Umbrella Etiquette

Florence weather is incredibly mild. There are lots of mosquitoes, and a healthy spattering of tropical-looking plants – we call it the mediterRAINean.

They don't really have winter winter. I hear rumors that it snows a couple of times a year (gasp!), but instead of frigid November winds and slush, I'm experiencing my first rainy season. It's fucking annoying, mainly because dryers for laundry are a rare commodity here. Everyone just hangs their clothes out to dry on clotheslines, which would be fine, except for the fact that it's raining 60% of the time. 

On Tuesday it rained in torrentially all day, and I finally discovered a major downside to living in such an ancient city. Apparently, Florence has a pretty primitive sewage system... so, when it rains really hard for a long time, certain parts of the city – like my school – literally smell like shit. And I don't mean just a minor whiff. I got a headache and got damn queasy pretty quickly. Sorry to be gross, but omg it's so gross!

On a lighter note, today on my way home from school (in the rain, of course) I saw a father walking with his son under an umbrella. Well, the father was walking under an umbrella, and the kid was trying desperately to jump in every puddle he saw. The dad was attempting to keep both himself and the kid dry with the umbrella, and holding onto the kid's jacket to keep him from getting himself and everyone around them wet from puddle splashes. If I personally had been walking this kid home, I would have been very humorless about the situation, but the dad was laughing along with the kid and seemed pretty lighthearted about it all. Fucking heartwarming. Anyway, at one point there was this huge puddle that completely blocked the bike path, and as the dad went to step on the curb to bypass it the kid made a break for freedom, and ran through the puddle with the most violently splashy steps possible, laughing like a maniac. It was so cute... I started laughing out loud. Kind of wish I was that kid at that moment. He looked like he was really enjoying the rain. I on the other hand, have big holes in both pairs of shoes that I own, so I kind of dread the puddles because it just means I will have soggy feet for two days.

Ciao!

Tripe and Chili

At this point, I know Chicago is in a complete Christmas frenzy. Florence on the other hand, is not. It's honestly kind of nice.

There are a couple of 99 cent stores that have Christmas decorations for sale, and the streets have big snowflake/star balls of lights hanging above them, but I have yet to see them turned on. I'm enjoying not having Holiday Spirit shoved down my throat everywhere I turn. It's Thanksgiving though, and I'm a little sad about not having my mom's traditional meal... there are many restaurants here that offer a Thanksgiving dinner, but I just don't think it would be the same. My lovely roommate Izzy knew I was feeling a little morose about this, and she surprised me with a mini apple pie as consolation. Awww, so sweet!

Last night I had about 10 people over to my apartment, and I made a massive batch of chili with fried polenta cakes to feed everyone. I've never cooked for that many people before! It was really nice though, and I told myself it was my stand in for Thanksgiving dinner. 

On the subject of food, Florence does this thing called apertivo, which is basically the best invention ever. There are an incredible number of bars/lounges/restaurants here where if you go in and buy one drink you get to help yourself to a buffet of appetizer type food stuff. And the food is generally really good. It's such an amazing deal, and I wish it was big a thing in the States! 

So, the other night I went to apertivo with some friends of mine. I just went to see people, and I didn't get a drink or help myself to the buffet. A friend of mine came back with a plate piled with pasta and some kind of weird rubbery looking meat. It smelled good, so I tried a piece of it.

I was then informed that I had just eaten stomach-lining.

What???! Eiw! It's called tripe, which I have definitely heard of before but I didn't really know what it was... I always thought it was some kind of fish. I didn't enjoy it... I'm glad he didn't tell me what it was before I ate it though, because I wouldn't have tried it, and now I can say that I have.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy :)

5 Bites from the Apple

Another week has disappeared in a whirl of art adventures. It's frightening how quickly times passes here.

I have a list of random observations to make about Florence that have no relation to each other and would make a horrible paragraph:

– Bathtubs (and refrigerators) here are long and narrow.

– Toilets and light switches all operate by pressing buttons.  

– There are very few bums asking for money in the streets, but there are countless numbers of very pushy men attempting to sell you things (such as flowers, socks, hats, kleenex, sunglasses, umbrellas...)

– Many people here take their shopping cart home from the store with them, and then return it after dropping off their groceries. 

– I'm not sure Italians know how a turn signal is supposed to be used, because my observation has been that they either don't turn it on at all, or they use it backwards (like signaling left before turning right.)

The laundry situation has become very annoying. Most apartments here have washing machines in each unit, but no dryer; everyone hangs their washing up to drip dry. While this is a perfectly acceptable way of doing laundry, it's gotten old pretty quickly. I didn't bring a ton of clothes with me, so if something needs to be washed it's unlikely that I can wait two days for it to dry. Also, it's the rainy season here so there will often be 3 or 4 day stretches where you can't hang the laundry up at all. Then, there is the issue of there being four girls living in my apartment – we make a lot of laundry, and there's only so much space to dry it! 

I've settled into A Life here. It's so strange to think that I will be leaving it all behind soon... well, a month, but I know that will be here in the blink of an eye. I wonder if going back to Chicago will be a big adjustment or not? I feel a little frantic about the time I have left, I want to see and do as much as possible before I leave!!! 

Side note; I haven't bought a single souvenir...

Ciao.

Halfway point

I've been here six of my alloted eleven weeks which, according to math, means I only have five weeks left.

And I've only made three blog entries! This is why I've never really had a blog before; I suck at it.

I finally finished my first Bargue a week or so ago – Charles Bargue made a set of drawings designed to teach aspiring artists to draw, and copying these drawings has been a classical method of learning used by many artists, including van Gogh and Picasso. These drawings are so tedious! But I do feel like it's teaching me something.

Anyway, yesterday was the final day of my four week drawing with the model, which turned out relatively well... I'm not in love with it, but we're using a much more structured method than what I'm used to, so in terms of learning something new I think it's fine. I do really enjoy the pencil drawing sessions, which I never thought would be the case, and I absolutely love the extra student portrait sessions because I can draw however I damn well please :)

Let's see, what else is there to say about Italy itself? For one thing, I haven't seen a single spork. This is totally unimportant, but it's one of the weird things I was wondering about before I came here... Also, my luck with second hand shops has been pretty bad. I was hoping to get some fabulous thrifting done while here but the only really good shops are also really expensive because they're not "second hand", they're "vintage". 

Anyway, many many many heartfelt apologies for being so terrible at blogging, I feel pretty guilty about it... more to come before I leave, promise!!

Here's a pencil study... Love this model, she's like a beautiful rock.

Here's a pencil study... Love this model, she's like a beautiful rock.

Hmm...

Florence is expensive!!!

I have 300 Euro left. I'm terrified about whether or not I can make that last for two months. Fingers crossed...

Otherwise, I still love it. I've been here 17 days and have been so damn busy! My school schedule is crazy, and the weekends are just a blur. Lets see, what's happened so far...

I've met a ton of awesome people who I will be very sad to say goodbye to. Funnily enough, I haven't actually made friends with a single Italian person so far, I'm seriously starting to wonder where they're all hiding! I've found myself saying the phrase "in The States" way too much. Last Friday I got a ride in a shopping cart.... When I told that to one of my friends she said "Why?", and I replied "WHY NOT?!" 

Something that I love about Florence is it's totally legal to drink in the streets here. We start almost every Friday and Saturday night in the piazzas, on the steps of one cathedral or another, with hundreds of other college-ish age people, just cracking a bottle of vino and people watching. It's great. I did see one fight break out but we just moved on to the next piazza and everything was fine. Speaking of moving on to the next piazza, I have done SO much walking since I've been here! I thought I walked everywhere in Chicago, but this is ridiculous. With that plus the 6 to 8 hours of standing at an easel at school, my legs are just killing me. On the bright side, I know it's good for me... and at least everywhere I go is beautiful :)

Another thing: DO NOT PUT "CANDEGGINA" on your clothes! It means "bleach".

