Friday, September 28, 2007

just singing in the rain..

So it's been raining for the last three days and I'm a little worried. Because instead of putting me in a bad mood, the rain is making me realize how much I really do love this place. The fact that I am this happy in even the shittiest of conditions makes me worry that I may not be able to make myself leave. I think now would be a good time to shoot me an email telling me how fantastic America is.

I am sitting on the bus right now on my way to a museum across the Arno to sketch and I just feel so at home here. I really am concerned about not being able to leave. Hopefully I'll get homesick or something. Otherwise you guys may want to start saving up to come visit if you ever want to see me again. has great airfares, just fyi.


Ok the day only got better from there. It kept being rainy and gorgeous, and after the Specola, my sweet friend Ali came to meet me in Piazza Santo Spirito to wander around and do a little window shopping and grab some lunch. And of course, we are in Italy, so "grabbing" lunch took us a satisfying two hours, and SO miraculously, my friend Marinna just HAPPENED to walk by the adorable little outdoor caffè me and Ali had decided on (which was covered, of course), and just HAPPENED to be starving and looking for lunch. So along with Marinna's pleasant company, we also got an excuse to order another entree. SUCH a win-win. (Just fyi, we ended up with an antipasti of bresaola, rucola and shaved parmigiano reggiano, sprinkled with olive oil and fresh black pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon, followed by an insalata greca with those insanely fragrant Italian tomatoes and some particularly luscious feta, and a pizza vegetariana, layered with mozzarella di bufala, mushrooms, and grilled eggplant and zucchini. All for less than €13 each. Fantastico.)

And over lunch, Ali brought up this incident that happened a few days before, when I was scurrying around the city running errands and I ran into her and Danny on a site visit with one of their architecture classes in Piazza Signoria and we all chatted for a minute, they helped me decide that I needed a Vivoli gelato, and then we went our separate ways. I was sweaty and unshowered and in gym clothes so I really didn't think much of the encounter. But apparently after I left, Danny was all glazed over and was like "That girl is SO cool. Did you know her mom is an actress? Yeah. She's awesome." And Ali was like cracking up and was like "....yep. Pretty cool..." and said it was the funniest thing. That made me laugh. But he's still "involved with" this little dumpy girl from the program named Tamar. Boys. Who understands them?

Speaking of which, Fabrizio is REALLY not getting the whole I'm-not-so-interested thing. He still calls me at least every other day and texts me every day, and no matter WHAT he says in the text, it is always followed with one of those obnoxious winky faces. Without fail. "Alex! Are you life? ;)" (read: are you alive?) or "When you come back from Capri? ;)" or "A question? Do you like me? Sincery. Because you like me so much! ;)" (read: because i like you so much! - he seems to really struggle with the whole reflexive nature of the verb "to like" in italian... oh, language barriers...) I finally answered this last one (I had been strategically avoiding previous ones) and was like "You don't even know me! How do you know you like me so much?" to which he replied "Because when you speak you always smile! I like very much the smilegirl... What do you think of me?" and I was like "I barely know you! You seem nice... but very persistent" and he was like "the italian boys are like these. sometimes we are boring but if i like a girl i don't have any problem talking with she. Sorry for the imbarace! (no idea what that is supposed to mean.) But I am sincery with you and me. I imagine your smile.. and want to you a kiss!" Oh Jesus. How I wish I were attracted to this kid. He seems like a sweetheart but honestly it's just kind of annoying at this point. God, I'm so fucked up.

Ok I need to go digest a little. I'll keep ya'll updated... baci!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

reading in the roses

(copied from journal entry written in the Boboli Gardens)

This is so weird, but I am SO happy to be home in Florence. Or maybe what's weird is that Florence IS home, and is now really starting to feel like it. Capri was obviously incredible, but I must admit, by Sunday afternoon I was really looking forward to coming home to Florence. Home.. to Florence. Weird. And I was also strangely excited to be back in school - this week it suddenly feels like I am actually IN school again, but IN Florence, which is really exciting.

For example, yesterday our Italian teacher told us that instead of having class today, we were going to meet all the way across the Arno in Piazza Pitti to visit an artisan woodworker’s workshop. Um, okay!?!? This is so cool for many different reasons. Firstly, we got to talk to this adorable little old carpenter man in his workshop, where he restores antique woodwork, particularly frames from the Renaissance. Getting to talk to this guy who has spent his entire life making tangible things with tangible tools, all by hand, was really really inspiring. It felt like we were in the presence of an endangered species or something, or at least it felt that way to me.

Secondly, the trip was awesome because today is Tuesday, one of my amazingly free days, in which this “Italian class” (if you can call it that) is my ONLY class. Therefore I was able to wake up late (and therefore go out last night to an adorable little bar downtown called Art Bar, where the drinks themselves are like works of art, with like pounds of fresh fruit hanging over the rim of every glass, and the best mojito this side of Havana), take a nice long stroll to class, chill with a cute little craftsman, then spend the rest of the day hanging around on of the most interesting and beautiful areas of Florence. Pretty cool.

So after “class” I grabbed myself a prosciutto, mozzarella, rucola, tomato, and grilled eggplant panino with pesto from Gustapanino (I am forever indebted to you, Ashley Martin – it was the most delicious thing EVER), and headed over to the Boboli Gardens – the gardens attached to the Medici Palace, Palazzo Pitti. And with my fucking AWESOME museum card, I strolled right up to the ticket kiosk, past the 20-minute line of sad-sacks waiting to pay a full-price entrance fee, flashed the card, and was given a free ticket not only to the Gardens but to the Palazzo’s museum as well – and I could technically do this every day if I wanted to. I freaking LOVE this program.

So I am currently laying on a shady bench along an elevated rose garden that overlooks the Tuscan countryside south of Florence, with a belly full of cured pork and olive oil, about to do my Art History reading – I can’t imagine how life could get any better, really.

And it’s not just today – tomorrow my Art History class is meeting onsite at the Casa Buonarroti (as in Michelangelo Buonarroti) to look at the Michelangelos we have been studying in class, and right after that, my Italian class is watching an Italian film for the entire class period called La Finestra di Fronte, featuring the hot limoncello guy from Under the Tuscan Sun. AND, after class tomorrow, I’m going to my first football game – Roma vs. Firenze. So exciting.

