Thursday, December 1, 2011

Berlin: Poor but Sexy

Ciao tutti!

So I just returned home from Berlin this past weekend and it was great! In reference to the title of this entry, poor but sexy is the city of Berlin's official slogan. My friends and I of course visited the East Side Gallery which I am in love with.. we actually went twice over the weekend. The paintings are just incredible and so symbolic. On the opposite side of the Berlin Wall you are actually allowed to write on it so me and my friends were able to sign the Berlin Wall :) We also went on a walking tour which allowed us to learn and see different spots we probably wouldn't have otherwise. We saw Checkpoint Charlie which was the American sector of what was once West Berlin, saw the spot where Hitler committed suicide (which is not a parking lot), saw Humbolt University and the World War II monuments. The city itself was a little bit run down but we stayed in a GREAT hostel (The Circus, for anyone interested) and it is so easy to get around Berlin using their public transportation systems. Of course I cannot forget to mention all of the souvenir shopping we did at the German Christmas Markets. They were fabulous! They are outdoor flea markets with all different German traditions.

This coming weekend I am going to visit Paris with all of my roommates! I am so excited because I keep hearing how magical and beautiful Paris is! However, it is bitter sweet since this is the last trip we will be taking :(. I cannot believe we only have 2 weeks left, time has never flown so quickly. Well I will report back after Paris!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A rainy day in Florence

Ciao tutti!

Another Monday here in Florence and the weather certainly does not help. The rain never makes anyone want to get out of bed, but I really shouldn't complain because it is still warmer here in Florence than at home in New York.

I just returned back from Amsterdam last night which was ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE! For anyone that is interested in traveling while studying abroad (which is pretty much everyone) I would insist that you visit Amsterdam. The city was just so beautiful, it looked a like something from a story book. The houses are all bunched together in front of all of the canals that Amsterdam is famous for, with huge windows that overlook the city that made me want to curl up next to with a good book!

We left Friday morning and arrived in the later afternoon and then left Sunday evening so we did not have too much time but I still thoroughly enjoyed my trip. We saw the Amsterdam Block, the famous windmills, the infamous Red Light District and the Anne Frank museum.

The people in Amsterdam were extremely friendly and helpful. Their city is just so clean as well, everyone rides bikes there and uses public transportation. The city is very laid back yet efficient at the same time. I can honestly say that I could very well see myself living in Amsterdam that how enjoyable my experience was.

I hope everyone has a great week!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Back to Reality... kind of

Ciao tutti!

I am back to reality today, meaning my vacation from my vacation is over! I went on a cruise with a bunch of my friends and had a blast! The ports were absolutely beautiful! Spain was by far my favorite ports of call, I really hope I get the opportunity to study there at some point in my academic career.

It does feel nice to be back in Florence even though it means that we have to go back to school. Florence really has become our home away from home because my roommates and I all agreed how great it was to get settled back into our apartment rather than sharing a tiny little cruise cabin.

Today is not only Monday but it is also Halloween! However, it Italy it is not celebrated like it is in the United States. In the States, Halloween is more for children to dress up and go trick-or-treating while the adults have some costume parties at night. Here, because there are many American students studying here the local bars run promotions for students to dress up which is nice but there is definitely a different feel about it. Halloween is on the up-rise here in Europe.

This coming weekend my friends and I are trying to plan a trip to Amsterdam! So hopefully all goes well and I will be able to tell you all about that trip. It is crazy to think about how quickly the time is flying here. There are only 6 weeks left! I have never experienced a semester passing so quickly, although I do think that by the time December 18 rolls around I will be ready to head back to the States and taste some delicious American coffee!!

Ci vediamo dopo,

Ahhh Midterms!

I cannot believe we are halfway through the semester! I know the semsters usually fly but this one has seriously been in the blink of an eye! So of course we are all going crazy pulling the usual "midterm all-nighters" but hey, well make it through. The best part of this all is that the end of the week starts our fall break! My roommates and I are going on a Mediterreanan cruise, that stops at Naples, Savona, Valencia (Spain), Palma de Mallorca (Spain) and Marseielle (France). There is a pretty big group of us going so we're all SO excited for this vacation, especially after midterms!

Two weeks ago, I had my best friend from New York come to visit so while he was here we did all the touristy things. We climbed to the top of the Duomo which I think is needless to say was absolutely breathtaking. We also went to the Uffizi and Piazza Michelangelo here in Firenze. One day over that weekend we took the train to Pisa and saw the leaning tower and hung out in the park there. The tower was actually a lot prettier than I had expected! Afterwards we took a train to Sienna and went to Piazza del Campo which was gorgeous! Afterwards, we ate at this little mom and pop restaurant right next to the bell tower in Piazza del Campo that was probably the best meal I have had since arriving in Italy. All in all, it was a good trip and so nice to see a familiar face from home.

Then this past weekend I went to Perugia for the Eurochocolate festival. It was started in 1994 because the founder was so inspired by Oktoberfest in Germany that he wanted to create one for chocolate. It was so delicious but by the end I had had my fill of chocolate. I was really glad I went though since it was a spur of the moment decision because I got to see Perugia which I might not have otherwise and experienced a once in a lifetime festival.

