Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Perchè No!

My dad always asks, “I thought you went to Italy to get an education. When do you attend class if you are always traveling?” And I always respond, “Dad I do go to class. Monday through Thursday and then I travel during the weekends.” I have made the most out of my experience. Once I am in Italy it is a lot cheaper to travel within the European countries. But enough with the travel blogs, it’s time to discuss the main reason why I came to Italy—learning a new language and the benefits!

Many people ask the reason why I chose Italian and I answer, “perchè no!” This translates into English as why not! (FYI, anyone studying in Florence visit an amazing gelatoria called “Perche No.” Don’t miss it!) Studying abroad isn’t as hard as it is perceived. Anyone can do it if they have the determination to try.

I started taking Italian classes at College of Marin with my cousin and aunt. I owe them many thanks, without their encouragement I would never be where I’m today (as I write this I am on the balcony of a beautiful Italian apartment with the view of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II… not to rub it in). I took two semesters at College of Marin. I had the best Italian professor in the world. Studying a foreign language never appealed to me. My Spanish teacher at Chapman University crushed any interests I ever had. I was hesitant to register for Italian because of my prior foreign language experience. The risk I took was well worth it.  I understood the importance of having an excellent teacher and how much she encouraged me keep trying even when I became frustrated with myself. Not to mention, I also had a helpful tutor who I went to religiously. I’ve learned it’s all about seeking resources when a challenge presents itself. During my second semester my mother, who teaches at City College of San Francisco, informed me there was an Italian study abroad program. Before she finished her sentence, I knew I would go. The next day I called Jill Heffron, the study abroad program coordinator, and discussed the details of the semester. I knew I could not pass up the opportunity. Within 48 hours of learning about the program I made my deposit. Some people don’t seize the opportunity like I did and there’s nothing wrong with taking time to think about it, I just had the urgent desire.  

One of the major concerns I had was financial aid. The advice I give to my friends who are considering an abroad program is don’t let money hold you back!!! There are many scholarships available if you really want to have the study abroad experience. A student has to advocate for oneself and apply because many scholarships go unused. I was lucky enough to learn about the California College for International Education scholarships. The application for their scholarship wasn’t too complicated. I had to fill out an application of questions, write an essay, get transcripts, and have someone write a letter of recommendation on my behalf. The hardest part was the anticipation of hearing back from CCIE.  When the day came, I couldn’t have been more please. Thanks for the CCIE POCCSA Student Scholarship I was able to put their scholarship money to part of my tuition.

I’ve never understood why students don’t apply to scholarships when they complain about how expensive tuition is. Usually their reasoning is, it takes too long to apply, I didn’t have enough time, I didn’t think I would get it, and other pointless excuses. My rebuttal, the applications aren’t difficult to do, make time to apply if you really want to go, and don’t quit before trying, have confidence in yourself!

 It’s all about perspective. Prior to Italy I knew I would have to cut my spending in half while at home. That meant not eating out or buying new clothes. I reasoned with myself the money I saved while at home would be money I could use in Italy. Why eat at my favorite restaurants in San Francisco when I could try a new one in Italy. To discourage my urges to shop I avoided the malls and shopping centers at all costs, and when I did go, I left my credit card at home.

Saying goodbye to my family wasn’t too hard because of Skype. I’ve never been homesick while in Italy… well once and it was when the Giants won the World Series. With Skype I can call my family whenever I want, mind you the time differences though. I won’t’ lie, I have called my mother at three in the morning to ask her questions, and lucky for me I have a very understanding mom who has given me great support while over here. Skype should be on every student’s computer; it’s the instant cure for homesickness.

My specific program through CCSF was broken into two stages. The first stage was spent in Rome then after a ten day mid break. I explored Greece for ten days. Upon returning we had a day to pack up and move to Florence. People ask me which half I liked better and it’s hard to answer. Each city offers different experiences. But if I had to choose, I enjoyed my stay in Florence more than Rome. Reason being is I’m from a small town rather than a city. Rome was big and fast and always something going on. Florence was slower paced and more intimate.

On the academic side, I loved Florence because of my Italian teacher. I only wish everyone back home could experience a class with Antoninette. She was a true actress. She knew how to utilize her facial expressions and hand gestures to teach us.   It was like watching a movie. Always when the bell rang ending class, I had the craving to learn more.

The teachers who taught at Scuola of Leonardo da Vinci are all native Italian speakers who don’t speak English. If they did speak English, they hid it very well from us, or spoke very little. Rarely did they use English only when the class became perplexed with understanding a concept. This teaching style forces the student to really engage. At home the Italian professor was an English speaker. I consider myself lucky because when I came to Italy, I had a foundation to work on. By the time I was in Italy, I had enough knowledge to help my advancement of learning Italian. Monday through Thursday we spent three hours in class. The first half was spent on grammar and the second was concentrated on conversation. Conversation was my favorite because it was challenging for me. Antoninette was very encouraging of me when speaking even when I continually made mistakes (sometimes the same mistakes over and over again). On Thursdays after class we had an hour break and then we took our weekly exam.

The benefit of learning Italian in Italy is the constant buzz of the Italian language all around you. My lessons in class did not end once the bell rang. When I went out to eat or when I went to the market, I applied what I learned in order to communicate with the locals. Speaking is only part of learning Italian, but to hear it on the streets or in a café furthered my cultural exposure. The more exposure a person has to the language, the better retention and learning. At home I couldn’t get this experience.

It wasn’t until this semester did I realize studying abroad should be a graduation requirement. Not because of the language requirements at all colleges, but to experience how another culture lives. I like to think I wasn’t entirely sheltered before this semester, but now my eyes are wide open. I have the thirst of exploring more countries and their cultures. It doesn’t matter if you’re still in college or not, the programs are also for people who have graduated. I’m 24 and this was my first time overseas. I finally understand why all my friends told me studying abroad would be life changing. This is my gesture of paying it forward. I greatly hope my blog encourages anyone to take the jump and leap into another countries’ world and study abroad!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Snowflakes Bring

These past few days, I am facing the realization my time in Florence and my study abroad experience is ending. I don’t see this as the “end” but the end of a new beginning. When one door closes, another one opens. I’ll miss waking up and getting ready for my Italian class. You’d think I didn’t attend school with all my traveling. I’m proud to say I only missed one class. I’ll be writing a separate blog about my experience solely on my Italian studies. But for now, I have to catch up on blog postings in the next few days.

It was predicted earlier in the week it was going to snow, snow it did.  Florence hadn’t had this much snow since the 80’s. Before the first snowflakes had fallen, I had no idea of the true impact it would have on everyone. Who knew the weather would stop busses, taxis, trains and airplanes and leave many students stranded. It may have been pretty to witness, but it made traveling nearly impossible. As I write some of my friends are still stuck in the airports waiting and hoping to go home in time for Christmas. But this is what studying abroad teaches you, sometimes with the good there is bad, but then I suppose it’s all about perspective.

Anyways, back to the weather. Snow started to fall to the ground. It was extremely magical. I’ve seen snow back home and I’ve seen snow in Europe, but snow in Florence was more personal. It was beyond freezing and my roommates were all snug in their beds with mittens on to keep them warm. I wanted to do the same, but I knew if I didn’t go outside to take photos, I would regret it later. So I put on three pairs of socks, two pairs of mittens, a hat, ear warmers, two scarves, two sweaters, a jacket, and leggings and pants. I must have looked like the abominable snowman.  In the end it was worth it because I got some great photos.

When I returned to my apartment, I had to put all my stuff in storage because for the following weeks I was traveling. I realized it would be too difficult to walk across town because of the weather and so I called for a taxi. Long story short, after an hour I came to the reality I wasn’t going to get one. Because of the snow taxis were not operating which left my roommate and me with the dilemma of how to get my bags to the storage. One option existed and it was to drag them all the way to the place. Normally this walk would have taken ten minutes, but because of the snow on the ground and having to pull literally 80 pounds of luggage through the snow, it took thirty minutes. I’ve never used the word, “permesso” (excuse me) so many times to navigate through the crowds. At first I was trying to be polite and not run over anyone’s toes. After a while it became too much work and I figured if I gave them the verbal warning and if they didn’t move… then so be it, their toes were going to be squashed. I look back at this moment and think how bizarre this probably looked. We were fully dressed for a snowstorm with backpacks and four roller suitcases trumping through the snow powder and plowing through anyone who got in our way. I thought I would have been cold but I was hot from my “workout.” It’s a good story to remember and tell later in life.

Lucky me my travel buddy Cat invited me to climb the Duomo. I had already climbed the Duomo with my roommate, how could I refuse this time—it was snowing! How many people can say they climbed the Duomo in the snow? Not too many and so the eight Euros seemed like a steal.

In the evening, my roommates (the ones who were left) and I went out to dinner. My friend’s mother had recommended Cammillo Trattoria. This restaurant is across from the Ponte Vechhio from where I live. I’m happy to say, I saved the very best for  last. I am glad I made reservations because shortly upon arrival the place was packed—and now I understand why. This place is a little pricy for college students’ budgets, but if you want to experience the taste of quality food, it is worth saving for. For my antipasti I ordered fettunta con l’olio nuovo di nostra poduzione and for my prima the tagliatellle di pasta fresca sul castrato. I normally don’t drink, but for the last night it was necessary to order the house wine. I’m sure their desserts would have been amazing to taste, but one must prioritize what really matters the most when on a budget. The only thing I regret is not writing down the balsamic vinegar they used. All I know is it was from Modena—home of all the best balsamic vinaigrettes.

The next day I had to move out of my apartment. I was going to catch the afternoon train to Rome, but I had a feeling I should leave early. Let me tell the students studying abroad next semester, ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! I’m glad I left for the train station early. A ton of snow was everywhere and by the time I got to the train station it looked like the scene from the movie, Titanic—where everyone is trying to get on a rescue boat, and in this case it was the train. There was only ONE!…ONE!… ONE!... train that day leaving for Rome, the rest were cancelled. Almost everything in the station was cancelled. When I got to my train platform, already a hundred people were trying to get on. A lot of American students who originally had flights out of Florence were now trying to get to Rome in hopes of getting home. So there we were like horses at the starting gates of a race. Once the doors opened it was every man for them self. I made it on, but everyone was standing or sitting on someone. It was sad. As the doors were closing, a bunch of Americans and Italians were pounding on the door yelling to be let in. Nothing could be done.

The train went for three stops and then it ended; we had to transfer to another train. Once again I had prepare myself to push and shove to get on. This time I wanted a seat.  It would be a long ride if I had to stand. Luckily I met two people from Israel and we became good friends in a matter of ten minutes because we teamed up in order to get seats. My job was to run and get seats and their job was to put our luggage in the storage unit. Our planned worked. The original train was supposed to be a slow one but instead there was a fast train, and so it only took an hour and a half to reach Rome. Again it’s all about perspective—I paid for the slow train and instead got to ride on the fast.

I’m now in Rome. I am back to being the Roamin’ Roman. Currently, I’m waiting for my sister to join me. Unfortunately she is stuck in London due to snow. My patience is wearing thin with the weather. I just have to remind myself it’s all about perspective and the angle I take on the situation. I guess I get what I wish for. More time exploring in a city. Now… I have a second chance of rediscovering Rome.

Yours Truly,
Roamin’ Roman

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chocolate, Frities and Waffels!

Cat and I at the Belfry Tower in Bruges
Part of studying abroad is living cheaply, and so when I travel I never have any expectations of where I go. How I determine my weekend plans is scanning for the cheapest flights on Ryan Air. As Cat says, it should be every college students bookmarks on their computer. This is how I came across Brussels. I can’t even remember the price of the plane tickets, all I can remember is it was cheaper than an expensive restaurant in Florence.

