Monday, April 27, 2009

The Week Gets Busy

3:00PM April 18

Tuesday was a very long day. I got back from Ferrara around 6:30 in the morning. It was a packed train, and when I got on, most everybody was sprawled out across two seats, encroaching on the aisles as they starved for some sleep. I eventually found a seat, but I was not willing to close my eyes, as I had my guitar with me. By the time I finally got home, it was close to 7:00AM, and I still had to be up for 10:30 Italian class. I considered staying up, but it only took me five minutes of watching "O Brother, Where Art Thou" before I fell asleep.

It was more of a nap though, as I got up only ninety minutes later to eat, shower, and head off to campus. I had to take my guitar to school too because it was my lesson day, an extra burden to carry up the hill. As soon as I checked my email on campus though, I found out my teacher could not make it that day, and we would postpone until Wednesday. I felt like I'd dragged my guitar up to campus for nothing.

On the other hand, the lack of a lesson meant I had about five hours on campus in the middle of the day in between my Italian and Politics classes, and I decided to use that time to go nap in the La Pietra gardens. I first resolved to take a bunch of pictures while the gardens were in full bloom. When I finally found a nice shady tree to take a nap under, I didn't find it so easy to fall asleep though. I listened to some music and tried to chill out, but of course when I actually wanted to sleep, my body refused, so I went to join John Spencer for lunch.

Pictures From The La Pietra Gardens:

Looking up towards Fiesole

When it came time for politics class, I was running on fumes, and our teacher decided to take us outside for the lesson. I had a lot of trouble trying not to fall asleep as the sun was in my eyes for the first half of class. Eventually, my teacher offered me his seat, where there was less sun. I did better after this, but my teacher kept making references to my condition throughout the class, often remarking, "so this is the type of question you ask on an hour and a half of sleep." We were discussing Eastern Europe that day, and at one point, while discussing their phenomenal success in the past at the Olympics, he quipped, "they used to dope, like Adrian should be doing now." It was a good class but a very long day, and I was happy to be heading home afterwards, where I might finally catch up on my sleep. In total, I was up for about thirty-six of thirty-eight hours.

Wednesday afternoon we had our last piano class because our piano teacher will be touring for the rest of the semester as a sideman for a semi-classical-pop singer. Unfortunately, this means that we have to play our final for a different teacher. I really like this teacher, and at the end of class, he told me to stay in touch. There's always a possibility that I'll have a gig over here someday, and I'll reconnect with him, or vice-versa.

After piano, I had my make-up guitar lesson in the grass out front of La Pietra. As we'd moved the day of our lesson, Antonio's office was taken by another student's composition, and besides, it was a gorgeous day to be outside.

My teacher is also the composition teacher for the two students studying film scoring here, and they were each recording a piece to accompany a scene from a silent film that day. I was one of the musicians for the session, so my teacher offered me a ride down to the studio early, so we might get a good amp sound and set up before everybody else arrived.

The recording was a little difficult for the first composition, as we’d never heard any example of what we were playing. Like real studio musicians, we had to create an interpretation on the spot, but we were creating the whole track with no foundation. To make it especially difficult, we had several time signature and mood changes, and the whole time we were playing along with a click track that appeared to accelerate over the course of each measure, never allowing the tempo to feel set. It was a difficult situation, and I don’t think any of us played our best, but the music itself was interesting, and I’m curious to see how it turned out.

School treated us to pizza, and we got a big enough order that the local pizzeria threw in a bottle of proseco too. The only trouble was, we didn't have a bottle opener. We pondered how to open it for a while. At one point, Adam tried opening it using his keys, attempting to hammer one end in the cork with an empty beer bottle. We all waited in anticipation to see if it would work, at which point John Spencer aptly noted, "you know you're an alcoholic when...." Eventually the engineer at the studio produced a bottle opener after watching us struggle for a while, and we all shared a toast before returning to the studio for the second student's piece.

The next composition was much more straight-forward, and it did not take nearly as long, giving me the opportunity to return home at a reasonable hour after another long day.

Thursday, in Italian class, we ran our children's music "specttacolo" for the first time all the way through, presenting it to NYU's Italian language coordinator here in Florence. She happened to love it, several times joining in with clapping or laughing at the hilarious sight of fifteen college kids dancing the "Hokey Pokey" and like-songs. After the performance, we still had plenty of time left in class though, and as it was Thursday, we convinced our teacher to let us watch La Vita è Bella. I had never seen it before, but I thought it was brilliant. Roberto Benigni completely reembodied Chaplin's "tramp" character, a role that all too perfectly fits an Italian. I can't wait to watch more.

I got to record the aperitivo for the first time that night all the way through, finally getting a documentation of our jams with Tryson, which we do every week at the end of the program. We played two of our usual tunes, "Summertime" and John Legend's "Stay With You," but we also encouraged Tryson to come up with a blues for a change. He actually did a really great job improvising lyrics, and the piece went somewhere without any extended instrumental solos. I can't say it was our most solid performance overall, which is unfortunate, as it was the final aperitivo, but I'm satisfied that I at least have some record of what we were doing each week.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gig Week #2: Ferrara

5:30 AM April 14

I returned to campus on Monday, even though there were no classes—we had our makeup class on the first Friday of school. I needed to make sure I had all of the information on the gig that night, but Antonio, as usual, was a little late in giving this to us. He finally sent us an email with the address of the club and call time for sound check around 12:30. The only local train headed there by that point left at 1:30. Having not given us enough time to make it to that train, we settled for the last remaining seats available on any later train—here, the Monday after Easter is like the Sunday after Thanksgiving—first class on a Swiss train headed to Zurich, which stopped in Bologna, where we could transfer to a Ferrara-bound train. This significantly cut into the money we might have made, but it all worked out, and we were there more than two hours before sound check.

As we had so much time to kill anyways, we decided to walk it a half-hour across to the far side of town where the club was rather than take a taxi on the gorgeous day. In the process we got to see some of the city, which seemed mostly untouched by tourists, and in that sense, purely Italian. At one point we passed through a great park full of locals taking in the beautiful spring weather, playing soccer, and relaxing under the shade of large trees. Everyone there was Italian, but I felt temporarily transported back to America, feeling an urge to join in the fun, playing at the park like I might do with friends or family back home.

Walking across Ferrara

A gorgeous day at the park

The club itself was situated within one of the large round buildings (below, right) used as part of the fortification at the old wall of the city. The performance space was on the second floor, itself complete with a balcony level. It was a fabulous room that sounded great. As Piero would note later on, "this is the first time we can really play together, listen to each other, and interact. Now we can make music."

John, Dave, and I practiced, eventually joined by Piero, for over an hour before Andy arrived for sound check. At that point, we ran through a few more things, but not too much, so as not to burn out on anything before the performance.

This gave us plenty of time to eat, and eat we did, as dinner was also spectacular. It began with a large antipasto dish covered with enough deli meat to make three good sandwiches. The star item though, was the pumpkin tortelini I had, coated in what I could best describe as a bolognese sauce of ground meat and tomato. It was unlike anything I've ever had before. The combination of the pumpkin with the meat was a bit of a perplexing taste at first, but I soon came to view it as a wonderful pairing. They also brought us a large portion of penne in a more traditional bolognese sauce to share. For dessert, we were treated to a great chocolate cake, cut into little pieces like brownies. At the center of the dish was a little bowl with a mascarpone sauce to be spooned over the cake. It was a great combination, especially alongside a good Italian cafe espresso. After such a meal, I felt especially compelled to play well.

Our first set went on a little after 10:30, and immediately we could feel the difference of playing in that space. We had a nice balanced sound. I got to play through a real guitar amp for once—our practice space only has a tiny Fender amp, the kind intended for middle school kids teaching themselves "Smoke On The Water." The bass was present and audible, but not overbearing. The baby-grand was fully open and able to fill the room, and the crowd was into it from the start. We played solid through the whole first set, and I felt particularly good about my feature on "Spring Breeze" again, but it took us a little while to get up to full force in the concert. By the last tune of the first set, "'Smatter," we were really hitting a groove.

We came back for the second set at a higher level, and although we didn't pick up exactly where we'd left off, we again built throughout the set towards the last two tunes. At that point, Andy invited his friend Tom Kirkpatrick, himself a trumpet player, to come join us for the old standard, "When Your Lover Has Gone," and Kenny Dorham's "Lotus Blossom." They both went really well, and I felt better than ever on "When Your Lover Has Gone." I was only a little disappointed because I usually have a pretty good solo on "Lotus Blossom," but I just couldn't feel the ideas come to me as they usually do on that piece. The crowd gave us a nice applause, which began to die out, but then a few people started calling out for a "mis," the Italian version of an encore, so we did a real nice rendition of "Bag's Groove," a slow blues written by vibraphonist Milt "Bags" Jackson. Those last few tunes were particularly great because we had big three-part harmonies going between the two trumpets and guitar sharing the melodies. It was definitely a successful gig. I just wish we could have come back the next night to top it.

By the time we got on the road, it was approaching 2:00AM. We could have stayed in a hotel that night and gone back to Florence at 7:30 or 8:30, but it made more sense to catch a train as soon as possible that night, and catch whatever sleep we could on the train or at home. The best we could do was a 4:20 train, which fortunately went direct to Florence. I did not want to fall asleep in the station or on the train though, as I had my guitar with me, so I spent most of the time working on these last two blog entries.

Back in Florence at 6:30AM, walking by the leather market at San Lorenzo as they prepare for another day of tourists.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pasqua Fiorentina

2:30AM April 14

Yet again, I decided to spend my weekend in Florence, having already accomplished my major traveling goals. It also gave me the opportunity to get a bit ahead on my work, put in a few extra hours practicing both jazz and classical guitar, and save some money in the process.

Friday I slept in, a nice change after the previous week when I stayed up late after the gig Tuesday, traveled again that morning, and still made it back in time for Italian at 10:30. I then accompanied John up to campus so I could use the internet, catch up on the blog, and get a little work done.

By 5:30 I left, feeling like I’d had a productive day, and I headed off to our regular aperitivo (seen here at our former host site, Caffe Degli Artigiani) at La Cite Libreria Café. I played okay, but nowhere near my best. It was a pleasant surprise to be joined by a few local guitarists who wanted to sit in this week. They gave me a break from having to produce as the lead instrument for two hours. Without any horn players here, I end up taking the melody on nearly every tune, which is great, as a horn player usually prevents me from ever interpreting the melody myself. The consequence is that I have to be more or less the leader for the night, and we can’t play tunes that I haven’t previously worked on or can’t sight-read. Having the other guitarist there allowed me to relax and focus more on a few tunes, while bringing more diversity to the jam session.

Saturday I got up and felt inspired. I’d been wanting to make pizza for a while, and recently I determined that Easter weekend would be a great to do it, as I had some extra time off. When I woke up that morning, it just felt right, so I confirmed with John, and we decided to throw a pizza party that night.

Before John took off for school to practice, I convinced him and Dallas—our other roommate who was around: Sean and Adam were in Scotland and Germany—to join me for lunch at one of my new favorite spots: Il Caffeteria David. It is so named because it sits around the corner from the Academia Galleria, where Michelangelo’s David is housed. Adam found out about it initially as one of the few places that still made “lampredotti,” a traditional Florentine pork stomach sandwich, complemented by a pepper and vegetable sauce. It is quite a sandwich. I was already back for my fourth in about five or six weeks, and my roommates were not at all disappointed.

