Sunday, October 28, 2007

I've gotta say, traveling with a ton of other people for my first leg was definitely a good idea - I'm basically going to have to fend for myself for the rest of this vacation, so the fact that I just take the back seat and let someone else tell me which train to get on and which gate to go to is really, really nice.

However, it's also really nice to not actually be STAYING with all of them - I don't know if I could handle a giant, co-ed, party-animal, 10-person slumber party for three nights. And since they are such a big group, they are in kind of a bootleg hostel, whereas mine and Marinna's hostel is freaking FANTASTIC. We're staying at the Wombats hostel, which is apparently the best-rated chain throughout Germany, Austria and Hungary, and it definitely exceeded OUR expectations - we took a chance with a 6-person, co-ed dorm, but it turned out to just be us two and three other girls who just HAPPENED to be studying abroad in Florence as well and were also on their fall break, and then our second night a very harmless boy from Chicago who's studying in Prague took the 6th spot. The place was clean, warm, super-accomodating and really friendly - when you check in they give you a ticket for a free drink at the in-house bar (which is always packed with other like-minded young travelers into the wee hours), they are happy to answer any and all questions you may have about things to do, how to get around, where to eat, etc etc. Internet access was only 50¢ per 20 minutes, I was able to buy a luscious towel from a vending machine (since I sure as hell wasn't gonna waste precious suitcase space bringing a freaking towel from home), they have umbrellas that you can use for free, and breakfast is honestly an all-you-can-eat HEAVEN for only €3.50. I swear to God the best coffee I had in Vienna was from a machine in my hostel's cafeteria. Espresso mixed with chocolate - no milky "mocha" shit; it was glorious. Plus they had PEANUT BUTTER - my first European encounter with what used to make up the foundation of my diet back in America; plus a strange-yet-delicious bowl of raw bell pepper and cucumber slices - surprisingly delicious when layered with cheese on a slice of the fresh-baked, grainy peasant bread that you slice yourself. I was truly so damn happy at that place.

The way the trip worked out, more or less, is that Marinna and I would frolic about the city during the day, seeing the sights we wanted to see, then we’d meet up with the other kids at night for evening festivities. I went out dancing every night with those kids into the wee hours – it was SO fun. And being with such a large group of friends was great, because we could all just go crazy and DANCE without worrying about dirty guys trying to grind up on us, which was a pleasant change. One of the girls who I know the least out of the group came up to me at one point and was like, “I just have to say you are a great dancer. You dance how I imagine Britney Spears would dance when she isn’t all choreographed,” which I couldn’t quite tell was a compliment or not, given the shoddy shape that Ms. Spears in currently in, but I think Mari sensed my hesitation, as she quickly specified, “I mean the OLD Britney, obviously. Pre-KFed.” Hahaha. Score one for the dancing queen.

The first night we went to this place in the city center that looked like a regular metro stop from above (… minus the bouncer, who almost didn’t let the boys in because they “didn’t fit in” with the crowd, but Pat sent them straight, replying “come on, man, we’re sexy Americans here to PARTY”…. definitely not my response of choice, and particularly hilarious considering Pat is like 5’6” and slightly rotund, but perhaps out of sheer confusion, the bouncer stepped aside and let ‘em through). Once you get downstairs, however, you find a massive dance club, complete with a massive cover charge (€13), but with my newfound klepto, fee-aversion skills, I managed to just walk in behind a different group without having to pay a centesimo. Sa-weet.

Once inside, we totally got the party started, as the dance floor was pretty sparse when we arrived, and was DEFINITELY not once we had been out there for 30 minutes. We tore it up, eliciting numerous freelance party photographers to take tons of photos of us, which are now creepily floating around Austrian cyberspace. Weird.

The cover charge aversion was particularly well-timed, as just a few hours before, I had managed to spend €24 at the dive-y, authentic Viennese restaurant we went to for dinner. However, this was not just a case of me being a cow – I somehow managed to knock Pat’s camera off the table, cracking the screen and thus rendering the camera useless more or less, as it was too high-tech to have a regular viewfinder, so without the screen he had no way to even frame his photos, let alone look at the ones he had already taken. So I felt like the biggest asshole on Earth, he was SO bummed, so of course I paid for his dinner, as well as a MASSIVE litre stein of beer that he ordered to console himself. Which I can’t really judge him for, since I definitely ordered a few more vodka-sodas than I normally would have, thus racking up the bill even further. But at least it worked – we managed to have put the incident behind us by the end of dinner (perhaps with the help of the food – we shared this massive potato-dumpling thing stuffed to the brim with wurstel, resting regally atop a lavish bed of saurkraut. I also stole a significant amount of Bryan’s beef goulash. I can’t believe we went dancing after all that food. YUM.)

The following night ended up being equally as fun, albeit equally distressing at the start as well. On my way out to meet up with everybody, I stopped to check my email really quick and found a message from my friend Katie, with whom I am staying in Amsterdam, um, TOMORROW, saying that her teachers assigned her a bunch of homework and therefore she’d prefer if I found somewhere else to stay.


I was coming to Amsterdam to see HER! If I had known I didn’t have a place to stay I probably wouldn’t have even GONE to Amsterdam! Obviously anything even remotely decent, affordable, and/or centrally-located was already booked, so I was pretty much totally screwed. I sent her a message back explaining that I didn’t need any of her time or energy – there are plenty of things to see in Amsterdam and I don’t need her to play tour-guide, I just need a bed, a place to sleep and keep my bag and maybe shower a time or two. But with that sent and having come to the conclusion that she was kind of just gonna have to get over it, I let it go and continued on my merry way to go party it up with my boys.

Which I definitely did. Quite well, too, because seeing that I was minorly distressed and majorly exhausted, everyone just kept buying me drinks with Red Bull in them, so I ended up having a jolly old time. We were in a cool part of town, too, sort of the Viennese equivalent of Venice’s Campo Santa Margherita. It’s so great having friends who can make light of any situation and will do whatever necessary to make sure everyone around them is having a good time.

As for the daytime activities – OH. MY. GOD. There is SO MUCH to see in this city. Our first day, Marinna and I spent the entire day in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna’s main art museum, trolling through the ENORMOUS permanent collection, as well as the extensive Titian exhibit they had on loan (wait, wasn’t I in Venice LAST weekend…?). After about four hours of Flemish, Italian, and Spanish Renaissance art, we made our way over towards Stephensplatz (I’ve come to realize that nearly all European cities are built around some collection of squares, which all kind of sound the same regardless of the language: the German “platz”, the Italian “piazza”, the Spanish “plaza”… or Catalán “plaça”, the Dutch “plein”…. pretty trippy, eh?), the center of the city where the monstrous Stephensdom Cathedral is located, as well as all of the 5th-Avenue-equivalent, high-end shopping. On our way we stopped into a GORGEOUS little café called Oberlaa, where we proceeded to have the most elegant €5 lunch you could ever imagine: Marinna had a hot chocolate which came with a little foam and a LOT of whipped cream, I had an einspänner, basically a double espresso topped with even MORE whipped cream, and we split a dainty little open-faced finger sandwich with smoked salmon, a bit of crème fraîche, a sprig of dill and a sprinkling of salmon roe, and to finish, a slice of chocolate-vanilla torte. Impeccable. We stopped into the church after lunch for a quick peek, although there was a mass going on, but I actually found it even more beautiful for that reason, what with the singing and that pretty light that emanates from all the little prayer candles.

The next day was quite possibly even more perfect – we just happened to be in town for the giant Saturday flea market at the already-massive daily open-air market, the Naschmarkt, so we started off in that general direction. Having stayed out too late the night before to make it in time for the hostel breakfast cut-off, we popped into a little nondescript café for some coffee and pastries, and somehow stumbled upon a total gem. I got a cappuccino (which also involved whipped cream; I think the Viennese just might prize their whipped cream the same way the Venetians do their butter), Marinna got an espresso, and we split something called a golatsche, which was a scrumptious little croissant-like pastry folded over a generous dollop of sweet, ricotta-like cheese, and a slice of apfeltorte, which was basically a mix between the Italian torta di mela and good ol’ American apple pie. Deee-licious.

Once we made it to the market, however, we immediately regretted eating breakfast. The basic Naschmarkt consists, more or less, of like 5 blocks of food stall after gourmet food stall, usually selling either fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh and cured meats and cheeses, Italian antipasti, dried fruits, and falafel. Scattered amongst those were a few impeccable spice and tea stalls, a couple of artisanal bakeries, and one stall that had massive barrels of wine that you used to fill your own bottles on one side, and on the other, a rainbow of glass decanters, each filled with a vinegar made from a different fruit – and not just flavored with them, actually made FROM them. Fig, raspberry, plum, cherry – SO many different varieties, I almost cried when I realized that I wouldn’t be allowed to carry any onto the plane with me because of the stupid security rules. Fuck anti-terrorism precautions, this is ARTISANAL VINEGAR we’re dealing with here!! Oh, how tiny my world view has become after only two short months.

But ANYWAY, back to what REALLY matters – neither Marinna nor I could resist buying one of the horrifically overpriced, out-of-season, probably-from-Chile figs, because they were just so plump and luscious, and ultimately worth every cent in the end. After sufficiently ogling the foodstuffs as much as we could stand on our full stomachs, we moved on to the mountains of old sweaters, leather lederhosen, and mismatched teacups awaiting us a few blocks down at the flea market. Marinna of course came away with some funky, jodhpur-like €1 shorts, while I bought a measly bracelet – go figure. At least we worked up enough of an appetite to indulge in one of the enormous falafel that had been beckoning us all day.

Over lunch we decided to make our next stop the Albertina Museum as per Irene’s recommendation, and also because it was about a block from the market. SO happy with that decision – not only was the museum itself GORGEOUS, but they had some AWESOME modern and contemporary exhibitions as well – a whole floor of Philip Guston’s drawings, plus a bunch of other contemporary work, including a couple of awesome Alex Katzs and an acid-green, abstract Gerhard Richter that I loved so much I almost regretted not kissing it goodbye or something. I’m such a creep.

The next day was my last day in Vienna, and since my flight wasn’t until the afternoon, I set off on my own to do some last-minute sight-seeing. I was trying to decide which of the palaces to visit (I swear, they have palaces here like we have 7-11s; I almost drew a name out of a hat), but since it was kind of rainy I decided on Belvedere, because in addition to beautiful gardens and architecture, it also has a great art collection.

Boy, did it ever. Oh man, the KLIMTS! I didn’t realize I even LIKED Klimt until I found myself crying in front of The Kiss. Something about how much the woman in the painting looks like my mom… I don’t know. But man that stuff was powerful. How does one develop and aesthetic like that? With that ephemeral, ghost-like skin, right up against the crazy-decorative, gold-leaf EVERYTHING. So crazy.

After sufficient boo-hooing, garden-crawling and photo-taking, I descended from the heights palatial living into the lowly realm of Viennese street food. What’s right, I got myself a good ol’ wiener wurstel. Which was so incredibly phallic that I almost couldn’t get past the irony of the name (which I guess wasn’t technically ironic, since “wiener” actually just means “Viennese” in German, thus a wiener wurstel is literally just a “Viennese sausage” – it’s only us idiotic Anglos who call sausages “wieners” instead of “wurstel”…), especially since mine for some reason was filled with oozing, white cheese. I will stop there.

And to add to the utter gluttony (hey, it’s all for the sake trying authentic cuisine, is it not?), I finished off with a slice of sachertorte, essentially a chocolate brick laced with a touch of I think orange marmalade, of which I managed to consume nearly a whole second piece’s worth in samples at the duty-free shop once I got to the airport. SO good. And with my last taste of Vienna, it’s time for… who KNOWS what… in AMSTERDAM!! A presto…

Friday, October 26, 2007


I don't know why, but being here in Vienna is so surreal. The cold and the subways and the turning leaves feel like New York, the food and architecture remind me of the probably-misguided, romantic conception that I have in my head of Paris, and the language makes me feel like I am on a different planet. And what is hilarious is that I am finally the one who blends in here, what with the overtly Aryan blonde hair and blue eyes - EVERYONE starts talking to me in rapid-fire German and then laugh with surprise when I respond with my pathetic little "I'm sorry, I don't speak German," which I don't even know how to say IN German. It's SO weird not even knowing how to say "hello" (aufwiedersehen? or is that goodbye?) or "please", or "I would like", or "excuse me"; being here makes me realize that I really DO speak Italian, because THIS is what it feels like to NOT speak a language.

