Thursday, June 10, 2010


In every place that I've traveled to so far, I have climbed a very tall object (usually towers but the Duomo in Florence and I'm counting the Mountains in Cinque Terre) to see the view.
Quiz: Name the Italian landscapes below. Choices (out of every place that I have visited so far, in order): Florence, Siena, Pienza, Cinque Terre, Venice, Prato, Pisa, Lucca, Bologna.

My day:
7:30- Get up. It is already light outside. I live with 4 other girls in the biggest room in the Villa. Although we each have an alarm, it is still very hard to get out of bed.
8:20- Eat breakfast. Breakfast is served from 7:30-9:30 Monday through Friday.
Every day we have bread with our choice of either nutella,
homemade jam (strawberry or raspberry), or homemade peanut butter. The bread comes in loaves very unlike those in America- you have to cut them with a big knife. The peanut butter is amazing- basically peanuts cut up into little pieces until they become spreadable.
Fruit is always present- I suggest putting the peanut butter on the rare bananas or the plentiful sweet green apples. The kiwis here are pretty normal- although I have am thoroughly harassed because I eat them with the skin on. I avoid the blood oranges. I've tried each of the three cereals that are offered- one tastes like Special K, the other Frosted Flakes without the Frosted, and the third is basically granola with dried fruit and raisins which is surprisingly good and very filling.
8:45- Leave the Villa. Hope that we didn't leave anyone behind.
9:00- Validate our train tickets and get on the Train. In Italy you buy your train and bus tickets at a convenience-type store ahead of time. At the train station or in the bus you swipe the tickets at a machine to stamp them with the location, date, and time. If you are caught without a validated ticket then you can be fined up to 50 Euros.
9:30- Meet our Art and Culture professor in Florence. (No worries, she does not think that I am a TOTAL idiot anymore.) We spend the morning (or the afternoon on some days) listening and scribbling in our little notebooks as we walk around onsite. We each have a receiver that hangs around our necks as we flock around our professor like a little hoard of tourist ducks. Sacrifice fashion for knowledge. We. Are. Honors!
We do try and dress like locals- which means no flipflops and no shorts (for guys and girls). When we visit churches dresses and skirts need to be long enough, and our shoulders have to be covered.
13:00- We're back in Sesto at the Villa for lunch, just taken either the train or bus back. At this point I am usually sweaty and ready for a nap. It is 7am in the US.
Lunch always starts off with soup: any and every type of soup goes. None of them have been gross... yet. The day we had split pea soup I almost refused- but I ended up having two full bowls once I tried it. After the soup usually comes veggies and hopefully meat. We eat a lot of carbs around here and when meat is served there is a mad dash toward the food. Battle of the fittest. We end up trading the meat for the next week or so for precious commodities like shampoo, museum passes, power adaptors, and gelado. Not really. But speaking of Gelato- we eat gelato almost everyday. For the first two weeks or so I never had a repeat flavor. Many times I don't know what the flavor is but they always end up being pretty darn good.
14:30- Attend our Galileo class taught by our other professor. For two hours we discuss the details of anything that could possibly be connected to Galileo. Very rarely our Art class will also be at the villa for two hours if we do not go into Florence.
17:00- Spend one hour in our honors seminar. It does not count for credit but is mandatory. Luckily it's usually pretty interesting. Yesterday we got into an argument about whether Galileo was a jerk or not.
19:00- Dinner is usually pasta. I do not complain. We've seen many repeats of styles, unlike the soups, but they are all very good. Everything here is very fresh and homemade by the Villa's cook.
Dessert forks at each place setting make us really excited. When there is no fork we will wait for a long time after we eat until we are absolutely sure that no cookies or surprise desserts are coming. You never know when a dessert will show up, and it's better to wait an extra ten minutes than possibly miss it!
My favorite dessert has been homemade vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries. I could eat that everyday, all day. I had tiramisu for the first time: I hope to be having it again. I gave carrot cake another chance and it really proved that you can make amazing dessert out of vegetables.
19:40-(hopefully before) 1:00- homework. We have about 50-110 pages of Galileo reading a night; usually a one-pager about a topic that we pick out from the reading to comment on. For almost every seminar we have a one-pager due on a topic chosen the previous day. We have about 100-200 pages of Art reading a week. So far we have had two 4-5 page Galileo analysis papers and two 500-1000 word Art reaction papers. We still have a 6-7 page Art research paper, 4-6 page final Galileo paper, and a written Galileo exam before the program ends on the 16th of June.
I am more busy here than I am at UofM. Plus it is even harder to work here because the opportunity costs are so much higher. Every moment I spend reading or writing I could be wandering the Villa gardens, or Sesto, or Florence, or Italy instead!

But I truly am trying to make the most of being here. I cannot turn down an experience, even if that means setting my school
work aside.

-For example: Last night I had 100 pages of Galileo reading to do but I went into Florence from 20:00-23:00 to watch a concert that the UofM Opera students who are also staying at the villa had been preparing for the past few weeks. They sung all of their pieces in Italian, the little church was a perfect Italian venue, and the Italian Opera singer was so Italian Diva as well. I could never turn down music, let alone Italian Opera.

-For example: This past weekend I ran on 5-6 hours of sleep so that I could go to Pisa and Lucca from 8am to 9pm on Friday and Bologna from 8am to 8pm on Saturday. Let's just say that my Sunday was terrible.
I loved Lucca especially- the city is still surrounded by its old brick walls. We walked the circumference of the city on the walls. All of the local people run and bike under the rows of green trees. Imagine living in a fairytale land, guarded against the harsh bustle of the world by your own private walls.
It truly felt like we were the only tourists there (which is a very foreign feeling).

The weekend before, we went to Venice (6:30 am Friday- 8pm Saturday).
I loved that the whole city was just perched on the water. Imagine never driving a car- instead you took your boating test when you turn 16.
Imagine your whole life being interconnected with bridges.

So far all of my travels have really allowed me to get a feeling for where I am. I feel satisfied with the amount of time that I have spent in each place. Not only have I gone into many museums and about a billion churches and cathedrals (I am a nerd through and through), plus seen amazing birds-eye views, but I have explored the towns like a native. It is a great feeling- to really get to know so much of Italy.

Speaking of those views: The first picture is from the top of the Duomo in Firenze. The next two were taken from the Leaning Tower. In the one below the swath of green trees marks the walls of Lucca. Venice is surrounded and swallowed by water in the looming distance and the entire view from Cinque Terre was just beautiful, stretching sea. Siena is the next one with that pink tint. The final city (before the fail tourist picture of me holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa) is Bologna which I thought was the most modernized city that we've seen (if you can even call it modernized at all). Bologna has wide sidewalks covered with overhead arches. Maybe you can see the line of that main street taking up space as it cuts through the city.

I am learning about the progression of art through the Renaissance. I am learning about mathematics and science, intention and lies. I am learning how to think in military time, how to avoid cars in the streets of Florence, how to use public transportation, how to listen to opera. I am learning to live another life. Even with the homework; the lack of sleep, it is whirlwind beautiful and unbelievable.

1 comment:

  1. I hear you on climbing things--when I was in London I climbed to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral. Exhausting, terrifying...and awesome.