Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Lava was Bursting, Dancing against the Black Sky.

Written by Stephanie Klinkenberg-Ramirez, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

Two days left. How did this happen? I’ll be happy to see everyone back home again, my family, my best friends, but, man, will I miss Catania.

I feel like I came here not knowing what to expect. I was beyond nervous. There I was, travelling alone for the first time to a place I had never been. I had no idea what Catania would be like—I had never even heard of the city before applying to the program. All I knew was that I loved Italian and wanted to go somewhere I could be completely immersed in it.

Now that these two months have gone by, I know I made the right choice. CET’s program here has changed me in ways I could have never expected. I’ve met some wonderful people, not only from Italy or America, but also from all over the world. I’ve become more independent and confident and now I trust myself in new situations.

As I look back on my experience here, there are certain moments I will never forget.

Last Monday, for example, two friends from the program and our Catanese friend, Andrea, and I went dancing at the beach, where Steve Aoki was deejaying electro-house music. While we were driving home, around 3AM, we saw it. A glowing orange light coming from Mount Etna. The volcano was erupting! After a moment of disbelief, I started to feel afraid. Would this be Pompeii 2011? Andrea assured us we wouldn’t die and so we decided to drive up the Etna for a better look. We went as close as we could, got out of the car and watched in complete awe. I’ve never felt luckier in my life. The lava was bursting, dancing against the black sky. Afterwards, we absorbed this rare sight by eating freshly baked cornetti, filled with warm nutella. How could anything have been better than that?
Another unforgettable place is Isola Bella at Taormina. It's a cove, with small, smooth stones instead of sand and water so clear that you can see the bottom. The moment I saw it, I knew I had found paradise. We swam there for hours—I never wanted to leave the water. We made our way toward the mouth of the cove, the open sea, and climbed large rocks jutting out of the water. Later, our warm towels greeted us, and we basked in the sun. Afterwards we took a cable car to the town, high above Isola Bella. A gorgeous view, cute shops, and a beautiful chiesa, or church, awaited us. No more than a week passed by before I went back.

So here’s the dilemma—after all these great experiences, how can I ever be content back in the U.S.? How can I get back in the routine of rushing around and checking my Blackberry every ten minutes? How can I settle for mediocre pasta or even cannoli from Mike’s Pastries? I guess what I’ll miss most about Sicily is how I live here, taking a pause at midday, staying out late at night, eating the delicious food, meeting friendly people every day.

Catania really has everything you could ever want. There’s the city, with its nightlife, there’s Etna , and there’s the sea. The people here want to know you, and the best way to learn Italian and to feel at home here is to make an effort to get to know the people. I wish I could stay longer, but I know nothing is going to keep me from coming back to Catania in the future.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Missing Sicilian Life

Written by Anna Barbaresi, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

When I first came to Catania, I wondered how I would feel as

the program came to a close. I thought that maybe after two months I would be anxious to escape the Sicilian heat, craving some good old American

cuisine, and ready to reunite with friends and family.

Although a part of me is looking forward to some of the everyday conveniences in America, as I prepare to leave I am instead focused on all of the amazing things I will miss in Sicily. My housemates and I have been discussing the painful prospect of no longer being surrounded by warm beaches. We wonder if there is any place to buy arancini or ricotta salata in the Boston area. Slowly we are realizing the many aspects, some big and some small,

of Sicilian life that we have grown to love.

On our traveling seminar to Palermo, I realized just how much I had learned both in and out of the classroom during our time in Sicily. After studying the history of

the region, I was able to see the unique details that set the city apart from other places in Sicily. We knew the history behind the Arabic style churches built by Frederick II, and we could taste the differences in the cuisine. Subtle features of the city that would have gone right over my head a few months ago jumped out at me.

But the most interesting thing I learned from the trip to Palermo was how much I had come to feel at home in Catania. Even after eight weeks, I have started to feel genuine pride for the city. I seldom leave the Residence without running into

an Italian friend on the street, and we have even gotten to kno

w the owners of all our favorite restaurants and bars.

Although I probably won’t be able to make it through customs with obscene amounts of wine and cheese, there are things about Catania and Sicily that will stay with me forever.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Healing Properties of Sicily

Written by Nina Hersher, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

On Friday July 8th I took a day trip to the beautiful city of Siracusa with a small group of friends, where we visited the historic part of the city known as Ortigia. On our way to this gorgeous place of antiquity, we passed a market filled with meat, fresh fruit, and, my favorite, massive blocks of cheese. The breads, spreads, and aromas of fresh fish and cured meat wafted through the air making me feel as if I could always be hungry!

Since my arrival in Catania, I have heard about the spectacular July sales and sure enough, on July 2nd, the signs went up and the racks came out, filled with Italian clothing in every color and style imaginable. These sales were especially evident in Siracusa and in the historic district everything seemed to gleam with Italian sophistication. When I concluded that I could not realistically buy everything in sight, I bought Sicilian lemon perfume, colorful scarves from Zara, and of course a cannolo to fuel myself for my shopping excursion.

After we had satisfied our totally understandable materialistic needs, we headed to the beach where the sign read: la playa “che non c'è,” which translates as: the beach that is not or does not exist. This was the perfect way to describe how I felt. The water was so clear and refreshing it felt surreal and therapeutic. Why was this?

The other day, our delightfully down to earth Professoressa S. told us that the ocean and the volcanic soil of Mount Etna had healing properties that often affected our minds and bodies without our knowledge. Whether or not this was a true, scientists did confirm that a paroxysmal eruption occurred on Mount Etna the day after our trip to Siracusa! I distinctly recall sitting on the porch watering a basil plant I had purchased at the market, when I felt something fall onto my head! At first I suspected a bird might be the culprit, but as a thin layer of ash covered all exposed surfaces, it became apparent that it was something else. Though the eruption was harmless, the ash had drifted from nearly two kilometers away! The weekend had given me an glimpse into the two diverse sides of Sicily: the tranquility of the water and the fervor of Etna, two distinct but complimentary aspects of nature. What a wondrous experience!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In Food, There Is Music

Written by Marino Anthony Pawlowski, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

Ever since I told my friends that I would be studying abroad in Italy this summer, it became a running joke that I would return home with a second suitcase. Filled not with the latest Italian fashions, but with the coffee, pasta, sweets and spices that even an enthusiastic foodie like myself can’t always find in the States. More important than that extra suitcase, I wanted to come home with new cooking abilities. I imagined myself making my friends all of my favorite Italian dishes from scratch with authentic ingredients.

Before I visited Catania, I had never prepared food outside of the United States. I believed that like in America, all ingredients were available at all times in a big supermarket, regardless of the season. On my first trip to the “Fiera” (Catania’s outdoor market), I experienced quite a shock. While vendors stretched as far as the eye could see, selling dozens of different fruits and vegetables, ingredients that were out of season were not in stock. At the time, I felt like I was just settling for the ingredients that they were selling.

In my dejected mood, on the way home from the market I decided to relish my sadness by trying one of the fresh strawberries I had bought. Just the smell of the fruit was enough to put a smile on my face. I didn’t remember the last time I had eaten produce so fresh. When I got home and made dinner (Pasta alla Norma, Catania’s signature dish) from scratch, the taste of the eggplant and tomatoes was surreal. In the coming days, I went on to sample all of the season’s best fruits, vegetables, and dishes, and none left me disappointed each one playing on my taste buds like a different song within the same musical medley.

In fact, it seems like the iconic Italian music world has its place in the kitchen as well. After all, Pasta alla Norma is named for the for the famous titular opera by Vincenzo Bellini, a native of Catania. And in our Gastronomy class, we’ve learned that the kitchen appliances are referred to as “gli strumenti” (the instruments/tools), an appropriate name, as in Catania each meal seems like an musical experience. Each flavor is drawn out, and each color comes together on the plate in a soft and pleasant manner using only what is the freshest, without sporting a sticker that denotes “organic” or “cage free.”

