Italian Literature Blog Post – An Experimentation in Perspective

Perspectives from on high//Stonefaced//The wall and the girl

The Wall

I dream of little feet skittering across my surface deep into the night, core cooling, always that pitter-patter of tiny green feet quietly weaving their way through life, between the cracks.

My favorite time of year is August, or January – fresh starts, new beginnings, innocence and ignorance. There is no touch like the first. Even their soft finger pads, spongy and untouched by hard labor – the hands of intellects – are full of awe. They trail their hands across my bumps, algae, cracks older than their parents – older than their parents’ parents – cracks touched by so many previous selves; ghosts of stereotypes – a thousand fresh faced kids about to live out the same experiences of those past and future. They trail their hands that first day, filled with a history they cannot yet comprehend, but can feel inside, shown in the way their hands tremble, their dragging steps. By their attempts to slow down and drink in a view that will never again be so foreign, so stunning, so heart wrenching that they cannot help but use me to support their shocked and bubbling bodies.

No one ever thinks of the building blocks of life, but we are the lucky ones. We are the ones upon which the sun rises and sets each day and night. We are the ones who hold up all that is precious – all that is sought after. Simple souls still serve a purpose and without us, none of this, would be possible. And while I sit, day in and day out, gazing at views so breathtaking even the most hurried of men have to stop and stare – a view so startling I cannot help but be paralyzed – a piece of me follows the brave, fresh, wise and naïve souls who have passed through this villa, a blur of faces and voices carrying me out into the world, disseminating lesson learned in Tuscan hills. So I never feel inferior to beings more complex and grand than I. Simple doesn’t mean stupid…simple started cities, simple set the world on fire, simple gave perspective to innumerable sheltered kids who knew nothing of the beauties the world has to offer. I stand tall.

The Girl

I came here, to the villa, to Italy, to sit on a porch overlooking the countryside and write while drinking wine. I don’t do that together all that much. I don’t write as much as I wished, and I drink more wine that I should, not savoring, but gulping, in the stupid and rushed way of young souls hungry for life.

Silence is hard to come by, constantly conquered by the stew of refracting voices and bouncing bodies enveloping everyone in a swirl of motion that must be the embodiment of the villa’s soul. But sometimes, as the sun is threatening to drop entirely out of view, and the heat is seeping out of the stately stones, and someone is napping, and another has gone to buy stamps, and yet others still have decided to venture our for a drink, I can sit on the terrace embraced by a warm silence. And in that moment, my body propped against the wall, fingers gripping the rough stone edge, milk skin picking up indentations – for that one single moment I can let the miracle of this existence wash over me; and I can almost feel every person before, and everyone after me, who couldn’t help and won’t be able to help getting smacked in the face by the potential of incredible beauty still unseen.

All I Need Is Purses and Prosciutto – City of Florence Blog 1

Visiting the Scuola del Cuoio was a really cool experience for me for two reasons. The first being I have an unhealthy obsession with leather goods, particularly handbags (my family has rather meanly nicknamed me the Imelda Marcos of purses…) so getting to see such beautiful pieces of craftsmanship being made was really exciting. The other reason I enjoyed it so much was because it was so vastly different than the way in which things are done in the United States. The concept of artisan, handmade goods is pretty rare in the US and I loved seeing this culture of valuing quality over quantity still alive and well. As someone whose prized possession is a pair of Frye leather boots (a company known for their last-a-lifetime quality) it was awe-inspiring to see the handmade process in action, especially the daughter of the founder Francesca working on her custom line. I’ve been to two artisan workshops before, one a blacksmith’s and one in the south of France for pottery (an obsession of my mother’s) but this was the first one that I really enjoyed because I find the products so enticing. I was also surprisingly fascinated by the different types of leather, something I knew nothing about – I had NO clue that alligator cost so much…While I’ve never thought meat was murder, my jury has always been kind of out on fur and leather. The reverence with which they treated the skins, as if making beautiful products out of them was honoring them, definitely converted me thought to supporting the leather trade.

As much as I enjoyed the leather school, the way to my heart is through my stomach and I adore European markets. For as long as I can remember my mom and I have frequented French markets (similar to this one) as well as farmers markets in the states getting artisanal cheeses and cured meats for picnics and snacking. Mercato di Sant’ Ambrogio was a dream for me. After lunch I went back to the stand Professoressa Fallini told us to go to and got cheese (an aged one I can actually stomach!), prosciutto, bread, and garlic olives that I’ve been snacking on for the past few days. While the language barrier is still tremendously frustrating to me (why can’t I just be fluent now?? I hate feeling like an incompetent American) the man at the stand was so so nice (something I’ve notice in nearly all Italian people) and I enjoyed interacting with him almost as much as eating the food.

Lunch in the market (which reminded me a ton of a big indoor/outdoor market in Philadelphia) was as usual with Italian food, spectacular. I love the many courses and tremendous flavors. I have been so amazed by the accommodations of my dairy allergy, and while I was disappointed not to be able to eat the lasagna, which looked divine, my pasta with red sauce and pancetta was so out of this world I was placated. My favorite part of the meal though was Rocco, the owner of the restaurant. When not interacting with Alan or teasing the girls in our group about not eating enough, he was playing, kissing, hugging, and talking to the locals eating at the restaurant. That I think is my favorite part of Italy so far, the warmth of the people. The constant camaraderie you observe amongst the locals as if everyone is family. My hope is that by the end of this trip I can stop being a silent observer and have the familiarity and comfort to take part in this laidback, loving, and homey culture.

One of the work stations in Scuola del Cuoio

One of the work stations in Scuola del Cuoio

Another work space in the leather school, where boxes are being covered with goat skin.

Another work space in the leather school, where boxes are being covered with goat skin.

Leather, leather, leather! The red is alligator and costs 1500 euros, and the green is Ostrich.

Leather, leather, leather! The red is alligator and costs 1500 euros, and the green is Ostrich.

Salami <3


Olives galore, the ones with the red in them are called Olliva Amore, love olives!

Olives galore, the ones with the red in them are called Olliva Amore, love olives!

Study Abroad Anticipation

I’m currently sitting in the car with my parents driving to NY to catch my flight to Florence by way of Frankfurt tonight. Every time I leave my parents to go back to school – despite my excitement – there’s always been nerves. Prone to anxiety attacks since I was little, the frantic panic of facing the unknown has always seemed to haunt me on the cusp of life changing events, but oddly enough, I have felt none of that leading up to what is certainly a massive change in my life.

I’ve been trying for several days to figure out why I’m not nervous and can only think of two things. The first is that it simply hasn’t hit me yet. It is hard to fear something you don’t know and can’t picture and truly can’t fathom at this point in time. The other reason is that I am so excited, excited to a point that I – someone very rarely at a loss for words – can’t find the right words to express the never ending well of unadulterated bliss I have at the idea of spending four months in Italy. I adore Georgetown, but sometimes a break is good. Especially a break in Europe, a place I have felt at home in for a long time due to many family travels there.

There are plenty of things to be stressed about – overcoming the language barrier, staying safe, navigating an entirely new place, making travel arrangements – but somehow my type A brain has been very zen about placing these concerns on the backburner and believing that they will somehow work themselves out while I’m there. Perhaps I’m just trying to embrace the more leisurely ‘laxed Italian pace of life before getting there.

The thing I’m most worried about is walking around with a big AMERICAN sign pasted on my forehead. I’ve heard that Florence is a huge American study abroad location and for that reason American’s get an extremely bad rap as stupid, obnoxious, tourists. Obviously I will be a tourist, but I just hope I’m able to get an accurate and genuine taste of Italian culture. Worrying about that is kind of stupid, though, as there’s nothing I can do about it except control my own behavior.

Other than that, I feel nothing except extreme happiness. This is truly a dream, and I am so lucky to be embarking on what absolutely will be the experience of a lifetime. My biggest goal is to enjoy it and soak it in to the best of my abilities. I am extremely privileged to be given this opportunity and my biggest goal is to take advantage of it.

Long Run Essentials

One of the nice things about running is that it is one of the few sports where you don’t need a ton of gear to partake in it (unlike football or hockey). Actually though, if you get into serious running, you will discover that that is actually not true. Here is a list of my long run gear essentials:

iPhone Armband: For the first month of my running career I held my iPhone in my hand the entire run. It would get sweaty and gross and as my friend Nina once said, it could possibly be making one arm stronger than the other, thus there was a constant need to alternate which hand I held it in. Needless to say, this was unbelievably annoying, so I went down to Nike (any sports store or online store carries a million different brands and designs) and got myself a running armband. It was one of the best investments I’ve ever made because now I truly feel like a free woman, waving my hands wildly about as I run (because I can dammit!), and looking hardcore like I know what I’m doing (ha!).

