Monday, February 28, 2011

First Glorious Day in Tuscany

Tuscany

My program organized a overnight trip to San Gimignano and Siena.  We all had to get up awfully early to take a charter bus to be on our way.  The long drive went by quickly though as we played MASH and ate sour strawberry straws.  Upon arriving in San Gimignano, we probably tripled the population.  It was a tiny Tuscan town with all of the old architecture, winding alleyways, and cute little shops.  The view was unbelievable!!  Just by walking and exploring, we ended up at the top of the town, overlooking the rolling hills and trees.  It was so refreshing just being able to walk in the middle of the road, take a breathe of fresh air, and get away from the crazy city of Rome.  We only had a few hours there and we spent it relaxing in the sun, walking into the little shops, and snacking on delicious pizza.  It was only another short distance by bus to Siena.  I am in love with Siena!!  It has the small town feel without being too small.  It is a very touristy town too so getting around is very easy as they have signs everywhere directing you to all of the attractions.  We had some free time when we first arrived so we explored a little.  Matt had called me and told me to eat these fried pasta balls that were from a wooden shack in the middle of Compo, a square in the center of town.  He had just gone to Siena and said I had to get them.  His description of their location did not inspire much confidence so I asked if anyone had gotten sick off of them.  He laughed and said to trust him.  We arrived in Compo and spotted the wooden shack... and I will dream about that little shack for the rest of my life.  Those fried pasta balls or funnel cake balls of crack as I like to call them were so unbelievably amazing and only available from February 1st to March 20th; I plan on going back for them someday not for the city but for the balls.  



Balls of Crack!

I only had a few because I didn't want to spoil my dinner. We all got to go to a traditional medieval dinner and I was really looking forward to something other than pasta or pizza.  It was five courses of things I had never eaten in my entire life and I enjoyed about half of them.  It was so exciting trying new things and I was proud that I was brave enough to do it…especially the duck liver.  I was so full by the third course, but I found a way to make some room for the Italian cheesecake too.  We made it an early night because we were going to have an early morning and long tour the next day so we just had a night cap at Key Largo, a cute little bar in Compo and sang the only line that I know of that Beach Boys song over and over.  
Medieval Dinner
    

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Florence

Yellow Rainboots in front of the Duomo
I am officially the worst blogger ever haha.  Anyway, I had a rough start on my way to Florence.  After getting done at St. Peter’s I realized that I didn’t have a copy of my passport or my visa with me and I couldn’t go to Florence without it.  In an attempt to save time I thought that I would head over to my university and just print out a copy there.  Three hours later and after running to catch every single bus, I finally arrived at the Termini train station.  I approached this experience like a had many times before in San Diego headed to LA so I wasn’t really worried, until I printed out my self-service ticket and everything was in Italian.  I started walking in the direction that every other person was and entered a giant platform and stopped dead in my tracks.  My train was going to leave in 15 minutes and I had no clue which train was mine.  I almost started crying then and there, but luckily some very nice Italian couple noticed.  They asked if I needed help, but in Italian…so I held up my ticket and mimed what I thought could potentially translate as “where the hell is it?!”  The man then held up three fingers and pointed to a train at the end of the platform.  I thanked them umpteen times as I ran to catch it.  I luckily made it on the train in time and watched Glee until I arrived in Florence to calm me down.  Matt was there to greet me and I was so excited to finally be in Florence.  That Friday we walked around the center of Florence and it was beautiful but unbelievably cold.  Florence is so small compared to Rome and it was nice to able to walk everywhere and never need to get on a bus!  We all had a very relaxing evening in Florence and enjoyed ridiculously good dark chocolate gelato and salami paninis; I also tried my very first real kebab and will never being having one of those again, but at least I tried.  Saturday we wanted to have a full day in the city so the big group of us woke up early to go shopping.  Italy has crazy sales (saldi) the last couple of weeks in January and we wanted to take full advantage.  We walked down an alley and came across the biggest market.  Tents with people selling shoes, leather jackets, purses, scarves, ceramics, etc lined blocks and blocks of the city.  I suck at haggling but somehow was able to shave five dollars of a gorgeous leather purse that smells sooo good.
View from the top
Duomo Stairs
After the guys couldn’t take shopping anymore Matt and I went to grab lunch.  I had gnocci for the first time and it was so delicious that I inhaled it.  Directly after lunch Matt and I went up to the top of the Duomo which has 463 steps to climb.  Four cheese gnocci didn’t feel so good half way up to the top, walking up a narrow, dark, spiral staircase, but it didn’t matter when we finally got to the top.  Looking down on the whole city of Florence was so beautiful and I could have stayed up there all day.  After taking pictures from every angle we made our way down which was way scarier than the way up.  I was excited for the evenings festivities which included the best pizza in Florence and my very first club experience.  The pizza was in fact the best pizza I have ever had in my life but the club on the other hand was so not my scene haha.  It was fun for a good while but then when I went to the bathroom and some drunk girl elbowed me in the face while she was trying to take a picture of herself making a stupid pose I was over the whole thing.  It had been a long and amazing day and I was ready for bed.  Sunday morning was beautiful and we relaxingly strolled down the streets until I had to catch my train back to Rome.  Florence was so perfect and I was happy to have successfully made it there and back home to Rome in one piece.