Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BO in December

I finally got the cheezy picture with the Bologna Centrale sign that I've always wanted. There's something about seeing that marker as I roll into the station that gives me such a sense of peace and homecoming!

This weekend Charlotte, my American roommate in Bologna, was visiting for the last time before she moves back to California after grad school in London. Here we are at Federica's apartment:

Luigi, sporting his fly 3D shades:

One night we thought about going ice skating, but opted for the weather protection of a bowling alley. This was my first experience bowling abroad, and it turned out to be an exact replica of the American bowling experience, so not much to report. Vittorio beat everyone and I came in 3rd from last. Not much of an American sporting ambassador am I.

Occasionally some of us would get a little artistic in our bowling:

All in all, it was a great reunion weekend, especially since I won the lottery.

Alessandro, the man of random ideas, decided we should all go in on a few scratchers together, and the six of us won 200 euro altogether! I put my winnings towards beer and a discounted pair of designer shoes, making my winnings seem to stretch that much further. Free beer and free shoes? Doesn't get much better than that.

Bologna was decorated for Christmas starting this weekend, complete with the beautiful live tree in Piazza Maggiore, and lights lining the majority of lanes and boulevards in town. Here's me and Char getting into the spirit of things:

The lights and the cold (literally, freezing) weather as well as spending the weekend with the Calabrese got me so excited for Christmas! Our students all leave Florence December 16th and so I'm planning on going down the 17th. Azzurra, when asked what plans we might have for Calabria, replied with the most simple (and predictable) response: Eat, what else? I remember when I was there in August, how excited her grandma was at the prospect of having me back there for Christmas dinner at her house. I'm already on the lookout for an extremely loose-fitting dress for that meal.

It's just too bad my favorite foreign country, the one currently providing my livelihood, is on the other side of the world from my home, family, and friends. I try not to think about you guys sipping your peppermint hot chocolates, driving by giant Santa lawn-globes, braving the crowds in lush 10-story department stores, and watching Love Actually in front of the fire. It's too much! Here's to what I hope to be my last Christmas away from home! <3

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Buon Ringraziamento!

The Villa puts on a traditional Thanksgiving (Ringraziamento in Italian) feast for all the students, staff, professors, and visiting families so that none of us feel like we're missing out on one of our most important American holidays. While I missed my family like whoa, I was extremely glad I at least didn't have to completely skip the holiday. They do such a great job preparing the usual dishes and everyone seemed so pleased to have this opportunity to gather all together, although I must say the students seemed most thankful for the presence of wine at the meal.

Anne, Donatella, Simona, Fabrizio, and Bob
(or Mr. Anne Sullivan, as he likes to refer to himself)

The gorgeous R.A.s

The boys

The girls

As usual, the most exciting side effect of Thanksgiving is the onset of the Christmas season thereafter! I love the holiday season in Europe because it has yet to be contaminated by consumerism in the way America has been. Lots of pictures and holiday spirit to follow soon!

Monday, November 22, 2010


Business trips to Bologna are perhaps the best kind. They consist of door to door transport and per diem meal allotments. For our "School's Matter" class field trip, we went on a site visit to a Maria Montesorri preschool to experience in a practical sense her novel educational methods.

Emily had never been to Bologna before so I spent the afternoon giving her the guided tour. Above is a shot of my favorite spot, of course: the farmer's market. The following pic features Emily with porticoes and a motorino in the background...now if only she were holding a bowl of tagliatelle al ragu' it would be the quintessential Bologna postcard:

Us in front of my favorite church, Santo Stefano:

And what would a visit to Bologna be without a trip to Sorbetteria Castiglione? I encouraged the students to go there and not surprisingly, all of them, as well as Emily, agreed that it was the best gelato they'd ever experienced. I spoke with the gelato lady about my history with Castiglione and she said she remembers me from three years ago, ha! This is also not surprising, as I was probably at Castiglione more frequently than the grocery store. As a result, she gave us a discount on Castiglione T-shirts. Score!

After Emily and the students headed back to Fiesole, I moved on to part II of my weekend, where I stayed at Azzu's and hung out with the old gang. Here's us chowing down on fajitas and Coronas:

One night some of Azzu and Gavi's university friends hosted a pancake night.

We ate nutella-shmeared pancakes and played Bullshit, which Ale now loves to teach everyone, for hours.

I've been so fortunate to get to go to Bologna so frequently this semester and I'll get one more trip in this year, when Charlotte, my Californian Bologna roommate, comes to visit!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't Look Now

Emily and I had a really fun weekend staying in Florence. Friday night we went out to a club called YAB, before which we enjoyed a couple of strawberry mojitos at a bar called Smiley. At the bar there were bunch of students from NY who were hip hop dancing, a refreshing art one doesn't witness often in this Renaissance city. We hadn't really gone out this semester and had a great time dancing ourselves silly and people watching.

Then on Saturday we went to the Fiorentina game and sat in la curva, where all the insane fans are. We made sure to wear our purple. The had sparklers (that often got tossed on the grass) and organized chants (that included a lot of "Vaffanculos") and plenty of flags (including a giant purple one with a Native American on it...). Florence made one awesome goal and we won the game. Thank god, too, because I didn't want to be out in the streets with a bunch of pissed off, drunk Italians with sparklers.

One of Emily's friends that had studied abroad with her in Florence five years ago, Matt, was visiting from Budapest with his girlfriend, Kelsey:

It was nice to expand our little duo a bit and we had a great time.

After the game we went to eat at a restaurant near Santa Croce called Il Pizzaiolo. I went against the grain and ordered fresh pasta with "frutta al mare", one of my favorites. I really need to stop taking this cuisine for granted.

Tomorrow we have a field trip with the students to none other than BOLOGNA and I'm going to stay over the weekend with my peeps. Can't wait!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Azzurra's Laurea

Azzu's graduation was a couple weeks ago and I got off work to go to Bologna for the occasion. In Italy, graduation day is a lot more special and intimate because just a few people graduate at a time, and also all the friends and family sit in while the student presents their thesis to a panel of professors and receives a final grade. Well, intimate and terrifying. Azzu was a ball of nerves leading up to the presentation, but she did a great job and afterward we could all breathe again. Here I'm hanging out taking pictures with the family while we were waiting for Azzurra's turn:

And then it was Azzurra's turn to present her thesis on Ryan Air. Imagine having all your closest peoples there for such an important scholastic event. We don't ever do things like this in America! (Thank God.)

I didn't breathe for 5 minutes:

She did it! I caught an adorable father/daughter shot:

Here's Gavina, Azzu, me and Cristina. Cristina is Azzu's best friend from home who just moved to Florence. Score for me!

Then, as is customary, friends make embarrassing posters and outfits for the graduate. Azzurra was a trash can and her sign is basically saying that she's a flake who always falls through when she says she'll meet up with you:

Then we went to lunch all together where we laughed more at embarrassing photos and games Azzurra had to do.

I'm so glad I was able to be present for such a big event. It made me reflect on the fact that Azzurra and I met her first year of college, three and a half years ago. I can't believe how much has happened since then. I used to worry that after that year in Bologna these friendships would slowly deteriorate due to distance and growing language incompetency, but here I am, back and better than ever! I feel so lucky to have such amazing Italian friends. Vi voglio benissimo, ragazzi!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween with Leti

For the last weekend of fall break I popped over to Pisa to spend time with Letizia and her family. It's always such a treat for me to be invited into someone's home and spend time with a family, especially while I'm missing mine so much. It's incredible to see just how little difference there is culturally when it comes down to routines, atmosphere, and basic family dynamics. I felt especially at home to be playing with her dog, Mira, smelling delicious odors floating my way from the kitchen, and, perhaps most of all, hearing arguments between mother and son! ;) Here's me and my weekend foster-brother, Tommaso:

Their house was beautifully decorated with warm colors, antiques, art, and an influx of pottery that I couldn't get over (see the kitchen wall, above). As Marco, Leti's mom's husband, is an agricultural professor, he had several of his post-doc students over for a special lunch on Saturday. Not all the photos were in black and white, but apparently all my favorites were.

One afternoon we strolled around Pisa, and what's a stroll around Pisa without a tower shot? We couldn't bring ourselves to hold it up in the photo, as it seems to be doing pretty well on its own these days. Regardless, many people were assisting in the efforts.

Some of Leti's friends invited us to go to a Halloween party at a gay club nearby Saturday night. Most of them were dressing up as characters from Ugly Betty, so we did our best to jump on board. Letizia was the notorious Wilhelmina and was Betty's racy sister Hilda. Here's a couple photos of our dinner slash photo shoot.

Here's the crew in the parking lot before entering the club. From right to left, you have Marc St. James, Betty Suarez, Wilhelmina Slater, and then the odd one out, an amazingly (or perhaps terrifyingly) well-acted Brie from Desperate Housewives, complete with muffin basket.

But then it turned out it wasn't a costume party.

So we made the most of it and had a great time dancing and watching everyone compliment Brie on her (his) costume. Mixed in between the drag shows, th music was fabulous, playing such gay-club favorites as "Oops I Did It Again" and "Lady Marmalade". Then, at around three a.m., just when we thought the night couldn't get any flashier, three completely waxed, oiled-down, naked men took the stage literally dancing their tushies off with nothing more than a tiny towel held over their biz-nass. Us girls were shocked to the very core but I can't say it wasn't a riveting show. Perhaps most disturbing was when the men finished dancing and went to hang out at the bar without stopping for a costume change.

The next day, for a complete 360, we went to Sunday lunch at Leti's grandparent's house. We had a great time looking through old photographs that went back as far as the 19th century.

That day was also Halloween so in the evening Leti and I prepared a special Halloween meal for Marco and her mom. We decorated the table with Halloween confetti, lit candles, and made a delicious thick pumpkin soup. It was sweet of the family to let me share my super-American holiday with them. And then, after dinner, I shared with Leti my only consistent Halloween tradition: watching Hocus Pocus!

And just for a final Awww, here's Mira, their golden lab, enjoyable a restful All Hallow's Eve: