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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

BUCCIA NERA

 

Buccia Nera is a local vineyard in the hills with a view of Arezzo that is absolutely breathtaking. Our guide, a man who headed the family owned vineyard first showered us through the rows of grapes, describing the advantages of certain places on a hill. Different grapes need different altitudes based on their taste and role in a certain wine. The earth also has a role. The soil is poor, but the sandstone in it contains many natural minerals that help the vine. He told us that their wine could be certified as We moved from viniculture to the fermentation. First greeted with large stainless steel vats, I was surprised to see steel instead of wood. It is easier to control the temperature in stainless steel. He then led us to large wooden barrels–what I had imagined to be there. Lastly we saw smaller barrels of vin santo that would be left to ferment 4 years.

 

The wine tasting was more charming and lavish than I had imagined. There were plates of bruschetta, salumeria, and cheeses in front of us. We first tried a white made from chardonnay grapes. The wine was a light warm yellow. It had all three types of “notes”–spice, floral, and fruity. I enjoyed the tart aftertaste of this wine. It was made by first crushing, pressing, and fermenting the grapes (without skins), and then aging the wine before bottling. The second wine–rosato–was my least favorite. It was made from Sangiovese grapes, had strawberry notes, and lots of tannins, giving it an almost bitter, sharp, alcoholic taste that I abhorred. It was light warm pink in color. Blush or rose wines are made by pressing the grape, leaving the skins on for a short time before pressing them before fermentation, aging and bottling. Then, I really enjoyed the dark, bold colored red, which was made from a mix of Sangiovese, Cabernet, and Merlot grapes. In the production of reds, the skins of the grapes are left on during fermentation. Our instructor described it as a more elegant wine. I loved the sweet floral smell, and the light taste compared to heavier red wines. However, the wine was very dry compared to the others, and I felt dehydrated after drinking it. It paired well with the fatty salame picante though. I really enjoyed this one, and it was my favorite out of the four wines tasted. Our last wine was a vin santo, a dessert wine that smelled extremely sweet of vanilla and caramel. The coloring was a caramel brown color. As you lifted your glass to drink, it smelled strongly of alcohol, but the taste was the sweetest out of the 4 wines. Vin santo is a particular type of wine that is made by drying out the grapes for a few days, and then pressing and fermenting those. These vin santo is made in small chestnut barrels and aged for four years.

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.

 

 

A Cultural and Culinary Experience of Rome

I’m in Italy!!! My month-long study abroad program had official begun on June 1. Before we began the class that most students dread and often called the hardest class ever, also known as Organic Chemistry, we stayed in Rome for about three days. Since Rome was the first stop in our trip, the culture and culinary differences were very noticeable.

A cultural difference that I immediately noticed was that Italy doesn’t have a prominent and obvious advertisement culture unlike the United States. When the taxi was on the highway going toward the hotel near the Vatican City, I think I saw only a handful of ads along the trip unlike in the United States where there was an ad every few minutes on highway route I took to go to high school. Even the way the ads are displayed in Italy is different than in the U.S. I am so used to seeing gigantic billboards located along the highway so people are able to see them even from a distance. Also, the billboards are parallel to the highway so that drivers can directly see the ads through their windshield.  However, the few advertisements I’ve seen in Italy, most of them being a clothing line called Calzedonia and McDonald’s, are about the size of a poster and are posted on a metal plaque. The ads are also oriented differently; the ads are perpendicular to the highway so that the driver must turn his or her head to the right or left in order to see the ad. From the size and orientation of the advertisements, it is clear that Italy doesn’t place as much emphasis on advertising than the United States. Despite being a large city such as Rome, the city wasn’t filled with large billboards unlike New York City where there are advertisements that are as tall as buildings. Personally, I think that the United States need to learn from Italy. I really enjoyed not being bombarded by ads everywhere I go; it allowed me to truly appreciate the city and I think ads take away the beauty of a place. When I went to Tokyo, Japan, there were bright ads covering nearly every building and I immediately disliked it. I think one reason why advertising isn’t as prominent in Italy is the cities and people have an emphasis of buying and eating local food and products. Thus, there wouldn’t be a major need to have a lot of advertising.

Rome, Italy                                                                      vs.                                        New York City, USA

After having a very long airplane flight, getting to know the Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport very well, experiencing a crazy taxi ride, I was starving. Once we dropped our stuff at the hotel, we trekked two blocks to small Italian restaurant. It was definitely an experience eating in Italy. I ordered a spaghetti dish with a red sauce that had meat in it. When I took the first bite, I could immediate taste the difference in the pasta. Unlike the store-bought pasta in America, this pasta was much more tender and chewier. It also tasted different; I’m not sure how to describe it, but the pasta tasted so much better. I didn’t need to see the many pasta machines in the back of the restaurant to know that the pasta was made fresh in the restaurant instead of using the store-bought kind. Normally, I’m indifferent about pasta, but this dish was delicious and I wish there was more. When we were done with our food, everyone just sat there for a while until we realized that we had to tell the waiter that we wanted our check. Even then, we had to ask the waiter again for separate checks since that isn’t a typical thing in Italy. When I got my check, I, as well as everyone else, was surprised to see an extra 1 dollar charge on the check. It turns out that water and bread isn’t free unlike in the United States. I’ve noticed that each restaurant usually serves the same type of pasta but with different sauces with different portion sizes. Once I ordered a relatively expensive ravioli and when I received my dish, it was only 6 very small pieces of ravioli with 2 leaves of basil on top. Also, it seems like pasta dishes in Italy is only served with some type of sauce and cheese. There isn’t any extra vegetables or meats mixed in the pasta. I’m so used to eating Asian noodle dishes which has a lot of vegetables, meat, and other food mixed in.  That was something I had to get used to. The food in Italy is extremely good; it is probably due to the use of fresh, local ingredients unlike in America where most things are either frozen or shipped from far places. Despite having mixed experiences with the service, I have loved all the different types of food I have tried.