Monthly Archives: January 2012

85 Cavour: The Florence Crib

I realized I have yet to introduce my hostel and roommates!

I live in 85 Cavour…it is a really creative pension name (it’s the address)! We live on the third floor, it is quite the hike, and I have yet to make it up without being out of breath.[Our building is the one in scafolding]

My roommates are Montana (GU, from Utah), Cassie (GU, Denver, CO), and Carly (LMU, Lafayette, CA). Our room has four small cots, and a shower…no toliet. [Sorry for the mess]


Our study room is very small, it also happens to be the room where we can sneak on to the hotel on the second floor’s wifi.

And our dining room is very tidy and cute. We all come here to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday through Wednesday and breakfast and lunch on Thursdays (all provided for us).

There is no washer and dryer, we go down the street to clean our clothes. Happens about once a month because it’s expensive (10 euro)! We are all in the same boat so no one gets grossed out.


There is a cafe on the corner where cappuccinos are only 1,20 euro! And they have “to-go” cups!!


Eating to Stay Warm: Munich, Germany

This weekend I visited Germany with nine other girls from the GIF program. Yep, that is right, there were TEN girls on ONE trip. Let’s just say there was some drama…a lot of chiefs and not enough Indians. But it was ok, the positive completely outweighed the negative!!!

There were four of us who had issues with our flights, so instead of leaving Thursday afternoon on a flight, we took an overnight train from Florence to Munich. We all packed only a backpack of things (Mom and Dad, you are probably not believing this, but its true)! We didn’t reserve beds because they were much more expensive, so we had chairs for the night. We were lucky and found a room with only one girl and she was getting off at Bologna so we were able to stretch out across the chairs as much as could. It wasn’t scary until we had to stop for 45 minutes in three different cities. We had no lock on the door and who knows what kind of people are hanging around train stations in the middle of the night. We left at 10pm and arrived in Munich at 6:30am. As we exited the train, it was a savior that Starbucks was right in front of us.

Once we arrived into Munich, we had a 20 minute walk to our hostel, where we ended up going into the 8 bedroom room where everyone else was sleeping. We got everyone up for the day and headed to Dachau concentration camp.

Upon arriving to Dachau we all had no idea what to expect. We ended up getting on a two-hour tour and it was very interesting. The Holocaust is something I have learned about nearly every year of my education, or at least talked about, so visiting made the event all the more real, yet surreal at the same time.

Dachau was one of the first prisons of the holocaust. Prior to WWII it was used to prison people of WWI, so was easily used as a holocaust station. Dachau was a men only concentration camp until around 1943 when the final solution was put into action. We watched a thirty-minute documentary on Dachau following the tour and words couldn’t even describe the feelings after visiting. It was such an unreal experience that we were all really happy for having the opportunity to encounter what our textbooks explained.

We also visited the BMW factory on Friday. It was really interesting because we learned at Dachau that prisoners were used in BMW factories as cheap labor. We didn’t do any tours. We just viewed the galleries and played in the cars…I am surprised we were not kicked out!

We also walked over to the Olympic Stadium and created our own mini tour. We saw the Olympic pool, the large stadium, and a beautiful pond between the two.



Friday night we visited the Hofbraus Haus for wieners, pretzels, and beer! It was such a great experience. There were a ton of old men trying to get all ten of us squeezed into their tables, and the table we finally sat in, the men ended up leaving… I guess we were just too much to handle?

On Saturday we visited a palace (I forget the name) but it was beautiful. We just took the underground train up and got cheap tickets to view the mansion. Following the tour, we had another German meal and then tried to catch a 6pm beer crawl. The beer crawl ended up being a complete failure because we got lost and were 30 minutes late. But some how we ended up at a German frat house instead.



One of the girls met a guy at the bars the night before, and the guy invited all ten of us to his German frat house. We were all a little sketched out but decided to check it out. The house ended up being one of the only German frat houses to survive all the wars and was a complete museum in itself. We got a tour and history lesson from the president himself. It was quite the random experience and a lot different than US frat houses.

On Sunday morning, the four girls who were on the overnight train also had a 7:30am flight. We had to leave the hostel at 5:00am then had a nine-hour layover in Dusseldorf! So we basically didn’t sleep all weekend! It makes me tired just typing it out.

Dusseldorf was a lot colder than Munich. Everything was closed too, so the only thing we were able to do was eat…and that is exactly what we did for nine hours! We did a café crawl to keep warm and try every wiener, pastry, and pom frite one could imagine.

Strozzi Palace and Santa Maria Novella

I changed to 8:30 museum visits on Wednesday. So when I thought I was cold last week, I really had no idea! We visited the Strozzi Palace and Santa Maria Novella this week. We also visited some other places along the walk that add to the story of the Medici family.

The Palazzo Strozzi Palace is a beautiful mark of a Florentine sort. The indented blocks, called rustication, on the façade of the building are very colonial because of the structure and uniform. The square/rectangle shape of the building gave a very clean, stern stance of the magnificence behind it with Filippo Strozzi wanting it to outshine any other building in Florence. Once inside the Palace, there is a courtyard with draining when it rains. There is groin vaulting with columns surrounding the courtyard. It is one of the greatest courtyards in 15th century Florence because of this design. The biforium windows relate to the arches resting on piers. The building has been taking good care of. I attended the fascinating museum visit on Boccelli and the finance of Florence in the Palazzo Strozzi Palace, and it is fascinating to me that the building is so much older then it looks.

The Santa Maria Novella seems to be such a small church when walking up to it. It is a classical style with the height and width being the same, however, the church ascends far beyond what the eye can see across the piazza. In 1470, the Rucellai family asked Leon Battista Albterti to create the façade in an Early Renaissance style, over the 1246 façade started by the Dominicans. The central port looks like the entrance to the Pantheon in Rome. Alberti also added volutes on either sides to hide the difference in heights between the central nave and aisles. The façade is decorated in the symbol of wind blown sails, and Egnazio Dante added to this by adding astronomical instruments. This church is the only Renaissance church in town.Giotto’s Crucifixion created in 1295 is hanging in the middle of the central nave. It is beautiful and wonderfully placed. It was possible to see the green color that makes Jesus look sick because of the clay used at the time of it being created. The Tornabuoni Chapel is very fascinating. I was very interested in the fact that the frescos were painted so that characters were looking into the center and also looking over to the other stories around the alter. The relation to paintings makes the story seem to come more alive while depicting the legends. We didn’t talk about the large clock on the left of the altar, but I thought it was an awesome antique. Santa Maria Novella is one of my favorite churches so far because there is so much inside that is relevant to what has been studied in class. There are also so many stories that take place, that one could never get bored depicting the life of the Medici and other wealthy families of the time.



Wonderstruck in the Swiss Alps

For the weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Interlaken, Switzerland. The school plans a few weekend trips throughout the semester and this was one of them. We left on a bus at 4pm and got into Interlaken around 12:30am. The bus drivers here are required to have a thirty minute stop every two hours so it took us a lot longer than we would have wished it to be.

We stayed at the Backpacker’s Villa, which is a hostel. Yes, this was my first hostel experience, and thank goodness it was a clean one! We had four in a room, my roomies being Alicia (from LMU), Cami (a year student), and Cassie who is my roommate back in Florence. We actually had a bathroom in our room, but the showers were at the end of the hall.

The first day we had the option of basically anything, but instead of spending a lot of money, I went on a hike throughout the Swiss Alps! It was quite the adventure, and we expected to end up in Grindelwald, but it was Gimmelwall, the language barrier really got the best of us. We started by taking a bus to the Train station, a train to a small town where we got lunch, then trammed up the mountain where we took a train over to another town, where we then walked down to Gimmelwall. We then had to take another tram down the mountain, then bussed and trained to get back to the hostel. As I said, it was quite the adventure, and only CHF 30!

The next day the school had prepaid a trip to Bern. The city was named because of bears. It was a really cute town with shops and a little street market. They also had a Starbucks here, but it was so expensive we decided to skip it! It’s hard to spend more then 2 euro on coffee anymore when that’s how much it costs for a cappuccino in Italy! Instead we went and got Swiss chocolate!

We ended the day with night sledding. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done. We drove up a mountain where we then took a gondola up the mountain. There were no lights except for a flashing one around our neck in case we get lost. It was an hour sled ride all downhill and it was a workout too! We literally were all sweating by the end of it. All I can say is they take sledding to the next level in Switzerland! Fondue dinner followed sledding and it was pretty good! I was disappointed because I thought chocolate fondue would be included (this is what happens when you think it’s going to be like the Melting Pot).

I absolutely LOVE Switzerland though! I am going to come back one day when it is summertime!

Fun Cultural Differences

  • There is no tipping here! When it comes to splitting the bill up, it’s really easy!
  • You don’t just say “Ciao” to anyone on the street, people take that as hitting on them
  • Drink espresso standing up (they do have to go cups, but it’s rare to use them)!
  • Italians are very affectionate! There is always a couple committing wayyy to much PDA near the Duomo
  • Driving is a sport here! They all drive so crazy (Kate would fit in great)
  • If you are being loud, your neighbor has the right to call the police versus coming and telling you to be quiet
  • They drink luke warm whole milk
  • Italians don’t go out until 1:30am
  • Lunch is the biggest meal of the day…and Italians always serve pasta first

Today we bus to the Swiss Alps! I will keep you all posted!

The First Escape

I just got back from a visit to my ancestor’s home town: Lucca, Italy!
(I tried calling but couldn’t ever reach them…I plan on going back to see them)

I am about a 10 minute walk from the train station in Firenze. Me and four other of my friends, hoped on a 5,30 euro train to Lucca for the day. It was our first adventure on our own. We all had travel trauma nightmares before leaving. However, we made it there and back safe with the only issue being that we forgot to issue our train ticket before we got on the train.

When we arrived in Lucca, we were less then 10 minutes to the wall. Once inside, there was a antique sort of flea market going on. There were tents set up for days. We immediately were hungry and ended up at Osteria, which was the first restaurant that I opted out of pasta and into chicken and peas (it was amazing!)…I cannot gain the freshman fifteen again, aka the study abroad seventeen!

After lunch we decided to ride bikes around the city (2.6 miles) and detoured into the main amphitheater. Although it was cold it was so nice to get blood flowing and our bodies moving! It was definitely one of the best things I have done so far abroad.

On our way back we ended up meeting up with two other girls in the GIF program who are here for the year. They took us over to the BEST kabob restaurant in Firenze (and it’s open ALL night)! Let me tell you, these things have everything: chicken, lettuce, cabbage, hot sauce, french fries, onions, tomatoes, and more! It is going to be my Chipotle while I am here!

Also, on Friday night, my pension (85 Cavour) decided to have a group bonding dinner. So all 24 of us met up and walked to a restaurant called Tijuana. It’s a mexican restaurant in Firenze, and although it isn’t authentic, it was pretty good! It was also a really good break from all the pasta!

I feel like I can now get around Firenze, for the most part. I can navigate around the Duomo, to the train station, to Santa Croce, and our favorite restaurants. It’s so exciting! I still has yet to hit me I am living here, but I feel a sense of home towards my pension and Firenze!

Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi and Santa Croce

One of my most interesting classes: Renaissance Art

For this class we visit various museums and churches in Florence as we learn about them in class. Today we visited Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi and Santa Croce.

In Santa Maria Maddalena de’Pazzi, it is dedicated to Mary Magdalen and is where her body is buried since she died in 1604. The ionic columns and expansive atrium created a beautiful church that is the official church of the French colony in Florence today.

The Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world. It begun in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambio and the facade was built in the mid 19th century by Niccolo Matas. Matas created a neo-gothic style and because he was a Jewish architect, he placed the star of David on the top center of the church.

