Archive for the 'San Giovanni Valdarno' Category

It Felt Like Years Disguised as Moments


Saturday Market in SGV


The best restaurant in SGV, Osteria D’Angelo.  My eyes are all a twinkle cause I was close to tears saying goodbye.


Oh how much we grew, my fast growing plant friend


When I got to SGV this was two teeny tiny little streams


Quando mia Mamma ha arrivato da Firenze siamo andate a San Giovanni Valdarno e siamo andate una classe di fresco con la scuola.  Mia Mamma ha fatto una fresca bella, certo, lei era modesta ma e’ veramente brava con l’arte. Brava Mamma!

After my Mom arrived and we dropped off her things at the Bed and Breakfast we were off to our Fresco class at il Sillabo. It was a two part class, first we laid down the sand and mortar mixture and then a week later we applied another smoother mixture which we painted into.  Here are the results, Mom’s first:







Ciao mie amiche! Mi mancete!

After class the next day we all walked Aneja to the train station, it was raining again. The four of us had really become so close that we were pretty choked up in saying goodbye, Aneja kept waving from the train and we stayed on the platform until the train was to far away to see.

That day was kind of quiet; I went to COOP then to school to blog, Anna packed.  That night we all met up at il Pozzo.  Then later we saw the seminaries at Gianni’s sharing a beer on their last night and we all sat together to chat.

They were headed to Rome the next day where they started school to become priests and where they would be studying theology and philosophy for the next seven years.  I badgered them with questions for a while and then went back to Anna to have our last room mate chat before bed.

After Anna left I was pretty sad.  Alex had gone to Cortona with school and I didn’t think Florence would help.  The only thing in Florence was shopping and crowds and I wasn’t interested.  Instead I went to the market and bought a plant for some company.

I busied myself by moving into Anna’s room and sorting my stuff in the process.  It’s nice to have the bigger room but it’s strange to be alone on the top floor of the apartment.

The next day there was less to do; all the shops are closed on Sunday.  The weather wasn’t great and I was feeling pretty low.   I read “Frida’s Bed” and studied for a few hours then took a very long walk.  I decided it was time to make the call to Mom; cause even though it’s expensive talking to family and friends always cheers me up.  After that I called Amanda and chatted with her until my phone ran out of money.  I felt much better.

Adesso Italiano

Aneja va Venerdi alle 14.00 e Anna va Sabato mattina.  Ho una camera nuova ma, sono triste perche mi mancano loro.

Va bene, ho molto tempo a SGV. Conosco questa e solo una momenta triste.  Ciao mie amiche!  Buonviaggi!

Firenze Again and hanging around SGV

Every Saturday San Giovanni is taken over by a street market and since we’d missed it last Saturday we checked it out this time.  I didn’t take many photos but it really is pretty big, the whole main square and three side streets filled with clothes, jewelry, plants, and food.

After that we went to Florence again on Saturday to do some shopping and get out of San Giovanni for a while.

After lunch Aneja went to sight see, Alex went to shop, and I went to visit my old neighborhood.  It was so strange to walk the same roads I’d walked every day two years ago.  It felt like everything and nothing had changed in the way that only a place and your interaction with it can be.

Piazza Liberta

Piazza Liberta

Hotel Meridiana, home for four months in '05

Hotel Meridiana, home for four months in

I stepped up to the hotel and recognized a familiar face behind the counter, it was Fabio and he recognized me.  We chatted for a little bit about how he’d been and how the other guys were doing then about US politics and our countries economies.  Every foreigner I’ve met has given me the same stern face and the same question,

“McCain o Obama?”


“But who will win?”

He told me the latest numbers for the race, Obama 44% and McCain 43%.  He said he really thinks Obama would be better for Italy and everyone but he’s starting to think he won’t win.  I’ve also heard this before.

“Obama! Spero!”

Spero means I hope in Italian.

It’s so unfortunate that a large majority of Europeans have lost faith in Americans because of Bush.  If only the world could vote it would most definitely be Obama.  If only.

The rest of the week was pretty slow so I might as well lump it together with this post.  Anna and I went to another dinner out where she finally got to try pecorino cheese with pear and honey, a traditional tuscan favorite of mine.

That night we were hanging out at il Pozzo when Tacca and some friends came by.  Miki (who is in the beginners class with me) and Taka both only speak Japanese and some Italian so we have to speak only Italian which is good but doesn’t get us into too deep of conversations.  With all the language barriers we decided to do something universally understood.  We played cards.

Taka, Miki, Alex, Aneja, and Anna

Taka, Miki, Alex, Aneja, and Anna

It was great because we spoke Italian and because we weren’t doing anything too difficult we could all understand it, including Miki and I the beginners.
The next day Anna and I went on a walk because we were pretty bored, then we took some photos.

That night Aneja and I went back to Osteria d’Angelo where we had first discovered our mutual love of a nice night out in a restaurant.  I got carpaccio with cured meet and green apples, which, was a first for me.  It was one of those dishes where you combine each element on the plate and get these perfect bites packed with flavor,  I highly recommend it.   Then Anna had pasta with zucchini and I had vegetables and shrimp.  For dessert, I had a fig tart (cause I’m in love with the taste of fig nowadays) and Aneja had the pear tart with roasted pine nuts and chocolate sauce again because it was so delicious the first time.

And finally Anna and I went on another walk, this time over the Arno, and took some more photos.

Per Te

Every two or three weeks Il Sillabo puts together a little student show for the people who are leaving that week and just to bring all the classes together.  Aneja, Gabby, and the seminaries were in the expert class and they sang, “Firenze, SMN” and “Felicita.”  It was so fantastic I had to film it and therefore have no photos.

Alex and Anna were in the biggest class, the elementary class and they sang “Watussi” (the twist) and “Parole, Parole.”  These songs were my personal favorites and the perfect way to introduce you to Tacca, who stole the show with his song.  The song is originally a woman singing to a man but Alex and Tacca (the only guys in the big class) serenaded the women instead with roses and a hilariously dramatic performance.

I am in the beginning class and our song was ‘Per Te’ by Jovanotti.  “For You,” in English; it’s a song he wrote when his daughter was born.   It’s pretty corny but I think some of the translations are really interesting and it helped me remember a lot of Italian.  I typed it up per te:

e’ per te che sono verdi gli alberi (for you the green of the trees)

e rosa i fiocchi in maternita’ (for you the pink maternity ribbons)

e’ per te tutta questa citta’ (for you this whole city)

e’ per te il 13 Dicembre (for you the 13th of december)

e’ per te la campanella a scuola (for you the field in school)

e’ per te ogni cosa che c’e’ ninna na ninna e…(for you everything little girl)

e’ per te che a volte piove a giugno (for you it rains in june)

e’ per te il sorriso degli umani (for you the smiles of man/people)

e’ per te un’aranciata fresca (for you fresh orange juice)

e’ per te lo scodinzolo dei cani (for you the dogs wag their tales)

e’ per te il colore delle foglie (for you the colors of the leaves)

la forma strana delle nuvole’ (the strange forms of the clouds)

e’ per te il succo dele mele (for you the juice of apples)

e’ per te il rosso delle fragole (for you the colors of strawberries)

e’ per te ogni cosa che c’e’ ninna na ninna e…

e’ per te il profumo delle stelle (for you the smell of the stars)

e’ per te il miele e la farina (for you the honey and the flour)

e’ per te il sabato nel centro (for you a saturday in the city center)

le otto di mattina (8 o’clock in the morning)

e’ per te la voce dei cantanti (for you the voice of the singers)

la penna dei poeti (the pen of the poets)

e’ per te una maglietta a righe (for you a striped t-shirt)

e’ per te la chiave dei segreti (for you the key to the secrets)

e’ per te ogni cosa che c’e’ ninna na ninna e…

e’ per te il dubbio e la certezza (for you the doubt and the certinty)

la forza e la dolcezza (the strength and the sweetness)

e’ per te che il mare sa di sale (for you the salt of the sea)

e’ per te la notte di natale (for you Christmas eve)

e’ per te ogni cosa che c’e’ ninna na ninna e…

Afterwards we watched an Italian film at school called “Johnny Stecchino“ with Roberto Benigni (who is quickly becoming one of my favs).  For not having any English subtitles to help me I did pretty well.  Later Alex and I were talking about TV and how much it helps for learning another language; Alex speaks Bosnian, English, German, and now Italian and he’s studying to be a lawyer.  He’s very smart, so it was funny when he proclaimed “I have learned all my English from cartoon network.  You know, ‘Dexters laboratory,’ oh I love this.”   In his thick accent it was perfect, made me smile.

Then it was a goodbye dinner for Gabby who left the next day, it started pouring halfway through the night, and we decided it was Italy’s way of saying it was sad to see her go.

La Scuola, Molto Gelato, e la Festa

I took some photos of my school to give those away from me an idea of where I spend most my time. It’s four floors in total. The lobby is pretty empty, the school has ten bikes that it loans out to students and they’re kept in a little courtyard next to the lobby.

The first floor is where Alex, Aneja, and Tacha live. In an apartment called ‘il Pozzo’ which means ‘the well’ in Italian.

the kitchen window of il Pozzo

Next is the second, the three American girls live here. Jennie, Angela, and Felicia who came together through West Virginia University for a semester abroad.

Finally after many steps, the top/3rd floor, this is where the front desk and all the classrooms are. It’s not very big but I like that it feels so homey.

my school is just to the right

After class, lunch, homework, and dinner Anna and I met up with Alex and Aneja for a walk and more gelato and the place near Coop.

Apparently in August San Giovanni is terribly quiet, most people are away for vacation, but for the first week of September there’s a festival with different stuff happening each night. There was a theater performance on this particular night so we went to check it out.

I couldn’t understand the majority of it but I understood that it was very contemporary. This woman in a beautiful white dress doing a monologue with three different characters using only a white chair as a prop with some lights and an elegantly tied red curtain behind her. As an artist and person from a town about as small as SGV it was really inspiring to see so many people out to see the show and support the artist.

The next day was another concert, this time in the main piazza, with a giant stage and what seemed like everyone in town watching the show. In true Italian fashion they started an hour late. We were hanging out at il Pozzo then went and had some gelato at the gelatoria in the piazza while we waited for the show to begin.

you can tell she's speaking Italian cause her hands are moving so much

Aneja and Anna Maria

Aneja and Anna Maria

I didn’t stay for much of the show but I did hear the first two songs, which were Beatles covers. Not the best but I must admit being able to sing along was nice.


So Monday was my first day of class and Wednesday was my first trip with class. We were off to Chianti after class to a small town with a gorgeous view and a small vineyard with amazing wine.
In separate cars we went drove down and mostly up some very curvy roads. I was lucky to be sat next to Gabby, a wonderful girl from London who was already fluent in French and picking up Italian very quickly.

At the end of the ride Anna and I weren’t feeling so great when we got out.

Then we walked up to this little town and felt much better. We walked around and enjoyed the beautiful view.

Then it was off to Villa Buonasera where the owner led us through a very informative tour through the vineyard (in Italian and English).

These are the containers for the first process of the reds and for the total process of the Rose

These are the barrels used for the red wine, all of different types of oak. She explained that even though they have good oak near by they can’t use it because it has the same flavors as the grapes because it’s of the same earth. So they have different barrels for different flavors; some that are smoked oak from Montana and others from very specific regions in France known for having a high quality flavor in their oak. Very interesting.

Afterwards we sat at a big table under the sun tasting wines and enjoying some apperitivi. We all talked and laughed in a variety of languages and enjoyed ourselves.

When we got back to San Giovanni some of us decided to go for gelato at the gelateria near Coop to see which place in town we preferred. Most of us preferred the one outside of town but would have to do future tastings to make sure.

Anna always catches me taking her picture.

Anna always catches me taking her picture.


Just shy of three weeks late I am finally ready to blog about Italy. First some facts for the new comers:

In 2005 I spent a fall semester abroad in Firenze studying Art History and Fashion.

I graduated from the Art Institute of Boston in 2007.

Spent a year in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY where I learned that

Moved back to my parents house for the summer

And then I went to Italy by way of Spain with my Sister, to study at Il Sillabo in a small Tuscan town called San Giovanni. I found this program through the website Apple Languages. I’ve posted the link below.

Why Italy? Well it’s still difficult to explain. I was feeling very stuck in New York; I had just graduated, left a large majority of friends in Boston, and was living in the city with everything. I knew I needed something to hold onto, something that I was completely sure of, and I was positive that I loved living in Italy. So I looked online for something relatively cheap and decided I needed a small town, San Giovanni had a nice ring to it. I was going purely on gut instinct.