Student Blog: Food Science Course in Italy
lizzie white '13 — undeclared
"I really liked Florence and hated to leave! I keep telling myself I will get to go back someday."
Whatsa Matta You?! It'sa Not So Bad! We're in ITALY!
Grandmama and Granddaddy — You made this experience possible for me, as you have made many other things possible for me. I can't thank you enough for what you allowed me to learn about Italian food and culture through this trip. I'll never forget this trip or the people who helped make it happen. I love you!
Mom and Rob — You too, like Grandmama and Granddaddy, have given me many opportunities. Thank you for your willingness to make personal sacrifices in order for me to have these opportunities. I love you!
Debra and Dyke Messinger — It was made clear to me that the two of you contributed generously to the Honors Program at Catawba. I want to thank you for this generosity shown to students who you don't even know. Your contribution made a very valuable experience available to 15 students. We will remember this experience forever.
Dr. Brownlow and the Honors Program — You have made fascinating classes and trips like this one possible for Honors students at Catawba. The opportunities I have as an Honors student at Catawba are unique. I am appreciative that I have them.
Mrs. Imblum — You went out of your way to make this trip enjoyable for us. Thank you for offering your knowledge about traveling, and thank you for letting me borrow your converter! The things I learned from you helped me prepare well for my trip.
Aunt Jane — Thank you for your contribution to my trip. I was able to buy a nice coat with that extra money!
Giorgio — Of all the people I met on this trip, you made it the most memorable. You taught me so much about Italian culture that I otherwise would not have learned. I couldn't have asked for a better tour director. It is now very obvious to me why Dr. Sabo requested you. We miss you!
Claudio — It amazes me how well you can drive such a large bus! You offered us a lot of entertainment, especially when you picked up the motorcycle and moved it out of your way. Thank you for getting us from place to place quickly and safely.
Last, but not least, to my group — This trip brought us all closer together. I had a great time and loved the opportunity to make new friends.
Crystal — We became really close during this trip! I think we hung out every single day. Hopefully we can keep that going. Our heart-to-heart was great.
Michelle and Kyra — You guys are so close I had to put you together! You were both great roommates. I was with at least one of you every night. I think I owe you both. Kyra, you let me in at 12 in the morning. Michelle, you listened to me pour my heart out when you were trying to sleep on the last night in Rome. I think finally I bored you to sleep.
Zach and Quinn — Again, you guys are so close! I'm glad I can finally tell you guys apart (until you both shave your faces!) Also, thanks for your navigation and food skills.
Lori — It was nice to get to know you better. I'm glad you came out with us, and thank you for taking a picture of me and Alberto!!
Vanessa — I was really interested in what you had to say at the slow food dinner. You always look so effortlessly put together and have something interesting to say. Also, thank you for pulling me away from Druid's Rock just in time!
Katie — I love your new purple hat! The fact that you already knew the answer to so many of Giorgio's questions was pretty impressive.
Carrie — You offered entertainment for all of us in your interactions with Giorgio. I'm glad I got those priceless pictures of you giving your speech to him on the last night. Also, thanks for calming me down at the Coliseum after I found out I lost my pictures.
Dustin — We made great Bananagram partners! Also, thanks for taking extra pictures. I thought I might need them after mine disappeared (but I got them back).
Ryan — You, too, were very good with directions, and also fun to be around. I had a good time talking to you the last night at dinner.
Danielle — I'm so glad you got better halfway through the trip (although I hate that you had to be sick at all). I wish I had the kind of discipline you did to take my journal into all the factories to write down what the tour guide was saying. I didn't, and now I'm going to pay for it!
Jarrett — You really entertained me between your random bursts of song and your ridiculous excitement about the Coliseum. You're strange, and it's awesome.
Claire — I'm glad I got to room with you in Rome. I was very impressed at how committed you were to keeping your journal. Also, your outfits impressed me in how they looked both super comfortable and well put together at the same time. You became my fabric consultation expert, if that makes any sense.
Dr. and Mrs. Sabo — I know we weren't supposed to mention the two of you, but you really did make the trip great. Thank you, especially, for waiting on me to try to file a complaint about my luggage. I know you were tired, and it was very nice of you to help me out.
Every single person who went on this trip contributed to a memorable experience. Thank you to everyone for that!
Saturday, March 6
Today is a travel day. We are flying from Charlotte to Munich. There is not much to say about the flight, but some quantitative observations I made are:
- Max speed=508 miles/hour
- Max altitude=36,000 feet
- 2 meals served (fettuccini pasta, salad, brownie, and cheese; granola bar, cheese, fruit)
- 1 snack served (pretzels)
We took off at 5:51 pm from Charlotte. We landed at 8:32 am in Munich.
So, now it is March 7. In total this flight took 8 hours, and I was only able to sleep off and on for 2-3 of those hours. It has been a long day already, and it's only 11:31 AM. Today we will travel to Parma and stay there for the night. Hopefully our flight to Milan will be taking off soon.
Sunday, March 7 In the Munich Airport
We went through security, which wasn't quite as bad as I expected it to be. When I went to Italy five years ago, I passed through the Munich airport, so I was expecting a similar experience. Last time the airport employees were rude, and to be quite honest, scary. I remember one security officer who yelled at a few people from my group for walking through a "restricted area." You can imagine, then, that I was pretty surprised when employees at the Munich airport were fairly nice to me. This includes store clerks and security officers. My bag did get searched, but it wasn't a bad experience. When my messenger
bag went through the scanner, the security guy thought he saw something in the X-ray that wasn't allowed. After a thorough search I was free to go.
Another observation I made was how expensive everything was at the airport. Of course this is to be expected, but by the time you figure in the exchange rate from dollars to Euros, you're looking at paying $14.45 for a cup of fruit and a bottle of water. I know to bring my own water bottle to fill next time.
After eating this much needed snack, Crystal and I looked around at the airport shops. I had seen a beautiful spring coat in the window of United Colors of Benetton on the way to our gate. I went back and bought it for 80 Euros. There was no tax, but with the exchange rate the coat ended up being 136 U.S. dollars. (1 euro=1.7 U.S. dollars) It was a good thing I was with Crystal because she pulled me out of there before I could spend more money. We weren't even in Italy yet! After we left that store, I helped Crystal look for a calling card. We had to go to four different places, and we still couldn't find a calling card. The only thing we could find was a German SIM card, which obviously wasn't useful.
2nd flight from Munich to Milan
On the 50 minute flight from Munich to Milan we are passing over miles and miles of gorgeous mountains. They reach as high as the clouds and are covered in snow. Some reach higher than the clouds. By this time I'm very tired. To my body, it is 6:00 in the morning and I haven't slept much. Tonight I will probably go to bed early.
On this flight they served us bread similar to foccacia (maybe it was foccacia) with salami, cheese, and buronellini (a crunchy shortcake-like shell filled with chocolate). I drew a picture of this in my notebook, which is hard to replicate on here. This kind of looks like what I drew.
It was actually really good. Airplane food seems to be getting better and better.
On the Bus from the Airport (1:15 pm)
We are passing through an industrial section of Milan. Most writing is in Italian, but things such as signs for hotels are in Italian and English (to appeal to English-speaking tourists, perhaps?) The grass is greener here. It looks healthier, but is a weird contrast to all of the industrial buildings. Italians drive on the right side of the road, as we do in America. Everyone drives really fast here, as if they are always in a hurry.
We stopped at Autogrill. I got tortellini and a side salad. Also, I bought Pocket Coffee, which is delicious! It is chocolate candy filled with espresso. I am usually not a strong coffee drinker, but Pocket Coffees are definitely an exception.
When we got back on the bus, Giorgio (our super cool tour director) gave us some interesting facts on Italy. They were:
- Italy could fit into the United States 33 times.
- There are 66 different political parties in Italy, each of which has the right to be represented in Parliament.
- The Prime Minister in Britain or in France is more powerful than the Italian Prime Minister.
- In Italy, every single decision goes through Parliament. If something does not go through Parliament, this is an indication that someone has too much power.
Of course these facts from Giorgio sparked an enlightening discussion between Honors kids. I listened in on an interesting conversation between Crystal, Zach, and Jarrett about the world, wars, weapons, and economies.
