The Game Plan

My photo
Florence, Italy
So this is a handful of what I think I know... 1. Hands speak volumes. 2. Wine is cheaper than water. 3. Life is slower paced. 4. Food is AMAZING. 5. Italian men love all women and don't hesitate to say it loudly. My adventure begins Jan 12 in Florence, Italy, as a student at SACI (Studio Art Center International) having come from American University, in Washington, DC. While our nation's capital may have a plethora of monuments and history, it's nothing compared to standing a few feet away and gazing up at David, or so I've been told. (I'll let you know.) I continue my European exploration with my twin sister when our semesters end. We plan to take our backpacks into and over as many countries and borders as possible before landing for a few weeks revisiting Madrid. I hope to use this blog as a personal journal to keep track of my travels, but feel free to read along! Al prossimo anno! :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Just a Thursday

Thursday is typically my longest school day, starting class at 8 and going basically from class to class until 7:30.  BUT, this past Thursday was pretty amazing.  
Starting off with Illustration class, we had a guest speaker, Roberto Innocenti, an Italian illustrator and winner of The Hans Christian Andersen Award which is the highest international recognition given to an author and an illustrator of children's books. It was absolutely amazing to get to talk with such a successful and talented illustrator, with so many unbelievable works. Over 70 years old, and having to be translated by our teacher, he was still able to show us the book he’s working on right now which was super neat to see his process, sketches, etc. Check out some of his stuff!
The Adventures of Pinocchio, published 1988

The Last Resort, published 2002

Nutcracker, published 1996

From there, I went with my drawing class to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, which contains many of the original works of art created for the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiora aka the Duomo. I love field trips with classes because you never have to pay for it your self. My teacher is also ridiculous. He insisted we get a class photo so he could email it to all of us (below). He's originally from England so has an intense accent but other than the accent he is exactly what you would imagine an art teacher in Florence to be like. He's very intellectual about the drawing process and is all about drawing from within and feeling the movements and motion. It's pretty hilarious.

Drawing class at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo 2/10

Finally, in photography, we went to an old insane asylum on the other side of the city that now serves as a home to squatters and research labs. It was sort of too late when we went and got dark within the hour, (which yes, made it even more creepy than it already was) so in terms of getting good shots, we were limited. But, it was super interesting. Most of the buildings were locked, but in the past classes have been able to get inside where they found old x-rays, test tubes, and forensic labs. We were only really able to walk around the buildings but were able to talk with a bunch of the squatters. There were also SO many stray cats and dogs living there. The Italian government pays for the squatters to live in these broken down places and provide electricity and water for them. Though it comes out of the Italian tax money, it keeps them off the streets and from living within the main city, so they figure it's a better solution than kicking them out. Though it was a very interesting place to go and somewhere I would have never known to go on my own, I don't think I'll be visiting again on my own and especially not at night. I only brought my film camera, so unfortunately I'll have to wait till I get them developed to give you an idea of what it looked like.
To end the day, and because the only way to do it in Italy is with wine, we attempted a wine power hour. Quite the success.
All-in-all, it was quite the Thursday.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

To be Italian...

1. You push, not pull.
It's taken me till about this week to get used to the idea that you have to pull all doors to exit a building, and push all doors to enter. It's a sure sign when you're in a restaurant that you're American when you make this mistake. It's so instinctive to just push as you exit, that I guarantee you'll make it.

2. Business Hours
Never what they say they are. Most shops are open in the morning for about 4 hours, close in the afternoon, and then reopen in the late-afternoon/ night. This in-and-of its self is different than most 12-hour or 24-hour shops in the states. Additionally, for any given reason a shop can close down for the day or for few hours. Maybe they got hungry, it's someone's birthday or friends are in town and that warrants closing down.

3. No open container law.
The first night I was here and we walked around the streets sharing a bottle of wine, I felt so unsure if we were actually allowed to be doing that. Being here, I've realized that EVERYONE does it. It can be early in the morning and people will be sipping away at a beer in the middle of the street.

4. Residential vs. Business Addresses

Walking down the street and trying to find a store at Via Oruolla 13, you may think you're on the right track when you are following numbers 3 then 5, 7, 10... 83? The residential system is on an entirely different number system then the business'. If the numbers are in concrete on the street walls, then that's the business numbers, but if they're in blue and usually on an acrylic slab, then those are the apartments and houses. This is can be very tricky and annoying if you aren't aware of this.

