Working out of order here, but I hadn’t posted much about my time in Florence! Everyday life doesn’t seem that exciting until it’s not your everyday life anymore. Here are a couple blurbs about life in Florence leading up to spring break that didn’t warrant an entire post but still fun to remember – like these street performers that I see almost every day:
Tommy enlisted Noa’s help getting some chocolate goodies for me from the chocolate festival going on down the street all week. Small chocolatiers from all over Tuscany/Italy. Jordan is a sucker for chocolate so she has been paying the festival frequent visits – my first time was mid way through the week and I regret not being able to get more!
Cooking demonstration 2/21
This is the first of the free LdM activities that I’ve actually been able to attend. Unfortunately, I was sick as a dog all week and had to skip one of them because it was walking around the city for a couple hours and a nap sounded much nicer. Me and Molly were the only ones able to go but we ran into another friend there – Rachel. We had a group of 15-20 and went to a restaurant called Pastation. They have a window where you can order some pasta to go in a cute Chinese takeout type of box.
The chef was an Italian man who had a hard time speaking English but still tried his best! His entire family is in food: his dad is a chef, his mom a sommelier, his sister a baker and I think his brother is also a chef. He actually was a sommelier first but wanted to change things up and cook too. This shows how important food is to the family and culture in Italy; I don’t know many families like that in America. He told us a bunch of places he has worked and studied but he ended up here in Florence only a couple years ago.
The chef made us a spaghetti carbonara and taught us a lot about picking fresh ingredients and cooking pasta to the perfect al dente. I have noticed that Italian al dente is a lot more al dente than in America but it is still yummy. Direct quote from the chef: “Life is too short to eat overcooked pasta. Never eat overcooked pasta.”
Along with the carbonara we had a chardonnay. This is important because it cleans the palate of the fat from the pasta. Neither wine or pasta covered up the flavors of the other. The chardonnay was a “short wine” meaning it does not linger in your mouth like a red usually would. A technique we learned for tasting wine is to first look at the peaks of alcohol dripping after you swirl the wine in the glass – depending on how thick or thin they are you can tell the age and alcohol content. Next, when you drink the wine take a big gulp and push your tongue to the top of your mouth like a chewing action and that brings out the flavors. The chardonnay apparently had some nutty and pineapple/peach flavors but I couldn’t really tell!
At the end of the demonstration, we each got a little box of pasta and a voucher that gives us 15% off of our meal every time we come back! Might be worth a second visit.
Fiorentina game 2/23
Again, the soccer game is just me and Molly because all of the other roommates have gone out of town for the weekend! We started the day out to get some fake jerseys off of the street but we were overwhelmed with the amount of German soccer fans in town! Borussia Mönchengladbach is the team we were playing and their fans made a sea of green around the streets of Florence.
We got some jerseys for #10 Bernardeschi because he is the current star of the team – and because a lot of the other popular names are actually Spanish footballers and this guy is actually Italian and his name is the best.
Molly and I decided to treat ourselves to dinner before the game because we were the only roommates left and it was lonely at home. We found a place called Trattoria Il Gatto e la Volpe. Noa met us there too. This place had great bread (not the traditional Tuscan bread that is dry and flavorless) and they also made their own sweet balsamic vinegar – yum! We each got Bellini’s and I ordered the spaghetti with the house sauce, a spicy tomato sauce. Update: Went here again when Maya visited and got the ragu w/ tagliatelle and it was amazing as well. Second update: we went here all the time because they always had room for big groups and had an extensive menu – the food isn’t the absolute best but it is comfortable.
We struggled a little bit getting bus tickets and finding the right bus to get us to the stadium. There are a few buses that take you there and it was stressful finding the right one, but we followed some other fans in purple and made it there!
