The inevitable stories of passport abuse


Sunday, October 3, 2010

San Gimignano and random activities in Firenze

I have been in Italy for 38 days and this country continues to surprise me with all it has to offer. Por ejemplo, after an 8 hour day of class and a quiz on Wednesday, the roommates and I embarked on the ultimate food adventure.  This other-worldly experience is called an Apperitivo here in Italy and it honestly is the best invention EVER! Most restaurants offer Apperitivi from 7 to 10 pm, and is meant to be experienced before eating dinner.  Basically, you pay a fixed amount (usually between 3 and 4 euros) for a sizable drink of choice and an unlimited buffet.  Seriously there is so much food, I was in heaven. Apperitivi are supposed to open up your stomach for the regular Italian 4 course meal ( these Italians are challenging my status as a champion eater, my stomach needs to double in size asap).  But for the struggling...aka student, a buffet of unlimited food and a drink for under 5 euro acts as dinner and completely fills up my tummy.  I have vowed to find an Apperitvo at least once a week in order to "fully immerse myself in the Italian culture" from this point forward :]

This weekend was nothing too exciting in the world travel department.  I am trying to keep my travel bug under control so I don't miss out on actually living life in Florence.  The roommates, Brock, Mari, Sam, Kelly and I did manage to take a day off from studying to find the small town of San Gimignano. Before I go any further, let me help you with the pronunciation of this beautiful city's name. I still have trouble saying it and Elizabeth affectionally refers to it as San "Jiminy- Cricket".  In Italian "gn" makes the same sound as the Spanish "ñ".  I am constantly being tripped up by the silly "gn"s in this language. Anyways, on Friday, after yet another late start, we arrive at the bus station to find the other 4 people we were traveling with already hopped on a bus to San Gimignano, and we were left to pout and wait an hour for the next bus.  We got really lucky however, and in Poggibonsi (where we change buses) somehow managed our way onto a bus that was leaving to make the mountain trek up to San Gimignano 45 minutes early.  We arrived only 20 minutes after our other friends and were able to meet up for lunch.  At this point is was very cold and rainy, so everyone has a nice bowl of hot soup, or in my case, steaming hot crepes. We barely walked 20 feet before we found a sign advertising wine tasting of the white wine San Gimignano is famous for.  The owner of the shop, Lorenzo was such a cute older man who was so happy to have us! He gave us all samples of his personal production wine and balsamic for free, as well as free bruschetta. Anyone planning on going to San Gimignano find Lorenzo ( he may or may not have a picture of all of us saved on his computer!). We spent another couple of hours just exploring the small town, famous for its 14 towers.  Apparently it is a big deal that 14 out of 60 are still standing, as most of the ancient city towers in Italy were destroyed in WWII. Brock and I were the only ones that conquered a huge hill to climb to the top of one of the towers to find the most amazing view of the city as well as the surrounding vineyards.  The view was definitely worth the lactic acid build up and my legs were happy to have a rest on the bus ride home. 

After a long day in San Gimignano, the roommates and I ate brunch at an American diner (to get our pancake fix) and sat around the house before heading to Piazza Santa Croce.  The famous Santa Croce is less than a five minute walk from our place, which works out quite nicely for us.  Since we have been here, there has been a concert, a breast cancer walk, a beer festival, and most importantly an International festival held in the piazza in front of the church.  We spent a good 3 hours at the International festival last night.  I did my best to try foods from as many vendors as humanly possible.  I had a GIANT cinnamon pretzel (Germany), sangria (Spain), a jamon e formaggio crepe (France), and chocolate (Belgium). I also bought a glass christmas house thing- similar to the Department 56 houses we set up during Christmas time at home.  I spoke the little German I know to the vendors and they were grateful that I even tried.  I found out my cute little house was handmade by Lithuanian friends of theirs! I am so excited to put a candle in my house and see how it looks all lit up! Needless to say we went back to the international Market this morning to cross another country off the list; we ate apple strudel from Austria. It was so fun to hear all the different languages and smell all the amazing foods.  It was a strange sensation going from smelling bratwust to nutella crepes and then to seafood paella. 

Although we didn't head out of town for the weekend, I am so glad we experienced more Italian culture here, as well as other European cultures/ foods. I just hope that Piazza Santa Croce can top this last festival for the other weekends I am planning on being in town!