Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hi Friends!
Hopefully this will work for me to be able to upload some pictures here tonight. Anyways, an update on our life:
Last weekend we went on a tour of Chianti and San Gimignano. We went to Montereggioni (a tiny hilltop town {population inside the walls- 80} that is completely surrounded by the original medieval walls), San Gimignano - another Tuscan hill town, with 13 of the original 70 towers remaining, a UNESCO world heritage site, and then visited 2 wineries to taste some Chianti and Vernaccia di San Gimignano. It was a nice way to spend Sunday afternoon/evening. We were on a bus with a group of mostly American tourists. They are just starting the harvest of the grapes, so it is winemaking season and we were able to see the vines full of ripe grapes. It was very pretty driving through the Tuscan countryside and seeing all of the wineries.
It is hard to believe that next week is October already! Our first class is over on September 30, and I think that gradually, my Italian is getting a little stronger. Also on October 1, we are moving into another apartment. This one is a little farther from the historic center (still within walking distance), a little bigger, a little cheaper, newer, and equipped with internet! It will be nice to have a place set up that we can settle into for a year.
I have also been trying to scope out restaurants that I might want to try to work at. We have had some nice meals here so far, but since Justin works every weeknight, we only have a chance to go out to dinner together on the weekends. I want to work on my language skills a little more though before I try to work anywhere.
Well, it looks like the pictues aren't going to work again. Internet is too slow. Sorry. :(
Ciao Amici!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This is more than my first attempt to write a post within the last week. Our internet connection at our apartment is very slow and unreliable, so it's not always easy to get online, much less spend time online writing on here or uploading pictures. This might just be a post without pictures, but I will upload them when I can.
Not too much has been going on here in the last week to report on. Justin and I both started classes last Tuesday and have been busy learning Italian 5 hours a day and then spending a couple of hours doing homework after the class. The classes are hard, it seems like almost everyone in the class has a really good understanding of the language and can be very conversational. I can understand most of what the professors are saying, but I have a hard time thinking and speaking on my feet. I really have to think about what I want to say before I can say anything. It is frustrating sometimes. The school that we are attending is the Universita per Stranieri di Siena. This means it is the University for strangers (foreigners). Since there are people from all over the world in my class (China, Japan, Australia, Germany, France, Brazil, England, Portugal, Spain, etc.) the only common language is Italian, which means the classes are only in Italian. I'm sure it will get easier, and it has already only in the last week, but I still have a long way to go with my language skills.
Besides school, we have been trying to come up with things to do on the weekends. We want to travel around quite a bit, but we are still trying to figure out what it is going to cost us to live here so we know how much we can spend on travelling and weekend excursions. Last weekend we were planning on going on a wine tour of Tuscany and Chianti, but the tour was sold out when we went to sign up. I think we will try again for this weekend. We have some ideas of where we want to go, but we are also looking for suggestions. So, I want to know, what are your favorite European destinations? What is a place that we shouldn't miss out on? Please let me know!!! :)
Well, blogger is still trying to upload my photos after trying for at least 25 minutes, so I don't think you are getting pics with this update! sorry, hopefully next time!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Viva la Civetta!

As you all know, we are living in Siena, Italy. I thought I should share a little history and some facts about Siena, so you can have a better idea of where we are here.

Siena is a medieval city located in central Tuscany. It's population is just under 60,000. The historic center is divided into 17 neighborhoods, or contrade, which are represented by an animal or symbol. Each resident is fiercely loyal to their neighborhood. As you walk the streets of Siena, you can tell as you pass through each respective neighborhood because there are colorful flag depeciting their symbol from each building. This neighborhood rivalry comes to a head 2 times per year at the Palio, a medieval bareback horserace that takes place on July 3 and August 16. Each contrade has a horse and a jockey that is blessed by their respective church before the race to win the pride of the citizens. The first horse to make it around the piazza del campo 3 times is the winner. If the rider falls off, but the horse crosses the finish first, that horse still wins. People have died in this race before. Just go here and watch the video, it is worth it.
People are VERY serious about this here. As I write this, there is a gathering outside of the internet cafe for the neighborhood "Lupa." There are men outside in medieval costumes of tights waving flags and beating drums cheering for their contrade. I had to take a break and go outside to take a picture. The palio was 3 weeks ago! The pride that each neighborhood has is crazy to me! The neighborhood that we live in is the "Civetta" which means owl. Our neighborhood actually won the August Palio!! Since we have arrived here, there has been partying every night in our neighborhood. And it's not just partying, its everyone in the neighborhood, young and old, parading the street, beating drums and waving flags, singing and cheering for the Civetta. The Civetta has not won the palio in 30 years, so it is a good cause for celebration. I guess I am kind of rambing on about this here, but I find it very fascinating the pride that these people have. I am very excited to be here next year during the entire Palio season!
This is the men of the Civetta marching around with their Palio banner
Right outside my aparment door, with the flag of the Civetta.


Here are some of the photos I was trying to upload the other day. More to come soon enough! :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ciao from Siena!

Hi friends! Ciao from Siena! We arrived in Rome Wednesday morning and then traveled with our 200 pounds of luggage (at least) via train and bus to Siena, our new home. We were met by a woman who I had been in contact with online to find us an apartment. She brought us to our apartment which is just steps away from the main piazza, Piazza del Campo. Our apartment is in a building from the 13th century in the neighborhood that just won the August race of the Palio. We will only be in this apartment for the month of September because we can't get a good internet connection here (which Justin needs to work) and also, it is a bit pricey. The apartment itself is small, but will work fine for us. I don't have any pictures yet, but I will take some and post them soon. Basically though, the bathroom is small enough that you can shower and brush your teeth all while sitting on the toliet. Anyways, the city is really nice. It is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. Most of the buildings around here are from the 13 or 14th century. All of the streets are narrow and the buildings are connected. I have some pictures of the city, but my internet connection is slow and blogger is taking forever to upload the pics, so I will try again later with that. And actually, my internet time is running out here, so Buona Sera!