Instead of writing a narrative blog this time, I figured I would include a couple smaller anecdotes about things that have been happening in Italy!
Today our art history class went to the Picollini library in the Duomo and then had a discussion in a café with gelato! (Chocolate and tiramisu for those who wish to know) Fantastic- these are the kinds of experiences that define Italy for me — art history class in a gelateria/cafe.
Last weekend the CET group went to Pienza, a little medieval town in Tuscany. It was gorgeous, and extremely small and quaint. A perfect little town (historically, it was created by Pope Pius II to be a perfect medieval renaissance town!) We walked around the Duomo, took lots of pictures of the Tuscan countryside, and stayed in an adorable little bed and breakfast. For lunch I chose to practice extreme gluttony, and ordered a caprese salad AND a bruschetta with….wait for it….melted Pecorino cheese, fig tea cream jam and salami. Pardon me while I excuse myself to the kitchen to grab a napkin- I just salivated remembering the moment it hit my taste buds. It was beyond unbelievable- I cannot even describe the taste. (Though I do have pictures….) After Pienza, we went to a little monastery in Tuscany where we enjoyed hallways of frescoes depicting St. Benedict’s life and legacy.
Side note- Is it an issue that I will return to the USA with more photos of food then of the actual artwork I am here to visit and learn about? I think not!
As a group, we went to the Pecorino cheese factory for a tour and tasting- kill me. Unbelievable cheeses. We were walked through a small, family owned and operated Pecorino factory. The owner gave us a tour in Italian, and Anna, (our marvelous CET housing director) translated for us. Though I am proud to say that I did indeed understand a great deal of what he was saying!- Which might be more of a testament to my Spanish skills than Italian, but va bene. After the tour, we got to taste 4 different types, all aged differently, as well as pears, wine, homemade jam, ricotta and bread with oil. It was wonderful. I have very little else to say about it, other than I was going to buy aged Pecorino to bring home for everyone, but then thought better of the idea when I overheard someone talking about the airport dogs in Florence (who are apparently trained to sniff out cheese and meat in peoples luggage? – forget cocaine or bombs or any of that nonsense, no, these dogs have noses specifically focused on uncovering my aged Pecorino and salami contraband.)
Bruschetta party! Some of the girls in CET hosted a bruschetta part at their apartment and everyone brought their own toppings for the Bruschetta- they provided the bread. I brought roasted zucchini and peppers with spinach and proscuitto! Others brought mozzarella and tomatoes with salami and sprinkled balsamic, and someone brought eggplant and zucchini pate! It was a lovely evening! We ate on their balcony area on a blanket and for desert we had bruschetta with nutella, honey, and peanut butter! (the peanut butter was a gift from one of the girl’s boyfriends back home!)
I am getting better at Italian everyday! It is the most exciting feeling to think in another language for the first times! Sometimes before I go to sleep at night or when we are on longer bus rides, I force myself to have conversations with myself in Italian! Sometimes the conversations really just consist of “Where is the pasta Elena?” and I usually respond with something like “Why eat pasta today, when I have this wild boar ravioli on my table?” To which I mentally nod fervently and agree, “Yes, and more wine with this plate of food.” Easy conversations, using words that I know from experience. But as long as I am stimulating conversation with myself, I feel better about the fact that I truly spend majority of my day thinking about food. (My roommate Gianluigi constantly makes fun of how much I eat. Literally, I got up from typing this paragraph on my computer just a second ago to pop some plain pasta into my mouth. He was in the kitchen, just staring at me. “How can you eat that? It’s plain! You never stop!” – verbatim.)
When in Rome, right? Well, when in Siena anyway…