Ciao! By now you have probably surmised that I will only be able to post every two weeks instead of every week. It's just not feasible to do more with school during the week and traveling on weekends, but I will try to make up for it by posting lots of pictures on my picasa site piu' frequentamente (more frequently).
But now, to updates! The first week of ottobre was busy with classes and free time (it's surprisingly time consuming this thing called free time, because there is so much to do!). All of my classes are going very well, though Italian history is still incredibly challenging. Monday evenings I am still visiting the Casini family and I have fallen in love with those little boys (Alessio e Niccolo). The mom, Elisa, is Italian but half-American and fluent in English. It's an interesting story: her mother came to study in Siena during her junior year in college, but while she was here, fell in love and ended up marrying an Italian and moving here! She and her husband had molti figli (many kids), of which Elisa is the oldest. So she was raised bilingual and sounds like an American, but it has been difficult to raise her boys bilingual. She says it is really hard for the third generation to continue the language. Elisa's husband is Italian and speaks English fairly well, but what sets Elisa apart is her ability to pronounce certain sounds that Italians generally struggle with, such as the "th" sound. Anyway, I've really enjoyed getting to know them better and it has been fun to teach the boys English. They are jsut adorable - I will try to take pictures next week!
Okay, now for my travel updates: The first weekend of this month I had the pleasure of visiting Firenze with familiar faces. My home college is establishing a semester program in Sansepolcro and so representatives of Meredith attended a conference discussing the ins and outs and practicalities of maintaining abroad programs in Italy. Among those attending: President Maureen Hartford, Dr. Allen Page (VP of Academic Affairs) and his wife, Dr. Betty Webb, head of study abroad and professor of English, and her husband, John Rose, who I had the pleasure of exploring with the two days we were there (while the others were in meetings, etc).
Friday afternoon, John Rose and I just decided to walk around a bit before cena. The weather was lovely though a bit overcast, but we were spared from rain and had a lovely walkabout. We walked into chiese (churches) whenever we could get in for free (which surprisingly, was not very often!) and enjoyed the various markets and festivals we discovered along the way. My favorite church was San Spirito (pictures of which will be available as soon as I can go in and rotate then upload my photos), one of the few free of charge ones available. It was vast and open, and since it was still 6 o'clock or so there was plenty of late rays streaming through the upper windows and filling the entryway with soft sunlight. My second favorite thing was an international festival taking place in la Piazza della Santa Croce. It was mainly comprised of Germans and Austrians, but there were booths of all sorts: sweet food, meaty food, salty food, fatty food, crafty things, silly things, useful things, pretty things - we loved it. Then we joined the others for a fantastic dinner provided by the conference, where we enjoyed a multi-course wonder - in a restaurant that had formerly served as a local prison! My favorite course was the torta cioccolato, but the sad part was, by that time I was too stuffed to finish it. Those who know me well much realize now just how magnificent and massive this meal had to have been for me to have been stayed from eating every last crumb of a chocolate cake!
The next day, John Rose and I were joined by Dr. Page's wife (whose name, I'm ashamed to say, is currently escaping me! I called her Mrs. Page, so I didn't have the repetition needed to seal it in my memory - I'll remember tonight). We discovered una farmacia antica (an antique pharmacy) that serves as both a museum and working farmacia, revisited the international market for lunch (which. for John Rose and me, consisted mainly of the most delicious macaroons I have every tasted), and visited the Museo Bargello as well. Then we met up with President Hartford and Dr. Page at the duomo (they had finished with their meetings for the day), after which John Rose, Dr. Page and I scaled Il Campanile (Torre di Giotto) - the bell tower next to the Duomo. John Rose and I had previously determined that we would climb the Duomo, but one look at the line told us otherwise. So instead we braved all 414 scale (stairs) of the torre (tower) and were rewarded with a breathtaking view of Firenze. Ironically, we also ran into an old friend of Dr. Page's, who was also a Raleigh native! Imagine meeting a Raleighite at the top of the torre! Incredibile!
Ironically, Italy is, at the very least, the third country I've had the pleasure of walking about in the company of Mr. Rose (the other two being Switzerland and England, when I was abroad last summer), and every time he has found a way to lead up off the beaten path of tourists and into the heart of the place. I was so glad we were in Firenze too, because it needed redeeming in my mind (I didn't particularly enjoy it last May), and in his as well. Thankfully, by the end of our stay, we agreed that it had been much nicer this time around - there had been fewer tourists and our treks through the city felt more homey than our previous visits. I attribute this to his knack for finding interesting places and interesting people! I am very thankful to have improved my opinion of Firenze (get this: it was improved enough for me to revisit it with my friend Carly this past Saturday - I wanted to see more!).
Sara and I had a blast on our mini girl's weekend senza bambini (without children)! We stayed in a four-star hotel (compliments of the college) and felt like we were living in the lap of luxury. A fly on our wall would have been rolling in laughter - we were both so excited by all the little but significant accomodations of the room! For example, everytime we opened the doors of our armadio (wardrobe), little lights would come on so we could see our clothes. We also enjoyed the fact that we could sleep in because there was no Lollo to feed, no Leo to need help in the bathroom, and no Gigia to call for rescue from her crib. Granted, we only slept until 7:30, 8 at the latest, but after 6 am wake up calls (sometimes earlier!) lying in bed until well after 8 was heavenly :) In all fairness to the little cherubs back home, we did miss them, and were thrilled to pieces when they came running at us upon our Saturday evening arrival.
I spent the rest of my weekend (through Monday morning) at home in Sansepolcro before heading back to Siena for another week of classes. Then, as I mentioned before, I returned to Firenze this past Saturday and saw more beautiful things, msot notably the Giardino di Boboli (the beautiful gardens behind the Palazzo Pitti owned by the Medici), and, finalmente, Michaelangelo's Davide. We also did a good deal of walking around and admiring - the city, the Arno, and a bit of the outskirts when we got turned around by accident - which was actually really nice. I have found that I really, really enjoy just taking in a city on my own time via walking, instead of jumping from must-see to must-see.
The next day I did exactly that in Siena too. Jamila and I met in the Piazzo del Campo, sat, chatted, and ate gelato for a while, and then went off exploring down a route we have never visited before. Along the way we came across some positively gorgeous countryside - be sure and check out my photos on picasa!
This coming weekend the entire school is spending the weekend in Maremma (http://www.bellamaremma.com/en/) where we will be visiting an olive tree farm and making olive oil! I can't wait :) I will try to take as many pictures as I can, but seeing as making oil involves the hands, I'm not sure about doable this will be. We'll see!
That's all I have time for today. I really do wish I could tell all, but I just can't type quickly enough! I also apologize for the lack of pictures - blogger has been mean to me since coming to Siena and I've given up for now. Thankfully, I can still post via picasa, so check it out when you can: http://picasaweb.google.it/unpensierofelice.
A dopo a tutto!