Sunday, November 17, 2013

Week 7

This week was incredible! Monday I changed classes and am loving Italian again!

Tuesday I had a cooking class in a small Italian kitchen. We arrive and we meet this delightfully smiley man named Enzo, who happens to be a Michelin star chef! Wow! We proceed to make panini bread, a roasted and stuffed rooster, pici with a ragu sauce and riccerietti. This is all traditional Sienese food - and it was probably the best meal I have ever eaten! It was simply wonderful! After we cooked with Enzo and his su-chef Francesca, we were seated in his restaurant and served like we were royalty. A yummy bottle of chianti accompanied the meal and the other 2 ladies and I chatted for hours as we stuffed ourselves until we were uncomfortable. One of the ladies didn't speak English so I spoke Italian to her and the other lady didn't speak much Italian, so I was basically the translator - a bad one but I did my best. :) The walk home was delightful in the crisp autumn air as I revelled in the delicious food I had eaten an the massive amount of Italian I have learned in almost two months here. I was so happy.

Wednesday I had a wine tasting. One of the ladies from Tuesdays cooking class joined me. We went to the Cantina di Brunello - so very exciting! We got a tour of the small store and the building dates back to the time of the Etrucians, and it used to be a house built into the hill - it kinda reminded me of a hobbit hole! :) After the tour, we learn all about wine, in Italian. I am happy that most of the stuff the sommelier talked about I had learned from te wine school. He did teach us about the legs and the alcohol content which was interesting. We sampled 2 bottles, a Vino Nobile di Montelpulchano and a Brunello di Montelchino. Both were lovely but the Brunello was my fav. The poor sommelier was sick and so he couldn't taste the wine - it tasted terrible apparently. So, because of this, he let Lynn and I each have a bottle that we opened. Lynn then turned to me and said that I could have them both  as she won't drink a whole bottle. She gave me the Brunello which was 33€ and the Nobile 14€ - thanks Lynn for the good night! I then called my friends and told them to meet at the Campo for some good wine and a visit! 2 am we finally got home, 4 bottles down and filled with laughter and good memories! 

Thursday was the last day of the mini culinary course and we found ourselves in an industrial kitchen making cingheali, tortella, ragu, gnocchi in mushroom sause and cantucci. The chef was not as good, but. Had some great tips on making pasta and we learned about wild boar and how to cook it. After we completed our roles, we went to his restaurant and had a delightful meal - the gnocchi con fungi salsa was lovely, but I just don't like gnocchi or mushrooms so I passed on that dish. I think it was because of this that I wasn't nearly as full during the walk home. My head was so drained tho, from having to speak Italian every day and evening this week. I am so happy with how much I know - my dreams are starting to integrate Italian into them! The walk home was highlighted by the fact that they are putting up Christmas lights and it makes me giggy for it to come. All I want for Christmas is a new beginning and I sure am getting it! :)

Friday was a relaxing day. With all the Americans on a field trip, we got put into a different class for a day. We took it on stride and laughed our way through future tense which we haven't learned yet... Next week I am promised! After class, Doro and I had a quiet lunch and decided that our exciting night will be lasagne, a movie and early to bed. 

After a delicious afternoon nap, I used some of my new found skills and made lasagne - which turned out to be the best lasagne I have ever made! Mmmmm! After a close game of rummy (which is our after dinner tradition) we popped in the movie and chuckled through Shrek 2 in Italian! Early to bed as I had to get up super early to go and get my friend from the airport tomorrow!

I am so excited for Coreen to come - It will be nice to have a piece of home here for a while! We are doing Firenze, Siena, San Gimignano, Catella di Chianti, and Rome. I want to take her to a soccer match and to the chestnut festival that is happening this weekend. So much to show her! I can't wait to play tour guide! :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The start of a new week!

Monday, i approached the scuola about my frustration in class. They obliged and put me in another class that is about a week behind the other class. My first day in this class made me so joyful! I love Italian again! The class is smaller and we talk more, are less strict on the grammar and more focused towards actually speaking and pronouncing the words correctly. I literally skipped down the road after class elated to be in a class I don't feel like I am drowning in!

