Stressful week before midterms? Don’t fret, just take a trip to do some olive oil and wine tasting!
Ok, so maybe my friends back home can’t do that… but that’s exactly what some of us Temple students did before we hit the books!
We spent our class-free Friday exploring the Umbria region of Italy where we visited the “Monini” olive oil company, the “Novelli” wine company, and “Grazia,” the oldest ceramics company in Deruta.
I’m starting to see a trend… it seems like I still haven’t been able to break my habit of keeping my camera in my bag… I’m not sure where this blog (or my collection of pictures for when I return home) would be if I didn’t travel almost everywhere with my friend, Kate. She deserves credit for all the pictures I used for this post, and even though I promise to make a better effort to pull my camera out every once in a while, you’ll probably still be seeing a vast majority of her pictures in posts to come.
At Monini we learned what differentiated an olive oil from being good and great. Our tour started with a brief background the growing of olives and the prime time to harvest them. We even learned about the different picking methods, and which ones were better than others.
*Tip for anyone looking to produce their own olive oil, pick your olives off of the tree, DON’T pick them up off the ground. They’ve already started fermenting at that point and won’t be as delicious.
Once we finally got our hands on some olive oil we learned how to tell if an olive oil was good using our senses. First, we warmed the cups in our hands to heat it up and “release the scents.” Within a matter of seconds the whole room filled with the smell of olive oil, and trust me, nobody was complaining.
Then our host told us we were going to be tasting the olive oil… great! What’s better than some Italian bread and world renowned olive oil? Only thing is… we didn’t get any bread. That’s right; we were going to “drink” the olive oil. I have to make something clear though, by drink the olive oil I don’t mean toss it back by the cup, we’re talking about the size of a teaspoon.
Our host showed us several times the steps that go into tasting an olive oil, and then it was our turn. Not only is this process kind of funny, but also shows you a taste of olive oil that you’ve never experienced before.
Once the tasting was over we were treated to some bruschetta outside. While there are several varieties to bruschetta, the original version is only three ingredients: bread, salt, and olive oil.
After our olive oil tasting we were off to our next destination, Novelli. Here we sampled several wine including sparkling, white, and red. We learned about the color, density, tiers, and speeds of different wines, and the long process that goes behind making them.
Grazia ceramics is the oldest producer of ceramics in Deruta. Their family tradition dates back as early as the 12th century, and there products are seen all over the world. While not cheap, each piece is not only hand sculpted, but also hand painted. We were greeted by the current owner, Ubaldo Grazia, who took us through Grazia’s entire process of producing ceramics.
With Deruta being known for their ceramics, our final destination was a few doors down to another local ceramic shop (that was much cheaper!) where we were able to all get our ceramic fixes without breaking our banks.
We returned to Rome in the early evening, and as much as we didn’t want to, it was time to study for finals. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Spring break is less than a week away!
Class trips are the best way to learn about Italy hands down!
Last weekend my International Trade class took a trip to Sicily and it’s safe to say that so far Sicily has been the place with 1) the best food 2) the best weather and 3) the best views.
We were greeted to the city of Catania by an active volcano, Mount Etna. One of the coolest things I saw in Sicily was the view of Mt. Etna at night. The tip of the volcano would glow red at night from the lava!
On Friday we visited several companies, including: SASOL, Oranfresh, and ETIS2000.
Orangefresh is responsible for the production of orange squeezing machines, aka the best orange juice you will ever have in your life. Our hotel had one of Oranfresh’s machines in their breakfast hall, and I’m considering making a plee bargain with Temple University to bring one to main campus!
For lunch we went to Tenuta del Gelso where we were treated to a wine tasting along with a typical Sicilian meal. The Sicilians know how to cook! I don’t think I could describe this meal in a way that does it justice. Homemade pasta, the best red wine I’ve ever tasted, and a Sicilian salad that consisted of oranges along with raw onion and a variety of other things like olives. It may sound incredibly weird, but it’s one of the few recipes I feel confident bringing home with me and recreating.
Our next stop was to ETIS2000, a large printing company in Sicily, also the printer of the daily newspaper, La Sicilia (the one we were actually in, see photo below.)
On Saturday we visited the Colleroni company and one of their orange orchards. The fact that we were able to walk through an orchard grove and at any time pick an orange and eat it was a highlight of the trip. Seriously, how do you get any fresher than that?
We had more Sicilian food for lunch, this time in the town of Buccheri. Nestled on the top of a hill overlooking a valley we were treated to more pasta and wine, along with a series of sausage and veil.
Quick side note, I feel like every other post that I make includes pasta and wine, and you would think I’d get sick of the same foods over and over again, right? WRONG. There are so many different styles, sauces, and flavours its impossible to every try them all.
We were given free time on Saturday afternoon, and with the gorgeous weather (it was consistently around 70 degrees our entire trip) just about everybody in the group hit the beach. Some people made it to the sandy beaches, but me and some friends opted for the rocky beach. There I am with the Mediterranean Sea in the background!
Before catching our flight back to Rome on Sunday afternoon, our professor took us to Taormina.
While visiting the amphitheater we decided to show our school spirit and spell out Temple with the coast, the city, and even Mount Etna behind us!
This is also where I bought my Italian espresso set! Some hand painted ceramic cups and a matching trey will accent my Philadelphia apartment quite nicely (:
The fun didn’t stop there though…
While waiting to board our flight back to Rome we found out that we were on the same plane with S.S. Lazio, the professional Italian football (soccer) team! Students (myself included) asked players for photos and autographs to take back to our friends in Rome. Overall this class trip gave me a tour of Sicily that I would have never been able to get on my own, I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in studying in Rome to look at the list of classes and take into consideration class trips. They are a truly unique experience and something you do not want to miss out on!
On our second day in Sicily, we only had one business appointment. We drove about an hour and a half outside of Catania to the Colleroni company, where we received a tour of the fruit packing plant as well as the orange grove.
I had no idea how much work went into the oranges we see growing on trees and the oranges that are presented to us in the grocery store! Crates and crates are brought into the plant by the hour, initially inspected, weighed, measured, and stamped with the producers name and barcode. Then they ride a conveyor belt through a series of inspections, both by hand and by computer. Any oranges that do not make the cut for their destination are removed, perhaps to be sent to the juice production lines.
After being shown the inside of the factory, we were bused to the orchards. Noon had come, so the workers who participated in picking the fruit had reached their lunch break, but one of the family owners of the company was kind enough to show us around.
Outside of the orchard we were given a great surprise. Wafts of smoke emanated from the peak of Mount Etna as she began to erupt! Don’t get me wrong, this was not a disastrous event. As the most active volcano in Europe, it is common for Etna’s eruptions to produce so much smoke that the nearby airport must temporarily close. For us, though, it was an amazing sight to see.
Inside of the orange grove, we were invited and encouraged to pull oranges straight off of the trees to snack on. This was a dream come true to me – I love oranges, and how much fresher could you possibly get?! In minutes, I was covered in sweet, sticky juice and full of good old Vitamin C.
To be precise, we picked a combination of regular Sicilian oranges and blood oranges. Here though, they are referred to as ruby oranges or red oranges, as to not deter the consumers from the fruit with a graphic name such as “blood”. I think that I would have eaten just as many regardless of what they were called.
For lunch we went to Buccheri, where we were again treated with a Sicilian lunch at a highly characteristic restaurant. We dined on homemade pasta with eggplant, sausage, beef, and pork chops. In Italy, lunch usually takes place later in the day, but it also is quite substantial!
Outside of the restaurant, we caught sight of the owner’s massive dog, Otto. He must have been part mastiff, he was so enormous. One look was plenty, and soon enough we all had rushed out to play with the giant. Despite being full of slobber, he was a sweetheart.
On Sunday, we spent the afternoon in Taormina, a world-renowned town, compared to the island of Capri. In a word, it was beautiful. We were desperate to go to the beach in the 70-degree and sunny weather, but the cable car that transfers you from the hilltop town to the shore wasn’t running. We are constantly reminded that no matter how warm we think it is here, for Italians this is still the middle of winter. Passers by on the street would look at our sundresses and tank tops with raised eyebrows, asking us if we were cold as they wrapped their puffy jackets tighter around themselves. Instead of the beach, we entertained ourselves by exploring the sunny streets and feasting on cannoli’s and arancini (fried rice balls) both of which Sicily is well known for.
