This week was pretty relaxed. I've been getting settled into my classes and they are going fairly well. The teachers are nice and the material is interesting, though it has definitely made me appreciate my past classes at Cal because the high quality of the teachers and the interaction with students of high work ethic is not something I would really get anywhere else except a top university. I guess it's okay in the sense that I won't have Berkeley-sized workloads, but I think it might also mean that I need to take my education into my own hands so that I can get out of it what I want. A lot of the people in my program (not all, thankfully) are much more interested in Long Island Iced Teas than Leonardo's Ginevra de'Benci, which would be fine if those people didn't come into class the next day and ask a million questions and have the professor repeat herself ten times because they are too hungover to absorb the information. I am happy that my roommates and my next-door neighbors are not some of those people, but rather they are mature and interested in academics.
Anyway, I've been quite busy this week still getting settled and accustomed to going to classes after having a whole summer and couple of weeks in Italy doing nothing but having fun. Last Sunday, two of my roommates and I went to Mass at Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo). It was in Italian and there were actually a lot of people there even though it was an evening Mass. That cathedral is very beautiful and huge. It's not nearly as big as Saint Peter's (the Vatican), but my professor told me that it's the third or fourth largest in Europe. I am planning on going to the 10:30am Mass tomorrow because it's supposed to be in Latin and there will be Gregorian Monk chanting. I'm not quite sure what to expect, but I know I want to do it at least once while I am here and since I didn't do any traveling or partying this weekend, I figured tomorrow would be one of my only chances.
On Thursday, my program took us on a boat tour of the Arno River. Unfortunately, I am an idiot and I forgot my camera, but I think I would have been too nervous to take pictures anyway... we were so close to the water, that I would have been scared that I would drop my camera in the disgusting swamp water. Anyway, we piled into a 100 year-old boat and I was sitting on the end of my row and I was freaking out for a bit since I was about 3 inches from the gross water. Thank God no one fell in! The views were beautiful because we were going along the river as the sun was setting and the lights in the city began to turn on. It was a good experience followed by a great pizza at a place suggested by a local who thinks it's one of the best pizza places in Firenze.
Yesterday, I hiked up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo, where the other fake David is. At the top of that hill, there are also a couple churches, including San Salvatore and the beautiful San Miniato. The hike through the hills of the city across the Arno was kind of intense in the heat, but one of my travel books mapped out this cool path where I went the back way around the city walls.
View of the Medieval city walls on my hike.
After about 45 minutes, I finally made it to the top of the hill and the view was amazing! It was totally worth looking like a hot sweaty mess:
Unfortunately, it was a rather overcast day, so it would look better on a nice day or at night, but it was still an amazing view. Luckily it wasn't raining because about 10 minutes after I got home it started POURING. Anyway, also on the hill near the Piazzale Michelangelo, there were two churches that I went into. The first, San Salvatore, was simple, small, and not overly-decorated. The second, San Miniato al Monte, was very beautiful and ornate inside. It was interesting because there were three accessible levels and two altars. Most churches I have been to have only had one accessible level and one altar. In this church, you could walk downstairs to a catacomb-like area and you could also walk upstairs to basically another church with it's own altar. Maybe that's where the rich people went to Mass.
San Miniato al Monte.
Building on the church began in the 11th century and the marble facade on the front was added in the 13th century. There was also a huge cemetery outside and apparently some of the sculptures out there were made by Michelangelo himself. It was a very beautiful church... and it's called "al Monte" for a reason: because it's up a freaking mountain! Haha... it was definitely worth it though. I would like to do the hike again at night and be able to see the whole city lit up from the hill.
Today, it was all rainy and gross so I decided to cancel my solo trip to a garden outside Florence and instead I slept in and went to the Boboli Gardens again. When I went the first time with Valerie, it seems that we only went to about one-third of the whole gardens because they are so huge. Today I meandered around the places I hadn't explored and everything looked even more beautiful because of the rain and the left-over dew. Even though there were many people visiting, the property is so big that there were few people in my general vicinity, so it was nice to have some time alone in such a beautiful place.
L'Isolotto (little island).
There were these French girls petting a cat in the gardens, so I went to go pet it too and it was so sweet! She wasn't a gross feral cat, but a nice one that looked clean and normal. She followed me to a bench and jumped up on my lap and purred on my lap for about 20 minutes while I petted her. I named her Juliet and I wanted to take her home with me, but I'm pretty sure she belongs to someone who lives on the property. I saw three other cats that were friendly and wanted attention, but Juliet was my favorite.
Well, it's getting quite late and I think the people upstairs have finally stopped their dance party of the most RANDOM music I have ever heard. The played a mix of 90s and 70s including the YMCA, Men in Black, Mambo Number 5, and the Macarena. I don't know who these people are, but they should be fined. Now without Euro-pop or songs from my middle school days blaring into my window, I should go to sleep.