Another high point Monday - I had to hop a bus to Firenze to pick up my back pack! They found it on the bus and so I headed out there to pick up my bag. I get to Firenze and I try to walk to the office, but there are 2 train stations named virtually the same thing so I have to hop a taxi to get to the office. I get there and try to communicate to the guard at the front my purpose. I eventually muddle through as this man speaks NO English and he directs me to the right place. I get there, knock on the door and stand there... And stand there... A man walks past I tell him why I am there and he directs me to stand right there and walks off... This happens about 4 times before the right lady comes, lets me in her office and asks how she can help me. I explain that I left my bag on the bus and that I called and blah, blah, blah... ALL IN ITALIAN - yeah me! She then says they don't have a green borsa... Fuuuuuuk... She opens a door and looks in an I peak around the corner and spot my bag... QUESTA! I yell!!! Yippee I have my bag! Turns out a borsa is a purse... Ooopsie! I paid close attention to the path that the taxi took to get to the office an back tracked - made it to the train station and purchased the obligatory chicken nuggets for Doro and I hit the bus station.

I can't help but feel like I made Italy my bitch on Monday! :) I manage to communicate and navigate around one of the biggest cities in the country! Feels good after Italy kicked the shit out of me last week! That's right Italy... Karma is a fickle bitch! Muahhhahaaha!

Half way mark

Well, this past week was my 6th week in Italy - it has gone so fast and I can hardly believe I am on the down swing of this epic journey!

This 6the week is what I will always refer to as hell week while in Italy. It was simply terrible. The week prior we changed teachers and although I really tried, I found it becoming more and more difficult to keep up with the teachers instruction. Her teaching style wasn't conducive to me being relaxed and comfortable in class. By mid week I seldom left class on the verge of tears due to frustration. I even stayed after class to try and get her to re explain imperfetto. I don't think I am an idiot, but I sure felt like it for the whole week. I dreaded going to school and I was so burned out from class that on Friday I hoped a bus and headed to San Gimignano. A couple glasses of wine, a 3 hour lunch and a gelato made me remember why I am here. I managed to only speak Italian when purchasing food, gelato and presents for Christmas... I know more than I think I do apparently! A day out of the watching eyes of the teacher and other students was just what I needed to help me regain my confidence! A delightful Friday all around!
Saturday I left early to walk to the train station - 30 mins later, I had a train ticket to Pisa and a 45 minute wait. I know that I am slowly looking less and less like a tourist because I get approached all the time for directions, timetables for busses and trains and on this occasion, a questionnaire on how Train Italia's service is. The amazing thing I find is that I often can respond... But once I do, they always speak to me in English... I just want to practice italian people! :)

A 1:30 hour train ride and I am in Pisa. I keep true to my new wandering spirit and don't look at a map, I just let the road guide me. Pisa is interesting as there is a mixed blend of old vs new and central vs northern Italian feel. I walked until I found something interesting and then sat down to eat my little lunch I had packed. A panini with ham and fresh mozzarella, biscotti, panacotta, an apple and a fanta. Typical Italiano! :) I just so happens that the place I was sitting in front of was crooked! :) oh leaning tower, how clever you look! 

After lunch, I go to see if I can go into the tower - for a whopping 18 euro you sure can. I suck it up and pay the outrageous price and go to see what the big deal is. The moment you step inside, you feel unstable... That's because the floor is slanted... Cause, you know, the tower is leaning. It's one of those mind fucks where you KNOW that the tower is leaning but when you step into it, you feel it leaning! I walk up all the steps and it feels a little like climbing stairs when drunk... You just feel a little off. At the top, the leaning did nothing to help my diminishing vertigo, but it did boast some impressive views of the pizza di mirocolo - which houses a cathedral, baptistery, museum and the tower. 

Once I exit the tower I wander through all the cool buildings in the piazza - the baptistery was specifically impressive with its incredible acoustics. One of the guides stood in the middle and sang for about 3 mins and it was so lovely, she didn't need to project at all and I doubt that she sang much above a whisper. When done, we all clapped but it sounded like 500 people clapping and not the 15 that were actually present!

Once done with this piazza, I started to wander more and I wandered right into a market of antiques, artisans and farmers/bakers/cheese makers. I happily wandered the expansive market, stopping to sample pecorino, panforte and buy some little dolci and presents. It was delightful and after the week I had, it was welcomed and I reveled in being alone in my thoughts. Interesting. 