My first experience on a rickety European "budget" (read: potentially death-inducing) airline was actually surprisingly pleasant - I was able to carry my bag on (thanks, host mamma Elisa, for having a tiny roll-y bag for me!), I got searched by they didn't take anything (I think the x-ray machine got confused by my umbrella...ella, ella, eh, eh, eh...), and while we were waiting at the gate (apparently arriving at the airport only one hour before your departure time is more than early enough), we got to peruse the duty-free gourmet food and wine shop and ogle the jars of sliced black truffles (€65) while enjoying a €7 bottle of wine from paper Coca-Cola cups with the 10+ other people who I am traveling with for this leg. I think I'm gonna like this trip...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

pesto and presents


My hypothesis was correct; my roommate indeed got too settled in her little cocoon of filth and stench to take me up on my empty promise to switch rooms after fall break! HOORAY!!! So I remain the proud inhabitant of a palatial spread while she continues to stink up the dinky little windowless mole-hole across the hall. Sa-WEET. That, in addition to the fantastic pasta al pesto that my host mom made using the tagliatelle that I brought back from Cipriani in Venice (I mean, if she's not gonna make me pasta on her own, I'm definitely gonna drop hints...), was the sole redemption for my otherwise horrhendous day.

So first of all, I had 3 midterms, none of which I studied for (two sweet little words: PASS/FAIL)- this semester has really been a testament to how lazy I really am when given the opportunity to be so. My one spirit-lifter (aside from the cappuccino doppio...) was a text I got from Danny that said "Presents in the mail - good luck today!" So I look in my mailbox and find the mix CD he had promised me way back when on the airplane ride, when I first discovered that he had a fantastic music collection. It looks fantastic, however I haven't had the chance to actually listen to it, as my computer is dead and I managed to leave my charger at school the day before I leave the country for a week and a half. Yay me.

And in addition to my lovely CD, I find another "present" in my mailbox (or so I thought): a package slip indicating that my mom's care package/birthday present has arrived!... in Venice... where it is being held hostage by Italian customs. And for some reason, I had to physically GO to this odd shipping center all the way downtown, after my 10 straight hours of class and exams, only to be told that my package would not be here before my trip and that I would most likely have to pay around €100 to simply receive it at all. Birthday presents and other miscellaneous goodies in the mail are graciously welcomed, but for the love of God, DON'T DECLARE VITAMINS!!! Send me whatever the hell you like - clothing, candy, heroin for all I care, but dear God do NOT declare anything, or Italian customs will decide it needs to tax me to death in order to allow me to receive it. And a special thank-you to Syracuse for sticking our fall break the week before my birthday, because once the package arrives in Florence (at which point I will most likely be somewhere between Austria and the Netherlands), I will be charged an additional €5 for each day that it sits there waiting for me. I think this would mark the end of the so-called "honeymoon period" of living in Italy.

(disclaimer: please do not think I am a brat. Thank you so so much mama for whatever you sent me, but come on, everyone appreciates a good gripe, no?)

But ANYWAY, I need to go make sure I have enough sweaters and, like, SOCKS to keep my ass from freezing during my northern travels... I regret more and more each day my valiant attempt to "pack light" for Italy, because in reality what I really needed was to bring a second suitcase stocked with the entire contents of Target Greatland.

Live and learn.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

foto emotive

God, I’ve spent the past hour looking through my entire iPhoto library for research for my painting class, and it made me so nostalgic. Or maybe that is not even the right word; it just filled me with emotion of every kind. I realized how much I’ve changed, how much my life has changed, how many people have come into my life and how many have left it, and that I have already experienced some things that I may never get to do again, and yet there is so much I HAVEN’T experienced... this has been very trippy. But through all of it, the overall feeling is one of really really intense happiness, like the kind where it almost makes your chest hurt cause it feels too big to fit in there. And this is all from freakin' PICTURES. SO weird.

It’s amazing how photographs, and just imagery in general, can really evoke such a full and intense reaction; from just your sense of sight you can re-create all the other senses, and almost experience what you are seeing all over again. It’s very odd – having considered myself a painter for almost ten years now, it is slightly disorienting to see how much my interest seems to be slowly turning away from painting and more towards photography. There’s something about the strong basis in reality of a photographic image that gives the medium the ability to conjure such intense emotional responses – painting obviously elicits an emotional reaction from the viewer as well, but a more abstract one, as the painted image is fabricated completely by the painter, while a photograph, no matter how retouched or altered, still has an undeniable connection to the imagery we are familiar with in real life. Come strano...

ci vediamo, venezia...

I can't believe that just a few days ago, I was a pulling-my-hair-out stress case, because right now I could not be any more content or relaxed. I guess Venice just does that to you.

I am currently sitting on a lovely little park bench (kind of a rarity in Italy, believe it or not - they don't seem to advocate sitting, unless you are consuming large amounts of wine and pasta WHILE sitting) in some lovely little campo somewhere between Rialto and the train station, munching on a lovely little almond pastry and listening to the afternoon church bells from a lovely little church across the campo. I wanted to hate this city, what with all the tourists and the utter impracticality of a massive medieval city built on stilts in the middle of the freakin' ocean that routinely floods twice a year, but alas, I cannot. I ADORE it, in fact. Because weirdly enough, I know EXACTLY how to get around here. Everyone keeps talking about how you spend half your time here being lost, but for some reason, I just know my way. And without a map too, which is so unlike me. Maybe it's just that you can only get lost if you have some agenda, some place you NEED to go - for me, just GOING is the end in itself. Every street here feels like a sufficient destination.

So anyway, the whole scholastic justification for this second trip to Venice (it was organized for my High Renaissance and Mannerism art history class) was ultimately moot, as all of our tours kept getting cut short by churches randomly closing early, tour guides randomly canceling, etc - just another display of Venice's almost patriotic impracticality. So essentially, this trip ended up being about meeting friends, making friends, eating and drinking. The stuff of life, in my opinion. The adorable girl from Brown who I met in Capri, Jen, who I have unexpectedly managed to keep in touch with rather well, was dying to see the Biennale and when I told her that I'd be in Venice this weekend we decided to coordinate, so that was a nice addition to the mix as well.

As our class was slowly trickling into the train station to catch our 8:30am train (ouch), I hit it off with a couple of girls who I had kind of met in passing but never really got to talking to, who I ended up having a lot in common with and who I ended up rooming with in our luxurious, centrally-located, paid-for-by-the-school hotel, which was super fun. AND, as if it couldn't get any better, that night on our way out to dinner (after a refreshing, €2 glass of Prosecco at a little bacaro right near our hotel), along comes a huge procession of basically the entire architecture program from Syracuse, a.k.a. all of my best friends; it turns out they had a class trip to Venice for that same weekend as well!