Well, I better get back to studying now! Wish me luck on these exams!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ciao da Firenze

Hi guys,

My name is Lindsay La Marca and I am currently attending Florence University of the Arts and I absolutely love it so far! Firstly, I want to apologize for the late posting, as we had some confusion with the blog for a while there. Secondly, I will introduce myself a little bit. I am a senior at Stony Brook University, double majoring in Italian and Spanish with a minor in Political Science. I live at home with my parents on Long Island and commute to Stony Brook, so living abroad is all the more different seeing as this is my first time really on my own. So we have all been in Florence a little over a month now and I think I speak for everyone when I say we are finally settled in. We now know the best route to go to school or have discovered our favorite gelateria (which is WONDERFUL by the way). Thus far, the courses have proven to be very interesting, however challenging, and the professors all extremely helpful and nice. Just this past weekend the entire Stony Brook Program went on a trip to Sicily which was so nice! IT was wonderful to see an island so beautiful and scenic and yet so different from the city of Florence. The part I enjoyed most about the trip was that this vacation was the first time the entire Stony Brook program spent a lot of quality time together. Before this we all hung out with our respective groups but being together in the same hotel really helped bring us together! I suppose I will end with that but be sure to look out for a post next week, as this weekend I plan on doing all of the touristy things, like going to the top of the Duomo!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Last weekend in Florence!

Ciao a tutti!

So, it's the final countdown now! Only 8 more days left in Florence! I've been sick with strep throat all week but I'm glad that I'm starting to feel better for my last weekend here! So many people are traveling this weekend, but I really think that everyone should just stay in Florence to appreciate where we've been for the whole semester. I'm gonna go to the Boboli Gardens tomorrow for the first time because it's pretty much everyone's favorite place to be in Florence and I'm really excited. I'm also gonna go to all of my favorite places this weekend because I have all of my finals next week and it's gonna be crazy between taking them and trying to pack everything up! It's gonna be really sad to eat the best food in the world for the last time this weekend! :(
Although I'm really going to miss living in Florence, I'm really excited to go home. It is really weird to think that I haven't seen my family, friends and dogs for almost four months! After you eat bread, pasta and gelato everyday you will kinda start to miss the comfort foods of home too and I can't wait to eat things like ridiculous cheeseburgers, bagels and some tacos back in New York.
This really was the best experience of my life and it gave me so many opportunities to travel and really learn a lot about my self. I discovered a new sense of independence from living in Italy and I really will miss it here.
For now, I have to start studying for all of my finals next week..ugh! I'll write soon! Ciao ciao!

-- Kelsey

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How long has it been anyway?

hey so this is kevin. Its been a while since I last updated. Looks like its been about a month. Sorry about that. I've been really busy. Sometimes life just catches up with you and something's gotta give, ya know. I've had to write papers, study for exams, normal college stuff. But when you're living here you are really on your own. You have an apartment that you share with other students, you have to manage your money, and find/cook food. You're living in a city, not a dorm. Actually, right now I'm cleaning up my apartment. But writing this is one of the many ways I've been putting it off.

Actually I knew it was time to clean when my parents came over to visit. My parents are teachers and since they had spring break last week, they decided to come over for a few days. Well when my dad came up to look at the apartment, he was clearly traumatized. There were dishes everywhere, there was trash, and the sewage system in my apartment is a little funky so you can guess what it smelled like. I'm pretty sure he convinced my mom not to come up since they didn't complain when I tried to avoid my apartment. But it was a nice visit and I was

looking forward to it for a while. I didn't have to pay for a single meal which was a great change of pace.

We even took a trip to Lucca which is a small town off to the west of Florence. Its a beautiful town perfect for a day trip. Its got a pretty cool history. Throughout the middle ages and the renaissance, the town put 1/3 of its money into building these impenetrable walls. Now that's a lot of money, imagine giving 1/3 of your money to the production of a wall. But because the walls were so impenetrable, the town was never invaded. No one even tried. When they loo
ked at the walls, the invaders would always say, "It isn't worth it, lets invade the next town." And when cannons and gun powder were used in warfare, the town knocked down its old walls and built new ones that could withstand cannon fire. The town remained free and was never invaded until Napoleon came to Italy. So when you go to Lucca, the incredibly old buildings and art are in great condition because the place was never invaded.
So now that things are winding down I'm starting to come to the realization of how much I am going to miss Italy. I was pretty homesick in the beginning. I didn't really miss anything specific about home except for the people. But going on spring break and traveling away from Italy has really developed a strong appreciation of the place. Like you realize how much you had only when you lose it. Well I got a taste of that during spring break and now I'm cherishing every moment I have in the country. But don't get me wrong, I'm excited to go back home. But I'm not excited to leave Italy.
Enough of that though, me procrastinating on my cleaning duties is beginning to upset my roommates. I'll write more later!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The final weeks

Ciao everyone!

