Student Blog: Food Science Course in Italy
dustin shelton '13 —music
"I am incredibly excited because today we will take a tour of Florence, and then have free time and eat dinner at a slow food restaurant."
There are several people for whom I would like to thank for making my school trip to Italy possible. First, and most importantly, I would like to thank my parents for helping pay for my trip, buying me my camera to take pictures of Italy, and most for providing support and love. I am also very grateful to Catawba College and the Honors Program, including Sheila Brownlow, and Debra and Dyke Messinger for helping to finance the trip. Thanks to their donations, I was given the opportunity to learn so much about Italy and see some truly wonderful cathedrals, buildings, statues, and other works of art. A huge amount of thanks goes to our tour director, Georgio Osimani. Georgio provided us with tumults of knowledge ranging from political, economic, artistic, and cultural aspects. Throughout the trip, Georgio offered his love and good sense of humor
to embellish our trip. I also want to thank our bus driver, Claudio. Without Claudio, we would have had to rely on public transportation. Thanks to him, we could take as much time as we needed to see each sight. My fellow classmates also deserve my gratitude. All of my classmates truly made the trip enjoyable. I enjoyed interacting with 14 different and fun personalities. Everyone was encouraging and had a mature and positive attitude. I especially want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Sabo for taking care of all of us students while also making the trip fun by adding their sense of humor and experience. Thanks to Mrs. Imblum for organizing the logistics of the trip and providing us with good traveling advice. Finally, I want to thank all of the tour guides who took the time to educate us on the different cities, factories, museums, and cathedrals of Italy. One final thanks to all the people who made my
trip to Italy possible, education, enjoyable, and memorable.
Finally! The day has finally arrived! Today, our food science class embarks on the trip of a life time, our week in Italy. Excitement is such an understatement of what I am feeling right now. I have never journeyed out of the country of even out of the mainland U.S. before. There is something nostalgic about one's first trip out of the country. I have everything packed and ready to go. Despite my excitement, I am so nervous that I will do something stupid like get lost or lose my passport and money. I know I will be paranoid about losing things throughout the entire trip.
The time has come. The group has gathers at the parking lot next to the science building. Everyone is there except Katie, who we will meet at the airport. I meet Mrs. Sabo for the first time. After everyone loads their things into Dr. Sabo's truck, we are ready to depart for the Charlotte airport. Speaking of airports, I completely loathe airports, security, delays, and airports losing baggage. I am incredibly paranoid about going through the airport and having issues. As we arrive at the airport, the first of such issues rears its tiny head as my small suitcase is too heavy to carry on. My intention was to have only carry-ons in order to secure that my baggage makes it to the destination. Even though my bag has to be checked, I don't really mind, unless the airport loses it. After we check our bags and get through security without any issues (praise
the Lord), we meet up with Katie and head for our gate. I then take the time to try out my new camera, which my parents bought me just for this trip. I take random pictures of the group. Before long, it becomes time to board the plane. I feel another twang of excitement as I have only flown once to Vegas and back on a tiny and uncomfortable plane under U.S. Airways. This plane (Lufthansa) boards without delay and it is huge. It has ten seats across grouped three, four, three. The seats have televisions that can play movies and music. Thankfully, I happen to get seated next to Kyra and Lizzie instead of being alone with strangers. The plane safely takes off on its nine hour flight into a time zone that is 6 hours ahead of our time zone.
During the flight, I watch movies and free meals are served. Hurray for free food (even though I am sure it was already covered in the cost for the flight). One funny thing I remember seeing is randomly during the movies, the word "Lufthansa" would appear for a few seconds. Hurray for subliminal messages. Night soon falls and I attempt in vain to sleep as the plane crosses the Atlantic.
3/7/2010 Day 2
Over the ocean, I can't place the moment the time changes to six hours later. So, I don't know when day 1 ended and day 2 began. Either way, our flight lands safely in Munich, Germany at 8:30 A.M. (2:30 Eastern Standard Time). Despite my lack of sleep, I currently have relatively good energy as I am excited about taking my first steps on foreign ground. Ironically, during our Spring Break trip, it is snowing in Munich. Hopefully, Italy will have warmer weather. After going through security again (ugh), we wait to board our flight to Milan. To pass the time, Kyra pulls out her game of Bananagrams for the group to play. Bananagrams is similar to Scrabble, but it is played without a board, and you can continuously revise your own words to makes new ones. A total of eleven of us end up playing (not simultaneously). For one game, I sit out and film a match with my camera. Unfortunately,
I have yet to win a game, but I did learn a valuable word: "qats" is a word that can be spelled with a "q" and without a "u."
Before long, we board our second plane, once again Lufthansa, and once again without a delay. This plane is considerably smaller, but I get a window seat. The flight lasts about an hour, but I sleep through a majority of the flight. I am asleep as the wheels touch the ground (which wakes me up). My first thought is "that was a quick flight." Then it sinks in. I realize that we have landed…IN ITALY! We get off of the plane, meet up and collect our baggage, (all of which made it with us to Italy). Then comes a significant moment: meeting Georgio and Claudio. Georgio is our tour director, as is already a friend of Dr. Sabo's. Claudio is our amazing bus driver that kind of reminds me of a werewolf. My first impressions of both are: "because of these guys, this will be an awesome week." I can tell already that they both have great senses of humor. Anyway,
we make our way to the big, comfortable charter bus that we will use throughout the week. The bus holds probably three times as many people as what is in our group. Everyone finds their own seat, and we start the drive toward the Parma region.
As we drove, I gazed around to absorb all that I could of the landscape. The grass here is fantastically verdant and fertile. As I gazed out the window, Georgio introduced us to some information about Italy. He mentions that there are 20 regions in Italy, 60 million people, a population 1/6 the size of America's inside a land mass 1/33 the size America, the largest river is the 652 kilometer Do River, and that the government has a parliament with up to 66 different political parties. I find all of this new information fascinating. Since I have never been out of the country until now, I need to learn what I can about how other countries run their government. Soon, I begin to drift in and out of sleep.
I awaken as we stop for dinner. Our first foreign meal takes place in a café whose name I do not remember. Inside, I order focaccia bread and tortellini. At first, I am utterly confused because I must interact with Italian speaking people. The first meal comes as a culture shock: not everyone will understand what I say. Eventually, I get my food and consume my first meal. The tortellini is okay, but not spectacular since this is more of a fast food place. Parmesan cheese adds more flavor to the tortellini, however. After completing my meal, I look around the gift shop connected to the café. To my amusement, I find American books, movies and CD's that have been translated into Italian. This clues me in on the possibly commercial relations between the U.S. and Italy. After, looking through the gift shop, we continue onward to the hotel.
We finally arrive at the hotel. We are told who we are rooming with and we are told to meet back in the hotel at 8:00. Tonight, I am rooming with Zach and Jarrett. We journey up to our room, anticipating how it might be different than an American hotel. The room is relatively small, but it had a television. The shower is also small and the electrical outlets are shaped differently (which is why I brought a power converter). Soon, we decide to go downstairs to the lobby where some of us had already grouped. Together, we decided to walk up and down the street to see what we could see before dinner. I decided to go since I wanted to learn more about Italian culture. As we walk down the street, we see houses, smell farms, and learn about the dangers of Italian traffic. We pass a beautiful church where people are praying inside.
Soon, we return to the hotel for another round of Bananagrams before dinner. Tonight, dinner is absolutely amazing. The first course consists of prosciutto (Parma ham) and parmesan cheese, my absolutely favorite flavor of cheese. This is my first time trying prosciutto and I believe tomorrow, we will be touring a prosciutto factory. In my opinion, the prosciutto is incredible. The second course is pasta with meat sauce and more parmesan cheese. The meat sauce is so flavorful, and the dish, overall, has a more vivid flavor than American pasta. The third course is even better: my first experience with veal. If I am not mistaken, I believe veal is baby cow…? Anyway, it was delicious. Finally, it is now time for dessert. Dessert tonight is a fruit pie, apple, I believe. Dinner in general is incredible tonight. After I finish my meal, I, along with my classmates, decide to
retire for a well needed rest. Thus, my first day in Italy is drawn to a close.
3/8/2010 Day 3
I have greatly anticipated this day since the beginning of the semester. Today, food is the focus. We are going to visit three food related factories: parmesan cheese, prosciutto, and balsamic vinegar. However, before we set out on our expedition of food, we eat breakfast first. Our hotel provides guests with breakfast, as I assume all of the hotels that we are staying at will. Breakfast is spectacular as well. There are cookies and things to spread on them, bread, yogurt, and the best orange juice I have ever tasted. There were even adorable tiny trash cans for each table. After a fully satisfying breakfast (our first in Italy), we board the bus to take us to the factories. As we are driving, we pick up the woman who is going to be our tour guide for the day. She is a woman from England who moved to Italy. As we head for the cheese factory, she gives us
some preliminary facts on cheese and the cows it comes from.
