This is it. The week I’ve been dreading so much since January, yet never thought it would actually come. The last week. Finals week. I have so much to do in the next four days it is insane and even thinking about it right now is making me sweat. I’m solely taking a break to write this blog because I just finished an 11 page study guide and am very proud of myself. I have to go get my favorite foods for the last time, buy last minute trinkets and gifts, soak up the Italian sun, drink enough wine to last me until June 27 (the big 2-1) and hit new clubs I haven’t been to all while attempting to study and actually pass my finals. I don’t even have enough time right now to reflect on the past 4 months but all I know is that it went by too fast. I do have some regrets but also new friends & memories that will last forever. It’s Monday afternoon and tomorrow starts my frenzy of finals and then unfortunately Friday, May 17 has to come.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂
This past weekend was so much fun! My program had an organized trip to many little places around Tuscany that me and my roommates went on. It was just Saturday to Sunday so we had the beginning of the weekend to relax and just hangout. Friday night we made dinner at home and watched She’s the Man, which none of us had seen in forever and quickly remembered how hysterical it is! What happened to Amanda Bynes, she’s crazyyyy now!
The trip left early Saturday morning for Siena. It is a small town and we learned a lot about Catherine of Siena during the tour. There is a beautiful church set up on a big hill that is basically the biggest thing in the town. We finished the tour at a large piazza where we then ate lunch – single slices of pizza! This was the first time all semester that we’ve just been able to eat a slice and it was so nice and a little reminder of home. The slices were huge by the way – like 1/4 of a pie! We ate our slices in the piazza and layed in the sun. I actually fell asleep for a couple minutes just sunbathing. It was nice and relaxing and fun to see a new part of Italy that is so different than Florence yet so close!
From Siena we headed to thermal baths in Rapolano. They were just like those in Budapest but a little smaller and there were more outside. Even though it was a Saturday the spa wasn’t that crowded because it is starting to get warmer and people are heading to the coast! Yes it was around 70 degrees outside but the thermal pools were still amazing to be in…not too cold or too hot! We lounged in the water for a couple of hours before leaving for the hotel. The API ladies had told us they were giving us dinner at the hotel but everyone was kind of like ya ya ok sure because every time we’ve had an organized “dinner” with the group its been just an appertivo buffet that is over crowded and not enough food. However, at 8pm we went to the lobby to check it out and there were set tables. So we sat down and were immediately greeted by a woman spooning pasta in our dishes. Amazing! The pasta was delicious and not even a small portion and my table got seconds! I was so satisfied I didn’t even need anything else, but then came the chicken and potatoes, then salad (the Italians have weird timing with their salads) and then chocolate cake dessert! I was so full it was beautiful. After dinner we all walked into town to this bar that was inside and outside and there was live music under the bridge we were on so that was nice. It was a great ending to a great day and I was excited for the next day!
Sunday we woke up and left for Cortona – where the movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed!!!! If you’ve seen the movie (and if you haven’t you must) I don’t need to explain the beauty of the town. The busses dropped us off at the bottom of a huge hill, where Cortona is located, and we had to take little vans up to town because there was a rare car race going on through town. Of course we had a tour and then got to stop and see some of the antique cars. They were antique racecars though, not like the ones you see in parades, and it was exciting to watch them race around the windy roads. After Cortona we went to Castello da Verrazzano for a wine tasting. At this point we were all very tired and a little cranky because they told us it was going to be a short bus ride and it was 2 hours long. Getting off the bus there was a lot of complaining but as soon as we made our way to the Castle gardens everyone shut up. It was absolutely gorgeous filled with lemon trees and fountains and a nice old British lady gave us some history about the castle and the Verrazzano family. We went on a quick tour of the wine cellar then were seated in a grand terrace for the tasting. We tasted 4 wines – 1 white, 2 red, 1 dessert (ew) and had lots of appertivo to go along with it. Prosciutto, salami, bruschetta, olive oil, quiche, biscotti, salad and olives were just a few of the things that were passed around our table. We drank and ate for about an hour and had so much fun meeting the 5 other girls that sat at the table with me, Bre and Michelle. They were all so nice and all from different places and I’m sad I didn’t get to meet them earlier in the trip 😦 The wine tasting was definitely my favorite part of the trip!
