Rosanna, Amanda and Ian
leaving the central courtyard of the Church of St. Peter
The REAL medieval garden, it was through some doors in the church
A 3-headed woman guards the entrance into the chapel
Hello all! Sorry for the lack of updates. I've been quite busy and my internet isn't exactly reliable. Nonetheless, I have been enjoying my first 2 1/2 weeks of Italy. Sadly I'm not a reliable operator of my camera yet, and so I somehow took some pictures that later disappeared. A thousand words will have to suffice.
So, after moving into my chilly apartment (7 hours of heat is not enough when it is sub 40's weather) we took our placement test and began classes. My class includes students (not necessarily my age) from everywhere: Vietnam, Turkey, Indonesia, Japan, England, China, Russia, Germany . . . and they don't necessarily speak english. It is interesting, and they all seem very "simpatici" (easy to get along with/nice), but it is difficult to establish many relationships yet when all of what we know how to saw is quite superficial, i.e. - "Hi! My name is Katie. I'm from Minnesota. It is cold there. I live on a farm. I like to make cheese. . . "
Nevertheless, I have made friends. Most are from the full-immersion group, and I'm sure we will have many adventures to come. We have, in fact, already begun. Last Sunday we went to a farm that is a member of the Slow Food Movement ( an Italian creation begun to contradict fast food). They produce 3 things in particular that exemplify what Slow Food is all about: olives, pigs and beans. The olives they grow are indigenous to the area and more difficult to pick than those one would find in a wholly commercial environment. It's branches tend to grow upwards, meaning when the trees get a bit old the topmost branches are unreachable. The olive oil it produces, however, is absolutely to die for. I'd say it is definitely worth the hard work. Light, delicate, a bit sweet and a bit salty - it kicks the ass out of any oil I've every tasted (but in a quiet, tranquil and subtle fashion I attribute to the people that make the oil and the environment in which it is produced). The beans, fagiolina, are small and must be harvested at a specific time. They were nearly nonexistent on the market before a few farms decided to grow them again. Normal beans, maybe from Brazil for example, are bought for $3 per hundredweight. These beans are bought for $300 per hundredweight! Sadly we didn't get to taste them. The pigs, however, we ate a lot of during the meal following our tour (that lasted over 2 1/2 hours and was followed by a trip to the lake for gelato!) and take about 2X as long to mature, thus their scarcity. They are allowed to root as they wish, thus negating the need to inject iron into them and preventing other diseases. It was, in all, a wonderful day.
Classes and homework and getting to know people take a considerable amount of my time, so little of significance (not to say that it was not enjoyed) happened until this weekend. I was suppose to go to Barcelona with 3 girls: Aubree, Alex and Ruth (who had an eventful time of it without me). Instead, due to class conflicts, I had to change my ticket and forego the adventure. I will instead be going to Norway for a week after my program is finished (May 3 - May 10)! Hopefully some family members can be found and fjords explored.
So, plans for Barcelona extinguished (for now) some other friends (Rosanna, Ian and Amanda) and I decided to explore the city we were in, beautiful Perugia. We walked and talked for a while until we cam across what we thought was a medieval garden (see the 2nd picture below) with a striking monument in front of it (see the 3rd picture below). It was, we later discovered, not the garden we had intended to see, but was pleasant and has great potential for a picnic when the weather warms.
We went next the the enormous, nearby church of San Pietro. We wandered around it for quite some time and Rosanna and I each lit a candle infront of the crucifix. There was artwork - paintings, carvings, sculptures, tapestries . . . you name it - quite literally covering every surface inside the main chapel. Underneath it they were doing some digging and renovation of the space, but weren't very far along (we are in Italy). Pictures can not begin to do justice to the magnificence and the heavy feeling of reverence or holiness or some other indescribable feeling. There was an ominous presence and I felt as if I were performing an sacrilegious act whenever I took a picture or made a sound. (see pictures above and the one immediately below)
A little prayer room off to the side
Next weekend a group of us are planning to go to Naples and see Pompeii, Herculaneum and possibly some nearby islands. It'll be a long ride (via bus, ugh) down and back, but we're trying to go on the cheap as much as possible (projected budget thus far is around 150 Euro for a trip lasting Thursday afternoon to Monday afternoon) and well worth the trip. Many pictures will be taken and much good food eaten (I'm designating myself as the gastronomic coordinator).
Well, aside from these adventures (and the plans for those to come), and other wanderings around the city, I am learning how to speak Italian by shopping, meeting people at the bar (we go out in good sized groups, it is quite fun but a bit expensive so it will be happening from now on much more sparingly), or warding off creepy men in the street (I've already expanded my cache of nasty words). Also, I've been eating far too much nutella. Far too much.