Thursday, January 29, 2009

Second Day Trip...

On Tuesday we had our second day trip of the semester.  We traveled by bus to Pavia and Vegivano.  Both of these stops are smaller Italian towns north of Genova.  Our first stop was at an active monastery that was originally built in 1396 called Certosa Di Pavia.   A "monk" who was originally from New Jersey gave us a tour through the cathedral and then throughout the monastery.  It is a very interesting life that these men live. Here are some photos from the monastery.

Later we toured some local universities and also some public squares.  Pavia and Vegivano are both well known for great universities.  

Sorry for the lack in detail but during the trip i became deathly ill with a two day virus so I have been recovering the last couple of days.  Friday morning we are leaving for Florence, Siena, and Rome, for ten days.  So, I won't be able to up date my blog until we get back on February 10th.


Well, we found some ice in Torino, and tried a little dancing...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Skiing on the Alps in Bardonecchia

This past weekend was absolutely amazing! First of all I want to report that everyone returned from a weekend of skiing in one piece.  Saturday morning we boarded a train to Torino, Italy for a day of site seeing ad then off to Bardonecchia on Sunday for skiing.  Torino is a beautiful old city in Northern Italy, about two hours above Genova.  My first experince on the train went smoothly as I slept most of the way.  After getting to Torino, we found our hostel and check in.  I was a little nervous about staying in a hostel because this was also a first but to my surprise it was very clean.  At the cost of 15 Euro a night it was really good.  The rest of the day was spent site seeing.  Since we will be going to Torino again for one of our "Day Trips" for our architecture history class we focused on seeing a lot of the more modern architecture.  Torino was the site of the 2006 Winter Olympics so there had a been a lot of new improvements to the city in the last couple of years.  Early the next morning we boarded another train to Bardonecchia.  After about an hour of traveling deep into the Alps we reached a skiers paradise.  I had never seen as much snow that was on the ground in my life.  It was up to my shoulder in places.  Whole houses and cars were almost or completely covered with snow.  Camp Smith, the ski resort was bustling with people of all ages.  It boasted 40 runs and 20 lifts all of which were open.  Making it very easy to get up and down the mountain without any waits.  After a few minutes of confusion and trying to communicate with Italians we rented our gear and headed for the slopes.  Only skiing a couple of times in North Carolina I considered myself a beginner and wanted to head to the "bunny slope" for some warm ups.  But some of my group insisted that I would catch on quickly and that there was no need to waste time on the "bunny slope."  So we jumped on the chair lift and headed up the mountain.  When reaching the top I was amazed at the amount of small children.  Most of them could not have been any older than 5 or 6 at the most and they knew exactly what to do.  I was embarrassed to try to ski next to them.  They were very impressive and skillful skiers.  The first couple of times down were miserable for me. I slid down the slope more than I skied.  But it did not take to long before I caught on.  It was really a great time.  I have attached a few photos from the day below.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Well I'm back in Business...

The last couple of days have been really busy with class.  But it has been really exciting and interesting, so I have not minded. First of all I have finally made it to the Mac store and retrieved my charger. So I am able to use my computer whenever I need t
o.  Yesterday we went on our first "Day Trip" which we will do every Tuesday.  This trip consisted of touring the port and surrounding area of Genova.  When we got up it was pouring down rain and very cold but that did not stop our professor. He was ready to face the elements and we were not to complain. So we trotted through the wet and cold streets like little soldiers, ready to learn about great Italian architecture.  Our first stop was just a quick tour and background of the harbor.  From there we took a boat out of the harbor and toured the port and surrounding site from the water.  Several sites that we visited were, the Genova Light House (La Laterna), the Prince Palace (Palazzo Del Principe), and La Commenda Di Pre' a important hospital centre for knights, monks, and pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land in the 12th Century. My favorite stop of the day was at the Prince Palace.  This place was the mansion and headquarter
s of Andrea Doria from 1466-1560. The architecture, art, and interior design in this palace was amazing.  I was especially interest in the molding and fire place mantels.  The mantels were made of a black marble that was one of a kind, from this region of Italy.  The gardens surrounding the palace were also beautifully manicured.  Lemon and orange trees framed the building in a typical Italian terraced style garden.  The day was most enjoyable despite the weather and I look forward to future day trips.  

