than the sprinkling of water which is pretty rare for Catholics.

Inside the museum with the David statue, which was pretty cool, there was a lame Musical Instrument exhibit beside two awesome things: 1 - A cello by Armati, which I studied in my last essay for ITAL 420. It was pretty sweet. 2 - A "Hurdy Gurdy" - a weird instrument that is really called the Hurdy Gurdy.  Go look it up on Wikipedia.

This was the government seat in Florence once upon a time.

This Church is where a whole bunch of famous people are buried. Stand by for their tombs:

Dante Alighieri
Galileo Galilei

Touching this little cutie's nose can give you good luck. So I grabbed on hard :)

Fun little fountain in the courtyard of one of the museum's we visited. I'm pretty sure this was in the Palazzo Vecchio, where the de' Medici family used to live before they changed to a better palace.

View from the Palazzo Vecchio

This is the River that flows under the famous Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge). It is an awesome bridge covered with jewelry shops, which is unfortunate for everyone because they are way too expensive. It used to be a a meat market and so the de' Medici family decided to make a private walkway above the shops so they didn't have to walk through the dirty and smelly market.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pisa, yep. I've been there.

PISA! So, I've been here. Really. So, it isn't an Italian conspiracy to bring people to Italy. This building is really leaning! Also, there is a chapel in the Cathedral (that's on the other side of the square) that is leaning a little bit too. This was not a smart place to build anything on.

Can I just say that I was the first one in the group to hug the Pisa Tower. I was the trade setter.

We then got to climb the tower. Let me tell you that it was C-razy to spiral around the tower. It was rather disturbing to feel like I was falling the whole time I was climbing. But it was pretty sweet. Here are a couple of shots from the top.

To the right -> this is the Pisa Cathedral with the Baptistry in the background. It is such a beautiful view of the city.

The Pisa Tower was supposed to be the city's bell tower. It was used as a Nazi outpost in the 1940's and the people who were in charge of bombing it to end the communication decided to salvage the history here.  PS - Galileo never did that experiment on the top of the tower.

Carson and I on the top of the Pisa Tower.

This is a top from the Baptistry in Pisa. It has AMAZING acoustics. Every half hour, the guard goes and sings a couple of harmonies to show how great they are. Well, after he finished we tried to sing a hymn in such an amazing place, but we were stopped after a couple lines. But it was still the best sound of a hymn (apart from Mo-Tab) that I've heard.
Here is another shot of how large their baptistry was.

Sweet shot of the Cathedral and the leaning tower.

Here is the group in front of the Baptistry.

 Another picture from us.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Things in Siena

 Sorry it's been a while since my last post. I've been uber busy, and when I was feeling a little sick, I didn't feel like writing and such.  So, I watched lots of tv shows that I was behind on...but that was only when I wasn't touring the best country of the WORLD!

This is the Cathedral of Siena...AMAZING. The city's colors are black and white (the founders of Siena were fleeing Rome on black and white horses).

Here is some of the inside of the Cathedral. The floor is covered in mosaics (which are pretty sweet) and they also have a huge collection of old gregorian chant charts (see below).

 On the right are some of the Mosaics (this one is the slaughter of the children by Herod). Below is the pulpit.

This is a fun part! We got to climb this random part of the Duomo (Cathedral) that we don't remember how it is related the the rest of the church.
Here are the views of Siena from that vantage point. Love the red tops typical of Europe.


 Here are photos from the "Piazza del Campo". This is where the Palio (horse race) takes place. The big building is the Municipal building.

 Here is the fountain of the Pizzia. It comes out with drinkable water: I love the drinking fountains of Italy. So much more legit than American fountains.

 We climbed up to the top of the tower. Elizabeth tried to climb up to the bell and was videotaped by a creepy Australian man. We will keep you posted if we can ever find it on youtube.
 In any case, I'm loving my time here in Siena. We start our internships tomorrow. It's pretty awesome. Our branch is small, but they have some of the best Sunday School lessons I've ever had. But really.

Also, update on the food. For those of you who really know me know that I quite dislike seafood. Well, on Monday, our host family made a pasta with  oysters. Ew. But YUM. It was pretty intense. I actually really enjoyed it. We did the whole bit: eating the goodie out of the shell. Wow.
And then we had fish, it was a little hard to stomach, but I did it. AND THEN a couple of days later, they made a pasta full of random seafood like little octopi and things like that. It was pretty good, and I hope that I can finally not just "deal with it" or "stomach it" but someday enjoy it. So, I'll keep trying, but just know that I am working on it and still growing. I was surprised that I went my whole mission without eating fish and coming back I couldn't even go 2 weeks without it.

Anywhoop! More to come on Firenze (Florence) and Pisa. Pretty cool things going on!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Italian Sarcasm, Italian Food, and Snails...lots of Snails.

So, I've almost officially decided that I'm never going to leave Italy. Ever. My soul wouldn't be able to take it.

And, here are three experiences I have had thus far that have captured (again) my love of Italy:

1. - Italian Sarcasm, or the lack thereof.

So apparently, Italians don't understand sarcasm at all. We were at lunch with an Italian and every single joke I made was seriously considered and shot down because it wasn't rational. I mentioned this one before, but it cracks me up every time I think of it. When we were talking about the use of a cellar, I mentioned to our guide that it could just be used for a lion's den...maybe. She just looked at me and was like...."uh...no, I don't think so."

Really?  I think I'm going to have to find another type of humor while I'm here or I'm going to go insane. Good thing that the rest of the group can appreciate a good bout of sarcasm.

2. - Italian Food.

OMGosh. So, sure, when I was a missionary in Italy we got to sample some of the best food ever and we got the opportunity to try and make some for lunch every day. BUT. Now I'm living with a family (Ilia and Marcello. Cutest retired couple you'll ever meet.) and they feed us a 3 course meal...every night.  It is oh so glorious. I want to remember every thing, so I'm going to keep updates here on what we ate.

Day 1 (of Siena): Ilia picks us up from the train station. We come home and find this for food:
 - Spaghetti al Ragu
Vitello Tonnato
 - Vitello Tonnato
    - This joyous food is a roast beef with one of my favorite sauces that is a cream maid from tuna (tonno), capers, and mayonnaise. It is sooooo delicious I could eat it at every meal...maybe for a week.
 - Insalata - just your normal delicious Italian salad.
 - Frutta - I choose a banana.

Day 2: Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
 - Risotto con carciofi (Rice with artichokes)
 - Tacchino alla milanese (turkey with bread crumbs and fried)
 - Fried Artichokes
 - Fried bread/cheese (All this fried food was stopping my heart with joy.)
 - A tomato.
 - Torta allo yogurt.  It was a yogurt cake with the perfect amount of sweetness and deliciousness.

Day 3: Meal 1 - We were given a welcome meal at our school (the Dante Alighieri Institute)
 - Antipasta di Salame, Prosciutto, Pomodoro Ripieno, e pane with this delicious tuna sauce
    - Pomodoro Ripieno is a hollow tomato shell filled with a meat mixture
 - Trofie col pesto.  Delicious and I'm pretty sure trofie are my favorite type of pasta. And yes, that sentence is grammatically correct because trofie is plural.
 - Pollo al limone with this sauce of carrots, celery, and white wine
 - Panna Cotta con frutto di bosco (gelatin-ed whipping cream with fruit)

Day 3: Meal 2 - This was dinner with my host family
 - Farfalle (the butterfly or bowtie pasta) alla amatriciana
   - This is a red sauce with bacon and a little pepperoncino
 - Squash (Zuppa) with a spicy sauce which was delicious and some fantastic chicken
 - Bread per fare la scarpetta (fare la scarpetta means "do the little shoe", but it is wiping your plate clean with a piece of bread)
 - fruit and the torta allo yogurt.

I'm seriously going to get so fat from eating everything.  It is far too delicious and I eat and eat and eat. I can't wait to weigh myself because I'm pretty sure I've already gained some serious poundage. But of course, any extra weight is serious for me. The best part is: I'm living here with this wonderful cook for the next 5.5 weeks!  It's gonna be great!

Plus, every day (almost) we get gelato, which makes me melt inside from its luscious goodness and brightens my soul with a little bit of heaven. And usually for lunch we get yummies from small pizzeria's that let me know how wonderful life can be. I can honestly see why Julia Roberts comes to Italy to find yourself. You can't help but love life when you are eating so great.  Although, my favorite word would not be attraversare. In fact, it would be something more along the lines of: Chiocciola. (Key - ohch -choh - lah) (maybe? --- ask an Italian how to pronounce it).

That brings me to my last bit:

3. - SNAILS!!!

So, Siena has this cool tradition called the Palio (it's a horserace). The city (which is not that large) is divided into 17 neighborhoods called contrade. For me, the best description of a contrada is something like the Montagues and the Capulets of Romeo and Juliet. They are these large groups of people who fight against other groups of people. However, instead of taking their anger out on their love-stricken children, they fight using race-horses. It's much more humane, if I do say so myself.

In any case, our host family happens to live in the Chiocciola contrada. Now, the chiocciola is the snail, which doesn't sound very menacing or competitive. However, the neighborhood is a happy place and makes you feel welcome. It's enemy, la tartuca (the turtle), is a dark and ominous area where no one can seriously claim to be enjoying life (or so says, in essence, our host father). On the first night that we were in Siena, he took us down to the Piazza del Campo (where they have the horse race). On the way, he suddenly stopped at this huge archway where it had a plaque announcing the border of the chiocciola and the tartuca. He solemnly told us that this is where the Chiocciola ended and that we would be going into the tartuca. I asked if they were the enemy. He said, "Oh, siii.....Sono tanto il nemico" and then he proceeded to tell us how dark and unhappy (no joke) this place was. He said, "Guarda come non c'e' nessuno fuori. Non e' un posto felice" (Look at how no one is around. It is not a happy place.)

I can understand their obsession. Both of our host parents have lived here all their lives, and Marcello hasn't lived off of this street. They have lived together in this apartment building for about 40 years, so they take their Chiocciola very seriously. In fact, my lamp is a Chiocciola and there was a Chiocciola flag in my roommates closet. There are chiocciola paintings and chiocciola rugs, chiocciola pillows and chiocciola's climbing up the walls. We even found a baptismal certificate for their son, who was baptized a Chiocciola in the Catholic church. Right outside our house is "la casa del cavallo" (the house of the horse) which is where they keep the horse for the Palio protected from the attacks of other contrade, namely the tartuca. Obviously.  Further up the street is the Chiocciola church, where there is a statue of a baby riding a snail (quite cute). Also, on all the electrical boxes around the city there is the insignia of the Chiocciola. Every corner has a little plaque with the snail and you will randomly find a statue of the Chiocciola on the walls throughout the neighborhood.

Well, I have decided to become fully adopted into this contrada. I will forsake all prior dealings with tartuca, and I will repent of ever having stepped on a cute Chiocciola ever in my life. They are now sacred animals to me. My roommate and I have already downloaded the Chiocciola inno (hymn) and will sing it every night until we have it memorized. I'm going to buy a Chiocciola tie and at least one Chiocciola flag. It's going to be awesome!  I've also decided to hate everything tartuca and completely avoid or annoy them. Good thing that no one in our study abroad group lives in the Tartuca or I wouldn't be able to speak to them ever again.

That is my life so far in Siena, and I am loving it. Good night to all! Tomorrow I go to Pisa.