Sorry I haven't been able to write..I've been so busy with assignments and papers! I can't believe this semester is coming to a close in 3 really does feel like just yesterday that I came here and was in complete shock. It's really nice to see how much I've changed and adapted to Italian culture in the past few months and it's definitely going to be bittersweet when I have to leave.
Last weekend, the stony brook university group (all 75 of us) went to Sicily for our last trip all together. The weather was pretty terrible, but the food and how beautiful everything was really made up for it. I ate a true sicilian cannoli.. and omg it was the best thing I've ever eaten! I also ate the best bowl of pasta in my life..the food is SO ridiculous! It was also really cool to go to Sicily because that's where my family on my mom's side is from..even though we didn't get to go to their town, it was nice to know that I could at least be in Sicily.
So, I'm in the process of writing/ handing in all my papers and I must say that this whole 'study' part in study abroad can be bad sometimes because all you want to do is go out and enjoy Florence and not side inside your apartment doing work..especially since it's so beautiful in Florence in the spring time!
In these last couple of weeks, I'm gonna try to make it to all of the places in Florence that I haven't been able to visit like the Boboli Gardens and the Uffizi. Once you start living here for a while, you kind of forget about doing the touristy things and you pretty much start living like a true Florentine/ Italian.
Even though I still have 3 weeks left, it's really starting to hit me that I'm really gonna miss it here. This was really a once in a lifetime opportunity and I'm SO glad I was able to do it!
..I'll write soon!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Time is flying...


I can't believe it's April already! I only have 5 more weekends left in Florence..that's crazy! Time is really starting to go fast now. I have so many things left to do and it's making the days fly.

This weekend, I went on a trip to the Amalfi coast and it was AMAZING! It was like the Bahamas for the U.S. The water was so blue and the weather was awesome. We stayed in a cute little bungalow in Sorrento and we spent most of the weekend on the island of Capri. The one thing I knew I had to do while I was in Capri was see the blue grotto. We missed the last boat to go inside the grotto the first day we got there, but we went back the next day and it was totally worth the wait. We were inside the grotto for only a few minutes, but it was probably one of the best moments ever. The water was so beautiful and the man rowing our boat sang us Italian songs the whole time. It was great!

We also went on a chair lift in Capri and saw the best views of the whole island and also of the water surrounding it. I can't even begin to describe how pretty the island of Capri was and even Sorrento, too. I think that the Amalfi coast was definitely my favorite trip of the semester so far. I would go back in a heart beat! I'd defintely say that it was one of the best weekends of my life.

If you ever want to go to the Amalfi coast, book it through euroadventures. They make it so easy and it's supposed to be very hard to travel in that area by yourself.

Well, I gotta run to go to my cooking class now! I hope you enjoy the pictures!

-- Kelsey

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Break

Hey guys this is Kevin. I just got back from Spring Break. It was a really great trip. I went all over Europe. First Madrid, then Amsterdam, then London. They were all pretty amazing cities. The first flight over to Madrid was a bit of a pain. We had to go to Pisa airport around 8 in the morning and the flight was scheduled for around 1030. But it got delayed. For 6 hours. They said it was due to "fog" but I never saw the sky clearer.

Anyway Madrid was fun, I got to check out all the museums there and the king's palace there. The weather was beautiful, the best all semester. The highlight of the city was seeing a bullfight. It was pretty horrible seeing the bull, especially knowing its fate. There were a total of 6 bulls, and they all lost the fight one after the other. One of them got one of the matadores in the leg. Seeing the bull fight back like that was the most exciting part. Overall it was pretty horrible, but not as horrible as I expected. I wouldn't ever see another one in my life nor would I recommend seeing one to a friend, but it was something I could only see in Madrid so I don't regret seeing it.

The next city I saw was Amsterdam, and I think it was my favorite of the three. Amsterdam is a canal city and its very similar to Venice. However, Venice is controlled by tourists. Everyday there is tourist season and there's very little people who actually live there. However Amsterdam is like Venice with a little life andmodernism to it. People still live there and you can see their influence in the city - it doesn't die when the tourists leave, like Venice. The canals of the city were beautiful and the buildings looked very nice. The Anne Frank house was really interesting too.

Amsterdam is also home to the Van Gough and Dutch masters museum, which has some of the most important Dutch painters in history, like Rembrandt.
So if you end up traveling for spring break, you're probably going to live in hostels for the entire time. They are the cheapest accommodation and are pretty much designed for traveling young people, which was perfect for a poor college student like me. Living in a hostel was pretty much just like living in a college dorm. It can be dirty and pretty run down in certain parts, but its still incredibly comfortable. You'll be sharing a room with a bunch of other people. For me I was in a room with bunk beds for 8 people. And you'll have communal bathrooms, but the atmosphere is very comfortable and friendly, exactly like living in a college dorm.

The last city I visited was London. It was really expensive! The pound is very strong and it's worth at least $1.6. So if you plan on visiting London, bring at least twice the money you plan on spending.

London reminded me a lot of New York. I called it "New York Light." Considering New York is one of the greatest cities in the world, that's definitely a compliment. There's plenty to do and see in London. I hit up the Tower, the British Museum (which has tons of treasure like the original Rosetta Stone) Abbey Road, Platform 9 3/4 and a bunch of other places. The highlight of this city was the shows. London is known for its theater and the shows I saw were great. The first one I saw was Jersey Boys, which was a great show and had great music. But I felt kind of a traitor not seeing it in New York, since Fankie Valli and the Four Seasons are an American band and all.

But anyway, the trip was great even though I spent pretty much all of my money. I'd do it all again if I could. But now I have to start getting back into the school vibe. I mean study abroad is half traveling and half school. I did my traveling, but now I got to get back to work :/
But it really is great being back in Italy again. Ive been speaking Italian the entire trip, even in London. After a big trip like that, I needed a place to relax. Now, Florence seems even more like home.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Break 2011!

Ciao everyone!

I have to say I had the best spring break of my life!

First, Bobby and I stayed in Rome for 2 days and we walked around and saw a lot. We went inside the colosseum which was absolutely amazing. We also saw the trevi fountain and it was SO beautiful. It was hard to get a good picture of it though because it was at night and there were tons of people trying to get pictures. We really wanted to see the vatican but it was closed for Saint Joseph's Day. Rome was a little bit of culture shock for me because it is such a huge city and Florence seems so tiny compared to it and it was hard to simply walk to where ever you needed to go in Rome. I feel like whenever I go to stay in a different region or country, it really makes me appreciate Florence more everytime and its always nice to come 'home'.

After Rome, we went to to the best city ever..Dublin! I absolutely fell in love with Dublin. The people were so nice and helpful and Ireland is absolutely beautiful. We stayed in a really cute bed and breakfast called Charles Stewart Guesthouse. We got to Dublin at around 11 p.m. last Monday so we got some rest that night and started our trip on Tuesday. The first day we walked around and got to know the city and did A LOT of souvenir shopping (probably too much!). On Wednesday, we went on a bus tour to see Southern Ireland. On that trip, I probably saw the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life. Everything was so green and pretty. We went to the Cliffs of Moher which are right on the Atlantic ocean and if you ever go to Ireland, you HAVE TO go there! It was such a great experience. On Thursday, we went on a "hop on hop off" bus tour that took us around the city to show us all of the historical/ popular places. We made our way to the Guinness Storehouse for one of the stops which is something everyone has to do if they're in Dublin! Overall, the people were so nice, the food was great and Ireland was so beautiful.

It may not seem like I did much on this trip, but I just wanted to have a nice relaxing trip and get away from all of the work I'm doing in Florence. It was so great and definitely the best experience of my life to go to Dublin! I'm definitely gonna try to make it back there at some point in my life..or it will possibly be the next place that I study abroad!:)

Well, it's time for me to go to my cooking class now..I'll write soon!

-- Kelsey

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Midterms week

Ciao everyone!

I've taken 4 midterms so far and I only have 1 more left tomorrow! It is SO hard to study and sit still here. All I want to do is go out, walk around and see everything! I feel like I'm already in spring break mode and spring break hasn't even started yet.

After my midterm tomorrow, spring break starts for me! First, I'm going to take a train to Rome and spend 3 days there. I am so excited to see everything there from the colosseum, the roman forum, the vatican and the trevi fountain. Out of all the cities I'm going to be visiting in Italy, I think I'm the most excited to go there. After Rome, I'm heading to Bologna for 1 day then Dublin for 5 days. I can't wait to go to Dublin! If I decided not to study abroad in Italy, I definitely would have chosen Dublin (but I'm very happy that I chose Italy). I'm so happy to take a week off from school work and just relax!

Well, it's time for me to go and study for my last midterm tomorrow. I'll write as soon as I get back from my trips and post some pictures!

-- Kelsey

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Venice and midterm week

Hey, so this is midterm week and yesterday I had 3. So I was filling out tests all day. It was a little ridiculous. But I'm sure you all have been in the same spot too. Well I've got 2 more. My only midterm tomorrow is Italian Cooking Traditions. I had a midterm yesterday by the same teacher and it was a bit harder than I thought it was gonna be. The midterm yesterday was Vegetarian Cooking and I to write a paragraph on each question. Some were like what are the nutritive qualities of a carrot and I had to list the vitamins that they have. I mean beta carotene is a given, but I ended up making up a bunch of vitamins. I mean they're just a letter and a number, right? So I'm gonna have to put in a little more studying for the one tomorrow. The last midterm I have is on the history of the Medici Family, I'm pretty set on that since I'm a history major. But I gotta spend a little time memorizing the family tree. But whatever, I'll spend a little time studying tonight and tomorrow.
After midterms is spring break! I plan on going to Madrid, Amsterdam, and London with a few friends. Its gonna be some fun times! I won't have my computer with me so I don't know if I'll be able to post next week. But I'll come back with some stories.

But this past weekend I went to Venice! We left Florence around 930 in the Saturday. We found a side route to Venice that took a little longer and had
3 transfers, but it saved us like 30 Euro so we decided to take this route. Well we got our tickets but then it pops up that our train is gonna be 15 minutes late. Which means we had about 5
minutes to hop of the train at the next station, orient ourselves, find the ticket machines, buy them, validate the tickets (in Italy, you have to buy the ticket and then "validate" them right before
you use them which puts the date and time on the ticket. If you don't validate then the minimum fine id 50 Euro.) and then hop on the train. And thats what happened. Twice. We ended up
sprinting across some huge train stations.

Venice is farther from Florence than we thought. The train ride took 4 hours and we arrived in Venice around 2. We checked the trains back and the last one was at 730. We had about 5 ho
urs to spend in Venice. So, yeah, there was a lot of sprinting that day.

