Tag Archives: Italy

Guardate!

Trans: Look! (second person plural ;) Pronunciation: Guahr-dah-tay

Yes, behold these Italian goodies. My leather purchase was a gorgeous notebook cover (whose pages are refillable) that they personalized for me with my initials. I’m completely in love with it and spend inordinate amounts of time gazing at it, smelling it, flipping through the pages, feeling the leather… you get the idea. Isn’t it beautiful, though? I’m not digging for compliments– just stating a fact. :) I’m also sporting my pair of fingerless gloves in the photo– my dad says they should have been half price because they’re only half a mitten. And my mom calls them “texting gloves” because you have use of your fingers! Aren’t they oh-so-clever.

And the other photo? You’re thinking… uh, there’s nothing Italian about a picture of you, Jane… but it’s the hair! I walked into a hair salon sans appointment bright and early Friday morning and basically said, the bangs stay, I want a significant trim to clean up my ends, but otherwise, do what you want! And I think it might be my best haircut, ever. I’ve heard it said that the best way to get to know a culture is to get your hair cut there, and that’s kind of true. Hair salons are more than just places that provide beauty services. The clients typically all know each other, as well as the staff, there’s gossip, there’s exchange of news, it has its whole own culture. Though I couldn’t pick up on a lot of what was being said at the place I went (Jean Louis David, right on the Arno), I certainly know that my hair salon in Omaha is a little world of its own (I’ve never had my hair cut in Davidson or Charlotte, isn’t that weird?) so I’m assuming there’s a similar phenomenon in Italy. Though both my parents and I have picked up on some unfriendliness from Italians, I’ve found that by going into their world with humility, trying my best to speak Italian, and letting them teach me, is how to meet some really sweet people. The idea of being open to another culture is such a cliché, and everyone thinks they are, but you have to give up some of your control and trust in strangers in order to make friends with them. Anyway, Mama, thanks for encouraging me to take the plunge and have my hair cut here! If only I was going to Paris in 6 weeks instead of one; I could have my hair cut there, too. :) P.S. Sorry for the quality of the second photo, it was on the iphone. Which I miss, wah, wah, first-world problems.

So this week, I had one tough 10-mile run after four days off, and one lovely 7-mile run two days later. I was kind of in a funny mood for the 7-mile run… I laced up my shoes with the attitude that I was just going out to move my body, shake out the tightness, and see the world. That’s the attitude I used to take to all my runs before I started following a schedule of distances, and I’m really looking forward to getting back to that after the race. This run, I actually stopped on Ponte alle Grazie (Bridge of Charms/Graces) to watch the light on the water for about 5 minutes. The gulls were circling and diving for their dinner, and they reminded me of when I saw Air Force One planes practicing touch-and-gos at some airport (Charlottesville?) a while back.

Now today, it’s 20 miles, and then I’m done with the really hard stuff. Amazing that it’s gone by this quickly and that I’ve actually stuck with it. I never thought I would be spending my semester abroad running double digit mileage every weekend, and significant runs on school nights, too, but I wouldn’t know Florence like I know it if I hadn’t done this. The need for long distance caused me to explore farther into the city than I ever would have on foot, and I feel more like a resident and less like a tourist because of it.

Off to get a pre-run yogurt and a couple bananas, and munch on them while I study for midterms a little more and wait for it to warm up enough to go run. Last time, I went in my half-marathon shirt and I think it brought me luck, so that’s what I’m gonna do again today. My Lululemon gear is gorgeous, but sometimes I need the shirt with sentimental value to give me strength.

Love to all. I’ll be sure to check back in after this run.

Jane

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Wine, Leather, and Andrea Bocelli

I haven’t written a music post in a long time, even though I think of it every time I’m out on a run. Most of the music I would be sharing, if I should ever remember to write the post, would be American (or Canadian), so I wanted to make my priority posting a video of a very talented Italian, Andrea Bocelli.

He’s pretty famous, so a lot of you have probably heard of him, but I hadn’t and hearing him in the car one night this weekend kinda changed my life. His voice is so beautiful. I like this video because a couple is figure-skating to his music and he sings with a young lady who’s also very talented.

So, here’s “Vivo Per Lei,” trans. “I live for her”

Now a few images of my weekend with my mom and dad in Chianti.

And a preview of the best thing I’ve bought in Italy: it’s something leather. The reason I’m keeping you in suspense is not just to be maddening, but because I only have a photo of it under lamplight, and I want one in natural morning light tomorrow. It makes a huge difference, trust me. Can you guess what it is? (Mom, Dad, Katie, and Jeff, no spoilers!)

Venice is off this weekend, but it’s just as well because I have a ton to do regarding midterms and fall break/marathon travel preparations, as well as a haircut and a touch of shopping. As long as I stay away from downtown during the worst tourist hours Saturday and Sunday, it should be a delightfully low-key weekend.

Love to all, thinking of my mama and daddy as they arrive home and head back to work…

Jane

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So Much to Talk About

Gosh. I’m going to be a very good blogger for the next few weeks because there isn’t that long until the marathon and I haven’t checked in with you guys lately! Where to begin…

I ran 20(ish) miles on Monday. I happen to know it was a little under because I checked my route against google maps, but I’m counting it, because the run was extremely strong and I could have kept going.

I had the best recovery meal imaginable after class on Tuesday, which was: a grilled cheese sandwich from The Oil Shoppe (semisoft pecorino, sauteed mushrooms, and truffle oil, + 2 fried eggs and pesto on whole wheat bread) and a smoothie from Lovelife juice store, containing dates, mangoes, almond milk, and yogurt. They called the combination: The Marathon. I had no choice but to get it, especially considering my day had no calorie limit. :) I’ve missed my almond milk. I’ve stopped reading a lot of my favorite fitness blogs because of foods I absolutely can’t bear to look at without being able to obtain, actually. I would do anything for a soy or almond milk latte from Whole Paycheck and a bowl of pumpkin oatmeal with raisins and walnuts right now.

About fitness bloggers… I’ve noticed that they occupy a very specific demographic. College-educated, white, mostly women in their late twenties or early thirties, married or in committed relationships, with dogs, often went through some sort of weight loss / healthification process during or after college, most vegetarian or quasitarian, obsessed with pumpkin, and now, many are about to have babies. This is not fair– I can relate to the love of exercise, quasitarian-ness, and pumpkin addiction in the fall, but the rest of it is just not where I am in life right now. Where the heck is my generation? Besides, of course, the Healthy Hipster, who is fabulous. (And her tagline is genius: “too much Pabst makes you feel like crapst.”

Anyway. Other thoughts. Why has Lululemon not yet colonized Western Europe? This seems like an obvious one, folks.

My host father is singing in the living room right now, and the cat Marcello is sitting high up on a bookshelf and looking very cute. Just another day in the Bulli household. And yes, thank you news channel, in case anyone thought Italy was no longer in a crisis, you’ve set us straight– Italy is still very much in a crisis.

I found peanut butter in Florence!! Not just any old peanut butter, but organic peanut butter, and organic chestnut honey to put on crackers as much-needed fuel before my runs. Happy kid right here.

I’ve got a lot to do over the next few weeks, both in preparation for the marathon and in general. I’m spending this weekend with my parents, heading to the Biennial Contemporary Art Festival in Venice the next (!), then midterms, then fall break which I’m very excited about, then the race is the weekend after that! Can you believe it? I’m a little stunned myself. Two more long runs (18 and 20), then 3ish weeks to taper. I’ve read a lot of things that recommend getting new shoes and breaking them in during your taper, and I’m thinking that would be a good idea. I bought my shoes at the beginning of this summer, and they look like they’ve not only pounded out 500 miles, but also spent a week at the bottom of a lake and been dragged behind a train to dry off. You get the idea.

This post is very rambly, but I wanted to check in. Florence is still beautiful, especially in the evening. I ran a 7-mile hill workout today and took a Lit exam, which went pretty well, I think. I’m always nervous about the first test with a new professor. I came up with a brilliant topic for my Lit paper and my Art History paper is looking to be not too shabby, either. Tomorrow my goal is to write even a few lines of poetry. Perhaps even tonight, though I’d have to stay up until 2 to hit my productive zone again… not happening.

How’s the past week or so been for you? Any revelations, epiphanies, or discoveries? Any particularly notable Scrabble words you got to play? One of my favorites ever was “glial” as in glial cells, yes I’m a big dork, and Joe was impressed, but still managed to beat me that game. I could go for a good Scrabble showdown right now. Or Bananagrams.

Anyway.

Ciao,

J.

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Luminoso

The sun shines every day in Florence. It floods the piazzas and famous facades with light, and illuminates different angles of the narrow streets as it travels across the sky.

In this room, high up on the second story of Orsanmichele, the whole space is flooded with light: luminoso, as they say in Italian. There are 360-degree views through giant windows on all four sides of the space of some of the most beautiful buildings in Florence (the Duomo and campanile, Santa Croce’s facade, Palazzo Vecchio, and San Lorenzo’s dome to name a few). The ceiling boards are exposed, and they form a crisscrossing pattern in rich dark brown, a lovely contrast to the white walls and reddish tile floor.

