Posts tagged Italy
Posts tagged Italy
Italy is amazing and I love my crazy awesome trips to cool places, and the ability to travel outside the country to other awesome European countries, but some of the best things are the little things that happen here in Italia:
1. The Ciao Ciaos- I know I’ve written about them a lot, but their shop really is the best and it has so many basic necessities and Papa Ciao Ciao and his son Daniele are really the nicest people. They always ask where we’re going for the weekend and are just friendly people.
2. Grocery store workers running after me to make sure I get my bar of chocolate- This happened not too long ago and it is just one of those interactions with people that you cannot duplicate. One of the “supermarkets” in centro of Perugia is the Coop, which is still miniscule by American supermarket standards but has more options than Ciao Ciao’s market does. I was buying a fair amount of groceries and the way groceries here work is you put it all in a basket (a handheld one, anything else wouldn’t fit in the store), then when you get to the cashier you unloaded it and have to pay and load it into your bag too, on your own. No one bags your stuff for you here. I got up to the cashier which was this nice guy and we greeted each other and he started scanning my goods and asked if I needs bags, because here you generally have a reusable bag and if you don’t they charge you for plastic bags (smart, eh?). I had actually remembered my bag that time, so I was able to tell him I had one and we had a pleasant interaction in line. I bagged my groceries and he asked if I wanted these little stickers that this particular store gives out that you can redeem for money off of your purchases once you have enough of them. Anyway, as I was walking back up the hill toward my apartment with my heavy bag of groceries—I had gotten about halfway up the hill—he comes running out of the store, “Signorina!” and hands me my chocolate bar that I had paid for but forgotten to bag. Just one of those moments when I realize, few people or places in the States would make sure you got your item that you forgot in the store, especially one as inconsequential as a chocolate bar.
3. Free pizza- I entered the photo of the month contest for my school here and won, so I got a free pizza at the best pizzeria and a free Fanta. I picked up some spumante and I have to say pizza, Fanta, and spumante is the dinner of champions.
4. Sitting on the steps in the Piazza in the sun- The weather has been so gorgeous and everyone here, all the locals, sit on the steps in front of the Church in the Piazza and it’s so enjoyable and relaxing—and so fun to people watch.
5. Classes with random field trips/planned excursions- My food studies class constantly feeds us in class: eggplant, two different types of polenta, we’ve done tastings, a gelato workshop during class time, and we’re going to do a wine tasting in class next week. My Italian class will randomly get caffe, take pictures of locals in the piazza, and last week my professore took us to the museum that in the center of town to discuss with us the Medieval and Renaissance art that’s housed there. I guess it’s just amazing that we get to study it and experience it in real life. It adds something to the learning experience.
6. Speaking the language I’ve been studying for so long- just the little conversations in real life, most especially when the person doesn’t try to use English, so I have to use my Italian, like in le farmacie, i mercati, o i bar.
My Life In Pictures, the last 4 weeks
I have been in Italy almost 10 weeks now and I have just over 6 more left and while I’m not ready to leave Italy just yet, there are definitely some things that I’m missing from my American life so far away:
1. Internet- you know the reliable kind that doesn’t come in the form of a stick that takes up one of my USB ports, costs too much, and still doesn’t work reliably.
2. My phone- instant access to the internet via 3G or at least being able to call someone w/o the convo just ending because Skype fails (see above)
3. A source of income- working. Who knew I’d miss it.
4. Pencils- mechanical pencils are expensive here.
5. Bagels- just one of those things you don’t think you’d miss.
6. My cats.
7. My down feather mattress pad- my bed here is not conducive to sleep.
8. My clothes- I didn’t bring near enough clothes with me and buying new ones is not something I want to entertain.
That’s pretty much it. Just a look into the random things that un’americana can be longing for when 4,000 miles away. (also I miss American distance measurements, I don’t know how far meters are, ever).
I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine. -Caskie Stinnett
Ciao a tutti!
Who the heck is Caskie Stinnett? It’s the quote from my travel journal, I just have no idea who that is. Can anyone say a travel quote and get it in a journal? I’m going to get a quote in one.
Anyway, It’s been really effing cold here. Like really cold. First it snowed on February 1st, and it was this heavy, wet snow that just created a slush. We got about 2-3 inches over night here—and I must say I’m pretty impressed with Perugia’s ability to clear the streets in a timely manor—although the hills I talked about before covered in a thin sheet of what may or may not be ice, because they don’t sand or salt, is worrisome. Then it kept lightly snowing for about two days. It didn’t amount to anything else, but I see why Italians use umbrellas in the snow.
