(Okay. Sorry. That’s enough.)

(Reblogged from to-drown-in-honey)

This is my main tumblr account…

but I do most of my blogging over here! My latest project is a book blog full of quotations and pictures and the occasional essay about what I’m reading. Check it out if you feel so inclined!



Shameless Plug

Hello, friends and followers!

Just wanted to let you know that, seeing as I’m not currently in Italy (and probably won’t be going back in the very near future, barring some MIRACLE OF FOOD AND MUSIC), I no longer post to this blog. However! If you want to keep up with my next nerdy adventure, check out theyearof100books@tumblr.com, wherein I read 100 books that the BBC has suggested are necessary to my survival and blog about it.

It’s more interesting than that, I promise.

Thank you for traveling with us. We hope you enjoyed your voyage.
The First Italian Journal, April 6, 2005

"You Will Always Have Florence," or, Things I Have Learned in Four Weeks

  1. Posso?, which means “may I?,” is probably the most useful phrase when navigating your way through touristy situations, especially those involving crowded trains or the taking of photographs.
  2. You have to sing through the ends of your phrases, not just through the high notes, or the particularly difficult sections. Also, if you feel like you are running out of air, for heaven’s sakes, take a breath!
  3. Shoes that are uncomfortable to walk in are not worth buying. Thankfully, such shoes apparently don’t exist in Italy.
  4. Any church you go into will have exquisite art. Any street you walk down will have exquisite art. And it must take more than a month for a person’s eyes to grow accustomed to the beauty, because I was still gawking like a tourist on the last day.
  5. Food in Italy is better than food anywhere else in the world. 
  6. If you’re going to visit museums or other tourist attractions, its best to go very early in the morning, or around lunch time, to miss the hordes of foreigners.
  7. Taxis are expensive yet necessary when it’s 80 degrees outside and your suitcase is pushing the 50-lb. limit. However, said taxi will, like all other automobiles in Italy, stop every twenty seconds for pedestrians. 
  8. To add to the weight issue: it is always worth it to carry your enormous camera with you. Even though it weighs as much as a small child, it is worth it.
  9. It pays to be friendly, even when you have to be friendly in a language that isn’t exactly English, nor entirely Italian. It’s the thought that counts.
  10. And finally, this from Smarling on April 6, 2005: “You must always be flexible, no matter what happens or what comes up, always be ready for a change in the schedule. If one comes up, take it in stride. If you dig your heels in, it only makes it more difficult for you to accept that things may not go your way. And it’ll probably screw with everyone else as well.”

I’ve been back in the States now for a whole week, and I can hardly believe how quickly time passes. Here, as in Italy, it seems that things are over before I even realize they’ve begun. I’m a little bit worried that this is how summers will go from now on: over before I even register that they’ve begun.

Still, my dad said something to me the other night that I’ve been thinking a lot about this past week. I had spread my Trusty Map of Florence out on the kitchen counter and was pointing out all of my favorite restaurants, gelaterie, shops, and places to hang out around the city. “You know,” he said, “how cool this is?”

"How cool what is?" I asked.

"You will always have Florence," he said. "No matter how old you get or how much the world changes, Florence will always be a city you know. You will always be able to look at a map of the city and close your eyes and imagine yourself right on this corner, right there in this city."

Time passes in strange ways. I may feel like the summer is over before I’ve even begun it. I may lose track of hours or whole weeks. But I will always have Florence, timeless and steadfast, building around rather than tearing down, changing on the outside yet constant in its heart and spirit. I will always have Florence, and, after a week of missing gelato and Tuscan pizza and speaking Italian, I think I can safely say that Florence will always have me, too.

Mi Sono Laureata!

After all the activity and spectacle of yesterday, it seemed very strange to be waking up at the normal time and getting ready for school this morning. I kept telling myself, “This is your last day in Florence. This is the last time you’ll walk to school past this building, this gelateria, this homeless guy,” but it just wasn’t sinking in. Even after we had corrected our Scary Italian Tests of Doom and received our certificates of Level-Up-ness (I am now officially in Level II!), it didn’t register with me that I will not be coming to the Accademia on Monday.

I think this probably has to do with the minor time-travelling I did yesterday at the parade of San Giovanni Battista. Mark Piano and I left the school around 5:00 p.m. in quest of a snack and a little fresh air. However, we didn’t get very far, as the Piazza della Republica was stuffed to the gills with men in Renaissance garb. We climbed to the top step of a nearby obelisk-esque monument and watched as a fleet of drummers began beating their instruments and the columns of flag-bearers, Bible-holders, and cannon-toters began marching forward.

Halfway through the parade, a group of men like rectangles passed by, followed by a cloud of women clutching at their arms. One look at their expensive athletic shoes told me that this must be the Calcio team. Calcio is the Italian word for “soccer,” but in Florence, “calcio” has a special meaning. It is an historical game played only on San Giovanni Day that is so steeped in tradition and ancient familial rivalries that the game itself is often abandoned in favor of a brawl. These Calcio guys certainly did look ready for a fight, their gazes steady and fierce as their wives and girlfriends hung on their arms with worried looks on their faces.

The team was followed by a white bull wearing a bell and draped in a colorful cloth. I had the horrible suspicion that this was a sacrificial bull, but Helpful Isabel (the segretaria at the school) informed me that they don’t kill anything anymore; it’s just for show and tradition now.

I followed the parade as far as I could; the column of anachronisms marched from Piazza della Republica, through Piazza Signoria where ladies representing the Medici women stood at the doors of the Palazzo Vecchio, to Piazza Santa Croce where the match was to be held. However, all non-ticketed members of the crowd were turned away from the gates a few blocks away from the pitch, so I couldn’t even get close enough to hear the match. I consoled myself with gelato and a passeggiata.

And now I am graduated, lunched, departed from Prof. Len., and getting ready for a final passeggiata before dinner and the commencement of The Great Packing Endeavor of 2010. I’m still in denial about leaving, mostly because I’ve gotten so used to traveling around, I think. From the U.S.A. to Germany to Florence to Viareggio to Siena to Poggibonsi (accidentally) to San Giminano in a month is a lot of voyaging for one person. And yet, I survived! I am still here on the other side: slightly tanner, more proficient in Italian, less parenthetical, more worldly, and newly-graduated with every desire to return to Florence as soon as possible.

The Parade on San Giovanni Battista Day.

The Best Compliment I’ve Ever Received

The best compliment I’ve ever received was given to me by the head pastor at my church. I was in high school, at church for youth group, just settling in for bible study, when my pastor asked us if we had ever seen the TV show Kim Possible. His twin boys, he said, were obsessed with it just now, and he was actually enjoying watching it with them. Not being one to hide my nerdiness, I chimed in with, “I love Kim Possible.”

My pastor turned to me, nodded, and said, “You know, Carling, you kinda remind me of Kim Possible.”

That was the best compliment I’ve ever received. But when Ancient Opera Man (who is actually a famous musicologist, I discovered, and not just a really old fan of opera) came up to me after the concert last night and told me (in Italian), “You are such a musical singer. When I listen to you, the songs don’t seem like songs, they seem real. I can tell that you understand the music, very deeply,” that was pretty great too.

Concerts, Exams, and Patron Saints

I occurred to me this morning during the break between my Grammar and Conversation lessons that I have only 3 full days left in Italy. Despite the incessant counting-down of days I did during the first two weeks here, this realization came as a huge and horrible shock. Leaning out the third-floor window of the school, looking down on Via Roma, I thought the following thoughts:

  1. Next week, I will not be looking out my window at Florence.
  2. Next week, I will not even be in the same country as Florence.
  3. Bummer.

3 days compared to 4 weeks seems like such a short time. And yet, there are half a bazillion things to do before I lug my suitcase 2.5 miles to the bus station and catch the shuttle to the airport on Saturday. Tomorrow is the Officially Hard Test that Proves You Have Learned Italian During Your Month in Florence, which all level-one students have to take. (I, being me, have manufactured a handy study-guide, and will be conjugating verbs until the very last minute.) Tomorrow night is the final concert, in which I will be singing one aria and the aforementioned Mozart duet, neither of which are currently memorized. Then Thursday is San Giovanni Battista Day, which seems to be the Florentine equivalent of Kenyon’s Summer Sendoff. Since San Giovanni is the patron saint of Florence, the whole city gets a day off of work, during which citizens parade around the city center in traditional Renaissance garb. This parade is followed by a barbaric game of Florentine Soccer (also conducted in Renaissance costume), during which people have been known to die. The night is capped off by fireworks over the Arno. Friday holds a graduation ceremony, a long lunch at Grotto Guelfa, and last-minute monument-seeing and Florence-farewelling.

I’m actually glad that so much is going on between now and Saturday, because it prohibits me from dwelling too much on the melancholy. It took me almost two weeks to adjust to life here, and now I find myself confronted by a measly three days. Still, I’m trying to stay as much in the present as possible. If there’s anything that Italy has taught me, with all its bicycle traffic and ambling tour groups, it’s that if I don’t pay attention to what’s going on around me, I will walk into someone.

The trouble with Italy is that it’s too beautiful. Why bother to paint, when there’s so much pleasure to be had from looking around you? …To resist such beauty and not be consumed by it you’ve really got to know what you’re doing.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir