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Loud Music. Bright Lights.

January 26, 2012

Today I woke up, had breakfast, and headed to class as usual – except that I had a huge fifteen minute presentation in my culture class, something I’d been working on all week. It definitely felt good to finally be done with that project. I definitely learned more than I ever wanted to about Ferrara .. (and no, Ferraris are not from there).

After that, I headed home in order to study for my Italian final exam, which I needed to take before leaving for London the next day. Dinner was delicious as usual !! After, the roommates and I met up with everyone else and went to Bar Philadelphia, Barone Rosso, and Cambio. All I can say is .. loud music. Bright lights. My ears were ringing when I got home and I’m sure that they will still be ringing in the morning ! But it was fun to be out with everyone, especially before we go our separate ways this weekend.

We’re Going to London.

January 25, 2012

Today we woke up and headed to class as per usual. However, instead of our usual culture class, we had a lecture from Luca, the director of the school, on Siena’s contradas. It was so interesting to hear about the divisions of the city from a citizen of the city. We learned so much more about the history of the contradas (at one point, there were over sixty !) and how they function in modern times. From there, we got to visit one of the private museums of the contradas, that of the Aquila (Eagle). It was so awesome to see the costumes worn by Palio riders, as well as actual palios, the cloth banners won by the winning team, dating from the 18th century.

From there, Jess, Katie, Kristen, and I headed to the Irish pub to use their Internet and try and figure out what we wanted to do for our free weekend … which was only two days away. Everyone was kind of pushing for London, but it just seemed like it was going to be so expensive. However, after a little bit of searching, we found some not-as-expensive flights .. and just did it. We booked tickets and a hostel in London. None of us could believe that we were actually going to London !! After that, we went home for dinner, which was some fantastic homemade pizza (she made this one, with tuna, which I actually REALLY enjoyed, and another, with shaved parmesan cheese and rocket … fantastic). Mama italiana outdoes herself every night ! After dinner, we ran back to the Irish pub to make some final arrangements for our trip, and then went back to home to go to sleep (although it definitely took me a while to fall asleep since I was so excited about our trip !)

The Allegory of Good and Bad Government.

January 24, 2012

This morning, everything went as usual, except that instead of having our regular culture class, we finally went on a walking tour of Siena. Finally ! We got to see the Duomo, although we didn’t go inside – that shall have to wait for another day. But we went to Santa Maria della Scala, Siena’s oldest hospital which has now been turned into a museum. The artwork which we saw there was beautiful. They had some impressive frescoes. Two things really struck me when I was there. The first was that even in the plain hospital rooms, which were used to take care of patients, the Sienese artists tried to make something beautiful. Here, elaborate headboards were painted on the walls, little niches were carved and decorated to place water or a book, and other touches were added here and there around the room. The other amazing thing was the rooms and relics of Siena’s patron saint, St. Catherine. She had a whole brotherhood devoted to her in the Middle Ages, and it was astounding to see what they had constructed to honor her.

From there, we went to the Palazzo Publico, located in the main square, the Piazzo del Campo, only a two-minute walk away from my house. It was super exciting to finally get inside the building that accompanies on my walk to class every day. We climbed up a huge flight of steps, which left us at a balcony looking out over half of the city and countryside. It was simply beautiful. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be spending this time here. From there, we moved inside to see some pretty famous paintings. The most important of them, to me, at least, was the Allegory of Good and Bad Governments, painted in the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries by Lorenzetti. I had studied this piece in my Renaissance Architecture course last year, since it was the first painting of a completely secular government and provided a look at what the city of Siena might have looked like in Lorenzetti’s time. It was larger than life in person, and the lessons that my professor was attempting to show us made so much more sense seeing it in person. It was pretty spectacular.

From Palazzo Publico, we were dismissed for the day, and so I went home to hang out and do some homework before dinner. I had a paper due the next day, and a fifteen-minute presentation due on Thursday, so I needed to down time. After dinner, Katherine, Jess, and I finished watching Bridesmaids and then fell asleep. 

The Boring Day.

January 23, 2012

Today was boring. I woke up, as usual, had both my Italian and culture classes, and then tried to figure out with Jess, Katie, and Kristen what we wanted to do for our free weekend. It was a little depressing – we  were hoping to travel to London, but the planes that we were finding were pretty expensive. We decided not to book anything, but instead wait and try to figure it out in the morning. After heading home for dinner, Katherine, Jess, and I watched Bridesmaids before heading to sleep; in all, a boring day. 