Because they’re smart. Because the wind here has turned up about 10 notches. It comes whipping around the cathedral you happen to be behind and you’re blasted in the face and instantly chilled everywhere. And if it’s snowing, even lightly, then lucky you, you have snow burn. The wind is really the worst part of the weather lately. The cold isn’t so cold if you can get out of the wind and keep moving.
[credit to my roommate Brit for this photo]
So Perugia’s pretty cold lately. Try going north another 50 miles. If Perugia is cold, Florence over the weekend was frigid. I had an absolutely fabulous time—don’t get me wrong!—I just felt like my face and fingers were going to fall off the entire time, despite scarves and gloves.
[also Brit’s picture]
But Florence was exceptionally beautiful and I really enjoyed the city. Too much English spoken for my taste, but I’m definitely looking forward to going back there when the weather is warmer.
But the whole reason I went to Florence was because I had a field trip for my food studies class. We had a multi-course Renaissance style meal, cooked by the most famous chef in Florence, Chef Alessi. Il primo piatto was flat pasta noodes with ginger and walnuts, troppo ginger.
I had to push through it because I’m not a big ginger fan so this was probably my least favorite dish. Next were potatoes in meat sauce with a cheese sauce on the bottom. This was pretty delicious, and tasted oddly reminiscent of spaghetti.
Il secondo was what turned out to be veal in a pepper sauce and slices of what I’m pretty sure were apples, though they might have been pears. I was pretty hesitant about eating this, since I haven’t eaten veal since I found out how it’s made, but I tried it anyway and it definitely was not my favorite. The meat was pretty good, but the pepper was so incredibly overwhelming and too strong.
The last course was a brand new dish that Chef Alessi had never cooked before for anyone, and was in honor of the 500th deathday of Amerigo Vespucci. It was turkey in a sweetly spicy sauce and served with a sweet, hot pumpkin.
This was by far my favorite. I couldn’t get enough of it and even when everyone else was choking on how hot the pumpkin was I thought it complemented the turkey so well. It was just so good. They also brought us a delicious nutty custard for dessert that I greatly enjoyed and even allowed us to finish with caffè, which is pretty American. It was certainly an experience.
Speaking of food: the night before we all went to a restaurant called Aqua Al 2 where I got a blueberry steak, which was so delicious. I have a thing for sweet and savory flavors together apparently.
We also did a few touristy things while in Florence. I saw the statue of David by Michelangelo, which if anyone doesn’t know is about 13 feet tall. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of it so I only have the one that I snuck.
We also went to Piazzale Michelangelo where there is a large bronze replica of David and which has some killer views of pretty much all of Florence.
Also, there’s the famous Baptistery doors which were done by Giotto in solid gold, but I only saw them late at night, so next time I’ll have to take a better look.
I also had some fabulous paste e caffè, particularly next to the Duomo.
I also bought a Florentine leather bag and it’s bellissima.
So, great weekend but definitely can’t wait for the weather to warm up again.
That was a very photo-heavy post. Sorry, I’m not sorry.
So first thing’s first. Just so everyone knows, my internet has been sucking as of late. The thing is, we’re not supposed to have/guaranteed internet in our apartments, in the slightest, but because my kitchen windows literally look into Umbra’s windows, we’ve been able tosteal get the school internet, however limited. Lately however, the internet has been all but nonexistent. It blows.
But anyhow, this past weekend we went to Siena and Pisa and had a great time. After almost missing our bus to Siena, we had a lovely hour ride, and surprisingly easily found our way to the center. We had some lunch, during which everyone was rather sluggish, but soon we found il Campo, the famous open area in the city where students collect and read or write or just lie in the sun.
It is also where they hold the famous Palio horserace held every July. It was beautiful and I had a lovely conversation with the shop owner of a local china shop where I just bought some postcards, but seriously considered buying an oil bottle.
We then managed to get lost in the winding streets, then stumbled upon the gorgeous Catholic Cattedrale. After seeing the Cathedral we spent some time figuring out how to get to and on the train for Pisa. After a two hour or so train ride, we had to figure out how to catch the bus we needed to get to the part of town that our hostel was in, which took less time than I thought it would. Our hostel was really nice, more a converted house than a hostel, and the owner and his brother were very short (and I use that term strictly), nice, Italian men. They suggested a place to get dinner and after waiting 25 minutes for a table, we began to eat.
Now I have to say something about this dinner. It was the best meal I’ve ever had in my life—any of us have had in our lives. It was a real Italian restaurant. Not the kind made for tourists and Americans, but the entire menu was in Italian and the house wine was red and delicious (coming from the girl who prefers white). We got two appetizers, a cheese plate and a prosciutto/fritter thing that was so good. I had a melanzane pasta, the noodles of which I’m fairly sure were made in house.
We had delicious desserts, even though we were so full. Meanwhile, a table of about 10 Italian men had been eating this whole time (we were there for over 2 hours) and after we got our dessert, a couple of them brought over their bottle of grappa and offered it to us, of which we had already planned on ordering some. Grappa is an after-dinner shot that is supposed to aid in digestion, but is really just a slightly weaker form of vodka, but it was great because we got it for free, and the guys were so nice. We actually tipped this restaurant—something largely not done in Italy because we had such a great time and meal.
We went to bed as soon as we got back to the hostel and the next morning woke up promptly to check out and see the leaning tower. The torre di Pisa is more or less, hilarious. It’s at the most ridiculous and awkward tilt. Also our hostel had an awesome view:
Basically they started building it in the year 900-something and the ground sunk. Then they got sidetracked and didn’t finish it (a constant theme in Italian architecture). So it went through at least three periods of building and yet no one felt the need to stop building the crooked tower or somehow fix it. The last building attempt realized that if they kept building it straight, it was going to fall over or need a stilt, so they had to curve the building slightly so it’d be a little straighter. So not only is it leaning, but it is curved too. Also, the cathedral that is on the same ground sank when it was built too. Dumb.
Anyway, after taking all of our crazy posing pictures with the tower and debating buying a “leaning shot glass,” we went to the center of Pisa and hung out there for the afternoon. We had pizza at a very good pizzeria, so I can say I had a piece of Pisa pizza, and then we just sat by the river until we caught a bus to the train station to come back to Perugia.
This week has been crazy busy with work; the teachers started piling on the homework. I had my first quiz in Italian which wasn’t very easy but not too bad either. I have to write food diaries once a week for my food class, which I’ve actually found I enjoy writing. I love that class though. I had an olive oil tasting on Tuesday in class, which was so cool and I have an even better one later in the semester.
This weekend we’re staying in the city because there’s a general strike and we didn’t want to risk getting stuck somewhere, but it gives us a good reason to explore Perugia, which we’ve barely done. I really want to see the chocolate factory where they make the Perugino Baci that we all love here, and of which the Ciao Ciaos are always giving us free ones. Till next time!
"I want to do with you what the spring does with the cherry trees" -Pablo Neruda, written on a wall in Italian
also, I’m going to Sienna and Pisa domani. pictures to follow.
Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve decided to begin each post with a quote in my travel journal that I got, which is why you where provided with the above.
Yesterday was the first day of our regular classes. Last week was all intensive Italian, 4 hours a day, but I survived. I’m now taking advanced intensive Italian, Il Racconto: the Italian short story, the history and culture of 19th century Italy (English), and the History and Culture of Food (English). My days will look something like this (for my mom who requested my schedule):
9:30-10:50 MTWTh Italian 310
1345-1515 MW Il Racconto, TTh History
1530-1700 MT Food
I really like my classes so far, especially the history and culture of food, which not only sounds particularly amazing but is taught by a British professor, so he’s pretty much awesome and brings back memories of Oxford—though he doesn’t where a Snape cloak.
So since I haven’t updated all week, I’ll fill you in. Monday we had our first Italian classes, and we were reviewing mostly all week to make sure we were all on the same page. Regular class was until noon and then we had an hour and a half break until our survival Italian. Each day we had a lesson on how to get by in Italy. Monday we did how to buy food and find your way in the supermarket. We reviewed food vocabulary and then actually went to the supermarket, and we took the MiniMetro outside of the center of Perugia, which was really fun. The MiniMetro is this little self operated train car on a track that goes about 10 miles an hour and has stops in different places. But I’m really glad they brought us there because now we know how to use the MiniMetro and where the bigger supermarket is. One of these days I have to venture into the rest of Perugia, outside of the center to see what is down there.
Our professor also took us to a bar to learn about different types of coffee and to practice ordering them. The barista who served us was Sicilian and provided some wonderful insight into the differences between regions here in Italy, just from what she had observed. She also loudly sang American music that was playing on the radio which was awesome.
We learned our Italian clothing and shoe sizes, and how to ask for items in shops, which came in incredibly handy as I bought some belle scarpe the next day, in which I am a size 40!
One of the best pieces of advice my professor said we had to remember in order to survive in Italy—not just live, but survive, he made that very clear—were the following words: sciopero, guasto, ritardi. ‘Strike,’ ‘broken,’ and ‘late.’
