Saturday
02/24/18

Rome, Classes and Stories

Posted by Madeline on February 24, 2018 in Florence, Rome, studying abroad

This past weekend, I traveled to Rome on a guided trip by two LdM professors. I had to wake up so early for the trip I could actually talk to people at home because they hadn’t gone to bed yet..crazy. I wasn’t sure if I’d like Rome because I knew it was a big city, and I usually associate big cities with ugly -imposing buildings, gray, dirty. But Rome was not this way at all, I actually found it quite beautiful. All the buildings had the lovely authentic architecture that is so pleasing to the eye.
I loved how I would be absentmindedly following the group, then we’d turn a corner and be struck with a historical monument or building -this happened with the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, or all of a sudden you’d glimpse the Coloseum in the distance. We visited multiple fountains (Neptune, Trevi, Quattro Fiumi and Barcaccia). I enjoyed the combination of fascinating statues with a story behind them and the water spraying into a peaceful pool at the foot of the statue.
href=”http://blogs.honors.buffalo.edu/madelinec/files/2018/02/DSC00125.jpg”> Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi,
Fountain of Four Rivers[/caption]

Fountain in St Peter’s Square


I’m also not big museum person, but the Vatican was incredible. It didn’t really feel like a museum, more like a huge church because of its long arched corridors and domes, and frescoes painted directly on the walls and ceilings.


There was a lot of neck-craning that day, especially in the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s mind boggling to think about Michelangelo painting those images right up close, not truly being able to see what he’s actually doing. And then there’s the giant Basilica with every single detail organized and coordinated. And when the choir started singing in St. Peter’s my heart felt so full, the music emanated all around the room.
I had heard that on most Sundays, the Pope gives a blessing at noon. I was curious what it would be like, and to see and hear the Pope (I mean it’s the Pope!!) So, two friends and I broke off from our tour early to go see. We stood in St. Peter’s Square, conveniently during a downpour, looking up to the window where a red tapestry hung down. Everyone in the Square expectantly watched the window, and as soon as he appeared, everyone cheered. The blessing was completely in Italian, so I didn’t catch much besides the greeting and goodbye, and I did proudly pick out “fratelli e sorelle,” or “brothers and sisters” during the 15 minute speech…but it was a cool experience nonetheless!
On Monday I was tired from the full weekend, not helped by my straight 7 hours of class with only a half hour break to scarf down a panino. But I snagged a macchiato from a vending machine at school -yes you read that right, my school has vending machines that make coffee in every building 😮 -so that helped get me through!
Every time I have my history classes though, I’m more excited about Florence. There is so much history here, and to be able to have a lecture then go see the building, or even better, have the lecture right on site where we can see in physical space and time the aspects of what we’re learning. This is the first time I’ve ever truly enjoyed history.
Now, a cooking class on the otherhand, I knew would be a blast. In my Contemporary Trends in Italian Cuisine lesson, we made Calamari Ripieni di Pappa al Pomodoro con Pure al Nero di Seppia, aka Calamari stuffed with Tomato Bread Sauce with Squid ink Mashed Potatoes! We were literally given the whole calamari body and had to clean it (pull off its skin, pull out the insides and a bone, and cut off the head!) Some girls in my class were slightly overdramatic about the process, so their annoyance fueled my ability to be nonchalant.

Yesterday, Lucy and I struck out to see the Sant’Ambrogio market and get a panino from Semel, a place recommended by a Florentine. At the small shop, with cozy brick interior walls hardly larger than a store front with a single counter and six stools, I ordered Acciughe con le puntarelle e l’arancia: Anchovy with chicory and orange. I’m always nervous to be adventurous, especially since just on Tuesday I tried a lamprodotto (cow stomach) panino that was disgusting..but this time it paid off!! The owner asked if we wanted a glass of house wine for a grand total of 1 euro, so we happily agreed. In the doorway, hung a boxed shelf that looked like it was meant to hold mail or trinkets, but was actually to hold the wine glasses of people eating outside! Sometimes it’s the little things..

My last bit will be about a shopkeeper of a small produce store on the corner of my street, just feet from my apartment, named Maurizio. I first learned his name after an assignment to ask an Italian a somewhat useless question from my textbook, and I chose to ask him. It led to a conversation that I partially understood and exchanging our names. He is actually the only Florentine I have met so far who does not speak solid English, but I’m glad because it helps me practice! When I went to the store, a father and young son came in, and the son went right up to a shelf holding piles of chocolates. Maurizio asked him which one he wanted, the boy pointed to one, and Maurizio handed it to him and patted him on the head. It was so sweet:) I think that’s a nice little story to end on!

Friday
02/16/18

Still Exploring

Posted by Madeline on February 16, 2018 in Uncategorized

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I last posted, just like they warned us at orientation, time is flying!
Unfortunately, last Wednesday, I came down with a cold that I am only now just getting over! Because of that, the past week has been tough to balance wanting to keep exploring Florence while resting to get healthy. I ended up needing to visit the doctor this Tuesday to get medication! Thankfully, that seems to be working.
Last Friday night, my friends and I walked to the Fiorentina Stadium (30 min walk!!) for the biggest rivalry of the season; the Fiorentina vs Juventus Calcio (soccer) Game at 9 pm. Sadly, we weren’t in the super hyped section across the field where people were standing, cheering/jumping and waving giant flags the whole game. In a small section in the corner, the Juventus crowd was just as mighty despite their small crowd -waving their flags and jumping and cheering with gusto. Although Fiorentina lost 2-0 and it was freezing that night, it was still fun to see the Italian spirit for their teams!

