Tuesday, November 2

Last day in Italy

This is our last day in Italy and it's about 11:30 in the morning here. We've had our apartments inspected for anything broken or misplaced and almost all of our stuff is packed. At least mine is. But then again I started packing about week and a half ago. And our apartment was said to be the cleanest! I'm probably lame for thinking that's a good thing, but I think it is. I'm going to miss a lot of things about Italy but it's made me appreciate the States more. It's hard to get accustomed to a new culture, even if it's only slightly different.

I'm dreading the plane ride home. We have a three hour bus ride at one in the morning to the airport in Rome and then we wait until the line opens up, then about a two hour flight into Frankfurt. Then we have a three-hour layover in Frankfurt and it'll be in the dead of night. Then we have about a nine or ten hour flight from Frankfurt to Atlanta and apparently we need to tack on another hour just to get through customs. It's so intense to fly international. I think I'll be a wreck when I get home. I have a tendency to not be able to fall asleep on a bus or plane but hopefully I'll just be so exhausted I'll pass out. If not, I can catch up on some movies and read a book, which I'll probably finish. I hate to admit it, but I'm excited to have time to read. Hopefully I can finish the books I started on my computer. I think I might just be excited to be on the way home. Time here has gone from flying by to slowing down like when you're waiting for Christmas. I can barely stand it! But I'll be home soon and I can't wait. I miss everyone so much.

Tuesday, October 26

8 days left

I am ready to be home. I know, I'm being ridiculous, but I feel like I've been here forever! We've been here almost nine weeks and looking back I feel like we have done so much yet so little at the same time. I started packing last weekend. I may be a little early but at least I won't be throwing things into my suitcase haphazardly while trying to fly out the door to catch the bus. I'm trying to figure out how much I can carry in my book bag without breaking my back. I haven't bought much other than clothes as souvenirs, but I'm mainly worried about how heavy my textbooks are. If you go over the 50 pound weight limit, they can charge you a hundred euros. How ridiculous is that! But another bag up to fifty pounds is 40 euros. I may just be ignorant of the etiquette involved with flying, but that seems extreme.

I have so much to do. I have six paintings to finish, one of which I have yet to start and everything needs to be done by Monday. Not to mention my Art History final tomorrow, and my Historical Geography final and my journals are due Monday as well and a have a paper to write for my Painting class, on top of it all. I need to clean and do laundry and get all my ducks in a row. I didn't think it would be so stressful for us to leave here. We need to be ready to vacate our apartments Tuesday at midnight, or is that Wednesday? We have to catch the bus at 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning and take the three hour trip to the Rome airport. I feel like if I had a schedule that was organized I would feel so much better about this. I've also heard the customs is going to be a pain to get through, so I'm really looking forward to that part! It'll be well worth it to get home to Atlanta and see everyone though. I miss everyone so much!

Monday, October 18

Things that I won't take for granted...

Being here for ten weeks has taught me a lot, now that I take the time to actually think about. There's a lot of things here that I find odd and a little disconcerting but there's also some things that I really like. For instance, not having a car is amazing! I am not a fan of driving on the best of days because it involves other people being on the road. Here, it's not a problem, because my main concern is not getting mowed down by some psychotic Italian driver. You may think I'm being harsh, but it's like a battle every time you have to cross a street here. A game of chicken might be a better analogy, except for the "game" part. If you show no fear and bravely walk out into the street into oncoming traffic you'll be fine, if you wait, you'll be fine, but if you hesitate and do that silly dance of "Should I go? Oh, no, better thought, I'll wait" you'll be dead. It's terrifying, but if I learn nothing else, I've learned how to cross a street. With most of my limbs attached.

Another strange thing about being here is that the main transportation are scooters or Vespas. Yes, I know Vespa is a brand, but they are everywhere. People just zoom by on them, disregarding anyone and everyone's safety. And there's so many smart cars here. You know what I'm talking about, those super tiny cars that look like roller skates for giants. They park those cars however they can get them to fit. Seriously, I've seen someone back it in to a parallel parking spot along a road, and it fit. I don't know what they have to do to get their driver's license here, but apparently it involves some intense military drilling, complete with bombs going off and, oh yeah, nerves of steel. I've never even heard of a crash here. Thankfully I don't have to drive here. I'd wet my pants!

I'm going to be so happy when I get home and can go to sleep in a bed bigger than a twin bed. Stretching out while sleeping, how I've missed you! And having the choice between Italian food and anything else. At all. Like a sandwich that doesn't involve marinara and mozzarella. The food here is delicious, but I need diversity! I'm from the land of diversity! I need choices! I may sound like an arrogant American, but as of right now, I'm okay with that. And in the restaurants here, there is no tipping, there's something called "coperto" which is the cover charge. Or a blanket, depending on where you are, I guess. Either way, that's how you pay for the glassware, the silverware, the plates and the service. It's nice, but I like to dictate what I leave for a tip. If the service is good, you can leave five to ten percent extra, but you have to hand it to them.

This trip has really helped me to understand myself better as well as other people and other cultures. There's so much poverty here, especially around the main tourist sites. It's interesting to see how beautiful it is, but at the same time how truly dirty and awful it can be. There's a lot of theft and pickpockets. I've seen a man missing both legs and an arm sitting outside of the Vatican begging for change. I've seen a young man with his small brother playing instruments to try and get money. The expressions on their faces were terrible, completely devoid of life or happiness. It seemed like they were literally living from minute to minute, their only concern being how to get their next meal. I've also seen multiple people using skateboards as makeshift wheelchairs. Their legs don't work and they wear shoes on their hands to protect them from the dirty streets, pushing themselves around. There's also women walking around begging while holding their babies with fake arms, while the real one is rummaging around in your purse or pockets. In the States, our poverty doesn't seem to have reached that level of desperation, either that or I haven't seen enough of it. It really makes you think about how lucky we are as Americans, even if we are egotistical as a whole and disenchanted with our government most of the time. We still have the freedom and the right to be. It's incredible how proud I have become to be born in the States and how lucky I am to take this trip. It really has made me seen the best parts and the worst parts of our culture.

Monday, October 11

Pompeii, Sorrento, Vico Equense, Mt. Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast all in one weekend!

We had a busy, busy weekend! We stayed in Vico Equense in Southern Italy which is really close to both Sorrento and Pompeii. We took a trip to Pompeii and climbed Mt. Vesuvius all in one day! It was amazing. We saw the people trapped in the ash from the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. We walked through the city and saw the ruins and the gardens and the murals. It was intense. There's even tiled floor in there that's nicer than most of the places we stayed in. That might be exaggerating, but you get the point.

Mt. Vesuvius was incredible. It wasn't really what I expected, but then again I expected to be able to see lava or something, which seems kind of ridiculous. But then again, when have I been around a volcano? On the short hike up there we saw a road of cobblestone-like material that was broken up and roped off. I can only hope that it is really old and not something silly. We could see all over the southern coast of Italy and into Naples. Absolutely incredible views. The bus ride up and down was probably more terrifying than knowing that we were on a volcano. The bus driver actually accelerated downhill. What is that? I saw a grown man almost start to cry. But of course, being terrified of Italian driving is now nothing new. I swear they must go to stunt driving school. They must all have nerves of steel! Anyway, I digress, again.

Saturday we spend the day in the Amalfi Coast. The water teal and you could see through it. The only bad part was the pebble beaches. My feet still hurt from walking over it barefoot! I don't understand how people can even go to those beaches without shoes on. They must have cloven hooves for feet. Regardless, after we passed out on the beach for a while, we caught the bus back and had dinner in Sorrento and shopped. I got a new pair of boots and three new long sleeve shirts, which I'm in desperate need of because the weather here is extremely chilly and I was ill-prepared. Such a great weekend and so beautiful!

Wednesday, October 6

Painting Class

I have never taken an art class before in my life before the painting class I'm taking here in Montepulciano. With that said, I'm pretty damn proud of how my painting is coming along. We'll have three paintings to finish before the end of this semester and the pictures I've posted is the one that we've been working on in class. The after picture is called a "grisaille" and is basically the underpainting. In all reality, I just wanted to pat myself on the back via my blog!

Just so you know, the one on top is the before, the one on the bottom is the after.


We took a day trip to a small town near Montepulciano called Pienza. It had reconstructive work done to it in the 1500's, I think. Don't quote me. Pope Pius II, a famous Sienese, was the leading force behind the face lift. It was a really interesting city. It's very small, just like Montepulciano, but it's far less hilly, which was a major plus. You think after walking uphill both ways to school everyday would make me feel like I'm in better shape, but no, I don't.

While we were in Pienza we had a chance to take a really cheap guided tour of the Piccolomini Palace. It was really interesting and we had some really great views of the surrounding landscape from the Hanging Gardens and from the balcony. In the palace there was even a tiny room that's main purpose was for trysts. Very scandalous, especially since it was in the library. There was one room that looked like a great hall and was filled with weapons from different centuries, from evil looking stuff from the ancient days to WWII items. According to the guide, this is the room where they entertained Nazis, bribing them and such. There were crests of the Piccolomini family everywhere, in the church, in the piazza, on the buildings and the paintings, everywhere. I've never seen someone other than I tyrant brand something that much with their own symbol of power. I think he wanted everyone to know who this city belonged to. As if the name didn't give it away. Pienza is a combination of Pius (the pope) and Siena, which is where he is from. Subtlety, that's what his specialty was. The museum was also taking down Da Vinci exhibit that highlighted all of his machinery. I wish I could have seen that, I'm a little upset that we missed it.

Overall, it was a really informative and interesting trip and it's only about 30 minutes away by bus. I think I'm going to have to go back if I get time.

Monday, September 27

Venezia and Padova

This past weekend we went to Venezia, or Venice. We stayed about thirty minutes by train outside of the city (because it was cheaper) in this super nice hotel. It's the biggest one we've stayed in so far and is about the size of an american hotel but it typically has twin beds. I have yet to see a double bed here. I don't think they exist except in America. I digress, though.

Venezia was amazing. I've never seen anything like it. It was supposed to rain but the weather was actually quite beautiful. There are no roads but there are canals everywhere. The Grand Canal is the big one that cuts through the middle of the city in a backward S shape but there are several smaller canals that trail off the Grand Canal. Since the only traffic is either by foot or boats, the sidewalks and streets are very small. Why do you need cars when you can either walk the whole island and take a boat? And since there aren't any cars, the main public transportation system are the vaporetto, which are kind of like really big houseboats. There were people reading the newspaper on these things too, like they saw Venezia everyday and just couldn't bothered to be impressed by it. I was astounded! How can you not continue to be awe-struck by that city constantly? I guess if you live there you get over it, but come on!

We went to San Marco's and tried our hardest to find the way in, but I'm pretty sure you just need to strap on some plastic boots and wade through the foot of water flooding the piazza. No kidding, this place had water in the shops while they were closed for siesta. And not like a couple of inches of water, more like a foot. They were selling these plastic boots for ten euros that went up to your knee so you could wade through the water. Since I'm cheap and I didn't want to catch some kind of nastiness from the water, I didn't jump in like most of the people. Call me crazy. It was really neat though.

We took a bus tour of Padova on Friday and learned a whole slew of information. We were also able to go inside the Church of St. Anthony during Friday night mass. I'll just say, most beautiful chuch I've ever seen. They had his tomb there and so many relics. They even had his teeth and tongue on display! Ugh! And as strange as this sounds, the relics and all that were really well organized so that everything flowed together really well. It wasn't super dark like some churches are either. Very nicely lit and overall tastefully done. I know it sounds strange to say that, but it just flowed easily and led the crowd where they needed to go. We also saw the "Grassless Meadow" which is the largest piazza in all of Europe. It's a tiny island surrounded by a moat. A MOAT. Surrounding the island are also seventy-eight statues and four bridges leading into the "island."

Overall, this trip was very interesting and educational. It just goes to show the adaptation abilities of mankind. Pretty impressive when you think about it.