And thankfully for my poor wallet, I have been given so much painting homework that I’m going to have to stick around Florence this weekend, however, I’m actually excited about it because the homework is actually really cool. Thursday after my lone Italian class, I’m gonna stick around school and do my regular painting homework, which is to do a subtractive self portrait in oil (aka painting the canvas a uniform dark tone and then carving out the lights with a rag – pretty much the most therapeutic process EVER). Then, for the next 3 weeks, the advanced students have an extra assignment to go to a different one of Florence’s more strange, lesser-known museums each week and pick out 3 scenes/objects/whatever that we are particularly drawn to, and do three separate sketches of each object: one quick sketch, one long tonal study, and one study in color. She’s really adamant about the advanced students exploring our interests and figuring out what we are attracted to, visually, which is really cool, but man, 9 separate drawings per week is VERY intense. But cool.

So Friday morning I’m hitting up this weird, somewhat-outdated zoology museum, Il Museo di Specola, to sketch badly-stuffed animals and wax figures of the human anatomy. Hahah. But luckily the museum is RIGHT in Piazza Pitti again, in the cool part of town and a block away from Gustapanino (is it sick that I’m already anticipating Friday’s lunch and it’s only Tuesday?).

Then Saturday I’m signed up for an optional trip to Ravenna to check out the Byzantine mosaics with all my Architecture friends, which should be fun and will be a nice break on the wallet (the school provides the busses and entrance fees to all the museums, etc.), and Sunday I’m wide open. I am so excited for this week.

Ok, time to leggere – a presto!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

cliffs by day.. and night

(copied from journal, obviously)

I am currently sitting on a giant cliff overlooking all of Capri and the beautiful Mediterranean. We are drinking wine and eating panini and talking about the inherent good or evil of mankind. This is bliss. It weirds me out that Ian and even Sandy (sort of) can have a substantial, thoughtful conversation when they are sober, but act like raving imbeciles when they are drunk. Oh, the joys of alcohol...

After our lovely free breakfast at the hotel, we took a funicular (no one seems to know what this besides me so think of a ski lift-type thing) from Anacapri centro up a huge mountain to get here, and it's basically the most breathtaking vantage point I can ever remember witnessing. I think I've taken at least 200 photos in the past hour and am now sketching the view. Glorious.


What a fucking day. So surreal. So we had that amazing day like a bazillion meters above sea level and then went down to the beach to catch some rays and take a dip and that beautiful ocean. When we got back to the villa for the evening, Mel and Ian stopped by the pool for a minute and met a girl who was studying abroad in Rome from Brown University and came to Capri for the weekend by herself. She was super adorable so they invited her to dinner with us- we were planning to go to the famously gorgeous Grotta Azzurra and have a little dinner somewhere where we could enjoy the view.

We decide to walk because the people with the map (Sandy and Ian - BIG mistake) said that the Grotta wasn't too far from our place, so we set off as the sun is setting. It's a lovely walk and I'm getting to know this totally sweet girl who is actually from New York City as well, when all the sudden we realize that Sandy and Ian (who had apparently drank like a half a bottle of Courvoisier before leaving - these kids get classier by the minute) have essentially led us to a mountain hiking trail, which is MOST DEFINITELY not on the map and MOST DEFINITELY not leading anywhere populated. So obviously, me, Ally, new girl Jen and my friend Jess who met up with us late Friday night all piped up and were like uhh, maybe instead of stumbling into pitch darkness we should perhaps turn around and ind the main road and either catch a cab or ask for directions, but miraculously, Sandy, Ian, and even Mel and Marinna were like no I'm sure this will take us somewhere.... !?!? I mean, call me crazy, but I'm not ok with scaling the face of the cliff, IN THE DARK, with only the vague hope of at some point in the indeterminate future, arriving... SOMEWHERE. Um, no thanks? So since the four of us had no luck whatsoever trying to convince the drunkies to come to their senses, we figured tromping into the wilderness might teach them a lesson, so we about-faced and caught a cab back to Anacapri and ended up having the loveliest dinner that I've had since arrive in Italy.

Our cab driver recommended the restaurant to us (Ristorante La Rondinella, for those of you planning a trip to Anacapri in the near future), and sure enough there we found the most authentic, delicious Caprese meal you could ever imagine. Caprese salad (obviously), but also ravioli Capresi, perhaps the most memorable component of the meal for me - instead of the usual grainy ricotta filling you find in most ravioli, these ravioli were filled with the freshest, purest mozzarella di bufala, cooked perfectly (the capresi never overcook their pasta) and dressed with, I swear to god, the same sauce that was on my pizza from Pizzeria da Michele. I know Campania (the region of Italy where Naples and Capri are located) is famous for its mozzarella and tomatoes, but I didn't realize what a crazy difference that would make.

We also had some PERFECTLY grilled squid, a plate of linguine arrabiatta with langoustines, and spaghetti con frutta di mare - all in all a fantastic meal with fantastic company. I had a 20 minute conversation with Jen about our favorite bars and restaurants in New York - we fawned over Da Silvano and Bread, disagreed on Bar Americain (she didn't order the meat - who goes to a Bobby Flay restaurant and doesn't order the steaky-est thing on the menu??), and traded burger recommendations, all while eating impeccable Italian seafood. You can imagine my state of euphoria.

When we got home, the drunkies were, again, drunk, this time all spooning and eating Nutella. Weird. There seem to be talks about going out all the way in Capri but me Jess and Ally are so food coma-ed out that I think we're just gonna pass out and leave the drunkies to their own devices. If you don't hear from me again it will probably be because they burned the house down or something. And on that note... buonanotte!

"ho bisogno di whiskey"

I mean, this place is SO unbelievable beautiful. When my ferry arrived, I got into a convertible taxi (them Capresi sure do know how to travel) and headed straight to Marina Piccola. I didn't realize how vertical the island was; since I arrived at Marina Grande, the cab had to take me up and over a mountain, essentially, to get to Marina Piccola on the other side of the island. Which means I got to soak up some of the most INCREDIBLE views just in the first 10 minutes of setting foot on the island. The cabbie even pulled over at a certain spot that is particularly breathtaking and told me to take a picture. Haha he's got his priorities straight.

