Perhaps as evidenced by the lack of posts on the ol' blog, I've been incredibly busy the past ten days.

The last Saturday in January, those of us that weren't too exhausted from the first week of classes hopped on a charter bus for a day trip to the small Umbrian town of Orvieto. The drive was less than two hours, and we arrived to beautiful, albeit freezing, weather. Our time was divided amongst five tasks, the first of which was a self-guided tour of an Etruscan necropolis.

As fascinating as the concept of dozens of identical empty tombs with no historical explanation sounds, the entire group got bored and cold really fast, and we congregated at the appropriately named Igloo caffe'. Cappuccini e cornetti satisfied the group before we departed for task two: an Etruscan museum.

The tour was led by Roger, a somewhat crusty man with a penchant for rubbing his nose. He showed us around the museum, which was more interesting than we all expected after the necropolis, thanks largely to Roger's knowledge dropping.

After the museum, Roger showed us around Il Duomo, the impressive cathedral for which Orvieto is famous. Constructed of striped travertine, the facade is colorful and intricately carved. The interior is full of bizarre religious frescos (Looking for angels shooting lasers? This is your place.) and some nice stained glass.

Our fourth task was easily the most delicious. A huge restaurant hosted six filling lunch courses beginning with an antipasto plate. Gnocchi with truffles (an Orvieto specialty) followed, and spaghetti with pork after that. Since no one in their right mind would stop after eating a mere three full plates of pasta and meat, I was excited when they brought out some rosemary tri-tip and insalata mista. The meal finished two hours after it began with a marmalade tart.

Exhausted from all that eating, the group trudged down to the final activity of the day, which was a tour of the "underground city" of Orvieto. There is a system of tunnels stretching for miles below the surface of the town where the Etruscans and the civilizations that followed made olive oil and raised pigeons for the eatin'. That appetizing thought made us all appreciate our lunch even more than we already did. Believe it or not, we all managed to work up an appetite for a quick pre-departure gelato, which provided the perfect cap for a great day trip.

Sunday was spent resting (for once), and organizing teams for the exciting event of Monday: The Abbey Theater Pubquiz. Fans of beer and trivia alike gathered in our favorite Irish pub seeking the fun of Jeopardy! without all the cash or glory. The range of topics was incredibly wide, and favored neither the American expats nor the UK ones. We needed the favoring. The European sports and politcal trivia killed us, and our team of five placed dead last. We didn't leave empty-handed though; the booby prize of a bar of good chocolate weighed down our pockets on the walk home.

The second week of Italian classes kept me busy until Friday, but this weekend's trip made it all worth while.

About half of the program hopped onto a charter bus early Saturday morning to experience Carnevale, Italian-style. The trip began with a stop in Lucca, a small town where we really just ate lunch and visited the WC. The meal was a great five-courser (when they feed us here, they FEED us), but we didn't get any real time to explore.

We quickly moved along to our next stop: Pisa. We were on a mission. We were there to see the tower, and that's it. After taking the obligatory "Look! I'm holding up the tower!" pictures, we climbed up the surprisingly dangerous steps to the top. As many know, anything I've got resembling masculinity goes right out the window when it comes to heights. Needless to say, my legs were jelly atop the wet marble of the dramatically slanted carillon. Between that nightmare factory and the incalculable number of tourist-traps (including a trip to the bathroom that cost me 30 cents), I was ready to get outta town.

We arrived in Viareggio in time for another great meal at a pizzeria by the ocean. Let me tell you people, the thin crust margherita pizza in this country is beyond-words delicious. If I had to redesign the Italian flag, I'd leave everything the same except I'd slap a steaming pizza right in the middle of the white stripe. This would appropriately celebrate this culinary marvel and have the added bonus of confusing the heck out of 7th graders trying to differentiate between the Italian and Mexican flags.

Anyways, that night we loosened up our bus-tightened legs by walking several miles to the center of Viareggio Carnevale activity, the harbor. The festival was surprisingly like an Isla Vista Halloween celebration, except that they sold booze on the street, it wasn't creepy to be over 40, and the cops were actually joining in on the festivities. Oh yeah, and there weren't the alcohol poisonings or violent outbursts. Funny what can happen when alcohol isn't so mystified. Vendors sold deliciously unhealthy treats, and my first Carnevale was off to a great start.

The party continued through Sunday, and after another huge lunch, my fellow students and I headed back to the area around the harbor to view the parade floats Viareggio is known for. Fiercely political and mostly really creepy, I didn't necessarily understand all of the floats, but they were certainly interesting to look at and try to interpret. This wasn't your Grandma's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade though, that's for sure. The eating, dancing, confetti-ing, and singing wore us out and by the time 5PM rolled around, we were all ready to go home. The 4-hour drive quickly turned into 6 thanks to a camper flipping over directly in front of our charter bus, but its hard to complain when people are getting carted off in ambulances directly in front of you.

This week is the last week of focused Italian study, so its back to the books for me. My studies won't go unrewarded, however. I leave for Paris and Florence this Saturday for my first week-long break!

A presto!

P.S. There are a lot of pictures to go along with this post, and as always, I encourage you to check em in their enlarged form by clicking on the image in the post. For more pictures, click here.


  1. christine said...

    nice. i like the part about me coming to visit. i can see that was really important to you. ill make sure to come out again.  


Copyright 2009 | All content on this site is owned by Mike Reis unless otherwise noted.
No part of the content on this blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.
Don't forget to be awesome where and whenever possible. Thank you.