In Italy We Eat… And Cook

It is approaching the two-month mark of when my feet first stepped onto Italian soil and I can’t believe I have been here for that long. It feels like I started my time in this city just two weeks ago, let alone two months ago. I have become more and more sure that the full year abroad was the right decision for me. I can’t even imagine if I was leaving in just two months to head back to New York. I can tell that the fall semester students are amazed at how much less time they have than they originally thought and I’m so happy I chose nine months here, even though that was such a scary decision to make at first. Of course, moments arise when I miss the city, my hometown, and above all, my friends and family, but my time here is nowhere near finished. I’m starting to wonder if even nine months is enough in this beautiful place, but if I expressed that thought to my dad, he would surely kill me, so I’ll stick with the time I’ve got!

After two months of learning my way around Florence, just to pick up and travel on the weekends, I finally have a solid month in which my feet (and wallet, thank goodness) are staying firmly planted in Florence. I have been to Venice, done a wine tour through Tuscany, seen Milan at the peak of fashion week, attended Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, and enjoyed the beautiful beaches of Capri and Positano. It’s been a whirlwind of bus rides and train trips and I’m enjoying my time here at home base, until I pick up on my travels again.

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Cheffing it up and adding the filling to my ravioli!

Fall has finally seemed to peek into Florence and today is the first day the weather has not hit 70 and reminded me that at home it’s been cool for awhile and the leaves have all changed into shades of red, yellow, and brown. This fall weather is a treat compared to the last few weeks. Its sunny and breezy, the perfect autumn weather and it feels absolutely beautiful to be walking around. The amazement at living in a place like this has struck me over and over on a day like today. Having finished midterms yesterday, this is a gorgeous reward to enjoy my free time. Midterms in Florence are just like midterms in New York and I have studied my sleep deprived self into insanity the last few days. To break up the studying my friends and I attended the most amazing cooking class last weekend. Fuel for midterms came in the form of three courses and wow, did it taste amazing.

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My friend Lauren showing off her ravioli dough

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Pork, potatoes, and apples cooked to perfection

Giglio Cooking School is about a 40-minute walk out of the center of the city. As my friends and I trekked through parts of Florence we had yet to see, we discussed the upcoming week of studying as our stomachs growled. We entered the cooking school, an adorable kitchen with a sweet chef who helped us through the steps of making three courses: spinach ravioli in a butter sage sauce, prune stuffed pork braised in honey and red wine that was served with potatoes and apples baked together, and chocolate cake for dessert. One of the best meals I have had in Florence was cooked by myself and I enjoyed so much of it, I undid my the button on my jeans for the walk home. We did everything from creating the dough and flattening it into long, thin sheets to make the ravioli, to melting the bar of chocolate over the stove for the cake, to chopping apples and potatoes onto trays to be placed into the oven. It was a frenzy of cooking and quite a few chefs for one kitchen, but we ended up with the most amazing meal shared among friends. Just another one of my perfect Italia days that seem endless here. Can you tell how lucky I am?

Two Months Of Life Abroad

Almost closing in on my two month stay here in Florence, I can’t even believe time has gone by this fast. It definitely is not an easy adjustment with all the cultural differences, but slowly but surely I have been finding my way. Since my last post (where I wrote about Milan), I have have traveled to many amazing cities in Italy, as well as countries outside of Italy. It is crazy how long you anticipate something to happen and then in a blink of an eye it’s over.

Piazza Michelangelo

Piazza Michelangelo

This past week at school was health and wellness week to help students relieve stress. There were free counseling and free doctor visits all week long, which happens to be perfect timing since everyone I know, as well as myself, somehow all got sick (wonderful, I know). Classes have been going very well and the week days seem to fly by. All of the professors my friends and I have are all wonderful, very understanding and easy to talk to. This up coming week are midterms and we are all preparing for our exams and midterm presentations. It is funny, because through all of the excitement and traveling you forget that you are actually here for school and not on a four-month long vacation. So, this weekend, we are all staying in and finally taking a break and opening up our books.

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School Trip To Milan

FASA is a great program we have here at FIT in Florence. It stands for Florence Abroad Student Association and allows students to participate in events that are pre-paid for or paid for in half. They have had soccer game trips to see the Florence team play, cooking classes (which I will be going to one later today), an upcoming trip to Perugia Chocolate Festival (I will be sure to bring extra euro for that one) and many more fun and exciting trips. They also put together and event for the Corri la Vita run that was occurring, here in Florence, on September 28th. I have to say, I don’t think I have ever been to a walk/run that had as many people as the Corri la Vita event. It was nice to see that many people interested in the awareness, which was for Breast Cancer, and to see everyone come together.