I arrived at the beach, gave myself a few minutes to stop freaking out about how gorgeous everything is (the beach itself was out of this world - it was a little cove surrounded by gorgeous cliffs lined with pine trees, and of course that obnoxiously beautiful water), and then dove right in. Perfect temperature, gloriously salty - simply amazing. I am so incredibly happy to be here.

After the beach we went back to our PRIVATE VILLA to change before dinner- our apartment itself is so beautiful. Just the view from the roof alone is so amazing. We got our shit together and then wandered up and down many hills to Anacapri centro for dinner. The island itself is essentially divided into two main towns - the shopping/tourist mecca Capri and the quieter, more elevated Anacapri, where we stayed (Mel described the island as a curvaceous woman, with Anacapri forming the boobs, Capri the hips, and Marina Piccola and Marina Grande carving out either side of the waist. This was after a particularly wine-soaked lunch, mind you). Dinner was fantastic but boy, did my travel companions show their true colors tonight.

So I knew Mel and Marinna had planned this trip, and were bringing three friends - Ally, who I had gone to Viareggio with, and two people I didn't know, Sandy and Ian. From the start I could tell that Sandy was a bit of an airhead but seemed like she meant well, while Ian had some potential to actually be somewhat interesting. HOWEVER, after a bottle of crappy wine they felt the need to buy at the grocery store before dinner and in the context of a particularly lengthy dinner (read: slow-ass service), their truly ignorant-American colors came shining through. Out-loud burping at the table (I mean, I'm guilty behind closed doors, but in a RESTAURANT?? Come on!!!); talking incredibly loud, particularly when swearing; Ian ordering a Jack and Coke while we were drinking a perfectly lovely bottle of white wine, and rather than saying "I would like.." or "would it be possible for me to order.." he yells at the waiter, "ho bisogno di WHISKEY!!", or, essentially "I NEED WHISKEY!" Oh jesus.

Then, after the waiter already has no respect for us, Ian orders a caffè latte after dinner. Now, this could be an honest mistake- many Americans do not realize that 1) a caffè latte is a trashy drink in the first place for anyone over the age of 8, and more importantly, 2) drinking milk anytime after noon is considered kind of gross, and almost an insult to the chef if ordered after a nice meal. But it's a mistake anyone could make. So the waiter shoots Ian a "come on now, buddy" look, I quickly fill Ian in on what's going on, and instead of being like oh, sorry and ordering an espresso or nothing at all, he goes, "I don't fucking care what HE wants me to do, I am American and I was taught that the CUSTOMER is always right, so tell him to bring me a damn latte!" Obviously, I was appalled. Repulsed. Ally, Mel and Marinna all cringed with me, but Sandy chimed right in with "Yeah! And this shit took so long I don't even want to pay! We should bolt on the check!" And Ally and I were like, um, feel free to "bolt" if you must, but we are going to stay and pay for you, and then you are going to owe us money, so you might as well stay and pay for yourselves... you GIANT ASSWIPES. Only I didn't say it quite like that. But WHEW. I would LOVE to meet their parents. That whole encounter really showed me that I may not know who I am just yet but I definitely know who I am not, and luckily I am not a classless American dickwad. Thank you, Julie White.

I'm exhausted after quite a long day of traveling, extreme class and beauty, and utter vulgarity. I need to give my brain/body/soul a rest. A domani...

Friday, September 21, 2007


I just consumed an entire pizza from one of the best pizzerias in the world... partially in a cab, partially on a ferry... and entirely with my hands. Hahaha.

I was in a rush to catch a ferry so I forgot to ask for a knife and fork, which is kind of sad because by the time I got the chance to sit down on the ferry and actually EAT the damn thing (the cabbie was being all anal about not getting oil on the seat... doesn't he UNDERSTAND the urgency?!?!?), it was basically cold. But don't you think for a second that that was gonna stop me from eating it... all... from a box in my lap... with my hands... in public. Pshh. Good thing it only cost €4.50, because I have a feeling I am going to be freakin' impoverished after this trip.

So about that pizza...
The sauce was probably the best part. PERFECT. I don't think I've ever had a better sauce. I can't even think of an accurate way to describe it, other than that it tasted crystal clear - like pure, untainted tomato. Sweet and tangy so that it made those glands by your jawline tingle. Heaven. The crust was pretty dreamy too. So chewy and tender - kind of a problem when it came to tearing pieces off with my bare hands, but once it hit my tongue I didn't give a crap how barbaric I looked. I was experiencing euphoria, ok?? Give a girl a break. it was hard to judge the cheese since I didn't really get around to it until it had kind of coagulated a little, but I did score one hot, perfect bite in the cab when the driver wasn't looking, and from that I can say that doppia mozzarella is the only way to go. Gimme cheese, baby, gimme cheeeeese!!!! Ok, time to spruce myself up a little and get ready to take in some serious beauty. Ciao ciao!

Capri, baller-style.

(copied from journal on train from Florence to Naples)

So I wasn't able to reach the ferry companies to confirm whether or not there would be a ferry late enough for me to be able to take a train from Assisi in the afternoon and still make it to Capri tonight, soooo I skipped the Assisi trip altogether. Haha, choices were made... But here's my thinking: Assisi will still be gorgeous in the dead of winter, while Capri definitely will not. I still have 3 whole months in Italy - Assisi can wait.

Now. Since I came to this decision at the very last second, I unfortunately discovered that the coach section of the train was sold out, leaving me to decide between a €76 first-class ticket, or a €53 standing-only ticket. Since the seatless ticket wasn't even that cheap anyway, I figured why make my journey excessively hellish just to save €20, soooo I went balls-out and am now sitting amongst the Italian upper-crust in the first-class section of a Eurostar train. There are electric outlets and tables (not fold-down trays; like, REAL tables), little men wandering around offering us free newspapers and refreshments, and I'm basically swimming in my enormous, cushy seat. I can sleep without fear of my shit being stolen, and all in all, if I'm going to one of the most exclusive and luxurious island locales anyway, I might as well travel in style, no?

