Monthly Archives: February 2010

I Spy: A Leaning Tower

Seeing as all but two of our weekends are booked up for the rest of the semester, either from day, weekend, or spring break trips, Lisa and I decided there was no time like the present to go see this leaning tower for ourselves. Luckily, Pisa is only an hour and five euro away by train, so we wandered over there today around noon.

Part of a series I'm calling Lisa: On a Train

After an hour ride (during which I had convinced myself that we had somehow gotten on the wrong train) we made it to Pisa and discovered it is VERY VERY tiny. We walked from the train station, on one side of the river, to the far end of the city where the Duomo and the bell tower are in about fifteen minutes. Very strange. But as we finished up our walk, this came into view:

It really leans! The tower is actually a really gorgeous piece of architecture, which appeals to me, and it leans at a comically steep angle which makes it look kind of childish and Disney-fied, which also appeals to me. I was amused.

For those not in the know, construction on the bell tower of Pisa began in August of 1173, but stopped for mysterious reasons five years later. It’s thought that the Pisaens became distracted by various wars and could no longer bother with silly things like a bell tower that would serve to warn their city of danger in times of say, war. In 1272, construction began again and this time they tried to compensate for the lean by building one side longer than the other, causing the tower to lean in the other direction. In person, you can really tell that the tower is curved! Building halted again in 1284, to be picked up again 1319. The actual bells weren’t added until 1372, and the largest of the bells wasn’t added until 1655. There are seven bells, one for each note on a musical scale, and seven stories.

Of course we had to take the typical tourist picture:

We took one of me, too, but it’s on Lisa’s camera. I’ll put it up after I steal it from her! I like how you can see other tourists doing the exact. same. thing. in the background. There were literally lines of people holding up the tower!

After finding gelato and people watching for a while, we went into the Cathedral.

It was really beautiful, but Lisa and I have seen so many Cathedrals lately that we were done in about twenty minutes. Actually, we were done with all of Pisa in about two and a half hours! It’s so tiny that there isn’t much wandering to be done, and we used up an extra half hour by walking to and from the train station instead of taking the bus that shuttles loads of tourists to and fro. I googled “things to do in Pisa” a few nights ago, and literally the only suggestions to be had were the Cathedral, the Tower, and the Baptistery, all of which are in the same Piazza. Pisa really is famous for one thing and one thing only: The Tower. That Leans.

I’m really glad we went, don’t get me wrong. It was a very surreal moment to stand looking at something that I’ve known about my entire life. Plus, the Tower isn’t one of those things that disappoints in person. It really leans!

The Baptistery, Cathedral, and Tower

So we hopped back on the 5:30 train and were home in time for dinner! My kind of day trip.


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La Colazione

Ah, breakfast. Honestly, I’m not that into breakfast in the States, and I do NOT agree with the mindset that gives kids like, a thousand eggs and pancakes and bacon before they march off to school each day. I’m already tired in the morning, I don’t need all that digestion going on and making me fall asleep during Calculus. At school I take yogurt and granola with me to whatever class I have first, or I eat a piece of fruit or something on my way, so it hasn’t been hard adjusting to the Italian (and it sounds like general European) culture of having only a pastry and coffee for breakfast.

I do, however, miss milk. Terribly. For those in the know, I quite literally drink 2-3 large glasses of milk every day. Some find this weird, especially when they find me drinking a water sized glass of milk while eating yogurt or cheese or ice cream. That’s a lot of dairy. But whatever, it works for me. Here, though, the milk is weird and they don’t just drink milk. Ever. I poured myself a small glass one morning and Valentina looked at me like I had sprouted running shoes out of the top of my head. I mean, she looks at me like that quite often, but this was a little extreme.

So I drink coffee. And it’s a lot better here than at home, for some reason, but I still miss my milk. I also get really hungry throughout the day because we eat breakfast around eight, lunch around one thirty, and dinner around eight thirty, whereas I’m used to snacking on fruit or cheese and crackers ever three to four hours at school. Then again, it’s only been a few weeks so maybe my stomach with adjust!

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La Festa di Carnivale!

The day before the last day of Carnivale, my host family threw a small party! We were informed that in order to eat, we had to wear a costume, which was totally ok because it gave Lisa and I another chance to wear our awesome Venetian masks! Behold your first glimpse of our awesome family:

From left: Annamaria (la madre), Olga, me, Lisa, Davide

We had wonderful food, met some of the Saracino’s friends, and Davide gave Lisa and I a show after dinner (he’s obsessed with the circus, and had set up a mini one in his room…awesome!). Missing from the photo is Giuseppe, the dad, who teaches us Italian every night and loves learning new English words.

Gotta love this family!

(Note: Annamaria, who is around 45 years old, said she has had that “northern Italian woman” costume since she was sixteen! New goal: fit into one of my current dresses when I’m 45 after having two kids.)

