Sunday, November 25, 2012

A week with my parents!

Finally another post! Sorry its been so long - luckily I have lots to report from the week's adventures while my parents were in Italy. We started off here in Florence, and I got to show them all the great places I've discovered around my new home. I think their favorite meal was Zeb, which is probably my favorite place as well. The pesto on my dad's pasta was fantastic, unfortunately I have no idea what made it so good so it will be hard to replicate. After a few days here, we headed to Torino (Turin in Italian) the first capital of Italy. My dad had some work to do there, so my mom and I had a great tour of some of the city and got to go to a palace of the Savoy's a little ways out from the city. Lucky for us, there was an exhibit of the Faberge eggs at the palace. The Faberge eggs (52 in total) were made for the Russian Czar in the early 1900's, using minerals found throughout the region. They are truly fantastic. Now only 31 of the eggs can be found and are held by various people, we only got to see 9 of the eggs, but Faberge also designed MANY other things for the royal families and they were on display as well. Here's a picture of one of some eggs so you can get an idea of what they are, in case you've never heard of them. They all had surprises in them also! I've never seen something so elegant and detailed. 

Torino is also known for its chocolate, of which we made sure we tried the best! Gianduja is the type they are known for, it is cut in a triangle shape. We tried about every kind and then got some to bring home! Its so creamy and unlike any chocolate you can find in the US, I don't think I'll ever be able to pick up a candy bar again. We also visited Eataly - a market that sells the best quality of the best Italian products. They feature the products that encompass the true Italian traditions. We got some things to bring home and sat down to have dinner with my dad's friend in Torino. It was a great meal! My mom also found her new favorite wine here. 
Say cheese!

Alberto showing us some wine and my mom's dish of cardo (a relative of celery) that was roasted with cheese and bread crumbs.

We came back to Florence so that Saturday we could go to the 42nd Annual Truffle Festival in San Miniato.  Not chocolate this time, but truffles as in the underground mushroom. These delicacies are at a high price point, so these kinds of festivals are great to get some of the products for a discounted rate! We also got to eat some dishes made with them by vendors. It was a great last day to spend with my parents and seeing a little bit of the countryside after the cities was great. 
Haha, visibly excited

My pasta was made with truffle butter and freshly grated truffle :) It was incredibly creamy and flavorful, so my mom and I ran back and got some butter to bring home!
Great pic of my parents and beautiful view!
A few things I forgot to mention: 
We also got to stop by and see my family in Chiavari on our way to Torino. Between my Italian and Valeria's English we did alright!
I also got some real Italian leather boots! Haha not huge news but I love them and had to share. Picked up lots of gifts and sent them back with my parents. I had a wonderful time with them and was sad to see them go. Partly because now I know that my time here is short - just 3 more weeks!

This coming weekend, Sicily! Stay tuned.
One love,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Okay I'm sorry for the delay! As soon as I got back into town I realized how much school work I needed to get done before my classes this week. All the group projects are starting to pile up and I needed to get everything done this week also because I'll be gallivanting around next week with my parents!! SO EXCITED that they're coming to visit me, I've got a list of things to do here in Florence and we have plans to visit Torino and Capri as well. But Milan was great, I saw some really cool flagship stores (Burberry, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs) with my Fashion Marketing class and then explored the rest of the time with my roomies. A lot of our "destinations" were finding famous Milanese cuisine - definitely not complaining. And I was impressed with what we found. This also gave us a lot of opportunities to just see different parts of the city. As a side note, I would suggest to anyone going to Milan to invest in the metro tickets (24 or 48 hrs is most practical) because it is not as walkable as Florence.
Of course, this is not a picture of mine, but it is a pretty good representation of the Last Supper by Leonardi da Vinci that we saw at the Santa Maria delle Grazie. It was an inexpensive attraction, but you only get to be in the room of the painting for 15 minutes. They are very serious about keeping this thing around for a long time to come. As you have probably noticed the section right below Jesus has been cut out to make a doorway - they did this long ago in order to get from the kitchen to the dining room easier. This along with the type of paint da Vinci used showed that no one realized what the significance of this painting would be! I felt very special to be in the same room as this work of art. It takes up the entire wall and its colors may have faded but its still magnificent. 

This is the Duomo of Milan. Its very gothic style and HUGE! 
Door of the Duomo

Isn't it beautiful?! The stain glass windows were stories high and so vivid and colorful it was amazing. Definitely a recommended stop. After this, we went right next door to the museum that was holding an exhibit of Picasso's work. I obviously wasn't able to take any pictures but I loved seeing these works of art also! It just so happened that these paintings and sculptures were there, I don't think I would have ever been able to see so many of this great man's work otherwise. After all of that we were hungry... 

This is a Panzerotti. Pizza dough folded over hundreds of different combinations and deep fried. There's only ONE place to get the real thing in Milan - Luini's. 

Not sure what it was about these simple ingredients of mozzarella and tomato that made this so fantastic, but I've had few things that come as close to how good this was. They also had other types with prosciutto and veggies, also sweet ones with nutella and jams. We were going to go back on Sunday to try those but it was closed :(

Risotto Milanese. Again simple, but incredibly flavorful if done right. This traditional rice dish of Milan is yellow from the saffron. 

Another traditional food of Milan: Panetone. Although you can find this dessert in most areas of Italy, Milan claims the origin of this bread and cake mix. Ours had chocolate in it and was topped with a scoop of crema gelato. YUM!

These are goods from Princi - a bakery that I learned about from my Fluenz (computer program) Italian instructor. The little bites have spinach and ricotta and the other just cheese. The pizza was the best I've had in Italy!

Milan is a great big city, and we had a blast. Definitely think its a good weekend trip because I felt I didn't need more time. We also went to the Galleria and spinned on the bull's balls for good luck, and saw an exhibit of hand crafted furniture art and ceramics at Fornasetti. Rinascente and 10 Corso Como are two awesome stores that we visited that are worth a few hours. 

I will have lots to tell you after my adventures with my parents! Missing all of you back home, sending my love!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Just to tie you over until my weekend trip in Milan is over, I will share a little about my weekly life. Monday, I get the morning to myself. The school gym opens at 10am and I'm there. I was running outside with my roommate and I enjoy that, but being at the gym allows me to have a space dedicated to working on myself. Usually I stay busy in the gym until yoga which starts at noon. The class is taught by Rachel, a girl that's actually become a great friend to me. She is 27, working on here masters here in Florence at the same university. Her first study abroad experience was a few years in Costa Rica where she learned her practice. I love learning from her and with her about spirituality and life. After yoga I have lunch and get ready for Italian class which is at 3pm! I figured this week after all that hard work I deserved a special treat... 

This is a mini cake from La Bottega del Cioccolato, a chocolate shop on my street. Andrea Bianchini was there the first time I visited the store, and told me about this nationally award winning cake. The inside has a light chocolate mousse, a layer of mango ice, and pistachio cream. Not wondering why it won the judges over it was delicious! The two little chocolates are raspberry and almond which were also good, high quality chocolate.

Tuesdays I have 2 classes: Fashion Marketing and Public Relations. I have really enjoyed the PR cases that we've worked on and am currently working on a hypothetical crisis plan. The Fashion Marketing class is a little less practical to me, although it's interesting to look at a specific industry - especially in the city of its birth. My entire class is going to Milan on Friday to study and tour the flagship stores. My roommates and I decided to make the weekend of it and will be there until Sunday. Also on Tuesdays I try to make it to our hip-hop exercise class with my roommate Chen Yu! 

Wednesday is back to back 3 classes 9-4:30. Starting with Marketing Mix, then Consumer Behavior and finally Italian again. I am very much emerged in my marketing education here, its a good and bad thing. I find the subjects overlapping and getting to see different perspectives of the art of marketing. Obviously though, it can get a little redundant at times. Last night after class I did a little work out in my apartment, then had friends going on the weekend Milan trip over for dinner. We made gnocchi! 
Team effort, taught em how to roll on a fork! 

Thursdays are all mine. Usually I start at the library for a few hours and get my homework done. That's where I'm at today, I have 3 group projects going on and a lot of work to get to! Usually I'll stop for a lunch break back home but today I'm meeting with my Italian conversation partner. I met her last week, she attends another university in Florence, but she's from Peru. Her Italian and English are both very good so it will be a good thing for me to be able to ask questions and really push my learning with my Italian. We're going to a bakery for lunch, excited for that also! Thursday evenings are dedicated to abs and arms class with Fabrizio, our school trainer and yoga with another student instructor. The perfect start to the weekend!
Library from where I'm sitting!

Expect a post about Milan Sunday or Monday. A dopo,
One love.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Touring my town

Ciao! It has been a while my friends. Getting back to school this week was a bit difficult, and stressful. With just six weeks left of my time abroad I have more trips planned and many things to do to make the most of my time. My teachers feel the pressure as well and there are huge projects in most of them to complete before final exams. Good news is my midterm grades came back all A's and B's - pretty much the norm for me. Going to keep up the hard work in my classes and try to earn a 4.0 this semester. 

Florence hosts over 3 million tourists yearly. Its no wonder with the amount of galleries and museums, not to mention historical architecture and cathedrals. I have just begun my "touristy" outings around the city. Aside from seeing the notable buildings from the outside, I've yet to visit any museums or galleries until today! 
I dove in head first, taking on one of the most elaborate collections in the city at the Uffizi Gallery. Oh yeah, after visiting my favorite panini shop and getting one full of porchetta, spicy eggplant, arugola, artichoke, truffle and pecorino spread on fresh, warm foccacia. Anyways, this building has held artwork for centuries, and holds pieces that are from the year 1000 and beyond. Many of the pieces were originally designed for cathedrals and wealthy families. They feature real gold in their paintings and are mostly story telling and centered around events. The amount of paintings with religion was of an overwhelming majority, a huge influence of art throughout the ages. Unfortunately, camera use is not permitted inside the building, so I have little to share with you visually. But I've found a few of the things I saw online to share with you.

One of the most famous pieces I saw today was the of the Greek goddess Venus (of love) in the depiction of her birth from the sea. The painting is huge, done in 1486 by Sandro Botticelli. There were many other paintings of Venus done, some of which are also very famous

This was one of my favorites, named Allegory of Vanity done around 1650. 

My roommate and I were in the museum for over three hours, and I'm not even sure that we saw everything. It was all gorgeous, and I'm sure that pictures of the pieces wouldn't do them any justice. Tomorrow I hope to do some more touring of my town, and over the next weeks. I think that mostly I will try to go during the week because there are less actual tourists. Time for a nap - mentally and physically drained. 

A dopo, one love, 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fall Break

Midterms were this past week, glad to have them over. Doesn't matter what country you're in, tests are pretty much the same. I think I well on them, tried to do my best focusing and studying.

I'll give an update after break is over in a week.
One love,

Sunday, October 14, 2012

FUA activities

I really should probably be studying for my midterm exams, but I figured it was time for a break! I can't believe that I'm already through almost half my time here. I have a lot of mixed emotions about that. I love the opportunity for growth and experiences that I've been given in Italy. Some things that I've learned and been going through I never expected. I miss my family and friends at home. I definitely can't believe that I'm less than a year away from graduating college - came to this realization while I've been preparing to sign up for my spring classes. So many things going on! After midterms I get a week long break, not sure what my plans will be yet. 

"Allora", in the past 3 days I've been involved with school activities! I'm so lucky to have these opportunities at low and sometimes free cost. Thursday night was a pasta workshop where we made fresh noodles to make lasagna with fresh pesto and bechamel sauce. I was in charge of that station, they turned out so great! I have to give a shout out to my mom here, because at the workshop I noticed how many students had never made their own pasta or sauce and I'm like really? We do this all the time! 

It starts with the dough. 

Then rolling and putting it through the machine.

My station: layering pasta and sauce and cheese.

And 25 minutes later, this is what you get!

We also made gnocchi, but if you're interested in those you'll have to check out FB, because we've got other things to cover! Besides in my family, gnocchi is old news. I actually made it for my roommates a few weeks ago. So on Friday I signed up to visit a chocolate "factory" here in town. Let me explain the definition of factory here in Italy: they make it there. I just wanted to point that out because this was a strictly mom and pop show, about 2 kitchens to make display windows full of pastries and chocolates, shelves of bread and also pizza. There aren't big machines or tons of employees. They let us try a variety of things they made, and explained their traditional methods of making these great treats!

The husband gets up at 2am every day to begin the process of making these and many more sweets!

Pure. Hot. Chocolate.

Chocolate covered range peel: they're really into orange and chocolate here. Milk chocolate with Caramel. Dark chocolate with coffee. Dark chocolate with walnut. All so creamy and smooth, melt in your mouth!

The woman that gave us our little tour, filling some shells with chocolate ganache.

I don't have any idea what this is called, but its a traditional Tuscan treat of chocolate, fig, macadamia nut, and black pepper. Was definitely one of my favorites for the day! I will be bringing lots back, I've heard its very popular around Christmas. 

Today was my last excursion with the school. Previously in the semester I had asked Gaia, one of the school staff members, if she knew of any good hiking trails around the city. She really took to the idea and we decided to make it an activity available to all students. I'm really grateful that Gaia did the hike with us, she is so wonderful! She brought us up to the top of the mountain where Fiesole resides (mentioned in previous blog, So I Cant Stand on Mountains). Little did I know - this was the place where Leonardo di Vinci used to test his flying machines and Michael Angelo first got his hands on experience sculpting!! There is a type of stone that is still used in Tuscan architecture today up on the mountain, and Michael Angelo used to experiment with it during his time here. Unfortunately, di Vinci's story is less nice: he used to pay poor people from the city to test his flying machines off of a cliff, few survived. It was crazy to think I stood on the same ground as these great men. Once again, humbling.  

Bye Florence! Yes, olive trees in the bottom of the pic.

This is where people would leap off to test the flying machines! 

This stone says... I don't know. But it has Leondaro's name on it!


Basta per adesso. Vado studiare. Ciao ciao.

One love, 

Monday, October 8, 2012


Let me start by saying, I can't wait to go back! The sights are abundant, and each one unique and beautiful. Unfortunately on our short weekend trip we just couldn't get to all of them. A girl from CMU Corrine and her roommate and I left Thursday night and arrived late to our hostel. We decided best leave the site seeing for the next day, got up early and found a place that did "free" walking tours. Its sort of a new trend where quality and service are placed at the forefront of a business and at the end of your experience (in our case it was the tour but it could be applied to a meal or a show) you get to pay what you think it was worth. So this first day we walked around the old inner city of Barcelona. This place has such rich history! You could see parts remaining from each of the past centuries all around you. For example I stood in the plaza that Christopher Columbus presented Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand with the goods from the new world and saw the last bit of a Roman acquaduct that was built in 15 BC! It was a fantastic tour and I would recommend checking it out if you're ever in the area, our tour guide's name was Chris.

This first day after the tour we also went down to the beach. It was great weather while we were there, about 75 and sunny. Unfortunately we all forgot our bathing suits but we enjoyed a walk in the water anyways. Here are some pics!

The Roman acquaduct
A tribute to the pillars in the community that support the children. Modern art.

We were on the coast after all! (mussels in balsamic vinegar)

Beach! The sand was actually imported from the Sahara Desert before the 1992 Olympics were held here, and they spend lots of money every year to make sure that the beaches stay nice and sandy as it is now a main attraction. Water wasn't so bad!

The second day we took advantage of another great tour with Chris on bikes. This allowed us to move outside of the old inner city and out into the newer modern areas. Gaudi was the focus of many of our stops for he is responsible for the most incredible works of architecture I've ever seen. The most remarkable piece we saw by him was the Sagrada Familia. Words can't really describe the majesty of this cathedral! The crazy thing is that its not done and may not be for another half a century. Although some have hoping-ly projected that it will be finished on the 100th year anniversary of Gaudi's death - 2021. Here's his works and more from the bike tour! 
La Sagrada Familia

There are 3 facades of the church covering the Jesus of Nazareth (his birth/life), the passion (crucifixion), and the glory (depicting heaven, hell, judgement day). The first picture is the life, this side is the passion.

Notice the change from organic shapes to very sharp cuts in the stone. They are all part of the design by Gaudi. 
This is part of the glory, still under construction. 

When Gaudi came up the idea for the church he went to many people in search of funding and no one was interested. So in order to fund the construction of the Sagrada Familia he designed these luxury apartments and the residents paid for his work. Now the Sagrada Familia alone attracts 3 million visitors per year plus those who come to see his other works. 

Another apartment complex by Gaudi to fund the Sagrada. This one is made of human bones, see the skulls in the balconies also?

Okay Gaudi didn't design this, but he laid the duct work for it when he was still studying in the university. Awesome fountain in the park.

Alright just one more thing: the Magic Fountain. This might have been the highlight of the trip for me. If you go to Barcelona, this is top 3. Apparently the times change through out the year but we went around 7pm right when the show was starting and stayed about 2 hours til it was over. Basically the fountains in front of this massive castle are all lit up at night and they play music and change the fountain to it. After a long day of biking and running around, this was just what we weary travelers needed. I'll leave you with these pics. Ciao.

One love,