Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving in Florence!

This past week my friends and I decided to celebrate thanksgiving here in Florence with a delicious home cooked feast! We all brought our food over to Abby, Marty, and Alyssa’s apartment and had a great time. My roommate and I were in charge of cheesy garlic mashed potatoes and apple crumble for dessert and they came out amazing; mom would have been proud. By the time we got there they had matzo ball soup, 3 roasted chickens, string beans, corn, stovetop stuffing, meatballs, and cheesecake with strawberries all set up and we dived right in. I love Thanksgiving. It was a little sad not getting to be with our families, but being surrounded by delicious food and close friends definitely made for a fun and filling night. Best part: Leftovers!

On Saturday I hopped on a train to Pistoia and got to walk around and do some exploring. After checking out a really nice museum and a bunch of churches for art, my friend Chris and I headed to the nearest trattoria for some incredible lasagna and gelato afterwards. By the time we got back to Florence it was dark out and all the streets had been lit up for Christmas.

There are beautiful lights strung across the roads, Christmas trees in the store windows, and one big Christmas tree is being set up right next to Il Duomo—can’t wait for it to light up! It’s definitely been getting a bit colder out these past few days here in Florence, but the city is more beautiful than ever and the streets are always crowded with families walking around in their winter gear. More motivation to go out and buy a jacket and some boots! Of course, now that our Italian class has ended we’ve all been grabbing quite a few extra hours of sleep in the mornings…

We’re really in the final stretch of our trip—not even 3 weeks left before we fly home! Luckily we’re taking advantage of the time we have left and are squeezing in some last minute travel plans. This upcoming week my friends Andrea and Christina and I are taking a 4 day trip to Morocco, Africa and I’m SO excited. Then almost as soon as we get back from that we’re getting right back on a plane to Paris and staying there for a while to explore and admire the city. With traveling, school finals, and running around Florence getting last minute Christmas shopping done it’ll be a busy last few days here!

Hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving and I can’t wait to see you all!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Back from Budapest!

Ciao a tutti! Getting to explore Budapest was absolutely worth the painful 13 hour bus rides there and back. I’ve come to realize that when in a new place, the best way to experience it is through food! And so upon arriving in Budapest my friends and I headed straight for the Central Market to chow down on some local cuisine.

Coming from Italy’s almost vegetarian diet, it was nice to be back in a country that really appreciates its meat dishes. As our tour guide said, “In Budapest we eat meat with meat!” and they do indeed. For breakfast we were served hot dogs and bologna with toast, for lunch we dined on delicious beef goulash, and for dinner there was stuffed cabbage and garlic soup with chicken paprika. Of course we couldn’t miss out on the langos—a disc of fried dough covered in sour cream and shredded cheese. Nice and healthy, right? So delicious. And then there was the strudel. Apple strudels, cherry strudel, poppy seed strudel, sweet cottage cheese strudel with powdered sugar, even cabbage strudel—all were delicious and you really couldn’t buy one without going back for another.

During the few hours between meals we were out exploring both sides of the city. From Heroes Square to the Royal Palace and everywhere in between, the city sites were incredible. The architecture of Parliament and St. Steven’s Basilica was beautiful and at night the view of the Fisherman’s Bastion all lit up across the Danube River lent an almost fairytale-like sense to the whole city. While strolling through the Royal Palace we even got to try our hand at archery, something I’ve always wanted to do.

Unfortunately I’m not the natural I had hoped I would be, but it was extremely fun anyway. We also got the chance to try out one of Budapest’s oldest pastimes: going for a swim in one of the city’s thermal baths. We chose the Szechenyi bathhouse, the largest and most authentic in Budapest, and it was quite an experience. There were 3 huge outdoor pools, 12 thermal indoor baths and several hot saunas; we made sure to try out as many as we could.

On our last night in the city we went to this amazing bar called Szimpla in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest. It was unlike anywhere I had ever been or seen and I loved it! While there we couldn’t pass up the chance to try Palinka, a traditional Hungarian brandy made from fruit. Unfortunately it came time for our 13 hour bus ride home much sooner than we wanted and we had to leave the flavor fest behind us, but we were able to grab some pastries for the trip before we left. All in all an awesome weekend, hope you enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Multi Musei!

Ciao! My family came to visit this past week and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to not only show them all the things I love about Firenze, but also to discover new places with them. One day we went to Venice and I cannot begin to describe how different it is than Firenze. My favorite part of Venice was the roadways (or maybe I should say waterways). There are no cars in Venice, only water taxis and boats. All other roads are small alleyways just big enough for people to get through. It had a much different feel than any other place I have ever been. Even though it was amazing there I think a day trip was enough for me, there isn't as much to do there as in good old Firenze.
The next day the rain subsided just in time for me to take my family up to Piazzale Michelangelo. There we saw the most amazing view of the city, something that I desperately wanted to share with them. The climb was rough, but worth it. Well, at least we thought it was a rough climb until we decided to go to the top of the Duomo. My brother and I started to climb the stairs to the top and thought it wouldn't be too bad. Halfway up you walk around inside of the main dome and are right next to the beautiful artwork at the top (my brother even touched it!). The next section of stairs was a killer. The stairs became more narrow and winding. If you are afraid of heights or small spaced do not attempt this! The very last section was extremely steep and I thought I was going to fall backwards. The view when you are standing on top of cupola outside is absolutely breathtaking. I was able to spot my apartment from up there! The anxiety from the stairs had full dissipated from the beauty that I was seeing. The climb down was a hundred times easier than the climb up.
Next on our agenda was a trip to Chianti. There we tasted the best food and wine the world has to offer. Not only did we indulge in those tasty treats, we went to the medieval town of San Gimignano. This is called the medieval Manhattan. There we saw the original twin towers, of which came the idea for the World Trade Center. Dinner that night was good but tasted like nothing in comparison to the food we had in Chianti.
The following day we went to the Galileo museum. Being a science major, this was the number one museum I wanted to go to. It was really interesting seeing old microscopes and some of Galileos first telescopes! My favorite part had to be the display of Galileos fingers and tooth though! How often do you get to see something like that???
The last museum we all went to was the Accademia. Almost everyday I walk past the replica of Michelangelo's David next to Palazzo Vecchio. I never imagined that seeing the real one would be so awe-inspiring. My jaw literally dropped. It is hard to explain the beauty of something like that without being able to show it someone. If you ever go to one museum in the whole world in your entire life, this should be it.
Being able to show my family around was one of my favorite things I have had the opportunity to do while here. Not only because they made sure I ate well everyday. I'm so happy they were able to see what an amazing trip this is first hand, and not just from pictures and stories. I can't wait to continue exploring this city and bring home more stories for them to hear.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Back in Firenze after Fall Break!

The past few weeks have been crazy! We had midterm week which was very stressful, but not as stressful as it is back in America. The classes here don't seem as hard to me, which may just be because it is not classes for my major, but midterm week was still very stressful to get through. It is different because all of your midterms are in the same week and for many classes this is the first grade you receive. Most of my classes are only graded based on midterm, final exam, final paper, and attendance so the midterms are very important. Regardless of the stress I got through it somehow (and am now anxiously awaiting my grades). Midterm week does have its plus side means that it is time for fall break! For fall break my roommates and I went to Dublin and then to Barcelona. I couldn't believe the beauty of those cities. It was truly and amazing experience. However, ten days away seemed to last forever and towards the end of the trip I could not wait to get home to Firenze. The walk back to my apartment from the train station was rewarding in itself, just because I was so happy to be home. Classes started again today and we met for the second time with Italian students we are doing a conversation exchange with. The exchange is great because it gives us an opportunity to use our Italian outside of a classroom setting, and also learn from Italian students who are out age. I really enjoy the exchange and have become friends with the student I was paired with. It is almost refreshing to be back in class again even though it means back to studying and homework. My family is coming to visit this weekend and they are staying for a week. I am so excited to show them around the city and all of the amazing museums, artwork, and architecture it has to offer.