We arrived at our hotel in the late afternoon. The rooms were not connected to the lobby, so we walked outside to get to our room. Tonight I am rooming with Kyra and Michelle. We spent 30 minutes trying to figure out why the lights in our room kept cutting off. Finally we realized that we had to leave the room card in a slot by the light to keep the lights on. Yay for energy conservation! We named it the card activated light.
we had dinner at the hotel. The dinner consisted of four courses. The first was prosciutto and parmesan cheese, which I was late told was in fact not called parmesan cheese. Apparently, "parmesan cheese is what Kraft makes." The second course was pasta. The third course was veal with potatoes. The last course, dessert, was apple pie.
After dinner, half of us took a walk down toward the village. We walked down about one and a half miles, taking lots of pictures along the way. When we got back to the hotel, I played Bananagrams for the first time. Dustin was my partner. We actually did pretty well.
Monday, March 8
Today we visit three factories. The first is a Parmigiano Reggiano factory, the second prosciutto, and the third is a balsamic vinegar factory. We met our tour guide Melanie, who took us through both the cheese factory and the prosciutto factory. Melanie told us a lot of interesting things about Parmigiano Reggiano on the bus on the way to the cheese factory:
- Making cheese is a labor-intensive process
- The corporation accepts between 10 to 15 milk producers
- To allow cows to graze freely is unaffordable
- Research is being done to reduce global warming caused by cows (natural gas)
- Cows are fed medicinal herbs; they are never given silage or animal proteins
- Parmigianno Reggiano is not treated with antibiotics; they are not allowed
- The information printed on the cheese can get you back to the producer of that cheese
- Hot water and whey is used to clean the kettles; absolutely no chemicals are used due to fear of residue getting into the cheese
- Autoctonous- native to territory; Italy is trying to get back to that
Melanie told us that while the United States has a marketing strategy for sugary children food, Italy markets smaller portion sizes of Parmigiano Reggiano
When we got to the factory, they had us put on some ridiculous looking "outfits" for sanitary reasons. The little booties we were reminded me of the ones they wear on CSI at crimes scenes.
After the tour, Melanie passed out samples of Parmigiano Reggiano. She told us that when you break open a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano under your nose, you smell nuts and pineapple. I was able to observe this for myself when we got to sample the cheese. It was absolutely delicious. I ate 6 or 7 pieces. I lost count after 4. I bought one kilogram of Parmigiano Reggiano, aged 28 months. The longer the cheese is aged, the stronger the taste. Hopefully the cheese lasts a while!
Once back on the bus, Melanie told us how to preserve our newly bought cheese. She told us to unwrap our cheese and wipe with a paper towel. You do not cut Parmigiano Reggiano, you gouge. Wrap the cheese in a moistened linen or cotton tea towel and keep in Ziploc bag. If it dries out, put it in a freezer try and eat grated.
We are now on our way to the prosciutto factory. On the way we are passing beautiful scenery. Melanie tells us about a castle on a hill named Torre Chaira. It took 12 years to build (1448-1460). She also told us about prosciutto, which is simply dried ham (dried by salt).
The prosciutto factory was really neat. It was amazing to see that many hams hanging in one place. The smell was a bit shocking at first, but you get used to it. I am very disappointed that we aren't allowed to bring or even ship meat back into the United States. When we were done touring the factory, we went upstairs to a room where a nice sampling table was set for us. This was a nice surprise that we weren't aware of. There was so much food that we had trouble finishing it! There was bacon, neck, and prosciutto. It is really embarassing, but I ate 10 of these (meat + bread), plus some more Parmigiano Reggiano. After we finished "snacking" here, Giorgio announced
that we would be going to lunch. I couldn't believe that I had to make room for a whole meal! Once I got to the restaurant where we had our lunch, however, I changed my mind.
I loved this restaurant so much I wrote down the name and phone number, just in case I am ever in the area again. It is called Casale del Grappone, located in Langhirano/Parma. Their phone number is 39 0521 639461. Of course the thought that I will return here is wishful thinking, but it can't hurt to hope for that! For lunch we had ham, cheese and jam, bread, artichokes, red peppers, and red and white wine. We dipped our cheese in 3 different types of jam, which I would have never thought to do at home. The artichokes were marinated and served in extra virgin olive oil.
On the Bus on the way to Florence ((6:20 pm))
We are driving to Florence. We went to a balsamic vinegar factory today. The owner was very nice. We learned that the longer balsamic vinegar ages, the more dense and tasty it is. A lot of people didn't like the balsamic vinegar, but I did. We tried it on vanilla gelato, which was really good if you mixed it well. I wish I could have afforded a bigger bottle of balsamic vinegar, but it was very expensive. I paid 12 Euros for 100 mL of the cheapest type. I saw one bottle for 150 Euros (and it wasn't that big). Crystal and I tried some liquor made from walnuts. It had a very strong flavor, but not necessarily just from the alcohol. It was 40% alcohol by volume. You could really taste the walnuts. At the factory I also met a cat
whom I called Simon. For a snack, I had foccacia with prosciutto and cheese from an Autogrill. This Autogrill was more of a quick stop than the first Autogrill we ate at. It was much smaller.
Claudio drives very fast! The highways are very different here. There are many bridges and Chevron alignment signs. I wonder if Italians call them Chevron Alignment signs...? My stomach hurts from too much food...
Tuesday, March 9
We are staying at an internet hotel so I am using email to write my journal. I have been really busy, so I have a lot of catching up to do! Right now I am freezing cold. Crystal and I just spent one and a half hours searching for our hotel. We met an Italian couple who spoke limited English, which was awesome. They helped us to the train station, where we EVENTUALLY found our hotel. Anyway, I have a lot of catching up to do. Last night we had free time and split up for dinner. Claire, Lori, Michelle, Kyra, Crystal, Danielle, Jarrett, Dustin, Quinn, and Zach came with me. We went to a pizzeria, where we met an Italian guy named Emiliano. He
gave us a flyer for an Irish pub and offered us a free shot each. As soon as we left the pizzeria, some of the group split off and decided to go back to the hotel. By this time it was about 10 pm. Claire, Kyra, Danielle, and Dustin went back to the hotel. Lori, Michelle, Crystal, Jarrett, Quinn, Zach and I went to The Fish Pub, which we found out about via another flyer. We had trouble finding it so we asked two girls. Their names were Alexandria and Christina. They are studying here in Florence for a semester. So once at The Fish Pub we received a free glass of champagne for what is known as Ladys Day here in Italy. Im not sure how to say it in Italian. After that I ordered a cocktail called "Joan". It was delicious. It was two types of vodka and lemonsoda. After that we decided to split 5 shots between us. We got the Toretta, or something of that nature, which had Kahlua in it.
It was gross.
After the fish pub (which we expected to be more club-like), we walked back to the hotel. The good part was I was warm. Once back at the hotel, I emailed Frue, and he has yet to read it, much less respond. Crystal's boyfriend responded right away. So, to back up, let's talk about today. We woke up at 7 am and ate a not-so-good (but free) breakfast. After that we met our tour guide (not Giorgio) in front of the Piazza Duomo (aka the beautiful fake-looking church). Wow I have so much to write. Our tour was about two hours long. Afterwards we went to a leather making demonstration (hosted by Patrick, who had a very nice smile). I wanted to buy something in the shop, but it was very expensive for genuine Italian
leather. After that we went to have lunch (once again at a pizzeria). There was a ridiculously long line, so we waited. Oh, I forgot to mention that the weather today has been terrible! It is in the low 30s or high 20s and rainy (off and on). The wind makes it ten times worse. After lunch we checked out the Academia, which cost £6.50. It was cool to see Michaelangelo's David and the other artwork in person. I hate that we weren't allowed to take pictures of David, though. Personal pictures are so much different from the post cards you can buy. After the Academia, Crystal and I split off from the rest of the group since they were going to climb the dome at the Piazza Duomo and we were too cold and tired (there were like 400 some steps). Although, we definitely got our workout in. We walked all around the Mercato Centrale, an outside market. It feels like we walked around all of Italy. Finally
we are back in the hotel and we eat dinner in one hour (at 7 pm). I have to go get ready!
Catching up—Wednesday, March 10 and Thursday, March 11
Dinner two nights ago (March 8) was amazing. We had several courses, the first being a starter, then pasta, soup, and then meat. The meat included beef, lamb, rabbit, and chicken. We stayed for 3 hours talking and having a great time. Vanessa and I drank quite a bit of wine. It was funny to see her under the influence of alcohol. Our desert was a desert platter with pies, a fruit tart, biscotti with Vin Santo, and cream puffs. It was wonderful. It was without a doubt the best dinner so far. The restaurant was called da IL LATINI. I plan to go back if I get the chance someday. It is slow food, which is a nice change. Dinner
at da IL LATINI seemed to mark the point in the trip in which we all opened up. It also marked the halfway point, which means the trip is moving really quickly, but I suppose that is to be expected. Yesterday morning we walked about 20 minutes to meet our bus driver. On the walk we passed over a bridge and saw something very interesting. It was a cluster of locks with people's names written on them. Giorgio told us that people hook the lock on the bridge and throw the key into the water below--very romantic. Speaking of romantic, back to the bus driver. When we were told our bus driver wasn't Claudio we were disappointed, but then we saw who our bus driver turned out to be. His name, I found out, is Alex and he's 26 years old. Of course all we did at the vineyard that day wasn't learn about Alex, but he turned out to be a highlight.
This is all over the place, but first let me tell about the vineyard. At the vineyard we learned how olive oil is made. The olive oil made here is very light. It is delicious. As Steve, our tour director for this part, told us in this olive oil you taste fruit, not oil. Next, we learned about the wine. We learned that Fattoria di Grignano sells 4 types of wines. The first, annatto, is aged the least amount of time in regular barrels. The
second, Riserva, is aged longer and in special barrels. The third, Grande Riserva, is aged the longest in special barrels. It also uses special grapes that are grown on the hilltop facing the south (for maximum sunlight exposure). The fourth type is a desert wine, which is often imitated (unsuccessfully) in restaurants. It is called Vin Santo. It is a rather sweet wine, which Katie described as "taking a sip of sunshine." After the wine tasting Steve sang for us a song created by a monk in 1220. It was gorgeous.
After the wine tasting we had a cooking lesson. The group was split in half for this part. Alex was in charge of my group. He taught us to make ravioli and linguini from scratch. He is obviously a good cook. He is interested in music and was in school, but dropped out because music was what he wanted to do. He plays the guitar. It was very interesting to talk to someone who lives in Italy who is close to our age. It is hard to describe the experience I had yesterday, so I will try using some key words — beautiful view, exciting, heart beating, smiling, singing in the van. Yesterday was one of my favorite days.
When we got back from the wine tasting and cooking class we had free time. It was nothing exciting. We walked into a few shops, where most things we overpriced. They were tourist traps, I guess. Actually, everything is just more expensive here. We also got some gelato, but it wasn't the best I've ever had. I got Snickers flavor, which turned out to be mainly vanilla. We went back to the hotel around 9 pm. I had a not-so-great glass of white wine from the bar at the hotel. I got it because it was cheap, so I guess I couldn't expect much different. So the second half of the day was a disappointment, but the first half with the delicious homemade pasta made up for it. After
my glass of wine, I went to bed. I was really tired!
Today is Thursday, March 11. We said goodbye to Florence today, and drove the Sienna. I really liked Florence and hated to leave! I keep telling myself I will get to go back someday. While in Sienna, we had a walking tour similar to the one we had in Florence. We saw a beautiful cathedral. The weather here is very cold with the wettest snow I have ever seen. We had some free time and we went to eat. Crystal and I just wanted to get in the first warm place we could find. Before we knew it we found ourselves in a little restaurant located in the main square of Sienna. We ordered one small margherita pizza each, but I ended up ordering another one because I was still
hungry. Both of our boots were really wet, so we held them up next to a heater that was near our table. I started to smell something burning so I figured that was a bad idea. Sitting next to us was a group of girls from Canada, also here on vacation. They were on a mother-daughter trip. Crystal started a conversation with them, but they turned out to be pretty rude. When we told them how old we were they replied, "Oh, well you don't look that old." That was the point where I stopped talking to them.
After we finished eating our pizza, we went to go see what kind of gelato the restaurant served. I picked tiramisu, which was really, really good. The waiter ended up giving it to me for free, which was nice. Now we are almost to San Giminano! Ciao for now.
