My group didn’t stay long after arriving in Arezzo. The class had day trips planned by train back and forth from Arezzo to Florence for three days. However, my group of friends wanted the full taste of Florence, so we booked a hostel and stayed the night while the rest of the class returned to Arezzo. Not only did we get to see Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s Venus, and the Duomo, we also got to celebrate my roommate, Katie, turning 21. There was so much to be happy about! My class had the good fortune of visiting the Accademia shortly after the long standing “no foto” rule had been done away with. We were free to take as many photos of Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece as our hearts desired. David was splendid, a true Renaissance classic. The unfinished statues that lined the hall leading to David were equally impressive. They gave an insight to Michelangelo’s creative process and put into perspective the talent required to transform marble into an anatomically ideal human figure. Among the unfinished statues is Michelangelo’s St. Matthew. Being commissioned during a very busy time in Michelangelo’s life, and the commission having been returned (one of only two commissions returned by miserly Michelangelo), my professor, an expert on Michelangelo, has a theory Michelangelo never touched St. Matthew. It’s interesting that such a piece is still valued enough to be displayed along with Michelangelo’s more authentic works.
After the class returned to Arezzo for the evening it was time to explore the Florentine nightlife. Two of my friends from OU happened to be living in an apartment right near the Duomo, so we met up with them for aperitivo. At the restaurants that host aperitivo there are large tables set up in front of the bar with heaps of hors d’oerves and delicious appetizers. One simply has to buy a cocktail and can then enjoy the spread at no extra cost. Eventually we made our way to Club Twenty-One, where, ironically, the birthday girl enjoyed the privileges of joining club 21 in the US. The next day we met up with our class at the Piazza Della Repubblica before setting out for the Uffizi gallery. The Uffizi was so full of outstanding art that we did not even have time to cover all of the major superstars of the Renaissance. Naturally, we saw Botecelli’s Birth of Venus and his Primavera. We saw the Duke and Dutchess of Urbino, the Venus of Urbino, Bacchus, and many other priceless works. I could have stayed all day. We visited the Boboli gardens, Villa Medici, and Villa Gamberaia. All were breathtaking examples of Renaissance and Mannerist gardens. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I’m enjoying the landscape architecture portion of the class. It was a completely foreign subject to me, but now I have a wonderful, new appreciation for the design of outdoor spaces.
After enjoying the treasures of Florence, my class had a free weekend to explore Italy on our own. Some students went to Cinque Terre and Positano, but most of us went Sorrento. We took a train from Florence to Naples. Naples was not what I was expecting at all. It was very dirty and much more industrialized than the other places I had visited. Supposedly Naples has relatively more crime too. The train we took from Naples to Sorrento was called the “Pickpocket Express.” We didn’t have any problems, but it was awfully sketchy. We arrived pretty late in Sorrento, but the little town was still very much awake. It was gorgeous! There were colorful flowers everywhere, yellow and white buildings, and cute little cafés spilling into the streets. There were people of all ages, quite a few older people, and a ton of English tourist. My group of friends rented two apartments. They were massive in comparison to the hotels we’ve been occupying. My apartment was two stories tall with the living rooms and kitchen on the bottom level and the bedrooms overlooking them as a balcony on the upper floor. I had a canopy, queen size, ridiculously comfortable bed. The apartments cost no more to rent than an average hotel. I would go back and stay again in a heartbeat. In fact, I would love to live there in a little apartment. I loved everything about Sorrento. The next morning I grabbed a quick breakfast at the market, and a group of 18 of us OU students met at the Piazza Sant Antonino for the much anticipated “booze cruise.” My friends Katie and Nicole organized private boats to take our group around the island of Capri. A bus took us down to the dock were two boats were waiting for us. The captains were Mario and Luigi, just like the Nintendo characters. We set out into the most unbelievably crystal clear blue waters. The weather was perfectly sunny. As I mentioned, the trip was called a booze cruise, so naturally drinks as well as food were provided. It was the time of my life. The boats would stop in surreal, exquisitely beautiful grottoes for us to swim in the still, electric blue waters and switch from one boat to another. There were waterfalls and caves. Everyone had a ball as we sailed around the delightful green island emerging from the royal blue sea. After we stopped for lunch we went to a beautiful grotto where there were a few jellyfish incidents. I wasn’t stung, but my friend got attacked pretty badly. She had to be peed on, but she recovered! We landed around 6:30 or 7:00 and ate dinner at maybe the best kebab place yet. That night Italy played England in the World Cup. With all the English tourist and the native Italians, things got pretty wild. After Italy won, everyone took to the streets, nearly rioting, stopping traffic, jumping on cars, cheering madly. It was quite the scene. Football is my new favorite sport. I’ve devoted the past few weeks to researching the teams, reviewing stats, reading about players, and watching as many matches as possible. I’m getting a jersey before I come back home (if I have enough euros). The Italy game was an exciting end to a perfect day.
The next day we returned to Arezzo, where everyone was preparing for the greatest event in town. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the Saracen Joust is a tradition that is wildly celebrated in this town proud of its history. The week leading up to the Joust is full of jovial festivities. It deserves it own post. For now I must go, but expect to hear about the Joust soon!