Sunday, February 28, 2010

At least Milan had good pizza

If I were a dude, I'd get right into Milan's face and say "Suck my Dick". Yes, if I were a guy, I would capitalize Dick every time I needed to use the word in print. But I'm not a guy, and therefore cannot say such a terrible thing to Milan. The point here is to illustrate exactly how fucking much I hated the city of Milan. Milan tried it's absolute damnedest to make my experience miserable. If it weren't for good company, the experience would have been exactly that. For a few brief periods that is exactly what it was, anyway. So fuck you, Milan.

I didn't even really want to go, which is the part that made the whole trip so frustrating. I only went because, truthfully, I wanted to be with my friends. Selvaggia, Poeta, Buzarro, Moda, Carino, and another friend of mine were all going for the weekend. I had made tenative plans to visit some family in the north but decided against it in lieu of this trip to Milan. MISTAKE. That'll teach me to act on concerns of being left out, I guess. Selvaggia and I booked a last minute hostel and we were on our way for three days worth of fashion week in the fashion capital of the world. We got on the "ordinario" train, meaning the slow train, at 5:30 Friday morning and we were off to Milan. It was awfully uncomfortable and my neck felt like someone had wrung it out like a wet rag over and over by the time I got off. At this point I'd managed to get myself really excited for the trip. I was with friends who I love hanging out with and traveling which is my passion; contented is the only appropriate word to describe myself at this point. Selvaggia and I had booked a hotel seperate from the hostel the boys booked and so we took off as soon as we got into town to go to our hotel. We were all like "Ha, we got a hotel and they only got a hostel and we're in the center of town and they have to take a bus to get to where we will be," while we walked. We're used to Florence, ity-bity baby Florence, and didn't realize that walking the streets of Milan wasn't something one does. You take buses or subways in Milan. We walked for about an hour before arriving in the center of town. Our hotel was in the Piazzalle Castello at number 32r. Our excitement when we got into the Piazzalle Castello was eqivalent to the excitement I felt when I saw the Duomo outside my window. It was gorgeous. It was also really close to the Piazza Duomo. I was even more excited when I learned that the Piazzalle Castello ends at 28r. Because, guess what, our hotel was in the Piazzalle Castello in a small town called Abbiategrasso. Abbiategrasso is about an hour's traveling distance outside the city of Milan, and their Piazzalle Castello is a small twelfth century castle possibly 1/5th the size of the one in Milan. Strike one, Milano. We called the hotel to try and sort out the problem. The booking agency we used, which had my credit card and charged me 140 euro for this shit, apparently never ever let the hotel know we were coming. The shitty woman on the phone informed me that I had no reservation by listing off the names of all the people who DID have reservations. Bitch.

Selvaggia and I spent about another hour trying to figure out what to do. We decided we would just meet up with the boys and so we hopped onto the subway, still wearing our heavy backpacks because we obviously had to bring heels with us to fashion week in the fashion capital of the world. I have to admit that although I was angry about the situation riding a subway felt damn good. I have Manhattan in my bones and to feel myself moving and swaying in tune with the motion of a public transportation system rescusitated my dying happiness a little. When we met with the boys we walked again for another hour-ish. I felt like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, when shes carrying water up stairs dripping with sweat and groaning in pain for Pai Mei, thats how bad my back hurt from my backpack. Or at least thats how bad I was pretending it hurt to make myself feel like Uma Thurman. We were walking so much because we were searching for a cheap place to eat. Milan takes fashion to the next level. They don't, for the most part, condone food related establishments except for in touristy areas. We were searching for someplace not priced with tourists in mind and learned that Milan doesn't want it's citizens to eat food. They want everyone to be thinner than white paper and so there are no restaurants. Strike Two, Milano. I like food more than I like being fashionable. We finally found a small cafe, oddly enough called Cafe Subway, and sat down to eat. There were literally about 10 things on the menu, half of which weren't available because they had run out. Like I said, Milan is starving it's citizens. I ordered pasta with tomato sauce. SERIOUSLY! I'm in fucking Italy and that was the best Milan could do. Worst meal I've had since I've been here.

We did more walking after that. This had the effect of making me really homesick. There was alot going on that reminded me of Manhattan, escalated after my little subway fix. The thing about Milan is that it wishes it were Manhattan. It is not, nor will it ever be, Manhattan. There are people who walk around in a hurry, something new since I've been in Italy, but its a fake hurry. They don't run and slam on the sides of buses whose doors have already closed because they need to be on that exact bus. They wait patiently for the next bus. They step out of one anothers' way when they are walking in the streets. They make faces at the tourists and give them dirty looks. Manhattanites don't have the time to make faces at tourists, only time to get around them. The Milanese are just pretenders. And for me, being homesick for good ol' Manhattan was strike three. You're out, Milan. We walked around and looked at stuff before Selvaggia and I decided we needed to put our things down. We went with Buzzarro and Poeta to their hostel which turned out to be fairly nice. Its probably nicer than our hotel in Abbiategrasso.

We hung our in their place and decided we would get a room there for the night and see where the next day took us. We put our stuff down and the four of us took a walk to the supermarket to get some alcohol. Supermarkets are beautiful things. I've never had such a deep appreciation for supermarkets. We walked in and it was like walking into a playground. I bought M&Ms, Loaker Wafers, and a bottle of vodka. Supermarkets <3 We went back to the hostel, called Bed & Bed, and we hung out and watched the Olympics. The rest of the guys came back and we all sat down and drank wine and talked. It was a serious bonding session for the group of us and I enjoyed it alot. My spirits were high after this. Perhaps because I'd spent a few hours drinking spirits, but regardless. They were high. I was having a great time with my friends and that was exactly the reason I decided to go to Milan in the first place, so I put my angriness from earlier aside and allowed myself to enjoy the rest of my night. Eight o'clock rolled around and we were all still chatting our night away when someone mentioned that we needed dinner and should get ready for the night. I brought a dress I'd purchased in Florence and had been waiting for the opportunity to wear. I got super dressed up and was feeling like I might actually enjoy the only thing Milan really had to offer which was fashion. I wore my nice heels which I'd carried around on my back all day and allowed Selvaggia to do my makeup for me.

We went to the part of town that was supposed to have a crazy nightlife. We found a small pizzeria and sat down to eat. Milan's single redeeming quality: good pizza. Milan may have offered some surprising perks like subways and some beautiful architechture but those weren't qualities I'd count as points in Milan's favor. The pizza was. I'm a sort of pizza connoseiur. Pizza is and always has been my favorite food. When I was little my family nicknamed me the Pizza Queen and I beat fat kids in Pizza eating contests at my catholic school on Thursdays. I need pizza more than I need oxygen. I was truly in heaven when I ate the pizza from this place. It was perhaps the best pizza I've ever eaten in my life. I also drank ALOT of rum at this place and that made me quite happy. We left and I was ready to take Milan's nightlife by storm. I was dressed up, full on good food, and pissed off at Milan. I was ready to prove that I could really conquer this town. We went to a pub down the street for a half an hour where I drank a beer and then we went back to Bed & Bed. FUCK MILAN!

The next day we woke up mid-morning and went out to see the sights. Moda went off on his own to do his own thing; hes a fashion major and was in the zone. We hopped on some buses and went into the center of town to the Piazza Duomo. The Duomo has all these flying butresses and it looks kind of cool from far away. When you get close, though, it looks really messy and kind of like a dribble castle. My Duomo is truly the best Duomo. We wanted to go into a contemporary art museum next door and see a Futurist exhibit. Good thing that Milan decided that the weekend we were there they were going to be doing construction on the exact wing of the museum we wanted to be in. We all decided we weren't going to let that get us down and we were going to do something else fun and go see The Last Supper. Secretely, I was teeming with rage at Milan and after the Futurist infraction I was plotting ways to destroy the city. We went to the subway station and what should I hear but piano keys. Loud piano keys. People are running up and down the subway stairs which Milan had turned into a Piano. If Milan had a face I'd punch it. MANHATTAN'S GOT FAO SCHWARTZ AND YOU DO NOT, MILAN. STOP BEING A POSER! I was really ticked off at this and it became a serious problem with me for the rest of the day. Even riding on the subway couldn't cheer me up this time.

We made it to the Piazza where The Last Supper was supposed to be and however angry I's become I was still really amped up to see some Da Vinci. We walked around in a little market selling such items like gemstone necklaces and handcrafted owls. You do not have a Village, Milan. Stop wishing. It was cool to see some Lamborghini's and Ferrari's driving around, though. We even saw some sweet motorcycles and at one point spotted a guy wearing a "Milan Chapter" vest. Nice. We made our way toward Da Vinci and walked inside to buy our tickets. Suddenly Buzzarro gets extremely angry and walks out. He is an art history major and came to Milan solely to see The Last Supper. Turns out, you have to reserve tickets for this museum and it was totally sold out for the whole weekend. Wa fucking hoo. I was so disappointed I went to a cafe across the street and splurged on a double espresso (I'd been trying to save money during the trip seeing as I'd lost 140 euro on a hotel in another town).

We went back to the Piazza Duomo after that and did nothing. Literally. We did absolutely nothing for the rest of the day. We just walked around and looked at things. At one point we walked down some really fashiony streets and looked at clothing in stores we couldn't afford. It started to get really cold outside and so Buzzarro, Poeta, Selvaggia, and I all decided to leave and go back to Bed & Bed. We went clothes shopping at the Italian version of Kohls just to say we'd done some shopping and hung out for a while inside again. When the rest of our gang met up with us we all got dressed up to go out for a night on the town again. I was actually really not into the idea of it, this time. I'd been so disheartened by the tidal wave of failures bombarding me since I'd arrived in Milan that pretending I liked how I looked was just beyond my ability. We went to another restaurant where I ordered more pizza which was equally orgasmic as the previous night's pizza. I had another large quantity of rum and then Poeta, Buzzarro, Moda, and myself called it a night. We went back to the Bed & Bed and I wound up having to sleep on the floor because I'd only been able to aquire a room for one night there.

My stiff neck returned ten-fold, my aching back was still aching, and I woke up ultra early to make sure I got on the first train out of that city. I woke up Selvaggia, who'd managed to go out with Carino and have an incredible night, and she Buzzarro, Poeta, and myself all made it to the train station before 10. We stopped along the way and got some coffee at McDonalds. I was so overjoyed at the fact that I was drinking a real, honest to God coffee that for a moment I really reflected on Milan. As much as it really blew, it was worth it. I did exactly what I went there to do and that was spend time with the friends that I'm not ever going to have the chance to do these things with again. I ate the best pizza I've ever had which is a real accomplishment for me. Best of all, though, I got to see one of my friends, Moda, happier and more in his element than he has ever been before. He got to meet all sorts of big name fashionistas, got to walk on a red carpet, and was so inspired by the end of his trip to Milan that he is following fashion week to Paris. Moda on cloud nine put me there, too. And to top it all off, I got to have a coffee. A real coffee. The crick in my neck went away after that coffee.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

San Gimignano and Siena

I was getting a little bit stir-crazy in Florence. This damn city is so small. I was really feeling the repitition. On the weekdays: Get up at 10, get ready for school, class until 8:30, go home, hang out with my friends. On the weekends: party. I've walked past the same buildings with the same art through the same piazzas by the same museums every damn day. I felt like I'd discovered mostly all there was to discover about Florence. Plus, there are no trees in Florence. Anywhere. It really starts to bother a person when you live in a city so old it has literally killed all the soil's potential to produce grass. I needed to get out of Florence for a weekend and see something new. I needed to start nursing my travel addiction. Buzzaro mentioned earlier in the week that he wanted to do a small weekend trip to a little town called San Gimignano and then from there go to Siena for the night. I said absolutely and geared myself up for some fresh air and hillsides.

I woke up at 5:30 in the morning. I haven't woken up that early since I lived in Manhattan and somehow it felt nice. To see the San Lorenzo being set up at this time after a nice shower and some coffee rather than at this hour after walking home still sort of drunk was a refreshing transition. I met Buzzaro and Poeta and together the three of us ran to catch our bus which was departing in 5 short minutes. We'd put the effort in to get up that early and we'd all gone out the night before. Letting that effort go to waste would have been blasphemous. We made it to the station just in time. Thank God, too, because the bus ride alone was enough to make the trip worth it. After a long time of seeing things that were all the same it was incredible to see some countryside. Nature, finally: trees, grass, hills, vineyards. Breathtaking Tuscany whooshed by my window because obviously the bus drivers here feel the need to pretend they are in Ferrari's.

We made it to San Gimignano at exactly the time we were scheduled to arrive. I stepped off of the bus and into Italy-the photogenic Italy with flowerpots hanging from the windows and old ladies beating their rugs out on the lawn. Poeta, Buzzaro, and I were honestly mystified. We stood and breathed in the fresh air for a minute or two before making our way toward a small Pasticerria so they could have some breakfast. Poeta found himself some donut holes (which he complemented with a refreshing coke).San Gimignano is situated at the top of a very large Tuscan hill and we sat, they muching on their breakfasts, and we looked out at the landscape, completely awestruck. We made our way through the city gates and wandered the streets all morning long. San Gimignano, at one point, had two families or something at war with one another. We passed about a hundred shops with different kinds of knives and swords and axes which I can only assume were stores those families frequented. I almost bought a throwing star for 5 Euros. We passed a torture museum with a life-size replica of a werewolf and I wasn't so sure it was really a replica. The walls were lined with human skulls and a full human skeleton hung inside a cage from the ceiling. If I wasn't awake when I got off the bus, I was after that.

After a while of walking around the small town and exploring, we sat down in a small cafe in the Piazza Duomo. Their Duomo is but an ant when compared with ours, but it was still beautiful. I ordered a machiato and an almond biscotti. I'm sorry, Starbucks. As much as I love you, you cannot dream to create biscotti or machiato's as good as those in San Gimignano. I loved the biscotti so much I talked about how much I loved it all day, annoying Buzzaro, Poeta, and myself. We went walking again after that following signs for a Medieval fountain. We wound up walking down a hill so steep the three of us commented extensively on how shitty the walk back up would be. The fountain that dated back to the eleventh century and the feeling of oldness permeated all around. It was so fucking cool. We saw a little path, lined with bushes and pretty flowers, and decided to go down it. We found another fountain there, this one even prettier than the last. It even had a mosaic inside-it was a blue woman in a yellow backround. That is my favorite color combination in the world and I stood staring for quite a while. I daydreamed about myself living there in the eleventh century and I'm quite certain I'd have been a frequent skinny-dipper in this fountain. I was horribly reluctant to leave (and not just because I didn't want to walk back up the mini-mountain).

We hiked around the city until mid-afternoon. We went up towers and down narrow streets. We walked along the outskirts of the city and saw some of the most stunning scenery I've ever seen. The boys kept talking about vantage points and methods of killing people because apparently there is some video game with a level that takes place in this town. I spent a solid two years of my life hanging out with kids who were gamers and the gaming discussions the guys were having made me feel really comfortable. I was in great company and my day turned out exactly as I needed. After eating some delicious pizza we got on another bus and made our way to Siena.

THE SUN CAME OUT! The sun refuses to shine in Florence and I was feeling a serious lack of Vitamin D. In Siena the sun was shining, bright and brilliantly revitalizing. I hadn't understood until I got to Siena how desperately I'd been needing an uncloudy day. We walked to the Piazza del Campo-the biggest Piazza I've been in so far. It houses a castle which I never went in and functions as a sort of hill where people sit and don't do much else. We walked to the Piazza Duomo. Buzzaro felt that this Duomo's facade was much better than the facade of the Duomo in Florence and it was in this moment that I had a minor epiphany. "Our Duomo is still better!" I was defending my Duomo in Florence. Somehow I've managed to identify the Duomo in Florence as my own. No other Italian Duomo will ever feel like "my" Duomo because I've already got one. I suppose its a good thing then that "my" Duomo also happens to be the most famous. Siena's facade was alright, I guess.

By this time it was around 4 o'clock and I hadn't had a drink yet. I've been flirting casually with alcoholism lately. I drink alot of wine, okay? I was seriously craving alcohol after such a long day. It wasn't just me, either. The boys needed some, too. We sat down in the Campo for a drink and waited on Carino who was meeting us there. We ordered beers and people watched. Carino showed up just in time for us to notice something peculiar happening in the Piazza. People in the creepiest masks ever were walking up to couples and other groups and staring at them. Some would sit in front of young children and just look. Others would follow groups of people around the Piazza. Their masks were all of famous figures and were distorted to make them uglier than they were originally. There was a Hitler and an Einstein and a John F. Kennedy. For those of you who've ever been to Fright Fest at Great Adventure, they acted EXACTLY like the clowns do in the Boardwalk. They would get really close to people's faces and wouldn't budge. It was really weird and caused my thought patterns to steer towards social experiments. I assure you, readers, it is always unpleasant to think about social experiments. My beer was good, though.

Later in the night we went back to the Campo for some Aperitivo. This is when you can order a bottle of wine at a restaurant, sit down and drink it, and enjoy their mini buffets. Poeta had gone back to Florence by this time and Buzzaro, Carino, and myself killed off a bottle of San Gimignano's famous white wine. We went thrifting in a really small place and met the owner there whose name was Lollo. Her shop was small it but was a real gem and I'm sorry I didn't buy anything. She told us about what was going on in Siena for the night. There was a small bar where a local band would be playing. It was so exclusive in Siena that you needed to pay cover and have the invite to get in. I had another minor epiphany then because I immediately missed Florence. Alot. That was honestly the only nightlife Siena had to offer on a Saturday. After dinner (finally I had ravioli's) we realized what an epidemic this was. TEENAGERS! Siena was teeming with them. It was like Brick Barnes and Nobles on a Friday at 10. It was awful. I loathe teenagers. I understand I'm still technically a teenager, but I'm talkin' 14 and 15 year olds here. The worst part was they were all wearing white pants. I was furious at them for wearing white pants. You may have sun there in Siena but it is NOT the time for white pants yet. Carino, Buzzaro, and I decided we were going to buy a couple 40's each to bring back to our hotel. We drank in the streets, obviously, then hung in the hotel for the night, finally able to enjoy some Olympics. I wound up drinking half of one and passing out.

The next day was quite uneventful. We walked around Siena all morning and lounged in the Campo, bathing ourselves in some sun rays. The busride home was peaceful and I was actually rather excited to get back home. I had my last epiphany on the bus, thinking about going home. Because Florence has become home. I don't know when or how it happened but I managed to carve a little place in my heart for Florence.
Arriverderci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Re-posting of my wild night from two saturdays ago, after revision

I don't know how I'm existing as a human being right now. Last night was the single most wild night I've ever had in my life. I think the collective wildness I've experienced in my lifetime doesn't touch the amount of wild I experienced last night. You're not going to believe this shit, reader. Seriously, I don't know what the fuck. I don't even know how to begin. I suppose I'll start right at the beginning of the night where Selvaggia and I ripped shots of Absolut. As a side note I'd like to write that the best chasers are Fanta, any flavor with any drink. I'd made plans to meet with a large group of friends at the One Eye'd Jack and figured that pre-gaming was better than paying for drinks. Turns out I didn't need to spend any money on drinks. I was fairly excited to hang out with all of my friends there, though, because the One Eye'd Jack is the best bar in town. Divertimenti, the owner, said he was going to come and hang out with us after the bar closed, too. Selvaggia and I were amped up for another night of craziness. We certainly got our wish. I really can't fucking believe my night. I'd also had two glasses of wine with my roomie and her boyfriend (whose also pretty much my roomie) before taking six shots in a row and I was definitely feeling the alcohol as I halfway stumbled out of my apartment door.

I somehow managed to re-trace my steps and find my way to the One Eye'd Jack with a group of my apartment building friends, where we promptly met with Buzzarro, Poeta, Moda, and Carino, ordered drinks, and sat down in front of the T.V. for some rugby (which is definitely the sexiest sport in existence). One of my apartment friends, a sculptor who came out with Selvaggio and I the night of Montecarla, sat with me and we drooled together over the bodies of the rugby Gods for a solid fourty-five. I noticed my free rum and coke had disappeared and was given a liter of beer by Buzzarro. Moda was wasted we noticed MJ was back and took more photos of him on his iphone. We hung with another sculptor friend from my apartment and ragged on the artwork in the Jack, had another set of free shots, met up with another group of our friends and had a really amazing time. As the Jack started to close and I started to feel a little more alchoholey, Divertimenti told us we'd go see what was up at Babylon and passed around some of the Absinthe wine cooler things that jingle. I've determined that these drinks are the foundation on which out-of-control nights build.

Divertimenti and the other bartender whose name will now be Poco closed up shop around 2 am. We crossed the bridge on our way to Babylon when Poco rolls up in his ity-bity car and Selvaggia and I hopped in and took a ride to the club. Turns out, Poco is really awesome and I had an amazing time pretending I could speak Italian with him. We roll up to Babylon and the cops are there, hushing everyone and telling us we needed to get away. They looked just about ready to punch Divertimenti out and so we decided to take off and go someplace else. We showed up to Twice, which both Poco and I trash-talked from the minute we walked in until the minute we left. We decided to leave almost as soon as we walked in and Divertimenti, Poco, Selvaggia, and myself jumped into the car and took off again. This is the part where my night starts to turn messy.

Divertimenti wanted to get us some alcohol and have a mini-party at his house. There were no liquor stores open at 3:30 in the morning and so Divertimenti came up with an excellent solution. We pull up outside of Sei Divine, Divertimenti's other bar, where he begins taking off the locks. The things weigh like 20 pounds a piece. I was pretty wasted at this point and it took me a minute to realize we were breaking into Sei Divine for free alcohol. Divertimenti gets the locks off and before opening the doors mentions totally nonchalantly that "We have 25 second for get beers or else cops come. Don't walk in, cameras record. I'll grab beers and hand to you, run to car and andiamo" (which means we go). My arms are suddenly laden with Becks and Selvaggio is being handed more, Divertimenti is throwing coasters around Sei Divine like frisbees, Poco is ushering me towards his getaway car, when CRASH! Selvaggia drops a beer and it shatters on the cobblestones. Divertimenti hastily replaced the locks and we booked it out of there like criminals. Which I guess we kind of were.

We pull up to Divertimenti's house around 4 a.m. and Selvaggia and I are dumbfounded by how cool it was. Dudes got a terrace-garden. We took a little tour and then went out into his garden to admire the fact that there is at least one Goddamn tree in Florence when suddenly I'm soaking wet. Divertimenti has a gardenhose and is spraying Selvaggia and I full-blast. Apparently he was just as wasted as we were. Selvaggia didn't get as blasted with water as I did but we were both pretty drenched. Poco ran inside to get me a towel because I was literally sopping wet. It was red and embroidered with flowers; turns out it wasnt a towel but a bed sheet and they had draped it over my head and around my shoulders. "Gypsy! Gypsy!" Poco is shouting and next thing I know I'm rattling a cup at them and getting 1 and 2 eurocent coins tossed at me. They covered me in flowers and bananas? and paraded me around the room. Exhausted, I plopped down onto the couch and for the next hour and a half the four of us tangoed, watched a show that made fun of Barack Obama and Victoria Beckham on Divertimenti's big screen T.V., and took shots of whiskey. We got pretty sloppy and were all dancing around the apartment when a conversation started about chicken nuggets. By this point its at least 5:30 and we decided we absolutely HAD to have some McDonalds chicken nuggets and rushed out the door in pursuit.

It probably wasn't the best idea. I mean, seriously, I'm going out at 5:30 in the morning to get chicken nuggets. Who the fuck eats chicken nuggets at that hour of the morning? Regardless, I went. We zoomed around the city at 140 kliks, like 90 mph, racing around buildings and seeing parts of the city we never knew existed. We pulled up outside a McDonalds and what do you know, its closed. We moved onto another and that one was closed too. Finally we decide to try the one in the train station and we're on our way when Poco and Divertimenti start chattering madly in Italian and then burst out in uproarious laughter. Not knowing what the deal was, Selvaggia and I begin to question the boys. We didn't need to ask very much to figure out what had happened. The car begins to slow, putter, and then die. I've never been in a car in my life that ran out of gas. Not a single time. How the hell does this happen while I'm in Italy driving around in search of a McDonalds? There haven't been alot of times in my life where I've laughed so hard. I still feel it in my abs.

Luckily we were right outside of a magazine stand and the owner told Poco where a gas station was. He also informed us that we needed to move the car. I'm not joking, people. At 6 a.m. on Valentine's Day morning I was pushing a car down the streets of Florence. In a dress still soaking wet and wearing a cowboy hat I'd managed to steal from Divertimenti's apartment. We pushed for five minutes before rolling the car to a stop on the corner. I can't handle it, readers. I can't handle that I was pushing a car on the streets of Florence simply because I wanted to eat some chicken nuggets at 6 a.m. Poco gave Selvaggia and I a blanket and a blow-up pillow and Divertimenti stood guard outside the car while Poco went off to buy some gas. I laughed with Selvaggia the entire time he was gone. Hysterical laugher that just doesn't stop, so intense its almost maniacal. Our laughter only intensified when Poco returned with two 1 liter water bottles filled with gasoline to put into his car. Seriously, they were Frizzante water bottles, the kind you'd buy in a store, and they were green and it was just fucking funny. He filled up his little car's tank and we were on our way again by 7, racing along at top speeds back on our quest for McDonalds.

When we finally made it to the train station and realized that, hallelujah, the Mcdonald's was open. There was rejoycing. We stormed the place like the homeless do on Thanksgiving at shelters and we feasted. The very best part was that my nuggets tasted exactly like chicken nuggets from home and my fries were golden, crisp, and salty. Obviously this was the best breakfast I've ever had. At least I didn't have a soda and opted for a bottle of water. I still can't believe how refreshing it was. We drove back to Divertimenti's munching away. We had no need for words; I think by this point the four of us had reached a new level and there was an understanding between us where words were no longer required. That and we were all so tired we couldn't think coherent thoughts. We dropped Divertimenti off at home and were finally homebound. Selvaggia and I were exclaiming loudly the whole way because Poco was taking us down the Florentine backroads which are twenty thousand times more beautiful than those we frequent normally. "You think this beautiful?" Poco says, veers the car in the opposite direction, and we're driving wildly down streets so narrow I could have put my arms out the window and touched people in their windows. On both sides. It got more and more incredible the further we drove. We drove around the outskirts of the city and saw it from up high. Poco drove so quickly everything went by in a blur and when he finally slowed we were on a windy street making our way up a hillside. Cypress trees lined the road and the view in between them was so breathtakingly beautiful I was honestly dumbfounded. I think I said "Oh My God" an unholy amount of times. I'm lost for words even now. Poco explained to us that this was a Florentine road that most tourists didn't get the chance to see that lead up to the Piazza dei Michelangelo, where another David copy stood overlooking the entire city. I was so excited when I got out of the car I ran around in circles.

The sight from that Piazza was better than from the Duomo. Hands down. David stood behind me and I had the most magnificent view of the Arno. The Piazza was empty so early in the morning and the fog was only just beginning to lift. The Arno moved lazily and the sun was just peeking out from behind the clouds. FUCKING AWESOME! Poco gave us a little history lesson about the city and the Piazza we were standing in. He explained that the Piazza was a lookout for the Medici or something and they would sneak there from their palace whenever they thought something was going wrong to escape the city. We had a perfect view of the Boboli Gardens and he explained that this was because they wanted to be able to keep watch on their home. He told us all about the Gardens and how they were used, at one point, for the Medici family to raise their horses and grow their crops. Selvaggia mistakenly thought Poco was saying the Boboli Gardens were used for the Medici to raise their whores and the attempt we made to explain to Poco what exactly whores are was definitely something I wish I had recorded. It was the perfect ending to my night.

By the time we wound our way back down the hillside and back into the city it was nearly 8 a.m. Poco dropped us off in the San Lorenzo and our walk of shame was definitely one for the record books. The vendors shouted obscene things at the two of us while they opened up their shops. We were clearly still feeling a little tipsy and we were cracking up the whole way home. We didn't even bother to take the stairs and chose to take our faulty elevator up to our apartment. I walked in and our other roommate and her boyfriend were just getting ready for a day trip to Pisa. Since, you know, normal students who study abroad actually see the country and experience the place and I just break into bars and break down in cars. They took one look at Selvaggia and I, me still wearing my cowboy hat souvenier, and shook their heads. I fumbled with my contacts for a couple minutes before passing out still wearing a damp dress.

I can't count on my hands and toes how many times I said what the fuck while I typed this. Because seriously, what the fuck?
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wine Dreaming

Wine: a most sacred of drinks, a drink closely tied with humanity, a drink worshiped, studied, and loved. Wine has become an essential in the daily lives of a large majority of people in this world. I live in Italy, the number one wine country perhaps in history. The amount of wine I drink equates with the amount of water I drink in my day. I purchase a bottle of wine nearly every time I walk home from school. I've therefore developed an intimate relationship with wine and I've spent alot of time getting to know it. I've discovered that wine, when consumed before beer, is sure to give me a wicked stomach ache. I've discovered that wine makes me laugh at things that aren't funny, like bottled water. I've discovered that I remember random facts and details about things I'd compeletely forgotten, like lyrics to Sway's garage band song that he'd written a week before and forgotten. These thoughts burst out at awkward times and the things I say are totally unrelated to my thought patterns at that time. I've also come to some conclusions about the effects wine has on human chemistry. For one, I've deduced that wine is the cause of the widespread body odor epidemic that has taken over Italy and perhaps all of Europe. I've noticed that its impossible to fend off morning B.O., in myself and others, after drinking wine. It is also evident to me that wine, somehow, makes Italians like Americans less. Not when we drink it, but when they do. It's like wine contains some sort of anti-American mineral that effects Italians almost instantly. I'm studying wine and I'm getting kind of proficcient in the subject.

