Week 2:

Trip Start Feb 23, 2009
Trip End Aug 22, 2009

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Normal 0 Week 2: Evil frittatas (omelettes), exploding water bottles and superstitions galore

As the first week was primarily spent adjusting to La Spezia and the program, the second week was more of a crash tour of the surrounding area.

Monday: we visited Cinque Terre, which is a UNESCO protected natural park.  Cinque Terre is named after its' five small villages: Riomaggiore, Manorola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.  On our visit we only went from the first village, Riomaggiore to the next Manorola.  As I am still adjusting to hilly Italy, we took the easier path to the next village along Via dell'Amore (Lovers Lane) which is a stunning path that hugs the coastline and provides stunning photo-ops.

Tuesday:  We went with our teacher, Marta, as she pointed out various historical and artistic sites around La Spezia.  A particular art style that we viewed was "Liberty," which consists of graceful women, nature and harvests.  We visited several sites around La Spezia that featured this late 1800's/early 1900's movement and were even invited into an apartment building to view the architecture...(I so love being a tourist as we get to go behind the scenes).

However the most notable part of this day was our lunch...I'm not certain exactly which combination did the trick (I'm aiming towards the omelette that I ate...), but towards the evening, my stomach was in agony.  Inevitably I went to bed, but I woke up in the middle of the night and was violently ill!  Therefore my appetite for the rest of the week was severely diminished... (It turns out that another student who ate the omelette was also quite ill...)

Wednesday:  We returned to Lerici in order to view the hostel that we will be staying in for the beginning of April (as this one will be full for Easter...)...I don't have much to report about this day as I was not in the best physical state.
Thursday:  We ventured out to Cadimare (which is still quite close to La Spezia, only about 5 minutes from the main city) to see a boat makers hut.  The boat making trade has run through the family of Mr. Fagione for generations, although there are less requests for hand made wooden boats nowadays.  The proprietor showed us around his shop and demonstrated all the tools of the trade.

In the afternoon, we went to the university to attend our nautical design/history class.  We waited for a half hour, but no one showed up.  I went to the secretary's office and asked where the professor was and she responded that he was probably on 'Italian time.'  By which she meant that he would be showing up 45 minutes to an hour late.  We waited for a full hour before returning to the office and learning that perhaps the teacher had cancelled the class.  On the plus side we were done at 4 pm instead of 6 pm.

Friday:  We went to Le Grazie (which is between La Spezia and Porto Venere) to see an ancient Roman Villa.  A Villa meant a house in the countryside and they often produced some type of product.  In the case of this Roman Villa, they used to make olive oil.  The cisterns and aqueducts used to make and store the oil are still partially visible, as are the remains of the saunas and various pools that the residents used. 

As the first 2 weeks had been rather hectic, I opted to take a weekend off to relax.  Therefore Friday night I watched a film with Roberto (who didn't go out with his brothers because he had school the next day).

Saturday:  Relax!!!

Sunday:  We went to the Fall Out Boy concert in Milan.  For those of you that know me, Fall Out Boy is pretty much my favourite music group!  The tickets were around 30 € (Euro) and it was definitely worth it!.  Simone and Matteo drove down to the concert, along with some of their friends, Jackie and I.  It was about a three and a half hour drive and it was quite the experience!

The only sour note was that upon arrival in Milan we got lost and thus didn't arrive at the concert until 9 pm (it started at 7:30).  Because we were late we missed the two opening acts, one that I had never heard of (Hey Hey Radio) and one group that I would have loved to see (The Sounds)!  So I was a bit disappointed to miss them, but at least we got there just before the main group started.

The concert itself was great!  The band made a lot of very entertaining comments, because they assumed that no one in the audience could understand them.  It was also a very small venue so Jackie and I made it within 10 feet of the band, which was much closer than I've ever been before.  The atmosphere was also quite different as people were openly drinking and smoking in the venue.

We have a lot of rules in North America; while I realize that they are there for a purpose, they can get quite restricting at times.  That's one of the refreshing things about Italy: the things that you can do here that you could never get away with in Canada.  Things like bringing dogs, cats, turtles, etc. on the bus, or smoking in a concert, or not always wearing your seatbelt, or drinking liquor in the car on a road trip (obviously not the driver though)...

Don't get me wrong, there are some things that I find very disturbing in Italy...for example 'Italian time' (That I referenced earlier on) or the selective gallantry of males.  This continues to shock me on buses!  There have been many circumstances where an old lady, or a mother with a child is forced to stand while a perfectly capable middle-aged man sits and chats on his cell phone.  Although it's worth noting that sometimes gallantry can get you in trouble...I offered an elderly woman my seat on the bus the other day and she gave a mortally offended look and huffed off...whoops...

Another way that Italy has corrupted me is with caffeine.  I love espresso and I have about 3 per day...they are so little and they give such a lovely caffeine boost.  It's going to be hard to go back to massive cups of coffee!  Pretty much every office has a espresso/latte/etc. vending machine...it's a great way to stay awake when you're doing a office work.

Cheers Ali

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