View from Macerata

View from Macerata

domenica 27 novembre 2011


Last wednesday, we got up early and headed to the train station to go on our first of two big excursions to Florence!!  I wasn't really sure what to expect or what to be excited about, aside from a few obvious things like the duomo and Michaelangelo's David, but then fell SO completely in love with the beautiful city. 

By the time we arrived, it was lunch time and we had some free time before our first tour.  Annalise and I couldn't wait to venture out, so we each got a panino and took a walk to the cathedral to see the duomo up close.  The cathedral is so incredibly gorgeous, I can't even describe it. 
Afterward, we had our first tour around the city!  Filiberto took us right back to the cathedral and the baptistry.  We saw Ghiberti's famous baptistry doors and the incredible mosaics on the inside.  Then we climbed up to the top of the duomo, which is sort of terrifying but entirely worth all 463 steps to the top. 

The rest of the day was spent walking through the leather market, across the Pont Vecchio, and just down the pretty, winding streets :)
Then, we all went out to dinner at Ristorante della Spada and, once again, had all 6 courses. I think this is maybe becoming an issue where pant size is concerned, but it was fantastic :)

The next day, we visited a few churches: Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, and San Lorenzo.  I'm a little burned out on churches, but they were all beautiful and worth the visit.  Visiting churches (and everything else) is great with Filiberto, because he is very, very knowledgable about basically everything. He lived in Firenze for ten years, so that doesn't hurt either.

Santa Croce is the resting place for a lot of well known people, including Michaelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo, so we visited their tombs:
(Galileo's tomb, the sun and the four planets that were known at the time)

(A woman with a castle on her head is a symbol of Italy, she's mourning the death of Michaelangelo)
(Me! In front of Santa Croce)
 After Santa Croce, we went to Santa Maria Novella and then to San Lorenze, my favorite church in Florence.  Attached to it is a leather shop where we watched a woman working on a purse

It also has the most beautiful cloister, with an orange tree in the middle :)

We also went to the Galleria d'Accademia to see the David, other sculptures, and Prisons all by Michaelangelo.  Seeing the David in person was surreal; it's the international symbol of art and culture.  It's also massive, 2.6 times the size of a human being, and perfectly proportional with two exceptions; his right hand and his head are slightly larger. 

After our tour, we went to the Mercato (market) of San Lorenzo, got some awesome gelato, and later went out to dinner for our last night in Florence.  I had tortellini in brodo (broth), which Tuscany is known for.  Delizioso :)

The third and final day, we spent in the Uffizi art gallery, one of the best and most famous art galleries in the world.  I've never been that excited about art museums, but this one was sort of fun because I saw lots of art I've actually heard of :) We saw the Birth of Venus and Primavera by Botticelli, a couple by Leonardo da Vinci, and tons by Raphael.  I was still sort of glad to be set free for the rest of the day and just walk around the city some more before we had to leave.  Florence is now my second favorite place, after London, and three days was definitely not enough time to spend in it.  I can't wait to go back again sometime!

 (I jump a lot..that's a replica of David in the background, in front of the town hall)
(Pont Vecchio)

(Mercato di San Lorenzo)

sabato 26 novembre 2011

Thanksgiving in Macerata

                For Thanksgiving, my site director, Filiberto reserved a whole restaurant and took all 23 of the people in my program to dinner in Macerata, plus all of our teachers.  The people at the restaurant, La Ristorante di Seconda, were really sweet and attempted to make us a traditional thanksgiving meal!  It was fantastic, and sort of funny to see their impression of American food. 

                We had the full Italian 6 course meal: antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni (fruit or vegetables), dolci, and caffe.  Antipasti was all fried: zucchini, cream (yes, cream, like a homemade twinkie), and these delicious fried, stuffed olives called Olive All’ascolana that are a specialty of the Marche region.  Then there was Vincigrassi for primi, a Maceratan variation on lasagna that has no cheese and is molto better than American-Italian lasagna J.  Then they brought out a huge tacchino, turkey, and we all crowded around it and took pictures.  Turkey is not commonly eaten in Italy, you have to order one weeks in advance from a butcher, so it was really sweet of them to make it J  We also had potatoes for contorni, cute little chocolate lava cupcakes for dolci, and an espresso at the end :) all served with wine, of course.  I hated it when I got here, but it’s finally growing on me now that I have only 3 weeks left in Italy and then 1.5 years until I’ll be 21 and able to buy it again.

                The only thing better than this would have been being home for Thanksgiving, I had a fantastic time with my little AHA famiglia J

venerdì 18 novembre 2011

Cooking and things..

Two of my professors, Gina and Marco, teach a cooking class at their apartment every wednesday night. I've been going to learn how to make some real Italian food :) So far I've learned to make gnocchi, a bunch of different sauces, and Tiramisu but I'm excited to try risotto and melanzane (eggplant) alla parmigiana as well.
                                                           (Our first attempt at gnocchi!)
I had never heard of gnocchi before I got here, but it's basically the greatest thing I have ever eaten. It's these little pillow-like pieces of pasta heaven, made from potatoes. We made it with a gorgonzola cheese sauce, which is the closest thing to alfredo sauce that exists in Italy and which is pretty fantastic as well :) Last wednesday we watched Marco make fresh pasta and bolognese sauce, which takes about 4 hours, and my friends and I are making our first solo attempt at it tonight. 

I am currently on a quest for a recipe for Italian hot chocolate. It's the second greatest thing I have ever tasted. It's like a thin pudding, you eat it with a spoon, and there are enough varieties that my favorite place in Macerata, Maga Cacao, has a separate hot chocolate menu. Maga Cacao (Magic Cocoa) is a little dessert shop owned by a married couple, half of which is exactly what Italian men are supposed to look like :)

Last weekend I went to a chocolate festival with my friend, Annalise, and to the monthly flea market. Italians love festivals, there is at least one in Macerata every weekend, dedicated to all kinds of things, mostly food or wine. This weekend, I'm going to Civitanova with a few people for a polenta and chestnut festival and next weekend there's a Christmas festival when they will put up and light a giant Christmas tree in the main piazza :)

Next week, my site director, Filiberto, is taking everyone in my program out to dinner for thanksgiving. It won't be traditional food, however, so a few of my friends and I are having another thanksgiving next saturday and watching Christmas movies :) Next week I also have an excursion to Florence for three days which I'm really excited for! Then the next week, we go to Rome for another 3 days. Then two weeks after that, I go home.

This trip is going by so fast, I can't believe I have now been here for 11 weeks. I've basically gotten over homesickness, and I'm so glad I came, but I know I'm going to be really happy to go home for Christmas :)

Random pictures:
(Assisi! And thats the Kappa Delta hand sign:) )

(Top of the bell tower in Macerata)

(Monte Conero, I climbed that my first weekend in Italy)

(Filiberto! My awesome site director)

Paris ♥

After London, Kacie, Casey, and I took the train under the English Channel (not nearly as exciting as I thought it would be, for some reason) to Paris! Casey's friend, Jessyme, and two of his friends, Theo and Frederick, (all native Parisians) were waiting for us at the train station. They were really sweet and bought our metro tickets, helped us find our hotel, and then took us to lunch :) I dont have any pictures of Paris yet, except the ones my friends have of me, because my camera died on our last night in London.

I only stayed in Paris for 2.5 days, and all the Caseys really wanted to do in Paris was go to bars at night and go to the Eiffel Tower, so I ended up sightseeing by myself both days. I saw SO much and my feet were in such pain by the end of it, but I had a really good time :) I walked up the Champs-Elysees and saw the Arc de Triomphe, the Luxemborg Gardens, the Place de la Concorde and it's obelisk marking the location where Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette were guillotined during the revolution, the National Assembly, ate a crepe in the Tuileries gardens, took a million pictures of the pyramids outside the Louvre (I didn't get to go in, unfortunately, it was closed), walked along the Seine and over the lock bridge, went to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night, and went to church at Notre-Dame.

The lock bridge is where people write their name and that of their significant other on a padlock, lock it on the side of the bridge, then throw the key into the river to make it last forever.

On my last night in Paris, my friend Brittany arrived so she and I went out to dinner and got escargot :) Yum!

I also went to Shakespeare and Company, a book store opened by an American soldier who wasn't ready to go home after World War II. It was a residence and gathering place for the "lost generation" of writers, like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. It's this cramped, adorable used book shop and I was quite excited, having been in Europe for 2.5 months, to find it was full of Americans.

Right now, nothing is quite so exciting for me as hearing English. I'm sort of isolated in Italy, along with the other 20 people in my program who don't really speak Italian either. I think my Italian has now surpassed my French (I took 2 years of French in high school), but it was really fun finally getting to use what I learned in school and being the translator for the Caseys, neither of whom speak a word of French.

The Caseys and Brittany accidentally booked their flight for after we were supposed to be back in Macerata, so I was on my own getting back. I debated never telling anyone this, but seeing as I lived through it: I took the train back from Paris, and since my train left really early, I didnt go to bed at all that night. I changed trains about 5 times getting back (Macerata is in the middle of nowhere) and my last train was from Civitanova to Macerata. I got to Civitanova at 10:30 pm, 10 minutes too late to catch the last train of the day. The next one was at 4:50 am, the train station was closed until 6 am, and the only other person in the station was an elderly woman. There was nothing to do but wait for the train so I went to a cafe next to the station that was open til 1 am, got some hot chocolate and read til the little old lady came and sat by me. She didnt speak any English, so I talked to her in my very broken Italian until we got kicked out of the cafe and went back to the station. It was the end of October, super cold, and we sat on a bench outside the station for 4 more hours. I almost finished reading the same book twice. Then, I missed the train because it turned out not to be a train at all, but a bus. So then I waited another hour for the 6 am bus, and finally arrived in Macerata at 7 am. By the time I got to bed, I had pulled 2 all nighters in a row and had been up for 45 hours straight. I'm just trying to convince myself all that was worth it, since it must have been a very character building experience :)

martedì 1 novembre 2011


In Europe, schools all have a mid-semester break so I decided to spend mine in London and Paris with two girls in my program, Casey and Kacie.

Two saturdays ago, october 22nd, we flew into London Stansted and took the tube into the city.  We were unbelievably excited to hear people speaking English, since we've been struggling with Italian for 2 months.  The first order of business? Mcdonalds, of course :) In Europe, however, McDonalds is on the expensive side, and it's extremely popular.  Half the time, when someone finds out I'm an American the first thing they ask about is Mcdonalds and whether it's really all we eat in the US.

After mickey d's, we figured out the tube and went to the Casey's hostel.  I booked my hostel later than they did, so I stayed in a different hostel the first night, in a different part of the city.  We made it to their hostel just in time for the start of a pub crawl, which really excited the Caseys, but I don't drink so I went to find my hostel by myself instead.  My hostel, fortunately, was in a really nice part of town, just down the street from Hyde Park.  I met some people from Spain while I was waiting for the receptionist, and ended up spending the rest of the night hanging out with them.

The next day, I got up early and took full advantage of the free hostel breakfast, checked out, and went to Hyde Park since I wasn't going to meet up with the Caseys til they got up at noon.  I saw Princess Diana's memorial and Kensington Palace, which was gorgeous.  Like everything else in London, however, it is undergoing restoration before the Olympics next year.

After that, I had to hurry back to St. Christopher's to meet up with the Caseys.  When I got there, they told me they'd met a group of German people who are studying abroad in London, and invited the three of us to come to a pub to watch a soccer game.  We decided to go, and went to some cute part of London called Belsize, to a pub called the George.  I don't know anything about soccer, but I had so much fun hanging out with the two german guys, Bernd (pronounced like Burned) and Mateo (Ma-tee-o).  They speak perfect English, and they were super nice.  After the game, they took us to Camden market, the biggest one in London.  Part of the market is in an old barn, so each vendor has their own stall and it was just packed with people selling all kinds of food I've never heard of before.  After the market, we walked through Little Italy to Regent Park and saw the Queen's Garden.  Then the boys took us to the Baker Street station (Hello,  Sherlock Holmes! :) and we went to Westminster Abbey for the evening service!

Across the street from the Westminster station was Parliament, which was so surreal to see in real life.   We took a bunch of pictures in front of Big Ben, then the Abbey where we ran into a couple girls from our program, Shannon and Chloe, who were there for the service as well.  The service itself was really short, only about thirty minutes, but it was awesome.  The reverand quoted T.S. Eliot, and then pointed behind me to Poet's Corner, where he's buried.  After the service, we weren't allowed to look around too long but the church was stunning.  It was kind of weird to think that I watched William and Kate get married right there just a few months ago, and I never thought I'd get to see it in person. 
(Notice the London Eye in the background!)

After church, the five of us went to a pub for some fish and chips, which was SO delicious after having been deprived of fried food for 2 months.  Plus, they had Heinz ketchup which definitely does not exist in Italy.
The next day, we took a free walking tour of the city through our hostel and saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (Which isnt too pretty right now, because of the restoration, unfortunately), Tralfager Square, Westminster Abbey again, Parliament again, and a million other things.  Then we went to Starbucks, and the Caseys and I walked around the city for a solid 8 hours.  We saw Shakespeare's Globe Theater, St. Paul's Cathedral, walked over just about every bridge in London, took a million pictures of the Tower Bridge, saw the outside of the Tower of London, and then rode a double decker bus back to our hostel, exhausted, at like 9 pm. 

Casey and Kacie seemed to have little to no interest in museums or historical landmarks like the Tower of London, so the next day I went and spent most of the day at the Tower by myself.  I didn't mind, however, because I was too busy geeking out.  It was absolutely amazing, and I was so happy to be there since it was probably the number one thing I wanted to see in the entire world ever since I took A.P. European History in high school.  I saw the Queen's House, where Anne Boleyn stayed before her coronation and also where she was held before her execution, lots of suits of armor that belonged to people like Henry VIII and Edward IV, the crown jewels, the ravens whose wings have been clipped to keep them from flying away since the reign of Charles II, and the memorial to the people executed in the tower.

 The rest of the day was spent at Piccadilly Circus, Starbucks, and then out to a german bar for dinner with our new german friends :) 
(From left to right: Johanna, Kacie, me, Tom, Bernd, Mateo, Casey, and Dennis)
(Bernd and Matteo)

The boys took us back to our hostel and said goodbye forever, which is the problem with making friends here.  The next morning, we got up at some ungodly hour and took the train to Paris.

Random picture that reminds me of my mom:

I have a lot of other pictures of London on facebook if anyone would like to look: