Monday, March 5, 2012

My First Neighbor Sighting

I have now lived in Florence for a little over one month, and up until now, I have never seen any of my neighbors.  I knew we had neighbors because I could smell the food they were cooking and hear their TV or talking as I walked up the stairs sometimes, but I had never run into any of them.  My apartment building almost seemed like a "Where's Waldo" book for the Italian people living below me.  The only Italian living in a residence nearby that I had seen was the old man that lives in the apartment directly across the street from us with his wife.  From time to time, when we'll be sitting at our table and he's sitting at his, we will catch each other's eye and wave.

I just so happened to be out of the apartment earlier than usual last Thursday when the neighbor spotting occurred.  I was on my way back from getting registered with the Florence police, and it was around 10 a.m. when I got back to my apartment.  I started walking up the stairs, when suddenly there was another woman walking on the opposite side down the stairs.  I was a bit startled - enough that I wasn't able to say anything to the woman.  I was able to see that she was a bit older and had brown hair and glasses, and she was shorter than average.  Basically, she looked at me like I had two heads and continued walking.  It made me wonder: do the neighbors ever know that there are Americans living in the top apartment? It definitely is not the first semester that there have been Americans in my apartment.
Since that sighting, I have seen one more neighbor: a man who always leaves his bicycle in the entrance of our building.  I was with Liz, and he seemed a bit startled when we entered through the door right behind him, but we greeted him with "Buona sera" and "Grazie" and continued on.  I still have no idea who lives where.  I guess my Italian neighbors will remain a bit of a mystery for a bit longer.

If you have any questions about my study abroad experience in Italy or about my life as a student at St. Michael's College in general, please do not hesitate to email me (, Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on Formspring (lizmurray3).


Fiorentina vs. Napoli, Day Trippin’ to Fiesole, and A Night at the Opera

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an Italian soccer game through my program.  I thought it would be an interesting experience since soccer is such a big deal in Italy.  When we were in Siena and Siena’s soccer team had a soccer game, there were people with flags and other paraphernalia singing and cheering in the bars before going to the game.  The spirt of the Italians for their respective soccer teams is very high - to the point where there are sometimes fights that break out at the games.
I figured Napoli (Naples) would be an interesting team to see Florence play since it was one of the more prominent places in Italy.  Walking into the soccer stadium, I saw plenty of Fiorentina fans wearing purple scarves, hats, jackets, etc.  The Napoli fans were dressed in sky blue and white, and we were able to hear cheers from the outside of the stadium.  I was surprised at the lack of security outside the stadium.  There were plenty of guards around, but they didn’t check bags or anything.  They asked us if we had any flares or other weapons when we walked into the stadium, and that was about it.  Someone with a flare could have easily snuck by - and actually did!  A few red flares went off on the Fiorentina side both before and during the game.  Napoli also set off a flare or two in response.  
From left, me, Molly, Lindsey and Liz at the Fiorentia vs. Napoli soccer game.  Photo courtesy of Molly Byrne.

The Napoli side when they won the match.

Fiorentina (purple) vs. Napoli (blue)

The energy and atmosphere at the game was absolutely crazy - and so much fun! We sat in a section that seemed to be set aside for families and us students who weren’t so serious about the soccer game, but the bigger fan section for Fiorentina was so passionate! They sang and cheered through the entire game.  After Napoli scored its first goal, a Napoli fan in my section ran down rows of seats, basically leaping over the seats instead of running down an aisle because he was so excited.  This goal was also met by boo’s and profane jeers from the Firoentina fans.  I was able to understand a few words, but for the most part, it was just fun to listen to the tones of the voices when they yelled in Italian. 

Unfortunately, Napoli ended up winning 3-0 at the end of the night, but it was still a great game.
The day after the soccer game, I went on a trip to Fiesole, a province of Florence situated on a hill above the city.  We took the city bus to the top of the hill, which was about a 20-minute ride.  Upon exiting the bus, we found ourselves in the town square of a cute mini Italian city.  Automatically, I pulled out my camera to take pictures only to find  both my batteries were completely dead.  Fortunately, they had enough juice in them to take a few pictures, but they were not as many or as thought out as they would have been if I had full batteries. 

The first place we visited was a simple church near the center of town.  There were works of art by a few Florentine artists in the church, and it was beautiful in its simplicity.  Next, we went to the top of the hill where there was supposed to be a beautiful view of Florence from above.  Unfortunately, it was a pretty foggy day so the most I could see were some outlines of the tops of the red roofs in Florence and a faint outline of The Duomo.  I plan on going back on a sunny day so I can see the real view.  Next, we went to a monastery at the very top of the hill.  To this day, Franciscan monks still live there, but they live in different cells than the tiny ones on display.  We also got to see a few cloisters and part of the museum the monks set up.  Among notable people who lived at that monastery was St. Bernadino. Finally, we visited ruins of a Roman theater, temple and baths.  This was my favorite part.  It was interesting to think about what had once been at those ruins and imagine them as they once had been. We also went into the museum that accompanied the ruins afterward to see some sculptures and pottery.  

The view down the hill.

The sign above the cell in which St. Bernadino once lived.

The Roman Theater.

A group of my favorite girls on top of the ruins of the temple.  Photo courtesy of Molly Byrne.

The best part of the trip to Fiesole was the brunch.  We walked for what seemed like forever down the hill to a quaint restaurant.  When we walked in, there was already food on the table. Everyone was starving since it was almost 2 p.m. and we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast before 8 a.m. that morning.  We settled down to what we thought was our full meal - salad, bread, meats and cheese, lasagna, puff pastries filled with veggies and bruschetta.  After finishing this, we thought only dessert could follow.  We were completely wrong... Out came two types of eggs, a meat dish, then dessert (tiramisu) and a variety of fruits.  We were absolutely stuffed!  It was the perfect Tuscan meal, and I really didn’t have to eat anything for the rest of the day.

Finally, the day before Rome, I attended an Italian opera: Puccini’s “Tosca”.  I have never been particularly fond of opera, but I figured that since I’m in Italy, I’d give it a try.  I had never been to an opera before, but I had been to plays, so I kind of knew what to expect. All of my friends and I dressed in our finest attire for the event and walked to a theater a few bridges away from the Ponte Vecchio. It was a very cool experience, and the opera was absolutely beautiful!  After the lead woman sang her aria, the entire audience was silent for a minute before breaking out into cheers of “Brava!” The whole opera was in Italian, so I was sort of able to figure out what was going on by watching the characters on stage and picking out a word I knew here and there in the captions.  It was really fun to dress up for a night and do something a bit more sophisticated.

If you have any questions about my study abroad experience in Italy or my life at St. Michael’s College in general, do not hesitate to email me (, Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on Formspring (lizmurray3). 


The Terrace

This is something I’ve forgotten to blog about until now (especially since I've had so much to write about!).  Since my apartment mates and I live on the top floor of our building, we have access to a terrace.  We were not given the terrace key right away though; we had to prove that we deserved it.  After about a week or two of good behavior and all of us signing a sheet with certain rules for the terrace, we were given the key by our landlord. This has become my favorite part of our apartment.  I am currently sitting at the plastic table on our terrace and looking at the top part of the dome and the tower of The Duomo in Florence.  To the side of that are hills with houses scattered upon it (my guess is it is Fiesole, a province of Florence that is situated on a hill above the city).  To my left in the distance, I can see the faint hue of snow on the Italian alps under a partially pink sky.  Behind me is an ancient tower and more of the city (as well as where the sun sets).  There is a beautiful house and interesting shaped trees on the top of the hill where the sun sets, which creates a silhouette like one I have never seen before. Right now, birds are flying above my head and The Duomo’s bells have begun to ring (it is about 5:45 p.m.).  It is soon joined by another bell in the distance (and more bells will join it soon).  There is another terrace connected to a house to my left where a dog stands on its hind legs against a fence and looks out upon Florence.  
The view from our terrace! 

Beautiful Florence! 

The Duomo! 

More houses on the hill.

Our terrace.

Sunset :) 

The little castle we have yet to identify.

A pink sunset! 

The most unique sunset yet! 

Today was the perfect day to sit on the terrace.  It was almost 70 degrees outside and the sun was shining in the cloudless sky.  My last class of the day interrupted the absolute bliss of sitting on the terrace and soaking up rays.  I was in a tank top dress - and March has only just begun! My stress levels sink as soon as I sit down on the terrace. I think I am going to have a lot of trouble leaving this apartment when May arrives. 

If you have any questions regarding my experience abroad or even my life as a student at St. Michael’s College, do not hesitate to email me (, Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on formspring (lizmurray3).