Monday
04/02/18

It Usually is the little Things

Posted by czymmek on April 2, 2018 in Florence, Rome, Sicily, Uncategorized

My mom arrived later Friday evening, so our visit basically started Saturday morning. We started off in Florence, so I could show her around the place I know best! Mostly, we walked around and I showed her some of my favorite sites: Michelangelo Square and Chiesa di San Miniato, the San Lorenzo Market, Basilica della Santa Anunnziata, Gelateria La Carraia and Semel (panini shop). Every morning we started off with a cappucino at different bars in Florence and each place we went (mom was struggling with me not having coffee in the apartment since she drinks a whole pot herself at home!!!) That was one of our favorite things during the whole trip, just sitting, enjoying each other’s company with a nice caffeine kick of course:)

Our coffee spot on the patio of our airbnb in Marina di Ragusa


Our last full day in Florence, we rented E-bikes (powered with a motor when you pedal) to go to a winery in the countryside around Florence. The idea sounded fun and relaxing, but actually biking in the city was confusing and stressful with cars and trying to find the bike paths! Even out of the city, there were still cars whizzing past us which was not entirely our idea of a peaceful bike ride in the countryside as we had thought.. We still enjoyed the scenery though, at stops along the way and at the winery. The winery itself was refreshing to feel more in nature and have a quiet afternoon.
Tuesday morning, we left for Rome with an early wake-up call for an 8:40 train. Our first stop in Rome was a bar because at that point mom was really needing the cappuccino by the time we got there!! Then, our first official stop was at St. Peter’s Basilica, to the end of the line wrapping around the whole square. We really didn’t mind the 45 minute wait in the beautiful square, comfortably standing in sunny 60 degrees with fountains and statues to look at.
We wandered about the church, and mom got to see Michelangelo’s La Pieta, an incredibly emotional statue of Mary holding Jesus, although it is slightly harder to admire with the wall of glass preventing a closer look. We continued to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Colosseum and our last stop was Trevi Fountain. Back at the train station, we found our cabin for the night train with two bunk beds. The beds actually weren’t that uncomfortable, but our conductor kept knocking our door to give us blankets and breakfast and check to see if our cabin mates came in, which they never did. We also didn’t sleep as well worrying that at each stop someone might be coming into our room!

Top bunk for me!


After our on and off sleep, we watched the scenery, mainly the glistening sea for the last leg of our trip in the morning. Finally, we reached Siracusa, where we met our bed & breakfast host, Maria (a friend of Salvatore who lives in Ragusa). We dropped our bags at the room and went to the market for lunch: a huge, rich panino that kept us full until 9 that night!

Then we wandered about Ortigia Island (the oldest part of the city of Siracusa) seeing churches and the bright blue sea!

Pretty restaurants along the coast


Small beach tucked between cliffs and the dock


Cute random shop with my cute mom in front


Thursday, we were looking for a bar to stop at on our way to the archaeological park. An older man walking by and said, “You look lost,” I looked at mom and then said, “Well, we’re looking for a good cafe, do you know one?”
He said, “Yeah up here across from my apartment there’s a good one,” and he waved us to follow. He asked where we were from, then said he was from Conneticut, but had been living here 25 years teaching English at a university. At his gate, he pointed us across the street and said if we needed anything, we could come ring his door! An unexpected act of kindness from a random stranger.
After coffee, we continued up the hill to the park. The park had two sides: Greek and Roman. The Greek side was amazing, with caves built into the hill -a waterfall flowing into a pool in one of them, the theatre where they used to perform and views of the sea.

Next was the Cave of Dionisus -which later when we met up briefly with Salvatore, Stefania and Francesco, Francesco explained that the cave used to hold slaves and Dionisus had a small hole at the top where he could listen in to see if any slaves were planning an escape!

Opening of the Cave of Dionisus


The Roman side was interesting to see its theatre as well, but was not as impressive as the Greek.
That night, we planned to go out for dinner because I really wanted to try fish. We checked the restaurant we were going to, but it looked empty, so we decided to look for an apertivo. We found a small shop selling local meat and cheese products with a sign for apertivo. We stopped in and ordered our glasses of wine and got a board of samples of their products, but it was big! We didn’t feel like eating a full dinner after, so we debated, and decided to just go grab two pieces of cake for dessert -a nice alternative!
Friday morning was a bit rushed as we prepared to leave on a train to Ragusa at 11. Planning ahead, we got a panino at the market…the craziest I’ve ever seen. The panino maker, Andrea, was so fun to watch. He had an art with the ingredients, as he sniffed and chopped and tossed them together,
so entertaining to watch him at work. As he made the person ahead of us, I decided we wouldn’t get meat because the sandwich was huge. Expecting to have the same as their’s, but without the meat on top, we were shocked when he went to the back to slice a different cheese, laid it out and put pulled mozzarella dipped in lemon juice with herbs and sliced orange on it, then wrapped it up and put all THAT on the panino!! Mom and I were just laughing in amazement.
Then we ran into Maria at the market who said she’d spoken to Salvatore that morning and he’d meet us at the station in Ragusa! At that point I worried we might not be eating the panino for lunch considering the hospitality I’d received from him on my last visit! I was right, as he drove us to his home and offered us a special torte of the Easter season, lamb, cheese made that morning, a pear and wine. He then put a bunch of tomatoes, the rest of the cheese, a pear and two bananas in a bag for us to take along to the airbnb!
I finally got some fish for dinner that night on a recommendation from our airbnb hosts to go to Il Delfino.
On Saturday, I was determined to swim! On our way out, Nello (the father of the family of our airbnb) said buon giorno, and asked if we were going out for lunch today. He didn’t speak much English, so I explained in Italian that we had food at home for lunch, but we were going to walk at the sea and I wanted to try to swim! He asked some other questions in Italian, slowly, and I was able to respond in a way we could understand! It was exciting and I felt proud 🙂 Outside was warm, but the breeze was a bit cool, but I eventually got in anyways..I was determined!
That night, we went to dinner at their second recommendation: Trattoria da Carmelo. Walking to our table, we saw the couple who arrived earlier in the other apartment at our airbnb! They also didn’t speak much English, but we both laughed and said hello (caio)! We ordered a Sicilian specialty with bucatini and sardines, then a plate of mixed grilled seafood. Our neighbor came over before they left and said “molto buono,” gesturing how my Italian teacher had taught us for yummy: twisting the pointer finger at the corner of the mouth. -Again I was excited to understand!
Our last day was a slight wash with packing and it was so windy out!! It was not enjoyable and tired us out to be in it! A little before 3, we went to the main house of the family to return a plate and offer them the many leftover tomatoes we had from Salvatore. Nello, Giovanna (the mother) and their son (didn’t catch his name) were finishing lunch, and Giovanna waved us to come inside. The son spoke the most English, but still not very much, and Giovanna couldn’t speak any, so most of our communication was me deciphering their Italian and gestures! Giovanna offered us a “dolci di Pasqua,” a cake with ricotta, lemon zest and cinnamon on top..delicious! She pointed for us to sit, but mom said no, trying not to put them out of their way, and then she continued to pull mom over to sit down!! They offered us pepsi, wine, beer and coffee. So we also ended up with a little wine and two espressos! Mom and I both truly enjoyed the family and how content they seemed -Nello was kind and accommodating for me during our conversation, so I could understand, the son was friendly, and Giovanna was a character fitting the welcoming Italian mother I’d pictured in my head. Our main host, Valeria, wasn’t there when we left, but she had been really nice and energetic on our arrival! A happy ending to our adventurous trip.
Today has been a bit of a loss, as I figured it would be. Getting used to my mom not being here when she was for a week straight is hard to adjust to, so I felt a bit depressed and unmotivated! Tears were on and off most of the day, but getting back into the flow of my Florence life and school will help me settle in again.

Monday
03/26/18

Friends Forever

Posted by czymmek on March 26, 2018 in Florence, studying abroad, Uncategorized

Last week, one of my best friends from home visited me. Even though she told me not to worry, I still stressed about trying to organize the best week possible for her little stay in Florence! Right before she arrived, we had two perfect sunny warm days in a row. The day she got here was cloudy and cold, which eventually turned to rain for multiple days of her time here! That made it even harder to plan, but we still managed to do a lot, thankfully. Her first night, we went out for dinner, had some pizza and wine, and caught up on what we’d been missing in each other’s lives for the past two months. We had a great time laughing and telling stories; reconnecting with good friends is wonderful.
Monday I have class 10:30 to 5:30, but I asked my professor if Katherine could visit Santa Croce Church with us since I suggested for her to see it anyways. He kindly agreed, as long as I introduced her at the start of class! Santa Croce was beautiful. The space was huge. Front and center was the alter, with the wealthiest families chapels filling the spaces closest to it, all immaculately decorated as well. We visited the burial monuments of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli, speaking about these brilliant minds who came to rest here.

Stunning Santa Croce alter


That night, after much debate over staying in or going out, my roommate Jesse pushed us to just go! I’m glad she did. We met up with another roommate of mine, Rachel, at Il Rifrullo for apertivo -this awesome thing in Italy where for the price of a drink you also get small snacks or in some cases like Il Rifrullo, a buffet! The owner greeted us and took our orders. I asked what he recommended since I was thinking about trying a typical Italian negroni. He told me if I didn’t like bitter (which I don’t) I should probably go for a spritz instead! He went through the list with me and brought me a sample of the elderflower syrup used in the Hugo Spritz! He was so nice and I ended up ordering that one, it tasted a lot like a gin and tonic to me with my inexperienced taste. We sat by the fire talking, eating great food and drinking our fun cocktails -low key how I like it! We also each snagged a chocolate pancake sandwich for the road!
Tuesday, after Italian, we took a long walk up in the outskirts of Florence, past villas with yards and stone fences that we peered over. On the road we passed more cars than people and found views of Florence I didn’t realize existed.


I saw us in the mirror for cars to see around the bend, so I took our picture. A nice old school selfie


Wednesday night after my cooking class we walked to the Arno River to sit on the bridge and watch the sunset! Then when Jesse finished her class, we went for gelato (a must).

Thursday, it rained a lot, so we tried to go shopping, but just didn’t want to be cold and wet anymore!!
Friday, for Katherine’s last night, Rachel and Lucy joined us for apertivo again:) at a place called Serafini. Another tasty buffet, and we all got aperol spritzes. We sat outside in covered seating with little fires for warmth. They shut down promptly at 9, so we headed home!
Most mornings we stopped for coffee before I headed to class. We usually stopped at the News Cafe since it’s right across the street from where I have my Italian class, so I could stay to the last minute, and Katherine could wait for me there for my class to end:) We also enjoyed the little french bulldog, Gordan, the barista’s pet!
Saturday morning, I woke up at 6:40 (I think it was) to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes, but I was so glad for the time we had together. It’s nice to know that however long it is until I see her again, we’ll pick up right where we left off.

Friday
02/16/18

Still Exploring

Posted by czymmek 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:)