Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Week Three!

Talk about a crazy week!! If all my weeks are this packed, I can tell that my time here is just going to fly by...To start off the week I had two projects due in quick succession on Monday and Tuesday. Monday was a quick assignment for Architecture in Context (AIC) about creating a 2 page spread, describing yourself, your design experience, and your accomplisments....Basically another iteration of my portfolio! On Tuesday Karen and I presented our analysis for our Studio class, on the San Niccolo region of Firenze. That was slightly nerve-racking, as it was my first presentation in front of all the Roger-Williams students, but it went well, and we got really good feedback from our professors Carlo and Stephano. On Thursday Carlo took us around the Santa Croce neighborhood for our Architecture in Italy (AII) class. It was fun to hear more about the history of the houses, and we were focusing on the transformation of row houses over time, which was fun to be able to spot. I also had a fun adventure involving a crazy startrek pod door, and a half-fluent in English bank manager....Don't ask...

Thursday night was also family dinner night! My new friend Pat, and his 7 roommates invited all the architecture students over for dinner at his apartment. Everyone contributed something, and brought their own wine, and it turned into a really fun evening! There were about 30 of us in the apartment that night...This is a picture of a few of us in their living room. We split off into smaller groups later in the night, and we also ended up visiting a couple bars, where, interestingly enough, we were not the strangest people there...

On Friday, Karen and I decided that we were going to run errands while Jackie and Domencia were on their Chianti trip. Mainly, we wanted to make to IKEA for blankets. However, Karen slept in until the early afternoon, so i had the morning to wander some more around our neighborhood, and i found my new happy place. :) All i need is for it to stop raining, so i can visit it more often! We had a strange experience involving a man needing to see our bathroom early that morning, but the day picked up from there...Once Karen was up and running, we went back to bank so that she could exchange some travellers checks, and then headed to the trainstation to catch a bus to IKEA. We then waited for about....1.5 hours for the bus, before we eventually found someone who spoke broken english who told us that the bus stop for IKEA was in an completely different place. Fantastic....Found the bus stop, had to wait another half hour before it came, but we eventually got there. This whole time it's been raining a little bit, but not too bad. Especially for a Seattlite. ;)

Well we got to IKEA, and i found my blanket!!!, paid, and then ran outside to catch the bus again. This is about when I noticed that it was raining REALLY hard, and of course we have paper bags. Anyone else see a problem? :) We then spent about another hour in stop-and-go traffic to get back to the train station. I have determined that rush hour sucks no matter where you are. ;) Get off the bus -- and the bags are immediately soaked. Thankfully they lasted the 20 mintue walk to our apartment, and didn't break until i was about 10 steps from home!

Saturday we were up nice and early, and got on the bus to Siena and San Gimigiano. These cities are absolutely gorgeous, and I am definitely coming back to them some day!!! Especially San Gimigiano. It was, of course, raining the entire time -- but I was prepared!! And I brought one of the thousands of umbrellas that were left in our apartment for us. It was a little broken, but still worked just fine. :) In Siena were visited Piazza del Campo, which is said to be one of the best Piazzas in the world. It was beautiful, and I could imagine that on a sunny day it would be packed with people. Unfortunatley we weren't able to climb the tower, since it is closed on rainy days for safety, but we did get to go inside Siena's Cathedral. I've posted pictures on Picasa if you would like to see it, but the cathedral is amazing, all done in black and white. The symbol of Siena as a black and white sheild. Supposedly Romus and Remus founded Rome, however, one of them (I've forgotten which) had two sons, and they founded Siena. One rode a black horse, and one rode a white horse -- hence the symbol of Siena! (No Laurissa, no brown horses. :) Unfortunatley I ended up donating my umbrella to the church, since I forgot to pick it up on the way out. Thankfully, one of my friends here was nice enough to share his when it started raining torrentially again on the way back to the bus. I may even like Siena a little bit more than Florence (gasp!) but I reserve the right to make that decision when I can spend more time in the city. One of the main differences was that Siena was actually on some hills, which made for really fun pictures of streets and alleyways.

