Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cinque Terre - Sore Legs & Butt Cracks

I know I went a little crazy with the number of pictures, but I think it is entirely worth the upload wait when you see these!  Last Sunday I took a day trip to Cinque Terre, an area on the north-western coast of Italy, composed of five small towns.  

Our day began with a train ride into the first town, Riomaggiore.  The first nine photos are from this town.  The best part, possibly of the whole day, was the Via dell Amore, which means the "Road of Love".  This road was more like stretch of sidewalk along the side of a cliff, completely with nets to prevent falling boulders from crashing onto the pedestrians below.  What made it amazing however were the inscriptions along the sides of the rocks and wooden timbers of dates, names, and lots of hearts.  According to the handout from the trip, the path was "originally built during the expansion of the railway line in the 1920's", but when an Italian journalist dubbed the path the Lover's Walk for a sign left by lovers, the name stuck.

We then briefly stopped in in Manarola, photo 10, and then took a train to Corniglia where our hike of death began.  The views were incredible, photos 11-16, but the "moderate hike" seemed somewhat like extreme mountain climbing. 

Finally we arrived in Vernazza, photos 17-20, extremely tired but not yet to our final town.  We grabbed a slice of pizza (okay, I'll be honest, I had a whole small pizza) and then took a look at the small cove where people were cooling off in the water.

Shortly after that, we jumped on our last train to Monterosso, photo 21, where we were promised a few hours to relax on the beach.  The beach was slightly different from what I am used to back in the States.  Most of the area was private beach were you were to pay for a chair if you wanted one, and the public areas were crowded enough to really get to know your neighbors.  We were met with a nonchalant attitude of the locals who didn't quite mind wearing speedos or a slip view of a nipple or butt crack (Yea, see the kid who ruined my photo, ha ha).  Even so, sitting on the shore with the sweet smells of sea salt and cigarettes, listening to beautiful language and laughs of the locals, and jumping out of the way of high tide with our belongings turned out to be an experience to remember, complete with views of the Alps on our train ride home, see last photos.

Salvatore Ferragamo Museum

Sometime last week for my fashion illustration class we took a little field trip to the Salvatore Ferragamo museum here in Florence.  Actually, I live maybe a 2 minute walk from here!  As a lover of shoes the visit was very enjoyable, but my favorite part was seeing the wooden shoe lasts which were used to make shoes for a specific person...including my favorite actress Audrey Hepburn! I was able to snap a few pictures before I found out no pictures are technically you better enjoy seeing these!  There are also lasts from other actresses and famous names of the mid 20th century.

The last photo is a shoe from the 1930's which is made of embroidered raffia on the top section (raffia is like a palm-tree-like plant).  This material became a good substitute for more expensive materials during the Great Depression and War times.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wall Art

Found this walking around the city the other day. :)

Photos I

Train ride to Florence

Leaving Pisa on train

Ponte Vecchio & Arno River

A view of Florence from one of our school buildings.

Home in Florence

Hello all!  So much is happening and there is so little time to write! I'm only into my second week here in Florence, but I feel like I've been here for much longer.  I've finally adjusted to the time difference, and am starting to adjust to the heat.  However, we are told it will get deathly hot in July.

As for the apartment, I don't have any pictures currently but will make sure to take some very soon.  When we first arrived there was nobody there to let us in, since we came at the wrong time because of the cancelled flight and all...  But finally after about 45 minutes of standing on the steps in the street of our new casa, our roommate came back from walking around to let us in.  Then I hauled my 80 pounds of luggage up 6 flights of stairs, shaking from exhaustion and completely out of breath.  When I finally walked inside our apartment, I was in heaven.  It is a quite large apartment actually with windows that must be something like 8-10 feet tall. There is a living room, dining room, kitchen, 2 baths and 3 bedrooms. Also, I have the 4 best roommates! ;)

I unpacked nearly everything I brought with me in record time, despite the exhaustion.  Then I decided to shower before going to our group dinner.  The bathroom nearest my bedroom has hand painted tiles which appear to be fairly old but I'm actually really fond of them.  The part I'm not so fond of was how there is a lack of sealing around the base of the shower, so when I opened the shower door to exit, the entire bathroom was flooded! I had managed to do something wrong within the first few hours of living in my new apartment!  In any case, there was a mop and all was cleaned up.

Since the first day, we have discovered the apartment below us is being renovated so we are being woken up by hammers and saws at all hours of the day.  Also, the alley outside my window is also the route taken to the market around the corner, so carts on cobblestone from 6am on is common as well.