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Corri la Vita

It is crazy to think how so much has happened in barely two months. Just to already look back on everything that I have experienced and learned is almost mind blowing. I have been trying to keep a journal of everywhere that I have been and all of the places that I have seen, but it is a lot harder than I thought with just trying to find the time to sit down and write everything down. For the most part, I have something planned for every weekend I am here, but if I were to give any advice (that i’m sure many people would agree with), is that you have to remember to slow down and take in the beauty and opportunity that Florence itself has to offer. With that said, I will be writing again in a few short weeks and I am sure that I will have even more stories to share. Until then, arrivederci!

Life in Florence – The Adjustment Period

 

Arno River and Ponte Vecchio

Arno River and Ponte Vecchio

I have been in Florence for about six weeks now and it’s been a roller coaster in many ways. It started with a culture shock, adjusting to everything from a new city, to the language barrier and the sad rarity of peanut butter. I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy, but it is worth it to be in this amazing city.

Florence is a remarkable city that has such history, and it’s history you can see just by walking around. The result is a phenomenon that I noticed soon after I got here; because you can simply walk around the city and see something that astounds you. You turn the corner and all of a sudden the Duomo or Santa Maria Novella is in front of you, and for a moment you stop and can’t help but stare at the artistic marvel in front of you. Looking up at something last seen in a book.

Florence Skyline

Yet over time you get accustomed to Florence you start to learn the twisted streets, develop a love for cappuccinos and admit that you have a gelato problem. Your Italian starts to improve, albeit slowly, and you feel not just more comfortable but maybe just a little like Florence is a kind of home. You’ve adjusted, gotten past that first bout of homesickness, always the worst, and have come to terms with the fact you are completely out of your comfort zone. Realizing that this experience not only will change your life, but also is already is changing your life.

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However it’s not just about living in Florence it’s also about going back to school and getting used to having classes again. Classes here are different, if anything they are harder, more is expected of you. Yet you are learning more at the same time. On a side note in Florence you do take the same classes you would in New York, just in Italy.

Santa Maria Novella

Second Year for fashion design is all about expanding your horizons, taking what you learned last year and seeing how far you can go with it. In many ways it is about expanding your creativity. Taking you from fashion student to fashion designer. The classes are designed to challenge you, so instead of first year when you designed smaller four, five, maybe ten look projects; you know design an entire collection of approximately forty different looks.

For a more in depth view on what our classes are like check out the student blog for my fashion past and present class.

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Why Go To Class When You Can…

While in Florence, I am taking the normal FIT course load of six classes: three major area electives and three related area. My classes are still a long three hours, like they were in New York City, but rather than sitting in a classroom I spend a few of these classes exploring Florence. Don’t get me wrong, I still fidget in my chair taking notes once or twice a week, but on Wednesdays and Thursdays it’s a guarantee that I will be out exploring the city and getting guided tours from my amazing professors at Polimoda.

 

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From Old to New: Apparently I like red journals!

Florence is so jam-packed with history, art, museums, and churches that upon landing I was nervous I would have trouble seeing it all. Thanks to my Renaissance Art class and my International Buying and Marketing class, I am seeing both places I didn’t know existed as well as places that I had hoped to see. In International Buying and Selling, we visited Scuola del Cuoio, a leather making workshop and school. Scuola del Cuoio creates handmade leather jackets, bags, and accessories directly in Florence. They emboss their products with 22 karat gold design and each product is handmade by an artisan who trains in their very own internship program. Studying FMM, it’s safe to say that fashion is a pretty globalized industry, but Scuola del Cuoio brings back the artistry in the craft and makes unique and one of a kind products. As someone who loves to write, I couldn’t resist a leather-bound journal, embossed with “Kay.” It’s one of my most treasured items I have picked up thus far in my travels.

 

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1938-1939: This shoe was created for Judy Garland after she sang Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz

Another trip we took in class was to the Ferragamo Museum. Centered in the luxury shopping area of Florence, the museum follows the life of Salvatore Ferragamo and his innovative design of shoes, especially heels, for women. Within the museum are walls  of shoes created over the course of 1900s. There are models of shoes made for Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. There were

The Classic Ferragamo Red Shoe

The Classic Ferragamo Red Shoe

also shoe lasts for everyone  from Michael Jordan and Madonna to Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie. Even the Royal Baby has a shoe last for his very own Ferragamo shoes… Oh, to be the child of Price William and Kate Middleton. For a fashion girl, it took everything in me not to drool on the shoes as we walked from room to room.

 

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Basilica de Santa Croce… Breathtaking!

In my freshman year at FIT, I sat through three hours of History of Art at 9 AM on Wednesdays. I remember this due to how hard it was to keep my eyes open, despite my enthusiastic teacher. Now that I’m in actually here and studying Renaissance Art in the city where all the art is located, I have no issue with my eyes closing. Through class I have visited the Orsanmichele Church, seen the Baptistery doors and learned the story depicted on bronze panels, and seen Donatello’s bronze David at the useo Bargello. The textbook comes alive in these classes because what I am learning is literally in front of my face. In Basilica de Santa Croce, we saw the frescos painted byGiotto. Whether religious or not (and I’m not), when you enter a church like Santa Croce it’s absolutely breathtaking. There is so much beauty in the bright painting, detailed sculptures, and gold features of the altar that I stopped to stare and take it all in. It’s not just one or two churches that are unique and incredible, it’s every single church in Florence that has this level of beauty. Seriously. Every single church was crafted as if it came straight from Heaven.

These are just a small handful of the places I have seen while in Florence. This city is filled with beauty, history, art, and inspiration around every corner and although that’s a cliché comment, it’s true in every sense of the words. As nerdy as it is, I’m excited to attend my classes here… maybe that will be something that I take back to New York with me? Here’s to wishful thinking!

Adventures in Milan

In the fashion world September means one thing, fashion week, and the spring/summer collections are about to walk down runways in cities across the globe. In New York there is fashion week and as a design student I’m far from oblivious to it, but this fashion week in Milan was really the first time I felt like I was involved in the process and not just another spectator. Our first academic trip this year was to Milan during as you might have guessed fashion week. Yet because this was an academic trip it afforded us additional opportunities. We could see things that on our own we would have never had access to.

It started with our arrival in Milan, first stop the Duomo. Personally this was one of my favorite parts of the trip, the building its self has such remarkable detail one can’t help but be awe inspired. The Duomo in Milan stands out though more than just because of its size, it’s the 3rd largest church in Europe and took 800 years to build, but because unlike other Italian churches it’s a gothic cathedral, more like Notre Dame than say the Duomo in Florence. One of the characteristics of a gothic cathedral is the amount of detail that goes into the structure, it is covered in statues and carvings that create little hidden surprises that you can find as you turn each corner. We got to take a roof tour we gave us a remarkable opportunity to see not only the building up close but afforded us a spectacular view of the square below.

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Next we went to Vogue’s who’s next, an exhibition of sorts that show cases up and coming designers and their work. What was interesting about this is that the ideas that these designers are presenting are a new point of view, which is why I like that more attention is being given to these remarkably talented people. After that we went to Corso Como 10, a unique gem that’s a cross between a department store and charming boutique. In many ways it seems like this fairy tale that’s hidden in this busy metropolis, from the outside all you see is an arch way with a sign overhead but walk through and your transported into someplace completely different. There’s a little courtyard cafe that’s surrounded by greenery that you walk through to enter the store. The colors are simple mostly black and white with greys here and there and the occasional pop of color, mostly due to the clothes, and with décor that gives it a sense of airy whimsy. Because it is a concept store you’re going to see things here that you would elsewhere, yet that is what makes it so fabulous.

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The next day featured what was the favorite stop for many, the Dolce and Gabbana factory. As a design major this visit was actually extremely insightful. It exposed us to what happens after you create your design going from ‘oh this is a cool idea’ to it being sold in a store. There are a deceptively large amount of steps to the process. We saw how they created the patterns for each garment and worked of the fabric layout to ensure the least amount of waste possible, to the people who checked all of the fabric that came through for imperfections or those who created all of the sample and runway garments. In the afternoon we went to the White trade show, which consisted of different companies and designers who were each presenting what they thought the future of fashion, might be. So not next spring, but the spring after, each designer had their own take on different upcoming trends.

d&g lakecomo               Our last day of the trip took place not in Milan but in Como, known in the fashion industry for its textile production and printing. We got the chance to visit the Ratti factory and archives. The Ratti factory is one of the better-known factories producing fabrics for the likes of Dior, Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabbana, and Valentino. What is so amazing about the Ratti factory is that they do everything there in house, they take the threads weave them into fabric and then print them using multiple different methods. At the archives they were featuring an exhibit on Emilio Pucci, who had had a lot of his fabrics printed by Ratti in the 1950’s. When they went back through their archives they found they had several examples of his prints, with original sketches and test prints along with swatches of the final fabrics. We were also shown some of the textiles that they have in their archives, some dating back to the Renaissance, each one we were shown had it’s own kind of artistry to it. I saw so many amazing things on this trip it has only made me want to go out and see so much more.

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