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Its now Wednesday, which makes me a little more prompt on reporting my past weekends events.. I’m getting there.
Before I talk about my weekend I think the few days before it are worth mentioning. They weren’t what you may think of as typical school. The fun started last Wednesday when my food and culture class did our first wine tasting at a trendy restaurant in the Testaccio hill neighborhood.
Not in Testaccio…. In a tree.
I am officially a wine snob. Well not officially, but now I have the skills to at least pretend like I am. In the great words of my professor: you don’t just drink a wine (…and apparently its not normal at all to drink it out of boxes… Franzia anyone?).
Step one is sight. I now know how to identify a wine’s age via its shading and tears.
Step two is smell. After swirling the oxygen out of a proper red wine “balloon” glass it is important to identify the wine’s aroma. We used our synesthesia imaginations (think simile) to compare the wine’s aroma to a lazy summer evening or a day hike in the woods. Real goofy, but I suppose I have to do as the Italians do.
Step three is taste. And some of these wines tasted damn good (we’re used to 1 euro bottles…).
Two days after this wine tasting we took our talents to a vineyard in the Umbria region of Italy called “Castello delle Regine”. Our teachers told us it was 40 minutes away. It took two hours to get there… This is a perfect example of not being able to take anything italians say seriously.
It was definitely worth the ride. The vineyard is owned by a wealthy Italian attorney (add vineyard owner to my future goal). We spent the day learning about how wine is made and seeing the other departments of the vineyard. They are famous for their San Giovese grapes which go into the famous Brunello di Montelcino. They also farm cows….:
After touring the vineyard we were brought to a restaurant in Umbria for a nice lunch and wine tasting. After being the only one brave enough to pet the cows, I definitely washed my hands before eating.
The Vineyard visits was definitely one of my coolest days abroad. Our professor, Fedderico, is a food magazine columnist on food and wine—therefore, with his taste, we never eat/drink poorly for class. I may or may not have gotten a nice present for my parents at the vineyard… I guess they’ll have to wait and see.
After the Vineyard we prepped for another weekend of traveling. My usual travel buddies (Delts, best friends Andrew and Alex) were off to Naples, Pompei and Sorrento to see some of the Amalfi. Since I’m excited to be doing Amalfi and staying in Positano with my parents.. I found a new (better???) travel crew and made my way to more wine country.
We left Saturday at the break of dawn for 2 days, 1 night, 3 Tuscan cities. It was a relief to travel with a smaller group (5 people), and it was a very solid group.
We arrived to our first stop, Siena, around 11 am on Saturday and checked into our bed and breakfast (Classy, right?). To add some excitement, we then rented bikes. I didn’t previously know what to expect from the city, but Siena definitely blew me away:
We went on a biking adventure and looked crazy in a pretty non-tourist destination. It was hot outside, and the city is hilly—I’m pretty sure I got enough exercise to make up for the ZERO that I have done while I have been here.
I took this bike pic myself (is it skill…or is it danger?):
After a hot Tuscan day of biking all we needed were showers and naps, then we were good and ready to see Siena at night.
We got some big Peroni’s and did as the Sienese do… Sat in their famous Il Campo (where they hold the horse race) with all the other people our age and took in the scenery.
Bridget, Laurie, Kelsey and myself (only missing Danny) in Il Campo:
We didn’t get to dinner until 10 pm, which I have learned is more of a Spanish dinner time than an Italian one (~8:30 pm) but the restaurant definitely embraced us…
Our two waiters were both from Naples and asked us about last weekends Napoli v Roma soccer game. My friend Kelsey had gone to the game and sang a song she learned that was blatantly called “Odio Napoli” (I hate Naples). They thought it was hysterical and got real comfortable with us after this.
We stayed at dinner until around Midnight:30 drinking wine with our waiters and some restaurant regulars. One of our waiters served the famous traveler Rick Steves about a month ago and promised us he is going to be featured in next years “Rick Steves: Tuscany” edition.
From here we went to a bar that one of our waiters had recommended to us. Caffe Corso is a cappucino bar by day, and open door dj club by night. We hung out with a lot of Italians, probably more than we have in Rome during our whole trip. Siena is by no means a small town (I’d say pretty Wheaton-sized), but this trip definitely showed us how comforting a small town nightlife can be compared to that that is Rome’s.
We woke up early on Sunday, had the breakfast that was included with our beds (didn’t realize that’s how bed and breakfasts worked… BONUS) and were to make our way to the famous Tuscan hill town of San Gimignano. But then we missed our train. So we quick walked back up the hill to Siena, got distracted by a cool clothing store, and all made purchases. Then we made our next train. It was bound to happen once.
Turns out the train to San Gimignano goes to a town called Poggibonsi because San Gimignano is waaay up in the hills, surrounded by absolute countryside. We split a taxi bus with some students from Spain, and I quickly realized that my spanish speaking skills have decreased drastically since I started learning Italian. Next semester at U of I can hopefully fix this. The countryside around San Gimignano is the epitome of the romantic Tuscan Countryside that everyone fantasizes about.
For half a day we explored this Medieval Town and saw everything it had to offer…. Including a Carnevale celebration parade.
San Gimignano is like no city I’ve ever seen before, and I’m very happy I made it there. I’m kind of liking hitting up a few destinations that are atypical to the regular study abroad student.
Before going home to Rome, we stopped by Pisa for 1 hour… Legitimately we were only there for 60 minutes. This was enough time to see the leaning tower, take a few pictures (it was dark so we kind of failed…) and get a falaffel for dinner.
Yeah I know that picture kind of stinks… But you get the idea. Picture it in daylight with a camera that wasn’t low on battery. The tower was amazing! Trust me.
I really enjoyed this one night, 2 day trip. I felt like a traveler, which is a way different feeling than that of a tourist. My travel group was great, and it won’t be the last time our group of five goes somewhere together.
Right now, I’m debriefing from a day of two tests. Who knew we would have tests abroad??? I know you don’t feel bad for me.
I leave for London tomorrow and am beyond excited. It was the number one city I wanted to visit, and the city I almost spent this whole semester in instead of Rome. I am almost as excited to go to London as I was the day before I left for Rome. The fact that we made a last minute bid on priceline.com and got a 4-star hotel in the middle of Soho for 65% off makes it an absolutely perfect situation. I’ve listened to strictly Beatles music all week and am going to watch Sherlock Holmes on my computer tonight.
Bloody good blog to come….