Brussels was my last weekend vacation with my travel buddies. What a better way to end it in the Capital of Europe. Brussels is where the European Union has its main base of operation and NATO head quarters. There are 40,000 EU employees and 4,000 NATO employees as well. Brussels is one of the most international cities in the world and 27% of the population is made up of foreigners. Geographically speaking Belgium is separated into three regions due to the differences in language. Most people who live in Belgium speak French or Dutch. People who speak Dutch commonly reside in Flanders—the North. People who speak French live in the South, which is considered the Wallonia region. Then there is Brussels and that is known as the bilingual region. However, there is a small area called Ardennes, where German speakers live, however this is not an official region. Much culture and government was soaked in during my four day stay.

Because I was traveling North of Italy, I was afraid of bad weather. Bad weather equals delays and I have been so lucky not to encounter any. My luck continued, because there weren’t any delays. However, once I landed there was a ton of snow. This time I was fully prepared. I call my Brussels visit MY half time. The first half time was in Germany, as I had underestimated how cold it was going to be. This time in Brussels, I brought every piece of warm clothing I owed. I can’t tell you how much money I have spent on socks, and extra gloves because I thought it wasn’t going to be cold. Despite all my preparation the weather was still cold, but at least I had warmer clothes. There was a bus to take in order to reach the heart of the city and there were 50 people waiting and only 40 seats. You better believe I got my game face on. I grabbed my travel buddy’s hand, Cat, and I pushed ourselves to the front so we could get on the bus. If I hadn’t, I am sure I would have found ourselves waiting in the cold for the next bus. That idea alone was enough for me to push myself to the front. I guess I’m becoming a true Italian, or for that fact a European because no one seems to follow how Americans regard waiting in line. If you want it, push for it!

The bus dropped us at the main train station. By the time we arrived I was so cold and hungry that Cat knew the only thing would make me happy and satisfied again would be hot chocolate. Let me tell you, Brussels knows how to make hot chocolate. I had hot chocolate with a mountain of whip cream and milk chocolate drizzled on the top. Too good to be true! Finally on our last tip, I got Cat to try the chocolate side rather than the coffee side. Life is always brighter when hot chocolate is involved.
I highly recommend if you are staying more than two days in Brussels you should get the three-day metro pass. It was under ten Euros. The pass saved us a lot of time and money. From the train station we found our hostel. From the freezing cold and into the hot hostel I couldn’t have been happier. HOWEVER, be careful what I wish for because at night they jacked the heater up so high I felt I was in hell. It was AWFUL! You know it’s bad when you wake up at 3:45am and count down until you can get up.  The heat had woken me and I felt I was a dragon with fire breath. I honestly considered taking my pillow into the hallway so I could sleep. I drank water and even though I drank three bottles, I woke up dehydrated. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who felt that way because in the morning, I talked to three other girls who also slept in the same room and they felt as if they had died of heat stroke. On the last day we discovered we could have opened the window…GOOD GRIEF!

To my surprise Brussels also has a Christmas market! Each year it is located at Place Sainte Catherine and the Marche aux Possions. Although this Christmas market wasn’t as big as the one in Frankfurt, there was a FERRIS WHEEL! Live in the moment my friends, live in the moment! Of course I went on and it wasn’t until I reached the top did I remember my fear of heights. I must admit the view was impeccable. Also included at the market was an ice rink. Christmas markets are amazing in Europe. I wish the United States would adopt the concept more widely.  Tons of people gather for the same reason, to experience the Christmas season. Whether a person is looking for presents, cookies, children’s entertainment, date night, food, hot wine, or just a place to watch life enfold, Christmas markets have a lot to offer anyone.

