Sunday, February 27, 2011


Ciao tutti! Today marks the one month here in Italy! Hard to believe. On Friday, we finally finished the intensive Italian month with the program! I think the final exam went fairly well. We got to celebrate with our professors on Friday night with some spritz and appetizers. On Monday we begin our new classes. I will be taking History of the Venetian Republic, Topics in Italian Music, and a class at the University of Padova called the Sociology of Religion. I’m looking forward to all of them!

Yesterday, I spent the day in Venice to celebrate the beginning of Carnevale! It was amazing to be there for it. I bought a mask to wear around:

We basically spent the day wandering around and looking at all the costumes, mask stores, and shops. There were some incredible places with hundreds of handmade masks:

The guy smiling is the mask-maker!

After all this walking, we had to get a gelato of course. We made our way to Piazza San Marco, which was absolutely mobbed. We looked around for a bit, then headed home. It was a pretty simple day, but amazing nonetheless. We’ll probably be back next week (the celebration continues!), fully decked in Carnevale costumes.

(Okay, so my costume won't look just like this, but you get the idea!)

Random side note: If you would like to send me mail (I love getting mail, hint, hint), here is my mailing address:

Mary Ridley
c/o Boston University Padova Program
Galleria Santa Lucia, 1
35139 Padova, Italy

Miss you all!

Learn Italian
maschera – mask
giuramento – oath
tovagliolo - napkin

Monday, February 21, 2011

Romeo e Giulietta

And so the traveling continues! This weekend's destination: Verona! I absolutely fell in love with the city. It is so beautiful! It's only about an hour away from Padova, so I definitely will be returning. This trip was our first BU-sponsored trip, so we went as a whole group and two of the professors gave us a tour of the city. (A program-sponsored trip also means transportation and lunch is all taken care of! Sweet!)

As soon as we arrived in Verona, we all went and got coffee and brioche (first things first, you know). We then started off with a tour of the historic center of town and saw the Arena (looks like a mini Coloseum), Castelvecchio, and Piazza Erbe. Verona has a lot of Roman architecture and influence, so it was fun to hear about some of the history and see the different architecture. A few hours and about 50 pictures later, we went to a little osteria for lunch called "Giulietta e Romeo."As you may already know, Romeo and Juliet were supposed to have come from Verona. :) I realized I haven't uploaded any pictures of food that I have eaten (besides some uncooked pasta) so here we go:

Looks delicious right? It was. These are bigoli, the traditional Veronese pasta. We also had a secondo of veal and potatoes (I'm not so big on the veal...), followed by coffee, of course. A group of us then headed over to see "Juliet's balcony." People write love messages on the wall and rub Juliet's boob for good luck (don't ask me why...). 

After this Shakespearean detour, a friend and I wandered around and saw some of the other notable sights in Verona: a statue of Dante, le Scale di Ragione, Arche Scaligere, and la Chiesa di Sant'Anastasia. We saw all these things again in the afternoon part of the tour. :) We ended the day on the Ponte Romano, which has an absolutely spectacular view of Verona, especially as the sun is setting.

Let's see, what other cultural activities have I experienced? We went to an Italian movie together at the theater, wandered around the markets on Saturday, and ate lots of food. I also got to meet Anna's (my host mom's) parents yesterday! We went over to their home for lunch. They live in a condominium on the seventh floor, and they literally have a view of every historical sight in Padova (il Duomo, Santa Giustina, Sant Antonio, Galileo's tower...). Anna's father is an English professor at the University, but we spoke only in Italian and he was very interesting. I can tell he is extremely intelligent, I just wish I knew all the vocabulary so I could ask him questions about a bunch of things! I'm sure we'll get a chance to talk again.

Side note: this week is the last week of the intensive language month! So ready to start new classes! I just have to get through the final exams first... A dopo!

Learn Italian
carciofi - artichokes
francobollo - stamp
pranzo - lunch

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Venezia e Vicenza

This weekend was my first chance to venture out of the city and see some of the surrounding area. First stop: Venice! Venice is only a half hour train ride from Padova, and costs less than 3 euro. Super easy. I went with three other girls from my program. We arrived there around lunch time, so we first went to a restaurant to sample some Venetian cuisine. As we walked there (after getting lost several times, which is inevitable in Venice), I couldn't get over how beautiful the city was! It is literally built on the water, and really can never be replicated. There are no cars, only little tiny streets and bridges everywhere. This is also Carnevale, so there were tons of masks in storefronts too. Some examples:

We eventually got to the restaurant, but I was too scared to get octopus or pasta with squid ink! Instead, I opted for some good, old fashioned pasta. From there, we mostly just wandered around for the rest of the day. We got to see the Palazzo di San Marco and went inside the church. The ceilings are painted gold, so when the light hits them they shimmer. Beautiful. After getting some traditional fritelli (a Carnevale dessert, basically fried dough filled with cream), we headed back to Padova.

The next day three of us headed to the other side of Padova, to a small city called Vicenza. In the city center, it looks similar to Padova, but once you head up into the hills, there are some amazing views, two villas, and a spectacular Basilica. It was surprisingly easy to find all these things, and we spent most of the day taking tons of pictures and asking each other, Can you believe how beautiful this is?

Teatro Olimpico

We went into the gardens of the Villa Rotonda, and we had the entire place to ourselves. It was like a beautiful little oasis. See for yourself:

Then the church. This had to be one of the most ornate churches I've seen so far, and I think my favorite too! We couldn't stay long because a Mass was starting, but I was able to get a few pictures:

After a gelato from an amazing-smelling store, we headed back home. And so the traveling begins!