5. On time is 10 minutes late.

6. Weigh your own produce.
I still get this wrong. For every vegetable or fruit you want you have put it in a bag, weigh it on the scale, and get a sticker for it. If you forget, they'll send you back and make you do it.

Now, breaking away from everyday cultural differences, a really neat tradition I found is this idea of "love-locks."

Thousands of young lovers go to the Ponte Vecchio bridge and attach padlocks to a bronze bust and the railings around it. It is said to represent the 'unbreakable bond uniting them." A few rules for attaching a lock...

1. You must put the lovers name on one side of the lock.
2. You must immediately throw the key into the river once locking the lock.
3. Overly large locks and chains are frowned upon.

Beginning about a decade ago, the tradition began to be frowned upon by the city because it was scratching and denting the metal, and creating huge clusters that the council officials did not enjoy. They removed some 5,500 when they finally gave up because more locks were appearing faster than they could take them off. It's unknown how this romantic tradition began but remains today. Looks like love conquers all. :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

San Miniato al Monte

So the whole posting everyday thing I realize is a bit too ambitious. I'll just say that I'll try my best.

To start to describe the food and how wonderful it is seems like a waste of time. I knew Italy was known for its food before I came, and to say that now that I’m here that it’s not always on my mind, I’d be lying.  Everything from the pizza to pasta, gelato and croissants, paninis and prosciutto, are some how, so much better than the same foods in America. It’s impossible to explain why they’re so delicious, other than that everything is so fresh here. The central market is absolutely wonderful. It’s only a block from my apartment and everything is extremely cheap. Stands sell fish, meat, cheese, bread, vegetables and fruit. This orange was literally the size of 2 of my fists, and growing another orange inside of it. Pizza is a huge deal and comes with just about anything you could ask for on it. It’s always a personal pan pizza, and although it is huge, it’s super thin crust. With all this said… in order to not gain 100 pounds while I’m here, and to still be able to enjoy all of the deliciousness, I found the most beautiful place to run. (see below)

San Miniato al Monte 2/4/11
Last night we walked to the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, known as one of the most beautiful churches in all of Italy. It sits atop one of the highest points in Florence so the views are unbelievable. We got there around 5:30 which was while the sun was setting. If anyone knows me they know how much I love the sky and sunsets. It was unbelievable. There are also chanting monks every night within the Basilica, a real cool think to hear and experience.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Sad Day

This was my post from Wed... opps. 
Susan, my roommate as I mentioned in my first post, left for the states this morning at 5 am.  She can’t hear out of one of her ears and it hasn’t gotten better for the past few weeks. No one can give her an answer of what it is and three ear doctors later the ear specialists suggested she go home and figure it out. We’re hopeful she’ll be back within the week, but for now just Rich and I will have to hold down the fort. Get better and come back to us soon Susan! <3 

On top of that, the peanut butter I brought from the states is now gone! Don't get me wrong, peanut butter is sold here but the jar about 1/3 the size of a normal peanut butter jar is sold for about 5 euro which is around $7! I can't bring myself to pay that. Susan plans to bring 2 monster jar when she comes back... which is just another, of course minuscule reason, I can't wait for her return. 
Good thing this all happened on Wednesday because it's now Friday so it's tragedy of the past. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Myth Busters

So the myth IS true!... I really don't think anything compares to standing in front of the David. Walking into the Accademia yesterday with my drawing class, turning the first corner of the museum, the enormous David stands astoundingly tall at the end of the corridor, below a huge overhead sunlight. He  looks perfect, so smooth, and flawless, and about 3 times bigger than I had ever imagined it.

It was extremely fortunate because my drawing class went to the Accademia for class and spent 3 hours drawing him. Though that may seem like a ridiculous amount of time for any non-drawer, having been in class for 3 weeks now, and used to drawing the same model for hours on end, sketching the David was wonderful. I contemplated posting what I drew next to the picture, but then rethought that idea.

David is a must see in Florence. Though you'll hear a constant "NO PHOTO" from the many guards, as you can see, you can definitely find loopholes around that rule.