Posts Tagged ‘Italian’


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.


Eric: Classes and Profs at Accent in Rome

March 14, 2011

So I was finally able to speak to my mom over Google calling, which was completely free and functioned very well despite cutting out every once in a while. She requested that I talk about my professors here in Rome and go in depth on the nature of my scholastic experience.  I agree and cannot believe that I have neglected to write about this very important part of the journey.  So here it goes.

I am enrolled in four courses and an internship.  I am taking a marketing course, made in Italy, a course on sustainability, Italy a case for sustainability, a communications course, Italian media, and last but certainly not least an Italian language course. All of my classes are in the same room, which is a smaller classroom and features a white board, a LCD projector, a laptop, a space heater, 15 desks, and a window that overlooks the atrium.  The school is housed in a building that was built in the 15th century and was intended to be used by the Vatican.  The building is old, but feels light and fresh.  The administration part of Accent is housed in a different part of the building down the hall from the UofM classroom building.

The plaza that our school is in is piazza l’orologio which houses a church that has a wonderful clock that faces a clearing that is cobbled over and a common meeting area for students.

My teachers are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met.  All of my professors are fluent in several languages and teach at the center part time. I will begin discussing my Profs in order that I meet with them through the week.

First there is Fabianna who is a typical Italian working professional.  She is beautiful, stylish, intelligent and kind.  She frequents class with thousand dollar purses, fantastic scarves and footwear.  She has tan olive skin and wears tasteful makeup.  Her full time job is for Salvatore Ferigamo as a marketing liaison for the US markets.  She has worked in the United States in Florida, New York, and California.  Fabianna also has extremely important and noteworthy personal connections such as Luis Vuitton, executives in Prada, Gucci and I am sure many other important luxury brands that do business in Italy that she has not mentioned.  Her class is as interesting as she is.  She also invites her friends to come give guest lectures about doing business in Italy and reinforce the “Made in Italy” reputation.  There are no tests, and no official homework or essays.  The grade will be completely based upon a final project in which the class was split into pairs to complete.  The projects is to create a product idea and develop a business plan in which the groundwork for launching the brand in a US market with limited startup capital is available to synthesize a common situation that new Italian brands a faces with.  The project will be graded on originality, innovation, presentation, timeliness and respect for the 50,000 euro budget.  In the project detail there is talk of a “lucky winner” which I am thinking might be an opportunity to turn the business plan into a business reality which would be incredible.  I am partnered with a friend and likeminded student and have developed a plan that we think is likely to be successful, in which case we are determined to win and hopefully be aided in turning our dreams into reality which could change my life drastically.

My Italian professor is a man of the world who speaks English, Italian, French, Spanish and Arabic.  He is full of energy and absolutely hilarious. I cannot say enough nice things about this man! The class size is small with only six of us in the classroom so there is no way to blend in and not be persuaded to learn the language.  In addition to our classroom practice we have gone to the coffee shop near our school. Bar Amore¸ and a fruit and vegetable market in Campo Di Fiori.  At the coffee shop we were treated to a coffee as long as we ordered in Italian which was really fun, albeit something that I do on a daily basis.  At the fruit market we were given the task of asking vendors how much ten items cost per kilo in Italian.  In order to accomplish this feat we needed to use our salutations, knowledge of different fruits and veggies, numbers and any other niceties that were thrown to us.  Read the rest of this entry ?


Eric: Excerpt from reflection essay

February 8, 2011

So I have not really been out and about all the much recently due to my studies occupying much of my time, but I feel that this essay would be appropriate to include here in my blog.  The essay is a reflection paper in which the assignment is to relate a song to your experiences.  The song that I chose is an amazing instrumental piece by Rodrigo Y Gabriella called “Tamacun.” Here’s a link to the Youtube page where you can listen to the song if you want to read the entry while you listen to it.