I made this somewhat hilarious mistake my first week here. One load of laundry (which is about half of the clothes I brought) now has awful bleach stains on them. My roommate said she bought laundry detergent and I just took her at her word. Google Translate has become my best friend these past couple of weeks. 

The caffeine thing is still a slight issue, what with my crazy class schedule and trying to do as much as possible every day. My roommate Izzy went into a pharmacy here and asked for caffeine pills (not totally unusual?) and they practically kicked her out. I guess people here just sleep a lot.... not an option for me!! When I get back to Chicago I will sleep for a week straight, I swear to God.

My birthday is on Sunday!!! I can't believe I've been 21 for a year already. Here comes 22. I'm honestly not looking forward to it, I was planning on spending my birthday in Paris with my besty Ryan but I can't afford it, so now the fact that I won't be in Paris is all I'm thinking about. Well, I feel like there's a million more things to say but my mind is blanking, and I need to eat something....

Ciao!

School, groceries, and the police

Florence is great. My apartment is great. The people are great. The coffee leaves much to be desired, but that's only because I'm a quantity over quality kinda gal. 

My biggest concern so far is that "big cup of coffee to go" isn't a thing here. The coffee in the cafés is delicious, but they come in teeny tiny cups with barely enough caffeine to energize a mouse. Also, don't ever order a "latté" because you will just get a cup of milk.

School is going to be so intense, I don't know how well I'm going to handle it... the fact that I'm doing art over 6 hours a day is wonderfully amazing, but standing at an easel over 6 hours a days is going to kill me.  My feet, legs, back, and neck are so damn sore already! I have class from 9AM to 7PM Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; on some Tuesdays and Thursdays (not all) I get out at 4PM. The school is wildly diverse, with only two students who are actually Italian. The rest are from all over the world; a handful of Americans and Brits (my lovely roommate Poppy is from the UK, and she made me tea our first night here!), two people from Sweden, a guy from South Africa, some guys from Barcelona, a guy from Australia, a guy from Scotland... lots of people, lots of places. I've had tons of fun meeting new people! I've been told that for people who don't speak English as their first language, Americans are the easiest to understand because we "use less words." I wasn't sure whether or not to feel insulted by that statement.

I went grocery shopping for my first time a couple of days ago, which was an experience all in itself.  The grocery store is call "COOP", but it's not a coop, it's just the name of a chain of grocery stores. Apparently it's one of the better grocery stores in the city in terms of quality and price, and it's only a block away from my apartment! The produce is insanely cheap, and next to the bags are little plastic gloves you have to put on before you touch any of the produce. I thought this was really nice actually, I wish we did that in the states! Then you go weigh the produce on this little scale with a screen and select what kind it is - thank god it had pictures - and it prints out a sticker with the weight and price and a barcode for scanning. There's also a wall of barcode scanners by the carts, which you can take and scan everything as you put it in your cart, so when you check out   it goes WAY faster. Also I was incredibly relieved to discover that the self-checkout has an english option. The store does have plastic bags but they encourage you to bring your own by charging 5 cents per bag, which I thought was pretty cool too. Prices are pretty damn fabulous, except for peanut butter, which is apparently not popular here at all and is hard to find and very expensive. 

The craziest thing that's happened to me so far is... losing my ipod. I was visiting the Duomo Cathedral with one of my roommates on Tuesday, and was feeling just completely overwhelmed by the beauty (by the way, if you ever visit Florence you have to see the Duomo during the day and at night, they're totally different experiences!). I took a picture, walked around to the other side, and no longer had my ipod. I broke down crying in front of the Michelangelo's Gates of Paradise (actually the second time I started crying there, the first was just out of pure wonder). I spent the evening hating myself for allowing myself to get pick-pocketed, and bemoaning the loss of my music and camera. I got home and immediately changed all my passwords to everything I'd ever logged into on my ipod, and had a horrible day Wednesday, unable to concentrate on drawing without my music to drown out all the people noises. Then today, the police showed up at my school... with my ipod! What! I was totally floored. That just does not happen. I don't know how I could possibly be so lucky. I couldn't quite understand if they found it or if someone turned it in, but either way they found an email on it from my school here and called. I feel so incredibly grateful, and I know there's no way I will ever get this lucky twice so I am guarding this damn thing with my life from now on!!!

I've only been here 4 days and yet I feel like years have passed. I've met so many people and been so many places and had so many conversations. I'm exhausted. I can't wait for the weekend! 

Ciao ;)

Grounded.

So, so happy to be off the plane!! That being said, if you ever have to fly overseas I highly recommend Swiss International Airlines. Apart from the fact that long flights just suck no matter what, I was tres tres satisfied with their services. I ordered "chicken and rice" for dinner, which was pretty good, and tuey brought croissants and yogurt for breakfast. Did I mention the completely free alcohol for the entire flight? Even on the connecting flight which was only an hour, we got croissants and chocolate.

Anyway, I'm in Italy now. It's fucking gorgeous. Florence is surrounded by mountains, and the streets are all really narrow and windy and the architecture is great... I knew all this intellectually, but it's crazy in person. Like a never ending scene from a movie.

I still haven't made it to my school or my apartment yet. I'm pretty anxious to take that next step! For now I'm just going to wander around, drink wine, and soak up Italy.

Goodbye

Do they have sporks in Italy?

It's 3 in the morning. My flight leaves in 12 hours. There is no way I'm sleeping tonight.

My mind is racing and I cannot turn it off. I'm sitting on my roof for the last time, avoiding getting into my bed for the last time. Last night I had restless dreams about packing and going through airport security, and I spent the whole day today at home alone brooding.

Packing was actually much easier than I thought, thank god. On the one hand I'm totally sure that I did an excellent job, and on the other hand my instincts tell me that I am forgetting something. I have one more list (what feels like my dozenth,) of last minute things to do in the morning, but I'm essentially ready. I have so much nervous energy! 

I'm so, so, so excited to get away from my "real" life and have adventures, and I'm dreading these next few days. I just want to get the awkward transition over with already! I want to be done with the traveling part, and just skip straight to the next stage. I'm hoping it only takes about a week to settle in, and then I can start to explore and enjoy Italy and all the amazing things I'm sure it has to offer. I can't wait to meet new people, and eat new food, and find out if they have sporks over there!

Bon voyage, Chicago, I will miss you dearly <3

3, 2, 1, Go.

I am leaving in ten days for Florence, Italy.

I'm working on getting myself ready to go, and I'm going slowly insane. I'm sure I'm stressing more than is necessary... but I'm stressing nonetheless. I started packing a little bit earlier today - hence the blog title "Two Suitcases and a Purse." It's a name born of pure panic.

Two and a half months really isn't that long of a time, but I'm freaking out about what I need to take with me and whether or not it's going to fit into the two suitcases and the purse I am alloted on my flight. Enough clothes to last at least seven days, but does that mean I pack like seven outfits and just rotate those, or is that weird? And I can only fit so much in one suitcase (keep in mind that there's a lot more than just clothes that I need to bring), which has a 50 pound weight limit. Then I get a 17 pound carry on and a purse. I know a million other people do this all the time and I am making a big deal about nothing, but these are the only thoughts that populate my mind these days. 

Oh, then there's what I'm going to do when I actually arrive in Florence. My flight gets in at 9:15AM Sunday, I'm not supposed to be at the Academy until 5:00PM, and the school isn't even open since it's Sunday morning. So I have to figure out what to do for the day in this foreign city with all my luggage. And I don't speak the language. And I don't have any money.

Am I going to have to buy things like forks and plates and cups?? I've never personally seen a school apartment/dorm that has a stocked kitchen, but I'm going to be there for a minute and there's no way I can eat out every day...

There are literally a hundreds of thoughts like this in my head at all times of day no matter what I am doing. Every time I see an airplane I go into deep thought. I have no idea what the next two months of my life is going to bring and I am so, so scared, but incredibly excited too. I'm hoping these next ten days of constant panic and stress will be the worst of it.

Wish me luck!