Are you afraid?

So sorry for the extremely delayed update, stuff can be busy in good ol’ Italia. So what have I been up to you ask?

Well this past Friday I went on a tour of the Perugina chocolate factory with my cooking class that included a tasting. Now my cooking teacher told as at the beginning of the semester not to expect a full meal from what we make in class. However, I have never left the class hungry and consider it my lunch. So when this professor tells us that the tasting at the chocolate factory will be like a chocolate meal, like a full lunch of chocolate, I get pretty excited.

When we get to the factory we could smell the chocolate in the air around the building, a good sign indeed. As we’re watching the video introduction to the factory they tell us that in addition to all of the chocolates they make they also make cakes and cookies. So, in my mind I’m envisioning all of us sitting down at tables and being served chocolates, cakes, and cookies. I am ready for this epic tasting to commence, but first a tour of the factory is in order.

Now it was a whole lot less of this:

And a whole lot more of this:

Not Perugina, but similar

So while it was interesting to see how the chocolates are made it wasn’t quite as magical as previously anticipated.

After the factory tour we proceeded to the tasting. The moment we had all been waiting for!

We enter a room with a single counter top with trays of about 7 different kinds of chocolates on them. It was everyman for themselves.

Take out the chocolate!!!

Like Black Friday only with less violence and more chocolate

I made it out alive and unharmed.

Then on Sunday I went to San Gimignano, Volterra, and Siena. All three were very pretty medieval type towns, but it was in Siena that things got interesting.

So Chelsea, her aunt and I are lounging in the Piazza just laying there and soaking up some glorious sun.

The view when laying down in the Piazza

Very peaceful relaxing stuff. We all have our eyes closed just enjoying the moment when I hear a voice near my ear say “Hai paura?” aka Italian for Are you afraid? Well I mean I wasn’t a second ago, but what the frig is this nonsense? I peak open one eye to see that Chelsea is sitting up and there is a guy with his dog right there behind us.

He goes on to tell us not to be afraid of his dog, it is very nice and doesn’t bite. So we pet the dog and he keeps telling us more about the dog. He eventually leaves us to go move onto the next group of unsuspecting folks, but not before leaving us with one awkward/creepy encounter.

It is currently midterms week so I’ve been busy with studying ( Or I should be) and then on Thursday we leave for the Northern Loop which should be pretty epic. This may very well be the last post on here until I’m back from the northern loop. Unless, of course, something epic happens between now and Thursday.

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What the frig did I just eat???

Let’s start with the pleasant.

Sunday night our adorable Italian neighbor came to our apartment bearing a tray of tarimasu. Setting the scene: Chelsea, our fluent Italian speaker was not present, and our adorable neighbor speaks only Italian. Soo one of our housemates answers our door, who would be knocking??, and then comes to find the rest of us in mild panic. We go into the living room to find our little Italian nonna holding a tray and looking equally lost. She spots one of my housemates thinking it is Chelsea and instantly lights up and walks over to her and gives her the tray. I’m able to understand that she is saying ” I made this for you because I like you. You’ve all been good and I’ve slept well (She had told us to be quiet at night so she could sleep). I like you girls”. Unfortunately I just gaped like a fool and merely said Grazie and didn’t translate what she was saying until she was almost out our door at what point everyone let out a resounding awwww! and she just turned around and smiled.  We better stay on her good side, I certainly appreciate the gifts of homemade food.

Then, in cooking class, we made an absolutely awesome lasagna. This may very well be the thing I make for my family after I get back. Unless, of course, something even more awesome appears.

Now onto the not so pleasant. So last night Chelsea & I went to her aunt and uncle’s house and made some typical crostini.  One of them looked something like this:

It didn't look any more appetizing in person

I was told that it was a delicacy of Florence. From the look on Chelsea’s face and the stories she told me I had a good idea that it was some sort of gross animal bits. I was then told that I had to eat it.  I can’t refuse a Florence delicacy can I? I mean that’d be rude, and I wouldn’t want to hurt any feelings. So I try a bite. Its got this gritty kind of texture and reminds me a bit of tuna but more like what I imagine cat food tastes like. As I’m mid chew her uncle tells me it is Chicken heart, liver and stomach.

…..

I just…

Did I really just eat…. THAT?

I managed to swallow that one bite and discretely toss the rest of it. The look on my face clearly showing my displeasure.

What the frig Florence, Chicken pâté ?? Stick with the tiramisu, please.

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Woah, I’ve been here over a month???

