Entry 11: 11/20/12
I have been looking forward to meeting my Italian host family for a while now and the time has finally come where I had the chance to do so. I had my first dinner with them on Friday and immediately wished that I could have met them much earlier in the semester. They are a family of four (parents and two daughters), but I only had the chance to see one daughter because the other one no longer lives at home. They are such wonderful people and I feel so lucky to have them as my host. They made me feel as if I was a part of their family and it was so nice to be so welcomed into it. The daughter whom I met was Daniela, and she and I have a lot in common because we are both very interested in nutrition. She works at the local herbal museum in Sansepolcro and also partners with a company that makes herbal supplements. I am looking forward to learning more about her work and her nutrition interests. Her parents are equally as lovely as she is and they only speak Italian, so it is a great form of practice for my Italian. It’s incredible how, even with a language barrier, some people can make you feel so comfortable and welcomed in their home. Even though my time in Sansepolcro is coming to an end, I can’t wait to get to know them better over my last few weeks here.
This past Saturday, I took a day trip to a town called Orvieto. It is a few hours south of Sansepolcro and is most famously known for its very large and beautiful gothic Cathedral. The town in itself was a pretty cute and homey place. The Cathedral was more beautiful than I could have imagined. It had so much detail and gold placement, that when in the sun it shimmered as you walked past it. It was built in the 14th century and it has two remarkable chapels on the inside that have paintings by some of the greatest Italian painters. Taking pictures on the inside of the church was not allowed, which is sad because it is so beautiful, but I’m sure the pictures couldn’t have done it any justice. It was by far one of the most detailed and exquisitely crafted cathedrals that I have seen.
Another very exciting place that I visited while in Orvieto was the underground Etruscan caves. These were fascinating and were used in so many different ways that almost seemed impossible. The most important structure within the caves was the Pozzo della Cava, which is a vast well about 36 meters deep. It was used as a constant supply of water. There were many caves underground and most of them were and are still privately owned. People today use them as restaurants or wine cellars. The tour that I took through the few non private caves was one of the most interesting tours that I have been on while studying abroad. This quaint little town was a wonderful way to spend one of my last Saturdays in Italy.
This week, we are getting ready for our grand Thanksgiving dinner. We will be making pies and preparing songs for our Italian guests. It should be an enjoyable Thanksgiving spent with our new Italian family!
Journal 10: 11/14/12
This week was my last long travel break. I left Sansepolcro on Wednesday night for my journey to the south of Italy. I have wanted to see the southern party of the country since first arriving and I was very excited that the time had finally come. I started my trip in the capital of Italy, Rome. It was a huge city and I didn’t even get to see half of it. It’s hard to believe that it is so large with so much everyday life, and such huge historical monuments just sitting all in and around it.
My time there was not long enough, but was definitely breathtaking. My first stop was to see the Colosseum. When I arrived, it almost felt unreal. This building, being the largest ever built in the Roman Empire, was considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture. It took me a few minutes to realize that this wasn’t a dream and I was actually standing in front of such an ancient monument. My next stop while running around was to the Trevi fountain, but on the way, being the animal lover that I am, I had to stop by the cat sanctuary. The cat sanctuary is located within the Largo di Torre Argentina, which hosts four Republican Roman Temples, as well as the remains of Pompey’s theater. The volunteers who help with this sanctuary are wonderful people. They feed and take care of all the homeless cats, as well as keeping them up to date with vaccinations and continuously trying to find homes for all of them. I wish I could have brought them back with me! After forcing myself to leave the cat sanctuary, I finally made it to the Trevi fountain. The Trevi is the largest baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous and beautiful fountains in the world. The area was full of tourists throwing coins into the fountain. There is a legend that the water at the bottom of the fountain represents the sea and if you toss a coin over your shoulder with your back to the fountain, then you will return to Rome. Of course, I had to join all the other tourists in throwing one, so hopefully I will have a chance to return to Rome at another point in my life.