So as they are all getting settled in their nearby hotel, me and the girls meet up with Jen for a mediocre dinner (but fantastic spritzs) over by the Accademia, and then head over to the Campo Santa Margherita for drinks. The boys come meet us rather late (apparently I'm the only one NOT encountering the navigational problems...), we have some drinks, encounter some skeezy Italians.. you know, the usual. I'm so happy that this was my second weekend here - it felt so great being the one who actually knew where the fun places to hang out where, and how to get there... by memory. SO cool.

The next day, we did some more half-assed (and now additionally hung-over) sight-seeing, and then Jen and I met up for a nice little pizza-and-salad-in-the-sunshine lunch at a lovely, sun-drenched campo (that's Venetian for "piazza", by the way) on our way to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, our post-lunch destination.

The museum itself was FANTASTIC - basically a perfectly edited mini-MoMA in a beautiful, modernized Venetian villa with a gorgeous sculpture garden, complete with views of the Grand Canal. We stopped for a caffè at an adorable little dive-y bar that had some quaint little tables in back, one of which was nestled in a little nook that overlooked one of the random teeny canals (and it was even better because the barista actually SUGGESTED a cappuccino since it was so bitterly cold outside, which was awesome because I didn't even have to admit that that was EXACTLY what I was craving even though it was way past the generally accepted cappuccino-drinking time). So over coffee we devised a housing plan for maximum centrality and minimum poverty by re-reserving Jen's €50 single in her hotel and having me just sneak in (and so begins my unhealthy habit of not paying for things that I should... more on this later), which ended up working perfectly - I took a nice nap while she went out in search of more layers as it was unseasonably FREEZING, and then we got ready for dinner.

Dinner was quite an adventure - Jen and I met up with my sweet architecture friends Ali and Bryan to scope out some of the restaurants from my AMAZING City Secrets guidebook (again, THANK YOU, Julie White), because we were sick of paying too much for mediocre food, and instead of choosing the cheap solution we decided to go to the opposite end of the spectrum and go somewhere that is at least GUARANTEED to be good, and pay a little more. However, once we found the place (without getting lost once - I mean, I'm that girl who goes into a store and when she comes out again she can't remember which way to walk; how the hell do I not get lost in VENICE? I don't get it...), we quickly realized that "paying a little more" would be QUITE an understatement, so we ditch that idea and are back to square one, hungry kids in a tourist town.

So we start off in the general direction of the bars we're going to later, in the hopes that we will stumble upon something fantastic. Everything either looked too expensive, smelled really fishy, or just seemed too weird (one place divided its menu into three categories: "antipasti", "dreams", and "the food of now"... um, ok???). We were hungry and losing hope, but then we passed this lush-looking gated garden with a menu out front and we thought we'd at least take a look, and we all squealed in unison when we realized that it was actually super affordable. We ran inside and they promptly seated us in their enclosed and - get this - HEATED garden, HEAVENLY since we were all freezing our asses off, and proceeded to feed us one of the best meals I've eaten since I've been in this country - a bottle of the best house white I've ever tasted, a mountain of perfectly tender and ocean-y mussels and clams, tagliolini alla granceola (a delicious crab and tomato sauce), and generous tastes of everyone else's food: Ali's insalata caprese, Jen's gnocchetti alle verdure (little baby gnocchi with veggies), and Bryan's double order of pasta: lasagna al forno, and the best linguine pesto I've had so far (and that's including the dishearteningly uninpressive pesto I tried in Cinque Terre, in its supposed Ligurian birthplace...)

And for dessert... oh Jesus. The most lucious, tart-yet-creamy drink-cum-dessert EVER, a Venetian sgroppino (Paul and Steve, I expect a segment on on this drink STAT). This is the drink I set out to try this weekend, having already sampled the other must-try-while-in-Venice cocktails, the spritz and the bellini (of which I am currently in possession of two bottles, to join my Caprese limoncello back in Florence). Traditionally a sgroppino is made with prosecco, a little vodka, and - get ready - a scoop of lemon sorbet. But the one we had was even more dessert-like; it tasted like they may have omitted the prosecco and replaced the sorbet with its creamier cousin, sherbert. Screw authenticity - that shit was delicious. We ordered one between the four of us to share, but as soon as we tasted it we knew that we couldn't leave without at least two more.

After dinner, we hobbled our bloated selves over to the Campo for some drinks and the rest of the boys joined us soon after - quite the good time. After a few drinks, we decided to brave the one-and-only discoteca in all of Venice - notoriously sleazy yet temptingly close by - and ended up having the BEST time, dancing until 3:30 in the morning and trekking back to our respective hotels, which were oh-so-conveniently three blocks away from each other, meanwhile getting to soak in the beauty of Venice in a rare tourist-free setting, given the ungodly hour (we were literally the only souls in the whole of Piazza San Marco - it was absolutely breathtaking). I swear, as fratty and immature as those boys can be sometimes, they are some of the greatest people. So joyful and surprisingly sincere, and they REALLY take care of their friends, especially their girls; you can just tell that they would have our backs through anything. Gives me hope.

So after sneaking back into our hotel and spooning the night away, Jen and I took an extended stroll from out hotel to the Rialto market, (AGAIN I managed to miss the fish/food market - all that was left was random glass tchotchkes and awful masks), where we grabbed a classically hungover breakfast (a slice of pizza ai funghi for her, a grilled veggie rotolo for me) and said our goodbyes. She hopped onto a vaporetto headed for the train station while I continued on foot, meandering leisurely towards my afternoon train. I freaking LOVE the signage here, because at pretty much every street corner you will find signs pointing you in the general direction of at least one of the four major landmarks of Venice - Piazza San Marco, the Rialto bridge, the Accademia bridge, and the train station (ferrovia). So I got to wander the most magical, tiny, deserted streets without any fear of getting lost, because as long as you know where your destination is in relation to any of those four places, you are set. And so on my journey following the "Ferrovia -->" signs, I stumbled upon this quaint little square where I am now sitting on a bench, eating my pastry, being so damn un-worried about anything.