The next morning we went to Atomium. This sculpture or rather architecture was built in 1958 when Brussels hosted the World’s Fair.  The Atomium is modeled after a crystallized molecule of iron magnified 150 thousand million times. In the Atomium are escalators and an elevator to navigate between each of the spheres. I must admit when I saw this on the top attractions to visit, I almost passed up the opportunity, but the hotel receptionist insisted we went and I’m glad we listened. It would have been embarrassing to have gone to Brussels and never went to the Atomium. As we arrived it began to snow! Snow never gets old to me, it just is cold.
Inside the elevator going up!
Right next to the Atomium is Mini Europe. 80 cities and 350 mini buildings are represented in the park. I have a feeling it’s for children, but it was entertaining to say the least. It was so cold; the little ponds were frozen over.
Kicking it with Pisa
Went to Paris
I even saw Berlin Wall
The rest of the day was spent wandering around Brussels with our map. We got lost quite a few times, but in between navigation, we always stumbled across something unexpectedly. One of the most beautiful Roman Catholic churches I ventured into was Cathedralis SS. Michaelis et Gudulae, located at Treurenbery hill.  As the church is located in the capital, it is often used for Catholic ceremonies of national interest such as royal marriages and state funerals. Upon entering, photos hung all around of royal marriages that had taken place in the church years prior.

 I also came across St. Jacque’s Church at the Coundenbrh which is also known as the Royal Parish Principal Church of the Diocese of the Belgian Armed Forces. This church was built between 1776 and 1787.

Cat and I of course had to see the Royal Palace of Brussels. It is the official palace of the King of the Belgians in Brussels; however it is not used as a royal residence as the king and his family live in the Royal Castle of Laeken which is on the outskirts of Brussels. The palace is situated in front of the Brussels Park. I am lucky to have picked my semester in the fall because every European country I visited has had the change of the season and I am lucky to capture what I see by photos.

Of course at night, I had to get waffles, chocolate and fries. How could I not!  Chocolate is one of Belgium’s prominent industries and there are hundreds of chocolate shops scattered throughout the city. The praline is a well-known chocolate masterpiece that was created by Jean Neuhaus in 1912. The praline is a piece of chocolate filled with various mixtures of nuts, fruits and more chocolate.  Nonetheless, every time I was able to get my hands on a piece of chocolate I splurged.  After I ate something sweet, I had to have something salty, and so I had to have fries. Fries in Brussels are called frities, NOT French fries or chips. The best places to eat them are at snack food trolleys. The traditional sauce is samourai which is a spicy mayonnaise and chili combination (no thank you), mayonnaise, and frities special with fried onions.  It seemed like everyone was raving about the frities and so I had to try some. Shortly afterwards I had a craving for something sweet and so I had to have a waffle. 

On one of the evenings, we ventured to The Grand Place. It is Brussels most famous landmarks. The Place is home of some of the city’s most beautiful and iconic buildings including City Town Hall. The City Town Hall may be the focal point, but the buildings around are just as eye appealing. In the center a huge Christmas tree stood, and on the City Town Hall a light show projected onto the building along with music. The show would come on almost every 15 minutes. I look on in awe, it’s amazing how each country has its own traditions in celebrating Christmas.

From The Grand Palace, a three minute walk away was the Manneken Pis. You all know him as the peeing boy and I never really understood the fascination of this tiny statue. The statue of this small boy is on the corner of Rue de l’Etuve/Stoofstraat and Rue de hene/Eikstraat. The history behind this sculpture is unclear. One story is it was built to commemorate a battle where the infant Duke Godfrey II of Leuven urinated on the troops of the Berthouts prompting them to lose the battle. But then again I’m no history major.
The next day Cat recommended we travel to Bruges. And (NO) I didn’t go because of the 2008 movie, In Bruges, with Coin Farrell. I have actually never seen it and was only informed because of the two other guys we were traveling with. Bruges is called, “The Venice of the North.” It is a medieval city and is one of Beligum’s crown jewels. Bruges is the capital of the Belgian providence of the West-Flanders. It is only an hour and 10 Euro train trip away from Brussels. Bruges is unique in the sense that the town authorities have done the utmost to preserve the medieval-looking image of the city. However I was sad to see a section of the town had been tainted by the modern world of corporate shops such as H&M… actually two H&M shops exist within a mile of each other. But once I was able to ignore the modern add ons, it’s a beautiful city.

