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Entries in Florence (9)

Tuesday
Nov152011

My 6th Annual 21st Birthday Celebration

I was so lucky to have my girls with me for my birthday, as I always am, as they are amazing about coming and seeing me wherever I am for my birthday. Today was our city day. What is a trip to Tuscany without a visit to Florence. But, being that I had already been to Florence on several occasions, I wanted to get something in for me as well, so we took a morning trip to San Gimignano. Which. Is exactly like Vejer, except...

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Tuesday
Nov012011

Getting Lost in Central Italy

I sort of have great friends. And this year, three such friends are coming to Europe for my birthday. I really don’t deserve them. Instead of coming all the way over here just for a couple weeks in the campo, we’ve decided we’re going to also do a bit of Italy. Basically how this is going to work, is I’ve taken a weekend off work, the girls fly in on Thursday to Rome, we’ll spend the weekend in Tuscany, they’ll go back to Rome for the...

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Monday
Feb042008

Roman holiday

Location: Rome, Italy

What a long day.

I started out by heading to the laundromat to do a load of laundry. I put the clothes in the washer, went to the train station to figure out which train I was going to take to Rome (there was a free 5:09 PM train that looked perfect), and then went back to put the clothes in the dryer. From here I walked the 20 minute walk down to the jewelry store where I had googled that said they had the Florentine Puzzle Rings. I get there, and of course, they are closed. Great idea to go shopping on a Sunday, Abs.

I walk back towards the laundromat and am stopped by a huge group of people. Low and behold, I had walked right into the path of the Carnival parade!! It was really fun (but I didn't have my camera, so I took some on my phone, but it may take me a while to upload those). It started with a really cool old band that was dressed as jesters and then there was a section for each culture represented in Florence. There was a Chinese dragon, some polish clogger people, some gypsies, an african drum band, a mariachi band, and some other stuff. Then at the very end there was this huge bus with people dancing and playing drums and all the kids were silly stringing each other and throwing confetti everywhere and they were all dressed up. It was so much fun!

After the parade, I got my clothes, checked out of the hostel (bye Leonardo and Ricardo!!) and walked to the train station. I got on my train and after about 40 minutes, it still hadn't left. I found some other Americans and we determined that the train was broken, delayed for at least another hour, so we decided to go run and try and catch the other train leaving just before 6. We literally ran up to it as it was pulling away. The conductor waved at us and everything. It was like a scene from a movie. So we went back in the station, found a train that left at 7 and got some pizza and waited. The train took forever to get here, we didn't get in until about 11.

From there, I checked into my hostel and then met back up with some people to go watch the Superbowl. We went to this really neat bar called Abbey Theater and it was standing room only. So, we stood, for the next 5 hours (at this point, I think it's fair to mention that my feet are still soaking wet from the rain in Florence, and they are REALLY starting to hurt). The game was great, although I really didn't have a preference as to who won. I picked the Giants b/c of RW McQuarters (good enough reason in my books) even though the Giants beat the packers and so I kind of hate them. Eli is pretty cute too. Anyways, it was fun, even though we were watching it on Sky so there were no commercials and no half time show :( I heard Tom Petty was great, but we did not get to see him.

Got home after the game close to 7, went straight to sleep (after letting my feet unwrinkle and thaw - they're still dead this morning - Had to ditch the cute boots and pull on the Meryl's for the first time on the trip) and now I'm not sure what I'm doing. I met a guy from LA this morning who wants to go to the Vatican so I think I'll head there. I need to try and get a ticket for Ash Wednesday Mass on Wednesday so I need to see if that's going to be a possibility.

Anyways. I think I am going to like Rome :)

XOXO

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Sunday
Feb032008

Why would you ever want to go on a diet...

map FlorenceLocation: Florence, Italy

Yesterday was an extremely productive day.

I woke up with a fever. I felt soo sick for about an hour and then I got some drugs and perked right up. Problem number 1: It was raining. This is the first day (saying this, I realize how lucky I have been) that I have had to use my umbrella since I've been here. It's really yucky and my feet are very sloshy from all the standing water.

So, what better to cheer myself up than to go shopping :)

I decided to seek out a new outfit. I was also looking for this Florentine Puzzle Ring and a new book in English. I found my shoes first. They're black mid-calf boots with tassel ties and some pretty decent sized heels. Next I bought a pair of dark skinny jeans and a gray low back top. Finally, to complete my new outfit, I bought a black puffy jacket with a fur collar (the Italians are OBSESSED with their fur lines puffy jackets) and a gray wool hat. I couldn't find a bookstore with English books or my ring so I am off to try and do that today.

After shopping, I went to get some glue to fix my Carnival mask and some other necessities. I did some more transferring of pictures to a DVD (and flirted with my now pretty steady friend that works at the music store and chats with me while I'm sitting there for an hour waiting for the pictures to transfer). From there, I walked down to the gallery Ufizzi which is a rather large museum near the river by Piazza della Signoria.

The story of the museum is that it was an old office building (Uffizi in Italian means Office) that was built in the late 1500's. It was owned by the Medici's and they used it to display a lot of their artwork that they had collected over the years (as a sign of power and wealth to those who visited the government buildings). After the last Medici (Anna Maria) died, the collection was turned over to the City and from there, it was turned into a museum because of the importance of so many of the works inside of it. I got pretty lucky, as I only had to wait about 20 minutes to get inside, but often in the summer, the wait can be up to 5 hours.

The paintings inside were great. I didn't get an audio guide so I was at the mercy of the small plaques at each painting but I did gain a lot from it. Including a new favorite artist (or artists)! Their names are Filippo Lippi and Filippino Lippi (father/son - that's why I can't remember who did what). The dad was Boticelli's master and their work is wonderful. They depict emotion better than I have ever seen in a painting. Their characters all have their own personalities and they do amazing things with their eyes. They all look at each other and usually only one of them looks out of the painting to the viewer. It's really interesting to follow their gazes from one ot another and to study their emotion. A lot of this also shows up in Boticelli's work, especially in "Spring." Boticelli's "Birth of Venus" was also beautiful. My other favorites were the special collection of Napoleonic large scale French murals that were on the 1st floor. There were these two with harbor scenes (supposed to be of Livorno I think) and they were so huge and so gorgeous.

So after the Uffizi, I came back and was chatting with Leonardo (one of the brothers who owns the hostel) and we decided that I needed to go get a real authentic Florentine meal before I left. He made me a reservation for this place called 13 Gobbi down by the river and I took a shower, put on my new outfit and headed out. He warned me that people don't really eat alone in Florence, so there may be a decent amount of staring, but after a pep talk from Karen in Prague, I realized that I can't pass up this opportunity for amazing food.

So I get to the restaurant and tell them that I am the reservation for 1 to which the host replies "Oh perfect, well it's your lucky day, I am getting off work now and I'll sit with you!! Date with me?" Ha, well he was kidding, but he did come talk to me quite often while I was eating so it was nice. Now, you get the details of my amazing 3.5 hour meal.

I started out with some white house wine. It was very good, probably a chardonnay, pretty woodsy, but nice. I had some crunchy bread with oil and vinegar and then came my salad. I had a Pecorino and pear salad with a balsamic reduction. It was served on a bed of lettuce and cabbage and was absolutely fantastic. The Pecorino was SOOO fresh and the pears were a little under-ripe and a little crunchy as well. It was perfect. They had sat me at this perfect little table by a garden and it had a great view of the kitchen so I got to watch them cooking everything. They had literal, whole pigs hanging from the ceiling as well as peppers and heads of garlic. On my other side was a huge crate of wine in the garden. The table next to me was a circle table of about 8 men who were all dressed in suits and they talked like straight up godfather. They were so funny, using their hands and kissing every person who walked in the door.

My first course was Spaghetti with grape tomatoes and tuna eggs in some sort of Parmesan sauce. The sauce was an Alfredo, but it wasn't as thick or overpowering as American Alfredo... it was almost buttery, but not too creamy and it just barely coated the noodles. Basically, you didn't just taste sauce when you ate them. It literally was the best pasta I have ever had in my entire life. In the mean time, I see them pull my cow off the meat rack. It was a whole cow back which they then cut the bones off and then filleted. The cut my veggies off of the vines they are growing on in the garden. Everything was so fresh.

At this point, they gave me 15 minutes to settle. We switched to red wine as well. The red was delicious. It was a little sweet and not too dry. My friend Donaldo brought me a huge knife at this point and said "This is to kill your boyfriend." I laughed and thought, do you really think I would be here alone if I had a boyfriend? So my steak comes out next. It was just a normal filet cooked perfectly and seasoned just enough with some oregano and pepper. The best part of this dish were the potatoes. They were grilled garlic potatoes which tasted like old fashioned McDonald's french fries but they had absolutely no breading or fried anything. They were just so buttery and delicious.

For desert I had a Crem Caramel which was very good (not as good as the rest of the meal). I think maybe I just don't like Crem Caramel that much so maybe that's why I didn't particularly care for it. The restaurant was very busy but they never rushed me out. I could see parties of two waiting at the door (even at 10:30) but they never once asked me to leave or anything. I had a cafe to end the night with a little milk in it and it was amazing. It was so rich without being too strong or overpowering. Excellent!!

When I was leaving, Donaldo asked me to go have drinks with him (and I actually wanted to because he was quite cute) but he said he probably wouldn't get off work for another hour and I didn't want to just hang around and wait for him. So I headed back up to the Fish pub (my now regular hang out spot) and started talking to the first people I saw inside. They were two guys from Ohio studying in Rome who were on vacation in Florence for the weekend. We ended up sitting and drinking there for a while before heading to a VERY American disco down by the Duomo. It was fun, but nothing special, so I headed back home around 2:30.

This morning I got up (feeling much better than yesterday, thank goodness) and decided to go to mass at the Duomo. I did not understand one word of the entire service, but it was a total experience. It is amazing to me that I don't speak that language at all but I still can follow mass. I basically said the mass in English in my head and prayed out loud in English when I was supposed to. They had a pamphlet with the readings and the gospel in English so that helped me follow along as well. I didn't need to understand the priest for the homily because I was just so entertained watching him. I have no idea what he was talking about but I could tell I liked this guy. He talked so much with his hands and was so over-dramatic. It was great!! At one point he did say something in English, but I think he may have been making fun of some people not paying attention. Taking communion was much needed and it was great to just sit there and stare at the huge dome and the amazing fresco on the ceiling. The echo inside the building was also unreal and I felt like I was in a movie it was so huge.

Today I head to Rome. My friends from last night have a nice sports bar that they're going to be watching the Superbowl in so I will probably hook up with them. It doesn't start until 12:30 AM so it's going to be a late night for sure.

XOXO

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Saturday
Feb022008

Homecoming!

map FlorenceLocation: Florence, Italy

Ok, well, as much as I love not being a vegetarian... I am CRAVING some veggies right now. Last night started with another bowl of goulash and ended with yet another fried cheese sandwich. I mean, give me some green. I would probably eat an entire head of lettuce if I was given it. We didn't even want to go get food. Toma was a little hungry and wanted some garlic soup (which we still have not gotten, three days in prague and no garlic soup) but then as soon as we found a place for her to eat, we all decided to get food.

After this, the plan was to go back to the beer factory (the place with the taps at each seat) and then to the discotech, but... we never made it to the discotech. We got in a race with these 4 Irish guys at the beer factory and didn't leave until almost closing time. We actually beat the four Irish guys AND a group of 4 English men as well. The English guys actually came up to us when we were leaving to congratulate us on a late start but a "noble comeback." We drank 16 liters of beer. 16 Liters. Not sure how we had room in the tummys for fried cheese sandwiches, but we made it.