Friday, March 12
San Giminano was neat, but cold. We went to a torture museum, which was very interesting. We learned of some pretty gruesome things, including flaying someone's skin and sawing someone in half. On a lighter note, I also saw some beautiful hand-painted cookware in a shop, but couldn't afford it. We weren't in San Giminano for long. After San Giminano, we drove to a beautiful resort in the heart of Tuscany. It was very cold in the room. I had a spa night and finally shaved my legs! That's kind of gross, I know. I felt a lot better after relaxing. I went to bed early on this night too. I was in bed by 9:30 pm. It wasn't until the next morning that I learned that Dr. Sabo and Giorgio had come banging on
my door as a joke. I must have been fast asleep because I was sleeping on the couch right next to the door and didn't wake up. That's what ear plugs are good for!
We woke up this morning and had a good breakfast. I don't know if this goes for Italy in general or just hotels in Italy, but a few breakfast staples seem to be ham, cheese, bread, and yogurt. A plus at this hotel was that they offered fresh fruit. It was a shame we could only stay at this hotel for one night. Our ultimate destination tonight is Rome, but we will be stopping in Perugina and Civita, a hilltop town, on the way.
After leaving the hotel in Tuscany, we drove to a chocolate factory in Perugina. They had a table with free chocolate, which was great. I'm sure I ate a little more than my fair share. I bought some Baci in the gift shop, but looking back now, I wish I would have bought another type of chocolate too. It was a truffle, I think, and was basically chocolate inside of chocolate. It was delicious. There were tons of them on the sample table. An interesting thing is that there aren't many workers at the chocolate factory today because a lot of them couldn't get to work. Apparently, there is a union strike today by public transportation workers who blame the government for the economic recession. We really didn't do much at the chocolate factory. We watched
a ten minute movie as an introduction (as I chowed down on my free chocolate) then walked through and saw thousands upon thousands of chocolates being made by tons of machines.
When we are done seeing all there is to see at the chocolate factory, we hop back on the bus. We are headed to Civita now, a small hilltop town, which, according to Mrs. Imblum, is gorgeous. As we ride, an interesting conversation ensues. It was a very long conversation that doesn't need to all be written down, but there were several things that caught my attention. Giorgio explained to us his feelings about public systems (healthcare, schools, etc.) versus private systems. He mentioned that public systems may be too big for accountability. When no one is checking on you, he says, we will all look out for ourselves. If everyone was honest, a public system would work, but there is always corruption. Another point Giorgio made was that Italians have family to count on if they lose their job or if anything else happens. The conversation ends once we get to Civita. I'm not sure it would
have ever ended if we kept driving. It was definitely interesting, to say the least.
Back on the bus! Civita was amazing and beautiful. The weather was actually nice today, so I got some great pictures. The walk up to the town was a long one. We had to walk up a long, high bridge. There were a few people who were afraid of heights, so the bridge part didn't go so well for them. On our walk before we got to the bridge, I met a donkey, who I named Frieda. At first I named her Friedo, but then someone told me that sounded too much like "Frito," the chip. All of our time in Civita was free time, and most of that time was spent admiring the little town. When we first got to Civita, I met an adorable little boy,
who was about three years old. He was with his mom. Like everyone else I met on the trip, I named him. I called him Alberto. I wish I knew his real name. Every time we would start to walk away he would say "Nooo!," which was so cute. Before we left Civita, I was sure to tell him bye, which I did by kneeling down to his level and shaking his hand. Lori got a priceless picture of this, which I have yet to get a hold of.
Mrs. Imblum told us to look for Maria's garden, where you pay 1 Euro and get to walk through a garden and see a beautiful view. We thought we saw where Maria's garden was, but Maria wasn't there. The door leading to it was locked, and the garden was blocked by a wall. We were still able to see the beautiful scenery, though. Before we left Civita, we went to eat at a very small restaurant. We couldn't tell if it was open at first, but when we walked in we were greeted with a warm smile. I ordered toast with prosciutto and cheese. The toast and cheese was toasted on an open fire, and the prosciutto was sliced fresh. It was enough to make me want to stay in Italy forever.
Within a few hours, we were back on the bus again. I had said my goodbyes to Frieda, Alberto, and Civita, but I hope I will get to come back one day. We were finally on our way to Rome. On our way to Rome, I slept...
