Sunday, September 27, 2009

I Love Gravity

This blog pays tribute to gravity. Who thought that 9.8 meters per second squared would have such an effect on all of our lives, or buildings in Pisa. The infamous leaning tower is so well known all because of gravity (and a sandy foundation - primary song anyone?) and I think it's amazing that the thing is still standing.
Now who in their right mind would climb to the top of a building that is structurally unsound? I guess I would! I was pretty nervous when the group leader said we would be climbing it simply because it seems a little ridiculous to knowingly endanger myself. I did it anyway. And I had fun. While climbing around and around I could feel which way the tower was leaning according to the way that gravity was pulling me. I was being pulled to the center of the staircase, the outside of the staircase, and forward and backward. It's fun to feel that sensation but it's also scary because if you fell down those stairs that would be a sincere beating up and down. It didn't help that the stairs were highly polished and uneven which made them very slippery. Good thing I'm coordinated, sort of. I would have recorded the experience but my camera battery was dying and I had to save some battery life for the typical "push the leaning tower up" pictures! I'm touristy and it's ok!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Cooking class again today and it was delicious as always! We made mushroom crostini, pecorino and pear risotto, chicken with pepperoni (bell peppers), and tiramisu. Everything tasted so amazing and it was fairly simple. I'm currently formulating a list of food items that I'm planning on bringing home so that I can try to recreate these recipes.
Last night we went to a Calcio game (soccer) and it was so much fun! The fans are insanely passionate about their team that they even have organized chants and songs that everyone knows. Siena played Verona and therefore it wasn't a very exciting game (they tied 0-0) but I think it was a good introduction course for Italian soccer.
On the way home it was dark and late and I was walking home with Elizabeth. A man pulled over and asked us if we wanted a ride (in Italian) and we kindly said no thank you and he drove away. A couple minutes later the same man pulled over again and asked us if we wanted a ride. We said no again and he drove away. Thankfully he didn't follow us or come back again so we felt fine about it. I was glad that I did have a cell phone just in case. We also used common knowledge - be bold and confident. We were totally fine. I don't know if the man was just being nice but we were still cautious. It's safe here in Siena, and I'm a smart girl. "Taxi cabs are so expensive, want to share?" -Taken
I'm doing really well and enjoying everything about my trip so far. We're planning a trip to Cinque Terra during conference weekend. Lovely. Life couldn't be better!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A New Week

Sunday was very interesting. Our host family had another family over for lunch where I saw the epitome of true Italian conversation. The entire dinner consisted of everyone talking at the same time, sometimes there would be a spurt where only 2 or 3 were talking, but there were always multiple people talking. It was very interesting to watch because they all fight for the attention of others and whoever has the best idea or the funniest story wins SOME attention. It was very overwhelming and I just stopped trying to understand what was going on. I just talked to Elizabeth quietly - and we took turns. Then we went on a walk with the family and I think Benny smoked at least 5 cigarettes. Chimney. He also insisted on buying us gelato on the Sabbath (that buys me another chat with the bishop I suppose). Benny is an interesting fellow who has taken a liking to Elizabeth. She has been a little weirded out by him paying a lot of attention to her and brushing her bangs out of her face, but supposedly that is custom for Italians in general. That's their way of accepting you and including you in with the family. Things will be fine, we just need to culturally adjust.
Although Sunday was a little overwhelming, the thought of the start of a new week was refreshing.
Monday: class until FHE, then dinner, then bed.
Tuesday: class until visiting the Duomo, Piccolini Library, and the Baptistry of Siena at 3.
Wednesday: class, street market, and Calcio (soccer game)! (Siena v. Verona - Siena's the best)
Thursday: cooking class (my favorite), visit San Caterina Church
Friday: class and nothing else
Saturday: Pisa and the Basilica
My Italian is getting better day by day. The only thing holding me back is my pride. I get too embarrassed when I say things incorrectly. I'm starting to get past that and I've seen some drastic improvement. I'm understanding things in class and it's so much fun. Hopefully I'll continue to improve.
Gelato Count: 15


