Saturday, June 2, 2012

Day 9: A Day for Pears

Wow! What a day. Let me first start off with a little context. Alanna and my other friends from UH went to Rome this weekend on a trip through the school. Since I didn't know anyone still around Florence, I decided to adventure by myself.

Today was really great because I felt so independent. A lot of my wanting to take this trip this summer was so that I could continue to grow into being my own person. This past year has taught me to take care of myself, and this trip to Italy has been an extension of those lessons. I really am grateful for this remarkable opportunity for self-exploration and adventure.

This morning I slept in for a bit. I probably could have slept until the late afternoon, but I wanted to go to the Accademia today so I forced myself out of bed at 11:30. I was exhausted from yesterday.

Yesterday we visited Cinque Terre. The views were breathtaking, and it was nice to get out of the city and get some fresh air. It was my first experience really riding a train, and I enjoyed the Tuscan landscapes that rolled by my window.

For those of you who don't know, CT is a national park about 2 hours away from Florence. It means "Five Earths," and the name represents the five small towns that make up the park. There's a lot of hiking, beautiful vistas and a few beaches. As well as a few small marinas.

We got there around 10:30, and hiked from the first city to the second on a coastal path called "Lover's Lane." The walls down the side of the path were covered in graffiti dedicated to the lovers of those who adorned it. We ate in the second town at a small trattoria, and I had this wonderful pesto ravioli with gorgonzola cream sauce. It was soooo good.

From the second city, we took a train to the fifth. There we hung out on the beach and took some pictures. After a few hours, we caught a train back to the fourth. This place was by far my favorite of the four we visited. It was gorgeous. However, in Oct. 2011, the small town was devastated by a flood. There was a lot of construction, but you could really see the heart of the city shining through.

 So after this day trip, I was pretty tired. I had to get up though to accomplish what I wanted, and to sort things out with my mom about a package she sent with supplies for my ankle that has been difficult to receive. It's kind of weird to get packages here, so hopefully everything will work out.

I got dressed and headed to my favorite sandwich place where I had the most fabulous panino. I had ham, brie and pears, and I was absolutely in heaven. I ate it on my way to stand in the world's longest line at the Accademia. But what lay inside was well worth the wait.

I was first struck by how small the Accademia is inside. I went through all of the exhibits in under two hours. I would like to go back to do the audio tour (I couldn't find the stand today), but I did spend a good amount of time in each of the small galleries. The current exhibition in the Accademia is a small display of modern art called "Arte Torna Arte." It focuses on 20th century artists that have done works that comment on previous works of art or how the human brain perceives art. It was a great show, and I particularly enjoyed seeing Andy Warhol's hot pink rendition of Da Vinci's last supper.

I also enjoyed a wing of the gallery dedicated to the Medici collection of instruments. The collection contains two pieces of the Medici Quintet circa. 1600. There were a number of instruments from around that era, and I was consistently amazed by the quality which they were in, especially those that had not been restored.

 Throughout my academic career I have often learned and relearned the importance of the statue of David to the Renaissance and to the career of Michelangelo. I had often read that it is huge and incredibly human. Those two facts didn't really hit me until I saw him in person. The statue was absolutely incredible, and again I was overwhelmed by the art.

I also had the pleasure of viewing Michelangelo's "Prisoner pieces." It was a bit eerie to see the shapes of humans trying to pull themselves free from the marble entrapping them. One can really get a sense of how the marble breathes, and how Michelangelo could find the form within the piece of stone.

After the Accademia, I got a tiny serving of Nutella gelato and went shopping for a bit. I've discovered this store that I am obsessed with called Brandy Melville. It's an Italian brand and there are only 3 stores in the U.S. (one is in New York, but that's the closest it gets). Anyway, all the clothes are super soft and like boho-rocker which is kind of how I might consider summing up my day-to-day style. Although that's something I've been evaluating here.

I bought 2 bandeaus to replace the ones I have that are falling apart, and a super soft burgundy tank top. I fell in love with a 30 Euro dress too, but I can't tell if it's too short. My mom is coming in at the end of next week so I'll have to get her opinion then.

After shopping, I returned home to get my journal and kindle to take with me to dinner.  I decided that I wanted to treat myself to a fancy dinner to celebrate my independence. I went into this nice restaurant and asked for a table for one. The owner was at the front by the hostess stand and he chuckled as he directed a waiter to seat me. I guess he thought it odd that someone would want to eat a nice dinner by themselves. Especially someone so young.

Anyway, he wound up waiting on me. Now when I entered the restaurant, I knew that it was nice; however, I didn't realize that it was as nice as it was. I took one look at the prices and was blown away. Luckily most of their pastas were within my budget.

The minute I was seated, a backwait poured me a glass of prosecco. Instead of bread, they brought out a plate of bruschette, picked root vegetables, pate and mushrooms (it was amazing). The thing about Italian restaurants is that instead of leaving a tip, most often they just charge you a "cover." Both the wine and the appetizer were part of that.

The owner took my order, asking if I needed help with the menu. I told him I had know clue what to get, and he made a recommendation which I gladly took. It was pear and pecorino ravioli in a cream sauce. Oh. My. God. It was so delicious I didn't want it to stop. But it was the perfect size portion for what I wanted.

I started to get nervous when the check came, because I wasn't entirely sure how high the cover would be. I anxiously awaited the check and tried to doodle.

At last it came, and a waiter asked me if I was sure I didn't want anything else. He even offered me free limoncello, but I was ready to go. I'm pretty sure everyone in the restaurant felt bad for me or thought that I didn't have friends or something. They were being overly nice.

I pulled the bill out of the little basket that it came in. It was less than I anticipated. Still about 5 Euro more than I had hoped to pay for my "nice" dinner, but it was well worth it, and significantly cheaper than what it would have been in the states.

After leaving the restaurant, I headed across the Arno to my favorite Gelateria. YES OKAY I HAD TWO CONES OF GELATO TODAY WHATEVER THEY WERE BOTH SMALL AND I WALKED A LOT. This time I got banana (those of you who know me well know that I can't turn down a good banana dessert and that my favorite Ben and Jerry's is Chunky Monkey), and I walked back across the Pontevecchio as the sun was setting. It was a glorious evening.

I paused on the bridge to listen to an acoustic guitar duo. The music was remarkable, and I loved the singer's voice. The pair flipped between rock and finger roll guitar styles, and had a diverse repertoire. I sat there listening to them until I had finished my gelato. In that moment I felt so lucky and happy to be alive.

The sun began to set quickly, and not wanting to be out alone I began to venture home. Today was what I want this trip to be about. It was a day about spending time with myself. I really enjoyed it. For the first time since I've been here, I really felt able to live in the moment. Don't get me wrong— I've had great experiences prior to this one, but I hit my stride today.

I'm learning a lot here.

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