Although it has been some time since I’ve written a formal blog post, I guess I will just jump right in: I’m currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy. This has been something that I have been dreaming about doing since high school and to finally be here living it, is surreal, to say the least. I’ve been here just about a month and I really feel that I am making this gorgeous city my home.
One of the major reasons I wanted to come here was to learn the language that was lost along the way down my family lineage. I’m making a conscious effort to get over my fear of making mistakes when trying to speak Italian, and have had many “Italian-English” (sometimes with a little Spanish thrown in for good measure) conversations with local people, especially at the Farmer’s Markets and family-owned restaurants. Thanks to my Italian heritage and very Italian name, most people think I’m a local and I’m proud to say I’ve been asked directions by Italians many times.
But, to cut to the chase, I came here for the food. While other people my age may not be so interested in the many culinary traditions of Italy, I’m soaking it all up. Before I came here, I didn’t realize just how regionally divided the food culture of Italy is; while I plan on trying traditional Tuscan dishes, I’m not sure that I will get to taste all Italy has to offer- there’s just so much.
I’ve tried the hearty winter staples such as Ribollita and Pappa al Pomodoro, but now that the weather has warmed up a bit I’m excited for what spring has to offer. A nice panzanella will taste fresh and light, perfect after a warm day spent walking along the Arno.
Yet, no matter how hard I try to be adventurous and embrace Italy’s many dishes, I always go back to pizza. Thin-crusted and charred from the wood-burning oven, a Margherita pizza is pure perfection. Now, believe me, I’ve tried the others. I’ve had the salty Napoli, with anchovies and capers. I’ve had one with bitter, peppery rucola. I’ve even tried an especially spicy version topped with to-die-for pepperoni. But there is something about the Margherita that always brings me back to it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The gelato is creamier than the best ice cream America has to offer. It will be hard to go back to frozen yogurt, that’s for damn sure. I can’t name a favorite, although the kiwi gelato I had from the small gelateria down the street from my apartment is by far the most memorable I’ve had. It tasted like a creamy version of the fruit, it hit all the right notes and was perfect accompanied by a simple, if luxurious vanilla.
While I express myself through food and enjoy myself more while shopping for vegetables at the Farmer’s Market than I would while shopping for beautiful Italian, “Made in Italy” clothes (that’s outta my price range, man), mostly I’m enjoying life. Being alive. People here are alive, and I’ve gotta tell you it’s contagious. I’ll have what they’re having, please. Because not only is it the little things that matter, like knowing the butcher down the street on a first-name-basis or arguing with friends over where the best pizza in town is (I haven’t quite decided who I’m most loyal to yet, although GustaPizza currently occupies the top spot), but it’s enjoying those things in the moment. And believe me, I’m soaking it all up the way an after-dinner biscotti soaks up Vin Santo.