So while I certainly will bring back some LavAzza coffee, Casarecci, and Pan di Stelle home with me, I am grateful to also be leaving with a new appreciation for the simple yet bold flavors of Sicily.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Coming of Age on Mt. Etna

Written by Sam D'Anna, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

Where were you on your 21st birthday? Most Americans can answer this question without having to think for more than a second. I most certainly will be able to do the same in years to come. I doubt most people can say they had the privilege of spending their 21st on top of Mt. Etna, Europe’s most active volcano (the second most active in the world).

Guided by our charismatic and knowledgeable volcanologist Sandro Privitera, we hiked around the north face of Etna at around 3,000 feet for the entire afternoon. The temperature was fair and the sky clear.

It sounds crazy, but the only thing I wanted more was for an eruption to occur. Most people would think this an absurd thing to wish for on your 21st birthday, especially if you’re standing atop an active volcano like Mt. Etna.

“What do we do if there is an eruption,” our professoressa, the one and only Paola Servino asked Sandro. He assured us that if an eruption occurred, there would be plenty of time to descend to safer ground, unless it was of unusual magnitude. Sure enough within a half hour of our conversation, Mt. Etna erupted. Twice.

We couldn’t see lava nor could we feel the ground tremble, but we could see the smoke billowing from the top crater. It was a spectacle that will be impossible to forget. My first birthday wish fulfilled on the day of my birthday! I’m still waiting on the others, but I’m confident they are on the way. One must always be patient in Sicily.

As the day winded down and the time came to return to Catania, I felt tired, sun burnt, and proud of having done something different than the norm on my 21st. Of course, when the night came, I didn’t exactly “tuck-in” early.

After enjoying a lovely dinner of fresh calamari with my roommates, we decided to head to the town center, or the centro of Catania. As I was prancing around Piazza Università in my suit and the fake plastic crown that my roommates forced me to wear, Sicilians stares and point at me. I was easily recognized as just another American. However, I couldn’t have felt more at home on my birthday amongst my Sicilian and American friends here in Catania.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Volunteership and Language Learning

Written by Lucas Gelwarg, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

I wanted to improve my Italian language skills outside of my classes, so my Resident Director introduced me to Rosalba Rasà who is the owner and manager of a daycare center in Catania. Rosalba asked me if I would like to volunteer to help out with the children’s summer program—and I said yes!

For my first outing with the group we went to the beach. Before we went swimming, we sang and danced to some music. The children loved the YMCA song, but unfortunately I did not know all the lyrics. I had brought a meat sandwich to the beach and the children all thought it was funny that I would eat such a heavy food in the morning.

All the kids put on their swimmies and we went into the water. The water was so refreshing, at least for someone who is used to going to the beach in Maine. I jumped right in, but the water was too cold for some of the other kids. Marco, a thirteen-year-old who also helps out, wanted to race me to the buoy, and we had a little race for fun.

After everyone got out of the water, Marco asked me to help him get a sea urchin to show to the kids. While everyone else was drying off, we dived down and found one. We brought it over to the area where people were drying off, and everyone was so amazed by this curious creature. The teacher started explaining what it was to the kids. After everyone was dried off, we all got ice cream from the refreshment stand and enjoyed the rays of the sun. At around one o’clock, we went back to the daycare and watched Toy Story. I loved practicing my Italian with bambini—I can’t wait to return!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

La Sicilia Press

This week famed TV and print journalist Maria Torrisi led our Journalism and Documentary students on a guided tour of the printing facility for the regional daily newspaper La Sicilia. In addition to the 700,000 copies of La Sicilia produced here daily, the facility also prints national papers like Il sole 24 Ore, La Repubblica, and Tutto Sport.

These large containers hold yellow, red , blue, and black inks. The black ink container is the largest, as it is used for the newspaper's typeface. The primary color inks are mixed to produce a variety of shades used in color photographs and graphics displayed in the paper.

This enormous press holds an army of rotating cylinders. After a laser ray has etched the day's news onto a sheet of aluminum, the sheet is wrapped around these cylinders. Ink is applied to the aluminum etching and the spinning cylinders are pressed against kilometers of newspaper.

Literally hundreds of kilometers of paper. Per day, the facility uses about 35 rolls of recycled newspaper, pictured below. The paper is imported from Russia, France, and Nordic countries.

After the paper is pressed, it is cut and folded, on the machine pictured below.

Great tour! Thanks Maria Torrisi!

Watch out! Observing the traffic in Catania

I didn’t notice the motorcylce until it zoomed inches in front of me. I had removed my eyes from the road to observe the restaurants to the left as I walked along the catanese streets. Paying close attention is a necessity on the streets of Catania. The road system looks more like bumper cars with BMW motorcycles and Vespa scooters weaving through the entanglement. Of course the road isn’t a county fair ride, so bumping is strictly prohibited.

Now immagine crossing this confusion without a pedestrian light indicating when to go. If there’s one thing people don’t wait for in Italy, it’s crossing the street. One must cautiously creep into the chaos before it slows down to allow you to cross. Even in the few intersections that have crosswalk lights, I felt uneasy at first. Cars and motorcycles making left turns will sinuously wrap around the pedestrians in the crosswalk. But after a few weeks, it’s beginning to feel more natural. The biggest bumper car collisions I ever experienced were the T-bone crashes I didn’t see coming. Thus, I have learned that eye contact, assertion, and awareness are the most important skills for a pedestrian.

Crossing an intersection is almost the same process for vehicles. Most intersections don’t have stop signs or stop lights. Cars and trucks inch forward until they demand their own right of way. By far, the most incredible part of Catania’s traffic is the way the drivers whip around the diminutive street corners missing the parked cars by centimeters on each side. However, sometimes side streets in the city really are too small. While riding in the car with my friend Riccardo, he took a turn that proved impossible to make with a car parked on the corner. Thankfully, the bump didn’t leave a mark.

Despite the frenetic appearance to a foreigner, the system seems to work well. It fits the layout of the city with it’s winding side streets intersecting each other every fifty meters. I know I won’t drive in the frenzy but perhaps on a back road, one of our Italian friends will teach me how to drive manual transmission like a European.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Sea in Sicilia

Written by Theodore Choi, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

Since the age of four, I have loved going to the beach. Whenever I was at a beach, I considered myself to be on vacation. Although I hated the sand slipping into my shoes and irritating my feet while I walked, I loved being near the water. The beach has always lured me back to watch the ocean move around the land mass that serves as its boundary.

Last night, as I celebrated my birthday, I hoped to be able to visit the beach. Fortunately, a Sicilian friend was able to drive us to a part of Catania that was new to me, a new beach for me to enjoy. Although I am aware that Sicily is an island, and that I am surrounded by water, it was relieving to my mind to witness the ocean firsthand. Maybe it was because it was at night, but the tranquil nighttime beachscape was quite a change from the daytime bustle of the city’s center. The beach, deserted at this late hour, calmed my nerves.

The particular scent of the beach was what did it in. The salty perfume is much stronger on the Sicilian shore than on any beach in the United States and the water rolls softly onto the sand. A slight glow from the moon reflected off the froth that accumulated as small waves eased their way into the larger body of water.
It was almost as if the sea was an instrument playing the music of crashing waves. I have been to many beaches in my life, and I know that tourists crowd them and disrupt their natural flow.

Here in Catania, where non-European tourists are uncommon, it seems that the ocean reflects the attitude of the people, who seem more relaxed living their daily lives than the people I see back in the States. This assurance of peace and calm has helped me embrace the people, culture, and language even more.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Time in Sicily

Written by Derek Olson, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

In Sicily, my American anxiety for the proverbial value of time, and time lost, is put to the test. However, even if I wanted to live the same frenetic life I lead in the States, I wouldn’t have the energy here. Before coming to Italy I never considered how exhausting a full-immersion language experience would be. That must mean it’s working.

There is a wonderful atmosphere of tranquility in Sicily, Italy’s deep south. Though I enjoy this repose, acclimating to it requires a patience I never could have managed at home. As our professor Paola Servino remarked on the first day of class, “In Italy, one must always wait.” Convenience stores don’t inhabit every street corner to instantly fulfill my shopping needs. Fortunately, there is a fair trade off; every block has a panificio or pasticceria with delicious snacks and delectable sweets.