We arrived in the stadium right after the game started which was kind of sad. Because we were surprised to find out that your seats on your tickets don’t really matter once you get into the stadium – the Fiorentina fan section is a free for all and all of the good seats were taken! We settled on some spots to stand in on the curve which ended up being nice so we could watch both the game and the equally entertaining fan section.
The fan section could be described as an aggressive mob of passionate people who knew an unreal amount of chants and had a bunch of massive flags. Molly and I obviously didn’t know any of the chants but tried to play along like we did and mouth some of the more obvious words. On the other side of the field, you could see the crowd of German fans and you could actually hear them too. Every once in awhile someone would light a flare and it was kind of freaky but I guess that is a pretty normal thing.
Fiorentina was up a couple goals when the best player Bernardeschi was injured! He had to get subbed out and after that the Germans came back and beat us by two goals (I think). The mob of Italian fans started to turn angry and you could see and hear the mood change. There was one chant that they kept repeating over and over at the end of the game and even outside the stadium… we still don’t know what it means but it is definitely bad.
We went to another game a couple days later and it was even more fun! Molly’s friend Lauren was visiting (she was actually in the same Vienna program as Maya!) and she was super cool. I tagged along with them to do a bunch of touristy stuff during the day and we all got tickets to another game.
This time we pregamed the game and bought some beers at a convenience store on the way and drank them in the street (Berliner style). Then, we sat right in the middle of the fan section because we were able to get there a little earlier this time. It was way more fun here and much more intense.. to be honest I didn’t even care what was going on that much in the game – it was much more interesting to watch the people around me! We screamed and chanted the whole game and had so much fun. We chatted with some of the people around us at the game and they tried to explain some of the chants but we couldn’t understand because of the language barrier. I’ve learned that people in Florence will call me “Ana” instead of “Anna”. If I correct them they go “in Italian it is Ana.” ok.
After the game we went to meet up with Leo and Salmo…. Long story short there is a fancy restaurant called La Giostra near our apartment and Lauren and Molly ate there the night before and got so drunk at dinner because their waiters were in love with them and gave them so many free drinks. They were both especially obsessed with Molly and had been keeping in touch and they wanted us to come by the restaurant during closing. We stopped by as the restaurant was closing and it was really cute – there were stringed lights all over the ceiling and the whole thing was so cozy. We met a couple other staff members including the shy chef. They cracked open a bottle of champagne for us and we sat down to drink it together even though there was still one table of customers left. After the champagne we went to a casual bar called Kikuya and sat around there talking for awhile.
March 1 Casey’s Birthday
Since Casey was headed to Paris for the weekend to celebrate her birthday with her friends, we celebrated her birthday a little early! We went to Arte bar for drinks and then headed to a place called Dante’s across the river. This place is notoriously known by LdM students because they give free unlimited wine for students. The food was really ok but the unlimited wine really makes it worth it.
March 2nd-4th Maya visit
Maya came to visit me all the way from Vienna! It worked out perfectly because neither of us wanted to go to Ireland for unofficial like all of the other U of I students – that meant that my roommate Kristen was in Dublin and she agreed to let Maya stay in her bed! We finally cleaned the room enough to take pictures so heres me and Kristen’s room:
Initially, Jordan and I couldn’t find Maya at the bus stop but luckily Maya logged into the wifi at McDonald’s near the station so we found her. We stopped by Conad to pick up some food for dinner and took an early night.
The theme of Maya’s visit was to try eating as much food as possible. We broke things up into little meals and ate many of them. First off, I had been dying to try this little restaurant called Trattoria de Mario where they get their ingredients from the nearby market. It is a little hole in the wall that is always packed – so packed that they sit you with other people at your table! Maya got some amazing roast chicken, I got a seafood pasta and we split a ribollita soup – a traditional Tuscan bean and bread soup. The next day we ate homemade pasta from the central market – it was truffle ravioli with cheese and pepper and soooo yummy. After that pre-lunch we went to Gusta Pizza across the river and split a pizza. We went to Zaza and Gatto e la Volpe for dinners and had such a good time eating. To supplement our food, we tried a bunch of different gelato. It was great being with someone else who appreciates food as much as I do!