“This song is fast pace and melodic.  The two guitarists play Spanish style scales at break neck speed in perfect harmony.  Gabriella plays rhythm while Rodrigo plucks the melody.  When I listen to this song I feel as I am a water droplet coursing through the Tiber River on my way to the sea.  The pace of Rome also pulses in harmony while retaining a calming quality through laughter and warmth.  Children play with confetti in preparation for Carnival as loving parents look on in admiration of a life they created.  Scooters, cars, busses and cyclists vie for position on the many streets as pedestrians navigate them with cautious confidence.  The song is instrumental devoid of lyrics, but it is able to convey a message that is felt rather than said.  I am not an experienced Italian speaker therefore most of my interactions with the Roman residence have been non verbal.  Although I have not been able to convey my message concisely though an exchange of dialogue I am able to hint at my meaning though gesture.   At times it can be frustrating to be unable to say what I feel and ask for things that I need, but this frustration motivates me to push my limits in order to quickly learn a new language and culture.  I have only been in the country for a few weeks now but with the help of my host family and the friends I have met through the program I feel that I am adapting well to the escalating pace of my life in a land that I am not native to.  I find myself wondering how I am viewed by the locals that I meet and am forced to interact with.  It is easy to feel ostracized due to the fact that I am unable to fully understand the conversations I overhear, but I try to remind myself that this is natural and to relax while enjoying my experiences for what they are.  The song “Tamacun” is a reminder to me that there are no short cuts in life.  I understand that if Rodrigo and Gabriella got frustrated while they were learning to play the guita  and simply gave up, the beautiful piece of music I am relating my experiences to would not exist.  With practice comes perfection, and I am determined to take this semester in stride in order to grow slowly and without frustration.”


Anna: La Vita e Meravigliosa!

January 28, 2011

This week I had my first Italian quiz, hence the “la vita e mervigliosa” which means “it’s a wonderful life.” I am trying to speak as much Italian as I can! Very different than Spanish I must say but it isn’t too horrible. Some people in my class have awful pronunciation from the East Coast so I don’t sound too bad. This is a short post but I thought I would mention a few fun things I did this week!

First, my art history professor took us to Santa Croce church which was beautiful. Michelangelo and Galileo are both buried there. We are learning about frescos, which are layers of paint that even though many have been chipped and distressed over the years you can still see how much work went into them. They remind me of textural wall murals—very pretty. I am excited to get out into the city for this class! The class is 3 hours long and my professor can talk the whole time and can still hold our attention.

We ate at restaurant called Il gatto e la volpe which means the cat and the fox. It is from the story of Pinocchio, which was written by an Italian author. When reading that back in the day I definitely didn’t connect the dots to that one. Anyways, it was delicious! The balsamic was chunky, different than usual but sooo good. I order the Spaghetti Nonna Rosa which is made with green tomatoes, a bit of cream, spicy, and little pieces of ham. It was so delicious. Anyone who visits me I am taking you there! Besides, the waiter was soo nice and looked like Ray Romano which I loved. He even gave us a 10 percent discount card! I also tried white chocolate gelato with nutella in it, so delish!

I finally met up with a friend from high school, Elizabeth Mountain. We got lunch, well I ate she watched because she is fed at her school and it was great to catch up. I got margherita pizza and the lady was not liking me because I asked for tap water and if I could pay with a credit card. If you want something to drink here, you have to pay for a huge thing of water or order something else. So everyone savor your free water! And basically everywhere you go you need cash, definitely going to take some getting used to. Elizabeth and I are planning a trip to Prague at the end of March. I have heard only great things about it! If you have any suggestions please let me know. Can’t wait!

I haven’t bought anything yet except for a sweater which involves a long story, but I was in need of one. And it was cheap! Coin is a great place to shop, cheap and a department store. Plus sale season is ending soon so if I want anything I need to buy anything in stores I need to do it soon. I have a very limited wardrobe being one of the very few people who brought only 1 suitcase. But I am still resisting the temptation and have not bought anything yet! Still need to make it to San Lorenzo market to barter.

I am going to Rome this weekend! Hopefully I will be able to meet up with both friends and family. I am in contact with my dad’s cousin named Fernando. His wife speaks a little English but I am mainly going to try to speak to his daughter in law who is Canadian and will help me communicate. I heard Fernando has a fever so hopefully he will feel well enough to give me a tour or get a bite to eat. Looking forward to this crazy city. It will be interesting to compare it to Florence since I contemplated going there earlier…but I think I will be happy with my decision anyways!

