Sharing Thursday

Last Monday, while I was sitting at the Healthy Monday table handing out fruit, one of the faculty members approached me with an idea while picking up her piece of free fruit. Vittoria Tettamanti is an Italian professor, the head of the volunteer program here, and very helpful to all of our Healthy Monday efforts. She asked if she could use the left over fruit from Healthy Monday’s tabling for her new “Sharing Thursday” where students prepare and share a meal with the homeless during lunch time every Thursday. Of course I thought it was a great idea and was interested in getting involved. What better way to use our extra fruit!

So today, Thursday, February 23, I helped Vittoria set up the lunch in Piazza Savonarola, which is right in front of our school building. We served pasta with marinara for lunch along the leftover fruit, tea and biscotti. Everyone was so gracious and thankful for the delicious food. The man that helped Vittoria run the program kept saying to all of the volunteers, “Thank you for loving Florence!” I am so glad my efforts for Healthy Monday brought me more opportunities like this. It was fun serving, talking with everyone, and sharing a meal. I think I will definitely make “Sharing Thursdays” a habit every week!


With Fat Tuesday comes Ash Wednesday. For me this means a time for cutting back so that’s exactly what I plan on doing. Usually, I give up sweets for lent - probably because they are my favorite and I way too much of them. However, the thought forgoing sweets for a quarter of the time I am in Italy rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t want to limit my foreign experiences! So I have decided cut back on sweets instead of give them up all together and save them for “cultural experiences”. What will become a “cultural experience” by Easter, I do not know. Lately with all the wonderful Italian food, I have not been feeling at my best I am in need of some cutting back. Hopefully I can achieve this while still experiencing Italian culture at its finest!

Interesting fact: As many know, when people attend church on Ash Wednesday they receive ashes on their forehead. In the States, this is usually a small cross placed on the forehead by the priest. However, in Italy they do things a little differently. The priest actually sprinkles ashes on the parishioners’ heads!

Martedi Grasso

After a long day of preparing for midterms in my classes today, Tuesday, February 21, I was in the need of some relaxation. Although it may not be relaxing for most people, running is exactly what I needed – my perfect de-stressor. I set out on a run, just me, my thoughts and my music, careful not to get lost this time. I ended up getting lost in my thoughts instead (I’d say a safer alternative) and ended up covering 5 miles!

I was home and showered just in time for a special Fat Tuesday dinner! The night before, Christina asked us if we had any requests for dinner tonight in honor of the gluttonous holiday. We gave her some suggestions and the menu ended up being vegetable soup with gnocchi for our first course (which sounds better than it actually was), salmon and salad for the main course, and homemade cenci and strawberries for dessert. The strawberries were the perfect dessert and my favorite part! I will have to get her cenci recipe to bring home with me…


Today’s Healthy Monday was INSANE!

During fruit tabling, we offered and INSANE variety of fruit today in the Limonaia – apples, oranges, clementines, pears and bananas. Apparently people are bananas for the bananas because they were the first to go!

It was INSANE how many nice compliments I got on my newsletter this week. It’s so nice to hear that people enjoy the weekly nutrition information in their email inbox. This week’s newsletter informed students how to keep their digestive systems at their best in the midst of travel. Although slightly invasive, I thought the topic was extremely practical, applicable, and useful to everyone.

I got an INSANE amount of work done between classes! Newsletter proofing, blog post writing, class reading…check, check, check!

Today’s Move it Monday class was an INSANEly tough workout. It was actually called an “Insanity workout”. A student approached me the other week with the idea of leading the class through a DVD workout – I thought it was a great idea! The “insanity workout” DVDs are similar to P90X DVDs (often seen on infomercials). Julie Guempel led us through an intense interval workout, and It. Was. Hard. It felt so good though and I absolutely loved it! Many thanks to Julie for the great idea for Move it Monday and sharing her DVDs with us!


To finish off the day, I enjoyed an INSANEly good dinner: fried polenta with gorgonzola, salad, sliced tomatoes, cooked artichokes, and a small scoop of stracciatella gelato for dessert. Unfortunately all the food left me feeling INSANEly full…

Gym-less Fitness

After some not-so-great sleep on the train back to Florence and not getting into bed until 7:00am this morning, I slept in until 12:30pm! Unlike the rest of the college student population, I don’t remember the last time I woke up at this hour, but today I definitely needed it. When I awoke from my slumber, on Sunday February 19, my host mother greeted me with “You’re alive!” and offered me breakfast as her and my host father had lunch.

