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Food that I’ve cooked!!! :) Pasta, anyone?! Yes, I know there is a lot of repetition… but I’m learning!

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I can’t believe that I only have a week and a half left in Italy! It has flown by! I feel like I have been here longer than a month, but I also feel like I have barely been here at all! I feel like I still have so much left that I want to do here, and I’m scared that I will never get to come back! However, I am very excited to be home and see my family and friends and be in my normal routine again, where I speak the same language!!! I haven’t quite mastered the traffic here, and it will be nice to not have to worry as much about being a pedestrian about to be hit by a car. Monday, we had our first photo critique and art history midterm. It was a pretty regular day, since we didn’t have any field trips. I spent the rest of the night developing film and printing contact sheets for my negatives. Then on Tuesday, we were supposed to meet in the morning for a camera obscurist demonstration. It was not well-organized, and they were late getting set up, so we didn’t really see much. Our field trip for the day was to San Marco, which is right down the street from school. Its now a museum, but back in the day it was an old convent, and this one was really interesting to walk through! We got to see the cells of the monks, and there were some awesome frescoes in the cells and in the cloister and refectory. It was really neat! But I am really into nerdy historic places like that, so most people probably didn’t find it as interesting. I spent the rest of the day shooting film and shopping at the San Lorenzo market. I got a lot of souvenir shopping done for everyone back home! It was also a rather depressing day because I had been eyeing this AMAZING jacket in a store window practically since we’ve arrived in Florence, and I went to try it on yesterday! It was in a REALLY nice store, so I knew it would be really expensive, but I went in to see anyway. It was 600 euros. No thank you. Still, the cutest jacket in the entire world!!! Today, we had photo class this morning, and then we are going to yet ANOTHER church this afternoon. Ugh. Tonight, I am taking a cooking class!!!!! I am really excited! I hope to learn a lot and I hope the meal that we make is super yummy because I spent 20 euros to take this class! Tomorrow, we are taking a short day trip to Pisa. I’m excited to take the touristy picture of me holding up the leaning tower. :) We should be back early afternoon, and then I’m gonna spend the rest of the day cranking out some film. I still have like 12 rolls to finish and print contact sheets for by the beginning of next week! Friday morning, I am on an early train to ROME!!!! :) I’ll try to update again soon! CIAO!

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I haven’t updated in SO long, and I keep putting it off more and more because now I have way too much to catch up on! It has been pretty crazy here! So, last monday we went to the Duomo, and actually got to go inside, which wasn’t as impressive as I was hoping. It was pretty cool, but not nearly as decorated as other churches. Of course, the dome was SO amazing, but that is about it. We are at the point where all of the churches that we visit are beginning to run together because we have visited sooo many. Theres the church, the groin vaulted ceiling, the frescoes, the mosaics, the pictures of Jesus…. in every single church. And we visit churches every single day. AH. So along with the Duomo we went to the Duomo museum. They had the original statues and pieces of the facade and campanile, which was cool to see. I also got to see Michelangelo’s Pieta and Donatello’s Mary Magdalene, which was definitely the highlight of the museum!!! The original Gates of Paradise from the baptistery were supposed to be there, but they were being restored so we couldn’t see them. 

On Tuesday, we left for VENICE!!!!! It was absolutely amazing, and sooo incredibly beautiful. I can see why they call it the most romantic place on earth!! This is also cause for ridiculous amount of PDA everywhere!!! We would be walking over bridges behind people who would just stop randomly and start making out, right in front of us! It was very strange. People are all over each other in Florence, too, but not like in Venice! We saw like 5 million churches while in Venice, none of which I can remember anything to tell you all about. During one of our lectures, she told us about the social status of families and if you had multiple daughters, you could only probably pay the dowry for one daughter to be married off, so if you were of good social status the rest of your daughters would go into the convent, and never come out. If you were of not so great social status, your daughters would become prostitutes. There was a golden book in Venice that had a list of the founding families of Venice, and if you were on that list, you couldn’t do anything to hurt your families social status. This is unlike in Florence, where you can do something to disgrace your family and ruin their reputation forever. I thought it was kind of cool. The streets in Venice were insanely hard to navigate, because Venice was not founded by the Romans and does not have a grid-like structure to the streets. One of my favorite parts of Venice was going to the Peggy Guggenheim gallery. It was so refreshing to see artwork of Dali, Miro, Picasso, Pollack, Kandinsky….. compared to all of the renaissance art that we have been seeing in all of the churches!!! After the Guggenheim we went to the Lido, which was a huge beach. I swam in the Mediterranean/Adriatic Sea!!! HOW COOL!!! Everything in Venice was insanely expensive, and touristy. I managed not to get pick-pocketed, yay!!! We came back from Venice on Thursday, after visiting La Biennale di Venezia, which was a huge art exhibition that happens every odd year in Venice, and features art from all over the world. Each country has their own exhibit, and a lot of the artwork was VERY strange….. but some was very interesting and cool. :) When we got home to Florence, my roommate and I tried the Italian version of Chinese food, which was pretty interesting. The chicken fried rice was pretty much the same, but my sweet and sour shrimp was really different, and it had tomatoes in it!

On Friday, we went to ANOTHER church (surprise!) in Florence that was south of the river, and then on the way back, we stopped at this great little leather place, called Infinity. Two people in our group have raved about this place, and bought leather bags from it. It is family owned and they have their workshop in the back of the store where they make everything. Needless to say, I fell in love with a purse and now I am debating whether or not to buy it. I’m in Italy…. and haven’t bought much besides food!!! Yesterday, we caught an early train and went north to Cinque Terre!! It is 5 cities that you can travel to by train or walking/hiking paths that connect them. One of the walking paths has a cool little story behind it. Apparently, there were two lovers that lived in different cities and had no way to see each other, because there is no transit in these cities. So, they made this walking path to get from one city to the other and got to see each other. How cute! Who knows if it is really true or not, but I like to think that it is! So, we started out at the last city, and worked our way backwards to the front. The last city, Monterosso, had a huge beach, which is what they were known for. It was pretty rocky though and not like the sandy beaches we are used to. It was fun to explore, but there is not really much of anything to do in the cities except for eat, shop in touristy places, or go to the beach. We decided to hike the train between Monterosso and Vernazza, which was the most intense hiking path. It was SOOO beautiful though, and so worth it. It took us about two hours, probably because we were stopping to view the scenery and take pictures! There were great views of the ocean and the city that we were approaching, and we were surrounded by vineyards and lemon trees the whole time. It was so crazy. I didn’t know places like that really existed!! Once at Vernazza, we caught a boat that took us to the last city. We didn’t have time to stop at each city, because Cinque Terre isn’t made to do in one day. One of the trails was closed because there was a landslide, and we were exhausted anyway from the vigorous hiking path. So, the boat took us past the 3rd and 4th city and on to the last one. The waves were HUGE though and I felt like we were on deadliest catch! It was rocking the boat sooo much, pretty crazy! Everyone was falling over. Once completely exhausted, we caught the 5:50 train back to Florence, and grabbed some Italian style McDonalds for dinner…. It was interesting, but the french fries are still the same :)

This morning, we went to the Farmers Market outside of Santo Spirito. Every other Sunday is the Farmers Market, and the Sundays in between are the Antique Market. I got some souvenirs for people back home, and now I’m getting ready to go into school and develop some prints for our photo critique in the morning. Then I have to study for my art history midterm which is also tomorrow, but in the afternoon. The rest of the week we have field trips, then Thursday we go to Pisa, and Friday I leave for Rome! I can’t believe I have less than two weeks left in Italy… It’s bittersweet! I’m ready to be home and around friends and family, but I know that this is the only time I will ever get to fully experience living in Italy and be surrounded by the culture, not just sight-seeing and being a tourist. So its bittersweet, for sure.

