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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Una Settimana nella Vita di Lydia

Florence is warming up, and I'm loving it (as is everybody in this city). Good weather ergo good mood ergo good week. Great week, rather.

Monday isn't memorable. I spend the afternoon working on a project with Jess for European Issues, but other than that the day was nondescript.

We were blessed with a cancelled class Tuesday morning. Fabio told us last week, but we had forgotten. After Italian and lunch, I went to Practicum. There are eight students in the class divided into three groups. Our grades are based on one five-minute documentary, which we spend the semester filming and editing. Caitlin, Glenn and I are in a group together. Our original idea was to look into the daily life and work of Paolo Penko, owner of local goldsmith shop, Penko. We have since taken the assignment in a different direction. Paolo makes Pinocchio figurines, which can be seen in every medium throughout the city. There are Pinocchios everywhere. It turns out the character was actually born in Florence near Santa Croce! So we decided to look into the history and legend of Pinocchio while showing Paolo's relationship to the character he makes so often. During class we wandered around Florence finding random Pinocchios to take B-roll of, which wasn't a hard task. We ended up in an American bookstore, where Glenn read us a Pinocchio picture book.

I found the full story of Pinocchio with every page written in Italian then English on the facing page. I came back later to buy it. It should be an exciting way to learn some more Italian.
I also saw this on a bulletin board in the bookstore. I wonder if they'd take a 22-year-old college graduate next summer. Wow that's weird to say.

That evening Bethany and Caitlin's friends Tyler and Ryan came over for dinner. We made mexican food. I had a tortilla with some sort of red beans that were cheap at billa, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and salsa. YUM.
Then we met several people at a bar in Piazza Santa Croce. As we walked out of our apartment several masked people reminded me it was marti gras. I was too lazy to climb back up to our apartment to get a mask, so we just went to the bar. We talked and laughed and a few danced. We started looking for Fullup, a dance bar supposedly near, but we ended up walking in a giant loop. By the time we found and entered fullup, it was midnight and I was exhausted. I went home and crawled into bed. My roommates and others trickled in hours later to sleep or gather their stuff and head home.

Most days I have been getting up around 8 or 8:30 a.m., doing some morning stretches and yoga, taking a longer shower, eating a good breakfast, reading a book, etc. It's been nice. I feel so much more prepared for the day. Wednesday I rolled out of bed around 9:30 a.m. I felt far less productive, but it was still a good day. After classes, I donned a dress and followed Caitlin to Ash Wednesday service at St. Mark's English Church. We couldn't find it at first, but stumbled across it a couple of minutes before service started. I grew up Catholic but haven't been to a service in years not counting funerals, weddings and baptisms. Religion has become more of a personal thing for me. I'm more spiritual than anything. It works for me, and I think that's what religion should be about. Going back to church was strange, but I wanted to support Caitlin. I was surprised to find I remembered most of the prayers and responses. After the Gospel and readings, the priest gave his sermon. It hit home for me a lot more than I was expecting. He talked about how society today is always looking for something or someone to blame. If someone did something wrong, blame it on a neurosis. If something didn't happen the right way, blame it on an external factor. He noted that sometimes the blame really does fall on someone/something else, but it shouldn't be the first conclusion. It has become just that. He said something along the lines of "No thanks. I'd rather take control of my own life than blame it on everyone and everything around me." There were some more religious tones sprinkled in there, but that's what I took home with me. The more I thought about it, the more empowered I felt.
I need to stop blaming my actions on character flaws or bad days and instead reign them in and take control of my own life. I'm the driver, not a passenger. I believe this is a mindset everyone should at least consider. I don't want to tell you it will be the best choice for you, but at least mull it over. It's worth a shot.
Afterward, Caitlin and I walked down the street to the infamous Gusta Pizza. I've heard a lot of buzz about it, and since GoogleMaps told me we would be very close to it, we decided it was the perfect place for our dinner date.
It's everything you've been told it would be. The environment felt very Italian from the delicious smell to the clear lack of English-speaking taking place. The man who took my order could understand English, but I like trying out my Italian on someone who doesn't automatically change to English upon realizing I'm American.
Caitlin got the namesake pizza: Gustapizza. I got a margherita pizza. It was incredible and well-worth the walk. I knew I'd be coming back again.

