Monday, August 27, 2012

Secret Bakery

Firenze is home to a few secret bakeries. There is no advertising, no signs of any kind -- it's all by word of mouth. I heard that one is run by nuns. After talking to several people about them, my roomie got the downlow on a bakery near our school. This was a commercial bakery that made pastries for local businesses in the wee hours of the morning. If you knocked on the door, they would sell you a pastry for one euro. The directions were vague: we were supposed to walk down an alley late at night, between about one and three in the morning. Look for a a light, a group of people on the street, we were told. You will know you are close when you can smell the pastries baking.
At 1 a.m. my roommates and I left the apartment in our PJ's and walked down the empty Ponte Vecchio, the empty Via Por Santa Maria, the empty Piazza Signoria (these are normally far from empty!!), and through the small streets around school. The little bottegas near Via de Benci -- the cafes, shoe stores, and the many leather shops -- all had their aluminum doors rolled down to protect the storefront. On top of the closed stores, apartments were stacked about six to eight stories high. Around a corner, we found the secret bakery. Its tin garage door, usually shut in the daytime, now opened to reveal opaque glass double doors. On one of the doors, a handwritten sign said, "Be quiet please" in English. Sure enough, we could smell things baking inside.

 Other students from my program stood in the street. We made a nice contrast: us in our pajamas and them in their clubbing clothes.  They told us that when they opened the doors, we'd have to send one person up to order and pay for everyone. We waited for them to come out with the pastries for our other group.
An man opened the door a crack and held out several white bags to our friends. Then, because we had been told that the Nutella pastry was the best, roommate M handed the man five euro coins and asked for cinque Nutella pastries.  
He nodded and shut the door. We were so excited, but we tried to be quiet. While we were waiting, another group of clubbers rounded the corner and waited to order by the door. They kept talking loudly so we shushed them a few times. About five minutes later, the man opened the door again and handed out our pastries -- warm.
They were light and flakey like croissants, but shaped differently, and there was a dab of Nutella in the middle. They really were very good pastries, but they tasted even better because it was so much fun sneaking around trying to find this mysterious place!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Midnight Pizza

The girls decided they were hungry, once, so at midnight we erupted from our apartment and overrun the streets. They had all had a few glasses of wine -- I was just up for an adventure.

We ran down Via Guicciardini looking for an open pizzeria and being a little too loud. While two girls ordered pizza at Golden View, the rest of us walked to the wall overlooking the river. Across the Arno, fifty or sixty people were dining on a grassy spot set up with tables on the edge of the water. Someone was singing a cover of Adele's song, 'Someone Like You.' We stood in the cool night air, listening to "Someone Like You" and waiting for our Margherita pizza. I missed B as usual. 

"View from Michelangelo's Square," my photo. (The two prominent churches in the photo are the duomo, on the left, and Santa Croce, on the right.)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Original Manuscripts

While in London, I spent an afternoon at the British Library and saw Jane Austen's manuscript, as well as her desk. The manuscript was of a story she wrote as a teenager, and the notebook was left open so visitors could see her handwriting.

Jane Austen is one of my all-time favorite authors, so I stood in front of this for a long time, hoping to absorb some of the greatness and skill that emanated from the pages.

Additionally, I also saw a manuscript from the poet Robert Browning, and music written by Handel and Schubert, and lyrics written on scrap paper by The Beatles!

Photograph of Jane Austen's "History of England," from (The British Library forbids visitors from taking photographs.)


I am now officially a published author. In mid-July, I received an email acceptance letter from Inlandia Journal -- a small, online lit mag based in Riverside. I am very happy to join the ranks of Stefanie Barbé Hammer, Kate Anger and Judy Kronenfeld (UCR professors), as well as Samantha Lamph, Nicelle Davis, and Shali Nicholas (current and former classmates) -- who have all also been published in Inlandia Journal.

Thank you to all my past and present professors, family, and friends. I am very happy to have been included in the Summer 2012 issue.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


My class railed to Rome last weekend. As a Catholic and art-lover, I was so amazed and excited!

We ran through the Vatican museums, just spending a few minutes at each of the most important pieces of art. I really wished we could have stayed longer. Then we walked through the Sistine Chapel and hurriedly took in the frescoes while our tour guide argued with a security guard. He wanted to kick out everybody because one of our group had been filming the ceiling.

It was as almost as packed in the Sistine Chapel as it was in the subway -- standing room only. Far above us, Michelangelo began the first frescoes close to the entrance. You can see that the people are much smaller in these scenes, because after painting them, Michelangelo stood on the floor to see how things looked. He realized that it was hard to distinguish who the people were from that far away, so when he went back up to the ceiling, he began to paint fewer people on a much larger scale.

I liked seeing the Birth of Adam in person, and in context. It is surrounded by other panels that depict each stage of creation. One shows God creating the sun, and then shows God again, with his back turned and his behind bared -- the moon!

The Last Judgement was also the last fresco that he painted there. In it, you can see the influence of "Laocoon and his Sons," because it was after seeing the unearthed sculpture that Michelangelo began to paint people in complicated, twisted poses. (Or that's the theory, anyways.) 

When the Japanese cleaned the frescoes in the 1980s, they left black squares all over the wall to show how dark it had gotten. Our tour guide told us that art history books had talked about how the darkness in Michelangelo's paintings had revealed the darkness of his soul -- little did they know that he painted in bright colors!

You can see one of the biggest black squares here, in the bottom left corner.