Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Good Luck, Bad Luck, and The Chaotic Streets of Venezia.

The past two weeks have been, interesting to say the least.  A lot of good, a lot of bad.  The ups and downs of Italy I suppose.  Honestly the only thing that's currently on my mind is the fact I will finally be seeing my parents in a week, and I'm ecstatic.  I can't wait to see their familiar faces and honestly, shop with my mom.  It'll also be nice to show them the beautiful city of Florence and cough, not worry about money, cough.  In short, I can not wait for them to finally be in Italy, SO EXCITED. Now for a short explaination in the title of my post, starting with my food tasting last week.

One of my favorite classes I am taking here in Italy includes Wine Tasting.  I know you're all probably reading this thinking, wow that's the life.  Honestly, it really is, we taste two to three of the best wines in Italy during each class.  I'm spoiled I know.  Another highlight of our class is our teacher, Diletta Frescobaldi, who is actually Florentine royalty (not really but, her social standing in Florence is about equal to royalty).  You may be wondering why is this JMU professor royalty? Well she's not just a professor but part of the biggest wine producers in Italy, if you don't believe me, google it (you can also purchase her wine at Costco, Nipozzano Chianti Rufina).  So why am I bragging about her so much?Well it creates an interesting backdrop for my tale.  The Frescobaldi Family has not only many vineyards, but also a few restaurants, one of course being in Florence.  For one of our classes we were able to go to her restaurant and have a three course meal with three wines paired with each dish.  In short, my paradise.  My love of food combined with my love of drinking was ultimately fufilled when we ate artichoke flan and anchovie pasta (both sound not appetizing, but were oh so appetizing).  Paired with two red wines, I was very content.

I was hoping that perhaps I would end the day with a nap, but unfortuantely that is not quite what happened.  After a restless night of half sleeping half shivering from my fever, I woke up the next day knowing something wasn't quite right with my stomach or the meal I had the day before.  Long story short, I was in bed for 5 days with the most terrible stomach flu or food poisoning.  After a visit to the doctor and a lot of gatorade, I was feeling better, however timid to eat anything but toast and tea.  I decided to celebrate my departure from my room after 5 days with a pair of leather shorts from Zara.  Sometimes all you need is some retail therapy.

After some recovery and lots and lots of sleep, I was ready for my last group trip to the beautiful city of Venice.  I really had no clue what to expect from the city, of course I knew they didn't really have roads and they were famous for their gondolas, but other than that I was a bit at a loss (I kept imagining The Italian Job, such a good movie).  Arriving in the city after a long and sleepy train ride, I was greeted by sunshine.  I love the sun, especially here in Europe; it is always welcomed.  The train station opens up to their main canal, which in the sun looks brilliantly blue.  The small streets boarder the canal and large bridges connect each island to each other.  The city itself is very picturesque, from a far.  I say this because, sure, if you edit the picture taken from 100 feet away, Venice is perfect.  But if you look up close, the city is pretty dirty.  There is a lot of trash in the water.  Still beautiful just a little, grungy?

After a long walk through winding roads up and down about 10 bridges, we made it to our hotel.  The hotel was quaint, cute.  Once again I am overly thankful in the fact that I wasn't staying in a hostel. Gross.  The hotel was nice.  And was in a very central location.  We began our first day with a quick lunch of pizza with a fried egg (lately I have been craving fried eggs and this pizza was nothing short of delicious) and a tour of San Marco, specifically the Doge's Palace (a king like figure in Venice, that ruled during the early days of Venice).  The tour was interesting however the Doge himself seemed kind of pointless; he had no real power or position, he was a sort of figurehead I guess.  After the tour, I did quite a bit of window shopping (Venice is ridiculously expensive).  Since I had such a large lunch, dinner time rolled around and I was barely hungry, but a few of us were eager to have a true Venetian cuisine experience.  We found a less touristic side of of Venice and sat down for a drink and some seafood tapas alongside the canal.  In short, a perfect end to a beautiful day.