So anyway our first stop was the island of Murano. We went to the norther tip of Venice. There we found water buses. The only methods of traveling around Venice are either walking or taking a boat. So the public transportation system is a fleet of water buses, vaporetti in Italian, that take you to stops in Venice and in the surrounding islands.

We get off at the Island and they show us a pretty cool glass demonstration. I didn't think of taking a video, but I've got some pictures of it. And they have some really impressive glass
works on this island.

So we walk around, taking in all the glass, and we go to the line for the water buses and the place
is packed. Water buses are the only method of transportation between islands so people push and shove their way to the front of the lines. A bunch of people, mostly Italians, kept on pushing the the front, cutting the line. So eventually I had enough of this and started doing it back. Me
and my friends eventually, after 30 minutes of waiting, were in the front of the line.

When the next water bus came everyone pushes and shoves to get on. I'm surprised no one fell in the water. But it looked like my friends were going to get on and I wasn't. It was that close. So I grab my friend's shoulders in front of me. I figured if I attach myself to someone in front, it would be harder for people to push in front of me. And I said, "Hey if I don't get on the boat, I'm jumping on your back." I really was about to jump on his back but then the lady who decides who's the last person on the boat grabs me and pushes me into the crowd on the boat.

We were all laughing, the situation was so ridiculous. I was the last one on the boat. When I stepped on, my feet were right at the corner of the boat. I couldn't take one step back. But then the boat started to go. The safety rail wasn't even up yet. They just started going. Glad I had a few friendly hands to stabilize me, otherwise
I'd have had to swim back.

Anyway we get back to shore and I'm practically squeezed off the boat. We make our way down to Piazza San Marco. We really started to get a chance to just explore the city a bit and take in the beauty of it. Venice really is beautiful. Its incredible and its packed with so many interesting things. I was really disappointed that the whole boat situation took such a toll on our time there. But the buildings on either side of each street, for the most part, can be touched by extending both of your arms. The streets are tiny. And they're like a maze. Getting lost is half the fun of Venice, but you really wouldn't know how to get anywhere if there weren't signs pointing towards the major landmarks of the city.

Piazza San Marco is incredible. I was there when I was 10 and, back then it seemed limitless, but now that I saw it again, it seemed much tinier, but still huge. It was pretty beautiful. Apparently Napoleon loved San Marco square and he called it the "drawing room of Europe." Besides its beauty, both of the buildings and of the waterfront, the square is really special because there are absolutely no cars around. All the noise you here is from people.

I wouldn't mind spending all day there, but we had to go catch our train. We spent about an hour in the square which wasn't NEARLY enough. I'd walk around there all day if I had the chance. But we make it back to the train on time and headed back home. No problems.

Anyway I gotta go back to Venice. When you step in, you can tell how special the city is. I'm definitely gonna go back. If any of you get a chance. GO THERE


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Traveling in Tuscany

Ciao everyone!

I had a pretty busy weekend traveling to a couple different places around Tuscany. Let me start with my day on Friday.

Friday- First, I went to my 9 a.m. class (I highly recommend not signing up for a Friday class!), then right after I got out Bobby and I went right to the bus station to get two tickets to go to Siena. I kept hearing such great things about Siena, so I knew I definitely wanted to go. It took about an hour and 30 mins to get there and the ride was a little tough. It was so bumpy the whole time and I learned that I definitely like taking the train better. Usually, everyone travels by train to get to places outside of Florence, but in this case it's actually harder because there's no direct train into the city center of Siena. Well anyway, once we got to Siena, I knew why everyone had such good things to say about it. It was absolutely beautiful. Siena is really different from Florence. It's really hilly and the whole town is very old, unlike Florence where there are parts where everything is modern. I really enjoyed the old feel of it. We walked around for a bit, ate some good food, saw some really awesome cathedrals and then we went to the top of a tower to see all of Siena. This was my favorite part of the day and I fell in love with Siena because it was so beautiful. After all of the walking through the hilly city, I was starting to get exhausted and we headed back to Florence after spending about 5 hours in Siena. I'm gonna have to say that outside of Florence, Siena is one of my favorite cities so far.

Saturday- Bobby and I hopped on a 12:30 train to go to Lucca, which is also in Tuscany. I don't know why, but on Italian trains, they don't announce what stop you're at, so it's like a guessing game on the train if you don't know where you're going. We actually found two girls who are also studying abroad at FUA and they told us where to get off. When the train arrived at Lucca, we got out of the train station and found out that Lucca is still surrounded by ancient walls. It was really awesome. In order to get into the city center, you have the go through some corridors in the walls to get in. We spent most of our time inside museums and looking at different cathedrals. My favorite part of the day was when we went into a baptistery that was built on ancient ruins. They let you go downstairs and see the ruins, like roman baths and mosaics. It was so cool to able to see things that are that old dating all the way back to the 2nd century. Overall, it was a really beautiful city. Before we left, we walked around on the top of the wall where they built a path and we saw everything inside and outside of the city walls. It was so pretty, but my favorite place of the weekend was definitely Siena!

My day today is filled with studying unfortunately. Midterms start tomorrow, I can't believe it. Time is flying. I think there's only about 8 more weeks left and I can't imagine how fast it's gonna go after spring break. I have 3 midterms tomorrow, so I better start studying!

