Monday, March 7, 2011


What, it's March (marzo) already??? Time for an update.

Early February, Rosie and I had a date at the theatre, Teatro Verde, to watch a live a dance show 'Divino Tango'. The tickets were Rosie's christmas present from me and we both really enjoyed it. There was about 6 couples and many various tango numbers, including one with a soccer theme, very original! Oddly, there was no intermission, the dancers danced for over 2 hours straight!! I found this strange considering at the cinema in italy there's always an intervallo (intermission), why not at the theatre?

My mom and auntie Jo arrived in Florence the evening of Feb 4, although I was expecting them to arrive in the afternoon...I waited patiently at the gate at their scheduled arrival time (actually I was a bit late due to some bus confusion) but an hour later I knew something was up. I received a call shortly after from my mom in frankfurt airport, reporting that they'd missed their connecting flight due to a delay leaving Calgary. As I had left for the airport directly from school, with a stop at the grocery store inbetween, I had my books with me as well as food, and as it was a beautiful day, the first resembling spring, I scoped out a patch of grass in front of the airport and killed a few hours studying and eating before our happy reunion in the gate.

They stayed at a lovely hotel two minutes from my apartment so it was really convenient. The first day we toured around Florence and saw the main piazzas and landmarks followed by a buonissima (delicious) dinner at a nice restaurant in the center with our cousin, Martinho. This was the first time my mom and aunt had met him although it didn't feel that way as they all seemed to remind each other of different relatives along the chain of relation (Martinho and my mom/aunt share the same cousin). The following day, Giuseppe, my salsa dancing language exchange partner, offered to take us on a tour to a nearby Tuscan town, San Gimignano! It was another nice day and we enjoyed walking around discovering this ancient town which seemed to be stuck back in time.

The following week was my last day of Level 5 italian (of which I passed with 87% ;) and then we were off to Venice! It was my third time in Venice but not any less magical. It really is such a special place. Together we hopped on and off the vaporetto (the water bus, as there is no cars in venice) and scouted out the beautiful churches and landmarks scattered throughout the city. I spent one afternoon solo at Ca' Pesaro, the gallery of modern art, where I relived some memories from 6 years ago, sketching statues and examining paintings, especially Klimt's beautiful Judith II. Despite some challenges in finding food for myself (where are the supermarkets in Venice???), and one of the days being frighteningly cold, we enjoyed ourselves immensely amid the beauty of the city.

It's impossible to take a bad picture in Venice!

After only one day back in Florence we we were off to Rome! Upon our arrival at our bed and breakfast nearby the beautiful Campo dei Fiori market square, we found ourselves instead sitting in a nearby park with all our luggage, wondering if we needed to figure out an alternate plan. This wasn't so bad at it was a gorgeous day of 18 degrees but what we hadn't realized was that we'd arrived before check-in time, and as the bed and breakfast only had a few rooms, there wasn't someone working 24/7 like in the hotels.

So we sat in the park and I called the different phone numbers until finally getting a hold of someone and arranging our check in. Shortly after, we dropped off our bags in our charming room overlooking the street and all was well. Soon after we were soaking in the sun in Campo dei Fiori while mom and auntie Jo enjoyed their beautiful pizza from the bakery and I examined the map which I bought from the newsstand.

We then started the trek to the coliseum, stopping at monuments along the way, and then found ourselves lined up with a tour group in front of this ancient structure. Our ticket with the tour group also included a tour of the Roman Forum (the ruins) which we were told could be used another day if we chose, as it was late afternoon and there was only one more tour going out that day. (Despite our effort to take this tour the next day, this never actually happened, due to some misunderstanding and some faulty information. This particular tour group apparently doesn't work everyday as they'd said...I'm thinking they only work the days with optimal weather).

However, for the tour of the coliseum, we enjoyed learning (but forgetting shortly after...) the history and facts of the coliseum, but were confused when our tour ended prematurely? Actually it didn't end, we just thought it did, and discovered otherwise when mom and I were wondering around inside and encountered our same tour group again! At that point we were a little behind on the facts so we decided to stay on our own.
Afterwards, while mom and auntie Jo figured out their way back to the hotel (with a few detours and helpful directions from the police man) I went to see the Van Gogh exhibition which I had been anticipating. It was originally scheduled to end a week and a half earlier but to my good fortune it was extended. It was amazing to see so much of his work altogether.

The next day we changed our plans after learning from our fellow bed and breakfast guests that the forecast for the following day was rain. So instead, we shifted our plans of going to the Vatican and instead spent the day outside trekking north to see all the sites and monuments: piazza navona, the pantheon, the trevi fountain, the spanish steps, and the changing of the guards ceremony in front of palazzo quirinale.

This consisted of a 15 minute long procedure, commencing with 3 groups of men in different uniforms (one of which was the band), marching into the piazza, followed by singing, followed by almost a dance of the 2 main palace door guards switching spots with 2 other guards in different uniforms. Then the rest of the men with the same type of uniform as the door guards marched into the palace while men in the other uniforms exited the palace and then joined their fellow-uniformed mates out front with the band to march together back down the street and into the back gate of the palace. WOW! They do this everyday!!

The next day the forecast was indeed correct and we spent most of the day inside St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museum while it rained. In the late afternoon we took the bus to a neighborhood south of the river called the ghetto and dined before heading back to the b&b to get our bags and take the bus to the train station.

The bus was crammed with people and I had my second Roman experience of being felt up inconspicuously against my will on public transportation! Six years ago this happened on the subway in Rome although that time it was really SO packed that it was impossible to figure out which direction it was coming from. I have a feeling some men ride public transportation at rush hour just for this purpose! Because I was literally trapped by bodies, there wasn't much I could do; either scream at the guy (or one point there was two at the same time!) or deep breathe in order to remain calm and periodically change the direction of my body to make it more difficult. I chose the latter considering that the outcome of freaking out was unknown. I speculated they are probably like the boys in elementary school, the more you react the more they bother you...

We made it back to Florence late that evening, exhausted, and I think we all slept well that night. Their last few days in Florence we spent checking off the remaining sights from the list, shopping for scarves in the market, and lounging on the terrace in their upgraded hotel room. We also met Martinho for another dinner, this time at his house where he pleased us with his expert indian cooking. Their departure day was another spring-worthy day in Florence, with sun sun sun. After seeing my mom and auntie Jo off at the airport with big hugs, I spent the day in the park picnicking.

Posing with 'Our Canada' magazine, hoping to get our pics in an upcoming issue;)

In the following days I put my resume together in English, and then had Giuseppe help me translate it into italian (actually he did it all). Since then I've been scouting out restaurants in the center and applying for work as a waitress. I figure this will be a good opportunity for me to take a break from school, as there's no way I'm ready to tackle level 6 italian, and to make some money while, despite getting hired (hopefully) on the basis of my english speaking credentials, having the opportunity to practice speaking italian. As I'm told, the tourist season is about commence in full so there will be need of english speaking waitresses.

I had a quick interview at one restaurant, although at this place the owner insisted that most of the clientele are italian and therefore I must primarily speak italian. Sensing the uncertainty of my ability during this interview (which was in italian) he said we could do a prova (test), to come and work for a few hours to see if I can manage. I've yet to do this as I needed a few days to prepare myself before following up and by the time I did, I was told that they've found someone for the time being, but they will need more people in 2 we'll see. However I've arranged an interview at another place on wednesday, a restaurant and jazz bar, which I think will be even better. Fingers crossed.

Yesterday Giuseppe and I decided to go to Viareggio for the carnevale upon realizing that it was a nice day (the past few weekends have been cool and rainy again). We caught the train in a hurry and an hour and half later, arrived in this town on the western coast of italy with some new friends, 2 south-american ladies that we sat beside on the train. Before heading into the parade area, we stopped to eat altogether at the one restaurant that had contorni on the menu (side dishes of vegetables), rather than just pizza, which unfortunately I can't eat due to my gluten intolerance. (However there are a few places in Florence which serve gluten free pizza, yum!).

We made it into the parade area shortly after it started, and crawled through the crowds of people dressed in costumes to find a good spot to watch the amazingly gigantic and intricate floats pass by, one after another after another. Eventually we parted ways with the south-american ladies and walked down the main street for another glimpse of the floats which were now parked and lit up as the sun was setting. We also took a little detour before heading back to the train, to the beach, so I could stick my finger in the sea:)

This was the best one!