CIAO!!!

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Well, Yesterday was the day that we were supposed to go to Verona, but sadly we didn’t because the train was too expensive and complicated. So instead, we went to the Accademia and the Uffizi Gallery! The Accademia was SO cool, it was the first time that I have been since being in Florence! There is a big show of Lorenzo Bartolini, which I was very impressed by! My favorites of his were La Carita Educatrice, La Fiducia in Dio, and The Nymph and the Scorpion. You should look them up! They are SO cool. The detail was just spectacular and I am now a big fan of Bartolini. However, this is not the main showing in the Accademia. Also there, we saw THE DAVID!!!!! It was absolutely fantastic. I was seriously awe-struck. It was like seeing a celebrity and you just can’t look away. I had seen copies of the David all over Florence, but never the REAL thing. It was HUGE, his knee caps were probably as big as my face! It was so amazing. You could see the veins in his hand and just the proportions and laid-back contropposto were unreal. It is also such a meditative and calm stance, for having just killed Goliath! That is what makes the David so special. It was absolutely amazing. I also didn’t know that the David was made from a large slab of marble that was left abandoned in a church courtyard, and Michelangelo had to convince them to let him carve it out of the marble! How crazy is that?! Leading up to the David, there were a bunch of unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo that he had just left and were never finished before he died. You could see every little part that he had chipped away, and while still attached to a big block, you could still see the details of the muscles and see where he was going with it! It was very cool, like a small glimpse into the thought process of Michelangelo. We also went back to the Uffizi, which I had already been to, and I got to see a lot of paintings that I skipped out on last time, like the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, and the Adoration of the Magi by Da Vinci (left unfinished!!! It was really cool to see!) A little bit of nerdy history for you… The Uffizi was an administrative building built by the Medici family that ruled over Florence for many years. Michelangelo and Da Vinci actually used to hang out there!!! The gallery has been open to the public since the 1700’s! In 1966, there was a HUGE flood of the Arno River that severely damaged almost all of the art collections in Florence, including the Uffizi. In 1993, a car bomb set off by the Sicilian Mafia destroyed a part of the gallery and killed 5 people. This part of the gallery was restored, and the affected sculptures, but the frescoes were damaged beyond repair. In 2007, Florence had a huge rainstorm that again flooded part of the Uffizi, but this was not as tragic as the Flood of the Arno in 1966. This gallery has been through a lot!!

Today, we went to Santo Spirito church, by Brunelleschi, and was a much more simple church architectually, and by the art inside. The decoration was very simple, and there were not huge frescoes taking up all of the wall space. There were many paintings, as in other churches, with the marble columns framing them, but that was about it. The wall space was just simple and white, which is not something that we have seen in other churches! We left soon after, as mass was about to start, and explored the antique market just outside, which was really awesome! It is there every other sunday, so I am glad that we were right there in the right time! :) Tomorrow we finally get to go inside the Duomo and have our official visit, and the Duomo museum, which has many ORIGINAL works of art, and I am super excited for that! Then we leave for Venice on Tuesday for 3 days!! :)

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Hello all! I am finding it harder and harder to be able to post, because it is difficult to find the right words to express everything about what all I am seeing here in Italy! The art is just fantastic. Especially in the cathedrals. There are gigantic paintings with huge marble encasings, not to mention super old and amazing frescoes. The colors are so vivid and the detail is just insane. Sometimes when we go into cathedrals I get so lost in the paintings that I forget to look up. The ceilings are most of the time just as magnificent. Pictures do not do justice to all things in Italy!!!

Yesterday we went to Santa Croce, which was just unbelievable!! It is where the tombs are for Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo! It was sooo cool to see. They are very richly decorated and are a pretty spectacular sight. Santa Croce was a church that was hit very hard in the Flood of the Arno River in 1966. They had a display of photos that showed all of the mud and flood waters and destruction, it was unreal. Santa Croce also had a lot of work by Giotto, which was very cool to see! We also got to see the refectory and cloister for the monks.

Today, we took a bus out to Siena and San Gimignano. Siena was very cool! The buildings were so old, and it was a much different sight than the streets of Florence! It is divided into seventeen different districts, which each have different flags, governments, enemies, churches…etc! It was a very cool and interesting history to learn about! There was such a mix of buildings there, from medieval to renaissance to gothic to romanesque… again, so cool to see!!! The history in Italy is just amazing to think about how you are standing in a place where so much history has happened over the years!! The cathedral in Siena was amazing. Every church that we go into just keeps getting better and better! The walls and groin-vaulted ceiling were just incredibly beautiful. We also saw the “new” cathedral, just outside, which was never finished, due to the black plague hitting. It was unreal to hear about that, because it just confirmed how old and historical of a place we were in!

After Siena, we rode to San Gimignano. It was an old hill-top medieval town, will well-preserved towers! Florence used to have tall towers like San Gimignano, because they were a sign of power in the families of the town. If your family was defeated, your tower would literally be cut down. That is why Florence no longer has really tall towers, because they have all been cut. Thats what was neat about San Gimignano, all of the towers were really well preserved. The whole entire town was like a castle, it was sooo neat! There were a whole bunch of cute little shops that sold such unique things…. if only I wasn’t a poor college student!!! San Gimignano might be one of my favorite places that we have gone so far. I loved the old historic nature of the town and the medieval setting. There were street musicians playing the flute or other music that really added to the setting we were in. Not to mention that there were lots of spots overlooking the Tuscan countryside… what a beautiful sight!!! It was a really great trip!

Tomorrow, I was supposed to head out on a train to Verona (I have ALWAYS wanted to go there to see Juliet’s balcony… even though she is a fictional character!), but train tickets were very expensive and I would have had to buy four tickets to switch trains in Bologna, and it ended up being very complicated and expensive. I was sad to not get to go, since this has been on my to-see list for a very long time, but hopefully I will get to go back one day. :) Instead, I plan to go to the Accademia and see THE DAVID!!!! I’ll probably also go spend more time at the Uffizi Gallery, and maybe stroll through the San Lorenzo market a bit.

There are pidgeons EVERYWHERE!

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I can’t believe I’ve already been in Italy for an entire week!!! So crazy! I am getting to know my way around extremely well, and am definitely getting the hang of the Italian way of life a lot better than I had a few days ago. After my photography class this morning, we ate at a little foreign place and got doner kabobs. They were SO delicious! I’m pretty sure that I ate lamb or something crazy like that! After lunch we went right across the street to the Central Market, which is this HUGE indoor market that sells just about everything! It was really overwhelming at first, but it was so cool to see all of the fresh foods like bread, meat, fruit…you name it, they had it. Some of it was really interesting…like pig snouts. EW! It was also intimidating at first because with my luck, the very first vendor that I bought from didn’t speak english! I got by with mixing a bit of Italian and Spanish, which has similar words. I also pointed a lot and stupidly tried to speak my english very slow, as if that would help them understand better…. :) They were very nice though, and gave me some free basil! Cool! All in all, I bought some cherries (they are very ripe in Italy right now!), strawberries, peppers, pasta, and green beans. We also went to the regular supermarket after our days field trip, and I got some yogurt, raspberries, sliced meat, mayo and bread for lunch sandwiches! Woohoo. I feel like such an adult :)

Well, It absolutely poured on and off all day today. We went to the San Giovanni Baptistery, which is right next to the Duomo, and then went to Santa Maria Novella church. The baptistery was SO beautiful, the ceiling was covered in gold and other bright and beautiful colors. The whole thing was mosaic, and was just absolutely stunning. I didn’t know that the baptistery was actually there before the Duomo! Then, we walked in the pouring rain all the way to Santa Maria Novella, which is another beautiful church. All of the places that we have been to so far all have very similar characteristics, an obvious one being the use of green color. There is also a lot of red (now turned pink) and white. Red, green and white are coincidentally the colors of the Italian flag…. :) We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside of Santa Maria Novella, and I didn’t take any outside of it either because it was pouring. It was absolutely stunning though. There were lots of individual family chapels, which each individual family paid to have decorated, and there were so many beautiful paintings. It was just breathtaking. I am absolutely loving seeing all of this beautiful artwork, and I have always been such a sucker anyways for Renaissance art.

After our trip for the day, I went home and cooked up a fantastic meal from the food I got at the market! It was so delicious. I am quite proud of myself because I have always been scared to cook. I find it stressful and I’ve never quite been able to just throw things on the stove and see what happens! However, I had THREE pots going at the same time and it turned out amazing! It was probably the first REAL meal that I have ever truly cooked all on my own. :) After dinner, the rain FINALLY cleared up, and I was able to get out and shoot two rolls of film. The night ended with some licorice flavored (new favorite) and raspberry gelato at our favorite place, Grom. :)

Tomorrow’s agenda: Santa Croce! I’m excited! Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli were all buried here! COOL!

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I never cease to be amazed at all of the wonders of Florence! Today, we went across the river (Oltrano) and hiked all of the way to the Piazzale Michelangelo! There were great views of Florence, and also a copy of the David (I have seen TWO copies, and not yet the real thing!! It is on my to-do list, for sure!). After Michelangelo, we continued our hike up to the San Miniato al Monte church. It was BEAUTIFUL. You can see it from the Arno, and I can’t believe we hiked so high! My teacher told us the history, something about a guy who got beheaded and then there was a church built, and then this church built on top of it. I really soaked in a bunch of that info, huh?! ;) Anyways, the facade was really beautiful, and the mosaics were a nice comparison to the Byzantine art that I saw the other day on my visit to the Uffizi. It is really exciting to be seeing all of these things and actually know what I am looking at, from what I have learned in my art history classes. The inside was just absolutely beautiful. The ceiling had so much color, and the vaulting was beautiful. The paintings on the wall were sooo intricate and beautiful, they were soo cool to see up close. While the cieling came in a close second, my favorite thing about San Miniato was the apse. OH MY GOODNESS, it was so beautiful. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I stood for a long while soaking it all in… the colors, the details, the symbolism, the use of gold… it was amazing! There were also really cool cemeteries outside of the church, in the front and back. Very old and neat. Apparently some famous Italian film director is buried there. Neato!

I have so far conquered 4.5/30 of my rolls for photography. It is really hard to focus on getting non-cliche or non-touristy photos. Everything is so beautiful and foreign, you want to capture it all! My first roll I was not at all pleased with, but the next few I think I ended up with some great shots! :)

On a random note, Italian drivers are CRAZY! They stop for nothing, whether they are driving a bus, car, vespa, or even a bike!! I can’t tell you how many times me and multiple others in our group have had close calls in getting hit… haha.

Well, its been raining on and off all day. The roommate is gone, and the other girls’ apartment seems like such a far walk in the rain… but some gelato sure sounds good right now! ;) We’ll see where the night takes us. 

Ta Ta for now!

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Well, these past few days have been crazy! I am starting to feel the stress of school, specifically my photo class. I have no idea how I am going to conquer 30 rolls in 3 weeks, plus developing them! AH! Saturday, we woke up really early and met at the Duomo, and got to climb to the very top! It was like almost 500 steps or something CRAZY like that! It was really cool to see the inside of the dome, and see how HUGE the painting on the inside was because that dome is GIGANTIC!!! When we finally reached the top, there were really great views to the city. It was WELL worth the climb!! After we all came back down, we caught a bus to a nearby town, Fiesole. We visited a monastery, and accidentally crashed a wedding happening at the church, haha :) You could see Florence from Fiesole, which also made for great pictures. There were also some ancient Roman ruins here, which were neat to see.