So basically, I'm counting this trip as my first big splurge in Italy. I have enough purses and shoes for now - I'd much rather spend my money on delicious seafood, breathtaking views, and turquoise water any day. Plus, now that I'm arriving with plenty of time to catch a ferry, I may even get to make a pilgrimage to the reputed best pizzeria in all of Naples, and therefore in all of Italy, and therefore in all the WORLD, L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Not too shabby.


Oh my god oh my god oh my god this is incredible. I am getting a freakin' tour of the Tuscan countryside on this train right now. I can never get my camera out fast enough so you will have to trust me that the views are out of this world - there are flocks of sheep munching on lush hills, quaint little towns, countless vineyards and orchards and farmlands (oh my!).... simply gorgeous. This is amazing.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

decisions, decisions...

Oh man. There is no better place for anxiety-eating than qui in Italia – I managed to consume 4 separate gelato flavors today (a cone with menta and fiordilatte at lunch, and a nocciola and cioccolato on my way home from school) on account of being semi-stressed by the excessive amount of stumbling around aimlessly on Italian transportation websites to try to figure out how the hell to make this proposed Capri trip work.

So: I’m here in Italy, I have no plans for the next two weekends, and I want to travel. The weather is beautiful and perfect for beach-going, but it's so stressful trying to coordinate with people to get anywhere. Today was the first time I really missed having well-established friendships and people who I know share the same interests, etc etc, because then we could just agree on where we want to go, plan our trips, and be done with it. However, since that is NOT the case, and since I’m always the one planning shit back in real-life-America, I’ve just totally taken a back-seat here, figuring that everyone is traveling and there is always room for one more, so I might as well let everyone else do the planning and just hop onto whichever trip that works.

This weekend, Capri sounded pretty awesome, and Mel, Marinna, and a few of their friends were planning some elaborate trip that they invited me to join them on so I figured I’d just do that and boom, there would be a freaking amazing weekend right there. However, they all embarked on their journey this afternoon, and I am still signed up for a class trip to Assisi for tomorrow, so I just assumed that I’d leave from Assisi tomorrow afternoon to go meet up with them in Capri. Unfortunately, that is way more of a hassle than I originally assumed…

So here’s my problem. Thus far, I have kind of just been blindly assuming that everywhere in Italy is about a 3-hour, €10, non-stop, direct train ride away, which with today’s reality check, I realized is so obviously not the case. Capri is, in fact, a 5-hour, €40 train ride away, with a layover in Rome, and then requires an hour-and-a-half ferry ride from Naples to the actual island of Capri. Which would be a totally fun and exciting adventure with friends, but unfortunately, I would have to do the whole trip alone, since I would be MEETING people there, not going WITH them. Also, I’d be leaving later in the afternoon from Assisi, so there’s a chance that by the time I arrive in Naples, there will be no more ferries to Capri for the night and I will have to spend the night in Naples... by myself... eek.

But then again, since I did have a group of friends beating out the path for me (they are already there by now- they made the whole train/ferry trip earlier today, and have already set up an apartment rental right on the island for all three nights), I figured I’d just relax for now since everything is kind of out of my control at this point, and just wait to hear from them when they get there, so they can tell me how the train ride was, what the ferry schedule is for tomorrow, how the apartment is, what the weather is like, etc, so I can make a more informed decision on whether or not it's worth going through the semi-gruelling travel, or if I’d rather just come back to Florence with the group from Assisi and take some more manageable day trips, like checking out Fiesole or hitting up the Miu Miu/Prada/other Italian whatnot outlets a couple of minutes outside of the city. However, I’ve been calling them all evening and have not heard back from them since they first got on the train. I have a bad feeling that cell reception is very shotty down there and therefore I am kind of fucked on the whole words-from-the-wise plan. Bleh.

But I made it my motto for my time here in Italy that I will never pass up a cool opportunity on the basis of a) money, b) homework or c) convenience, so therefore, I’m just gonna pack shit for Capri and bring it with me to Assisi, and if I haven’t heard from them by the time we get off the bus in Assisi then I’ll just leave my shit on the bus and come back to Florence with everyone else. In the meantime I’m just gonna check the train schedule and try to track down an updated ferry schedule, and hope for the best. Ohhh man. Let the adventures begin…

all in the family.

What a nice night. Took a break from the whole climb-up-the-hill-every-night-at-8-pm-for-dinner-regardless-of-whether-or-not-that-is-remotely-convenient and had a nice night in town with some friends. The studio arts program here treats us so well, I swear to god – they started this new program where they opened up an art gallery, not just for student work but for visiting artists as well, and tonight was their first opening, which featured a group of photographers from California (ironically), who each gave a little introduction to their work (there were I think 4 of them), followed by a full-on reception with hors d’ouerves and free champagne. So I had a nice little convesation with Mel about the progression of photography as an art form, a few glasses of spumante, and then meandered over to Sam, Jess and Tyler’s apartment to figure out where we wanted to go out to dinner. Yes, OUT to dinner. I finally got to go to a restaurant IN Florence and order what I was actually in the MOOD for. SO exciting.

We ended up wandering down a little street off of Borgo Pinti and stopped into a cute little trattoria called Acquacotta – which ended up being SUCH a score. Between the four of us, we had a vegetable terrine with melted mozzarella, followed by spinach and ricotta ravioli with ragù and porcini mushrooms, risotto with zucchini, langoustines and saffron, pheasant ravioli with truffled cream sauce, an entire grilled seabass (like, a fish on a plate, with eyeballs and all), and a bottle of house white, all for around €14 per person. Not too shabby. And it was the sweetest little place - it's been there forever and there was a really old photo on the wall of this little old couple, and it was almost frightening how much the current hostess looked like the woman and the chef manhandling our fish resembled the man. Talk about a family business. Such good food with such fun people, and of course we grabbed a gelato on the way home (I had menta, although Tyler’s vanilla-cherry was pretty damn tasty). All in all a nice, low-key night. And on that note, to my bed I go… buonanotte!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

field trips and Freud.

SUCH a productive day. I am very happy with my decision to stick with the bipolar schedule because today was my easy day and I was able to get SOO much done - I FINALLY switched cell plans so I won't be broke by the time I leave this place, I FINALLY got my books (well, some of them...), I FINALLY got my internet up and running, and I FINALLY got a gelato from the reputed best gelateria in all of Florence, Vivoli... cioccolata ricca and banana. It was PRETTY freakin' good.