Today started early. We chatted in bed while Toma and Ange got up and got ready to leave (their train left at like 11) and me and Karen laid in bed until we absolutely couldn't anymore. Got up, packed and started the journey for the airport. After saying goodbyes, I got on the plane, flew to Milan and then took the bus to the central station to catch my train back to Florence.

So, I go up to make a reservation and the guy says that all of the trains are booked until 6 (it was about 2:30). So I have to just suck it up and sit around until that train leaves. I find a nice little panino and park it on a bench on the far side of the station and start reading (by the way, I finished the book A Thousand Splendid Suns today and it was WONDERFUL - definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a read. It's an easy read, but extremely sad and extremely moving). I had been sitting there for about 20 minutes when this guy comes up and starts talking to me. At first, I think he's a bum and I'm not being rude but I'm watching my pockets and holding my purse in my lap. Turns out though, he was just this normal 20 year old kid who had been robbed like 3 weeks ago as soon as he got to Milan from Holland (he wanted to come work here) and he had no money, no phone, no passport, nothing and he had to get a job to make enough money to buy a train ticket back to Holland so he can regroup. He even got like beaten up when they robbed him and they took his shoes and his jacket as well. Craziness. I think he may have been on something, or maybe he was just messed up from the crazy emotional roller coaster he's been on, but he said he just wanted someone to talk to to keep him awake until his train leaves.

He was a very strange human, but the conversation was easy, so we talked for about 2 hours until I had to get up and go. I grabbed some salami, cheese, bread and chocolate and headed for my train. I snoozed a little, finished my book and ate my dinner and arrived in Florence at a little before 10. I'm back at Sampaoli and loving the familiarity of the place. Ricardo greeted me and we chatted about my travels since last week and I feel like he is a good friend now. Not sure what the plan is for tomorrow, but it will definitely be low key.

Maybe Ufizzi Gallery?

Maybe the laundromat?

Who knows.

XOXO

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Wednesday
Jan232008

Vai via? E perché?

map FlorenceLocation: Florence, Italy

Today was relatively relaxed. It was Raine's last day so we got up super early (7:30) to make the hike up to the top of the Duomo before the crowds started. The hike was really hard. There are 460 something steps and they are all very narrow and steep. There were over 200 in a row on a spiral about 3 feet wide. It took us about 20 minutes to get up to the inside round about where you are right below the start of the fresco of the roof of the dome. From there you could literally touch the bottom of the painting.

I'm not sure why I was surprised, but the painting quality is actually relatively poor. I understand that on such a big scale, it would be almost impossible for it to be much better. And I also understand that the artist who painted it (Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari) didn't actually paint the entire thing themselves (they had a lot of apprentices who would to the rough draft and the main artists would focus on things like faces and other defining features). But it just seemed kind of sloppy. The scene was beautiful though. The bottom most tier was of hell, with a sort of purgatory earth and then heaven on top with Jesus at the very top. It had all kinds of different types of devils, demons and wild animals and even little flying angel looking demon things hovering in the middle. It was a beautiful scene.

After this, we had about another 10 minute hike up the last 150 or so stairs (going up to the very tip top of the dome) and had some of the most amazing views I have ever seen. The city was cloudy but there was pretty good visability so we really got lucky. The mountains surround the entire city and the duomo is right in the center so it was really easy to see pretty much anything.

The hike down was really scary. The steps are so narrow and I really thought I was going to fall at least 15 times. When we did finally get down, I said bye to Raine (who was going to Pisa for the day and then flying back to London from there) and I headed to the Galleria dell'Accademia to see the statue of David. The museum itself was kind of boring. There were some really pretty paintings but nothing too exciting. I did really enjoy seeing some unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo. There were 3 sculptures that were intended to be eventually placed as part of a tomb for this pope and then they ended up burying him in a cathedral or something like that, so there were these three sort of half finished carvings that were really interesting.

Of course, David was beautiful. I mean, the statue is really amazing. The proportions and the build of his body are perfect and it's a very large statue. Unfortunately, they won't let you take any pictures (and they have someone standing there making sure you do not) so I didn't get any, but it looks just like the fake one, only... real.

After i finished there, I walked down to the Piazza Pitti because I wanted to go inside the Giardino di Boboli and the Forte di Belvedere, but you had to pay like €20 to get in and that sounded lame so I parked in the Piazza on the ground to protest and read for like 2 hours. The sun was out for most of it and it was beautiful.

The boys decided to wait and leave in the morning, so we may go to dinner tonight, I'm not sure. If not, I will definitely be in bed early because I did not sleep last night hardly at all.

Off to Siena tomorrow to see Francis (a roomy from Theta) who is studying for the semester. I'm not sure I can express to you how excited I am to see her.

XOXO

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Monday
Jan212008

Catching up with some old friends

map FlorenceLocation: Pisa, Italy

Not much else of Florence was seen yesterday. After sending a couple of e-mails, I headed to the Duomo to go inside and possibly go to mass (It was Sunday after all). I sent the Aussie boys an e-mail telling them to meet me at the Duomo at 5 if they got the message in time. We were having a really hard time getting a hold of each other on the phone.

I left and did a decent amount of walking. I walked up to the Piazza San Marco and sat and had a drink and watched the pigeons and people chase each other around. I walked down past the Galleria dell'Accademia where the statue of David resides, down past the Basilica di San Lorenzo, the Central Market and the Piazza della Repubblica (where I found some nice restaurants I would like to return to). I headed across the old bridge (Ponte Vecchio) and to the Piazza Pitti in front of the Palazzo Pitti where I sat and read some of my new Tuscany and Florence guide book. Then I walked back up the river through the Galleria degli Uffizi (well not actually through it, but through the courtyard) and then through the Piazza della Signoria (where the fake David statue is) and then ended up at the Piazza del Duomo and the Duomo itself.

The inside of the Duomo was awesome. There was a lot of artwork on the walls which I was really impressed by. Quite a few murals, some stuff painted directly on the walls and then just some nice, normal sized paintings. Mostly of bishops and knights and important people. There were also tombs of a couple of bishops and the rotunda was of course, beautiful. After I was done touring the inside, I went and sat on the steps outside to wait for the boys and I read some more of my guide book. Right at 5, I saw them walking across the square and then walk right past me and off towards the train station. I jumped up and ran over to them and found out, to my surprise, that they never got my email and just happened to be walking past the Duomo right when I was looking for them. I mean, literally, the bell tower was going off that it was 5 as we were talking about how crazy lucky it was that they walked by.

We went back to their hotel and then to dinner at this really great restaurant that Greg's uncle had suggested. I had the most amazing ravioli with artichokes and spinach inside and with fried artichokes on top of it. It was so incredible. After this, we headed to get some gelato and then to this club which had a great shot deal for the night. We get to the bar, which is really close to the University, and almost all of the people in the place were either American or Australian. They were playing the NFC championship on the TV, €1 shots (like, REAL shots) and it was perfect. We stayed there all night, had a great time, met quite a few people and headed back to the hotels at about 3.

This morning I got up to go meet Andre (the Brazilian from Paris) at the train station. He was coming in from Venice and only was spending the day in Florence. Problem number one was that the only thing he really wanted to see was the statue of David and, of course, the museum was closed (all museums here are closed on Mondays). So, we decided to go to Pisa and the Aussies headed to Siena. The trip was short and we didn't spend very much time in Pisa. We were initially hoping that we could get there and then go to Siena afterward to meet the rest of the crew, but that didn't work out.