I'll write soon!
- Kelsey

Friday, March 11, 2011

Food and the Countryside

Hey everyone, this is Kevin. Midterms are coming up and procrastination time has turned into panic time. I’m sure you’re all used to that. So I haven’t really talked about my classes yet. They’re all pretty interesting. I think I said before I was taking culinary and history classes. The history class I’m taking, the history of the Medici family, is pretty standard. You do your readings and you go to lecture. But pretty much every other class, we go on a tour of the city

with a focus on the Medici. Last week we explored the crypt of San Lorenzo and the Palazzo dei Medici. They were incredible buildings that housed incredible people.

The culinary classes I’m taking, Italian vegetarian cooking and Italian cooking traditions are both very interesting. We learn about ingredients – their history, what they are used for, how they are prepared, etc. And we go over recipes. We break into groups and complete different recipes that usually are based off the same ingredients. Our teacher goes over the main techniques and the culinary theory that accompanies the recipe and the ingredients. Sometimes we go on gastronomic walking tours. We’ve gone to chocolate stores, gelato shops, bakeries, Panini shops – tons of different places. They give us a rundown of their operation and how they make their products. Then they give free samples of their products. It’s a lot of fun. Plus it usually saves me from having to buy lunch.

Speaking of food, I went to a farm this weekend - The Podere cheese farm. It was a student services trip. We went to the farm via public bus and met the cheese farmers. They were very nice to us. After we became acquainted, they took us in like family. They hand make their own cheese using fresh goat milk – part from the morning and part from the evening before. They

showed us how they make 2 cheeses: caprino and ricotta – all by hand. They use pretty simple methods. Boiling, draining, and letting the cheese rest. It was very natural.

So afterwards they led us up to visit the goats in the pens. And they ended up letting us into the pen with the baby goats and their moters. Actually, right before we arrived to the pens, there

was a live birth right there. But to be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention to the whole live birth thing since I was chasing baby goats around. So then me and some ot

hers started to pet the newborn baby goat. But then someone told me it was born about 10 minutes ago and it was covered in… well it was pretty wet. So I kind of immediately regretted touching the goat.

I asked the farmer if it was a boy or a girl and he replied and he said it was a boy. Then he took out a knife and cut something off. I started to freak out, considering the context of our conversation, but then I figured out all he cut off was the umbilical cord. And I was suddenly a lot more comfortable.

So we leave the pen and watch the first encounter between the mother and its kid. The farmer pretty much had to drag the mother over to its kid. But nature did the rest. It was a pretty special experience.

When we left the area, we had noticed that a couple of goats escaped the pen and were running around. The shepherd dog just kind of watched them until he realized he had a job to do.

So he gathers them up and chases them into a building where the farmers capture the goats. I posted a video of the dog doing his job.

Anyway we go back down to the cheese lab and they treat us to some of the most delicious cheese I’ve ever had. Afterwards we took a short walk through the Italian countryside / wine fields to the small village of Grave. Every September, when their wine is done fermenting, this village has a huge wine tasting and celebration. Chianti wine, which is made from the Chianti grape in Tuscany, is the most popular and well known in the area. People from all over Tuscany come to Grave to sample their wines. We explored this quaint little village for a couple of hours before heading back to Florence.

This was a great trip. This you ever make it to Tuscany, try to take some time to explore the countryside. It has a much friendlier culture and its really beautiful. Anyway, I

’ll post back soon with more stories. Ciao!


Thursday, March 3, 2011

I need some chicken soup!

Ciao a tutti!
This week has been a little rough for me. I've been sick for about 5 days now and I'm really missing my mom's homemade chicken soup! I made myself an appointment to see a doctor on Tuesday and I didn't know what to expect since I'm in a different country. I was pleasantly suprised. I called the office and got an appointment right away. When I went into the office, I immediately went in to see the doctor. He was a British doctor, so there wasn't any language barrier which was great. He gave me prescriptions for a few medicines and I was on my way! Plus, a sore throat is a great excuse to eat gelato everyday!

Last week, I went to go see an opera called "Manon Lescaut" with my class and it was awesome. Suprisingly, we had great seats for the 20 euro that we paid. It was really cool to see my first opera and to top it off it was in Italy. I highly recommend going to see an opera if you are going to be in Florence!

Over the weekend, I went to the top of the Giotto's bell tower next to the Duomo with my fiance, Bobby. There are 414 steps to get to the top of the tower, it was exhausting but it was SO worth it! Once we arrived at the top, we overlooked all of Florence. It was probably the most beautiful thing that I've ever seen. I felt like I was on the top of the world and I was so happy to share such a great experience with Bobby.
Before climbing to the top of the bell tower on Saturday, I went on a city tour with one of my professors to see an artisan fair called "lungoungiorno". We were able to see dozens of craftsmen and artists from all over Tuscany and their beautiful work. The artists ranged from fabric restorers, jewlers, ecodesigners, painters and sculptors. One of the artists was a jeweler named Paolo Penko who makes hand-made jewelry for celebrities like Paris Hilton and Madonna and the jewelry was absolutely beautiful. We also saw a fabric restorer who restores the fabric on the pope's hat! It was really nice to see things being made by hand, and not by machine like I'm used to in the U.S and I was so happy that I went. One of the sculptors even hand-made a little clay vase for me to take home!
There are so many different things to do here in Florence and I absolutely love it.
I'll write again soon! Ciao!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Little Things

A month in and I've seen a lot. I've been traveling around Italy, and even outside. I've seen Pisa, I've seen Viareggio, I've even seen Prague. But every time I leave Florence, I'm reminded how special the city is. Its amazing how packed this place is. There’s tons of interesting things around this city. I’m still finding little treasures all around it. And I’m not just talking about the masterpieces of art and architecture like the Duomo or

David. I also mean the little things about the city that you really only

notice when you look.