Lately everyone has been stressing and talking about traveling. I too have been struggling with trying to decide where to travel outside of Italy! I have ruled out Paris recently because it’s difficult to fly there cheaply and will be pricey once I am there. I also ruled out London even though I’d love to go but again, its a lot for a weekend trip.

Here is my list so far: Spain, Prague, Switzerland (maybe next weekend), Greece for Spring Break, and possibly the French Riviera. And my main focus is traveling ALL over Italy! My roommates and I want to do Cinque Terre for my birthday and French Riviera at the very end in April!

p.s. people don’t pick the dog poop up on the cobblestone streets ever. and italians do not know how to drive! I will post a picture explaining the driving next time because again, the internet won’t let me!
In the meantime enjoy this link my cross cultural psych teacher gave me.


Eric: primo giorno di lezione

January 24, 2011

Yesterday, the group met for breakfast and then trekked off to the Trastevere Sunday flea market. For as far as the eye can see down a backstreet that flows southwest of the Tiber were tents and people crowded shoulder to shoulder in-between them. The attitude was relaxed and chaotic all at the same time with thousands of people browsing imitation designer clothes, shoes, boots and everything else that could possibly be replicated and sold at bottom barrel prices. The smell of pork wafted through the alley and beckoned for you to come get a Chicare sandwich.

There were several shops selling kitchenware, and I kept my eyes open searching them all for a thermos to replace the one that broke. Spatulas, spoons, Tupperware, espresso makers, colanders etc. but no Thermos. At the point in which I was about to give up I saw one gleaming like an obelisk from underneath a small stand of assorted goods. Excited, I bee-lined for it and gave it a look. It was time to barter. I asked how much to the Chinese woman behind the table, but I could not understand her response. I countered whatever she said with an initial bid of 6 euro, she looked to her right and caught glances with her husband and my offer was denied with a counter offer of 8 euro. I attempted to offer 7, but I could tell that she was not in the mood to haggle on the item so I paid the 8.

Later, we all decided to head off to a pizza place that my host family had recommended. Although we had a map on the back of the business card we were lost in piazza so cossimato. Skateboarders shooting a part rolled around skating the benches, concrete embankments and rails scattered infront of renaissance cathedrals. I spotted a fellow American and asked if he might know where this place was, but he seemed unsure and as we all tried to orient our current location to map I caught the name of the restaurant staring back at me from a non-descript window in front of us. Lunch was awesome!  We shared two bottles of wine, two bottles of water and each had their own 10″ thin crust pizza for 10 euro.

Later that evening we went to a Pub named Scholars where every American student seemed to have crowded into in order to watch the Green Bay Packers beat the Bears. The oak walls seemed to flex as we maxed out the place with cheering Wisconsin co-eds reconnecting with a culture that they had exchanged for a more reserved nothing in excess except laughs type of people.

So anyway…back to this morning!

I opened my eyes to cerulean blue light peeking through my blinds reminding me it is morning again in the Eternal city.  Pushing off the cover I rolled out of bed eager to have another espresso and some breakfast pastry. Like clockwork, as I opened my bedroom door to exit into the hallway, Valentino entered the apartment with a silver thermos of coffee. As delighted as I was to see the coffee I came to the realization that they already had the exact same thermos that I had purchased from the Trastevere Sunday market to replace the one I had accidentally broken. I figured it was the thought that counted, and I handed the thermos I had purchased to him who promptly refused. Valentino understood my intentions and brought the vessel down to Marina. As I set down to coffee and screwed off the lid of the thermos I realized that the one that I had given to Marina as a replacement was a fake of the one that she already had.

