Archive for the ‘James’ Category

October 1, 2008

October 1st, 2008 by ceocon10

Ciao Tutti!

A lot has been happening on this side of the Atlantic.  Two Saturdays ago we went to Ravenna for the day and had a great time.  After eating an amazing lunch at this really cool enoteca Ca’ di Vin (an enoteca is kind of like a neighborhood restaurant that specializes in serving local wines) and spending the day checking out dozens of perfectly preserved Byzantine mosaics, I parted ways with the rest of the crew and took the train to Florence to visit the Holy Cross group there.  Traveling here is so easy (and cheap)! For less than 20 euro, I was able to wake up in Bologna, have lunch in Ravenna, and spend in Florence.  Getting in at about 8 at night, I checked into my hostel, ate a quick dinner of ossobuco and rice at a street side trattoria, and then met up with everyone on the steps of the Duomo to enjoy the local nightlife.  It was really great to get together with the other kids and having the chance to spend some time with my good friend Whitney made me feel a little less homesick. 

This week our hours at the language center were cut back to coincide with the start of our university courses (which begin on October 1st), so we only had two hours of class a day opposed to the usual four.  On Friday Alessandra met with us to discuss our schedules.  Because of the novelty of the program in Bologna, we really had no idea what to expect.  Most study abroad programs at Holy Cross require students to take a lighter course load the first semester (because the language programs are more intensive); however, because we are still working out the kinks here, Alessandra was only able to get us into the classes we need this semester so most of us will be taking the bulk of our course load this fall (seeing as everything is in Italian, the prospect of this is incredibly intimidating!).  Alessandra assures us that although it will be difficult, we will not be overwhelmed and that our tutors (of which we have one for each class) will make sure that we understand the material.  I will be taking two-sixty hour Italian literature courses, so I am sure that by Christmas I’ll be so immersed in the language that I’ll be speaking it in my sleep. 

This past Saturday, following our weekend routine, we went to Ferrara (a small city about thirty minutes north of Bologna) for lunch. I ate Pumpkin Tortelloni al Ragu, which sounds odd, but the sweetness of the pumpkin filling perfectly complimented the meaty ragu sauce – absolutely amazing on a fall day.  After eating, we walked through some of the local marketplaces and saw this pretty cool castle complete with a moat and drawbridge.  We’re definitely not in Worcester anymore!   


September 17, 2008

September 19th, 2008 by ceocon10

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Hey all,

Time is flying here on the Boot! I can hardly believe it’s already been three weeks since our classes at Cultura Italiana started. Although we are still acclimating ourselves to the different style of teaching at the school, we are beginning to make some headway with the language. I am now able to converse with my host family at dinner (which is a relief). I can’t really say that I’m learning tons of new things, but the work we do in class (which consists primarily of conversation exercises and grueling worksheets) is serving to hone our speaking skills at our respective levels and thus far seems to be working. I can only hope that our progress continues at this rate — especially considering the fact that our classes at the University of Bologna (which are conducted entirely in Italian) begin on Oct. 1!

Our advisor, Alessandra, is helping us through the course selection process and has generously offered to research some options for each of us based on our individual interests and fields of study. I am hoping to take an Italian cinema class this semester in an attempt to better understand modern Italian society while working toward my major. Next Friday, Alessandra will let us know what she has found and we will make our decisions then.

While we wait for our schedules to fill up, we have been keeping ourselves busy exploring the city. This past week we discovered yet another pizza place right across the street from the Two Towers of Bologna (it’s appropriately named "Due Torri Pizza") and have eaten there almost daily. For ?1.50, you can get a thin-crust jumbo slice of pizza with any topping (when I say jumbo slice, I am not exaggerating — one piece is at least 14" in length!). If you are a student, this is ideal. The past few days though (having grown tired of pizza) I have eaten at two little side-street trattorias and have been thoroughly pleased. Today I had a red-wine risotto with beef cutlets and could not have enjoyed it more.

Bologna is a really cool city. It’s big enough to have a cosmopolitan feeling but small enough to not be overwhelming. Unlike Florence or Rome for example, there are no grand museums or massive basilicas with domes the size of a small village, and is therefore completely devoid of tourists. Within a half hour, a tourist could see all the major sites (which essentially consists of the Piazza Maggiore and le Due Torri) and move on to their next destination. However, this is what makes Bologna so unique — it is one of the few remaining Italian cities that has been totally untouched by the rest of the world and is thus a place where you can truly experience what it is like to be an Italian.

Furthermore, it is reputed as being the culinary capital of Italy. Many of the dishes which we associate with Italian cuisine in fact originated in Bologna — tortellini, mortadella ham, and Bolognese sauce (here, simply called ragu) — to name a few. Bologna is also possibly the prettiest city I have yet to see in Italy. It is very clean and all the buildings are matching shades of orange, red, and yellow. Every street is lined with porticoed sidewalks, some decorated with frescoes and roadside shrines and others simply with the original stone work. In fact, Bologna is said to be the most porticoed-city in the world — a feature which in addition to being beautiful is especially nice when it rains.

Last weekend the other Holy Cross kids and I took a day trip to Parma. We spent the day walking around the city center and ate lunch at a small restaurant in one of the city’s main piazzas. As incredible as the food is in Bologna, that lunch in Parma has to have been the best meal yet. Feeling the need to immerse myself fully in this experience, I started out with an antipasto of Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (the two items for which Parma is world renowned) and was not disappointed. After devouring the entire plate, I proceeded to eat my main course, which was (sticking with the theme) Tortelli alla Parmigiana. In the United States we would probably call this dish Ravioli stuffed with Spinach and Ricotta, however that description doesn’t really do it justice. There’s really no way to describe how amazing that meal was, so I won’t even try. Needless to say, we were all in agreement that a return trip to Parma is mandatory.

This weekend we were hoping to go to Florence and meet up with the other Holy Cross group for the Bologna-Florence soccer match, however we were unable to get tickets (apparently only season ticket holders can gain entry to the stadium). Instead, we are planning on spending the day in Ravenna, which is on the Adriatic coast and only an hour away. It’s supposed to have one of the greatest collections of Byzantine mosaics in the world, so I am looking forward to it.

Until next time!


September 4, 2008

September 4th, 2008 by ceocon10

Exactly two weeks ago, I was sitting in the international terminal at Logan Airport looking at the clock; the plane my mother and I were about to board would depart in five minutes. I had been waiting for this moment for the past four years. Ever since I returned from a weeklong trip Greece and Italy during my junior year of high school I had been determined to return and see (and eat) more than I had been able to in my brief seven day tour. Maybe it was because of something they put in the gelato or simply the memory of the Piazza Navona at nighttime, but there was no way anyone was going to stop me.

Keeping this in mind as I considered colleges, I chose Holy Cross — a school at which I would not only be able to realize this dream but expand upon it further and learn what it means to be a member of this society (and to be fed pasta nightly). Well, on the eve of my return it hadn’t yet hit me that I was going to be living in Italy for a year. I had packed my entire life into one overweight (by airline standards) bag; I had said goodbye to my family and friends; and I had even written a letter introducing myself to a family of strangers with whom I would be living for the extent of my stay; but still, it somehow did not seem that I was actually about to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

Last Friday, it finally did. After spending a week wandering around Rome, Florence, the Tuscan countryside and Bologna (my new home), I left my mother at the train station and turned back toward the piazza…alone. Twenty minutes later, I found myself walking down a narrow cobblestone street lined with reddish-orange and yellow colored houses. Behind me the buzzing traffic of Smart cars and Vespas whizzed under the remnants of an ancient gate and in front of me there was a giant medieval palace, complete with stone fortifications and its very own clock tower. As I began to lose myself in the details of my surroundings, the ringing of the bells at mid-day awoke me from my weeklong daze: I was in Italy.

The past week has been busy, to say the least! Sunday the other Holy Cross students and I met with our program advisor, Alessandra, for an introductory lunch in a restaurant near the University. Since this is the first year that Holy Cross has sent students to Bologna, no one was really quite sure what to expect. Naturally, this has been a source of some anxiety for us all, but Alessandra assured us that she would do everything in her power to see that these growing pains do not prevent us from enjoying our year to the fullest.

Leaving the meeting feeling relieved, excited and stuffed, we spent a few hours exploring the city. The following day our classes began at Cultura Italiana, where the bulk of our language work will take place. Each weekday for the next semester, we will spend two hours in a grammar class and an hour and a half in a conversation practicum grouped with other students of similar levels of language competence.  Speaking only in Italian at the school after a long summer off combined with my instructors’ unique approach to teaching (lessons are more conversation-based rather than lecture style like I am used to) has caused me to feel somewhat overwhelmed. It’s impossible to convey how agitating it can be to not be able to communicate the simplest of concepts sometimes or read a menu at dinner. However, this is only the first week and I’m already beginning to feel myself adjusting. I have no doubt that this initial period of frustration will be worth it in the end.

After school, the other Holy Cross kids and I have taken to wandering the streets in pursuit of lunch. Pausing to study (and translate) the menu at each restaurant, we’ve literally spent hours trying to find somewhere to eat. The past two days we’ve eaten some incredible pizza from a small place in centro near the school. Although it’s not like other traditional Italian pizzas (having a thicker, softer crust), it gives a whole new meaning to “comfort food.” And, it’s right across the street from Gelateria Gianni — our favorite gelateria which we frequent at least once daily.

In the evenings I return to the house of my host family, which is on the top floor of an old Italian apartment building located five minutes from the Piazza Maggiore. It’s pretty cool, I’m not gonna lie. I’ve been very fortunate — not only do I have my own room in a beautiful flat, but the family has welcomed me into their home like one of their own (and my host mother is an amazing cook). I have five host-brothers and sisters (my age and older) and they also have a cat. Initially, I was afraid about living in a house with seven other people (I grew up in a small household and have always been used to having my own space) but within a few days my fears completely dissipated. They’ve really gone out of their way to make me feel at home here and I could not be any more grateful. The only challenge I’ve been faced with thus far has been to keep up with the dinner conversation! I’m very much looking forward to spending the year with them.

More to come later this week’a presto!