Another quick word of advice to future ACM Study Abroad students: BRING ENOUGH CLOTHING. I cannot stress that enough. I realize that packing light is important. However, I made the mistake of packing too light. As of now, I’ve more spent more money than I planned on clothes.T-shirts are a good choice, especially in solid, neutral colors. That way, they are easy to match with a pair of pants or a skirt, can be jazzed up with a necklace or scarf, and can be used with sweaters to layer outfits on colder days. T-shirts are just plain comfortable as well, which is very important. Also, jeans are a basic staple, and though this seems like it would have been obvious to me as I was packing, I’m here with a shortage of them. I have a blue pair, a brown pair, and a black pair, and though this seems like it would give me more choices, in reality it makes matching more difficult. Jeans here are EXPENSI VE, and I’ve resorted to dresses, skirts, and leggings, which seem to be a cheaper choice. Bring enough basic clothing. You and your wallet will both be glad you did.
Also, shoes are incredibly important. I brought two pairs of shoes with me, thinking it would be plenty. However, when both started giving me blisters, I knew I had to drop a few euros on footwear or else there would be blood. Sigh. I hate spending money. I bought a cheap pair of flip-flops from a street vendor in Monterosso, and then invested in a pair of comfy boots (probably Payless equivalent) for when it gets colder. So, my advice to all of you: make sure you consider your footwear carefully before bringing it. Walk in it, make sure it’s comfortable, and make sure you’re comfortable wearing it.
This is the beginning of my third week in Florence, and I’m finally starting to feel like I live here. I ride the buses to and from school, I can (very nearly) get around without a map, I know where to go to get inexpensive lunch (there’s a supermarket right around the corner from Linguaviva, and they sell loaves of bread for under 1 euro), and I know where I can get good gelato. I’ve found a niche in the city, and I think I’m really falling in love with the place. This previous weekend, we took a school trip to Siena, another gorgeous city. I’m not hugely knowledgeable on the topic of medieval art and architecture, but there was one thing I saw while visiting the cathedral in Siena that stuck with me: Professor Solberg mentioned the carvings on the pulpit echoing the style of Roman Sarcophagus carvings, and immediately I perked up. Classics! I know this stuff! Examining the carvings, I was reminded of the sarcophagi in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. Like the various examples of Roman sarcophagi in the museum, this pulpit had deep, precise carvings, and figures that were very 3-dementional and lifelike. The pulpit was carved by Pisano between 1265 and 1268, and the carvings depict the life of Jesus from the time of his birth until his ascension into heaven.
On the way back from Siena, we stopped at a Tuscan town who's name escapes me, where there was a wine festival going on. We spent about an hour there, tasting some good wine and eating more gelato. I have a feeling I’m going to develop a taste for good wine while I’m here, then go back home and become a wine snob. The only real knowledge of wine I have now is that I generally like whites better than reds, and I generally like dry rather than sweet, but that changes depending on what I’m in the mood for. I wonder if my opinions will become more sophisticated as the trip goes on. So far I haven’t been purchasing alcohol very frequently because I’m so budget-conscious, but I can taste a few more wines while I’m here, right?
My Italian is still broken and beginner-ish, but I’ve begun to be able to understand whole phrases from hearing people speak on the street or in my host family. Generally I can understand more than I can speak, but I’m hoping that will change soon. Being immersed in a group of people that speak a certain language is definitely the best way to learn it. I just need to stop pronouncing everything like Latin. Hopefully this week goes well. I’ll update again when I can and let all of you know!