Surprise ending!

Last night was our API Goodbye Apertivo! So sad. It was at this really good apertivo place that we’ve been to before but it was a little different because all the API kids had a different buffet than the people that were there on their own. AND we couldn’t have alcoholic drinks haha so we told the bartender to just make us something fun and he made what we concluded were raspberry mojitos (minus the booze) and they were super delicious! Might be my new favorite drink! By the time we sat down the food was kind of cold cuz it had been outside and there wasn’t much left so we were kinda bummed but decided we mine as well go get dinner. After some consideration trying to think of our favorite place we decided to try something new and ended up at a restaurant called Il Teatro. The service was kind of slow it took like 20 minutes for them to even notice we were there but once we ordered and got our food it was well worth the wait!

Everyones food was amazing and the wine was one of the best I’ve had! I had just come from my food & wine final (so sad saying goodbye to that class) so I was being annoying and trying to pick a good meal that would work well with the white wine. I got this really great spaghetti dish (hey Mom & Dad I like spaghetti now!) and it didn’t end up being the best match but oh well it was fun trying! They also brought us a bunch of different types of bread with our meal. Once we were all done it was kind of late and we needed to get home to study so we tried to signal the waiter for our check saying, “Posso pagare?” She came over and started asking us why we were leaving so soon and that we need to have another bottle of wine yadda yadda yadda so we told her we needed to study and then she felt bad that we’re “students and have so much stress”…little does she know of the 4 month vacation this has really been…

About 5 minutes later we’re kind of irritated because it’s taken so long to get our check but she just brings us some bottles of water and gives us all spoons. Then she comes back with these huge pieces of tiramisu for each of us! It was so sweet! She was saying complements of the chef so that you can go home and study with a full belly. How nice! The dessert was awesome and everything always tastes better when it’s free so all in all we had an amazing night! Unfortunately it was one of our last nights all eating together with friends from the API program.

Tonight I have been studying for my LAST FINAL! It’s Italian, which I really like and seem to understand well, so I’m not stressing too hard over it. Tomorrow is my last day in Florence and I couldn’t be more upset, I’m just trying not to think about it!

Arrivederci!

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Finals days…

I’m so sad right now after reading this post from the bus2alps blog by Max Widmer:

“The sun is beginning to set on your time abroad. Cracks of purple and pink are breaking your fading skies to fragments, and you know it’s almost time to leave. Soak in this moment and reflect on the ride. You lived here. You jumped in the ice-cold water of culture shock back in January and allowed the water to warm. Espresso became less bitter as snippets of Italian were absorbed into your vocabulary. Salt-less bread became the norm and Mozzarella melted in your mouth. You made friends named Pino and Massimo, and you kissed them on both cheeks. Family style at Gatto never failed you and the limoncello shots were always free. You stopped noticing the churches and their bells and the gypsies that swarmed like pigeons. The accordion outside became the default ambience, and fresh foccacia the accompanying scent. You lived like an Italian even though you didn’t look like one, but the food tasted just as good. And while every weekend was somewhere new, going home meant Florence. That’ll be different now, but so will you.”

That just put me over the edge as if I wasn’t already depressed after just coming home from my final class cooking in food & wine. It was the first part of our final – the “practical”. We split into groups last week and each group was assigned a dish that we’ve already made to make again and perfect and pair a wine with it. My group made the chocolate spoon cake. And we really undercooked it so it was like a gooey brownie (one thing I definitely am looking forward to when I go home are gooey fresh pastries). Four courses were made and we all made extra so I had at least two servings of each dish. There was the pesto pasta with green beans & potatoes, ginger shrimp with farfalle, grilled swordfish & mediterranean veggies and then our cake! Everything was super delicious and we all got to hangout and chat for the last time. I’m going to miss everyone in my class so much I made so many friends and I truly love all 15 people.

Food & Wine Dinner

I figured I would post this to my blog. It is the paper I had to write (very informal paper) about the dinner we went to with my food and wine class last week! Enjoy!

Last week, I went on an organized dinner with my Food & Wine Pairing class. We met at a cute restaurant right in the middle of the Santa Croce square called Boccadama. I showed up hungry and ready to eat because I knew we were about to have four courses of delicious Italian food, and wine to go with each dish! My friends and I sat at the end of one of the long tables that was set with multiple forks and different size wine glasses. When the waiters (who were formally trained and dressed) put a basket of bread in front of us, we all kind of looked around wondering if we should have any or try not to fill up because we knew what was ahead of us. Together we decided not to have any before our first course came…but that decision changed after about three minutes.

After a quick introduction by our teacher, we were served our first course! It was a traditional Tuscan antipasti. The plate came with a few pieces of salami, a piece of bruschetta, a crostini with chicken liver and a slice of prosciutto. Served with the first course was a chilled white wine named Rayet. It was from the Laimburg region in northeastern Italy. The wine was made from Pinot Bianco grapes in 2008. It was a D.O.C. classified wine and had 13.5% alcohol. The Denominazione de Origine Controllata classification means the wine was produced in a specific region, it followed a given recipe and yield and sent in a sample every year to certain wine tasters. In short – this wine was delicious! It was definitely one of my favorites from all that we’ve tried in class. It had a light yellowish color and smelled slightly of apple juice. It was somewhat low in brilliance and after tasting it I found it was very light and had a clean finish. The wine was definitely not dry, but not too sweet, and had a fruity taste. The wine complemented the food when tasting them together. I didn’t think the wine enhanced the food in any way, it was just a nice refreshing match.

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Once we were finished the first course, the waiters brought out the next dish: Pasta integrale con pomodoro e ricotta – translation: wheat pasta with tomato sauce and ricotta cheese. So good! I was expecting it to be a small dish but it was a good-sized portion, one I would normally eat if I were just having pasta for dinner! I thought about if I should eat the whole thing or not because I knew a meat course was coming and of course dessert but I just dove right in and cleaned the plate! We were served another white wine with this course named Gewurztraminer, which was also the type of grapes, and it was from the Laimburg region. It was made in 2011, classified D.O.C and was 14.5% alcohol. It had the same color as the first wine, pale yellow, but was very dull with no brilliance. It had a floral smell and was heavier than the first wine when tasting it. The wine was semi-sweet and it was a bit too heavy for my liking. I surprisingly didn’t think it went that well with the pasta as the wine became more sour when they were paired in one bite.

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Next came the third course – artista con mele e patate meaning pork with apples and potatoes. We were all a little skeptical about apples but then realized we normally eat apple sauce with pork chops at home so it couldn’t be that weird…and it wasn’t! I loved the apples layered on top of the pork it was unusual but perfect. The roasted potatoes were seasoned well and just what I wanted. This course came paired with our first red wine of the evening. The name and grapes were the same: Nero D’avola, and was from the Terre Sicilane region. The year was 2012, it had 13% alcohol and was classified I.G.T meaning it was just one step down from the D.O.C wines. An Indicazione Geografica Tipica wine is produced with grapes all coming from the same region. It was a very deep red, almost purple color that had Earthy smells. The wine was surprisingly light and low in tannins yet somewhat bitter. I also noticed there was a strong after taste. In my opinion, this was the best wine and food combination because when eaten together the wine actually tasted different and became more sweet and for me, more enjoyable. This is one of the my favorite things about this class – when the wine tastes different with and without the food! I think it’s so cool! Overall I loved the dish and wine and hope to have something like it again one day.

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After three courses (and three licked-clean plates) I somehow still had room for dessert. I had a delicious piece of apple cake! With our final course we had a white-gold dessert wine called Ambar. It was from the Sicilia region and made from Moscato grapes. The classification was I.G.P (same as an I.G.T.) and had 15.5% alcohol, and dessert wines don’t have years. It was orange-ish in color and smelled like oranges too. It tasted of apples and oranges and was very thick, like all of the other dessert wines I’ve tried this semester. The food and wine were a very good pair, as they both tasted of apples! Together, the wine tasted more acidic but was still very enjoyable.

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I’m so glad I got to experience a four-course real Italian meal paired with wines. It was a great experience and a lot of fun to relax and eat and drink with the new friends I’ve made while studying abroad! 🙂

Trattoria Anita

MY NEW FAVORITE!!! It’s been hard the past few weeks because me and all my roommates/friends are running low on money so we haven’t been going out to eat a lot…trying to cook at home and save money for the weekends we travel. But when my sister and Justin came that wasn’t really an option and I’m so glad we tried so many new places because they were seriously all fantastic:

4 Leoni: I already wrote about this a couple posts back. The pear ravioli (dumpling) things were amazing! I’ll definitely go back there before I leave.

