Archive for the ‘Anna in Italy’ Category

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Anna: Visits to Italian family before returning home

May 6, 2011

So I am finally back home in America, no culture shock yet. I haven’t said grazie yet to anyone either. The last week I spent with my parents visiting family in Torino for Easter, family in Genova near the Ligurian Coast, and finally wrapping up our visits in Rome. It was really fun to meet family that I had never met before. Some had only seen me when I was a couple months old. This was my dad’s first time back in Italy in 30 years, so it was really great for him to see his family.

All of the cities were really different, but really beautiful. Torino seemed like a great place to live, and really big! I liked it because it had both modern and old parts of the town. I met most of the relatives that I had never met before there. Zia Rita is my Nana Ida’s sister, they are so much alike! It was really fun to finally meet the cousins I have heard so much about over the years.

In Genova, their main attraction is the ocean. We went to Portofino one day which is a beautiful area on the Italian Riviera. We saw the mansions of Dolce & Gabbana, Silvio Burlesconi, as well as other designers and famous people! I had the opportunity to go out with Alessandra (my cousin who is 19 years old) and her friends one night. Most know English so I was able to communicate with them. It was really fun and I made the observation that boys are the same everywhere! Her friends reminded me of my own. 

We had already been to Rome before. In fact we were visiting the same family members that I visited in January. We were there during the Beatification of JP 2 so it was really crazy! Also, Obama and the other presidents of countries were meeting to discuss business. Rome was really crazy but we had a really great time seeing family and some of the sites! All in all it was a really fun and exciting week seeing family. It was hard to say hello and goodbye to people I had just met in two days. I know I will be back to Italy, there is no doubt about that. Some of the cousins even told me they want to visit the USA so that would be exciting for me to show them American culture.

I am so happy I decided to study abroad. I have learned so much about other cultures as well as myself! I am happy to be back home, also. But I already miss Italy and I will do all I can to go back soon. Thanks to everyone who read my blog. It was my way of journaling and staying connected to what is happening at home. 

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Anna: Wrapping it up

April 28, 2011

I realize I have not vented a whole lot on this blog, which is probably a good thing. Here are a list of things I will miss, and things I will not miss. Might I add the things I will not miss are things I have taken with a grain a salt, and made me appreciate what I have at home!

What I will miss…list could go on forever….1 euro cappuccinos, walking everywhere, affordable amazing no preservative food, my cute apartment, traveling the world every weekend, class once a week, markets…everywhere, lack of technology—no need for a cell phone, letting my undies dry anywhere and everywhere and have it be perfectly acceptable, Pino my man who makes my paninos, hearing people speaking a beautiful language everywhere I go…again the list could go on.

What I won’t miss…crusty jeans because I don’t have a dryer, creeper Italian & Albanian men, grocery shopping multiple times a week, slow internet, my feet are ALWAYS dirty, and cobblestone streets. I would say this list is definitely much shorter.

My parents have arrived! I have spent barely any time with them since I have had finals and they were in Cinque Terre this week! But as we travel, I will try to keep writing until May.

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Anna: 5 Terre, Heaven on Earth!

April 23, 2011

I spent my last weekend of my time as a student in Italy in Cinque Terre. And I decided I liked it even more than Amalfi Coast trip! My friend Ellen and I spent 2 days and 1 night in Monterosso Al Mare, the beach town and the fifth town of Cinque Terre. My friend Paige, another Gopher joined us the first day. We ate some pesto and mozzarella foccacia, had some gelato and then boated to the first town called Riomaggiore. Riomaggiore has really great colorful buildings all stacked close together. We walked from Riomaggiore to the next town, it started with a M but I can’t seem to remember the name. Regardless, we did the walk of love together and reminisced about our time spent in Italy. The end verdict? We love the people from Minnesota and we love the city of Florence.

The next day Ellen and I were on a mission to hike! Recovering from my awful sinus infection, I was motivated and ready to kick some butt hitting as many towns as I could! Unfortunately, the main trail was closed. Of course! It was a beautiful day, but it was closed because it rained a week before. Our other option was to take one of the three unmarked trails, hike an hour and a half straight up hill, then hike another hour and a half straight downhill to reach the city directly next to Monterosso. We started to hike it, but it only took about 5 minutes of deciding that we would rather veg out and enjoy ourselves. Who were we kidding to think we could be athletic after stuffing our faces with Italian pastries and pastas and pizzas these last four months? We ended up having a great day boating to Vernazza for only 3 euros and we ended up loving that town! Regardless of our lack of hiking we then headed home later that day. Monterosso has a great beach, and we would’ve like to spent more time there. I don’t think a day trip would’ve been enough here, glad I spent the night.Ellen is again, for the 50th time, my foodie friend. We split a dinner of black home made pasta (made with squid ink I believe), curry, zucchini and prawns. We also tried fish ravioli, which was really delicious and not as weird as it sounds.
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Anna: Trip to Czech Republic

April 1, 2011
Last weekend I took an overnight bus to Prague, Czech Republic with a friend from high school, Elizabeth Mountain. It was so so nice to catch up with her, we had a long bus ride to do so too! Butt was a little sore, but it wasn’t too horrible and definitely the cheaper option.

On our first day we did a free walking tour, which was a little slow and we ended up leaving and went to go try our first steins of Czech beer. It was super affordable for quite a bit of beer. We were really full for the rest of the day then. I am not exactly a huge beer drinker, but it was fun to try their local beer. For dinner we went to a traditional Czech restaurant. We each had beef with a traditional sauce (tasted like a gravy) and potato dumplings. It was really heavy! And even more filling with a stein of beer. Our stomachs felt like we wanted to explode after, but hey you gotta try the local cuisine!

Some other sites we saw were the Charles Bridge, which is beautiful. We also saw the John Lennon Wall, which since the 1980’s has been an average wall, but it is covered in graffiti. In the late 80’s the wall was a source of letting out irritation for the Communist Regime. You can’t see the picture of John Lennon that used to be there, but it is covered with plenty of lyrics and Beatles memorabilia. I really liked this and was happy to be informed of the history behind it. We also saw the Prague Castle with is a huge area made up of palaces and a cathedral. It almost looks like its own little town. Elizabeth and I were picturing a castle from Shrek, but it was really interesting to see how different this was from a typical castle. We checked out the Old Jewish Cemetery, which was incredible. There are over 100,000 burials within the cemetery with 12,000 tombstones showing. They are all crooked and stacked amongst each other it’s really quite a site to see.

Prague nightlife is usually pretty popular. We were able to “Czech” out the 5 story club as well as a 80’s themed club that I really loved. The 5 story club had a different music theme on each floor and it is a pretty big tourist attraction. The 80’s club not only played 80’s music, but used every wall to play the music videos too. Never heard so much ABBA in my life!

I really loved Prague. The architecture was incredible, and the city was so unique and very historical. I love Florence but it is really nice to go to places that are so different from Italian culture. I am at the only 3 weeks left mark. It makes me a little sad but I am definitely anxious to get back home to see people that I have been missing. I need to enjoy my cappuccinos and gelato while it lasts. My parents have been tempting me by skyping during their dinner time. My mom made stir fry with peanut sauce! Italy has beyond amazing food but I definitely want some variation in my life!

This weekend I will be going to Barcelona for 4 nights with 10 girls. It will be an adventure! I am excited though for the Gaudi, food, and finally being able to somewhat speak a language. Only things I am nervous about are what I have heard about pickpockets and speaking Spanish when I arrive back in Italy! Should be an exciting weekend.
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Anna: Home sweet home, Firenze

March 20, 2011

On Thursday of this week it was Italy’s 150th Unification Celebration! So if you were Italian, you wouldn’t have to go to school or work that day. All of the festivities happened on Wednesday night. There was a band playing at Santa Croce, and then fireworks were set off on top of Palazzo Vecchio (old Medici Palace). There was Italian flags EVERYWHERE. Even the Ponte Vecchio had the light outline of the Italian flag on it. My adorable old man landlord left us a note saying “I hope you don’t mind I put a Italian flag outside of your apartment balcony. I like being Italian.” It was a fun and proud moment for me to be able to say I am Italian!

Later that night I had the opportunity to attend the birthday party of my friend Natalie’s homestay brother, Pietro, who was turning 18. We walked in and the bartender looked at us and knew we were all 20 + years old. It was really hilarious to see these boys get excited American girls were there. Our main lines for the night were “Sono vecchia.” I am old and “Io ho venti anni, tu hai deicisette anni.” I am twenty, you are seventeen. Regardless it was really interesting to be around Italians and not Americans for once.

