Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This Is Bologna

As we say in Italy, "si mangia bene," which means "one eats well," in Bologna. And that's just what I did this last week. I went up to Bologna for Alessandro Gigliotti's graduation party, also to see Azzurra who had just returned from studying in Barcelona, and as it turned out, also to hang out with her mom and siblings who came up for a week to visit. Which means not only did I eat Bolognese but I also got my fair share of Calabrese. Hot diggity.

Azzurra and I went out to dinner the first night at one of my and Shawn's favorite restaurants on Via Urbana. We enjoyed tortelloni, gramigna, and a bottle of wine. What a welcome back!

Here's some pics from Ale's graduation party. The highlight of the night was when he started dancing Brazilian Capoeira with his friends. Another highlight was tasting Ale's secret recipe chocolate liqueur. I also enjoyed calling him "dottore," since he's a graduate now!

During the days the fam and I mostly wandered the city, did some shopping, and ate gelato. We also ate GIANT lunches at home. I probably gained a kilo, but believe you me, I enjoyed that kilo.

There was a natural foods market in Piazza Maggiore one day and one booth was filled with super unique types of chickens and roosters. I've never seen anything like them.

Here's what is widely regarded as the most beautiful piazza in Bologna, Santa Stefano, best seen at night:

I'm enjoying Siena, having made many new friends and having secured a (albeit temporary) job, but being back in Bologna just felt like home. I gotta get back!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Castagneto Carducci

I spent last Saturday and Sunday with Letizia and her family in Castagneto Carducci on the Tuscan coast and some neighboring towns. You're in for a treat, because Leti took amazing pictures of our weekend on the coast, and some of them are mixed in here.

We must have spent at least seven hours at the beach, which would explain the relatively substantial sunburn that followed. Still, between swimming with her dog, Mira, eating bomb peaches, and catching itty bitty fish in our hands like Bear Grillz, it was a great day!

As we were at a dog beach, there was quite the canine entertainment. This wise-looking dog was our favorite all day and we think he was named Sookie (like the girl on True Blood), but since that's no name for an Italian male dog, we upgraded it to Sookie-sandro. Has a nice ring to it, don't you think? He has his own dog-sized umbrella, and with the pack next to him, it looks like he came to the beach of his own accord. I wouldn't put it past him.

After our beach day, we headed just a bit inland to the small town where Leti's family has an apartment. The town's fountain has several of these awesome faucet-heads:

That evening, we headed out for a tour of the town, which took about 4 minutes to complete. Here's one of the adorable restaurants we passed:

And here's the piazza that houses the enoteca (wine bar) that we stopped at for our delicious dinner:

On our walk home, we took a precarious staircase called something along the lines of "Staircase of the Saints" because you definitely need a saint on your shoulder to keep from tumbling down:

Nothing better than waking up to breakfast awaiting your arrival:

On Sunday, we decided to nix the beach (on account of sunburns) and instead tour a couple of neighboring villages. I snapped a shot of the vineyards on our way to Bolgheri:

Here we are enjoying the beautiful flowers at the gate of Bolgheri:

Here's my "That's right, I live in Tuscany" photo:

It turns out that Leti's mom's maiden name is Degl'Innocenti, just like our family's original name! Plus, my family's from Tuscany as well, so as it turns out we must be practically sisters. Here's a family picture when we stopped for gelato:

This whole region has such beautifully curated flowers! Here's just one of the many vibrant, flourishing plants we came across:

And a lovely old church just outside the gates of Bolgheri:

The next town we stopped in was having a medieval fair in the evening, and we were able to take advantage of some of the props they had left lying around. Oh dear. What did I do this time?

In the same piazza as the shackles was this adorable old lady hanging out her window who talked to us for at least 20 minutes about the fair and her cat and the history of the town. She even invited us into her house to see how part of the original walls of the town could be seen in her living room. That's true Italy for you.

Look how tiny she is! She swept the whole time we were there.

What a beautiful town.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Just for good measure, I thought you might enjoy a picture of the roommates all out to dinner together. We're missing the French girl, Justine, but everyone else is here. From L to R, there's Zofia (Polish), Eri (Japanese), Letizia (Italian), and Eri's boyfriend Gianluca (Italian). I'm their first American roommate and they love learning the proper pronunciation of famous people's names from me. At least I'm good for something!