Osteria San Spirito: I had heard a lot about this place but honestly never made it there because it’s across the river (which means far from my apartment). We were looking for this place last Sunday night and were walking all around to find it and ended up actually walking in a huge circle from where we started. But it was worth the walk! The food is amazing and there are half portions, which is what I got, and still a good amount of food that is filling. I had the rigatoni with a bolognese sauce – perfection! It was covered in cheese and just melted in my mouth. This is where Justin got the tripe, and Jill a gnocchi with truffle and cheese sauce. The plates were all really cute and festive also!

image-1Ok so the portion looks kind of small in the picture – but it wasn’t! Pretty plate, right?

My favorite place we went was TRATTORIA ANITA! Bellisimo! It’s run by brothers and they’re super Italian, old and sweet! We went on a Wednesday, the day after my Food & Wine class, and so I was craving pesto with white wine because we had it the night before and it was ridiculously amazing. There wasn’t any on the menu but I just asked the guy, do you have anything with pesto? And he said, “you like pesto? I’ll get you some pesto!” So then he brought me back a huge plate of fettucini with pesto and it was so homemade and fresh I almost died. Jillian got some ravioli that she loved and Justin got tortellini that was amazing and the guy had recommended it! I can’t wait to go back there with my friends!!

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Cinque Terre

Today is the most beautiful day I have had in Florence! Just absolutely perfect weather! I feel so lucky to be here and glad I could share the start of spring with my sister.

A couple of days ago me, her and Justin went to Cinque Terre! It’s a place on the western coast of Italy that is made up of 5 small towns all close together – so close that you can hike from one town to the next in about an hour or two. We woke up early for a 8am train from Florence to Pisa then Pisa to La Spezia then La Spezia to the first town in Cinque: Riomaggiore. It was a lot of travelling but we made it there by 11:30ish. Of course it was a beautiful morning with sunshine and blue skies, which quickly changed as soon as we stepped off the train. Even though it was overcast all day, it actually made for some pretty pictures and we were lucky it never rained! There are a couple hiking trails that run through the towns, but the easy, scenic route by the coast was closed due to landslides. We were pretty bummed but decided we’d spend time in the towns then take the 2 minute train rides in between.

Riomaggiore was exactly what I pictured it to be! So many colorful boats lined up on the coast, huge cliffs and rocky shores. The water was a beautiful acqua color with random rocks and sandbars all around. Me and Jill had a little photoshoot before we got on the next train to the third city. We decided to skip the second because we knew there was a lot to do in the 3rd, 4th and 5th towns! The third town is called Corniglia and was less than a 5 minute train ride form Riomaggiore – I told you they were close!! There was a huge crowd getting off the train and we kind of got swept up with all the people walking up the hill on the road. It seemed like there was no where else to go so we just followed until people started dispersing to different restaurants for lunch. We didn’t want to stop yet so we continued to walk until we found the path that was closed off. There was man there who told us we could “go at our own risk” and we figured if they even said that then it couldn’t be too bad. So we went down the forbidden path! Such rebels.

The hike was amazzzingggg!!! Probably one of the best things I’ve done here. It was manmade, which was good because I was expecting to be like in the dirt on the side of a mountain, and pretty difficult. We were definitely sweating at times and was glad the weather wasn’t any warmer than 60s. There were cute bridges and lots of flowers and streams and it was just really nice to be in nature. Oh and there were of course awesome views!! It took us about 2 hours to get from Corniglia to Vernazza (4th town) where we stopped for lunch outside on the water. I got a sandwich, Jill had some gnocchi, and Justin a pizza. Then we took the train from there to Monterosso where we were staying for the night. We were in a really cute B&B right in the center of town! Once we got there and put all our things down it was around 4 and we figured we should spend the last few hours of daylight exploring this last town. We went on a few paths up cliffs and saw an old church and statues and little shops in town. Everything was very quaint and pretty and I would definitely go back there!

For dinner we went to a tiny restaurant right next to where we were staying. The town was really quiet at night and we figured it was beacuse it was a Thursday so not many people stay over on week nights, and it’s not really the season to visit there yet – the summer months are probably more popular. So there was basically just us and locals eating in this tiny restaurant. I have been on a seafood kick and wanting to try all these new foods so we ordered muscles to start. I’ve never had muscles before but I’ve served them and know they come in a garlicy buttery juice…these didn’t! They were just so fresh and still had barnacles on the shells! I thought they were delicious and Jill and Justin said they were the best and freshest they’ve ever had. So now I might be let down every where else I have them in the states but you can’t really go wrong with garlic and butter anyways. Then for dinner we all ordered seafood again. I got gnocchi with clams and a local white fish in a tomato cream sauce and it was no lie the best thing I’ve EVER eaten. Beats everything even in my food & wine class! (maybe) Jillian got some spaghetti scampi that she was a little scared of because the crawfish were fully intact with their heads on and she made Justin take the meat out for her…and Justin got grilled swordfish! We all agreed it was the best meal we’d had in a long time! And basically now I’m on a seafood binge but it’s hard because I can’t really make it here in my apartment 😦 So sad.