Nike E1 Prime Performance Armband, photo from

Nike E1 Prime Performance Armband, photo from

Performance Socks: This was a recent revelation and I now understand what it must have felt like when archaic people discovered Christ. Before I discovered performance socks (BPS) I was wearing cotton socks to run in, or as close to 100% cotton as I could find (did you know it’s near impossible to find 100% cotton socks anymore?). Anyways, I have hyperhidrosis, so my feet are often sweaty and cotton is just more uncomfortable on them. Little did I know that cotton chafes, especially with shoe inserts, and gives you nasty blisters. After coming back from a 5-mile run this week, with blisters on the arches of both my feet, my dad marched on down to Marathon Sports and came back with these fine pieces of cloth: The Balega Drynamix Hidden Comfort Sock. I don’t know why they’re named “Hidden Comfort” because the comfort has been pretty obvious to me. No more blisters, just cushion and wicking from here on out.

Handheld Water Bottle: I used to have a water belt but it was wicked uncomfortable so I opted for a small oval-shaped handheld water bottle with a strap, which although not actually palm shaped, is manageable enough on a long run. The best part about it is that the strap mine came with has a little zipper pouch that can hold a gel or keys. I’d also recommend finding a bottle with a soft rubbery top, because they are more comfortable to bite open while running.

Amphipod Hydraform Handheld Pocket, photo from

Amphipod Hydraform Handheld Pocket, photo from

Fuel: Don’t run far in the heat without fuel. You will feel depleted and gross afterwards. Burning this type of body energy requires quick replenishment. Upwards of 7 miles and I will eat a gel at 6 miles. I bought a ton of different brands to try out, but so far I’ve only tried one product and just stuck with it because it worked so well the first time. That product is Gu Energy Gel in Chocolate Outrage and Espresso Love. I actually like the taste so much I look forward to getting to eat them. When you’re tired and hot during a run they taste like manna.

Running Connections

So I’ve been a little AWOL recently because I had to take a week off training due to injury. In order to actually follow through with taking time off, I decided not to blog because it would make me feel guilty for not training and this was something I really had to do to allow my body to heal and continue training for the half. Thankfully the pains I was (/am) having were a couple strains that could be trained through, with proper PT, which I am diligently going to bi-weekly. Any who, in my time off I went to Lollapalooza, the beach, and got a tattoo. During all of this, something really cool happened. I made connections with total strangers based off of our shared love of running.


Okay, so Lollapalooza really doesn’t have anything to do with running connections…I only brought it up because 1) I wanted to brag (seriously most unbelievable experience) (for those of you who don’t know what it is, it is a three day music festival in downtown Chicago), 2) It is another reason why I took time off running, and 3) Chicago was unbelievably beautiful and I would have loved to have gotten to run there. Next time I’m there I plan on running in Grant Park and by the lake. Any other recommendations of places to run in Chicago?


As for getting the tattoo, this was a very momentous occasion. My mom is one of my very best friends in the world. She and I were born on the same day and it has created an extremely special bond between the two of us. For a while now, we’ve been toying with the idea of getting a tattoo. We decided to get our birthdate with a tree and two birds, one flying and one resting in the tree. It’s based off of a saying that I wrote a poem about last year that says you give your children roots, then you give your children wings. The whole point of the tattoo is to be a reminder of the bond we share and representative of how to be together when we are apart. At the bottom of this post is the poem I wrote.


After extensive research, we decided to get our tats at Redemption Tattoo, a place that had come highly recommended, and we were certainly not disappointed. We worked with the artist Josh McAlear who took the concept we had in our heads, and turned it into a reality. He is a true artist and extremely professional and accommodating. I could not have asked for a better experience, nor could I be more happy with the outcome.


Let me just say, my mother and I are not your average hardcore tattoo types, and yes we know stereotypes are changing blah, blah, blah, but still. After my mom had gotten her tattoo she said, “I feel like a real rebel” as Josh stifled a laugh behind her back. I responded, “No one wearing a shirt from Talbots can be a rebel.” We were rather intimidated by the tattoo-covered artists and felt a little silly and noobish. When we got there though, there were two other people getting tattooed, both pretty vanilla in my book. I felt right at home. The guy getting tattooed next to me had brought his girlfriend along. She struck up a conversation with me after my tattoo was finished and my mom was getting hers.


She asked me about the meaning of my tattoo and told me that once you get your first, it becomes pretty addictive. I mentioned how I’ve already thought about possibly getting a running related tattoo, perhaps the distance of the farthest race I run. Her face lit up when I mentioned I was a runner and she proudly popped her foot in the air. She pointed at the black lines on the top of her foot and told me that it was the time from her first marathon in Roman Numerals. When she removed the laptop from her lap, I saw she was wearing a shirt that said Bahstan Runnah. We talked for a while about running, races, running clubs, injuries, and then fitness blogging came up. Turns out she does social media for an organic beer brewery called Peak Brewing. While I am under 21 and thus cannot try the product, I think that what they’re doing (i.e. all local and organic) is unbelievably cool. It was an absolute pleasure meeting her and it was so amazing to make a connection with a total stranger, in a tattoo shop of all places.