As I hit the pavement I was met with a sunny brisk Roman morning. We took the 870 to Poana which drops off a few blocks from the center. Today was the first day of class, which started with Made in Italy taught by a brilliant woman who is fluent in three languages and has lived on three continents. The class seems extremely engaging and we may even score some free passes to a fashion show that features an all-star class of Italian fashion designers unleashing next seasons garments later this spring. After another quick coffee break it was time for my first Italian course. Our teacher Mario is fantastic! I do not think that I have laughed so hard in my life when we were paired up and attempted to work on our pronunciation. Mario kept an open ear to our conversations and butted in to offer suggestions and crack the occasional pun which had all of in smiles for the hour. Following class me and Mike did the Caesar shuffle back to his apartment in the Monte Esquilino district of town to get his money to pay for our side excursions and so he could grab his running gear so we could go for an evening jog in the Villa Panfili park.

I was able to put my iPod into my back pocket, crank up the internal speaker and hit the trails with Mike.  The trail starts out by entering a non-descript gateway covered in graffiti.  The true magic of the park lies about 3/4 mile up the 20% grade hill that rises above Rome onto a hilltop crested by decaying fountains, beheaded statues, and a pristine villa with immaculate hedge garden.

After working up a sweat, we decided it was time for an apertivo and headed off in search of a café near by.  We eventually found a spot that seemed worth entering where we were served peanuts, chips, and a glass of Chianti apiece.  As we sipped our wine and talked about life my phone rang, and it was Marina. Tempo per la cena!!  Not looking to upset our hosts we rushed back to the homestay just in time to be served oriacceli with broccoli for first course along with a sparkling red wine that is popular in this region. Second course was sautéed beef served with insilata.  The meal was rounded out with a shot of grappa and sugar cookies.


Eric: Roma, day 3

January 22, 2011

Sooo I set my alarm last night for this morning at 7 o’clock to make sure I had plenty of time to get ready to hop on the bus at 8, but I did not set the time on my phone correctly!  My house mate instead woke me up at 8. My host dad had already brought up the espresso, and I slammed two quick shots and decided I would be nice and rinse out the thermos, but I did not realize that it was lined with fragile glass!  needless to say the instant I added cold tap water to the thermos the thing exploded. Great! I hoped to just leave some Euro underneath the broken thermos and run to the bus stop, but Valentino came to the door before we left and wanted to get more information from me and Brian in order to fill out his paperwork for hosting us.

The morning was dreary with light showers and stayed overcast most of the day. Considering we would have been really late for school if we had taken the bus Valentino drove us to school in his Focus. I was sort of looking forward to riding the bus again, but it was a really nice gesture and we got to school right on time.

When everyone arrived at the ACCENT center we headed off to Emporium alla Pace, which is a cute little coffee bar a block or so from the center. There were newspapers all around and a book shelf with several Italian cookbooks. The clientele was comprised by single ladies attempting to enjoy a peaceful morning, but we packed the place to the brim with our group of 20. From the bar we walked through some side streets and loaded into taxi’s aimed at the Villa Borghese. As the Taxi zipped through the city a blur of designer shops, restaurants, fountains, sculptures and Ferraris shone through the windows of the quick little Puegot.

The Villa Borghese is beyond words. We were given what was similar to a phone that you were able to punch numbers into the digital pad and synch up different rooms and particular pieces of art in order to get an exciting description and meaning behind each work of art. We were able to roam free and explore and get intimate with Bernini’s finest works which were simply amazing. Micro mosaics, incredible frescoes, oil paintings oh my! I am going to return and spend all day there. From the Villa we walked the grounds to the Spanish steps which overlook the chic district where every designer has a only buyers welcome type of shop.  After doing some window ogling of the seasons fashions we split for lunch.

Me and a few of the fellow students found a little gem on a corner named, Café terra forno which is owned and operated by a father-son team. The make excellent espresso, fantastic sandwiches, hearty salads and aperativo. I personally had an espresso to start, followed by a pancetta and mozzarella penino and a aperativo made with orange juice with gran marnier and schnapps.