We started the next day with another tour.  I definitely enjoyed the second tour more; it was a short walking tour through true Venice, no tourists, little crowds.  Venice is characterized by little charms (such as candlelit votives throughout the city) that make the city mysterious and quaint.  After the tour a few of us decided to take a water taxi to the island of Murano, known for its' glass.  I decided the water taxi is definitely one of my least favorite forms of transportation (to me it resembles deep sea fishing, aka sea sickness).  We reached the island and it was amazing the difference.  The buildings were more colorful, the people seemed more friendly, and the men also looked better.  I wondered if I stepped into an alternate universe, so pretty.  I was set on seeing someone blow glass so the first hour was full of me searching for someone to make a glass pony for me.  Finally I found a large glass shop that offered a glass blowing demonstration for 5 euro.   I sat down quickly in the back of this store and the man began to make a glass pony, blowing glass, sculpting, heating, repeat; in short, I was amazed.  He must have noticed my child like joy because after the demonstration he motioned for me to come forward in front of the audience.  Super excited and a little confused, I stood in front of everyone, awkwardly smiling, not really knowing what to expect.  Next thing I know, he's handing me the glass blower and telling me to blow.  After a good deal of blowing (I was supremely out of breathe and it reminded of when I used to play the trumpet and got really out of breathe....embarrassing), I successfully created a limp ugly glass balloon.  But I was content.

After quite a bit of walking, mostly into stores that sold the exact same jewelry and vases, my feet were beginning to really hurt.  This was mostly my fault, well all my fault.  I am set on wearing heels everyday here in Italy, and it's gotten to be a bit of a problem especially since I can no longer wear flat shoes without pain going through my legs, guess I just have to buy a bunch of heels when I get home.  But the black booties I wore were giving me terrible blisters and I was ready to return to the hotel.  Eager to show my independence and confident that I could make it back alone, I bought a ticket to the ferry back to the mainland.  After missing the first ferry, I was still confident in my directional ability, standing in front of the crowd ready to board the next boat.  As it approached, people began pushing and I couldn't quite tell if I was boarding the correct ferry, whatever, I thought assuming that all ferries go to the same place anyways.  Well. I was wrong.  As I attempted to ask a random italian if the ferry went to my hotel, a kind french couple sweetly said to me "This ferry only goes to the train station."  I literally laughed out loud.  The train station was a 45 minutes walk from my hotel.  Still set on making it back I smiled and thanked them, and got off the ferry.  After about 15 minutes of walking, my feet were killing me.  I approached the 100th bridge with little caution and a large bit of annoyance.  Walking down the steps of the bridge I glanced at my map for the trillionth time, only to feel both of my heels catching the edge of the stair.  I'm sure you can assume where this is going.  Down.  Flat on my face.  In front of probably 30 people.  As a laid sprawled out on the bottom of venetian stairs, I realized I caused quite a hold up on the stairs.  I slowly attempted to get up, sure that I broke both of my legs, and several people helped me to a nearby bench. Holding back tears I thanked them and slowly wobbled back to my hotel.  After laying in my bed feeling sorry for myself and moaning about my bruised shins, I watched Harry Potter in Italian and decided tomorrow would be a better day.

After a full breakfast, our group went to Peggy Guggenheim's house, which holds hundreds of famous works by Picasso, Rothko, and Pollock just to name a few.  I always feel a little intimidated in a place like that, not really sure what I am supposed to be looking for in each painting, but I did enjoy the backstory of Peggy, look it up. She was quite the player. After a meal at the Hard Rock (the food is gross in Venice, and the nachos and Hard Rock hit the spot; nommy) I was ready to go home.  Another sleepy train ride and I was back in Florence.

Currently it's freezing here.  A bit of a downer.  Also, I am procrastinating any and all papers I need to write by writing here.  It's hard to believe I am going to be home in less than 3 weeks.  I am beyond excited.  I want chick-fil-a, chipotle, and my bed.  Little things like that make me excited to be home.

I really want to enjoy my last few weeks here, and am overjoyed to show my parents my city.  Miss you all.  Can't wait to see you when I return to the States! (Enjoy the Venice selfie).


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