Afterwards I went off to buy ingredients for pizza. The one wild card was yeast, which did not come in little packets as I’m used to, but rather as little block of a clay-like substance about the size of two sugar cubes. It was hard to tell how much I was getting and how it would work into the dough. For the first two batches I tried to break it into little piece before stirring in, but I think I got the idea right by dissolving it in water first for the third dough.

For toppings I sautéed some bell pepper, cooked up some mushrooms in a balsamic vinegar sauce, and slow roasted some onion and garlic. I also bought some prosciutto and ricotta to put on the pizze, which came out pretty well, but it took much longer to cook than I would usually find. I believe the humidity had a lot to do with that. Everybody seemed to really enjoy it though.

My work station for cranking out the dough

Toppings ready to be laid out over the first rolled doughs. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the finished pizze.

Most of our friends were out of town or hosting family, so we just had a small crowd over for pizza, consisting of Kate, Brittney, Alex’s friend from back home, Lauren, who is studying at another school in Florence this semester, and Lauren’s two roommates. I realized early on that I’d made up more dough than was necessary, so I went out and bought two apples to chop up and make into an apple pie. To accompany this dessert, I whipped up the container of mascarpone I had sitting in the refrigerator along with a little cinnamon and sugar. The pizza was a mild success, but the dessert pie was a real hit, and most of our guests were baffled by the idea of apples on pizza dough, let alone mascarpone, which they really loved. We ended relatively early in the evening, planning to get up for Easter festivities the next morning.

I was out the door before 9:00 on Sunday, walking down the street towards the Duomo. There I met up with Kate and Brittney, and there we stood, outside the steps to the grand church, waiting, for almost two hours before the festivities began. At that point, a large procession of Florentines paraded around the piazza in medieval costumes toting period weapons, twirling flags, and playing various period instruments, ending up in front of the church, where they stood for the remainder of the show. The procession culminated with four large bulls pulling a tall carriage into the center of the piazza. Over the next thirty minutes or so, we waited more as extra fireworks were attached to the already dangerous carriage. Two men in a cherry-picker hoisted two missing parts onto the top, nearly dropping the second one several times as they tried to cantilever the heavy object out in order to place it on top.

The first procession of drummers

The paraders all standing on the steps of the Duomo, waiting for the fireworks.

Bulls draw out the large carriage into the center of the piazza

The first of two items placed on top of the carriage goes fairly easily

In the meantime, a clergyman walked out and proceeded to bless everything in sight, including us, by flinging oil from a large brush, much like Jackson Pollock. He finished by blessing a large stock of flowers, olive branches, and eggs, which were piled in a cart near the center of the piazza. After he’d left, many of the kids participating in the parade raced to the cart to snatch up some of the eggs. Adult parade-goers then grabbed a few olive branches for themselves to compliment their outfits, and some grabbed the remaining eggs to distribute to kids in the front row behind the barricade. Next, a group of peasant-like women snatched up the remaining flowers and olive branches, handing them out to the front rows, and then later throwing them to others further back. From my spot in the fourth row, it wasn’t to hard to snatch a blessed olive branch.

Finally, the fireworks commenced when a plastic dove was sent down a guy-wire from the church into the center of the carriage. This was followed by many unnecessarily loud bangs and flashes of light, which went in a ring around the bottom of the carriage. After the ring was complete, a set of small fireworks was shot into the air. I’d say there were about eight rings around the carriage, and after each one was set off, moving progressively further up towards the top of the carriage, another small display was triggered of aerial fireworks or sparks being fired off the carriage in various creative ways. The show ended with a burst of red, white (the colors of the municipal coat of arms) and purple (Fiorentina soccer’s color) smoke being emitted from a few spots on the piazza around the carriage. Flags of the province were then released and twirled about by the device hoisted up on top of the carriage earlier. It was definitely a different take on fireworks than I’m used to at our American Independence Day celebrations, especially the idea of shooting them off in the morning, but it was a nice change. I enjoyed, yet again, observing the differences between American and Italian culture. (You can watch the fireworks part of the celebration here.)

Sparks being twirled about as they are shot off the carriage

Dripping sparks

Fireworks sent off towards the heights of the Duomo

One of the final displays of sparks

The Duomo, basking in the smoke and sunlight, following the festivities.

After the show, I went back to school to work more and start to figure out what classes I’m going to take next semester. John had his own plans Sunday night, so I returned home to practice and get to be on the early side, making sure to get some extra sleep before my big gig in Ferrara the following night.

On Sunday, after studying, I took the opportunity afforded me by the beautiful day to snap a few more pictures of our gorgeous campus on the La Pietra estate.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Gig Week #1

9:00AM April 11

Directly after my guitar lesson, at 3:30 on Tuesday, I headed down to the train station to meet up with John Bishop (drums, above left) and Dave Mainella (piano, above right) for our gig in Bologna that night. We arrived just after 5:30, finding Antonio waiting for us there at the taxi stand outside the train station. The other jazz ensemble had played in the smaller town of Ferrara the night before, and Antonio went straight to Bologna the next day without stopping back in Florence. The other group felt they didn't play their best, but the crowd just loved them anyway, giving them a standing ovation and prompting an encore.

We were excited for our own big night, but immediately after reaching the club we were thrown off a bit when we discovered the setup. Due to neighbor complaints, we would not be allowed to use a bass amp, the piano could not be amplified, and I would have to play through either the P.A. or the otherwise functionless bass amp, which our bass player, Piero, had brought up from Florence. I chose the bass amp, which was better than the P.A., but still did not have a nice warm quality for guitar.

Also due to the neighbors, the performance would start on the early side, going from 8:00-10:00, and no later. All things considered, the performance went really well. We all had some great solos, and I felt particularly good taking the lead on a ballad of mine in the middle of the set, "Spring Breeze." It was a tough atmosphere though, as the room was very stale, and the bass was rendered inaudible without amplification. I know Piero was having trouble hearing himself standing right next to it as he played, which is never a good sign. Usually I will drop out during a piano solo to give the pianist room to create their own harmonies, but I continued to comp under Dave for most of the night just to give him any semblance of a bass under his sound.

Overall, I came off the bandstand feeling really good about it though. It was an awkward situation, especially for our first performance together, but everything was really solid. I would give us a 7.5/10. Antonio told us later that we played "good, but good is what I expect from you guys. You gave me five percent of what I know you can do. You have to just lay it all out there." We all expect good things next week though, at the cozier club in Ferrara.

The whole night Andy Gravish, our ensemble director, who plays trumpet with us, introduced me by my Italian name, "Adriano Ponti." By the end of the night, that was the only way that Antonio would address me too, introducing me to a few music management people in the audience by that name, to which one responded, "no, it's Bridges."

The last train out of Bologna back to Florence left at 10:08, so Antonio booked us a hotel for the night. We stopped in to drop our things off and then went out with John's Divine Comedy teacher, who commutes from Bologna. First we got some pizza, as the club forgot to bring us the second course we were going to eat before the performance, and we were all quite starving, then we headed off to a blues bar and chatted for a good two hours.

It was probably 2:30 before we got to sleep that night, and then we got up by 7:00 the next morning in order to reach the 8:00 train back to Florence. We are only allowed to miss classes if there is no possible way to get back in time, and John and I still had to be back for 10:30 Italian class, which we did.

Thursday night John Spencer and I headed off to the American consolate in Florence along with Isamu (jazz piano) and Evan to play background music for a congressional delegation in town as they ate. I spent the first half turning pages for John at the piano, who, as always, played fabulously. The second half I played some real standard soft jazz with Isamu and Evan. It all went really well, and one of the congresswomen told me that she just plopped down in front to watch us the whole time. We took the requisite photo with the congressman, and then we all headed off. Surprisingly, it did feel a lot like stopping in America for the few hours we spent at the consolate.

Unfortunately, I hit one wrong button on my small recorder at each of the gigs, so I have no record of either performance. On Monday in Ferrara, the people working the sound board are supposed to record us, as they did for the other ensemble, and the Blue Note in Milan is now talking about testing out their new video system when we come to play at the end of the month, so there should be plenty of good recordings to come. In the meantime, you can check out my Florence group, the Afterthought Trio/Quartet on our site, and you can listen to a new tune of mine called "Tuesday Troubles," which I recorded at our practice last Monday.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fine Settimana Fiorentina

9:00PM April 6

As Antonio had advised us, I did not make any plans for traveling in April, leaving room for any performances. It was great to stay in Florence though. I felt ashamed to say that I hadn't visited some major sites in Florence, such as Santa Croce and the Boboli Gardens, so this gave me some time to catch up on some of that stuff, in addition to doing some work.

Adam, John, and I slept in a bit on Friday, and we headed off to the Boboli Gardens around 11:00. The gardens are where the Medici family used to go to escape the city. They lived generally at the Palazzo Vecchio, but they often crossed the river to Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens through the "secret" passageway above the buildings on the Ponte Vecchio. As they have a noble heritage, the gardens are quite fabulous. They work their way up a hill on the south side of the Arno overlooking the city. A bit like Versailles, the gardens did not rely on flowers. It was more a combination of sculptures, pergolas, fountains, grass, and trim bushes. There were some pansies in full bloom, but that was not really the focus of the gardens. More than anything, it was a relaxing way to spend the beginning of the afternoon. Many times over, we found ourselves plopping down wherever, gazing at our surroundings for ten or twenty minutes.

Entering Boboli Gardens

Looking north towards the city. It looks to me like the tree on the left recently died.

Looking southwards, beyond the city.

"I know kung fu"

I love these water fountains they had

Adam and John left before me, heading off to practice at campus. I stayed to see the rest of the gardens, and then exited at the top, getting to see the grand gates at the south end of the city. Most of the wall around the old city has been torn down to make room for modern-day boulevards, but at the south side, the wall was preserved, evoking memories of Siena, the ancient Florentine rival. I then got to walk back through the a part of town which I hadn't yet visited, and I stopped by a few churches that my Italian teacher recommended going to see. I can't say they were anything spectacular though. They looked like any other church here.

The southern gates to Firenze vecchio

Santa Maria del Carmine, one of the churches my Italian teacher recommended I go see.

San Frediano, as seen from Ponte alla Carraia.

I was lacking in pictures of our Duomo Fiorentina, so here's one.

That night was Jen's birthday, so I went to go meet up with her and a group of friends at a club, but they weren't there. I tried getting into contact with them for nearly an hour, but nobody was answering their phones except Kate, who happened to be in Rome with her aunt and thus could not help. It wasn't completely for naught though, as I got to take some pictures of Florence at night. I had so few pictures of Florence before this weekend because I rarely walk around the city as a tourist, so I took this opportunity to capture a lot of the things I see on a regular basis and will miss when I return home.

Via Roma, one of the main shopping corridors, set in between the Duomo and Piazza della Republica.

Palazzo Vecchio at night

Some of the Uffizi's outdoor statues, including one of Perseus holding up Medussa's head.

The Duomo at night

Piazza della Santissima Annunziata

Saturday morning John and I got up bright and early to meet our Italian class by school for makeup sessions from when our teacher missed class twice earlier in the semester. Instead of having a class though, we were taking a trip to a high school nearby in Pontasieve, a town fourteen kilometers to the east along the Arno. We had to learn some history of the town before going, which was interesting. It is significant as the town that connects Florence to the rest of Italy. Historically, there was a bridge there that connected it to the states of Arezzo and Romagna. During more recent times, the bridges there--the name literally means bridge over the Sieve, a tributary which flows into the Arno at the foot of the town--made the rail connection to Rome, and they still do today. During World War II, the city was bombed a ton because of this key connection. It was the weak link in the chain from the north to the south of Italy.

