EMPOWERED WOMEN EMPOWER WOMEN

Growing up, I had never really thought of a myself as a girl would join a sorority. I had no family ties to Greek life, and I had no real experience with any organization close to it at all. I was definitely someone who looked down on those girls and saw Greek life as negative organizations that did not fit the kind of person I wanted to become. Many of my friends were surprised to see me to through recruitment and shocked to see me join a sorority. Like myself they saw Greek life as negative: vapid, shallow, vain, frivolous, hierarchical, and just plain ridiculous. I began to realize at some point that many of the things that I associated with Greek life, I also associated with being a girl. More specifically: a “girly-girl.” Taking pictures together and caring about your appearance.  Dressing up. Shopping. Normal things that everyone does, but girls are put down for doing them. I love doing all of these things, and I used to feel ashamed of it. I had it in my mind that these things were shallow, and they were something that I should not take pride in liking. And thankfully, this would change one day.

This summer at Camp Crimson, I was asked a question while playing Hot Seat with my campers that I wish I could have answered more aptly. Tomboy or girly-girl? I hesitated at first. Thinking about all the things that I loved that fell into the “tomboy category.” I love being outdoors. I love hiking. I love camping. I love no make-up days. I love being competitive af. I love being the stubborn person I am. But I thought about how much I loved being a “girl” too. I love dresses and heels. I love having long hair. I love taking pictures. Neither of these things are bad. We shouldn’t have to choose either way. If I was more sporty, that doesn’t mean anything. I’m still a girl. It shouldn’t matter if I am a girl that wants to model for a living or cut people open as a surgeon or play a professional sport. All these things are beautiful and any girl can do any of these things. This dichotomy shouldn’t exist. We shouldn’t limit people to what they can and cannot do.

As my view on being female changed, so did my views on Greek life. Sorority life has opened my eyes to what girls can do. The other women in Delta Gamma Alpha Iota have inspired me and empowered me so much. My friends have pushed me out of my comfort zone onto the intramurals fields (I am a dancer not a softball player but I stood out there with a metal bat and made a run). I watched older girls thrive and make a mark on campus and inspire me to do the same. They poured their hearts into their passions, and they poured their hearts into me to do the same. In my times of need and worry, my sisters have done so much for me. I remember the sweet texts from Kalsey as I became Film Series Chair. I remember girls cheering me on as I made a fool of myself playing sports.  I will absolutely never forget the crowd of my sisters crawling over to me during Camp Crimson wrap up to tell me how much I deserved to be an Outstanding SGL as I was sobbing, especially when I know that I could never have done it without them supporting me every step of the way. And along the way, they never made fun of me for wanting to take pictures with them. Or go shopping together. Delta Gamma has made me proud to be a woman in every single sense of the word.

Woman can be beautiful and put loads of care into appearances, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t strong. It takes strength to strut in heels. There is no weakness in feeling beautiful. There is no weakness in enjoying shopping. There is no weakness in liking “masculine” things. There’s no weakness in being a female engineer. There is no weakness in being a female ballerina. There is no weakness in putting on makeup and there is no weakness in not wearing any. There is no weakness in treating yo self and no weakness in trying to eat healthy.

THERE IS NO WEAKNESS IN BEING A WOMAN.

I strive to be someone that lifts up other people no matter what. I strive to help people achieve their greatest potential. I never want to tear someone down. I want to encourage them and fill them with all that I have. Delta Gamma has done so much for me, and I cannot wait to see what else I will gain as a sorority woman, and how I can give back to the women in my life that have done so much for me.

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GELATO GALORE!

Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, but the differences between these two dairy products highly impact the taste, texture, and experience of having gelato in Italy and eating ice cream in the States. While containing the same ingredients, ice cream is much more fluffy and airy, as compared to gelato. Ice cream contains more cream/more fat which allows for the increased trapping of air.

I have had 24 different flavors of gelato on 15 different occasions.  One of the my favorite flavors, I had very recently in Arezzo: cremino. While other gelato is stacked a little higher, looks whipped and creamy in its tin, cremino is different. A smooth, flat designed chocolate layer sits on top of a vanilla (fior di latte) base. When ordered, the server will mix the rich chocolate topping with the gelato underneath to create a marbled texture that taste oh so delicious. The chocolate was just slightly thicker than syrup, and the gelato was still creamy like normal. The chocolate ganache was so amazing paired with the plain vanilla. My other favorite flavor was a tiramisu that I had in Pisa. This texture was the most interesting, as there was cocoa powder dusted on top of the gelato metal tin, and there were chocolate chunks embedded in the coffee gelato. As a person that prefers fruitier desserts, I was surprised that I loved these two more chocolate-y flavors the most.

The most amazing combination I concocted was definitely the salted caramel and apricot. The apricot was fruit and sweet, and the caramel was slightly salted. This salty and sweet combination was perfectly balanced, and neither flavor overwhelmed the other.

My favorite gelateria was Hedera in Rome. Supposedly, they are the people who create the Pope’s birthday cake. The strawberry gelato I got there was absolutely divine, and I have not have strawberry gelato that compares. There were so many seeds in the gelato–it was extremely fresh. It was so refreshing on that hot day in Rome. They were warm and welcoming in the tiny box of a store. It was clear that all of the workers knew each other well, or were even related. Their kitchen was easily seen behind large windows behind the counter. I was able to see a large bowl of cantaloupe, and I knew I had to try the melone flavor, just to see exactly how fresh their gelato tasted.

 

EAT TOGETHER

A characteristic Italian meal is later, longer, local, seasonal, and social. Before I left for Italy, I went to a sermon that talked about how meals are important to developing faith and blessing your neighbors, and that is something that really resonated with me on my trip.

Befriending tax collectors and prostitutes, Jesus sets an example for us by sitting down with people that were supposedly far from God.  Sharing a meal with them is a very critical point in scripture and says so much about his character. Jesus, friend of sinners. When forming relationships with other people, eating together is a fairly common step that everyone looks to take. Inviting someone over for a meal with your family is a very precious invitation.  I think that college students especially feel this way when sharing meals with other people. It feels weird to eat alone sometimes, and in college, it really means something when someone wants to meet with you for a meal or coffee. It means that they have gone out of their way to meet you and carve out some of their time to accommodate you. I think that anyone can agree that feeling of appreciation is unique.

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Matthew 11:19

In Italy, it is not uncommon for meals to last hours on end, letting people laugh and talk and savor both the food and each other’s company. One Friday night in Arezzo was spent getting late night crepes at Crepes di Lune, and walking through town at 23:00 or so, there were so many people out at dinner. The town felt alive. I felt warm inside, as I watched people eat with their families, or sip on some wine with their friends, or enjoy some live music with their significant other. As I ate my crepe alongside two of my new friends, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of spending precious time with loved ones and slowly eating my crepe.

I have found that I and a lot of my classmates eat much, much faster than Italians. Perhaps it is because we are absolutely famished all the time, but I think it is also something that we have become acclimated to. Most places in Italy do not serve anything “to-go”, and it is fairly hard to find a fast-food restaurant anywhere. Bars (coffeeshops) generally do not serve coffee in to-go cups, and there is only one Starbucks in all of Italy. Americans always seem to be in a hurry in comparison, and that even shows when we walk 10 times faster than the locals here. Sitting down and enjoying your food is something that I have fallen in love with here. Dinner has more than one course, and things are served very slowly sometimes, allowing you to focus on one course at a time, and chat with your friends and family in between courses.

Eating means so much more here than it does in the United States, and I hope that I will be able to retain some of the values that I have learned here when I return.

A CHEF INSIDE EVERYONE

I have always loved baking and cooking; it has always been a form of a stress relief. Without it, my first year in college was hard, and this coming year, I will have to go without it as well. I think that a lot of people will agree that the kitchen is a safe and beloved place. In our fast paced digital world, we miss out on seeing a lot of concrete progress and time to slow down for a while. I like making food as a retreat from all of that. Spending two hours on recipe, you have a different kind of focus than you do on schoolwork or on Instagram. Cooking takes a lot of patience and attention to detail. In Italy, we are surrounded by so much amazing food. The pasta here is very different from macaroni and cheese we eat in the States. In OU’s Santa Chiara Monastery, we were lucky enough to have an instructor teach us how fresh pasta is prepared from scratch.

We made 3 different kinds of pasta: tagliatelle, ravioli, and gnocchi.

The tagliatelle and ravioli were made from the same dough: 100g of flour to 1 egg. On large wooden cutting boards smothered in flour, we poured the 100g and created a mound of flour. Using your fingers we then created a hole in the middle of the pile, like a volcano. Next, the egg was cracked into the flour with a dollop of olive oil and a healthy pinch of salt, and a fork was used to whisk the egg and slowly incorporate the flour. Once the mixture begins to become solid, you can use your hands to knead the dough. Make sure there is enough flour on your hands to avoid the dough from sticking to you. Knead until it is thoroughly mixed into a yellow ball. The dough will be very elastic. Place the ball on the cutting board and slightly flatten. Use a large rolling pin to roll out the dough into a large slightly oval piece. Sprinkle semolina flour onto the dough every once and awhile to prevent stickiness. Roll until the dough is translucent. The dough will be cut in two and one will be smothered in more flour. This will be rolled and cut to make tagliatelle. The other will be folded and used to make the ravioli. Our ravioli filling was the traditional spinach and ricotta cheese. The gnocchi was made from potatoes, mashed and then mixed with flour. There was no ratio, as we watched Fabio, our instructor, just knead and add as much flour as he thought was correct. After the dough was completely kneaded, we rolled pieces of dough into long “snakes” and then cut the shapes into very small cylinders. Afterwards, we rolled the pieces on forks to create textures, allowing sauce to better stick to the gnocchi. We watched as Fabio cooked the pasta, salting the pasta water a lot, and always leaving the water on a rolling boil. This prevents from the pasta from sticking together and the salt gives the pasta dough flavor. The ravioli was added to a simple butter and sage sauce, the tagliatelle to a pesto, and the gnocchi to a tomato. The ravioli was amazing with parmesan and the sage smelled so fragrant. I love the gritty, green pesto sauce with the tagliatelle. Lastly, Fabio’s tomato sauce was the most amazing tomato sauce I have ever tasted.

Dinner was delicious, especially after spending time to make it ourselves and cleaning up the mensa afterwards. And not having to spend limited meal vouchers to eat.

WANTING TO BUTA(DIE)NE

Organic Chemistry has been really hard for a lot of us to grasp right away. Many of the people on this program are pre-medicine, pre-dental, or some other pre-graduate level course based in the medical field. Thus, everyone here could probably be classified as an introvert or has some traits and qualities of being an introvert. I personally, love people. I love helping others, I care immensely for other people, and I love spending time with others and building relationships; however, I need alone time. I am a very introspective person, and I enjoy thinking about life and making sure that I am enjoying every moment. Especially, as I spend time abroad–expensive time!!!

This course has been really enjoyable for me, but also extremely difficult. My brain is wired for chemistry–not biology. I do not enjoy memorizing things and like to think in a more thoughtful and meaningful way. Chemistry better makes sense to me in this way, as we are taught a concept and taught how it is carried out and how that affects how compounds are formed and why things are the way they are. I dread memorizing anatomy and compound structure names. I learn by doing and seeing it be done. I like the mechanics of problems, and the reliability of atoms and compounds. It makes great sense to me, and I feel at ease when my question of why can be answered. Organic Chemistry works in both of those ways. Many people here are wired for Biology. They like learning things by memorization, and much of the vocabulary and mechanics that we learn in Organic Chemistry have a lot to with memorization. Unfortunately, chemistry can come off to people as extremely abstract and miniscule, and irrelevant. While I like to understand the mechanics, the compounds have certain skills that need to connected in your mind just by memorization. Organic Chemistry is a lot of connecting products to reactants to substrates by memorization. Now all the future doctors, biology or chemistry oriented, feel lost and frustrated and screwed over, as we try to grasp concepts of a full semester of Organic Chemistry in 4 weeks.

While we are all fish out of water, flailing on a dock in lecture, our professors struggle as well. This week has been especially hard as we switch professors in our classes and must get used to a new teaching style while learning harder material. While still getting comfortable with each other and our professors, we are spending a lot of time together, and this usually becomes how people begin to hate one another as we become too close for comfort. Many others in my program have gotten touchier and touchier when it comes to ochem. As we continue, we are feeling the mid-term crisis, and hitting a wall. The way that this program is taught, many people feel overwhelmed by the amount of information shown to us in a day, and miss that time to process that you would during a full semester. For me, it has been a mix of that and a push to understand more faster, as things seem to click easier as we something we learned in the past would be the day before and not a week ago. Without this time to process and understand, many people are left confused and want everything to be explained to them because the information is not sticking and thinking hurts. Today, our professor became extremely frustrated and had to rush out of the room for air. We were left feeling terrible and remained silent. I know that some students felt it unprofessional and looked down upon it. I did not. We all feel the exact same way as he does. Even a few days ago, I had to spend time alone to regather myself after spending so much time with Jena and going over the same things over and over while studying for her sake and for mine. Taking this intense of a course is overwhelming. It has sucked a lot so far, but judging by our A average on tests, many of us are successfully retaining the knowledge.

Organic Chemistry in Arezzo is going to be hard. Organic Chemistry is not something that comes easily to anyone. It combines memorization, chemical knowledge, and spacial reasoning into one science. Many of these things are separate in our minds. Many people are not extremely accomplished in all three skills. A little over two weeks in, I am enjoying myself greatly, and finding myself learning so much about Italy, about myself, and about others (and a hell of a lot about ochem). Everyone is different, and we push ourselves and others to be better versions of ourselves. Individuals learn in different ways, and we should use each other’s strengths to inspire ourselves. I have also learned greater respect of other people. Our differences mean other strength and weakness. We have to respect each other for both and not judge others for their strengths or weaknesses. I have learned that being on your own can be a good thing, and that it is completely okay to feel better alone sometimes. Silence in a group can be a source of comfort not awkwardness. Everyone learns in very, very different ways, and it can take longer for some people than others. I have learned so much about Italian culture, and I have learned so much about why I am so in love with Italy and what that says about who I am.

I’m praying for everyone to simmer down in the next week and a half and to find some chill. I have to constantly remind myself and check myself before I say exactly what I think, and rewire my thoughts. I think that all of us have a tough week and a half ahead of us, but that we all can do it. I know that I still have a lot to learn from this country, my professors, and the other students in my class. I can’t wait to see what the rest of June brings. Hopefully all good things.

AREZZO

Arezzo is a smaller city in the region of Tuscany. Only 45 minutes and €8.40 away from Florence, the city is actually quite larger than you would think, but much calmer than the bustling tourist centers of Roma or Firenze. Still, like the rest of Italy, Arezzo has a rich history, and I am enamored by this city.

Rome was so breathtaking and amazing, but it was extremely overwhelming. I loved how busy the city street got at night; however,  I was also rather nervous and scared in the city, as exhilarated as it was. I was exhausted on our bus ride from Rome to Arezzo, and I do not remember much, but arriving in Arezzo, I felt much safer. It felt much homier and less touristy than Rome did. The only overwhelming part of Arezzo was all the hills–which is why most of us were winded pulling our suitcases up to the monastery from outside the walls of the citadel. Even further up the hill, you can find the Church of San Domenico and a Medici Fortress. An important part of Italian history is tangled in a power struggle between the Emperor and the Pope. The Medicis controlled Florence and were large supporters of the Pope, while Aretini were historically ghibelline, against Florence and the Medici. Between the Fortress and the Church is a large park with an overlook that is breathtaking. Our first day in Arezzo was the monthly first Sunday antique market, creating a much different atmosphere than any of us were used to.

The biggest event in Arezzo, is the Giostra del Saracino. Jousting  began during the crusades during raids of the Saracens and declined into the 18th century. In 1931, it was reinstated as a historical reenactment of the Saracen Joust. Arezzo is separated into 4 different quadrants: Porta Santo Spirito (4 time consecutive as of this year), Porta Crucifera, Porta Sant’Andrea, e Porta del Foro (where the OU Santa Chiara Monastery is located). The Joust takes place the second to last Saturday of June (and again on the first Sunday of September), but the party and celebration begins the weekend before. Parades will go through town as they practice for the Giostra, with trumpet players, drummers, horses, and people historically costumed. The Aretini begin to wear scarves of their quadrant around their neck, in their hair, or even just tied on their purses. Friday night, mostly all Aretini remain in their quadrants, and large “block parties” take place in a large common area. Wandering after dinner, Jena, Sam, and I found ourselves walking towards the fireworks and flares of the del Foro block party, after hearing chanting and singing. Tables (slabs of wood) with plates on them were carried out again and again. As we walked into the piazza, there was a man standing on top of a table with other people fervently waving the del Foro flag and singing along with him. People talked and laughed with one another, and there were so many people gathered together to enjoy themselves before the Joust the following night, scarves all tied around their necks of course. We were waved at by several people for our scarves as well. Walking back at midnight, we were surprised to see so many people still eating dinner, drinking wine, and talking each other’s ears off at the party, in restaurants, or on patios. The next day was completely different from the Arezzo we had come to know. 

The Saracen Joust is “the greatest, most fantastic event that Italy has to offer,” as told to us by a British man we met on a patio, now living in Italy. The Joust was so different than what I had imagined, and the pride that the Aretini had for their city, history, and quadrants showed as we sat and watched the largest event in Arezzo. Excitement filled the air, and it was easy to tell that both tourists and locals were enamored by the event. It started with traditional processions of each quadrant, and flag throwing! (After watching Under the Tuscan Sun that afternoon, the flag throwing was so exciting to see in person.) Then the joust began. We watched as horses galloped towards a wooden target, and awarded 1-5 points based on where the jouster’s long lance would hit the target. The crowd leaped to their feet to see the point of impact, and scorekeepers would quickly cover the target to bring back to judges. Minutes later, when the announcer began to speak, the crowd would become dead silent, ready to hear the score. Cinque!  or Tre! or Quattro!  This year, Santo Spirito scored two 5’s and won the Joust for the 4th time in a row. As the joust ended, people swarmed towards the Church of San Domenico to see the Archbishop of Arezzo bless the Jouster, and see the Golden Lance prize be paraded through the Church. We made haste and quickly found spots with our del Foro scarves hidden away, and watched excited groups of Santo Spirito pile into the Church. They yelled, grinned, laughed, and waved their scarves in the air in triumph. They sang their chant and reached out to touch the Golden Lance for good luck as it was carried down the aisle. Their excitement was overwhelming; the moments in the church surreal. There is no greater moment than this that showed me the passion and pride of the Italian people and more specifically, the Aretini of Arezzo.

We leave Arezzo in under a week and a half, and I dread that day. We have been here for so long, and it is just started to feel normal, like home. There is still so much here that I want to experience, and I will desperately miss the entire culture here.