2 bad things about the weekend:
1) I somehow managed to get allergies for the first time in my 20 years of existence! As soon as we got on the bus Saturday morning it was like flipping a switch – my nose was uncontrollably running, eyes water, I couldn’t stop sneezing (and I have obnoxious sneezes) and my throat was sore. It was awful. I barely slept Saturday night because I kept having to wake up to blow my nose. Thankfully it didn’t ruin my weekend and I stil managed to have a ton of fun!
2) I forgot I needed to charge my camera battery. So when I turned on my camera in Siena it started to die so I knew I couldn’t take my pictures. So I basically could only take like 1 picture at every place.
So happy to be home!! Thankfully, today is a national holiday so we didn’t have classes and had the day to recuperate and relax. Me and my roommates walked around in the nice weather and ended up at the pizza place where the Jersey Shore worked when they were here. The pizzas were awesome and we ate them outside in Piazza Republica. But that doesn’t matter so let me explain my spring break!
For my break I went on an organized trip called the Eastern Loop. I went with my friends Hannah, Ashley and Erin and there were only 37 of us on the whole trip! We left Thursday night from Florence at 9 pm and drove through the night to Ljubljana, (pronounced “Lubiana”) Slovenia. We got to our hostel, which used to be an old jail, at 3:30 am. There were cell bars in the rooms behind our doors it was cool!
Friday morning we had a tour of the city and our tour guide was so cute! We learned a lot about the history of the city and how they have lots of myths about dragons. The city was very small and had lots of cute restaurants and shops running along both sides of a river. We got lucky because it was in the 60s and sunny so I got some color while walking around. After the tour we got lunch and sat outside by the river, it was the first time in Europe that I had a salad with actual salad dressing! As in not just olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This is something I really do miss about the U.S. Then we walked up a steep (a lot steeper than I had anticipated) hill to a castle with amazing views of the Swiss Alps. Our tour guide encouraged us to go up there for the view because it had just snowed on the Alps the day before.
That night our whole group went out for a traditional Slovenian dinner. It wasn’t really anything I haven’t had before. It was four courses, consisting of salad, soup, main course and dessert. The soup was really good, some time of beef broth with asian noodles, the main course was a huge chicken cutlet with vegetables and rice and then dessert was an apple pie-type pastry. It just wasn’t in the shape of a normal pie piece and definitely had other fruit in it, but it was called ‘apple pie’. Everything was delicious and I had a glass of the white wine, which Slovenia is famous for. I loved the city because it was so cute and reminded me of home, or more like downtown Newburyport by the water. In retrospect it isn’t anything like home, but when I haven’t been home in so long random things bring me back.
The next morning, Saturday, we woke up and checked out of the hostel to depart for Lake Bled. Apparently, it is one of the top-rated wake-boarding lakes in the world! It was beautiful but didn’t compare to the beauty of the lakes in Switzerland. However, the surroundings were much nicer. There was another castle at the top of a hill in the background that many people on the trip walked up to, but we chose not to. We walked around the lake, it took about an hour or so, and then got the famous pastry, Kremsnita, at a cafe with gorgeous water views. It was a custard/vanilla/flaky pastry that was DELICIOUS!! I also got a piece of carrot cake 🙂 We left the lake mid-afternoon for Budapest, Hungary.
BUDAPEST IS AMAZING!! I am aware I need to come up with better adjectives than “awesome”, “amazing” and “beautiful” but I can’t think of any right now. Anyways, I really am obsessed with Budapest (but not as much as Prague so just wait til I get there!). The city is so unique in that it is actually two cities – Buda and Pest – separated by the Danube river that runs through. The Buda side is more suburban and smaller, but we stayed in the Pest side which is the urban, city part. The Chain Bridge, along with many other bridges, is the most famous that connects the two sides. We made it to Budapest around 10pm and immediately showered and went out on the town! The four of us, and some girls we made friends with on the trip, went to an underground club that was insane! It was so big and had tons of graffiti and writings on the walls and was just a really cool atmosphere. They also served food late and had these amazing hot sandwiches that were about a foot long and hit the spot after a long day of being on the bus.
