Posted by: jtccitaly | June 10, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Most of you know this already, but we did make it back safe and sound! The travel was fairly smooth as these things go – minor delays but nothing terrible. We made our connecting flight and made it home on time. (Minus only one lost suitcase.)

Here are a few photos from the airport (I was too tired to take very many). Also, you get to see my boys all decked out to meet me at the airport – they sprayed their hair the colors of the italian flag! It was a wonderful homecoming.

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Thanks for following along with our journey!

Posted by: jtccitaly | June 8, 2011

The David Corona Food Diaries: The Final Report

The Final Food Report

by David E. Corona


When last I wrote we were on our way to Tuscany.  I can report that while Your Reporter did not, one intrepid diner did indeed enjoy Bistecca Friorentina, a ~2 pound Italian Porterhouse steak.  Other Tuscan specialties are white beans, and a thick spaghetti called pici.  Members of the JTCC tour enjoyed pici with a rabbit based, thick meaty sauce, as well as osso buco, a slowly cooked beef shank in a very rich tomato/vegetable sauce.  During our trip up to Fiesole we all enjoyed various pizzas in a trattoria on the main street.  There were vegetarian specialties, spicy salamis, and the atomic pizza–a double crusted pizza with all kinds of strange things cooked inside the two crusts.

Your Reporter also explored away from the group on one of the Firenze days.  His side trip was to Ravenna on the Adriatic coast.  Ravenna was the last capital of the Roman Empire, and contains different art from the 5th and 6th centuries.  For a normal person it might have been too much of more or less the same religious mosaics and almost Byzantine architecture, but Your Reporter had a quite enjoyable time.  On the food front he enjoyed a lunch of grilled fresh local vegetables, a grilled local sausage–delicately yet wonderfully piquant, and a dessert of Italian creme caramel.  Your reporter can also assure you that the gelato along the Adriatic coast is first rate.

In correcting an oversight by the bus and tour companies, the Theater Class also took a side trip up to Vicenza.  During a layover in Bologna we toured the crowded streets of Italy’s oldest university town.  We found a street fair next to an old church, which had a booth containing Sicilian foods.  Being half-Sicilian himself, Your Reporter grabbed two arancini, rice balls, and enjoyed himself immensely.  Were there not laws against bringing in sausages and cheeses, Your Reporter might have gone bankrupt shopping at that bazaar.

Vicenza is a stately city with wonderful building and palazzi, many of the designed by the Renaissance architect Palladio.  The Theater Class’ objective was the Teatro Olimpic, also designed by Pallado, and the oldest enclosed Renaissance theater in the world.  It was a great delight to study its ornate architecture and imagine seeing a production on its elaborate stage.  We dined simply in Vicenza since it observes a siesta period and its restaurants were closed during the afternoon.  Its gelaterie were not however, and delicious gelati were available for all of us, including frutti di bosco, berries of the woods, and mirtillo, a tart gelato made from the bilberry.  (Your intrepid reporter would appreciate any help from enlightened gardeners as to what exactly a bilberry is, aside from being delicious.)

The members of the tour headed back to Rome for the final three nights.  On the final night the students and faculty were treated to a dinner at the Restaurante Nazzarone near Termini Station.  A variety of grilled vegetables were our antipasi.  For our main course we had three different pastas, fettucini in a vegetarian tomato sauce, lasagna in a creamy, cheesy tomato sauce, and gnocchi, potato dumplings in a tomato sauce.  Mineral water and wine were available at each table.  For our dessert we had fruit cups of wonderful strawberries.  Along with we had wonderful grappa-filled chocolates thoughtfully provided by Debora.

The group certainly hopes that our pre-trip classes and preparation made us informed and knowledgeable students and tourists, but there was no disguising our non-local roots.  Various eating establishments seemed to appreciate our company and patronage, often gracing us with free after dinner drinks–especially a drink called lemoncello.  Lemoncello is an experience in and of itself, very much liked by some of us, respectfully sampled by others of us, and found to be extremely unusual by others of us.  You might check with your son or daughter, husband or wife, or friend to see to which group he/she might belong.

Your Reporter hopes that these reports have been illuminating and provided a small sample of the gustatory delights encountered by the JTCC group.  At the moment he is sure that many of the group are enjoying meat, potatoes and American food, but hopes that the return to Italian specialties at the group party will be a nice reminder of our wonderful time.  Signing off until next summer, when Pasticio, Gyros, Village Salads, and Kaimaka Ice Cream, (made from sheeps’ milk and mastik,) will be on the menu, Your Reporter wishes all of you buon appetito!

Posted by: jtccitaly | June 4, 2011

The Final Countdown

Top Five Things I Have Learned About Italy
1.) Sometimes sidewalks are for parking small cars on.
2.) Even when you are in a smaller town, you really have to watch out for those Vespas!
3.) Sometimes you have to pay to pee. (It’s true; there is often a fee to use the toilette in public places. Usually these are fairly clean and well kept at least. In fact, there are times when you might wish for a nicely kept pay-to-pee place. Sometimes, the toilette is basically just a hole in the floor. No kidding. This might be fairly simple for men, but it’s a bit tricky for women.)
4.) When in doubt, just say “Prego!” This is my favorite Italian word. It has several meanings, mostly it’s used for “you’re welcome”. It’s also just fun to say.
5.) Everything tastes better when you are walking for eight hours a day. You can never have too much gelato. Or pasta. Or pastries. Yum.

I really just made those up off the top of my head. I’d love to hear from any of you who have traveled to Italy and I’d love to hear more from our travelers, so add to this list!

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Anyway, that was just a fun way to start off this entry about our last day. We had a more laid back day but we still packed some stuff in!
I started out the morning with my final run while in Italy. Running in Rome was a little more difficult than running in Florence for four reasons. 1.) Hills 2.) Cobblestones. 3.) Traffic (both people and vehicles). 4.) It’s really easy to take a wrong turn and end up running uphill on cobblestones through a mass of people.
Anyway, my run was a little longer than I planned but I did get to see the Forum and the Coliseum again (entirely by accident, but it was still fun.)
We had a brief class meeting after breakfast and then went out for our final walking tour. We started in the Piazza del Popolo (almost as fun to say as “Prego”) and saw some beautiful Caravaggio’s in St. Maria. As the group was finishing up in the church Beth and I went looking for a place with a toilette and came upon a lovely little DaVinci museum. After some discussion, we decided to add it to the itinerary. It was a great museum, focused on DaVinci’s inventions. It was fun to walk around and see all the cool stuff that he came up with so long ago. The flipper hand and the portable piano were my personal favorites.
After that, we walked down to the piazza Navona and visited more Caravaggio’s and were absolved of all sins in St. Luigi del Francesi (legend has it that if you light a candle and say a prayer for the King of France, you are good to go!). We checked out the amazing four rivers fountain and then let folks go for the day.
Everyone went different directions at that point so I can only speak to what I did. I decided to visit Castle Angelo, built in 140 AD, it once held Hadrian’s tomb. After that, it was a fortress inhabited by many Popes (there is a tunnel from it to the Vatican.) It’s a fun place to walk around with fabulous views and a cool museum. The museum has varied objects (armor and weapons, papal sandals from the 13th century, roman artifacts and some wonderful painting and sculpture – my favorite being “Mars Restrained by Cupid” by Il Guercino.)
After that, I made my way back to the hotel slowly, stopping for last minute gifts and to see the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain one last time.
We are all going out tonight for a group dinner to celebrate our last evening. I figure that I will be back too late to post anything about that, but I will try to do a final post or two once we get back. I will upload more photos if nothing else. I’m still struggling with uploading photos with this connection, so I may not get anything else up until we get back.
We will be leaving for the airport early tomorrow morning (6AM Saturday, Rome time.) It’s hard to believe that we won’t get back until Sunday night! I’m trying not to think about that part. I’m just looking forward to hugging my boys and my husband again.
I hope you have enjoyed following along! I hope to have a few post-trip musings from the students eventually along with more photos.

Posted by: jtccitaly | June 3, 2011

And Another Hundred People Just Got Off of the Train

I’m quoting lyrics again, but this reference (in the title) is quite obscure. I’ll be impressed if anyone gets it! Today we were surrounded by crowds pretty much from start to finish. It was worth it, but it was a rather hectic experience. I feel like I’ve spent the entire day being jugged and jostled by strangers. At any given point during the day, I could have reached out a hand and touched at least five different tour groups. I did enjoy seeing what each tour group leader choose to keep track of their group. Some had fancy feathers on a pole, some had colorful umbrellas or flags and I saw one guy leading a group with a water bottle held aloft (maybe he forgot his fancy feather.) If I am able to get pictures to upload tonight (last night it was taking about 10 minutes to post each picture – if that’s the case again, you may have to wait until we get back for the pictures) you should be able to get a feel for the crowds at the Vatican. I lived in NYC for years so I’ve experienced crowds before (and this was nothing like Times Square on New Year’s Eve) but I think I’ve gotten out of practice. Rome is helping me get back into my New Yorker mode (sunglasses on, don’t smile or make eye contact, keep on moving with purpose even if you have no idea where you are going).

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We started the morning off with a class meeting. Many students presented and we learned some wonderful tidbits! Once we were all crammed full of knowledge, we took the Metro to the Vatican. It is an impressive and majestic complex. We waited about an hour in the very hot sun to get into St. Peter’s Basilica. Celia became our bulldog in defending our spot against attempted line cutters (she would spit out a stream of Spanish that seemed to discourage most miscreants).

It was certainly worth the wait to see Michelangelo’s Pieta and the rest of the elaborate basilica. After a lunch break, we gathered to go into the Vatican Museum. The museum is remarkable but it seems almost endless! You go through room after room after room of fantastic works of art (paintings, sculpture, and much more). The art starts with antiquity and goes all the way through to modern art. Then you end up in the Sistine Chapel for the grand finale. And it is certainly a grand finale. No pictures allowed in the chapel, but I did take photos of some of the other rooms so that you can get a feel for the whole Vatican experience. We figured that those experiences were enough for a day, so we have another quiet night (for me at least – some of our travelers still have the energy to go out on the town).

It was a very interesting day. It’s fascinating to me to see the different experiences that people have with this type of sacred art. For some, it is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, for others it is the opportunity to appreciate artistic genius, some see it as a check mark on their tourist lists. I did feel that it was difficult to really give the Sistine Chapel the reverence that it deserves. Being boxed in like sardines and herded through the museum like cattle tends to take a little bit away from the experience for me. But it is certainly worth the journey.

Tomorrow we have a light day – a walk in the morning to see some works of Caravaggio and Bernini, finished by lunch time so that we have one last opportunity to experience Rome (and pick up those last minute souvenirs!)



Posted by: jtccitaly | June 2, 2011

All Roads Lead to Rome

Yea! We are finally current! No pictures yet, but I should have them up tomorrow (hopefully.)

Today was mostly a travel day, although we did have a lovely stop in Sienna on the way to Rome. No major issues with the bus travel (thankfully). I’m just very happy that I have made it through the major bus travel on this trip on all those windy mountain roads without throwing up (thank you Dramamine.)

We stopped for a few hours in Sienna and it is such a gorgeous town! It’s another one of those hill towns so there was a fair amount up uphill travel, but it was certainly worth it for the views. There is a huge Roman wall at the entrance to the town and you walk through this lovely area to get from the place where the bus parks and the main part of town. The streets are crowded with tourists from all over, and today they were having some kind of festival to celebrate Italian independence so there were all kinds of military vehicles and officers everywhere. My boys would have loved it (Kerrick and Mac, check out some of the pictures once I get them to upload!)

The most striking element in Sienna is the Piazza del Campo. The Campo is majestic and very big! It’s the largest central square that we’ve seen and sports the second highest tower in Italy. Apparently every July, they hold a big horse race around the Campo. That would sure be something to see. Beth and I took a “pants” picture in front of the awesome fountain in the campo.

The Duomo in Sienna is my favorite. It’s an absolutely exquisite church, both inside and out. I love the art on the floors – I tried to take some pictures, but they really don’t do it justice.

And that really is it for today! We got into Rome and settled into the hotel around 6PM so everyone has a chance to have an early night and relax a bit. I’m certainty going to try to get some sleep! We’re all pretty wiped out. I think I’m going to have to sleep for a week straight to catch up when I get back.

Tomorrow we will be visiting the Vatican.


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Posted by: jtccitaly | June 2, 2011

Split Pants!

This entry is from June 1st. I’m having trouble getting pictures to upload but I’ll try again tomorrow. I’m going to go ahead and post the entries and see if I can get the pictures to upload later on.:

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Don’t worry – it’s not as bad as it sounds. Beth and I split up today (“split pants”) so that I could take the theatre students to Vicenza to see the Teatro Olimpico. (This was mistakenly left off of the itinerary by the travel agent, so we had to rearrange things to make it happen.) Beth will have to update you on the goings on of the students in Florence – I know they went to the Pitti palace and the Academia plus a few other spots but I’ll have to get someone else to post the details on that.

As for us theatre folks, we had a very rough travel day – we all got up around 5AM to make it to the train station. I won’t go into all the details but all the theatre students were real troopers through many delays and setbacks including missed trains, changing departure tracks, sold out trains, misprinted tickets and many other challenges! We ended up having a two-hour layover in Bologna, so we decided to explore that town for a little while. We found this fabulous local market where you could buy all kinds of food (meat, cheese, breads, nuts, candy, etc.) and other goods. I got some tea and some wonderful homemade soap.

We did eventually make it to Vicenza around 1:30PM and headed straight to the theatre. It was well worth the trip. Andrew commented that it had only taken us 3 days and seven hours to get there! The Teatro Olimpico is one of the most important theatres in the world in terms of theatre history. It was built during the Renaissance and is truly an embodiment of that time period. It is the oldest surviving indoor Renaissance theatre in Europe. The space echoes the importance placed on classical works during the Renaissance as the architect Andrea Palladio wanted to build a Greek/Roman style theatre indoors. So the seating is laid out like the Greek and Roman theatres but the theatre has an amazing and elaborate proscenium and also is a wonderful example of the “street scene” perspective. I could go on and on about this wonderful theatre! I was really glad that the students got to see it.

We also got to see a falconer hunting pigeons – the falcon swept down and got a pigeon just a few feet in front of us while we were standing outside of the theater. Talk about drama!

After the theatre we had some lunch in a park and then explored the town a little more. It’s a beautiful town (aren’t they all!) Palladio designed many of the structures in the town and it’s pretty impressive.

The trip home was thankfully uneventful. The rail system in Europe is amazing. I wish that we had something like it in the USA. We were all exhausted from all the travel, but it was a good day. A very good day.


Posted by: jtccitaly | June 2, 2011

Art. Big Art.

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We are in Rome and after paying through the nose, I do have Wi-Fi access so I can update entires on the blog. I decided to shake things up and put the slideshow first this time (yeah, I’m wild and crazy that way.) This entry is from May 31st:

Today was a day filled with some of the most exquisite art In Italy – some of it, among the finest in the world. In the morning we started with the Convento di San Marco, which used to be a monastery. You can visit the cells where the monks lived. Each cell has a picture on the wall painted by Fra Angelico. The pictures are incredible and it’s so interesting to see the living space. There is a cell where Savonarola (of the “Bonfire of the Vanities” fame) would stay. The “Annunciation” that Fra Angelica painted is my personal favorite.

We then visited Santa Maria Novella and saw more amazing stuff including a fresco by Massaccio and some more wonderful frescos by Lippi. The church is just beautiful.

We took a lunch break during which Beth and I visited the famous lucky cinghiale (wild boar). You are supposed to rub his nose for good luck, but I went one step further (see photo.)

In the afternoon, we went to the Uffizi, which is one of the top five art museums in the world. It was incredible. You definitely get art overload, but it’s still amazing. To see Botticelli’s, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Da Vinci and many, many other world-renowned artists all in one space is remarkable. I visited old favorites (Botticelli’s Primavera, Caravaggio’s Medusa) and found some new favorites (Meltzi’s Lena and the Swan, Carracci’s Venus Two Satyrs and a Cupid). Beth and I spent the better part of the day in the museum.

After that you might think that we would all be exhausted and not have any energy left! Well, you would be right, but still there was one more very important thing on the agenda. We had to rearrange some plans so I needed to get the theatre students through the Academia so that they wouldn’t miss seeing Michelangelo’s David. It was free night for the museums (a great concept!) so we just had to show up (which was very good, because I had just enough energy to get the group to the right place.) David is of course mind-boggling. It’s hard to describe the experience of walking into the gallery and seeing that famous sculpture. It’s another one of those “wow” moments (like the Coliseum) when the word “wow” doesn’t even come close to expressing what you truly feel. What’s really neat is to see the unfinished sculptures so that you can understand the process of creating it.

That was our very full day! In thinking about seeing all that amazing stuff, I find that one of the most interesting things about seeing artwork (especially famous artwork) is scale. When you see pictures in a book, you can’t really understand the scale and context of the work. Seeing David, and really being able to see how enormous and exquisite the statue is, is what really makes it hit home. Sometimes paintings or sculptures are smaller than expected, sometimes they are larger, but it’s always a different experience to have it right there in front of you.

I think that many of the students have learned a new appreciation for the Italian culture and art and theatre and architecture and many other things on this trip so far. And that makes it all worth the exhaustion and sore feet.


Posted by: jtccitaly | June 1, 2011

A Town With a View

Okay, I got the internet to work – I’m going to start uploading! I’ve been writing entries the last few days, but haven’t been able to get them posted. I won’t promise to catch up totally tonight (I have about a gazillion emails to respond to as well) but I’ll at least get one up! I should be able to catch up tomorrow when we get to Rome (tomorrow we leave Florence and go to Rome with a stop in Sienna.) Here’s an entry for May 30th.

I started out early today – a few of us met at 6:30AM to do a walk around the old city to take pictures before the crowds arrived. I think it was worth it, but you can decide. Since I was up, I decided to do a quick run through the old city and down the Arno. It was a perfect morning for a run and I enjoyed running past such beautiful sites.

The group started off the day at the Duomo – the museum first (I was able to take pictures of some stuff, including Michelangelo’s Pietà – it’s more amazing in real life but at least you get the idea.) We then visited the Duomo, which is also amazing. The dome is really remarkable.

Next, we were off to the Barghello for more wonderful art – I couldn’t take pictures through most areas, but some I could so check out the photos. We saw lots of incredible sculptures.

We took a break then for lunch and shopping – the leather good here are exquisite and I think most of us now have at least one leather item! Beth and I wandered around trying to figure out bus routes but we did manage to get in some shopping too.

A few energetic students and I met to climb the dome – 463 steps! Most of the steps are really big and really steep. It was worth it though as you can see from the photos. It was fun, but I certainly doubted the wisdom of doing an early morning run and an afternoon stair climb in the same day. I may be a little sore tomorrow!

We met up to take the bus to Fiesole – a hill town (but we could take the bus!) with some Etruscan ruins and delicious pizza!

We got to see the sun set and enjoyed another incredible view. Sorry for the sparse details –I’m pretty beat from all the action today. It was a great day! Check out the slideshow!

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PS – I also hear that the Jersey Shore was in Florence today but I’ll have to get some of the students to update you on that. I know basically nothing about them. When Andrew first told me that he saw the Jersey Shore, I thought that either he was hallucinating from lack of sleep or that some geographic disaster had occurred. 🙂

Posted by: jtccitaly | May 30, 2011

We’re experiencing technical difficulties . . .

Hello all! I’m stealing a student’s laptop to let you know that we are all doing wonderfully but most of us can’t get an internet connection in the hotel. Alyssa somehow got the magic laptop code but it hasn’t worked for the rest of us.

I’ll try to post something tomrrow afternoon if I can squeeze in time at an internet cafe.

Soon we will return you to your regularly scheduled program. Ciao!


Posted by: jtccitaly | May 29, 2011

Bond. Jane Bond.

Beth and I wore our urban combat pants today and that was a good thing! We almost had to do combat with our grumpy bus driver but we managed to work things out. We also have a mix up with the itinerary but I’m hoping to fix it with the travel agent tomorrow. Other than that, the trip to Florence was fairly uneventful (no 9 hour trip this time, we were in Florence around noon).

We have appointed Jessica and Terri as security for this trip. They have twice proved themselves to be very tough gals not to be messed with. Once in Rome, some guy tried to grab their bag and they basically grabbed him back and yelled until he let go. Then today, they were in the room where our bags were being stored in the hotel and some guy tried to get in and they blocked the door and told him to leave. You go, girls! Check out the photo of our new security force (and see if you get the reference.) You can also check out the picture of Christine and Andrew sporting their urban crocs (to go with our urban ops pants).

Once we got to the hotel, we did an orienting walk through Florence to the Duomo, Piazza dei Signori, Ponte Vecchio, and Santa Croce. There are some pictures of each location in the slideshow. We split up for some lunch and wandering and we will be meeting up soon for a group dinner near Santa Croce.

Florence is beautiful. It’s definitely a pretty big city, but very different from Rome. It’s incredibly pedestrian friendly and just a lovely place. I’m going to upload a quick slideshow if the computer cooperates. Just as a head’s up – the internet here at our hotel is not working well so far (and it’s ridiculously expensive). I keep getting kicked off so the blogs over the next few days may be shorter. I’ll still get on, but if it takes me forever to get a connection, I may not be able to post as much. I’ll look around for an internet café.

I hope you enjoy the second installment of David Corona’s food diaries. I’m trying to get some of the students to post to the blog this week as well, but with the internet situation, that may not happen. I’ll do what I can to keep this lively.

Now it’s time for dinner and I sure don’t want to miss that! 🙂


PS – Parents reading this, please don’t worry about the safety of your children! It’s really not the urban jungle it might appear after reading this blog. It’s very safe and we are always together. Besides, with Terri and Jessica around, I think the pickpockets are the ones who should be worried.

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