I need to find a way to make this my life - to travel and eat and write and have extended periods of time designated for simple bench-sitting or coffee-drinking or otherwise taking a moment to realize how wonderful it is to be alive and to be able to experience these things. I really do feel so damn lucky every second that I am here and its hard to not feel guilty sometimes about the way I am living when the world at large is such a mess right now, but I think for the next two months I am going to continue to let myself exist in this blissful oblivion and see where it takes me - I have this gut feeling that serious inspiration is on the horizon.

Ok, time to catch my train... un bacio a tutti!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

what's your sign?

Ok, so I have this horoscope "widget" on my dashboard on my iBook and this is literally what my horoscope was today:

"Its all about the finishing touches today. Completion should be on your mind, including everything from major work projects to small personal tasks. Finish making those travel plans now - before it's too late. There are new experiences waiting for you, but you won't have the time to explore them fully unless you clear off your plate. Make room for adventure!"

Is this a freaking JOKE??? How weird. I´ve been stressing so hard about break and this stupid presentation for my Art History class that I was actually thinking of coming home from Venice early, thus screwing up the playdate I had planned with that sweetheart Jen who I met in Capri since she's going to be in Venice this weekend too, but thanks to this trivial piece of astrological doo-doo, I am now ready to accept that I am going to engage in the minimum amount of planning necessary for both my break and my presentation so I can throughly enjoy Venice this weekend. YAY! I'll let you know how it goes...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


PHEEEWWWWW. Man. I FINALLY came to a decision and booked my flights for fall break and let me just tell you, it was ABOUT TIME. I have been so deliriously happy since I’ve been here; I literally have not shed one tear (which I’m sure most of you know is a BIG freakin’ deal...) and have totally forgotten what it feels like to have anxiety or feel overwhelmed... but then this past week rolled around. Venice was obviously INCREDIBLE, but then I got back Sunday night and realized, oh wait, I have a week and a half until I am kicked out of my homestay for 10 days and I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE I’M GOING. Plus, for some reason all my professors have decided to act like this is real school and give us “homework” and “projects” and “midterms” over these next two weeks, but trying to get myself on flights and in hostels with enough money left over to, oh, FEED MYSELF for the next couple of months was a big enough project on its own. So I had my first bout of anxiety last night, after spending two hours at one travel agent and then two hours at another, only to come to the conclusion that I am an IDIOT for waiting this long to figure my shit out and that unless I made organizing this trip my number one priority over all else, I would either be a) stranded and homeless in Florence for a week and a half or b) incredibly, unfathomably broke. Trying to explain the cause of my anxiety, through tears, IN ITALIAN, to my host mother did not make it any easier.

HOWEVER, after bailing on my friends for my first meal at Acqua al Due (I DON’T want to talk about it...) in order to sit at home on the computer for four hours poring over crazy European our-planes-are-so-rickety-they-may-kill-you airline websites, I finally solidified my October break. Here it goes:

Thurs Oct 25 - Sun Oct 28: flying to Vienna with some friends from the program; staying in some crazy hostel

Sun Oct 28 – Thurs Nov 1: flying to Amsterdam to stay with some friends from USC who are studying there (particularly excited about this leg)

Thurs Nov 1 – Sun Nov 4: flying to Barcelona to meet up with Sam, Jess and Tyler; probably staying in some crazy hostel again

So yeah. Many stories to come, I believe.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

arte e barche

Jesus. What a weekend. I feel like everywhere I go and everything I do here, I could spend twice as much time doing. I could have spent 5 days at the Biennale, and at least a week in Venice... probably more like two.

Damn, that show was CRAZY BUSINESS. Just to get everyone on the same page, the Venice Biennale is a huge international contemporary art show that takes place every two years in Venice (I mean, duh). In theory, each country in the world gets its own "pavilion" where it can display the work of one artist that it chooses to represent the contemporary art of that country - however, this was definitely not the case, as this was the first time that Africa was included at all, and there was only one pavilion for the entire CONTINENT. But anyway, since that is A LOT of work nonetheless, the show is split into two sections, in two adjacent neighborhoods of Venice: the Giardini (in Venice's only public gardens) and the Arsenale (which - you guessed it - used to be an arsenal). We did the Giardini yesterday and the Arsenale today, however, the "school trip" portion only offered to train the students up to Venice Saturday morning, pay for their entry to the Giardini, and train them back THAT NIGHT; so students wouldn't even set foot in the Arsenale, let alone have even a spare second to explore the rest of Venice, so naturally me and some friends decided to come early and leave late for a whole-weekend affair, which I will get to later.

But as for the show - SOOOO incredible. Well, parts of it. I am now OBSESSED with a French photographer named Sophie Calle - her piece for the French Pavilion was freaking INCREDIBLE and would take to long to explain fully, but in a nutshell, her lover broke up with her via email and she was so flabberghasted by it that she had the email translated into every conceivable language and sent it to 100 different women, chosen on the basis of their particular profession or background, and asked them to give their interpretation in whatever format the would like. Thus, a Japanese pianist turned it into a musical composition; an Italian mamma made fun of the author's melodrama and self-pity, while ironically chopping an onion in her kitchen; a French teacher boiled it down into words simple enough for her students to understand; and all the while, Sophie photographed each woman reading the letter and often filmed their interpretation as well. It was SO innovative and mind-bogglingly comprehensive, and yet so accessible and relatable as well. It just felt so utterly HUMAN, and particularly made me really appreciate the mother-tiger instinct that seems to exist in all women, lying dormant until it is provoked and we need to swoop in to protect one another, regardless of what language we speak or what background we come from.

Language seemed to be a major theme of the Biennale as a whole, come to think of it; I guess being an international exhibition, this would kind of be a given, but it really spoke to me for some reason. Maybe because I am living in Italy, in this grand mega-country we call Europe, where so many different languages and cultures are squashed together and constantly rubbing shoulders, but where each one is constantly vying to maintain its sense of identity and keep from disappearing into the gradually homogenizing western mass of Europica. I am simultaneously enthralled and repulsed by the fact that I can cross a border and suddenly have no idea what anyone around me is saying. I am dying to become fluent in all the romance languages, and yet find it totally strange that I would even have to.

I found myself really drawn to long-term projects and series like Sophie Calle's, as well as politically charged works (there was A LOT of stuff about the war), but at the same time I was equally drawn to things that I simply found clever (like a tiny projection of the bottom of tap-dancing feet onto the inside of a hanging light bulb in the Spanish pavilion, making it appear that there was a tiny tap dancer tapping away inside the light bulb), and even to works that I simply liked because they were really, really pretty. Haha. I basically have no idea what I personally am driven to create as an ARTIST, since it appears that I am too damn busy admiring everything that is already out there to even sit down and bang anything out myself (unless you consider taking 300+ photos of pretty buildings and other people's artwork as creating "art"...). Oh well, I've got some time.

As for the non-art part of the trip (or at least the non-Biennale part, since pretty much everything in Venice could be considered art...):

I don't know how, and I don't know why, but I have somehow managed to be traveling with the vulgar alcoholic girl from Capri, Sandy. I really really don't understand how Mel is friends with her, but somehow, she is, and she also managed to include her on our trip this weekend. But luckily my friend Irene came as well, so we managed to split off from the group most of the time to avoid the whole Mel-and-Sandy-are-total-assholes-when-they-are-together aspect for the most part. However, we did all end up spending the first day together and making a pretty good time of it.

It turned out that our hotel was also a SAILING SCHOOL, and well as a design school, so it was very sleek and well laid out, and when they mentioned the option to take a four-hour private boat tour around the city for only €100 total, which we could then split between the five of us, we obviously jumped at the opportunity. It didn't hurt that our driver was an adorable little 23-year-old Veneziano named Marco, who not only drove us to the train station to pick up Irene (who came in later than the rest of us because she had a class trip earlier in the day), but also took us out for a spritz afterwards at his favorite bar which just happened to be on the water overlooking the Rialto bridge. And for most of you who have not experienced the joys of the Venetian spritz (Paul and Steve, get ready to start salivating, Paul and Steve), it is a cocktail unique to Venice, usually composed of white wine, a red liquer (usually Campari or Aperol), and some sort of carbonated soda component (sometimes aranciata, sometimes tonic, and sometimes just plain soda water), topped off with an olive. Our were particularly classy, as they were made with Prosecco, as well as regular soda water and Campari for a more bitter, bubbly take on the classic. We certainly started our trip in style.

After our drinks, graciously paid for by dearest Marco, Irene took charge as our personal tour guide, as her brother studied abroad in Venice a couple of years ago and he had shown her all the insider spots when she went to visit him, so she had the city down to a T. She took us to this totally eccentric, FANTASTIC restaurant called Trattoria alla Madonna, which just happened to be conveniently around the corner from the bar where Marco took us for drinks. It had a line around the block (good sign..), but they still somehow managed to seat our party of five in under ten minutes, and on our way to our table, we passed an enormous spread of every kind of antipasto and vegetable imaginable, their daily selection of seafood all laid out, and a giant vat of what appeared to be tar, but that we later discovered to be their indescribably rich and ocean-salty house specialty, nero di seppia, otherwise known as squid ink.

We started off with a bottle of the house white, which was already drained by the time the bread arrived at the table (thanks in the most part to our token alcoholic, Sandy), followed by a fantastic platter of verdure stagionale (seasonal vegetables... i mean, duh.), of which the peas were so freakin delicious (and by "peas" I really mean butter with a sprinkling of peas) that we promptly ordered "un'altra porzione - una GRAN porzione, per favore - dei piselli, per favore!!" Our enthusiasn for those little buttery peas was so great that our waiter gave us the extra portion (and it truly was a GRAN porzione) on the house. Cute.

Next came mountains of seafood and carbs of all varieties: spaghetti alle vongole (dressed with crushed tomatoes and again, drenched in butter - thank you, Northern Italy, for your whole-hearted embrace of this glorious dairy product), spaghetti al nero di seppia (smothered with that fantastically tar-like, tooth-and-tablecloth-staining, salty, life-giving elixir of the sea), and a plate of grilled calamari with polenta, doused with MORE nero di seppia. Heaven. We finished up with a slice of torta di mandorla (almond cake so delicious that we promptly ordered another), and left our table looking like a mix between a war-zone and an early Jackson Pollock, what with all the abstract blobs of red and black from our convivial, albiet messy, meal.

After dinner Sandy and Mel went back to the hotel (probably a good thing), while Marinna, Irene and forged on, making the winding trek to Campo Santa Margherita, the evening hangout for 20-something Venetian students and in-the-know international travelers. Were we not so cripplingly stuffed we would probably have stayed out longer, but alas, after like 10 phone conversations in my shotty Italian with different water taxi companies, we managed to track down our hotel's shuttle and collapsed face-down into our beds.

The next day was a Biennale binge: we grabbed some coffee and headed early to the cute neighborhood around the Giardini to do a little exploring, then met up with the rest of our class, who were just arriving from Florence that morning at 11:30. From then until the closing of the show, we soaked up some damn fine international art, and afterwards, a damn fine sunset. Pretty idyllic.

But after the glory of the sunset passed, we looked around and realized we were surrounded by something like 60 hungry Syracuse students all looking for "a good dinner," and acting like we were somehow all going to share this "good dinner" together - sensing the imminent disaster of this situation, Irene and I fled the scene ("um, we're gonna run to the bathroom really quick"), grabbed ourselves a bottle of Bellini, some plastic cups, and Irene's friend Whitney, and parked it at the foot of a nearby statue, conveniently hidden from view by some lovely garden foliage, to discuss OUR dinner plans. Marinna wandered by so we clued her in, and eventually set off in search of Trattoria dai Tosi, a quaint little pizzeria where Irene's brother worked while he was studying abroad and living in that very same Giardini-adjacent neighborhood.

We found the place, had a wonderful, leisurely meal (house white, Bella Napoli pizza and a fantastic "big salad", or insalatone, with tuna, baby shrimp, mushrooms and parmagiano, followed by the best profiteroles I have ever had), all for a huge discount (thank you, brother of Irene).

After dinner we made a more successful expedition to Campo Santa Margherita, parking it at Caffe Noir (all the bars are named after different colors - can't decide whether I think it's dorky or cute...), where Marco and a couple of his friends eventually came to meet us, which was just OH so ideal, as Whitney was taking a 3am train back to Florence so we didn't want her to wait around the train station for hours by herself, but the hotel shuttle - which is the last mode of transport back to our island hotel for less than €40 - ends at 12:30. So this is where it becomes VERY convenient having friends with boats. And this time we REALLY lucked out, as Marco's friend is actually a water taxi driver, and those boats are freakin' SWANK... so we got a lovely taxi ride home, warm and cozy in the taxi's wood-paneled cabin.. for FREE. Score.