When we got to Rome, we checked into the hotel. I roomed with Claire and Kyra. On this night we had free time, so 10 of us went out to tour the city on our own before "officially" seeing it the next day. Giorgio had given us a map of all the hot spots in the city, so we decided to hit those. The coliseum was very close to our hotel, so we saw it first. I knew we would be seeing it up close the next day though, so my first priority was to eat because I was really hungry. We decided that since half of the group was hungry and wanted to eat and half of the group was ready to go sightseeing that it was best to split up. So, we did. In my group was Claire, Dustin, Crystal, and Lori. We walked a little ways and then decided to stop at a restaurant. I ordered some really
tasty fettuccini alfredo, although that isn't what it was called on the menu. For dessert Dustin and I both ordered tiramisu, but there was only one piece left, so I let Dustin have it. I got cheesecake, which was much different from the cheesecake we think of in America. It was served hot and consisted mostly of custard.
After eating, we got our check. One thing I've noticed about Italy is they don't like to split up the check in restaurants. As we were scurrying to get together the money for our bill (in exact change), our waiter came over and offered to split it up for us. He must have seen us struggling. It was probably a funny sight. Luckily, he was very nice about it. I ended up tipping him 2 Euros, which is apparently a lot since tipping isn't expected in Italy.
After paying we left the restaurant and headed for the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. We had a hard time figuring out the map for a while. Although it was tough to have only a map as our guide, it was good practice. I've never been very good at reading a map. Luckily, the map Giorgio gave us for Rome was better than the map he gave us for Florence. We found the Pantheon fairly easily and stopped to take pictures. After the Pantheon, we considered heading back to the hotel, but Claire suggested that we check out the Trevi Fountain. I'm glad we decided to since that was the only time we got to see it.
We had a really hard time finding the Trevi Fountain. The first fountain we found we assumed to be the Trevi. I remembered the Trevi from the last time I was in Rome, however, and realized that there was no way that this fountain could be it. It was far too small and empty. I knew the Trevi would be crowded. So, we asked for directions. In Rome there are little stations where policemen sit and patrol. I guess it is in lieu of patrolling, as our policemen in the United States do. We had to stop and ask one of these policemen for directions to the Trevi Fountain. When we approached him he was nodding off. I think Crystal might have startled him when she walked up and asked for directions. We
got quite a laugh out of that. Finally, we found the Trevi Fountain. It was definitely crowded, but gorgeous all the same. I made the mistake of sitting on the edge of the fountain to take a picture with Crystal. My butt got soaking wet. Unfortunately, I forgot to throw a coin in the fountain, for whatever reason. After seeing the sights, we slowly made our way back to the hotel. We had to get to bed since we had a long day the next day.
Saturday, March 13
Today we get to see the Vatican, the Coliseum, and the Forum. I saw the Vatican and the Coliseum last time I was in Italy, but I don't remember seeing the Forum.
The Vatican was crowded since it was a Saturday, but it was still a lot of fun. We had a guided tour of the Vatican, which turned out to be really funny. Our tour guide kept calling us "family" and waving her little green scarf flag, which turned up in every picture I tried to take. The Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter's Basilica were beautiful. Everything in Rome and Italy in general makes everything in America seem so young and plain.
After the Vatican, we went to eat. We stopped in at a little deli, where the woman behind the counter spoke no English. I got a panino with prosciutto and cheese. That's what I got because it was the only thing I could pronounce or understand.
After eating, we headed toward the Coliseum. We met our guide there, and he told us a lot of facts about the Coliseum. We learned that gladiators were treated like animals, and that it didn't matter to the public if they lived or died. To be honest, I didn't hear much history of the Coliseum after that because it was at this point that I realized that my memory card had lost my pictures. I was really upset for a while, but then I realized there was nothing I could do until I got back to the States.
After being able to walk around the Coliseum for a bit, our tour guide walked us over to the Forum. The weather was nice again, so I got some great pictures. The Forum was another one of my favorite things. We saw buildings that are hundreds of years old, and the road there is made of stone. It is original, making it very hard to walk on. It is amazing, though, to think that this is the same road that the Romans walked on hundreds of years ago. Once of the most interesting things was to see a huge door (original, of course) that was very well preserved. It has holes in it that once held decorations, but those decorations were removed because the Romans found more practical uses for the metal. The metal was melted and used for something else.
