My Italian professor in Florence had a favorite saying: any time I or another student rushed through reading Italian sentences or sprinted out of the classroom at the conclusion of the day’s lesson, she would always say, “piano, piano.” Translated to mean “slowly, slowly,” the words served to remind us to slow down our pace to take the time to relax and appreciate the simple moments.
Of course, being all American students at a villa in Fiesole, the philosophy of piano piano was not easily adaptable. Used to running around with a caffeinated fix in one hand and a ringing cell phone in the other, we Americans are constantly on the move. In the United States, coffee shops and fast food chains can be found on every corner, and many stores proudly light up their 24-hour service displays. Americans live for the green light, the moment when they can step on the gas pedal and speed to the next stop and cross off another item on the to-do list. Continue reading →
“Il miglior souvenir di viaggio è un biglietto tranviario che una mattina, rivestendo un vecchio abito, troviamo in fondo al taschino del gilet, dove l’avevamo messo mesi prima, in una lontana città e poi avevamo dimenticato la sua esistenza. All’improvvisa scoperta, balza il cuore, quel pezzetto di carta è una metafora concisa e straziante.”
Orson Welles once said, “There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.” No offense to Mr. Welles, but I think he forgot the emotion “anxious.”
After waking up Thursday morning at 4:30 to the sound of my alarm, I climbed out of bed for the final time in Italy. Outside my window everything was dark and eerily silent; only the occasional sound of car zooming by disturbed the silence of the morning. As I slowly lifted myself out of bed, the reality of what was to come began to sink in: in less than 24 hours I would be back in America. Continue reading →
My host dog is, or is supposed to be, on a diet. In light of the fact that all he seems to do all day is lie around, it doesn’t surprise me that he has a weight issue. But, as always, there is more attributed to his poor numbers on the scale than just his lack of exercise. The other culprit: Flavia’s delicious dinners.
Perhaps if Flavia was not such a good cook Charlie would be in better shape. But alas, Charlie is only two years old and already he has been advised by his veterinarian to start eating healthier. The problem for Charlie is that he really has no control over what he eats. Though I am sure he has no qualms about enjoying whatever it is in put in his bowl, he has no way of recognizing that the food he is consuming is contributing to his poor health state. How is a dog expected to lose weight when he is constantly being fed food too good for him to refuse? Continue reading →
In Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning film La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful), the main protagonist Guido always seems to know how to add excitement and comedy to life. Even when faced with tragedy, specifically in the context of the film’s setting during Holocaust, Guido never fails to put a smile on others’ faces and to remind those of life’s simplest pleasures.
A comedic-tragedy, as many critics like to call it, La Vita è Bella tells the story of a Jewish Italian named Guido Orefice and his hilarious attempts to win the heart of the upper-class Dora. This chase for love dominates the first half of the film before switching to a more serious, somber tone. After marrying Dora and starting a family, Guido is transported to a Nazi concentration camp along with his young, naïve son Giosuè. Amidst the horrors and the harsh realities of the camp, Guido remains as bubbly and optimistic as ever to keep his son’s spirits and hopes alive. Continue reading →
It is hard to believe, but in less than a week, I will be back in America. After more than three months abroad, I keep trying to tell myself that the clock and calendar will suddenly freeze, and I will be able to stay in Florence forever.
Although there is plenty of magic to be found in the Renaissance city, it seems there is nothing that can be done to stop time. Perhaps even worse, my last few days in Italy will not be a time of relaxation or contemplation. Rather, with my semester officially ending next Thursday, my to-do list includes a nine-page art history paper, 2,500 words for a class on European globalization, an Italian composition and two other tests to worry about.
Yet amid the craziness of finals, I am making a strong effort to practice l’arte di non fare niente. Italian for “the art of doing nothing,” this saying epitomizes the Italian ability to spend hours on end doing seemingly nothing. This is in sharp contrast to the fast-paced, have-to-do-it-all lifestyle of the typical American. With Starbucks coffee in hand and Blackberrys in their pockets, Americans seem to race from point A to B without ever taking a break.
To read more, check out the original post for Georgetown’s weekly magazine The Guide.
When one thinks of March 17th, one’s mind probably thinks of green, shamrocks, and corn beef and cabbage. While Italy does not revel in the festivities associated with the observance of St. Patrick’s Day, the date has its own significance to the peninsula: on March 17th 1861, Italy became a unified country.
Considering the peninsula’s rich history with the Holy Roman Empire, the Renaissance, and the Roman Catholic Church, one might be surprised when learning that Italy only marked its 150th birthday this year. Though some scholars refer to the United States as a young country, its birth came in 1776, more than 90 years before Italy’s. At the same time as the Mediterranean nation’s unification, America was already 85 years and on the brink of Civil War.
Spurned by ongoing conflicts between city-states and nobility, unification for Italy was a gradual and difficult process. While such divisions subsided shortly to allow the peninsula to become unified, Italy has always been troubled by its difficulty to cultivate a national identity.
This piece was written for the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and its Junior Year Abroad Network. You can read more, by visiting here.
I can remember when I was little and my mother warning me that if I ate too much of one thing, then I would turn into that food item. Oftentimes the warning followed when I gobbled down too many chicken nuggets or too many Oreos. Upon hearing this idea, I would imagine myself morphing into a strange mass of breaded chicken or stumbling up the stairs as a giant chocolate cookie.
If this really were the case, it is likely that after more than three months living abroad today I would resemble either spaghetti, penne, farfalle, or maybe even orecchiette. In light of my newfound beverage of choice, I might imagine that instead of blood, my veins would also be readily pumping wine. Continue reading →
Recently I wrote a letter to my local newspaper, the North Providence Valley Breeze, in response to an article about the lack of funds for foreign language classes in the local middle schools. Considering how important is the knowledge of a foreign language (or two) in today’s society, the headline immediately drew my attention and warranted my response to express my dismay. Below is the beginning of the letter.
As a current study abroad student, I was disappointed to read the April 6 article, “NP schools lack money to improve language classes.” Currently, I am studying in Florence, Italy, and during my time overseas I have come to realize just how important it is for students to study another language in their youth.
While I have greatly increased my learning skills while living abroad for the semester, I wish I had been more prepared before my arrival. As a former student in the North Providence public school system, I can barely remember my middle school language classes. I do remember that students were required to take Foreign Language as an elective, but there was no choice as to which language. As the article points out, students divide their three years at the middle school learning either Spanish or Italian. Though it seems money inhibits such potential, it would be more advantageous to allow students to select which language to study so that they could have a more solid understanding before entering high school. Although I took three years of Italian at the high school, limited interest in the language by other students did not allow me to continue onto a fourth year. As a result, I lost a year of learning, and thus felt as if I was starting from the beginning when I enrolled in Italian during my first college semester.
Yesterday I witnessed one of the biggest sins a person can commit in Italy.
As I stood at a bar sipping my cappuccino, I watched as a group of students walked inside. Based on their appearance, I did not need to hear their voices to know that they were American. While I was spooning out what remained of the froth from my caffeine fix, I listened intently as a girl wearing a Penn State shirt approached the cassa, the register. Continue reading →