Running errands can be frustrating here but not because of the distance one must walk to a specialized shop. This city is enjoyable on foot. However, on more than one occasion I have traversed half way across the city to find a store closed. Most shops have slightly irregular hours and everything shuts down for an afternoon break called “la pausa.” In fact, the city becomes rather quiet during the hottest part of the day (see photo of Piazza Teatro Massimo, above). There are more than 20 times as many people in the city center at 2am than 2pm. Though the afternoon is quiet, the night life is more active than Mount Etna. The quiescent afternoon erupts into amicable gathering at night. (See photo of Teatro Massimo at night, below).

Sicilians, who consider themselves distinct from other Italians, have a few things they are proud of: their food, their families, but above all their people. I am amazed by the alacrity with which they make friendships. I grew up believing personal accomplishments to be the most fulfilling part of life, but for Sicilians, relationships are the true treasures. Simply put, Americans live to work, and Sicilians work to live. Experiencing these different philosophies is the greatest cultural exchange I could have.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Winding Down, Looking Back

Written by Angela Pisoni, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

As the semester comes to an end, the students are thinking about their favorite CET activities and how the program could have flown by so quickly. Below are some of Angela Pisoni's favorite memories from the Traveling Seminar to Rome.

It is difficult to believe that we’re approaching the final two weeks of our Catanese semester! It seems like yesterday that we took to the skies to travel to Roma for the three-day Traveling Seminar. Leading the way were our Resident Directory Janet Lawrence and Sicilian history professor Ivana Santonocito.

After checking into our hotel on Friday morning, we wasted no time in beginning our Roman adventure. First stop, no surprise, was The Vatican followed by the Sistine Chapel. To our relief, we were able to skip the seemingly endless line to meet our amazing tour guide, who led us through The Vatican Museums, imparting knowledge along the way in a perfect mixture of Italian and English. Later we had a delicious group dinner.
Saturday was chock full of many wonderful sights – the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Museo di Risorgimento.

After the full morning, we had the afternoon free to discover Roma for ourselves. We visited many ‘must-sees’ including the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain (where many a coin was tossed!).

For the final piece of our Roman escapade, we visited Villa Borghese, home of the second largest park in Roma, as well as the Galleria Borghese. Needless to say, it was the perfect bookend for our Roman traveling seminar – bellissimo! Later in the day we all parted ways to embark on our respective spring break travels. Ciao, Roma!

Looking back, I see this trip as the perfect anchor for my semester in Catania, because it provided both a bonding experience for the group and a better understanding of how Sicily fits into the broader context of Italian history.

Edited by Janet Lawrence, Resident Director.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sicily: A Melting Pot

Written by Sam D'Anna, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

One day I was taking a quick break from my run just outside Piazza Falcone near the seashore. Because of its vast open space and well-preserved concrete, this piazza is a prime spot for pick-up basketball games. Though on this particular day a group of young men were playing a cricket match. As I caught my breath, I leaned up against the fence to get a better view of the action. Within seconds one of the players hit a pop fly out of the fence. The ball landed about ten feet from where I was standing. Quickly, I ran to grab the ball so that I could return it. I approached a player, but he showed no interest in meeting me. The only thing he was looking at was the ball in my hand.

Absentmindedly, instead of using my Italian, I said “Here you go!”

Immediately the man looked up at me. After realizing what I had just said, I corrected myself and said “Mi dispiace, ecco."

He continued to stare for a few more seconds, as if he still did not understand what I said. Loudly, he shouted out to his other friends in what I believe was Hindi. They came circling around me.

I introduced myself and told them where I was from in Italian. The first man understood. He told me they were from India and asked if I wanted to play. My eyes lit up. I was not expecting this to happen.

Within minutes they were throwing me their side-armed pitches that bounced in the dirt coming at me at what seemed like 100 mph. I swung away at every pitch hoping that was the right thing to do. I never could quite get the hang of swinging that awkward, flat bat, but I was able to hit a few that traveled no more than a mere 20 feet.

I probably had close to 30 strikes when I finished batting. Maybe there is no strike limit in cricket. Maybe they were just letting the rules slide a bit for me. After ten minutes I was exhausted.

The first man approached me again, this time he handed me the ball. He pointed to where he had been pitching and said “Go there!” So I went and stood at the artificial mound they had created out of old blankets and waited for him to signal that he was ready. I was nervous.

Even after all my years of playing football and baseball, I knew this probably was not going to be something I was good at. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing, I tried to imitate his actions.

After another ten minutes, he came up to me again, put his hand on my shoulder and just laughed. Probably at my horrible play.

There was not a moment that went by during the game where I didn’t learn something new.

The same goes for everyday life in Catania. It’s possible to meet someone from virtually every corner of the world in this unique city. Anyone you meet, whether they are Sicilian or an immigrant, has an interesting story and shares an equal interest in who you are.

Edited by
Janet Lawrence, Resident Director.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Southern Hospitality

Written by May Bayer, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

Southern hospitality is not only an American phenomenon. In Sicily, you may be cut in line mercilessly at the post office or pharmacy, but you will also find some of the most open and hospitable people I’ve ever met.

My first night in Catania, I stayed in a hotel before moving into our apartment. I was tired, jet-lagged, and nervous to be in a new place all by myself. Online reviews had said I would have to carry my suitcase up three flights of stairs to get to my room, but I couldn’t even open the front gate of the hotel.

The hotel manager Oscar came to my rescue. He explained that to open the gate, I had to first pull, then push (a method which everyone else seemed to already know. This information would come in handy for other gates I encountered in Catania). He also dragged my huge suitcase up the never-ending flight of stairs.

In my room, I immediately passed out from exhaustion, but when I woke up the next morning, the hospitality continued. Oscar served me a huge breakfast—a crème-filled croissant, an entire loaf of bread with jam or cheese, cappuccino, and fruit juice. When it was time for me to go, he gave me directions to find my apartment, carried my suitcase downstairs for me, and offered to give me a ride. I thanked him and declined his offer—surely he was just being polite.

But as I lugged my suitcase along the sidewalk, I got confused and wondered if I had missed the correct street. Suddenly I heard someone behind me. “May!” It was Oscar. I had gone the wrong way, and he had run after me to tell me. He insisted that I let him carry my suitcase, and he led me to my new apartment—which turned out to be right next to the hotel! I thanked him again, hardly beleiving how much he had gone out of his way for me. He told me to come visit the hotel anytime for a coffee.

Again, I assumed this was just a polite formality. But after living in Catania for two months, I now understand that Oscar was not an exception, but an accurate representation of Sicilian hospitality. I really am welcome at his hotel for coffee anytime.

Since that first day, I have witnessed all sorts of kind acts that would be unheard of at home. For class one day, another student, Sam, and I had to interview a person in the street. The person we found insisted on buying us coffee while we asked our questions. We ended up sitting at a café with him for half an hour and he promised to take us on a tour of Catania.

I soon forgot about his promise.

That Friday, though, he called and took all six CET students on a perfect tour of the city—buying us gelato from his favorite gelateria (which is now our favorite gelateria), showing us a historic castle on the sea, and a cool restaurant where you can eat underground in a grotto.

I am still surprised every time someone follows through on an offer like that. It happens all the time—when we accidentally became part of a birthday party that was happening in the Piazza, when our professors insisted on taking us out for coffee in the middle of class, when the doctor gave me a ride home after my appointment. Sicilians may seem tough at first, but they take hospitality to a whole new level, in a way that seems completely natural for them. It’s hard for me to get used to.

What does it say about our culture that I am so shocked every time I witness this kindness? Maybe the rest of the world needs to take a lesson from the Sicilians. As for me, I am going to take Oscar up on his offer of coffee at the hotel.

Edited by Janet Lawrence, Resident Director.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Top Alterna-Picks for Roaming in Rome...

Written by Janet Lawrence, Resident Director

Make the best of the Traveling Seminar to Rome! We'll cover the absolute must-sees like the Vatican, the Colosseum, and the Borghese Gallery as a group, but in your free time check out the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Castel Sant'Angelo, and the Capitolini.

