Monday, September 27, 2010

More Adventures!

These are only some of the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken so far, hope you enjoy! I had a very exciting and busy last 2 weeks to tell you all about. Two Thursday’s ago, my friends and I climbed to the top of the cupola of Il Duomo and the view was absolutely incredible. I’m so glad I waited to do this until I was more familiar with Florence because I was able to pick out buildings and areas I’ve come to know at street level. Seeing everything from above was an amazing new point of view, and we sat up there taking it all in for almost an hour. Climbing the maze of stairs on the way up and back down was also quite the experience, and getting to walk right along the frescoes on the inside of the cupola was awesome. From the ground I never realized how big the frescoes in fact were and being that close to them made me realize how much work went into painting them.

The day after climbing Il Duomo, a group of us hopped on a bus and explored the town of Fiesole. The archeological site included ruins of a roman temple, roman baths, and a roman theater, as well as hundreds of artifacts found on site like pottery, coins, and intricate figurines. One of the things I absolutely love about Italy is how far back its history goes; I loved walking around those ruins and knowing what went on there hundreds of years ago and being able to see what it looked like. It was a perfect day too—it had started out rainy but by the time we got there the sun had come out and it was quiet and misty and there was hardly anyone else there. It was really easy to imagine what it must have been like back when the theater was in use and to get lost in the feeling of being somewhere so old and unaltered. After leaving the ruins, we hiked up to the top of the hill and enjoyed the view of Florence, which was of course perfect.

That Saturday’s original plan was to visit San Gimignano, but after finding out the buses only run there on weekdays, we made a quick decision to check out Pisa instead. How cool is that, just being able to check out PISA whenever I want to. Everything is so close and accessible and I love it! Traveling is so easy and affordable; you HAVE to take advantage of it while everywhere is so close! Seeing the leaning tower of Pisa wasn’t the only thing to do in Pisa like so many people say. The cathedral and baptistery were beautiful and I’m still having a hard time grasping how people were able to construct buildings that size with such perfect architecture hundreds of years ago. My friend Chris, an Art History major, is the perfect tour guide and can tell you about each and every painting you come across: who painted it and when, what’s going on in the scene, who the prominent figures are, etc. I have absolutely no knowledge of that sort and its extremely interesting and a little unreal learning about it while staring at the original. Of course, before leaving Pisa I had to get at least a few classic “holding up the tower” shots, which you can see above.

On Sunday I took a day trip to Cinque Terre and oh my goodness. That was by far the most amazing thing ever. I don’t even have the proper adjectives to describe how amazing it actually was, but I’ll try. Upon arriving in Riomaggiore, the first of the five towns, we were all stunned by the view. The sea was the perfect color blue with a handful of small white sailboats and the waves crashed white against the dark gray rocky cliffs that rose almost straight up from the water to where we were standing. The first trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola, the second town, was crowded with tourists but still had great views of the water and cliffs. The real hike started when we hit the trail again after exploring town #3, Corniglia. The towns themselves were of course incredible and the beautifully colored houses seemed to be stacked right on top of each other growing right out of the mountains but hiking between them was my favorite part. It really allowed me to experience Italy in a totally new way—much different than experiencing it in the cities. The trail from Corniglia to Vernazza and then on to Monterosso al Mare was breathtaking. Literally, I was panting. We hiked right along the sea through wild grapes, figs, lemon trees, basil, tomatoes, wild oregano, huge aloe plants, and rosemary, and the air smelled incredible. By the time we saw Monterosso in the distance were exhausted but got our second wind and were running to jump right in the water. The water was perfectly clear, dark blue and just getting to FLOAT after all that hiking was so nice. Definitely my favorite trip so far and I’m already planning on going back to do it again.

This past weekend we all went to Sicily and visited Taormina, Siracusa, and Noto. To get there we took an overnight train which I really had a lot of fun on, there were four beds to a room and the train went right onto the ferry to get to the island. I had my first Sicilian cannoli in Taormina where we had a tour of the bakery and learned that the secret to the crispy shell of the cannoli is red wine. Of course it was absolutely delicious. In Siracusa we took a boat tour around the coast and got to jump right off the boat into the water which was so clear you could see the dark shapes of the rocks way down on the floor. Swimming in the Mediterranean is awesome. The last day of our trip we spent in Noto, full of beautiful Baroque architecture, and then at the beach nearby which had crystal clear, warm water. I don’t think I can label the pictures above, but they're in reverse chronological order and hope you enjoy!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Amalfi Coast!

