Artisans at work inside the leather school in Florence
Before coming abroad, girls who had previously been on this trip had given me some special advice for the program. One of the tips that I always kept in the back of my head was, “Save money for Florence! They have a LEATHER MARKET!!” So of course all the girls, including me, did just that.
We first visited the leather school in Florence and watched the very talented artisans at work. We were able to observe them actually sew stitching on the leather for a future handbag, put buckles on the handbags, and even brand it with gold to make it more personal. The woman who gave us the tour, who also happens to work there, went into deep detail on the different types of leather and what different animals are used to make a product. After we finished up at the school, and bought a few souvenirs from there, we headed out to the actual leather market on the streets. The leather market can be spotted from miles away with the hundreds of white tents lining the streets. Behind them also are MORE shops with even MORE leather! Most of us stuck to the tents and were bombarded with the workers throwing purses or wallets or jackets in our faces. If we even stopped for a second to glance at something, they would come up to us and hand it to us as if we already agreed to purchase it. It was overwhelming to say the least, but enjoyable as well because it is all part of the experience. One of the best parts of the market was that I could BARGAIN! If they threw a price at me that was not in my budget, I could bargain with them and get them to lower it. Typically, they let us get away with a couple bucks cheaper than the original price. If we were really lucky though, you may even get the price down 10 or 15 euro!
Overall, our leather experience in Florence was great. It was so interesting to learn about the making of leather and the process of putting together a handbag – especially for those girls who are majoring in fashion.
By: Mary Briggs
Yesterday our field trip led us back into Rome, and we were finally able to see the famous Chigi chapel along with the chains of St. Peter. Knowing that we would be seeing these sights, we had a palace movie night with Mrs. Linda and watched Angels and Demons. After reading the book and watching the movies, each time we saw a sight from the movie we would all freak out and yell “That was in Angels and Demons!” (Like the loud Americans that we are!)
We also went back to Vatican City, except this time to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. We had visited St. Peter’s Basilica at the beginning of the semester, but this part of the trip was saved for later!
Leading up to our trip heard lectures by multiple experts, including Emilio Del Gesso who gave us a brief explanation on the art and sculptures that we were going to see. This was extremely helpful, because the typical tourist would just walk past these things unable to admire their beauty and importance. Emilio also served as our tour guide for the day. (Thank goodness because no ten to fifteen Expert and Reminder facts could prepare us for the beauty and sheer size of the Vatican museum and the Sistine chapel.)
The tour was nothing short of incredible. However, I feel confident saying that the actual chapel was everyone’s favorite part. The vast amount of frescoes covering the walls and ceilings were breathtaking. It was hard to wrap your head around the fact that we were standing in the middle of one of Michelangelo’s greatest masterpieces.
We were finally able to understand why people came from all over the world to see this spectacle. Each and every time we see these sights, I think to myself how lucky we are to spend three months of our life living with this in our backyard!
Katie Tynes and I in the famous Chigi Chapel!
Sending our love from Palazzo Chigi,
During our midterm break we jumped from Paris, London, and to Dublin. In ten days, my group saw the Eiffel Tower being lit up at night, the Louvre when it was free, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Dublin readying itself for St. Patrick’s Day.
For our first excursion, we traveled to Paris at five o’clock in the morning. Some of us thought this was a good idea, having the belief of spending more time there. However, we all struggled with the four a.m. wake up call that was before roosters crow. Although we were all exhausted, we enjoyed our first night in Paris by going to the Eiffel Tower. Words could not properly express how beautiful the Eiffel Tower was at night and how much our little group enjoyed our time there.
On our next stop, we went to London. It was interesting to go from learning different languages to function in other countries and then to our minds to relax with English. Buckingham Palace was crowded when I visited with tourists and locals alike. My personal highlight from London was getting to see old friends and eat amazing Anatolian food with some girls in our group. I have not eaten that much delicious food abroad since our Welcome Dinner to Italy.
After four busy days of touring London, our group took a rest in Dublin. One morning we traveled several hours away to visit the Cliffs of Moher. I have never been particularly fond of heights, but I loved viewing the ocean with the extreme beauty of the cliffs.
Although ten days was not a sufficient amount of time to properly see any of those places, I have memories to enjoy for the rest of my life with people I will never forget.
Sunset at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
Photo of the Last Supper tapestry in the Vatican Museum.
Well, spring break has come to an end. We’re back and ready to take on the last 5 weeks and finish out strong as we have lots coming up and to look towards. This week we are headed to Rome twice; once to visit the Vatican and to learn about the Mediterranean diet, which I have been waiting all semester for! Yesterday (Tuesday), we went to Vatican City for the second time as a group and one of our professors, Emilio Del Gesso, led our tour through the Vatican Museum which ultimately ended at the Sistine Chapel. On Monday, Emilio gave a lecture to familiarize us with what we were going to see at the museum and the Sistine Chapel so we could better appreciate what we were witnessing. We saw so many paintings, tapestries and statues. My favorite work of art was this massive tapestry of the Last Supper. Jesus and the 12 apostles were about 3 times the size of me and I couldn’t help but stare and take it all in. Finally, we reached the Sistine Chapel and it was magical. Growing up Catholic, I have been learning about this place my entire life and finally I was standing right in the middle, gazing upon the ceiling looking at each of Michelangelo’s paintings, from the first painting of lightness versus darkness and then leading up to Noah and the great flood. I’m not going to lie though. It did hurt my neck a bit as I couldn’t stop but kept trying to look farther back at the next scene.
Catherine Marshall Corsi
This week has been a week of quiet, unlike the usual go, go, go, we are so used to here in Ariccia, Italy. With our usual weeks laced with class lectures and field trips that take us to magical places and the occasional wine tasting, this week marks the time where we slow down to work on our journals. A week dedicated to reading, writing, and printing off pictures. A good amount of glue, scissors and working pens are all one needs to complete this journal.
Our journals are a collection of all the places we have gone, all the activities we have done and all the cherished moments we want to bring back to America, from the Pantheon in Rome to the aperitivo we hosted. Because this semester abroad flies by, it is important to keep a detailed journal with facts, pictures, reflection essays and responses to everything that we have experienced.
When we first arrived in Italy, our teacher explained that our trip would be like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. With so much coming at us in such a short period of time, our journals help us absorb so much more about the places we are visiting. The journals allow for constant learning and growth while we are here. With the hope that in years to come we will be able to look back on our amazing experiences and bring them back to life by flipping through our thick, black journals.
Clare Harp getting creative on her journal pages.
The sign outside of the gelateria
The first night I ever visited Gelateria San Martino in Albano was after a long day in Rome. We were walking back to Ariccia from the train station, absolutely exhausted. Of course, my immediate reaction was that I wanted gelato, because gelato is the answer to everything: happiness, sadness, sleepiness, you name it. As soon as I spotted a lit up ice cream cone on the side of the building, I was sold. My friends Katie, Marsh, and I decided to try it out while the others kept walking. Like most local cafes, it was small, compact, with seating off to the side. It was late and they were about to close, so only one person was working. This was the first time I met Maximillian, the 51 year old, peppery-haired, gelateria owner with an extremely thick Italian accent. Before I barely had time to set foot inside the door, the nervous laughter, which I have learned is my natural response to the language barrier, set in. It always gives me away as a foreigner.
The legendary Maximillian and I
Nonetheless, we all three ordered. I do not know how, but we somehow managed to get across that we were studying in Ariccia for three months. We were from Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina but we studied in Alabama. “Ahh! Alabama! Si!” he replied. Alabama seemed to click. It took a good fifteen minutes for us to understand that he knew about the state of Ohio, and wanted to know where it was located to which we replied it was north of us. By the end of our visit, I came to the conclusion that he only knew about five or six words in English, which was about equivalent to the amount of Italian I knew at the time. This made communication difficult, but surprisingly, more entertaining than anything else. Whether we knew it or not, he was helping us with our Italian while we were helping him with his English. I have lived here now for 5 weeks and I have gone back to Gelateria San Martino at least four times. I have since learned to keep my Italian phrasebook in my purse at all times. Now when I walk in to order my chocolate gelato, I am almost always greeted with a big “Ahh! Alabama! Ciao!” and it warms my heart to know that I have made a friendly connection with a local from one of the most beautiful countries on earth.
>> Clare Harp