This weekend I was hoping to just be able to relax and stay in Siena for once. Although that wish didn't come true, I got to go see the Volturi and eat world famous gelato. Not bad for one weekend right? First we went to a town called San Gimignano (San Jee-meen-YAH-no). This city was once home to almost one hundred tall towers that families lived in. They built their homes in towers to protect themselves from invasion from other cities. They didn't build stairs in their casaterra (tower house) but just built ladders so that when people did invade, all they had to do was pull up their ladders and they would ward off invaders. Smart. We went to the town hall where there was an art museum - fairly interesting but nothing special to say the least. The coolest part was climbing to the top of the tallest tower and viewing the entire bird's eye view of the city. Che Bellissima! After that we ate at a gelateria that has won the title of the world's best gelato for 3 years straight now. It was seriously the most heavenly tasting gelato I've ever eaten. It was so creamy and the flavors were simply phenomenal. I got pistacchio, cioccolato fondente, and cocco (coconut). Divine.
Next stop was Volterra, the setting for the New Moon (Twilight Series) book and movie. I was slightly tempted to buy a tacky shirt that had a huge picture of Edward and Bella on the front with Volterra written underneath. Needless to say, I didn't buy it. Non-buyers remorse? Maybe. I can always go back right? If anyone else wants nick-knacks such as an alabaster apple that says Twilight on the front - let me know. We also went to an Etruscan museum and quite honestly, once you've seen one, you've seen them all. They are full of sarcophagi, urns, some jewelry, and pottery. There, now you have basically been to one. That's Volterra in a nutshell, no need to go (unless you are going for the tacky shirt).

Friday, September 18, 2009


Relaxation! What a lovely day! I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single minute of it. We had a lecture early this morning on Etruscan history. It sounds pretty lame, I find any phrase involving the word lecture to be dull, but the man knew a lot about Etruscan influence in Italy. Immediately after the lecture I went to my first day in the cooking lab. AMAZING!! Seriously, I can't wait to come home and cook for everyone! Americans have a unique and incorrect perception of Italian food. We think that Italian food is complex - false. Italian food is all about choosing the best ingredients and using simple clean flavors that are enjoyable to taste.

Yummy cookies we made.

Rolling out pasta for the ravioli.

On the menu for today:
Insalata Caterina:Salad with arugula (peppery lettuce), spinach and 4 other greens. Garnished with pecorino and dry ricotta cheese with balsamic vinegar, oil, and salt. It is so simple but so delicious.
Spinaci Ravioli: Homemade pasta ravioli (wohoo I made pasta) with spinach, ricotta, basil, and parmigiano reggiano filling. This was dressed with a cooked tomato, garlic, and basil sauce.

Vitello con Limone: Veal cutlets with lemon sauce served with grilled pumpkin was our secondo.

Biscotti: For dolce (dessert) we made biscotti (Italian hard cookie) which had almonds, lemon and orange zest, and pinenuts.

Everything tasted so good and it was very simple to understand and make. I'm excited to share it with all of you!

We came home after that (and after a quick gelato trip). Benny (my host dad) got home from his business trip today and brought home Mozzarella Bufala (Mozzarella from buffalo milk) sourdough bread and some other surprises. Elizabeth's favorite part of his surprise was the living creatures he brought home too (oysters and clams) along with some freshly caught fish from this morning (thankfully not alive). I'm lucky because this family knows how to eat. We had clam spaghetti a few days ago...buonissima!
As we were cooking Benny turned some music on and he started teaching us how to dance like Italians. It was hilarious because I was so terrible. We kept saying, take a picture - I did take pictures but my blog is being lame and won't post any. When it starts working you'll enjoy seeing how awkward I look in the photo.
Another funny thing that came up today was wine and liquor (any alcohol in general). Benny said, "It's too bad you don't drink this because it is very good. Mormon." He kept offering us different kinds of alcohol and we just politely refused. He's a persistent little man because Elizabeth is 98% sure that the 3 different kinds of dessert they gave us tonight contained alcohol. I didn't really notice (me being naive) so of course I ate them all. Elizabeth was sitting next to me trying to either gag it down or explain that she's too full to eat anymore. Oh funny. Should I talk to the bishop about it? Shoot!
We finished off the night by playing Wii with Giuseppe and Alberto. I feel right at home.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Firenze = Florence. We took a quick trip to Florence today since it's only about and 80 minute bus ride from Siena. We went and visited the Baptistry and Duomo where I had to present The Gates of Paradise to all of the girls. It went well but I'm glad it's over. We also climbed to the top of the campanile (belltower) which included a lot of stair climbing. Excuse for another gelato right? From the top of the campanile we had and amazing view of Brunelleschi's dome and got to see the lovely terracotta rooftops.
We also went shopping at the street market near the Duomo. I love to barter, it's a new found hobby I suppose. I purchased and bartered for a darling mustard yellow wallet and I'm so excited about it. Sad as it may sound, this is my first real wallet. I feel like a new woman. Anyway, I'll be back to Florence a lot so if anyone is interested in anything let me know. Florence has a lot to offer. Handbags, scarves, belts, jackets, jewelry (my personal favorite) and soccer jerseys (sorry, no gelato). Life is good here, it's a little rainy but it's great!
Gelato count: 10

The Gates of Paradise
Brunelleschi's Dome in Florence

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pecorino, Parmigiano Reggiano, Balsamic, and Prosciutto

We had the opportunity to go to a cheese, meat, and vinegar market. Gino Cacino taught us all about the process of parmegiano reggiano, balsamic vinegar of Modena, and specialty meats unique to Siena.

Some interesting facts I learned:
-Parmigiano reggiano is tested by a professional cheese tester after the first year of aging to make sure it's a quality cheese. The cheese that is rejected is still ok to purchase, it's just not certified so it will be a little cheaper and a little less tasty.
-Pecorino Cheese is a Sienese specialty. Back in the day there were a lot of sheep in the area and therefore they were able to use sheep milk to make cheese. There is pecorino fresca that is very soft and comparable to Muenster cheese - this type had to be eaten within 15 days or it will go bad. It's delicious. Another pecorino cheese is preserved by being coated in tomato (for its acidic quality to eliminate bacteria - yay food microbiology) and it's left to age. It's a little less moist and more flavorful than the pecorino fresca.
-Balsamic vinegar is left in wooden barrels to age. The longer it ages, the more valuable it becomes. They sell 40 year old balsamic vinegar that is 30 euro= $45 USD for 1.3 oz. I didn't get to taste it but they claim that it's really sweet and absolutely delicious - hence the price per oz.
-The Sienese people were overtaken by Florence and their spices used to preserve their meat was taken away. They then had to find a new way to preserve meat and used fennel to do the job. This type of salami with fennel is now considered a food eaten to celebrate Siena's new found independence from Florence.
-Jon pointed out that in Tuscany there isn't salt in the bread. This is because salt was very expensive (salary and salt have the same derivative) and they needed it to preserve their meat. All of their salt went to the meat. It was also a benefit and continued tradition because their meat is so salty that they didn't want to combine salty bread with salty meat so they have kept it that way since. Neat right?

I LOVE FOOD - particularly Italian food, real Italian food.
I want Gino's job, I got a picture with him but another girl has it. I'll post it here when I get it from her.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The First Day of School

Today was the first day of school. Dante Alighieri is amazing and my Italian class is going to be a blast. It is going to be challenging but so worth it. Hopefully I’ll be able to study hard and start speaking well. The view from the school is amazing and I feel so blessed to be able to study in such a lovely area around so many good people. I feel like the luckiest girl in the whole world.

After class we went and got gelato (regardless of the freezing cold rain). White chocolate and mint was the flavor of choice for the day and it was so good. I now have an official gelato count going: 7. Every post I'll update it.

We ate dinner with my group tonight. The chef whom I will be studying under here in Siena prepared the meal and it was amazing. It made me ten times more excited to start working with him. We got the recipe booklet already - YUMMY!

Gelato count: 9

School Night

Sunday was great. We literally quadrupled the branch size - it’s so small that a missionary is the Branch President. It was neat to see that the church is the same everywhere (except the sacrament bread, it’s definitely more delicious here). We had school orientation later that afternoon - can I say back to school night all over again. It was fun because the cute man, Dr. Bonomi, showed us where our classes were and how to get to the cafeteria. The orientation took way longer than we thought it would and me and Elizabeth hadn’t quite figured out the bus system. We got on a bus but actually got on the wrong one. We ended up having to ride the bus to the end of the route, wait ten minutes for it to start again and then ride back to a familiar area to walk back to our apartment. It took us about 45 minutes on the bus and about 45 minutes to walk. We arrived at about 8:45 and dinner was supposed to start at 8. Our host father, Benny, was fairly disappointed with us and told us we should have called. We tried to explain that we didn’t have his phone number and also that we got lost. He was fairly understanding but I was still on the verge of tears. Disappointing somebody is way worse than anything else I think. Everything ended up ok and we feel a lot better. We still haven’t figured out the bus system (bus maps don’t exist here, you just have to kind of guess a general direction and get on the bus and pray really hard) but we are determined to figure it out.

