It has been too long since my last post, and a lot has happened. Let me recap through a day-to-day journal!
After just recovering from sore muscles after iceskating two days previous, the liceo students invited us out for iceskating and dinner that night. Getting back on the ice was a breeze and Emily and I were perfecting our turns and speed skating. Then we all passed an American styled restaurant and couldn’t resist a good burger. None of us had eaten a full piece of meat for weeks, the temptation was too great! Like many places in Europe, the restaurant was themed, and decked out in Cowboys and Indians styled decorations. One sign above a seating area said ‘Indian people’… I think Native Indians was the term they were looking for! The great thing about hanging out with the teens is learning some new slang. Yep, I’m becoming cool again. The Tuscan slang for cool is ganzo, which can be used as an exclamative or used for an object like, ‘Questa cosa è ganzo!’
Weekend in Venice.
Most of the group had left the night before, but 8 of us got up early in the morning to make the 3hr trip to Venice. What a city.
As you exit the train station the canals appear in front of you and glisten the reflection of the beautiful, colourful buildings and gondolas afar. Bridges take you over the still waters, and as you wander through the narrow streets, i vicoli, there are interesting objects to be seen at every glance. A small religious shrine with a lit candle, a decorative framed windowwith intricate shutters, a love lock on a small bridge, a lady walking her dog, a Venetian craftsman producing a lace mask. Che bellisima la Venezia! It wasn’t until we stepped out into Piazza San Marco that I really had to pinch myself. The vast space after wandering the vicoli just catches you by surprise. The beautiful archways from the piazza, then your eyes gaze towards La Basilica di San Marco with its glorious bell tower which overlooks the entire city and its port. The sense of Venice is extremely touristy, but it is almost forgiven as it’s an experience most different to anything else. Even the fact, that as you make your way through the vicoli around Piazza San Marco, you get to meet and talk with different mask makers to learn about their craft which is just fascinating. They each add their own special touch. It must be amazing to go to Venice during Carnivale in Febuary just to see these marks in use.
That evening, all of the group went out to dinner and drinks together. We all have a great night together singing songs from the 90’s and yelling loudly in Italian, whilst mocking the Tuscan accent in an environment where no-one would care. Brilliant.
We spent the morning as flaneurs in Venice before catching an afternoon train to Verona. Emily and I had made some love-locks (ooooohhh 😉 ) and were itching to see Juliet’s wall. Verona wasn’t as close as we thought, so the group of 6 of us arrived in sweet Verona at sunset. We stumbled across this amazing Christmas market set-up outside a fully intact ampitheatre set in a huge piazza, which is a sight to be seen. There I ate the most amazing connolo I have ever eaten my life. The fresh, crispy case was filled with the creamy filling before my eyes, and then coated on either end with pistachio nuts. It was buonissimo! We then finally head off to find La Casa di Giulietta, which I was leading everyone to through Google Maps. It turns out that the house is in the centre of town, I had always imagined it being lined by a beautuful garden, but it’s actually incredibly small! We couldn’t miss it though. We locked our love-locks onto the gate, wrote on Juliet’s wall, and Liv wrote Juliet a letter. We then quickly made our way back to the main station to try to get a train back to Florence. But… when is it ever that easy in Italy, you ask? Never.
It was 7pm when we arrived at the main station, the last train for the evening had left at 6.50pm but it was sold out anyway. When was the next train to Florence? Oh, just 3am. They were cheaper tickets, so we boughts them and found a restaurant to eat in to pass the time. It was 11.30pm when we finally parted from the restaurant, and by this time it was around -4ᵒC. We settled back in the station and found some decent seats, until, we were kicked out to underneath the platforms as the station was closing! The wind and the cold was travelling down the ramps through the underpassage and in no time all of us were frozen to the bone. We all huddled together in a small passage leading to a lift to save as much heat as possible, and waited there for 3 1/2hrs for our delayed train. We finally boarded the train from Germany at 3.30am much to our elated delight. Unfortunetly I was awoken at 6.30 to the bad news of one of the girls bag’s having been stolen during her sleep though. Poor thing. We finally got back to the hotel at 7am, just in time to get ready for a day packed full of classes. Che goia…
The Tuscan sun shone over us today as we made our way through its green, lush hillsides to the picturesque towns of Monteriggioni, Siena, and San Gimignano. As the bus veared around the hills, quaint Monteriggioni on top of a hill came into full view. It’s a small town of only 75 inhabitants, and the city’s remparts are all still in tact allowing you to walk around then, taking in the amazing vista. I had been to Siena before, but it’s surely one of my favourite towns. The Siena duomo is breathtaking, combining all of the local white, pink, green and black marbles which creates a masterpiece of elegance. It’s just amazing to walk around Siena and note all of the different contrada, districts, which each has its own animal symbol. Just before sunset, we rolled into Sam Gimignano. What a borgo! It’s medieval charm just blows you away. The main basilica in town is covered from head to toe in fresco depecting stories from the bible, and even has a bloody scene of demons during Judgement day. Gruesome, but fantastic. The sun set, and as the dark settled over Tuscany, we watched the shimmering lights from the top of la rocca. A beautiful end to a magical day.
A few of us went out to lunch with our ‘teacher’ Matteo, more of a friend to us all. He led us to an amazing restaurant in the centre of Prato, which one does not just attend for food, but also fashion. The funky chairs juxtapositioned with odd table ornaments and a concrete floor, fill a space of felted scarves and leather wool jackets. This restaurant, Opificio JM, is actually a concept by John Malkovic who calls Prato his second home. Weird Iknow, but awesome! On Wednesday, I ate a simple pollo dish which was delcicious, then I also returned today to eat their incredible carbonara with carciofi fritti. Buoni!