Forze Siena !

January 22, 2012.

This morning, we woke up around nine so that we could check out of the hostel with the rest of the group around 930. Karen, Anne, and I grabbed a quick breakfast before heading to San Lorenzo, one of Alberti’s last churches and the site of Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library. However, we forgot that it was Sunday, so there was Mass and the Library was closed, much to our despair. We did get a quick peek inside the church though, and it was simply gorgeous. Grey stone, pietra serena, covered the entirety, leaving a somber beauty.

After the disappointment of San Lorenzo, we walked back through the leather market one last time. We met up with the other half of our friends, and in a last desperate attempt, I gave Doug and Jess my fifty euro to try and win me that bag. I nervously waited around the corner for them … and in ten minutes they came over to us, purse in hand !! HAH. Take that, you mean bag man ! The salesman definitely knew that they were my friends, but at least he finally gave up and sold them the bag. It is beautiful. I’m so happy it finally worked ! He may have won the first two battles … but I won the purse war.

My friends and I took the bus back to Siena, which was about an hour and a half ride. I, unfortunately, got stuck sitting next to a VERY unpleasantly smelling man .. which made the ride seem even longer. When we finally got back to Siena, we ran back to the house to drop off our bags, and then met everyone in Piazza La Lizza for the soccer game. We had gotten our tickets earlier in the week, and everyone was super pumped ! The game was a friendly game against Napoli, and it was astounding how many Napoli fans had shown up. The stadium was packed ! The game was great .. even though I know absolutely nothing about soccer. But Katie and I had fun yelling at the players and trying to learn the Sienese chants anyways. Forze Siena ! Because it wasn’t an official match, the game was able to be ended with a tie, leaving me very disappointed. How can they just end a game with a tie ??? I wanted Siena to win ! It was such a great experience to see the people of sleepy Siena come alive for such an event.

After the game, we headed home to hang out and freshen up a bit before dinner, which was delicious as usual. After dinner, we were all so exhausted from the long weekend that we fell right asleep ! 

San Marco, Venice, Italy.

San Marco, Venice, Italy.

Four Hundred and Sixty-Four.

January 21, 2012

This morning we woke up at ten, ready to explore Florence ! Karen and I were super excited about walking around the city, since we had learned about so many of these landmarks in our Renaissance Architecture course. We grabbed a quick breakfast at a bar close to the hostel, and then headed to our first destination – Santa Maria Novella. It is one of the first churches that we had studied. Leon Battista Alberti designed the façade, building on some Gothic remains. It was so amazing to see the building right in front of us, instead of on a PowerPoint. It was truly beautiful. However, we had to pay to see the inside, and since Karen and I only really cared about Alberti’s façade, we decided to move on to our next destination – the Palazzi Strozzi and Rucellai.

These were also buildings that Karen and I had studied – they were important steps in the palatial structure growth throughout the Renaissance. While they shared many of the same aspects, each had a different twist, making the buildings almost seem to have a conversation – whose twist was better ? It was amazing to see and touch the history right before our eyes. From the palazzi, we walked to the waterfront to see the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in the city. It was so pretty ! Lunch came next, at the same restaurant that a few people had eaten at the day before. It was quite tasty, if I do say so myself.

After lunch, the real fun began. We went to Santa Croce, a church that I have loved every single time I’ve been to Florence yet never gotten the chance to go inside. There, we got to see the tombs and memorials of Galileo, Dante, Michelangelo, and more. It was so moving. These memorials were absolutely stunning. It was more impressive than I could have ever imagined. I was also really intrigued by the graves in the floor – there were engravings of soldiers, knights, and fancily dressed people marking the graves in the floor.  It was beautiful.

Then, we headed to the Duomo, Santa Maria del Fuore, to climb all four hundred and sixty-four steps. 464. Steps. It was pretty intense. Perhaps one of the coolest things about it, though, was what we experienced on the inside during our climb. We saw some of the actual instruments that Brunelleschi’s team had used to construct the dome, some statues of other important Florentine men, and, perhaps most important, the herringbone design scholars think that Brunelleschi used to support the dome without the traditional wooden scaffolding. Once we had reached the top, the view was spectacular. The city unfolded in front of us, and we could see everything. I have never seen anything like that in my life, and I probably never will again.

