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Napoli

Napoli

We were all a bit sad to get on the train and leave behind the good times in Bologna, but I was still excited to see Naples, a city I hadn’t yet visited before this trip.  As soon as we got off the train, it was obvious that we had moved south.  After snowy Bologna, the temperatures in the 50s felt like a heat wave, and the famed grit and disorder of the city were immediately evident as we pushed through street vendors to get to taxis, which then had to circle around the periphery of the city to take us to our hotel, because of a rally going on downtown.  Naples was certainly dirty (I have never seen so much dog poop on sidewalks), and wild (nor have I been in so many reckless taxi rides), but still struck me with a particular beauty, especially when we opened our hotel windows to see a gorgeous view over the colorful city out to the water and Vesuvius in the distance.

antique splendor, Villa Pignatelli

We dined for the first time in Naples in a tiny, single room restaurant, where I had pasta alla siciliana, with eggplant, tomato sauce, and provolone cheese.  Lunch was followed by a visit to the Università degli Studi Suor Orsola, where our visit was being honored with a special seminar on food culture in Italy, at which a number of local professors spoke, and our own was invited to give an impromptu talk about our class.  That night, we had our first taste of Neapolitan pizza, which has a thicker crust (more like American pizza) than other typical Italian pizza.  Afterward, we headed to yet another beautiful theater, Teatro Mercadante, but this time for an Italian rendition of Macbeth, which had been very interestingly modernized.

Castello dell'Ovo

Castello dell'Ovo

Our last day was packed, as we tried to do and see as much as possible in Naples.  In the morning, we had a guided visit of the food still life exhibition at Villa Pignatelli, a museum that also has beautiful gardens and old interior decor.  During the afternoon, I walked with a few of my classmates along the shore, as we enjoyed the sun and the first truly blue skies of the trip, and passed fisherman, dog walkers, and lovers along the beach.  We ended up at the Castello dell’Ovo, a small ancient castle that juts out into the water, and offered impressive views of the city and the sea.  In the afternoon, we visited the Garofalo pasta factory, where the owner explained their methods as well as their innovative marketing and the philosophy behind their brand.  The visit culminated with a walk through the factory itself, where we saw, tasted, and smelled, pasta in its many stages of production, from cutting, to sorting, to packaging.

spaghetti

spaghetti waiting to be cut

For our final meal, we dined at the Città del Gusto, a center for cooking, learning, and eating for local students, where we had pizza, shrimp with potato and broccoli rabe, ricotta-stuffed pasta, fish with vegetables, and a chocolate cake, like a miniature Vesuvius with a molten chocolate core.  Now I’m back at Princeton, about to be a second semester senior, and for the first time in awhile I don’t have any more travel on the horizon (if long and treacherous trips to the library to work on my thesis don’t count).  Instead, I’ll be trying to enjoy all that I love about this place as much as possible before graduation.  This trip to Italy will definitely be among my most memorable Princeton experiences.  To see more of the story in photos, visit my Shutterfly site.

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Aux Champs Elysées

At the end of every summer, Paris imports tons of sand and palm trees from the south of France and turns the banks of the Seine near Notre Dame into a boardwalk/faux beach area, called Paris Plages.  The several-week long event just began, so yesterday we spent the afternoon basking in the sun by the river, reading and listening to a bagpiper playing for money on the bridge above.  It felt just like the beach…well, except for the fact that getting in the water was the absolute last thing we would want to do there. 

Paris Plages along the Seine

Paris Plages along the Seine

Today, for Carrie’s last day, we spent the early afternoon at the Palais de Tokyo, a modern art museum whose permanent exhibition is gratuit (free, aka. my favorite word to see here).  After that we walked along the famous Champs Elysées, from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde (concorde means peace, despite the fact that it’s where the public executions at the guillotine once were).  Though the Champs Elysées is not as glamorous as it used to be apparently, it’s still pretty posh, with the Louis Vuitton flagship store, Cartier, and so on (although McDonald’s made it in there too, somehow).

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Ajaccio: chez Napoleon

Ajaccio, my final stop in Corsica, was a big change from my calm night in the country.  It’s Corsica’s capital and biggest city, and with a port and white sand beaches, it feels a lot more like a typical resort town than the other places I’ve been so far.  Still, I managed to find the most charming place to stay: Pensione de la famille Morelli.  Tina Morelli has been running a small B&B from her home since 1960, and welcomed me herself at the door when I arrived on Sunday afternoon.  And it was the best place to cure the lonliness of traveling solo: I stayed in the living room-turned guest room that was filled with photo albums and trinkets, and got to have a family style dinner with the other guests at night. 

Sanguinary Islands

Sanguinary Islands

And though I was staying only one day in Ajaccio, there was lots to do!  I took another petit train to the nearby Sanguinary Islands, where there is an old lookout tower, and of course visited the birthplace of Ajaccio’s most famous son–Napoleon Bonaparte…whose statues and namesake are scattered throughout the city.  A lock of his hair is even preserved in a pendant at the house.

Napoleon overlooking his hometown

Napoleon overlooking his hometown

My first night happened to be the fete de la musique in Ajaccio and there were all sorts of musical groups performing in the streets after dark, from a gospel choir, to African drummers, to rock bands and Spanish guitarists playing the Beatles.  The next morning I had an important tour/interview at the privately-owned Corsican history museum in town and then was onmy way out of town to Bonifacio, the white-cliffed town on the southern tip of the island where ferries connect Corsica to Sardinia.

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Corte

Corsica had a modern constitution before the US or France did. In the mid 1700’s, Corsica was it’s own nation, with Pascale Paoli as its leader. Sadly for the young Corsican nation, it didn’t last, and the island has been French ever since. But you wouldn’t know it in Corte (population 6000, and 10000 when university is in session), the former capital of the Corsican nation, where I spent 2 nights.  Everything is named after Paoli here: the university, the main boulevard, the downtown square. And Corsican nationalist graffiti is everywhere, things like “Corsica libera,” “Liberta a u nostru patriotti” (as you can see, the Corsican language looks a lot like Italian), and even some insulting remarks toward the French president Sarkozy (and depictions of his gravestone). I have yet to get the whole story, but it’s obvious that Corte is the seat of Corsican nationalism. Or as some Parisians I met in Bastia told me, “Corte is the Texas of Corsica.” I’m not sure if the analogy fits entirely, but it is true that the people of Corte seem very proud of their identity. And no wonder…it’s a beautiful town, off the coast, and in the heart of the island. Corte is surrounded by jagged mountains (it’s like an entirely different landscape from the Mediterranean coast of a few days ago), some still with snow on the peaks, and deep valleys. It’s a great place for the outdoorsy apparently: hiking, canyoning, camping, etc. Unfortunately, I have other things to do.

 

the citadel of Corte

the citadel of Corte

…like learn about Corsican culture at the Musee de la Corse, the only museum dedicated to Corsican ethnography. (oh right, this is where the research comes in). I spent awhile in this museum taking notes and hopefully got some good information. Attached to the museum is the citadel (the only inland citadel on the island), which is sort of the icon of the city, and I got a great view of the surrounding countryside from the top. There was also a dungeon, fitted with a stone bed and pillow for the prisoners. How thoughtful.

Other highlights in Corte were the belvedere, another lookout tower, several quaint churches, and the haut ville, the old part of the town paved over in cobblestones and up a hill. I took the petit train tour of the town, on a little motored train that winds around the bumpy roads, offering a brief explanation of some of the town’s landmarks.

the petit train tour

the petit train tour

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18 Hours in Pittsburgh

Snook and I with Pittsburgh's Diplodocus

Snook and I with Pittsburgh's Diplodocus

After our week in Charlottesville, Josh and I drove up to Ann Arbor, MI for a few days.  On the way I had the opportunity to visit my great friend Snook in Pittsburgh, where she goes to school at Pitt.  I had never been to see her college town before, so we got a whirlwind tour of campus, which is in the Oakland neighborhood of the city.  First stop was the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (where Snook works) which is surrounded by several nice parks and dinosaur models.

Pitt's Cathedral of Learning

Pitt's Cathedral of Learning

Nearby was the Cathedral of Learning, the main landmark of the University of Pittsburgh campus, and 42 stories high.  Since we were there on a Sunday, a lot of the supposedly really cool nationality rooms were closed, but we took the elevator up to the Honors College, where we had a great view of the city.  Also in the same area was the home plate where Babe Ruth hit his last home run (the plate is now preserved on the floor of the academic building which now stands where the stadium once was).

Pittsburgh from above

Pittsburgh from above

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