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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Portofino and an Update

On Sunday we took a boat (ferry?) to Portofino, that place where the celebrities go to visit. While it is extremely beautiful it is a very small area. The amount of designer stores that are in this tiny city is un.be.liev.able. {I think I rolled my eyes a couple of time while walking down the street, sorry ya’ll}
We hiked to an old castle (there’s a lot of castles here, but they are modest dwellings) and saw an animal art exhibition {don’t ask. I didn’t take pictures} and the lovely surrounding area.
After our little hike we went and walked around the town. Yes, I saw all of Portofino in under an hour. It was nice, quaint, and there were people everywhere. I’m sure that celebrities get pampered, but there are a lot of tourists around because the celebrities go there. I’m obviously a little confused.
I am not ranting or putting down Portofino. It is a lovely town. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had the money to spend on a nice lunch watching the water and people, and if it hadn’t rained. Yep. You saw that right, it rained. It has rained every weekend I’ve been here. I’m not complaining. I find it amusing. I wish I had pictures of all of us dripping wet and finishing our gelato.
We headed back to Santa Margherita and some people decided to go to Torino early. I went a little earlier but stayed around long enough to
a) Get more foccacia, this time with pesto because I missed out the first time {side note: I was in the region of pesto. I love pesto, but that’s the reason I was soaking it up.}
b) Explore more of Santa Margherita
c) Get stopped by a Californian, New Yorker, and Canadian who were there for a sailing race. There are some really interesting people around here. It was weird to be hearing English from someone I didn’t know

That is the end of the Italian Riviera. Thanks for sticking with me through the retelling.

This week I: had an Italian test…I got a B. Got to study hard for the final.
-Spent half a day at the immigration office {Standing} to get my permit of stay. Talk about a room of interesting people. I would compare the experience to the DMV {with some minor corruption}.
-Had my first Italian Cuisine class. Oh the dessert, peaches and chocolate. You will get a full post on the experience. Remind me if I forget to cover it {or you get impatient}.
-Homework is in full force unfortunately.

Goal: be able to write very day so that my posts aren’t so long (:
Headed to PortofinoThe viewIn the garden of the castle brownRaining!Out of the rain to warm foodThe pesto slathered foccacia Going home to Torino

Cinque Terra and Catching up

I started this post on Tuesday, added to it on Wednesday, and it’s finally going up today{and blogger just deleted it at least once. here we go again}. It’s been crazy last couple of days. For that reason we're going to do a daily double today. Yep that’s right daily double coming right up (:



Cinque terra…beautiful, gorgeous, God’s marvelous creation. My friends and I decided not to go really early and take the hikes as they came. We took the train to the southernmost town {Riomaggiore} and then hiked the lover’s trail. There is a tradition where couples seal their love with putting a lock along the trail. I got to witness a couple locking their own lock to the trail. It had been their dream to come for a long time.



After walking around the 2nd town {Manarola} and watching other college student jumping off rocks, we headed on the train to the 3rd city. The trail between the 2nd and 3rd city was closed for repairs. After we got off the train we had to walk up a stair case that looked like the stairway to heaven. It was almost straight up in the eyes of someone who was sweating and trying not to get sun burnt.



After making it to the top we were in such a cute beach town {Corniglia} that we walked through multiple times before settling on foccicia bread. (Sense a theme here?) We then decided to hike down to the water and take a swim. We swam and relaxed on the rocks in the sun. Oh, to do that everyday!



We decided to start the trek from the 3rd to 4th city. This was a hiking trail! Ups and downs, tiny trails, and views of the sea we made the trip in under an hour. The sign said that it should take 1.5 hours and we set a decent pace.



We arrived in the 4th city {Vernazza} expecting to eat dinner but alas we are on Italian time where restaurants don’t open until at least 7.30 for dinner. We went into a castle that was more of a tower with a winding staircase.



We went to hike the last trail but apparently the trails close when the sun sets and we would not make it to the last town by sunset. We hopped on the train and arrived in the last city.



The last city greeted us with many familiar faces of fellow travelers. We learned from them that the ticket office was no longer open and the ticket machines were out of order. We had no way to pay for a ticket home! Uh oh! After talking with some other Americans traveling Europe we found out that it is possible to buy tickets on the train and that they usually cost more. Italian conductors can be a bit snobbish and fine you anyway, but there was nothing to do about it.


Our original plan was crushed, but we went and grabbed dinner. (I had pesto lasagna which was so good! I was a little weary at first.) It was a very quick dinner and then it was back to the train station to make it on the train. We didn’t have to pay much extra and arrived back in Santa Margherita to grab gelato and hop in bed. The gelato was key, because it was supposed to be our last stop originally.



The next day it was off to Portofino…
Check back later for another update about last weekend and this week.



Starting out How amazing is that?They are all this colorful. Spicin' up life!

Stairway to heaven or babel or...oh, only the next town


A little perspective for ya'llOur swimming hole



Trecherous trail

















Yes I went up in a castle tower (:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Genova and Santa Margherita

It’s been quite a weekend. I am trying to recover, but this week is going to go by faster than I expect. I just know it!
Today I took my second Italian test and I have a couple of assignments due this week, thus not being quite on top of it. But for the big news of last weekend, I went to the Italian Riviera! If you get a chance to go, you should. It was such a wonderful experience. I’m going to take it day by day because that is how much stuff we did! (Pictures will be at the bottom, I have a bone to pick with Blogger about uploading photos, so we have to make it simple so you can see the amazing scenery.) Without further ado Friday….
Friday we got on the bus at school and went to Genoa which was about 2 hours. I had only had coffee and a pastry for breakfast (you know the Italian way) and needed a little water and air during the ride, but it turned out ok. Talk about looking out the window! I know people wanted to sleep, but I just couldn’t between the passing scenery and the company.
In Genoa (which is the English way to say it…why do cities in Italian have to have an Italian and an English version?) we took a tour of the area. There is so much old and new mixed in one city. We’ll everything looks old but they have renovated it being the “new” part. We had the pleasure to be able to go up in the bubble and take a panoramic view of the city. That is some amazing coast here. The city is located in a cove and is a port, as well as being surrounded by mountains/hills. It was some prime real estate if it could be captured. We got to see the castle that the German’s used to take over the city and there are watch towers everywhere. There were more, but during the Second World War, Genoa was heavily bombed so some valuable history was lost. This is the town that Christopher Columbus (or as the Italian’s say it, Colombo) was from, and it wasn’t a new city then so there is a lot of history there. I saw the prison where Maro Polo was held when he came back from the east. It’s amazing that we know so much about a place like this. Genoa is also home to one of the largest aquariums in Europe, and it looked like a cool building from the outside, but I didn’t go in.
After some time spent here we hopped back on the bus and headed for Santa Margherita where we would be staying. Santa Margherita is one of those places that people describe when they talk about their dream vacation. After getting off I was in a group that went to the top of a hill where there is a beautiful villa and you can see most of the town. There is a church up there, which I can honestly say had the most chandeliers I have ever seen in one church. It was beautiful, the way the light caught on the stain glass windows and the chandeliers. After being hungry for what seemed like hours we decended on a small hole in the wall foccacia shop. They ran out of pesto when I got there. I was so bummed because I love pesto and this is the region that is known all over the world for their pesto. I had a sausage and an onion slice instead. Yum! We then checked into our hotel, got settled and headed to the beach.
I don’t know if I menationed it before, but the beach Alassio that I was at last weekend had soft, fine sand like I have never seen before. It stuck to you like glitter. This was not that sand. This was rocky beach to the not as pebble-y water. I didn’t end up going in but I was fun to watch everyone experience the water. It was a skipping rocks day as well.
We met up for dinner after a while and after having walked by the water and seen a beautiful sunset. The sunset was not a great as California ones but it was perfect for where we were. We picked a small local place to eat. It wasn’t by the water’s edge and it wasn’t fancy but it was just right. I had spinach tortellini in a cram sauce that had ground pine nuts. Again, Yum!
We tried to go get a sweet treat afterwards but learned that dessert is expensive, not that exciting, and is hard to find. We got gelato instead, and it was dipped in chocolate. Be forewarned, that though it was delicious, it should not be a dessert that you get when on a date or when in the broad daylight with the company of others. It’s messy and you get sticky fingers.
After sticky fingers we went back and crashed to be ready for the Cinque Terra adventure Saturday.
Can you believe that this was only one day? Neither can I.