After, we walked over to the leather market on our way home in order to make some final purchases. I definitely wanted to get my hands on the purse from last night. While there was no one there again at first, we finally asked someone, who directed us to the owner of the stand. He actually had a shop only a few minutes away. I gave my money to Karen, since I wanted her to haggle down the price of the purse to fifty euro. While at first, the man seemed willing to bargain, all of a sudden the tides turned and he refused to sell it to us for less than sixty-five, which I really was unwilling to pay. I left disappointed and sans purse. Anne and Tori tried a little later, but I imagine it wasn’t very subtle (nothing they could have done – there just wasn’t anything subtle about asking for the same purse only ten minutes later for the same price), and he refused to sell it to them as well. I left the market disappointed and sad about the mean purse man.

After that fiasco, we headed to dinner, a small restaurant that we found on our walk home, where I got some pasta and a delicious glass of red wine, which only slightly helped make up for the loss of the purse. Then we headed back to our hostel, and, since we had had such a crazy night last night, decided to stay in and hang out in our big room for a few hours before falling asleep.

The Birth of Venus.

January 20, 2012.

Today we had to wake up super early to catch a train to Firenze ! The only downside was that the walk to the train was about a forty-five minute walk .. and it was barely light out yet. But we finally made it there, and all twenty-nine of us boarded the train and fell asleep, eager to wake up in a new city. 

When we first arrived in Florence, we headed as a group to the Palazzo Vecchio. This building housed the original popular government of Florence beginning in the fourteenth century. Even though I have seen this building twice already, it held so much more meaning now that I had studied it in my Renaissance Architecture course. The tower, the pictures of the guilds, the machicolations, everything made so much more sense now that I understood the meaning behind it. The windows had been borrowed from religious architecture, to show the new government’s domination over everything else. The guilds’ symbols showed how this was a government of the people. Finally, the crenellations and fortress-like aspects show how even though the new government was a popular one, it still meant business to its enemies.

While Karen and I were enjoying the view of Palazzo Vecchio, we stumbled into the statuary next door to the old building. Karen and I had both been in the same architecture course together as well as both being Classics majors, and so we were completely appreciative of everything we were seeing. While we were enjoying the view, however, everyone vanished from sight. Which was only slightly terrifying. We started running around like chickens with our heads cut off, looking for the rest of our group. Eventually we found our professors .. and the rest of our group, which had wandered only a few hundred feet to the left to admire the fountain. Whoops.

Once we gathered all of us together, we headed into the Uffizi Art Gallery. Here, some of the most famous art pieces of all time are held, including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera, as well as some pieces by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and others. It was so amazing to see these pieces that I have studied sitting right in front of me. The Botticelli pieces were absolutely larger than life. It was amazing to see the real canvases, and how much skill Botticelli possessed. When I was younger, we used to frequent this pizza place in Audobon, and they had a replica of The Birth of Venus on their ceiling. And I used to stare, and stare, and stare at it. Seeing this in person was .. more than I could have imagined. It was fantastic.

After we finished in the Uffizi (having seen some other great things, like Parmingiano’s Madonna of the Long Neck – which you all should Google, because it’s terrifyingly out of proportion and hideous), we sat in the piazza outside and grabbed a panino and gelato before heading to the hostel to check in.  it felt so good to finally get settled in our room. There were seven of us in our room, and all of us were beat. We decided to take a nap, so that we could enjoy the rest of our evening.

When we woke up, we chose to explore the area outside our hotel. Walking down the main street, we discovered Florence’s huge leather market ! Which of course got me pumped up since I have been looking for a new leather purse as my souvenir ! We walked through this whole line of tents, and I found a purse that I fell in love with. But there wasn’t anyone working at the stand, at least not that we could see, so we decided to continue on. Down a few more stands I found another purse that I liked – a small black satchel with diagonal zippers – and haggled with the man and bought it for eighteen euro. Wahoo ! Around this point all of our stomachs started growling … so we decided to stop at a cute little (inexpensive) restaurant. I got gnocchi, and it was amazing. 