One of the perks of studying in Europe is the travel opportunities. This past weekend me and 6 of my friends went to the Amalfi Coast. While there we climber a 3,000 foot mountain on Capri (which I somehow did in gladiator sandals!), and the view from the top was breathtaking. We then rented a boat and my friends went cliff jumping, something that I was not prepeared to do but had a lot of fun watching. We went out in Sorrento the first night and met some locals who showed us the Sorrento beach. The next morning we got up early and took the bus to Positano. We again rented a boat and went swimming in the most beautiful water I have ever seen in my life. When we returned to Sorrento we had one of the most delicious meals I've ever had in my life. I don't know why everyone doesn't live on the Amalfi Coast, everything there is amazing. The last day we went to Pompei to see the ruins. It is unbelievable not only how the city was preserved but also that someone dug it up. The ruins were unlike anything I have ever seen before and it was really hard to grasp how long ago it was all built. Seeing the people (and dog) that were preserved in the volcanic ash was sad but I'm happy we got to see it and learn about what happened there. I can't wait to travel more and see more of the world. I don't think I've ever been to a more beautiful place, or ate so much good food, as I did this past weekend. As much as I loved the Amalfi Coast, I'm so happy to be back home in Firenze. I really feel like this is my home now and I enjoy every second of being here. Even my classes are enjoyable. All the teachers are so nice and friendly and the classes are very open and interactive. I love learning Italian and then being able to use it the same day in everyday life. I'm starting to feel like I never want to leave this place.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Viareggio Beach Trip!

This past weekend we took a day trip to Viareggio beach on the western coast of Italy and it was amazing! By the time we got there it was beautiful out and the water was the perfect temperature for swimming. It was incredible to be swimming and see snow capped mountains right on the horizon, definitely not something you’d see on the north shore of Long Island. As we were first testing out the waters we made yet another new discovery—there was a huge jellyfish floating around which I later learned is called the Medusa jellyfish. Huge. Also something you’d never see around Long Island, and I’m sure everyone could tell as much from my reaction to it. The life guard on the other hand just came up, flipped it over, and carried it off like a basketball. No, thank you. That was the extent of our run ins with fauna for the day, and getting to swim in the Mediterranean was a really nice break from our first week of classes!

Viareggio was a great beach town to walk around in, too. For lunch my friends and I explored local restaurants right on the beach and the one we chose, just like everywhere else I’ve eaten so far in Italy, was delicious— I had gnocchi with tomato sauce and basil. Naturally, gelato followed.

Leaving Viareggio wasn’t as easy as getting there. For one, no one wanted to leave the beautiful beach and town. Secondly, we ended up having to wait at the train station for the train strike to end before one rolled in that could get us back to Firenze. Luckily we didn’t have to wait long, but it was an experience nonetheless.

Like my weekend excursion, my time spent in Florence and in class has been awesome. I feel like I’m learning nonstop every day, and its great. Two of the classes I’m taking at FUA are cooking classes through APICIUS, and they do not even feel like classes, they’re just so much fun. With the exception of baking cakes, brownies, and cookies, I’m not exactly an expert in the kitchen—just ask my family—but at this rate I’ll be returning home a culinary master. So far we’ve made a delicious lemon tart, an Easter tart with spinach, artichoke, and hard boiled egg filling, and eggplant parmesan. Man oh man. And the best part is that we get to eat our results at the end of class. My other classes are just as fun, if not as filling, and the majority of the time the subjects are so interesting it doesn’t even feel like I’m in a classroom. One thing I’m not going to be able to get used to is learning Italian history IN Italy. What. A. Privilege. Everything I’m learning has only made me appreciate the city around me more, and I love practicing my very limited Italian with the locals—I’m getting good at ordering panini… lots of practice. As long as you make the effort, people are more than happy to help you learn and talk with you. The same goes for the students traveling abroad with me; I’ve never met a group of nicer, more outgoing people than those I’ve met this semester and it’s been remarkably easy to get to know and become friends with everyone.

This upcoming weekend a group of us will be taking a day trip to Cinque Terre so I’ll keep you updated on how it goes! Ciao for now!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

La Prima Settimana!

Ciao a tutti! 

I've only been here for a week and I can't believe how amazing this trip has been so far! My name is Brady and I am a senior at Stony Brook. As a biomedical engineering major, it was pretty difficult to arrange my schedule to study abroad in Italy, but I finally managed to do it with a little persistence and a lot of help from the Study Abroad Office.  