We walked back over and along the Arno, Caitlin being classy and drinking wine from her plastic cup. We talked about friends, life and Florence. Just another wonderful day in Firenze with my wonderful roommate.

Thursday I woke up feeling not so hot. I had a vicious stomachache that could only be calmed my remaining curled under my blankets in the fetal position. I did just that until around 1 p.m. when laying flat and therefore standing didn't make me feel like someone was twisting a knife into my core. I missed Italian, but I wasn't going to miss the rest of the day. It was in the upper 60's!
I showered, prepared for the day and went out on a walk by myself. I took a couple new 30 Years Later photos, which I'll add later. I wandered across the Arno, where I saw things I pass often from a new perspective:

I walked around for about an hour before making it to Kristy's place, where Bethany, Michelle and her friend Laura were meeting to make dinner. I arrived just before they started making pizza.
Laura did most of the work. I can only take credit for some slicing and laying out the pre-made pizza crust. She made the sauce, which made the pizza. It was a mixture of sautéed onions and peppers, olive oil, pasta sauce from a jar, pure tomato sauce, tomato paste, spices and at the last minute, pesto.

Michelle was really excited about the pizza...
and also wanted it to look like her head was on a plate.
Glenn and Kevin joined us to eat, conveniently arriving as we pulled the first pizza out of the oven. We devoured two, then made a third with just the pizza crust, sauce and whatever veggies we had left. We were out of cheese.
Then the night took an unexpected turn, and we decided to watch Pocahontas. Much to I think all of our surprise, we watched the whole thing, singing along loudly and poorly. We cleared the table and played cards, still listening to Disney songs and many 90s/early 2000s songs I'm ashamed to admit I've never heard. Curtis and Marissa joined, and we all played a while longer until I was nodding off to sleep and headed home. Michelle and Laura walked with me.
Then when I got home, I had a sudden burst of energy and a strong desire to clean. I turned on Dirty Dancing, started a load of laundry and turned this....
into this....

Feeling much better, I curled up in bed and fell asleep before I even got to see the final scene.

Today (Friday), I woke up around 10:30 a.m. I showered, cleaned some more and ate breakfast. My roommates are gone in Poland for the weekend. As much as I like them, it's nice to have the place to myself. I can do all my laundry without fighting for space on the drying rack!
Around 12:30 p.m. I went to the Ghibellina girls' apartment. Maria, Megan, Kelsey and I went exploring. We walked down the Arno, looking at a few shops. We crossed the river but paused to sit on the bridge for a few minutes.

Then we grabbed some gelato and headed for the dam on the Arno river.

The goal had been to sit out on the dam and eat gelato, but it was long gone by the time we got there. I'm not upset about it. We laid on the river for about an hour. Bethany and Amy joined us after a bit. I read my Kindle, and Maria played some tunes on her iPhone.

There was a black dog running around on the dam. He swam in the Arno for a bit and kept running around from person to person. We never figured out who he belonged to.
We saw him along the edge of the river playing with a stick, or in reality, a branch. I looked over a few minutes later to see him trotting along the dam with it in his mouth, tail wagging furiously. He was the happiest puppy ever. So cute.

We all just kept saying how unbelievably happy we are. We reminisced on how Deb told us we would become a "Florence family." It's amazing how quickly we did. These people really are my family. After some mushy exchanges of "I love you guys," and "I hope we keep hanging out back in Kent," we got up and walked back up to the road. Since we were on the other side of the Arno from our house, I decided they should all be introduced to Gusta Pizza too!
This time I got the pizza of the day: melanzana, pomodoro e mozzarella!

It was just as fantastic as Wednesday's. We walked around for a little bit and then parted ways. I went to San Lorenzo with Megan and bought a wallet. The aluminum one my parents kindly sent me broke.
Megan bought some scarves, and then we headed back toward Santa Croce. As soon as I got home, I changed into athletic shorts and opened a window. It was a liberating experience. I sat in the dining room enjoying the fresh air, before washing dishes and starting yet more laundry.
I was going to meet up with the girls or go over to their apartment for a while, but I didn't hear any set plans and decided to just hang out alone for the night. It's a nice and much-needed change.

So all in all, my week was a lot of walking, pizza, friends and sun. What else do I need?

Tomorrow I'm taking a day-trip to Siena. I'm off to get some sleep before I have to meet everyone at the train station tomorrow!


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