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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


Rome was a city that I will never forget. From my aching feet to my delighted stomach. From getting lost on my first day by the Pantheon to navigating back to the Vatican from the Trevi Fountain without a map. From having the most amazing strawberry gelato ever to missing the chance to go up to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. For my first experience of Italy, I would have not have changed a thing. Everything was beautiful: the streets, the buildings, the food, the clothes, and the history.

There are so many differences in Italian culture from American culture. The way they dress is so much more formal and nice. There is so much effort put into their appearance. And store ownership is different; there are few large chain restaurants. Most stores seem family owned, and it’s definitely strange to have waiters standing in the street heckling you to stop and eat at their restaurant. After many a conversation talking about tips and gratuity while working as a server, it’s very different to not even think about tipping a server in Italy. A far cry from smaller Arezzo, Roma was very crowded during the day with tourists. While it was rather annoying at times, I stepped back at times and reminded myself that I was also one of those annoying tourists that didn’t speak Italian. However, this language barrier did not impede me greatly. The Italians know so many languages, and the great majority of them know English. The tourism in Italy has brought such a modpodge of people to the eternal city. Living in the United States, most Americans only speak English. Thus, the only language you hear in the States is English. In Rome, you would walk down the street and hear a number of languages: Italian, English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and so on. When I was lost, I stopped a blonde woman with a guidebook of Rome to ask for directions to the Basilica. She spoke to me in an accent, and she spoke fluent Italian to a Roman woman who stopped to help us as well. It’s incredible how diverse the city becomes in this element of tourism. I spoke Spanish to Mexicans in St. Peter’s Basilica, and sitting down at dinner on my last night in Rome, we were seating in between two different parties. On my right was a group of people enjoying bruschetta while conversing in French, and the the party of three on my left ordered in Spanish. Both parties were able to speak to our server, who also spoke English to us. There seems to be much higher expectations for language and communication skills in Italy in my opinion, as compared to the United States.

The food is as amazing if not more than what I imagined. I have yet to order something and think that it tastes terrible. One of the most amazing things about Italy that I will definitely miss when my time here comes to an end is the endless amounts of gelaterias and all the heavenly flavors that differ from each shop. My favorite experience so far has been a small shop in Rome by the name of Hedera. (I have been told that this is the shop where the Pope’s birthday cake is made; however, I cannot find anything to prove this) Gelato is strange because I think of it as a dessert to have on the way back from a meal, and most gelaterias are closed very late. This is different from ice cream in the United States. I am used to going out and getting ice cream with my friends fairly late at night at Dairy Queen, Sonic, or McDonalds, while gelatos is more of a daytime partaking. I also like how common gelato is; you can see older men in suits with gelato cones in their hands. I got the most amazing strawberry and melon (cantaloupe) flavors in a piccolo cone size. Gelato flavors are so fresh, and the seeds were still in the strawberry gelato. In Hedera, you could see people making gelato with real cantaloupe in a large bowl. With my cone, I honestly felt as if I was eating real strawberries. I love how incredibly fresh everything is in Italy, and how most foods eaten are in season. I can already tell from only a few days in that adjusting to food at home will be difficult after this trip.