The World Spins Madly On


Well, today Jen and I took on Pisa. We had to escape the heat of Florence and our apartment so we figured closer to the coast would be best. The train navigating was a little less exciting this time which was quite a relief. I guess I’m getting the hang of this European lifestyle. I met two girls from Canada that were backpacking across Europe. They started out in London and have been through Germany, Switzerland and Italy. We were chatting about the things that we miss back home. Air conditioning was numero uno on our lists. It’s amazing how many friendly people you meet while traveling abroad.


When we arrived we looked at the map of Pisa and just started heading North. It was a really easy town to navigate plus the signs were a big help. Pisa is so much prettier than Pistoia! Our plans were originally to get our picture with the leaning tower and have lunch and leave. That all happened but we got a little side tracked in this adorable paper shop. They had all kinds of stationary, bookmarks and pens. I picked up a few souvenirs for my fam bam. I also had a delicious pizza from a trattoria. Then Jen and I headed to a tea room to enjoy a few sweets with a killer view of the leaning tower.


After the sweets and treats Jen and I headed back to the train station. I can say that Pisa was a great little day trip. I don’t think that I would want to stay for an extended amount of time there. Our train was weirdly delayed for about 20 minutes. I don’t even know how a train is delayed? Anyways we made it back safe and sound. The funniest part of the train ride was getting off the train. A woman that was sitting in the seats next to us left her hats, so I told Jen that I would go run after her to give them to her. Well, I see her walking down the terminal and I said, “scusa, scusa!” She didn’t respond so I tapped her shoulder. You would have thought I would have touched her with a knife! She screamed bloody murder and jumped forward with a horrified look on her face. Then she realized I had her hats and she was mortified for reacting the way she did. Her reaction gave Jen and I a good laugh for about three blocks down the road. I guess no good deed goes unpunished!




When one door closes another one opens


Well, yesterday was the end of my first three week session here in Florence. I have never gone into an exam where I didn’t study at all for it. I already felt so prepared because the class really captivated my attention. And lets be real here, it’s Food, Culture and Society not aerospace engineering. After the final exam we had our final cooking lesson–risotto. I’ve never really eaten risotto but this recipe was so good and so simple. It took us about 30 minutes to make it which makes it a nice easy recipe to take back to school. I guess it should be said that a lot of my classmates are from the northern states. I happen to be the only one from the South, so they tend to mock my accent a little. Well, as Peter was starting to cook my group’s dish he left behind the onions to saute. So I yelled, “Hey Peter, what are you going to cook?” As soon as those words left my mouth the class in unison said “HAAYYY PEEEETERRRR” I would say that I was embarrassed but sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself.

IMG_1509After class, Jen and I moved into our new Italian abode for the next few weeks. Moving in Italy is quite interesting to say the least. Our cab driver almost got in a fight with a guy on a scooter because we were taking so long and the people waiting weren’t happy. Fun fact about our apartment, it’s the top floor apartment which means four flights of stairs up. Needless to say carrying three bags up the stairs was not what I consider fun. It was all worth it though because our apartment is pretty nice. I sent up some prayers the night before for air conditioning but that didn’t happen instead we got two fans each. The weather here has been about 90-95 AKA the inside of an oven at about 400 degrees. I’ve considered buying about five fans and keeping them on high but I don’t know how well I would be able to sleep.


Last night, Jen and I had dinner at La Giostra with my friend Ashlee that I met in my class. Let me tell y’all about this Wisconsin chick, she and I first bonded over our love for food, specifically croissants. She and I met up for a daily croissant before class everyday, actually. She also likes to consider herself a photographer with her fancy camera, even though when I asked her to take a picture of me on our field trip she primarily took pictures of my back or out of focus. She and I had quite the belly laughs during our stint here in Italy together.


One thing I’ve learned about the friendships you make while abroad is it’s more like a instant bond/family type connection. I guess your friends do actually become your family while you’re here. They’re the ones that you can talk about back home with and they understand, or if you’re feeling homesick nine times out of ten they have been there. I’m glad that I decided to stay but it’s tough to see some of the friends I’ve made leave to go back home. It’s also tough when you move out of your apartment and into a new one and leave behind three other roommates that have also become like family.

