Under the Tuscan Sun | Cortona + Florence

I think one of the things I’m going to miss the most about Italy is that I can take a spontaneous day trip to some of the most famous cities in the world for less than ten dollars.

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views for dayzzzzzzz

Yesterday, three of us decided to take a day trip to Cortona, a tiny hill town where the famous movie Under the Tuscan Sun  was filmed, and to Florence. Cortona is a sort of hidden gem, the kind of town that gets a few tourists who’ve decided to go off the beaten path but isn’t overrun with them–exactly my favorite kind of town.

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under the tuscan sun for real !!!

We spent the morning admiring the views, trying to get some ~artsy~ pictures, shopping in the local stores, eating gelato, and soaking in the sun.

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tiny fruit markets
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happy happy flowers
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gelato has become a very large part of my life

Lunch was pizza and salad on the patio of a tiny bar, then we took a (sort of accidental) nature walk that led us to the side of a highway where we were picked up by a bus that was full of friendly high school students. They kindly dropped us off at a cathedral about two minutes down the road where we witnessed a priest doing a mic check. We wound our way through the cemetery that was connected to the church that overlooked the hillside before walking back to the train station to catch the train to Florence.

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they know what’s up

A little over an hour later, we made it to Florence just in time to browse quickly through the leather market, Zara, and H&M before grabbing dinner at a Korean restaurant, which was a much-welcome break from Italian food (I know it sounds crazy, but a girl can only eat so much pasta). We walked around Florence for a little while, just taking in the sights and sounds for what may have been the last time before we hopped on a train that took us back to Arezzo

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madonna + wine: a renaissance masterpiece

Living only an hour away from one of the art capitals of the world is such an amazing thing, and I don’t think I’ll be able to fully appreciate it until I can no longer hop on a train and go visit it. Yesterday was a simple day, but it was definitely one for the books.

Ciao!

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cheesin’ :)))

a very wine-y wednesday

Yesterday, our class took a trip to a local winery. We learned about the process of growing grapes organically and about the different varieties of grapes that can be found in Tuscany. Then we toured the inside of the winery, learning about the actual process of fermentation and aging. At the end, we got to sample three different varieties of the vineyard’s wine using our newly-learned wine-tasting skills. I’m so glad that I was able to experience such an important part of Italian culture before I head home! I’m sad to be leaving such a beautiful place with such a rich history and culture, but I’m going to make an effort to soak up as much as I can during these last two weeks!

Here are some pictures (silly + serious) that we took on the winery tour!

Ciao!

me and some wine in Italy the barrels that the wine is aged in I'm going to miss this criss cross apple sauce the vineyard had a lot of really interesting little details me on a staircase :) I could stay here forever friends = happiness the view

For My Portfolio

This semester I’m taking a class that discusses global environmental challenges. We were assigned with a project that explored the potential impacts that the changing climate could have on different aspects of life in Italy. My group and I chose the aspect of tourism, which plays a large role in the lives of many Italians. I was given the task of making posters we could display in public areas that explain the potential effects of climate change on the tourism business in Italy. It was a really fascinating project–I’ll post some of the posters below so you can get a glimpse of what some of my coursework was this semester!

Ciao!! 1

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A Roman Holiday

I can’t believe that spring break is already over. I feel like my time here has absolutely just flown by, and I’m starting to dread going home.

My mom and dad came to visit me for their spring break, so we went on a tour through Italy that included Rome, Florence, Orvieto, Arezzo, Cinque Terre, Naples, and Pompeii. We got to see things such as the David, the Colusseum, the ruins of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, and the Mediterranean Sea. I’ll post some pictures below of the highlights of the trip!

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the birth of venus by boticelli

 

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a view of firenze at sunset

 

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angelic landscape by dali

 

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the colosseum

 

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veni vidi vici

 

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pompeii

 

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hiking through cinque terre

 

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a seafood lunch

 

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the pantheon

 

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in the mediterranean sea !!!

 

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the david (with a modesty screen)

 

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da vinci’s annunciation

 

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the trevi fountain

 

Paris

“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there…” -Ernest Hemingway

I bought a plane ticket on a Friday night and the next Friday night I was in Paris. There aren’t really words to describe the feeling you have when you step off the plane into a place that you’ve been dreaming about since you drew the Eiffel Tower in kindergarten art class. You catch your breath a little bit and don’t fully grasp the fact that you’re there until you’ve gone.

I saw more in a forty-eight hour period than I’ve seen probably in my whole life up to that point. I saw the Eiffel Tower at night, then climbed up it during the day and saw Paris from nearly a thousand feet up. I visited the Louvre and saw Mona Lisa, Lady Liberty Leading the People, Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, and countless other works from people I’ve previously only read about in art history textbooks. I ate baguettes and macarons and read the Paris edition of Vogue. I navigated the Paris metro system and explored the catacombs that lay hidden under the famous city and contain the bones of six million of its former residents. I experienced one of the most famous cities in the world and I am so grateful that I’ve been blessed with such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I took a lot of pictures, so I’ll put them here at the end so you hopefully don’t have to do too much scrolling to get a glimpse at what I saw this weekend. Au reviour to the City of Lights, until next time.

breakfast friday morning at the train station on our way first glimpse of paris first mexican food in over a month !! paris at night the tower more night time views my street for two nights the bridge next to Notre Dame the bells of notre dame were ringing rainy days & cold feet me n mona hallways and such winged victory louvre love baguettes and h&m... perfectly parisian from 1000 feet laudree, home of the macaron "remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come" the catacombs

Visiting St. Valentine

I’ve always been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. Who wouldn’t love a holiday dedicated to chocolate, flowers, and love? Last weekend, on the day before Valentine’s Day, some friends and I took a day trip to Perugia and Terni, the home of St. Valentine himself, where a chocolate festival was taking place. Perugia is famous throughout Italy and all over the world for it’s chocolate, so this was the perfect time to go visit. I’ll try to keep this post short and sweet, but I’ll post some pictures below of what I experienced! Ciao for now!

i'm never going to get over these views
i’m never going to get over these views
chapel of the angels
chapel of the angels
a view out the castle window
a view out the castle window
sorry, but I love taking pics of doors
sorry, but I love taking pics of doors
me + a balcony that made me feel like a princess
me + a balcony that made me feel like a princess
me + a cool arch + a creepin' graduate assistant
me + a cool arch + a creepin’ graduate assistant
incredibly crafted chocolate pt 2
incredibly crafted chocolate
friends + cool views = !!!!
cool friends + cool views = !!!!
saw this sign & had to take a pic for my mom :)
saw this sign & had to take a pic for my mom :)

Pasta Making Class

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Italy (for me, at least) is pasta. Pasta is quite possibly one of the most delicious foods in the world. Macaroni, spaghetti, rigatoni, lasagna, with a ragu sauce, a tomato sauce, a cream sauce, a mushroom sauce, stuffed with ricotta, fried, baked–there are countless ways to eat it.

This week, I had the privilege of attending a class where we taught how to make tagliatelle, ravioli, and gnocci. The first two use the same basic ingredients (flour, salt, and egg) while the third uses just potato and flour. An egg is cracked into a “volcano” of flour, sprinkled with salt, and then mixed until the dough has a cake-batter-like consistency. Then the dough is kneaded by hand until it becomes thick and no longer sticky. It is formed into a ball, covered with plastic wrap, and left to rest for a few minutes. After the rest period, the dough can be rolled out very thin and then cut into the right shape, depending on what kind of pasta is being made. Tagliatelle is cut into long strips, while ravioli is cut into squares. We used a simple filling of ricotta mixed with spinach for our ravioli.

my dough ball (i was super proud of it)
my dough ball (i was super proud of it)

The gnocci is even simpler: potatoes are mashed and the mixed with flour and salt until thick, then rolled into a long “snake” and cut before being boiled. The final product is a mushy kind of pasta that tastes delicious with a tomato sauce.

making the ravioli filling (josie obviously loves me a lot !!!)
making the ravioli filling (josie obviously loves me a lot !!!)

Hopefully when I return home I’ll be able to recreate some of the dishes that I’ve enjoyed here in Italia! Ciao for now!

Carnivale in Venezia

Buongiorno! Sorry I haven’t posted an update in a while, but life gets pretty hectic here sometimes. This post will be about our trip to Padova and Venice a couple of weekends ago during Carnivale!

a cappuccino to get us going!
a cappuccino to get us going!

Our first day was spent in Padova, a college town that’s home to a nearly 800-year-old university that has served as home to famous lawyers and scientists, including Galileo. We toured the university he taught at and viewed the world’s first anatomy theatre, where autopsies were performed for an audience of medical students.

a statue in commemorating the first woman to graduate from college (u go girl)
a statue in commemorating the first woman to graduate from college (u go girl)

Padova is also home to Scrovegni chapel, which contains frescos by Giotto and is considered to be one of the most important pieces of art in Western history. It was very surreal to be standing in a room looking at frescos painted hundreds of years ago by a man whom I had learned about in elementary school. The images were stunning, and the spiritual significance behind them made the moment even more unbelievable.

the duomo of st. anthony
the duomo of st. anthony

We had the rest of the weekend free, so that night we went shopping for a while before touring the Duomo of Padova, which contained relics from St. Anthony. Afterwards, we enjoyed a nice dinner and then headed back to the hotel to get some rest.

The next morning, after checking into a new hotel, a group of three other girls and I hopped on an extremely crowded train to Venice. The train was standing room only, and everyone was dressed up in costumes and masks. Carnivale in Venice is world-famous and is celebrated in the two weeks before Ash Wednesday.

my first impression of venice
my first impression of venice

We stepped out of the train station, and my breath was taken away. I WAS IN VENICE. It was so surreal–every time I see something that I’ve only before seen in pictures I have to take a moment to soak it all in. It looked just like I’d pictured it, complete with beautiful buildings, gondolas, canals, and thousands of people dressed up to celebrate.

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St. mark’s square

 

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The highlight of the day was visiting St. Mark’s square. There were so many people dressed in ornate costumes that I didn’t have enough time to see them all, but the ones I did see were incredibly detailed and had been painstakingly put together for the celebration.

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We were only in Venice for one day, but it was enough to have a wonderful experience. I was exhausted, of course, but I had seen something I had wanted to see since my elementary school art teacher, Mrs. Ambrose, had told me about a city where the roads are water and instead of driving in cars they ride in boats. I got to experience a city unlike any other, and I am so so grateful to have an opportunity like this. Here’s to three more months in this magical country!

what I actually do most of the time :)
what I actually do most of the time :)

Orvieto (no, Emilee, it’s not Oliveto)

Orvieto is the name of a town in Italy.

Oliveto is the name of a popular Italian restaurant in Tulsa.

Hence my confusion.

Well, this Saturday we took a stroll (read: a train) to the nearby town of Orvieto. One of Rick Steves’ favorite Italian hill towns, it sits on the ruins of both Etruscan and Medieval civilizations, so there’s a lot of history and beauty to be seen here. Because it’s built on a hill, a cable car takes passengers from the train station to the town, which is a super neat experience.

The first thing we did when we got to the top was explore the ruins of the castle there, firstly because it’s a castle, duh, but secondly because the views from Orvieto are said to be the best in Tuscany.  

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Then we decided that we needed some food, so we stopped in at a little bakery for some pasta (pasta can mean a lot of things in Italy, like pastries) and cappuccino before heading on. Orvieto offers a really cool deal: for 17 euro, you can buy a pass that will allow you access to all of the sites–Saint Patrick’s Well, the Etruscan tombs, Orvieto Underground, the Duomo, and several archeological museums.

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The first thing we saw was the Duomo, which is the cathedral in Orvieto. It’s apparently built in the Tuscan Gothic style, which means that it’s striped black and white so it kind of looks like a zebra. The facade is beautifully intricate, with statues and mosaics and paintings that can take your breath away. Inside, there is art that dates back over 700 years and frescoes that are so detailed it’s hard to look away.

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The next stop was a tour of the Orvieto underground. Orvieto is home to over 1200 caves, all of them man-made by either the Etruscans or those who lived there during the Medieval times. (Oh, in case you were wondering, the Etruscans were those who lived in Tuscany before the Romans, from around 700 B.C.). We got to explore two of them which were used for pressing and storing olive oil and for housing pigeons. You can still buy roast pigeon in restaurants in Orvieto today, but I opted for some lasagna instead. The restaurant was IN A CAVE. It was basically the coolest thing ever.