We arrive at our first stop, the parmesan cheese factory. One thing that we learned on the bus is that the cheese deserves more respect than just to be called "parmesan." The official name of the cheese is "Parmigiano Reggiano." Before we head inside, we are given masks, and plastic coverings to pull on over our shoes and clothes. This makes me wonder what all goes on inside. We head in, and our tour guide takes us through the fascinating process of making the exquisite cheese. First, cow's milk is transferred to the factory where it is poured into a giant metal vat. The milk then goes thorough processes of skimming and retin is added. Soon, the milk proteins coagulate and the cheese is formed and put into wooden barrels and are left to harden. Eventually, the cheese is "branded" with the name "Parmigiano Reggiano" repeating
over the surface of the rind. The cheese is then soaked in salt water for a few months, dried, and left to age for a few more months. After at least a year of aging, the cheese is ready to be marketed.
After we finish our tour, we are able to sample the amazing finished product. It is spectacular, but a degree sharper than cheese in America. We even have the opportunity to purchase some cheese. I was under the impression that we were not allowed to return to the U.S. with food, but Georgio says it would be allowed if the cheese is vacuum sealed, which it is. So, I have decided to purchase a kilogram for my parents.
Now, we journey to the prosciutto factory. I gaze around at the beautiful mountain landscape which is covered in snow. It is relatively cold outside. This comes as a surprise as I initially thought that the weather would be moderately warm. Either way, it is sunny, so the day is still gorgeous.
Soon, we arrive at the prosciutto factory. Snow covers the driveway, so it is actually slippery as we make our way inside. Once inside, our tour guide starts to explain the process of how prosciutto is made. Inside are various metal racks holding hams that are in different stages of preparation and aging. We journey through the factory viewing how the ham ages. One thing that I find interesting is that the ham is eaten raw, yet is completely safe for consumption. I learn that this is so because the ham is cured. Just like at the cheese factory, we are able to sample some prosciutto at the end of our tour. There are various types of ham for us to sample ranging from regular prosciutto, salami, and bacon. I try all of the flavors and I decide that my favorite is salami.
Now, our next destination is lunch. However, before we leave, we gather for a group picture in front of the luxurious snow-capped mountains. So far, the day is going incredibly well. I have acquired knowledge about Italian cultural while absorbing the beauty of the landscape. After the picture, we load the buses and head to a restaurant where we are served more prosciutto and pasta. We are also served wine. Out of curiosity, I taste it. The flavor of the ethanol overpowers the flavor of the wine, and I am repulsed. Everyone tells me that one must acquire a taste for alcohol, but I do not decide to drink any more that meal. After we finish our meal, we are given a tour of the winery at the restaurant. We learn about yeast and fermentation. This tour does not excite me nearly as much since I am actually quite apathetic about wine.
After lunch, we board the bus for the final factory that we are going to visit today. We now visit the balsamic vinegar factory. I have tried balsamic vinegar in the U.S. and have loved it. Therefore, I am anticipating this factory visit because I know we will get to try some. Inside, we learn how the vinegar is made from only grape juice that is aged in barrels. The age of the vinegar could be between 4 and 12 years old.
After the tour, we try four different kinds of balsamic vinegar. The first is a commercially mass produced version which tastes great, but is extremely acidic. The other three were made at the factory and were aged for 4, 8, and 12 years. The older the vinegar is, the better it tastes. Then, we have another surprise as we are given balsamic vinegar with ice cream. Balsamic vinegar with ice cream is the best idea ever. It tasted absolutely fantastic.
Now that our schedule is complete for the day, we load the bus and head to Florence. As the bus heads toward our next destination, I drift off into a well desired nap. Soon we arrive in Florence, which is a busy town similar to New York. We arrive at the hotel, unload, and find our rooms. My roommates for the next three nights are Quinn and Ryan. Our room is dreadfully hot, and there does not appear to be a way to change the temperature.
For dinner, we are on our own. A group of us go to find a place to eat. Zach, Quinn, Claire, Danielle, Kyra, Michelle, Lori, Crystal, Jarrett, and I find a place with s student discount: a pizza, drink, and dessert for ten Euros. I decide to get a salami pizza with water and tiramisu for my dessert. Italian piazza tastes better than American pizza, in my opinion. The sauces and cheese vary greatly from American pizza. This is my first time trying tiramisu. It is like a cake with cookies and chocolate and coffee flavors. It is simply superb.
As I head back to the hotel with the group, I reflect on our amazing day. My favorite place today was the cheese factory. However, I can tell already that I'm going to enjoy Florence immensely. So far, this trip has brought me closer to my classmates, Dr. and Mrs. Sabo, Georgio, and Claudio. I can't wait for the adventures that I am going to have in Florence!