After the visa process was over, I had a chance to relax and start casually planning out places I wanted to visit while in Europe. I first planned a trip to Nice, France in the French Riviera right before I was to go to Firenze (aka Florence). I researched many of the hotels in Nice and found some really amazing deals through third-party websites like Expedia and Priceline. I ended up paying only about 55£ per night for the hotel and it was just a few minutes from the beach and right near the old city of Nice. I flew from JFK to Brussels, then onto the Nice airport on the Cรดte d'Azur. I short taxi ride brought me to my hotel and I immediately spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach. After four days of lounging around and mingling with the locals, I hoped on a train to Firenze. I had to take a few different trains, but I arrived in Firenze eventually, even after a mishap at the train station! 

As part of FUA, we are housed in the historic area of Firenze. Each group of people is spread across this "walking town." My apartment happens to be next to the train station, close to the river. I live with five other guys in an enormous apartment on a small, active street. Everyone is probably wondering about the food, probably more so since the movie/book Eat, Pray, Love came out, featuring Italian cuisine. I will tell you that the food is different. You can take that however you would like, but no matter what anyone says, I don't believe one can fully say that all Italian cuisine is superior. I have absolutely enjoyed all the food I have had here, but there are still some other foods I miss from home. There is also a Kebab place about 10 meters from my front door which has amazing Falafels! The guys in there like to joke and play around with you and always encourage you to speak Italian with them. 

As this is my first blog, I don't want to make it too long and I will update soon with descriptions of more adventures of my Firenze experience. 



Ciao! My name is Brooke Nelson and I am from Long Island. I am a junior at Stony Brook and I am a biochemistry major with a chemistry minor and a pre-med focus. Choosing to study abroad was an easy decision for me, and choosing to do it in Italy was even easier. I come from and Italian heritage and I can’t wait to learn about the culture of where my family is from. Being that I am attending an arts school here in Florence and I am a science major I get a lot of questions about why I chose FUA. One reason is that I have been hoping to come to Italy for so long. Another reason is simply that I thought it would be interesting to experience something completely different, not only culturally but scholastically as well. While I am used to taking classes such as organic chemistry and molecular biology, I am now taking a film class, a history class, and a language class. I hope to learn a lot about living on my own in a new country, adapting to a new environment, learning a new language, and even just being outside the realm of the science community.
I have been here for just over a week and so far I am in love with Firenze, Italia. There is nowhere else in the world where Renaissance art is literally everywhere. Being from New York I am used to newer buildings (newer meaning within the last couple hundred years). It is amazing to see old historic buildings next to an H&M. I am going to get a museum pass through the school on Monday and really start to explore what this city has to offer.
Another thing that I have already fallen in love with is the people here. Everyone is very friendly and nice and willing to help you. Whenever we ask someone a question in Italian they answer us in English, I guess we all need to work on our Italian. The only thing that I still need to get used to is the pace at which everything is done. In America, and especially New York, you get used to things getting done very fast. Here it isn’t like that at all everything is a little slower and even walking on the streets I notice that my friends and I walk a lot faster than most of the people. I’m hoping I can slow down and start to move at an Italian pace rather than a New York pace.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Week 1 in Firenze

Buon giorno! I’m writing to you from Firenze and even though I’ve been here less than a full week, it’s already been an incredible experience. My name is Sarah Roggemann and I’m a junior at Stony Brook University. I plan on graduating with a major in Environmental Studies as well as an MBA through SBU’s fast track program. Originally I planned on going abroad in the spring, but after meeting with the study abroad advisors I took their advice (“Why wait?!”) and hopped on a plane to Florence, Italy in what felt like no time at all.

Since the moment we all landed in Florence we’ve literally hit the ground running. Everywhere I’ve gone and explored so far has been on foot- it’s hands down the best way to get to know your way around. Everywhere you look there’s something amazing to find: the incredible architecture, the people, the food. Just bring a pair of very comfortable sneakers… The city’s center is more or less even ground, but once you start exploring the surrounding areas and gardens it turns into a workout very quickly. The first few days after arriving I made my way to Il Duomo and the baptistery, the Boboli Gardens, the Piazza della Repubblica, Ponte Vecchio, and some amazing local restuarants for aperitivos. And of course had my first taste of the gelato...

Before leaving for the semester I had hoped to see and explore as many of the sights as I could, become comfortable speaking to locals in Italian, and eat as much delicious food as possible. Even in this short period of time progress has been made! There is always something new to see and somewhere new to walk around and each place is more beautiful than the last. Living among locals has also forced me to at least learn some communicating basics already: how to say hello, goodbye, thank you, excuse me, and a slew of others relating to food and eating—the most important, I think. Classes have only just started and once I've got a routine down there will be more posts and pictures soon!