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After the caves and lunch and gelato, we trekked over to Saint Patrick’s well. It’s 175 feet deep and 45 feet wide and was built in the 1500’s for the Pope as a place of refuge. You can’t truly understand the size of it until you’ve climbed to the bottom and look up. It’s incredible that people had the ability to build it over 500 years ago without the tools we have today. The climb up was a testament to it’s depth and we arrived at the top breathing heavily and wondering how people carried water up from the bottom every day.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

We spent a considerable amount of time looking for the Etruscan burial site, which was located at the bottom of the thousand foot hill that Orvieto was built on. The grave site is remarkably intact and the inscriptions made by the Etruscans above the graves are still visible today. It’s fascinating that people who lived so long ago made a mark that has lasted thousands of years.

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After a race up to the top of the hill that is still causing soreness in my quads as I type this, we made it back onto the train that would take us back to Arezzo. Orvieto was a beautiful town, and I still have to pinch myself to make sure that this whole experience is more than just a very nice dream. Ciao!!!

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A Day in Firenze

fun fact of the day:  the city called Firenze by Italians is what Americans call Florence. I definitely did not know that before coming to Italy.

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Well, I’ve officially been in Italy for six days which absolutely blows my mind. I feel like I’ve been here forever, but also like I’ve not been here for very long at all. Arezzo is slowly becoming my home base, the place I feel most safe and comfortable in, which I would not have believed three or four days ago when I kept getting lost on the short walk from our classroom center to the monastery where we live.

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Yesterday a small group decided to take a spontaneous day trip to Florence because we had heard about a church there that had services in English (thank you, Mrs. Hall!). Around 8:45 am, we boarded our first Italian train. I’m sure this will become old hat to us in no time, but right now it’s sort of an adrenaline rush every time I hop on. The train ride from Arezzo to Florence is a little less than an hour long, but seems much shorter because looking out the window is such a beautiful experience.

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Upon arrival in Florence, we spent about 45 minutes trying to find a café that should have been only 20 minutes away, but it’s difficult to navigate a foreign city on foot with only a cellphone that has pretty spotty coverage. Somehow we managed to take a detour by Saint Mark’s; it wasn’t a bad thing, though, because it’s really a magnificent building.

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We made it, though, and sat down to enjoy a cappuccino and some brioche before church started. Oh, I forgot to mention that the church we were going to was in a café. How cool is that? Jesus and coffee, two of the best things, in one room. While we were seated, a girl named Hannah approached us and asked us a question about the church, saying that she was a study abroad student and this was her first time to visit. We laughed at the coincidence and told her that this was our first time, too, and soon she was a part of our group. The church service was amazing and just what I needed that day, and everyone was so welcoming to us there. They recommended restaurants to eat at, which we quickly set after with Hannah as our guide.

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On the way to lunch, Hannah led us past the Duomo in Florence, which is absolutely the most breathtaking building I’ve ever seen. We learned about the Duomo in art class in elementary school, and here I was looking at it in real life–it was a very surreal moment and if I was a crier, I definitely would have been sobbing right then.

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We had to keep moving, though, and walked over to a carousel in the middle of one of the piazzas to take some pictures.

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We walked through the leather markets and wove our way through the streets, eventually arriving at Il Mercado Centrale di Firenze, basically a huge Italian food court. I ordered a margherita pizza and it was most definitely the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten: I watched them hand-toss the dough, put the toppings on, and place it in a stone oven before putting it on a plate and handing it to me. SO GOOD.

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After lunch we headed to the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence. It was stunning, as everything else in Florence is, and I could’ve spent hours looking out at the water and the old city. There was a couple making out behind us, though, so we thought it best to leave.

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We continued walking through the city until around 4 p.m., taking pictures with street art and random buildings before finally saying goodbye to Hannah and heading back to Arezzo. The sun was setting over the hills as we rode the return train, and it was almost completely dark when we arrived in Arezzo. The rest of the night was spent eating dinner and getting ready for bed, trying to catch sleep to be ready for another day in the Bel Paese di Italia. Cíao for now!

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