This past week it had been overcast and rainy. But I woke up Friday morning and it was beautiful out! Since I don’t have class on Friday, my friend Ellen and I decided to roam the city center and also go to the Boboli Gardens. The Boboli Gardens were huge and really beautiful. Whenever I walk through all the historical sites around the city I am so amazed they are the same rooms and gardens people lived in hundreds of years ago! We also were able to see a costume gallery inside Palazzo Pitti. That was fascinating to guess what year the garments were made.

We had made plans to go to the market and then make dinner together that night since I had my whole apartment to myself this weekend. The market is my new favorite place to shop. Everything is fresh and affordable, especially for cooking for one or two. We ended up buying pear and pecorino ravioli, french bread, garlic and parsley chicken meatballs, fresh tomatoes, squash, asparagus, and for dessert a chocolate raspberry torte brownie. It ended up being really delicious. We enjoyed dinner with my bottle of Chianti Classico I bought from a vineyard visit a few weeks back. As Ellen says we are both foodies and that is probably why we get along so well. Being here in Italy has really made me want to try new things and experiment with my cooking skills more. I am looking into taking a cooking class the last few weeks of the semester, hopefully.

Yesterday was Saturday and I went to Fiesole, a town full of hills and villas. Also, part of my reasoning for making a trip to Fiesole is that I have heard that is where all the soccer players live. It ended up being a very overcast day, but it didn’t rain on us which is all we cared about. We hiked through the woods and it was really fun, we didn’t feel like we were in Italy it felt like we were back home in Minnesota!

Overall, I had a really great week. It is scary to count forward because I only have 4 weekends counting next weekend left of my program. It will be bittersweet for me because I miss my family and friends so much at home, but I have become sentimental about Florence. I love it so much here! I know at home when I order a caffe I won’t be receiving an espresso for 1 euro but a cup of gross American coffee for 3 dollars. I won’t be able to walk anywhere, or buy fresh mozzarella for 40 euro cents, or have free passes to see museums. But at the same time, I am fortunate enough to have studied abroad, for many people are not able to. At the end my parents are visiting and we will be going to see my family around Italy.  I am also going to Prague with a high school friend, Elizabeth Mountain who is studying at Gonzaga in Florence.

I also got great news that Lady Gaga and possibly other artists will be giving a free concert on April 20th just a couple days before my program is over at Santa Croce! Very excited for that.

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Anna: Vireggio, Famiglia in Prato, Venice

March 2, 2011

Last week, my Italian class brought us to a market which isn’t too far from my apartment. It is called Sant’ Ambrogio market. There was fresh meat, fish, cheese, fresh pastas, bread, fruit and vegetables. I decided I am doing all my grocery shopping there from now on! Everything is so delicious looking and not very expensive. I am excited to take my mom and dad there. My mom will die and go to heaven; it is truly a cook’s paradise.

I thought the weekend would be fairly low key for me but it ended up being very busy and exciting! On Friday, some friends were in town visiting Florence from Rome, so we decided to meet up and I would show them a few spots. We ended up doing a full power tour seeing almost everything there is in Florence. We walked to the top of the Duomo (well the thing next to the Duomo), saw Piazza Michelangelo, San Lorenzo market, got lunch, and did the whole Uffizi.

On Friday, Frank Lupia, my dad’s cousin, picked me up to visit another cousin (Cesare) in Prato, a city near Florence. Frank does not speak English, and I don’t speak Italian. It was very interesting, but it wasn’t too bad! We had to call Alessandra a couple times about questions he had for me, but overall it was not too bad and we got through it together! We couldn’t visit Cesare until later in the day so Frank too me to Vireggio, a small beach city famous for it’s Carnivale and seafood. I was really excited he brought me there because I was planning a day trip there anyways! You could see beach from one angle and sea from another. Frank and I had a HUGE lunch together of seafood carbonara. I tried clams, mussels, these little fish that looked like baby octopus, and I liked it all! None of it tasted fishy. We also had fried fish which was really delicious. I told him “no me va” that I was full but he proceeded to order two desserts, a caramel panna cotta and pistachio cake and gelato.

After Vireggio, we visited Cesare in Prato. Cesare is very sick. He has brain cancer and they are not sure how much longer he will make it. It was hard to meet someone for the first and last time all together. He seemed very optimistic and excited to see me. His daughter Tina can speak a bit of English but does not remember much since she only learned in school. We had a very nice time talking together. It was funny because the one thing everyone understood was how my dad can only speak Belcastrese (small Calabrian town dialect) and not proper Italian. All of the relatives get a kick out of that. They sent me off with cheese from Belcastro and Tadods (spelling?) a biscuit that my Nana Ida used to make. I am really lucky to have so much family in Italy that are willing to pick me up and bring me places. I might be planning a trip to Genova to see Frank’s family again in March.

On Sunday, I woke up early and met a tour group called Florence for Fun for a day trip to Venice. It was a very, very long day. Unfortunately it was  cold, windy, and rainy. I hate letting weather affect my feelings about a city but it is difficult to do. I tried to be as optimistic as I could and enjoy my time there. Venice was very pretty and I enjoyed seeing all of the people dressed up in their Carnivale outfits. One woman was kneeling behind a stroller so you couldn’t see her body and all you saw was her head on the body of a baby in a stroller! As people passed it was hilarious because as people would pass she would cry or smile or blow kisses. I never got to ride a Gondola because it cost so much…80 for only 3 people, but I took lots of pictures of people in them! Overall, I would love to see Venice again in the summer time without the crowds or cold weather. The city was pretty in the rain; I can’t imagine how it is in the sun.

This is my last entry until March 13th! I am going on Spring Break on Friday to Istanbul, Athens and Santorini Greece. I also have plenty of midterms and things I have to be planning for. Trying not to stress is difficult but once Friday hits I know I will feel much better.

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Anna: Daytripping Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa & Lucca

February 23, 2011

This past week I bought my first pair of leather boots at the San Lorenzo market for 40 euros. I was really proud of myself! I like them a lot but am worried the cobblestone streets will ruin them before Minnesota winters do.

This past weekend I went to Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa and Lucca. I loved all of them! Siena and San Gimignano are known for really excellent wine, wild boar, saffron and truffles (mushroom truffles).

In Siena I had Spaghetti Carbonara which is pasta in a egg sauce—so good. There were these rice dessert balls, started with an f…and now I am blanking out but they were deilcious! And only 4 for 1 euro. My friend and I split them then later had to go back and get our own. I believe they were a traditional food for Siena. Really really tasty. They sell them in the middle of one of their main Piazzas where they do a famous horse race every summer. I also had some incredible cinnamon, chocolate and dried fruit gelato in San Gimignano.

Two of my roommates and I all cooked dinner together also this weekend which was fun. They are both in sororities so they do not do much cooking. They try really hard to experiment in the kitchen and they are always so sweet to me when I cook for them. They are amazed by the littlest things and always so complimentary. I should give my mom major props for showing me how to use a stove. We made gnocchi with sausage, red peppers and spicy tomato sauce. It was so delicious, I was proud of our teamwork. I am going through a huge spicy faze right now. I put hot sauce on every sandwich I get at the deli. Earlier when I first got here I was addicted to pesto on everything. Last night we made spicy shrimp linguine. We had wine and stayed in and talked, those have been some of my favorite nights here!

Out of all the cities I enjoyed Pisa the least. Some parts were cute but the river was really dirty and their was not much to look at (Florence’s Arno is way better!).  We had to get a picture at the leaning tower though, of course. It was really funny to see everyone pretending to push it over all around. Both San Gimignano and Lucca were cities where cars are not able to drive down the streets. In Lucca everyone rides bikes inside the city walls. We had a group of 3 and the bikes required 2 people so we decided just to walk around instead of bike. I went with my roommates Lauren and Blaire, and we all loved the city. It was so cute, and everyone seemed to know each other and were really friendly. I would suggest to anyone to make sure to see Lucca at least during the same day as Pisa.

Some of my friends from the U.S. came to visit Florence on Sunday and Monday of this week. Monday was beautiful and they got to see Piazza Michelangelo, San Lorenzo Market, The Duomo and other sites around Florence. We had dinner at Il Gatto E La Volpe which was so good, and I made sure to bring them to a favorite pastry shop of mine as well as an amazing sandwich shop called the Green Salami (Salameria Verde).

I think the girls enjoyed San Lorenzo Market the most. Except we experienced a very bad run in with a vendor who was not happy when we asked for ten after he said fifteen. He screamed at us to leave and shouted other mean things. I am hoping we won’t have to see him again…some people are just not very nice! We were really surprised because even though Florentines (he may have not been Italian) seem to have cold personalities, I have never seen anything like that before.
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