Organic Chemistry in Italy Study Abroad

First, I want to apologize for the lateness of this post. It has been well over two weeks since my summer study abroad program has ended, but this has been the first time that I have had the chance to sit down in front of a laptop for more than 20 minutes. Second, please forgive me for the bluntness, lack of eloquence and thought, and occasional grammar violations contained in the recent previous posts. They were all constrained to very strict criteria and word limits, limits that for the first time in my life I had to struggle to stay within. Now that the program is over and my grades no longer depend on the content and quantity of my posts, I’m now allowed to freely write whatever I want.

Learning Organic Chemistry I in a month in Italy has been one of the most academically challenging opportunity that I have faced and thankfully succeeded at. Even when I was in high school, I already started to hear horror stories about Organic Chemistry from older friends. I heard that ochem was the class that students would get their lowest grade in or how that was the class that made pre-med students change their minds about going to medical school. Even when I was applying for this program, I still had upperclassmen telling me that it was a bad idea to try to learn ochem. After hearing that, I wanted to prove them wrong. The first week was easy; it was mainly a review of general chemistry with some new information thrown in at the end. Each week, it got harder and harder. By the last week, there were so many different types of mechanisms being thrown at us, I would sometimes find myself combining elements of two different mechanisms in attempts to solve a synthesis problem. Every Thursday night, the night before the test, everyone would be sitting in their preferred studying spot. Mine was the second seat from the end of the right side of the right table in the library. I am so grateful that two friends and I started the unofficial Tuesday and Thursday Night Library study group. Whenever one of us had a topic that was still a little bit fuzzy or needed help solving a problem, someone would always be able to help. As the night went on and turned into the early hours of the morning, there would always be a few voiced comments about  “this is hell” or “is it too late to drop the course”. In that moment, it might have felt like all those things, but looking back upon it, I have absolutely no regrets about doing this program and highly suggest other hardworking students to consider it. Learning ochem in a month, covering one week’s worth of material in a day, has taught me how to intensely and efficiently study in a short period of time, shown me just how far my academic boundaries can be pushed, but most of all, it has reaffirmed my belief that hard work and determination will help one succeed. I definitely wasn’t the smartest student in class and organic chemistry didn’t come the easiest to me compared some of the other students, but I put in the time and effort to truly understand all the concepts that were taught and I ended up as one of the top students in the class.

Besides Organic Chemistry (yes, there were other components to the program), I have gained a greater appreciation of the arts through awe-inspiring paintings like the Birth of Venus, majestic sculptures like the David, and ingenious architecture like the fortress of Arezzo. Through the culinary class, I’ve gained more insight on how much science is involved in cooking and every day life. I’ve always assumed it the only science in cooking would be about new bond formation and chemical reactions. The culinary class has taught me that there so much more than that such as pairing the right flavor chemicals together and there is always a scientific reason behind each cooking method. For example, I always assumed that the reason why we add salt into the water when cooking pasta is to lower the boiling temperature. While that is true, another reason is that the salt and starch in the pasta water actually helps the sauce stick to the pasta. Since we live in a such a consumerist society, we often forget about the arduous process behind making common products such as cheese and pasta. Being able to go to these factories and seeing these items be made has reminded me that there is a very laborious process and many people’s lives depend on the sale of these products.

Overall, this program has opened my eyes to so many different aspects of academics and culture. While there is a culture difference, the culture shock wasn’t as large as I expected. Some of the major differences are having to pay for water and bread at a restaurant, not having dryers and air conditioning in typical Italian homes, and crazy Italian driving. This summer has been one of the best summers I have ever had, and if anyone is even thinking about doing this program, do it. Plus, you get to learn a little Italian. Ciao!

My Gelato List

Gelato List

  • Caramel and Tiramisu; store on opposite of St. Peter’s Basilica
    –caramel taste stronger than one in America, kind of like a light coffee flavor
    –tiramisu was really sweet and didn’t really taste like the tiramisu cake
    –combination too sweet
  • Lemon and Pistachio; store two blocks  from hotel
    –lemon was sweet and sour at the same time and was really refreshing
    –pistachio was a light green, very smooth and almost tasted like chocolate
    –Good combination
    –Best Texture: Pistachio was very creamy and smooth. There weren’t any bumps are rough spots in the gelato which is impressive since it is made from hard nuts. The gelato was very light, not too dense, and it just melted in my mouth
  • Strawberry and Melon; store next to Vatican Museum
    –strawberry had a rougher texture. Could feel  the seeds. Made with real strawberries
    –melon had a distinct taste like cantaloupe
    –the melon overpower the strawberry
  • Lemon and Peach; Paridiso
    –lemon was less sour
    –Peach had dark chunks of fruit
    — Liked both flavors
  • Mango and White Chocolate; Paridiso
    –white chocolate was not good.  Really thick and too sweet. Texture wasn’t like gelato, more like melted chocolate
    –mango had a rougher texture
  • Lemon and Strawberry; Sunflower
    –lemon had the perfect balance of sweet and sour
    –strawberry was very smooth with little seeds in it
    –Favorite Combination: The lemon complimented the strawberry very well. They balanced each other with the sour of the lemon and the sweetness of the strawberry. The combination tasted like strawberry lemonade. I really like the two fruit combination.
  • Mango and Peach (one flavor); Creme
    –taste interesting. Had more peach flavor than mango. It had a more pink color than yellow
    –had contamination of chocolate so taste was strange
  • Banana and Hazelnut; Sunflower
    –hazelnut was really good. Reminded me of a light version of nutella
    –banana taste not very sweet. Texture like mashed banana
  • Lemon and Acerola; Punto
    –lemon had tiny bits of yellow rind in it. Made gelato more texture and extra flavor of the slightly bitter peel
    –acerola was sweet, but not too powerful. Reminded me of candied cherries. Texture was really smooth
    –Best Overall Gelateria Experience: There weren’t many people in the gelateria so ordering didn’t feel rushed. I really liked the gelato and had time to actually enjoy trying the new flavor. Also, I didn’t get melted gelato over my hands. Plus, there was great company that night.

 

 

Culinary Reflection

After being a month in Italy, I’ve tried a lot of different Italian food but definitely not everything, especially the squid ink pasta. I’ve come to the conclusion that Italians are really good at making a specific selection of food. Italians are amazing at making pasta, pizza, and dessert, but the rest of the selections are decent. I feel like that nearly all the restaurants I’ve been to in Italy, whether it was in Rome or Arezzo, all serve roughly the same selection of pasta and meats with a slight variation between restaurants. Most restaurants serve the same types of pasta such as tagliatelle, ravioli, gnocchi, and tortellini with mix and match of various sauces. I’ve also noticed that their diet mainly consists of carbohydrates through pasta and pizza. I wonder how Italians stay in such good shape with all the carbs in their diet. It might  be due to the fact that Italians walk nearly everywhere while in America we drive our cars to a place that is 3 blocks away. They also keep their vegetables very plain with simple ingredients. At many places, the only vegetable options are either a mixed salad or grilled vegetables. In America, especially in Couch Cafe on campus, the vegetables are often drenched in a thick creamy sauce to make them taste better but takes away the vegetables’ nutritional values. We definitely can learn from the Italians on how to make more nutritional vegetables.

I’ve had some very good culinary experience such as trying gnocchi and carbonara for the first time. Before coming to Italy, I’ve never even heard of gnocchi or knew that pasta can be made from foods besides wheat flour. The first time I had gnocchi was at a restaurant in Pisa. The taste and texture was very different than regular pasta; it was softer and more chewy with a stronger starch taste. It definitely took several bites to adjust, but afterwards it has become one of my favorite pasta. The first time I tried carbonara, it was a restaurant called Tortello and it sadly didn’t go well. Not only did the restaurant run out of all types of pasta expect for penne, but also they really under-cooked the pasta to the point where the inside of the pasta still had a ring of white. Despite the pasta disappointment, the carbonara sauce was amazing. I could definitely taste the eggs in the sauce, and I was surprised that I actually liked it since I normally detest any egg-tasting foods. When I had the next opportunity to replace my first bad experience with carbonara, I immediately took it. That dish was one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had. I know for a fact that I will never be able to emulate the same quality of carbonara I had in Italy back in the United States.

The only major culinary disappointment that I have had was when I was in Naples. Being located so close to the coast, I had high expectations for their seafood dish. On the second night, I ordered a seafood risotto which had calamari, mussels, clams, and shrimp. The risotto wasn’t fully cooked so that every time I took a bite of the pasta, it was really chewy and slightly hard in the middle. I expected the risotto to be a lot more softer and didn’t require so much effort to swallow it. Due to my bad luck, a lot of the seafood such as the mussels and the clams still had sand in it. There would be times where all I would taste would be gritty sand which I had to spit out in my napkin. I spent the rest of dinner trying to pick out pieces of risotto to eat while trying to avoid getting mouthfuls of sand. The seafood quality was just decent; they weren’t particularly fresh.

Overall, Italian cuisine is very complex with its many courses, but each dish is very simple. For the first course, it is the pasta with some type of sauce with an occasional meat in the sauce. The second dish is usually just the meat. If one wants a side, they must order it separately. In the United States, the side dishes normally come on the same plate as the main course. I think by keeping the food on separate dishes, it prevents people from overeating since all the food isn’t on one dish. One major difference that I noticed is the pizza. I’m so used to having take away pizza that is pre-sliced into eighths that I can eat with my hands. In Italy, I have not seen a single restaurant or cafe that serve sliced pizza. You have to buy the whole pizza and the pizza isn’t cut. I’ve noticed a lot of Italians who would eat the entire pizza using a fork and knife. The pizza, especially the bottom crust is very hard to cut through so sometimes I would cut half way through and then use my hands. I guess the Italians don’t see pizza as finger food. With Italian’s slower pace of life, I’ve noticed that dinner normally takes about nearly two hours long and the waiters are in no hurry of making customers who have finished their food to leave. Back at home, I’m so accustom to eating dinner at home in 30 minutes, so the pace of dinner was definitely a change that I had to get accustomed to.

When I return back to the States, I don’t know if I could go back eating store-bought pasta and frozen pizzas. There is no Italian restaurant  in America that can compare to the quality of food in Italy. However, I’m definitely looking forward to my mom’s home-made Asian food and the large variety of food that America offers. Though I’m might wait several months before trying to open a box of hard, processed pasta or ordering Papa John’s pizza. Italy might have ruined Italian food for me…in a very good way.

Pasta Making Class

I had the opportunity to participate in a pasta making class. Our instructor, Fabio, first gave us a demonstration. Afterwards, we made our own pasta. Flour is sprinkled on the board, then the flour is dumped in a pile. A hole is made in the middle, creating a volcano. An egg is broken in the hole as well as a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of oil. Using a spoon, everything is whisked together, using hands to slowly add in flour until it becomes a ball of yellow dough. Semolina flour is sprinkled on the board and on the dough. The dough is rolled out, alternating sides and adding semolina flour when it began to stick. Once the dough is thin enough to see the shadow of your hand when held up to the light, it is ready to cut in half.

Tagliatelle is made by rolling half of the dough into scroll. Using a knife, cut the dough into strips about 0.5 cm. It is cooked for 2 minutes and then put in pesto sauce. Ravioli is made by taking the other half of dough and folding and unfolding it in half. Then put spoonfuls of the filling made of spinach, ricotta, and nutmeg in a row in the center of one side of the dough, leaving a finger-width space between each filling. Moisten all sides of each filling with water. Fold the other side of the dough over and press between each filling to seal. Using the slicer, cut out each piece of ravioli. It is cooked for 2-3 minutes then put in butter and sage sauce. Gnocchi is made by mixing mashed potatoes, eggs, and flour. The dough is rolled into a snake and then slice into little rectangles. Each piece is rolled down a fork to create texture, allowing the sauce to stick better. It is cooked til it floats and then put in pomodoro sauce.

The tagliatelle was chewy and good with the pesto. It came in varying thickness and shape. The light ravioli sauce brought out the filling, which taste earthy. It was much thinner and softer than American ravioli. Though some ravioli had an overwhelming olive oil taste due to being at the bottom of the pot. The gnocchi was my favorite. It was very soft, like a pillow, and less chewier than restaurant gnocchi. The sauce complimented and stuck to the gnocchi really well.

 

The Gelato Factory

We went to a gelato production facility to see a demonstration of how gelato is made. The president and vice president of the Association of Ice Cream Makers were there. The lady showed us how to make the fior di latte, the base for most gelatos. She first mixed the sugars: glucose, dextrose, and normal granulated sugar. The ratio determines how thick the gelato will be; dextrose prevents gelato from being too frozen and glucose makes it thick. Powder milk is added to make richer. Neutral powder is added to help ingredients angulate together. Local, fresh, high quality whole milk is added. Cream is added. The mixture is put down a funnel inside the machine that mixes, pasteurizes, and cools the gelato. It whips the mixture to force air into the liquid and make it more solid. The machine gets colder, to the negative degrees, than the gelato to make sure the gelato doesn’t melt. For small quantities, it takes about 20 minutes. When it is done, the gelato is poured onto a frozen track to prevent thermal shock.

In Italy, the production of gelato is important. There are many strict laws that gelato-makers must follow and those laws are constantly being updated. Also, they take their jobs very seriously and make sure that the product they make is safe for their customers. They still pasteurize the mixture even though the milk they use has already been pasteurized. They also take great care of making sure there is no contamination for those people who are allergic to nuts or eggs or are gluten intolerant. One thing that I noticed is that the gelato making process is very secretive. Each maker has their own special recipe with different ratios. They take great care in making sure no one knows the ratio. During the demonstration, everything was pre-measured and stored in measureless containers.

The fior di latte that we tasted was amazing; it tasted like milk. I never knew that flavorless gelato would taste so good. It reminded me of the milk-flavored popsicles that I used to eat in China. The gelato was very creamy and smooth, and sweet. It would just melt in my mouth, much softer than ice cream. The gelato did start melting quickly after I started eating it; it explains why it must be kept at low temperatures at all times. I defintely prefer gelato over ice cream.

Reflection of Arezzo

Despite being a small town, Arezzo, Italy has been the perfect place to study abroad with its long and rich history and culture. Even though I have never taken a class about Arezzo, I have learned so much about this place through the many trips to various historical sites and events such as the Fortress and the Joust.

On the tour around Arezzo on the first day, we passed by the park with the fortress but we weren’t able to see the fortress. I just made the assumption that it would be remains of a small fortress. When we finally visited the fortress, I was amazed at the shear size of the fortress and how well preserved it was, though I know that they must have done much reconstruction. The Italians who designed and constructed the fortress had to be highly intelligent in order to even consider allowing cannons to be able to shoot at the other side of the fortress in case invaders ever took over. I know that I would have never thought about it. That fact puzzled me until the tour guide explained the logic behind the design.  As I walked around the fortress, learned that the current fortress is actually a fortress built around a previous fortress, and found out that type of stone used in the fortress was found in India, it finally hit me just how old Arezzo is and how much history it has. Compared to Arezzo’s history, the United State’s history is minuscule. While the fortress may seem very barren with its large empty rooms and bare structure, I can just imagine how busy and full of people it must have been when it was active. When the tour guide was telling us that old Arezzo decided to side with the emperor during the conflict between the emperor and the pope, I was extremely surprised. Looking around current Arezzo, it is clear that the Catholic religion is a huge part of Arezzo’s identity with the many cathedrals and the blatant displays of the cross nearly everywhere. I assumed that the Arezzo people would have sided with the pope since they have such a strong Catholic presence. Through learning about the fortress, I learned that Arezzo has a long and complicated history and that what is a current major presence in the city may not have been many centuries ago. I was shocked to learn about the numerous wars and conflicts that Arezzo has been in. Current Arezzo is a small peaceful city and I never thought that it would be a place where wars were fought.