In between the fine cuisine, I became a tourist with Maya and we spent a lot of time at Palazzo Vecchio. We climbed the tower in the morning and went back to see the museum in the afternoon. I also went inside the Duomo for the first time and was surprised. The inside isn’t as amazing as the outside but that’s ok – I walk by the outside every day so that’s all that matters! Maya wanted to buy some leather shoes and Florence is definitely the right place to do it! We found a little shop on a back alley and got her some awesome boots that are one of a kind and made in Florence. I tried to find the store later in the semester and was only able to locate it one other time, I should have dropped a pin! The rest of the visit was nice except it was raining on Saturday :(.
Midterms March 20-22nd
This was a pretty tough week: having 5 exams in 3 days. But, luckily I had time to study on my trains from Switzerland over the weekend. My first exam was in Topics of Nutrition – Italian Cooking. I had quickly become the favorite in that class because the teacher was not used to having anyone with nutrition background in it. If it were any other class at 9am Monday morning I would be tempted to skip it. But I never want to miss this class because it is so much fun! There is a good mix of real nutrition information and then fun times cooking. Even though I had a decent grasp of most concepts we were told to review for the exam, this is probably the one I studied the most for because it is fun for me. Like most LdM exams, there were no multiple choice, just 10 free response questions. We had 1.5 hours and I ended up writing about 5 pages so it was exhausting. I was one of the last ones there but I felt good about my responses. Update: I did well on my exam and my professor pulled me aside in class and told me that it was a pleasure reading through my responses ❤ Here are some of my creations from class:
My next exam was Food and Culture and it wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon. I squeezed in more studying for my Wednesday exams but spent a good amount of time reviewing my notes for Food/Culture too. The professor had given us some topics to review and hints about the questions he would ask. The exam was more or less the same thing as Nutrition because it was free response questions but only 4. I finished this exam pretty early and rewarded myself with a relaxing walk around Florence listening to music. I love when I have time to do this because sometimes I take my beautiful city for granted because I am so tired from traveling over the weekend. I walked around the Santa Croce area and found some more blub street art.
Wednesday I had 3 exams: Palaces of Florence, Environmental Issues, and Italian. The Palaces class has been my hardest class surprisingly… the professor expects us to know all about Florence history and then the architecture and art history that goes along with it. The class is a lot, but it super interesting and useful because I can appreciate everything that I see on a daily basis – plus there are a lot of fun facts I can tell people when we walk around the city. I felt good about my exam because I study a lot for that class. On one of our class visits we went on the roof of Dante’s library:
Environmental issues had a different structure to the exam with a few multiple choice questions before free response questions. I really like the info we learn and the class generates a lot of discussion about environmental issues that most people are unaware of. It is a really eye-opening class and I leave each week feeling guilty about what we are doing to our planet…something that everyone should be forced to feel on a regular basis. This is the view from my classroom:
Italian is another class that I really enjoy – I like languages and Italian is so close to French so it is easy to pick up. I am usually pretty good in class so I felt prepared for the exam… it was a lot harder than I thought. I don’t think that my exam was written by my specific teacher because there were a lot of things on there that I didn’t learn in class but I remembered from Rosetta Stone practice. I didn’t do terribly, but the exam did humble me a bit because I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was.
After the tough week of exams and not being able to hang out, me and most of the roommates made a big dinner together. We downed a couple loaves of bread with some homemade olive oil dipping concoctions. We also bought chicken and bread crumbs and put together homemade chicken nuggets and French fries – I had been on a sweet potato fry kick because they are so easy to bake in the oven! We made a huge mess – oops. Molly has gotten me addicted to trashy MTV reality TV shows so we all watched those after dinner instead of preparing for the 11 day spring break adventure that started early the next morning. It was worth it!