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE! Here's a very short list of my Roma alterna-picks:

All museum-ed out?
Climb the hill to Giannicolo park for an excellent panorama of the city below. The lively neighborhood of Trastevere lies at the foot of the hill. Reward yourself with a pasta dinner. Sample the Roman specialties Bucatini Amatriciana or my absolute favorite, Cacio e Pepe.

Love English literature?
Try out the city's metro system and visit the Protestant Cemetery, where Keats and Shelley are buried. I believe I once got some students to recite poetry there...I promise I'll spare you all that.

Wanna get outta the city?
The fabulous (really) sites, Villa D'Este and Villa Adriano, are just a bus ride away!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Mount Etna Miracles

Written by Janet Lawrence, Resident Director

Mount Etna may be best known for its eruptions, hot lava, and destruction, but it also has a niche in the miracle department.

This Saturday, CET Catania united with CET Siena and CET Florence for a tour of Catania's mistress from above, Mount Etna. It was a rainy, misty day and our guide Sandro worried the fog would obscure the view of the summit.

During our tour, the group traced the oldest vestiges of Etna's volcanic rock on the shores of Aci Castello to its newest output at the volcano's summit.

The 500,000-year-old volcanic rock on the shore has been smoothed and rounded by the
Mediterrenean water so that it interlocks
like cobble-stones. Quite different from the brand new, flinty charcoal-like substance that we would find on the volcano's summit. It erupted from the volcano just a few weeks ago.

As we made our way up the mountain, we learned about Etna miracles. The veil of Sant'Agata was said to have shielded sacred objects from oncoming lava at various moments in history. Then, during the 1991-93 eruption, the town of Zafferano was nearly overtaken by hot magma.

Our students visited the site where the lava flow miraculously stopped--just a few short kilometers from the city center. Of course, Etna's inhabitants haven't always been so lucky--we also saw the rooftops of homes that were swallowed up during eruptions.

Then our very own miracle--the thick fog parted as we made the final ascent to the Silvester Craters, near the summit of Etna. A corridor of blue sky emerged through which we had an unobstructed view from the craters to the Mediterrenean shoreline far below.

Sandro, a man who has made a career of studying this feisty volcano, said he had never seen the view look so particularly beautiful.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Carnevale: Video

By Janet Lawrence, Resident Director.

Masks! Confetti! Chocolate-covered treats! Just when we had recovered from Sant’Agata, it wa

s time for Carnevale, Italy’s equivalent of Mardi Gras.

CET hosted a Carnevale Party for students, Language Partners and Italian Roommates. Folks turned up in fabulous masks, costumes and make-up.


taly’s largest Carnevale celebration takes place in Venice, where the masks are meant to

liberate citizens from social class and

inhibitions and just let loose!

Down here in Catania we let loose alright – with some serious snacking and line


Friday, February 25, 2011

Are You Hungry Yet?

Written by Ariel Goldenthal, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

First of all, let’s be honest. The reason for the large number of students who choose Italy as their study abroad destination is the food. Sure, the weather is heavenly—especially here in Catania—and the history, art, and architecture are beautiful, but Italian cuisine is legendary.

Having been here for a month now, the five other CET students - Tess, Sam, Angela, Julie, May - and I have gotten to experience quite a range of pasta. The pasta that dreams are made of. Admittedly, our first night cooking was not particularly successful. For a few of us, this is the first time living in an apartment with other students. We quickly realized that cooking for eight people was going to be a challenge. We started out simply, just pasta with sauce (or salsa, as it is called here) and spinach (spinaci). Our table was set, we had bought bread from the local panificio (bakery) and we were quite proud of ourselves.

The pasta wasn’t perfect; there was a bit too much spinach and just not enough sauce. We gobbled it up anyway.

But we have improved since then. Our resident chef, Julie Hooper, maintains that cooking is relaxing, therapeutic, and, simply, what she wants to do. And try as we might to keep up, the rest of us can’t compare. Several conversations regarding dinner have consisted of us trying to explain to Julie that we don't know how to just throw something together! But we keep trying, and hopefully soon we will soak up Julie’s culinary knowledge through our stomachs.

Over the past month, we've moved beyond pasta and sauce. We are trying new things; after all, that’s what study abroad is all about! Our first step was to branch out and start buying food the Italian way: at one of the outdoor markets in Catania.

On a recent Saturday morning, we decided to brave the famous fish market. True to the stories, we started to smell the fish market as we began to cross the Piazza del Duomo and head down the steps into the extremely crowded mercato.

We tried to dodge the puddles of questionable, fishy liquid on the cobblestone ground as our minds reeled from the crowd. Although we couldn’t quite understand what the fishermen were shouting in Sicilian dialect, we did understand that, much like learning to cook for eight people, this too, was going to be a challenge. As we eyed the abundance of fish: skin, bones, eyes, and all, we all wondered how on earth we were supposed to cook it.

While we considered what we would cook that evening, we split up and wandered through the meat, fruit and vegetable sections of the market.

Finally, we rendezvoused with a plan: artichokes and swordfish for dinner. Since the cuts of swordfish available were in steak form, we felt confident that we could cook them.

Well, the other students felt confident. I keep kosher, and so I was exempt from the swordfish venture. I assigned myself to artichoke duty.

About an hour later, we were all sitting happily at the table. Our neighbors probably heard the compliments that filtered out of our kitchen: the swordfish was a hit. It turns out that while learning to cook in Italy, it’s best to take Miss Frizzle’s advice: “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

As long as we don’t end up inside a swordfish, I’d say we’re doing a pretty good job.
Edited by Janet Lawrence, Resident Director.

Monday, February 21, 2011

See ya Starbucks, Wine and Book is the place to be

Posted by Tess Raser, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

As a college student, I am used to grabbing my books and heading to Starbucks when I desire a social studying environment. I can cram for the next exam, write that final paper, or meet with friends and chat over our favorite java beverages.

In Catania, it’s a little different. Of course there are more cafes serving delectable espresso drinks than I can count. However, the place where I go with fellow CET students to study and reflect on our Sicilian days, is called Macondo Wine and Book Cafe.

The first time I saw the small shop’s name, just a block away from the Residence, I was intrigued. It stood out among the panificios (bread shops), pizzerias, and gelaterias. And it seemed that every time we passed by, the shop was closed. That is, until one Wednesday night when May, another CET student, and I walked past it and saw the lights on. Excited, we ran home and grabbed our compiti (homework) and returned with painted grins.

When we arrived the door was locked even though minutes before a man had been standing inside. The lights were all still on. All we could do was stare through the window and watch a computer’s screensaver, a fake flickering fire with candy corn in place of flames and pretzel sticks in place of logs. A couple minutes later, a hip-looking couple arrived on a Vespa and casually said, “He probably just went for a walk or something.” At that moment, May Bayer (middle, pictured with Julie Hooper and Angela Pisoni, CET 2011) and I remembered that we were still in Sicily. This was not unusual.

Eventually the man returned, and we were finally able to enter the mysterious shop. The walls are bright orange and covered in tall, wooden bookshelves, which hold hundreds of books—some old, some new, some tall, some short, some green, some written by Spanish authors, some by Japanese. The only book we could focus on was the wine menu on the table in front of us. There are wines from all over Europe and Sicily in particular. We got generous-sized glasses of wine and a plate of fresh bruschetta; the perfect accompaniment to Italian language homework. Of course, we couldn’t do homework forever and soon were distracted by the shopkeeper’s dog.

Since then, every time we’ve returned to Wine and Book, there has been a different dog there. On our first visit, we played with what I think was a very chubby pitbull, pictured above. That day, while we smiled, smitten, at the dog, an older man sitting across from us was also smiling at the dog. Perhaps because of our mutual love of dogs, he asked if we wanted to play with the checkerboard set on his table. Instead, we challenged him to a game. Embarrassingly, May and I lost. It was a two-versus-one game, but he was a particularly tricky opponent.

Still, the defeat has not stopped us from returning to Wine and Book, and we have gone back several times with our other housemates. We hope to get through the whole wine book. After all, the only thing more embarrassing than losing that checkers match, would be returning home from Italy and not being wine connoisseurs.

Edited by Janet Lawrence, Resident Director.