I returned to the train and headed to my next destination, Sorrento. I had to take a train to Naples and then (normally) another train to Sorrento, but all weekend the trains were on strike. So, I opted for a ferry, which turned out to be a great alternative. I was sad to leave Rome so soon, but I couldn’t wait to get to the coast. Upon arriving in Sorrento, I was expecting to see a small quaint town with not much going on, but I was wrong. It was full of locals filling the town with lively music and of people enjoying the town. Sorrento has amazing views that look directly over the Bay of Naples all the way to Mt. Vesuvius. According to Greek legend, it was in Sorrento’s waters that the mythical sirens once lived. I loved the fact that I would be staying in such an adorable town for the next three nights. The first day while I was in the south, I took a bus up to Mt. Vesuvius and hiked up the volcano. Mt. Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the burying and destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum. At the top of the volcano there was a gift shop and tour guides that explain the eruptions that have happened over the last hundred years. While at the top, I was at about 1,281 meters above sea level. Being at the top of one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world was quite exhilarating. At night, I relaxed in Sorrento and enjoyed the delicious seafood that all of the restaurants had to offer. The next day, I went to Positano and the Amalfi coast. There is nothing more amazing than seeing both the ocean and the mountains in the same view. While I was at the coast, I toured the surrounding towns, enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, carefree personalities of the southern Italians and soaked up the beautiful sun over the Mediterranean. While in Amalfi, I went into the Amalfi Cathedral which is a 9th century basilica dedicated to the Apostle Saint Andrew. This church houses the crypt of St. Andrew which was an impressive piece of history to stumble upon while visiting this town. My last day before heading back to Sansepolcro, I visited the City of Pompeii. I toured as much of the remains as I could before I had to catch the train back to Naples. Pompeii along with my tour guide book provided a detailed insight into the life of a city during that time.
Leaving the beautiful south of Italy was not an easy thing to do, but I was happy to be coming back to my “home” in Sansepolcro. This trip turned out to be the perfecting ending to travel breaks. It’s hard to believe that we only have a few weeks left here in Italy!
Journal 9: 11/5/12
A lot has happened over the past two weeks. For my long travel break, I went to Munich, Germany. It was beautiful and one of my favorite places while being abroad. It was nice to be out of Italy for a small break and experience a culture that is completely different from the one that I have been immersed in. While I was in Germany, besides eating extreme amounts of delicious German food, I visited some major historical sites. One was the Dachau concentration camp. Dachau was the first Nazi camp that was opened in Germany. It is located northwest of Munich in a state called Bavaria. Visiting this place was an eye opener and overall a very sad place to be. You leave the camp feeling extreme compassion and sadness for all of the people who suffered in these camps.
On a slightly brighter note, I also had the opportunity to visit the castles of King Ludwig II. He was the King of Bavaria from 1864 until 1886 when he passed away at a young age from unknown causes. He was known as the “Fairy tale King” or the “Swan King”, due to his love of art, operas and architecture. The first one that I visited was called the “Linderhof castle”. This is the smallest of his castles and is also the only one he lived to see completed. The inspiration for it was from Versailles, which is the palace of the “French Sun King”, Louis XIV, who was Ludwig’s idol. This palace, although not huge, was astonishing. It was full of rich colors and lavished in gold. My favorite thing about it (other than the fact that it had secret doors), was the room full of mirrors. These reflected the light of candles a thousand times. They were also placed parallel so that they created the illusion of a never-ending hallway. It was the perfect mix of talent and creativity to evoke such an intriguing illusion.
The next castle I visited was the Neuschwanstein castle. Neuschwanstein means “New Swan Stone” and was named after one of Ludwig’s favorite opera characters, the Swan Knight. This castle inspired Walt Disney to create his Magic Kingdom. It was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined and he placed it in the perfect place, so that the surrounding landscape was just as magical as the castle. It was the perfect princess castle! The last day that I was in Germany, it started snowing and it was an excellent ending to my trip. The city of Munich and the English Gardens were flawless with the large snowflakes falling upon them.
