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!

The beginning of the end

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.

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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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Finally Spring!!

I know it’s technically been spring now for almost a month, but just like everyone back home in the Northeast we haven’t had spring weather here either!! Ok, ok, I shouldn’t complain because we’ve had NO snow (thank goodness) but it rained every. single. day. From March 1 to about April 5. AND my spring break trip wasn’t too warm either…

Jill & Justin brought the sun! We spent a lot of time outside and yesterday I finally went to one of the parks I’ve been meaning to get to. It was kind of a let down because there was graffiti everywhere and it smelled pretty gross. We found a cute spot though in some clean grass and took a nap for a little bit. We walked along the river to get to Cascine Park, which took probably over 30 minutes but then when I walked back to my apartment I went inland and was shocked to realize it only took about 15 minutes. Now I can go for runs there!…maybe… So apparently this park we’re not allowed to go to after sunset, like they’ve reinforced this rule many times over the semester, because it’s where all the Italian prostitutes go! OMG!

Before the park we grabbed lunch at Gusta Pizza because I hadn’t been in a really long time and Jill was obsessed! We’re trying to steal the recipe and bring it over the the US! It was nice to finally have a sunny day. And then today was absolutely gorgeous!! 75 and not a single cloud in the sky! Unfortunately I only got to lay out for a couple hours then had to spend the rest of the day cooped up inside writing my 8-page paper for Italian Family and Society class. It was actually pretty easy because my topic was “change in family and tradition” and that is basically all we’ve talked about in class. Now that that’s over I’m so relieved! This is a busy week for me because I had that paper due, a 15 minute presentation (in the same class, same day as the paper’s due) and an Italian quiz and oral presentation in Italian. LUCKILY though my Food & Wine class is going out to dinner for class this week! We get a 4-course meal all paired with wines on Tuesday night! That’ll definitely get me through the week. Then next week my boyfriend, Jeff, visits!!! AND WE’RE GOING TO SARDINIA!! But before that this coming weekend I have a trip with my program to a bunch of little towns in Tuscany. It seems like it’ll be really fun and we have a visit to the spa during it!

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Tuscany Bike Tour

Jill & Justin are here! It’s been great seeing family faces and in the last 3 days I’ve had some new and delicious foods/wines/experiences!! Saturday, I picked them up at the train station and we went to see the apartment they are staying at – so pretty! It’s bigger than what they expected and has this awesome deck that’s HUGE and overlooks Palazzo Pitti! That night we went to a small restaurant (for those in Florence, 4 Leoni) that is known for their pear ravioli so me and Jill both ordered it and Justin got a beef stew that he really liked. The bruschetta there was also delish! It wasn’t really ravioli as much as just stuffed pasta in random shapes and had such a unique flavor! The portion was tiny (only about 5 pastas) but worth it because it was so tasty! After dinner we headed over to Golden View Open Bar which is right on the fiume Arno (Arno River) and had amazing views of Florence all lit-up at night!

Sunday we walked around most of the day and tried (and failed) to get bargains at the leather market. Some guy told us the leather jackets were FREE so of course we tried them on and were convinced he was giving them to us but then as we were about to leave he said “240 euro” so we were like “BYE!” I took them up to Piazzale Michelangelo that has a gorgeous views of the city and then we got dinner at a cute place in Piazza San Spirito. Jill had gnocchi in a truffle and cheese sauce, I got rigatoni (which is ziti here) with tomato sauce and cheeses and then Justin got TRIPE! As in stomach liner. He said it was good but me and Jill were both a little queasy looking at it.

Yesterday we did a Tuscan Bike Tour with a really great tour guide. The forecast said 57 and sunny but it was probably low fifties and rainy/grey all day…of course until the minute the biking was over! We met in the city at 9:30 and took a van all the way out to the countryside to a medieval castle that is still run by a count and countess. The family produces wines and olive oils and we got to tour the winery and taste some wine and oil! Both were really good and even though it was rainy and gross out everyone was perfectly happy. After about an hour tour of the castle we started the biking. It wasn’t a hard route, despite the very first hill that was steep and left me out of breath. We rode through the countryside and saw vineyards and gardens and basically exactly what you picture when thinking of Tuscany. Half-way through the ride we stopped for lunch at a small local restaurant. There were five pastas to choose from and me, Jill and Justin all got the pasta ragu. First time I’ve had ragu sauce since I’ve been here actually now that I think of it! Ragu sauce is just meat sauce by the way. It’s about the same as bolognese sauce and then theres pomodoro (tomato) sauce. Back to the meal..it was great and a nice touch to have authentic homemade Italian food out in the hills of Chianti. The second half of the bike tour started out in a torrential downpour that thankfully didn’t last long. There was a point of a really big hill and just about everyone decided not to bike up it but get in the van that was following us for a lift up haha! At the top of the hill we got back on our bikes for the last 15 minutes of biking. The tour was so scenic and I had an amazing time! The tour guide was from Dublin, Ireland and hilarious!

Jill got better pictures on her camera but here are a few from the day!

Midterms

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!

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Spring?

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!

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!