On Sunday morning, I made my first trip to the Uffizi gallery, and explored the first 5 or so rooms. On my way out, I passed a room full of Botticelli’s work! Of course, it contained the Birth of Venus. SOOO COOL!!!!!!!! However, I was on my way out and there was a large tour group standing in front of it, so I will have to hit it up on my next trip there. After the Uffizi, I made my way across the Ponte Vecchio for the first time, and went to Pitti Palace, which is south of the river. In the Piazza of Pitti Palace, there was the 2011 Florence Wine Event, and for 10 euros you could have 10 tastings. I definitely liked the sweet wines more than the dry! I got a pretty cool wine glass out of the deal, too. :) When we got home, there was a freak rain/hailstorm that hit Florence and knocked out our power, which we finally got back this afternoon.

This morning I went out a bit early before class and shot my first roll of film…. then we spent the entire class attempting to figure out the metric system conversions. It was frustrating, but our film turned out! 29 more to go…. ugh. We also made a long walk to the photo store in Florence… allllll the way down by the Arno River…. the store was closed. It was an interesting morning! Today is one of the only days that we meet at school for my Art History class… most other days we are meeting on site and exploring churches or museums. COOL! Tomorrow afternoon, we are going to Piazzale Michaelangelo… It will be a long walk (I’m opting to walk, not take the bus) but there are great views of the city, and I’m pretty excited!

Here are a few more things that I have learned or noticed… 

-They do not have ice cubes in Italy.

-You have to have exact change or they will get mad. Most places do not accept big bills.

-I only know a small bit of Italian, and when I attempt to use it, people start rambling on at me as if I know the entire language. Then, I have to say English?? And then we go from there. The language barrier isn’t really that bad though.

-I have so many mosquito bites I have lost count.

-I still can’t cook.

-Culture shock.

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JERSEY SHORE!!! :)

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OKAY! Here is what happened today with my jersey shore encounter… :) So, a little before dinner time and after our last class got out, me, Megan, Sam, Eric and Natalie went out to find somewhere to eat. Eric and Natalie stopped off somewhere else to eat, but me, Megan and Sam didn’t think that it looked very good, so we ventured on to find somewhere else to eat. A little down the road, past the Duomo, I pointed out a street that looked like it had some cute cafes on it. As we walked down it, I recognized Vesuvio’s, the pizza place that Jersey Shore works at! We stopped and stared for a minute outside, and a woman walked up and asked if we wanted to get pizza there. We decided yes, and she said that she was going to have a camera inside so we had to sign paperwork. I asked if the cast was going to be there and she joked why else would she have a camera inside? They whisked us around the corner and we had to keep close to the wall, signing our life away! there were like 10 pages that we had to initial, and they took our pictures with a big clipboard with a number. There were the three of us, and 2 other girls who got to go in. They told us that we could not take pictures inside, could not talk about the cast or the show, and to act natural. We had to have our hands marked and then we walked in as they counted the five of us off. There were lots of people around outside who were watching, but they were held back at a distance by staff of the show. When we walked in, Vinny was sitting on the front doorstep and shook all of our hands on the way in. We ordered at the front desk and got a little ticket and sat down. The Situation was stocking the fridge with beers, and Sammi was working behind the counter serving pizza. When our pizza was ready, Sammi called out our names and we brought our pizza to her and she handed it to us and told us it was hot. The entire thing was very staged, and a lot of their interactions were very corny. They all worked very slowly, and seemed bored out of their mind. When we were done, we got to-go boxes and left! That was it. Even though I don’t watch Jersey Shore, it was still a surreal experience. I can’t believe we randomly stumbled upon it like that! I highly doubt that my footage will be on the show, but it was still really cool. :)