Monday, March 28, 2011

[San] Luca, Luca, Luca

Last week a few of my classmates (the ones new to Bologna) and I walked up the longest portico in the world (yes, the WORLD!) to visit one of Bologna's most famous spots, the Sanctuary of the Maddonna di San Luca!

The portico up is a whopping 3.5 kilometers made up of 666 arches (ironic, no?) that was constructed from 1674 to 1793. When my classmates asked me how long it took, you know since I've done the walk at least 10 times before, I stupidly replied "oh like 30 minutes?". Clearly it takes longer than that. Haha.

The thing is about long uphill walks is that once you reach the top, you completely forget how long and difficult the road up was. (That's a nice life lesson for you!) So though I had walked this walk a bunch of times before, I completely forgot that the entire thing takes about an hour and a half and over half the time you are walking up this huge hill looking forward towards a long portico that never seems to end. But that being said, it's a lovely walk and I'll probably do it every so often for a bit of exercise. The views of Bologna are beautiful and you can't beat a long uphill walk to work your muscles.

On the topic of Luca, I leave you with a classic Italian song from the 1970s called "Luca" by Raffaella Carra' because it's been stuck in my head for days (thank you for that Kelly...).
For those of you that understand Italian, listen to the words and giggle a little. It's about a girl who finds her boyfriend kissing a beautiful blonde man ;)

Luca, Luca, Luca
Cosa ti è successo?
Luca, Luca, con chi sei adesso?
Luca, Luca, Non si saprà mai!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Taking Forgranted Firenze (among other things)

So I've been in Italy for over a week now and while time has flown by, it feels like I've been here forever. I spent Monday-Wednesday last week getting my administrative things in order (residence permit, healthcare, school registration) and meeting my follow MiDICers as I suppose we are called (people from my master program). Wednesday night we went out as a group for the first time and it was fun. The group is quite diverse, both in academic and geographic backgrounds, but we all share a love to travel and a general sense of uncertainty about what we want to do in life so we get along quite well. I look forward to getting to know everyone better!

On Thursday it was an Italian holiday, the anniversary of Italy's 150 years of unity. It was also St. Patrick's Day. I was honestly very unsure about which holiday people were celebrating, but it was amusing nonetheless. I went to the Irish pub with my fellow North Americans to have a Guiness in honor of the Irish holiday. I was home by 10pm since I knew I had to catch an early train the next morning to Florence.

In Italy, when there is a holiday on a weekday such as Thursday, they have something that they call a "ponte" holiday. Ponte in Italian means bridge. What happens during a "ponte" holiday weekend is that you get the day off after/before the actual day of the holiday making it into a 4/5 day weekend. For example, Thursday was the Italian 150th Anniversary of the Republic so most people (and of course the university) got Friday off making it a 4 day weekend. SWEET deal no? Problem this year is that most of the holidays over the rest of my time in Italy actually fall on the weekend, so we have no extra long weekends :(

So this "ponte", since I had no school on Friday, I decided to go visit Kelly in Florence and check out her villa. No big deal, just your everyday normal day trip to Florence that I take forgranted.

Kelly's Georgetown villa is in a small town 20 minutes outside of Florence called Fiesole. It's super cute and the villa is gorgeous. The views are incredible.
After a less than perfect train ride (my train was sold out so I had to buy 1st class on another train, booo) and a total of about a 3 hour journey, I made it just in time for a quick tour and a nice lunch. After lunch, we headed down into town to be touristy and go to the Church of Santa Croce. I have been to Florence countless times and seen most everything there is to see, but one thing I was missing was Santa Croce!
It was fun to take in some culture and wander around inside the beautiful church. There are frescoes by Giotto (an early Renaissance painter who was the first to put emotion into his portraits) and the tombs of Michelangelo and Macchiavelli (the writter of the famous political how-to book, The Prince). It was also interesting to learn a bit about the 1966 flood in Florence that was extremely devestating to the Renaissance capital. We saw pictures and even some art that had been damaged during the flood.

After being all cultural, we did a bit of shopping. I bought a leather notebook (which I actually DID need) from a mean lady who wouldn't bargain with me. I swear she told me the price was 8 and I tried to bargain for 7, but she refused and the notebook was exactly what I had been looking for, so I agreed to 8 and gave her a 20. She gave me 11 back and when I called her on it, she got super mad and gave me back my 20 and told me not to take the notebook! But in the end I took it and paid 9 because, like I said, it was perfect. I hate the market people in Florence. They really don't need your business so they aren't very nice.

After that we had a lovely aperitivo and then a yummy dinner at a Napolitano restaurant. Then we got wine at a cute little wine bar and chatted away. A nice night of taking forgranted the fact that we are two Californian girls sitting in a wine bar in Florence.

It's amazing how easy you can fall back into old routines, take forgranted seeing your close friends who otherwise live halfway around the world, and forgetting how people spend their whole lives dreaming of cities that I sweep through in a day on a whim.

I vow to not take it forgranted.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

On how Bo just makes me smile...

After a quite comfortable flight and no travel disasters to speak of, I arrived at my new apartment in Bologna, Italy on Thursday, March 10 at 11:30pm. Due to old connections I have in town, I was able to find a Californian girl who needed to sublease her single room from March-July. The room is perfect and so is the location. I'm so lucky!

The next day, my dear friend Kelly came to stay with me for the weekend! Kelly also went to UCSD and studied abroad with me in Bologna 3 years ago when we were 20 year old babies. We had a lovely weekend just hanging out together under the portici, visiting our old haunting grounds and eating gelato. I was a bit tired and out of it from jetlag, but Kelly stuck with me and overall I persevered. We had a fun weekend enjoying the city and I couldn't ask for a better first weekend back.

I can't express just how wonderful it was to have an old friend to be with for the first weekend I'm back in Bologna. I spent an entire year in Bologna enjoying life like I had never enjoyed it before, so I know the city well, but Bologna for me is a little lonely and empty feeling without all the people that were here with me 3 years ago. It was nice to relive the past a bit with Kelly and get excited about the next 4 months I have to fill this city with new memories.

An interesting thing I've noticed about Bologna is that just walking around this city seems to make me happy. Walking down the street I feel my heart sore and my lips twist into a small carefree smile. This city is so much more beautiful than I remember and the entire aura is just so light and carefree.

The life I led in Bo 3 years ago was lovely and to be back now is like cheating fate. I'm living a once in a lifetime experience AGAIN. Lady Destiny somehow threw me a lovely life path that has allowed me to circle back into town on a different street, trying out a different angle. I'm promising myself and all you out there that I will take advantage and enjoy my life in Bo to it's fullest for the time that I am here. Wooohooo!

And FYI I have an extra mattress waiting for any friends/family who want to visit :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pre-trip prep (or lack thereof)

I got my Italian visa! I'm legally allowed to reside in Italy for the next 365 days + 3 months...... EEEEEk! Though in theory I'll be in South Africa for 4 months and probably won't return to Italy after Christmas since I'll most likely do my internship/thesis elsewhere :/ But who knows, we'll see!

Had my last day at Vintage (the retirement community I worked at for the past 4 months) on Feb 28. Twas bittersweet. It was nice to feel all the love of everyone and exciting to be moving on to bigger things, but I really loved all my coworkers and seniors, so saying goodbye was hard. I really had a great experience working with the seniors! As I was telling the residents, my experience at Vintage was really an unexpected treat. I just wanted to find a job that wasn't Starbucks, and ended up spending 4 months at one of the best jobs I could ever imagine! I learned a lot and definitely feel I look at life a little differently now. I'll miss you Vintage Silver Creek!!

So now we're down to 6 days until takeoff. Tomorrow I leave for 4 nights in LA/SD and then when I get back I'll spend a day packing everything and then I'm off! CRAZY!