Chocolate Soup

Although today was gloomy and miserable outside, it brought fun times with friends and the end of our first week of classes. Two of my classes were cancelled today so I was done at 10:45am! Upon the end of my classes for the day, I met my roommate for some boot and sweater shopping in the city center. Unfortunately we were both unsuccessful, but enjoyed some exercise and got more familiar with the city.

Soon after, I met friends Anna and Maria for lunch. We went to a Panini shop they have been raving about, Il Masaccio, which is only a few blocks from school. I got an eggplant and gorgonzola sandwich and we all enjoyed our lunch in the piazza in front of school. After it was too cold to remain outside we headed to the library to discuss travel plans and try to schedule some trips. I must say, with many mandatory school field trips, and various friends visiting, it’s very hard to coordinate three people’s schedules!

Giving up after a couple hours of planning, but mostly getting off topic and story telling, we headed out for something warm to drink. As it started to drizzle, we ducked into a nearby café and all had the same thought…hot chocolate! In Italy, the hot chocolate is nothing like cozy drink in the states, but rather it is a rich chocolate treat, thick like soup! We ate our Italian hot chocolates with spoons, and enjoyed conversation as we procrastinated our long walk home in the cold.

Upon returning home, the house smelt wonderful as it always does at this time of night. As Cristina finished preparing our first course, Marco explained that we were having a traditional Florentine soup called “Ribollita”, literally meaning re-boiled. I was familiar with the dish as I had read about it in one of my Florence travel books. He showed us how to put pieces of bread in the bottom of our bowl and pour the soup over it. It was so hearty and delicious made with cabbage, potatoes, and cannellini beans. Struggling with my Italian, I told Cristina it was the soup was perfect for the cold and gloomy day.

Of course this was only the first course. Next came fried artichokes, and an assortment of cheeses including incredibly fresh mozzarella knots. Then stacciatella gelato for dessert! I put banana over mine. After dinner, Cristina asked Ali and me if we would like to try limoncello which is a traditional Italian lemon liquor. Our host mom made it herself as many Italians do. Although it was good, it was strong as Cristina warned us while she poured us a taste.

After we were all satiated and content with our meal we stayed around the dinner table talking. I found out my host parents hold Bible study every week and were marriage counselors for years! – So interesting. Our night concluded with Cristina showing us their wedding photos and Marco telling us stories about the day. I must say, I love coming home to dinner with my family everynight. It reminds me of home J

Inspiration in Coffee Shops

Today in art class my professor critiqued our previous work, gave us a few pointers, and sent us back out into world to create another drawing. After finding nothing inspiring enough to draw on the school grounds, I ventured up and down streets until I stumbled upon a café. There I set up shop, got a cup of tea, and immersed myself in my artwork. It was the highlight of my day.

After my day of classes, I walked into the house to the smells of a delicious dinner on its way. Tonight I tried pasta-less ravioli, made with ricotta, flour, and beet greens. I have never heard of it before but it was sure delicious! I thought I was eating spinach ravioli until my host mom explained. Also with dinner was fish, lettuce, and fruit salad. The meal concluded with Cristina asking my roommate and me, “Gelato?” Ali and I looked at each other with exhilaration and we all enjoyed ice cream cones around the dinner table as Cristina told us about her day.

Back in High School

Today was another long day of school. Even though I am exhausted by the end of each day, I am really enjoying the Villa Rosa. The school is so small it reminds me of being back in high school. It’s made up of two buildings in which we have all of our classes, separated by a quaint courtyard. I have a lot of the same people in my classes and I feel that I will know everyone in the program by the end of the semester. I run into friends all the time, and we love to get a cappuccino and snack at the school café between classes, or head out to nearby shops to get a Panini for lunch. It’s such a cozy atmosphere.

Today the stress (and excitement) of trip planning began, as everyone is rushing, trying to figure out where they want to travel, and how get the best price. There are lots of school sponsored field trips to different parts of Italy that we all want to take advantage of as they are free to students (or rather included in our course fee). Hopefully some travel plans will come together soon. As we look at our calendars we all are finding out the same thing…there are not enough weekends in the semester! There are too many new places that we want to experience.

Dinner tonight was pesto pasta, a Greek vegetable frittata, and oranges for dessert. Delish as always!

Not Just Fun and Traveling

Yesterday marked the start of classes. It was a reality check, as I realized there is more to be done this semester than just fun and traveling. The first day proved very busy for me as I had classes all day, and a meeting in the evening arriving home just in time for dinner at 7:30pm.

My day started early but luckily my roommate and I start classes at the same time every morning, so we can make the 30 minute walk to school together. Along with other classes, I enjoyed my first drawing class of the semester in the afternoon. For today’s assignment, my professor’s only instruction was, “Go anywhere on campus and draw a picture”. Having nothing to go on, I sat in the garden drawing, sipping a cappuccino until my fingers were to cold to continue. I must say my drawing skills are a little rusty since high school, but it’s nice to get back into it. What better place than Florence?

After classes, a friend and I headed out to do some errands and get school supplies. After picking out some notebooks, we stopped for a first day of school treat at a little bakery I have being eyeing all week.

Cream puffs! Coffee flavored for me.

After a long day, and walking to and from school in the 25 degree weather, Cristina prepared pasta with broccoli, salad, and an artichoke and egg dish for dinner. For dessert her neighbor brought over a cake for us! I enjoyed my cake with a kiwi on the side, as fruit is always offered with dessert. Marco and Cristina were very excited to see what we had learned in our first day of Italian class – unfortunately not too much. I think we are all excited that Ali and I are leaning Italian and look forward to when we can communicate in Italian well.

The Hills are Alive... in Tuscany?

Today our host family showed us around Florence, showing us sky top views of Florence from the hills I would never think to seek on my own. They had originally planned a trip for us outside of Florence but Marco has been sick the last few days and did not feel well enough. So Florence it was!

The four of us were up an out early, ready for an entire day of sites. We all squished into our host parents small Italian car and headed up through the hills arriving at first stop the Piazalle Michelangelo. The piazza was nothing special but the view was incredible. Now I know where all those post card pictures of the city come from, for as we walked towards the edge of the piazza, the city of Florence emerged beneath us. We stood there looking down on tiny red roofed buildings and picking out iconic monuments like the duomo, which towers over the rest of the city, and the church of Santa Croce. Marco then turned to me and said “This is how we see Florence”. It was amazing.

Our next stop was a church atop a hill nearby. There we met up with my host mother’s sister and the two students she hosts. We toured the church together and then headed out to complete opposite side of the city.

We drove through the city to the hills on the other side of Florence. Cristina explained to me that Florence lies on a plain, surrounded by hills. The drive along the windy roads on the hill provided us with some beautiful scenery. Tuscany at it’s finest!

We stopped at a small piazza and then made are way up a steep hill by foot. We came to yet another look out point, showing Florence from a different angle. Although it was foggy, we were still able to see the beautiful hills of Tuscany surrounding Florence. Across from this view was a small church. We ducked our heads in but didn’t stay long because they were having mass.

By the time we made it down the hill we were all hungry for lunch. Marco took us to a beautiful restaurant atop the hills that a friend of his owned. We stepped inside the dining room which was surrounded by windows, revealing the beautiful view of Tuscany. It was awesome!

Knowing how much Ali and I like fish and seafood, Marco proceeded to order fish dishes for us all. We enjoyed a several course meal, as I am finding most Italian meals are. First a plate of crostini (picked out a bruchetta for myself), then a huge plate of mussels, followed by a plate of shrimp risotto and a plate of pasta covered in seafood. It was delicious but I was stuffed!

The other students and I rolled out of the restaurant. We all headed back for a nap before we headed back out to see a showing of Pinocchio! It was an original Italian version shown in a beautiful old theater, and of course all in Italian. I must say I don’t think I caught on to the story as it was fairly different from the well known Disney version.

After a long, eventful day we headed home for a lighter than normal dinner (Thank god after that huge lunch!) I will go to bed picturing those beautiful views of Florence I experienced today.