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Anna: Bologna, Chianti & traveling in Italy

February 13, 2011

This week I decided to stay in Italy. I feel really lucky there are so many great places I can travel to for cheap and there is always endless amounts of things to do in Florence. Outside of Santa Croce, a huge church in Florence, there was a chocolate festival this week. Everything was super expensive, it was so hard to walk through and not buy everything in sight! They had strawberries in hot chocolate, truffles, chocolate liquor, but I ended up getting a white chocolate pistachio cannoli. It was so delicious!

On Thursday night a few friends and I went out for an appertivo. I am not sure if I have mentioned what it was before, but it is one of my top favorite things they have in Italy that we don’t have in the US. You buy a glass of wine, cocktail, beer, coke…any kind of drink you’d like for 6-8 euros and then you get a small plate and get endless amounts of food that is set out at the bar. There is always grilled eggplant (my new favorite thing, Italians put eggplant in everything), pastas, breads, pizzas, sandwiches..anything. It is such a great deal and the food has been so great. We went to a place near my apartment called Zoe. It is really cute and you can tell it is where the Italians go. I have been trying to avoid the American favorite places. They are not as much fun and definitely are more dangerous. The drink I ordered had strawberries, blackberries and whipped cream. It was so delicious…the whipped cream was a pleasant surprise. I wanted to lick my glass empty but I realized that wasn’t very bella figura of me. Bella figura is the idea Italians have of looking their best always. That is why women always wear fur or expensive boots and coats. Never sweat pants.

On Friday I took a day trip to Bologna. Bologna is famous for their university, bolognese sauce, and towers. I loved it there! It reminded me a lot of St. Paul. A city but not too huge, we pretty much knew where everything was by the end of the day. It was really cool to see college kids everywhere too, we never see that in Florence too often. We climbed the only tower (I believe) in Bologna that you are able to climb. It took forever and was very exhausting. I realized how out of shape I am…but when we got to the top it was absolutely breathtaking! We could see the entire city for miles and miles. We had a huge photo shoot and the top and called a lot of attention to ourselves. After that we went out looking for lunch and found a cute place that had a small menu and we could sit outside. My friend Kylie and I ordered the lasanga bolognese (we felt like we had to try it!) and the waiter heard us wrong and brought us something else. Oh well it was still delicious but I do feel a little strange going to Bologna without trying Bolognese. We shopped for a bit, went to a modern museum, and had appertivo before we headed home again. Overall, I loved loved loved the city. It was really cute and I would love to go back someday.

When I got back from Bologna it was around 9 pm and I had missed the last bus that brings me directly home. When I was waiting I met three girls visiting Florence from Barcelona. We had a great conversation when we waited a half hour for a different bus. I went home feeling really great and happy that I met such cool people. The girls gave great advice for me and my travels to Barcelona. It reminded me that studying abroad isn’t just about traveling, but also meeting people from other places.

On Saturday I signed up through a local student travel program called Florence for fun to do a Chianti hike, wine tasting and lunch. It was amazing! It was a gloomy day, but the scenery was still beautiful. Plus it felt good to be doing some sort of physical activity. During our hike, our leader Stefano pointed out to us many believe the hills we saw were what many people believe to be the background of the Mona Lisa! After our hike we headed back to the house of a family who has a legacy for making wine and olive oil in the small chianti town called Panzano. He served us 3 different choices of his red wine including a chianti classico which can only be from this area of chianti. We also tried 2 different liquors and some olive oil. I bought a chianti classico and olive oil, I am going to try to bring the olive oil back home. Lorenzo, the home owner, made us a huge lunch with lots of prosciutto, delicious white beans in olive oil, salami, bread, penne with pesto and another penne with red sauce that actually reminded me a little of my Nana Ida’s red sauce recipe. Everything was so delicious and spaced out for 3 hours so we were able to take everything in and really enjoy it.
It has been a very good week! Next week I might try to hit the last week of the sales and find myself a pair of really nice boots. I also booked my ticket to Greece (Athens and Santorini) and Istanbul, Turkey for Spring Break. We found a great deal and very direct flights–I can’t wait!
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