Arriving in Florence.

Ciao a tutti! Sto adesso a Firenze. Finalmente.

Leaving my house at 3:30pm on July 29th, I’m writing to you at 5:37 pm on July 30th from my desk, while I look at the city of Florence from above through the window that is shining slanted rays of the mid-afternoon sun on my desk.

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But before I get ahead of myself, my flights here were relatively painless. In JFK, I met up with another girl in my program who had the same travel agenda as I did. We made fast friends while waiting out the hour delay of the first leg of our journey. Once the plane tooke off, the 8-hour flight seemed much shorter than I thought it would: this is probably thanks to both the movie screening of Silver Linings Playbook, and the fact that I missed my afternoon coffee and was actually tired when the cabin lights went off.

Arriving in Rome at 8:20, Maya and I made the executive decision that an espresso stop was worth power walking to the gate of our connecting flight.

At 10:30, we were in a taxi on our way to Villa Natalia.

I’m not sure what I really expected this Villa to look like, but I can honestly say that even if I had imagined a beautiful image, that the Villa in real life would have surpassed it.

The estate is absolutely gorgeous:

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I hope to find the time later — or more realistically, tomorrow — to explore more of the grounds, because the estate really is too beautiful to not examine every nook and cranny… on our way back to the Villa Natalia, I found a pea (or lima bean?) garden!

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My room was equally perfect. With ample closet space, air conditioning, and an airy, spacious feel, I am thus far very satisfied. (Although I suppose anything that closely resembles/ contains a bed looks good to me after only a short 2 hours of sleep…)

After unpacking my (less than 50 lb!) suitcase, Maya and I headed into Florence via bus from the Villa to Piazza San Marco. It was surreal to walk around the city with the simple agenda of finding a place to eat. With 6 weeks ahead of me to hit all the must-see, touristy spots, I rather paid attention to the Italian people as I strolled: listening to the beautiful Italian language envelop me, I was surprised and excited to understand drips and drabs of conversation. Although I did accidentally misdirect a tourist who was looking for l’Accademia…

We finally chose a lunch spot an hour later and dined with margherita pizza in the back of a hand-painted ristorante off the Piazza San Giovanni. I managed to carry on conversation with the waitress in Italian, and successfully relate that we were two students studying abroad for six weeks etc. etc.. Although, I wasn’t able to understand what Za – Za (il nome della ristorante) meant — I feel as though it imitates the buzz of a bee in Italian, but you can let me know if you think otherwise!

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We decided to walk back to the Villa instead of taking the bus, as to further explore the side streets and get a better idea of the layout of the city. In reality we explored the shops and street markets…

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But all in all, it was a beautiful afternoon. Even more beautiful was returning to my room and realizing that when I woke up the next morning, I would still have oodles of time in Florence.

Arriverderci for now, I have to run to my first Orienation dinner.

But I’m looking forward to showering in this cute little contraption afterwords,

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and even more so, I’m excited to sleep soundly, and wake up in the morning refreshed and ready to start my studies.

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Rides, Relaxation and Reading.

Beginning early last Friday morning, I have been traveling around New England. A book has been my faithful friend when I was in limbo between destinations. Taking a bus to Boston to visit friends from school, and later the ferry from Woods Hole to Oak Bluffs, my book accompanied me.

Saturday afternoon I met my family at my grandparents’ summerhome in Martha’s Vineyard. Luckily, the weather was in our favor, and we made it to the beach each day of our vacation. A true Long Island girl, I know how to pack a beach bag efficiently– and by efficiently, I mean one that is neither jammed with crap I won’t use nor too heavy. Essentials include:

  • my book (of course!)
  • sunscreen (of various SPF depending on the current condition of my tan)
  • bobby-pins (gotta keep those pesky fly-aways back!)
  • a water bottle (hydration is key for an enjoyable few hours on the shore)
  • a beach towel (…obviously)
  • any chapstick that is SPF 15 (nothing–I repeat, nothing, is worse than sunburnt lips)
  • my ipod & headphones, and
  • snacks. (add lunch, if you get an early start)

Anyway, spending so much time at the beach also gave me plentiful hours to kill as I baked in a golden glow. For the majority of that time, I read.

Accompanying me in spirit throughout my aforementioned journey and on the beach was the Joad family, from The Grapes of Wrath. I have to say, as much as I sympathized with their struggles, I didn’t love the book all that much. In fact, I appreciated more Steinbeck’s prose than the plot itself. Although I suppose that the slow progress and banal repeated events that created the ‘plot’ mirrored the migrant worker’s lifestyle during that time period.

I spent this morning in a car for 6 hours as my dad drove home. During some of this time, I learned of the fate of the Joad family: or more accurately, learned of an event that gave somewhat of a conclusion to one of the character’s life trajectories. (Sorry for the crypticism, don’t want to spoil the book!) During another sector of this time, I began Animal Farm, which hooked me much more than the documentation of the life of the Joads.

Arriving home before I was able to close the short fable, I quickly unpacked before beelining my couch to finish it. I suppose that’s the avid reader’s lifestyle, though. Traveling by ferry, bus or car, my books travel with me. Relaxing on a beach towel or the couch, I’m bound to read.

Getting Crafty

About two weeks ago, the laziness of my weekend days caught up to me Sunday afternoon: soaking up the sun all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday doing nothing more than breathing (and getting a tad bit burnt) made me antsy to do something.

I first solved this by finishing A Farewell to Arms. (It was spectacular and I highly reccommend it: Hemingway’s beautiful prose detailed a plot blending history and the emotions associated with love during war and made the book a simultaneously fascinating, vivid, and informative read.)

Having done a fair share of reading for the day I searched for things to do. At one point I contemplated cleaning, and stood in my family room looking at the little piles of junk that had accumulated on the ends of shelves, and were now acting as bookends.

One of such piles was holding up photo albums from past vacations — this gave me a brilliant idea. Late last summer, I traveled in France for three weeks with my family: it was the most specatular trip of my life, yet there was no album of photos by which to remember it. Photo albums for me though are a bit impersonal — its like, you have all the pictures there, but they’re jammed into pre-made slots and forced into groups of six on a page…

I decided instead of a photoalbum, to compile a scrapbook.

Anddddd (drumroll please…..) that’s what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks instead of blogging.
I finished the book just earlier today, and I’m actually quite happy with the way it turned out.
After tying a sparkly green ribbon around the book to hold it closed (and simultaneously showering my dining room table with sparkles), I hid it away until Father’s Day, when I will give it to my Dad– what could be a better way to say thank you for the trip and for being the best father in the whole entire world?