Later that night we went to a dance party. Anna, our mom had asked us about going with her before and we were really excited. We told all of the girls in the group how cool our mom was for taking us to this dance party. We arrived at the party and it happened to be a senior citizen dance party. You would think that the party would be dead but it was actually quite hoppin. This old short man came and asked Elizabeth to dance and he wouldn’t let her go until she danced for 3 songs. It was so hilarious because he was relentless. I got asked to dance by an old man too but it was only for one song. He was a really good dancer and he smelled pretty good. Too bad he’s too old for me. I’m so glad this whole situation happened because it was a great bonding experience with Anna. We haven’t been able to communicate with her entirely with her until at the dance party. I have found that laughing is a universal language and I’m so glad. It was so awesome. Unfortunately I didn’t take my camera (the one night that hilarious things occur - Murphy’s Law right?) but believe me, it was so funny.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Temporary Family

Today we drove again and yes we all wore pants to avoid freezing to death like the previous experience. We went to an Etruscan tomb in the mountains. The valley looked very similar to good ol’ Heber Valley and it made me feel right at home. It was lovely. After that it was time to meet my host family. Oh my goodness they are so adorable. The mom and dad are so nice and the two little boys are seriously darling. Giuseppe is 12 and Alberto is 15. We went to the supermarket to get things for dinner and it was so fun. Alberto kept putting candy and ice cream bars in the basket secretly and it was so funny to see the family dynamic. Giuseppe has a cute hamster name Pipi (pronounced pee pee) and it is hilarious. It reminds me entirely of my childhood pets. Then we had a delicious meal. I thought I was going to die - I was already full when they pulled out two big blocks of trecia and mozzarella cheese and they had us eat it all with tomatoes. It tasted really good but too much of one thing can turn into a bad thing - I’m full of cheese. So I have church tomorrow, hopefully I can find it. I’m excited for my adventure!
Right before me and Elizabeth met our family

The Wedding of Micaela and Jon

Friday we were able to spend the day in Amalfi as a group. We went to the Cathedral of St. Andrew. Just as we were looking around and about to depart all of these women in matching dresses came in. A few minutes later a bunch of cute boys in matching suits came walking in. A few minutes later a large amount of people dressed up came walking in and started taking their seats. Little did we know that we were about to be part of and Italian wedding. The song turned on, everyone stood, and here came the bride. It was so fun! It was a very lucky day too because the wedding was in english. The groom was from England and the girl was from Italy so the only parts that were Italian were the repeated vows in both languages. I have pictures and everything. Congratulations Micaela and Jon! I wish you the best of luck and thanks for the invite to the wedding.
Jon and Micaela.

Minori - Amalfi Coast

Alyssa, Ashley, and I arriving in Minori.
Our view.
Elizabeth soaking in the rays

On Thursday we had a free day to ourselves. First thing in the morning we went to a cute market where clothes, underwear, jackets, shoes, bed sheets, fresh produce, and basically anything you can sell was being sold. Then we hit the beach, played in the water, and tried our best not to look touristy (although the white skin, modest swim suits, and cameras gave us away).

I met the man of my dreams! He was rowing a boat into shore and was shirtless and good looking (always a plus). After he got his boat out of the water he started helping an old man get his boat onto the water. It was adorable. All of the girls nicknamed him Marco.

I did laundry from the tub - that was interesting. I left everything out to dry on our deck and right as we left the hotel the wind picked up. Of course it did - just my luck. I was praying that my personals wouldn’t be scattered all over the quaint town. I wasn’t too scared though - there’s always panties at the market. Sick.

Hurculaneum & Pompeii

On Wednesday left Rome early in the morning (on a freezing cold bus) and made our way down to Southern Italy. On our way to the Amalfi Coast we visited Hurculaneum and Pompei. These two preserved cities were very interesting to visit. Mt. Vesuvius erupted on August 29, 79. I always imagined that people of that time were primitive - false. The remnants of these two cities are amazing! They had water systems for their homes, public baths with hot, medium, and cold water, and even a workout facility. Although they were advanced, they were also fairly wicked. Brothels and homosexuality were obvious problems in the neighborhood and we know that because they have preserved frescoes of it. Now we know why the entire two cities were destroyed. Thanks Mt. Vesuvius.

This is my adorable roommate Elizabeth freezing on the bus. She tried to cover her arms with the headrest covers that were literally paper thin. She claims that it helped preserve her life by preventing hypothermia on the bus.

I also saw two stray dogs and it made me slightly miss petting Max and Gus-Gus. I jumped directly next to the dog and he didn't twitch at all. Nope, not dead, just homeless and covered in fleas. Slightly more unloved than my little doggies.

We made our way to the Amalfi Coast after that adventure. The bus ride was beautiful yet very painful. We were driving in a very large tour bus through hairpin turns on what was basically a one way street. One girl threw up and a few others were very carsick. I was so thankful that this bus had better suspension than the cute Ford Transit we rented with Dad & Mom because in that case, I think I would have been the girl vomiting.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

lunedi, martedi

Monday we saw a lot of fountains and piazzas including some creepy men trying to steal things (don’t worry mom, I was very aware of what was going on and it was easily prevented - don’t send me home). Also, dad - I’m averaging one gelato a day (don’t send me home either because it’s not 3, I think 1 a day is moderate). We went to dinner and I got a table, ordered water and food, and asked for the check - ALL in Italian. Thanks Jon for helping me! Then we got gelato and ate it on the Spanish Steps at night - always a party. Funny events include getting smashed by the doors in the metro because of rush hour and the inability of others to squish in and standing in the sun for 20 minutes waiting for the bus to come, crossing the street to get out of the sun, then crossing the street 2 minutes later when the bus is arriving. I knew that the only way the bus would come was if I proved I was smarter than an ape.

Tuesday was bright and early. We went to the Colosseum where 2,000 lives were lost in the first 100 days of opening. Although it sounds gory it was actually very neat - the Romans were so advanced, no wonder they conquered everything. It must have been a planned gory day because we also went and saw underground catacombs near the Appain Way as well as remnants under a Cathedral. Tomorrow is our last day in Rome - whew! That means that the schedule is going to slow down a little very very soon!

Jamie - I found your note today in my luggage. It came just at the right time and I appreciated it very much. You are so sweet and I loved spending time in Italy with you. I love you so much!

The Moses
I took this picture. Yes, a girl kissed a fake Gladiator!
Lauren and Me at dinner. She's so darling.

Sabbath Bliss

Me and Elizabeth at church

On Sunday we were able to attend the Roma 4th Ward (possibly Branch). I could easily say that this was one of the most touching meetings I have attended. The 19 girls and family of 5 almost doubled the ward size. Although small in numbers these members here have very strong and abiding testimonies of the true gospel. It’s very neat to hardly understand their words and be forced to listen through the spirit. The feeling in the ward was amazing!

The cherry on top of the amazing Sabbath consisted of a cute little nonna (grandma) directing the congregation in a song. She started singing loud and clear and caused the whole congregation to sing their hearts out. When the second verse rolled along she somehow got lost and obviously started singing the wrong words to the wrong tune - very loudly at that. The bishop stood right by her and got her back on track. What was neat was her attitude through the entire event. Some in that situation would have turned 10 shades of red, some would be offended, but would everyone be beaming ear to ear with excitement and enthusiasm to fulfill a calling and worship through music? Not me, but cute nonna, you bet! This same nonna approached most of the girls after Relief Society and kissed their cheeks and told each and everyone she loved them. It was so touching.

Sono Pronto

The night before I was going to join my group I was looking through the itinerary just to see what I should expect for the first day. I was overwhelmed as I found the Vatican Museum and San Pietro’s Square and Cathedral on the list of things to do. From my visit the week previously I knew how tiring that would be. The Vatican Museum is gargantuan and the San Pietro’s is hot, humid, and busy. If you know anything about me, none of those things are even close to appealing.

I joined my group and immediately went for round 2 at the Vatican Museum. I was thankful for my previous visit there with an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable brother-in-law. I felt like I could capture more of each piece simply by knowing a few little tidbits. I was even overheard explaining the symbolism of the pinecone fountain in the courtyard and was pinpointed to repeat my words to the group. Thanks again Mr. Tourguide Curtis! I seriously wouldn’t have made it on the trip without him. Sidenote: pinecones symbolize fertility - a possible suggestion for a Halloween costume...

Mr. Tourguide Curtis