From the short time I was there, I saw many people using bicycles as a form of transportation. I was lucky again because there was Christmas market and like Brussels an ice skating rink. I was almost tempted to go ice skating but then the guys wanted to climb the Belfry tower.

The medieval tower has 366 steps to reach the top. You better believe I climbed to the top! Better than a stair master any day! It was a sight I will remember forever. From my experience, the best views in the cities are always from the top. So I always search for the highest peak to sightsee.
It could have ended very badly if I had fallen

My time in Bruges was short and sweet…sweet is a good way to put things. I found my ultimate chocolate shop that best describes me.  I wish I spent more time in Bruges but I feel like that everywhere I go. It’s just never enough… I guess I’m becoming a bit greedy.

On the flight back to Italy, I was lucky enough to fly over the Swiss Alps and see a blanket of snow on the mountain tops. Too bad I don’t have enough time to go skiing… maybe I’ll find a way, if I’m lucky.

Till next time,
Roamin’ Roman

Monday, December 20, 2010

Perfect Day Trip to Montepulciano

I know it’s been forever and I deeply apologize. A lot has happened in the past few weeks—from snowstorms to conclusion stay in Florence, I promise to update you. I am now in Rome. In the next few days, I plan on catching up. For the next twenty days, I’ll be traveling throughout Europe with my sister. All I can say is, I hope the weather will be in our favor.

Prior to Montepulciano, Lucca was my favorite town in Italy. Just hearing the name, Montepulciano, with the Italian accent was appealing. How could I resist the train trip to this magical Tuscan town? The train ride was probably the most memorable and visually appealing since I moved to Florence.

Montepulciano is a medieval renaissance town on a hill down in southern Tuscany. What makes this town so different than most Tuscan towns is it’s car free. The only vehicles I saw were an occasional bus or two. I could finally let my guard down and not worry about getting side swiped by vehicles.  The town is best known for its major production of food and wine—especially its wine. The vino (wine) was beyond amazing, and I only wish I had better wine terminology to describe what I tasted. Additionally, Montepulciano is known for its honey and with that known I invested in a small jar to share with my family once I return. The town has also been a great resource for a few movies—most recently is Twilight Saga: New Moon. And (NO) that wasn’t the main reason for my visit, although I won’t deny I watched the movie the night before. If you’re looking for a traditional Tuscan town, I highly recommend Montepulciano. It would be a sin not to go.
I took a train from Florence to Siena. I transferred to a smaller train and got off at the Montepulciano station. The predicted weather was rain and snow. SNOW!!!! A heavy presence of clouds was in the sky, as well as, a mixture of blue. The combination was incredible. My friends and I reached Montepulciano and knew we had to get on a bus. At first sight I saw a bus, a yellow one—hint number one. As I was waiting to get on, I realized I was surrounded by kids and parents. It was a school bus! Seriously who has a bright yellow school bus outside the train station on a Saturday? I guess they have school on the weekends. I don’t know, but soon realized it and got out of the line embarrassed.
We went back to the train station and went to the café to ask for directions for the right bus. The man was extremely friendly and told us that the bus would be arriving in 30 minutes. We politely thanked him and went outside to wait. It was cold and realized we weren’t going to arrive in time for lunch. So we should have a snack at the café. We found ourselves in the same café waiting in line to be served. I began to order my food when the man who was once cheerful, turned serious and said “NOT POSSIBLE!” I was confused, did I say something wrong, did I not enunciate clearly? He then said the café was for members only and if we were hungry, we should go outside across the street to the other café. Never had I heard about a train café being private. Even though I didn’t know, once again embarrassed I lowered my head as I exited. It wasn’t until outside did I realize the sign stating: Members Only.  Live and learn, my friends, live and learn.

The bus finally arrived. I have no idea, but I am pretty sure in this small town kids have school on Saturday. There were tons of school teenagers on the bus. The ride up to Montepulciano took 10 minutes from the train station. I am sure it normally takes 30 minutes; but because the way the bus driver was driving he might as well have had a Porsche. Never had I seen a bus do the things it did, but we got there alive—key word, safely is not a word I would use. But nonetheless, I am embracing a different culture and that’s what makes life so meaningful and interesting.

