Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Arrival, Or, A Very Long Post


I have arrived and I am well! :) Actually, I'm far more than bene, I'm molto bene! Italy is wonderful. I can't believe I'm actually here, and that I will be living here for the next four months. It still has not sunk in completely (or at all, really). Right now I feel like I'm on a wonderful vacation, but I will be going back to the US in a couple of weeks. I am interested to see how I feel when my brain finally figures out otherwise.

All right, I'm going to give y'all a rundown of what has happened since I left the Land of Liberty. Here's a picture of me that Mama insisted I take as I was about to head through security in Houston.

My flight to Paris went very well, aside from lots of turbulence (I actually think turbulence is kind of fun, so I didn't mind it). I had a whole row to myself, as the plane was fairly empty. I do think I was the youngest person in economy, though.

Guess who still can't sleep on planes, even after learning how to nap any time and any where? That's right, this girl. I slept for about an hour total, and watched movies the rest of the time.

I had an hour between flights when I got into Paris, but I only made it to my terminal 15 minutes before take-off, seeing as the Paris airport is enormous and scary... it took me 45 minutes of walking and taking 2 shuttles. It was ridiculous.

Once I finally got to Florence, I found a girl that's in my program, and we took the bus to Siena together, so that was nice to have someone who, if not familiar, was at least a friendly (English-speaking) face. I tried oh so hard to stay awake and watch the scenery on the bus ride, but alas, my jet lag caught up to me and I fell asleep.

Then Siena. Oh my goodness. Siena is beautiful. Siena was founded a millennium ago, and is a walled city, so it is absolutely gorgeous. It actually originally was larger and more important than Florence, but it took a fatal blow when the Black Plague hit, and Florence took over. Thus the Sienese and the Florentines have a bit of a rivalry going on - the Sienese aren't such fans.

I met my host mother, Stella, who is simply lovely. She is talking to me so far in about half and half Italian and English, and I understand most of it, happily. I'm excited for classes to start Monday so I can start actually learning the language. I also met my roommate Rachel - we share a cute little room (pictures later) together in Stella's apartment. Seeing as the name to my blog is a nod to Forster's A Room With A View, I thought it would be appropriate to give y'all the view from my room. My apologies for the quality... the light was iffy, but I plan on taking more pictures when the weather is better and you can see the lovely hills in the background.

We went on a walking tour today to get the feel of the city, and to see the important sites. The most beautiful thing I've seen in Siena so far? The Duomo. I'm ever so excited to get to explore it more - we simply passed by it on our walking tour of Siena this morning, but I plan to thoroughly tour the place. Several times.

One of the most important areas (or perhaps the most important area) in Siena is the Piazza Del Campo.

This is where the people of Siena go to meet each other before going out, this is where they come to chat, to hang out, to picnic, and most importantly, this is where Il Palio takes place.

Il Palio is the famous horse race that takes place in Siena twice a year, and which dates back to the Middle Ages. The Sienese are REALLY into this race. The city is actually split up into 17 sections, called Contrade, and horses from these sections compete in the race. Whatever Contrada you are born in kind of dictates your social life, and as Stella said, "Your Contrada is more than your mother."

We got to visit the heart of one of the Contrade, Contrada Della Selva (Contrada of the Forest), and we visited their fountain, their church, and their museum. I think it's so interesting that the Contrade play such a large role in the lives of the Sienese - there are bitter rivalries between them, you marry in the church of your Contrada (preferably to someone in your Contrada), and there is even a special second baptism into the Contrada for children.

After our walking tour, we went to a Trattoria, called Fonte Guisto, for dinner, and had mounds and mounds of food. Italians typically eat 3 courses in a meal (and apparently take 2 1/2 hours to eat it), and lots and lots of wine with the meal.

We must have had 6 or 7 different types of salami and prosciutto for the first course, along with bruschetta, fried artichokes, and some sort of mushroom thing.

For the second course we had 3 or 4 types of pasta (including gnocchi, one of my favorite kinds of pasta), and for the dessert course we had biscotti and this strange dessert wine that I drank about two sips of before deciding it was nasty. You were supposed to dip the biscotti into the wine, but that was disgusting, so I drank the wine straight, but even so it didn't taste that great. I think it must be an acquired taste, as almost none of us Americans liked it.

And now I'm off to bed, to sleep off more jet lag. Buonanotte!

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