2/9/2010 Day 4
Today is our first full day in Florence. I am incredibly excited because today we will take a tour of Florence, and then have free time and eat dinner at a slow food restaurant. Our tour starts in front of the gigantic Dome of Florence, the city's great cathedral. The cathedral is elaborately adorned with statues and had different phrases in Latin written above the doors. I have never seen such a beautiful church in my entire life. We meet our tour guide, and we bust in the new "whisper" machines. The whisper machines make it possible for all of us to hear the tour guide in noisy areas by transmitting his or her voice through a microphone to an ear piece on our ears. It comes in handy, for when we enter the church, we can look around and absorb the interior and still hear the guide. The inside of the church is spectacular. The dome is decorated with
artwork including a depiction of the end of the world with father time giving God his hourglass and the Grim Reaper destroying his scythe. During the tour, we learned that we can climb up to the top of the dome if we choose to during free time.
The rest of the tour takes us to a bridge with shops along it and a square with replicas of famous statues including Michelangelo's "David." The tour ends, and we sit in at a leather making demonstration, where we learn the process of making leather jewelry boxes. After the demonstration, we are released to get lunch by ourselves and to sightsee. Michelle, Kyra, Jarrett, Lizzie, Lori, Crystal, Claire, and I choose to get pizza again. Then we chose to go to the Academia to see the real statue of David and we chose to climb the Dome of the Cathedral. As I look at the statue of David, I find it hard to believe that I am actually looking at a world famous century old statue. I am even more dumb-founded at the beauty of viewing Florence from atop the gorgeous cathedral. I find incredibly hard to fathom how man could create such wondrous beauty and for it to last so
long. Viewing Florence from above was an eye-opening experience to the architectural ingenuity of humans.
After viewing Florence from atop the dome, we decide to get some gelato. Gelato is the greatest ice cream ever invented. I decide that I want lemon-flavored gelato. After a refreshing break and chance to sit, we head back to the hotel to meet with the group in order to walk to dinner. Dinner tonight ends up being one of my favorite memories of the trip. Our meal takes place at a slow food restaurant (as opposed to a fast food restaurant). The point of the meal is to have high quality food served at wide intervals to allow for a relaxing and social dinner. Georgio, Dr. Sabo, Mrs. Sabo, Carrie, Ryan, Kyra, Michelle, Lori, and Katie sit at my table. We all discuss what we chose to during our free time. Other groups decided to go to other museums or decided to explore more of Florence. As we discuss our day, we are served bread, soup, different types of pasta,
vegetables, and various types of meat, including rabbit and kidney. Finally, we have an assortment of Italian desserts. I am not sure what everything is, but I sample a little bit of everything.
Finally, our 4th night concludes, and we head back to the hotel to get some sleep. Today has been simply wonderful. I have gotten to see architectural art by viewing the cathedral, I have gotten to see visual art by viewing David, and I have gotten to taste what authentic Italian food tastes like. Most of all, I have become a lot closer to my classmates. I have everyone to thank for making this trip special so far. I greatly anticipate another day in Florence, but for now, it's time to sleep.
3/10/2010 Day 5
Today is another day devoted to learning about food. Our itinerary shows us that today; we will have a wine tasting and a cooking lesson. I am curious about the wine tasting, for I haven't liked any of the wine I have tasted so far. I wonder if I will dislike all of the wine, or just some brands. As far as the cooking goes, I am a little nervous because I have virtually no experience cooking, and I do not know what to expect. After another amazing breakfast, we walk to the place where we are going to meet the vans that will take us to our destination. We finally get there and board the vans, dividing into two groups. As we ride to our destination, we learn that our driver is from North Carolina, and that he moved to Italy because he loved it so much. I find it interesting that he was also a music-major in college.
Our first stop is a vineyard where our driver takes us on a tour and describes how both olive oil and wine are made and stored. After the tour, we have the wine tasting, and sample bread with olive oil made at the vineyard. The bread and oil are so delicious that I end up eating six pieces. As for the wine; the wine was all made at this vineyard. I try four types of wine, including a dessert wine. I dislike all of the wines for I fell that the ethanol still compromises the flavor.
