Thursday, May 19, 2011

buon giorno, firenze!

Course 2 of our 4-course lunch today: Pasta alla Bolognese.
I am ending my second day here in Florence, Italy, and feel like I am living in a fairy tale. I am with a group of 24 other students on a May seminar called “Sustainable Food Systems of Italy.” Yep, I’m pretty sure this trip was made for me. Food, sustainability, and Italy. Three of my passions all in one! I am going to try to blog daily while I am here, minus the weekends when I’m traveling away from Firenze (that’s “Florence” in Italian). But forgive me if I don’t, I want to do everything I possibly can when I’m here, which should mean minimal time on the internet!

Quick recap of what I’ve done so far:
Days 1-2: Crossing the Ocean
1.      I left Minneapolis for Atlanta at 11:30 AM on Tuesday, May 17. Thanks for driving me to the airport, Dad!
2.       After a short layover in Atlanta, we took off on our 9-hour flight to Rome. I did not sleep one minute on the plane. I did, however, watch three movies. This was my first international flight, so I was a bit overly excited about the awesome perk of having my own personal movie screen (In case you’re curious, I watched Country Star, Convicted, and The Tourist. All quality.)
3.       We landed in Roma at 8:15 AM local time (1:15 AM Central-Standard time). Hopped on a coach bus and drove through the beautiful countryside for the four-hour trip to Firenze.
4.       Got to Florence a little after 1 PM, met two of the staff people from the ACCENT Center, our study abroad program facilitator, and hopped in taxis to head to our apartments.
5.       My roommates (Megan, Jaime, and Molly) and I live in a lovely apartment at 4 Via Guicciardini, which is only a block away from the River Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. The Ponte Vecchio  (which directly translates to “old bridge”) is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Firenze. It was built in 1345 and is unique in that it is lined with shops on both sides, most whichsell jewelry or art.
6.       After settling in, the four of us ventured out for dinner, wandering until we decided on OK Bar, a little coffee/gelato/pastry/lunch/dinner place. We ordered a liter of vino bianco (white wine) to share and I chose spaghetti alla pomarola (spaghetti with tomato sauce). I thought I should start my Italian gastronomic tour with one of the foundations of Italian cooking. And it was wonderful. We then bought gelato at Perche No (Why Not?); I had coffee crunch and pistachio. Delicioso!
7.       On our evening excursion we crossed paths with the cast of Jersey Shore (they’re filming in Firenze) no less than three times. I’ve never watched the show, but members of our program were talking about it all the way across the ocean, so we had to stop and gawk.
8.       Having not slept for 37 hours (minus an hour or two on the bus to Firenze), I completely crashed as soon as we got home.

My first glass of red wine in Italia. Bravissimo!
Day 3: Exploring Florence
We started our day by meeting our group at the Duomo (the main cathedral in Florence; gigantic and gorgeous) and then walking to the ACCENT Center for our orientation. I had envisioned a plain white office-like space, but no: our classrooms are in a Renaissance building, complete with portraits of the original family members. During a break from our orientation I had my first Italian cappuccino and panino (made with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes). After we went on a walking tour that went through all the practicals of living in Florence, like buying groceries and using the train, we went out for a lunch with our entire group, a four-course meal that was covered in our program. Except for the bicchiere di vino casa (glass of house wine) that many of us chose to accompany our meal. We had the following four traditional courses:
Antipasti = Appetizer. We were served thin slices of salami embedded with fennel. And pane (bread) of course.
Primi = Pasta. Bolognese.
Contorni = Meat/Main Course. A funky chicken and potato dish in a rich cream/potato sauce. This was a lot richer than traditional Tuscan contorni, which is usually just lightly seasoned meat with a side of vegetables. And much too much meat after having a meat-rich primi. But still fantastico, of course.
Dolci = Dessert. We had panna cotta with raspberry jam. 

Lunch was over two hours long, and so much food! If you know me you know how strongly averse I am to waste, but I could not finish even half of the cotorni. Before we left, though, our waiter took us downstairs into what was the Firenze Amphitheater over 2000 years ago. So cool. After our very long lunch, we went to the apartment, where I again crashed. Later we went back to the train station (Santa Maria Novella) to purchase our tickets to Roma, buy a few groceries, and get our daily gelato (caffe and vanilla this time). Winding down now, getting ready for class tomorrow morning (olive oil tasting and a guest speaker from Slow Food) and our trip to Roma. Buona notte, amici!

Fun Fact: I’m drinking juice box of vino bianco right now. Oh, Italia.




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