The next day we made a valiant attempt to do the Arsenale portion of the Biennale, and while I did make it through the whole thing and was even moderately moved by some of the work, I must admit that my attention span was much shorter this time around; I can't decide if it was a matter of the work itself (because this section was notably drier, and it was basically in the format of one large curated exhibition rather than a lot of smaller pavilions, as the Giardini was set up); or that I was just a teensy bit exhausted from our late-night antics the night before. But anyway, I ended up finishing the exhibition in a little less than two hours, and spending the rest of the day taking a solo stroll through the city. Wandered through the Rialto market, grabbed myself a rotolo (this GENIUS Venetian-street-food invention of wrapping a slice of pizza around typical panino ingredients - this particular rotolo had arugula, mozzarella, prosciutto and tomatoes - thus creating a perfect union of the two best Italian lunch foods of all time), and made it to the train station in time to buy the first train ticket with an actual SEAT reserved for me in a LONG TIME. All in all, a lovely weekend in one of the most beautiful cities on earth.

Can't wait for next weekend.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

this is my life.

Mille foglie and tiramisù semifreddo from Vivoli. Enough said.

art talk and art bar

So last night was the contemporary art discussion over by the Palazzo Pitti with the director of the Uffizi and the director of the Bargello, however it turned out to be more of a screening of a portion of a documentary about contemporary art, and then a long-winded presentation about the Renaissance works in the Uffizi and the Bargello and how art history needs to be emphasized in Italian high school graduation exams. Hmm. And meanwhile there was the wishy-washiest translator EVER who would let them go off for like 10 minutes at a time and like twitch in his seat trying to send them ESP messages to get them to stop for a minute to let him translate, and by the time he finally would, he would give the blandest, most superficial summary of what he caught, which even with my little Italian I could tell was glossing over pretty much anything interesting that had been said. This was another instance of me being frustrated with people who are living in this country who don't speak a word of Italian, because although the discussion as a whole was kind of misleading anyway, I think it would have been far more interesting if it wasn't constantly being interrupted by this inept translator trying to accomodate the apathetic Americans. But if nothing else, the discussion was in a bomb location, with the most beautiful view from the roof of the sun setting over Florence, so if only for that I thought it was definitely worth it.

But oh, the night was just beginning. Since I knew the discussion was going to end too late for me to make it home for dinner, I took maximum advantage of this rare opportunity to actually eat out in this cool area and met up with my friend Ali for drinks and aperitivi at a chic place along the Arno called Noir. However, we were feeling cheap and were not into the €9 cover so we abandoned that plan for a nice €4.50 daquiri-cum-fruit-cocktail and unlimited free popcorn and the Italian equivalent of Cheetos at Art Bar (I mean come on, its not like my diet here doesn't consist of alcohol and carbohydrates anyway). We have a lovely drink and an even lovelier chat (complete with a juicy bitch-fest about my smelly roommate whom I have developed a minor loathing for, just because I can - I mean, the girl hasn't ONCE washed the washcloth she uses in the shower EVERY DAY since we first got here... the bathroom reeks of her armpits. I am utterly repulsed), and then make our way over to Rex for another low-key drink with Sam and Nicole... but on the way, we are stopped by some chic-yet-distressed-looking Asian girls who were in Florence for the weekend and heard us speaking English and asked for directions to YAB, the disasterous club of yesterweek with the bar mitzvah soundtrack and skeezy Italiani, so we steered them away from potential disappointment and towards more reliable (and less expensive) dancing at Twice, which happened to be a block away from the bar we were going to. So basically we got to be those cool locals who go above-and-beyond the "make a left here and then a right at confusion street" norm and actually say "follow us!", and on the way got to clue them into all our favorite spots to make their weekend here truly memorable. We passed Twice on the way to Rex and seeing that it was only 10:30 or so, the place was pretty dead, so we invited them to Rex with us for a drink, which they graciously paid for. Quite a lovely way to pass the time while waiting for our friends to show up and for their club to pick up.

Sam and Nicole made it to the bar and Danny called and asked what we were up to, as he and the guys were going out and wanted to meet up, so we told him where we were and 20 minutes later he showed up for a drink, even though the rest of his gang headed straight to Twice (cute.) After we finished our round, we headed over to meet up with everyone and ended up tearing up the dance floor on what we originally imagined to be a relatively low-key night. After we closed down the club, the boys walked us home to finish what I like to call a lovely little Wednesday evening qui a Firenze. Not too shabby.

Friday, October 5, 2007

cabbie love.

What a fun night. It was one of those nights when I didn't have too much homework and just sorta felt like not sitting in my room all night, so I went over to the boy's apartment (which they call "The Spot"... go figure) to chill for a little bit and hang out with the random assortment of 20+ who are always there no matter what day of the week it is. This is always the kind of situation where I end up re-connecting with people that I never run into at school but had made friends with at some point, and usually some random kind of travel plan comes out of it. But this time instead me and Danny got to talking and in passing he mentioned that he and dumpy girl Tamar had "broken up" the weekend before... and so the plot thickens. I mean, not really. haha. But still. At least now I can pseudo-flirt without feeling like an evil homewrecker. (But who knows if that will kill all the fun...)

Anyway, I didn't feel like going home at that point but I do have a field trip at the asscrack of dawn tomorrow, so I decided to walk downtown with everyone and go dancing for a bit (I mean... this is my exercise, people), which was fun/mildly ridiculous, but I got tired early and sort of knew that the price I would pay for going out on a night that I kind of shouldn't have was not having anyone to walk home with, which was indeed the case. So I said fuck it and called myself a cab and ended up having the funnest cab driver ever. We rapid-fired in Italian the whole way back to my house and even though it was past the designated "sconto per le ragazze singole" time (from 9pm-2am single women traveling alone get some sort of discount which I don't even know how much it is because I never manage to get a cab before two), he still gave me the discount because we were tight like that. Fo sho. Ok but now I need to go to sleep. Domani a Siena! Whee!!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

yoga and acid trips

Dude. I’m, like, LIVING in Italy right now. Like, found-an-Italian-yoga-studio-and-signed-up-for-3-months living in Italy. This is crazy business.

