Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Internet FINALLY, The Most Epic Esselunga Trip, Late-Night Secret Bakery Runs, and Our First Apartment Dinner!

From the title alone, you can probably tell that there will be a lot packed into this blog post... and this is only a fraction of what has happened since my last blog update! However, those other things deserve their own posts.  So here we go! 

We finally figured out the internet in our apartment.  Unlike the other apartments, ours did not come with wi-fi already set up so we had to figure out ourselves how to try to get it set up.  After playing phone tag with the agency who owns our apartment and several other internet companies who have done business with our agency in the past, we finally found out the internet companies had run out of available wires and we would not be getting wi-fi in our apartment.  This took about a week and a half, and their claim was that we had gotten to this too late.  Unfortunately, waiting three days to hear from our agency made us too late.  To solve this problem, we were all forced to buy internet keys.  There was a special deal to get three months of 3 GB of download space as well as the key for 29 euros – but only if you had a credit card to put on file.  If not, you had to pay 49 euros for the same thing.  Liz and I both only had our debit cards, so we had to pay more money for our internet than our roommates.  The internet is a bit shoddy and often quits out on us, but at least we have it.  I have learned that I need to take what I can get in this country, especially with the internet.  For just having implemented wi-fi about a year ago, I'd say they're doing pretty well for themselves.

Recently, I took my second trip to Esselunga (the supermarket that takes our market vouchers) with a few friends.  Liz and I decided it would be a good time to buy essentials for the month, so we brought all our Esselunga cards with us and our suitcases.  Yes.  Suitcases.  In Italy, you have to pay extra for shopping bags at supermarkets like Esselunga, so we opt to bring our own bags instead.  Esselunga is about a 20 minute walk from my apartment each way.  So we set off on our way, dragging our empty suitcases behind us.  When we got to Esselunga, we found out that we had to have a euro in order to use a shopping cart.  These cars were the type that you feed a euro to use, and the cart gives it back to you when you're done with the cart.  None of us had single euros with us, and all of us planned to get a lot of stuff so we had to make shopping baskets work.  I definitely got my work-out that day.  My basket probably weighed almost as much as I did, and I had to carry/drag it around the store until I had everything I needed.  Liz checked out before me, so while I was checking out, she started piling stuff into both of our suitcases and my backpack.  Then we dragged them all the way home.  They were so HEAVY, so normal speed walking felt like we were running a marathon.  When we got back to the apartment building, we had to drag the suitcases up the stairs like we had on the first day we moved in.  We live on the top floor of the building, so we stopped and took a mini-breather on each landing and finally made it up the stairs.  Hopefully, I won't have to make many more shopping trips like that, but I must admit that it was quite the adventure. 

Our suitcases and my backpack with the groceries.

Another thing that my friends and I have recently discovered is the secret bakery.  There are around 8 or 9 secret bakeries around Florence, but my friends and I have really only discovered one.  These secret bakeries start their baking at around midnight or so for the various stores around Florence.  At around 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m., people begin to knock on the door.  When the bakers are ready, one of them opens the door (which has a sign on it that says "Please Be Quiet") and quietly asks "Quanto?" ("How much/How many?").  At this point, we tell him how many pastries we want.  It is usually better to order in a large group since it seems to go faster that way.    Sometimes, you are even able to order pizza.  After a few minutes, the person comes back to the door and hands us the pastries in white paper bags and we hand him our money.  It is 1 euro for each pastry, and they are still warm when we get them.  SO worth it.  The first time I went, there were barely any people there.  However, the last few times, there has been quite a crowd at the bakery.  We can always smell the bakery from down the street, and it drags us in every time.  The bakeries are usually kept quiet since what the bakers are doing is semi-illegal.  They are not supposed to sell goods without giving a receipt.  Word passes quickly among tourists, however.  Most of the people I see there are not native Italians.  It is very important to stay quiet at the secret bakery too since there are people in apartments around the bakery.  I’ve heard stories that if people are too loud, water is poured on them from the window above.  It is a really cool quirk about Florence that I didn’t know until coming here.  I’m sure I will be a frequent secret-bakery visitor this semester. 

My friends and I with all our pastries :) Yum!  Photo courtesy of Molly Byrne.
Shhhh!! Please be quiet! Photo courtesy of Molly Byrne.

Finally, we had our first apartment dinner about two weekends ago! It was really fun, and we had a bunch of friends over to help break in our kitchen.  We made chicken on a bed of vegetables with cream sauce and rice, eggplant parmesan, sangria to drink and chocolate cake for dessert.  Everything was so delicious, and I was absolutely stuffed afterward.  We made so much food. It was really nice to cook, listen to music and chat for the night.  We have since had a Valentine’s Day dinner (since we did not want to make reservations to go out) that consisted of pasta with various types of sauces, sauteed vegetables, Carnivale cake and cookies.  We are starting to get quite creative with our meals to try to make our meal tickets last.  

Katy preparing the sangria.

Various foods bought for dinner. 
Laura prepares the eggplant for eggplant parmesan. 
Moey works on the chicken.

Chicken on a bed of vegetables before entering the oven! 

Cooking the eggplant! 

Sizzle sizzle!

The table. 

My plate.  Everything was so delicious! 

And we made chocolate cake! 

Well, we are now partially caught up! There is more to come soon! If you have any questions about my study abroad experience or St. Michael’s in general, do not hesitate to email me (emurray@mail.smcvt.edu), Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on Formspring (lizmurray3).

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