Following the wine tasting comes one of the activities I have anticipated the most: the cooking lesson. I enrolled in "Eating in the Arts and Sciences" mainly for the reason that cooking would be involved. However, I am still a novice cook, so I am a little nervous. For the lesson, we are split into groups based on which van we rode in to come up here. My group consists of myself, Vanessa, Zach, Lori, Ryan, Carrie, Danielle, and Claire. Steve, the former North Carolinian, is the person giving our group the lesson. He takes us though the process of making stuffed ravioli. We begin by mixing flour and eggs to make the dough, which we roll thinly and cut into circles. As we rolled the dough, Steve told us the process for making the stuffing. The stuffing had five ingredients: ricotta cheese, spinach, Parmegiano Reggiano cheese, nutmeg, and salt. All
five are mixed together, and we place the stuffing onto our circles of dough and seal them.
After the ravioli is cooked, it is time for lunch. Topped with butter and more cheese, the ravioli is spectacular. It is even more satisfying knowing that our group made the meal together. The ravioli is not just another meal at an unfamiliar restaurant; it is a meal where we each put a little of ourselves into it. Thus, the finished product is increasingly satisfying.
Our spectacular lunch ends, and we get back on the buses to head back to Florence. Before returning to the hotel, Jarrett, Kyra, Michelle, Lizzie, Crystal, and I detour for some more gelato. Since we still have some time before bedtime, we return to the hotel for another fierce battle of Bananagrams. We meet two Canadian students who decide to join our game. The day ends with new friendship and international camaraderie.
3/11/2010 Day 6
Today, we are sadly leaving Florence. I have enjoyed my time here more than my words can say. Florence is a city of history and beauty, and I will cherish the memory of my time here forever. I am not too sad though, for we are on to Siena, where I do not know what to expect. Florence may have been amazing, but the weather for the past two days has been freezing (almost literally). It has also rained the past few days. Since we are moving south, the entire group hopes for warmer temperatures and sunshine.
Unfortunately, the opposite happens. Siena is colder than Florence, and it is snowing. However, we get off the bus and begin our tour. Our first stop is what I believe to be a church or museum. Inside are various pieces of art, and photography is not permitted. As we look around, the tour guide gives us preliminary information on Siena and the popular horse races held there. Siena is kind of backwards: the winner of the race pays a fee, yet gets to party for three months. The interior of the building has fantastic acoustics, which really makes me want to sing something.
After our overview of Siena, we head back into the snow and move to the city square. From the square, we can see a tower branching off of the cathedral a few blocks away. We make our way to the cathedral which is actually complete. The goal while it was being build was for it to be the biggest cathedral in the world. The cathedral is zebra-striped black and white. The cathedral is gigantic and magnificent. So far, everything in Italy has been so wonderful that I am running out of adjectives to describe the sights I have seen. The inside of the Cathedral is breath-taking. The tour guide talks about the making of the church and the art inside. I am unable to speak, for the beauty of the church has humbled me to silence. The ceiling and walls of one room are adorned with precious frescos and ancient sheet music. The sheet music invokes a particular interest
in me as I have come to Catawba to study music.
We depart from the church and are released to get lunch and explore on our own. Kyra, Michelle, Jarrett, Claire, Zach, Quinn and I get more pizza. The pizzeria we select has bacon pizza, which I order. The pizza is covered it slices of Parmegiano Reggiano. For dessert, we get fried rice from an outside vendor. Fried rice is a famous treat in Siena. Soon, it becomes time for us to meet back with the whole group. Our next stop is San Gimignano.
As we arrive in San Gimignano, Georgio tells us that there are two museums of torture here. Therefore, Jarrett, Kyra, Michelle, Lizzie, Crystal, Zach, Quinn, Lori and I decide to check them both out. On museum is about capital punishment and death, and the other one focuses on death and witches. We tour the museums and learn about impaling, skull crushing, iron maidens, beheading, and other forms of torture and death. In truth, some of the torture devices are quite disgusting and a horrible way to die.
After a quick meal, it is back to the buses to head to our hotel. The hotel tonight is kind of creepy. Humorously, however, it is rumored that there are werewolves around the hotel. So, when we are in the lobby and I hear some random noise, I say that it must be a werewolf. Then, Claudio (rumored to be a werewolf) walks in a second later. The irony is hilarious.
Tonight, I am rooming with Jarrett. Our room is nice, and it has a stove. The shower is actually not uncomfortably tiny this time. As I try to sleep, I reflect on today's journey. Today has taken me through the capability of people to make beautiful and massive architecture. I have also learned about how cruel people can be, and what horrors and torture they used to subject people to. Still, today has been greatly enjoyable, despite the snow. Hopefully, tomorrow will be warmer since we are heading to Rome.
3/12/2010 Day 7
Today, we head to Rome. We have two stops on the way: a Perugia chocolate factory and a tiny hilltop city with a population of about 20. First, we stop in Perugia to tour the chocolate factory. I am excited, for I know there will be treats in the near future. Naturally, as soon as we walk in, there is a bowl of candy which we are allowed to take from. After gorging myself with sweets, the tour begins. We walk through a tunnel that overlooks the factory. We see workers and machines in the process of making and wrapping chocolate Easter eggs and other sweets. It is cool to actually watch the processes taking place. After the tour ends, it is time to shop! I choose to buy some chocolate covered cherries. Sadly, I discover later that they have alcohol in them. In my opinion, the alcohol destroys the flavor of the candy. At least now I have the knowledge
that alcohol in candy is a possibility I need to look out for.
Our next stop is one of my favorites: a lovely hilltops city whose name translates into "The Dying City." I assume it gets its name from its dwindling population, which is about twenty. We take a bridge up to the city. The view is spectacular and we could see around us for miles. Also, it is bright and sunny, adding to the splendor of the view. We take a group picture, and then split up to get lunch. Kyra, Michelle, Jarrett, and I pick the same place as Dr. Sabo, Mrs. Sabo, and Georgio. I order chicken, the first chicken I have had in Italy so far. The food is quite wonderful, and the weather is so pleasant. I would certainly love to come back here someday.
Lunch break ends, and we continue our journey to Rome. I am highly anticipating Rome, for I know that there are many sights to see. After a refreshing nap on the bus ride, we finally arrive in Rome. The streets, like Florence are full of insanity. People are parked in every available place of the side of the street. As we approach the hotel, we catch a glimpse of the Colosseum. We arrive at the hotel, unload, and find our rooms. My roommate for our last two nights is Quinn. We put our things in the room and meet with the others downstairs.
Tonight, we have free time to explore Rome at our own leisure. Ten of us decide to go in one group: Zack, Quinn, Kyra, Michelle, Jarrett, Lori, Claire, Lizzie, Crystal, and I. We make our way to the Colosseum since it is the closest tourist attraction to our hotel. It is closed for the night, but we are still able to walk around the exterior. It is simply amazing to be able to actually stand by one of the most famous and oldest buildings in existence. Growing up, I heard stories about gladiators and fights in the coliseum, but I never thought I would one day see it.
Soon it becomes apparent that half of us want to continue sightseeing, and the other half of us wants food. So, we decide to split into two groups. Jarrett, Zach, Quinn, Kyra, and Michelle decide to continue sightseeing and Lizzie, Crystal, Lori, Claire, and I decide to eat. We find a nice restaurant that is not too incredibly expensive. I order pasta and tiramisu. So far, the best tiramisu has been the homemade one that we had after our cooking demonstration.
After our meal, we decide to see the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. The Pantheon is a beautiful columned building that must be under renovation since the right side is covered in scaffolding. After viewing the Pantheon and the fountains and McDonalds nearby, we get lost trying to find the Trevi Fountain. We find a fountain, then Lizzie, who has been to Italy before, realizes that it is not the Trevi. So, we continue forward, take a better look at the map, and finally make it to the Trevi. People are gathered all around the beautiful fountain. Gorgeous statues adorn the wall of the fountain, and people toss coins into it. Legend has it that if you throw a coin over your left shoulder with your right hand, you will someday return to Rome. We throw our coins into the fountain, and then decide that we are tired and we want to return to the hotel.
After a long walk, we finally reach the hotel. I go up to my room and reflect on my day. Today, I have seen even more architectural beauty and have been impressed that such buildings and fountains can still be standing after centuries. When the Romans built all of these buildings, they built them to last. Sadly, today, nothing seems to last. My favorite thing about today was visiting the "Dying City." It was away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities. There, I felt that I could breathe and relax.
3/13/2010 Day 8
Today, it is bright and sunny, for once. Our last full day in Italy begins beautifully with a wonderful breakfast. Today, we have two tours planned: one of Vatican City, and one of the Colosseum and the forum. After breakfast, we board the bus and drive to Vatican City.
I am looking forward to the Vatican tour, for we are going to see the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter's Basilica, the largest cathedral in the world. We reach the entrance and go through security. We meet up with our tour guide, who has a scarf tied to a pole so that we won't lose her in the crowd. Our tour begins, and we are taken through several art museums on our way to the Sistine Chapel. Luckily, we are able to take pictures of everything except the Sistine Chapel. As we journey through the museums, we see countless statues and painting depicting the Trinity, other various stories from the Bible, and various Roman heroes, gods, and goddesses. I do think that it is strange that the art mixes the old Roman religion with Christianity.
Before long, we reach the Sistine Chapel. The ceiling and walls are covered with paintings all done by Michelangelo. Eight panels at the top depict the story of Creation, Adam and Eve, the first sin of humanity, and the Great Flood. Eight panels take us through the story of the beginning of the earth through what could have been the end of the earth. Since I am a Christian, the art has much more meaning than beautiful colors. Each picture has a religious significance. I find the symbolism in the art astounding.
After we leave the Sistine Chapel, we make our way to Saint Peter's Basilica. The interior is cavernous. Once again, the complexity and beauty of the architecture stuns me to silence. There are various statues around, including a very famous statue of Saint Peter, which people are invited to go and touch for spiritual reasons. So many people have touched the statue that there are no longer any toes on his right foot. As I gaze around the cathedral, our tour guide says that the Basilica is still used as a church. The Basilica holds weddings, funerals, baptisms, and has Mass. I spiritually rejoice at the idea that despite being a tourist attraction, the Basilica is first and foremost a House of God.
After we leave the Basilica, we take a group picture in front of the obelisk which is in front of the Basilica. Then we go to the gift shop. In the gift shop, there are all sorts of religious rosaries, pictures, and other items that can be blessed by the Pope after the purchase. Some of the rosaries even smell like rose. Inside, I find a 2011 calendar with pictures of famous buildings in Rome on it. I decide to buy it for my mom so she can vicariously experience Rome as well. Outside the gift shop is a sandwich store. I buy a salami Panini for lunch. Interestingly, the cashier spoke no English, but the two of us were still able to communicate. The sandwich tastes wonderful (as the rest of the food in Italy has been wonderful).
Soon, the bus arrives and we drive back to the Colosseum. Sadly, we must say goodbye to Claudio. After some goodbyes, we head inside the Colosseum and meet our tour guide. He tells us about the Colosseum, what kinds of games were held there, were the people sat, and how parts of it were damages. I find it amazing that I am standing inside the Colosseum where gladiators battled and where Romans used to walk. To me, it is astounding that architecture can last as long as the Colosseum and other buildings have.
Our next stop is the forum. The first thing I notice is the uneven ground, which kills my feet. Sadly, my camera battery dies before I can photograph the forum. Despite all of that, the forum is amazing. I almost feel the presence of the Romans who walked the same ground centuries ago. I am thrilled to be able to get a glimpse of the past. The fact that any of this is standing is simply stunning. It also makes me wonder what modern buildings will still be standing years from now.
Our tour ends, and we make our way to the restaurant where we will be making pizza. I have looked forward to making pizza in Rome all week. The walk, however, is extremely tiring. By the time we reach the restaurant (after about a thirty minute walk), my feet feel dead. Fortunately, we are early, so I have time to rest. When it comes time to make the pizzas, we go in groups of two. We roll the dough and add sauce, cheese, and toppings. I added ham, salami, and mushrooms on my pizza. A worker puts the pizza into a brick oven where the crust rises quickly, and is finished in no more than five minutes. The finished product looks spectacular and tastes even better. However, another group who has reservations comes in and the rest of the group does not get to make pizza. Only six of us get to make our own pizza. I think that this is unfair considering
that it is six minutes after our reservation before we have to stop. The rest of the group still gets pizza, but they do not get to make. After expressing frustration and anger, the group carries on, and the meal is still enjoyable.
After we finish, the group splits up. Some of us go back to the hotel, and others do their own thing. Since I am exhausted by all of the activity yesterday and today, I head back to the hotel for some much needed rest. As I lay in bed, I reflect over today, and the entire trip. Today, I have seen art of untold value. The beauty that I have seen today is priceless. I will forever cherish what I have seen today and through this entire trip. If I had to pick a favorite location, I would pick Florence. Florence had so much life, and the cathedral was so beautiful. Seeing Florence from above was even grander. My top ten activities or sights that we saw are:
- Viewing Florence from the dome of the cathedral
- Touring Saint Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel
- Visiting the "dying city"
- Visiting the cathedral in Siena
- Touring the Colosseum
- Visiting the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon
- Visiting the cheese factory
- The cooking demonstration
- The slow-food dinner in Florence
- Touring the forum
This trip has been so much more than what we paid for it. Truthfully, I do miss America and our familiar food as cash. A week seems about the perfect length for a trip like this. A week is long enough to see a lot of sights, but it is not too long. I do not look forward to three plane rides tomorrow. I won't think about that now. I will worry about that when I wake.
3/14/2010 Day 9
3:15, ugh. Since all of the fun stuff is over, I am pessimistic about today. I hate airports and long flights. I also hate early mornings. I pull myself out of bed anyway. Thank goodness for wake up calls. I discover that my watch and Quinn's watch alarms failed to awaken either one of us.
After making sure everything is packed, I bring my suitcase down. Today, we take a different bus, which is why we said goodbye to Claudio yesterday. As we ride, I take one farewell look at the Colosseum. It is here that I say goodbye to Italy. Once we reach the airport, all I focus on is getting home instead of wishing our trip farewell. Now, the saddest moment of our trip comes: saying goodbye to Georgio. He wishes us farewell, then we step through security and don't look back. Georgio has really added to the enjoyment of this trip. Not only is he a walking encyclopedia of Italian knowledge, but he is a fun, loveable, and hysterical guy. Thankfully, he is on facebook.
Soon, it comes time to board plane #1, which is Lufthansa, and which boards on time. The plane is relatively small. I sit across the aisle from Katie and Crystal. I choose to sleep and ignore the people sitting next to me. Thankfully, we are fed a snack. One nap later, we land in Frankfurt. We proceed once more through security (which I loathe). Once again, we are flying Lufthansa, and once again we board on time. This plane is huge. It has an upstairs and 12 emergency exits. However, only first class gets television.
Eight annoying hours later, we land in Washington. I am happy to be back in the country. Now I can use American money! Since this airport is so large, we have to take shuttles to the terminals. Zach, Vanessa, and I take the wrong one. After much confusion, Zach and Vanessa call other people in our group, and we find out where to go. They tell me that the others checked our baggage for us, so at least I don't have to worry about that. We slowly proceed through customs and security, and finally make it back to the group. After spending American money on American food (Subway), I play Bananagrams with the others until our final plane arrives. This plane is not Lufthansa; it is U.S. Airways. Our four Lufthansa flights boarded on time, whereas the U.S. Airway flight is delayed by about thirty minutes. It is easy to tell that I prefer flying with Lufthansa.
After our final short plane ride, we finally arrive in Charlotte. Miraculously, my baggage also made it to Charlotte. After everyone finds their baggage, we load the bus that was sent to meet us, and we finally make our way back to Catawba College. It is around 11:30 by the time we get back. Factoring in the time change and daylight savings time, today has lasted 29 hours with our group being awake 23 of those hours. Today has literally been the longest day of my life. The Italy trip was fantastic, but now I need to sleep.
Munich Airport Group Shot
Parmegiano Reggiano Cheese
Group picture in front of replica
Group at cooking demonstration
with Steve and dog
Cathedral in Sienadiv>
The "Dying City"
Group Shot in front of Saint Peter's
Basilica and obelisk
Group shot in front of Colosseum
The final plane after landing
For our traditions potluck, I chose to make peanut butter cookies. Growing up, my mother baked peanut butter cookies often for different occasions. My church has an annual bake sale, and every year, mom makes peanut butter cookies. She always makes extra cookies for our family to enjoy. At the church bake sale, her peanut butter cookies always run out. Her cookies are as popular at church as they are in they are in the family. Around my family, especially me, cookies just seem to magically disappear, especially Mom's peanut butter cookies.
My mother also makes her peanut butter cookies for different holidays. She has made her cookies for Easter and Thanksgiving, but especially Christmas. At times of celebration, her cookies have been there. Now, I associate her delicious cookies with happy times surrounded by family. The excitement of holidays, and the exciting taste of cookies has left a nostalgic hand print in my memory.
Throughout my childhood, I have helped my mom bake the cookies a few times. I didn't do the actual baking or mixing, but I helped my mom rolls the dough into balls and press them so they form circle shapes. It has been a fun activity for the two of us to share. In the future, I know I will look back and cherish the memories that we shared making cookies.
For the potluck, I knew instantly that I needed to learn to make mom's peanut butter cookies. I asked her to give me the recipe for the cookies and show me how to make them. She explained the process. Now that I know the recipe, I can pass it along our family by teaching it to my children, if I have children. The recipe for the cookies will be a legacy for our family, and will always be special.
Peanut Butter Cookies
1 stick margarine/butter
1 cup peanut butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
Cream together the margarine and peanut butter. Add both sugars, and 1 egg. Mix dry ingredients together and then add to other ingredients. Make into small balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Press cookies with a fork and bake at 350°
for 12 to 15 minutes or until light brown.
PHOTOS: Food Science Course in Italy