We got a tour of the high school from a few students, some of whom we'd met before when they came to NYU to talk with us in our class. We've had about three of these classes where we get together with the Italian high school students, talking in Italian for the first half of the class and English for the second. It would be a great experience if the situation weren't so forced. This time they tried to remedy that by then taking us all to a vineyard. The two halves quickly segregated though, and it seemed that the Italians couldn't care less about the tour and were simply happy to be out of the classroom--they have school six days a week here.

I found the tour really fascinating, and it was mostly in Italian, which was great, as we had to be attentive to catch what was being said. The vineyard was apparently one of the top in the world, owned by the Frescobaldi family, and the wine was stored in the old family castle. It was not the season to be making new wine though, so we didn't get to see any of the process, just where they store different barrels and picked the seeds out of the grapes. Even though we are of age here, NYU would not let us taste any of the wine, only the olive oil, which was very good, but it was a little disappointing to go to vineyard and not get to try any of the product.

The vineyards outside Pontasieve

The olive orchards on the Frescobaldi property as we approach the castle, seen on the right side.

The Frescobaldi vineyard

Inside the wine cellars. Each barrel holds about twenty-five bottles worth.

The bell tower on the Frescobaldi castle

After the vineyard they took us to walk around the town of Pontasieve. Here's a picture from one of the Ponti.

The middle of Pontasieve. It became evident quickly that the students were leading us around slowly and haphazardly so that they wouldn't have to return to class so soon.

That afternoon, John's roommate from New York, Ben, came in from London, where he's been studying this semester. He was on his two week spring break--which they apparently get at other abroad locations--so he spent about five days in Italy. We all sat around and talked for a while, eating crackers and cheese, and sipping wine. Eventually we were joined by Molly, one of the composition majors here, who came down from her residence on campus. The three of us went out to 'all Acqua Due that night, one of our favorite restaurants in Florence, which cooks really impeccable meat.

I wasn't so hungry that night, so I skipped the pasta course, and I was intrigued by the curry chicken dish (right). It was really fabulous. The chicken was extremely tender and juicy, and the curry sauce was a nice treat, as I had not had any Indian flavors since I came to Italy. We went out for gelato after the meal and then spent the rest of the evening with Rishma at her place, chatting, munching on cookies, and sipping wine late into the evening.

Adam and Sean were down in Rome for the weekend, as Sean had gotten tickets back in February from the Office of Student Life to go see the Palm Sunday mass at the Vatican--not a big surprise, but they said it was quite an experience, full of song and prayer in lots of different languages. I spent most of Sunday working, while John and Ben went to many of the main tourist attractions in Florence, like the David, at the Academia Galleria. I did convince them to join me on a trip up the hill to Fiesole, the small town to the north that supposedly has the best view of the city.

Well, it did. We went up there around 7:00 or so, just as sunset was beginning. It wasn't a great day for the sunset, but the view was spectacular. You could see the whole city from up there. I could pick out our campus on the hill below, the large yellow buildings sticking out. I know the city isn't very big, but I normally think of it in terms of its north-south dimensions. The city has expanded immensely in the east-west directions though, out through the valley between the hills which squeeze the development.

It was a nice weekend in Florence, and I look forward to a few more where I'll get to see some of the little things I've missed in my time here. In the meantime, I'm getting excited about our performance schedule for the upcoming week and month ahead.

The view from Fiesole

The Duomo below

NYU's campus is at the center-left, surrounded by the trees that populate the gardens at La Pietra. The largest of the yellow buildings is La Pietra, the main estate donated to the school, which is under historical preservation.

A storm was definitely raging to the west

Reentering the town of Fiesole

Abstract scupture in the main square

Piazza Mino, at the center of Fiesole.