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Day to Day activities

Well, we are approaching two weeks already, living in Genova.  Time is flying by and its probably only going to get faster now that classes have started and our trips will begin soon.  Over the last couple of days we have had a couple of more classes and also took on daily chores.  I have been chosen as "the milk man" for the group.  Every morning or at least every other morning I walk about three blocks down the street to retrieve milk for that days meals.  It's not a hard job and it keeps me from laying in bed until classes start.  The first day that I went I was a little uncertain about were to go.  So I went into this small grocery store and in my attempt to speak Italian I said, "Buongiorno" which means good morning.  Well, the store clerk responded to me by saying in very good English, "You must be from Clemson."  Since then I have made several more trips to retrieve milk and it is very nice to talk to someone that can speak English well.  
Professor Barbara, our sweet Italian professor has finally left to return to Clemson.  Now that we have completed our "crash course" in Italian this coming weekend is going to be available for travel.  And we are already planning a ski trip to Torino, Italy. It is located in Northern Italy in the Alps just below Switzerland.  Torino was host to the Winter Olympics a couple of years ago.  I am looking forward to traveling and seeing a new place.  Two weeks in this villa can sometimes get a little old.  I think the plan as of now is to leave Friday after class and sleep in a hostel in Torino.  Ski all day on Saturday and then tour around the city on Sunday.   
Tomorrow we will be touring around the Genova for our first day trip.  I will finally learn about all the sites that I have seen the past couple of days.

And lastly today I had two failed attempts at getting any errands done.  First, I woke up  this morning early to try to make it to the Apple Store before our studio started.  So after retrieving the milk, I started on the long trek to retrieve my charger.  Checking the time before I left and again after getting to the Apple Store I clocked my walk at about 40 minutes.  Only to get to the Apple Store to learn that the store was close Monday mornings and opened at 3:00 until 7:00.  I wanted to cry but there was nothing I could do but turn around and walk back.  I took a different approach back and stopped into a couple of interesting shops and art galleries.  This afternoon I walked to the bank and post office only to learn that they are only open Monday mornings and closed the rest of the afternoon.  So I will have to try to run my errands another day I guess.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Both pictures were taken from the balcony off of my room.

Above is a picture I took of a Genovese sunset over the Apennines Mountains with the Genova light house in the foreground.

1st Day of Class

Well we have officially started classes today.  My schedule for a typical week is as follows:

Monday: 3:00-7:00 Design Studio
Tuesday: Tuesdays are typically reserved for day field trips for Design Seminar with Professors  Giuditta Poletti and Benhard Sill.
Wednesday: 9:30-12:30 Architectural History
       3:00-7:00 Design Studio
Thursday: 3:00-7:00 Design Studio
Friday: 9:30-12:30 Modern Architecture, Urban and Region Seminar

Our Travel Schedule includes two ten day trips and one independent travel.
1st Trip
January 30th thru February 8th 
Florence, Rome and surrounding areas
Independent Travel
March 15th thru March 22nd 
To be decided...
2nd Trip
April 3rd thru April 12th
Bologna and Venice 

Now that we have our schedule I can now begin to plan for weekend trips and for independent travel.  There are many places I would like to see but four months just does not leave enough time.  That is kind of hard to believe right.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Moving along...

We have finally started some classes this week. Every morning until Monday of next week we will be taking a "crash course" in Italian. Basically it will help us be able to get around and ask for basic everyday things. It is going fairly well and I have picked up some phrases.
Our studio professor Bernard Sill, from Clemson, arrived Sunday afternoon and seems very nice. He is originally from Germany but has never been to Genova, Italy. But he definitely knows how to get around Europe, so that should be helpful.

Yesterday for our dinner time meal, Angelina, our cook, prepared a very interesting dish. I am not sure the name of the dish but it consisted of spinach, onions, peppers, and squid! It was basically like a goulash or succotash. But Italians take a strong pride in their cooking so we were all strongly encourage to try it. I managed to stomach several bites of this concoction but eventually had to surrender to its relentless coarseness. As I looked at our meal, I saw a reoccurring pattern. The second day of our trip we were served potatoes and broccoli medley. I found it to be very appetizing but there was quite a bit left over. Italians, as do my parents and grandparents, have a hard time wasting food so the next day, we had a broccoli and potato quiche. On the fourth day, there was a huge pot of boiled mushrooms and onions fixed and yet again, there were left overs. The very next day, one of the side dishes was mushroom quiche. So as I was sitting at dinner, I shared my revelation with my classmates to prepare themselves for squid quiche!!

I finally made it to the Apple store! It was about a 30 to 45 minute walk but it was worth it. The store owner was very helpful and especially liked it when I used my broken Italian to try to communicate. It went very smoothly and I should have a new charger in a few days. Today our Italian professor is taking us to a cell phone store so that we can purchase phones, so that we will be able to communicate with our classmates in case we were to get lost or stranded during our stay in Italy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Little Background on Genova

Just to give you a little background on the city of Genova itself, Genova is an important seaport in northern Italy. The population is about 620,000 and has an urban population of about 890,000. It is also called la Surperba (the super one) due to its glorious past. Genova sits among the Apennines Mountains which makes its difficult to walk around due to its hilly terrain. It is a beautiful city with many design and architecture elements of which we will be studying. Genova reached its height in power in the middle ages around the 12 century and was also the home of Christopher Columbus.