Then we were off to San Gimigiano! From the minute I stepped of the bus I was immediatly happier!! The views from all over town are amazing, as you can see from this picture! Imagine what it must be like on a day when it ISN'T monsoon season...San Gimigiano is a medieval (thanks mum! :) town, and used to have about 60 towers, which is quite impressive when you consider that the town is really not that big...Now only about 15 or so remain. The towers were a physical symbol of a family's power, and when one family took over another one, they would chop down the loosers tower, and built another one of their own on top of it. The town is even used in modern day movies, because it really does feel like you stepped right into medieval times! It was strange how many times when I was walking around that it was completely quiet and devoid of people -- very easy to forget where you were.

Nick and I went exploring, and we found this fun little fort at the top of the hill, which we climbed, and from their were able to get panoramic views of the entire city, and the outlying countryside....I've found another happy place!!! This last picture is from the top of there, looking towards some of the towers that are still around. After spending the better part of an hour wandering deserted streets we got some gelato, and I picked up an umbrella just seconds before it started poring down rain again! Yay for impluse buys!!!

On Sunday we started the day of right by going to the chocolate festival that was in the Piazza de' Santa Croce. Aaaaaamazing. LOVED IT! I bought myself some Italian ciocolata calda (hot chocolate -- thick, rich and delicious!) and spent the morning browsing the stalls with my roommates, and tasting the samples. I was very restrained though! I only went home with 2 little chocolate, and a slice of fudge. :) There were so many different kinds! Chocolate in the shapes of animals, tools, and in all different flavors. My new favorite was strawberry and balsamic vinegar....Sounds strange, but it was delicious...Jackie, Domenica, and Karen all got fruit on a stick, covered in chocolate. We then spent the rest of the day going to some markets, and doing a little shopping. Karen and I had to go home after that to work on our studio project which was due on Tuesday, and other homework.

Classes this week have gone pretty much the same as last week! On Tuesday I presented my project for studio, and again got positive feedback, so that was good! For this project we were asked to design the missing piece to the Palazzo Rucellai facade. :) It was a really fun, and very interesting design exercise, but I really wanted a few more days to make it perfect...

This weekend my AIC class is taking us to a little town called Urbino, which lies about 3 hours by bus East of Florence. Apparently we have to cross a 'mountain range' and the road is rather windy....However, we're supposed to meet at 6:45am at the train station on Friday morning, so I'm probably going to sleep through most, if not all of that journey. :) We spend friday, and saturday there, and have been invited to stay in the famous dorms of the University there! ...Also between now and next Tuesday we yet ANOTHER project due!!! ...Has anyone discovered a time-stopping device? Because i'd really like to borrow it for a while....

Pictures are being updated as we speak, ( you read), and Urbino updates will come as soon as I have 5 free minutes to write to you all. :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pisa and Lucca

Yesterday I went on a trip to Pisa and Lucca! Pisa was gorgeous, but completely touristy, as was expected. We went on a tour of the Cathedral, the Baptristry, and the Cemetary but I decided that it wasn't worth the 15 euro to climb the tower. After taking the obligatory touristy pictures (See below...:) We walked off down a side street and found a pizzeria where i proceeded to eat almost an entire Pizzza Margertia all by myself....It was delicious!

We then got back onto our very subtle, enormously huge charter bus and trekked to Lucca. Lucca is one of the only towns in Italy that still has it's entire wall still intact. Also, by the time we actually got to Lucca it had warmed up a little, and I was able to shed one of my thousand layers. (!) We walked through the town, and then stopped for a Gelato fix before carrying on to a bicycle shop, where we rented bikes for a few hours to ride around the walls in the SUN! Bliss.....
Admittedly it took me a few minutes to relearn how to actually RIDE a bike, and then get used to riding a street bike....however! I did not crash into
anyone, maim any small children or animals, *and* I didn't hurt myself!! Mum, Dad: you should be so proud of me. ;) We went briefly into the town, but decided that the crazy Lucca drivers and motorcyclists were a little to evil for our tastes, and crossed back onto the wall.
After giving our bikes back, Karen, Jackie and I went and got delicious pancakes (real ones!!!) which nutella and powdered sugar -- talk about a sugar rush! It was amazing though, and the perfect ending to our outting. :)
Pictures on Picasa are soon to come!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Chianti and Villa Vignamaggio

