Prato 101

Well, I’m finally all nice and settled down in my new home in Prato, Italy!

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I’ve been here for about five days now. I spent my last day in Vienna exploring the Schonbrunn, which was pretty cool – the gardens were very extensive and I felt like I could have spent hours wandering through them (and getting slightly lost. After a while, trees and bushes all start to look the same…)

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I did have a slightly unsettling moment while there – I was still very sick, and so I had to take a lot of breaks to wheeze quietly to myself. There was a large hill to climb in order to get to the Gloriette, a small palace-type building with a view of Vienna, and so I paused about two-thirds of the way up to take a breather. I sat down on a bench with my sunglasses on to look at the view. It was very pretty, though I was rather ruining the quiet spot by coughing my lungs up, and so I tried to just take a moment and enjoy it. Next thing I know, I look at my watch and it’s been half an hour. Apparently I passed out…on a park bench. The height of class, I know.

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I also found some pretty cool building art. Maybe I can transplant them to San Francisco…

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Friday I left for Florence, and got to meet up with some of my field school group. I didn’t get too much of a chance to see Florence, though it’s only half an hour away from Prato so I will definitely go back. We did hike the Duomo though – 464 steps of claustrophobic stairs straight up. It never seemed to end, but the view at the top was totally worth it.

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Saturday I went to Prato, and I’ve been here ever since! It’s actually a much larger city than I originally thought, but we are living within the city centre, which means it’s more manageable in terms of navigation. (Though I’ve definitely gotten lost a few times). It has been such a relief, though, to get out of tourist-land. It feels much more like authentic Italy here.

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I’ve had some classes now, both for literature and for Italian, and we’re starting to get into the groove of things. The apartment I’m staying in is super cute and very European, and we’ve already been cooking up a storm. The food here is absolutely amazing – best gelato and salami I’ve ever had in my life. Tomorrow we go on our first field trip to Assisi, which has an awful early morning start but looks to be an exciting day. It’s just been really nice to have a home base to return to, and to not be living out of my backpack. So far so good – wish me luck in getting up at 5:30!

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My new second-favourite city

(Vancouver being the first, because it rocks).

However, the position of my second-favourite city has now been filled by Vienna, which I firmly believe is a place of magic. Everywhere I look there is another incredible building or sculpture that looks like it belongs in a postcard. I’m not kidding. EVERYWHERE. It is magic, I tell you.

I’ve been pretty busy here – I spent yesterday morning at the Belvedere, where I was more mesmerized by the rooms of the palace than the art that it was housing. I’m pretty efficient when it comes to art – I look, I enjoy, I move on. I don’t exactly linger. Hey, I’m into literature, not art.

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I spent most of the rest of the day just wandering through the streets, completely mesmerized by everything. I love old buildings, and Vienna is just brimming over with them. I visited the Museums Quarter, the market that has a German name that I can’t remember, part of the Hofsburg, and Parliament, among a few.

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Today I went to the Natural History Museum, which was pretty cool – the building was amazing, and worth visiting even if just for that alone.

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(I’m actually fluent in Moose. We had a good conversation).

I went back to the Hofsburg and actually went inside this time – the State Hall with the library was breathtaking. I was practically drooling at the proximity of so many books. The imperial apartments were pretty cool too. Not as grandiose as some other palaces I’ve been in – I still think Versailles takes the cake for crazy I-had-too-much-money-and-time.

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My last stop was Stephensplace, to check out the cathedral. It was pretty impressive, though I don’t think it managed to beat the ones in Prague.

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I am so exhausted right now though – this cold is still here and not budging. It’s making it a bit rough because I’m out and about all day, so I’m not really giving myself much time to rest. On the other hand, though, tomorrow is my last day of serious sightseeing before I head down to Italy, so I’ll have to make it through one more day and I can relax a bit more.