Monday, September 22, 2008

AC Milan, Pisa, and Florence

So last Thursday I went to the AC Milan vs. Zurich soccer match, and it was a ton of fun. AC Milan won 3-1. I went by myself through a program for exchange students at Bocconi, and I ended up meeting a guy from Argentina and another from Belgium and ended up sitting together during the game. We all sat in the fan section "Curva Sud", what would be equivalent to Block O or the Dawg Pound. I was pretty surprised at the size of the crowds, less than half of the stadium was filled. It was interesting seeing the differences and similarities between crazy American sports fans and crazy Italian sports fans. They definitely sing and yell a whole lot more than we do, sometimes it seemed like they were more focused on singing and clapping than they were on the game. In the US when you go to a sports event, almost every other person has a beer in their hand. I was kind of shocked because I saw probably only three beers the entire game; instead of beers everyone, literally EVERYONE, was smoking hash during the game (including the 14 year old kid next to me). I wasn't really expecting that at all, and if you're wondering, I didn't join in on the festivities (I'm a good boy Mom!) The only thing I was really disappointed about was that they didn't put Ronaldinho until the last 15 minutes. I guess they didn't want him to get injured for the AC Milan vs. Inter match that is next Sunday.

The next morning I was out of the residence hall at 6:00 am to hit up Pisa, followed Florence later that day for the remainder of the weekend. I went with Charlie from Illinois and Lisa from British Columbia, both students from the Bocconi exchange program. Pisa was awesome, but it was pretty much what everyone says it is: you get off the train, go and see the leaning tower, and that's about all there is. It was still awesome seeing the tower, we pretty much just got lunch, saw the tower, and took the typical pictures that you have to take at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Florence on the other hand was amazing. It is such a beautiful city, with so much art and fun stuff to do. At night, there are entertainers and street bands playing in just about every plaza. During the day there are open air markets everywhere with just about anything you could ever want, from scarves to bags to jerseys to watches, all of which you can barter for. The biggest open air market in the city seemed like it went on forever. We also went and saw the David statue at the Accademia gallery, which was simply incredible to see in real life. We ended up going to the Uffizi Gallery too, also incredible. The Uffizi Gallery houses paintings by Botticelli, da Vinci, Caravaggio, and other famous artists. The most famous painting in gallery is "The Birth of Venus" by Botticelli, it was huge in real life! If you don't recognize the painting by the name, look it up, I guarantee you've seen it before. My personal favorite part of Florence though was the Piazza del Michelangelo. It's the plaza that you have to walk up a ton of steps to, but once you get up there it looks over all of Florence and the view is insane. You can see all of Florence and the hills of Tuscany rolling behind it. We went the first night, saw the city all lit up at night, and had a bottle of wine on some steps overlooking Florence (there's no open container laws in Italy). The next day we went back again to see it during the day and it was better than at night. We caught an 8:30 train to come back this morning. We were supposed to go on a wine tour of Chianti before we left, but I spent way too much money over the weekend and decided that something had to be sacrificed. All in all it was an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

F1 Monza and Classes

Once again, sorry that it's taken a couple days to update, I've been busy with classes and sorting some other stuff out. The F1 race was awesome! We left at 6:00 am to catch a 7:00 am train from central station. It was probably unnecessary to get there this early, as the race didn't start until 2:00 pm, but it's a good thing we did because it was a disaster getting into that place. From where we got off the train station to where I thought I was supposed to redeem my online ticket voucher was probably an hour walk. Once we finally got there I was told that was not where I was supposed to redeem it and they directed me to another ticket booth. That booth told me to go to another booth and so on, and I finally grew impatient. I was told that they didn't know where I was supposed to redeem it and they couldn't really help me. I was on the verge of buying another ticket (another €70), when one of the girls we were with suggested to try one last place, and that ended being where to get it. Luckily, everyone I was with was really impatient through the whole thing.

When we finally got in we settled in on a set of bleachers to watch some porsche racing before the actual event. At 2:00 pm the race started, and these cars were incredible. We were seated right after a curve that the cars took at 105 mph, on a straight away that the cars would eventually reach 225 mph by the end of. The sound they made was one of the loudest things I've ever heard, louder than any concert I've ever been to. I ended up witnessing F1 history, as the guy that won it was only 21 years old, making him the youngest person to ever win a Grand Prix. After the race they let you go on the track and walk around, which was probably the best part. I got to stand on the starting line and see some of the cars up close. The event was really interesting, and much different than Nascar. The track wasn't circular and boring, there is elevation change in the track, and the cars go much faster. The cars in particular were amazing, each car is so intricate and different from the others. In general, it sort of seemed like a classier version of Nascar (sorry Nascar fans) that most of Europe is crazy about.

This week I finally got into the swing of my classes. I'm taking Intro to the Legal System, Economics of Globalization, and International Business and Management. Intro to the Legal System seems like it's going to be very boring, but the latter two mentioned seem like they're going to be really interesting. It's awesome learning about subjects like globalization while abroad, you kind of get a more worldly view on it that I don't think you would get in the states.

The next couple days are going to be a lot of fun, tomorrow night I'm going to the AC Milan vs. Zurich soccer match and this weekend I'll be going to Florence. I'll try and keep you guys updated on those in a more timely manner than I've been doing!

Starting Line at F1 Monza

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Navigli Canals

Last night we headed down to a place called Navigli for apéritivo. Other people had been going out to get apéritivo all the time, but this was my first time and now I understand why they were going all the time. It's a really cool concept that I think would work well in somewhere like the Short North in Columbus. You go to a bar and order a drink, and you get a free appetizer buffet with it. For example, at the bar we went to I had a cachaça and got a plate of appetizers that included pasta with tuna, mini pizza, meat and cheese, as well as some bread with prosciutto. All of this ended up costing €6, which isn't bad at all considering that I was full enough afterwards that I didn't need to go home and make dinner. The atmosphere really made it, as Navigli is located right next to a canal with a river running between all of the bars.

As I had mentioned before, I was supposed to go to Cinque Terre today. I woke up this morning at 5:00 am to go, but I checked the weather and it was supposed to rain all day. Everyone talks about how beautiful the city is and I was really looking forward to seeing it on a nice day. I really wasn't looking forward to hiking for 6 hours in the rain, so given both of these reasons I decided to save it for another day. Everyone else still ended up going so hopefully it worked out for them, I'm interested to see how it was. I figure that we still have a good while before it gets too cold to go hiking, so I'll definitely still have time to go check it out.

I was pretty proud of myself tonight because I cooked my first legitimate meal since I've been here. Every other night I've just made pasta with canned/bottled sauce or boxed risotto, but tonight I got sick of that and wanted to try something different. I ended up making a variation on my favorite pasta dish that my dad makes at home: ricotta cheese and spinach tortellini (my dad uses tri-colored rotini) in olive oil with garlic, onions, cherry tomatoes, and some random spices that I could find. Pretty simple, but it's so good! I've watched my dad make it so many times that it wasn't too difficult to make a rough translation of what he makes. Along with a glass of red wine, it was a delicious deviation from the basic stuff that I've been making. It reminded me of home too, which was a good feeling!

Tonight I have the USC game at 2:00 in the morning, which will last until about 6:00 in the morning. Coincidentally, I have to leave for the Formula 1 race at about 6:00 in the morning so we'll see if I end up staying up all night. The Formula 1 race should be fun, it's supposed to rain which means that cars will be sliding everywhere at 200 mph.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sick in Italy :(

Sorry that I haven't really posted anything new lately, I've been sick and nothing really that cool has happened lately. On Tuesday night I wasn't feeling the greatest but I went out to a club anyways until 3:00 in the morning, even though my first class of the year was the next morning at 8:45. Needless to say, that didn't help me feeling better and made me feel a lot worse. Keep in mind though that coming home at 3:00 am is considered early here, most people stay out until around 5:00. The club was a lot of fun though, it was €10 to get in and that included 2 drinks. I ended up getting 2 vodka Red Bulls, which were served in 12 oz glasses with ice and were about half Red Bull and half vodka. You do the math, it was a pretty good time. Going back to my 8:45 class though, it was a lot like the first day of class in the US (syllabus day!) Last night I ended up taking it easy and ended up feeling worse today. Today I had a healthy diet of Dayquil, Zyrtec, and Mucinex, and am finally starting to feel better tonight.

Hopefully all this rest pays off though because I've got a big weekend ahead of me. On Saturday, we're waking up early to catch a 7:00 am train to Cinque Terre, a city on the western coast of Italy that has 5 small villages that you hike between. It ends up being about a 6 hour hike and it's supposed to be beautiful. Then, on Sunday I'm leaving again to catch a 7:00 am train to go to a Formula 1 race that is like a half hour away. Everyone here is crazy about Formula 1 racing, so I figured that I better check it out to see what all the buzz is about. Hopefully I'll be able to catch some of the OSU vs. USC game a couple of hours before the train though, as it doesn't start until 2:00 am on Sunday here!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mi Residenza

People have been asking me what my room looks like, so here ya go:

My Bed

Desk Area

Tiny Kitchen

Back Patio

I have to share the kitchen and back patio with a suite mate, who still has to move in. I will also share a bathroom with him, but I couldn't get a decent picture of it. There's a couple of big kitchens on our floor that have more room and stoves that we can use, so that's great too. Hopefully this give's everyone a decent idea of where I'm living!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

52% Homemade Romanian Liquor

So the highlight of the night again has to do with alcohol haha. A kid from my program named Paul from Romania brought out some family made liquor that was 52% alcohol and made from plums. It was actually really good. The best part about it was how he kept insisting to us that it was healthy for you. According to him "If you get sting by bee or wasp, and drink a bit of this, you will not die." He also kept insisting that if you drink enough it will make you sleepy. I hate to break it to you Paul, but I think if you drank enough of that you might just get sleepy enough to pass out for the night haha. On a good year he said that his family makes up to 4000 litres, on a bad year only about 300 litres. So even on a bad year, they produce enough for just under a litre a day. Not bad!

Not much else is new, I've been having to sit through a boring Italian class for 6 hours everyday. It's seriously excruciating, the teacher goes so slow and it's all stuff that I've seen in Italian 101. Plus when I have at least a half hour transit to a class that is already 6 hours a day, it put a serious dent in my time that could be spent seeing what Milan has to offer.

On another note, I finally tried Italian gelato today. Amazing! I had a sort of vanilla gelato that was swirled with cherry. The only ice cream I've had that's better is from Jeni's in Columbus. Gelataria's are pretty much everywhere in Milan, but they're nowhere near as common as a "Tobacchi". A "Tobacchi" is a cafe that is seriously on just about every corner and only sells espresso, cigarettes, and gum. I swear that Italians run on coffee and gum. You can't find regular coffee though, only espresso. I've heard that you can order an "americano" at some places, but all they would do is give you a double shot of espresso in a tall glass and fill the rest up with hot water. One thing I still need to try is a "caffe corretto" which literaly means "corrected coffee". The funny thing about it is that a "corrected coffee" is coffee mixed with whiskey. Yes, this is a common drink in Italy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Viva L'Italia!

So I'm finally in Italy! The flight over was pretty uneventful, other than my flight from Cleveland to Detroit almost being delayed, which would have offset all of my other flights. On the way from Detroit to Amsterdam I sat next to a kid who was probably 19 or 20 and came here by himself all the way from Belgium just to go Cedar Point. He went there 7 days in a row! I thought that was pretty crazy stuff. On that same flight I noticed that two girls from my program, Erica and Emily, were also on the flight. That made me feel a lot better because I wouldn't have to figure out how to get from the airport to my room by myself, which turned out to be an adventure in itself.

After getting off the plane we took a 40 minute train ride to Milan. Once in Milan, we had to take a couple more trains to get to our rooms, which was very uncomfortable because we were carrying around all of our heavy luggage in hot and humid underground stations, occasionally having to squeeze into an even hotter elevator that was way too small to fit all of us. The coolest part was when we were sort of lost and we asked where to go. We were told to carry all of our luggage up two flights of stairs, which didn't sound too appealing, but we decided to take the stairs instead of finding an elevator.This turned out to be an awesome move, because at the top of the stairs we were rewarded with this sight:

Piazza Duomo! If you look closely at the top, there's a huge polychrome statue of the Madonna. It's one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

My room is really nice, I have a back patio that's almost like my own little backyard. Everyone else already has a roommate, but I don't have one yet so that's kind of a bummer. For the next 7 or 8 days though I'll be stuck in Italian class that is 4 or 6 hours everyday, not the funnest thing in the world. The best part about Italy so far though is definitely the people in my program. There are about 12 of us from Ohio State, and they're all really cool, but I didn't really know what to expect as far as who else would be here. It turns out that there are students from all over the US (Wisconsin, USC, NYU, Boston College, etc.) and students from all over the world. I've met people from Germany, Brazil, Istanbul, Switzerland, Austria, Portugal, you name the country and there's probably someone here from there. Last night everyone hung out and drank on a huge patio that is in our dorms. By the end of the night, a kid named Bruno from Brazil busted out a guitar and everyone was singing and dancing. At one point we had a group of about 15 of us, from all different countries, in a circle belting out "I Will Survive". It was pretty much amazing. Then the police showed up and started yelling in Italian that none of us could understand, so we all peaced out and went back to individual room's to keep drinking. It's looking like it will turn out to be an awesome trip!

Oh yeah, and through the university we get a trip to Oktoberfest for €125! How awesome is that?