Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa and MORE!!!

11 Feb

So it’s starting to get harder and harder to keep up with my blog because I’m getting more into a routine of being here, which is so sad because I don’t want to be! I can’t believe how fast it is going. I am needing to plan for spring break like tomorrow, and I am so behind. The word mid-term is even already coming up, can you believe that? AH!

So last Thursday we went out for Alex’s roommate, Lauren’s 21st birthday, which was fun. Then on Friday evening Alex and went to the Firenze Chocolate fair which was really cool. It was all different types of gourmet chocolate from all around Italy. They had tents after tents. One of the coolest things they had were these booths of chocolate that look like rusted mental tools. Like rusted wrenches? Weird! I bought this caramel, nuts, and milk chocolate thing that was super small for a euro. One thing that was kind of interesting was when we were walking around getting samples; there were a couple of booths that blatantly did not like Americans. Alex and I saw this lady give a sample to a couple of girls that were most likely Italian, we walked up and they put the chocolate away, then there were these 3 middle aged men that walked up for a sample and she gave them some. I was actually kind of shocked at how obvious it was that they didn’t want to give us any, “how petty” I thought. I really started thinking about it. If I didn’t offer someone a free sample of chocolate to someone in the United States that was clearly foreign, I would be deemed racist. It was yet another time that I was uncomfortable because I was American.

Later on that evening I walked back to Alex’s. She pretty much begged me to go down to the bottom of her apartment plaza where this bar called, Joyce was. I was super tired but I decided to go and just hang out. We sat there for about 30 minutes before these three guys about 30 years old came over to us. They were really nice and asked if they could use their chairs. We awkwardly replied in English and they laughed because they knew English and realized we were confused. Because their table was super small, they asked if they could join our table. Now this is definitely one thing that I am starting to get to know in the European culture. Age barriers do not exist here. Let me repeat. Age is not an issue here. I thought at first it was a little weird that these 3 thirty year old men sitting down next to these 21 year old girls was a little strange, but they were actually extremely nice and not creepy. In Europe, they just see you as another individual. We sat and talked to these men for 2 and half hours. I learned more about the Italian culture during this long conversation than I had in all the time I had been here. One of the men, Leonardo, had just been to Texas for 2 months because he was visiting some friends that he had met in Florence while they were studying abroad. The other two had never been to the U.S. It was really interesting to ask all kinds of questions about what their impressions of Americans were. Some of the things they said were actually really funny. They said things like, we are obsessed with sports. I thought this was really interesting because they are OBSESSED with soccer here. What he meant is that we affiliate our schools with sports and that is why we revolve everything around it. What learned is that they don’t have sports in their middle schools, high schools, or colleges. Therefore, when Europeans see us going crazy at high school and college games, they think that’s all we care about.  Another funny thing they brought up was the movie 2012. There’s a scene where the Vatican is being destroyed and they have a clip of the Italians where they are wearing like rags. Apparently many Italians laughed hysterically at the fact that the sloppily dressed Americans portrayed the fashionable Italians as wearing rags. I laughed so hard when I heard this because that is truly embarrassing. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a sloppy sweatshirt and jeans here and at home I wear that regularly and yet we’re portraying the Italians wearing rags outside the Vatican, no good! We had some really interesting conversations with these three guys, and it was actually a great experience as well. Towards the end of the night Leonardo had mentioned there was this great place that he knew of that played the super bowl, and from our conversation he had known that we were huge Colts games. He was really nice and had mentioned that he would meet us at that same bar to show us on Sunday evening where the bar was. We went home early because we needed to get up early to head to Siena and San Gimignano.

We got up around 7am in order to catch the bus for Siena. We had this trip paid for through our program; therefore it was a planned trip with all the members of CAPA. The bus was about an hour or so to Siena.  The history of this region is of a long feud between the two city-states of Florence and Siena. Siena’s finest was its victory in the Battle of Montaperti in 1260, but when Siena finally fell to the Black Death, and was defeated by Florence in the siege of 1554-55, the city went into decline. Siena is a city of steep medieval alleys surrounding the Piazza del Camp. The buildings around the square symbolize the golden age of the city between 1260 and 1348.

It was an immediate difference that we noticed when we first got into the city. Siena had a way different look to it than Florence. Even though Florence is my favorite city by far, this was definitely a fascinating day. It was cold and rainy (so it would have been nice if it had been warm) however, it seemed as if we were in a movie. It was a typical setting of what you imagine the towns where the practiced ancient witchcraft.  One of the things that was explained to us is that the city is divided into Contradas (the caterpillar, the snail the owl, the dragon, the giraffe..etc). She explained that once you are borne into the section of the town as an owl, you will stay an owl. This was because every year they have 2 huge horse races between all the different sections, and the two winners get the glory all year long and party until the next race. Our tour guide also explained that the city was 1/3 student because the city is extremely focused on the bank. Economics students from around the world come to Siena because of their knowledge about the banking system. That seemed strange however because it was so small and looked so old. Even all the writings on the buildings were in font that looked “witchy”. We went into the Church of San Domeinco, which was built in 1226. Here we saw the head and thumb of St. Catherine who was Siena’s patron saint. Next we went into the Duomo, which was of course beautiful like all the churches we have been to in Italy. It had black and white stone and was started in 1339 with the idea of making it the biggest church in Christendom but came to an end with the plague hit. It was still gorgeous though.

One of the last things we did before we were off on our own was go to the Piazza Del Campo. This was a shell-shaped 12th century piazza. This is where they meet for the horse race ever July 2nd and August 17th. Then we had free time where we got a warm bowl of pasta and wondered the city center.

Then we set off to San Gimignano. We rode the bus for about a half hour toward this really interesting city. On the way there was what I would call “true Tuscany”. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was what you would call the rolling hills of Italy. It’s considered the “city of beautiful towers” and is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Tuscany. The towers we’re gorgeous but because we were set on our own and it wasn’t the warmest of days we didn’t climb any. It was pretty small so we just walked around the shops. Pati, Kevin and I were on a mission to find the torture museum that Laura told us about. She said it was a very interesting museum on medieval torture. Why I wanted to see this, I have no idea but for some reason we were intrigued. We eventually found the museum and it was 5.50. We decided to just go in and see it. It was some of the most disturbing things I had ever seen. They had torture devices for men and women. I was just glad that I went with Kevin and Pati because they don’t take anything seriously; therefore I wasn’t too freaked out. We saw about all we wanted to see in about a half hour and got on the bus.

The next day was the super bowl. We knew we really wanted to check out that one place that Leonardo said was pretty cool where there wouldn’t be a whole lot of Americans. We met him around 10:30 at Joyce and talked to him for a while and then we headed for the bar. It was really cool. It had a huge projector and screen for watching soccer games. He was really nice and knew the owner so he made sure there was a table open for us. The guys met us there and met him too. We watched the game until about 4:00am. It was a sad loss of course. We were definitely one of the only colts fans in there. I am glad to be here in Italy though to not see all the sad fans. After we lost though, I just said, well tomorrow at least we’ll still be waking up in Italy.

The last few day’s I’ve been a little sick so I’ve been trying to keep it low because we have a huge weekend in Venice for Carnival this weekend. A group of my friends and I are all staying at Nena’s house. Nena was a girl that studies abroad in Zionsville here senior year in high school. She stayed with some family church friend of ours, and was extremely nice of her to let us stay there on one of the most hectic weekends of the year. It is definitely going to be crazy and packed in her house so I figured I should try and stay well before this weekend.

So two nights ago our friend Pati and Jordan came over to make dinner with my roommates and Alex. There were 7 of us in our small kitchen making home made gnocchi. Now for those of you that don’t know what gnocchi is (I didn’t know before I got here), they are potato dumplings that Italians eat all the time.  Pati is an amazing cook, which I never knew. We made them by boiling potatoes and then mashing them. Once you make them like mashed potatoes you add one egg yolk to them. After that you put enough flower into them to make it dough consistency. Then you make little balls and boil them for 2-3 minutes. We also made homemade sauce, which I helped make. It was the most delicious thing ever. We didn’t actually get to eat it until about 10pm because it took awhile, but I guess we’re learning the European way of life!

Yesterday Alex and I decided to take a day trip to Pisa. We both don’t have class on Wednesday and we had heard you can do everything in a day there. We got up and got ready and caught a 12:30 train. We got there a little before 2 and decided to wonder the city. It seemed pretty small and we figured we would eventually find the Leaning tower.  There were a ton of shops that we sort of peaked into but we were anxious to find the tower. We stumbled upon the famous “Piazza”, which was actually pretty small compared to what we were used to.  We started walking and asked someone where the tower was, and eventually found it. It was right next to the Duomo, which was gorgeous as well. WE went into the church that was beautiful and had amazing paintings. We walked around for a bit then decided to go back outside and take the famous “leaning tower pictures”. We probably took about 17 pictures of us holding up the tower. It was a lot harder than it looks. It was also hilarious to see all the tourists explaining to each other how to hold up the tower. “Move your right arm up, no the other right, ok now move your fingers a little, now move your other fingers, now take one step forward, ok not that big, ok perfect, SNAP”. I couldn’t imagine what the people in the leather market must experience everyday since it is right in front of them. After awhile we got a couple good pictures. People we’re definitely right however, we had pretty much seen all we wanted to see after about 2 hours. We decided to do some shopping around some of the stores. Around 6:30 we took the train home. It was a successful day of adventures.

I’m looking forward to doing some wondering around the city this afternoon before my classes!

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One Response to “Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa and MORE!!!”

  1. Michael February 11, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    I rarely read lenghty blog posts, but since this one helped me remember my visits to Pisa, Siena & San G. (especially Museo della Tortura) I enjoyed every word. Keep it up.

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