Sunday, June 24, 2012
(Sunday 24, 2012) Today was a bittersweet day because we left the amazing town of Forte Dei Marmi to go to our next part of our adventure in Florence. Before we left, we had another group discussion about our perceptions of Italy so far. I remember after our first group discussion, Umberto said how he was surprised how no one said anything about religion and that got me thinking about why we didn’t, even though it was such a major part of their culture. So I decided to do a little social experiment to see if anyone was going to talk about religion or not. I opted to go last to see if my hypothesis about no one talking about religion was correct, and it was. When it was my turn, I felt that I needed to give my two cents about this topic. Originally I wrote about what I talked about in I think Day 5 about my interaction with this fellow named Guido. He thought that Italy wasn’t a good place to live and Los Angeles was so pretty while on the other hand I thought Los Angeles was a horrible place to live while Italy was paradise. I don’t really know about others, but I actually really enjoy these conversations because I like to know what other peoples perspective is when it comes to the same places that we went to. Even though the majority of the people talked about how good the food is and how nice the people from Italy are then back home, I was still thankful for the ones who decided to think outside the box and give a valid observation though their experience. After the talking session we set out to go to Florence where we will be living for the next three weeks. The bus ride was the most stressful one yet because no one really knew what our apartments were going to look like nor did we know what the city was going to be like. The biggest thing that everyone wanted to know was if they were going to have air conditioning or not and don’t get me wrong, so was I. But when we finally got to Florence, we were all presently surprised for more than one reason (at least for me). I felt more comfortable here then I have in the other towns and I don’t really know why. I think it might be because Florence reminds me of back home where there are so many different people with different nationalities. That, and probably because the rooms look like they were taken straight out of and Ikea store, which was AWESOME! It is modern, yet homey with all the amenities. My only discrepancy is that we are on the third floor so even time we come back from going somewhere, it feels like a chore just to get back to our room. But, I can’t complain because I am in Italy learning how to make amazing food while also making new friends and creating amazing memories.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
(Saturday 23, 2012) When I heard that we were going to go on a bike ride, I wasn’t the happiest person considering that I barely got any sleep the night before. But as the day went on, I started to enjoy the setting and the scenery more and more. I don’t really mind riding bikes, but the last week was packed with activities that I was mentally and physically drained. When I woke up, a bike ride was the last thing on my mind, but I knew that it would be fun considering that every place that we have been so far has turned out to be a good time. During the tour, I hung out in the back to enjoy the scenery and solitude, which was much needed after being stuck with people everyday so far. Now that I think about it, this is probably why I liked the bike tour so much… My favorite part of this tour was DEFINITELY when we all rode through the random forest in the city. Like I said before, I have this weird obsession with nature and super dense greenery, so when I saw us turning into this extremely lush forest in the middle of the city, my stomach dropped and I was left breathless. I just couldn’t believe how huge the forest was and how it was what seemed to be directly in the middle of the city… When we first entered it, I think that I was somewhere in the middle of the group, but when we left, I was one of the last ones because I was trying to soak up how awesome this place was. I was ok with being in the back because me, Ankoosh, and Alvina were supervising Mary Anne (I think that was her name) because it was her first time riding a bike. She was doing really well for her first time even though she was really self-conscience. She kept apologizing for going to slow so I told her, “Who cares? You’re learning how to ride a bike in probably the most beautiful part of Italy that we have visited so far…” I think she finally understood and was a little more relaxed and appreciative of the situation. I just wanted to write really quickly about how stoked I was for her. While the bike ride was almost over, we were lucky enough to stop by Ristorante Lorenzo, which we have been hearing so much about the whole time we have been in Forte Dei Marmi. Apparently they have the best seafood in all of Italy but we didn’t get to get because it was a little out of our price range. (On average €100 for each plate…) We later got lunch at the same place we did when we first got to Forte Dei Marmi (I still hate myself for not remembering it) but it was just as good as the first time we ate there. After that we got back and I was extremely exhausted so I decided to take a nap totally oblivious to the air show that Umberto told us about earlier that day. I regret not watching this after I heard Kristen talking about how amazing it was, but at the same time, I was extremely exhausted after this long, productive day.