After dinner, we went back to the hostel to prepare to go out to Florence’s main discoteca, Space. Just about everyone who had stayed in Florence with the group was going to go out, and we were all psyched to have a great time. When we got there, this place was crazy. There was a karaoke bar on the first floor, and on the second there was a huge stage with a DJ, who had a lightshow going and incredibly loud music. We had a ton of fun dancing and getting our groove on. One of the highlights for me, though, was that I got to see my friend from freshman year who was on a different Delaware trip. It was super fun to see the other group of kids and we had a great time all hanging out ! We finally left the club around 330, getting back to the hostel and going to sleep around four. What a great first day in Firenze ! 

Make Sauce.

January 19, 2012

Today, we woke up as per usual and headed to class, nothing super exciting. After class, we sat and used the Internet before heading back to the house to clean, pack, and prepare to leave for Florence. We were all super excited to get to visit the new city !

Since we didn’t have class in the afternoon, we got to attend a cooking class provided by the Dante Alighieri School. It was actually really cool ! Half of our group, so about fifteen kids, made a complete Italian dinner, beginning with a spinach-and-ricotta-cheese-filled pasta covered in marinara sauce, pork roast covered in bacon with a filling, and ending with biscotti. Katie, Kristen, and I were in charge of the sauce … It was interesting. The cooking instructor came over to us, handed us garlic and olive oil, and said, “Make sauce. Put the garlic on until it smells good.” Literally, the most vague set of directions I think I’ve ever received. Of course we burnt the garlic, and then she came over and made a big scene about it. Talk about embarrassing. But she put some fresh garlic in and helped us get cooking. The pasta was all made by hand, and it was so cool to use the pasta maker. Everything turned out deliciously ! It was so surprising how it all came together, but it was fantastic.

Following dinner, we all headed to this bar, Bar Philadelphia, to meet up with the other half of our group to spend the night on the town. We had a lot of fun there, but ended up leaving around 11 to head to one of Siena’s biggest clubs, Barone Rosso (The Red Baron). “Big” is definitely in relation to the city – while it was a fun time, it certainly wasn’t very large. But they were playing a lot of great music, and so we all had a good time dancing. However, it wasn’t a late night because we all knew we needed to get up early the next morning for our train to Florence; we headed back to our house around midnight to ensure that we got enough sleep !

Loud Music. Bright Lights.

January 26, 2012

Today I woke up, had breakfast, and headed to class as usual – except that I had a huge fifteen minute presentation in my culture class, something I’d been working on all week. It definitely felt good to finally be done with that project. I definitely learned more than I ever wanted to about Ferrara .. (and no, Ferraris are not from there).

After that, I headed home in order to study for my Italian final exam, which I needed to take before leaving for London the next day. Dinner was delicious as usual !! After, the roommates and I met up with everyone else and went to Bar Philadelphia, Barone Rosso, and Cambio. All I can say is .. loud music. Bright lights. My ears were ringing when I got home and I’m sure that they will still be ringing in the morning ! But it was fun to be out with everyone, especially before we go our separate ways this weekend.

We’re Going to London.

January 25, 2012

Today we woke up and headed to class as per usual. However, instead of our usual culture class, we had a lecture from Luca, the director of the school, on Siena’s contradas. It was so interesting to hear about the divisions of the city from a citizen of the city. We learned so much more about the history of the contradas (at one point, there were over sixty !) and how they function in modern times. From there, we got to visit one of the private museums of the contradas, that of the Aquila (Eagle). It was so awesome to see the costumes worn by Palio riders, as well as actual palios, the cloth banners won by the winning team, dating from the 18th century.

From there, Jess, Katie, Kristen, and I headed to the Irish pub to use their Internet and try and figure out what we wanted to do for our free weekend … which was only two days away. Everyone was kind of pushing for London, but it just seemed like it was going to be so expensive. However, after a little bit of searching, we found some not-as-expensive flights .. and just did it. We booked tickets and a hostel in London. None of us could believe that we were actually going to London !! After that, we went home for dinner, which was some fantastic homemade pizza (she made this one, with tuna, which I actually REALLY enjoyed, and another, with shaved parmesan cheese and rocket … fantastic). Mama italiana outdoes herself every night ! After dinner, we ran back to the Irish pub to make some final arrangements for our trip, and then went back to home to go to sleep (although it definitely took me a while to fall asleep since I was so excited about our trip !)

The Allegory of Good and Bad Government.

January 24, 2012

This morning, everything went as usual, except that instead of having our regular culture class, we finally went on a walking tour of Siena. Finally ! We got to see the Duomo, although we didn’t go inside – that shall have to wait for another day. But we went to Santa Maria della Scala, Siena’s oldest hospital which has now been turned into a museum. The artwork which we saw there was beautiful. They had some impressive frescoes. Two things really struck me when I was there. The first was that even in the plain hospital rooms, which were used to take care of patients, the Sienese artists tried to make something beautiful. Here, elaborate headboards were painted on the walls, little niches were carved and decorated to place water or a book, and other touches were added here and there around the room. The other amazing thing was the rooms and relics of Siena’s patron saint, St. Catherine. She had a whole brotherhood devoted to her in the Middle Ages, and it was astounding to see what they had constructed to honor her.

From there, we went to the Palazzo Publico, located in the main square, the Piazzo del Campo, only a two-minute walk away from my house. It was super exciting to finally get inside the building that accompanies on my walk to class every day. We climbed up a huge flight of steps, which left us at a balcony looking out over half of the city and countryside. It was simply beautiful. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be spending this time here. From there, we moved inside to see some pretty famous paintings. The most important of them, to me, at least, was the Allegory of Good and Bad Governments, painted in the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries by Lorenzetti. I had studied this piece in my Renaissance Architecture course last year, since it was the first painting of a completely secular government and provided a look at what the city of Siena might have looked like in Lorenzetti’s time. It was larger than life in person, and the lessons that my professor was attempting to show us made so much more sense seeing it in person. It was pretty spectacular.

From Palazzo Publico, we were dismissed for the day, and so I went home to hang out and do some homework before dinner. I had a paper due the next day, and a fifteen-minute presentation due on Thursday, so I needed to down time. After dinner, Katherine, Jess, and I finished watching Bridesmaids and then fell asleep. 

The Boring Day.

January 23, 2012

Today was boring. I woke up, as usual, had both my Italian and culture classes, and then tried to figure out with Jess, Katie, and Kristen what we wanted to do for our free weekend. It was a little depressing – we  were hoping to travel to London, but the planes that we were finding were pretty expensive. We decided not to book anything, but instead wait and try to figure it out in the morning. After heading home for dinner, Katherine, Jess, and I watched Bridesmaids before heading to sleep; in all, a boring day. 

Forze Siena !

January 22, 2012.

This morning, we woke up around nine so that we could check out of the hostel with the rest of the group around 930. Karen, Anne, and I grabbed a quick breakfast before heading to San Lorenzo, one of Alberti’s last churches and the site of Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library. However, we forgot that it was Sunday, so there was Mass and the Library was closed, much to our despair. We did get a quick peek inside the church though, and it was simply gorgeous. Grey stone, pietra serena, covered the entirety, leaving a somber beauty.

After the disappointment of San Lorenzo, we walked back through the leather market one last time. We met up with the other half of our friends, and in a last desperate attempt, I gave Doug and Jess my fifty euro to try and win me that bag. I nervously waited around the corner for them … and in ten minutes they came over to us, purse in hand !! HAH. Take that, you mean bag man ! The salesman definitely knew that they were my friends, but at least he finally gave up and sold them the bag. It is beautiful. I’m so happy it finally worked ! He may have won the first two battles … but I won the purse war.

My friends and I took the bus back to Siena, which was about an hour and a half ride. I, unfortunately, got stuck sitting next to a VERY unpleasantly smelling man .. which made the ride seem even longer. When we finally got back to Siena, we ran back to the house to drop off our bags, and then met everyone in Piazza La Lizza for the soccer game. We had gotten our tickets earlier in the week, and everyone was super pumped ! The game was a friendly game against Napoli, and it was astounding how many Napoli fans had shown up. The stadium was packed ! The game was great .. even though I know absolutely nothing about soccer. But Katie and I had fun yelling at the players and trying to learn the Sienese chants anyways. Forze Siena ! Because it wasn’t an official match, the game was able to be ended with a tie, leaving me very disappointed. How can they just end a game with a tie ??? I wanted Siena to win ! It was such a great experience to see the people of sleepy Siena come alive for such an event.

After the game, we headed home to hang out and freshen up a bit before dinner, which was delicious as usual. After dinner, we were all so exhausted from the long weekend that we fell right asleep ! 

San Marco, Venice, Italy.

San Marco, Venice, Italy.

Four Hundred and Sixty-Four.

January 21, 2012

This morning we woke up at ten, ready to explore Florence ! Karen and I were super excited about walking around the city, since we had learned about so many of these landmarks in our Renaissance Architecture course. We grabbed a quick breakfast at a bar close to the hostel, and then headed to our first destination – Santa Maria Novella. It is one of the first churches that we had studied. Leon Battista Alberti designed the façade, building on some Gothic remains. It was so amazing to see the building right in front of us, instead of on a PowerPoint. It was truly beautiful. However, we had to pay to see the inside, and since Karen and I only really cared about Alberti’s façade, we decided to move on to our next destination – the Palazzi Strozzi and Rucellai.

These were also buildings that Karen and I had studied – they were important steps in the palatial structure growth throughout the Renaissance. While they shared many of the same aspects, each had a different twist, making the buildings almost seem to have a conversation – whose twist was better ? It was amazing to see and touch the history right before our eyes. From the palazzi, we walked to the waterfront to see the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in the city. It was so pretty ! Lunch came next, at the same restaurant that a few people had eaten at the day before. It was quite tasty, if I do say so myself.

After lunch, the real fun began. We went to Santa Croce, a church that I have loved every single time I’ve been to Florence yet never gotten the chance to go inside. There, we got to see the tombs and memorials of Galileo, Dante, Michelangelo, and more. It was so moving. These memorials were absolutely stunning. It was more impressive than I could have ever imagined. I was also really intrigued by the graves in the floor – there were engravings of soldiers, knights, and fancily dressed people marking the graves in the floor.  It was beautiful.

Then, we headed to the Duomo, Santa Maria del Fuore, to climb all four hundred and sixty-four steps. 464. Steps. It was pretty intense. Perhaps one of the coolest things about it, though, was what we experienced on the inside during our climb. We saw some of the actual instruments that Brunelleschi’s team had used to construct the dome, some statues of other important Florentine men, and, perhaps most important, the herringbone design scholars think that Brunelleschi used to support the dome without the traditional wooden scaffolding. Once we had reached the top, the view was spectacular. The city unfolded in front of us, and we could see everything. I have never seen anything like that in my life, and I probably never will again.

After, we walked over to the leather market on our way home in order to make some final purchases. I definitely wanted to get my hands on the purse from last night. While there was no one there again at first, we finally asked someone, who directed us to the owner of the stand. He actually had a shop only a few minutes away. I gave my money to Karen, since I wanted her to haggle down the price of the purse to fifty euro. While at first, the man seemed willing to bargain, all of a sudden the tides turned and he refused to sell it to us for less than sixty-five, which I really was unwilling to pay. I left disappointed and sans purse. Anne and Tori tried a little later, but I imagine it wasn’t very subtle (nothing they could have done – there just wasn’t anything subtle about asking for the same purse only ten minutes later for the same price), and he refused to sell it to them as well. I left the market disappointed and sad about the mean purse man.

After that fiasco, we headed to dinner, a small restaurant that we found on our walk home, where I got some pasta and a delicious glass of red wine, which only slightly helped make up for the loss of the purse. Then we headed back to our hostel, and, since we had had such a crazy night last night, decided to stay in and hang out in our big room for a few hours before falling asleep.

Venice, Italy.

Venice, Italy.

The Birth of Venus.

January 20, 2012.

Today we had to wake up super early to catch a train to Firenze ! The only downside was that the walk to the train was about a forty-five minute walk .. and it was barely light out yet. But we finally made it there, and all twenty-nine of us boarded the train and fell asleep, eager to wake up in a new city. 

When we first arrived in Florence, we headed as a group to the Palazzo Vecchio. This building housed the original popular government of Florence beginning in the fourteenth century. Even though I have seen this building twice already, it held so much more meaning now that I had studied it in my Renaissance Architecture course. The tower, the pictures of the guilds, the machicolations, everything made so much more sense now that I understood the meaning behind it. The windows had been borrowed from religious architecture, to show the new government’s domination over everything else. The guilds’ symbols showed how this was a government of the people. Finally, the crenellations and fortress-like aspects show how even though the new government was a popular one, it still meant business to its enemies.

While Karen and I were enjoying the view of Palazzo Vecchio, we stumbled into the statuary next door to the old building. Karen and I had both been in the same architecture course together as well as both being Classics majors, and so we were completely appreciative of everything we were seeing. While we were enjoying the view, however, everyone vanished from sight. Which was only slightly terrifying. We started running around like chickens with our heads cut off, looking for the rest of our group. Eventually we found our professors .. and the rest of our group, which had wandered only a few hundred feet to the left to admire the fountain. Whoops.