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Art Attack! Botticelli

A couple days ago I went to the Uffizi Gallery with my Figure Drawing class in order to spend a couple hours drawing hands, feet, and faces from the paintings in the gallery. The point is that sometimes it’s easier to first learn how to draw a 2-dimensional drawing from other 2-dimensional objects rather than draw a 2-dimensional drawing from a 3-dimensional human being standing in front of you.

Anyway, throughout my wandering through the Uffizi, I stumbled upon Botticelli’s Spring and The Birth of Venus.

The Birth of Venus


This was a big moment for me. I’ve been seeing these pieces all my life in art classes, books…everywhere! I distinctly remember looking at that blue guy (Zephyr) when I was about eight years old and being really freaked out. He’s a scary dude. Seeing these for the first time is comparable to…actually, I’m not sure what it’s comparable to. It’s not even really comparable to seeing a famous city for the first time, because that city is the sum of all it’s years of growth and decay, while a work of art was simply created, and has since been slowly decaying. It was created by one person (usually) with great care and devotion. That alone is enough to make works of art worthwhile, but once you see something like “The Birth of Venus” in person, there is another whole layer there. In a print it’s impossible to see the brushstrokes and detail that Botticelli applied to his works. You can’t see the flakes of pigment that have come off and the preparatory colors underneath. It’s incredible. And it’s all right here in Florence.

(Also, a brief foray into actually looking at them: can you tell they’re both by the same artist? Look at the way the women are shaped and distorted, and the way the people relate to the background. They don’t exactly float on top of it, but they aren’t interacting with it much either.)

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Filed under Art Attack, Firenze

Book Lovers, Rejoice!

I have found it. The awesome something that will make people who have a giant list of books on their to-read list and very limited funds very happy. Possibly. This something that I have found will help college students, busy adults, and even high school students who HATE to read.

Free. Online books. Emailed to you in sections each day.

Go ahead, click on the link. Be amazed.

The authors of this website have compiled hundreds of books, divided them into short sections, and have set it up so you can have the book emailed to you daily, once a week, or a few days throughout the week. Now, before some readers (aka my parents) get up in arms about the free part, let me say this:

Public. Domain.

90% of the books on DailyLit are classics, and have therefore become public domain sometime in the last century or so and are completely legal to read for free. The only thing you cannot do with a public domain book is make money off of it (unless you are providing an extra service, as a publisher does when it provides the book in print). The other books on the site are paid for by a sponsorship program, which is explained here.

Now, I am super excited by this. Once I finish the three books I brought with me to Florence, I will definitely start using it. But I can think of a group of people who should be even more excited, because their homework just got a whole lot easier. High school students. Who have to read Tale of Two Cities. AKA my sister who will probably never read this and therefore never benefit from it. My problem in high school wasn’t the books we were assigned (though I hated, to the core of my being, A Tale of Two Cities), it was the fact that I would often leave the reading until the last minute, and then have to read 60 pages in one night. If I had gotten the segments emailed to me, it would have made a huge difference. I might not have religiously read the sections emailed to me every day, but it would have helped.

Plus, now I have books to read this semester! And they travel with me wherever I go!

Can you get email on a Kindle? Because I think this sites adds a point for the iPad.


Filed under Awesome Finds

Decisions, Decisions

So spring break is March 13-21, and we have a lot of planning to do. We have nine days (two of which include travel), eight nights, and about 200 islands to choose from. Some are party islands, some have amazing history with ruins and temples galore, some have beautiful beaches, some are known for their great markets, and other have the best or healthiest or most decadent food known to Greece. Where to go?

On top of that, the schedules of the ferries going from island to island literally changes every week. We’ll also be there at a time that may have some storms, so we have to be prepared for a delay. How many islands should we try to see? Should we go to the really touristy places, like Mykonos or Santorini (which are touristy for a reason…so beautiful!) or should we opt for something a little less known, seeing as we’re going to spend a considerable amount of time in Athens, which is like, tourist heaven.

On top of all THAT, we’re trying to keep this as wallet friendly as possible, and while I’m used to weekend trips and full week trips, as I’ve been traveling to meet friends from Pratt for the last couple years, I’ve never had to deal with THIS! Flights, public transportation, hostels, museum entrance fees, food…

I know this is going to be an awesome trip, but I have four weeks to book everything, and so far it hasn’t come together. Stress time, majorly!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Apparently Valentine’s Day isn’t a huge deal in Italy. Even though St. Valentine was from Rome. And there are all sorts of famous romantic couples such as, I don’t know, Romeo and Juliet?

But no matter! Because Italian is still the language of love, and this next tidbit proves it:

Did you know that in Italy, in most regions and dialects and customs, you ONLY say “ti amo” (literal translation of I love you) to your romantic partner, and not family, friends, etc? To those people you say “Vuoi bene” or “Ti voglio bene” which are both difficult to translate and I’ll butcher it if I try.

Anyways…maybe today you should say “ti amo” instead of “I love you” so that that person knows you’re talking just to them.

Also, watch this commercial, because it’s wonderful:

Have a wonderful day!

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