Oh, and that whole school thing - not so bad either. My painting class seems like it's going to be intense but honestly, when is painting NOT intense for me, and let's face it, I'm pretty good at it. And I really like the teacher - even though the prospect of spending so much time in a studio when I could be out wandering around Florence is kind of scary, I'm really glad I'm doing this because I think I'm gonna learn a lot from her, particularly about letting go of my ego and just EXPLORING, which I think is really important for where I am right now, artistically. Plus the advanced students got our private studio spaces yesterday (there are only 5 of us out of the whole 300+ person program, which is pretty cool) and the room is divided into 5 stations so we drew straws for who got which and of course I got the biggest one with the best light and most wall space.... I'm just waiting for the bad karma to kick in, haha.

Printmaking is awesome as well - it's literally only 3 students in this amazing studio with the typical jolly male art teacher who makes us laugh and talks about food all the time (Mr. Weiss, anyone?). I can tell the class is gonna be total therapy - there is absolutely no pressure at all, and it's amazing to actually be learning new SKILLS every week, instead of just "building upon my experience" like with painting and worrying about being all sophisticated - with printmaking I am literally just playing around with various scratchy tools and ink. Very cool.

And I'm very happy about my choice for Art History - the professor is indeed awesome, SO smart and involved in the field, the reading is really interesting (and PORTABLE, thank god, unlike all my studio homework) and I'm glad that I'm getting to focus more on the later period of the Renaissance - Botticelli is indeed amazing, but I'm not particularly enthralled by most of his contemporaries; bring on the da Vinci and Michelangelo any day.

Oh and Italian is... just so necessary. Plus our professor is an adorable old lady who goes on 20-minute tangents about restaurants we need to go to, and is very intense about correcting us when we speak, which is awesome, because I get the feeling that when I talk to my host mother I am pretty much unintelligible but she is too nice to ever correct me so I would never make any progress if it weren't for my class. All in all, things are just pretty damn good. Like, in every way. Good luck getting me to ever leave this place.

So it looks like I'm going to be hitting up the Amalfi Coast this weekend.... a bunch of people are going Thursday afternoon and renting an apartment right in Capri until Sunday evening, but I can't decide if I want to go right away with them or stay on the class trip to Assisi that I signed up for on Friday and just take the train straight from there to meet them Friday night. Assisi is supposed to be BEAUTIFUL and this is my last chance to go via the school (aka for free), AND a bunch of my architecture friends are going since it's required for arch. students... but how often do you get the chance to spend three whole days on the Amalfi Coast during a heat wave? Decisions, decisions... Life is tough, huh? Ok, I need to stop procrastinating and actually do some reading. We're reading a critique of Freud's analysis of Leonardo da Vinci for class tomorrow.... An art historian trashing Freud's shotty conclusions? Sounds juicy to me...

Monday, September 17, 2007

il biglietto è convalidato?

OMG everything is so exciting right now. I just looked over the schedule of weekend trips that Syracuse offers, and with those, in addition to side trips I want to take on my own, it looks like I may be going to a new gorgeous place every freaking weekend from now until the end of the program. I don’t wanna jinx my good plans by listing everything but you KNOW I’ll be gushing about every place I go, so don’t you worry; there is plenty of time for vicarious living.

As for this past weekend, I had such a great time. I went out again Saturday night (I took Friday off to ward off this cold that been looming dangerously close to my nasal passages for the past week) and basically just had a super-fun, random night – went to a cheesy dance club called Twice but had an AWESOME time dancing my ass off anyway. No italiano encounters this time around – Fabrizio’s persistence has kind of worn on my nerves and I spent most of the night calling upon my ragazzi americani to guard me from leering Giuseppes and Giovannis. Had a great time dancing with Tyler (I admit I have joined the mass of girls who have a pseudo-crush on him… god damn you good-looking, charming boys… why aren’t there more of you to go around??) and by the end of the night me, him, and a few girls I had actually just met that night started the excruciating yet inevitable 45-minute trek back home, thanks to the little 2am-3am siesta that Italian taxis seem to enjoy taking. BUT, this time the transportation gods smiled upon us and randomly a cab opened up RIGHT in front of us. HEAVEN. And, by the end of the cab ride, I had managed to make a plan to go to the beach with these newfound girlfriends the next day, AND didn’t end up having to pay for the cab either because when I dropped everyone else off (I was a separate stop since I live so freaking far up in the hills), these random chicks from our program hopped in the cab and were like “we can take you home first, just PLEASE let us get in this cab!” and since I only had a €50 on me, I couldn’t give them anything for my portion of the trip. Haha, sweet.

So miraculously, the beach trip actually ended up happening the next day, with only a few minor snags. I braved the Florence bus system by myself for the first time, which was rather painless, actually, and when I got to the train station to meet the girls, we bought our tickets and got on our train. Nice and easy. However, apparently there is some arbitrary step between buying the ticket and getting on the train that we missed (which involved some sort of mysterious validation machine), that ended up costing us a €25 fine when the ticket-taker man came to check our ticket about, oh, TWO minutes before we arrived at our destination. Why anything more than paying for a ticket and showing that ticket on the train is required is beyond me, but no use crying over spilled milk… or.. un-validated train tickets? Whatever.

After the minor setback we arrive, only slightly poorer, at Viareggio, a pretty little beach town on the Mediterranean, just a few minutes west of Pisa. We grab a slice of pizza on our way to the beach (remember, we are in ITALY, so this is VERY VERY yummy) and all instantly pass out the moment our heads hit the fluffy sand. Which of course results in a nice heat rash for me (oh, the woes of being a Nordic white girl), but luckily is nothing more than a nice tan now. After a few hours of strenuous beach-laying and frolicking in the Mediterraneo, we get back on the train. So after all is said and done, we basically took an hour and a half train ride to take a nap. But you know what? That’s how we roll in Italia.

By the time we got back to the train station we were ravenous and stopped at the nearest restaurant and had an enormous Tuscan meal – and I, in a typically Alex fashion, ordered pizza, AGAIN. There is no such thing as too much of a good thing. Hence why I ate the whole pie. Plus a large portion of the tortellini alla fiorentina and prosciutto e melone that Lally and Kaley ordered (yes, those are their names. Gotta love it). All in all, a day well spent.