I’ve done a lot of walking since I got here. And it’s all up hill. You know the old saying that you’re grandmother’s grandmother used: she walked 15 miles uphill both ways to get to school. Well, I don’t have to walk 15 miles, but I’m pretty sure I have walked 15 miles, and it’s always uphill. Your grandmother’s grandmother lived in Perugia.
We have family dinners almost every night and we rotate cooking. The first week, we just kind of winged it and all bought groceries on different nights and people volunteered, but now we’re making a quasi schedule of who buys food and cooks when, so it gets more evenly distributed. We’ve had so many delicious dinners already. Homemade cream sauce, homemade tomato sauce, freshly grated parmesan cheese at every meal, fried zucchini, ricotta, pear salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing, and of course fresh bread. Everyone says the bread here is awful because they don’t put salt in it but I think it’s delicious, so I don’t care.
The minimarket down stairs is a godsend. It is a minute away and has almost everything we need. It has a multitude of fresh produce and cheeses and bread, as well as packaged crackers and milk and juices and water and pantry items. We can run down there if we need more toilet paper or a delicious 3€ bottle of wine. And the owners of the shop, the older man (lovingly dubbed Papa Ciao Ciao, for the way he always greets us) and his family, are always giving us free Baci which is wonderful because a Bacio makes the world right. Think a Hershey kiss, but bigger, with Nutella inside. And they were made right here in Perugia.
I’ve been shopping twice now because I got to Italy and realized it was colder than I had anticipated and I only brought 8 shirts. My apartment has bipolar heating so options to layer, even indoors, are preferable. The stores on the main street, Corso Vannucci, are the expensive stores, with coats in the 200€ range and shirts in the 40-80€ range. But down the side streets and a little further, there are some great stores with shirts and sweaters for 10-20€, around $12-25, which is much more in my price range. I still need to find a store with a bag I like because my tote bag I’ve been using for classes has a 6 inch gap in it, and growing.
Last Friday I had a tour of the city with one of the Umbra staff, Zack who led us through the “nooks and crannies” of Perugia, giving us tips and insight into the history and things that people miss everyday. It was so interesting to a history buff like me and he brought us everywhere. It was so much walking though, and as I said it’s always uphill, and our tour guide practically ran so it was a workout.
Saturday I had a lunch with all the students who did not come to Perugia through Arcadia Abroad, as all the Arcadia students were going on a overnight trip to Tuscany—jealous—and both of my roommates left. But lunch was delicious—and free—and 3 courses, the Italian way. After too much food and not enough—non-sparkling—water at lunch, my program had a meeting with the head of our program, who is a Roman lady and super nice and gave us all kinds of advice on travelling. She brought us to this great little bar and she got tea and the rest of us got cioccolata which is hot chocolate. My first in Italy, it’s much thicker than the kind in the States and so good. I know why Perugia is known for its chocolate.
Saturday night, a bunch of us from my program walked around together, abandoned by our roommates—almost all of whom were in Tuscany—but they were such a fun group of girls. We rode the ferris wheel for an exorbitant 4€, but it was really fun and the rumor is it could be taken down any day. We then went shopping and walked around a bit. We got meter pizza that night, which is, yes, a meter of pizza, and the four of us just about devoured it. Did I mention the free bottle of wine you get? So 3 feet of pizza, and wine, for 5€ a person. Delicious.
Home alone in a creepy apartment? Creepy. I kept hearing noises that weren’t there. Would not like to repeat.
Sunday I was feeling quite under the weather with a head cold, so I mostly just laid around while my roommates returned from Tuscany. I read a lot and did my first composition for Italian.
Today I had my first History of 19th century Italy class, and it was so interesting. My professoressa is a little long winded but we’re going to be looking at primary source documents and analyzing them, like a literature class, and later in the semester we’ll be going to the archives to see first editions of the books, which makes me drool. And we get to read the real Pinocchio and watch the Roberto Benigni version of Pinocchio, which I love. I did have to spend 50 euro on books but va bene.
So all in all, very good so far. I still haven’t managed to find a bag, but I will one of these days.
We’ve had a lot of scheduling since we got here, but we’ve had enough time to explore the city and eat some really good food too. There’s so much to be had here, and I can’t wait to find all of it. There’s a tour next weekend with one of the staff called the Nooks and Crannies tour and it’s all the things in Perugia you might have missed, and the guy who runs it is pretty funny, so it should really good.
My favorite thing about the city so far, if I had to pick just one, would be the mimimarket almost right next to our apartment. This older man works there, and he’s just the sweetest to us. The first day he gave us all Baci chocolates, for which Perugia is famous, and then yesterday he gave us sample of a sweet bread and he always greets us with “Ciao, ciao,” and tries to speak to us in a little Italian so we’ll understand. He’s just the best. And his market is so convenient!
