Thursday, September 30, 2010


I can't believe that I've been here already for a month and I haven't shown you any photos of the town! I need to be better about bringing my camera around with me for walks and such, but here's a few shots that give you a good idea of the landscape, with captions worthy of a Pulitzer:

Piazza Mino

Clock tower of the Cathedral

Some villas

Cute old car

Morbid, maybe...but with really awesome arches

I'll try to add more when I get the chance!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Can you bring us more parmigiano?

And here is the moment many of you have been waiting for...cute waiter time! So Emily and I are not exactly staff at the hotel, but since technically we work here too, the lines become a little fuzzy and we sometimes hang out with the waiters and the reception guys. This happens for three reasons. One, we don't get out much. Two, we get to practice our Italian. Three, well, just look at them!

Antonio, Gaspare, and Francesco

I think they were beyond flattered when I demanded a photo because they couldn't stop smiling and posing. They're all from the south (Napoli, Basilicata, and Sicilia, respectively), so maybe that explains why I get along with them so well. Here's the dreaded picture to which Emily put up so many objections and for which now she can't thank me enough. ;)

It's ok, go ahead and take another look.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Fiesole, the charming little town tucked away in the hills of Florence in which I now reside, is chock full of fancy schmancy villas. Georgetown's is called Villa Le Balze and it's right next to the historic Medici Villa. I've also heard that Salvatore Ferragamo's villa is tucked up here as well. Looking down on the city of Florence you see a jaw-dropping panorama, and can even pick out the colossal duomo.

This semester the program is located in a hotel instead of the Villa because they're having to restructure most of the ceilings, yet I managed to snap a few photos on my first trip down to the villa because you have just got to see it to believe it. This is a shot of the back side, with the stairs hiding a fountain:

Here is the front balcony, looking out on the lovely Florence below:

The orchard is perched on the other side, here along with our resident professor, Dean Sullivan, and my fellow R.A., Emily.

The villa gardens are kept perfectly curated by two full-time gardeners who work tirelessly to maintain the original concept:

There is an outdoor corridor connecting the two buildings:

And the view from the expansive balcony of the second building takes my breath away every time:

I didn't take any pictures of the indoors because everything is in disarray, but hopefully one day I'll be able to share that part (in all its glory) with you all as well! More Fiesole pictures to come...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Calabria Take Four

Can you believe this was my fourth time taking the 10-hour night bus down to a little town called Castrovillari, a town whose level of coolness rivals only that of my native Vacaville; a town that, just as is the case with my hometown, holds a special place in my heart thanks entirely to the special people who call it home. This time was very different than the times I had visited two years ago, and I think it's because I have become an expected guest. People aren't as eager to take me around and show me new things, yet they welcome me into their homes with even more warmth than before. As Azzurra's nonna grinned widely and wrapped me in a bear hug, she exclaimed, "You promised you'd come back in two years and you kept your promise! You really did!!" I can't express what it means to me to feel that I have an adoptive Italian family here welcoming and watching over me.

Here's an array of photos from the trip. One night we had a big bbq/swim party at a friend of Ale's house:

We had lunch at Ale's grandparents, where I had the most impressive lasagne ever: 13 layers!!!

We went to a really funny play in the little "village" of San Basile, which was mostly in dialect. I was able to follow along pretty well, which surprised me!

One of the highlights was of course lunch at Azzu's grandparent's house. I got to see nonna, nonno, and zio roberto again after 2 years. It was a very jovial reunion!

We went outside to take a family photo, but that pasta-eating dog wreaked a bit of havoc (this is probably my favorite photo of the whole trip, with everyone reacting differently and heading in different directions!):

After a few more tries, we managed to take a class-A photo:

One night we ate heart-shaped pizza in Villapiana:

Our best beach day was when Azzu, Ale, and I went to the west coast for the day. The water was crystal clear, it was an all-rock beach, and we even got to do some snorkeling.

Ale remained focused on his crossword puzzles, which he never seemed to finish accurately:

Here's the super slutty girl who was the star of the most ridiculous photo shoot ever right in front of us (yes, the bleach-blonde one in the hot pink suit with her butt cheeks hanging out):

One of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen (and I'm from California):

Azzu and I exploring our holy natures:

We returned to homemade pizza at "Pizzeria Mena":

One night we got all dressed up to go out to my favorite restaurant (so far) in Calabria. This is the place where you order an "appetizer platter" and they bring you about 15 different plates with 30 different things to try. So amazing!

And this isn't even everything:

E' un spettacolo!!

After Azzu and Ale headed back up to Bologna, I moved to Federica's house. One day we went to a local hotel where her cousin has the hook-up (this is Italy, after all) to go swimming. Those are a couple of Pugliese boys on vacation with their family that we hung out with all afternoon.

Dun-da-da-dun! Federica's mother's Eggplant Parmesan!! Still the best thing I have ever eaten to date. She made it just for me and I wish I could have eaten the whole thing, but it's so heavy, that as they say in Italy, "It's a bomb!"

We spent a night at their beach house in Marina di Sibari and we had a block party dinner with the neighbors. One lady made these fabulous fried dough rings that required quite the set-up:

And then it was time for me to leave Calabria again and head back up to Siena to get my things in order and move to Florence! More on that to come...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

PALIO: Forza Tartuca!

I know I haven't posted in ages, but now that I'm a little more settled in my new gig, it's time to catch up! I want to start from the beginning and tell you about my proper Senese Palio! For those of you who don't know, Siena is famous for its Palio, a horse race that takes places in a transformed Piazza del Campo between the various Contradas, or neighborhood communities in the historic center, named after various animals and such. It's absolutely the most important event of the year for the people of Siena and trumps political elections, soccer championships and grandma's famous pici pasta.

There's more pomp and circumstance surrounding the Palio than anything I've ever seen, in the form of such things as medieval costumes, flag-throwing, epic block party dinners, and horse blessings inside of churches. Carlotta came up to Siena to spend the Palio with me and we kicked off the day by watching the blessing of the Tartuca Contrada's horse inside their church:

We then followed a couple of various Contrada parades around town (there were 16 independent and impromptu parades, one for each Contrada) and finally ended up in the Piazza del Duomo, where every Contrada parade passes to show their colors, boast their pride, and throw their flags:

I live in the Contrada of the Unicorn, and here were our flag throwers:

We then moved on to Piazza del Campo to brave the crowds and the wait until the actual race. I couldn't believe just how many people our large yet quaint main piazza managed to fit.

We had to rest our feet while waiting two hours for the race to happen, trapped in the center of the piazza.

If you look REAL close you can see the horses racing around the piazza:

So after three turns around the piazza, the race was over in less than one minute. But in the end, Tartuca won, the Contrada whose horse we had seen blessed in the church! So we successfully picked the right team for our first Palio! Seems like we should have put some money on it...