Today we were treated to a day out in the Tuscan countryside, in a region called Chianti (Ki-aunt-ee). It was beautiful, and really peaceful. I could have stayed there all day...Apparently Villa Vignamaggio (where we had lunch) is where Leonardo found his Mona Lisa. :) I'm sure this is one of many stories, but it's fun to think anyway! Coincidentally it is also where "Much Ado about Nothing" was filmed. Apparently they finished filming in 1.5 months, but stayed for 7...hmmmmm.....I've posted a few pictures up here, but check out my photo album page for more. I'm also planning to put up more from the San Niccolo reigion of Florence. Karen and I are supposed to map the reigion for an architecture assignment, so we took LOTS of pictures yesterday. :)

Anyway! Back to Chianti: We met at the Santa Maria Novella train station where we were split into two groups. Our group went to Villa Vignamaggio, while the other group was bussed off to some castle somewhere???

We all got into this huge Charter bus, and started off towards the Villa, which took about 45 minutes to get to. Very windy, very steep, and very narrow roads! Rather scary in a precarious bus, with crazy impatient drivers coming towards you!

Once we reached the Villa, we were given lunch! They let us taste two of the wines that their vineyard is famous for, which were amazing, and provided us with bread, and a selection of meats to snack on. Risotto came out later. I have a few pictures posted in my album. The bottles of water on the table kind of ruin the mood, but they're commonplace over here! Everyone seems to think that the tap water tastes horrible...It's better than the tap water in Pullman!

After our lunch, we were taken on a tour of the villa. It was actually sunny today!! I was so excited to finally be warm, and had a lot of fun wandering in and around the grapes, and olive trees.

Anyway, point being, I had lots of fun imagining running off Under-the-Tuscan-Sun style, and buying a villa here to live in. :)

Tomorrow I'm off to see Pisa and Lucca! I'm sure I'll have the obligatory touristy pictures to show you then. :) Until tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


It's Tuesday night, and I have now been to all my classes! I actually have a really great schedule. On Mondays and Wednesdays I don't start until 1:20, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I start at 10:45! Only bad thing about that is I go until 7 on Mondays, and 6 the rest of the week.

I have my Italian Class everyday, at Palazzo Rucellai and my teacher is a lot of fun. She has a LOT of energy, and practically bounces around the classroom! I feel a little bit like i'm back in Junior High, learning Spanish again. I get to do matching excersises and crosswords! I'm having issues mixing up Spanish and Italian, but hopefully it will get easier as the months go on!

Monday I also have Architecture in Context (AIC) from 4-7. We have this class in Palazzo Alamanni, which is close to my apartment, I've tagged it on my Google Map. :) It sounds like a fun class, but also like it is going to be a lot of work....a second studio class? Ugh, hopefully not....

Today I had Architecture in Italy (AII), Italian again, and the my Studio class. I learned that in my AII class I'm going on an overnight trip to Venice, and in Studio i'm going on two overnight trips, one to Rome, and one to Milan!!! There are also a lot of day trips in and around Florence. I'm excited! I'll be working off all this pasta and Gelato after all!
I find it really funny that both the Palazzo Rucellai, and the Palazzo Alamanni were standing and occupied when Columbus was still working on discovering America. :) So much history! I love it!!!
Tomorrow we're walking up to San Miniato Hill, and the what remains of the old city walls. And, just because it's me, it's forcast to snow/rain. Haha, go figure.

Anyway! Here are some pictures from my first few days!
This is where my first day of orientation was held: Villa Montielli. Isn't it gorgeous?! was much prettier from the other sides. :) You'll have to check out my albums for more pictures though...We had to walk up a really steep, windy road to get here, so we were quite warm when we reached the top!
Standing with me is one of my roommates, Karen. She is studying architecture at Roger Williams Unversity in Rhode Island.
If you looked to my left in the picture above, this is the view that you would get, over looking Firenze. :) A little bit hazy, and definitely rather chilly, but still gorgeous.
There are multiple bridges that cross the River Arno. I am standing on one of them, looking across at the Ponte Vecchio, the only bridge to stay standing after the Germans bombed Florence during WWII. Apparently Hitler took a fancy to it, who knew? :)
We went back to the Ponte Vecchio at night, and took this picture. All the stalls are closed up, but during the day this bridge is packed with people, ooing and aaahing over sparkly things in windows. :) Lots of fun window shopping. an important government building that I can't remember the name of... :) I took a lot of pictures.....Arch students help me out!!! Phil taught us this one...I've got to break out my notes again! Anyway, there's a delicious gelateria around the corner from here, and that's what's really important. haha.
Anyway, well that gives you a teeensy taste of what i've been exploring! I'll put up more pictures soon. :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

One Week in Florence!

In some ways I can't believe that I’ve already been here a week, but in others it feels like I have been here for months. My roommates and I have been cramming so much into each day, that I’m sure we've managed to find a time warp, and have had more than 24 hours for each one!

The flights went fine. I've decided that I really do like being treated like a princess in first class, and that everyone should travel that way! My Seattle to San Francisco flight was uneventful, and I sat next to a nice lady who was going to teach down in California. Once I actually made it to the airport, it was a little more interesting...Finding my next gate to London was a bit of a challenge but with the help of some nice old lady at the information desk, I made it onto the second plane without incident!

For my San Francisco to London leg I got to fly in those little pods! I had an actual bed!!! It was all very exciting, but I think the flight attendants were very amused at how new I found everything. But come on, who wouldn't be surprised to be offered pajamas upon entering the plane!!! Luxury!!! And all those things I’ve said about airplane food? Forget them. It was absolutely delicious....Apparently they keep the good stuff for the fabulously rich and famous, which I was completely okay pretending to be for 10 hours! I was eating of my own table, WITH a tablecloth on actual china and with real silverware! After eating I watched a movie on my personal pull out television, and then had my bed turned down so I could get some sleep. (!)

As we flew over England I just had to laugh...It was all a rather suspicious pale color. Turns out the snow had followed me. Once I managed to get out of Heathrow, however, and onto the tube I realized that where I was just a little frosty. I collected my baggage without problems! Yay! I also managed to find an information desk for the tube and they figured out which ticket I needed. It was all a little much to deal with while jet-lagged. Managed the connections between tubes just fine. I've decided that all tube station really need lifts though...Lugging my suitcase up stairs was just not very fun...:) Once I got to the right stop I found the Grayson's street just fine, but walked around their neighborhood for a while trying to find no. 62. How was I supposed to know that they didn't go in order?!?! Haha, but again, with the help of a random nice neighbor, I found the house and Jonathan was there to meet me. I spent a fantastic night with the Graysons, and it was really nice to catch up with them all!

In the morning Robert was amazing, and drove me to the airport at some awful time around 4am. I checked into my flights without incident, and was off to my gate to wait for 2 hours or so. The London to Rome leg was fine, and they translated everything into English after Italian, which was great. While waiting in the Rome airport at my gate for something like 8 hours, however, I quickly realized how much I’d become dependent upon being able to understand everything that everyone said around me! It was a really strange feeling to realize that I had no idea what was going on!

Anyway, I finished my fourth book, and then decided to get some sleep. Note to self: Airports are FREEZING. 6:40 finally rolled around, and I was supposed to be boarding and suddenly they came on the intercom and announced (all in Italian...) that the gate to Florence had been changed due to delays. All I caught was Firenze. :) An attendant took pity on me, and I eventually found the next gate, (again with airport organization that does NOT make sense!!!!) and I think we only had to wait another hour or so before our plane finally took off....Thankfully however, in the midst of changing gates and being shuttled to our plane I met a wonderful girl called Gaye. She grew up in Turkey, and then moved to Florida for 8 years to do her Graduate, and Doctorate degrees, and is now in Florence doing a Post Doctorate. Which means she speaks perfect English AND Italian!!!! We shared a taxi from the Florence Airport, and she negotiated with our taxi driver. :) Taxis are crazy. All drivers are actually, but it was amazing whizzing by the Duomo. Definitely an: AAAAAH!!! I'M IN ITALY!!! moment. He found my apartment, which is about 10 steps away from the Ponte Vecchio, and dropped me off. My roommates weren't home, but I got a hold of someone at the Institute (Yay for cell phones!!!) and they sent someone over to let me in.