Yesterday, my parents and I went to the beach. Right after we had set up camp, I started hearing tid-bits of very familiar words coming from the group of adults sitting right next to us. A little backstory, there is a relay race in Oregon called the Hood to Coast, it is a 12-person, 195 mile relay race from Mt. Hood to the Oregon coast. My dad has run it around 10 times and I have been there every year to cheer him on. I’m hoping soon to run it with him, but that’s a story for another day. Anyways, I’m familiar with the lingo that accompanies the race and realized the people next to us were talking about it. I told my dad, who of course was already lost in his book, and he went and talked to them about it. Turns out only one of the guys had run it, but the entire group of people was full of marathoners and triathletes (my favorite was the mid-thirty year old mother of 4 who has done several Ironmans).


The point of all of these ramblings is that running has the ability to unite people from all walks of life, in all kinds of situations. When I started running, I was in serious Track and Field withdrawal. I really really missed the community that the sport brought with it and what I love so much about running is the incredible community it breeds. You have to be a little bit crazy to be a runner. And that crazy streak is what unites such an unbelievably diverse group of athletes. People run for all different reasons. There is no stereotypical runner. The thing we all have in common is this need to move and find our inner strength outdoors. Be it at a tattoo parlor, or on the beach, the power of running is strong and pervasive. The community can find you anywhere and the opportunities running provides you with for connections are limitless, much like the feeling it provides you with while running.


Here is the poem I wrote about the phrase that my mom and I’s tattoos are based on:






You give your children roots

Then you give your children wings.

We don’t know what to do,

with our bodies springing loosely from the ground, reaching

for the sun.


Caked in the rich soils of our past,

our feet ache

to remain here

in fertile familiarity.

But out heads

see horizons undiscovered

and ache to fill each cavity


all that, out there.


Our hearts, right here,

right in the middle,

yearn for the answer.

The freedom to fly,

But strength

to carry our homes along for the ride.




I once tried to fly away

too soon,

my feet caught among the brambles,

my skin stretched too thin across my rib cage.

Familiar hands tickled my sides

with rounded nails slightly too long.

I fell back to earth.


As the date crept ever closer,

I tried to burrow deeper,


maybe I’d like to be a seedling


But I dirtied my wings,

and scraped my toes along the bedrock.




One day,

our roots loosened,

wings strengthened,

ready to weather the weight

of hearts grown heavy as rocks.


We took flight.

Mud dripped from our feet

to the grown-ups on the ground like toy figurines

shrinking in the final rays of day.


Wind will toss our bodies like rag dolls, tatter

our fragile wings.

Our feet will yearn for stability or permanence.

It’s departure time.

We’ll take what we’ve been given,

And figure the rest out

along the path.




Training Apps (Nike+, NTC)

photo photo-4

If you are a college student running on a budget, or really anyone who can’t afford to dole out the big bucks for the best running accouterments, there are several options out there for you. When I was younger, my parents instituted a rule in our household after the discovery of my rather rapid cycling through interests. The rule was that if you took up a new hobby, you had to stick with it for at least a year or two before any big purchases could be made regarding it. For example, I now have a sewing machine and guitar that I had to earn through years of borrowing other’s equipment. This mentality has stuck with me throughout the years, so when I started running, partially because of my childhood rule, and partially because I’m cheap as hell (correction, I just don’t like spending money when there are perfectly good, cheaper options available) I decided not to invest in any serious running equipment, with the exception of shoes and clothes.

Being the anal person that I am though, I needed to be able to track the distances and times I was running, so I did a little research and found the Nike+ app. I’m sure many of you have some vague idea of the Nike+ chip you can put in your shoe to track miles, but Nike+ is no longer just about that chip. My dad has been using Nike+ for years moving from the chip, to bracelet, to watch, but I discovered, you don’t need any of that stuff!

 The Nike+ app for iPhone is incredible. I’m sure there are many other apps out there that track your miles and times for free, but this app has a few special features that I really enjoy. Before I get into the things that make the app special, I just want to say that after having used this app, I probably wouldn’t invest in any of the other Nike+ technology because you have to upload it to your profile to see your stats. With the app you can see and listen to your time/distance as you go, so for a person who loves instant gratification, as well as is following a training program, the app is great.


Best features of the Nike+ app:

Social Networking: The app not only tracks your activity, but also allows you to connect with your friends who use Nike+, and pits you in friendly competitions with them. This makes running less of a solitary activity and also gives you some motivation to keep your mileage up.