After lunch we met up with our guide who teaches a class on modernism. She is a fashionable five foot powerhouse of Rome. We went to check out the Hotel Art, a chic boutique hotel and a store called Tad which sold all things high end. I was not really impressed with the hotel or the shop, but they are both very popular in the city. From there we strolled to a few more destinations and ended up at Santa Maria church. The church has been remolded and a chic bar is perched above and overlooking a fresco by Rafael. We all had a glass of wine and enjoyed some friendly banter before heading off to enjoy a five course meal at a restaurant. The program paid for our meals which would have been around 50 per person not including wine. After dinner everyone retreated back to their houses to get some rest after another full day of sightseeing.

I went back to the ACCENT center with Steven to get an extra cell phone that he had to use for the trip. I am able to receive international calls for free (caller pays), but international sms texts cost 50 cents each and Int calling can be quite expensive. Phone cards are available, but I think that I am going to rely on SMS, email and Skype for the duration of the trip.

When I left ACCENT I took my first bus alone, at night, in the rain. It was a short walk to a busy bus stop servicing an endless parade of busses scurrying off to different destinations. I had never taken the 870, but I was able to print out a route plan at the center and it got me home quickly with a great view on the way of illuminated Rome at night from a hill on the west bank of the Tiber.


Eric: Rome, day 1

January 20, 2011

We made it! After 14 hours of air travel and a seven hour time difference I have landed in the Eternal City, ROME! When our plane touched down it was overcast and misting with a temperature of around fifty degrees. Our group boarded the plane together and exited together completely undirected which is a good sign that there will be some lasting connections made on this trip.

Customs was really quick and easy, simply a matter of getting your visa stamped. Once we were through and got our bags, we were met by our program directors at which point general information was administered and distributed. We all were handed an envelope with our specific housing arrangements inside along with an unlimited bus pass. The majority of the students had decided to live in an apartment, but there were five of us who chose the homestay option. The students who chose the apartment option were grouped based on gender into two separate apartments. Those of us who decided on the homestay option were placed in the home of an Italian Signora alone, or with another student and an entire family.

My homestay is proving to be amazing. The family consists of three members who live in the apartment which is actually comprised of two separate apartments in a single building. Me and my fellow student were greeted by Marina, the lady of the house, who is especially kind and patient. The language barrier is definitely a factor, but she had anticipated this, and when we were walked into the lower level apartment her computer was already on the Google translate page. We were able to break the ice and she made us some espresso, which was incredible. Next we were adjourned for a half an hour so the we could go unpack and situate ourselves our new rooms. The apartment that we have is amazing! Marble floors, ten foot ceilings, and terraces attached to every room.

Marina has a dog, Irwin, and a cat which I have forgotten the name of. Once we had situated ourselves Marina offered to show us around town, and we took Irwin for a walk around the Quarto, into a public Villa, and past some of the shops and into the Super Mercado. Marina bought some bread, artichokes, and pasta (Coop Brand) which is her favorite local brand.

When we returned back to the apartment we were greeted by Marina’s husband who assisted us in connecting our computers to the house’s Wi-Fi network which was a pleasant surprise. After some small talk that was conversed in a language that was neither Italian nor English but a rough blending of the two we had some lunch. Although it was somewhat irritating to not be able to converse easily I am relishing in the challenge of applying context to a conversation in order to flesh out a meaning from words that I have never heard before. Although communicating in this way is somewhat of a guessing game, it does lead to quite a few laughs when the conversation crashes into a language barrier and we run to the computer to translate for us.

We had a Mezzo of carbora, boiled artichokes, bread, and wine. I felt bad not eating my entire portion of the pasta which was 3 times as large as the rest of the families’ portion (ha-ha I guess the secret is out about American portion sizes, and I did not know how to say “that is enough, thank you”), but at least Irwin was happy! Apparently it is not a family custom to serve leftovers, so anything that is extra is promptly given to the dog. After another Café and some more friendly banter aided by the computer we all went our separate ways.  I decided to work off my Mezzo by putting on my jogging shoes and venturing up the dirt paths that lead up to the Villa and around the grounds. The park was peppered by locals pushing themselves to the limit on the trails and I felt strangely at home.