Yesterday we bought our Italian books after we went to numerous meetings about elective class options. Then we went to this restaurant next to our apartment that my guidebook said was supposed to be good, and it was the best meal I’ve had since I’ve been in Italy. I had spinach gnocchi. The people were so friendly, I think after they realized we weren’t obnoxious Americans—well not as obnoxious as they expected I’m sure—and after we bought wine and dessert. The waitress asked if she could do something ‘special’ with our gelato and we got some amazing looking dessert and it was beyond delicious. It’s times like that, I wish Italians accepted tips. But we’ll just have to go back instead.
Today our week of Intensive Italian begins: Italian from 9-12 with a 15 minute break, lunch from 12-1:30, and then practical Italian which will be like how to get around town for another hour and a half. Everyday until Thursday. It’s going to be tough but definitely worth it.
Yesterday was my first day in Perugia in my apartment, and it’s more than I could have ever hoped for. It’s so beautiful and ancient and the buildings are incredible. We woke up at the hotel and got packed and ready and then had a short breakfast so we could get to the shuttle to go to our apartment. Our apartment is so great. It looks a little like something a grandmother might furnish, but it has everything we need and could want—we even have wifi in the apartment now. It has a double bedroom, which I’m in with one of my roommates, and then a single room with my other roommate, a living room with tv, a dining room table, a kitchen with a stove, fridge, and dishwasher, and utensils and plates and things. We met the girls who live in the apartment right across from ours, who are super nice. We took a bit to set up our things and then invited the girls across the hall and went out to look around and get lunch. We ended up in this little café that definitely served us frozen pizza and we all had a laugh that our first meal in Perugia, on our own, was horrible pizza. Definitely an experience.
We then continued exploring the city for a bit before going to the local market right near our apartment and getting some essentials—at the little minimarket near our apartment with the sweetest old man you’ll ever meet running it—though we definitely need more food. After that my roommates and I took a walk in the other direction than we had been going and found the most beautiful view of the city. I had left my camera at the flat, so I’ll just have to go back. I had to take my Italian placement exam, which took almost 4 hours and didn’t go as well as I hoped but I was put into the advanced level class, which starts tomorrow morning at 9am. After my test I went walking around and to dinner with some of the other girls that were there and we found another gorgeous view of the city. We went to dinner at a real restaurant and split a bottle of wine. I got a calzone, which was a long as my arm, and delizia and then we did a tour of all of our apartments, and they’re all so different.
I went back to my apartment where my roommates and the girls across the hall were all getting ready to go out, so we finished a bottle of wine and then headed out to meet a couple more people. We went to a bar called Elfo’s, which was kind of American, but very fun and had good drinks. All in all a wonderful start to my stay in Perugia.
I’ll update probably sometime tonight too.
Baci da Perugia!
and in a Hotel for the night with my new roommates. Tomorrow morning we go to our apartments—bright and early at 9am—but we have intro here today.
I slept almost the entire flight from London to Rome and arrived a little early. Customs took less than 2 minutes, which was fabulous and after wandering in circles for about half an hour, I finally found my program. The bus ride from Rome to Perugia took about 3 hours and I slept about 2 hours of the ride. The hotel is really nice and has wine everywhere but I haven’t had any yet. I still don’t have a phone, but I have my class schedule and the schedule for the weekend. Tomorrow is my placement Italian test which I’m relatively nervous for, but we’ll just see how that goes.
I have so much more to say about everything but I’m too tired and I need to go shower, so I’ll update tomorrow sometime. Assuming I can get internet.
Sorry, I wrote this last night, but internet connection is shoddy and I couldn’t get on after I wrote it.
I leave for Italy for 4 months. I just finished packing and getting myself ready which was in itself a challenge since packing for living in a different country is no small feat. I’ll be living in the center of Perugia, the capitol city of the region of Umbria. The city itself is practically in the middle of Italy. It is a hilly medieval city and is famous for the chocolate it produces.
All in all, I’m so beyond excited to go, extremely nervous, especially as my leaving gets closer, and ready to learn Italian once and for all.
Goals for Italy:
Speak molto italiano.
Drink Italian vino.
Go to Carnivale in Venice.
Ride on a Vespa.
Try food I’ve never had before.
And maybe more.
Get lost in tiny streets.
Find an Italian cat.
Go to Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan, Cinque Terra, Pompeii, and the Tuscan countryside.
See the sunrise and sunset.
Two words: Italian club.
Be a better person because of it.
from tomorrow, I’m leaving for Italy!
For Spring 2012! Perugia here I come!