Walking the old very narrow streets of GenovaThe front half of this building was the prison where Marco Polo was held prisoner after returning from the east and where he told the stories that were later spread around the area. (fun fact: Marco Polo was not literate)A watch tower defending GenoaThis is the church where the remains of John the Baptist are thought to be heldAnd this is the shrine for them. Sorry its blurry I hate when people use flash in churches!Hanging out at the beach!



Can you say beautiful Santa Margherita?



Had to save my favorite for last...until tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Confidence






3 weeks ago I left home for a grand adventure. In a way it has been a planned adventure and in others…well not so planned puts it lightly. I have not thought of myself as a person that is super positive or one of those “look at the bright side” people. Here I realize that I can find a piece of beauty wherever I am. There is a beauty here not only found in the buildings and the landscape, but I should say more importantly found in the people.




There is such a sense of confidence in the Italian people. And they pass it on… ciao bella! I get to hear that every day. Sometimes it’s just once from my grocer friend, other times it’s sprinkled throughout the day. Whether it is out of jest or a simple hello, I get called beautiful every day. Hello confidence! Hello, I will try that new word that I hope I’m not pronouncing incorrectly and thus will be a word I do not want to say. Hello I will laugh at myself because you are laughing at my lack of Italian. Hello I will hum along to "La vie en rose" with you older man that is missing your front teeth. Hello beautiful Italy! And most of all…hello to your beautiful people who make me smile (even though it is weird to smile at people you don’t know).




If I could take pictures with my eyes to show you all I would, but for now I will just try to be as sneaky as possible. There are these kids that live somewhere in the square complex that I live in. They play football (aka soccer) by the trash cans and today it was throwing an American football with mom. The park by my school building has tons of kids. Before the start of their school they would play there about noon ‘til dinner time. Now they arrive around 5.30 and stay until dinner, around 8pm). The kids would even stay up playing ‘til 10 or 11pm at night at a local park! I love that the kids here play!




It’s true; the old ladies sit on benches and talk. And they look just as adorable as the scenes in the movies or the staged greeting cards. I have a friend whose goal, before she leaves in May, is to get to a point where she can sit on a bench and have a conversation with them. I have beat her to it…kind of. Last week I had an older couple come sit on the bench I was occupying (there is no personal space in Italy, but I didn’t mind). They had a pleasant conversation and even asked me a few questions about what I was studying.




The time is slow and simple, but the days speed past.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Understand

Today I had a conversation in broken English and very broken Italian on my part with a Moroccan and an Italian. They were encouraging me to keep speaking Italian to get better. As I sat there I realized that I have been in Italy 2 weeks. Only 2 weeks and I know so much. I often don’t feel confident about my abilities and have trouble plugging through when I hear people talking at a rapid pace. Today showed me that I understand.


That I don’t imagine the conversation on the street of the woman telling here 3 year old boy, “Look at the beautiful blonde behind us. Isn’t she beautiful? Oh stop playing! Come.”


I am not imagining that the woman talking on the phone is telling the woman on the other line that she is with her friend, having a wonderful day and is on the way to her friend’s house.


That I don’t imagine that the Moroccan gave me a huge compliment in thinking that I was Italian and then when it turned out I wasn’t thought I was French or British. (I was speaking English that he understands a little of so I have no idea what he was thinking).


I’m not imagining or making these conversations up, because I am listening and I understand.

Italian Night

On Thursday night some friends and I went for an adventure. We thought that it was going to be a smaller group, much easier, and that we were going to have Mexican food. I know it sounds crazy that I would be in Italy and have Mexican food. My hopes were not high (still aren’t…) but I figured it’s worth a try. None of the above things happened:
There was a lot of us. It started out being a few friends meeting up to make dinner, to going out to dinner, to let go with them and invite everyone. As we were meeting up and ready to take the bus to the other side of the river we got a call…‘ There is no room at the restaurant. You can try to come if you want, but we asked to make a reservation for you and they are full.’ Ok….
So we decided to get off a few stops before, take in the view go for a walk, and find some food. I have to mention that in my head I was being a Debbie downer, we have too many people, it’s getting late, we have a lot of people, where are we going to eat? But the first restaurant we stepped into was the one. It was an Italian dream come true.
We sat on the back patio under the twinkling lights. And yes, I was basically sitting in ivy, but I got to watch Italian couples do what everyone does here, enjoy time with each other while drinking wine and eating good food. When we ordered I had some wonderful brucchetta, followed by gnocci. The best gnocci I have ever had. Ever. (Thank you Angela for being willing to share with me.) I only ate half the plate and I was full. So full that I didn’t have any gelato at our next stop. Gnocci covered in melted gorgonzola, I will make this when I am home and it will be wonderful.
So we hit up a famous gelato shop down the street and enjoyed people watching and sitting in front of the Grand Madre (no it is not the big mama, but you may call it that if you like, they don’t get offended by it). And then it was time to go home. We were taking the bus and we waited and waited and waited some more…and then it came. Smiles all around.
And then we got off to take a different line home and we waited again. But we waited a long time, and it was getting late. So we decided to walk and if we caught the bus then excellent, and if not then we just worked off all that food. We walked pretty far, dropped a friend off and then there was the bus! And I ran to catch it (which was totally unnecessary) in my sandals that are falling apart because I walk everywhere in them. We took the bus until they said everyone off. Thankfully I was close to home and crawled into bed so that I didn’t fall asleep in class the next day.




Angela enjoying her creampuff



Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oh what a day!

Saturday was eventful and adventurous to say the least. Some friends and I were ready to head out of the city while the weather was still decent. We decided to go to Alassio Italy, a beach town after some friends went last weekend. It’s a day trip, and a train ride that’s a little long but so worth it.


We headed out with little sleep and even less food. After making it to our train (we got our tickets 7 minutes before it left….yes 7 minutes), we realized we were going to have to switch trains at some point. It ended up not being a big deal and we practiced some Italian in the process. At the stop where we were switching it was cloudy, looked like rain clouds and I had Goosebumps. There had been a rumor that today was supposed to rain all over Europe. We had checked the weather and figured out it was supposed to be beautiful! But we were a little worried. As soon as we stepped off the train in Alassio there was a blue sky, sun out, and plenty of humidity!
We walked the beach looking for a public area, went for a swim in the Mediterranean (yes, I can say I’ve been there now!) and then lay in the sun drying off. Italians know how to get their tan on, and there were some brown bodies! We ate at a little cafĂ© and all realized that we needed some blood sugar to get us through the rest of the day! We decided to go for a walk to look for a church indicated on the signs. I don’t know if we ever found the church, but there were a few down below us and a beautiful view! I know that I say beautiful a lot to describe Italy, but there isn’t a word I can think of that describes it adequately. After our hike we were done, and ready to think about heading back to Torino. In the office they wouldn’t sell us a ticket because the train workers were on strike. We had to wait to see if the train came back through the station. If it did then we could go home. If it didn’t, then we would be spending a little more time in Alassio than planned. We decided like any good people in Italy that gelato was the answer. After our sweet treat and some sitting in the piazza we headed back to the ticket office, picked up tickets and were on our way.
It was now starting to get dark. As I looked out the window I noticed that it had been raining some. I was thankful that I was headed home and didn't ahve to deal with the weather at this point. A little over an hour out there was some lightening. It was so fun to watch. When we reached Torino we got off at a different station than we took to go. And we forgot our maps.
Needless to say, we wandered the opposite direction through sprinkles before realizing where we were (Thank God for bus stations with city maps). After heading down the right street it was raining, but it was bearable. There was thunder and lightning every few minutes. We were definitely heading toward it and toward home. As we walked past the metro stop it started to pour. The skies opened up and water came in buckets. We dashed down to the metro, soaked, tired and ready to be home. If I had not had my life in my backpack and been terrified that some of it would get ruined from the water I think I would have danced in the rain. As it was I quite enjoyed myself hoping over puddles and trying not to slide on the slick on the stone pavements.
We made it home safe, with not much more water covering us. Adventure, sometimes it doesn’t let you run from it. You just have to "dance in the rain".
There are no pictures of drenched bodies, because I didn't want to risk breaking my camera and we all wanted to be warm and dry! I will post more about the last couple of days, it's been busy and I forgot my memory card one night, so I have to work a little harder. coming soon...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

L’Italia=Food!





This isn't talked about here, but this is evidence of the many gelato runs

We think Italy, we think food. If I’m wrong, tell me. Before I came here I related Italy to food, family, and more food. And yes, it’s true. Food is a HUGE deal!
First day of my Italian cuisine class and I learned lots, well some more than I knew before. And in my Italian class we talked about regions and food. It’s been a food day!



Fun Facts:



*There are 2 main meals a day. Sorry breakfast lovers, your favorite meal is more of a snack. As I’ve written about previously a cappuccino and a croissant tide you over until lunch. Italians call 8.30/9am early so you should be fine.



*Lunch is kind of a big deal by the fact that shops shut down for a couple hours in the afternoon. About 1.30pm, if you walk down the street it’s quiet. Either rice or pasta is a given for this meal.



*Dinner is the main meal and is enjoyed to the fullest. No skipping out to go to practice or finish homework. Italians eat with their family and friends. Tradition.






* Italians like their food fresh! No preservatives, no precooked or premade. I have to say I like it. Although, I have to buy food way too often. Can’t buy too much or it will go bad. (I hate wasting food...) *Everything is from scratch. Can you see my smile glowing through your computer? I love this element!




*They eat in season. I believe I already said this, but Italians eat foods by season. That means that peaches and bell peppers are in season, so they are less expensive and readily available. When the new season starts the new fruit/veggie {primizzia} is expensive because a) it’s harder to find b)the first crop is the best of the season c) people have been living off peaches and peppers and want something new! No rain checks! I’m familiar with this concept from the Bible, so it was neat to see it being lived out. Italians are changing the way they do things and are a part of the slow food movement.






*Each region has their specialty. My professor was so funny when she said something to the effect of “if I don’t mention a region, that is because they aren’t famous for any food item.” Basically they are copy cats of other regions…great



*Torino(Piedmont), my region, is famous for chocolate (yay nutella!), agnolotti (small ravioli stuffed with meat), gnocci and grissini (similar to breadsticks).




*I’m going to the Luguria region in a week and a half. I can’t wait for the awesome pesto!




*We will be learning wine pairings in my cuisine class. I’m excited for this, but obviously haven’t had much experience, not being 21. Torino is very famous for some of their wines, I learn more everyday




And just in case you were wondering…

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Scuola

School, we always think of it as the building and the place you "have" to go to for a period of at least of 13 years (if we are really being honest that number is now about 17...). I am attending SAA Scuola di Amministrazione Aziendale. The campus of the University of Torino is spread out all over the city. There are pockets of the campus all over the city. My school is a building resembling a high school. But my "school" is the world. My education comes as much from the classroom as from experiences.


The Italian children started school yesterday. This is a personal apology to American children that you have to start so early! But Italian children often have to go to school on Saturdays. Does that make up for the early start?

On my way home from school today I was walking behind mulitply groups of students with their parents. I haven't figured out if they have shorter days or if they go home for lunch. There is a time during the day where most of the shops close 1ish-2.30ish. I was walking behind two children and their grandfather. He was walking his bike with their backpacks on the handlebars. I thought it was so sweet and wanted to take a picture, but that would be a) way too obvious b) crazy American alerts would start going off. They skipped next to him babbling on about their day. I, of course, couldn't understand what they were saying but it was obviously school related!



I had my first Italian test, which wasn't too bad. I know that I didn't ace it, but I know that I understood it! After our test we had to saty but my professor said " we do something light, nothing too heavy." [you add the heavy Italian accent] So today I got an education in Italian music. Italians love their music, but they aren't known for it. According to our teacher they all like musica leggera or light music. So here are some of my favorites of what we listened to. Enjoy!

A little old school :) and the song that made him famous... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiZEiJudWFE&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PL30299E226ACA1755


We got asked if we knew her...um no...sorry? But I understand that she is very popular in Europe. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bckOLwRho98


And a silly one to end it...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGVpdqA0z9o&ob=av2e

Monday, September 12, 2011

Piazza Vittorio e Fiume Po

On Saturday I went for a walk…a really long walk. I would show you on a map, and I’m sure you would be impressed. But alas, I am technology challenged in some areas. When I try to save a map of Torino it won’t let me draw on it. But you can imagine with me…
After walking to the market for some food because everything is closed on Sundays and grabbing coffee and a pastry for breakfast we set out to explore Torino. We wanted to go to the Piazza Vittorio and go to the river [fiume Po].







To start off we took the metro, which is brand new, to downtown Torino. We walked the streets, and walked a lot more streets as we headed in the direction of the River. We stumbled onto a movie set which was so fun to watch for a few minutes. The native Italians sat in the grass under the trees surrounding the park, just looking on. They looked as if it happens all the time.







We arrived at the Piazza, which looks a little different from the ones I’ve seen. It was huge, and does not have a statue in the middle which is unusual. We walked along one side, sat for awhile and people watched and then walked the other side before crossing the river.



This is a picture from Piazza Vittorio, looking across the river. I was cutting out the cars that were zooming by...



The river is called the little river. I think this is funny because I would classify the river as huge or large, but I wouldn’t call it small. And it is the longest river in Italy, so the name makes no sense to me. We didn’t really have a plan once we crossed the river. For some reason we thought it would be a good idea to walk to see the villa at the top of the hill. We didn’t want anything too strenuous, like walking up to a view point (which we should have just done). It was a beautiful house and translated is the Villa of the Queen.




We walked along the river and then the streets of downtown to the metro, to the apartment. At the apartment we promptly tried to cool off and prop up our feet. I didn’t mention that it was close to 90 degrees and between 85 and 90 percent humidity?! I sweat through my clothes regularly and Saturday it was awful. After resting my feet for a couple of hours I went out and got gelato with friends (who had also walked a lot that day). Nothing like gelato to make things better!
I am so glad that I got to walk the streets of this beautiful city, and just take my time. I am so excited to explore it some more.
I’m off to study for my first Italian test! Yikes!

Friday, September 9, 2011

FIAT

Torino History needs its own class at the university. There is so much that has happened here! Yesterday we went one a "field trip." We went to the top/roof of the Lingotto Mall. I know it sounds interesting to go to a roof for a field trip, but this was more than just a roof! It was the first FIAT factory roof. Our program directors have told us multiple times that the "T" in FIAT stands for Torino. Anyways, FIAT out grew the factory and there was a contest to reuse the building and now it is a mall. It sounds pitifull to say that I go there to get groceries.

Here are some views from the roof:












The reason the roof is so special is that it was the tesing site for all FIAT cars. If you ever get to come here you can have your taxi driver take you up the ramps to the top. We unfortuantely walked and took elevators.

The cars were built in the building through a process that started on the ground floor and then moved up the floors as the car became more and more complete. By the time they were finished they had reached the roof and were ready to be tested. The roof looks like a mini race track with the huge slopping ends.





From up there you can see the Olympic arch and the previous Olympic village from 2006. (Told you a bunch of things happened here!)





And this is the "jewelry box" that houses original paintings from the FIAT family's private collection. This means the paintings I saw not only were originals by well known artists, but they used to hang in someone's living room. Blowing my mind! We couldn't take pictures within the museum, thus no pictures of beautiful paintings.



And this is where the FIAT executives get flown in by private helicopter, to private meetings that change the course of the company. I don't have pictures of it but FIAT's headquarters are still in a building next to the Lingotto mall.







From that roof you can see another famous icon. The mountian from Paramount Picture's logo. They added the starts and the words...


More to come soon, but I have to study for my first Italian test!