Spero di rivederti, Arezzo. I desperately hope to see you again, Arezzo.

WE ALL SCREAM FOR GELATO

No trip to Italy is complete without a lot of gelato. The dessert is a staple in Italian culture; it’s not abnormal to see a middle aged man in a suit, toddlers, or angsty teenagers all with gelato cones at the same gelateria. With countless flavors, it’s easy to see the universal appeal. In my 2 weeks in Italy, I have had gelato 10 times so far, and 14 different flavors. The gelato industry is very important to the Italian economy, as it is so integrated in the Italian lifestyle.

Today, we took a trip to a gelato factory led by the president and vice president of the association of gelato makers in Arezzo. There were we shown how gelato is made. Gelato has a thicker and creamier consistency than American ice cream. Gelaterias each have their own special recipe for making gelato that makes each place unique. The vice president of the gelato association of Arezzo showed us her own special recipe of assorted powders and whole milk. Marinella said that she tries to use fresh, local milk. One of her special ingredients is cream. Once the milk is thoroughly mixed with the powder, the liquid is poured into a machine. This machine is where the gelato is made. The liquid heated to near 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and then it is quickly cooled in the machine again to form gelato. after around 20-30 minutes, with a flip of a switch, thick, white custard-y looking gelato comes out of the machine into a frozen tray. The gelato made by Marinella was a base flavor used to create other flavors. There are three main base flavors: fior di latte, cioccolato, and crema. Fior di latte is the main base used for many different flavors including most of the fruity flavors. The consistency of the fior di latte was almost like ice cream concrete in the United States. I have tried not to order basic flavors when getting gelato, but the fior di latte was incredible. It was sweet, and I could almost taste all the possibilities of the flavor. At the same time, its own flavor was phenomenal and unique.

CHEESING!

Let me preface this by saying that my body does not handle large amounts of dairy well. The week before I left for Italy, I had the best mozzarella sticks–from Buffalo Wild Wings–and I ended up feeling sick and throwing up that night. Needless to say, I was hesitant about going to cheese factory, as curious as I was about the entire process for my cheese loving sister.

The cheese factory was not at all like I imagined. Most of the cheese that they make is produced in the morning, and nothing really operates later in the day. The factory is actually a collective organization of local farmers that all make cheese together. This association was created in the 1960’s in an area where historically, farmers of olden times moved sheep and cows to regulate the temperature in which these livestock lived. The factory produces around 1.5 million kilograms of cheese per year–this is more than 3 million pounds of cheese per year. We were told that they produce around 4,000 kilograms of cheese a day. The process to make cheese is almost not unlike making wine–with many alterations of course. After milk is collected from a certain type of animal (sheep, cow, goat, water buffalo, etc), this milk is then pasteurized to kill any unwanted bacteria up to 70 degrees celsius for around 5 minutes. The milk is then moved to large metal vats, where it will be cultured–similar to fermentation in the winemaking process. This will affect the k-casein in milk to cause coagulation. Then the semisolid liquid is moved to large pooled tables. In these tables, the curds are collected in plastic bowls (in the shape of cheese wheels) and the whey is then recooked to create fluffy, light ricotta cheese. Once the curds are collected and compacted, they are moved into the “hot room”. In this room hot temperatures turn the curds into the solid wheels we are familiar with. Afterwards, these wheels are moved into cellars, where they will be kept to age various durations. This was the craziest part of our visit. We walked into a cellar will probably hundreds of wheels of cheese just sitting on the shelves. Many seconds of them were also covered in mold. We were told that the mold was a good sign, and it is cleaned off every week! A pecorino cheese is made from sheep milk and is typical in the Tuscany region of Italy. Pecorino cheese are named for how aged they are. We tried 3 different types of pecorino. The first was a fresco, or fresh/young cheese. It was very, very light in color and tasted extremely fresh. It is similar to a lighter cheese in the United States, but with an unparalleled fresh taste. It was soft and easy to bite into. The second cheese was semi stagionato, meaning semi seasoned or medium age. This one was browner in color, and was saltier and more bitter than the first cheese. It was much more pungent as well. The last one was another stagionato, but this one was slightly older and was seasoned with black pepper. It had an even stronger smell, and was darker with visible black pepper pieces. The last two cheese were harder and broke in half more easily than the first. None of the cheeses had holes in them.

The cheeses were so amazing, and I have not yet gotten sick in Italy from eating too many dairy products in a day. After our tasting, I bought some of the cheapest high quality cheese I will probably ever buy in my life. They were vacuumed packed for me to bring back home to the States! I am looking forward to bringing a piece of Italy to set in motion my sister’s path to becoming a cheese connoisseur.

LUNA DI MIELE

*The literal translation of honeymoon to Italian is still “moon of honey”*

Once, honey was a cheaper sweetener than sugar. The cost difference between sugar and honey changed during the Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, it was not until the 19th century that the chemical processes that converted nectar to honey could be explained. Today, honey is seen as a healthy more “natural” alternative sweetener, and artisanally can be matched to different foods, such as cheese.

Honey holds a very special place in my heart–and my stomach. My family is a large fan of honey, and we eat it quite often. We use it to sweeten our tea–instead of sugar. We’ll slice avocados and drizzle honey on top as a dessert. When I get a cough, my grandmother will boil water and mix sliced lemon and honey–and occasionally ginger slices–in a cup to soothe my throat. So I was extremely excited to learn more about honey and discovered the differences between Italian honey and what I have bought from local farmer’s markets in Kansas City. We tried a total of 8 different types of honey made from different plants and were told to try and pair 4 different types of cheeses with these honeys. The first honey was made from acacia plant (miele di acacia)  and appeared to be very similar to American honey. Acacia honey was barely tinted, and tasted extremely light. It was also very viscous. The second honey was made from various spring flowers (miellefiori de primavera) and was slightly darker than the first honey. It was thicker and sweeter with large grains of sugar in the liquid. Our third honey was made from sunflower (miele di girasole) and it was a thick, sweet honey with large grains. I really loved the fourth honey (miele di lupinella). It was lighter in color but had a very different taste from honey I had before. It had very small grains. Miele di edera (ivy) was creamy and slightly more savory than sweet. It had a thick consistancy like creamed honey with a pleasing aftertaste. Melata di quercia (oak honeydew) was the second darkest in color and was sweet with tiny grains of sugar. Miele di erica (heather) was dark and rich in both color and taste. Our last honey was made from strawberry tree (not actual strawberries) and was bitter with no notes of sweetness. We were told it was the most expensive honey, but it was the only honey I did not like at all.

To pair with the honeys we were give 4 different cheeses: from lightest/youngest to oldest: blue cheese (whiteish with green mold and clumpy), pecorino di fresco (soft and squishy with a very light white-yellow color and a fresh taste), pecorino semistagionato (slightly tougher/harder with a bitter taste), and pecorino vecchio (very hard that cracked when bent and tasted very old and bitter. I found that the older cheese paired well with the sweeter, lighter cheeses and vice versa. The contrast brought out different tastes in both honey and cheese and balanced each other well. As a special surprise, we were also able to try some fresh salumeria, more specifically salame.  We tried 3 different types of salame, freshly cut by the man who runs the farm and raises the pigs for the meat. The first was a salame gentile, made up of only tender shoulder meat and were more finely minced. The second was salame tuscano, which is made up of a varieties of different parts, and was minced more thickly, creating a tougher texture, and larger pieces of fat. The third was made from a different breed of pigs of the first two. This ruffiana was not as tough as the second one and included black pepper. I did not like the last two, and I absolutely loved the first.

Everytime I start to feel comfortable with and acclimated to all the food here, I remember the differences in what food is available in Italy in comparison to the United States. I am already dreading my first meal coming back from being abroad because I know it won’t compare to watching Claudio, the man who raises pigs for salame, cut his product right there in front of me before eating it. I already know that I will be back in Italy as soon as possible upon returning. So prayer to my bank account and my mom!

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IL MIO CUORE

Florence has my heart forever. I fell in love with the city as we strolled down the streets, our horizon punctuated by il duomo in the cityscape. When you picture Italy, an image of Florence appears in my mind. The colorful streets, with live music and shopping everywhere. The most beautiful thing about Florence, like all of Italy, is the rich history. As an American, it’s easy to forget how old the rest of the world is.

Our first stop in Florence was the Uffizi–Italian for offices, more specifically the offices of the Medici. The Medici family were a wealthy and powerful banking family in Italy that rose power in the 13th century. The Medicis were large supporters of the arts that would turn Florence into the center of the Renaissance. Many of those pieces of art have remained in the beautiful city. What used to be offices of the Medici are now filled with famous, priceless masterpieces. There are rooms upon rooms dedicated to the same religious scene or filled with dozens of works of art from the same artist. The hallways of the Uffizi are lined with Medici portraits and many, many marble white statues, as if there was not enough room in the building that they had to place art in the hallway. It seems that you can’t ever escape art in Italy. My favorite Italian Renaissance artist is Michelangelo Buonarroti, a man, who lived a life of contradictories: a Florentine in Rome, a sculptor forced to paint, supported by the Medici, whom he hated, a proud artist that only ever signed his work out of spite. It is all these contradictories that shaped Michelangelo and made him into the artist and man that we remember today.

His only painting in the Uffizi is Doni Tondo, his rendition of a famous image of the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph, and the Child Jesus. It is one of few paintings done by Michelangelo including his frescos in the Sistine Chapel. The Doni Tondo is gorgeous, but completely different than other images of the Holy Family. Mary is holding Jesus over her right shoulder, and her robes are not completely blue, as her tunic is a light pink color. Joseph wears a dark navy-gray with golden yellow. There are also folds of a deep green across Mary’s lap as she reaches for Christ. In the background, there are nudes that indicate Michelangelo’s sharp eye for musculature and figure. His colors and lines are crisp and cut through the image. A turn around the room doesn’t yield anything else quite like the circular masterpiece. I see Michelangelo and this Doni Tondo as a representation of Italy and what it has to offer. The gorgeous color offer life and vividness; the same things that I feel as I walk down an Italian corso. And the combination between the old and the new is refreshing. The different rendition of the Holy Family honors the religious nature of historical Italy and brings new artistic vision into the Renaissance by the contorted forms of the Family and the nudes in the landscape. The painting reminds me of Italy in that looks hyperrealistic and striking, yet feels like it could not be real. I cannot imagine anyone sitting down and painting Doni Tondo or carving the frame for the painting either. And I cannot imagine walking down the streets of Florence not in complete awe of il Duomo.

Doni Tondo was a commissioned piece by a wealthy Agnolo Doni, as a gift for his wife. He had heard of Michelangelo and knew him to be a very talented artist and commissioned a tondo–a circular piece of art traditionally for the bedroom of a woman–of the Holy Family for his wife. When Doni went to pick up the Doni Tondo, however, he looked at it and could not appreciated the strange style that Michelangelo had painted in or the fact that the garden behind the family was filled with nudes. He refused to pay for the painting, but his wife was outraged that her husband had scorned a Michelangelo. She sent him back insisting that they had to have it. Michelangelo would then charge them double for the painting. The story behind the painting amuses me the same way that couples can never pick out colors for house paint–the same lack of communication between a husband and wife is timeless. The story adds another layer to the already interesting painting, and as I learn more about Italy and Italian culture, I feel almost overwhelmed. There is so much beauty in this country, and I almost feel as though a lifetime here could never reveal everything Italia has to offer.