Matthew and Ellen in Italy

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

It once was lost, but now...

Sunday night when my dad got back from Tuscaloosa, guess what was sitting on the front doorstep... my bag! I don't know what good person out there in the great wide world procured and delivered my hot pink, allbeit now torn and dirty, to me but I am most greatful. I have been too timid to open it, and I just got in from Tucaloosa myself last night, but I have never looked forward so much to doing laundry! Now I don't have to scavange through the mall and T.J. Maxx for summer clothes.

Yay!
-N

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Home again, home again...

I just couldn't resist adding an addendum to the blog. I am sitting here at Allison's new desk at the University of Alabama reminiscing on my first move in day at Wash U. I miss college! Well, we made it back safely, though tired (22 hours of travel is a lot!). It is actually a miracle that we made it back at all as British Airways is now on strike. The catering company they use went on strike literally right after we got home and the grounds crew soon followed in a sympathy strike leaving over 70,000 people stranded at Heathrow as of this past Tuesday. Who knows what it is up to now. So, we are very gratefull for that little bit of luck. Now I just wish my bag would make it back to me. We found out in Chicago that it didn't make it across the ocean and now I have to deal with the claims department in Dallas, TX and it could take up to 35 more days until I hear anything. Hopefully this means a shopping spree on British Airways! I am definitely in blog withdrawl. I'm sure no one will read this, but I just had to try and let all of our wonderful loyal readers know we are back.

-Nutellen (yes, it stuck)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Thwarted

Well, I just spent an hour writing another terrific blog entry, only to have the computer freeze as I posted it, so I lost everything. I can't conjure it all up again, so here's the short version:

A hearty compleanno felice to my big sister! Since you've been savvy enough to not leave any embarrassing photos of yourself lingering around the internet (unlike some other Habers with recent birthdays), all I can do is post a link to this scintillating expose of the IU meal plan you wrote for the Indiana Daily Student back in 1998. Happy Birthday!

Thursday: Vatican was awesome, Sistine Chapel was amazing, St. Peter's is huge.

Friday: Back to the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and Colosseum, which were really cool. Dinner was a lot of fun.

Saturday: A crazy day of walking, starting with the Circus Maximus, the Baths of Caracalla, the Capitoline Hill Museums, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.

Sunday: Pompeii (see Ellen's post) and a unintended detour to Salerno, which is actually pretty nice.

And here we are on our last day. It's been wonderful sharing this with all of you, and I hope to see you soon! We'll be back in Nashvegas around 8pm CST tomorrow, and probably a little tired. So, sadly, for the last time...

ciao

-M

Our last mission

Today's objective: eat as much gelato as is humanly possible as many times as possible. We are heading to Della Palma, which according to Let's Go has over 100 flavors! That should keep us busy for awhile.

Yesterday's mission of finding ancient erotica in Pompeii was thwarted by scaffolding (the evil stuff). Despite not seeing any frescoed phalli, we had a wonderful time there. It was hot, but we had a wonderful breeze and enough bits of shade to make it quite pleasant. Walking through the streets looking down at the grooves in the stone from chariot wheels and seeing where the meat market was held brought the city alive. Did you know that you can distinguish a residence from a shop by the doorstep? The residence has a smooth step while the shop has a groove in its step because they used sliding doors! Who knew sliding doors were so old!?! Slightly sobered by the casts of some of the bodies of people who died in terrified poses, we were still excited to see grafitti, the ampitheater used for emperor propaganda, the Great Theater, drinking fountains, of which a couple still work, and amazingly preserved frescoes. After an unforeseen detour to Salerno, which included finding a Nutella Point, we arrived back in Rome and crashed. Walking on cobblestone can really wear a person out!

This morning we took it easy and headed over to Chiesa di San Pietro in Vincoli to see Michelangelo's Moses with horn and St. Peter's chains. Our behavior was somewhat irreverent but what can you do when you see such a gross misinterpretation of the Bible in such beautiful form? We took lots of pictures, don't worry.

Well, this may be my last post. I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed sharing with you all that we have experienced here. It has been so exciting to get your feedback and know that we are still connected with everyone back home. Pictures will be posted when we get back so you can really see what we have seen. Thank you so much for keeping up with us while we have been gone and for taking the time to let us know you were reading!

ciao,
Nutellen

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A food synopsis:

So Riva was a little disappointing on the Italian food front, but made up for it ten fold by a meat platter. At the Ristorante Tipica Bavarese we enjoyed, on two separate occasions, a skillet filled with various types of German sausage, sauerkraut and skillet-potatoes, which were obviously fried in bacon grease! Despite the grease-fest, I never felt too full or greasy afterwards, I am happy to say (well, I was either not eating enough or, hopefully, my grease tolerance has increased). I also discovered a new treat: watermelon granita mixed with yogurt granita - it has the illusion of tasting healthy and yummy at the same time. I spent a lot of time at COOP in Riva, which is now my favorite grocery store in Italy - it was so cheap! One day I managed to make us sandwhiches, buy 2 drinks and dessert for 6 euro and 24 cents! I was so proud.

Hopefully we can now return to our pasta smorgasbord here in Rome!

Buon Appetito!
Ellen

A place to enjoy being a nerd

Despite having travelled to Rome before--I was 15 months old, I think--I had no idea what to expect. I'd seen the highlights before on travel shows, while doing a powerpoint presentation for General Tours, and in movies, but I did not know that I would stand in nerdy awe at what I saw last night. Matthew and I decided to take a Night Tour of the big hits, taking 3 hours and ending at the Colosseum (home of the gladiators, not the Titans). At one spot on Capitoline Hill, you could see history right before your eyes starting with The Temple of Saturn from the 5th century BC, the Forum with the Curia (Senate House) from the 1st century BC, the Colosseum from AD 80, the 19th century Vittorio Emanuele II Monument (after which I just might model my wedding cake) and then Via Fori Imperiali, the road Mussolini built in the 1930s to connect ancient Rome with modern Rome (very symbolic). The view was overwhelming and it was difficult to take it all in without getting giddy. So far, even without a culinary experience, I love Rome!

-N

Riva e Roma

Hello everyone!

Sorry for the hiatus there, but it couldn't be helped, as internet points in Riva are rare, and they charge accordingly. So let me catch you up on what we've been up to...

After a great final meal at Acqua al Due with Jeanette and Biagio on Friday night (featuring individual steak samplers for both me and Ellen) we made a final stop to say goodbye to the Duomo on Saturday morning, and then hopped on the train for Riva. Well, technically, we first hopped on a train bound for Rome, then a conductor informed us we were on the wrong train, and we jumped off screaming as the doors shut on my shoulder. But THEN we hopped on the train for Riva.

Three pretty miserable train hours (never travel on a crowded hot Saturday in July in Italy) and a bus ride later, we arrived in beautiful Riva del Garda, a picturesque little beach town on the mountain Lake Garda. Because the wind whips constantly through the valley for hours every afternoon, Riva is a haven for windsurfers-- literally, there were hundreds of them whizzing around the lake all the time. It was really fun to watch. The beaches were pebbles, not sand, but there were several spots of trees and grass that led right up to the water, so we spent most of our time on those. It was marvelous--imagine laying in the park and on the beach at the same time.

So we did nothing for four days--well, one day we walked to a really cool waterfall inside a cave, and one day we rented a paddle boat for an hour, but the rest of the time we spent laying on or walking by the beach. It was fabulous.

I mentioned that Riva is a haven for windsurfers, but more importantly, it's a haven for Germans. The entire town seems to be confused as to whether it's in Italy or Germany, with signs in both languages and menus that feature pizza, pasta, and wiener schnitzel. Ellen did have two fantastic German meals while we were there (the first non-Italian food we'd eaten in a month) featuring lots of sausage and Bavarian mustard and pretzels, served to us by St. Pauli Girls. Okay, they were more like St. Pauli middle-aged women, but now we're splitting hairs and they did have the little dresses on.

After all of this relaxing, Ellen and I were definitely getting restless for some movement--to just stop after we'd been so active for a month got to us, I think. So we left for Rome just in time yesterday morning, and arriving here after a very pleasant (first class) 5 and a half hour train ride.

After checking into our very nice (and theoretically prime-located, right near the train station, but since we aren't taking trains or buses per Il Griffo's Moussad buddies, that thwarts that genius plan) hotel, we took a walking tour of the Centro Storico. Starting in the Piazza Navona, we walked to and learned about the Trevi Fountain, the Vittorio Emanuele II (wedding cake) Monument, the Capitoline Hill, the Ancient Forum, and the Colosseum. It was a really great way to hit a lot of the big things right away and get excited about going back to study them in depth.

Today we're going to take another tour, this time of the Vatican, so I need to go change out of these profane booty shorts I'm wearing, and put on my sacred jeans so that they'll let me in. Goyam are hilarious.

ciao

-M

Friday, July 29, 2005

Firenze, Finito

Sadly, today is our last full day here in Florence. Thankfully, it's been full of adventure. I'll start with last night:

We met Jeanette and her husband (whose name is actually Biagio, and his last name is Clemente) at a steakhouse called La Rotonda at 9pm. Yes, that's what time we eat dinner here. Anyway, La Rotonda is, far and away, the biggest restaurant we've seen--three stories of huge tables designed for large groups. Jeanette had brought along two of her American friends, Erin and Jeniece, and we had a great time with them. Biagio was pretty busy entertaining a bunch of his coworkers, so we didn't get to hang out with him too much. The highlight/lowlight of the meal was the mixed grilled meat platter that Erin and Jeniece shared. It was a highlight because it was a huge plate of various kinds of grilled meat--steak, chicken, sausage, ribs, even lamb--but it was also a lowlight because, after some debate, Ellen and I had decided not to order one. I regretted that decision all night and I regret it now, but my regret was thankfully tempered by the fact that Erin and Jeniece graciously shared their various hot meat with me. It was a fun, great, long (as in we didn't leave the restaurant until after 1am) meal, and Ellen even learned a valuable lesson that I'm sure she'll tell you about.

The late night made for a slightly painful wake-up call this morning, but we had reservations at the Uffizi for 10am, and we wanted to go to the market and to breakfast first. Having the reservation cost us a little more per person, but allowed us to walk right past the throng of poor jealous tourists who probably waited about 2 hours to get into the museum today. The Uffizi is, of course, one of the great art collections in the world, featuring Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Spring, Leonardo Da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi, and other terrific works by Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, Rembrandt, Masaccio, Rubens, and just about any other Renaissance artist you could come up with. We had a great time.

After the Uffizi, we had lunch at Nuovo Gesione, our normal spot, and then decided that it was time to find the Ninja Stairs. Ellen had thought that they might be part of Fort Belvedere, which overlooks the city south of the river, so we climbed about a mile-long hill to get there and find out. There are three possibilities, we discovered:

Possibility One) The Ninja Stairs are not, in fact, at the Belvedere.

Possibility Two) The Ninja Stairs are at the Belvedere, but the staff of said Belvedere is also made up of sneaky Ninjas who are loathe to give up the true nature of the facility.

Possibility Three) I have completely imagined the existence of the Ninja Stairs.

After two hours of searching the hillside in the 100-degree heat, I am of the opinion that any of those three scenarios is possible, and all are, in fact, equally likely.

So now here we are, whiling away the hottest hours in Internet Train, waiting until we can enjoy our final Florentine dinner at, of course, Acqua al Due (reservations at 9:30pm). Jeanette and Biagio will again be joining us, so it should be a great way to close out our time here. I can't express how much we have enjoyed living in Florence--the only consolation we have about leaving is that we are off to more adventures in Riva and Roma. I don't know what the blogging situation is going to be in those places--particularly Riva, where internet access might be sparse. We'll do our best to keep you all up to date. Regardless, it's been so much fun having all of you take part in our time here with your comments.

Tomorrow, we'll be on the 11:49am train to Verona (star-crossed lovers are we) and then on a short bus ride to Riva. Take care until we speak again...

ciao

-M

No formaggio with fish

I learned a very important lesson last night: one of the most un-Italian things to do is order a dish with seafood and then ask for parmigiana. At La Rotonda, I had ordered the Pennette Scampi, which came with the little shrimp (heads and claws included) that you have to crack open. After devouring my shrimp (which I had done the uncouth way by using my fingers), I kindly asked our waiter in my best Italian wine-induced accent, "parmigiana, per favore?" This was met with a gasp of horror and a prompt "No parmigiana con pesce!" Then the waiter got another waiter and he yelled across the room at me the same admonition. Despite receiving the little pot of shredded cheese with a little spoon, needless to say, I did not dare put the parmigiana on my pasta (although I did make a little pile of it on my plate and ate it with my fork Matthew-style). After another few glasses of vino (one of the girls we were sitting with, Erin, was apparently filling my glass when I wasn't looking so I got a little more tipsy than I intended) and after we paid our bill and were heading out, I saw the waiter and said rather loudly, "No parmigiana!" to which I got a rousing reply: "No formaggio with fish!" I think I learned my culinary lesson. For Carmen and other Italian speakers, I think this sums it up.

ciao for now,

Your very chastised Ellen

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Dante's Inferno

First let me say to you all, bravo and grazie for the numerous comments! It was a very exciting moment this morning when we found 14 new comments to read. It really makes the blogging a lot more fun and rewarding. Nothing like terrorism and 90210 to stir the pot. Without further ado...

As we sit here in the computer lab of the Instituto Europeo, Ellen and I are reminded that the Casa di Dante is merely yards away. Literally, about 40. Days like today must have inspired the poet to write the third section of his Divina Commedia, Infierno, because it's hot as hell here. The high this afternoon will be 102, so that means that Ellen and I will be cowering inside the air-conditioned Instituto for as long as possible. The bright side is, that gives us a chance to catch you up on our morning:

We had been waiting for the right day to go to the Boboli Garden. Knowing that a visit there would entail at least an hour and a half or so outside, we were always hesitant to go there after my classes were over, since that would mean going at around 3pm, the hottest part of the day. Since I'm not teaching anymore, though, we decided to go this morning, before it got really hot outside. Of course, this has been the hottest day of the entire summer here in Florence, so even by just after 10am, when we arrived, it must have been in the 90s already. Thankfully, there was plenty of shade, and there's about a fifteen-degree difference between the sun and the shade, something I've only experienced in the mountains. The garden was lovely, and we took a lot of pictures.

Desperate for some air conditioning, we decided to go to the Pitti Palace's "Thea" Room (that was the English translation of the Italian the, or "tea") for lunch. We had some pretty good "fleaky bread" sandwiches, and then explored the Royal Apartments of the Pitti Palace. The palace was home to numerous generations of Medicis for a while during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, and those Medicis like their art. The walls were filled virtually floor to ceiling with portraits, religious paintings, and frescoes. One room would have dozens of paintings on the walls, to the point that we often saw priceless pieces by masters such as Raphael or Titian or Botticelli just stuck comically in a corner or above a doorway. It really was bizarre, but interesting as well. There were also a couple pieces by somebody named Luca Giordano, so Pete and Jan, if you're reading: maybe you could get us a good price?

Afterward, we headed over to the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, which has a famous Masaccio fresco that I really wanted to see. It's his creepy depiction of the Expulsion from Eden, so I thought we'd take a gander. On the way, we saw a small grocery store called "Magi," so I graciously and generously offered to buy Ellen a Gift of the Magi. (ZING!!! I love Christian Renaissance Art humor! You all really should come to Florence so that you find that sort of thing funny.) The gift turned out to be some really bad-tasting orange Propel, but that's neither here nor there. The fresco was really cool, and strangely located about 15 feet off the floor on the archway to a chapel in the church. That's why I love seeing these things in person--you never know when a famous work of art is going to turn out to be painted on some doorway.

(Incidentally, Adam and Eve in the painting look a lot like Ellen and I trudging through the 102 degree heat. The only differences are that unfortuntely we're wearing clothes, and I don't think the Angel of Death is chasing us with a sword. But I can't be positive about that.)

Tonight, Ellen and I are going out with Jeannette and her husband Biagio and bunch of their friends--some of whom will actually be Italian! So that should be a lot of fun.

We only have 1 more full day in Florence! I can't believe it.

ciao

-M

An atypical combination

While we were in La Carraia this afternoon, I ordered Yogurt di Amerena (Cherry) with Mousse di Tiramisu. As I was handed my cone, I heard an Italian man behind me say (according to my limited ablility to understand Italian): "Gross, that is such an atypical combination. Uh, Americans!" Well, my American sensiblilites led me to discover an excellent combination that I just may repeat tonight.

It's time to step outside the box.

ciao,
Ellen

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Re: Ellen's Melancholy over Comments

In case you didn't notice, Ellen was a little disappointed that her previous post received no comments. I'd like to take this opportunity to gently remind her that comments stem from conversation-sparking posts. Up until now, I guess people were just content talking about us. I can see how we'd all be a little weary of that after a few weeks. So, here are some topics to stir up a little conversation:

Topic 1 (from Ellen): Matthew is mean. Discuss. Wait--crap, that's about us too.

Topic 2: My father now checks the web site of former Moussad agents religiously. This before going on a trip to Israel in a few weeks. Is that supposed to make me feel better or worse?

Topic 3: According to our site meter's time zone breakdown, our blog has received at least one hit from Canada or eastern Alaska, as well as one hit from either Western France or West Africa. Let's all take this time to shout out both the Northwest Territories and all my homies in Ghana! Or maybe Dad has been telling all his Nigerian friends about the blog.

Topic 4: At any given moment, Steven could run into a former cast member of 90210. That would get me up in the morning.

Topic 5: After 3 consecutive non-us topics, Ellen and I have realized that it's hard to think of any more topics of conversation that aren't related to ourselves. Now we feel bad.

Topic 6: In case you didn't know, Gmail makes its money by scanning my emails and then generating advertisements based on what's written in the emails. Today, my email from the Princeton Review's teacher software people had an ad for Kaplan in it. Hate those guys.

Topic 7 (also from Ellen): Why were there no Bertie Bott's Every-Flavor Beans in the latest Harry Potter book?

Topic 8: Two things that make everything better: Olive Oil and Parmesan cheese. I defy you to prove that theory wrong.

Well, hopefully that will stir the pot a little. Today is my last day of class (I can't believe it), and then I'm not sure what we'll do this afternoon, since we've seen about as many churches as we can handle for a week or so. Hopefully there won't be many churches to see in Rome.

ciao

-M

PS- one more quick story: Yesterday, as Ellen and I were souvenir shopping, I wearing my Princeton Review t-shirt that says "PUZZLED?" on the front, an Italian vendor looked at me and said, "Arrrrre you pahzzled?"

I responded with the standard Italian response to whether or not they speak English: "A leetull beet."

He exuberantly shouted back at me, "Pahzzled for buyeeng nieece layther jahcket?!" and pointed at his selection.

Then together we yelled, "ohhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

It was a moment.

In case you were wondering

Every afternoon, Matthew and I quickly race to the Internet Train highly anticipating the comments of our family and friends across the pond. Much to our disappointment, however, there are none today. Despite our deep depression, we will forge on blogging in hopes that eventually, someone out there that loves us will respond...

yours sadly,
Ellen