After the Forum we were going to have free time, but we ended up just having to walk straight to the pizzeria. Tonight was our last night, and the plan was for us all to make our own pizza. Unfortunately, EF has a new contract and allows only 3 people out of a group to make their own pizza. Dr. Sabo pushed as many people through as he could. I got to make my own, but I felt bad for the people who didn't get to. A few people were upset at first, but it turned out to be a great night. Carrie presented our card to Giorgio, and Crystal and I cried as Giorgio gave his "speech." We had to go to the bathroom to wipe our mascara off our faces. I think everyone was pretty
emotional that night.
After dinner we had free time. Vanessa, Zach, Quinn, Danielle, Lori, Crystal, and I looked for a bar and ended up finding Druid's Rock, a bar with live music. It must be popular because it was very crowded. What was interesting is that they were playing American music in an Italian bar. It was a lot of fun, though. We sat upstairs where a couple of people were playing pool and were able to look down on everyone downstairs.
We ended up staying out until midnight or so. We had to wake up that morning at 3 am, so we barely slept. Claire and Kyra were already asleep when we got back, so I ended up staying with Crystal and Michelle. We had a heart-to-heart before we fell asleep, and before we knew it, our alarm was ringing telling us it was time to get up to go to the airport.
Sunday, March 14
We got up in the morning and quickly packed our things. It was a quiet bus ride to the airport. Giorgio walked us to security. It was really sad telling him goodbye. A few of us tried to hug him, and he told us to keep walking. I'm not sure if he was crying or not. I sure was. The rest of Sunday was just traveling. We all slept whenever we could. We traveled for 20-some hours straight and finally landed in Charlotte at about 10pm. When I got my checked bag at the Charlotte airport, it had tape all over it that said "TSA." I stood in line with Mrs. Sabo to see if I could get some kind of compensation for it, but all they told me was that now that TSA put their mark on it, I had to file a complaint through the government and could not do it through the airline. At this point I was too frustrated and tired to do anything about
it, so we just left. There was really nothing I could do anyway. I will say, however, this was a minor incident in a wonderful trip. The first time I went to Italy in seventh grade, I was only going to see Italy. This time around it was so much more valuable to me because I was older and could appreciate things more. It was a learning experience that honestly changed my life. I found new favorite foods, learned about Italian culture, and saw some beautiful cities. It was without a doubt a trip that I will never forget.
Family Tradition Potluck: Chicken and Rice Casserole
My grandmama has been making chicken and rice casserole for as long as I can remember. Over the years, it has become a dish that my whole family looks forward to eating, but it is a lot more than a delicious meal.
Grandmama traditionally makes the dish for the families of people who have loved ones in the hospital or when there is a death in the family. I consider the casserole a comfort food, so this practice seems appropriate. When my stepdad got out of the hospital after brain surgery, Grandmama brought over a big bowl of the casserole.
Like most grandparents, grandmothers in particular, my grandmama loves to feed people. Every time I visit her, she makes me eat, which I enjoy doing as she is a terrific cook . My grandmama makes food for people as an act of generosity. When I eat the casserole, it reminds me of her and how generous she is.
The best thing about chicken and rice casserole is the leftovers. This is a dish that tastes better reheated. My family calls leftovers "over-nighteds."
Until now, I have never made the chicken and rice casserole. I am glad I learned to make it, but of course it is not the same as when Grandmama makes it. One of the best things about learning to make it was listening to how excited my grandmama got about teaching me. She went on and on about tips and optional ingredients. She was just really happy that I was making it to share with other people.
This assignment has given me the opportunity to talk about this recipe with Grandmama and remember how special it has been to my family and me throughout the years. Furthermore, I now have a recipe card in my mom's handwriting that preserves my grandmother's chicken and rice casserole recipe for me and my family of the future.
Chicken and Rice Casserole
- 1 cup cooked rice
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup butter until tender
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 ½ cup chicken broth
- 1 ½ cup light cream (or evaporated milk)
- 3 cups diced chicken
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup almonds (sliced)
- Cook rice
- Cook chicken
- Cook chopped onion in butter until tender
- Add flour, chicken broth, and cream to the mixture
- Cook the mixture until it thickens
- Add rice, chicken, and salt
- Top with sliced almonds
- Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes
PHOTOS: Food Science Course in Italy