My Summer spent in Florence
My last morning in Florence. Alix and I had a 1pm flight so we were leaving our apartment around 11. I woke up early and went for a run for my last time around Florence. I made sure to rub this guy by the leather market to ensure my return.
Then I ran along the river.
Alix and I had breakfast at Teatro del Sale (where we had dinner the week before). They advertise it as 7euro, but since we are students we got it for 3.50 each! We were the only ones in the entire dining room. They gave us incredible service.
They had laid out some cereal and yogurt which I just mixed jam into to add the fruit taste and honey for sweetening.
We got cappuccinos too! And some VERY delicious scrambled eggs!! They had some cheese and meat tastes to them. We also had some ham and bread to go along.
SUCH a good last breakfast in Florence! It was lucky we had this because we had an eventful travel day ahead of us.
So in Florence we were stuck waiting to take off for two hours and they said it would be almost four hours until we could take off. Apparently, Munich’s airport communication tower had gone on strike and no one could fly over. Everyone flying over them had to land in Munich too. I can’t believe how lucky we were that we didn’t fly through there because thats how we flew on the way to Florence. Well, so basically every flight out of Florence has to go over Munich because of the air traffic. No one was flying out. Alix and I were prepared to wait in Frankfurt overnight. Somehow we got a slot earlier to take off and fly around Munich. We were SO LUCKY! We landed 45 min before our flight to the States. Went through customs and ran to the gate with about 15 other people in the same situation. We all had to get new boarding passes too…how annoying! FINALLY. we were on the plane to the US. We took off thirty minutes late because of all this mess and still landed fifteen minutes early in Washington. SOMEHOW we showed up with our checked bags in washington!!
So on the flight to the States I misheard our captain and I thought he said we would only be having a “light snack an hour before landing”. I was a tad bit concerned by this news. I wanted to eat lunch in Frankfurt, but we obviously had no time. I smuggled snacks over boarders though so I had some food, but it was about to be a rough flight without lunch….or dinner? now that I was switching time zones. I began to watch the “Hunger Games” on the TV screen as I suffered my own hunger games. Within an hour I was greeted with a delicious lunch/dinner though! Chicken with mushrooms and risotto. Who would have thought airplane food could be so good. I flew lufthansa/united both ways and will definitely be using their flights again.
I am now back in the states of course and missing everything about Florence. I believe I have found another place to call home. I can’t wait to go back.
Almost entirely caught up here. Switching countries is exhausting and time consuming. I also can’t really write these posts without missing Italy way too much so it’s a bit difficult.
At our last dinner, we took pictures with our host family.
just messing around a bit. clearly my host father was amused.
I miss this so much I can’t even explain. I am so lucky that I had such a great host family and I hope that I can see them again soon.
This was the day before all three of my exams on the fifth so it was pretty low key most of the day. We had a farewell dinner that night though with the entire group (paid for by JMU!). It was really fun to get together with everyone for one last time and say goodbye to our professor.
Here are some pictures I took that day.
Florence by night:
On Monday after a weekend in Venice a group of us went back to Siena to see the Palio! What an amazing opportunity that I will remember for so long!! Follow the link for my description on the “hunger games” also known as the palio when we visited Siena the first time- http://adventures-italiani.tumblr.com/post/24060462980/siena-the-hunger-games
Above are all of the 17 flags from each district are held up on the bank.
The piazza that holds the horse race was transformed from the last time I had been there! There were bleachers all around and flags out of every window. The race track is on the outside and had been covered in dirt. The inside of the piazza was for all of the non-paying spectators like myself. We grabbed a spot at 2:30 and stayed there until the parade started at 7. Luckily there were so many of us that we would sit for a little bit and then split off when we wanted food or to wander while the other group stayed to keep our spot and vice versa.
We all proceeded to pretend that we lived there and bought a scarf of our favorite contrada.
I picked the unicorn contrada!
At 7pm the parade started. First the contradas came through that were racing and then the other contradas paraded.
Here are all of the people waiting!
So the race is literally 90 seconds long after a day of waiting for it. There are also several false starts and can take almost two hours to start the race. We only had about 5 minutes of false starts. The unicorn horse fell down turning one of the “death turns” and came in dead last. One of my friends picked the wave contrada which ending up winning the race!
The track cleared out pretty quickly afterwards!
We then headed over to the wave contrada and saw them parading through the streets. This is one of the proudest moments when you are part of the winning contrada. I mean they put so much effort into these races. Once you win you receive two months of partying and dinners too, so I understand why!
It was a really great experience that I highly recommend seeing if you are in Italy during the month of July or August!
June 29-July 1st we took a school trip to Venice! Venice is made up of some 180 islands and was built on a swamp so it smells really good, all the time.
When we got off the train we were greeted by the water!
From there, we took the water bus to our hotel.
We had time for lunch and then as a group were going on a four hour walking tour of the main cathedral, square, and the Doge’s Palace. For lunch, my guidebook lured us to a place within ten minutes of the hotel with the words “truffle prosciutto”….this place was not at all what I was expecting. Sometimes it isn’t that great to be the tour guide. We ended up eating really cheap pizza because of the limited time frame.
The tour led us to San Marco’s square, about ten minutes from our hotel.
We took a tour of the church after seeing the square:
On the inside the church floor is completely uneven because Venice is sinking….I mean shifting. They can’t even put normal pews in the church because of this so they only use free standing chairs.
We visited the Doges Palace after. It used to be a government building for this family when they had control. The church and palace do not connect on the inside, but there is a wall that makes the two appear as if they do connect. This is in the middle of the picture I put below - the entranceway with the lion that has wings (the symbol of Venice). Clearly they valued the separation of church and state when this was built.
We had a really lively tour guide that was absolutely tiny. She had really great shoes and I think about everyone in my group silently agreed to take pictures of said shoes.
Below, a view from one of the windows in the Palace.
The Doges had some really useful rooms in their “small” apartments in the government building like the “map room”. A room covered in paintings of maps of where they had visited to show off to their guests. They also had several welcoming rooms depending on their guests’ rank. After the welcoming room was a waiting room, of course.
They had some really cool prisons in their building too that were used until very recently. Through this we were able to walk across the bridge of sighs. Named because the prisoners would walk across this bridge and take one last look at the grand canal before being led to their cell.
After nap time (I know- I was only in Venice for a weekend! but listen- you deal without AC for almost two months and then get put in AC with a really comfortable bed and shutters that take out all of the light from outside and tell me how you don’t fall asleep in the middle of the day) we decided to still trust my guidebook and go to a place somewhat close to our hotel in the San Marco area.
They had sparkling prosecco for 2.50 euro so we were already pleased!
AND THEN our food arrived….
We all got the specials of the day which were great deals. I got the lasagna with a sort of cream sauce and SHRIMP! What a strange combination that was so delicious!
After dinner we walked around the San Marco square and the grand canal by night.
The next day we started off with a walking tour of the Rialto neighborhood.
This is someone’s entrance!
Fun Fact: Venice is known as the Las Vegas of Italy because a while back the whole mask wearing thing got very popular and people would wear masks for 6 months of the year so many other europeans would come to escape their normal lives in Venice.
We ended up near the fish market and I knew of a place near there for lunch. Straight seafood dishes and all fresh!
That rice looking dish is couscous with fish cheek? At least that was how it was described to me. It’s called bulgur. Then the kabob had SUCH good pink colored Salmon with vegetables and breaded shrimp. My friend’s dish is in the background. He somehow ordered two lunches, but did not care at all because the food was so good. He got salad with octopus and a plate of the fish sampler of the day.
I broke off from the group for the rest of the day and planned on visiting a few costume museums. Basically rooms filled with vintage clothing. One ended up being more about the apartments of the people that lived there and the other museum was closed for reconstruction until August! I just wandered around after and did some “island hopping”.
For dinner we found a restaurant that had an outdoor garden to sit in. I ordered the gnocci with gorgonzola cheese. so delicious!
We sat on the Rialto bridge after dinner (one of the two bridges that crosses the grand canal…which makes for easy traveling…)
Sunday morning we took a school visit to the Guggenheim museum. Peggy Guggenheim had a house on the grand canal in Venice and collected several works of art by now very famous artists. One of them being her supposed lover, Jackson Polluck. For lunch we ate a collection of cicchetti - the Venice word for tapas. We had some delicious ones like gorgonzola cheese with almonds.
Great weekend trip to Venice.
Thursday (the 27th of June-yep I’m pretty far behind here) was a long day of cultural outings!
We had Italian class in the morning and then traveled over to see the statue of David which is held in the Academia. Our art history teacher came with us and showed us around. David is obviously the main attraction, but there are some other sculptures by Michelangelo that are also housed here. I really think you cannot spend enough time looking at the David. There is so much to examine and stare at each time. It is an incredible sculpture. Michelangelo was pretty awesome- he took this slab of marble that no other artist could work with because it was damaged and made it something almost perfect. It is a work of the Renaissance- a time when artists were taking influence from the old Roman and Greek ideals of the human form.
For wine class we learned more about pairing food and wine and then walked over to a local enoteca (wine bar) to put that into practice-aka they brought the food and wine out that was already paired and we tried them together. I finally tried prosciutto and melon while we were there. What a strange combination that is really delicious!
After this pairing we ate a ton of cheese.
I didn’t want to go home after so I sat at a bar on the river and got myself a Fanta WITH ICE. You don’t understand how great ice is until it is taken away from you. The Italian don’t like ice because even though their tap water is completely drinkable, they still do not trust it. So ice comes from tap water, which they do not agree with. Some people in Italy are trying to make efforts to move away from all of this bottled water because they really are using up a lot of plastic. Either way, I was happy to get some ice and fresh oranges in my Fanta while enjoying the breeze by the river. We had finals the next week so I got started on my studying.
The river on my walk home:
Literally translates to the theater of salt. I originally found it in my guidebook and then my host family mentioned it as well. Most nights of the week you go for dinner and a show. You need to pay for the dinner (30 euros) and then the yearly membership fee (7 euros). You can also go for breakfast and lunch without the show. We really should have done this earlier so we could have taken more advantage of the membership fee!
My roommates and our friend Duane decided to go for one night of the week.
Fabio Picchi is the chef— below is the cover of his book. He is constantly walking around and talking to the guests and the staff at the theater. His food is some of the best I’ve ever had.
Picture of the dining room:
The food was absolutely delicious! So by the kitchen they laid out the food in a buffet style, so everyone would gather around and grab what they wanted. From the kitchen window they would hand out other plates of food like a soup or meat dish depending on the course. Each time a new food was laid out, someone from the kitchen would shout out what it was. Of course not at all helpful for the four Americans with little Italian language experience so we would just stand up each time. This made for an EXTREMELY filling dinner!
And for dessert: cherries coated in a berry/sugar sauce and chocolate fudge pieces!
After dinner they take out all of the tables and set your chairs towards the stage. We saw a musical/comedy routine that you could easily understand with limited italian because of all of the gestures used.
Alix and I went back for breakfast on Friday- the day we left Italy. Pictures of more food to come.
We ate at this restaurant Saturday night. It was the first time we REALLY didn’t worry about cost and just went for it. Still, including wine each of us paid 25 euro so it wasn’t the worst I could have done.
What most people do is order a tasting of each course. We chose Primi, Secondi, and Dolci. Primi are the pasta/risotto meals, Secondi is all meat, and dolci is dessert. What a meal!
We had five kinds of pasta and 1 plate of risotto to taste between the four of us. They were SMALL servings, we were a bit worried we would be eating again after dinner. Like with each plate, we took about 5 pieces of pasta each. This was actually great though because we had a wonderful tasting of different flavors and they all complemented one another.
For the Secondi, we had three different kinds of steak (two of these plates) to try. One of them was their famous blueberry steak. This was unreal. The meat, first of all, cut like butter. It was perfectly prepared. The steak sauce was strangely delicious and rich. Blueberry and steak? Who would have thought. The other steaks were also delicious, but nothing could compare to blueberry.
Our dessert plate:
The cheesecake was by far the best. Alix liked the chocolate cake the best-so we shared well.
aaaaaaand guess what!? There is a restaurant in DC! That will be on my list for the rest of the summer!