Posts coming...

I'm in the process of compiling all of my pictures/stories from the second half of March. What you have to look forward to:
  • Italian Father's Day (and another trip to Piazzale Michelangeolo!),
  • French food, museums, and beaches,
  • More pictures from my neighborhood and some typical dinner menus,
  • A trip to a famous Florentine enoteca, and finally,
  • My cheesy, touristy, Florentine vacation!
All of that from March. And then, of course, there's April... but you'll have to wait a few days for that to get going.

If only I had kept this up form the beginning... It seems like a chore, now. I have to pack my camera, my laptop, all the requisite cords, and trek to the center to use the internet. When wireless isn't working at my university (about one out of three times), I lug my stuff to the Internet Train on via Guelfa and plug it in there.

I feel like I spend more time walking through Florence than doing anything else, except maybe eating. My roommate feels the same way. We're both always rushing to where we need to be. Italians say Americans are always in a rush, but it's impossible to avoid when you have to get from one end of the city to another in thirty minutes for a class you can't be late for.

Maybe that's why the shops are never open; the Italians are all taking their time on the way to work.   :)


Apicius, Week Six

Last class. Sicilian food.

This was the best meal we'd made, and fitting for my goodbye dinner.

Spaghetti alla Siciliana with eggplant, anchovies, black olives, peppers, and everything else good in the world. Stuffed swordfish with cheese and green olives. And finally a filled sponge cake, called cassata, with mascarpone cheese, chocolate, and a sugar-frosting.



I utterly fail at keeping this up. I don't know what happened--I was so good, for so long, and then all of a sudden POOF! blogging becomes an impossible task. One might even say, a chore, from the way I would click on my bookmarked blog, stare at the empty text box, open Picasa, and then heave a long sigh.

It seems like the more I do and the more I should be posting, the less I actually do.

Oh well! I'm getting back in the groove this week.

Tomorrow I go to Prato, and next weekend, Sicilia! Another weekend and then it's Cinque Terre, followed by Malta (May 7 - 9, just in time not to study for finals)!

I'm going to be busy, but since I know longer have any commitments on Monday (Week 6 being my last cooking class) other than volunteering, I think I'll be able to handle it. I want to take a day-trip each weekend to see the towns in Tuscany I haven't visited yet.

Click here to see what I've been up to. In the mean time, I'm going to do some writing...


Piazzale Michelangelo

What do you usually do when you wake up on your friend's couch, hurting from the night before and starving?

Because I'm pretty getting kebab and hiking up to the top of the city would be a good thing for you.

It worked out pretty well for me.

This one's for you, Stefania.  :)   

Apicius, Week Five

Time is going by so fast. I can't believe this was two weeks ago! Forgive me if I don't have much to say right now, I just want to get these pictures up, haha.

It was Bologna week, which meant ragu two ways, spinach pie, and ridiculous chocolate salami.

I made new friends, named Julia (I'm kind of obsessed with her), Edwin, Cesar, and Alec. Edwin and Cesar and Julia are all legit pastry chefs.

I'm really, really going to miss these classes.


Castelo di Brolio

{Article for Blending Magazine}

Prepare yourself: From the time you park at the bottom of a hill and begin your hike up to the castle, you will be lost in time. 

I know, I know: I have a weird attachment to images of the gospelers. But look how beautiful!!!

The Castelo di Brolio crouches on a stony hillside, closer to Siena than Florence, nestled in the north of the Chianti Classico region. Its fourteenth-century keep is built on top of the only remaining original walls, survivors of the long-running Siena-Florence conflict. An eighteenth-century English garden features Italian chestnuts, tropical palms, and until a year ago, a lone sequoia. The façade of the main building, damaged by bomb shells in the last war, retains its scars as a reminder of man’s destructive capacity, while the modern bottling and shipping operation is a testament to innovation.

While the castle is fascinating, the owner, Baron Bettino Ricàsoli, so-called “Father of Chianti,” was himself a remarkable character. A Renaissance man two centuries too late, he was a naturalist, a master statesman, a peace-maker, an artist, and a chemist. 

Perhaps these reasons—their eclectic namesake, the storied region—can explain the three unique wines we tasted at il Castelo di Brolio: a smoky, full-bodied chardonnay; a fantastically approachable chianti; and a juicy Super-Tuscan called Casalferro. 

If you have any interest in architecture, in the history of Italian wine (or indeed, in the history of Italy!), a trip to il Castelo di Brolio is just what the doctor ordered. 


In Pursuit of Flamenco

{Article for my Travel Writing Course} : Culture Shock as Over-determination

 un bar de tapas

"There is nothing like an unfulfilled expectation to ruin your whole night," my friend said, as we walked out of a flamenco club in Seville, Spain. Our trip had been centered around this night: the traditional venue full of crowded, tiny tables, around which we would sit and watch the traditional wrinkle-torn guitarist play for the young, elegant dancer in the traditional, romantic dress.

Of course, the flamenco club did not live up to her vision. How could it? It was a case of Freudian over-determination. Although Lesley and I may have sat at a crowded table, or watched a wrinkled old man twang a guitar, still, the unfulfilled promise of the rest of her expectations ruined the entire experience.

When I began the long process of deciding where to study abroad, I wanted to vest myself in an entirely different culture from my own. I was primarily concerned with weather and location, and in fact my familiarity with the native languages of Spain, France, and Germany made them seem not more desirable, but instead rather provincial.

"So, why not Norway?" my mother asked. "Grandpa would be so happy."

But I dismissed the idea. Too cold, and the Visa process, too complicated.

Our brainstorming took months. We exhausted a long list of cities in various countries: Wales, foreign enough but too cold; Buenos Aires, too big and I was set on learning a new language; Paris, the same, and too cold; Beijing, my dad knocked off the list right away, along with South Africa and Istanbul; Greece, too foreign, and a bit too small.

"What about Italy?"

I was shocked we hadn't arrived at it sooner. Most of the country is south of mainland Europe, so there was the answer to my climate concern. And Italian, while foreign, was familiar enough that I thought I could pick it up quickly. And most of all, there was the romantic magnetism of Italia, the setting of so many poems, novels, movies I had read and seen. Florence was chosen quickly, for its central location, its famous history, and, if I had to be honest, because I was drawn by the promise of late, crazy nights with American girlfriends and dashing Italian men. Italia. Firenze. It seemed to choose itself.
The first hints of culture shock began quietly, the same way dreams seem to infiltrate my waking life: a fleeting sense of deja vu, abrupt feelings of delight or rancor, all coming or going in an instant. The cobblestone streets I found so charming my first week have turned into deathtraps as I hurry between classes. The old gypsy woman I used to smile at, enchanted by her resistance to modern ways of commerce and identification, has begun to recognize and accost me each time I pass her. The crowds of party-goers I romanticized before my arrival are nothing more than raucous, drunken American students, behaving exactly as we do in the states. And most lamentable of all, the crowds of tourists I used to scoff at, thinking myself far above their cameras, their backpacks, their tins of Pringles and cones of gelato (in February!), are now frequent, stinging reminders that I am a tourist. I will never fit in here, never belong, never pass myself off as an Italian.

Where is my Latin lover, who would hold my hand as we made our way through the Uffizi, explaining the details of the Renaissance paintings to me as I feigned ignorance? Where is the old proprietor I would befriend in his enoteca, who would teach me about wine and coffee and perhaps take me his Tuscan villa to sample his new vintage? The woman at the panetteria who would remember my name and my order, and perhaps throw in some bread for free, charmed by my failed attempts at Italian?

I have only recently begun to trust that these doubts are real, in their own way even tangible, and not mere passing whims brought on by bad weather, too little sleep, or a rude native. Would these doubts be any less persistent if I had gone somewhere a little more familiar, or at least somewhere I spoke the language? I don't think so. In my experience, culture shock lies in the discrepancy between our expectations and our realities. So then, perhaps it is not even culture shock, or at least not the same as the syndrome defined as "culture shock."

And the cure? The chimera of over-determination can be defeated by simply adjusting my expectations. I can remove from my mind the many impossible and exhausting possibilities (the red polka dot dress, the lacey black tablecloths, the sweet Spanish wine and dark lipstick), and focus rather on a probability (the guitarist's performance). In pursuing that probability, I might come across one or two of the old cliches, and be delighted. And isn't it better to delight in one or two impossibilities, rather than to dwell on unfulfilled expectations?

Sevilla, Day Two