I have 3 roommates: Domenica, Jackie, and Karen and they all go to school on the East Coast. We all get along really well which is a relief, and we've been exploring all week together. They are all juniors. Domenica is studying Political Science, Jackie is studying Art of some form, and Karen is here for Architecture with me! Our apartment is amazing. So much better than Pullman! However, probably just as cold. When we first got here our heat didn't work at all, but after managing to get that working, we found out it's illegal to turn it above 20 degrees Celsius, which is perfect! Except I really don't think it has ever got that warm in here! I'll post pictures of the apartment later, when I have working Internet. :)

Well that was Monday through Wednesday...On Thursday we had our first part of Orientation. The Institute met us at the train station where we all caught a bus to Villa Montalto. Gorgeous!!!! We had a royally boring day-long lecture on everything we should and shouldn't do, and then headed back home again. Once we got back we decided to try grocery shopping for a few necessities. Quite an experience, but everyone is really nice and helpful, or at least tolerant of us not knowing what we're doing....

On Friday we actually met at Palazzo Rucellai (Pha-lah-zo Rue-chell-aye) and had another orientation. We had a tour of the Palazzo, where I found out that the countess actually still lives on the 3rd floor (the institute rents 1st and 2nd floor) and her two brothers live in Milan! They still retain the main entrance for when they receive guests, so we enter our school through a crazy spiral staircase around the back. We have classes in their ballroom, and master bedrooms! For all you WSU arch students: My school is in Phil's tripartite elevation example!!!! Phil! You follow me everywhere!!! I've keep remembering random facts about the buildings that we're walking past, which my roommates find extremely entertaining....After the tour I waited while everyone did their Permit of Stay's (one of the perks of being an EU Citizen!) and the we had a crash course in Survival Italian, and a quick walking tour of what was around Florence.

Saturday we again went back to Palazzo Rucellai where I got my textbooks, and signed up to go on two trips. The first one is to Piza and Lucca on the 17th, and the second to Siena and San Gimigiano the following week! I'm also going on a trip to Chianti on the 16th that is put on by the Institute. We're having a day in the country, and having a typical Tuscan Luncheon! I'm hungry already...We met up with some new friends for dinner that night, and then went out to a bar called Zoes. Jackie and I left a little while afterwards to satisfy a Gelato craving. :) Gelato is quickly becoming my favorite thing in the world....

Sunday we finally had a free day, so I spent it again, exploring Florence, going to open markets. I was also supposed to meet up with my Abroadco resident advisor here in Florence, Laelle, and Mitch, the other architecture student in our program for Gelato, but Laelle never showed up and didn't answer her phone...I think the jet-lag probably caught up with her, she was only due to fly in on Saturday.

Today is my first day of classes! My Italian teacher is really energetic. It sounds like a really fun class! I'm off at the moment to my Architecture in Context class...I'll let you know how that goes later!

All in all I think I’ve walked pretty much all over Florence! It's a relatively small city, and everything is within easy walking distance. The duomo is amazing...and HUGE! I always thought it was done in black and white marble, but it's actually really colorful! It's white, with green marble, and there are red accents all over it! At the moment it is partially covered in scaffolding, but it's still beautiful. The Ponte Vecchio is also really fun to walk down! It really does have amazing jewelry, and one of the Goldsmiths even came to orientation and offered to teach some of us! I think Jackie is going to do it; I can't wait to hear what she gets up to!

We've been getting panini's for lunch most days. We found a cafe which was selling delicious melted brie panini the other day, and I was in heaven. I wish you could have had one with me, Amy!...I could not for the life of me tell you where it was though....oh well. I've got another 4 months to find it again!

I haven't had too many problems with men yet. :) I've been stroked(?!), and called after, but nothing to make me too uncomfortable.

Alright well that should take you the better part of an hour to read. :) Now there can be no complaining that I haven't written anything! Suffice it to say that I am having an AMAZING time, and while I wish you were all with me, I’m doing okay. No major catastrophes or breakdowns to report of! Thank you for all your good luck wishes! I love hearing from all of you. :)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Made It!!!

Ive made it to Florence!!! Unfortunatley we dont have internet yet, so im at an internet cafe and i only have 2 minutes! But Im here and im having lots of fun exploring the city! My apartment and my roommates are all fantastic. :)

Im really really close to the duomo!!!

Ill write more in a few days when i get myself connected...Miss you all already!

p.s. italian keyboards dont have apostraphy keys....making this all a little bit more challenging!!!