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Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the city-states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor EMMANUEL II. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito MUSSOLINI established a Fascist dictatorship. His disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy's defeat in World War II. A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed. Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification, joining the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999. Persistent problems include illegal immigration, organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the prosperous north.

Geneva, Thai, and the Bell Man
Submitted by bugsly on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - 05:54 Car | Core | Foreign Language and Music Study | Italy | Switzerland | Train

Today we woke early and arrived in Milan by train, killed an hour of waiting time and then went to on to Geneva. From there we went to our hotel, dumped our luggage and headed out to explore. In Geneva one of the main forms of industry is clocks, cuckoo clocks, grandfather clocks, modern clocks, watches, pocket watches, and even swatches. Michael has been in search of a pocket watch for a long while so we plan on looking tomorrow morning, I am sure we will have no trouble. Another interesting thing to see in Geneva is the four-hundred and fifty four feet fountain in the middle of the huge lake which is suitably named: Lake Geneva. Anyway we eventually after a fifteen minute walk found a packed Thai restaurant which is always a good sign (Thai is my families favorite food). It was so good that we ordered seconds of almost everything! After we had walked off our delicious meal we were greeted by the hotel bellman, who is a manikin wearing a “Hotel Lido” uniform.


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Wet Dogs, horses, and Dinner with Francesco and Anna
Submitted by bugsly on Monday, March 27, 2006 - 12:38 Car | Core | Foreign Language and Music Study | Italy | Walk

Today we mainly hung around the house, packing, working, and playing with the dogs. We had lots of fun getting the dogs wet and visiting the newly arrived horse. We later on in the day went out to dinner with Francesco and Anna to a wonderful bustling ristorante. The dinner was wonderful and we all exchanged funny stories of our adventures and such. After a while though Michael and I began to yawn even though on Italian standards the night was just beginning, so we slid into the car after saying goodbye and dreamt all night long.


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Seeing Siena with Pierfrancesco and Francesco
Submitted by bugsly on Sunday, March 26, 2006 - 02:04 Car | Core | Foreign Language and Music Study | Italy | Walk

Last night in Italy we sprung forward one hour because daylight savings time started. So, we woke up this missing one hour of sleep. We hauled ourselves out of bed and got ready to meet our friend Pierfrancesco and drive to see Siena for the day. Once he arrived he had brought two wonderful surprises for us, his wife came to meet us and their adorable beagle Snoopy. After a while though we had to head out so we said goodbye and started for Siena.

The drive is about an hour give or take with traffic, so we arrived around one o’ clock and met up with our good friend Francesco and his sister. We sat down for a delicious meal at a local restaurant, and then headed out to explore. There is a huge square that several times in the summer hosts an enormous horse race where they make a ring with sand that the horses race on. It is not the safest of events, but it attracts a large crowd. In fact people who live in apartments around the square rent out their windows for people to watch the races from!

There is a large bell tower too, and although we did not climb to the top we did see the “medieval parking lot” as Pierfrancesco called it -- iron rings embedded the walls to tie your horse to. We wound our way around lots of little shops and tiny streets until we ran into the very large cathedral that was still having the exterior worked on. Inside you can see amazing inlaid marble mosaics, they are a different style than that we have seen before but all the same beautiful. It is a very large cathedral and in one side room you can see the ancient music that monks used to chant in that very place. The music was quite elaborate, with illuminated letters and only four bar lines instead of the modern number of five. It was very interesting to see it all, and we were sad to go. But yet the pastries called!

We found a very busy, but delicious none the less, pastry shop that held many good things to eat. I got myself a super sweet chocolate bar while mom had a very good slice of Pan Forte wrapped up for later. Dad enjoyed his usual strong espresso (he is in coffee heaven) along with Pierfrancesco. Eventually though it was time to say goodbye to Francesco and his sister and head home.

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Leonardo's Machines
Submitted by bugsly on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 02:02 Car | Core | Foreign Language and Music Study | Italy | Walk

After a slow morning we headed off for the center of Florence. Our first stop was an official soccer jersey store to look around for Italian uniforms. After finishing up there we split up; Dad, Michael, and I going to a Leonardo museum and Mom going to the Museum of San Marcos to see the amazing frescoes.

Before heading over to the museum we stopped for a quick bite and then walked around the corner to see the imitations of the machines that Leonardo himself had designed and tested. Some were even interactive, making it a lot of fun to see that they really did work!!! After taking our picture as the Mona Lisa in a large image with a hole for the head, we had to move on. We eventually caught up with mom who had been blown away by the beautiful frescoes at San Marco.