In the grand scheme of things the experiences, the laughs, the friendships that you make mold you to the person you are. Each person you meet leaves a footprint or a mark on your heart. I’m just honestly blessed to be apart of it all. Who would have thought I would make such great friendships in three short weeks. So to that I say cheers to the next chapter of Italia!




PS Jen and I finally made it to the Secret Bakery! Ashlee was with us waiting for about two hours but had to go back at 1:45 because her pick up time was scheduled at 5. The croissants were worth the wait needless to say!


Pure bliss.


Not all who wander are lost



Sorry for the delay on the posts! Things have been pretty eventful here lately! I have been doing lots and lots of cooking. I’ve also had a paper and presentation due, so that’s been taking up a little of my time. Now to the fun part–cooking.

Tuesday for our primi piatti we made gnocchi with an herb Parmesan cheese sauce. Our secondi piatti was a pork loin stuffed with herbs. Our dolci was homemade GELATO. Thats right, y’all. Gelato. We also made cookies as well. This was probably one of my favorite meals I have made so far. I don’t know if it was the gelato or the pork loin. It was just all delicious. I can say that gelato is probably one of the more challenging things that I have made. We actually had to start over because the cream had separated and it wasn’t in proper form.

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Wednesday was my vegetarian cooking class, and the vegetable of the week was eggplant. We made a spaghetti dish with a tomato sauce and fried eggplant on top of it. You can also bake the eggplant. Our spaghetti was from scratch–which is super easy to make and SO much better. The second dish we made was eggplant parmesan. We also made baked eggplant wraps stuffed with breadcrumbs, herbs, and parmesan cheese.


Thursday I gave a presentation about the differences in restaurants in Italy. A Restorante has more of a variety and the full five courses. It is also one of the more expensive types of establishments in Italy. A Trattoria offers the same amount of courses but fewer options. This type of restaurant also uses family recipes that have been passed down through generations. An Osteria has fewer options and it doesn’t offer contorni(sides/vegetables). A Vinaino is basically a wine bar that offers cheese plates and paninis–maybe.


Extra Virgin Olive Oil tasting in class.

Last night(Thursday) I went to dinner and just wondered around the town by myself. Florence is really such a beautiful city. Everywhere I look there is something new that I haven’t seen. A man asked me if I was lost and I told him no because at the time I knew exactly where I was. It got me thinking about the saying “not all who wander are lost” and how it applies to my life. I feel like your 20s are a time for self-discovery. Since I’ve been here, I feel like I find out something new about myself every day. Whether it is how much I truly love cooking and the feeling of satisfaction I get when I make a great dish, or being able to navigate a city that I had never been to prior to a few weeks ago. As I ended my night of wandering, I grabbed a cup of hazelnut/biscotti gelato and listened to a man playing his guitar in front of Santa Croce basilica. Life is good, my friends.



Do you remember


Yesterday was a day that gave me a confidence boost like no other. Before Jen and I set out for Pistoia, I went to class and we toured a food market. This place was so cool, it kind of reminded me of a World Market. It was a newly renovated three story building with meat markets, fresh pasta and veggie/fruit stands. As we toured around, we gained two elderly ladies in our group. These women were from South Carolina and were wondering around the market and just joined the group. When I say joined the group, they were pushing students out of the way to hear the professor. There was no blending from these two. Come to find out when we started to do a tasting at a bakery, they thought they were with their own tour group. Needless to say it supplied a good laugh amongst the group.

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After class I printed off the tickets and hustled back to the apartment. I cut my 20 minute walk down to about 12 minutes. I wish I could say I cut it in half but I could only hustle for so long. Jen and I decided to call a cab instead of walk the thirty minute trek across town with our luggage. In Italy you have to call cabs you can’t really hail them. Well, 15 minutes later and no cab I had to resort to my hailing tactics. Lucky for us our apartment is right by the Four Seasons so we can get the cabbies right after they drop someone off. After hailing a cab and convincing him to give us a lift off we went.

We arrived at the bus station with very little info on how everything was supposed to go down. I had heard about the high risk of getting pick-pocketed at the train station so I was pretty guarded. However there was a really long line at one of the kiosks, and I went against my better judgement and walked over to a kiosk with a gypsy woman standing by it. She ended up helping me throughout the whole process until it came to payment. I was at a crossroads with using $20 cash or a card. I was afraid that she would either A) rip the cash/card out of my hand or B) take the change and run. So I ended up using as much change as I had to cover it. After I paid she did the typical “since I helped you you help me” deal. I think I got lucky on that situation. Next feat was finding what platform we were supposed to go to. Fortunately Jen speaks a little Italian so she’s my go-to when it comes to communicating. The lady told us that our train is on platform 7 however the sign said that train was going to Lucca. We asked one of the passengers if they were going to Pistoia and they said yeah so we hopped on. I figured if worse came to worse we would just ride the train back to Florence and start from square one.

About midway through the train ride the conductor says something about Lucca but never Pistoia. I think Jen and I’s eyes were the size of tennis balls. We were surrounded by people that spoke “un po” aka very little inglese so our communication was very little. We ended up comparing tickets with a fellow passenger and we decided that we will just get off when they do.

IMG_1482After we arrived in Pistoia with hopes of finding a cab line, they were soon shot down when it looked like we had arrived in the Harlem of Italy. We walked over to the bus station and asked the guys working if they spoke English. One of three spoke a little English. I asked for a map and I couldn’t even find where we were located or the street our hotel was on. Now, I’m not saying I’m a pro map reader but anyone can read street names and there were not ANY surroundings streets of where we needed to go. I honestly felt so overwhelmed but I remembered one of the most important things while traveling–keeping calm. So somehow the woman told us that we needed to get off at a certain stop and walk up a road and we would get there.

Well, once we got on the bus we realized that there were no names of the stops anywhere. Cool. We whip out our phones and try to find the way we need to go but the map says we had to walk 25 minutes. The johnny came out in me and I whipped out my phone and called the hotel to figure out where we were and if they could get someone to get us. I’m not saying that I’m against walking anywhere, but if there are two girls by themselves with luggage, carrying a map, with a totally lost expression on their faces we might as well just paint a bulls eye on our shirts. after a few phone calls later we end up walking around a block or so and about 20 minutes later we arrive at the hotel. Yet again, this was another mirage for me.

After I made it to the hotel, I felt this great sense of relief I had never felt before. I couldn’t imagine traveling alone and trying to figure all of this stuff out. I’m not trying to say I was in harms way or that this experience was terrifying. It was just overwhelming not knowing where I was or the language to ask for help.


Can we just agree that this is the coolest venue ever?

Anyways, once we got all checked in and took a power nap we were off to have a drink before the shuttle took us to the concert. We got to the venue where the concert was and it’s basically in the town square in front of Pistoia’s Duomo. There are seats for maybe 1, 000 people and standing room for 300. I was shocked because this was a big blues festival with really big name bands. I mean I was there to see Jack Johnson and there were maybe 1000 people there total. This concert was so unlike any concert that I had been to.


Jack in all of his glory.

First of all, there was a coffee bar set up as a vendor. When have you ever seen coffee being served at a concert? There was also very little beer stands but there were Sangria stands. I wish I could say there was a pasta stand but it was all fresh breads and gelato. Jack was AH-MAZING. Jen and I were groovin’ to the beat the whole time. Then we decided to jump up and join the pit crew. Honestly the night could not have been more perfect. Great music, a great friend and perfect weather.


The encore.

I’m so glad that I checked this off of my bucket list. From this trip I gained more than an international concert. I gained confidence in myself in learning how to weather the storm of the unknown even if I wanted to freak out and call my dad. Italy has definitely put me to the test, but I keep rising to the occasion.