The next morning we woke up for a walking tour of the city that ended up being FREEZING COLD! I knew it was going to be colder on this trip, but was not ready for temperatures in the teens and snow! I only had my leather boots and my feet froze. The tour was enjoyable for the first half and then once it got too cold we kind of just stopped and got lunch and warmed up. That day we went to these markets outside (once we had revived ourselves in a warm cafe) and found t0-die-for dessert. They were these cylinders of dough that are cooked over coal and then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. AMAZING! They also had these in Prague but they were smaller there 😦 BUT the Prague ones had Nutella inside :)!!!!!
Back to Budapest, from the markets we navigated the metro system to the House of Terror. I wasn’t a fan of going there, but I figured its part of history and I should learn more about history and the war etc. So for those who don’t know what this place is, it’s basically where the secret police operated in Hungary during World War 2. It has exhibits dedicated to fascist and communist dictator regimes during that time. It was a really somber and depressing place to go, but I am glad I saw it and it definitely prepared me for my trip to Auschwitz.
On Monday we made it to the famous THERMAL BATHS! Basically, the best part of the whole trip hands down! Before we went there though, we had to check out the Grand Central Market, the largest in Budapest. We shopped around and I finally got some gloves that are cute and knitted and Hannah and Ashley got this amazing looing lango (I think that’s what it was called). It was just a fried dough circle but with toppings and they got Nutella (obv) and bananas! Wish I had some but for once in my life it was too early for me to eat sweets. After the market we headed to the thermal baths! There are a couple different places to go, but the one we went to was called Szechenyi. It’s a spa that has about 15 pools, some inside and some outside, that are heated naturally by two thermal springs. There is a lot of sulphate in the water and so the inside pools smelt of sulfur and were kind of gross to be in. Outside though, was, wait for it, AMAZING! (someone get me a thesaurus) The first outside pool we went in had a lazy river and bubblers but wasn’t has warm as we’d liked, especially because it was SNOWING! Yes, I was outside in the a bathing suit in a pool in March in a snow storm!! After about 30 minutes in that first pool we decided the other pool looked better. The only bad thing was that you had to get out of one pool and run to the other – in bare feet in the snow! But we managed and that second pool was soo incredible. We just sat there on the steps of the pool, submerged to our necks, absolutely relaxed. We had made massage appointments and so only had about an hour to stay in that pool, which was fine considering the recommended time was 20 minutes in the pool, but I would have actually stayed there all day. Before getting our massages we hopped around from pool to pool inside, but like I said they smelled gross and were filled with old people in speedos and bikinis. Ok now let me get to the massage! UGH! So good! It was an hour and I was just soo relaxed I fell asleep at one point. At another point I burst out laughing but oh well. After the massages we left (around 7 pm) and had to trek back in the snow to the hostel. But it wasn’t far! That night we got dinner at a local place that was really cute with live music. And we treated ourselves to 2 desserts!
I’m going to stop here for now because I need to make sure I do my Italian homework due tomorrow! I have to write a journal of every day’s activities on break! I’ll probably finish the trip later tonight or if not, tomorrow! OH and of course, more pictures to come!
It’s been so long since I’ve blogged! I’m just about done with midterms (thank goodness) and will be leaving for Spring Break tomorrow night! I just have to get through my Italian midterm first. It shouldn’t be too hard, I feel like I know more than I think I do. We have been reviewing all week but nothing can prepare me for the listening part because the Italians talk so fast and it’s impossible to hear through the little speaker that my teacher plays it through. Oh well. My other three midterms were easier than I thought, and a lot shorter. Basically just 10 short answers. The teachers here really want you to pass because they know everyone is studying abroad and doesn’t care much about schoolwork while we’re here.
Last weekend was my first weekend staying here in Florence for a month, and boy was it relaxing! So nice not to have to wake up really early and get on a bus then a plane then a train etc. and we didn’t have to go out to eat every night and actually made our first “family meal” since we’ve been here! Me, Michelle and Hannah made chicken cutlets, steamed broccoli, and a new pasta dish I found on Pinterest – it was all so good! And we had leftover so we could eat it the next day too. Sunday was St. Patrick’s day and even in Florence it’s crazy! We did a bar crawl during the day and all got green shirts that have The David on them with a clover and wig on they’re cute.
Yesterday in my food & wine midterm my teacher made food for us after we finished the test and it was just this saffron risotto that was amazing!!! I had never had risotto before and I’m glad I got too, because that’s probably not something I would order out at a restaurant. I’m all about the homemade pastas. And pizza. And seafood.
Even though midterms are over tomorrow I’m actually depressed that it means we’re halfway through the semester. Tomorrow I leave for Spring Break and will be gone TEN DAYS and miss Easter 😦 and then it’s APRIL. I’m excited because I have visitors coming in April but it scares me how close this is to over. I refuse to leave! This will probably be my last blog until I come home, unless I have some time to blog from my phone while I’m travelling but I can’t promise anything!
Eastern Europe awaits!
Last weekend I traveled to Padua and Venice with my program! It seemed like the longest weekend ever even though we were only gone from Saturday to Sunday. I had a hard time packing because it was forecasted to rain all weekend long and I didn’t want to wear my boots and ruin them, so I chose to wear sneakers. Also, my raincoat isn’t that warm so I had to wear a lot of layers under it.
We left Saturday morning at 8:30 and I mistakenly led my roomies to the wrong bus stop..oops! Two busses meet at one place and the other two meet at another. Luckily, they let us on one of the busses because there was room. It took about 3 hours to get to this little organic farm in Padua (Padova in Italian) for our first stop. It wasn’t raining out just extremely gross like foggy, cloudy and humid. We couldn’t walk too far into the farm because it had been raining all week and the ground was disgusting, but we did get to see some cows and chickens. They all smelled so bad EW! Then we went inside and had a homemade organic meal fresh from the farm! The first course was pasta with a meat sauce that was really amazing! Then they gave us fresh cheeses, sausage and polenta (a Padovian specialty), and then finally homemade cookies and cake! Lunch was great and then we got back on the bus to head to the center of town for a tour. The tour was really interesting and we learned about how Galileo studied at the University of Padua, which is where he discovered the Milky Way. We also went into the Basilica of Saint Anthony where there was sooo much old stuff. We couldn’t take pictures inside the church and that was kind of annoying. Inside the church there was a statue of the first female graduate ever from Univ of Padua. That night we went out to dinner with a big group and had a lot of fun then went out to this bar where like all of our program was so I got to meet a lot of new people.
The next day we woke up early and drove an hour to Venice. The city is made of 118 islands with 400 bridges WOW! We parked our bus and then had to take a 30 minute water taxi to the main island and saw the BEST views of Venice. We got off the boat and met for a tour where we saw the majority of the city. It was cold and wet and I was starving the whole time so right after the tour we ate lunch! Then went shopping. I got some Murano glass that is made only in Venice and then we just window shopped and walked around the rest of the day. Venice was extremely beautiful but I feel like all my pictures came out bad because the sky was gray and gloomy.
Finally this coming weekend I’m staying in Florence! It’ll be my first weekend in over a month here and I can’t wait to have so much more time to explore. We plan on climbing the over 400 stairs to the top of the Duomo tomorrow!
It’s raining today..and has been since Tuesday..and will continue to until next Thursday! I guess that’s normal for around here during the change into spring. So at least that’s good, spring is coming! It was nice enough to layout and get a tan on Monday, which I guess was just a tease. I had my yoga class this morning and our teacher told us it sometimes will rain the whole month of March. Yuck!! We are going to Padua & Venice this weekend with our program and Venice is already a wet-enough city! I don’t have rainboots here with me so I’m a little curious as to how this weekend is going to turn out. None of us have heard of Padua but apparently it’s a “hidden gem” or Northeast Italy. Sounds exciting!
Tonight we’re going out to eat with a big group of girls to this place called Dante’s where students get free wine and big groups usually get a lot of free food we’ve heard, and then going to a DMB cover band!! We have class tomorrow (on a FRIDAY!) because apparently schools in Italy think it is necessary to make up class time that we have off for Holidays!? For example, tomorrow we have a Monday schedule day for when we miss class Monday, April 1 for Easter Monday! I also didn’t know there was an Easter Monday in addition to Easter Sunday. Hmm…
Let’s hope the rain lets up before my trip to Venice!
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!
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!