Complete fail at updating this lately, my sincerest apologies.

What have I been up to you ask?

Well last weekend I went to Venice for carnevale. Which consisted of:

Flying in from Florence:

Hello Venice!

Dancing with strangers in Saint Marks square

Don't worry, I didn't trust him either

And taking pictures with people in costume:

I swear he looked less like a serial killer in person

My friend Vicki also made a video that sums up Venice nicely:

Then it was my friend’s twenty first birthday so we had a celebration:

I'm the overly enthusiastic one on the right

We also climbed up Piazzale Michelangelo, it was my third time, but it was still just as beautiful:

From the first trip

Just chillin on a bench on the way back

Today started with being awoken by the birds chirping outside my window, just another day in beautiful Florence.

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Trust no one.

Before I embarked on my Italian journey my Sicilian grandparents left me with this sage advice, not enjoy the homeland, not be sure to learn to cook, nope. I got the ominous and classic piece of advice from my grandparents to “trust no one”. This sentiment was then echoed by various aunts and uncles leading up to my departure.

Then at our orientation meeting an Italian police officer comes in to talk to us all about being safe in Florence.

Florence isa very safea, ifa you needa me you calla 113. Even if I asleep I hear you if you say "aiuto!" and I come finda you

He explained that men in Italy can be a bit more friendly than those in the US and if one starts to talk with you you should just “walka straight on” don’t talk to them just “walka straight on” and never ever go to your apartment if you feel that someone is following you.  So my level of awareness is further heightened and I will not only trust no one but I won’t even say a friendly “buon giorno! ” as I pass someone on the street.

So keeping this in mind lemme tell you about just how paranoid I am.

So a few days ago as I’m walking home from class I spot this older gentleman across the street from my apartment wearing sunglasses and smoking  a cigar and I think to myself, hmm he looks a little creepy. So as I’m closing the first door to get into my building (there are 2 doors to get in before you reach the staircase) I see this hand reach out and stop the first door just as its about to close. And who am I alone with in the little entryway between the doors other than Mr. Creepy himself. So, remembering what the police said, I think well I can’t unlock the second door and let this guy into our building and then show him where I live and I certainly can’t stay in here with him. So my brilliant scheme is to pretend I somehow forgot my keys for the second door, even though I clearly just used a key to open the first door. As I’m searching for my key & about to walk outside, cause thats clearly what you do when you forget your key, the old man says in Italian something along the lines of “You forgot your key? Wait wait, I have mine”. He then proceeds to take out his set of keys, unlock the second door, and hold it open for me so that I can walk in.

Whelp it is official, one of our neighbors thinks I am certifiably insane.

Then, today, it was cold and rainy out as I was walking home from class and I was really craving a nice cup of hot chocolate. My first instinct was to go to the chocolate festival that is still running and get a glass there, but then I realize that instead of paying 2.50 euro there I can get an entire box of the stuff at the grocery store for half the price.  So, problem solved and I add in a trip to the grocery store on my way home (Easily one of my most frequented places in Florence). As I’m browsing the hot chocolate, tea, and coffee  section an Italian man starts asking me a question in Italian. Genuinely not knowing what the heck he is asking I reply, “Non capito”.

He then asks, “are you a tourista?”

I tell him yes and he asks “Americana?” again I answer yes. And then he asks, “From New York?” and this is when the alarm goes off in my head. He wants to know where I live! Lie! Lie! Lie! Even though I’m not from New York my college is in the state and it somehow felt wrong to agree to being a New Yorker. So, in a moment of genius I reply “No, from New Hampshire”. …. New Hampshire? Seriously, did I think this Italian man was going to fly to America and search all of New York or Connecticut until he found me??? And why the frig New Hampshire of all places? I’ve probably been there once, if that (I may have only been to Vermont, it is all a bit fuzzy), but yet that is where I’m claiming residence.

So the guy clearly has no idea where the frig New Hampshire is, but he keeps talking to me anyway. Now the police officer’s advice is playing in my mind, to walka straight on if a man is talking to me. So, as the guy is mid sentence, I give him a smile and a nod,  pick up a box of hot cocoa and walk away. ……. Once I made it back safely to my apartment without being followed by the evil grocery store stalker I broke down laughing at the stupidity of it all.

It is official, I trust absolutely no one.

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Lazy Days & Forgotten Happenings

Back when I was still debating whether or not I would keep this blog going something funny happened that until this morning I’d forgotten about.

