Tuesday, July 31, 2012


The soundtrack to my second month in Italy (skip ahead to 2:00):

Monday, July 23, 2012


Hello, Siena! I felt most like a tourist here by far. It was probably due to the camera and the backpack duo. 

Siena's Duomo, which we unfortunately weren't able to go into because of the long lines.

Il Piccolo Lord poses for a picture.

Down, down, down...


Invading people's privacy for a good shot of real Italy. Sorry!

The ubiquitous geranium.

We explored the city in a big group that day. From left to right: me, Eliot (UK), Philipp (Austria), Li (US), Jelena (Serbia), Edmund (UK), Natale (Australia), Alan (US), David (Mexico), and Eric (US).

High point, overlooking the city.

Looking good, Duomo! 

Cinque Terre: la riviera italiana

Picture from the ferry we rode on our tour of Cinque Terre, an area composed of 5 separate cities. Here's one of them. 

Pretty amazing. Combined with the fresh sea breeze, this place was truly paradise.

Where do your eyes lead you?

A couple getting ready to order at one of the many restaurants. The colorful umbrellas caught my eye.

Don't worry--there weren't any babies in that stroller!

The biggest of the "cities" of Cinque Terre and hands down the place with the best beaches. 

Two Americans, an Indian, and a Pole. Pure Stranieri!

Monday, July 16, 2012

La città del silenzio

Welcome to Gubbio! This is the city's main square, "Piazza Grande."

Because Gubbio is a little difficult to get to without a car, we ended up getting a ride from a very nice lady at Monteripido (the place where David lives). Two Slovakian friends accompanied us. 


After riding the Funivia (a type of cable car) to the top of Gubbio, we got to see this spectacular view. Breathtaking, right?


After an hour or so at the top of the mountain, we descended once again via the Funivia! Looks like a bird cage.

Rarely does Dante get love on street names. It was refreshing to see this one, as opposed to Garibaldi, Cavour, etc. etc. 

Ad Arezzo, la vita è bella

Our day trip to Arezzo started off in a small amphitheater where locals were engaged in  activities, such as weaving, from medieval times.
Our lunch break. I had a pizza Diavola, which wasn't nearly as pretty to look at as the fish Belen had.

Naturally, we followed lunch up with a gelato. Personally, I had a lemon granita...which, sadly, left me disappointed. The first and only one so far.

We tried visiting Petrarch's house, but it turned out he was only born here (i.e. he never really lived here). Earlier in the day we had paid to get into a church and we weren't too convinced by the lady at the desk, so we passed.

Entering Arezzo's main plaza. The shields were a nice touch!

As the city famous for "La vita e' bella" we couldn't pass up the chance to take some pictures honoring the film. This was by far my favorite, haha!
Another shot of the interesting plaza. 

After walking down Arezzo's commercial center, we strode down this path with the rain clouds menacingly moving over us. Aside from a light sprinkle, nothing came of the dark clouds. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Soft Focus: Assisi

Pictures from a spiritual Sunday in Assisi:


This past Sunday, I finally got around to taking the twenty-minute train ride to the small, spiritual center of Umbria, the town of Assisi. Here, St. Francis began his teachings in the twelfth-century. I once read somewhere that perhaps no other place in the world is as attached to one of their natives sons as Assisi. I can certainly see why it would be attached, and even how attached it is. Everywhere you go in Assisi, you are reminded of its ties to St. Francis.

I met my English friend Eliot in front of the University for Foreigners so we could take the train to Assisi together, where we met our Mexican friend David. David, who has lived in Milan over the past year studying theology, served as our very informed tour guide during the trip! We are all in the same C1 intensive Italian courses, so it was also a good day to practice Italian while traveling. Our first stop was a church just outside of Assisi, near the train station.

From there, we took a bus into Assisi, where we stopped close to la Basilica di San Francesco d'Assisi, probably the city's main attraction. The basilica was beautiful both outside and inside. Unfortunately, taking pictures wasn't allowed in any of the major churches, so I can't show you all that. In the Basilica of St. Francis, you can find the tomb of St. Francis on the lower level. Ornate and stunningly simple, the room where the tomb is located is surrounded by the tombs of St. Francis's first four followers. People prayed as a group of us walked by to take a closer look at the tomb.

Outside we took a few pictures near the second level of the basilica, which is very well kept. We thought we would have to wait until mass ended at 12:00 to enter the upper level, but that wasn't the case. Regardless, we did have to wait until 12 to get a good look at the entire upper floor. About thirty to forty years ago, a massive earthquake caused the upper level to cave. We were told that the people came together to gradually put it back together piece by piece. If you take a look at it today, you wouldn't believe that event had ever happened.

We took a break to eat some pizza after leaving the Basilica of St. Francis, then we waited patiently for la Basilica di Santa Chiara (the Basilica of St. Claire) to open up. In total, we visited four churches in Assisi, and there were a few others that we didn't get to! After touring the Basilica of St. Claire, we took a few minutes to rest on a bench in a park overlooking the town. It was very peaceful.

From there we descended a hill to check out the fourth church, which, I believe, is the first one set up by St. Francis. This one was much simpler, smaller and open than the others. The countryside surrounding it was also very different from the shops, restaurants and homes that surrounded the others.

Feeling spiritually satisfied, Eliot, David and I left Assisi around 5:00 pm. I'd love to go back in the future. There's definitely something unique about that place.

Soft Focus: La Certosa di Firenze & Pisa

A sampling of pictures from just outside of Florence and Pisa: