Buon Compleanno!!!

A girl in the O-Chem group, Kendall, had a birthday this past weekend (Happy Birthday Kendall!!!!) and the professors colaborated with her mother to throw her a mini party yesterday during class. But, since we are in Italy and studying culture, we had an Italian party! Someone found “Happy Birthday” on YouTube in Italian, we toasted the birthday girl in Italian, and (the best part) we had Prosecco and Italian style birthday cake. Actually we had two types of prosecco (but who’s counting) and Mille Foglie for the cake. I (apparetly) like Prosecco; it was a nice change to have a slightly sweeter wine, especially one with bubbles! Bubbles make everything more fun!!! The boquet of the wine was also interesting; more floral. You could actually smell the extra sugar. But the Mille Foglie really took the cake (can I use American cliches in Italy?). It means thousand layer cake. It has a bunch of really thing layers of cake interspersed with thickened sweet cream and the whole thing was dusted with powdered sugar. It even had chocolate bits in it!!! I personally have a massive sweet tooth, so I of course thought it was utterly amazing. Now I just have to find a place that makes good Mille Foglie in time for my next birthday……..


Today we visited our last vineyard, Pomaio. It was a very small vineyard with a high altitude, and it was beautiful! The most interesting thing about it was how green the vineyard was. They were so conscious of doing everything the natural way that their wines are actually vegan. They try to keep everything local and to reduce their impact in as many ways as possible. I could tell that both of the brothers were so passionate about what they did. I really really liked their business. The wines were good as well! We started by tasting a rosé wine. I had never actually had a rosé before this experience, and found it interesting. It wasn’t my favorite, as I prefer the stronger and more complex reds, but I’m glad I got to try it. After the rosé we tried three different reds, an entry level Sangiovese, a Chianti, and a more high quality Sangiovese. My favorite was the last type of wine that we tried. It seemed the most complex to me, and had less of the licorice taste that the first two had. The wines were very good. The food was an ART FORM. They kept bringing out dish after dish, and we kept wolfing them down. Focaccia bread, salamis, cheeses, stuffed tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, a pie-like pasty. I was obsessed with the food selection at Pomaio. It really makes me wish I was good at/liked cooking, because I sure enjoy eating good food. Anyway, I was very impressed with Pomaio as a company, and Marco was absolutely adorable. It was a great experience!

The Italian Job

I spent this past weekend in Venice and it was one of the best weekends of my life. I could talk about it for the next week and a half without repeating myself, and I could post about it forever. But I decided that I would only share the most important part of my weekend. As silly as it may sound one of the biggest reason I wanted to go to Venice for my long weekend was because of the movie “The Italian Job.” It gets even sillier when you realize that this movie is almost as old as I am, was never very popular, and only the first five minutes or so are actually set in Venice, or anywhere else in Italy for that matter. But the movie is important to me for one specific reason: its the first movie that I remember watching with my mom. I remember being really little sitting downstairs watching it with my mom. We would spend a lot of the movie just talking about how beautiful Venice looked, and how much we wanted to go one day. I don’t know if this happened often or if it was just a single occurrence, but it was a great time. So when I had the chance to go to Venice I jumped at it. And once I got there I made sure to track down the two locations that “The Italian Job” was filmed in. And find them I did. Italian job 1image             The scene in San Marco where the main character and the mentor lay out the groundwork for the heist and the movie.       Italian job 2 image             The scene in Campo de Barnaba where the audience first meets the rest of the crew. This movie has such great memories and connections for me, it was so amazing so see some of the places they filmed. Also, twice since I went to these places I have heard the them song from the movie. It was playing as if on the radio on two separate occasions. It was very interesting. This, of course, did not fill up the whole weekend. To be honest it probably wasn’t even the most exciting thing that happened to me that weekend. But, from my point of view, it was the most important thing that I did. I cannot wait to go home and share this experience with my mom. :)  

Free Travel Weekend





This weekend was the free travel weekend. It was our first chance to practice traveling independently, but after our trips in Rome and Florence, I felt ready for it.

On Friday after the test, I took a short ride over to Cortona with Miranda and Meagan. It was a really pretty town on top of a hill (yes, all Italian towns seem to be on top of hills). It was actually very similar to Arezzo, which I guess isn’t surprising since it is so close. It had its own castle and historical center. It even had banners up for each of it’s own four corners. One of my favorite things about Cortona was the amount of shopping it had on it’s main road. I would say that a lot of this shopping was geared towards tourists, and that Cortona was marginally more touristy than Arezzo. Nevertheless, it was a fun town. At the top of the hill in a beautiful old church, we were shocked to stumble across a shrunken old dead body of a saint on display. From a distance, we assumed it was a statue of the saint on top of her grave like we had seen for several dead Popes in other churches. But no. It was an actual dead body. Apparently this is actually a common thing that can be found in churches in Arezzo as well. After that shock, we kept marching up the hill to visit the city’s fortress. I thought it was interesting that much of the fortress had not been renovated like in Arezzo, and it was cool to compare the two.

The next day, Saturday, I woke up early to catch a train to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is this collection of five tiny towns on the coast, which all combine into the national park of Cinque Terre. It was breathtaking. We got off of a train at Riomagiorre,and I was startled by how clear and blue the water was. I’d never seen ocean water apart from the east coast of the United States. The beaches were rocky, with large black rock formations around the coast. You could see everything which made it an ideal location to try cliff diving for the first time. It was so much fun! I would estimate that the highest point Shelby and I jumped from was about 25 feet. I could have spent a week on those beaches easily. We also had a lot of fun hiking the second day there. To get between towns one can either take a train, or one can hike between towns. The easy paths along the coasts were closed for maintenance, so we took the upper paths. And by upper they mean upper. We ended up hiking from the first town to the second and then from the second to the third. A large part of these paths involve walking up stairs roughly cut into the rock up the entire mountain. It was so tiring but so fun! Once you got to the top, the whole ocean just opened up before you. The tiny towns and beaches where you had spent the day seemed like nothing. I was just amazed with the farmers who manage to grow grapes, olives, and other crops all of the way up the side of the mountains. If I had more time in Cinque Terre I would have liked to spent a night in each town and hiked in between, spending ample time at the beaches. I definitely hope to come back one day!

In Class Tasting/ Birthday Celebration


On Monday we celebrated a belated birthday in a traditional Italian way. This involved several bottles of Prosecco and a yummy cake called mille folgie. The cake had been prepared for us at Bar Stephano, one of my favorite local places, and it was delicious. Prosecco is basically the Italian version of champagne. It’s a sparkling white wine. The first time I tried it was actually in Rome, but the versions that we tried in class were a lot nicer. It really wasn’t my favorite though. I don’t love carbonation, and I feel like the wine would have been better without it.I also wonder if I might like the sweeter version of the drink. I feel like this would be a strike against my palate, but oh well. I tend to prefer my whites to be sweeter.

Making Pasta



On Monday we learned how to make pasta. It was so much fun! We learned how to make three types of pasta: ravioli, tagliatelle, and gnocchi. I was surprised how simple the process of making these pastas was. For ravioli and tagliatelle, the dough consisted only of regular flour, egg, and a pinch of salt. The gnocchi consisted of potatoes, flour, and egg.

I don’t typically like cooking very much. I have a bad habit of only doing things that I’m naturally good at, and cooking is definitely not one of those things. It was fun to play with the dough though, and the extra dry pasta that I created was disguised amidst everyone else’s pasta so everything turned out okay. The best part was eating the pasta. I was very impressed with my classmates and myself! It tasted delicious! Of course this was also due to the sauces that were prepared for us: Ragu, a tomato sauce, and a sage and butter sauce with with the spinach and feta filled ravioli. I absolutely loved all of the pastas, and think I will actually try to recreate the recipes for my friends and family at home. My favorite was the ravioli, but the gnocchi was also really good. I’ve had gnocchi several places in Italy so far, and it’s a really good noodle. I liked how natural it tasted that I was able to taste a few small potato chunks in our own “little mice”. It was definitely a fun experience that will allow us to recreate a little piece of Italy at home once we leave.

The Tower

Last week we visited the old fortress on the very top of the hill. I had seen the outside of the fortress many times in the park, but it was really interesting to be able to enter. The fortress had been rebuilt many different times during different eras. I thought it was interesting that much of the fortress actually used to be under ground and that local kids used to play on top of it before it was excavated. The architecture incorporated into the renovation was really beautiful, and very much my aesthetic. I loved all of the natural stone with glass and rustic sleek lighting and accents. I love the history of Italy. It seems that in the middle ages people based all of their building strategies on defending themselves from invaders, which just isn’t something I think about often. I think that once the renovation is done, the town of Arezzo will make a lot of money off of the space. I’m sad I won’t get to see it completed.

Spread the Love

I really like the food here. It is one of the biggest things I will miss about Arezzo, but I obviously can’t take it home. The worst part is that I won’t be able to share it with my friends and family back home; it’s not like I can package up some Veal Stew to take back across the Atlantic. But there is something I can do. :) This week the O-Chem group took a pasta making class, which was interesting for more than just learning to make pasta. We learned how to make Tagliatelle and Ravioli, both of which are egg noodles like the ones I have made a thousand times with my dad! It was really cool to find out that I was really close to making them already! We also learned how to make gnocchi, a pasta that is one part flour, three parts potato. It has a very interesting flavor and it very filling. Paired with the right sauce it can be utterly amazing!! Each student made a small batch of each type of pasta and then they were gathered up and cooked. We actually made our own lunch (and it was surprisingly really, really good!!)! It was really interesting to see the cultural differences in pasta making. When my dad and I make egg noodles at home we mix it in a bowl and roll it out and cut it on an old, clean pillowcase that covers out counter. But here in Italy everything was done on a wooden board, including the mixing! We used the flour to make a bowl for the eggs and slowly mixed everything together. It turned out to not be as difficult as I thought it would be. I’ve never made gnocchi before, so I have no idea if it is different or not. I was kind of sad making it because I knew it was not something I could make at home. My dad is diabetic and potatoes are definitely not a good food for him. But then I realized that I could substitute something a little healthier for the potatoes, like cauliflower, and be just fine! I’m really looking forward to bringing a little bit of Italy back to share with my family!!! :)

Coffee River

Let me start with saying that I don’t like coffee. To be frank, I hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns. There are many things that I like better in Italy than in the U.S., but it’s safe to say that coffee isn’t one of them. And, in my opinion, espresso is one of the absolute worst things in the world. I did try the full Italian experience, having a shot of espresso after dinner as a digestive (no joke, it’s a thing here) so I’m not just saying that I don’t like it. But since part of my culture class covered coffee, I thought I should enter the unit with an open mind. Or at least as open of a mind as I was capable of. I drank the espresso, I participated in the coffee tasting, and I went to Coffee River.image Coffee River was probably my favorite part of the coffee unit. There was minimal coffee consumption (I had reached my limit at this point and had water instead) and a thorough explanation of the making of coffee, from tree to cup. It was crazy interesting! And the best part was that I like the smell of Coffee as much as I don’t like the taste so I was in scent heaven. The entire facility smelled amazing. During our tour we got to see one of their labs, their coffee bean roaster, the storage silos for the roasted and fresh beans, and the packaging process. My personal favorite was the coffee roaster. We got to see it in action! Once the beans were heated to the point were they crack (because of the moisture that is left after they are dried) they are spilled out onto a tray to cool and they are continuously circulated to dispel heat faster. Once they are cool enough there are transported to their storage silo through plastic pipes using compressed air! The best part was that Coffee a River uses solar power for 70% of its power consumption. I can defiantly respect that, even if they do make coffee! Despite having a whole section of the culture class dedicated to something I despise, I still managed to thoroughly enjoy myself and all of my cultural experiences. Must be something in the Italian air that’s making me more agreeable!!!