Friday, October 29, 2010

The Wonder of Livorno

Livorno is amazing for many reasons, but probably the ones that will wow you most are these.

I spent less than an hour in the town and knew for certain, that I was in love with it. I've always belonged near the ocean and Livorno seemed to be Bologna, on the ocean. As a port, it's advantageous for travel by boat ( a super plus) and it's gloriously beautiful, quaint and the colors of the sun set illuminate the town with dark red and romantic pinks.

let me be clear, I'm this in love with Livorno and we only saw most of the city by bus.
It was a chemistry with the place, I just knew, If I wasn't in Bologna, I would live here ( and told myself I wanted to some day) in Livorno.
It's small, so it doesn't have the crowds of tourists, but it's lively, the town square illuminated with gold and a merry go round. Actually merry go rounds spot the whole city in different places. It's quaint and certainly Italian, by the sea and finally, in glorious Tuscany.

It's about 20 minutes from Pisa and an hour from Firenze.
For me, it's the perfect city.
And Like I said, I only saw it on bus. We got off to take photos of the sunset, grab dinner ( four nectarines which were drops of godly heavenly fruit in our mouths) and climb lamp posts for photos all by the raging and yet calm ocean.

Livorno for me, was the perfect combination reminded me of Tel Aviv, Canada, Athens and Bologna all at the same time.

My heart was at home in this beautiful town, just sitting on the sea, on a haze of pink.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Verona et un mois avant Paris

This weekend is a long weekend. And I mean, on top of the fact that I only have one class on thursdays (yes, intentional) and no classes on Friday.

So, what we know as Halloween is the day of the dead and means in Europe, Monday is no school.
This weekend also happens to be a regional conference for my faith
(Baha'i, for more information, I urge you to check out )
I will be attending this conference (conducted in Italian) near Verona. So on Saturday morning, at about 8 I will take the train to Verona.
More details of the trip to come shortly after.

Also from a whimsical search on ( a fantastic flight service for Europe!!) and Nina telling me "I'm going to Germany for 5 days" I searched Paris.
I studied french for 4 years in Middle School, but with time, lack of practice and no motivation, all of it has faded away.

So I found tickets to PARIS from Bologna for 21. Euros per person. I searched frantically for someone to go with, or I would ( I don't doubt this) GO MYSELF. I asked people I knew in Europe, maybe someone would even MEET me there?
Then passing my roommate in the hall, Gorgeous Gloria, I asked.
"want to go to Paris?" when she replied "Of course, It's one of my goals for this year" I showed her the ticket prices.
After consulting with our other roommate Stunning Sara, we decided YES WE WOULD GO TO PARIS.
So a few days later, perhaps even a week, here I sit, after having purchased tickets to Paris.

We will be there for 5 days in November.
That's right, this time next month, I'll be attempting french, as if I had never spoken it before.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lucca and the Leaning tower

Lovely LUCCA is about a 5 euro and an hour and half train ride from Firenze. The ancient city still is surrounded by a wall ( as Firenze and Bologna have only kept the gates, and the walls have been torn down) and still keeps the small city inside the walls. The train station is a 10 minute walk away from these walls and several gates that allow access to the city.

It's gorgeous, quiet and undisturbed. You can rent bikes by the hour to travel around this city. We've seen only tourists, an limited amounts at that. We pass a group huddled around one of the only souvenir shops, chatting loudly about Italy and with their cameras around their necks. ( We refuse to look this ridiculous, we may be tourists, but not to Italy.)

Finally, hours after we arrived we spot some natives of the city, wondering where they've been until noon. It's an easy going, peaceful place from what we can see. Pocket sized. My guide book claims that 12 foot high walls surround the city,but it's hardly accurate. Which makes me doubt the book's skill.....
We walk around, getting lost with the poor map we obtained from a simple hotel before reaching the city walls and spend more time than we intended in the peaceful town, as time slips away and we search for things we "HAVE TO SEE" that when we approach them, we greet them with confusion or "no, we JUST passed that church"
However, it's a quaint gorgeous Italian town, that you should visit when you get the chance.

PISA is a comparative hell. It's far from quiet. To get there, our train changed on us, three times. "please change to track 2" so we do, thinking we have moments before the train arrives. Running after trains shall not be a past time here, I assure you. Then it changes back to the original binario (platform.) OH MIO DIO. (oh my god). When we arrive its busy, bustling, loud. We board a bus, saying well see the city by bus, head to the infamous leaning tower and catch the train to Livorno as our final stop. Had we spent less time at Lucca, we would have time to go to Siena following Livorno.

Our original plan was Sienna. And on the way, why not Lucca? Oh and Pisa is soooo near by, wait, lets go to Livorno too, it's by the coast, what a grand idea.....

So here we are, on the bus passing too many tourists, seeing the rain drizzle outside, dreading stepping outside ( the day had started out so hopefully there was no umbrella brought) and finally arrive at THE LEANING TOWER.

If you can even find it.
Firstly, its ridiculously short. and second, it's crowded. TOO MANY TOURISTS!! It's a market beside the leaning tower, specifically for tourists. They speak to me in German, Russian, try Spanish on Lydia. Trying to get us to buy their pointless souvenirs. It's a long row of market and on our left is the tower and much less commonly talked about, it's accompanying buildings.

But yes ladies and gentlemen, this architectural fail does lean. actually.
We take the stereotypical shots, but I try to be interesting, so I LEAN on the leaning tower. I don't hold it up or kick it over. I hug it, it's quite comfy. It's gorgeous, but it's getting late and rainy and dark and the tourists are driving us insane. There are way too many and the annoying market clerks keep trying to push souvenirs on us. So we figure, we're done with Pisa, walk to the bus station, make some good ol' italian conversation with a darling old woman. A grandmother for sure, who's the sweetest and moments later are in the train station, buying tickets for Livorno. Which little known fact, is a slice of heaven.

Exclusive look into LIVORNO, coming soon!!

Finally Firenze

In September, we acquired two new house mates, said goodbye to the cat that belonged to our last housemate and I travelled to Firenze to meet Lydia, who I had known in high school ( in Thailand). It really is a small world.

I remember mostly of September, teaching my new Italian roommate how to operate her computer which she had never used before. As I read the notices in Italian, understood them in English and tried to explain it all to her in Italian, somehow we made progress and loaded the initial settings for her new HP, never before used. It was tolling, amazing and ridiculous to think that this time last year, I was in the first month of my Italian class, struggling with the verb to do.

To do: FARE
faccio, fai, fa, facciamo, fate, fanno.

Now this seems second nature to me and is said way too often.

Then on September 23, I took the train ( 6.85Euro) and an hour later, I arrived in glorious Firenze. To which I had travelled with a trip of 30 girls and both my parents, 7 years before during the time of the world cup. As Lydia and I walked the city, the memories all came rushing back: David, the Duomo, museums and the miraculous history of this Tuscan city.

This time, I ate gelato every day, walked the city streets, got lost ( going to somewhere Lydia had never WALKED to before and only been to once by bus) and dodged the tourists.

One thing I can say about Firenze is that it's a collection of tourists. Tourists of all sizes and ages crowd the streets, you hear barely any Italian, the coffees are 3euros a piece ( Cappuccinos are usually 1.10 - 1.30) unless you know where to go and you feel like yelling MOO at the herd of people slow walking in front of you. ( Chandler Bing Reference- Friends)

And sometime they just stop in front of you, yell something like "Sheila, check that out" and proceed to take a photo while you stare at them in shock. You're trying to get somewhere after all! You don't feel rude weaving past them to get to your location, this is normal in Firenze for this time of year and the tourist season won't end for at least a month.

Unlike the quite and very Italian city of Bologna ( in the sense that there are practically no tourists in Bologna, all are natives, Italian is everywhere you go and prices are cheaper)
Firenze has souvenirs everywhere you look. In the markets, they gauge you and speak to you in what they think is your native language. Apparently I'm from Germany, Russia or America. These are somewhat valid assessments. Finding postcards was too easy, but finding cheap ones, was a bit more difficult.

I found them in athens for .15, now that's a bargain I haven't matched yet. But I still refuse to pay more than .25 for my postcards, unless they really are amazing.

I stayed in Firenze for 5 days, one of which we decided to explore other nearby cities.
So we took one day in total spontaneity, we had planned "Monday we will travel to Pisa" but instead that Saturday, we decided to randomly take the day then ( instead of exploring Firenze as we said we would) went to the train station and headed towards Lucca. Then Pisa, Then Livorno.

Firenze was not actually explored in a tourist way, since I had some recollection of the tourist things I did 7 years ago. Mainly the statue of David, Museums, the Duomo and all that must be done, was by passed for a day of traveling the beautiful, captivating Tuscany.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Coming Soon.....

I know a Travel Blog post is WAY overdue, but I've been living it up in Italy here and haven't had time or energy to remember all the things I saw, did and write them down.
But coming soon, I will recall my moments in Milan, Florence,Pisa, Livorno, Lucca and Bologna....

Classes started yesterday and I adore my one theatre teacher who as he speaks, the teaching assistant writes notes on her laptop connected to the screen at the front of the class. AudioVisual learning for a language I don't know? YES PLEASE. I've made at least one friend in each class and have kept my Fridays free so that I can enjoy the sweet splendor of traveling Italy. I plan to head up near Verona to Gardensana at the end of the month, by passing Halloween for the first year ever. Well I suppose I could dress up as Audrey Hepburn (circa Breakfast at Tiffanys) as I travel across the country. Then again, perhaps it's time to grow up.

Today I successfully waited for the shop keeper at the bike repair shop to return from what I believe was his lunch break. His scribbled message on the door read "Torno Subito" literarily, I'll come back right away. I waited at least a half hour, but right next door is a Gelateria, so I enjoyed Cheesecake Gelato, inspired by my viewing of Guys and Dolls last night. ( Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra, 1955) and a Nutella chocolate ice cream. Literally chocolate ice cream with Nutella. Why is this not more popular? It is for sure the best ice cream combination EVER.

Then I communicated with him that the bike my roommate is most graciously lending to me for 8 months, has a broken right brake, flat tires and a chain that has fallen off. He charged me ten euros, blasted Michael Jackson and talked to me about what I'm studying at University here in Bologna before I enjoyed the best ride around the city and my first one so far.
I biked around the city for about a half hour before returning home to oven heat my mushroom tomato cheese pizza and enjoy come conversation with my Italian roommates.
As I promised, details of the past trips around Italy to come soon.

Stay Tuned!