Festival in Florence

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Where have I been?
I've been away traveling and completing my final projects for school.

What did I do during my time away?
I traveled to Austria and Germany. Hopefully, I will have time to post about my travels.
I also spent some time photographing a festival in Florence. This festival was in honor of San Giovanni the patron saint of Florence. Usually there is a historic soccer game, but it was cancelled due to some really crazy thunderstorms that rolled into town just before the game was going to start.
Thankfully the storms didn't stay long. The sky cleared just in time for the evening fireworks show.
Here are a few (unedited) pictures from the festival.

Lemons, Oranges, Islands & Sun

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I spent the weekend in Sorrento, Pompeii and on the Island of Capri. All of these cities are beautiful places with a severe lack of free wifi/ internet access. In Sorrento trees full of oranges lined the streets. In Capri the ocean was clear and the color of sapphires.
Now that I have returned to Florence I will probably be blogging more regularly again.
After a few days by the ocean it was difficult to return to class, but today we had a great guest lecture about the Italian mafia. I may write a little more about it later when I have the time to sit down and sort my thoughts.
On a totally different note, I will be traveling to Austria and Germany this weekend if all of the hotel room/ train ticket travel plans work out.

Oranges in Pompeii. These were located at stand that makes fresh squeezed orange juice and buffalo mozzarella pizza.

On the Island of Capri.

Lovers arch. We took a boat tour all around the island and got to pass under this giant arch.

Sorrento lemon orchard. Sorrento produces a lot of limoncello and grows a lot of lemons. I was given a free lemon at the orchard...

So I took pictures of my lemon. And then I made lemonade.

Night Photography in Florence

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The rolling hills of Pienza, Italy.

On Sunday my friends and I took a break from the busy city life of Florence.
We boarded a bus around 8 a.m. and headed off to see the Tuscan countryside.
Our first stop was in a small town called Pienza.
Cheese sports in Pienza
Pienza is the top producer of Pecorino cheese. There are cheese shops everywhere, and even the town itself smells a bit like cheese. There is also a cheese sport that the men participate in that involves rolling a wheel of cheese toward a stick. I'm still not sure how it works, but I do know it must be a lot more difficult that it looks. It seems that cheese wheels are generally not very cooperative.
After Pienza we were on our way to Salcheto Winery. This was probably the scariest part of the trip mostly because the charter bus we were on got stuck going uphill and most of the trip there was spent driving on winding dirt roads with high cliffs on either side of the bus. Somehow we made it to Salcheto Winery unscathed, and only had to get off the bus once so it could drive up a really steep part of the road.
This particular winery is very eco-friendly and modern. We got to take a quick tour of the facility before lunch and I tried to get some pictures of the underground rooms, but there was little light.
The dining and wine tasting area
A homemade pasta with tomato sauce
Wines and appetizers
Where the wine is stored
We got to try several wines: Rostato Toscana, Roso di Montipulciano and Vino Nobile. What I learned from my wine tasting experience is that I don't like wine as much as I thought I did. I guess deep down I might have already known this because in general I am usually a fan of alcohol-free fruity slushy type drinks.
Twilight: New Moon was filmed in Montepulciano.
After lunch and wine tasting was over we took off on the scary bus and headed up an even steeper hill to see the town of Montepulciano. This town was cute, small and nobody there was a big fan of Americans, which seemed strange because Italians and Americans are at the least cordial to one another most of the time.
While I browsed the shops and walked through the steep city streets I kept having a strange feeling of deja vu. Obviously I hadn't been to Montepulciano. Before this trip I hadn't even left the United States for longer than a day. Then we ran into a poster outside one of the local businesses. One of the Twilight movies had been filmed in Montepulciano. Suddenly, it all made sense.
After visiting the open markets of the city we returned to the scary charter bus and returned to Florence.

Monday Through Thursday From 3-6 p.m.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Obligatory artsy sunset in Italy photograph.
When I am not roaming the streets of Florence sampling Italian cuisine, writing, looking through a camera lens or sitting at a cafe sipping a latte, I am in class. At my university I am enrolled in two classes: Advanced Magazine Editing and Media Photography. Both classes are challenging and enjoyable in their own ways.
The objective of the advanced magazine editing class is to create a complete magazine about the Florence study abroad experience for future study abroad students. At first I thought it would be boring for the first few weeks, but it has been fascinating. Currently, we are working with another student who wants to make a documentary about the Madonnari or street artists of Florence. So far, we have compiled a list of questions for an interview we will be setting up with one of the most well known street artists of Florence.
In my media photography class we are moving a little bit slower, learning concepts class by class and not jumping into everything head first. We go to class, critique our photos and the photos of others, cover a new photography concept and then are given an assignment to work on before the next class. My current assignment is to photograph a silhouette, something colorful against a stark background (no flowers allowed), something that frames its subject, and leading lines/ interesting patterns. My next post should be filled with creative photos.
Tomorrow I will be heading to the Tuscan countryside for a wine tour with my professors and some of my classmates. I am looking forward to photographing the small renaissance towns and the beautiful countryside.

The View From Above

Thursday, June 6, 2013

This may be the best view of Florence.
Late Post: This was supposed to be published the day I wrote it when I was in Italy. Unfortunately the internet was moody and decided to save it a a draft instead....
So here it is now months later.

After hiking up a really steep hill to Michelangelo's Plaza, I had the chance to shoot some sunset and night photos. This was my first nighttime photo shoot. I will soon have some amazing pictures, if they turn out how I think they did.

During the day, I crashed a fashion photo shoot with my photography class. It was interesting getting to see the different aspects of live outdoor photography and photo shoots. I tried my best to sneak a shot, but I couldn't get my camera to cooperate. The area was crowded and, as you can see in the photo above, the lighting was harsh so everyone had lovely raccoon eyes.

A longer and more detailed post should appear on my blog soon. Right now sleep is my priority. Starting at 4 a.m. the alleyway by my becomes a bottomless pit of construction sounds. So I must get as many hours of sleep as I can before the jackhammers and bulldozers start up again.

Navigating Italy

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The larger towns in Italy are composed of tiny side-by-side shops that line streets so narrow that anything bigger than a MINI Cooper will struggle to wind its way through. Outside of these larger towns lies the sudden, sprawling, countryside which intermingles with various industrial fortresses. As I rode the bus to Florence I would see a lone field full of crops, a small farmhouse, then nothing but trees and flowers, and out of nowhere a Prada factory.
So different from Texas, but charming in its own way.
Adjusting to college was surprisingly more difficult than adjusting living in Italy. However, there have been a few funny and slightly embarrassing experiences my new friends and I have had since arriving in this foreign land.

My first Italian gelato.
It was our first day in Rome. My friends and I had just sat down outside of a cute cafe for a quick lunch. The waiter brought us a menu, we ordered our food, received our meal, finished eating and waited for our check. We talked about our afternoon plans and waited for our check. We tried to find a wifi signal while we waited for our check.
An hour and a half later. No check.
Finally we asked a waiter and he quickly brought us the check. We paid him and were off and on our way.
Later that day we learned that Italians view tables at restaurants and cafes as property of the customers. It is rude to give customer the check after the meal. Because of this checks must always be requested.
While on the subjects of checks. Split checks do not exist here. The one time I asked for a split check I got a confused look accompanied by a menu so I could split the check myself.
My advice: Go to a fruit stand. Their fruits are better than supermarket fruits.

A few other things that are different in Italy...

One must always wear gloves while selecting fruits and veggies at the supermarket. I didn't know this
and got corrected by an Italian man who gave me a pair of gloves and explained to me in crystal clear English that I must always wear gloves when I touch fruit.

Everyone wears jeans, even when it is hot.

Girls my age, their mothers and their grandmothers wear similar fashions. Everyone here dresses very well. I'm not even sure t-shirts exist.

Nice dinners take 3 to 4 hours and there is usually a 20-30 minute gap between the courses.

There are no lines, just large crowds trying to pass through the same door.

 On television tennis commentators say "Mama mia!!" every five seconds.

Italians like American crime television series and police tv dramas.

Some restaurants give free red wine to students.

Everyone walks everywhere.

I'm On a Boat (And a Train)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Today I successfully navigated the Italian train system, rode a gondola, survived a pigeon attack and smiled way too much.

Vatican City & Florence Photo Diary

Saturday, June 1, 2013

St. Peter's Basilica (still not 100 percent sure if this picture looks like me)

Before entering Vatican City everyone had to go through metal detectors and get their bags checked. It reminded me of going through airport security which instantly stressed me out. However, once I entered Vatican City, I realized it was actually a peaceful place, and a really nice break from the busy Roman city life I had been running through the day before. As we toured the city it was very calm and happy. I felt as if I was at Disneyland except there were no crazy carnival rides, just beautiful works of art. Instead of Disney princesses and cartoon characters around every corner, there were statues and cheerful security guards.
While I was in Vatican City I was able to see the Vatican City Museum, The Sistine Chapel (no pictures) and St. Peter's Basilica.
I loved the beautiful paintings done by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel! Since I don't have any pictures use this link to see what I saw.

The ceiling in St. Peter's Basilica

This is the ceiling of The Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museum.
The Holy Door. It will be open again in 2025 (I think). Who wants to go with me to visit?

Serfa con Serfa or "Sphere Within a Sphere" by Arnaldo Pomodoro

Is the ceiling made of Plaster, Marble or Carved Wood? Highlight text for answer: Neither! This is all painted to look three dimensional.

The ceiling in St. Peter's Basilica

Welcome to Florence, Italy

Rome to Florence

At The Fountain of the Four Rivers
Today I traveled by bus to Florence, Italy. Florence is where I will be spending the remainder of my time in Italy and I couldn’t be more excited. I have moved into my new apartment that overlooks a very (very, very) busy and loud street.
During our last dinner in Rome I had some time (3 hours to be exact, dinners take a lot longer in Italy than in the states) to discuss my favorite sights with all of my new friends. I loved getting to see the Trevi Fountain and the Coliseum, but I’ve decided my favorite sight in Rome was the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or “Fountain of the Four Rivers”.
This statue represents The Nile.
This beautiful fountain is located in the Piazza Navona. The Piazza Navona area is also home to many street artists and a fantastic café that has the best hot chocolate. The Fountain of the Four Rivers was sculpted by the artist Bernini and has so much symbolism and hidden features it is impossible to spot it all in one visit. As you can see in my pictures the fountain features sculptures of men. Each man represents a different river; The Nile, The Ganges, The Danube and the Rio de la Plata. The Nile statue is seen holding a cloth over his head, which represents that at the time of the fountains creation, no one knew where the source of The Nile was located. There are also other features that make this fountain very interesting including the a big fish that looks as if it is swallowing water from the fountain, but is actually a hidden drain for the fountain.
On my last touring day in Rome I visited Vatican City! I have some fantastic shots from St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican Museum. I will post these pictures as soon as I can get my hands on a card reader for my camera.

The Coliseum

Gothic architecture in a beautiful basilica.

One of my favorite meals! It is basically a spicy penne pasta with delicious tomato sauce.
From Diamonds to Sand