The First 5 Days

Getting to Genova...

After having little to no trouble getting from the United States to London, Leslee and I boarded a plane to Genova. This was only supposed to be a two hour flight but turned into a day long adventure. We sat on the plane for an hour due to reported wintery weather in Genova. After taking off, I was quickly asleep and awaiting my home for the next four months. The turbulence was awful when approaching Genova and the visibility was nonexistent. Our pilot tried unsuccessfully twice to land in Genova but the weather was uncooperative. Instead we were redirected to Pisa which is about a three hour bus ride south of Genova. Luckily we had no problem retrieving our luggage and we were able to get to the villa quickly after arriving in Genova.

Snow covered the streets and cars in Genova but I was not interested playing in it, but only trying to get unpacked and settled in my new home. Our villa is almost on top of the mountain overlooking the city of Genova and its sea port. The villa consists of three stories. The first floor is the kitchen and dining area. We have a cook, Angelina, who cooks for us three meals a day but only during the week. The food is really good and you never have to worry about going hungry. The next floor is the professor's residence, office, and our studio space. Off from the studio space is our own private garden, complete with patio and fish pond. The space is planted with native plants of Genova as well as orange trees, grape fruit, and banana. It also has some familiar flora such as the southern magnolia and loquat. It is really an impressive garden with views to the sea. The third floor consists of 5 bedrooms for students and 6 bathrooms. It also includes a guest room, with a sleeping porch and private bath. The three bedrooms on the front of the house all have access to a balcony. Luckily Leslee and I were some of the first students to arrive and we were able to pick the rooms and beds that we wanted. I have 5 other roommates that are all architect majors from Clemson, of whom I did not know until I arrived. There are 16 students in total this semester all taking the same classes. It is a mix of undergraduate and graduate students in the villa but everyone will be taking the same course load. Also some of the graduate students are married and their spouses decided to come along to support their husbands and wives. Everyone is very nice and are from all walks of life but it seems that we will get along just fine.

After getting settled in, we made contact with family and friends and fell asleep quickly.

With our professor not arriving until Sunday we had a couple of days to tour around the city and explore for ourselves. The first outing consisted of us getting lost and wondering around the city for a couple of hours trying to find our way back. But as more outings continued, we quickly learned the routes and I am sure we will learn more as time goes on.
I am not mentioning the sites visited yet because I am sure we will have several trips around the city with our class. We will learn more about these sites and I will be able to explain them in much greater detail.

About the second day I realized that my new Apple computer charger was not working and that was going be a problem. I could not afford being cut off from the rest of the world (and especially Anne) for four months so luckily my classmates and I went on a trek to find an Apple store. We walked literally for miles (not yet knowing the routes of the public transit) and ran across a store called "Saturn." It was equivalent to a Best Buy for us and they were helpful but they could not help me. But they told us of an Apple store in Genova that I could go to that would fix it. I have not made the journey but hopefully in the coming days we will be in that area and I can get a new charger. For now I am borrowing a charger from Lindsey, a fellow classmate from Pelzer, SC.

We have gone out a couple of nights with a "friend of the villa". Lucca is a resident of Genova that makes it a point to meet the current students of the villa and show them around town. He took us a pizzeria which served the best pizza and beer. You can not even image the amount of toppings and options you have on a pizza in Italy. After leaving the pizzeria, Lucca took us to two places to drink wine. The first place was similar to a small library with book shelves complete with a fire place. We had a glass of red wine (Merlot) there before heading out to my favorite place so far. This next place was so cool. It was a small bar that looked like a "hole in wall" from the outside but the inside was amazing. The walls were stucco with exposed brick supporting these huge oak like beams. The floor had two round holes in the center of the room covered in glass which used to be the top of a well. Looking through these holes one could see a tiny room with a glass floor. This room was once the actual well. The floor of this room was complete made of glass and you could see water flowing underneath you feet. I tried my first glass of Chianti (not sure the spelling) wine. It supposed to be a great Italian wine that is inexpensive but really good. Lucca introduced us to some of his friends and we all had a good time.

The next night we attended a play in which I did not understand a word and was totally confused. Even though the play was an Italian tragedy I found it quite comical. Afterwards we had a quick bite to eat and a beer before going home.

Classes will begin this week and I will then know more about a daily schedule and also our travel schedule for the semester. Tonight our Italian teacher is taking us to her favorite restaurant thats supposed to have authentic Genovese cuisine.