Tuesday, March 23, 2010

vedi Napoli e poi mori

Taking a break from the massive amount of Art History piling at the corner of my table in the library to write a little about the wonderful day spent in Napoli on Saturday.

It seems everyone has something to say about Naples, either about it being huge, or incredibly dirty, dangerous, "a little rough", or absolutely fantastic (that coming from my friend, Joe, who thinks it is the best place in the world), there is one thing for sure- the Neopolitans know food.

Our tour de force started off with an 8:15 am train from Termini, which, I will admit, included some McDonald's breakfast, we set some ground rules.

-two meals AT LEAST
-no complaining (about tired feet or about the crazy amount of calories we were going to consume)

The rest of the day was up to chance.

Once we arrived we strolled through the area surrounding the train station, immediately we realized some of the ideas that had been put into our head about Naples might be right- we laughed a little and kept walking. Following about 15 "CIAO, BELLA!" and a proposal to Alana (we got about 40 more), we stumbled upon Piazza Dante, and through the cutest alley of used bookstores, grocery stores, and gelaterias- this was the Naples I was waiting for.

The first place we stopped at was a recommendation from Joe (the one who LOVES naples), called Gino Sorbillo's. We got here just in time, because as we started eating the line outside was growing. I stuck to the traditional Margherita, while Mackenzie got some sort of Pesto delight, Carolyn with something including sausage, and Alana with her Diavola. It was all FANTASTIC and all completely eaten. We of course, walked down the street and had gelato sitting on the steps of a church afterwards.
Let me tell you, this was the best Nocciolla I have EVER tasted. Blew Old Bridge out of the water.

After round one of eating, we started to make our way towards the beach- there was NO WAY I was going to be in Naples, right on the coast and NOT sit next to the sea. After a few detours and some direction by the police...we arrived sea side.

From where we were we had this stunning view of Vesuvius, and just miles and miles of water.
Soon enough, we were cold, were getting tired, and needed coffee before trekking back towards the train station and our last pizzeria.

Now, while everyone else seemed to favor Gino's over Da Michele, I can't even begin to explain how much better my Doppio at Da Michele was.

First of all, they keep it simple there, 2 types of pizza served two ways.
Margherita + Marinara.
Regulare o doppio (double mozzarella).
Secondly, it was the ORIGINAL pizza "place".

Let me set it straight, though. There is no such thing as bad pizza in Naples, probably not in all of Italy, but if you have to go to one place, and one only, go to Da Michele.

I was not a fan of pizza for the longest time (following an incident after a night of Papa John's) and refused to eat it for a few years. Since this trip I am a loyal convert to the glory that is a good pizza.

The best pizza is found in Italy, and the best pizza in Italy is found in Naples.

Friday, March 19, 2010

stripes are not just for zebras

It's almost a week since break has ended and finally I am getting to the end of the pile of clothes I bought in Paris...I ended up coming back with 3 striped mariner tees...one of which was already my own, but still two more to add to the collection.

This sailor stripe, which is in incredibly high demand for the spring are popping up everywhere. It's in every magazine and on every main display in ever department store here, and popping up in the "spring essentials" for every major store back in the US.

In Venezia it is how we recognize the gondaliers, though the origins of the fisherman's sweater are to be found in Brittany the stripes on the item of clothing are what made them recognizable from a distance. Finding this nautical wear was not terribly hard to find in France. Though striped sweaters seem to be a fairly simple concept, it's far more complicated than that. There are different patterns, different types, cloth weight, and everything else that goes into a true mariner t-shirt.

"MERIDIEN" made out of heavy cotton were worn at sea aboard fishing boats under a fisherman smock, a reefer jacket and the heavy oilskins with their fishy smell.

"MINQUIERS" and "LEVANT" are made out of a very fine thin cotton.

"NAVAL" National Navy service men shirt was and is still worn on special occasions by sailors manoevering on deck of war ships together with the "BACHI" with its red pompon.

"GARDE COTE" women mariner shirts are in stretchy cotton adding softness, cotton touch and elasticity or out of an anti-UV material.

It goes a little further than the 4.50 euro cotton smock that I picked up at H+M...probably lasts a bit longer, too.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

out and about in paris

paris, j'taime

So finally I have returned from my very long weekend in Paris (Tuesday-Saturday)...
There are a few things that I must share, and with that a few hi-lights of the trip.

Flying RyanAir is never a good or fun idea (even when you are on a college student and zero income budget, it still sucks) though it is totally necessary. Ciampino airport is a good 45 miles OUTSIDE of the city limits of Rome, 2 buses, a subway ride, and a shuttle later I finally arrived...I walked out my door at 2:15 and got to the aiport at 5:30, I spent more time in transit than on the actual plane. Beauvais (the Paris airport) is also ridiculously outside of Paris. Also, they have a ridiculous baggage policy. Now I am not hating on Ryan Air...it got me where I needed to be, but I do miss the days of hopping in a taxi to SFO and arriving in 20 minutes.

Complaints aside, being greeted by a familiar face, macarons and a bottle of Rose in the freezing Paris spring is always a nice feeling. As are finally putting your suitcases down and watching John Hughes movies in the early hours of the morning.

I completely enjoyed my first afternoon walking around the city, croque-monsieur in hand, sun and blue skies above. I crossed over the Siene and wandered through the side of Paris that I knew, feeling like a sort of grown-up Madeline in my blue coat and black ballet flats. Stumbling upon a tent at fashion week also added to the greatness of that day, along with my lipstick stained venti Starbucks coffee cup...yes, FINALLY I got my Starbucks. Following my afternoon stroll, I met up with Haley and we wandered around belle Paris in the dark, returning to her apartment only to get ready for a night of dancing...until 5 in the morning, which is apparently normal there. The last time I stayed out until 5 in the morning was on New Year's Eve, and it wasn't spent dancing...even Numbers closes at 2:30, and I am always totally exhausted by the time they kick us out.

The next day I spent wandering through the D'Orsay, which is my favourite museum in the city. The Louvre is wonderful, do not get me wrong there, but for me...when I think of France I think of Impressionism. I think vanGogh and Gauguin, Matisse, Monet, Degas, Manet, Seurat, and so,so many more. While the Art Institute Chicago has such an incredible collection of Impressionism, there is still nothing like seeing it on it's own turf, in its own terms. Currently the museum (formerly a train station) is under construction and they have re-arranged the collection. As of late the pieces are hung by artist and next to or near another artist who encouraged, influenced, or competed with the first...of course vanGough and Gauguin are in the same gallery. That is a relationship I would like to explore a little more.

Speaking of Vincent, there was nothing in the world like standing there, looking him right in the eye. Finally I saw his self portrait in blue. I can't remember if I saw it the first time I went (knowing my mother I probably did), but this time, there was something that just kept me standing there. I always have loved Degas' dancers, I used to always say they were my favourite piece of Impressionist work, but now, that really isn't true anymore. This one work is one of the most beautiful, and yet the most haunting that I have ever seen. I think I could have sat in that one room for the entire afternoon.

The remainder of my time in Paris was spent shopping and eating, of course.
Friday brought me to wandering through Le Bon Marche, The Galleries Lafayette, and strolling up and down Rue Saint-Honore.
As night fell we wandered through Mont Martre eating crepes and laughing. In the mood to see where the night took us, we ended up in Pigalle, which is NOT somewhere two cute girls want to be in pretty dresses. Hands down the TRASHY side of Paris no one ever dares to bring up when they are talking about how fabulously chic is it (though I did get some amazing photos).

My last afternoon was spent getting to the Marais to enjoy some falafel and playing tourist.
No trip to Paris would have been complete without a baguette...90 cents in total, and it was the best bread I had tasted in my entire life.

Friday, March 5, 2010


In Rinaldo's after hours. Campus is empty, it's wonderfully quiet.

la primavera.

It's been what seems like a century since I have last posted anything...things got busy here really quickly.
It is now officially Spring Break, the first friday of, as we all are stuck inside with a massive downpour of rain coming down, bundled in sweaters deciding over coffee if it is worth it to try to do anything today.
Most likely it will be an evening of movies and chinese food (some things just don't change) and more being lazy before we all go off on our separate trips. Alana and Carolyn both have their families here for the week, Garrison is off on a tour of Greece, MacKenzie to Tunisia, and I am bound for a long weekend in Paris starting next tuesday.
It is a little ridiculous to think that it is already spring break, that midterms are over, and that in six short weeks I will be on another plane headed for the warmth of Texas and familiar faces.

In the last two weeks the majority of my time has been spent living in the library in the stacks of the great poets, best known as the Dante cave, flipping through pages and pages of art text books, italian grammar lessons, and the history and development of opera with very few breaks between.

But now the books are to be put away for a while....HOORAY!

On the rare occasion that I wasn't living in the library we got out in Roma a bit, and once a little further outside to the hilltop town of Orvieto-best known for the wine made in the vineyards surrounding the city and the massive cathedral that dominates the main square. We couldn't have wished for a more gorgeous day to be wandering around Umbria.

Following the few hours of wandering through winding cobblestone streets we sat down to a four course lunch, which was just absolutely ridiculous to say the least...so much food. The food and the wine made for a very good nap the entire way back to Roma, though.

Aside from Orvieto I spent a few weekday afternoons wandering through the Vatican Museums, finally seeing the Raphael rooms and once more sitting in the Sistine Chapel. Dropping out of my philosophy class might have been the best choice I could have possibly made- leaving my wednesday afternoons free to go out and explore following my onsite class and usually involve gelato of sorts.

I am making it a point of my trip to have gelato as much as I possibly can. Once in every city I go to, and of course multiple times in Roma. Currently my favourite gelateria is "Old Bridge" which is located right by the 990 bus stop on across the street from the Vatican walls. Not only is it the best, but it is the cheapest. Some classmates of mine are making it a goal of theirs to try every flavour offered at Old Bridge (100 in total) while mine is to see which place makes the best Nocciola which is hazelnut and my personal preference. While some flavors come in a close second, I will never pay for anything but Nocciola, or in a worst case scenario a version of it. Nutella gelato is not very good- a swirl of Nutella in crema gelato, so basically vanilla with a ribbon of Nutella...eh. Bacio comes in as a pretty good runner up. Baci is a candy made in Perugia, also the Italian word for "kiss", it is a hazelnut surrounded by chocolate hazelnut ganache in a wafer shell covered in chocolate which is then covered with mashed hazelnuts. By far my favourite candy here- even compared to Kinder, which is another experience in itself. But then again, this is coming from the girl who eats Nutella off of a spoon and believes whole heartedly that it is good on absolutely anything.

And the best part is that Italians think it is healthy...