Anna: First Days in Florence

January 18, 2011

Ponte Vecchio and River Arno

Everyone…I am alive! Even though I have been in the country since Friday…I have been totally out of Internet or phone connection until yesterday, but here I am in Florence, Italy. While some people went out their first night, my roommates and I were extremely jet lagged. But we are finally getting adjusted to our sleep and of course the 9pm dinners. My roommates are all super nice, two are from Indiana and the other is a U of M student as well. It is comforting because we all seem to all have the same worries, goals, and excitements for our stay here.

Kitchen and balcony in our apartment

The city is absolutely beautiful. Everything is old and has so much character I love it. My apartment is across the river Arno so our walk to the city center everyday is really incredible. We cross the Ponte Vecchio daily, which I learned is the oldest bridge in the world and the only one Hitler declared not to bomb in WWII. Our apartment is ADORABLE. Great size, we like the location, only problem is it is colder inside than out! We haven’t been the smartest in some cases, buying a wine opener and realizing we had three in our apartment. Also buying our first cappuccinos and being scolded for offering a Visa.

Now, to get to the point…what has Anna eaten? Our first night out we ordered pizza, bruschetta and wine. Our second night out we ordered arugula pesto pasta with pancetta and grilled chicken. I have discovered splitting things is the best of both worlds—cheaper and try more! Also, nutella gelato is my new best friend costing only 2.5 euro! Thank goodness we walk everywhere, because that is definitely going to help me out this semester not gaining any “Italian food weight.” I am even convinced my foot is swollen from all the walking!

When we went out last night we ended up at a pub that was well…very American. That will not be happening again. Lesson learned. Even though it was funny to hear CeeLo Green’s version of “Forget You” play miles away from home, it wasn’t exactly a place to learn about Italian culture. We enjoyed people watching especially the American girls who were wearing heels on cobblestone streets, short skirts and well…not following the rules our program told us to blend in. Our goal is to find the bars that locals go to. Here in Italy getting wasted or having more than a couple drinks is very looked down upon.

My friends, Ellen, Kristen and I enjoying dinner

We were told Florentines are all very cold mannered. So far we have not seen this! Some women do look intimidating in their all black, high fashion outfits but for the most part the Florentines have been very welcoming and helpful. We loved a woman in a leather store who sold my friend Kristin her first leather jacket. She was so sweet and offered her a great price considering she makes jackets for Versace. The shopaholic side of me has not come out yet. I have been very tempted but also very cautious of my money. Fortunately there is a sale season in Italy that lasts until the end of February.

My Italian teacher was impressed with the few words I know…I can thank my dad who tutored me for the past few weeks for that. Her name is also Anna and loved when she called on me asking my name, realizing it was the same as hers.

It will take me a while to figure out how to get to class…my dad passed being directionally disabled on to me that’s for sure. Kristin, my roommate, seems to know where everything is. I told her she isn’t leaving my side all trip. This week we hope to walk to the top of the Duomo, check out the San Lorenzo Market, and the Uffizi museum.


Eric: Welcome! Benvenuti!

January 18, 2011

My name for all who do not already know is Eric Orton. I am currently a student at the University of Minnesota, studying business and marketing at the college of education and human development.

The reason for this blog is to share my experiences while studying abroad in Rome, Italy this spring semester.  I am participating in a program offered by the Learning Abroad Center (LAC) at the UofM Twin Cities campus. Seeing as this is going to be my first experience in Europe I am quite excited and nervous to embark on my journey.

So far I have been very pleased with the process of applying, consulting, and the preparation steps that the LAC has designed. Emelee Volden the Rome coordinator has been excellent every step of the way, and without her work and kindness the process would have not been as stress-free.  Jessica Hartnett handled all the details and all questions that I had emailed to her were answered promptly, and all issues were handled without confusion.

For anyone contemplating studying abroad I encourage you to do some exploring on the LAC website (  All of the pertinant information is listed clearly on the website and it is very user friendly.  Although the website is fantastic there is no substitute for face to face consultation. The LAC has convenient walk-in hours where they go over the basic need to know information about learning abroad, but if you have program specific questions and concerns it is best to set up an appointment by emailing the LAC.

If you have any desire to gain a new perspective on life while earning college credit look into studying abroad, although I have not yet embarked on my journey the process of applying and the realization that this is actually happening have already added to my character.

Well, I suppose I should continue packing and bolstering my music collection before I head out!

Ciao! Arrivederci!


Meghan: Knock on wood

November 2, 2010

Today is All Souls Day, a holiday almost entirely overshadowed by Halloween and All Saint’s Day, that commemorates the dead. Being in a very Christian country, “The day of the Dead” is definitely not something to be taken lightly. My curiosity has gone into overdrive these last couple of days, and I was especially curious on how Halloween was celebrated in Italy. The idea of “Trick or Treating,” or as Italians like to call it “Dolcetto o Scherzetto” has just recently become popular, mainly in the bigger cities; and trying to find adult sized Halloween costumes is almost impossible…not that I tried very hard. Considering the fact that seeing adults dressed in ridiculous outfits has been, until recently, reason to send them to an Asylum, we expected quite a few comments.

So when Britta and I walked into a small tabaccheria before a “pre-Halloween” party from fellow classmates, the barman couldn’t help but tease Britta, who had drawn cat-whiskers, and promptly quizzed her:
Come si dice dolcetto o scherzetto in Americano?” “How do you say ‘Trick or Treat’ in American?” Naturally, we were able to answer, and got free chocolate! I have to admit, it’s my fault that the tabacchaio started to tease Britta. She came into the tabaccheria (a place where they sell everything, from phone cards to cigarettes, to candy and coffee) with a scarf covering her face to avoid that exact situation. So when the worker looked at me with a raised eye-brow, I couldn’t refrain from explaining that she drew whiskers on her face for Halloween and didn’t want people to see. Laughing and teasing ensued, along with the aforementioned free chocolate.

Maggie, the hostess, pulled out all of the stops, with help from her roommates and other friends from the program, serving chocolate cupcakes with amazing orange colored frosting, PB&J, and other delicious treats. It was definitely a Halloween party, American style. Another party, on the day of Halloween, was just as American, or Midwestern to be more precise, with a scattering of students from all around the world, and our wonderful Italians. The most interesting part of Halloween, for me, was learning all of the different superstitions and myths found in Italy. Here are some of my favorite:

Black Cat: Of course, the black cat is a very prominent superstition in America as well as in Italy; however, have you ever heard of someone while driving, saw a black cat cross the road in front of them, and subsequently stopping and waiting for a car to pass them so that they wouldn’t receive the bad luck caused by the cat?! Ridiculous…but a true story from a friend in Florence.

Toasts: You must never toast with a glass of water, and you must always look in the person’s eyes or else you’ll receive 7 years of a bad love life.

13: The number 13 is actually lucky in Italy! 17 is bad luck! Supposedly, and I have only heard this from one person, but 17 written in roman numerals is XVII, and rearranged it is VIXI, latin for “I lived,” which was commonly written on tombstones.

Shoes or Hats: You must never put new shoes on the bed or table. It brings back the idea that in the past, the dead used to be laid out on the bed/table in order to pay respects, and they would be dressed in new shoes. Doing so will bring bad luck for it is said that “you are tempting death to come over.” (In some places, it goes for hats as well.) So don’t tempt death and keep your shoes off of the table!

Nuns: Supposedly, if you seen a nun you must quickly ward of bad luck by touching iron: the italian version of “knocking on wood” or “touching wood” for you Brits! You can also yell “Your Nun!” to a person nearby and thereby pass on the bad luck to them.
The reason being, nuns were normally only seen at funerals and hospitals: two places you do not want to be.

Finally, and most interestingly, is the “Malocchio.” The “Evil Eye,” can be anything from giving or receiving a dirty look, or sometimes, a compliment that shows jealousy. It is said that giving a compliment is a way of tempting the spirits, and either you must wear the “corno” a horn-shaped charm, or perform the typical hand-gesture by pointing your pinkie and index fingers downward as you “push-away” the bad luck. Make sure that your fingers are facing downwards, because if they are facing up, it means that your significant other, has or is cheating on you.

I could go on and on, but should end this entertaining form of procrastination.

%d bloggers like this: