Sunday, September 27, 2009

Corri La Vita

Today I particpated in the Corri La Vita. This Run for Life is put on in Florence every year by the Italian Cancer Society. It began this morning at 9:30 am. We got to the Piazza dell Signora and it was packed. This square is huge, there are giant statues everywhere-and you could hardly move. There were people from all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, half of Florence was there! It was very different being at such a large event in a different country. Normally you could listen to the speeches people were giving and promoting the cause, but in Italian, it's pretty hard to intrepret what exactly was going on. Throughout the walk there were so many people with pictures of their loved ones affected by cancer attatched to their shirts and even babies and dogs were wearing the Corri la Vita shirts! Though I couldn't understand very many words people were saying, knowing that we were all there united for the same cause was really a special experience. In addition to my shirt I drew the breast cancer ribbon, heart, and initials of my good friends mother who recently passed away from breast cancer. I thought a lot about her today and how strong she was and how terribly difficult cancer can make your life. It is something that can affect anyone at anytime and I was proud to dedicate my day to her.

Monday, September 21, 2009


This past weekend eight of the girls from the group decided to head to Munich for Oktoberfest that started on Saturday. We had all day to spend in Munich on Friday, so six of us decided we needed to visit Dachau the concentration camp.

After arriving in Munich(an 8 hour bus ride from Florence) we took a train and a bus out of the city to Dachau. We each checked out an audio tour of the grounds and ended up splitting up as we wondered the grounds. I ended up walking around the majority of the day by myself and the silence allowed me to really experience the memories around Dachau. Appropriately the weather was extremely dreary on that day, it was getting cool and the clouds were about to burst with rain at any minute. Listening to the accounts from survivors on the audio tour in the places where these things happened sent chills down my spine. Seeing the exact place where so, so many people were tortured and murdered was the saddest and most nauseating day I have ever had. There was a documentary film that we were able to watch and we were able to learn a lot about the history of the Holocaust and about how Dachau was started. The amount of people who were involved in making all of this happen blew my mind. I have no idea how anyone would ever support something like this and let it get as far as it ever did. This day showed me how cruel some human beings can be and that it takes more than just the victims to stop something. During the documentary the prisoners who were saved said they would not let the lives of those lost go unforgotten. Seeing how these people were locked up for months with barely any food, water, or any contact with another human being is beyond my imagination. It was so unbelievable. Awful. I truly cannot even express this in words.

Below I am going to post a link to firsthand accounts of one of the survivors to give you a sense of what I experienced that day:

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Ciao ciao! It's been a few days since my last blog...I've been so busy! Today I had a few the Uffizi Gallery! I got to see artwork by all of the greats. One of the girls on the trip even cried when she saw her favorite artist's work. It was amazing. I'm a tad bit exhausted though..I turned 21 yesterday!

My birthday started off on the best note(I am in Italia, how could it not!?) My three roommates planned a few suprises at dinner with the help of Mama Lo. They all knew I'd been dying to try limoncello, so they pulled out a bottle after dinner and Mama Lo unveiled the most delicious apple crisp that she "just whipped up" So good! After dinner the girls and I decided that the striking of midnight was going to take place in a bar called Bee Bop. On Tuesday nights they have a live Beatles cover band! It was about a thousand degrees in the bar but it was the most fun I have ever had(until Wednesday night :) ) I know some people think it isn't a big deal turning 21 in another country, but let me tell you that I am a zillion percent sure it was way more fun than being in the states!

Yesterday-the actual birthday- I went to all of my classes and after the last class, food and wine pairing, Barbara and Mark Stern(the faculty advisers) had myself and all of the students up to their apartment for cake and prosecco! The cake was yellow layered with mousse and the most delicious chocolate icing. It was so nice of them to do that for all of us on my birthday. After that set of festivities were over we all went back to our homestays to get ready and go out for a big Italian dinner. We went to a restaurant called Dante's. They love JMU students! We had all of our drinks for free and the chef made us some of his homemade pasta on the house! It was so, so, so delicious. The owner even came out and brought us a bottle of limoncello and told us to come back whenever we want that they'll always treat us really well there. It was an phenominal start to the night.

After dinner we decided to go out and paint the town purple. We visited a few bars, ran into many Americans, and I ended the night by touching every building on the way home saying, "Uh! Michelangelo could have stood here! Rafael! Boticelli!!" The girls found it pretty amusing-thankfully.

This evening 8 out of the 10 girls are hopping onto a bus for 8 hours to Munich for Oktoberfest!Munich is acutally Monaco in Italiano, much prettier in my opinion) It doesn't officially start until Saturday so we are going to visit museums and explore a different side of Europe all day Friday. By the homework for Food and Wine Pairing: try at least three different beers the same way you would smell, taste, and describe wine and report back to the professor on Monday. No problem :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cibo Cinese in Italia?!

It's Saturday night! And I'm in-writing a blog :) There is a reason for this of course. Today was an amazing day(and long day) in Siena, Italy! The bus left the Florence train station at 7:50 and arrived in Siena at 9:00. When we first arrived in Siena I had my first experience with European public restrooms. You have to pay! I'm sure everyone reading this blog is thinking, "Geeze Angel, get a life! Didn't you know that?" And the answer to that is no I didn't, but it was sure fun learning. I didn't actually use the bathrooms at that moment(I went to a 'free' one in museum we entered later that day) but I got some entertainment from Mark Stern, a JMU faculty member accompanying us on our trip, who told me a story of walking past an Italian bathroom earlier in his years and hearing a german woman yell out, "These darn filthy Italians! who do they think they are!"(accent and all)..he said even though you pay for the bathrooms, they definitely aren't the cleanest.

Our first stop was at a cafe where some students grabbed a late breakfast then we met up with an old pal of Mama Lo's(my housemother).Her name was Christina and she would be leading our tour through Siena For the morning. We went through different churches, cathedrals, and saw some of the most breathtaking views in the entire world. Siena is a medievel town that has many contradas(small towns within the city) that rival each other throughout the year and especially during the big horse race! They are each named after animals, everything from giraffes to porcupines-and our tour guide, Christina, was born and raised a catepillar! No joke!

We were lucky enough to see something rare while we were there. The Owl Contrada had just won the big horse race and it was the first time since 1979 that their horse and jockey won! Their banners flew throughout their town as a reward. Apparently, when a contrada wins they celebrate non-stop for two months. There was even a wall sized banner of the jockey and his horse crossing the finish line on the border of the Owls and their rival town, just to rub it in their face! The coolest part of these horse races is that they have it in the huge square in the middle of Siena. There are just regular buildings and brick-and unless the tour guide had told us I would never have guessed that was where the races were held. They bring in tons and tons of dirt and fill the huge area around the square with over a foot of dirt for the big event. Mama Lo has been to the event before and she said it was amazing!

After we arrived home from Siena I grabbed a quick gelatto. It was the third gelatto of my study abroad experience and by far my favorite! It was cookies and nutella mixed with cream of milk....uuuuuh! I can't even explain. There is nothing better in this world for only one euro!! While the girls and I were walking out of the gelatto place we saw a girl our age with her friends and apparently she had not eaten her gelatto fast enough because it was running down all sides of her hands and onto her bright yellow jeans. It was crazy. What a waste of gelatto!

Now that our day together was breaking off-some people parted to take naps, some went shopping- I decided to explore a part of Florence I hadn't yet entered. I ended up walking around for about two hours and went all the way to the end of Florence and saw the city's gates. They must have been at least fifty foot high wooden doors. They. were. huge.

On my walk home from the gi-normous gates of the city I spotted an economico(cheap) italian chinese restaurant. A few of the other students, including myself, had vocalized our curiosity about this sort of food so I grabbed a to go menu-in italian- and brought it home. My roommate Jenny skyped some fellow students and invited them on our little chinese-italian adventure and we all decided to go. When reading a chinese menu(in italian) and you see something called 'spaghetti con pollo' that can really freak a person out. It turned out to be pretty good. The soy sauce that came in a dixie cup with suran wrap over the top was salmon colored, thick and tasted like vinegar. It was pretty strange. But when in Florence eating chinese as a curious JMU student would do and eat it! The whole group then came back to our flat and we had a fun dinner with the 2.20 euro bottles of wine we found in a cute shop on the way home. It sure balanced out that soy sauce.

All in all, it was a pretty good day. I am going to post some pictures of Siena on the right side of my blog for everyone to oo and aaaa at...Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Awentura di Note

Ciao! Third day in Firenze and first day of classes! The day started out kind of slow. The girls and I decided to go out on the town last night and it was pretty interesting...we came in pretty late and had to wake up pretty early-hince the late start.

We decided to meet at the- what we have named- the "Four Seasons Bridge". There are lots of bridges in Firenze, the most popular tourist area being the Ponte Vecchio, which is just a bridge over from last nights meeting place. There are only ten students studying abroad this semester in the undergrad program{all girls...suprise, suprise-JMU=lots of girls :) and of course, everyone's wonderful} Six of us live on one side of the river(nearest the school and the Santo Spirito Church) and the other 4 live on the other side(nearest the Duomo and the British Institue of Florence-where out Italian classes are held...) Anyways, we decide to meet on the next bridge over from the Ponte Vecchio at 22.30 because our dinner didn't end until around 21.45(I'll get into the fabulousness that is our dinner everynight in a little bit) This bridge being the "Four Seasons Bridge" because during a war long, long ago(don't hate me for not remembering which one) they bombed all of the bridges except for the Ponte Vecchio, and this particular other bridge had two statues at either end, each representing the four seasons. The bridge was bombed but the majority of the statues remained and they were pieced back together when the bridge was rebuilt..they're beautiful.

So, back to the meeting each other for a night on the town story! My three other roommates and I were running a little behind and arrived at 22.40 and no one was there. We used our newly acquired cell phones from the program to contact each other and see what was going on. The group of four from the Duomo side of the river were a little lost and just minutes away, the other two from our side of the river were having gelatto and waiting for us on the opposite side of the same bridge! Needless to say, we were all safe and ready to explore after we solved the mystery of where each other were. We decided to walk to Santo Spirito where there are a number of restaurants and what we thought a local hang out might be-boy were we surprised at what we saw! The steps of the Santo Spirito church were covered in people around our age hanging out, they had dogs, bicycles, was like a party on the steps of a church! We really enjoyed walking around and people watching for around an hour, we even had the pleasure of sitting on the front steps of the church and getting to know each other since it was just the second night. The night that started out so disorganized turned into a pretty entertaining adventure.

Now I'll back it up a few steps and talk about my homestay and our amazing hostess! There are quite a few of us living in a gorgeous flat about four minutes from the school. The view from my window is on the pictures posted on the right hand side-check it out! There are five huge bedrooms here and an apartment connected that Loraine has vistors like us staying in. There are four JMU students, a german student, and an Italian man in the apartment. Then our hostess, Loraine Trapman, has her own room and she has an extra room where her daughters stay when they visit. We have dinner with Loraine four nights a week, Monday-Thursday, and we eat breakfast here everyday. Breakfast consists of cereals, fruits, teas, coffee-simple things we can grab on our way to class.

The dinners are unbelievable. First of all, each night we eat by candle light because Loraine loves how it sets the mood for our intimate Italian family meals. Last night we started with pesto penne. In Italy they start with a pasta dish, not salad. Next, comes the salad, bread, and the main course. We had melanzana de parmigiano-eggplant parmesan! The food is so much different here than in America, everything isn't so heavy and prepared in a rush. Plus, everything is fresh and only sold seasonaly from the market places. The meals are delicious and one of my favorite parts of the day. We sat from 20.15-21.45 last night eating and talking!! Meals here aren't just about stuffing down a quick hamburger and running off-it's about enjoying the wonderful food as well as the company!

This blog has gotten much longer than I expected and I am planning a nap before dinner because we are all going to the opera tonight at 21.15 with Mark Stern and John Scherpereel-two of the JMU faculty working with the program. I hope you're enjoying hearing about my adventures and I know there are so many more to come!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Bells are ringing in the distance, the tall windows reaching to the top of our-must be- 20 foot high ceiling are wide open forcing the cool breeze to blow the shear fabric of the colorful curtains against my back as I sit on a gorgeous bed in a giant room while my roommate jenny tries to cure her jet lag with a quick nap before our eight o'clock dinner with Loraine and the others...surreal? amazing?

First day in Firenze. Feels like I am dreaming. People write some cheesy blogs sometimes(like this one) and now I know why. This city is gorgeous, straight out of a movie. Gelatto stands on every corner, vespas crowding the streets in what I could easily mistake as a welcoming display of this insanely interesting culture. I even saw a women sitting with her barred windows open, dressed to the nines(giant earrings and something I would compare to a queen's attire), smoking a cigarrette ..and there were um, I don't know, nine chandeliers in there! I even saw a blue diamond the size of a babies foot on sale at the Ponte Vecchio. This place is like a fairytale no one could ever imagine.

Perhaps all of this surreality and amazement I feel is the fact that I have only slept about 4 out of the past forty-hours...but I guess we'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out :)