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!

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!

A Trip To Italy’s Fashion Capital

To say how crazy it is that I have been here in Florence for a month already is a complete understatement. The weeks seem to go by so fast, and the weekends speed by even faster. Having Fridays off is great and it allows for more time to travel, whether it be inside Italy or to another country. I have been trying to keep a list of all of the amazing restaurants, stores, gelaterias, etc. that are my favorite, but I just can’t find enough time to  jot everything down!

Day at the Duomo di Milano

Day at the Duomo di Milano

This past weekend (from Sunday to Tuesday) all 70 of us FIT students made our way to the fashion capital of Italy. We arrived early Sunday morning and from there we began our adventure. Our trip started out with us dropping off our luggage to our hotel and then making our way to the “Super Collections” trade show that was occurring. Once we were there we walked around and looked at all of the amazing merchandise that was being shown. It was great to see merchandise at an international trade show, as most of the merchandise, let alone brands, were all very unfamiliar to me. I was personally able to see a multitude of brands and companies that are not shown at trade shows in the U.S. During the trade show, we were all able to complete our findings for two of our fashion merchandising classes which was very helpful.

Top Of The Duomo

Top Of The Duomo (Samantha Seltzer, Teresa Kelly, Kayleigh Folster, Caitlyn Hansen, Hannah Charles and Kathleen Arias)

After we left the trade show we took the metro to the Duomo and from there we began to see the real city of Milan. Milan fashion week was occurring while we were still there and Milan is of course, known for its one of a kind fashion. Stores on every corner and people bustling throughout the city streets. We were fortunate enough to take a guided tour of the Duomo di Milano which led us up the stairs of the Duomo itself and out on the main rooftop. While sitting there, it was an unbelievable feeling, to actually sit and think of where I was sitting in that very moment.

Monday rolled around quite soon, and our day was full of fashion visits and a trip to Como to see the silk factories and textile factories.  Our FMM group was split into two and I visited the Mantero Factory. It was amazing to get to see how brands such as, Gucci, Vivienne Westwood and Valentino print their silk scarfs. There were silk screen printing and  digital printing. It was interesting to see which form companies print their merchandise on. Higher end brands normally print through silk screen printing since it takes longer and to uses more materials and lower end companies use digital printing. Having observed both, they seemed both very efficient and both of good quality. After visiting the factory we were able to see the archives of the Mantero company and view their oldest fabrics and books used. Once that was over we were able to enjoy the rest of Como and take in all of its beauty. Como is a very pretty city and very quiet (now I know why George Clooney chose to have a house there). The lake is beautiful and relaxing and after lunch my friends and I ate a gelato as we walked around the lake.

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Gucci Print at Mantero Factory

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Archived Fabrics From Mantero

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1938 Chanel Advertisement

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Lake Como

After a full two days on Sunday and Monday, Tuesday was just as busy. Fortunately, we were able to wake up later and get in as much sleep as we could (I mean, what college student doesn’t love their sleep?) Anyway, Tuesday morning we were off to have private store visits of both the Excelsior and LaRinascente department stores. Both of which are two very different stores targeted to two very different demographics of customers. The Excelsior store is on the more higher and exclusive end of the spectrum and LaRinascente is targeted toward the higher end everyday shopper, almost like a Bergdoff Goodman’s or higher end Bloomingdales. After our tour we were headed over to the Chagall Exhibit that was going on. We had a guided tour as well, and it was very informative and interesting to hear about Marc Chagall’s inspiration and life as an artist. After looking through the exhibit it was time to hangout and tour Milan on our own. From there we shopped, ate lunch and took in as much as we could.

Pizza From Milan

Pizza From Milan

After a long three, exciting, yet tiresome days of fashion and travel, it was time to head back to Florence. We took a 7:30 train and we were back to Florence around 9:30. It was a great trip and an overall wonderful experience. I loved seeing all the sites and gaining the first hand knowledge from the factories and tours. After this trip, I can’t wait to see all of the other wonders that are out there. Arrivederci!

Is This Really My Home?

I landed my butt in Florence just over two weeks ago and it has been nothing short of a whirlwind. Between a day and a half of flying, a time change, and a culture shock, I am still settling into the way of life here. Now I am at the halfway point in my second week of school and I’m finally feeling like this could possibly be real life and not just a foggy daze that I am happily stuck in. Florence is, in just a few words, beautiful, amazing, delicious, hot, quaint, and slightly overwhelming at the moment! The next nine months of my life are going to be set in a different time zone, city, country, and continent… it’s safe to say that it takes some getting used to.

This was the point during which I wondered if I could actually wheel both these suitcases while carrying a backpack and second carry on!

This was the point during which I wondered if I could actually wheel both these suitcases while carrying a backpack and second carry on!

Upon touching down here in Italia, a few major differences have come to mind right away. Florence has no idea what a grid system is and having decided to only use my phone with Wi-Fi, I had my head in a tiny map with twisty semi-labeled roads for my first few days here! I decided to take my first run in Florence just the other day as an attempt to burn off a small percentage of the carbs I have taken in since being here. I figured if I ran straight, I could simply turn around, but of course the street I was on ended so I just took a turn. I ran twisting around streets for about 20 minutes and suddenly ended up on my very own street… without trying to. All I can say is that at least I tried to exercise.

My pretty little cappucino

My pretty little cappucino

A second major difference is the price of food and drinks here. After living in New York City for two years, I expect a coffee to be nothing short of $2.50. My now daily cappuccino, that I order “take away” en route to class, costs me 1.20 Euro, or $1.54. It even comes with a chocolate design doodled into the steamed milk each morning, something I am sure Starbucks would have charged me extra for.

My five Euro sandwich- turkey, mozzarella, arugula, zucchini, tomatoes and truffle spread

My five Euro sandwich- turkey, mozzarella, arugula, zucchini, tomatoes and truffle spread.

A panini down the street from my apartment is just 3.50 Euro and the best sandwich I have ever tasted was only 5.00 Euro and a short walk away. The prices can definitely go up from there, but as a girl on a budget I’m content with seeking out the best deals.

I have chosen to live alone during my time here and so far I am enjoying this decision. My rent is not even close to what I would be paying if I lived in New York alone and though my apartment is small, it’s certainly enough room for one person. My apartment is a short walk to my friends’ apartments, bars (a bar is a coffee shop here), stores for everything I may need, and the Mercato Centrale. Mercato Centrale is the most amazing fresh market with fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, meats, and fish- it’s a quick stop to get ingredients for whatever I am in the mood to cook. Apartment hunting, although stressful, ultimately worked out. Life seems to have assured that each of us made it where we were supposed to be. Now that I have a place to return home to at the end of the day that feels like my own, it’s much easier to picture Florence as my life and not just a temporary vacation. That being said, it’s a life I am most certainly getting used to.

Exploring Firenze... and wishing this was my front gate

Exploring Firenze… and wishing this was my front gate

I am trying to slowly, but surely explore the city. Everywhere I walk I think “Oo I should eat there” or “Wow that place looks awesome.” I have to keep reminding myself that there is plenty of time in nine months to stop back at these places and I don’t have to stock up on every croissant or gelato flavor all at once (although it is tempting to do just that). The most important part of being here for me is to just see it all and take it all in. I’m constantly pushing myself to get out and walk around even when it’s only me. How else will I see all the secret beauties within these city walls?

Everyone says that traveling is easy in Florence and Europe and through Polimoda I took my first trip this past weekend to “Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre.” Cinque Terre was a two-hour bus ride to some of the most gorgeous views I have ever seen. We had the option to hike or go to the beach and the active side of me(and the side that’s been eating all the carbs) chose the hike. Though they made it seem easy, it was quite the uphill climb, but each step and my one wipe out, was more than worth it. As you climbed up the hills you walked past rows and rows of grapes growing in thick bunches. The views were absolutely incredible as you looked out at the jagged coastline created by the Mediterranean Sea. It was breathtaking to stop and see the lush, green mountainside, with the small clusters of colorful homes nestled together down near the sea. After the hike, I took a dip into the Mediterranean Sea. Prior to leaving I ordered homemade pasta with homemade pesto, a Cinque Terre specialty. It was a fulfilling day in just about every way.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

My Italian adventure is just beginning and I can’t wait to keep sharing it. For now, arrivederci!