Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Have you ever seen this movie and thought- holy cow! I wanna go there? Well if you have, because I thought the same thing, it is possible. The movie is filmed in the city of Cortona and I was lucky enough to spend the day there on Saturday. The morning started off early with lots of fog and an early train departure at 8 am. I know it doesn’t sound that early but I had to wake up at 6:30 to be ready to leave for the train station at 7…so still not miserably early but for a Saturday it is a lot earlier than I like! Allora, we had one layover in the most adorable tiny little city, I don't even know what the name was, but it was so cute. We walked down the street and caught a lot of attention. 10 pretty American girls walking down the street at 9 am on a Saturday morning all with backpacks on. Through multiple store windows I saw old men shaving other Italian men, they actually still had barber shops! It was wonderful. The café's were filled with many Italians just waking up to their morning coffee and croissant. We found a grocery store and bought many delicious treats for lunch and made it back just in time for our train to take us on our last leg to Cortona. We arrived at the bottom of Cortona about 10:51, only to miss the 10:55 bus to the actual city of Cortona that is about 3 km up a massive mountain from the train station. Since when does public transportation leave early in ITALY? Never. But wait, this one time it does of course. Just our luck. Our options were to either wait til 12, call 3 taxis for the 10 of us which would cost about 15 euro a taxi to take us up to the city, or walk. Hmm. We decided we would be adventurous and walk to the top. It definitely was a hike, but allowed for us to be right in the amazing scenery of Tuscany. As we made the winding hike along the small paved road to the ancient walled city we passed many locals gathering their olives in their groves. All of them waved and greeted us nicely as we continued on our journey up the hill. When we arrived I felt very proud that we made the massive trek. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking and the colors of fall were spanning the countryside. We walked around the quite city and were serenaded by middle-aged Italian man playing his guitar and harmonica in the streets. Everything about the day screamed Italy and I tried my best to soak it all up. We ate lunch at a warm, cozy trattoria. We all got Pappa al Pomodoro--a tuscan soup with tomatoes, basil, garlic, and pieces of bread soaked in it. Even though I'm not much of a fan for tomatoes, it was pretty yummy with some olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top. It was warm both in physical taste and soulful taste. Afterwards we went to an overlook behind the city, walked through the streets some more, and popped into some little shops. Before catching our bus back down to the train station (as much fun as it was to hike the 3 km up to the city we decided that a bus for the way down was a little more appealing….) we treated ourselves to some gelato. The price was low, the portion perfect, and the flavors delicious. When we got to the train station to head for Firenze for the night 4 minutes before our train was to arrive they made an announcement saying there was a 1 hour delay in arrival time. First our bus leaves early and now our train is an hour late. I think Italy is out to get us sometimes when it comes to planning out our transportation routes and schedules. As we anxiously awaited for the train to arrive we stood on the assigned platform (there were only two at this particular station, it was quite small) and entertained ourselves. Kendis, Alyssa, Lynzie, and I parted our hair down the middle like the 90's and laughed so hard we were crying. In the middle of this whole scenario we heard a train coming and excitedly thought it could be ours. We were wrong. Very wrong. It was a speeding cargo train that when it came flashing by us created such a wind current that I thought I might just be sucked into the train or thrown to the ground at any moment. Our hair was whipping around and as I looked around at the other girls I could see that they were laughing hysterically too in addition to the very stunned look on their faces. We were unable to hear each other over the loud train so it made the whole situation that much funnier, seeing but not hearing everyone's freak out moment. When it was over we were pretty much doubled over in laughter and all expressed the same feelings of shock we had just experienced. Our train eventually came for us and we were then on our way to Florence for the night to be able to attend District Conference on Sunday and spend one last afternoon in the city. The train ride was pretty much uneventful other than the girl that sat across from me with the strangest haircut I have ever seen. Unfortunately she got off the train before I could sneak a photo. Getting off the train was like walking into a whirlwind. The Santa Maria Novella Station in Florence is an absolute madhouse. There are endless platforms with trains coming and going and piles and piles of people and luggage racing from here and there all over the place. It was such a contrast to walk into that station after being in such a serene place all day. The rest of the weekend brought many startling as well as spiritual experiences but I will write about them in a separate entry, for they deserve to be separated from my lovely Saturday journey.
Monday night held the most magnificent FHE I have ever experienced. It included the following:
- 14 girls
- No-shame dancing
Having a dance party in the art room in the uppermost classroom of Dante Alighieri was such a blast. We played all our favorite songs, including some that have been labeled our "theme" songs. We had countless circles alternating who was in the center showing off their unique, original dance moves. Each girl brought their own spunkiness to the room and we had so much fun laughing and enjoying all the different styles of dance. We decided that it was a good way to celebrate our good times here in Italy and it definitely was.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Today brought a most wonderful trip to two beautiful Tuscan cities. The first stop was Volterra. Yes, all Twilight fans, this is where the Volturri live and where Edward threatens to reveal himself in the sunlight. The town was small and quite and there were many threatening rain clouds overhead. We walked through the small streets, surrounded by golden colored stone buildings. As we stood outside the old church it began to drizzle slightly, so we took cover in the baptistery for a few minutes so we could all situate our things and get out our umbrella's. Afterwards, we made a little journey to the opposite side of the town-which only took about 5 minutes- to see old ancient roman ruins. As we observed from above the ancient amphitheatre and the charming Tuscan countryside, massive dark rain clouds came rapidly rolling in and over us. As they reached to valley we were overlooking they automatically moved to fill in the space and it began to rain. The city was dark and cold fast. We decided to find a café and enjoy a nice delicious cup of hot chocolate together. After our yummy treat we explored the quaint boutiques and shops that filled the city. Volterra is know for its Alabaster so many places were filled with different items carved from the soft, white stone. After a lovely afternoon we were off to see our second destination of the day, San Gimignano. This ancient tuscan city was founded in the middle ages and has 17 remaining towers throughout the city. The main piazza was beautiful and picturesque. It radiated images of Tuscany and in the middle was a very large, very old well. We visited the church in the city and were able to see many magnificent and well preserved frescoes from the 1320's. My favorite was a fresco done in one of the private chapels by Ghirlandaio. I love his color palate of warm gold's and reds. After seeing the frescoes we had about and hour to explore the city. It turns out that San Gimignano is the home of the worlds most famous Gelateria so we of course had to try some, even though it was quite bleak and frigid outside. The gelato was delicious and did not disappoint. Afterwards we hurriedly walked down the main street and ducked in and out of shops. The last one I stopped in was the cutest little antique store filled with things that resemble Shabby Shic and endless amounts of old jewelry and household items I wish I would have been able to purchase everything and bring it home with me. I came away with a special treat that I cannot name because it is a gift for my mother. After my purchase the day was over and we all went to get back on the bus to head home to Siena. We were all crammed in to a little mini tourist bus and every seat was taken- even the lonely one that folds up next to the stairs in the front. Alessandro, our humanities teacher who accompanied us on the trip to give us tidbits of history along the way, was the lucky one who got to sit there. All the turns and bumps made a great majority of us sick the whole day, which was unfortunate cause it made enjoying the gorgeous scenes of the Tuscan countryside a lot harder to enjoy. Nevertheless, the day was a magnificent one and it just made me wish I could stay in Italy forever. Tuscany is a wonderful place with a somewhat slow and relaxed rhythm to it that I love. The rolling hills are patched with green pastures, fields of grey clay-like dirt, and now, golden yellow vineyards. My eyes drink up the warm scenery happily and I long to be surrounded by this beauty forever.