Back in Italy, it was the time to start planning the Halloween party for our elementary students. The preparation period seemed to take forever, but once it was finished and the party started, all our worries vanished. The kids were so happy to play games, get their faces painted and eat American candy! It really was a great feeling to see the kids from my 4th grade class come to the party all dressed up and excited to see me! Two days after Halloween we went to the local cemetery in Sansepolcro to witness an Italian tradition that is held on November 2 and is called “Tutti Morti” meaning “All Dead”. This day follows “All Saints Day”, which is the day after Halloween. Italians are very connected with their past relatives and this is a special day where entire families go to cemeteries and tend to graves, put fresh flowers out and remember their loved ones. They visit all the family members from their past, whether they knew them personally or not.
It is a very valuable tradition that shows the connections that Italians keep with their families. It was an inspiring experience that I have never witnessed in my own culture and I am appreciative to have been a part of it.
This upcoming week is packed with school work and presentations, but as soon as it is over we have another travel break! I can’t wait to explore more of this beautiful country.
Entry 8: 10/22/12
This was an interesting week to say the least. It was not full of long travel breaks, but more of small things that are full of history and culture, which is something that I will always cherish. To start, I went with my art history class to a small town called Monterchi. It is [a commune] in the province of Arezzo and is most famous for having the 15th century fresco of the Madonna del Parto, painted by Piero della Francesca. This is the portrayal of a pregnant Madonna, and it is said that it was painted during the time of Piero’s mother’s death, resembling to him a time of life and death. It was exciting to be able to see this painting in its original form because I have previously seen a copy and the original was much more beautiful.
Also, during my art history class, Professor Banker and her husband (also Professor Banker) took our class to the local library in Sansepolcro and we had the opportunity to look at old “Books of the dead”. These are amongst the oldest books in human history and we were able to see death records from the 13th to the 16th century. The books from the 13th century were the most interesting because the bindings of the books were made of wood and leather. Also, the records were written on Vellum, which is calfskin that is prepared for writing or printing. It was incredible how intact the books still were and the hand writing was perfect. It looked as if it had been typed on the paper rather than written. I was so grateful to see such an amazing piece of history.
My Italian conversation class has officially started and the first week of it was a lot of fun. We talked both in Italian and in English and explained how each of our school systems is different from the other. I was very lucky and had a really sweet Italian girl named Vittoria. She was very similar to me, so it made it easier for us to keep our conversation run smoothly. Of course, she spoke better than English than I did Italian, but she was very willing to help me and she enjoyed improving her English as well.
The rest of my week has been full of preparing for my long travel break. I will be going to Munich, Germany, with my friend Heather. I love Italy, but I am very excited to venture into another country and experience a completely different culture!
Entry 7: 10/17/12
My trip to Venice was this past weekend and it was by far the highlight of my week. I had previously been told that Venice was beautiful, but it was way more than what I expected. As soon as I saw the water, boats, adorable bridges and gorgeous houses, I just fell in love. I stayed in a hostel about 30 minutes outside of the city called “Camping Jolly”. It was such an exciting place to stay and was full of many other young travelers. The hostel was very similar to what a basic campground looks like in the States, except instead of campers or cabins, we had small mobile homes. The first night we were in Venice, some of us met a group of about 50 Australians. They were so much fun to hang out with and they invited us to a masquerade party at the local bar in our camp site. I had a great time and was able to meet so many new friends! I think I see a trip to Australia in my future! My friend Heather and I went off and explored on our own while in Venice. We had so much fun getting lost then finding our way back. The weather wasn’t the greatest while we were there (really cold and rainy), but we bought umbrellas and warmer clothes and went on with our touring! We traveled on ferries to two islands near Venice; one called Murano which is known for its glass making and the other called Burano. Burano is well known for lace and also for beautiful bright colored houses that fill the island. We spent most of the morning on these islands and then decided to go to the “tourist” area that is called San Marco or St Mark’s Square, which is the main part of Venice. Everything was beautiful. I could see why it was filled with tourists! We weren’t able to go into any of the churches because it was too late, but we were happy with walking around the town viewing all of the handmade masks and soaking up the remarkable scenery. So far, Venice has been my favorite place to visit in Italy. I had a really tough time leaving!
Back in Sansepolcro, things are getting back to normal. The weather is getting colder! Schoolwork is in full force and I get to see my sweet 4th graders every Monday! That is always something I look forward too and it brightens up my Monday mornings! This week will be full of studying, learning more Italian and preparing for the next travel break!
Entry 6: 10/10/12
We have reached the point where Midterms have taken place and session 2 is now in progress. Studying, exams and papers are what consumed this week, but thankfully everything went well and session 2 will hopefully bring on new cultural experiences. Our “Italy Today” class has a service learning component with which we are able to go to local schools and help teach English. I have an adorable class of 4th graders who are very smart and excited to learn. I love my teacher and all the kids! They were all very eager to have help with learning English. Right now they are learning names of body parts. Even though I am mostly speaking to them in English, I am able to learn everything that I’m teaching in Italian as well. It’s very beneficial for both of us! I can’t wait to go back and spend more time with all of them.
Our new group of Tuscan Intensives participants have arrived and we are back to a full house in the Alberti. This group is focusing on war rather than on drawing which is what the last group did. They all seem very nice and I’m excited to get to know them. They have a lot to live up to though, because our last group felt like an actual family!
For a little treat this week, Meredith, one of the Study Abroad girls, invited all of us to ride horses at the local stable where she is working during her time here. She loves horses and luckily was able to find a stable at which to intern while she is here in Sansepolcro. We have all been begging her to take us riding and we finally got the opportunity! Riding horses through the hills of Tuscany is something that I will forever cherish. I had so much fun! My horse was a beautiful brown horse with a white stripe down his nose. His name was Kashmere and he was so sweet. After riding, we were also able to take the ponies down to eat grass. I had a sweet white pony named Princess. She loved the grass and was acting like a typical “princess” when it was time to go! The whole experience was amazing and it was a nice break from midterms.
I’m looking forward to a new week with a different schedule! We also have another travel break coming up this weekend. Hello, Venice!
Entry 5: 0/3/12
This past week was a busy one to say the least. At the beginning of the week we had to go to the local Police station in Sansepolcro and have our fingerprints taken. This is because we are staying for a period longer than 90 days, so now we are officially on the record and legally allowed to stay here. After we went to our local station, we had to take a bus to Arezzo’s police station to basically do the same thing, but more in depth. The lady took our picture and asked various questions about us, if she couldn’t physically answer them on her own. It was exciting to have everything done and see how their police stations differ from ours in the States.
This past weekend was our first overnight travel break to Florence. The goal of our Travel Italy class is to teach us how to plan our trip, which not only involves what you are doing while you are traveling, but also involves train and bus schedules. Missing the last bus can turn into a very expensive cab ride. Thankfully, I was successful!
Florence was such a beautiful city. Upon arriving we were able to have our first tour through the market. It was crazy! As you walk by the vendors they call out at you trying to persuade you into buying something. It was full of leather goods and many other tempting things, which makes it difficult to pull yourself away from everything! Our hotel was an old convent and it was a very pretty building with a lovely courtyard in the center of it (similar to an atrium). The hotel was a little way outside the center of town, but it was nice because it wasn’t surrounded by crowds of tourists! I was able to visit many of the popular tourist sites while I was in Florence, but I think my favorites were The Cathedral, The Pitti Palace, and the “La Specola” natural history museum. The Dome in the Cathedral was a serious hike up some stairs (what in Florence isn’t though?), but once I made it to the top, it was completely worth it! The view of the whole city was breath-taking. The Pitti Palace was another favorite. It was very interesting to me that many of the paintings in the palace are kept in the same place and order that they were when the last Duke lived there. The gardens of the palace were wonderful. They were very large with multiple walkways and secret entryways to other gardens. It’s not hard to get lost in such a marvelous place. Not far from the Pitti Palace was my favorite museum of the weekend. It is called La Specola Museum of Natural History. In this museum I was able to view human bodies, animals and insects from the 1700s. Going into the museum, I hadn’t realized that it included specimens from such a long time ago. It was incredible to see the anatomical views of the bodies at that time, as well as the many different types of insects and animals that I have never seen before.
Florence was a great way to end the week. I can’t believe we have been here for a month and it is already October. Midterms are upon us and I am ready to start planning for our next travel break!
