Coffee Cravings and a Sip of Home

After a run in the morning, I had the rest of the day free so Maria and I set out to do some shopping in the city. Although it was a balmy 28o outside, we walked along the outdoor markets looking through the displays of leather, scarves, and jewelry on our way to San Lorenzo’s market. Maria had wanted some dried fruit after seeing the goods I came home with last week. Not only did we check out the dried fruit stands, but we also stopped by a pastry stand. After sampling some biscotti, we got two muffins to share at a later time – kiwi and chocolate chip Nutella!

We had hoped the indoor market would be an escape from the cold outside but it turned out to be just as cold or possibly even colder! We headed out to find something warm for lunch and so our hunt for soup began. Unfortunately we could not find soup to match small pocketbooks, but we did happen to stumble upon the highlight of my day – AMERICAN COFFEE!

I have been craving a large, hot cup of coffee almost everyday now so finding it was such a treat. Although I love the Italian cappuccinos and lattes, I always left wanting it to be hotter and have more volume. Now that I know where to find coffee, I will definitely be coming back. They even had to-go cups! (Something Italy knows nothing about) We sat in the café and shared our muffins from the market, enjoying every sip of our thoroughly missed luxury from home.

After resting our feet at home for a bit I met up with new friends for dinner at a restaurant a couple blocks from my house. I was glad to see the restaurant was a local Italian hot spot and that there were no tourists to be had. Although the pizzas looked delicious, I got a salad with tomato and mozzarella as I was craving something light and healthy. After dinner, I went out for a casual drink with friends at a local American bar.

Sweet Afternoon

More frigid temperatures and the slightest bit of snow today brought with it the need for a warm coffee and a sweet pastry in the afternoon.

Artichoke lasagna, roasted beets, and salad for dinner.


Upon getting ready for school this morning I peered out my window to see a dusting a white over roof tops and cars. There’s snow in Florence! Unlike at Syracuse, Florence is not used to getting snow. Although it was only the smallest amount, all the Florentines were excited and talking about it. Children were taking snow of cars and making snowballs, and teachers were cancelling there classes. However pretty, the frigid temperatures that came with the snow made the walk to school fairly un-enjoyable.

But the cold temperatures did not deter me from setting out on a run! After I came home from school I bundled up and set out on a slow but steady 6 miler, going three times around the stadium.

We had a big group for dinner tonight! My host parent’s daughter and her family shared a meal with us tonight. There were eight of us in all including their daughter’s husband and two daughters Rebecca (10) and Bianca (6). The husband spoke English fairly well so we spent most of our time talking to him. He is in two different bands and was very interested to see how the culture shock was going for us. We spent the night picking out differences between our countries.

Tonight marked the first night where I found something from Cristina’s kitchen not to my liking – a cold tuna fish loaf. However, she redeemed herself with zucchini bread for dessert! Ali had actually converted the family recipe of hers into grams and given it to Cristina. Our host mom prepared it that afternoon with su-chefs Rebecca and Bianca. It was so nice to see my host parents with their grandchildren for I could tell how happy the two girls make them. Makes me miss my own family!

Too Much of a Delicious Thing...

Today, Tuesday January 31, was rainy and cold. Although two of my classes were cancelled because my professor was having an operation, I had no desire to go outside to explore the city. Instead, I stayed on campus most of the day doing homework, planning trips, and catching up with my never ending to-do list.

When Ali and I arrived home from school, Cristina informed us that’s we’d be heading over to Rita’s house for dinner, who lives down the street. Although going back out into the cold and rain was the last thing I wanted to do after walking over a mile home from school, we headed back out into the elements to Rita’s. Here we were greeted with way too much food, just as last time, including pasta, pumpkin lasagna, lentils, pearl onions, and an interesting take on deviled eggs which were filled with tuna. The night was capped with homemade tiramisu, which was the best I’ve had yet in Italy. All was delicious, but just like our last trip to Rita’s, I was again too full by the end of the night.

Healthy and Cheap – Me or my food?

Today, Monday, January 30, I decided to try out the school bar for lunch, located right in our school building, the Villa Rossa. Many students head here to grab a cheap panino for lunch, buy an orange, or enjoy an afternoon coffee. The staff is always smiling and the food is cheap. I got a crisp fresh salad with romaine, tomatoes, corn, and cheese. While most cafes in Florence have cheap paninis ranging from 2- 5 Euro, most salads are almost 8! – Hence deterring me from the healthy option. At our little campus bar however, my salad was only 2 Euro and after a drizzle of balsamic vinegar it was delicious! I will definitely be frequenting this lunch option.

To start off tonight’s dinner we had a first course of hot mushroom risotto – possibly one of favorite dishes yet! We then enjoyed sautéed fish, peas and salad, with fruit for dessert. Upon finishing our meal Cristina suggested a card game. Although I was tired after a long day, and had things to do, I couldn’t pass up a game of Baracco! Tonight we taught Ali how to play, and played in teams. Cristina and I were the winners while Marco was very upset with his lack of fortune. Can’t wait until next time!

Florentina Viola

After a day of climbing the Duomo and going to Ponte Vecchio, I continued my productive streak of seeing Florence by going to the soccer game today, January 29. My friends and I met early and headed to the stadium which is seriously 3 blocks from where I live. The game was so much fun! We sat in the fan section and I made sure to wear purple. Firenze scored their first goal within the first four minutes of the game and ended up beating Siena 2-1. It was so exciting! My favorite part of the game was the fans. They were on their feet the entire game and sang chants the whole time. One person would initiate a song then everyone would join in, filled with energy, knowing all the words. I wish I could have joined in, or even have known shat they were saying.

After Florentina's first goal!

After the game we all got gelato down the street. I got an extra big one with yogurt, pistachio, and strawberry flavors. Delish!

Upon returning home, Cristina invited me to join her, her neighbor and her grandson for tea. I happily joined, as I can never turn down tea and hoped it would warm me up after the game. After we were all done, Cristina and her neighbor began playing cards and asked if I wanted to learn to play Buraco. Putting off the nap I had planned, I happily agreed. I watched the first game as they explained the rules and then began to play with them. Although trying to learn a new card game when there is a language barrier is difficult, I eventually picked up the rules. Playing with them was so much fun and reminded me of playing Shangai Rummy with my own grandparents. I now have a new game to teach them!

We got so enthralled in the game we played until Cristina realized she had to start dinner. Tonight for dinner we started off with two different kinds of pasta, one with broccoli and bow ties with vodka sauce. We then had delicious roasted vegetables including cauliflower, zucchini, and carrots with pineapple for dessert! Although I didn’t get much work done during the day, I spent time with my host family instead which was more than worth it.

View from the Top

After choosing relaxation over touring the day before, my friends and I were determined to fill our day with sightseeing on Saturday, January 28. Since we weren’t traveling this weekend we wanted to make the most of our weekends spent in Florence. To begin our day, we met early, and headed out to climb the Duomo!

At first, I was a little apprehensive about this excursion due to my slight claustrophobia and fear of heights, but the view from the top made it all worth while. To get to the cupola, we climbed 463 spiral stone steps and made our way through dark narrow passageways. Luckily it was not as tight quarters as I had dreadfully imagined and I made my way up without a problem.

When we reached the top, we were greeted with a panoramic view of the entire city of Florence on a perfectly sunny day. It was amazing. We could see in all directions picking out our school, where we live, and other great monuments of the city. We spent a good amount of time enjoying the view before embarking on the journey back down the steps.

Next stop on the agenda was the Ponte Vecchio, which was a short walk from the Duomo. I think this is one of my favorite sites, the river and the bridge so beautiful and iconic of Florence. We sat down on the stone wall lining the river and once again enjoyed our view. There were rowers on the river, and many people walking by the bridge. It was nice to step back and people watch for a bit before heading across the Ponte Vecchio.


On the other side of the bridge we came along a street lined with many shops. At this point in the afternoon we were all on the hunt for a cappuccino and a pastry! But first, we came across the Pitti Palace.

By this time our feet were tired and our stomachs were hungry so we ducked into the first pastry shop that looked appealing. I decided it was time for me to have a croissant as they are so popular in Italy. I picked out a croissant with blackberry filling.

After our little afternoon pick-me-up, we walked home, rested for a bit, and headed back out for our first restaurant dinner together. After reading about it in a tour book, and hearing good reviews from friends, we decided on a restaurant called Za-Za, located near San Lorenzo’s market. The restaurant was very cute with stone walls and mix-matched furniture, and the menu looked good. I jumped at the chance to enjoy some classic Tuscan cuisine and ordered the sampler of three Tuscan soups: ribollita, pasta e fagioli, and a barley soup. All entrees I had read about in books and have been dying to try!

Although the presentation was not appealing, the soup was good. All three were thick and more like stew than soup, but good even so. My friends and I stayed at the restaurant for hours after our meals were finished, talking and enjoying each other’s company. We ended the day tired after walking nearly ten miles across the city, but happy none the less as we were filled with good food and laughter.

Rare Relaxation

Friday, January 27, was a nice and relaxing day for me in Florence. I slept in, went for a run, and enjoyed taking it easy all morning – something I do often at school but haven’t frequented since I’ve been abroad. Upon early afternoon, I headed out to the city center to walk around and grab coffee with my friend Anna. Although we had aspirations to get a Florence museum or landmark out of the way, we ended up catching up at a café for hours after not seeing each other all week. Although not much of Florence was seen, I enjoyed continuing the relaxing note of my morning throughout my day.

 For dinner, I met up with friends Maria and Jess who live down the street from me for pizza Friday! We went to the same pizza place as last Friday, “La Che Pizza”. I think we are becoming regulars.

To satisfy our sweet tooth, we found a nearby gelato shop that sells frozen yogurt! Although it’s one of my absolute favorite treats, my mini gelato cup of frozen yogurt wasn’t nearly as satisfying as my large yogurt park yogurt I get back at home. I think I’ll stick to what Italy does best and get gelato next time.

Anna, Jess, Maria, and me :)