Thursday, March 17, 2011

Italian Unification and a special visit!

If there is one thing that Italians are especially good at, it's celebrating! Sometimes, as in the case of this week, the celebrations are a bit last minute. About two weeks ago, the Italian government decided it would be a good idea to throw a huge celebration honoring the 150th Anniversary of the Italian Unification (150 years of all the regions in Italy being united under one government). Leave it to Italy to plan a HUGE country-wide party at the very last minute! 

The celebrations began this past wednesday and continued all through the night. Everyone got off work today and school was cancelled to ensure that everyone could party the night away! Wednesday night was crazy here!!! I have never seen the streets so packed with people! All the state museums were open until 1 AM, the entire city was lit up in RED WHITE and GREEN, there was a patriotic parade, there were bands playing in every square, and amazing fireworks off of the top of the Palazzo Vecchio building. It was so neat to see all the Italian pride here! Italian flags lined the streets, gelato was made in red, white, and green, and people even dressed to theme! Sometimes it can feel like tourist city over here because of all the americans studying abroad and school groups, but this was true ITALIAN spirit and all the true Italians were the ones out to celebrate. 

Today I had a WONDERFUL visit from a best friend from TCU, Lizzie. Lizzie and her aunt have been in Rome this past week and got to come to Florence for the day today. I still cant believe she was actually here; seeing where I sleep, where I go to school, my favorite spots...its so surreal! I had SO much fun taking her and her aunt around Florence and, a HUGE win in my book, I didnt even get them lost!! I LOVED catching up with Lizzie and hearing all the TCU news. It was such a comfort to hear that things were not drastically changing back home and that everyone was still doing alright. A visit from a good friend is always nice, but it is definitely extra special when its a visit from halfway around the world!!! 

Piazza Signora all lit up 

....and Piazza de Republica

Palazzo Vecchio 

The Pointe Vecchio bridge in Tri-color 

amazing fireworks show

Lizzie in Florence! 


Lunch with the whole group! 
I am off to Greece tomorrow for Spring Break!!! Cant wait to be there for a whole week!!! 


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fun in Tuscany

You would never know by the rain today what a beautiful weekend in Florence it has been. Friday and Saturday were sunny and around 15 degrees celsius . We have midterms at Lorenzo di Medici this upcoming weekend so instead of traveling we stayed home in Florence to 'study'. 

And by 'study' I mean: 

Friday: Horseback riding, wine tasting, and dinner excursion in Tuscany. We did all this through a company called 'Fun in Tuscany' and had a ball! All the roommates, including Danielle's mom and aunt who are visiting, and I got picked up in Florence early in the afternoon by our fabulous guide, Sam. Sam ("hi, I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like green eggs and ham") then drove us about thirty minutes outside the city to the horse-stables in the Tuscan country side. Sam (who, throughout the day became not just our tour guide but our cowboy, photographer, entertainer, story-teller, wine expert, D.J., and any other odd job that we required) got us all saddled up and we were off. We rode on a beautiful trail ride through miles and miles of red wine vineyards.  The highlight was definitely seeing the incredible pink sun set on the seemingly endless vineyards. 

After saying Ciao Ciao to the horses we went into the quant little town nearby for our wine tasting. Sam had promised we'd be trying some of the best wines of Tuscany and Sam didn't disappoint! 

After learning about and trying a handful of Tuscan wines we went to our family style traditional Italian dinner. Sam had us laughing throughout the entire meal with his italian jokes, tricks, and stories. After a full 'Tuscan' day we headed home. Sam, careful not to let the fun dwindle, continued to entertain on the ride home with his 'One Nation, One Station' car D.J, expertise and had us all perfecting the hand motions to a rocking 80's Italian classic. 

Saturday: Hiking in the mountains of Fiesole. Kelly (one of my roommates) and I signed up for this hiking excursion with our School. Fiesole is a part of florence that is in the mountains and overlooks the city part of Florence. A short bus ride takes you to the town on Fiesole and then from there there are many hiking paths which provide INCREDIBLE views of the ENTIRE city of Florence. Although waking up early and heading out for a 10 kilometers hike seemed a little daunting for a lazy Saturday, I am SO happy Kelly and I dragged ourselves out because this hike was AMAZING. The views were astonishing and the terrain was so different than anything I am used to. One minute we'd be walking through an almost desert-like area with cactus and the next minute its muddy and wet because of the underground waterways that are seeping to the surface.

We followed the hike that Florentine Stone Masons would take to the top of the mountains to retrieve the stone to build  many of the structures and churches that make Florence what it is today. The hike was quite challenging, I cannot even imagine doing it while carrying a hunk of stone! 

Horseback riding!
Red Wine Vineyards 
Fields in rural Tuscany 

Wine tasting 

Great view of all of Florence 
Kelly and I on our fabulous hike! 

Stone used to build Florence 


Castle where Madonna and Guy Richie got married 

We could see everything from way up here! 
Such a fabulous weekend in Florence, I cannot believe I am surrounded by so many beautiful things! 

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Bounjour! I got back from Paris late last night. Paris was spectacular. I absolutely LOVED it! Everything in Paris seemed larger than life.   A BIG city (much bigger than the quant little Florence I am used to), a BIG Tower (the Eiffel tower, which certainly does not disappoint), a BIG museum (the Louvre is unimaginably big), and BIG price tags (the shopping, though incredible, is quite expensive). I have so much to share about Paris:

·      Flying RyanAir: RyanAir is the typical low-budget, student airline in Europe. This was our first adventure with RyanAir, and although our round trip tickets from Pisa to Paris were scored for only 56 Euro (about 85 dollars) it was quite the experience. Simply put, RyanAir is a Joke.  No assigned seats means the ‘Q’ to board the plane starts about 30 minutes before boarding and is basically a big student jumble where shoving is encouraged. Once on the plane the trip begins to feel less like a wrestling match and more like a live circus. A large handful of flight attendants rush up and down the tiny aisle-helping shove all bags in the overhead compartments (no checked baggage on Ryan, only one carry on bag per person). I think their training must have been biased on ‘Aggressive Service’.  Before you know it the plane is taking off, is everyone even buckled in their seats?? Who knows, but now we’re airborne.  The next circus act features the ‘in-flight Crap Sales’.  Do you need a magazine, a book, a three course Ryan ‘meal’ (not recommended), a drink (not complementary) perfume, a lotto ticket, or want to give the rest of the passengers cancer? Cause RyanAir flight attendants would be happy to sell you even a pack of cigarettes to help you enjoy your flight.  This sales act continues until we have finally landed in Paris and a little Trumpet sounds and the planes speakers announce “Congratulations, you have just been a part of yet another safe on-time RyanAir landing” The whole plane erupts into clapping and cheering (as if this were a rare occurrence) and finally this nightmare Circus is over!
·      From the Airport we jumped in a cab (by ourselves, careful to avoid ‘Taken’ style) and headed to our Hotel. The cab drive drove in a complete circle and charged us for it, telling us he had to because of ‘one-ways’ (its true what they say about French people being rude to Americans).
·      The next morning we got up early anticipating a busy day, so much to see! We started with the Louvre. The Louvre was unbelievably MASSIVE. The building goes on for blocks, not to mention it is packed FULL of incredible Art. The Mona Lisa is about the one thing in Paris that is not larger than life (it is pretty small and disappointing in fact. Still, flocks of people crowd around her)
  •      My favorite part of the Louvre was the preserved residences of Napoleon III. The Louvre used to be home to the Royal French family (before they moved to Versailles because the Louvre was too small!) and these rooms contain preserved furniture from the royals. BEAUTIFUL. They also have some of Frances Crowned Jewels on display! The residences confirmed my desire to be Royal someday (as if I needed any confirmation).

·      After a sunny day of sightseeing in Paris we had a wonderful dinner by the gorgeous Eiffel Tower. After dinner we spent a good hour or two walking all around the beautifully lit tower, took a million pictures, sang ‘French’ songs, pinched ourselves to realize we were actually IN PARIS, had delicious nuetella crapes, and then took the Metro back to our hotel. 
·      The next morning we took the metro (even I started getting the hang of the metro towards the end of this trip) to the Arc de Triomphe. We took a beautiful walk down the Champs Elysees. We saw fashion week tents being cleaned up and put away, had delicious omelets and French fries for lunch,  got some beautiful Laduree Macarones, kissed Paris goodbye, and headed home to Florence.

beautiful day in Paris 

in front of about 1/4 of the massive Louvre

I think I would fit in nicely..! 


Winged Victory at the louvre

yummy Macaroons from Laduree 

Pretty view on the Seine 

Beautiful Notre Dame 

Eiffel Tower at night 


Paris was such a treat, and I cannot wait to return someday (Hopefully next time I'll be wearing a crown….)!