I feel like that post was boring. But now I’ve written it all so you’re just gonna have to deal with it, sorry. Now I am deliriously tired after my excessively intense 10-hour schoolday (and possibly most delicious host meal yet: garden-fresh fagiolini, insalata with the most delicious home-grown pomodori EVER, pan-fried chicken, and bruschetta on homemade bread… with the usual 3-4 italian chocolates for dessert. Obviously.) More later. Buonanotte!

Friday, September 14, 2007

fine art and alcohol.

I am so happy that the last 24 hours happened. By the end of this week I had gotten myself into a bit of a funk, what with not being able to decide on my classes and being too tired to ever go out and therefore feeling really disconnected from people, and spending most of my time with Mel and Marinna who are kind of having a hard time adjusting and therefore complain a lot, which tricks me into thinking I am unhappy too when really I’m definitely not, plus throw a little PMS in there, and basically it’s the formula for funk-iness (but not the 70’s-disco kind). But I knew that I had absolutely nothing to do Friday morning and therefore could go out Thursday with no consequences, and I did and it was great. I was worried that I had kind of lost touch with the Vassar/architecture kids whom I really like, especially Sam and Tyler (Jess is in my Italian class so we see each other every day), since we had never really gotten to hang out, so I ended up just stopping in at their place after dinner to say hi, and it was great. Sam had what could only be called a "man-friend" over, so Tyler and I took the hint and left to meet up with a bunch of the other architecture kids to go downtown and do a little bar-hopping, which was just so necessary. It just felt good to realize that I can still jump in with a giant crowd of strangers and be totally fine – all that time with Mel and Marinna, who tend to kind of isolate themselves from everyone, had me a little worried, but all was well.

I got to rekindle with the strange kid who sat next to me on the plane, which is a story that I think I forgot to write about at first… Basically, he and a couple of his other Syracuse architecture friends had gotten drunk at the airport before the group flight (how utterly collegiate-male of them) and had apparently been sitting a couple of rows away from me and the people I was sitting with at the gate, and right when everyone got up to board, he and his friends bounded over to talk to us and he was particularly, um, friendly with me but I kind of played along in a sort of you-are-a-drunk-frat-boy-and-therefore-i-am-better-than-you-but-I-will-still-play-along-cuz-its-fun kind of way, and then we all got on the plane in our assigned seats and that was that. But his assigned seat was only a few away from mine and he and his friends were hard to miss what with the drunken rowdiness, and eventually, when the girl sitting next to me got up to go to the bathroom, Danny came right over and took her seat. haha. And it was just a very strange encounter: he sat there for the rest of the flight, we basically talked the whole time, he was actually totally charming, in an in-the-process-of-sobering-up kind of way, getting all deep about architecture and music and like, how much he liked me?? It was very odd. But kind of endearing… but once we got off the flight I barely saw him again. Here and there, sure, but you would never have thought we sat next to each other on the plane and talked for like 4 hours, you know?

So anyway, back to last night – so in this large group of rowdy architecture students (I guess you're not the only rowdy one, Pat) was Danny, and again we didn’t really talk much until we got to the bar and he randomly bought me a drink, in what I thought was a kind of here's-to-sharing-random-drunken-encounters way, but then later it seemed not to be so… but in the meantime we all left and went to a different bar, where Fabrizio and his friend came to meet me, which was fun but kind of... I just don’t think I like him, to be honest; it would still be fun to be friends with him, but its hard enough to convey that to American boys, let alone someone who barely speaks English. So I don’t even know where we left it; Fab didn’t even meet up with me until around 1 am, so after about an hour most of my friends were leaving anyway, and I wanted to walk back with them, so we parted ways and I don’t even know what to do about that one.

But anyway, the walk back ends up being me and Danny and his two girl roommates, with Tyler trailing in the back with some girl he had been macking on all night, and I was just gonna come up to their apartment to call a cab but it has come to my attention that cab companies here turn retarded after about 2 am (basically as soon as you actually NEED them), so I had no luck and was just going to walk home as the whole way is very well-lit and major-street-ish, but Danny basically said no way and insisted on walking me back, and I thought he was just being chivalrous but it seemed to be motivated by more than that, cause he grabbed my hand right away and I didnt even know what to do because I've gotta be honest, it's nice to be shown innocent affection every once in a while... but then it seemed like he was gonna try to kiss me and he was just so obviously drunk that I basically said dude, I am not going to make out with you on the street and he was like "damn, well at least I gave it a shot" and we had a good laugh but then we got to talking about how it was weird that I never saw him around anymore and he seems to only talk to me when he's drunk and all of the sudden he got all intense again and was like “to be honest, I’m really intimidated by you, I think you are beautiful, etc etc” and it was just a little out of left field and I'm always surprised when boys express genuine affection without any ulterior motive (sorry guys, I know you're not all bad, but I'm just a little scarred), so I didn’t even really know what to say. Then he started to get all “you would never like a guy like me,” so basically I just said stop being a whiny drunk boy, I really appreciate you walking me home, I want to make sure you get back home safe, we will talk later. So who knows what the fuck to make of that. I have two boys vying for my attention right now but I'm not taking the bait and I don’t particularly know why. To be honest, I feel like I've been here a week and a half and don’t particularly want to settle on the first thing that comes along, but now I feel like I'm being a little ridiculous. Who knows. But literally since I started writing this post, Fabrizio has called me 3 times and I'm just not down. To be honest I just don’t feel like trying to speak Italian and be subtle at the same time, so I'm just avoiding his calls. Ohhh, language barriers.

Ok but ANYWAY, that is my current social situation, but what was also really great about the last 24 hours is that all day today I wandered around Florence and went to the Uffizi an hour before closing just because I could (Syracuse gives us a card that gives us free entrance to all the museums here, so why the flip not, eh?). It just totally helped me put into perspective all the little meaningless shit that’s been getting under my skin these past few days and has given me a bit of a wake-up call, like, look around you IDIOT, you are in FLORENCE for god's sake!! So I did, and it was great. This place is so freakin' beautiful and just the sheer number of gelato flavors I am going to get to sample in the next four months (mascarpone-nutella-pear, anyone?) is enough of a reality check to keep any whiny inner-thoughts at bay. Boo-ya depression, gelato is here to save the day!!

Ok, I'm sorry for this epic-novel of a post, mostly about arbitrary boy issues. I promise to talk about more important things from now on. But who's to say l’amore is not important? this is Italy after all…

PS I had stuffed eggplant and a baked pasta-frittata type thing for dinner tonight. Just for those of you who are really only here for the food. A presto…

Thursday, September 13, 2007

baci and basil burps.

Ok so even being sick in Italy is better than anywhere else – PMSing just means having an excuse to eat more gelato, to have nutella for breakfast, and request baci perugini (Italian chocolate-covered hazelnuts) after dinner.. AND after dessert. And the other day I ate way too much pasta caprese for lunch, but instead of feeling sick, I just burped the most beautiful basil-scented burps. This is awesome.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Alex does school.

Ohhh Jesus. This has been the most cracked-out week of school EVER. Since when do I drink double cappuccinos like water?? I feel like I have been here for a month already and yesterday it was only one week since we arrived. Maybe it's because I am currently taking SEVEN classes instead of five because I am being the most indecisive freakshow ever and can't decide what classes I want to take. What it looks like it's going to be is class on Monday and Wednesday from 9am-7pm STRAIGHT with only one 20-minute break, but then only ONE class Tues and Thurs, Italian from 11-1. Crazy? Yes. Classically Alex? Obviously.

So heres the deal. We have to take 6 units of Italian language no matter what (mine is from 11-1 Mon-Thurs). Then I let the painting teacher talk me into signing up for all studio art classes for my last 3 classes (printmaking, advanced painting, and figure drawing). Later that day I realized I would rather die than do that, so I decided I’d take an art history course instead of one of the studios to break up the monotony and, because, well, I AM IN FLORENCE. Like, THE birthplace of the Renaissance. I think the art gods would shoot me dead if I were here and did NOT study some freakin' Renaissance art. But the only studio that made sense to drop was figure drawing, which was the only one on Tuesday and Thursday (printmaking is 1-4 and painting is 4-7, both on Mon and Wed). And the only art history course I wanted to take (a good mix of not-too-much work but a good solid basis of info, plus a GREAT teacher and lots of trips and site visits) was ALSO on Monday and Wednesday. From 9-10:30. AM. Yikes.

Another option was to take this super-intense seminar class on Botticelli with the same teacher, where the whole class is basically organized around producing a GIANT research paper where you do a 45-minute presentation @ the end of the semester, which meets Tuesday from 3-6, but like, if I were gonna be doing that much work I might as well have just taken the 3 studios and at least gotten credit towards my major… so basically, Sunday and Tuesday nights I am totally out of commission, but the rest of my week I am free to go out and experience Florence (aka find myself a Giovanni or perhaps a Lorenzo), since I can get most of my work done on those empty Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. I'm sure there will be a future entry about how much I hate myself for making this decision, but for now I am happy with it… and frankly, a little excited about the bipolarity of it in my own twisted little way. Or maybe I'm just delirious from lack of sleep. Who knows. WHEEEEE I’M IN ITALY!! A presto…

Oh and PS – I found a gelateria that serves authentic fiordilatte. 2 blocks away from school, no less. FRANNY’S PIZZERIA, KISS MY ASS!!!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

una pizza e un Fabrizio.

Ok seriously, if I keep living like this I think I might OD on happiness. I really don’t remember ever having as carefree (or food-filled) of a day in my life as I did today. I'm pretty much writing it down to prove to myself that it actually happened.

So I wake up at 11 or so, lounge around, faccio un po di colazione (hazlenut toast with jam, yogurt, some biscotti.. and, well, a couple pieces of chocolate. When in Rome… or.. Florence?), then spend the entire day wandering aimlessly throughout the city with my roommate. The WHOLE day. We walked down tiny Borgo Pinti to Piazza Santa Croce, grabbed a panino (my first truly Italian panino, the first of many firsts of the day – bresaola, pomodori, arugula and grana on a deliciously salty and olive-oily ciabatta), and then finally had my first gelato italiano (I was waiting for a place that looked sufficiently creamy – I got nocciola of course, and a little crema). We met up with Mel in the Piazza della Signoria, perhaps the most beautiful place on earth, and had to stop and admire the gorgeousness on the patio at Pasticceria Riviore, a rather overpriced yet incredibly delicious/perfectly executed outdoor caffè, where I indulged in my SECOND gelato italiano of the day, about 30 minutes after my first. Italy just does that to you, I guess. After sufficiently stuffing ourselves with beauty and heavy cream, we wandered down to the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge that crosses the Arno and is lined with little shops, mostly jewelry and perfume stores. SO breathtaking. We strolled along south of the Arno until we hit the next bridge, then crossed back over and headed home to shower before dinner.

Tonight we went out for dinner – Elisa wanted her friends to meet us, so we all met at a quaint little pizzeria called L’Antica something-or-other (yes, I am a tard and have already forgotten the name), and I basically had the meal that I always have at Franny’s, except 100 times more Italian, and by that I mean instead of a half a pizza and half a dessert per person, we each ate a whole pie, a whole dessert, plus antipasti (little golden balls which they could only describe as pane fritto, aka fried bread; fresh cheese, like before it even fully becomes mozzarella, studded with shaved black truffle; and salty prosciutto cotto) and of course a bottle of red and a limoncello after dessert. My pizza, called La Bella Napoli, was basically a glorified margherita, but man was it glorified. Fresh pomodorini, mozzarella di bufala, basil, and what had to be at least half a bottle of olive oil. Era esquisita. And my dessert, an homage to Franny’s, was panna cotta, complete with a little sprinkling of macerated berries to keep my fat little hand coming back for more. And although most of this food was being forced upon me once I hit about the halfway point of the pizza, I still managed to find room for a bite of Tashiya’s nutella crepe and Elisa’s pizza di frutta (basically a shitload of cream on top of some crispy thing with some fruit somewhere in the middle – pretty much awesome.)