Trophies: Again a great motivational tool, when you reach certain benchmarks, trophies are added to your profile. There are awards for anything such as running a certain number of days/weeks/months in a row or number of miles logged in a certain time period. Regardless of their triviality, it feels good to rack up trophies.

Some of the trophies I've earned.

Some of the trophies I’ve earned.

Motivational Speakers: This is probably my favorite aspect of the app, as silly as it is. When you finish a run or if you set your run for a certain distance, when you’re in the last portion of it, famous runners/Nike affiliated athletes will come on and congratulate or motivate you to keep pushing. I don’t care that it’s pre-recorded, Ashton Eaton can come on my headphones and tell me I’m great any day of the week!

Data Collection: The app does a great job of collecting ones running data including, weather, how it felt, and what surface you ran on and creating not only an individual page for each run, but also graphs of running data for the month.

photo-1 photo-2

Powersongs: The app talks to you throughout your run, giving you your average pace at each mile and if you set the distance you’re going to run, when you’re very close to finishing it, it will give you the option to start a powersong. A powersong is a pre-set pump up song of your choosing, taken from your phone’s iPod.

While I may eventually try and acquire a Garmin watch, for now, the Nike+ app is a great resource that not only tells me what I’m doing, but also gives me another level of motivation thanks to it’s personal bench marks.

Another fitness app I love to use is the Nike Training Club (NTC) app . Also free, it provides targeted workouts for strengthening specific areas of the body with great video instruction. Oftentimes when I run out of ideas for my own strengthening exercises I will use this app for some variation, or to target an area that I don’t know any exercises for.


Cape Cod Rail Trail

This past weekend I reached the point in my half marathon training program where the weekend long run was farther than I had ever run before. Having done 7 miles the week before, 8 seemed daunting, but doable. While I’ve been following Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 training plan to a T, I hadn’t actually read any of his descriptions of each of the workouts. To my surprise, I discovered that you’re actually supposed to run 30-90 seconds slower than your race pace during long runs. My theory up until this point had been that you should run as fast or faster than your race pace in training to make it feel easier when you were actually racing. Given the strain keeping this pace put on my body, I was more than happy to oblige Hal’s advice and run slower than I had been. This also eased some of the anxiety I had about my first foray into what I consider true distance running.

I was on Cape Cod this weekend in Orleans with a friend from school. Before leaving for the beach, I did some googling of places to run on the Cape. The most appealing and accessible appeared to be the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 22-mile paved trail, running from South Dennis to South Wellfleet, passing through Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet.

My friend and I drove to the trail and entered at Nickerson State Park. After a massive rainstorm the night before there was no humidity and at 10am it was about 78 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. We began running SW towards Brewster and Harwich. There were tons of bikers out, in addition to runners. The company was welcome in the way in which seeing other people out there working and suffering gives comfort and solidarity.

I am accustomed to city running, which can be frustrating regarding pedestrians, but I find enjoyable because the scenery is always changing both in terms of landscape and people. The Rail Trail was beautiful, but monotonous. The entire thing was virtually a concrete road encompassed by a tunnel of greenery, with occasional breaks of sun when town roads crossed the trail. The greenery provided very welcome shade, but virtually no variation, which got a little boring. My friend and I fluctuated between 9 and 10 minute miles, meeting our goal of 9:30 average miles. Due to my city running, I stop pretty often for stoplights. As this was a rural trail, there was no reason to stop except pure exhaustion. In the end, we ended up stopping every 2 miles (3 stops total), which I am very proud of!

Last week on my 7 mile run, I tried running with a water belt. I found it wildly uncomfortable and ended up just carrying the bottle in hand. After that, I went to Marathon Sports in Boston and got a small bottle with a hand strap. I tested it out on the 8 mile run, and while not the most comfortable thing ever, it did the trick! The other thing I got at Marathon Sports was a bunch of gels/chews to experiment with. I took the Chocolate Outrage GU Energy Gel with me on this run and stopped at mile 6 to eat it. I loved the taste and when I finished my run, and later into that day, I didn’t feel as depleted and dehydrated as I had after my 7 mile run.

Overall it was a great experience and made me feel as if I might actually have it in myself to finish the half marathon. While I’m very excited for the half, I’m really nervous about actually being able to run that far, and being able to run 8 miles was the first time that I really thought, okay, if I can do this, I can do 13.1. And if you’re looking for a place to run on the cape, look no further than the Cape Cod Rail Trail, despite the monotony it was beautiful and nice and shady.