Here's me and Letizia poking fun at the way Italian girls always seem to unconsciously cock their heads for pictures:

Photos of my beach weekend with Leti and her family to come shortly!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Villa Dievole

When your boss offers you a free spot on a wine tour through Chianti, you take it voluntarily. We took a large group of students to Villa Dievole with our director, Antonio, who is a licensed sommelier. I'll mostly let the pictures speak for themselves...

Some of the students in the program:

One of the students, after seeing all the butterflies around, commented that he had taught a course on butterflies and proceeded to educate us on their wonders. It was so funny and random that now whenever he comments on anything we all ask, "Did you teach a course on that, too, Joey?"

We sampled four different bottles, including Dievole Bianco di Malvagia, of course a Chianti Classico, Broccato, and the sweet Vin Santo di Caratello (which i purchased).

Here's our director, explaining the world of grapes:

I never knew Mammolo was a type of grape...it's also the name of our closest porta, or main gateway, leading out of Bologna's center.

The grounds were just beautiful! In fact, the villa is also a hotel. I'd recommend a stay there, for sure!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Palio trumps World Cup?

Now that I'm finally caught up with my travels, I can start telling you all about my new life here in Siena! It was a bit lonely at first, especially having just left Shawn and Gavina and all my friends in Bologna, but I've started to meet new people and feel more settled. My roommates are all really friendly, although everyone mostly does their own thing. My Italian flatmate, Letizia, and I have a lot in common and endless things to discuss because we both watch Glee and Trueblood and idolize Beyonce. It's always nice to find common interests, however shallow they may be.

I've been very lucky because the apartment is a stone's throw from the study center where I work and I have a giant double room to myself. I even have an extra bed for any friends, eh ehm, who might come to visit. My Polish roommate used to be in this room, which explains the kneeler, the multitude of crucifixes and the photos of Pope John Paul II. Gavina laughs at me because I refer to him as Gian Paolo instead of Papa Giovanni Paolo II, as if we've been best friends since childhood. Seeing as he watches over me as I sleep, I think that makes us pretty close.

Please excuse my lack of photos for many of the things I'm describing...now that I'm living here, I'm not on tourist mode and I forget my camera frequently. I'll get on the ball, I promise! But no worries, there are many still to come...

Here's one third of the beautiful view out my picturesque window:

Here's part of my room...I wish I would've brought more pictures with me. I miss you all!

Work with the UC study center has been going really well. Everyone in the office is extremely nice and helpful and thankful to have me there. I'm very much enjoying working there and feel very comfortable with the arrangement. I'm extra happy today because the director agreed to pay not just my rent but also my utilities! Mega-score. They weren't entirely ready for me at the beginning so I've been taking on odd projects as they think of them. This week I'm actually going on several excursions with the students, including one to a winery and one to Florence. Tough job, eh?

Outside of work, I've just been trying to meet new people! I've met several through a website called Couchsurfing, and others through roommates and work. I went to the beach one morning with my French roommate Justine, I've been watching the World Cup games with my roommates, getting gelato with couchsurfers and I even got invited to a Tuscan BBQ by one of the ex-students at the study center. I finally got a home-cooked meal, got to meet lots of new Italians, and even got into a water fight. It was just so nice to be out of the house, surrounded by Italians and having a good time! The photo is awful quality because I stole it from facebook, and yes, that's me in the back, watching a half-naked Italian drum his belly:

Sunday morning I decided to go to mass at the Duomo, partly because I wanted to experience mass there and partly because it's the only way to gain free entry into the cathedral! It's a pretty fabulous facade:

I sneaked a photo of the alter and a nun praying before I got scolded:

I came across this lovely view while wandering the city one day. Now I like to pass by here every so often:

We've obviously been very into the World Cup here, despite the fact that Italy was eliminated even earlier than the U.S.! After watching the final with one of my new friends, we wandered into Piazza del Campo to see the victorious Spaniards vying for importance over the Contrada that won the Palio:

The Palio, a giant no holds barred horse race around Piazza del Campo, is Siena's infamous and biggest event and people go freaking crazy here over it. The first Palio of the summer happened the day before I arrived, and there have been daily parades and celebrations from the Contrada that won. It's madness. So there we were in the Piazza, where everyone gathers every night and for any event, and the Contrada's playing drums and trying to "out-boister" the horn-tooting Spaniards, attempting to elevate the medieval local tradition's importance over that of the worldwide soccer tournament. Paul, the octopus in Germany that correctly predicted the winners of the last 10 final games-now HE just might trump the Palio and the World Cup.