If this space were to come on the market for real estate and I were to come into a huge fortune simultaneously, I would take it, turn it into an apartment, park my Vespa outside, and live there happily ever after.

What I do miss in Florence, though: nature and the stars. Here’s a lovely article, “In Defence of Darkness,” that’s more about being in support of moonlight. Which I most definitely am.

Where would you live, if you could pick anywhere in the world? Do you have a type of residence in mind? A houseboat? A tent? A cabin? A penthouse?

Love,

Jane

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Talking to Myself

Lots of times, when my friends learn that my after-school plans include 16+ mile runs, they wonder how I don’t get bored. The thing is, I look forward to those 2-3 hour blocks of time once a week when I don’t have any assignment but to jog around this beautiful city and get lost inside my head. A long period of time when being introverted and reflective is sanctioned? Yes, please.

So what I do is think. To get warmed up, I usually listen to music because the first couple miles are always the hardest. Then I just think: about my surroundings, about my day, about the Italians or tourists I see, about things my friends have said to me, about where I want to take my parents in Florence, about where I’ve been the past weekend, about anything bothering me, about anything I’m excited about. If you can release your focus on the physical and any tiredness associated with running, and let your mind take you where it will, it passes the time. And quite productively, I’ve found. I’ve begun many a run anxious, tired, confused, homesick, frustrated, or unsure of myself, and never failed to arrive home with a peaceful, centered mind.

Also I try not to blog or write to my friends/family unless I have something to say, and runs are my time for processing the world and helping me articulate my thoughts and experiences to those who I correspond with. So, here are some of those thoughts, a couple of lighthearted lists (you know I love my lists) that have been adding up in my head recently.

Things I Love About Italy

  1. The uniformity of the architecture
  2. Eating dessert for breakfast
  3. Walking, walking, walking
  4. The ease and economy of travel
  5. The beautiful language
  6. How everyone lives outside because of the premium on space
  7. Small children speaking Italian
  8. The things it makes me appreciate about America
  9. Piazzas <– not pizzas.
  10. Views of Florence from any high place
  11. The fruit. Especially the green grapes. Yes, they have seeds. Yes, the seeds are worth it.
  12. How un-intimidating / un-official-sounding the sirens are
  13. Being spoiled. My host mom sets out a tray with a mug and breakfast pastries every morning, and leaves French-pressed coffee in the fridge for me to heat up. Then she cooks me dinner every night, cleans my room and bathroom, and does my laundry. She insists on doing all of that too! It’s Italian culture. I offer to help do dishes all the time but have never been allowed. The best I can do is thank her all the time.
  14. The fact that I’m in Italy, particularly Florence. I get annoyed with its city-ness sometimes, but forget all of that when I can just walk into the Uffizi or Santa Croce or Palazzo Strozzi in my free time.

Things I Miss About America

  1. My family :)
  2. Men with manners
  3. Peanut butter!!!
  4. Soy lattes
  5. Ice
  6. Screens on windows
  7. Video streaming– both Youtube and TV episodes online. Netflix instant doesn’t even work in this country! The injustice!
  8. Cascadian Farm granola sprinkled over WF 365 organic lemon yogurt with half a sliced banana, slivered almonds, and a drizzle of local honey. Specifically. <– you know what I’m gonna be eating as soon as I return to the US!
  9. Cooking and baking
  10. Lululemon and yoga classes and my friends at Lotus
  11. The fact that I’m going to miss Thanksgiving.
  12. The fact that most of the things on this list are food-related, even though I’m in a country renowned for its food

Things Training for a Marathon Has Taught Me

  1. Your boundaries are 75% mental. With proper physical training, diet, and TLC for yourself (see #2-3), plus an unshakably positive attitude, you can do anything.
  2. My body was telling me something by loving dark chocolate.
  3. When you’re given a day to rest, rest. Take a slow stroll. Watch a movie. Eat a plate of pasta….
  4. …..Because the next day won’t be a rest day anymore.
  5. How to listen to myself. To my inner voice, to my body, to my cravings (more for protein and veggies these days… no shortage of carbs in Italia!)
  6. How not to listen to other people. That sounds odd, but I’ve found that peoples’ inclinations (even my parents) are to tell me I’m running too much, pushing too hard, etc. With peers here at school, it’s usually because if I ran less, they would feel better about themselves. With my wonderful Mom and Dad, it’s because they’re concerned about my well-being. But whatever the reason, it’s important to ignore all of their advice and keep after my goal.
  7. That around the first 18-mile run, you no longer feel surprised about long distances. The question becomes not, can I do it, but, when will I fit these annoying long things into my busy schedule?
  8. Uphill climbs make me feel strong.
  9. Downhill slopes make me feel like I could keep running forever.
  10. All foodies should be marathoners. It keeps you trim, and knowing you earned your meal gives you a greater appreciation for it.
  11. I’m more independent than even I thought I was. The possibility of traveling to Greece on my own to run this no longer scares me.

So there’s a peek into what I talk to myself about on long runs. Sometimes I don’t even try to keep up a monologue– I just observe and appreciate where I am. Sometimes those turn out the best and most beautifully surprising, anyway.

Pictured above: View of one of the towns in Cinque Terre; mountaintop yoga; sailboats on the Mediterranean at Cinque Terre

Love,

Jane

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Meeting St. Francis

Because I promised: some reflections on my lovely day at Assisi, exploring the Basilica di San Francesco and taking in the view. I’ll be brief, because really I’m brimming over with excitement about my next post……

I apologize that there is some overlap between the messages I’m transcribing, but it’ll give you a sense of my preoccupations:

To Jeff:

“I wrapped myself in the beauty and wonder of the world by spending almost three hours in the Basilica of St. Francis. The walls and ceilings are covered with splendid frescoes by such artists as Cimabue and (it’s debated) Giotto, depicting the lives of Jesus, St. Francis, St. Martin, St. Mary Magdalene and more. The Romanesque and Gothic arches are covered in bright geometrical designs. The choir seats are made of intricately carved wood. The altar on the second story is directly above the altar on the main floor, which sits directly above St. Francis’ tomb in the crypt. Countless pictures of sick family members, scribbled prayers, and other tokens have been pushed through the iron bars on the sides and back. Several Italians were kneeling there, gripping the bars, fervently praying. When I think that they have sought out this saint, to help their loved ones or themselves, it fills me with wonder and admiration. I thought to myself walking back up the stairs, what if everyone trusted in God the way they do? The world would probably look a lot like it did in the middle ages, but supposing everyone in the 21st century world had entire, unwavering faith in whatever creed they chose, for just one day? I would really like to know what that would look like.

“I could go on and on about Assisi. I’ve attached a picture of the town from the fort on the hill. No photos are allowed in the church, which was a relief, because I was able to sit and let my gaze travel over the walls and ceilings, without worrying about the lighting or my zoom. I remember once you asked me, when I see something beautiful, do I just soak it in, or try to take a picture? Lots of times, with views and quaint things in towns, I photograph them. But I rarely carry a camera on my walks around Florence. I guess I have the luxury of plenty of time here, but as I used to tell the kids at work this summer, “your eyes are your camera. see what you can observe.” In the Basilica, the no-photography rule was a relief, because I got to really be present there. Now, not only do I have a picture in my memory of the church itself, but attached to that picture, I have all the feelings and thoughts associated with my experience of exploring it. Wasn’t finding presentness the whole point of coming to Italy and running a marathon in the first place?”

To Paul:

“The thing I crave is not grandiose gestures but people simply showing that they care. That’s what I started thinking about after exploring the glorious, bright upper nave of the Basilica of St. Francis, with its colorful frescoes, its stained glass, and its intricate wooden carvings on the choir seats, then descending to the more somber but still magnificently illustrated lower nave, and finally going down underground, to the crypt that houses St. Francis’ tomb. I got so much more of a sense of the power of God from the humility of the friars in quiet prayer, and the everyday Italians who made a pilgrimage here to grip the iron bars of Francis’ tomb on behalf of their loved ones or themselves. The three kneeling on the tomb itself were so deep in conversation with God that they didn’t even register the presence of the tourists tiptoeing around them. Upstairs, in all its glory, they had to keep annoucing over the speaker, “SILENZIO,” but in the crypt, no such measures were necessary. The presence of God was so strong that no one dared say anything.”

To Nate:

“When I descended from the colorful upper nave of the Basilica of St. Francis, filled with daylight, into the somberly lit but brilliantly illustrated lower nave, to the silent crypt that houses St. Francis’ tomb, and observed the candlelight, the friars kneeling in the pews, and the ordinary Italians gripping the bars of Francis’ tomb in desperate, fervent prayer, I experienced a longing for the kind of faith that built this magnificent church, and the kind of faith still held by those who, on bended knee, seek out St. Francis in their suffering. And beyond that, I longed for that faith and love to fill every soul in the world. That feeling, not what I felt gazing at Cimabue frescoes or the view from atop the mountain, is the one I keep returning to in the days following my trip.”

Now you can see, if you think I never shut up in my blog posts, it’s not any better in my emails. I should hire an editor.

Have any of you been to Assisi or any pilgrimage church? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Love to all,

Jane

 

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Comfort vs. Suffering

A week or so ago, in one of our email exchanges, Jeff got me thinking about a choice that was first introduced to him during the humanities program at Davidson. And that question is: “do we go out and experience the world, risking suffering, or do we stay in our “comfort zone,” at home or at any place that feels like home?” He said that Dr. Epes pointed out that experience can include reading a book we would not otherwise expose ourselves to (a plug for the Humes program, ha, ha) but Jeff and I both agree it’s unfamiliar experiences in real life that are crucial.

Take us with a grain of salt, though, because we’re both commencing extended stays abroad and are inclined to think our choices are the right ones, so before I segue into a summary of my thoughts on the subject of comfort v. suffering, I’d like to hear your opinions. Mom and Dad? Mrs. Waterman? Friends? When does going outside your comfort zone go too far? Is that even possible? What is the role of that sense of comfort and home? Does home have to be a place, or can it be a person/people? Can somewhere that was once a place of discomfort become a home? Or the other way around? What should the balance between comfort and suffering be? And let’s talk about intellectual comfort v. suffering, too; just like I’m always seeking new physical experiences, I’m always pushing my mind and hardly ever let it settle into a comfortable place. Even the movies I choose to watch for pleasure are thought-provoking.

Even the amount I’ve been thinking about this topic and my decision to try to start a discussion on the blog is an example of my inclination toward suffering. (Not suffering as in excruciating pain, mind you, but… I might be confused about that boundary too, being a distance runner. Ha.)

So.

Because I was adequately articulate on this subject in recent correspondence, here are the highlights:

To Jeff, in response to the original message:

“The reason I’m uncomfortable here at times– certainly not suffering; how can you, in Florence?– but definitely uncomfortable, is that I like order, I like familiarity, and I like things that make sense. Essentially, I like my life to run smoothly and in a way that I can easily make meaning out of it. I’m scared of the silliest things here! I’m apprehensive about buying a train ticket and traveling solo, and the only reason is that I’ve never done it before. I get so, so nervous about the marathon because it’s complicated to get high mileage in such a small city (and to keep my pace slow to prevent burning out when I feel compelled to go fast, because everything else is moving fast… but I’ll touch upon that in a moment.) I’m nervous both walking and running in the street alone because of the culture of men catcalling American students, even though I’m conservatively dressed. And mostly I’m uncomfortable because I don’t have the vocabulary to communicate even the most basic thoughts and ideas. I think we need to strike a balance between comfort and suffering. I am most certainly daring to experience, as are you, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on this once you’ve lived in France for a few weeks, but after a certain period of daring experience, I’d like to go home.”

To Paul:

“I’ve been contemplating the idea of comfort v. suffering quite a lot in the past couple of days, and come to the conclusion that we (you and I; most Davidson students) put ourselves through a lot of ‘suffering,’ namely, pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones, setting lofty goals, striving for self-improvement, etc. The idea of comfort for us registers as apathy or complacency. But I’ve been thinking and I decided that, like most other dualities in life, we need to strike a balance between them. If we keep pushing and working and striving, we’ll run ourselves down. When we take time off to be comfortable, we need to be fully present in that moment and do good things for ourselves. For me at least, I have a lot easier time being present when I’m studying or working toward a goal, than I do when I’m supposed to be taking a break. Instead, that break will be spent planning my next move towards achievement. What I was thinking about as a good example of comfort was last Christmas break (sophomore year). I completely chilled out with the family, slept in, cooked and ate, went on adventures with Dan, spent hours in bookstores, and generally did as I pleased. What I did not do was create a battle plan for second semester, and I’m so glad I didn’t, because that break is one of my best recent memories. In Italy, my consciousness of ‘suffering’ is heightened, in the cultural discomfort, so my appreciation for comfort is sharper. I realized that allowing myself to be comfortable isn’t slacking. It’s what I plan to do, and can’t wait to do, when I return to the United States this winter.”

I wrote each of those messages almost a week ago. The problem with my very diplomatic proclamation of “it’s very simple, you see, you just have to strike a balance” is that since then, Florence has become more of a home, and feels more comfortable every day. As I fall more and more deeply in love with this city, I’m already feeling nostalgic for the day I’ll have to leave it behind.

So tell me, O Wise Readers, what are your thoughts? Comfort or suffering?

Love,

Jane

P.S. The red peppers are my favorite picture I’ve taken so far.

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