Hagrid’s wife aka me and Jen. I would like to think I’m not that abnormally tall.

Fly Me to the Moon


photo1(12)Ciao Ciao!

Today was a very calm and relaxing day. I woke up and watched a little tube and got ready for brunch with Jen. Which I guess my “brunch” is technically a late breakfast because I can only wait so long. For those of you who don’t know, I usually wake up very early for my age group. We went to the cutest little tapas/bar(coffee) place. Jen had the pancakes and I had scrambled eggs and bacon–with a muffin. I didn’t want to short myself. I give a grade A for effort from the Italians for bacon but it wasn’t like the good ole US of A. However, it was still good and I even had a latte made with love! Well, the barista made a heart into the foam which was pretty cool.

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After breakfast Jen and I wondered down to the grocery store and got stuff for lunch. I was browsing around and decided I was going to make a pizza, by god. So, I used my Italian language and culinary skills and I grabbed some supplies. The language skills were used for the butcher if you were wondering. So here are the before and after pictures of my pizza. Not to toot my own horn here but it turned out GREAT. Call me if you ever want a pizza. I told Jen prior to the pizza making that she shouldn’t expect to open a pizzeria after my first try. SIKE! I may stay over here and open up my own shop. I put cheese, mushrooms and arugula on it. Top notch, my friends, top notch.

Once I stepped off of my victory pedestal, I got to FaceTime with good ole Johnny! Probably the highlight of my day because I’ve missed him quite a bit. He’s been on west coast time, so I couldn’t really talk to him until about 8 o’clock at night. I can say that the time difference is definitely a buzz kill. Anyways chatting with him was great and I even snapped a candid of him. 


Tomorrow Jen and I are heading to Pistoia to see Jack Johnson at the Blues Festival. It is supposed to be 75 degrees up there–pefection. I am SO excited!! Concert in Europe will be checked off of my bucket list!





I call it magic.


Well, these past few days have been pretty interesting! On Thursday I made pappa al pomodoro and a bean soup recipe in my class. I also went to the Conad grocery store for the first time. One thing that is weird is that if you pick up produce you have to wear gloves. You also have to weigh it and put a label on it. When you check out all of the cashiers are sitting down. It’s a very weird process but the grocery store is SO cool.


Lattes and a view!

Today(Saturday), I went to Montepulciano and Pienza to a vineyard and a cheese tasting. We arrived at Montepulciano at around 9 a.m. It was a pretty overcast morning but as we were leaving the sun started to come out. Go figure. Jen and I stopped in for a quick latte at this cute little caffe and soaked up the view. I can say the views there were so beautiful. You just saw the Tuscan country side all around you everywhere you turned. I think I annoyed Jen from telling her how pretty everything was  every five minutes.

photo2(5)We left Montepulciano at 10:15 and arrived at Pienza at 11. Pienza is famous for two things: The second pope who influenced the Renaissance architecture and peccorino cheese. We sampled three types of aged cheese a three, six and nine month. The first was aged three months with tomatoes on top of them. In the olden days they had to figure out a way to keep stuff out of the cheese, so I guess they decided to use tomatoes. The second was for six months with ash on top of it. The last one was rolled in hay. All methods were used to keep bugs and stuff out of them. Also, for those of you who don’t know, Peccorino cheese is made from goat’s milk.


Mr. Cheese man.

Once we left Pienza, we headed back towards Montepulciano but this time we went to a vineyard. What was cool about this vineyard was they used a type of skylight that was able to take the sunlight and use it for light throughout the entire cellar. Our guide told us that it cut down on over 50% of the energy they used. The vineyard that we toured produced over 5 different types of wine. Some of the wines were 100% Sangiovese grape as well as organic. After we toured the cellar it was time for the tasting. Jen and I got separated from one another and I was placed at the end of the table with two Asian girls and our bus driver who didn’t speak English. Needless to say the conversation was kept at a minimum with the exception of a few molto benes.


Hangin’ with some future friends. Only a few more years!