Some pics from the trip:

 

Breakfast

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This is my breakfast this morning! I figure why not! I was starving and knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with only the two eggs I have in the fridge. I also found out my pesti goes bad after 5 or 6 days so I was basically forced to make this gnocchi for breakfast. So delish!

BARCA baby!

It’s Tuesday afternoon and we just got our wi-fi back in our apartment! SO exciting! We’ve been without Internet since last Tuesday night and have had to go to bars/cafes with hotspots in order to just check emails! There has been so much I’ve wanted to blog about but couldn’t because of no Internet. Last weekend I traveled to Barcelona, Spain and drank lots of sangria and ate lots of calamari. Delish! Our hostel hosted a mojito night on Friday so we went there for some cheap drinks then went to a club. Luckily, our friend who is studying there had told us a Spanish phrase to say at the door otherwise we wouldn’t have been let in…either because we were American or extremely underdressed I’m not sure. We were like the only people in the club so we obviously got the party started by being the first to dance!! It wasn’t until 2:30-3 that the place filled up – European time is too crazy for me!

Saturday morning we took a very long walk around the city and visited Park Guell, which has the most scenic views of the city and you can just see the Mediterranean over the buildings. As I said, the walk there was really long so we got some waters and sat at a picnic table for a couple hours, just taking in the sun and view. It was the first time we felt warm sunshine since we’ve been here!

The view from Park Guell

The view from Park Guell

We left the Park to see La Segrada Familia a huge church in Barcelona that’s typically under construction. It was ENORMOUS and the architecture was so unique and just really different than any of the churches in Italy. That night we went out for more tapas and I had fried calamari that was the best I’ve ever had! So fresh and SO GOOD! We went to a couple bars that night and found this place called Chupitos which means “shots” in Spanish. The place had over 500 kinds of shots and probably over 500 people in the tiny place. We squeezed our way to the bar and got the most delicious shots that were chased with marshmallows that we roasted ON THE BAR! Ok enough about my night life…I know you don’t want to hear it mom..

Sunday morning we finally made it to THE BEACH! Once we were there we all kind of regretted not spending the entire day there Saturday. The sun was out and we got lunch and I just layed my head back and tried to get my first glimpse of a tan, which I actually did! I have some color on my cheeks and nose now (and because we layed out all day Monday since it was 64 in Florence and we do have a roofdeck). We got paella and my friends from New York had some zeppoles – kinda like fried dough balls/donut holes (?). We stayed at the beach until we had to take our bus back to the airport at 3. Side note – the metro system in Barca was so nice and so easy! Also, this was my first RyanAir trip and I have to say it was not what I was expecting. Everyone says the flights are so scary and you think you’re gonna die the whole time but our flights were completely painless and quicker than expected! Of course I was sad to leave Spain, it was beautiful and definitely not what I was expecting – at all! I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting but it was really just amazing. If I studied abroad there I wouldn’t go to class ever, I’d just be at the beach! The nightlife is insane and I couldn’t handle it for more than a weekend but everything else is wonderful! I ❤ Espana!!

The BEACH!

The BEACH!

Barcelona bound!

I’m currently in Barcelona, Spain waiting for the rest of my friends to wake up from a midday siesta. We got here around noon after traveling on bus to Pisa then took out first RyanAir flight (surprisingly not scary at all) then another bus from the airport to the city center and from there the metro! So much transportation, but ya gotta do what you gotta do! We made it to our hostel around noon and somehow we lucked out with what I would say is the best hostel ever. It’s smackdab in the center of Barcelona, they provide a walking tour, breakfast and pub crawls all included for 13.5 euro a night…doesn’t seem real! There are six of us so we have two rooms of 3 with huge bathrooms too!

Once we were settled in we walked outside to find somewhere to eat lunch. We ended up at a cozy cafe where we got tappas, sangria and of course, churros! They gave us hot chocolate to dip the churros in too – amazing! We all sat and enjoyed each other and laughed probably the hardest I have on this trip for hours together at lunch…it was a great way to start the trip!

