Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fiorentina vs. Liverpool

Tonight was one of the most exciting sporting events I ever attended. It was a blast, we all had imitation jerseys and scarves, there were at least forty Gonzaga students all siting in one section. It was an exciting match with a lot of close calls that made this game great. Jovetic scored two goals in the first half and that is all that they would need. Liverpool put on the pressure in the second half but they still couldn't score. Final Score 2 - 0, Fiorentina shocks Liverpool.

Before the game

Kepfer, Doty, and Norris

Me and Tim

Final Score

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekend Fun

For my first weekend in Florence I kept a pretty open schedule. I caught up on most television programs that I would be missing. I found a site that allows me to watch them even though I am outside of North America, I will not reveal their address because if they went down I wouldn't know what to do with myself. Thursday was the night of the Ferarris. Friday started with a search for knock off jerseys for the football match on Tuesday and I spent the afternoon reading economics. We went to the Ponte Vecchio to go out for dinner and, believe it or not, I had my first plate of Spaghetti Ragu (spaghetti with meat sauce) it was tasty but the sauce was a lot thinner than I am used to. We spent the evening watching movies and TV shows that we were missing from home. Saturday was a day for homework and a night for clubbing, we were headed to Disco Space Electronica. It was to be an epic evening. we left for the club around 11:20 and arrived early, apparently the dance floor didn't open to midnight. We left around one because one of my roommates didn't like the guy to girl ratio, I thought that it was fine but I wasn't gonna let him leave on his own. Sunday has been for sleeping, eating, messing around, and doing homework; and watching the stats of the Seahawks game.

Knockoff Jersey


Castle with Clocktower

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Night of the Ferarris in Florence

Kepfer, one of my roommates went to help at a halfway house and discovered something amazing, there was an entire street blocked off and filled with beautiful Ferarris parked on red carpet. He came back to the pesione and told us about the cars. It was dinner time so we went out for food first. We went to the kabob place by the Duomo, I realize it seems irrational to be in Italy and eating food from Turkey, but they were delicious. From there we went to the Ferarris, we got there just in time, they had started to clean up but I hurried and took as many pictures as I could.

Me in front of a Ferarri

Kepfer in front of a Ferarri

Ferarri roadster

Ferarri that will be racing this weekend

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

First Week in Florence

Well I've been in Florence for a week. It has been a busy one with with classes starting last Thursday. As of now I am enrolled in Ethics, Marketing, Operations, Italian, and a class on the global economy. It is a tough schedule on Mondays but on all other days its pretty light, on Wednesdays I only have Italian class. We don't have class on Fridays, so we had an orientation of sorts last Friday and we took our group picture. We used a tourist laundry service when we first arrived, 6 Euro for every 5 Kg of clothes and 24 hours later you had fresh clothes, it felt amazing to finally have clean clothes. Florence is beautiful and I haven't even seen that much of it. I have been by the Duomo at least half a dozen times, never in the daylight so I have yet to take a good picture. Saturday and Sunday we had a basketball tournament against the Italians, I shot around but didn't actually participate in the games. Over the weekend we had to feed ourselves so we discovered Il Panda, a Chinese takeout place not to far from our pesione, its not great tasting but it is cheap. Today we bought tickets to see Fiorentina verses Liverpool for next Tuesday, I can't wait! I don't have a lot of pictures to show for my first week in Florence but I am hoping to change that after this weekend, which for me starts tomorrow at two.

My room in the pesione

My bed

All of the basketball players

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Opening Trip - Acireale

The next stop on our opening tour was Acireale, our last stop before we headed to Florence. Our first stop was Piazza Armerina for a guided tour of Villa Romana del Casale. The Villa Romana del Casale is an ancient villa that was built probably by a local Roman ruler at the time. It is famous for the beautiful mosaics that cover the floors of the entire villa.

Beautiful Mosaic

After that it was time for a quick stop for lunch in a small town on the way to the hotel, but we were there on a Sunday so we could couldn't find anything to eat. We had to hike to find to restaurants that would be open on a Sunday, we finally found a place that had pizza and then we got gelato.

After lunch it was straight to the hotel, it was quite a drive but it was worth it because this hotel was amazing. It was one of the nicest hotels that I have ever stayed in. It was on the beach It has an Infinity pool and every Sunday it had a dance party by the bar, and since we all wanted to watch football they had another dance party on Wednesday night. The best part of the hotel was that some of our rooms came with SKY cable, on a Sunday night it was great to watch football. After a week of being away from home it was a great respite from all of the different things that I enjoyed about visiting Italy.

Infinity pool overlooking the Mediterainian

Gecko in my room :)

On Monday we went to Mount Etna the largest active volcano in Europe. It is currently building up towards another eruption. While we were there we hiked around the mountain and learned about volcanoes. Our guide was a vulcanologist, he explained that there are two kinds of lava, smooth and rough. He explained that Etna had rough lava, which is called ʻAʻā by the Hawaiians and scientists who followed their lead. As we left Etna we stopped at a small town called Randazzo, all the buildings were constructed with stones that were created by lava. We spent the afternoon in the town of Taormina, which is known as the Pearl of Sicily, it was a beautiful city, but it seems like it has become a little to commercialized to be the true Pearl of Sicily. While I was there I had one of the the most amazing thing ever, cannoli, one of the most famous desserts of Sicily. It was so delicious I cannot even describe it to you. Cannoli consist of a pastry shell filled with ricotta cheese with bits of chocolate, pistachios, and candied fruit peel... mmm, I might just have to go buy one right now. We had dinner at a restaurant near the hotel, it was fine. It is hard to feed 160 people a gourmet meal all at once, and this small restaurant did there best.

Our guide on Mount Etna

Canolli... mmm :)

The last day before we left for the Florence we went to the city of Siracusa. We were taken on a tour of the archaeological sites around the city. We started by a sight where the Greeks had a quarry that is now known for its acoustic characteristics. From there we walked to the Greek amphitheater, it is the third largest amphitheater in the world, although it no longer looks quite as grand because the Romans took any stone that was movable when they were constructing their own structures. After that we went to the Roman arena that was constructed after the Greeks left. We went down to the waterfront for a brief tour and some lunch, we found out that the city was built where it is for two reasons. First, there is an easily protected harbor. Second, there is a fresh water spring right near the harbor. Both of these reasons made Siracusa into one of the most powerful Greek city states. We had a buffet dinner at the hotel followed by a dance but I called it an early night because we had to get up so early the next morning to catch the plane to Florence.

Greek Amphitheater

Roman Arena

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Opening Trip - Agrigento

The night before we left Palermo someone made a joke about my facial hair so I asked the only real judges, a group of girls what they thought. One of them said that it reminded them of the game Guess Who when you ask if their person has facial hair... and so now the goatee is no more.

The morning the goatee died :(

We left Palermo to go on a tour of a thousand temples, not really but it felt like a thousand. I will do my best to accurately describe them but they were quite a blur. The first place we stopped was Segesta to tour one of the longest continuously standing Classic Doric Greek temples in the world, it was built around 500 BC and has been standing ever since, it has had some restorations done to maintain its structural integrity but other than that it has had no work done. While we were there our guide discussed some of the optical corrections that the Greeks used to make the temple look perfect while mathematically correct. Amongst other things they put a slight curve in the floor so that it would look flat from far away and they tilted the outer columns inward to create the illusion that they were standing straight up, if they had put them straight up from a distance it would look as though they were falling out.

Temple at Segesta

The Wolfpack in front of the Temple

For lunch we went to the beach, the food was a little disappointing, I tried everything but it just wasn't that good. There was octopus and other seafood, the octopus was both tough and sandy, it would have it been easier to eat if it didn't look like octopus. They had some kind of pizza that was pretty good. There were cannoli at the restaurant but my table was to far down the beach and by the time I got there I was too late... no cannoli for me, yet.
For the afternoon we went to Selinunte, the site of an ancient city that was built by the Greeks around the same time as Segesta. Here there were many temples, we saw the temples dedicated to Zeus and Hera. The Temple of Hera was reconstructed and we were allowed to walk through it. the Temple of Zeus was a pile of rubble but it was a huge pile. While we were there we learned about how the Greeks developed some sort of crane system to build their temples. We also learned that there is no marble temples on Sicily, the temples were made out of sandstone or limestone and then given a whitewash.

Temple of Hera (Reconstructed)

Dinner that night was amazing. It was a salad course, a pasta course, a main course, and a dessert. The dessert was a very tart lime gelato with a strawberry syrup, it was amazing, I had two servings. More of the same for breakfast the next morning, then it was off to the temples.

We went to the Valle dei Templi with its many temples and other anchient structures. This tour was very interesting. The temples were built on the hills surrounding an anchient city. We saw the temples of Zeus, Hera, and Hurcules. The temple of Hurcules had been fully restored by a wealthy business man many years ago. The Temple for Zeus is the third largest temple ruins in the world. There was also evidence of the early Christians in the former city wall and in the surrounding stone structures.

The Christian grave sites near the city wall

Friends in the most holy section of one of the temples

Us in front of the temple

After the temple we went to the ocean for lunch, I went and purchased my own panini, it was delicious. We stayed at the beach 'til three, swimming, sunning, and having a good time. We had another delicious dinner, it was delicious again. We had swordfish and dessert was some kind of pistachio ice cream cake.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Opening Trip - Palermo

The ferry ride/cruise from Napoli to Palermo was a disappointment to say the least. If you look up the cruise line they show many beautiful boats that have many amenities, the one I was most looking forward to was the disco bar. Our boat may have once looked like the boats pictured on their web site but it has gotten a little older since its last photo, and although there was a disco bar on board, it never opened. It was a place to sleep and for that I am grateful.

We arrived in Palermo at 7 AM after sailing all night, I forgot to set my alarm, relying on the ship's wake up call service (mistake), and almost slept through disembarcment. I made it off the boat at with the end of our group. Once arriving in Palermo we went straight to the hotel to check in and have breakfast. Although it came from a self serve coffee machine, this hotel was the site of my first Italian capichino, it was delicious. After breakfast we went on a walking tour of Palermo and the many churches that they are famous for. Their churches are unique because of the many influences that shaped both the inside and outside of the churches. The churches were influenced by the Normans and the Arabs. We went to way to many churches on this tour but it was a lot of fun. We walked by the third largest theater in Europe. We saw the Cathedral of Palermo and the Palentine Chapel and the market.

Third largest theater in Europe

Town Square

Cathedral of Palermo

Inside of the Palantine Chapel

The first night in Palermo we had pick our roommates, it was easy for me because we had the roommate situation planned out since we all signed up to go. We didn't eat dinner at the hotel, our original plan was to eat at six at a restaurant and at nine at the hotel, but nothing was open 'til seven or later. We ate at a pizzeria that served some of the best pizza I've thus far, their house wine was not half bad so we sat, ate slowly and enjoyed our wine, we didn't leave until at least nine.

The next day we went to the Capuchin Catacombs, they didn't allow photos, which is to everyone's benefit. It was interesting to learn about but disgusting to see. The catacombs is not true catacombs, it is simply an underground cemetery that was used by the wealthy of Palermo. There were many monks and bishops that are kept there, the is a special guest of the catacombs, the daughter of a wealthy business man who died long after it was allowed to be used but the business man got special permission to entomb his daughter in the catacombs, to this day she is almost perfectly preserved. In the afternoon, we went to a nature reserve that is known for its plants, but more for the many kinds of birds that call it home. It was an interesting hike, but the only bird we saw was a seagull. We hiked down to a beach that everyone enjoyed... until it started to rain. It poured for at least twenty minutes and there wasn't any shelter nearby. I got soaked.

We went walking to find someplace to eat dinner, apparently we hadn't missed much the night before at dinner, we ended up at the same pizzeria, it was too good to pass up even for a second night in a row. A group of us went out for drinks after dinner and we ended up sitting at a table with a group of Italians until midnight, the language barrier was not a problem, it was a fun night.

The Opening Trip - Rome

The opening trip began on Monday September 7th when I landed in the Rome airport, all of my friends landed at different times so we ended up at different hotels. After landing we met Father Brian at our hotel, he took us on a walking tour of Rome. Our hotel was near Vatican City, which was where we began our tour. It was a lot of walking but we saw a lot of interesting locations, including his personal favorite place to get gelato. After the Vatican we walked passed the Castel Sant' Angelo, which is used in the recent movie "Angels & Demons". From their we crossed the bridge to Piazza Navona, which was the site of ancient chariot races, it is surrounded by bars and restauraunts. From the piazza it was a short walk to the Pantheon, which is famous for its large dome with an opening in the center of the roof. It wasn't much further to the real destination for me, the gelateria. I got peach, or pesca, in honnor of the episode of "Everybody loves Raymond" when the family goes to Italy and Robert gets a peach gelato and declares, "It's like I've never tasted a peach before." It realy was that good! after that we returned to our hotel to rest up before dinner.

Vatican City


I took a catnap in the lobby while I read a book and waited for others to go to dinner. We went out around eight in a group of about thirty or more students. there were to many of us to get dinner anywhere so we split up. Twelve of us ended up near Piazza Navona and sat down for dinner, I had a four cheese pizza with a pesto sauce, it was delicious. From there we went through the piazza to Campo de Fiori, which is the place to go for the night scene. I didn't stay there to long because it was quite a walk back to the hotel and I hand't slept in forever.

Four Cheese Pizza

The next morning was the tour of the church of Saint Ignacious of Loyola, who Gonzaga was named after. The inside of the church is amazing because the roof is painted in such a way that gives the illusion of a high arched ceiling but actually it is just created by the tecniques the artist used, he was a Jesuit painter at the time that the church was built. Then we went to the Jesuit house in Rome, just down the block from the church, the roof has a great view of Rome and the church. After we left the Jesuit house, we went to get lunch, I walked back towards the hotel with some others from our group and found a pizza bar near the Vatican to eat at, while we ate we fed the pigions and watched them fight for the crumbs. After lunch we got on the bus to go to Napoli to catch the ferry down to Palermo on the isle of Sicily.

Cathedral of St. Ignacious of Loyola

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just Arrived

I just arrived in Florence. It was a long trip from Sicily to Florence. We started getting wake-up calls at five this morning, breakfast was at six, we loaded the buses half an hour after that. Then we waited for almost an hour while the staff found all the stragglers. We then had an hour long bus ride to the airport, followed by a two hour flight to Bologna. from Bologna it was just an hour further to Florence. We just moved into our pesione which is similar to a hotel. Over the next few posts I will describe the opening trip and post pictures.