Even with all of the noise, our apartment is in perfect location.  Only 2 blocks form the oldest, most famous bridge in Tuscany: Ponte Vecchio! It is the only bridge to have survived the WWII bombings.  And has little jewelry shops along the sides, held up by poles off the side of the bridge.  It is a popular tourist check-point, but I love going there at night to look down the Arno when the city is all lit up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Si Pisa, See No Pisa

"The captain has asked that you return to your seats and fasten your seat belts at this time as we prepare for landing in Pisa."

My heart was racing to say the least.  Unfortunately, our cancelled flight O'Hare to JFK meant my strategically chosen seat on the flight to Pisa I had planned to be on was no longer (as well as our day in Pisa had to be cancelled).  Instead, I was smack in the middle, scrunched between two large men with little, if any, room to sleep or lean at the very least.  Also to add to the serene atmosphere were two small children, who voiced their love of flying quite frequently throughout the entire flight with high-pitch squeals and sobs.  Thank the Lord I brought my iPod.

Nevertheless, I forgot all of the lack of sleep once we began our descent into Tuscany.  I managed to look over my right shoulder at just the right moment and catch a glimpse of the beautiful Pisa coastline: picturesque shades of green and blue in a watercolor style from the shores to the rolling bluffs in the distance.  This moment was so moving for me, once a young girl who only dreamed of a European visit, now gliding over the beautiful hillsides preparing to take on seven whole weeks of cultural exploration.

Pisa was not our final destination, however.  We (my friend and I both took the same flight since we are both studying at the Accademia Italiana) landed both shaken and excited.  Immediately everything was English and Italian.  After going through customs and grabbing our baggage we headed to the exit and were met by a complete mess of tired travelers.  The Pisa Airport is small but filled to the brim!

The next step was to get on a train to Florence.

We exchanged some dollars for euros and then proceeded down the hall to where the train would apparently pick us up.  It was not this easy.  We walked up and down this airport trying to figure out if we needed separate tickets and where to validate them, etc.  Luckily my ten or so Italian phrases I learned were appropriate for this situation and aided me somewhat in attempting to ask for instruction.

Anyhow, we ended up on the train (mind you I am lugging maybe 80 pounds of luggage, on minimal sleep, and barely speaking a foreign language). The train which took us to Pisa Central in any case.  We then had to transfer trains to get on the right one to Florence, which included literally sprinting as fast as we could up a few flights of stairs, 80 pounds of luggage in tow, to catch the train, then getting off at the stop before the intended destination (something like the slums of Florence it seemed) and then racing to get back on when we decided we were not where we wanted to be, and lastly figuring out how to use an Italian pay phone to let our co-ordinaters know that we were indeed in the country despite flight cancellations.

One cab ride later and we arrived at our new Italian apartment... which is a story for my next post!

So here I am, sitting in a tiny computer lab at Accademia Italiana across from the Piazza Pitti in Florence, writing to everyone back in the States which are now about a 12 hour flight away from me.   My journey here will be something I will remember for a long, long time.  Even though our day in Pisa was cancelled and we had countless moments of "Uhh, what do we do now?", I can assure you the trauma and exhaustion is worth every second.

The last few days have gone so quickly and there is so much to tell, and I plan to write as much as possible!  For now here is a photo of a fire we saw at O'Hare, which we have no idea what happened!

Florence Fashion Week begins today and I intend to stalk as much of it as possible!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Arrivederci Indiana!

Hello to my lovely followers! I'm so glad you are here to share my experiences in Europe with me! I will be leaving tomorrow morning and I could not be more excited! The last couple weeks are a complete blur as I was constantly worrying about all the details of my trip, but now that it is go-time, I know I am ready!

I will land in Pisa mid-day Friday if all flights go as planned.  My friend (who is also in the program with me -- thank the Lord I have her!) and I are hoping to do a little sight-seeing and then possibly hit up the coast.  I will be without a doubt taking many, many pictures to share! I'm especially looking forward to seeing the Leaning Tower (obviously) but also Nicola Pisano's carved-marble pulpit which is in the Baptistery in Pisa.  Pisano was one of the most important sculptors leading up to the Italian Renaissance period.  In fact, the date of the finished pulpit, 1260, is commonly the date used to mark the beginning of the Renaissance.

This weekend is all orientation programs with my school and classmates!  I can't wait to meet everyone, including my roommates! We will be living in a typical Italian apartment...what that all includes I am not exactly certain!  In any case, I map-quested our address and it looks like we are in a great location -- the heart of the city!

Time to get back to final packing! Next time I'll be writing from Italia!