The trip home was uneventful until I hit the train station in Siena and started waiting for my bus. It was pouring rain and I was standing under an awning when an old man approached. This tiny little 80 year old asked me a question to which I did not understand - I said "scusa?" And he laughed. He started asking my my name and where I was from and I answered all I could and when I didn't understand, I said "no compito" to which he'd laugh, grab my arm and kiss me on the cheek. It came to a point where everything I said warranted a kiss, then two kisses. I was getting creeped out so the next bus that came I jumped on and said good buy to Guiseppe - no kidding, that was his name. These Italian men... I just don't understand what the fuss is about them. They have proven to be quite creepy!!!!

Sunday was a weary and rainy day so Dorothea and I cleaned the house, got groceries and spent the day curled up with a good book! Not everyday has to be filled with an adventure, somedays you have to do pedestrian things that just need to be done! :)

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Milano - final day

The next morning we took our time getting up and ready and headed out for breakfast. We found only one cafe open in a 5 minute walk so it was the winner! We asked if they had eggs and bacon, no dice... They did have toast tho so we ordered and received our cafe and sandwich which was ham and mozzarella for me... Toast is an American sandwich here. It was the best meal we had in Milano, so we ordered a toast to go for our lunch on our respective trains. 

Back to the hostel to stuff and squeeze and rearrange Larissa's luggage until it was all in her back pack. We got into the smallest elevator to go down to te bottom floor... To give you some perspective, I can't stand in this thing with my arms at my side when I am standing perpendicular to its width... It is a long elevator so it fits 2 standing side by side. 

We squeeze into this thing and poor Larissa has to walk into the elevator and stand facing a wall because there isn't enough room for her to turn around. She backs out of the elevator and we giggle as we walk to the train station. 

We plan out next meeting as we wait for Larissa's train. This isn't good bye, it is good bye for now. I will see we in Zurich at the end of November and then she is meeting me in Paris in December and then she moves to Canada!!!! She got a job in Banff so we have planned many days where she comes to visit me and I her. We might re-start Italian Tuesdays where we drink 2 or 3 bottles of wine and talk Italian! :)

I am not sure what I will do for the next 2 months - how do I live in Siena without my afternoon adventurer and wine drinker? I sure am going to miss her!!!! Who is goin to help me with my homework and fucking prepositions??? Gah! :( 

On the bus home, I couldn't help but feel like I am home a bit - I'm back in Toscana and it is so beautiful in the late afternoon autumn sun. Simply lovely... I am so in love with my little spot in the world right now, I can't help but think of how fortunate I am for this experience. I am home, after a long weekend away exploring a new city. Let the next week unfold some more joy and happiness! :)

Milano - day 2

We woke early on Saturday to make sure we were first in line at the Cenacolo Viniano where Leonardo da Vinci's "the Last Supper" is housed. We arrive at this church and walk through looking for a place to buy tickets... After touring the church, which was lovely, we exited and found the office for Cultural Activity - we asked them for tickets and turns out they were booked solid except one slot at 3 and one at 3:45 on Saturday - done! We got tickets and were off to explore Milano!

First stop was McDonalds where we had a hearty breakfast. It is expensive but one of the only places you can get eggs! We walk across the giant piazza once done and walk to the Duomo. This ornate building is so impressive on the outside and once inside it lost some charm. It was cold and stone and giant. The stained glass windows were impressive as were the frescos and tile work. Honestly, I haven't been in another Duomo that takes my breath away like Siena's! We didn't have to pay for the Duomo so we were happy with that as we both were underwhelmed.

Next up was the Biblioteca Ambrosiana where a display of Leonardo's drawings and designs is being showed. We walk through the whole museum which holds many paintings from the 14, 15, and 16th centuries. Some of the highlights of this collection was Leonardo's "Musician", Raffaello's "School of Athens" and a favourite of mine a sample of an outline of a fresco done by Raphael called "Room of Cartoon". Some great art and sculptures for sure, but what was most amazing was the "Codex Atlanticus" exhibition. This collection showed how brilliant Leonardo was in that he had hydraulic lifts and screws and other brilliant inventions in the 1460s! He was very detailed in his drawings and descriptions - very awesome - all the images were absolutely incredible. We must have been in the museum an hour and a half and once done... We didn't know what to do. So... We went and found lunch, which was disappointing and quite gross... We both miss the food in Toscano as I think that is where the good food is at! :)

The afternoon saw us shopping and wandering to see some old shit in Milano. We went and saw the Arco Della Pace, the Arena, and Catello Sforzesco.

All were nice and old and such, but nothing really special. Both Larissa and I have been disappointed with Milano - the only good thing we have found here is the shopping but are finding that all the stores have the same crap in them or the clothes are thousands of Euros... 

3pm finally arrives and I tell Larissa she can go see the painting first as it was the only thing she really wanted to see in Milano. I send her in, cop a squat and settle in to wait until it is my turn, anticipating that Larissa will be in there a while. Only 20 minutes later, she waltzes over to me - and when asked about the museum she informs me is is just the painting and that is it and you only get a certain amount of time in the room. Wtf? We wait another 20 mins and its my turn. I go into the "intro room" where they have many little descriptions of the time, place and history of the painting. We then get directed into another room, when the doors close, we get shuttled into another room. These are just glass rooms. In the mean time, I am trying to listen to the tour guide as she tells us the history of the painting... In Italian. We are finally ushered into the room with The Last Supper and it turns out it is on a wall in the reflectory of a church. It is really beautiful but the history of the building has really depreciated the quality and visibility of the painting. Leonardo was experimenting with a new painting technique when he painted this picture and the technique made the image and paint more fragile. Despite the fact that the building had been bombed, a barn, and renovated a number of times, the painting is still quite remarkable. There is a fresco on the opposite side of the room from Leonardo's painting and I can't recall much about it, other than the fact the these two paintings were painted at the same time. The amount of time we had in this room was a max of 15 minutes... I didn't feel it was long enough but you can only look at a picture for so long!

So after rejoining Larissa, we headed to the shopping street to see if we could find anything good. The streets were absolutely packed and the shops were worse so we gave up and hopped on the Metro. We went back to the neighbourhood our hostel was in and walked the shopping street there. After a couple final purchases we had supper. The wine was good but the meal unimpressive. We decided to grab a bottle of wine and go back to the hostel, pack and then get another movie. 

After a bottle of wine, my Italian is much better and so I understood about 30% of the movie. It is impressive to think about how long I have been here and how much I understand. I know that I will have to continue classes back in Canada. 

We returned to the hostel and fell into a quick sleep fuelled by wine and walking all day. 

Last week

Was a busy one!

Larissa and I went to a wine class on Tuesday that was so much fun and so informative. I have fallen for Brunello and Montepulchano red wine... Mmmmm.... We learned so much and found our selves looking at wine differently as the week wore on!

Wednesday we rented a car. Dorothea, Larissa and I packed into the car right after school and made our way to Montepulchano. We got 1/2 way there and stopped in an Osteria on the side of the road which was just ok. 

Montepulchano had amazing Tuscan views and steep Tuscan hills - it was beautiful and quiet and peaceful. The Duomo was lovely and understated and we had some quiet time in the church. I have seen SO many churches while here! 

We stopped at a place to buy wine and were greeted with endless wines to try paired with cheeses and salamis... We purchase wine (that I have no idea how to get it to Canada) and then we were off again. 

Not wanting to go home and loving the beautiful views out of our windows, we continued on to Arezzo of which I have heard is not to be missed.

Dorothea sacrificed drinking so she could drive so Larissa and I were almost 2 bottles of wine in by te time we got to Arezzo... We find the city centre and walk about. It looks like the streets of Siena or Firenze and I think had we been there in the full daylight we wouldn't have been so disappointed. We had a glass of wine and decided to start the journey home.

Supper was a stop at McDonalds for our illustrious driver to thank her for not drinking and for not killing us (or the car) on Italian roads. 

It was a spectacular day and we enjoyed being out an doing something outside our little city! :)

Thursday was Larissa's last full day in Siena so after school we went to our Pasta place - it is a tradition now! We had a glass of wine for lunch and it all went down hill from there. We had some last minute shopping to do and once that was done, we headed to the caffe under our house and had a glass of wine. One turned to one bottle and before you know it, we were hosed. 4pm rolls around and we have to head back to the scuola so we can watch the movie we signed up to watch. Drunk and giggling, we watch the movie which (thank goodness was a comedy) and head home. Dorothea and Ryan had not moved from our spot on the patio of the restaurant so we sat and had another glass of wine - a two hour movie impacts your buzz! Ryan then goes home for supper 5 hours after he got there, he was in great shape! Hahaha!