Saturday, two of my roommates and I took a bus to the small hill town of Fiesole. The bus ride itself was beautiful looking out the window as we climbed higher and higher above Florence. We began to see the countryside on the outskirts and more green fields and hills. When we got off, we had to search a bit for the hiking path that led to lookouts of the city and vineyards or farms. The sun was shining bright which was lovely to feel, but not so great for photos, so I didn’t get many from the trip! All about the walls of the city surrounding tiny roads barely wide enough to fit cars, there were small paintings of parts of Fiesole hanging up, I’m not sure if there was a specific purpose for them or not. There was also some sort of vine climbing over the yellow-tinted walls, which I loved the look of.
Just today actually, my roommate and friend Lucy and I wandered around across the river. Before walking to the renowned Michelangelo Square with a beautiful outlook over all of Florence, we walked up a different road and ended up at the back end of the Boboli Gardens behind the Palazzo Vecchio. We didn’t enter –it cost 7 euro; not bad, but we had other plans for the day– but we got to see one of the few sections of city wall that still remains, and the fortress.

Lucy being a dwarf in the fortress doorway, although she didn’t really need to crouch down for that effect…


On the way up the hill, there were beautiful stone walls and some lovely tiled steps that I had to get a picture of!

After crossing down the hill, then back up the next for the Michelangelo Square, we made it to the top where other tourists were about taking pictures of the view…I joined in to snag a couple myself.

It was a bit overcast today, so the city seemed like it had a thin mist covering it. It was cool to be unable to make out everything quite so clearly from above, when you didn’t notice at all on the ground.
And to wrap up the night, Lucy and I traversed back across the river for a tasty dinner at Il Guscio, where we shared a plate of risotto made with pear and gorgonzola, and tagliatelle with rabbit and black olive ragu. Two very different flavors, but both delicious and interesting!
Also, just to brag a little, I had gelato two nights in a row this week:)

Thursday
02/08/18

First week in Italy!

Posted by Madeline on February 8, 2018 in Florence, studying abroad

This first week has been quite a whirlwind of emotions. When I got to my apartment last Tuesday night, I was the most homesick I’ve ever been. I was exhausted from my lack of sleep on my overnight plane, and the long periods of sitting, waiting and wandering airports.
When my LdM guide brought me to my apartment around 8-9pm, it was completely different than I’d imagined. It has a very simple modern look with lots of white (walls, furniture, etc.) and tile floors. Everything kind of hit me at once..I was not at home and would not be home for a long time, I was living in a foreign country, in a city with people I didn’t know! The next few days, though, as I hung out with my roommates and explored, I began to feel better, even happy and relaxed. And now, I feel settled, even though I may get a wave of sadness seeing a picture of my mom, realizing there’s a six hour time difference between me and home, or just thinking about how far away I am. But it’s worth it.

One morning, I was on my own. I walked past the baptistery of the Santa Maria del Fiore (what most know as the Duomo), then paused and turned back. I realized I’d never actually seen the whole structure (the cathedral, dome and baptistery) yet. I walked slowly around it, just taking in its grand scheme and intricately designed walls. I couldn’t help smiling, with the sun shining (there’s been rain almost every day!) and simply feeling amazed and grateful.

I don’t think any picture can truly do it justice, but it at least gives an idea!

This past Sunday was the first Sunday of the month, in which some public museums in Italy allow free entry. My friends and I first had a picnic lunch at Cascine Park (about a 1/2 hour walk from our apartment) then walked along the Arno River to the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries. I felt a little guilty, but I didn’t love the artwork at the Uffizi. I think its because the Renaissance style was to paint almost only human subjects, and a tonnn of Jesus and/or Mary depictions. Although I appreciated the talent, effort and scale of the works, I didn’t necessarily find them to be incredibly interesting and beautiful in the sense that I want to stare at them for a long time. I actually enjoyed the design and structure of the Uffizi museum itself more than the art it contained!

Although we were tired after spending hours walking through the vast Uffizi, we went to the Accademia to see the David. In person, it’s incredible how large, smooth and accurate the statue is. Especially after walking down the corridor with the unfinished statues that are bumpy and halfway carved out of the rock, it’s impressive to imagine the process to the finished work.
Also, yes, the food here is AMAZING. If I had the money to eat out every night, I would, but I’ve still had some delicious pasta, paninis and gelato:) and of course coffee.
One part I didn’t expect to be quite as difficult as it is, is adjusting to city life. I’m so used to open spaces, few people and lots of nature, but that is not the case here. The streets always have people and cars zooming about, and I’m still working on learning the layout of the city! I can’t wait for when I know exactly where I’m going without a map.
Overall, I’m enjoying my time here, and my first days of classes have been great so far!