During one of my first super market trips I was going to get some jelly to go with my bread (and with the peanut butter my mom packed in my suitcase). I had no idea then what the Italian word for jelly was, and I’m still not sure now, but I figured I could figure it out.

So I see a jar of something that looks to be the right color and I see a picture of berries on it, along with a banana, but maybe they just mix a bunch of fruit into their jellies? So I buy it.

When I get home I’m super excited to smear this stuff on some bread and chow down.

 

I was almost on this girl’s level

So I try it on my bread and it tastes pretty darn good. I decided to let my housemates try it out too, cause I’m in a sharing kind of mood. And they all agree that it tastes pretty good, different than jelly we’re used to, but good.

When I take the jar out to use a couple of days later I decide to actually read the thing. And there, in plain English, is the word smoothie. SMOOTHIE. I had been putting smoothie mix on my bread! And it was written in English no less!

I probably should’ve gotten a hint when the opening at the top was difficult to get a knife in (Think glass bottle rather than glass jar) and the “jelly” was  a bit more liquified than normal. But hey, who knew Italian jelly didn’t come in an awkward container and at an odd consistency?

 

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Willy Wonka, where art thou?

So today starts a 10 day long chocolate festival in Florence. You read that correctly. A festival, for chocolate. Those that know me know that I will always save room for dessert and will never turn down a sweet. After a morning trip to the central market (Took me long enough to get back, but I did it!), in which I bought nothing, but looked at everything, we headed over to the chocolate festival. I thought the central market was a feast for the eyes, but that was before I saw the tents upon tents of chocolate. Chocolate fountains, hot chocolate, chocolate shoes, chunks of chocolate with all imaginable fruits & nuts, and free samples. Why yes, I think I will try a piece of that dark chocolate studded with dried bananas. My hands were feeling a little numb so I made the very responsible purchase of a mug of hot chocolate. Feeling quickly returned to my finger tips and my tummy was one happy camper.

My friend has family here in Florence and we headed to her aunt’s shop after the festival. I had my first coffee since arriving in Italy, a latte to be more precise. Now I am not a coffee drinker, I like the taste, but its not something I drink regularly. That latte was fantastic. Now that is something I could certainly get used to on the regular.

After taking a couple hours to warm up and recharge at the apartment I headed to the chocolate festival for round two with a different group of people. No purchases this time and when everyone else was heading off to get dinner I decided to be antisocial and head home.

It was walking home alone at dusk through the streets of Florence that something hit me.  I’m not really sure there is a proper word or way to describe it, but it was like at that moment I was right were I ought to be.  Spending a semester in the beautiful city of Florence and just relaxing and exploring without an agenda. I wasn’t trying to find anywhere or anything and I wasn’t trying to outrun a speeding moped to get to class on time. I could have wandered all evening if it hadn’t been for the slow numbing sensation that was creeping into my extremities.

The approximate location of my revelation (I actually took a picture for once!)

My Soundtrack

    

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Perche?!?

So a strange thing has happened since I’ve been in Florence. My hands have developed a case of leprosy. OK so maybe its more like a severe case of dry skin.

If my hand were the earth

I was going to just power through it, I mean the air can’t stay this dry and cold for THAT much longer, but alas I began to worry that people would begin to stare. So off starts my journey to track down some hand lotion.

Apparently they keep this stuff well hidden. I searched high and low from super market to super market. Anywhere that soap/shampoo is sold I searched. And finally, today I find it!

I don't know what this lady is so happy about, perhaps she just found some hand lotion?

 

So as soon as I get home I put that stuff on my hands expecting this euphoric fireworks moment when my hands magically come back to life. The stuff doesn’t melt into my skin. So I go to wash some of it off and it foams. IT.FOAMS. Apparently what looked deceptively like hand lotion was, in fact, body wash. My dreams were crushed.

The despair!

Alas my quest still continues.

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Assorted Happenings

So I completely failed with the whole central market visit thing, but it is still on my to do list for this week.

Last night I took a trip back to all things American and watched the Superbowl in a bar that was serving hamburgers, hotdogs, and wings. It was the most English I’ve heard outside of my apartment since I’ve been in Florence. With the time difference the game didn’t start until 12:30am and finished around 4am.  I’m sure you can imagine that even though the bar was packed at the start of the game it was nearly deserted by the end (How people could not watch the end of that game amazes me, and I don’t even like football!).

The slice of America (Not on game day. Picture this only full of people)

While it would’ve been even better if the Patriots had won (Hey, even though I don’t like football it doesn’t mean I  can’t root for a team. New England/Boston teams will be my pick any day of the week.) it was still a really fun time. Highlight may have been when the entire bar sang along to Madonna’s Like a Prayer.

Today’s fun included my Italian class and my cooking class as well as (drum roll) booking my spring break trip! Best thing I learned today from either class was certainly how to make taramisu. Now that is something I can use later in life for sure. Now onto the more exciting news. So for spring break I will be doing the Northern Loop trip through Bus2Alps with 4 of my other housemates (You can check out the bus2alps website for more details). The trip will bring us to Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin and Prague. There will be tours & activities in each city. Looks like it should be a great trip and I will of course be keeping you all posted here on the blog.

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What the frig? Where did this come from???

This morning I had to go and finalize my class change (You remember the science for conservators fiasco?) and I decided to just wander around that area of Florence.  I end up stumbling upon all these street vendors which had some interesting stuff.  Lots and lots of clothing and leather goods and ceramics as well as the expected tacky touristy stuff. Now I round the corner thinking these stalls will end and my wondering eyes land upon this behemoth of a building:

 

No, not the Duomo, but still huge

This picture, which is also not mine because I fail to carry a camera with me,  does not do the structure justice. This is merely one side and if you notice the left side corner isn’t even visible.  So I see a bunch of people going into this giant building, the doors are wide open, and I have nowhere I need to be so I decide to explore.

And what do I find?

Food as far as the eye can see!

Glorious Italian food!

There are butchers, and bakers, pasta makers, and literal restaurants all inside this one giant building! How did I not know I lived so close to the central market of Florence??? Seriously, why was this not in the welcome DVD that came with our apartment?? I must have passed this building when it was closed a dozen times as I zig zagged through the streets and never even noticed it.  It was overwhelming and beautiful and something I was completely unprepared for. I had literally just rolled out of bed to pick up my paperwork from my adviser. I was in no state of mind to be in such a food mecca and actually soak it all in.

So tomorrow I am going with a battle plan. I will be fully awake and go there prepared to be overwhelmed. I will make an effort to see every corner of the place no matter how long it may take me.

 

 

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What the frig? What class is this???

Everyone is here for science for conservators 1, correct? Nods all around.
You all have a basic understanding of Lingin, tempura painting, plastic varnish, limestone is porous, and thermodynamics, right? Heads nod, mine shakes. What the hell is this? People use egg yolk in paintings??

What in the world was I thinking?? Seriously, what made me think that this class would be a good idea 4 months ago?? Background, I am an undergraduate psychology major that will be going to graduate school for audiology. I have no art background and no genuine interest in how to conserve a painting. I appreciate the skill of it, but I have absolutely no intention of ever preserving an ancient work of art myself. I, as one might expect, was the only student in the class with absolutely no background in art conservation and the only student that is not majoring in restoration.

I was completely out of my element for the next 2 hours. Needless to say I will be switching courses ASAP tomorrow.

Various Italian language exploits: My Italian class today was tasked with interviewing random Italians on the streets of Florence to practice our conversational skills. I am not the kind of person to strike up a conversation with a random person even in English so this was a bit of a daunting task for me. We were completely shut down by the first person we asked, not a good start and certainly not a confidence booster. However, we found a very nice older gentleman that was willing to put down his newspaper and chat with us and 2 women that were working at a tourist information center and a newspaper stand respectively were also very friendly.

Then, in the grocery store I bought a giant bottle of vinegar for less than a dollar and the woman at the register asked me if I knew it wasn’t wine. I was able to understand her and then assure her that I realized I was buying a huge thing of vinegar and not ridiculously cheap wine. Apparently she has no idea how much vinegar I like on my sandwiches/ salads compared to how little wine I like in my glasses.

Also, yesterday I experienced the Galleria dell’ Accademia. Now the David is obviously the main attraction, but that doesn’t mean it is the only awesome thing in the Galleria. Now this picture is not mine. You actually are not allowed to take pictures inside the museum (Trust me, we tried, but no matter how sneaky we were security always managed to spot/stop us). Behold:

Not the David, but pretty darn awesome

See what I’m saying? There is an insane amount of detail carved into that stone. It is amazing that someone took the time and had the skill to create that from a hunk of rock. Even the folds in the sheet have patterns and details on them. Bartolini must have spent hours chipping away at that rock. I can’t even imagine how he managed to envision the final product let alone make it happen. So yes, the David is amazing and beautiful and totally impressive, but it is only a small part of the entire museum.

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