The wifi has been down at our apartment since Wednesday. At first it was awful not being able to communicate with the outside world but by the second day it was kind of nice to disconnect. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on my trip to Barca by the end of the weekend!

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Typical Tuesday

It’s Tuesday night and I am fully satisfied after my food & wine class. Tonight we cooked three dishes as always (2 courses and dessert) and got to try out first dessert wine! We had pasta with a tuna ragu, leek & panchetta fritatta and fried dough strips! I helped cook the pasta dish, and I have to admit I was a bit skeptical of it and if I were home there is zero chance I would have even tried it, but the past 3 weeks I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much I’ve enjoyed each dish so I tried it and didn’t love it, but liked it enough to get seconds 🙂 If I were to make it at home, which I hope to once I’m back in the states, I would just do it without the olives. I’ve been meaning to write about the INCREDIBLE gnocchi we made last week. I’m not even sure why they were called gnocchi because it was just big balls of spinach and ricotta cheese. I’ve been dreaming about them for a week now and keep saying I’m going to make them here for my roommates but haven’t gotten around to getting all the ingredients and what-not. I basically only eat pb&js and pasta when I’m home because it’s just easy.

This morning I had my travel writing class, which I always dread for some reason (because it’s at 9am) but I always end up enjoying. Today we were given an object that we had to feel with our eyes closed and then write about the journey it took us on. I had scissors and they didn’t take me on a journey so much as they reminded me of how much it stinks being a lefty in a world full of rightys. Then we went to the San Lorenzo cloisters, which is literally my backyard, and I learned that Michelangelo designed it! How crazy. Something I see out my window every day was designed by one of the greatest artists in history.

I tend to dread Tuesdays because I have three classes, starting at 9 am but they’re probably my favorite day now! I can’t complain about a day ending with a free, three course meal and wine!

Central Market

This morning I had an early class and then decided to check out the Central Market for the first time! It is ridiculous that I haven’t gone yet considering it is about 10 feet from my apartment (I really have a great location!) and is probably closer than the grocery store I’ve been going to. The first couple weeks I didn’t go because I couldn’t find it. Whoops! I don’t know if it’s just me or the fact that I’m American, but when I think of a “market” I think it’s outside. I knew it was close to where I live and would try to search for it but the only vendors that are outside are all selling clothing and fake Hermes bags. Then once I had my Food & Wine pairing class our teacher took us on the tour and showed us the building the Central Market was in. And it is a huge building in fact, right in the center of the clothes markets I walk through every day on my way to class. I wonder if I ever would have found it if it wasn’t for her? I’d like to think so but I’m not sure.

So today I finally found the time to go. I only had 4 euros on me and was just in the search for eggs (le uova). When I went inside the market for the first time I was completely shocked. Nothing in Italy seems to not shock me though, now that I think of it. It’s basically like a shopping mall, but with food. There are just a million different booths set up all around and little cafes with bars selling sandwiches or pizzas or whatever. Fruits, vegetables, homemade pastas, meat, FRESH meat like with the rooster’s head and gobbler still on it, nuts, oils, chocolates, pastries, everything! It was magical. I spotted the nuts and remembered I’d been craving almonds so I bought 100 for 0.50 euros. I thought that was a deal! I kept walking around until I found the eggs with a sign for 1.50 for a pack of 6. I’m not sure if that’s a good price or not because I forget what I bought them at the grocery store for, but I figured I’d take a shot at bargaining. I never know if people understand English or not so I just held the eggs in my hand and held out 1 euro and just kind of shrugged, trying to say, “This is all I have but I desperately need eggs” and he took it! Such a good feeling! If I had more money on me I would have gone crazy trying to get away with as many deals as I could. It’s like going into the supermarket and paying whatever you want for everything. As I was walking out I saw some packaged, real-life, OREOS! They were only 0.50 euros but I figured I’d keep the 2.50 I had left in case I needed something desperately until Thursday, when I leave for Switzerland!

My travel writing class is seeming to progressively get more interesting and I’m enjoying it more than I thought I was going to two weeks ago. Today we basically just went over the reading (which was surprisingly enjoyable) and then got to leave for 45 minutes and write about observing a person/people. I went to a cafe/bar (they’re called the same thing here) and wrote about a woman who met a man there and I’m pretty sure they were having an affair. Then we all read our little essays to the class and I wasn’t even nervous to share my writing, which is usually not the case! So far it’s been a good day 🙂