Friday, January 28, 2011


What do a chocolate fountain, the soundtracks to Ferris Bueller and Guitar Hero, and burlesque performances have in common?  All can be found at the same discoteca in Bologna frequented by Italian hipster-punks.

Unexpected indeed!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vivere come una freccia

"Freccia" means arrow or bolt, and life here has certainly been moving, if not quite at bullet speed, at least as fast as an arrow.

But first things first.  This is where I live:

My street!
Well, kind of.  This is the connection between Via d'Azeglio and the
Piazza Santa Maggiore.

Statue of San Petronius in the Piazza Santa Maggiore.

La Fontana di Nettuno (also in the Piazza).

One of his sirenette (mermaids).
Note the pigeon.

So, touristy pictures out of the way, I can begin to tell you all about the pazzia (craziness) that was my weekend.  On Thursday, the group ventured out to the discoteca for the first time for a party sponsored by the Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia (Department of Medicine and Surgery).  All I have to say is, Wash U pre-meds need to step it up if they have any chance of competing with this.  It was a city-wide festa (party) at one of the discotecas near the center of town.  Before heading over, we all met up at Paglietta for a pre-festa festa.  Being the Americans that we are, there was naturally fist-pumping (courtesy of Simon, as always) and flip-cup (which the Italian team won).

So much intensity.

Tutto il gruppo.
Can you pick out the Americans? (Hint: it's really easy)

After waiting in line almost an hour to get into the discoteca, the night really began.  All I can say is, Italian guys (well, some of them anyway) really do live up to their reputation.

Friday, after history class in the morning, I decided to check out the mercato (outdoor market) over by the train station.  It's open on Fridays and Saturdays and is insanely cheap (although it takes persistence if you want something other than over-sized old man sweaters or trashy club attire.  I did end up with a (not too) over-sized old man sweater, but also with a paio di stivali (pair of boots).  There are shoe stores approximately every four feet in Bologna, so when I saw that pair for a decent price I couldn't resist the temptation any longer.

After thoroughly exploring the mercato, Madeline and I headed home by way of a little park up on a nearby hill.  There we found some interesting sculptures of a lion standing over the body of a dead horse and a tiger fighting a snake over the body of a dead horse (notice a pattern?).

After getting back into the center of town and rejoining the rest of the group, I achieved one of my major goals for the semester: finding that gelato place that we went to when I was in Bologna for the first time two summers ago.  Apparently it's only a few blocks from where Linnea lives.  Success!  Now I just need to find the window overlooking the canal that is the cover photo for this blog I took last time I was here.

Il migliore (the best) gelateria a Bologna!

On Saturday the group took a trip to nearby Ferrara, which was quite a big deal during the Middle Ages.    We went to several important sites around the city, but most notably the Castello Estense (Castle of Saint Michele) in which there were many impressive frescoes.

Atop one of the towers of the castello.

In Ferrara there are actually more bikes than people.

There was an interesting installation of safari animals all over town.

Girolamo Savonarola.

More sculptures.

Un gatto carinissimo!
(A really cute cat)

In addition to exploring the city and seeing a lot of art, we enjoyed a two-hour (repeat TWO-HOUR) lunch with multiple courses and lots of conversation.  Our table (we were a group of twenty) took up almost the entire ristorante (restaurant).  After Ferrara the group suffered again from it's-the-weekend-but-we're-new-here-so-we-don't-know-what-to-do syndrome.  Sunday was, again, a day of rest and homework.

And now it's Monday and I'm off to fare più compiti (do more homework) and get ready for my appuntamento (meeting) with Matteo later tonight.

Viva la vita!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

C'è sempre più

Last time I left off writing to go over to Paglietta (an apartment a few streets away from me where some other students on the program live) for dinner.  Consequently, I'm going to just pick up where I left off.

We had just returned from Ravenna and seen the fire in the piazza on the way home.  So, after taking a short break to recover from the day we convened again for aperitivi (drinks and a small appetizer buffet).  We took a walk down Via Zamboni, one of the main streets in the city that leads to the university area, which was absolutely packed with students and other young people, and eventually decided to go into Il Ristoro delle Fate (The Refreshment of the Fairies).  It was, indeed, aggressively fairy-themed.  Everything was blue and sparkly and there were flowers and paintings of fairies everywhere.  All of us girls with our fruit-garnished red drinks fit right in, but the two boys with their beers looked a little out of place.

Since going out for drinks also unfortunately involves actually paying for drinks, we all left after one.  At that point, the group disintegrated slowly as we realized that, as is was our first weekend in Bologna, no one actually knew what to do or where else to go.

Sunday was, fittingly, a day of rest and homework, interrupted only by another round of aperitivi in the evening.  I went out with Matteo and some of his friends. At first I was a little (a lot) intimidated by the idea of going out with four italian boys who speak quickly and already know each other well, but after a little time (and a little to drink) it became much easier for me to join in the conversation.  They had a lot of questions for me, along the lines of "What to Americans think of Berlusconi?," "Is the University of Bologna famous in America?," and "What are people from Texas like?"  I even managed to successfully tease one of the guys for complaining about Americans who hear he's from Bologna and ask if it's near Rome only a little bit after hearing I was from Saint Louis and asking if that was near New York.  All in all, la mia prima sera uscita con solo italiani era un grande successo (my first night out with only italians was a great success)!

The start of the week has brought with it, at long last, some form of routine.  I have history class in the morning and language class in the afternoon, and during the three and a half hours in between I go over to Lubín's apartment on San Vitale.  I cook lunch for him and Loren (although they're finally starting to want to help) and then we study until it's time for class.  Then in the evenings I come back to il mio appartamento (my apartment) and chill with my roommate, Benedetta, before either making dinner here or going out with some of the other students with the program (a.k.a. my only friends).

It's a good life here in Bologna (even when the power in my apartment turns off twice in a row and we have to go down to the ground floor and play with the circuit breaker until it turns on again)!

Ciao alla prossima!
(Bye until next time!)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fuoco, fontane e...fist pumping?

La vita a Bologna continua! 
(Life in Bologna continues!)

I write now having completed my first week of "class" (the language and history classes that make up my month-long orientation) and, along with it, my first week of compiti (homework).  Fortunately, i miei professori sono molto bravi (my professors are great) so that makes going back to school much more bearable.  My history class takes place in one of the university buildings: Il dipartimento dell'anatomia umane normale (the department of human anatomy).  When you walk into the building you have to walk through a giant hallway with walls covered all the way down, floor to ceiling, with skulls.  Real live (...dead?) skulls.  Once you pass through and arrive at the aula (classroom), you are greeted by a full skeleton suspended in a glass case right next to the doorway.  As if that weren't enough, the professor has to compete for attention with a life-size anatomy model that is perpetually blocking la piccola lavagna (tiny chalkboard).  Professor Donattini, however, has quite a commanding presence so he usually wins out.

Right now we're studying l'Italia dopoguerra (Italy after the war), which in this case refers to la seconda guerra mondiale (second world war) and involves a lot of acronyms.  It's interesting, but I am not looking forward to the time when I have to remember the distinction between the CGL and the CLN in an oral exam worth almost 100% of my grade.  Dio mio!  Fortunately I don't have to worry too much about that for a while yet.

In the meantime, there has been plenty to distract me.  Last weekend the group took a gita (trip) to Ravenna, una piccola città (small town) nearby that just happens to be home to the finest collection of Byzantine mosaics outside Istanbul.  

Right outside San Vitale in Ravenna.

In addition to the mosaics, una delle cosa più figa (one of the coolest things) we saw was the the Basilica di San Francesco.  The ground in Ravenna is predominantly clay, so over time the older buildings have slowly sunk further into the earth.  In the Basilica di San Francesco, the original floor is now more than ten feet below the reconstructed floor above (which is equal to the level of the ground outside).  A section of the new floor has been left open, and the original floor below is actually permanently covered with a layer of water.  Enough water, in fact, that there are a few fish who call the lower level home.  

Note the fish!

In addition to the churches and mosaics, we also saw la tomba di Dante (Dante's grave):

This mound is the place to where Dante's remains were moved during World War II when Ravenna was in danger of being bombed.  After the war, the remains were moved back to a small chapel right next to this spot.

After all of that exhausting chiesa (church) visiting, the group had a chance to explore some more of Ravenna on our own.  So here are a few pictures to show that I've been living in the present as well as the past!

Lubín was really happy about a bike he found

Yu-Gi-Oh cards provoke SATANISM!
(who would've known?)

Madeline, Jenna, and Marie are excited to be in Emilia-Romagna!

King Kong gorilla crushes your house
(but in a cute, rhyming kind of way)

So after a bit of fun, a large and laughter-filled meal at a local buffet (it was like no buffet I had ever been to before: they served homemade gnocchi!), and some fist-pumping outside of the train station, we were on our way back to Bologna.  Walking back from the train station, we ran into a fire show happening in la Piazza Santa Maggiore.  Naturally, we stopped to watch and I took the opportunity to test out some long exposures.

The shadow cast by la Fontana di Nettuno (the Fountain of
Neptune) in the Piazza.
Note the person walking for scale.
So that was Saturday.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


My last post ended rather abruptly when my computer died after my charger (caricabatteria) mysteriously stopped working.  So now I have good news and bad news.  The bad news is that il mio caricabetteria è veramente rotto (my charger is really broken).  The good (but expensive) news is that, with the help of my lovely language partner/mandatory friend Matteo, I was able to find a new one at a little electronics shop approximately a two minute walk from my apartment, complete with a European plug.  No more converters for me!  Matteo and I had less luck, however, with our search for un bollitore (tea kettle).  Apparently all you can buy in Bologna is jewelry, clothing, and...Mac chargers?  Boh.  We're planning to continue our search sometime tomorrow.

After I left you all yesterday, I went out to dinner with il gruppo (the group) and then a bunch of us went out to--of all things--an "Irish" pub.  It was actually a lot like the pubs in Ireland, except they didn't have cider and everyone was speaking Italian.  But it did make me nostalgic for my Irish class and all of our good times in (and out of) Ireland.  Except for the food poisoning part.  I am happy to leave that buried in the past.

As for today, I woke up very, very early in the morning to go to the post office and sort out il permesso per il mio soggiorno (the permission for my stay in Bologna).  Then came a nap, and now, after enjoying a long walk with Matteo senza una giacca (without a jacket) because Bologna is so warm (at least compared to Maine), I'm back in my apartment waiting for my first language class to begin in a few hours.  The fourteen students in my program have been divided into three sections and we have an intensive language class for two hours every day for the first month with our small section.  So while I wait I've been writing here and finally spending some time with my roommate.  I also took the promised photos of some fun details in my apartment.  So here they are.

My door.
Would you be able to open that?

The first thing I saw when I walked in.
The door to my room was already labelled.

This is over the toilet.  It says something along the lines of:
"The bowl is broken.  If you pee outside I see you and I tell the others!"
(I don't understand)

Our adorable shower curtain.
Even though my bathmat buddy remains in
St. Louis I still have a frog in my bathroom!

Speaking of adorable,
check out our oven mitt.

The view from my window.

I have to run off to language class now but, as always, there is more to come.

Ciao for now!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Finalmente a Bologna!

Ciao ragazzi e ragazze!  Sono finalmente a Bologna e tanto è già successo!
Hello everyone!  I'm finally in Bologna and so much has already happened!

I should probably begin, you know, at the beginning.  Which in this case would mean Logan airport.  After I bid my family farewell (for now) and made it through security and boarded the plane that would take me to France...I still didn't realize that I would actually be in another country--on another continent--in fewer than 24 hours.  Things started to sink in when I realized that the guy sitting next to me was German and I, after psyching myself for about half an hour, struck up a conversation: "Wohin fliegen Sie?" ("To where are you flying?").  I shortly realized that speaking to a native speaker with no knowledge of English on an airplane is difficult because of the ambient noise and my limited vocabulary, but I managed to hold my own.  For a while.  Then I just put my headphones in and pretended to sleep for a while.

After what seemed like an endless flight, I arrived at de Gaulle with less than an hour until my next flight, which would apparently be leaving from (of course) the opposite side of the airport.  So I ran.  Until I reached the very long line for customs.  Then I ran.  Until I reached the very long line for security, which I apparently had to go through again.  Fortunately, I also met up with Juliana, another girl on my program, at that point.  Unfortunately, I was covered in sweat since I had just been running through the airport with my sweater on.  Ma la vita è così.  Then, since our flight was leaving in twenty minutes, we proceeded to climb over people in the security line only to be stopped for a sweaty pat-down (me) and a pillow-inspired bag search (Juliana).  Eventually we made it through and arrived at our gate with mere seconds to spare...only to find that there was no plane.  Instead, there was a bus.  So we got in the bus and drove around in the dark for ten minutes or so before actually reaching the plane.

Two hours later, after a fairly uneventful flight, we arrived in Bologna...only to realize that Juliana's bags had been lost somewhere between JFK and Paris.  In fact, they still aren't here.  For her sake, I hope they arrive soon!

Once in Bologna, we got our keys from the Brown office and , after some confusion, made our separate ways to our apartments.  Mine is wonderful!  It's almost in the center of the city, about a two minute walk from the main square, la Piazza Santa Maggiore (con la fontana di Nettuno/with the fountain of Neptune--pictures to come eventually).  I have three roommates, but one is currently in London so I haven't met her yet.  Benedetta and Cecilia are Italian and don't really speak English, which will be great for my language skills since speaking Italian won't be optional.  Charlotte is American and goes to Brown, but she was here last semester as well and consequently will be much more fluent than I.  She also won't be here for about another month.

After a brief moment of panic when I first walked into my new room to find it dark and mysteriously full of fake flowers and another brief moment of panic when I realized that I couldn't open the door from the inside (have no fear--after about 10 minutes I figured it out), I've been settling into my new apartment without incident.  Once I have some time I'm planning to take some pictures of a few fun details (like the door) for you all, my audience.  I also plan to find myself a bollitore (tea kettle) sometime soon.  Since conquering the stove (like the door, it is also unlike anything I had previously seen), I have returned to drinking tea nearly constantly.  You will be pleased to know, then, that one can find tea nei negozi (shops) in Bologna.  Although mostly herbal.

Anyway, my time in Bologna since that first day has been a whirlwind.  Brown has certainly been keeping me busy!  Notable highlights include:
1.  Spending two hours in TIM (the phone store) with four other kids from my program trying to buy phones and making friends with Fabio, who worked there.  In fact, he was the one who taught me the word bollitore (but only after mistakenly assuring me that I was looking for a scaldabagno, which is a boiler).
2.  Seeing the only original anatomy theatre left in Europe.  It was damaged by Allied bombs during WWII but was later reconstructed using original materials.  Unfortunately I didn't have my camera when I was there, but below is a painting by Thomas Eakins of a similar anatomy theatre as it would have appeared while in use.  Crazy.

Thomas Eakins, The Agnew Clinic

3. Meeting my language partner/mandatory friend Matteo!  He seems fantastic, which is good seeing as we have to spend so much one-on-one time together.
4. Dinner with Diego the first night I was here.  He is an Italian student living in one of the other apartments and the first night we were here he cooked dinner with several of us Americans and put up with not only our marginal Italian skills but our jet-lag induced pazzia (craziness).  The conversation may not have been smooth (you try explaining cooties in Italian), but it was certainly molto divertente (a lot of fun).

Well, that's all for now as my computer is dying and the plug doesn't appear to be working anymore (which is very strange, considering the fact that my desk lamp is currently plugged into the same power strip).  More to come a presto!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

L'inizio (ma anche la qualche modo)

So here it is.  I'm currently sitting in my kitchen waiting for the muffins to come out of the oven so I can enjoy my last breakfast in Maine for five (or six, or seven) months.  They're blueberry, in case you were wondering.  Anyway, after I eat these muffins it's off to Boston for lunch, Air France over the Atlantic for dinner, and Bologna in time for breakfast tomorrow.  Of course, all of this comes with a fair bit of excitement mixed with trepidation.  I'll keep you all updated on the outcome of the journey once I know myself!

But for now, I would like to take a step back and remember my last few days in Maine.  Dan Cole came up to visit, so that was exciting.  We explored Maine from Freeport to Cape Elizabeth, and I had a lot of fun showing off my state (although Dan might say that he say a little too much of my high school since he met me there when I was helping out with the photography classes).  One of the highlights of the trip, at least for me, was going to Portland Head Light and hiking around by the water.  Dan was very patient as I continued to play around with my new camera, and I even managed to get a few shots of him.

Portland Head Light

I should have been a catalogue model.
L.L.Bean here I come!


Dan trying to figure out what I was doing in the old bunker.

Dan lurking in a bunker himself.

So enjoy these pictures and know that the next ones I post will be from Italia (or the airport)!

A presto, e buon viaggio a me!

남자친구, 니가 최고야 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

una passeggiata nell'inverno

First of all, BUON CAPODANNO (Happy New Year's)!

Second of all, I am still in Maine and counting the days until I fly away (8, if you were wondering).  I've definitely been keeping myself busy while I wait though.  A few days ago I decided to finally give in and buy myself a nice digital SLR.  I've been thinking about it for over a year but the price tags have always deterred me.  So when I walked into PhotoMart down the street the other day on a completely unrelated errand and saw that they were having a sale I decided to look.  Of course, once I had the camera in my hands there was no resisting.  The past day or so have been spent figuring out how to use it.  My last non-point-and-shoot cameras were a 35mm Olympus OM-1 from the '70s and a Graflex 4x5 from the '30s or '40s, and, believe it not, a few things have changed since then.  Like now you don't need film?  Whoa.

Anyway, I spent a few hours today taking an urban hike (and lots of photos) around downtown Portland.  Most of the photos are from down by the water on the Eastern Prom.

Corner of the old Grand Trunk Railroad building.

Love me some pilings!

You might be able to catch a glimpse of Fort Georges
(pronounced "gorgeous") in the background.

I totally have that hat.

Down by the water between the Old Port and the Eastern Prom.

I love the colors in this one.

Why yes, she said, these apples ARE delicious!

Toilet on wheels in the Old Port?
That would be a yes.

This is the part where you are all sad that you haven't yet taken the time to come visit me in Portland because you are wishing to see its particular brand of quaint meets edgy for yourself.  It's even prettier in the summer.  Just sayin'.

I would now like to end with a simple recipe for you all to enjoy wherever it is that you are.  Just take some dried figs (or dates), slit them lengthwise and remove the pits, stuff in some gorgonzola dolce (sweet) and put them in an oven preheated to 350 for a few minutes until the cheese starts to get melty.  At this point you can eat them as they are or first wrap them in thinly sliced prosciutto.  It's a great small appetizer but could easily work as a dessert as well.  Impress your friends at dinner parties!

Ciao for now,