It's amazing, I want so much to hate painting and have an excuse to quit cause it's so goddamn impractical and time-consuming and so many bad things, but the days when I really get to sit and paint for a good three hours, I come away feeling SO good. So happy and fulfilled. Today I didn’t even have class, but I did my homework, which was to do a self-portrait (AGAIN. semi-ugh), and had some sort of color epiphany. In class right now she's having us really focus on exploring reflected color and the wide variations of hue within any given tone (i.e. in a simple white shirt, there can be bright pink and hot yellow in the highlights and dark purple and green in the shadows but as long as they are the right tone, it will read as a white shirt), and this is something I had always KNOWN, and like SORT OF utilized in my work, but for some reason when I was sitting in the studio today and started methodically laying out my lights and darks like I always do in what could only be described as “skin color”, I suddenly looked again at my face in the mirror and saw this giant green shadow across my cheek. And the bridge of my nose was hot orange from the bright light. And the highlights in my hair were pure white – but underneath it was orange and green. it was SO WEIRD. So I just put it all on the canvas and it was so exhilirating and I -GASP- only did half of my hair and only a swipe of background and didn’t even TOUCH my clothing, which, if you know ANYTHING about how I paint you will know that I am a chronic “finisher” and this is SUPER out-of-the-ordinary. I was just so into the fact that I could put purple on my collarbone and it would still look like a collarbone...

And as I’m saying this, I’m sure you are all imagining this acid-trip looking, wacky Van-Gogh-esque self-portrait, but alas, it pretty much looks like any other self-portrait I've done. But it's about the process, man...

So anyway, yoga: while the class itself was awesome, the best part about it was that it was taught entirely in Italian but I still totally got it. AND the studio is like two blocks away from my house. It just made me feel so local... in addition to all the great things that yoga makes me feel that are too hard to describe. So, all in all, a good day.

la vita è bella

It's October. Holy crap.

Sorry I've fallen behind on updating this thing. These past few days have just been so roller-coaster-y that I felt like I would write one thing and then totally contradict it the next day so I thought id just give it a rest for a bit. But we're back in action.

Just fyi, yesterday was definitely a 2-gelato kind of day; first, a cone with pistacchio (pis-ta-KEY-oh, as the gelataio corrected me, since he detected that I wasn’t a total lost cause when it came to the Italian language so he wanted me to know how to avoid a common American mistake), gianduja (which is basically nutella, but of the most artisanal, slow-food variety), and because I made friends with the gelataio with all my questions and earnest attempt to make botched conversation, a free smidge of cioccolata fondente (basically the richest chocolate you can get. Yum.)

THEN, after some errands, I treated myself to my second gelato of the day (we’re going by visits here, NOT flavors – Jesus, people, give a girl a break) at Vivoli. I just can't pass that place without getting one. It's simply impossible. Especially that day, because their flavors were particularly enticing – I got pera al caramello (caramelized pear- YUM), and honey (HOLY GOD ECSTASY-OF-SAINT-THERESA yum). Oh Jesus. I'm gonna be dreaming of that honey gelato for at least a week... but probably two.

But back to other news – this whole not-having-any-inkling-of-a-plan-for-fall-break thing has been really stressing me out, since it's really only like 3 weeks away, but now, like Michelangelo’s statues (which I got to visit today at the Accademia; more on that later), I've been slowly chipping away at the rough marble of my fall break possibilities and I'm beginning to make out a recognizable form, namely in the shape of some sort of rendez-vous with Alex Reynolds, potentially in Madrid (where she is currently studying) or potentially elsewhere (Vienna?), then a jaunt to, um, MOROCCO with Sam and Tyler (yes, AFRICA. I mean, why the HELL not??), and then either Barcelona with Sam and Tyler or a spin around Sicily and Malta with new-friend-from-Capri Jen, and back to Florence just in time to celebrate my 21st birthday… and then go to Paris the next weekend. I'm just a baller like that. Now talk to me in two weeks and see how much this plan has changed. But ANYWAY…

Socially, things are good. I've rekindled a bunch of friendships with some really cool people that kinda formed in the first week but then we never crossed paths again, which is relieving/exciting/comforting. So I'm happy about that. Beautiful Greek girl Irene and I re-bonded on a school trip to Ravenna amongst the glittering mosaici (and twinkling designer boutiques… of course Syracuse fails to prepare us for the bomb shopping that awaits in Ravenna…) and over a nice grilled Piadina (a type of sandwich typical to Ravenna- it's basically a panino, but made of this delicious doughy flatbread that tastes like a mix between naan and the kind of pita you get at Zankou Chicken, but without the pocket; you wrap the goodies in it like a tortilla, but it's a fatass tortilla. Ours was stuffed with prosciutto, pecorino, rucola, and some fantastically piquant roasted tomatoes. HEAVEN.) Now we have plans to head to Venice together next weekend for an extended stay around our class trip to the Biennale. And we have ALSO discovered that we live 2 blocks from each other in Florence, and that there is a fantastic enoteca by our houses that has unlimited finger foods with the purchase of a $5 drink or glass of wine. Lovely.

Also, Sam, my little Vassar friend whose style I was afraid I was beginning to cramp just because we tend to see each other all the time and do the same kinda stuff since we have SO freakin' much in common, but alas, my fears were squelched tonight- Me, her, and two other girls Nicole and Courtney had decided to have a little girl's night and go out dancing, but the club we ended up at, YAB, was totally sketchy- they played straight-up American-bar-mitzvah-in-the-late-90's music the whole time we were there, AND they charge you a euro if you leave before 12:30 (wtf??) so we peaced out, Jen and Courtney went home, and me and Sam ended up parking it on a stoop on Borgo Pinti and talking for two hours. Oh, how hashing out convoluted male histories can eat up half a night.... but it ended up being way more of a proper "girl's night" than it would have been if we had stayed at the club and continued to be hit on by 30-year-old Italian sleaze balls. So all in all, quite the win-win situation.

Oh, and in other life-is-awesome news, my painting teacher just informed us today that next Wednesday we would be ending class early to head down across the Arno near Piazza Pitti to this art lecture and screening of a documentary about modern and contemporary artists that is apparently a SUPER big deal - like, the directors of the Uffizi and of the Accademia are going to be there, and only 200 or so people in all of Florence get invited, and we get to go. SO psyched. And, that means that I won't be home in time for dinner so I'll get to have a classy evening at one of the great wine/aperitivo bars along the Arno with some of my non-homestay friends. Sa-weet.

And speaking of the Accademia... I got to see the the David today. In the flesh… or marble? Whatever. In Mikey B's hands it’s the same damn thing. And in David’s hands… I am putty.

Sorry for such a schitzo entry but long story short, things are great. I miss you guys, give me an update on your lives and let me know that SOMEONE is reading this thing other than my mother. kthanks.... ciao!!