Entry 4: 09/26/2012
This past week we traveled outside of Sansepolcro to the little town of Anghiari and then, for a much more urban-feel, we went to a famous city founded by the Romans called Arezzo. Anghiari is famous for the battle between Florence and Milan which took place in 1440. It was full of amazing views and seems to be a very quiet and peaceful place. At one point you can climb up a hill and see an unbelievable view of the road that leads straight back to Sansepolcro. After walking around town and spending time in the cute little shops, we got back on the bus and headed on our 45 minute bus ride to Arezzo. Once we arrived in Arezzo, we saw a huge market full of food, clothing, and other items of every kind! It was an interesting, but fun experience because certain people like to barter with you as well as learn about where you are from, which can end up being very entertaining (Language Barrier!). We had most of the day in Arezzo to enjoy a lovely lunch, shop and visit museums. One of my favorite places to visit was the Casa del Petrarca. It was the home of the famous Italian medieval poet, Francesco Petrarch. His house was preserved very well and full of very exaggerated and well thought out paintings.
Back in Sansepolcro, we were able to visit a local, but very well-known, artist named Stefano Camaiti. He brought us to his studio and showed us all his artwork. It was an experience that I will never forget. His work was beyond astounding and he was so willing to talk to us and tell us how he made it and what the meaning of each piece was. It was breathtaking.
Next week we will have our trip to Florence! Now that we have familiarized ourselves with Sansepolcro, all of our excursions are beginning. It is such an exciting time and I will be able to start putting my travel skills to the test! I can’t wait to see how beautiful Florence is and see for myself why everyone loves it so much!
Entry 3: 9/19/2012
This past week in Sansepolcro has been quite busy (as usual). We have a group of alumnae and friends staying at the Palazzo for a “Tuscan Intensive” drawing course. With all of us together it makes about 20 people living in our home away from home. It is like one very LARGE family. All of the visitors are very nice and it’s interesting to watch them during their drawing class to see how they make different landscapes come to life on paper. They have certain techniques that they use that just amaze me! Clearly, I am not an artist!
We all went on our first day trip to Spoleto this past weekend. It was a lovely town. It had multiple tiny streets with hills and plenty of stairs to climb! We visited the La Rocca Albornoziana Castle which is located on the top of St. Elias hill, which overlooks the town. This castle was built in 1370 by the Pope Innocent VI. It was more than amazing! It also had a lot of the original paintings and frescoes on the walls, along with multiple coat of arms still on the walls and ceilings. While we were in Spoleto, we visited many beautiful buildings and museums, but we also went to a very famous church called “Cattedrale di Santa Maria”. This Cathedral was the principal church of Spoleto. It was essentially an example of Romanesque Architecture and was built during the second half of the twelfth century. The paintings in the church were extravagant!
On Sunday, some of us girls and John Rose went to a local soccer game (Calcio is the Italian term they use) in Sansepolcro. It was against Arezzo, which is a town about 30 minutes away by car. Our opponents were pretty good at “Calcio”, but luckily we won! We had so much fun at the game. A couple of the girls had never been to a soccer game, so it was quite a shock to them as the crowd went crazy! It was a bit different from a typical American soccer game, but the passion and excitement made it a great Sunday afternoon. We have decided to have “Soccer Sundays” in Italy since we can’t have the usual “Football Sundays”. I think it should be a consistently fun and learning experience with some awesome Italians.
This week has been busy and fun as usual. I’m looking forward to another exciting week in Sansepolcro and can’t wait to see what new experiences are to come.
Entry 2: 9/3/12
Another successful week has passed us by in Sansepolcro. This was the last week for all of the events of the Palio della Balestra. Time has flown by! We attended a flag show along with many other acts. These included comedians, ladies dancing on stilts and a fire show. I’ve never witnessed such amazing talent. The final show was on Sunday and it was the crossbow competition against Gubbio. This is a very ancient competition that has been documented since the 1600’s. Unfortunately, Sansepolcro lost, but both teams had continuous support and appreciation for each other. It was a wonderful celebration for all.
This week in our Art History class, we went to the local museum in Sansepolcro. It is called the Museo Civico. We went with our visitors, Jean and Paul Carr, Angela Weisskopf (all friends of Meredith!) and the Bankers. The Bankers are our Art History professors and these two are brilliant! It’s so nice to see them interact with each other and the class. I like to consider them as “walking Art History books”. They both know more than what any one book can hold. In the museum we were able to view all of the paintings and learn something about most of them. Many of them were by Piero della Francesca. He was an exquisite painter of the early Renaissance and was born in Sansepolcro. Being able to learn about these paintings when they are right in front of you instead of in a book, is an experience that I will never forget. We are in the PERFECT place for studying these beautiful works of art.
Each day, to enjoy the beautiful weather, Heather and I have decided to start running around town (or outside the walls). We have found it to be a nice time to get away and free our minds for a while. Also, it makes for a great way to view the beautiful scenery around us. Our first run was through the hills and we were able to see gardens and lovely homes on the hill side. The view is breathtaking. Along the way we even met a few people and learned a couple of new ways to greet each other. So far, it is a nice little break from our busy days and we are able to roam around town as well.
This upcoming weekend is our first day trip and we will be going to Spoleto. Spoleto is a medieval hill town in Central Italy. One of the main sites that we will be going to see is the San Salvatore Church, which dates back to the late 4th century. This trip is part of our Art History class, so we will also be learning about the history of the church and the paintings inside. I am very excited to visit such an ancient Church, along with the historic town of Spoleto.
I am looking forward to what this next week brings. Exploring outside the town of Sanseplocro will hopefully present new adventures and travel experiences!
Journal 1 – 9/3/12
It has been exactly one week since we left for our journey to Sansepolcro. This little town has already been so welcoming to all of us; it rarely seems that we are outsiders (other than the language barrier) to this small, but not so quiet town. I have even started calling the Palazzo Alberti my new “home”. In this semester abroad we have a total of seven girls. I like to call us the seven dwarfs (not because we each fit a specific “dwarf”, but because we are all very different). We all get along pretty well, but we definitely all have our own unique personalities! I think that it is a good thing because we are able to step out of our own little world of friends and learn about new ones. Also, living with us in the Palazzo are John Rose and Dr. Betty Webb. “The Doctor” as John Rose calls her, is a favorite of mine. I see a little bit of myself in her, and although her intelligence level exceeds mine to an extreme, I hope to be there one day. With the oh so lovely, but opinionated Englishman, John Rose, I like to have Dr. Webb around to brush off his comments and bring a more carefree and calming attitude to the table.
We have arrived in Sansepolcro at a wonderful time of the year. It is the millennium of the Cathedral and of the city, as well as the home of the festivities of the Palio della Balestra, which is when archers from Gubbio compete with those of Sansepolcro in a tradition dating from the middle ages. It is a Crossbow competition many processions in Renaissance costumes. It has definitely kept us busy during our first week in town. There are multiple events that take place during this time and luckily we have been able to capture them close up and personal. Last night we were fortunate enough to dress up in old renaissance clothing and parade around town with the Sansepolcro locals. They welcomed us with such warmth.
During the week, we have lunch from about 1:00 to 2:30. Margherita makes such wonderful food. We have huge lunches that usually carry us over through most of the day. We sit at a large table and eat as a nice big family, conversing while passing food around the table. I love this time of the day, the Italians really do enjoy the food that they eat during this relaxed, not rushed lunch (which most of us are not used to). Also, the food is very much whole (as in not processed) and tastes very fresh, not packaged and shipped all around the world. This is very exciting to me considering my major is Nutrition and Dietetics. Oh! They compost food here too, which is not something you see very often in the States. Although it can get a bit dirty, it really is a great thing to do!
Classes have fully started this week and are very demanding. Italian can be a bit complicated! At least I am in the perfect place to learn such a beautiful language. My other classes are equally as difficult, but all come with great professors and interesting information, especially since much of it is involved with the country that I am currently living in!
So far, my time in Sansepolcro has been a huge change in life (I haven’t watched TV in over a week; I know it’s sad!), but the change has only been for the better. I look forward to meeting more Italians and being immersed in this beautiful culture.