Friday, June 22, 2012
(Friday 22, 2012) This day was the most interesting and also shocking. When I was told that we were going to a carnival, I thought it was going to be something like “The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey,” but I was in for a big surprise. The place that we went to was called Cittadella del Carnevale and it pretty much was a huge semi-circle of garages that held ENORMOUS floats. I was reflecting back at my experience and I remember that at first I was somewhat scared at how creepy the floats looked. I was telling Billy that if I would have gone here at night I would have been really scared. But as we went though the museum and had our tour guide explain the reasoning behind the historical and political reasoning for them, gave me a better appreciation for the floats. Our tour guide gave everyone an in-depth explanation on how they go about making the papier-mâché models for their floats. It was crazy to know that all the floats are only made out of paper. Some of the floats that they were storing had some extra material to make it look more realistic. (For example, the wolf float that was supposed to symbolize everyone’s rage) But overall, even though I don’t follow politics closely at all, I felt that I took away a lot from this place while learning about how involved Italy is when it comes to their political views and also the politics of other countries. After the trip to Cittadella del Carnevale, we had free time to ourselves, so we decided to relax until our delicious dinner at Bango Stefanella. After that we decided to go to a local bar called Bulldogs where we met this interesting fellow by the name of Guido. He was surprisingly nice to our group and also an amazing foosball player. While talking to him, he said something that I thought was interesting. We got to talking about where we were from and we told him that we were from the Los Angeles area and he said, “LOS ANGELES?! Wow, I wish I could live there because it is so amazing!” I replied by saying “Why would you want to live in LA when you are already living in paradise?” After that conversation, it hit me that the more you live in a certain place, the more you start to find the flaws of that area and then dislike it. I can say from only being here for almost a week, I am still almost star struck by how amazing everything is and how nice people are because, like I’ve said, I have only been here for less than a week. And I feel that that’s how people feel for everywhere that they go for the first time. Everyone is in such a good mood that they don’t notice some things that would normally make someone who has lived in that area for a while mad. It’s hard to explain on paper, but it makes perfect sense in my head…
Thursday, June 21, 2012
(Thursday 21, 2012) I think that so far this day has been my favorite out of all of them so far. Not only did we see A LOT of different shops, art, and the daily routines of some Italians, we got to see how marble was harvested and see how lard was produced. But those aren’t the reasons why I enjoyed this day so much. My favorite part was where the city of Carrara is located. I have a slight obsession with nature, especially if it grows where old factories used to be. I’ll explain a little more later, but for now I felt it was a very productive and fun day. I really enjoyed the trip through Pietrasanta because we got to witness a lot of different things. We got to witness a wedding, which was WAY different then the ones in the States. This couple’s wedding was in the middle of the square where all the art was spread across the courtyard. Back in America, weddings are very exclusive where only certain people are invited. Also, the more expensive it is, the better it is “supposed” to be. That was defiantly not the case when it came to the wedding that we witnessed. The rest of the time there was pretty enjoyable and relaxing because all me Justine and Billy did was wondering around to different shops and eat a delicious light lunch before we departed to Carrara. I really enjoyed the trip thought Carrara and to the marble quarries. It was really interesting learning about how they cut and move the marble. My favorite thing was just how the quarry looked. It looked like it was out of some SciFi movie. It’s hard to explain but it was cool looking at the grains in the already excavated parts of the mountain. One thing that really surprised me was how cheap the marble was per ton. I can’t remember exactly how much it was, but Ankoosh and I were talking about splitting the cost of a ton because we would be able to afford it with the money that we brought for the trip. The last spot we stopped at was the lard factory, which turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t looking forward to it at first, but after learning about how long they age it and the time it takes to make it, I thought that “why not, I’ll try it.” It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I still didn’t want to purchase any. But I still enjoyed the opportunity of being able to try it. Like I said before, my favorite part of this day was on the way back down the mountain when I was able to see some of the old factories be taken over by nature. It’s really hard to explain why I like this so much but I thought it was extremely beautiful. I think it has to do with nature being able to take back what was rightfully hers in the first place, but still showing the remains of something that once was a thriving factory. It’s both hard to describe why I like it so much and also the feeling that it gave me, but all you need to know is that this was my favorite day.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
(Wednesday 20, 2012) In the last couple of days I feel that we have done so much and it is hard to remember what we did because the days feel like they merging together. This was proven today because I couldn’t remember what else we did except tour the winery. Then I remembered that me and a couple other friends decided to take a bike ride to the PLAZA for dinner, but I’ll talk about that later. The winery that we went to was called Vincenzo di Vaira, and while we were there we learned about the grapes that they grow, and also a little about their history. It was crazy to learn about the owner’s daughter and how she is a famous dancer in Italy. Because of that, I really enjoyed their art on their bottles and how it had two butterflies because it symbolized the two sisters dancing as butterflies. After the tour, we were given yet another amazing Italian feast that included a plate of meats, melon, cheese with their own honey (which was my favorite dish), some kind of day old bread and vegetables, and some other dishes that we all phenomenal. This wasn’t my favorite place that we have eaten so far, but delicious regardless. After another one of our (what seems to feel like) free feasts, the majority of all the students wondered into their tasting room to taste more wines. I just wanted to comment on how happy the owners were probably feeling after agreeing to give us a tour of their place because they got SO much business. I was trying to stay in the tasting area for as long as possible (because it was so hot outside), and it seemed as if they had an endless line of students that not only loved their wines for themselves, but they wanted to share it with others. Leila among others decided that they wanted to ship some of the wines that they had tried back home to their families, which I thought was an amazing idea. After the fieldtrip, that night was the first night that we had to get dinner by ourselves. While others were walking around the little town of Forte Dei Marmi trying to find something close and convenient, we (me, Justine, Leila, Aric, Billy, and Kimberli) took the bikes that our hotel provided for free to the local pier. It was about a ten to fifteen minute bike ride to this pier but it went fast because we were all enjoying the beach weather while the sun was just starting to set. Just the bike ride alone was pretty amazing. When we got the pier, we started to have a mini panic attack because there was no more room for bikes on the bike racks so we were forced to chain our bikes together. Thinking back on this now, if someone did this in the States, their bike would have gotten stole within the first 5 minutes of leaving them there. But luckily, the bikes were still there when we got back from our wonderful dinner that everyone loved. (We loved it so much that we went back to the same restaurant on the day that we took the bike tour!)