Wine does something to me, though, that is particularly strange. I've been hesitant to ask others whether this happens to them after they drink wine but figure that I've got no image to maintain on this blog any longer. When I go to sleep on nights that I've consumed alot of wine, particularly red wine, I have the most FUCKED UP dreams you could ever imagine. Seriously weird shit. Alarming shit. I noticed how crazy the dreams were becoming on a particular night a few weeks ago. I passed out in my pitch black bedroom and woke up because I felt the presence of someone at my bed. The roommate who shares a room with me (and who will from now on be known as Casalinga) was also passed out and I thought perhaps she'd woken up. I sat upright in my bed and asked her what she was doing, only to realize it wasn't her standing there. It was Poeta. "Poeta, what are you doing here?" I half shouted. He didn't answer. "Where's Selvaggia?" I asked, thinking he had come in with her and was trying to get me up. Still, no answer. "Poeta, this isn't funny, you're really creeping me out!" I shouted this time, waking Casalinga. "Gabby," she said "Poeta isn't here." I insisited that yes, he was. He was standing over my bed, looking at me. I understand that that darkness in my room was such that I wouldn't have been able to see him if he really were there, but I saw him standing there. I was so convinced that he was there that I began swiping furiously at him to try and grab him. Air. "Gabby, are you okay?" Casalinga asked. "HE IS REALLY HERE!" I screeched, turning the light on. He wasn't there.

The next really weird dream I had was even more fucked up. I'd killed off an entire bottle of wine by myself on a Tuesday night. I'm going a little overboard, I know. I dreamt about chickens. Chickens battling each other fiercely because the winner chicken would get to eat all the baby chickens. The baby chickens were in a chicken coop, squawking wilding and flapping their little chicken wings. It was one of the most terrifying nightmares I've ever had. The fully grown chickens battled in a sort of chicken colosseum accept I was the only spectator. It was bloody and feathery and dirty. I've never seen chicken entrails but my brain somehow managed to make them up for me. It was disgusting. I haven't eaten any beef or pork products in nearly a year and I'm pretty sure the chicken gods were trying to convince me to give up poultry, also. I haven't eaten poultry since I had this dream, chicken gods, I promise! The winner chicken was totally white and covered in the blood of the slain. Somehow it was roaring in victory because apparentely dream chickens learned how to roar and then it charged the baby chicken coop. It ate each and every cute little chick. When it was done, it came after me, and I woke up.

A few nights later I drank alot of wine during a family dinner. Lately I've been thinking about Little Cayman and how much I missed a few really good friends I made there. I've been thinking about the sun that always shined and the waves that crashed gently outside while I slept. I live on the Jersey Shore and it always effects me when I'm not near an ocean. I often think about this when I fall to sleep here in Florence and compare how I felt then, in LC, to how I feel now. I remember falling asleep that night pretending I was back in my bunkbed at the Little Cayman Research Centre, listening to the waves and basking in the Caribbean breeze. I woke up in Little Cayman. I woke up in that bed, listening to those waves, feeling that breeze. My best girlfriend from that island was just waking up, too. We ate cookies for breakfast and put on our snorkel gear and went out to the reef. We met up with two of the guys we became close with while we were there and our T.A. from the trip. The five of us then turned into barracudas and swam around hunting lionfish. While I was on LC lionfish hunting was a very large part of my experience there, but I'd never actually wrangled one of the suckers myself. I must have killed about twenty five lionfish before my dream ended. It was funny because all of the lionfish were golden and were arranged in much the same way as the golden rings would be in Sonic the Hedgehog. I suppose the lack of video games and television here in Italy has started to seriously affect me.

I had another dream just recently after a long day of hanging out with the boys. Readers, this dream was genuinely DEMENTED. Psych ward dreaming, for real. I was with Carino and he and I were about to go out for the night. He was helping me get ready; he has the unmatched ability to make me feel good about the outfits I'm wearing. He helped me pick something out that made me look stunning, helped me do my makeup, and then turned me around to look at me. He stopped me halfway. "GAB! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS SHIT? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?" I was nervous. "What? I'm sorry. What?" "YOU NEED TO Q-TIP YOUR EARS RIGHT NOW!! THERE IS SO MUCH WAX IN YOUR EARS I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'D LET IT GET THIS FAR! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?" In my waking hours I have a severe addiction to q-tips. I'm overly self-conscious about there never being wax in my ears, ever. I get stressed out if I don't q-tip twice daily. Dream me was absolutely mortified that I would ever have wax in my ears at a level so disturbing to Carino. "Let me fix this." he said, grabbing a gigantic q-tip. His eyes turned to fire, then, and he lit the ends of the q-tip on fire. If you've ever seen cartoons where children are afraid of the dentist and he comes at them with a drill buzzing and laughing manaically, thats what Carino was like. With fire eyes and a flaming q-tip. I ran from him, hearing his shouts of how this was neccesary follow me and get louder and louder in my ears.

The next night I dreamt again that Poeta came into my room. I'd had alot of white wine and fell asleep effortlessly. He came in later and laid down with Selvaggia and I for the night, sleeping soundly with us. I woke up in the morning and asked where he'd gone, but obviously he'd never lain down with us.

Just last night I drank a couple of bottles of reserve with Selvaggia, Benny Lava, and Sway. We had a very long conversation about gypsies having a gypsy convention and all wearing matching gypsy clothes. I was, in my dream, the weaver. I was forced to weave clothes for gypsies because they needed to sell them. Accpet gypsies can't actually use their time, according to their religion, to make money. They therefore cannot work and have a trade. I was kidnapped and forced into gypsy trade labor. Selvaggia, though, came to rescue me. She was wearing a spandex suit and had a cape. She annaihilated gypsy after gypsy with her "Justice Rod" and brought me back home to safety.

I now propose to all of you, readers, to do the same thing. Get yourselves a dream journal and a couple of bottles of wine. Some of you, I know, are partial to boxed Franzia. DON'T YOU DARE DRINK THAT IN MY PRESENCE EVER AGAIN! And absolutely not for this project. Get a good bottle, one that you'll really enjoy, and drink away the night. Then dream. Tell me what happens? Maybe then I won't feel like wine is making my brain function at a slightly more fucked level.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nude Modeling

I had my first experience with a nude model last week. I found out today that it wouldn't be my last experience with one.

I've never taken figure drawing classes before and was disappointed that my school didn't have any to offer. I've taken Drawing I and wanted to take Figure Drawing before moving onto Drawing II, assuming that Drawing II would explore this. It does. We were given a brief slideshow from our teacher about proportions and sketching and were told we'd be having a live model. He walked in, fully clothed, and I tried to remember all the things I'd learned at F.I.T about contour lines and shadows in clothing. I've worked with models before, always drawing them clothed, and it still didn't dawn on me that this one was going to drop his drawers. When he came back into the room wearing only a robe my blonde hair got the best of me and I still didn't understand. Only when the robe came off with a slightly cocky (no pun intended) flourish did I realize I was going to be sketching a naked man.

I stared. I looked directly at his penis and stared. How could you not? I've never done this kind of thing and just couldn't help myself. I will be modest, folks, and I won't describe it to you, but I assure you that the image is burned into my brain. The lights were off save one and for this I was immensely grateful. My face was so hot that were the lights on I would have looked strikingly similar to the Kool-Aid man. I stared and stared and tried very hard to coach myself through the experience. It took a long time but I finally came to see the man as an object to draw rather than a person to admire. Because, I'll admit it, I was admiring him. He was pretty hot. I seriously lucked out with my first nude model. I almost felt like I was cheating when my T.A. came in to take over for my regular teacher. I'm still fiercly in love with him. When class was finally over I'd seen every inch and cranny of this model and felt very comfortable looking at him naked. I realized how relaxed I'd become around this naked man when at one point his water bottle fell over and he bent over to pick it up. He brown eyed me and it only made me marginally less complacent.

I thought, though, that I would only have to sketch a nude one time. WRONG. My second nude model came in today and again I found myself stupidly thinking I was going to be drawing her clothed. She got naked, though, and I found myself less comfortable with this than with the man. I felt like I was violating her the whole time I looked at her. Our project was to choose a section of her body to zoom in on and draw very large. All the other girls in the class chose areas that included her breasts. I didn't. I was so afraid to look at her boobs that when my eyes would stray toward the area I would look away shyly. I eventually had to stop making small sketches and move onto my big paper and unfortunately then I was required to include the boobs. I made them up. I just could not look at her boobs no matter how hard I tried. So I just made them up. I figured out where the light spots should have gone and tried my best to make the boobs fit the figure I was drawing. My T.A. came in and this time I felt like he was cheating on me. UGH! He even talked to her. By the end of the day I'd had my fill of this nude woman and was excited at the prospect of being finished with nudes.

I was informed later that there will be nude COUPLES posing for my painting class.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My creepy building

So I was super pumped up when I moved in. I'm not anymore. I live in the San Lorenzo and I've come to the understanding that this area of Florence is this city's ghetto. It is the ONLY sketchy part of town, meaning this is the only part of town I feel uncomfortable walking through during the nighttime. Its always loud outside of my window because rambuctious drunks hang around outside of a bar down the street. I've been coo'ed at and harassed by these drunks on many different nights, coming home from school or from a night out. Luckily, I'm never alone. There is garbage all over all of the time which blows in the wind and turns into small garbage tumbleweeds. I've also come to realize that the cobblestones in my neighborhood are the American equivalent to unpaved roads, making the place feel run down. Eff. All of these things would be inconsequential if only I didn't live in the strangest and creepiest of all the school-provided apartment buildings.

When I walked into my apartment building on my very first day I was overjoyed. There was an elevator. I wouldn't have to walk up a million flights of stairs to get to my apartment! Too bad my elevator is hell-bent on killing all of the students in the building. I've had to pry the elevator doors open because it refuses, sometimes, to let us out. I've had to bang on the lights inside the elevator to get them to go back on after they've flickered and died. I've had to push the elevator buttons repeatedly to remind the elevator that stopping in the middle of its ascent wasn't what I'd asked it to do. I've had to jump up and down inside the elevator to get it to move back towards my floor after it stopped a good 10 feet too far up. Thank god it went to a good spot or else I'd have been climbing through the elevator shaft pretending I was James Bond. Once, Fresco rode the elevator and had to pry himself out. The elevator started to move while he was getting out and very literally almost chopped him in half.

I walk up all those flights of stairs anyway. They are exactly as weird as the elevator. I promise you that sometimes I really feel like the stairs add an extra flight. Admittedly, I have anxiety and tend to get scared about things that aren't actually happening. I really feel like this is happening, though, and am legitimately freaked out about it. I would pass it off on my anxiety if it weren't for the white thing. After climbing the stairs a few times I began to notice, at a certain bend in the stairwell, the presence of a white thing. It was kind of like an aura that would only show up if the lights were out. I've mentioned before that in this building the hall lights go off of their own volition and so I'm often in the stairwell in the dark. I would pass this presence off on my anxiety, too, if Selvaggia hadn't exclaimed loudly one night as we descended the stairs in the darkness about a white thing hovering in the stairway. I never mentioned to her that I'd noticed it before. This bend happens to be the same bend where the mysterious extra flight appears. Hopefully this is the ghost of someone cool like a Medici or Michelangelo, but I doubt it.

The creepiest thing that has happened so far, though, was the high heeled girl. Selvaggia and I had just gotten home from a very fun night out and were sitting at our kitchen table at around 5 a.m. one morning. We heard clacking coming down our hallway and assumed that our neighbor was on her way home. The clacking stopped, but a door didn't open. We heard someone making noises that sounded like crying and called out to the person. No one answered. We kept on trying to get them to answer but no one ever did. We finally opened the door to ask them what they were doing and no one was there.

I think my building needs to be exorcized.
Arrivederci, fow now.
Love, Gabby.

Florentine Family Dinners

I've mentioned in older posts that I'm grateful to have made friends that I get along with so well so quickly. My experience here in Florence wouldn't be half as incredible as it has been so far if it weren't for them. They have become, in short, my Florentine family. Spending time with them is my absolute favorite thing about this experience. This isn't something I say lightly, either. I mean, shit, I eat the best food in the world every day, I can drink in the streets, I live in a city that houses all the art I worship, and I choose these people as my favorite thing about this place. I'm going to go home and they are going to be the thing that I miss the most. The fun we have will never be the same as it is while we are here now, no matter how often we see each other when we get home.

This is why I get so excited to have dinner with them. I'm used to big family dinners. I have them at home with my family at least once a month. I love homemade food, I love helping to cook with my Mom, and I love sitting around the table and laughing with the people who I love. I was really unhappy when I left Jersey because I was going to miss my family. Thank God I fell into a family here and thank God we've made a habit of having weekly family dinners. I swear, the very best nights I've had in this town have been those spent around tiny tables with huge groups of friends. These dinners are homemade. We cook together. We listen to good music. We drink lots of delicious wine. We laugh so hard we lose a pound a piece. There is nothing to complain or worry about. Our homework woes are long forgotten. Our stress over our dwindling bank accounts dissipates (no matter how strong the stupid Euro is that day). We forget to hate our teachers, we forget that we're all gaining weight, we forget to miss our homes and our dogs and our beds and Doritos. We forget how much it sucks that Italy hasn't adopted a Starbucks yet. There is nothing better than these nights.

I haven't mentioned this yet but Selvaggia is an incredible cook. The first family dinner I had was with her and the boys. Let me tell you how gratifying this meal was, readers. Selvaggia, Carino, and I cooked up a storm in the boys kitchen. Selvaggia head chefed it up with some incredible recipes, Carino Su chefed with equally delicious additions to Selvaggia's artistry, and I kind of just did the bitch work. Whatever. I felt important. We tend to eat late here in Florence and our cooking spree started at around 8:30 at night. Selvaggia wrapped some chicken around an incredible rosemary ricotta filling and then wrapped that in proscuitto. Carino made a spicy sauce to put over our pasta (because obviously we had to include pasta in the meal somehow). The two of them together roasted potatoes and carrots and although this sounds simple it was the most delicious roasted anything I've ever had. I chopped and mixed and washed whatever those two handed my way. By 10:30 at night our meal was ready. We set nine places around one coffee table and sat down to enjoy what tasted like a combination of Heaven and Shangri-La. Poeta read a poem for us, the best grace I've ever heard, and we all sat in awe of him for a minute or two before digging in. As much as Italian cooking rocks, they can't touch this.

The next week we did it again. Guess what? It was even better this time. We started cooking around 9:30 at night. I can't explain why we eat so late but thats how we do it here in Florence, readers. It has had a steep contribution to the weight I think I'm gaining. We wanted to have baked ziti (which is totally not an Italian food, I'll have you know) and we went all out for it. We made garlic bread (also not very Italian), chopped up tomatoes to make sauce from scratch, layered our rigatoni with ricotta, and threw a ton of mozzarella cheese on top. Oh Mio Dio (thats Oh My God in Italian). We honestly outdid ourselves. Selvaggia, Carino, and I were all in the kitchen again with Buzzarro bartending and Fresco deejaying. We cooked, listened to Jimi, and drank rum and coke until 12 o'clock at night. When the food was finally ready and we all sat down to eat our stomachs were grumbling in a cacophony of eagerness. Poeta came out and stood up to read us grace again-a new, fresh poem we were all ready to hear. Too bad we all got a case of the giggles. We laughed uncontrollably. Poeta's poem was absolutely breathtaking; his poems always seem to resonate in people's souls. It certainly wasn't the content of the poem that had us laughing the way we were. We just couldn't stop. When we would finally quell our silliness one of us would look at the other and we'd start laughing all over again. I was trying so hard to be quiet and listen to Poeta speak but found my giggle affliction so overpowering I couldn't even pause to breathe. The poem ended and we started to eat but the laughter just didn't stop. I was so hungry when I sat down but found I only ate a small serving because I was laughing too hard to get food into my mouth. Moda was espeically funny, cracking jokes every time I lifted my fork; I therefore had to set my full fork down because I was shaking so hard from laughter that my rigatoni kept falling back to my plate. I doubt I'll ever laugh so much again. What little of the meal I did get to eat was delicious and we capped it off with limoncello. We were all pumped up to have it for desert and cin cin'd to a great night. Thank God one of us remembered that limoncello shots aren't to be taken in the traditional way. Had I have downed the stuff like a regular shot I'd probably have suffered from a minor heart attack. The stuff sucks. I'll shotgun a can of teqiula before I sip on a limoncello again.

The last family dinner I had was a potluck in my apartment complex. I've made great friends with alot of the people who live in my building. Selvaggia, my other roommate who will henceforth be known as Benny Lava and her boyfriend who will henceforth be known as Sway, and I are all extremely friendly with different rooms of people in the building. One of my sculptor friends is the roommate of Sway and has become a regular in our apartment. My other sculptor friend and two of her roommates are also close friends of ours. We are all connected by a series of courtyard windows and it's a bond that can only be understood by those in this building. We're all friends with a group of girls who live near the Santa Croce and so we invited them and the boys over for our potluck. It was awesome. Selvaggia made the most amazing homemade macaroni and cheese in the history of homemade macaroni and cheeses. My sculptor friends and their roommates made a variety of different pizzas. One was spicy, another had ricotta cheese and tomatoes, and the last was pesto. Our girlfriends from Santa Croce baked a chocolate cake for desert and we covered it in gelato. The boys and I contributed to the potluck with a ton of wine. We sat around another very small table, played cards, talked and laughed loudly, and spent time enjoying good company.

It may not sound like a world of fun to you, reader, but it is. Its the very best thing that studying abroad has had to offer me so far. If my classes sucked, if I hated Italy, if I were so homesick I cried myself to sleep every night, family dinners would make the whole thing still worth it. Lucky for me, most of my classes rock, I love Italy, and feel like I could never go home again and be fine. Which means family dinners have gone ahead and pushed my level of happiness past astronomical proportions and straight out of this universe. Readers here in Italy who've been a part, I love you guys.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Saturday, February 6, 2010

La Passegiata

I walk around Florence every day. I know, you can't believe it, either. At least once everyday I'll be walking and think something like "This is so unreal!" or "Am I really here right now?" or "Holy Shit." On my way to and from school everyday I toss David a peace sign, say whats up to Brunelleschi, and smile at Ghiberti. "FOR REAL?" Thats another one. In those moments I really appreciate everything I am doing while I'm here. I feel sometimes like I'm living someone else's life-like these experiences couldn't possibly be happening to me. The best part is when I realize that these experiences are, in fact, happening to me. I see something beautiful on every via I walk down. For instance: video Nothing like some Bob to bring the world together. There is a man who stands on another corner who plays his accordion (video to come, be sure to check back) and two guys on another who play the saxophone and guitar. I am sure to pass by at least one musician playing sweet music every single day. I walk past art. There are sculptures built into the walls of random homes here. There are sculptures everywhere you look, actually. You'll see paintings in random holes in the walls and there is an art store on every street. Its incredible how artistic this city is. Sometimes I'll be walking and suddenly realize I'm walking through a post card: the picture perfect Italian road post card with the narrowness and the stucco buildings and the one shining lamp. I walk across the Arno and look at the Ponte Vecchio from afar, sometimes in the daytime with the mad Italian chatter and tourists all over and sometimes in the nighttime when the stars shine down (because somehow stars come out in this city) and the streets are empty. Its becomes more and more unbelievable every day. But I only get that feeling in the day for just a moment. Walking around Florence is an art that must be perfected in order to stay clean, stay sane, and actually survive.

I wrote in an older blog posting that I would post my assignment for my Travel Writing course about the most suprising phenomenon I've experienced while in Florence. Here it is: It’s been two weeks since my arrival in Florence, a bustling city rich with history and host to a culture very different from my own. The experiences I’ve had here have been fresh and exciting. I’ve been exposed to works of art older and more magnificent than any in my country. I’ve climbed 463 steps to view a city so beautiful that I could never do it justice with words. I’ve learned to exist in a culture where I cannot walk around in my sweatpants or bring my leftovers home with me. Gelato has become something of an addiction and I must always include wine with my lunch and dinner. Sometimes I’ll even include it with my breakfast. I’ve met people and been places I’d never have dreamed of in America. New things are around every corner and I find myself looking forward to each turn. The only surprise I don’t look forward to when I turn those corners is one underneath my foot. This town offers an excess of phenomenal things different than in my country yet there is only one that never fails to stop me in my tracks: poop.

I come from what I’m beginning to realize is a very clean country. Even the Manhattanites, whose lives are so busy they never seem to pause for a breath, stop to pick up their dog’s poop. Florentines seem to think that their sidewalks will magically absorb their dogs poop and so they just leave it. A person can’t take two steps in this town without coming across a fresh pile. Pooper-scoopers were invented a long time ago, Florence. I think it’s time to get with the program. Walking down the streets in this city is like walking through a mine field. What’s the use in spending 150 hard-earned euros on a pair of leather boots from Pollini if the first time I wear them I’m going to step in poop? I’ve seen huge golden labs leave heaping mounds of the stuff smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk as I’m trying to walk down it. It wouldn’t be so disconcerting of the owners didn’t walk away from the mess completely unashamed. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to get rid of those messes. You Florentine dog owners need use your leftover busta’s and pick up the poop. It’s unbecoming.

This, my dear readers, isn't all the Florentine streets has to offer. Litter. I swear, after the San Lorenzo closes up at around 9 p.m. there has formed on the streets an entire landfill. Its filthy (and directly outside of my apartment). There is also graffiti, accept not the good kind. My friend Fresco once mentioned that he felt weird peeing on buildings so old. In his words "I could pee on a building thats maybe 250, but once you get to 5 and 600, thats a little uncomfortable". I think if I were a guy and able to do such a thing I would feel the same way. This is precisely why I am so completely baffled by the amount of ugly graffiti on the walls of these buildings. Hundreds and hundreds of years old and the poor things are covered in graffiti that simply says "Yogurt" in green. It's not even good graffiti. If you're going to put graffiti on a building, any building, at least have a modicom of skill in the art form. Don't, for Christ's sake, put one word (and not even an Italian word at that) in a shade of ugly neon green.

I have to admit, though, I lucked out. I come from the Jersey Shore and am therefore well practiced in the art of tourist evasion. I know how to weave my way in and out of tourists whose feet seem to rise and fall in slow motion. I feel for those who haven't had the opportunity to hone this skill. The Japaneese tourists are the worst ones. Trying to walk through the waves of asian tourists is literally like trying to walk through waves. Waves during high tide. That is to say it is nearly impossible. They don't speak English OR Italian and trying to communicate "Get the fuck out of my way!" to them is impossible. The only alternative is to push straight through them-right through the center of their packs.

Finally, the most horrible thing about walking along Florentine streets is that I fear for my life when I do it. I imagine most of you readers have heard that Italians drive a little crazy. I assure you, that was an understatement. Even the people on bicycles seem to aim themselves at the pedestrians. I'm required to look both ways exactly 600 times before I can cross a street safely and even then my window of safe passage is limited and I must haul ass across the street. Italians WILL hit you with their cars. Beeping at you over and over is a courtesy. I've jumped out of the way of speeding cars more times than I've crossed the street here. Speeding probably isn't the right word, though. Speed limits are a suggestion here, and so I suppose the only word to describe the speed at which the Italians drive is normal. Normal speed. Speaking of suggestions, the pedestrian stop/go signs here are jokes. When the "walk" sign turns on I know better. They are trying to trick me, I'm convinced. They want me to get hit by a car. Or closelined by a guy on a Vespa. One day I'm going to become so frustrated that I'll turn the tables and closeline a guy on a Vespa myself.

Regardless, I still love walking around in this city.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

I love chocolate

I love Italy. This past weekend they had a fesitval here and I promise you it was the greatest festival in the world. The Santa Croce was transformed into the world's largest chocolate hub and let me tell you, readers, it was absolutely delectable. So good there are no other words than delectable, and that word isn't even fun to say. It is the only word that comes close to adequately describing how good this fucking chocolate was. I'd noticed that something was going on there a few days before when I walked past and saw them setting up rows of tents. A few days later one of my friends came walking into my apartment with a hunk of tiramisu chocolate she had bought at the festival. It was delectable. I decided I needed to get down there and buy my own hunk the very next day and gathered some friends for the occasion.

Selvaggio, Scorrere, and two others I haven't introduced you to yet came along and we had a blast. One of the guys is this down-to-Earth, extremely nice guy who came here with Selvaggio from their school in Boston and always manages to make my night better. He is the type of guy everyone wants to be friends with, and we are therefore calling him Fresco. The other guy is this funny southerner with an accent I love so much I always adopt it whenever we're hanging out. He knows how to drink vodka and shoot a deer at the same time and even though I love animals but he makes me want to shoot them, too. His blogname is now Buzzurro. Anyway, us four went down to Santa Croce and we were completely overwhelmed by the vastness of the chocolate there. Chocolate bricks, chocolate logs, chocolate circles and squares and triangles, chocolate shaped like ducks and elephants, chocolate pouring from fountains and vats of chocolate to dip other pieces of chocolate in. There was chocolate gelato, chocolate rum, chocolate cheese, chocolate cookies and cakes and biscotti and bread. They had shots of chocolate and chocolate wine, chocolate liquor and chocolate glasses to drink it out of. Everything was chocolate, and it was all delicious.

We did a once-around collecting free samples, which were available at every single stand, and then went back around purchasing. I had white chocolate and tiramisu chocolate, dark chocolate and milk chocolate and chocolate with nuts and all of it was free. I paid 2 euro for a chocolate pastry the size of two of my hands filled with chocolate and hazlenuts and covered in powdered sugar. It was incredible. I had a shot of chocolate with rum and had a glass of the Italian version of hot cocoa. They melt chocolate and give you a cup. It was heaven on Earth and was within fifteen minutes walking distance from my apartment. Hell yes. By the end of our chocolate eating experience we were ready to explode from chocolatey delightfulness. I swear, I love Italy. Hope you enjoyed the photos. Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby.

Nostalgia del cupolone

I climbed to the top of the Duomo. I know, you cant believe it either. It was magnificent. People in this town consider the Duomo their central masterpiece. Brunelleschi's arcitectural genius is the pride of all the Fiorentines, and having the opportnity to go and see it was something my friends and I were all looking forward to. I got up early in the morning and set out with my girl and two of our boys with this in mind. Best 8 Euro I've ever spent. We met up outside of the Gates of Paradise, created to adorn the Romanesque exterior arches of the Battistero after an intense aristic competition between Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti (and yes dad, when I saw them for the first time after I got here I thought of you). My roomie and I sat waiting for the boys and people watched for about twenty minutes, hated on some pigeons, and when the guys finally came we were excited to get our adventure through history started.

The Duomo's construction began in the year 1296 and wasn't completed until 1887 so we knew we were in for a day of awesomeness. The second we walked into the cathedral I'm pretty sure all our jaws dropped right onto the mosaic floor. The statues are huge; they look like they are so old they should be crumbling into dust and the fact that they are just as beautiful now as they were hundreds and hundreds of years ago amplifies that beauty by maybe 45 thousand. We saw incredible frescos and stained glass. We were able to look up at the gigantic fresco of The Last Judgment inside the dome, painted by Vasari after the Duomo's completetion. It was 25 different sorts of flabbergasting. It was gigantic and that made the place feel eerily empty. It was a cool sort of eerie, though. You could almost feel the energy that a place like the cathedral would produce packed full with worshipers on a good Sunday. We hung around for a little while and then decided we'd seen enough and were ready to get our workout on. I'm extremely excited to get back into the cathedral for mass.

We walked around to a side door and mentally prepared ourselved for the intensity of what we were about to do. When Brunelleschi designed the Duomo, he designed it to include an exceptionally rigorous route to the top. The final construction consists of 463 steep steps that wind around and around; the idea of climbing this was almost torturous but the four of us knew that it would be worth it and approached the challenge with gusto. We paid our 8 Euro and were swiped inside, not knowing what to expect. Its a small coridoor and then steps. And steps and steps and steps. The sign outside of the door says in a variety of languages that this climb is not for pregnant women, people with heart disease, etc. etc., and they aren't kidding. What they don't mention that is important to know is that this climb is also not for anyone whose claustrophobic. Its super narrow. Only one person can climb up at a time and its very difficult to get by when there are people moving downwards. After the first 30 or so steps you're huffing and puffing and dreading the rest of your ascent. It definitely helped to have friends there to encourage each other, because when one of us started cursing the others would help with jokes and motivating words. Its kind of a shame to see, though, because the walls are COVERED in graffiti of things like "Gianna was here 2005" or "Ti Amo Moreno sempre!". I hate those people for ruining something so much more important then they are. My legs were yelling at me after about 20 minutes and I was extremely relieved when the stairway opened up because it was finally over.


Yeah, it wasn't over. I wasn't even halfway done. I was happy, though, because stepping onto that little walkway and being so close to Vasari's painting was absolutely incredible. Seriously. It was amazing, magnificent, beautiful, extraordinary, astonishing, gorgeous, inspring, awesome, fabulous, wonderful, prodigious, marvelous, unimagineable, terrific, remarkable, outstanding, phenomenal, and wicked sweet. There are more adjectives, but honestly there just aren't enough to adequately describe the excellence of this fucking place. I couldn't believe my eyes. For a solid ten minutes we all just stood around and pointed at the different things in this fresco. Its a really fun scene to look at, there are images of heaven and hell, monsters and angels and people ripping themselves in half. Theres a really sweet scene of Jesus in a halo of golden light and another sweet scene of a demon stuffing his ripped open stomach with humans. We were reluctant to leave but knew we'd be even more amazed by the sight of Firenze from so high up. We hit the stairs again and guess what? It was even narrower and even steeper and literally wound around at an impossible angle. The staircase was as spiral as they come. More than you're thinking, reader. We got dizzy after 10 steps and as we approached the top our brains were still spinning. We saw a little coridoor on the way up and the room at the end was occupied by a little security guard. I asked him if he had to climb those steps everyday and the look he gave me made me feel so bad that I'm sure those steps weren't included in the job description. Poor guy. Beware when doing this that as you get to the top it only gets harder. The stairs get to be ladderlike and feel like they are three steps deep. Its hard, but worth it, because once you make it through the little trap door the sight will leave you speechless.


After we hung out up there for a while, more contented than we'd been since we arrived, we started to make our way down. The vertigo, guys, is enough to send any person reeling. I wonder about the unfortunate people who couldn't handle it and fell down. Imagine falling down 463 steps? Its not pleasant even walking down them. Again the graffiti will make you sick, but there was one thing written that said "Brunellechi is Magic" and it made all four of us smile. We got stuck behind an Asian guy who after every 5 steps or so woud look back and gesture "1 second" at us, take 30 seconds to get some pictures, and then move on and do it again. My roomie kept looking back at us and pulling on her eyelids to make herself look Asian, making the same silly gesture at us. We were ready to push him down but thankfully there was a brief stop in a small room. It held big statues of what I think were the people who helped in the design and contruction of the Duomo. The Asian guy stayed there to take pictures, hes probably still there taking them, and we got go around him. We made it all the way down a couple minutes later, all of us significantly happier and feeling like we'd been touched, for a short little while, by God himself. You should all definitely make the trip up if you're in Florence. Arrivederci, for now! Love, Gabby

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pick-pockets and sex trafficers

I went to a seminar last week that my school offered about what our experiences here were going to be like. It was run by the activities coordinator here at school and was meant to give us advice about where to go and tips on how to look less like tourists and more like Italians. The seminar was very informative and I found myself feeling more Italian by the end of it. The reason I mention this is because the guy who ran it, a pretty funny little guy, gave us advice about pick-pockets and sex-trafficers. These things are real here and while they don't happen often or in plain sight they do happen. The first bit of advice he gave about pick-pockets was not to set down your coats or pocketbooks when you're out because they'll get stolen. Duh. He then said not to put a hundred different things inside your pockets unless you wanted them stolen. Its very easy for the pick-pockets around here to slip things from you in crowds. Again, Duh. The useful advice we were given is also sort of obvious but isn't something you'd think of normally. When walking along the streets, wear your pocketbook on the side closest to the buildings. I wouldn't normally think of this but it makes alot of sense. Pick-pockets here are mostly drive-bys. Guys on Vespas and bikes will speed up, snatch your bag, most likely make you fall, and speed away. He mentioned a little later in his seminar that sex-trafficers aren't easy to spot but are easy to avoid. "Sex trafficing," he said, "is not going to happen on the street. Men aren't going to jump out of a big van and take you away. Mainly because we don't have big vans here but also because they are smarter than that", and this is true. It takes men of a certain intellect to sex traffic without getting caught. Sex trafficing, according to him, takes place in the bars and clubs. If someone orders you a drink, gives you a drink, or if your drink is delivered, you're most likely being roofied. Order your own drinks, he says, and you'll avoid being a sex-slave for the rest of your life.

Its only been a week here and already I've seen pick-pocketing and sex-trafficing in action. I went to a bar called the Red Garter/Sizzle the other night. This bar would be totally awesome if it weren't teeming with American students and Italian guys who are all DTF. The restaurant portion of the place, Sizzle, specializes in American delicacies like burgers, fries, and milkshakes, plays American sports on their huge plasma televisions, and offers discounted prices on American beers every Tuesday during the beer pong tournament. The Red Garter portion, the dance club, plays nothing but American favorites like "I Kissed a Girl" and "Sexy Bitch". Boys and girls turn into sloppy messes from 12:30 onward; girls make dates with Italian boys and boys get angry at American girls for it. I never allow myself to get this way in these places because, as my dad so often demanded of me, "Do not make yourself a target." This proves to be a good thing because I reduce my risk of pick-pocketing/sex-trafficing and am able to observe the frenzy of American stupidity the way Italian's probably do.

I met an Italian guy there who was clearly all about the ladies, but he took the time to notice how drunk I wasn't and struck up a conversation with me. His name was Vinny, his English was nearly perfect, and he complemented me on managing to remain sober. "It's nice to speak with someone who is pretty and also not fucking falling." We talked for quite a while. He made fun of me for being from Jersey and we joked around about my bad taste in beer when a man starts pushing past us to get to the edge of the table where I was sitting. This was strange because I was in the corner and Vinny was directly in front of me. The guy literally shoved me over and stood standing next to me for about five solid minutes. He was grimy and ugly with some seriously busted teeth and reeked of Italian B.O. Vinny whispered to me "I'm watching him in the mirror (which was directly across from us). If he does anything I'll start something with him." Tough guy. Anyway, Vinny explained to me that this man was a pick pocket and we watched together in the mirror while this man picked approximately 45 different pockets. There was a coat-hanger behind me and it was disconcerting to watch because his body remained stock-still but his hands were a frenzy of motion. I'd been smart and was wearing my coat and holding my small pocketbook undearneath my hands and so had nothing to fear. Vinny warned me not to raise any sort of alarm because this man probably carried some sort of knife and you could never tell what guys like that would do. The guy took a couple of jackets and then left. I witnessed the art of the pick-pocket firsthand and later found out one of my really good friend's jacket had been stolen. There you have it, readers, pick-pockets alive and well in Italy.

Sex trafficing is a completely other matter. I have a friend who got roofied. She'll deny it if you ask her but she definitely was roofied. For one of our school orientations the school rented out a club from 8:30 until 10:30 for us to dance and eat some free food. They gave us some free drinks and we were allowed, if we chose to, to stay at the club without paying cover for a regular night out. The club was called Space Electronic and I had heard already from some Italian friends I had made that this club was notorious for putting roofies in drinks. My group of friends and I went for the orientation and the club was actually pretty cool. It was three levels, the middle had a gigantic dance floor and the top was for VIP's. The underground level was also pretty sweet, with fish tanks and a really smooth looking bar. The DJ for our little party kind of sucked but as soon as the night started to come to an end he started putting on better music. My friends and I decided to leave though because we weren't feeling it and knew the place was about to get way too wild. The next day I asked a friend of mine how her night had turned out. She didn't remember. She purchased one drink in the VIP lounge she and her friends had aquired and had it delivered to her by a shot girl. She said her night ended in her head after the first drink. If she hadn't of been with another group of guys, she'd most certainly have been sex trafficed. Sometimes I wonder how people get comfortable so quickly in foreign places when we're warned time and time again not to. Upon further investigation I discovered that Space Electronic was one of the only bars in town slammed for roofies. I'll not be going to that bar again.

In short, I'm learning valuable lessons in Italy about how to be less of a target. I'm learning how to be more careful and cautious with my drinks here. I know better than to let myself get out of control wasted when I go out with my friends. I've gotten some useful tips on how to spot a pick-pocketer. I'm feeling pretty good about myself here, but not so good that I'll let my guard down.
Anyway, enough blogging about scary things. Arrivederci, for now!
Love, Gabby.

The battle between peanut butter and nutella

I'm an American. Peanut butter is my standard sandwich filling. I eat peanut butter in my ice cream, on my crackers, with my fruits, and on a spoon. I love peanut butter. When I came to Italy I knew I would miss it, but I have to admit I was excited to replace it with Nutella. I figured that something to compare peanut butter to would only make me appreciate it that much more. People in Europe go just as crazy over Nutella as we Americans do over peanut butter. The Europeans put Nutella in their sandwiches, in their ice cream, on their crackers, with their fruits, and they too eat it right off the spoon. I've done all these things with Nutella, and guess what, its also a delicious spread. But which is better? I've been having this debate with myself and with my friends since my arrival here in Florence. Hazlenuts or peanuts? Chocolately or buttery? Its such a hard choice to make and so I therefore decided I'm going to analyze my feelings toward the two spreads in order to compare and contrast them.

There are a variety of reasons why both of these spreads are so incredible, the first and most foremost being that both are good with virtually anything. People in the U.S. eat peanut butter on hotdogs while people in Europe eat nutella on pizza. Both things sound equally disgusting and yet both are equally delicious. The two spreads are unique in their power to make anything and everything taste better. Furthermore, both are good at all times of the day. Peanut butter is a breakfast delight when eaten with bananas or on toast while crossiants baked in nutella or with nutella fillings are standard Italian breakfast items. At lunch I'm satisfied by a sandwich filled with nutella or peanut butter in totally different yet exactly the same ways. And like I mentioned before, people have experiemented with different dnner items containing these two substances, which is where nutella spaghetti and peanut butter burritos come from. Dessert items are ordered continuously with these two spreads as toppings and both have been made into a plethora of different candies. People eat both peanut butter and nutella as snacks. I've got a roommate who puts nutella on her potatoe chips and I myself am guilty of sandwiching my chocolate chip cookies with peanut butter. People even include both peanut butter and nutella in their drinks: peanut butter milkshakes and nutella flavored coffee do exist, readers.

Are there any bad qualities to these items, though? Yes. Peanut butter gets stuck to the roof of many a mouth. Nutella gets caught in between your teeth. Peanut butter gets oily and nutella gets crusty. Both spreads will make you fat and they are both quite addicting. So how was I ever to decide which was better between the two? The task seemed quite impossible until I came up with the perfect solution. I would combine the two and whichever flavor I found myself more attracted to while the two competed inside my mouth would be the winner.

Reader, please, go and buy yourself some Skippy. Then buy a jar of nutella. Combine them, please, and wait for your foodgasm. Because NEITHER spread could win my favor over the other. The two mixed together into the most amazingly wonderful taste sensation I've ever had. I therefore conclude that neither peanut butter or nutella can ever be chosen over the other and both are food items worthy of the Gods.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

One Wild Weekend

I'm having far too much fun in this town. I've only been here for a short while and I've had more fun here than I've ever had in my life. Little Cayman was a totally different situation and I had loads and loads of fun there, but the fun there was supervised, stressful, and was incumbent on my ability to sneak out. I had to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for two days straight as a punishment there. Here, though, I'm totally free. Its regular, relaxed, and unrestricted college here. I'm not given a curfew or forced to wake up at certain times of day for breakfast. Its bliss, and I love it. I've had some boisterous nights out and feel better than I have in ages.

The first night was a weeknight and my roommates and threw an apartment complex party. We live in one of the only completely student-habitated apartment complex's in town and so we invited our neighbors over for some wine pong. I wound up so drunk I fell asleep with my toilet bowl as a pillow. It was definitely the perfect start to my weekend.

I'm so so grateful that I have a roomie (I'm leaving people's names out because I refuse to invade privacy or be sued and am instead making up fun nicknames in Italian for them and I'll from now on call her Selvaggio), whose on the same page as me. She is one of my three roommates and we are quickly becoming extremely close friends. We've got these friends we hang out with all the time, and we all decided last Friday that we were going to go out and have a wild night. We went over their house and got ourselves ready to go by pre-gaming with lots of wine and some Sauza. Our friends are honestly the funnest group of guys you'll ever meet. There are seven of them and each of them has a personality totally seperate from the other. They mix together perfectly. Honestly, readers, the amount of grateful I am to have made a group of friends I like so much so quickly is unbelievable. Having them to hang with all the time is the best, and pre-gaming with them for nights out is always a good time. We were amped up to go at around 12 and hit the town happy as clams.

I'd like to take this opportunity to explain to you all why I put "Blonde" in the title of my blog. I mention in one of my older posts that I hated the stupid American girls who clop around in their heels and stumble along on the streets. I'm the world's biggest hypocrite, everyone. I decided I wanted to look hot and wore the sexiest pair of purple boot-cut heels. Two of the boys who never ever ever look messy complimented me on them and I was feeling good until we started walking. Not only did I hold up our group of 9 but my feet were hurting so badly that Selvaggio kept offering to give me a piggy back ride. After a solid twenty minutes of torture I took the fucking shoes off and walked around Florence bare-foot.

We went out to this little joint that one of my friends, who I'll from now on call Poeta, found. He is this totally deep and inspired guy who gets up early in the morning to write poetry on the Arno, plays guitar, and sings us all songs late at night. Poeta made friends with an Italian guy who owns two bars in Florence, I'll call him Divertimenti, and invited us all to go and meet him. Sei Divine was the name of the bar and on Thursday nights they host this little jazz band until around 1 a.m. When we got there the little place was packed-that is to say there were about 20 people and the addition of my friends and I filled the place to the rafters. All the people were Italians, so incredibly refreshing to get away from the Americans, and they were dancing their Gucci pants off. The jazz band was incredible, all Italians singing Italian songs, and we stayed and all danced off our Levi's. I had a Pineapple Mojhito Divertimenti made for me and it was absolutely the most alcoholic beverage I've had here so far. I was set for the night on that one drink and it gave me the courage to chat amicably with the Itals. We started to leave at around 4 a.m. and Selvaggio and I danced down the streets of Florence with our friends. One of the boys, Carino, a totally suave and super fun guy, walked arm and arm with me all the way home. Partly because he was stumbling but still able to skip with me down the narrow vias. We wound up stopping and chatting with some Italian guys who tried to invite him back to their place (creeps) but Selvaggio rescued us by calling Carino her raggazo and pulled him away!

When we got back to their place one of the funniest kids I've ever met did one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Scorrere, as we'll call him, spits mad flow pretty much always, and I promise you he is hysterical. He is rauncy, fun and inappropriate and I love every second of it. The other day he and two of his other roommates were walking through San Lorenzo and were stopped by some Ethiopians selling watches. They'd set out that day to haggle and wound up buying some really nice watches for really cheap. They got home excited and showing off their new bling when what should Scorrere discover but that his watch was broken. He spent about an hour trying to fix it and when he finally did the ensuing excitement was enough to blow down a house. He wore that watch to Sei Divine and when we got home gingerly took it off and placed it down on his dresser. As he is changing into his pajamas he bumps into the dresser and the watch slowly fell off and cracked on the floor. There are strict rules for no noise past 10 in their apartment building because they live with Italian residents and I'm certain that the long, drawn out "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" that Scorrere shouted woke up the neighbors. I don't even want to talk about how hard I was laughing.

The very next night we made plans to meet up with Divertimenti who promised us another wild night. He definitely delivered. We went to his other bar, The One Eyed Jack, which is this small place over the river that is extremely fun and has become my favorite bar here. Divertimenti is the best, totally rivaling my bar tender from LC, and I'm so incredibly happy to have met him. We got to the Jack and hung around, drinking pitchers of beer and eating DELICIOUS french fries. I'm not kidding, these fries were so good they were nearly better than the fries get at home. The night started getting interesting when people started buying shots. Rounds and rounds of shots. Divertimenti kept testing out his inventions on us, bringing over rounds once every half hour. Some random German guy who couldn't speak a word of English who was friends with Divertimenti kept paying for rounds, too. It was definitely starting to get wild and Carino and I noticed there was a guy sitting in the bar who was wearing the Thriller jacket. We were cracking up about it and when he turned Carino and I swear we were seeing MJ reincarnate. The guy was the spitting image. We took pictures on his iphone. When the Jack closed it was around 2 in the morning and Christian told us he was taking us someplace special for the rest of the night. He passed us around these little wine cooler type things which made music when you took sips out of them. I found out the next day those drinks were 10% absinthe or something ridiculous like that. We drank our drinks as we walked (which may be my favorite thing about Florence) and within fifteen minutes we were there.

I wish I knew where it was located but its the Florentine secret gem and so of course its exact coordinates are a fucking mystery. This place was honestly the coolest club I've ever been to in my life. It opened up into three levels after walking through a dark hallway filled with people rolling and tripping. HOUSE MUSIC was playing, finally, and they even put on some Billy Idol which basically got me wild. The different rooms were all equally awesome and I wish I could describe them to you. I was kind of drunk and the minor details are eluding me. Pretty much everyone in that club was on some drug or another; the DJ was so drugged out she had red lipstick all over her pasty white face and her dark black hair had tangled itself into a rather cozy looking bird's nest. Carino, another of our friends Moda (whose so well-dressed I have a mini-crush on him), and a girl from my apartment building all wound up dancing on stage with me and the DJ for approximately an hour. There was a girl on the bar so drugged up she was slinking across it like a cat, gyrating her hips in awkward ways and hissing at people. The night is honestly a blur but I had more fun at Club Babylon than at any other club I've been to and plan to spend alot of crazy nights there. I promise I didn't do any drugs, it was just such a cool place. I had a couple free shots since Divertimenti knew the bartenders there and then the place started to close. As we walked outside into the alleyway there were Carabinieri (cops) all hushing everyone and making sure we all got out okay. People were pouring out of the place, just as many middle aged people as young teens, and for the first time I noticed that many were dressed up with masks and capes and face-paint. There was even a girl with a tiger-suit on. Divertimenti rounded us all up and we realized that half of us hadn't made it to Babylon. It was now only myself, Selvaggio, Carino, Moda, Poeta, and Divertimenti, and my one friend from our building.

It was 4 a.m. at this point but Divertimenti had one more suprise in store for the night. We walked another fifteen minutes to another place called Montecarla. Seriously, holy shit. I walked in and my jaw hit the floor. Leopard print EVERYTHING. Leopard print seats, pillows, tables, ceiling, bar, staircase. I'm not joking. The place was decked out in so much leopard print I'm certain the interior designer is the reason leopards are on the endangered species list. When we got in we were stopped at the door by a very old man checking IDs. This was extremely odd because there is not drinking age here. Divertimenti gave us these cards, leopard print logos, and I'm now a member of Montecarla. You've got to be a fucking member to get in. We sat down at a table and I was happy to learn that this place offered all its guests free chips and peanuts, party favors like streamers and little blowy-things, free masks to wear, and free-coloring books with day-glo markers. What the fuck? We got free drinks (again) and hung out wearing masks and coloring octopii and frogs in day-glo. Selvaggio and I decided we wanted to check out the upstairs. We walk up into a leopard print jungle littered with fucking beds. I'm not kidding. Circle beds. We sat down for half a second in a corner with some peanuts before two lonely Italian guys came up and plopped down next to us. "Ciao, ragazza, come stai? Do you speak Italian?" Its so easy to spot Americans. Anyway, their names were Massimo and Matteo and they wound up asking us to join them in their beds. We told them we needed to get our coats and we'd be right back, bounded down the stairs two at a time, gathered our friends, and hauled ass out of the place. Montecarla.

The next night we went back to Jack. Divertimenti promised us the superbowl, in English and with front row seating. No crowds of Americans all vying for good locations or Italians questioning the logic of our version of football. It was fabulous. I met an American sushi chef who moved to Italy to cook for them and had a really fun time catching him up on the whats what from the states and in American sports. We got to see the whole game, eat delicious french fries, drink discounted beer because we knew the tender, and hang out with good friends. It was an amazing finish to my crazy weekend and I feel like a rock star. I'm living the rock star lifestyle and I'm loving every second of it. Anyway, I'll update you all on my crazy weekends when I have more.
Arrivederci, for now!
Love, Gabby