I was taking a tour with my teacher one day. She was explaining the big things of the city, which really are quite amazing - like the Church of Santa Croce. But I had noticed, since I arrived in Florence, all these little window shaped holes in many of the older buildings. They were about a foot tall and half a foot wide and were shaped like pentagons. I asked her what they were and she said that they were called "bo

cchette di vino." I’m not sure of the literal translation, and neither is Google Translate, but I think it means something like little booths of wine. Apparently, back when

Florence was a bustling renaissance city, people would offer or sell glasses of wine to pedestrians as they passed. When this practice was

banned after the passage of the Italian liquor license law, t

hese holes no longer had a use. Many of them became filled up, some were transformed into mailboxes, others were made into doorbells. I found this pretty interesting. So I started to walk around the city and find all these filled up little holes. Most of them were bricked up by their landlords, but a few stand out as being the canvas of street artists. What I mean is that, sometimes, you'll find a piece of art inside these tiny little holes. And you won’t find them unless you look. One was really detailed, like a painting.

It was pretty cool thinking that next to the incredible pieces of art and architecture, artists still express themselves and find ways to create beauty in a way that I found just as interesting as the Duomo and Santa Croce. Since Florence is such a small city (you can walk from one side to the other in like 20-30 minutes) it’s packed with surprises at every turn. You'll find art on every corner and historical monuments on every street. The city practically begs you to explore and see what its got hidden.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

1 month in Florence!


So, today is the day that I've officially been in Florence for one month! My family back home says it feels like I just left yesterday. I still miss my family so much everyday and sometimes it's hard being so far away from the comfort of home. The homesickness gets better everday because I try to keep myself busy with all of the beautiful things that Florence has to offer. Although I know I'm going to miss my family everyday that I'm here, I know that I can't let the sadness take over me and ruin my trip. I'm only going to be in Florence once and I want to remember being happy all the time, not sad! If the first month went this fast, I can't even imagine how fast the rest of my time here is going to go by.

Tonight, I'm going to see an opera called "Manon Lescaut" with my Great Italian Opera class in a theater right here in Florence. I'm so excited because I really love classical music and it's so amazing to think that I'm going to be seeing an opera in Italy where opera was created. This is definitely going to be something that I will never forget.

Starting a couple weeks ago, I started going to Aperitivo every Saturday at a place called "Kitsch". For about 8 euro, you get a drink and you can eat as much food as you want from the buffet. The food here is awesome and I've been ordering a different smoothie everytime I go and they're really unique and delicious. I told myself that I'm going to order a different smoothie every Saturday until I leave and there's just enough of them on the menu for how many weeks that I have left here. It's a really relaxing atmosphere there and I really look forward to going there at the end of every week.

Even though I miss my home in the U.S. very much, I'm really starting to enjoy and appreciate the fact that I'm in Florence. It's so cool to be able to walk past the Duomo everyday on my way to class and see all of the architecture and statues on every corner I turn. Sometimes this experience just feels so surreal. I could be standing in front of the Duomo and just think to myself, "Wow, I'm really in Italy, there aren't many people who gets to see things like this everyday".
I'll write again soon!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Introductions

Hello everyone, my name is Kevin Christie. I’m a Binghamton University student studying abroad in Florence. As a history major specializing in the Italian Renaissance, going to Florence was kind of a no-brainer for me. Aside from history, one of my other major interests is cooking. Coming from an Italian family, I’ve been cooking my entire life. So much so that I even considered culinary school before going to a state university. I wanted to see what kind of life I skipped out on.

So I decided to take classes that I was interested in: Renaissance classes and culinary classes – I figured it would be the perfect mix for Florence.

I’ve been living in Florence for about 3 weeks and I think these past 3 weeks have been and will be the most extreme 3 weeks for the entire study abroad program. What I mean is it will probably be the most exciting, the most stressful, and most interesting part of the entire study abroad program. And I think the rest of the students will agree with me.It’s a bit hectic because after about three weeks you start to become a part of the city. And the city becomes a part of you. You’re no longer getting lost and maps start to become a thing that tourists use. The twisting streets of Florence, though initially confusing and kind of ridiculous, start to make sense. And you start to sink your feet in the culture that you still don’t really understand.

That’s what’s happening to me.

The initial transition stage for the first part of the trip wasn’t difficult. Probably because living in Florence didn’t really hit me until about a week later. I was both really excited to finally be in Florence, after years of waiting, and just trying to adjust myself to the area around me. But afterwards, homesickness hit me hard.