I think one of the coolest things about this vineyard was seeing the energy efficiency being used within the cellar. During our visit our guide was constantly explaining to us the ways that they have been able to conserve energy. Today was a pretty great day to say the least!



P.S. I decided to stay another term so everyone watch after ole Johnny while I’m gone!

Red Red Wine Go To My Head


Ciao bellas!

Today was a day full of one of my favorite beverages–wine! I had my first glass at about 10:30 this morning. I guess wine is the new coffee. Our lesson in class today was over the different types of wine throughout Italy. The focus was on the Tuscan region. We tried a white, rose and a red wine. The red had a very unique cherry taste to it. Honestly, I never really knew much about the different types of wine, but after I leave here I may be an expert.


Just a casual lesson in class.


After my lecture class, I went to my wine tasting course. Today we focused on pairing wine with food. I was given the 13 wine commandments of pairing. I was telling my professoressa about my course earlier and what we had tasted. She asked me which wines we had tried and I told her about the Castello di Volagnano(red wine) and she said that’s from my vineyard! She was so casual about it like no big deal I own my own vineyard. Anyways, she told me her vineyard produces four reds, one sparkling wine and grappa. She also informed me how a rose is made. She said a typical red is produced with the skin of the red grape for 18 days, but a Rose only has the red grape skin for one day. This process gives the rose its actual color. She also told me the most tragic thing about wine is that sparkling wine could be the most neutral wine, but it is mostly used for only celebratory purposes.


Wine pairing part due.

From my wine class, I went down the street to my vegetarian culinary class. Today’s lesson was focused on carrots. We made a carrot gnocchi with two different sauces: walnut and olive oil with rosemary. The walnut sauce was the I literally ate the whole plate. I had never made gnocchi before, and I was shocked at how easy the process was. We took one potato with two carrots and it made enough for three people. Next we had a carrot type individual casserole deal. I can’t really describe it without it sounding weird. Basically we took shredded carrots with cream and put gorganzola cheese on top and baked them. The cheese made a nice little crispy layer on top. For dessert we made carrot cake which was awesome. Maybe we went a little overboard on the carrots? I don’t know. It was a pretty good meal though.


Carrot gnocchi

I met back up with Jen at the apartment and chatted with her about our days. She told me that she met a 70 year old artist that told her he would trade her painting lessons for italian lessons. Is it sketchy? possibly. She was surprised that I had been drinking wine since 10:30 in the morning. I can’t say that isn’t an abnormal reaction, I was quite surprised myself. We decided to go out for some desert. We had heard that the Secret Bakery was top notch, so we whipped out our map and off we went.

Now, before I tell y’all this, you should know that Jen and I both love a good desert therefore we should not be judged for our actions. As we were reading our map and calling our roommates trying to find this place, we found ourselves in the sketchiest ally way possible. Jen and I put our nose in the air and were walking around in a big square because we could smell the sweets but we couldn’t find the entrance. Thirty minutes later and three attempted italian conversations later, I found myself trying to open every door on the block. In a buckled over laughing state, I asked jen “What has Italy done to us?! We’re animals!” We found a man that told us that the bakery doesn’t open until midnight. It was 10 o’clock. So as we slowly walked away with our heads in our hands we went to the nearest restaurant we could. A split cheesecake and decaf lattes later, we were walking our 15 blocks back to the apartment. I can say that after that experience I have GOT to go back to the Secret Bakery. Even if I have to drink coffee to stay awake to get me there.







So I have been kind of under the weather here lately therefore I haven’t gone to any cool museums. However I have done my fair share of my own culinary adventure. On Monday, in my Food, Culture and Society class we learned about the slow food movement. Which in sum just means that Italians tried to slow the process down of fast food chains moving into Italy. We also did a bread and honey tasting. We tasted breads from Firenze all the way down to Puglia. I was shocked at the difference in bread texture and taste. The honey was a whole new ball game. She served us a honey that was almost crunchy, it had so much sugar in it. I found that the orange blossom was my favorite honey though.


