Abby Abroad: Cooking Up Something Good
I finished my first full week of classes in Florence, filled with homemade pasta, scoops of gelato, train rides, rainy days and new friends. You can see my walk to class in the first few seconds of the video. I pass the Santa Croce church, which is where I went to mass on Sunday, and then walk across a bridge over the Arno River to get to class.
I have the best line-up of classes this semester (almost too good to be true)! I'm taking Italian, Renaissance Art & Architecture (a class where we visit museums and architecture around Florence), Wine Studies (the history and culture of wine in Italy, which includes trips to vineyards), Florence & the Past Lives (a history class that also doubles as a walking tour around Florence where we learn about the historical landmarks here in the city), and my favorite by far, Italian Cuisine, where we have a lecture one day a week to learn about the different gastronomic regions of Italy and then cook in the Food Studio with a local Italian chef named Giorgio and his mother, Mary.
This week, we made English soup (tortellini in a broth). For dessert, we made a traditional Italian sponge cake glazed with a sweet syrup and layered with vanilla and chocolate custard. We also went to a cooking class as a program activity, and we made ravioli, and fettuccini with bolognese sauce and lava cake. I had never made homemade pasta before, but I made three different types of noodles in this week alone. It's really not as hard as I expected, but after a semesters worth of cooking classes, I hope to make them as good as the Italians do!
On Friday, we took a hour-long train ride to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. When we arrived, it was a little rainy, but we had a 20 minute walk to the Square of Miracles (where the tower was located). The Tower of Pisa is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral. We walked up the 296 steps all the way to the top, which I was a little nervous to do at first because you can really feel the tower leaning while you're making the climb. Once at the top, however, the views were definitely worth it. The bells chimed while we were up there, which was so pretty! We explored the rest of the piazza, which was home to the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, and the Camposanto Monumentale.
Afterwards, we wandered through the charming streets of Pisa, and stumbled upon Pizzeria L'aranio, which was a local pizzeria owned by an old Italian man. He made us homemade pizza from a wood-burning pizza oven- the perfect lunch on a rainy day. We had some time before our train left for Florence, so we walked along the river looking at shops.
Saturday, we left the Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence at 7 AM for Milan.
We ran into a little speed bump while trying to figure out the bus system, but we quickly hopped off the wrong bus and took the metro. The Milan subway system is much easier to use than the NY subway system, even if everything is in Italian!
The metro led us right into the Piazza Del Duomo. We ate breakfast at a little cafe nearby, and then bought tickets to see Duomo Di Milano. The ticket man greeted me saying, "Buongiorno," meaning good morning. After responding back, he asked me, "Est-ce que tu parles français?" which is French for "Do you speak French?" I thought it was funny he thought my accent was French (and must mean I need work on my Italian pronunciation), but I suppose it was a compliment that I didn't stand out as an American! The view from the rooftop of the Duomo was my favorite part of the trip (see photos above)!
We also visited the Galleria, which is an outdoor/indoor mall with lots of fancy shops. On the video, you can see us spinning in circles, which is a silly tradition that promises good luck if you put your right heel on the mosaic-tiled bull and turn three times. So many people were spinning that a hole has formed in the floor.
Later, we visited the Guggenhiem in the Royal Palace which was exhibiting a Van Gogh and Picasso gallery, followed by dinner at Il Bar which was a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Duomo. We roamed around the shopping district for a while and listened to street performers singing as we ate gelato from Tre Gazzelle.
Our weekend was packed, but it was so much fun seeing more of Italy. We returned to Florence around midnight after our train was delayed by an hour. Our feet and bodies were so sore from all of the walking (we averaged 23,000 steps a day!!), but it was fun experiencing such two different cities in Italy. I am looking forward to our next adventure!