I consider myself a fairly independent person, so I was surprised to feel as homesick as I did. I was, initially, so excited to be in Florence that I kind of blinded myself to homesickness.

But after a week, especially since I didn’t have access to the internet and Facebook yet, I started to really miss my friends. I thought to myself, “What am I doing here? I’m missing out on everything back at Binghamton.” I even got a little mad at the culture and the city itself. But as I started to familiarize myself with the city and make new friends, I started to accept that I was going to be here until mid-May. So I may as well enjoy it.

I started to dive into the city’s mysteries. I love to walk around and explore. For those of you who consider yourselves urban explorers, this city really has a lot to offer. There are tons of hidden secrets and treasures that are easily passed by. So I started walking around without a map so I could absorb the city better, without having a definitive goal in mind. Just looking for whatever it is that makes this city so special. And I got lost a lot. But it paid off. Aside from getting me a few adventures, exploring Florence helped me to be more confident and familiar with the city. It became much easier to call this place home.

And now I find myself sinking deeper into the Italian culture and the magic of this city. Every day, I uncover a new secret about the city and the more I learn, the more I appreciate this place.

I’ll post back later about some of the cool things that I find in Florence. I’ll take pictures too!

Anyway thanks for reading my story so far, and I’ve got some pretty intersting ones about to come. So I’ll keep you all posted. And thanks to Kelsey for sharing her blog with me! J



Friday, February 18, 2011


Ciao a tutti!

I can't believe that I've already been in Florence for a little over 3 weeks now. The time is flying. Everyday passes by so fast. I feel like I'm in constant movement from when I wake up in the morning until about 10 at night, but I love it. Everyday is a new adventure and I always find something new that I've never seen before.

Last weekend I went to Pisa with my fiance and my friend Allison that I met through the study abroad program. I looked at the weather before we left and it said it was supposed to be sunny and about 55 degrees and when we arrived there it was freezing and raining. Even though it was pretty terrible outside, I still really enjoyed myself. When we first got to Pisa, we went into a place that seemed like it was gonna have great food and we sat down and they took out our penne and sauce from the freezer and put it in the microwave. That was pretty disappointing and I couldn't even believe that any place did that in Italy. But, once we got to see the leaning tower of Pisa, it was a totally different story. It was so overwhelming to see the tower, cathedral, baptistery, and cemetary that are all right next to eachother. They were all so beautiful.

This weekend, I'm going to the carnevale in Viareggio. Next to Venice's carnevale, the carnevale that takes place in Viareggio, Tuscany is the second most popular carnevale to go to in Italy. I am so excited to see all of the paper mache floats (some of them take about a year to make). It's so awesome to be able to go somewhere different every weekend and experience new things.

When I first got here, the thing I may have been most excited about was trying the gelato. I was a little naive in thinking that all gelato in Florence was going to be great. There are so many touristy places that use artificial coloring and ingredients to make the mountains of gelato look pretty. Well, now that I've been here for a little while, I'm finding all of the best places to get gelato and I have to say that when you find really good gelato, it's pretty exciting. I found two places, one called Grom, and the other called Gelateria della Passera. They are AMAZING! I've never eaten anything so delicious in my life! Banana and chocolate gelato together is definitely my favorite so far.

Now that I've been talking about how great the gelato is , I think I may go and get some now (this will be my second time today, I hope I won't be rolling myself back to the U.S. at the end of this trip!). I hope you all enjoy the pictures of Pisa and the gelato!



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting Adjusted

Hey guys!

So, I've officially been in Florence for two weeks now. When I first got here, all the streets and places were a blur, but now I feel like I can finally find my way around the city without getting terribly lost (which has happened quite a few times).

I've started to discover the cheapest 'non-touristy' places to eat and shop. My new favorite place (which I totally forgot the name of, sorry) is an awesome panini shop. One panini is only 2,50 Euro which is pretty great and they are SO amazing. The panini shop is only about 1 minute away from one of the schools where I have class, so I can grab a really good bite to eat before I start one of my classes.

I've never traveled outside of the United States, so I was really excited to come to Italy just for the food. I can honestly say that all the best food that I've ever eaten in my life has been here in Florence. Everything is so simple but it's truly amazing. From the pizza, panini, pasta, and of course the gelato.

I haven't been able to travel yet because the first couple weeks have been pretty hectic. I'm planning on going to Pisa this weekend with my fiance and I'm pretty excited to take one of those ridiculous tourist pictures with my hand up against the leaning tower. I'm planning on doing most of my traveling with through the school because the trips are all inclusive they have tour guides from the school come on the trips who show and explain what you're looking at.

To be honest, I'm still sad about being away from home even with all of these amazing things surrounding me. Random things make me really sad, like finding one of my dog's hairs on my one of my cardigans (my dogs are my life) or eating a piece chocolate because my mom loves it so much. I am really happy that my fiance came with my on this trip because it's like I brought a piece of home with me to Florence and we get to share this amazing experience together. I really am a homebody so this was a big step for me to come all the way to Italy. I know the sadness will get better. I just think that I need to travel more and see new things once my schedule isn't so crazy.

If I get to Pisa this weekend, I can't wait to get some pictures for everyone to see on here!