Ever since Easter Weekend, it has been raining nonstop here in Italy. This is good for the country, because apparently it was getting so bad they were going to shut the water off to all the residential buildings during certain hours of the day if the drought continued. While I’m happy I will still be able to shower when I want, it doesn’t really make a nice time for traveling. Well, this was the last excursion hosted by my program, API. SO SCARY. I’ll hold off on my leaving freak out for another day.
This last excursion was a day trip to Lucca, a small town in Tuscany. We started out our normal walking tour of the city, umbrellas in hand. Our tour guide, Gabrielle, was absolutely hilarious. When he introduced himself he said his name and then said “Like Gabriel, the angel that told Mary she was pregnant… We don’t have anyone named Mary here do we?” Clearly, this was going to be a good tour that started on the city walls. Lucca is one of the only cities in Italy that still has its original city walls. They are also about 12 meters wide, making them the widest walls in Italy. They were originally made to protect them from an invasion of Florence back when the Florentines were taking over all of Tuscany. However, they were never needed. Lucca was a rich city that made a lot of silk clothing and traded all over Europe. The Spanish actually threatened Florence to leave Lucca alone so they could still trade with them, so Lucca was left alone. The walls now have a garden on the top of them.
For Easter weekend I went to the Amalfi Coast (as I had mentioned in a pervious post, and you are all such religious followers you’re probably thinking how stupid of it is for me to remind you.) I had been excited about it for weeks considering I booked the trip with my two friends, Jori and Jessica, about two weeks into being here. What could be better than sitting on a beach sipping frozen drinks, right? Well if only the weather had the same plans.
Leading up to this weekend all over Italy it has been a very dry season. A lot of their summer crops are dying due to a lack of water, aka strawberries are going to be RIDICULOUSLY expensive. But this weekend, the first real beach weekend I have planned, Mother Nature decides that she now wants to give Italy some water. Forecast for the weekend: Friday night - Sunday night = rain.
I am kind of behind on these entries because all of the different places I went on Spring Break put me behind. But I will be caught up by the end of this week I promise.
The weekend after Spring Break we had an excursion planned with API called “Under the Tuscan Sun.” They took us around different parts of Tuscany in order to show us what small town life in Italy is really like. First stop was Sienna. We did have a walking tour but it was more to just show the ways of life of the people rather than monuments. It was a beautiful city and it reminded me of a mini Florence.
After Spring Break, I expected life to go back to semi-normal; back to classes, cooking, no longer living out of a suitcase or on a bus. While all of that did resume back to normal, there were two things that did change. Both were explosions, but instead of destruction, these brought tourists and mosquitoes.
I live in Florence, so clearly there are going to be tourists here at almost all times of the year. I knew it was going to get busier as the weather got warmer and as time drew closer to the summer, but I never expected to have this much of a change within a week. It has gotten so bad, that I have to leave for classes 10 minutes earlier than I normally would, and 15 minutes earlier if my walk to class passes the Duomo. In this explosion of tourists I have come to realize why the Italians act certain ways. I always thought it was really rude when Italians would just run straight into you when you’re walking down the street instead of taking the half step to the side. Well now I understand that they are like this because tourists are rude. They stand in the middle of the only walkway and leave the non-walkway areas completely open while taking pictures of the city. They stop in the middle of the sidewalk to check a map instead of stepping to the side then checking it. They don’t move when you ask politely. If I had to deal with that day in and day out of my life, I’d get pissed off and run people over too. Oh wait, I do have to deal with it, and yes I have taken the same approach the Italians do.
Of all of my classes here, Italian definitely is my favorite. Not necessarily the topic, because I am horrendous at learning languages, but for everything else that can make or break a class. My class only has 8 people, including me. I’ve never been in a class that small, but I really like it because I know everyone’s name and we all get along really well. I do feel bad though its all girls except Greg, but he’s a good sport when we go on “girl stuff” tangents. I also love my teacher. She is so funny; she will explain things half in Italian, half in English so we will understand easier and learn different words. Most of the time we get off on tangents about different things, basically making the class a huge discussion and today, that is exactly what happened.
This weekend I made a repeat trip back to Venice with my program, API. Up bright and early for a 6 AM departure, I was able to sleep the whole way there. When we arrived we took a private boat from the main land to the actual island of Venice. Once there, we broke off into groups and was given a tour of the many islands. We went to St. Mark’s Square and the church there, but that was a review for me. After that we made our way to the Rialto Bridge, the first bridge to cross the Grand Canal. We then saw the only hospital left in Venice, which is settled close to the biggest cemetery in Venice. Personally, that gives me
a lot of confidence in the doctors there. We then saw where Marco Polo lived back when he was a famous merchant. He owned one whole island in Venice. To compare the wealth he would have had today, to own a square meter of land in Venice is about 15,000 euro.
Last night was Marti Gras and the last night of Carnival here in Italy. It is kind of like their Halloween because everyone dresses up in costumes. It was crazy because even when I was walking home from class at 5:30pm there were little kids dressed up, and my street was shut down for a parade that I had missed. There was confetti all over the ground. Even my teacher told us to get dressed up and go dancing because the next day starts lent and you wouldn’t be able to have as much fun then.
Yesterday I finally took my first trip out of Florence to Venice. From February 11th - February 21st, the city is transformed and becomes the home of The Carnival. Similar to our Mardi Gras, people walk around with masks on celebrating together in the streets.
I’ve come to decide that my life here is revolved around one thing, and one thing only: food. I’m either shopping for it, thinking about what to make, or preparing/cooking it. For a long time leading up to this trip I was really worried that I was going to starve here or live off of pasta and jarred sauce. Well, while pasta is a large staple in my diet, it is no where near the biggest or best part. That title is held by onions and garlic.