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
(Tuesday 19, 2012) After our exhausting day of touring Rome, I was excited to find out that we were going to have another day of touring Rome, but this time, it was going to be on a bus. To be honest, I didn’t really learn anything new except for when we drove by the Vatican. Even though I didn’t get to go inside, I was still happy to be able to see it. While on the tour, the recording kept saying that art is a major influence in Italian culture. This was very apparent back in the Roman era, but I have yet to see it be influenced in the present day, until we went to Giarduno dei Tarocchi. This place was a trip. At the beginning I wasn’t very excited to go to this place because I was exhausted after the bus tour and the 2+ hour drive, but when Leila started to explain the woman who built and lived in it for ten years was and what she did, it started to peak my interest. I still didn’t really know what I was getting myself into until we saw the first couple of art pieces. They were shinny and very bizarre. As I ventured further into her gardens, I started getting more and more excited to see how crazy the next sculpture could be. My favorite of the sculptures was the castle sculpture with the second floor. It was my favorites because it was so big and had so many different smaller sculptures and other art pieces. I thought the rocket on the second floor of this area was one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life because the inside was filled with tiny mirrors that would ricochet light thousands of times in different directions. Also, I liked the little fountain in the middle of this castle of mirrors mostly because it was really hot that day and I was really close to jumping into it and hanging out with those 4 ladies. The other really stunning building was the house that she lived in. I liked this house a lot because it looked so simple yet complex. The room was mostly filled with regular white mirrors, which to me, made it look very simple and yet if you look closely, all those white mirrors are all broken a certain way to fill the entire room. I can only imagine the time it took to make all these sculptures and how attached she felt to some of them (which would probably explain why she lived there for ten years). I made the joke to some of my friends saying that if I lived in that area for that long, I would start to get sick and tired of seeing what I looked like. Plus, I don’t think that it had any air conditioning… But that’s fine because when it would bet hot, she probably just relaxed in the pool that is at the beginning of the garden. Over all, even though I wasn’t excited to go to the garden at first, I was when I left. And I feel that I walked away with a better understanding of some of the more modern day Italian art.
Monday, June 18, 2012
(Monday 18, 2012) It is a widely known fact that different countries have different ways of doing things. Whether it be their manners, the way people dress, the way people act, what they eat, anything. And after my first full day of being in Italy, those differences are starting to become more and more apparent. One of the major differences that I have noticed in my short time here is that Italians love their food, but in a very different way then back in the States. After our wonderful tour of Rome with our excellent tour guides Mary Anne and Umberto, me and eight other students were looking for a place to eat while we wondered back to our hotel. We ended up stopping at this cute little café restaurant (I am hating myself for not remembering the name or where it was located). While we were there, they were EXTREMLY friendly to us with giving us recommendations and describing what some of their dishes consisted of. One of the dishes that they were trying to push on us was their special of the day, which consisted of a creamy mushroom sauce over some, I believe, penne pasta. We ended up turning it down because we all wanted something light so we could stuff our faces for dinner. Anyways, you can tell that they loved our company because as the meal went along, the owner came out occasionally to see how we were doing and to also give us all kinds of free stuff. One of the first things that he brought out to us was their special of the day. Even though it was a small dish, we were shocked at how gracious this man was being to us, because this has NEVER happened to me in the United States. It was so delicious and we all felt guilty that we ordered salads instead of that. Then at the end, when the meal was winding down, they brought out this dessert, which was some kind of toasted bread with some chocolate and strawberry sauce on it. We were all speechless at how nice these people were treating us and still, when I think of it, I cant really put into words how important they made us feel. Even though we were all pretty full, we somehow found room in our stomach for this interesting, but still delicious dessert. One of the main concepts that professors at Cal Poly Pomona are teaching us is that the world of the hospitality industry is changing. People are seeking more than just great food and good service, they now want all of that while being provided a diverse and exciting environment. I, along with some of my other colleagues witness this first hand. I feel that Italians are more passionate in their food and providing that new experience that everyone is seeking, then they are with money. Back in the United Stats, the only thing that really matters is how many rooms you sold, how much you made and the end of the day ect, but here, they just want their customers to have a good time.