We have supper in the apartment and a couple "pre game" drinks and by 9:30 we are at the Irish pub for a pint and for Halloween to begin. 10:30 rolls around and we hit the Campo for some bevies with the Americans. A couple of the other people we have in our scuola find us and we head to the Tea Room for some jazz and visiting. We find even more students an by the time we leave the tea room, we are 8 an d we have lost the Americans and Dorothea. We stop at the shots bar for a customary limoncello shot and I turn around and Larissa and Ryan are gone. Luis, Mone, Jean-Carlo and I have the shots and then hot up the Irish pub again! It's not very busy as we find Larissa and Ryan again! We have drinks here until I turn around and discover Ryan has gone home without telling me. The little weasel probly couldn't find his pocket at the point of his departure. He's a big boy, I concede and carry on! Luis, elaina and I are trying to talk to each other in Italian and Larissa is trying to tAlk German to a random guy - it was madness and chaos and I loved it! The night ended with Chris, Larissa, Christian and I wandering the streets trying to find food. Chris walks home before we find grub but at 3 we found pizza at te Campo and sat and had a magnificent picnic watching as the Halloween festivities ended around us and drunk people staggered home. One of the Happiest halloweens I have had in a long time! :)

Friday, November 01, 2013

Milano - day 1

Larissa and I packed our things and hopped a bus for Milano today! Larissa is going back home this weekend and Milano is 1/2 way there so I figured I would accompany her and check out this city I have heard so much about.

We get our tickets to Firenze and get on the bus - we chat merrily the whole way and when we get to the station in Firenze, Larissa is in desperate need of the bagno - so I tell her to go and I will gather her bags. She speeds off and I disembark, gather Larissa's bags and sit and wait for her. I am sitting there happily, observing that the bus we came on is headed back to Siena and I was contemplating how dull that would be - to drive back and forth - as the bus drove off towards its destination. I spotted Larissa and flagged her down, proudly showing her that I had gathered all her things - and that's when it hit me... I didn't grab MY BAG!!! Gahhh! So, to the office we went and the service agent apologized (which I think was my first apology from an Italian) and said he can't contact the driver but gave me a number to their lost and found office - which was already closed for the weekend. Ok... Well... Getting my bag back will be a fun week-long endeavour! Onwards I suppose!

We go to the train station and find out that we have 20 mins until the next train to Milano - I jet off to find some food and Larissa secures our tickets. We rejoin and armed with tickets for each of us in different compartment cars and mcDonalds, we shrug and carry on. We start out picnic and the train arrives... So we pack it all up and board. Italians are very impatient when it comes to transportation. People were pushing and shoving their way through to their seats and poor Larissa is armed with her backpack that's the size of a small child. We can't find any seats where we an sit together so we decide to just sit by the luggage compartment and finish our lunch. The train ride went smoothly after we dropped half the train off in Bologna and we finally got seats! :) 

We get to Milano and shockingly make it to our 1 star hostel that is on the 5th floor. Larissa has this gift for finding the most obscure hostels on the top floor. They are always shockingly comfy and meet all our needs and are cheap! We check in, drop Larissa's bag and head out to find some new clothes for me for the rest of the weekend. Nothing like a forced shopping trip in the fashion capital of Italy. 

The are shops everywhere and we are soon happily carrying purchases! We hop on the Metro to try and find some "old shit" and as we come to the surface of the Piazza Duomo, we both stop and stare! The Duomo is magnificent in that it is delicate and ornate and simply beautiful. I think it may actually beat the Duomo in Firenze for beauty!

We walk around this giant church and anticipate tomorrow when we can go in and see the amazing looking stained glass. We journey through the Piazza and stumble upon a high fashion shopping street... Prada surrounded me... 

We wandered and got lost in the streets as the daylight faded and casted shadows along the streets of Milano. It was relaxing and beautiful but there were SO many people! We found a nice little bistro to have supper in and once we chowded down we decided to see a movie. We watched Despicable me 2 in Italian and I laughed in all the same places as everyone else so I'm sure I got most of it! :)

We have a busy day planned tomorrow - not quite sure what adventure we can have that will beat today's - life sure is messy! :)