The joust is probably my favorite event in Arezzo so far. I love how competitive the four quarters of the Arezzo get. The chanting and screaming at the different quarters reminded me of my high school chant where we would yell back and forth during pep rallies. I am curious how people decided to split the city into those specific areas since someone once told me that the four areas aren’t equal in area. I also wonder if there is any special meaning to the colors of each quarter’s flags since most country flags have meaning behind the color and design. Despite the joust being hosted twice a year, the people of Arezzo are really excited about the joust. There were so many people; the standing area was packed, the stands were completely full, and there were even people standing on their balcony watching. The performers were dress in full costumes from head to toe. I wished I knew what the significance of the different costumes they wore and if there was a historical meaning behind it. The flag performance was amazing! I can’t juggle and I can’t imagine the amount of practice they put in to be able to throw a massive flag in the air and then catch it. It is very clear that the joust is a historical reminder and tradition that the people of Arezzo are very proud of. The jousters train all year for the event and there are practices every night the week before the joust. Also, the locals take their quarter flags very seriously. The morning of the joust, I was walking to the flea market with the Porta del Foro flag around my neck and this man from another quarter started to make mean comments in Italian while pointing to my flag. This shows that despite how frequently the joust occurs, the people are still very proud of Arezzo history and their quarter. People are so loyal to their quarter to the point where if a man is from a different quarter than his wife, they will both return back to their respective family homes and sleep there the night before the joust. I went to the blessing of the winner after the joust and it was definitely an unique experience. While normally it is required to cover one’s shoulders and legs when entering the Duomo, on this night, people didn’t bother to abide by that rule. In fact, there were people standing on top of the pews. The winners were blessed by the pope; it shows that religion is still a major component of their identity. In America, if someone wins a major competition, they might be able to go see the president, but most people don’t go to their church to celebrate.

Even though Arezzo may seem like a small dot on the map, it has a very long and rich history. The town has experienced many wars which is evident in the architecture of the fortress and surrounding walls of Arezzo. Like almost every Italian city, Catholicism is very significant to the city’s identity and its people. The people of Arezzo are very proud of its long history and are very competitive and loyal to their quarter. Arezzo has been the perfect city in Italy to study abroad in! I’m going to miss it very much when I have to leave.

Cheese Factory

The cheese factory that we visited is a part of the cheese association in that valley. The milk is fermented in a metal container. The machine pasteurizes the milk, heating it to 70°C for 2 to 5 minutes. The milk is then cooled to 35°C before being transferred to another tank.  They add animal rennet and mix to form curds. The curds are dumped onto a metal table where they use a chitarra to cut the curds. They use plastic containers with holes on the bottom to separate the curds and whey. They turn the cheese 6 times for symmetry. After 10 minutes in the container, the cheese is kept for 24 hours in the hot room for evaporation and slow down formation of crust. They add salt manually and then store in cellar.

They produce many types of cheeses based on the temperature of the milk and size of the curds. The best cheese is from colder milk which turns white with fine grains which makes intense flavor. The warmer milk makes yellow cheese. Bigger cheese grains is more common. The leftover whey is used to make ricotta by boiling it in a large tub to 80°C. When ready, it floats to the top. In the cellar, they store Pecorino Stagionato up to 1.5 years. They wash off the mold, which is a good sign of aging, every 15 days. The softer cheese is stored for 6 months. They paint the cheese with natural coloring: yellow for fresh, red for semistagionato, and black for old. All the cheeses are in groups of 120, with stamped information. I noticed that they follow strict sanitation rules with needing to wear hairnets even though no cheese was being made. All the equipment were stainless steel and clean. I never thought that there were so many steps to making cheese.

We tasted pecorino fresco, pecorino stagionato, and pecorino stagionato with pepper, and ricotta. The fresco was nearly white, soft, and chewy. The taste reminded me of American cheese. The stagionato was yellower and harder. The taste was sharper and dry. The brine taste weird. The stagionato with pepper was decent. It had a slight peppery taste, but when I ate the peppercorn, it overwhelming pepper. The ricotta was amazing. It was white, fluffy, and creamy. The texture was like a better tasting cottage cheese. The shape was like tiny clouds. The taste was slightly sweet and was a good topping on bread.

Honey and Cheese with a Surprise from Meat

We had our honey and cheese tasting at Logge del Grano. The host gave a brief history about honey. It was originally consumed by only upper class, but when sugar was discovered, honey became really cheap. Most of honeys we tasted are monoflora.

Acacia honey was the lightest in color, nearly transparent. It had a smooth texture and sweet. Similar to honey in America. From the black locust tree in the Valmarecchia area.

Spring flower honey had a golden color and it had a slight gritty, thick texture. Taste like flowers. From the Valmarecchia area. The nectar is from multiple spring flowers.

Sunflower honey had a darker golden color had a even more grittier texture due to fast crystallization. It had a very distinct taste of flowers and petals.

Lupinella honey had an amber color. It was one of the grittier honeys. It was slightly sweet. Medium crystallization to form finer crystals.

Honey dew from oak was the darkest honey like caramelized sugar. Had a slight bitter taste, but sweet. The honey is made from the sap from leaves left behind from aphids.

Ivy honey looked like peanut butter. It was brownish  super thick and smooth, unlike most of the other honeys. Distinct taste of flower petals and very sweet.

Heather honey has a golden color. The taste was strong and slightly smells and tastes like ivy flowers. It had a medium thickness.

Strawberry honey had a dark color, but not the darkest. Most bitter and gritty. It was thick. Harvested from Arbutus tree during late autumn.

Pecorino cheeses are from sheep milk.

Pecorino fresco was relatively soft and whitish. It paired well with the lighter honeys and it made the honey taste even sweeter. It brought out new flavors.

Pecorino semistagionato was harder and yellow and had a sharp flavor. It paired well with the middle honeys. Good balance of sweet and bitterness.

Pecorino vecchio was the hardest and longest-aged. It had a sharp flavor that got reduced when paired with bitter honeys and made the honey taste more mellow and sweeter.

Blue cheese, gorgonzola, is made from cow milk and the bacteria Penicillium glaucum. It is a white cheese with blue-green mold. The moldy parts tasted bitter with a weird texture. It tasted better with the more bitter honeys.

The cold cuts were a great surprise. The phenol salami tasted the best and much better than in America.

 

A Trip to Florence

Walking out of the train station and stepping in the nonexistent sunlight, I had my first impression of Florence, Italy; it was a perfect combination of busy, touristy Rome and small town Arezzo. Before going to Florence, I wasn’t aware of the significance of the Duomo (the Florence Cathedral). After,  I learned that it was the largest dome in the world and still is the largest brick dome. When we finally reached the Duomo, I was amazed at its size and grandeur. I was so shocked that the dome is still standing and in good condition despite its age and gravity. The Duomo is a great display of the master craftsmanship and attention to detail that Italians had in the past. After the Academia, some of my friends and I thought about trying to get tickets to go inside the Duomo, but once we saw the  seemingly never-ending line, we changed out minds.

The first major stop on our itinerary was the Uffizi Gallery. I loved the linear layout of the museum which forces visitors to start at the very top floor and work their way through each hall and down to the next level. It practically ensures that people won’t miss a room by accident unlike other museums that are like a maze. I have never taken an art history class in high school since I took 4 years of orchestra, so most of the paintings on the “Must See Art Pieces” were unfamiliar to me except for a select few.

One of my favorite paintings was the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Especially throughout grade school, I have always had a fascination with Greek and Roman mythology. I’ve read so many stories about how all the different gods were formed. While most of the gods were “born” from Zeus or other gods, Venus/Aphrodite (Greek) had always intrigued me since she arose from the foam of the sea. Being able to see Botticelli’s interpretation of that story in person was amazing. The painting is both realistic and unrealistic at the same time. All the gods are portrayed in a relatively humanistic form and the setting of the painting seems like it could have been a real location. Looking from far away, one would think that Venus was a human. However, if one looks closely, some of her body features are distorted such as her long neck, and impossible stance; a person would never be able to shift their weight so far to the left and be able to hold that pose. I think this as well as the massive wings sprouting out of Zephyr gives people a reminder that Roman mythology is imaginary. Later, I learned that the La Primavera also by Botticelli is considered the sister painting to the Birth of Venus. Due to the separation of these two paintings in different rooms, I didn’t make that connection until much later. An explanation for the separation could be that the museum wanted people to fully appreciate both paintings without comparing them. This shows that Italians, especially people in Florence,  are still really proud of their long history as being a major center of producing  gorgeous art.

There was another painting that I really liked which wasn’t on the list called The Allegory of Virtue, Love Defending Virtue against Ignorance and Prejudice by Jacopo Ligozzi, an Italian painter. Since a few friends and I knew nothing about the painting and there weren’t many people in the room, we spent several minutes trying to analyze the painting. That was one of my favorite moments in the Uffizi. We had so much fun trying to determine which figure was the representation of virtue, love, ignorance, and prejudice. We also tried, without much success, to come up with an explanation of the animal ears and the extra pair of what looks like ears protruding from the head. This was the first time I had so much fun at analyzing art and trying to interpret its meaning. I now have a better appreciation of people spending so much time staring at one piece of art and trying to analyze it.

After waiting in line, we were allowed to enter the Academia. I was so excited to see the David by Michelangelo. Even though I have seen many pictures of it in the past, I wasn’t expecting for the entire museum to basically be dedicated to this statue. While there were a few other paintings and sculptures in other rooms, they all pale in comparison to David. Standing next to it, I felt so small next to it; I didn’t even reach the top of the pedestal. Seeing it with my own two eyes, I was able to notice the small details that other people have pointed out such as his large hands, veins, frowned brow, and large head. These were things that I have never noticed in a picture. The David served as a really good reminder that a replica or picture will never do justice for the real thing. I still can’t believe that Michelangelo was able to create such a magnificent piece of art and to such a large scale, especially a statue since there is so little room for error when making a statue.

I loved our day trip to Florence! Not only was I able to experience more of Italy, but I was able to see some very famous works of art with my very two own eyes. I was so sad to leave so soon; I think I could have stared at the David all day if I could. The only minute downside of the trip was that I somehow caught a cold in Florence. Hopefully, that will blow over soon so that my memory of Florence, Italy be filled with sun, stunning architecture, and mesmerizing art.

Winetasting at Buccia Nera

On Friday we went to our first wine-tasting at Buccia Nera, a family-owned vineyard.  We visited a field where they mainly grow Sangiovese grapes, the most common in central Italy. All their grapes are organic, use manual labor, and don’t use irrigation.  The location allows the grapes to get plenty of sunlight which increases the amount of sugar and aroma in the grapes. The owners used to use only inoculated yeast to ferment their wine, but now they are slowly using wild yeast in some of their batches. Inside of their storage facility, most of the wines are put in large stainless steel barrels that are temperature controlled. Some types of wine were stored in large wooden barrels for 1 to 2 years. The point of the wooden barrels isn’t to make the wine have a woody taste, but for micro-oxygenation. The oxidative wines are stored in small wooden barrels for 5 years.

We had to opportunity to try four types of wine. The first was a white wine made with young Chardonnay grapes that were fermented in stainless steel tanks. The color of the wine was nearly transparent. When compared to other wines, this one had more fruity flavors and less bitter. There was a hint of mint, anise, and fruit. The wine had a very strong alcohol smell. Also, this wine didn’t leave a dry feeling in the mouth.

The second was a rose wine called Rosato made from Sangiovese grapes using the white wine process.  It had a nearly orange color. There was a slight bitter aftertaste. The wine had a tangy flavor with hints of strawberry jam and roses.

The red wine was a 2014 Amadio made from 50% Sangiovese, 25% Merlot, and 25% Cabernet S. grapes that were matured in wooden barrels, This gave the wine a woody smell and aftertaste. The dark red wine was the most bitter due to the preservation of acidity from the cold.It is a light, dry wine. It definitely left a dry feeling in my mouth. The taste has hints of plum and flowers.

The last wine was a 2009 Vin Santo oxidative wine. It was made from dried white grapes that were stored in a wooden barrel with oxygen for 5 years. It has a high alcohol content since when swirled, it produced wine legs. It looked and tasted like caramelized sugar. The aftertaste reminded me of walnuts.