Once we gathered all of us together, we headed into the Uffizi Art Gallery. Here, some of the most famous art pieces of all time are held, including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera, as well as some pieces by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and others. It was so amazing to see these pieces that I have studied sitting right in front of me. The Botticelli pieces were absolutely larger than life. It was amazing to see the real canvases, and how much skill Botticelli possessed. When I was younger, we used to frequent this pizza place in Audobon, and they had a replica of The Birth of Venus on their ceiling. And I used to stare, and stare, and stare at it. Seeing this in person was .. more than I could have imagined. It was fantastic.

After we finished in the Uffizi (having seen some other great things, like Parmingiano’s Madonna of the Long Neck – which you all should Google, because it’s terrifyingly out of proportion and hideous), we sat in the piazza outside and grabbed a panino and gelato before heading to the hostel to check in.  it felt so good to finally get settled in our room. There were seven of us in our room, and all of us were beat. We decided to take a nap, so that we could enjoy the rest of our evening.

When we woke up, we chose to explore the area outside our hotel. Walking down the main street, we discovered Florence’s huge leather market ! Which of course got me pumped up since I have been looking for a new leather purse as my souvenir ! We walked through this whole line of tents, and I found a purse that I fell in love with. But there wasn’t anyone working at the stand, at least not that we could see, so we decided to continue on. Down a few more stands I found another purse that I liked – a small black satchel with diagonal zippers – and haggled with the man and bought it for eighteen euro. Wahoo ! Around this point all of our stomachs started growling … so we decided to stop at a cute little (inexpensive) restaurant. I got gnocchi, and it was amazing. 

After dinner, we went back to the hostel to prepare to go out to Florence’s main discoteca, Space. Just about everyone who had stayed in Florence with the group was going to go out, and we were all psyched to have a great time. When we got there, this place was crazy. There was a karaoke bar on the first floor, and on the second there was a huge stage with a DJ, who had a lightshow going and incredibly loud music. We had a ton of fun dancing and getting our groove on. One of the highlights for me, though, was that I got to see my friend from freshman year who was on a different Delaware trip. It was super fun to see the other group of kids and we had a great time all hanging out ! We finally left the club around 330, getting back to the hostel and going to sleep around four. What a great first day in Firenze ! 

Make Sauce.

January 19, 2012

Today, we woke up as per usual and headed to class, nothing super exciting. After class, we sat and used the Internet before heading back to the house to clean, pack, and prepare to leave for Florence. We were all super excited to get to visit the new city !

Since we didn’t have class in the afternoon, we got to attend a cooking class provided by the Dante Alighieri School. It was actually really cool ! Half of our group, so about fifteen kids, made a complete Italian dinner, beginning with a spinach-and-ricotta-cheese-filled pasta covered in marinara sauce, pork roast covered in bacon with a filling, and ending with biscotti. Katie, Kristen, and I were in charge of the sauce … It was interesting. The cooking instructor came over to us, handed us garlic and olive oil, and said, “Make sauce. Put the garlic on until it smells good.” Literally, the most vague set of directions I think I’ve ever received. Of course we burnt the garlic, and then she came over and made a big scene about it. Talk about embarrassing. But she put some fresh garlic in and helped us get cooking. The pasta was all made by hand, and it was so cool to use the pasta maker. Everything turned out deliciously ! It was so surprising how it all came together, but it was fantastic.

Following dinner, we all headed to this bar, Bar Philadelphia, to meet up with the other half of our group to spend the night on the town. We had a lot of fun there, but ended up leaving around 11 to head to one of Siena’s biggest clubs, Barone Rosso (The Red Baron). “Big” is definitely in relation to the city – while it was a fun time, it certainly wasn’t very large. But they were playing a lot of great music, and so we all had a good time dancing. However, it wasn’t a late night because we all knew we needed to get up early the next morning for our train to Florence; we headed back to our house around midnight to ensure that we got enough sleep !

Loud Music. Bright Lights.
We’re Going to London.
The Allegory of Good and Bad Government.
The Boring Day.
Forze Siena !
Four Hundred and Sixty-Four.
The Birth of Venus.
Make Sauce.

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