Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My first Italia post!

It's only my third day in Florence and I already feel like I never want to leave this gorgeous place I will be calling home for the next four months.  I'll start from the airport with my recap of all the chaos that has been happening since I arrived here.  We took a small tram from the plane to the baggage claim where I was thrown into a crowd of anxious study abroaders attempting to grab their luggage all at the same time and finally caught sight of my obnoxiously europe patterned luggage (thanks mom).  I hauled it onto a cart and pushed it along the tiny airport alongside my new roommate/friend Kayla, who I unknowingly ran into on my flight to Munich.  We all loaded up on buses that took us to Hotel Baglioni, a four-star and very authentic Italian style place, and settled into our new Italian quarters where I witnessed the first bidet and heated towel racks...those I liked very much :)  My other two roommates had yet to arrive, so Kayla and two other girls I met at the airport decided to do some looking around and grab lunch before our group meeting at the hotel.
  The weather was perfect on Monday, and when I was in the sun I even had to take my coat off and hang it on my purse.  The open-topped purse I decided to bring, I realized quickly, is not ideal for walking around crowded town centers where gypsies with fake babies circle around you jingling cups of coins and mumbling words at you.  Apparently the thieves are so skilled at ripping you off you won't even feel them slip away with your wallet, which has now caused me to be suspicious of every lingering, semi-sketchy looking man near me.  Better safe than debit-cardless?  
After a few hours of moseying around different piazzas and shopping districts we made our way towards the Arno river....which is so incredibly beautiful/romanitic.  It's also the location of the Ponte Vecchio which is a bridge full of mostly jewelry shops and after seeing the amazing gems in the storefront windows, i decided that I definitely want my engagement ring to come from this place!  The Italians definitely prefer gold over silver, the opposite of Americans I would say.  After taking some pictures we headed back to the city center near the Duomo to find a good spot for a panini to hold us over until dinner.  We came across a tiny shop where the owner, an adorable older italian man assisted us in ordering.  I have very quickly realized how awkward it is being here and not know pretty much a word of Italian, which means I have to resort to hand gestures and pointing to get my point across.  I knew Rosetta Stone would've been worth it....
Anyway, I picked a pizza wrap stuffed with ham mozzarella  lettuce tomato and deliciousness.  As I eyed the drink fridge I noticed that my precious diet coke and I would not be reunited until I returned to the U.S. because here they substitute it for Coca-Cola Light*.  I guess I'll survive.  The meal was just the right amount and absolutely melted in my mouth.  I concluded that it was definitely worth going back to get another on-the-go pizza sandwich. 
As we headed back to the hotel we passed through a market where all kinds of leather commodities were being sold including jackets, purses, and belts.  I could easily max out a couple credit cards here.  Back at the hotel the entire group of Api students gathered in a conference room where we all began to feel the effects of jet-lag.  Glancing around the room I caught numerous people's eyes rolling into the back of their heads.  Even worse, we were all to go to a planned four course dinner at the rooftop restaurant.  Normally this would have excited me, but who knew it was even possible to be as tired as I was at that point.  I had woken up at 8 a.m. on Sunday and it was now 6:30 on monday and I had yet to sleep more than two hours on the plane.  My roommates and I dragged ourselves up to the restaurant and settled into some cozy booths where we found a lovely table set-up with candles and sparkling water (not a fan).  The first course consisted of a tiny croissant with fresh tomato and mozzarella, a spinach and cheese filled eggroll-type thing, some fried asparagus, and hunks of parmesan cheese over a bed of lettuce leaves.  The next round displayed two different pastas, one penne pasta with peas and white sauce and the other with a basic red sauce.  Both were divine and the difference in the pasta quality was instantly obvious compared to what we have at the local Kroger.  INSANELY  BETTER.  At this point I was starting to get full when another plate was suddenly in front of me, this one bearing a chicken breast with a light brown sauce, some roasted potatoes, and a gelatin looking mound of cream spinach.  Everything was phenomenal.  And finally for dessert we were served a chocolate mousse was like heaven on earth.  Why can't americans seem to make a decent chocolaty mousse that doesn't taste like air?  In other words it was BOMB.  I didn't have the energy to stick around for the after dessert coffee and headed off to bed where I passed out cold for the night.  
The next day we were provided a brunch in the same restaurant, which intrigued me because I wasn't sure what to expect for an Italian breakfast. I found three different types of croissants and pastries, muesli, some odd juice with three different fruits combined, coffee americano, hard-boiled/scrambled eggs, lots of fresh fruit (I had a succulent apple, so fresh!) and lots of cold meets and breads.  I was happily surprised to find that it is  fairly similar to our breakfast and chowed down before racing to our next meeting downstairs.  This is where we learned about our upcoming excursions, housing information, and cultural events for the semester.  There was mention of wine tastings, museum exhibits, and even a spa day?!  That's my kind of excursion!
After that we were free to go out into Florence until 3:30 where we were to meet back at the hotel for a guided city tour.  This time I went with all five of my new roommates, Sydney, Kayla, Amy, Julia, and Kelsey. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio and finally decided to lunch at an outdoor cafe where I ordered a ham cheese and tomato panini and my first glass of vino!  I chose the house white and man, did it go down nice and smooth.  A step up from barefoot, yes.  The sun was shining and we all chatted and got to know one another over our glasses of wine when it really hit me, how lucky I am to be in such a beautiful, amazing city.  
Today was just another amazing day for me.  After moving into our sick apartment, we decided to nap and then go for another stroll in town.  We ventured into the Santa Croce district which is apparently not the safest area, but low and behold we found a wine tasting bar that we want to try out and about twenty different boutiques with amazing clothes!  After walking along the river and seeing the Grand Bibliotheque we headed back towards our apartment in search of a supermarket.  Luckily we found a nearby one where I was able to buy cereal, milk, fresh bread, swiss cheese and salami, and some other necessities.  For dinner we decided to be touristy and go to the jersey shore pizzeria called O'Vesuvio where I got to see snooki's bra and Deena's underwear.  The pizza was surprisingly big, I ordered a tomato, bacon, onion, garlic, and parmesan pizza that literally melted in my mouth.  The road to obesity has truly begun....
I am so blessed to have the opportunity to live in a city this full of life and culture, and I couldn't have asked for a better home base :)The food was to die for, the buildings were intricate and have so many stories behind them, and my new friends were amazing.  Life couldn't get any better!  

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