So yeah. I was pretty much crippled after this 2-hour affair, but managed to drag myself back to Piazza Savonarola with my roommate, mainly for some freakin' exercise and time to digest, but also to meet up with Mel and Marinna and scope out i ragazzi italiani. The crowd seemed smaller and younger this time, like high school age, so I called our new Italian friend Fabrizio to see what was going on with him and his gang and they actually drove to Savonarola to chill with us even though I told him we could only stay for like 30 minutes since I'm going to Cinque Terre at the asscrack of dawn tomorrow (expect another gushy post about this later). It was fun, but we were all tired and I was gonna call a cab but Fab insisted on driving me home, which was really cute - I didn't realize that he kind of has a little crush on me until he got a little awkward in the car, haha. It's really funny, he always tries to talk to me in his broken English and I always respond in my broken Italian, so I feel like if we had a transcript of our conversations it would be freakin' HILARIOUS. But when he dropped me off he was like (imagine a really thick Italian accent): "Alex, Iya wanta tooa aska youa a questione... dooa youa elike eme?" And I couldn't help but kind of laugh, and in all honesty I don't think I do like him romantically, it's just nice to have a non-skeezy Italian friend to hang out with, so I basically said "non so adesso... vediamo," which basically means I don't know yet, we will see. So that's that. But I'm exhausted now so I'll keep you posted. No pun intended. Ciao!

Friday, September 7, 2007


So I'm sitting on the terrace right now, soaking up the gorgeous Tuscan sun after my first long, leisurely sleep of this trip. There's nothing left to worry about so now I am just sleeping like a big ol' rock.

Last night I had my first truly Italian notte: after a delicious homecooked meal of chicken with funghi misti, insalata, and the rest of the torta di mela from our first night here, I got myself dressed, called a cab (in Italian, chiaro), ran down my strada privata in my cute little boots and scarf (its already getting chilly here- ☹), and made my way down to Piazza dei Ferrucci, on the other side of the Arno. I met up with Mel and Marinna, my two friends who are actually also fine arts majors at USC (Mel I knew from before, Marinna I just met here) and Marinna’s 23-year-old host brother, Luca, and his friends at a English pub called Joyce (un po’ inautentico, if you ask me, but what are you gonna do). After a drink there we hopped into one of Luca’s friend’s TINY Italian cars to go to none other than Piazza Savonarola – the same Piazza where our campus is! At night apparently the Piazza turns into a huge hangout for 20-something Italians, where a newsstand-by-day turns into a bar when the sun goes down, where they give you pretty much whatever they feel like and you take it with pleasure (we were given two giant Heinekens, and WAY too much change – it pays to hang around swamped bars haha) which is verrry good to know, for those nights when I’m not done with studio until 7 pm… and all in all, the night was just really fun. We met some really nice people, many of whom did not speak a word of English, but whom I miraculously was totally able to communicate with anyway, and I even managed to come away with some phone numbers and promises of a tour of the best nightlife later in the week. Non c’è male…

So not only did I learn that I actually am pretty damn good at Italian, but that it really is true what they say – Italian men are freakin' gorgeous. Period. At least ¾ of them are attractive, with about ½ being justifiably ogle-worthy. I think I'm going to like it here.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

WHOA. I'm in Italy.

Hoooo lyyyyyy shit. So I just met my host mother Elisa today, and I'm at my house now, and, I mean, SERIOUSLY? Seriously. How did this happen. How am I in Florence right now at the most gorgeous house with my OWN ROOM? That looks out over Fiesole? With an outdoor terrace off my hallway… that looks out over all of Florence?? Was I a saint in a past life or something? WTF.

Ok so rewind… mia mamma is an older woman who has two grown sons (like, REALLY grown, they're like mid-to-late 30s) so she now lives alone in a gorgeous, GIANT apartment in a BEAUTIFUL residential area on the northeast quasi-periphery of Florence (aka a 15-minute walk to class, which is also not-so-central, and probably a 20-minute bus ride to the center of town, like the Duomo area). But the exchange for being kind of far away is that my roommate and I (who also goes to USC… how random!) each get our own rooms… which is TOTALLY unheard of. And ALSO, she has internet in the house which she's letting us use for free (although I haven’t figured out how to configure it quite yet…), which is also totally unheard of. And one room is way better than the other, so neither of us could bear the idea of rock-paper-scissoring for it for the whole four months, so we are gonna switch rooms halfway through.. but I get the good one first (which is great, since it's bigger and has bigger windows but gets less light, so in the colder months it will probably be colder anyway…. but there's always the chance she will get so settled in her room that she may just not want to go through the trouble of switching… so I wouldn’t even need to make up sour-grapes excuses anyway…heh heh…)

But yeah. So mamma is downstairs cooking for us.. it smells like heaven in this house, she's making a freaking pie! And homemade soup in like, a special soup-maker machine. I snuck a look in the fridge while she was out and there were squash blossoms in there. Just like, chillin'. ONLY Italians would keep squash blossoms, like, on hand. Just in case. Jesus.

I can't believe all of this. This weekend is “immersion weekend”, so we have some registration-type stuff to do at school tomorrow, but after that, it's dinner at home, then Saturday we get breakfast and dinner at home with mamma (Saturdays and Sundays are usually only breakfast), and Sunday is a full mamma-immersion day, I think we're gonna go to a beach town called Viareggio, possibly with Elisa’s sons. Wow. Unbelievable. And, um, I'm WAY better at Italian than I thought. My roommate has had three semesters and I've only had two and whenever we go upstairs she's still like “wait what was she saying?” And I actually know what she was saying. What? Amazing. I am so excited.


Ok, so dinner was fresh-made zupetta (soup) of lentils, zucchini and rice, then an insalata greca with pomodori and feta. Una cena semplice e buonissima, just how I like it. Simple stuff is so great here because all the ingredients are so amazing on their own - just the tomatoes I have eaten here in the past couple of days have blown any that I've ever had back in the States TOTALLY out of the water. I thought I was going to miss California produce while I was here, but Jesus, instead I'm gonna be in constant mourning for the loss of Italian produce once I get back. Ok but back to dinner - she ALSO made this crazy-delicious torta di mela, which basically looked like apple upside-down cake if there were such a thing. Moist and delicious. Get ready to reunite with a 400lb Alex come January.

Ok, but for reals I'm exhausted because I went out last night and then woke up at 5:30 am this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep cause I was so nervous/excited/couldn't believe this shit was actually happening to me. Ho-ly jesus. A domani….