Sicilian gelato: Almond mixed with Sicilian Soul

On Monday afternoon I took a Classic Italian culinary course. We made a zuppa with cabbage, cheese and bread all baked together. Delicioso. We also made veal stuffed with cheese and covered in bread crumbs. I’m telling yall, if I don’t gain thirty pounds it will be a miracle.

Today I went to class and we learned about pasta and gelato. AKA the keys to my Italian heart. Did you know there are over 400 types of pasta throughout Italy? Let that sink in a little bit. 4-0-0. Sadly we didn’t have a pasta tasting, but we did go to two different gelaterias. The first was a Sicilian shop, which Sicilian flavors are mostly nuts and citrus fruits. They also use organic products and not a creme base. Florentine gelaterias use more creme based and are known for chocolate and plain creme tastes.


Now to the interesting part, dinner. By recommendation from my cousin, Jen, Maddie and I went to Acqua Al’ 2. She told me that I had to try the blueberry filet. So, I suggested this to my roommates and we decided to do a sampling. We sampled five pastas which included: meat sauce with rigatoni, broccoli sauce with a shell pasta, spinach sauce with a spiral noodle, gnocchi with a sweet pepper sauce, and a bowtie pasta with a mushroom sauce. My favorite had to be the spinach pasta.


From left to right: balsamic filet, sirloin and the blueberry filet.

Now for the real deal–the steaks. The samplings were blueberry filet, balsamic filet and a sirloin over faccacia(pardon the spelling) bread. Holy smokes, I think I died and went to heaven. The blueberry sauce was Ah-mazing. I would almost say life changing but I don’t know if it would do it justice. After that it was all down hill with desserts, because OF COURSE we had a desert sampling that included: cheesecake, chocolate cake, strawberry tart and tiramisu. Let me just say that I was waddling out of the restaurant. I don’t know what it is about Italy but all I want to do is eat.

The Hike


(See that mountain, yeah I climbed all of the way around it.) 

Buon Giorno!

Today was a day that I will never forget. The day that I climbed something as close to Mt. Kilimanjaro that I ever want to get. It was actually just through the hills of Cinque Terre but it was still intense. The morning started off with a 7 a.m. departure from the bus stop. It took us two and a half hours to get to Cinque Terre and then we took a train to go to the different towns. Well, I was informed that it was a “leisure” hike. HA. At one point it was completely vertical. I was hiking in my converse because I didn’t think to pack any reliable tennis shoes. The hike took us approximately an hour and a half to power through. Needless to say it was brutal and I have no guilt whatsoever about eating pasta now. Once we arrived to Vernazza, the town was just amazing. It basically looked like a post card when I first saw it. Maybe it was because I was delusional from all of my abrupt physical activity, I don’t know. I do know that water and a caprese salad have never tasted so good.


(This is the town of Vernazza, which I thought was a mirage after my hike.)

After Jen and I relaxed for a while we decided to take a water taxi to the town where we were supposed to meet our group. I’m glad that we did it instead of taking the train only because we saw things from the water that we wouldn’t have seen. Once we arrived, we waited for like 30 minutes for our guide to arrive and then we just decided to get on the train. Fortunately he just so happened to be on said train. Luckily everything worked out and everyone made it back to the bus/train on time.


Jen and I in Riomaggiore

Anyways, today was an awesome day and I am really loving Italy still. I honestly don’t want to leave. Tomorrow marks the start of my second week here which is pretty crazy, if ya think about it. I think tomorrow Jen and I are checking out a leather market. I’ve learned that ya never know what you will discover here in Italy!



Parma e Modena


Buona Sera!

Today was a very long day to say the least! I had to be up and at the bus stop at 5 a.m. The walk isn’t too bad but it takes about 15 minutes. In the mix of trying to get ready and out the door I left my eye mask, pillow and blanket for the bus. I can tell you that I will never forget that again! It took us about three hours to get to Parma where we visited a parmigiano reggianno farm and a farm that produced prosciutto!

Our first stop was the cheese farm where we were greeted by the cheese master, Silvia. Her family has been cheese masters for over three generations. To become a cheese master you learn more from experience than you do a textbook. The way DOP parm. cheese is made is by all ingredients coming from the region where it is produced. Italy has four certified DOP regions which Parma and Modena are two of the four. The process starts with part skim milk that is taken from milking the cows at night and letting it sit throughout the night in order for it to naturally separate. Next, they milk the cows in the morning to get the whole milk. Then they combine both milks in copper tub type things. Then they heat the milk until it is curdled and they whisk that around with a spino. After that is pulled from the copper tub and is put into a plastic mold for 24 hours. After that it is placed in a metal mold with a sort of ream of plastic that has a tag of the farm and the products name on it. Once it has sat there for 24 hours it is sat into a pool of water and sea salt for two weeks. Finally once it has been cured in a sense it is placed on a shelf for a minimum of two years. That would be considered fresh. Usually the Italians prefer 24-36 month old cheese.

  (Copper tubs that the milk is placed into and heated)                                  (The spino and a large wooden spoon)

I mentioned earlier that in order to be DOP all products have to be produced from the region that are used. This includes the cows so Silvia took us to her family’s farm where the cows were located. I should have mentioned this earlier that it is a big deal for Silvia to be a cheese master. Usually the males in the family are cheese masters. However her brothers maintain the cows and such.


(Silvia and her team lifting the finished cheese out of the tub.)

After I became a cheese master myself it was off to the pig farm. We were greeted by a man named Carlos who did not speak a lick of english. His family’s farm is one of only 160 farms in Italy that produce GOP prosciutto. All members of his family are involved in the production of the prosciutto. I have learned that pretty much all farm type trades are usually passed down through generations. Anyways, so the use the back legs of the pig to make prosciutto. It is passed around through four different types of freezers for a minimum of two months. After this process it is put in a warehouse type place and hangs for 14 months. Carlos and his family at the time of our visit had 56,000 hams hanging all around us. I can tell you that I have never smelled a more pungent salt room in my life.

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(My friend Bessie and I)                                                                                                                      (Voila, cheese)

Once we finished with the tour, Carlos invited us to his family’s caffe for some lunch. Now, I consider myself to be a trooper but after smelling the ham and seeing it all, I had to take a break on the ham. Lunch was pretty awesome and I ended up eating myself into what seemed like a vegetative state. My teacher told me that I may want to go walk around before I got on the bus. This is probably one of the more lower points in my life. So I walked outside and I saw four para-sailors going down the valley. I can’t help but say that I instantly wanted to do it. My teacher told me that Parma was the perfect place for it because there are so many valleys that it is easy to just jump off and cruise on down.

 IMG_1410(Just hangin’ with the hams)

After I regained my composure we were off to Modena to see how real balsamic vinegar is made. We arrived and were greeted by a woman named Paula. She and her family have been in the vinegar business for FIVE generations. Isn’t that nuts? Anyways, she took us upstairs to the attic where the vinegar was sitting. For a balsamic vinegar to be DOP certified it cannot have any additives therefore the only thing they put into their vinegar is white and red grapes. These grapes are grown in Modena and are cooked for two days. Then they are placed in five different barrels made of different types of wood. She said they never throw away these barrels because of the taste they can produce. Her oldest barrel is from 1882 and is worth 70,000 euro. Once the vinegar is placed in the barrels they sit up there for 12 to 25 years. The minimum is 12 years for it to be “tradizionale” balsamic vinegar from Modena. Each bottle that is produced and is certified from here is given an individual number given by the government after production. After she explained everything to us it was time for a tasting of all of the vinegars she produces. I ended up getting the white grape aged five years because it was the twangy/sweetest. I also grabbed the balsamic with sapphron which you can put on omelets and things.

  IMG_1420(Vinegar is never sealed, it has a towel over it to keep the bugs out.)

In sum, I basically learned two things from my trip. 1. Know your limits on your eating abilities and 2. Italy produces some of the greatest products and takes great pride in making sure they are up to par.



From a very full American