The rest of my day was filled with to-dos: expense account updating, blogging, emails, and homework. I did however take a break to fit in a workout. Unfortunately, to my dismay, our small Syracuse University Florence campus does not have a gym or a workout room available to students. Many of my friends joined a nearby gym but upon looking into it I deemed it too expensive for my pocketbook (it was about the cost of a weekend trip). However, I am bound and determined to find alternate ways to workout and stay in shape during my time abroad. I have no problem bundling up and running outside despite possible cold temperatures, I bought a 6€ foam mat so I can to sit ups and push ups in my room, and I brought two of my favorite workout DVDs. I even attempted to DIY some dumbbells out of empty water bottles and rice! (Although they’re not that heavy and therefore not that effective) Today, being rainy and miserable outside, I opted for a DVD workout.

My “cardio sculpt” workout was not the most demanding, but still felt good. I will be so happy to return to the gym when I go home – (my feet are dying for a low impact elliptical!), but until then I guess I will continue to find creative ways to workout.

Human Gridlock

On Saturday, February 18, Anna, Maria and I were greeted a beautifully sunny day in Venice. We took our time meandering through the narrow streets as we made our way to Piazza San Marco.  


Having been to Venice twice before, I was prepared for the Piazza to be filled with pigeons as usual but instead found it to be filled with just as many people! In the center of the piazza, a huge stage was set up, donning bands, performances and costume contests throughout the day. There were also food and mask stands set up all around. But the most entertaining aspect was all the people! Everyone was wearing a festive mask and many wore lavish costumes. I kept thinking, “So this is where Lady Gaga get her inspiration.” For every person dressed up there were at least ten more surrounding them, taking pictures. It was crazy!

We all decided to join the fun and get our faces painted! Later we sat outside at a café along the main strip for lunch and enjoyed seeing all of the costumes, watching all the people pass by, and feeling the sun on our faces.

We eventually made our way to the Rialto Bridge. What was suppose to be a simple ten minute walk to the bridge turned into a thirty minute walk due to the vast amounts of people in Venice for Carnival. At one point, we couldn’t move because there were so many people. Between the narrow streets, and all the people, it was “human gridlock!”

By late afternoon it was time for a coffee search! We headed to McDonalds hoping for a nice American coffee – about the only time I will enter a McDonalds. On our way there we picked up some pastries we had been seeing everywhere for carnival. They were fried dough with raisins filled with cream and rolled in sugar. Although my arteries cringed, my mouth was happy. Unfortunately my tongue was not as pleased with the coffee – was actually pretty gross... Where’s my Starbucks?!?

For dinner that evening, we decided to enjoy one of things Venice does best – fish. After looking at a number of options we found a place we liked. I ordered fish soup and was pleasantly surprised with just how much fish it entailed! There were clams, mussels, shrimp, salmon, and octopus (which I tried for the first time!). All of it was soaked in a tomato broth base and served with bread. It was quite possibly my favorite dish yet! – And with all the amazing food I’ve been eating, that’s saying something.

We enjoyed some of carnival festivities at night before heading to the train station to catch a 12:30am train to the mainland (Maestra), and a 3:11am train to Florence, finally arriving home at 6:30am on Sunday. Oh the joys of traveling as a cheap college student…

The Most Magical Place on Earth?

After a good night of sleep, I woke up on Friday, February 17, ready to go to VENICE FOR CARNIVAL! In the morning, I took the responsibility of mapping out the bus route, train routes, and walking directions so that Anna, Maria and I would make it smoothly to our hostel in Venice that night – my dad would be so proud on my improvement with directions! After the three hour train ride to Venice, we quickly checked into our hostel, as we were eager to see the sights of the ever unique Italian city.

Embarking on the streets of Venice during their famous Carnival felt like I was at Disneyland! With quaint shops, decorative lights, the smell of pastries, tons of people, and butterflies of excitement in my belly, it felt as if I was walking down
Main Street
. The streets were crowded with people wearing beautifully crafted masks and some were even in lavish costumes, willing to take pictures with anyone passing by – just like all the Disney characters. People enjoyed the carnival with their kids, loved ones, or friends – it was a family event!

After walking through the streets of Venice for a while, taking in all the sites, we were ready for dinner. On our journey from our hostel, we had seen a sign for “Pasta e fagioli” in the window of a restaurant, so we decided to try and find our way back to enjoy some deliciously hearty soup. We were lucky to find a table, as the quaint restaurant was small and full of people enjoying a glass of wine or hors d'oeuvres at the bar. We all ordered the same thing. With a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt the soup was good, although I could’ve gone for more beans and less pasta…but that’s probably always the case.

We made sure to get a good night’s sleep our first night as we knew we’d have a long day ahead of us on Saturday…