The tower was amazing. I mean, it was really cool. It looks so fake. It literally looks like it was built that way. The entire foundation is sinking into the ground. Andre got some good touristy pictures of us pretending to hold it up and what not, and he said he'll post them on facebook, so look for those. After we got back to Florence, I took him to the fake David in the Piazza della Signoria and we got a slice of pizza as an early dinner snack. Gid and Shaun were both tired after traveling and walking around Siena all day so Greg, Andre and I went to dinner at a really shady place near Piazza Republica. The guy said he would give us 10% off because we were Australian (good job Greg) and so we said ok, but the food was just so/so and they ended up trying to scam us by adding €1 to each of our dishes on the bill. Whatever.

Andre leaves soon for Rome and the other boys leave tomorrow (probably) for Vienna so I'll be back to being all alone in Florence, but I think I'll be able to figure out something to do. I have a flight booked to Prague so I will more than likely keep that reservation for next week. I'll keep ya posted :)

XOXO

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Sunday
Jan202008

Are you David?

map FlorenceLocation: Florence, Italy

Florence was LOVELY yesterday. The temperature was perfect, not a cloud in the sky. It was great. I started the day late (after I finally caught up on all my sleep) and went to a cafeteria only to find... (drum roll please) a TURKEY sandwich!! I hadn't had turkey since before I left so I was so excited, and even though it was just a little sandwich with only cheese and turkey and it was €4 I was still so excited to eat turkey that I bought it. After this I got my first of many bowls of Gelato (Mango and Papaya today) and then I walked around and saw the Duomo and then walked down to a really interesting old outdoor museum. There were about 20 statues around and most of them were absolutely beautiful. The museum surrounded this big plaza in the center and then ran down the side towards the river.

All of the statues were authentic except for the one of David that I took the picture of. The actual statue of David is inside a museum a couple of blocks from my hostel and this one is located where the old David statue used to stand. A bunch of students recreated it and I think some people were genuinely confused as to whether they were looking at the real thing or not. Another statue that I took a picture of was another recreation (the close up on the warrior looking guy holding a dead guy). Except, this statue was created in like 640 AD which was amazing to me that a recreation of another statue still happened early enough to be it's own statue. Crazy!!

Also, everyone in most of these statues is naked. Well, let me rephrase that. Every statue in the ENTIRE city, the people are naked. I mean, these people are not modest in the slightest. And there are lots of statues with very obvious hints to homosexuality. Just right out in the middle of squares. Very vulgar things, but very interesting.

After this I walked down a long corridor (where I saw the smoking statue) and down to the river past another big museum. The river was so pretty and was lined with all of these Mediterranean Tuscan houses and the sun was setting and it was just perfect. I walked across the old bridge and over to a more residential area of town where there were a lot of really pretty lofts and churches. After this, I meandered my way back to where I came from and past a bunch of black market purse sellers.

Once I was back at my hostel, a girl in my room, Rain from China, was going to o up to the top of this Garden to watch the sunset so I said lets go, we got a bottle of wine and headed up. Unfortunately, we were a little late, so we're going to try again today, but we did sit up there and people watch and drink our little bottle. After this, we came back to the hostel, where the guy who owns the place was just getting off work so he asked if we wanted to go get some food, which of course we did, so we all walked back across the river to a cute little restaurant by the church with the violinist. We sat down at 8 and didn't leave until almost 11:30. I had the most amazing Gnocchi with a Radish and Gorgonzola sauce (it was incredible) and then we drank a ton of wine and had chocolate cake and just sat there and talked about (of course, get three drunk people from different countries together and what do you start talkin about) solving all of the worlds problems, the war in Iraq, communism... all very light topics for a first time dinner together ;)

Once we left, we went down to a couple different clubs and had a couple drinks before retiring relatively early (relative to Spain that is) at about 1:30.

Today, obviously, I have spent most of my day uploading pictures. It literally has taken me a couple of hours so be grateful. I'm gonna head out now and get some food... I think the word of the day is Pizza.

XOXO

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