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Shopping, delicious geloto, and really good dinner!
Submitted by bugsly on Friday, March 24, 2006 - 01:58 Car | Core | Foreign Language and Music Study | Italy | Walk

Almost all of today mom and I spent our time looking around various shops and boutiques. At one point in the day we headed over to the Chiesa di San Marco and saw the inside, we plan to come back when the monastery is open and we can see the amazing paintings that are inside. Afterwards we headed over and got gelato from our most favorite place yet and then went to meet up with Dad and Michael to go for dinner at a place near our house. After we got off the bus we walked to our meeting spot and met up with them we enjoyed a wonderful meal of pasta and pizza.


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Shopping, Uffizi Gallery and Winged Angels
Submitted by bugsly on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 13:35 Car | Core | Foreign Language and Music Study | Italy | Physical and Health Education | Walk

In the morning mom and I went to Florence to go shopping for a couple of hours and then met up with my dad and Michael to visit the Uffizi Gallery. After a little muddling with the ticket reservations, we got in fine and began to explore the massive collection of Renaissance art.

My mom challenged me to count as many winged angels as I could and assigned my brother and I a particular painting to search out. By the time we had visited nearly every room on the top floor of the Gallery we were Renaissanced out and I had counted 191 winged angels and found my assigned painting.

The Gallery was so overwhelming and amazing, but one thing I noticed with the marble statues was that the sculptors’ would combine different types and shades of marble to make the statues more colorful.


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Santa Croce and A Room with a View
Submitted by bugsly on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - 13:27 Car | Core | Foreign Language and Music Study | Italy | Life Sciences | Physical and Health Education | Walk

Today we visited Santa Croce. Inside the church there are the funerary monuments of Galileo, Michelangelo, Dante and Machiavelli among others. The frescos are beautiful and there are many stained glass windows too. In one of the rooms on the side of the church you can see a robe worn by Saint Francis of Assisi. It was in a glass box with an ornate gold frame. It is believed that Saint Francis founded the church of Santa Croce.

Oddly enough, on one side of the church, there is a leather school where the age old art of leather craftsmanship is taught and practiced. If you purchase a leather item in the shop, they will custom imprint you initials on the item.

It was fun to see the places in the scenes from the movie A Room with a View.


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Playing with Dogs and a Wonderful Dinner
Submitted by bugsly on Monday, March 20, 2006 - 02:04 Car | Core | Foreign Language and Music Study | Italy | Physical and Health Education | Walk

Today started out saying a big hello to the dogs and learning to play a game that Michael and I have decided to call “King’s Wood” because the Italian name is too hard to pronounce. Our new friend Anna, showed us how to play the game which she learned as a young child. She is originally from Sweden, has traveled a lot and now lives here.

This evening my mom had a cooking lesson from Teresa who lives here too. My mom learned how to make delicious fresh pasta which was served with either a yummy homemade tomato sauce or an artichoke sauce. She also made delicious grilled potatoes with herbs and olive oil (lots). She made an amazing cake for dessert that we all enjoyed very much. It was one of the best meals of my entire life!


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David and Gelato
Submitted by bugsly on Sunday, March 19, 2006 - 01:55 Car | Core | Foreign Language and Music Study | Italy | Physical and Health Education | Walk

After about an hour of waiting in line and talking to some nice people from Atlanta, we finally got in to see Michelangelo’s The David. He is very impressive as you first see him, the shades of grey and white and the perfect lighting from a distance are spectacular. He is in his own wonderful alcove with many tourists around him. In his hand you can see a few stones to put in the slingshot he has thrown over his shoulder. He is so detailed that the veins in his hands and feet are bulging out like he is real.

I thought he was most impressive from a distance. Up close the details are amazing. We walked through the rest of the museum, which is small but has a few paintings from the early Christian period and many different plaster models of famous statues. The David is the main attraction in the museum.

By the way, while we were standing in line, we had the most fantastico gelato yet. I had chocolate and I can’t wait to have it again!


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The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Submitted by bugsly on Saturday, March 18, 2006 - 01:42 Car | Core | Foreign Language and Music Study | Italy | Physical and Health Education | Walk

We hopped in the car this morning and headed to the nearby city of Pisa. As you may have guessed, Pisa is the home of the Leaning Tower. There are little signs painted on the streets all over the city directing you to the Tower and Cathedral. Upon arriving you see one of the oddest sights in your life. A tower at the wrong angle. It’s really fun to get your picture taken holding up the Tower from a perspective point of view.

Walking to the top is a very strange feeling because at one point, while you are walking up the stairs, you are actually going downhill. From the top you can see all of Pisa. It is a beautiful view and when you look at the horizon, it isn’t straight. Inside the cathedral and the baptistery, are many stained glass windows, golden icons, and lots of marble. It is all very beautiful, but you have to admit that the Tower is the most impressive.


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There are three types of "Kiwi's" in New Zealand. Kiwi birds, Kiwi fruit and the New Zealanders call themselves "Kiwis"!

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