Nigel Thornberry, here!

My sister (and family) can probably attest to the fact that I was speaking in this accent the other night as I plodded home from a night out in Florence (drunk dials are quite an expensive international vice). But I think my drunken, accent/language loving, alter-ego may have actually been quite poignant when picking out this character because we have truly been explorers of Italy for these past days. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can’t talk to animals and our experiences haven’t been anything that hasn’t already been written about in Tour Italy guides across the globe, BUT it has still been nothing short of fantastic.

My rule about gelato has been kept to and, I won’t lie, I’ve been quite strict about this. But yesterday there were thanks all around because I’m pretty sure we found the best ice cream in Florence, and the best ice cream we’ve ever had. 3 experts surveyed, all in agreement.

One of the experts. Her face really says it all.

There are 1,000 stories I could tell about these past four days and nights here in Florence – the Academia, the David, the David’s p…arts, the Uffizi Gallery, every single piazza, every single cobblestone, every single bottle of wine, scoop of gelato, step of the 463 that it took to get us up to the most breathtaking view of Florence I’ve ever seen courtesy of the Duomo, every bite of pasta – whether it was tagliatelle or gnocchi, it’s all just been that good!

The climb to the top, around 150 steps in we stopped for a breather.

436 steps later…I’d say it was definitely worth the 360 degree Panoramic view. Malou, we’re going back and I’m taking you. Start training now, my friend!

And as for the people here, they’ve have been fantastic – and extremely, extremely patient – with this American girl’s attempts at speaking Italian. They’ve also been insanely nice, although coming from France, this apparant change in attitude is probably amplified for us because it’s really not that hard to be nicer than the French. Stereotyping. Sorry (I’m not sorry). If the Italians we encountered at Oktoberfest were any indication of how friendly (and quelquefois a bit persistant) Italians can be, we certainly encountered more of their kind here! I think I’ve come away from these past 6 days with over 15 new requests on Facebook? Man, Europeans love this social networking thing. BTW, all requests are pending.

But today we leave for Rome, continuing our vacation in the Eternal City – and just in time for my favorite holiday…Halloween! Reports are in: this is celebrated in Italy, so I won’t look as crazy as I expected when I put on a costume and celebrate. But we have many things to do, many plans to be made and many friends to meet up with before then! The brave (and wig hunting) Hannah Berkman has managed to outwit the strikers of France (seriously guys, still?) and get to Rome, along with some other recurring cast members such as Christina Houser (the Oktoberfest episodes), Jamie Shapiro (AUCP cast) and I’m sure we’ll have some surprise guests from people that we don’t know are even in Rome but – OMG, you’re here too?! It’s gonna happen…

In fact, this did happen to me over dinner last night – which could have been the most amazing food, wine, dining, everything experience of this trip. Quick story: I turn around to hear English being spoken with a slight Westchesta twang (you know the accent) and thus, in a very out of character move, strike up conversation. Less than 5 minutes later I am listing names of any girl from Briarcliff who ever played Lady Knicks basketball circa 8th grade. Strange, huh? Even stranger, this girl knew who I was talking about. The world is tiny, the word ‘small’ doesn’t even do it justice.

Okay, on to Oil Shoppe (we’ve become regulars at the best panini place in Florence in only 4 days), the Duomo, a last gelato in Florence and then train to Rome! See you in la Citta Eterna!

The Florence Crew on top of the Uffizi.

Voyage to the Homeland: “c’est mon patrimoine!”

Yes readers, this marks the blog beginning of my 10 days in Italy – and the homeland has been good to me right from the start. Unlike our most recent foray into Paris, which began with a cancelled train, a 3-hour flight delay and some stereotypically (realistically) rude Parisian cab drivers, our Italy travels got off quite easily. Though it was a bit surprising getting on a less than 20 person, propeller plane for our flight from Marseilles to Milan. Okay, more than surprising – I had a slight breakdown. Great suggestions on flights PANGE.

But we did get to Milan in time to enjoy a gorgeous meal at the lovely Hotel Cavour and then hit the pillow hard before we did some serious Milan touring. And by touring, we really hit all of the essentials: Prada, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana, to name a few. We’re such avid and dedicated tourists! And after sampling the local shopping scene, we made sure to get Gelato #1 (chocolata e amereno per me) all before heading back and showering before Fantastic Dinner #2. I’m going to go all “that couple” on you right now and give you a run down of what I ate for dinner – this will most likely go on all week, so for those of you dieting, this may be the time to step away from the computer or train your eyes to pass over key words such as tagliatelle and mozzarella. That being said, one of my two Milanese traveling partners (Laura) and I shared an artichoke and cheese fondu crèpe which, though seemingly French inspired, paired perfectly with Italian bread. Go figure! (Sidenote: yes parents, I tried artichoke and liked it. Believe it.) For the main course, tagliatelle with salmon – MMMMMMMM – and then espresso followed by On the House Limoncella. This stuff’s always good but there’s something about being in Italy – or maybe just the fact that its authentic here – but it always tastes better in Italy! Milan was no exception to this rule.

After dinner we moved on to the nightlife. I’ve read that in Milan you go out to be seen, so dressing the part was definitely a necessity. Clad in Euro-chic, AKA black from head to toe with some red lipstick for flare, we took on the cobblestone streets which are the new Archnemesis of my favorite black heels. Bar hopping, meeting locals and sampling the Milanese Vodka Diet Coke combo definitely made for a great night. Hearing a medley of Sandy and Danny croon hits from “Grease” and watching drunk Italians do the “YMCA” was a high point. We then spent Sunday on the streets, walking and wandering through the streets of Milan before catching our midday train to Firenze, where we’ll be spending the next four days and will be joined by Dana Hauck who just returned from her week long stay in Morocco!

So far my favorite part is that, for me, this trip has been one big refresher in language. It’s like that Celine Dion song says: it’s all coming back to me…now. And it really is! After one semester of Italian 101 and a lifetime of Italian slang (moppine, anyone?) I’m finding that maybe I can kind of, sort of, maybe speak un poco d’italiano. Oh Professor Arduini if you could see me lavorare-ing now!

Pictures to come soon. I was far too lazy and tired to find my camera cord in my mess of a bag to insert pictures into this blog entry. But fear not loyal followers, the pictures will come! And by loyal followers I mean, Mom and Dad thanks for reading and I’ll post pictures soon. Bueno Notte!