Learn Italian
giardino - garden
biglietto - ticket
fragola - strawberry (and a really good flavor of gelato!)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Abitando in una casa italiana

Living here in Italy is definitely quite different than living in the States, and a lot of those differences come from living in an Italian household. So, I thought I would write this post just as a list of some small random differences I've noticed living with my host family:

  • At night, everyone here has these intense outdoor shades for the windows, both for protection and for keeping the light out. They make a lot of noise when you open and close them, though.
  • Here, you put your shoes in a scarpiera, not just on the floor.
  • Houses are kept much cooler than in the states, and the radiators are long, metal bars along the wall. In the bathroom, you hang your towels on the radiator so they are always nice and warm.
  • The showers are not very user-friendly. The shower head is in the middle of the shower, on the long side of the wall, making it very difficult to maneuver and not get the floor all wet.
  • The toilets here are shaped differently, and you push buttons on the wall to flush them.
  • "Quiet hours" begin at 11pm. No showers, music, or even flushing the toilet after that if you want to be polite!
  • No one has boxes of tissues here. Only the little plastic packages.
  • No one has a dryer here either. All the clothes are hung up to dry.
  • The tabacchi (tobacco stores), sell much more than tabacco. There, you can but stamps, postcards, bus tickets, lottery tickets, and more. It's the ONLY place that sells matches too!
  • There is no peanut butter here :( but the Nutella is great!
Now for some pictures of my apartment:
My room
View from my window
Living room and kitchen

I have also been asked by many of you how the weather is here. Answer: absolutely gorgeous (sorry to all you New Englanders buried in the snow right now!). It feels like spring here, and I have actually had to buy some sunscreen for my face because of all the sun (all my freckles are out, too). We do have a lot of fog here, though. This morning, for example, was the foggiest I have ever experienced. You could barely see 10 feet in front of you! Another beautiful part of Italy is that when the sun rises and when it sets, it turns a brilliant red. So beautiful. A presto!

Learn Italian
scarpiera - shoe rack
salotto - living room
nebbia - fog

Sunday, February 6, 2011

La pasta e lo shopping

Yep, so I can cross one thing off my "To Do in Italy" list - making pasta from scratch! My host mom, Anna, took a cooking class recently and has decided to have a series of cooking lessons with me! Yay! Yesterday, we started with the classic pasta.

All pasta really is is flour and egg. The hard part is getting it to the right consistency and texture. After mixing the flour and the egg together and letting it sit in the fridge for a half hour, we started sending the dough through the pasta press machine (not sure what it is actually called). This makes the dough into a long, thin strip, and after a few times the dough becomes elastic - it's pasta! Then you can do whatever sort of shaping you want. We made some lasagna (long, thick strips), tagliatelle (like linguine), and capoletti (like tortellini filled with a pumpkin/ricotta puree). I was so happy with the finished product! And of course, it tasted delicious.

The dough
Making i capoletti
Finished product!

I also had the experience of going grocery shopping here in Italy. Never doing it again, if I can avoid it! The store was called IperLand (very aptly named, if you ask me, because everyone one in there was super hyper!). The aisles there are very narrow, and there are five times as many people in there as in an American grocery store, and they are all walking about twice as fast! Not to mention that the workers are moving all their boxes of food all over the place on huge carts! My blood pressure must have been high by the time we left.

Makes me miss the leisurely walks through Whole Foods. I think I'll stick with the small markets in town from now on. :) Ciao!

Learn Italian
fare la spesa - to go shopping
fare un giro - to take a tour
prendere in giro - to tease

Friday, February 4, 2011

Un Santo Senza Nome

Today marks the one week mark in Italy! It seems like I been here for much longer than that! We've begun the intensive language month where we have Italian class for three hours every morning, four days a week. It takes a lot of concentration, but I'm hoping I'll see some progress in my Italian. Basically my days are structured like this: have breakfast at home, go to class, go out to lunch at one of the many delicious restaurants or la mense (cafeteria), wander around the city, take the bus home, do some homework, eat dinner at home or in town, go to sleep. Pretty laid back compared to my Bowdoin days!

Since I last wrote, I was able to go on another walking tour of Padova, this time with the other BU students. This city is absolutely beautiful (for those of you on facebook, I've added pictures), filled with old buildings and gorgeous architecture. I'm beginning to find my way around the city just by wandering around. We learned that Padova is known as "Il Santo Senza Nome, Caffe Senza Porte, e Prato Senza Erba" (saint without a name, cafes without doors, and a lawn without grass).  This is because everyone refers to la Basilica di Sant Antonio as "Il Santo," the cafe was open 24/7, and the Prato della Valle didn't have grass. A cute little piece of trivia. :)

Well, I couldn't write this post without mentioning some of the customs I've picked up here in Italy, including the food. Italians like to eat. A lot. But I've noticed that all the food here is extremely healthy. If there is fast food here, I have yet to find it. Everything is made with fresh ingredients and is homemade. My host mother will make dinner every night with vegetables, fresh meat from the market, cheese, homemade pasta, and fresh bread. Even the cafeteria food is great! So far I've been able to have lots of pasta, pizza, macchiato, cannoli, tramezzini, prosciuto, mortadella, panini, spritz, wine, and, of course, gelato.

I have also noticed that it is very important here to say "buon giorno," or "ciao" to people so as not to be rude, especially when you enter a store. When you enter store, a salesperson will usually come right up to you and help you throughout your entire visit, unlike in America where you usually have to go ask for help. I was shopping for some Italian boots the other day, and the salespeople will literally stand next you and follow you throughout the store! A little intimidating, but good customer service I suppose.

Ok, time for a bit of homework before dinner! A presto!