There are no words that can describe my love for Montepulciano. The town is small and quaint. Upon arrival it began to snow. SNOW! Lucky me, good thing I had warm clothes on.  Montepulciano is on a hill and so some of the streets are a little steep. I must have looked lost because two locals came up to me and informed me that there was a food festival taking place. FOOD...FESTIVAL!?!?! I love food! So trustingly I followed her to the basement of some building, and yes for a split second I thought maybe I shouldn’t have followed a complete stranger into a building’s basement. Luckily my instincts were right and as she opened the door there were no more than ten vendors. There were olive oils, to cheeses, to jams and honeys, and even baked goods booths. Not to mention free samples of everything. I must admit when she said festival I thought of something really big, but that wouldn’t have fit the Montepulicano town atmosphere. I was sad to see only three visitors at this food festival, and I was one out of the three. Nonetheless, I got some free samples and bought a jar of honey and jam.
A map is not necessary for this town.  It is small and the best way to discover the town is by exploring. I came across a huge underground winery. There isn’t an entrance fee and the lady at the front desk is trusting and allowed me to explore on my own. The wine barrels were gigantic. You better just look at the photo to see for yourself. For your information I am 5’9 and in shoes almost 5’11. That may help your perspective.
My favorite Palazzo—or rather the main Palazzo was Communale. In the Palazzo there was the communal palace…it has a clock tower. For many of you this building might be familiar to you. I’m sure if you understand you’re having a chuckle to yourself and for those who don’t know the significance of this building, the movie states it in the beginning paragraphs of the movie. Additionally, in the palazzo is the Duomo of Montepulciano and if you’re thinking you’d see a Duomo the size of the ones in Milan or Florence think again. It is much smaller.
The golden hour in Monetepulciano is not to be missed. As the sun sinks into the horizon, a golden glow floods throughout the countryside. This was the moment I envisioned of the Tuscany landscape. The warm rich colors of green, yellow, and orange are most prevalent during sunset. I was lucky to witness this time of day. I only wished I could have shared it with my family and friends back home. I guess photos will be the closest I can offer.
 Most of my time was spent wandering around, going to the winery, and of course I had to stop for hot chocolate and a pastry. In the five hours I was in the town, it started out with sun, snow, rain and then sun again. It was beyond cold to the point if I didn’t get hot chocolate, my fingers would endure frostbite. In the café was a local poetry reading. Lucky for me, I got more cultural exposure.

Right after I left the café, I heard music. I didn’t know where it was coming from but I had to investigate. My ear led me to a beautiful church and I curiously went inside to find a church choir performing.  I took a seat and for 30 minutes I had free entertainment.
In the evening my roommates and I went to a beautiful restaurant where music of Pavarotti was playing in the background. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.  Of course, I had to order a glass of wine. The place opened at 7pm and I begged to be let in at 6:30 for two reasons—it was cold and we had nowhere to go, and we had to catch our train back to Florence. We were the first ones there and when we left there was only one other couple. The place is normally packed, but we ate early.
Unfortunately despite all our efforts, we missed our train and found ourselves stranded at the train station. Just as we arrived, the train was departing and there wasn’t much we could do about it. After it left, we realized there weren’t any more trains going to Florence! But this situation provided the accomplishment of my goal to become more relaxed in life. I was totally okay with the situation. I found a train employee and through broken Italian and English I learned of a midnight train coming through and it would stop outside Florence. It was the best I could get, and I had no choice but to wait three hours. Lucky for me I found a café that was open and yet again, I had another hot chocolate and watched an Italian version of American Idol while I waited.
Missed our train
Finally at 2:30am, I found myself back in my apartment wishing that my visit to Montepulciano wasn’t over. One day I hope to return and next time stay for a week. The slow life that the town offers was most appealing and cannot be found easily. But when found, enjoy!!!

Yours Truly,
Roamin' Roman