Inside the Santa Croce, there is the body of Michelangelo and early renaissance work. Michelangelo died in Rome and wanted to be buried in Rome, however his Nephew took his body to Florence. His body is placed below an alter instead of under his Pieta Bandini built by Giulio Foggini.

Inside Santa Croce is also the real statue of liberty…the United State’s statue is just a replica.

The Pazzi Chapel is next to the Santa Croce and was built for the Pazzi family in 1443 because they were jealous of the Medicci family. The chapel gives the impression of being larger than it actually is when you look inside.

All of the places we visited were very beautiful, but very cold! Our tour guide was our professor’s husband, who is full Italian and very adorable, but at times hard to understand.



Best thing about Rome: the water. In Florence the water tastes like chlorine slash smells like gasoline. But in Rome, tap water is heavenly and as our tour guide said “fertile”.

First day, 1/5

Upon arriving in Florence, we dropped our bags off at Hotel Titsiano. I had a new roommate named Nicole for our visit. After settled in we walked to the Vatican where we had a tour of the Vatican museum, Sistine chapel, and the Vatican. It was beautiful, and the tour guide explained everything in more detail to us and it was really interesting information. Such as the story of Michelangelo and how he first painted, and that a Medici called him back to paint more in Rome. Also, Michelangelo gave Jesus a face in his paintings that was the first tangible face people saw and has stuck around until today.


Second day, 1/6

We woke up, enjoyed continental breakfast consisting of Nutella, toast, and ham. It was a very interesting combo.We then received Rome Passes and were allowed to explore. Our small group decided to head over to the Campo de Fiori festivale celebrating La Befana and the Epiphany. We met up with the entire group to visit the Borghese Gallery. The museum was interesting. Downstairs were all statues and upstairs were paintings. We didn’t have a tour guide, so I didn’t learn as much as I wish I would’ve.

For lunch we went to the HardRock Cafe…it was horrendous! Not that it was my choice to go here, but note to self: do not eat American food in Italy!

Third day, 1/7

Today was a free day!!  Our small group created our own tour of Rome. We walked to the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps. We also stopped for lunch down an alley way. It was an adorable italian family with amazing italian food and wine. We also did some minor shopping. For dinner, the school took everyone to a restaurant that served nearly 30 different foods, starting with cheese and bread until we finished with dessert and limoncello! It was amazing but we were of course stuffed halfway through the meal!

Fourth day, 1/8

On Sunday we visited the Vatican again and were blessed by the Pope in St. Peter’s square. It was a beautiful sunny morning and we all enjoyed our last day in Rome before boarding a four-hour bus ride back home to Florence.

Viva la Roma

First Day: Orientation

The coffee is strong in Italy. My roommates and I were able to get through the day thanks to the concentrated/potent but delicious coffee this morning. The time change hasn’t been to bad so far, but it’s only been one day so I will continue to acquire and adapt to the new time.

Today was the first day of school…sort of. We met at the campus of Gonzaga in Florence (GIF), and walked to another building for orientation. The campus is in a gated community and is adorable. There is a small gym downstairs, which I will be trying to visit, and a library as well.
[BTW, it’s gonzAGa NOT gonzAHga for pronunication]

The orientation was three hours long, but thanks to the coffee I was able to sit through without falling asleep from jet lag. It was very useful. We were introduced to the faculty and classes. Most of the professors are Italian/European and my finance teacher came out introducing his class as “Religion of the 21st Century” aka Intro to Finance. I cannot wait to get started in the class, it is going to be phenomenal. We were also introduced to extracurricular activities: intramural soccer teams, community service, Italian conversation partners***, cultural activities, fitness classes*, ambassador programs, Glee nights***, and many more! I want to join it all!!
*Maybe joining
** Definitely joining!!Carly, Montana, me, and Cassie--my new rommies and I on our first day in Firenze

After orientation we enjoyed a glass of wine on Via Cavour, followed by lunch provided by the pension. Later we strolled through the Duomo down to the Pointe Vecchio where we enjoyed italian cappuccinos (SENSATIONAL!) and watched the rain fall outside the cafe.