May 28, 2013
Today was a day of rest. Finally. I had a free day and chose not to go anywhere or do anything at all. I took a long walk (in tennis shoes! My feet are saying thanks!) around Reggio! I just wanted to take in one good look around the city. I realized how big Reggio really is and how little of it I’ve actually seen. I’ve gotten acquainted with the area around my house and the city center, but there’s so much more to Reggio than that! I sat down in one of the parks for a while and just people watched. The Italian people talk a LOT. They talk loudly, they talk with their hands, and are so expressive in general. It’s very different than some of the other European countries that I’ve been in where the people are more stiff. Well, not exactly stiff but not exactly dignified either. I can’t think of the right word. Italians are just more loving and expressive. That shows up in their art and all of the PDA I’ve seen around! In one of the schools, I noticed that there were naked people in some of the children’s drawings. In the United States, the parents would be called in immediately to suggest something was wrong with the child! Here, the children are exposed to so much magnificent art everywhere that the body is solidified in their minds as something to be celebrated and expressed. I like that. I think that, maybe, some of the problems in the United States with eating disorders and things like that could be combatted if we started celebrating the human form. The statues that I’ve seen around vary in size, shape, and age. There’s not an ideal. In the states, most women would kill themselves for that perfect waiflike model figure. However, I have yet to see a statue of a woman that would even come close to that. Instead, the statues of the women… if there is a way to actually generalize them all… are full and soft, inviting, alluring, feminine. There’s nothing angular or bony about them. I find that refreshing – a good reminder that a normal woman’s body can be captivating in full form.
May 19, 2013
Today we got up early AGAIN to hike the Cinque Terra… and when I say early I mean five in the morning. The five little towns that make up Cinque Terra are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. We took the train and got off at the first little sea town, Riomaggiore. The lady at the travel office said that all of the trails were closed. Bummer! We thought we’d just take the little train from town to town and explore there instead of hiking. We were looking at the cute little lover’s locks on Riomaggiore when it started to rain! After a little sip of coffee in a cute little café to wait out the rainstorm, we continued exploring the first town. We started exploring a path that led up into a little vineyard. We went up… and up… and up… and up… and realized after about 45 minutes that we were probably on a trail. We met some other people hiking and they said it was probably another hour and half to the next town. Thus begins our accidental twelve mile hike on the expert trail. It turned out great. We probably hiked about ten miles because we ended up getting lost once in between the second and third towns and decided, once we found out way, that we should take a break from hiking and eat our packed lunches for a minute. We started hiking again at the fourth town, Vernazza, and got to Monterosso with just ten minutes left to catch the train back to Reggio. Whew! What a day! I can’t even explain the beauty of this rocky sea country. It was absolutely beautiful. Pictures can do better than my words, but even pictures can’t do this magnificent place justice. This was my favorite journey so far. I love being outside and exploring. We kept running into other Americans and lots of college kids because this is a big touristy spot, especially for Americans. I liked Vernazza the best. It was not as touristy as Monterosso and had a beautiful old church right on the edge of the water. I wish we had some extra time to explore the little towns because each one has some pretty unique things to offer. One is supposed to be the birth place of pesto. Monterosso is known for it’s lemons. Others are known for olive oil and wine. The terraced hills are really interesting. Along our hike we saw people working in their vineyards and we saw the old fashioned rails that the farmers use to transfer goods up and down the mountains. It was so picturesque and perfect. I really want to go back to that place again, only for a few days. It would be a great place to rest and relax and revel in the juxtaposition of the majestic mountains with the mighty sea.
Some pictures from Cinque Terra!
May 20, 2013
After our amazing hike in Cinque Terra yesterday, I did NOT want to get up for language lessons today. I’m happy we are taking them because I do think it’s useful… BUT we’re only here for three weeks so nothing is really going to stick. Anyways, today we had language lessons in the morning and then went to visit Marco Gerra, a true Reggio Preschool. Marco Gerra was a famous artist from the area and donated a lot of time, money, and art to the education programs in Reggio. His influence clearly resonated through the school that bears his name. I loved the building! Everything was designed to represent movement to symbolize that schools are always changing. Later, my host mom and dad took us shoe shopping. That was cool because we got to see another part of town and see where the people of Reggio go to shop. On our walks, we’ve only seen the unique little stores in the city center so it was interesting to see the supermarkets, superstores, and malls that are a lot like what we have the U.S., just a littleeee smaller. After that, we went to soccer practice with our Chiara’s women’s team. Giordano, the “dad,” is the team’s coach. How cute! I loved playing soccer with those girls. They were all so good! I am so thankful that I have some athletic ability! I love the way that smiles and sports can so easily cross language barriers. I had NO idea what the girls were saying, but I could share in the high fives and the groans.
May 17, 2013
Today we went to the cheese factory! It was super duper cool! I have a ton of pictures I want to add to the blog about the cheese making process, but those will have to come later. My internet is spotty. Anyways, it was awesome to see how cheese is made! The best Parmesan Reggiano cheese in the world comes from this area – because that’s where it originated! She said they run into legal problems all of the time because American companies claim they are making Parmesan Reggiano cheese when really they can’t, because the cheese didn’t come from Parma or Reggio Emilia. Much of the process in this factory is still done by hand. It’s weird to think that while you’re eating your cheese at home, some guy was sticking his hand in the milk mixture feeling to make sure the cheese was developing the right texture. The lady that gave us the tour said that, at one point in the process, it feels like you’re running your hands right over silk when you dip your hands into the milk cauldron vat thingys. After that a small group of us interviewed a principal. From my understanding, she was more like a superintendent than a principal because she was in charge of five different schools and over 900 students. It looked like we were in some kind of district office, but it wasn’t very clear. Anyways most of the students asked questions about parental involvement, but I was able to ask one question about curriculum development that related to the course I am taking at Clemson. I asked her about the standards for curriculum development. The government gives strict standards for the beginning and end of primary school, but not for the middle years. Even for those grades with strict standards, the teachers are free to figure out how they want to meet those standards in the classroom. She showed us a document that had some standards on it and those didn’t really seem very strict. It had things on it like understand and comprehend, develop relationships, and etc. So, basically, the principal gives the teachers room to do whatever they want in the classroom as long as the students are reaching their goals. She said that she values her teachers and doesn’t want to interfere with their method of teaching.
May 18, 2013
Today we took a day trip to Florence, or Firenze, as the Italians call it. I wonder why we have different names for cities like Florence, Venice, Munich, and other places. It would make sense to call all of the cities by the name the people there call it. I mean, New York is New York, right? Florence was absolutely beautiful! We took a bus in and got to see some of the Tuscan countryside. It was my favorite place by far. First, we went on walking tour around the city. It was really neat to see some of the major landmarks and find out a little bit of history. We saw Ponte Vecchio, the beautiful bridge with the little buildings on it that crosses the River Arno. We saw the Medici Chapel and the Uffizi Gallery. The city has beautiful, beautiful architecture and sculptures all around, especially in the Palazzo Vecchio. We went into the Accademia dell’Arte to see the David. Seeing the replica outside just didn’t do it justice. Admiring the grace and beauty of the REAL David was incredible. The other artwork was cool too. I am glad we went to the Galleria and not the Ufitzi though. I love artwork, but we only had limited time today and I felt like I saw a good bit and the Galleria. We climbed all 463 steps to the top of the Duomo. What an AMAZING cathedral and what an incredible view. I hate heights, but I kept reminding myself that the structure was probably the most sturdy I’ve ever been on! It’s been standing for hundreds and hundreds of years! The view was breathtaking. Simply breathtaking. Wow. So much of today’s experience can’t be put into words or captured in a picture. Knowing that great men like DiVinci and Michelangelo walked the same streets is awe-inspiring.