This past weekend, my International Trade class took a field trip – to Sicily! At Temple Rome, a lot of classes have similar excursions to all different parts of Italy, and, in some instances, different countries (I’ll get to tell you about two more to Florence and London!).
On Thursday night, we checked into the Best Western Mediterraneo in Catania, Sicily. Aside from having made the trip with other students for years, our professor is from Sicily, so he was an expert in the area. Catania, is on the east coast of Sicily, facing the Ionic Sea, between Messina and Syracuse. It is located at the base of Mt. Etna, the most active volcano in all of Europe. From the airplane we were able to see the faint glow of lava giving dim light to the darkness, yet the mountain around it was still dark.
On Friday morning, 24 students dressed “business casual” piled onto a coach bus to make several appointments with companies dealing in international trade. We first visited, SASOL, a chemical company owned by South-African capital. Due to its placement on the island of Sicily, the company sits at a prime location to bring in raw materials, such as coal and oil, for processing.
Second, we visited Oranfresh, where we were welcomed by the marketing manager and given a tour of the production plant for a world-wide producer of machines for freshly-squeezed orange juice. Oranfresh distributes these machines in all shapes and sizes to small businesses, schools, gyms, etc. Most of the machines that I saw were destined for cities in China, but I did glimpse a few headed towards Miami! Apparently, US sales have increased ever since Michelle Obama began campaigning for a healthier lifestyle, and perhaps we will begin to see them more often.
For lunch we went to the Tenuta del Gelso facility where we were able to participate in a local wine tasting followed by a meal of typical Sicilian food. A beautiful spread was laid out for us in a room that formerly housed the company’s original wine production. Women would carry bushels of grapes on their heads to the rooftop, and deposit them through the windows for elderly women and children to stomp with their feet. Then the juice would flow down to the factory floor where men would collect it for processing.
We sampled a red wine and a white wine produced by Tenuta del Gelso while snacking on “fancy bread”, bread dressed with olive oil and herbs, cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and several olive spreads for bread. It was delicious! The room was near silent as we savored the food – that’s how you know it’s good.
At the lunch table we were served two pastas, one dressed with a red sauce and eggplant, the other a green pesto and olives. This was followed by a classically Sicilian salad, made up of components that the area is famous for: sweet oranges, fennel, and onions. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Stuffed to the brim, we made one last trip to the printing company ETIS2000, the company that produces the newspaper for all of Sicily, as well as magazines, billboards, and other paper products. We were lead all around the factory, up stairs and onto catwalks, able to see the printing process at every step. Newspapers whizzed around our heads, were folded, and carried out the door. ETIS was so welcoming. They even put our class visit picture into the next day’s paper!
Today marks one month in Rome! I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert on all things Italian, but by now I have learned some important Italian customs and cultural differences when shopping, dining, ordering, buying, or just being out in public in general.
To begin, let us start with the most important: FOOD.
Restaurants in Italy are broken down into three different categories:
- The sit-down restaurant:
- One of the biggest and probably most confusing parts of restaurants in Italy is the lack of a host/hostess. When you walk in, there usually isn’t someone waiting to greet you and show you to your table (unless you’re in a touristy area and/or go to an American chain restaurant like Hard Rock Cafe). Instead, someone from behind the bar or a waiter will say hello to you, BUT it is more or less your responsibility to speak up and announce yourself. Typically you would say in Italian, “siamo due” which means “we are two” (or however many people are in your party) when staff acknowledges you.
- If a restaurant has outdoor seating, however, you can sit down at a table first, and a waiter will come over to give you a menu.
- Menus include bere, antipasti, primo piatto, secondo piatto, dolce and/or cafe. Bere=a drink, antipasti=an appetizer (and typically includes slices of deli meats and cheeses), primo piatto=a pasta dish, secondo piatto=a meat or fish dish, dolce=dessert and cafe=coffee. It is customary to sit in a restaurant for hours and enjoy every course, but it is also okay to just order a primo piatto instead of a secondo piatto and vice versa.
- Because it is not customary to tip in Italy, most restaurants include a seating charge. Waiters for the most part are also less attentive because it is your responsibility to call them if you need anything, including the check! Don’t expect a waiter to notice that you’re ready to go…they’ll clear your plates but assume you want to relax and chat some more.
- The bar or cafe:
- This is where you would go for your cappuccino and pastry in the morning. Bars work just like the name suggests, only not for liquor like the bars you think of in the U.S…bars are for coffee! A bartender takes your order and you can either drink/eat standing up at the bar, or take it to a small table nearby or outside. Depending on the bar, you pay for your items either before you order or afterwards, which can be tricky to figure out. Always keep your receipt if you pay before! This is what you give to the bartender. Very important: There aren’t lines in these types of restaurants. This isn’t the place to be unsure of what you want and hesitate to order, especially if it’s crowded. If you choose to drink/eat somewhere other than right at the bar, it’s polite to bring your cup and dish back up when you’re done. This is important since you aren’t paying a seating charge!
- The pizzeria, paninoteca, and gelateria:
- Pizzerias and paninotecas (which means sandwich shop) are all over the city. If you’re out and about during the day and you just want a ready-to-order lunch, these are your best options. They work similarly to bars, but it is more common to get your pizza or panino and then pay for it. Pizza is not ordered by the slice! It is made rectangularly, so you will be asked to size the amount you want, which you indicate with your hands while the worker cuts it. You would say “basta” which means “enough” when it is the size you want. The piece is then weighed, sliced into two squares, and folded over like a sandwich! It’s wrapped in plastic so you can carry it and eat it on-the-go! Pizza also doesn’t have tomato sauce, unless you order margherita pizza. Typical ingredients are meat heavy, like prosciutto, salami, and sausage. Pepperoni does not exist! In Italian, pepperoni translates to green pepper! Paninos are much more basic than the saucy sandwiches Americans are used to. Typically they include a slice of meat and a slice of cheese on a baguette, and that’s it! Don’t expect to find any buffalo chicken wraps oozing with hot sauce and blue cheese.
- Gelato is the equivalent to American ice cream, only with much less butterfat and more sugar! You can always tell if a gelateria is authentic if the banana flavor is a brown or creme color, as opposed to a yellow…so always check first!
If you’re ever craving something other than Italian food, you don’t have to look too far either. There are all types of cuisines in Rome! Apparently though, Mexican cuisine is not well received in Italy, and the restaurants are often expensive.
Grocery shopping can be in an open air market, a supermarket, or small mini-market. Supermarkets don’t have too many differences from those in the U.S. other than the selection of food and picking out your fruit and vegetables. Instead of bagging your own produce and having the cashier weigh it and scan it, you must weigh it yourself and print out the label. Bags are also not free, so bring your own! (Although I’m used to this since in my county at home, all bags are taxed.)
When you’re in a country dominated by food, you gotta know how to navigate it the right way!
If you’re a fan of Dan Brown’s novel Angels & Demons then this is the blog post for you! Unfortunately, I have to admit that I was one of “those kids” who didn’t read the book, or even see the movie for that matter, before coming to Rome.
Thank you to Kate and Emma for sitting down and making me watch it. (I’m glad I did!!!)
For those of you who haven’t read the book or seen the movie, I’ll do a little explaining. But don’t worry, I won’t give any parts of the movie away!
There are several scenes in Angels & Demons that you can actually go to for yourself.
- Castel Sant’ Angelo
- Piazza Navona
- Santa Maria del Popolo, in Piazza del Popolo
- The Pantheon
- The Sistine Chapel
After this weekend, I can say that I have been to every single one!
The picture above is the Castel Sant’Angelo, right on the Tiber River. (Yeah, the same river that Temple Rome is on, and only a few blocks away!) And the picture below is a fountain you can see in Piazza Navona.
I can’t stress enough how much “cooler” these sites are after you have seen them in the movie. This really applies to any movie set in Rome though. I mean, the first time I visited the Trevi Fountain or the Coliseum I can’t say there wasn’t a small part of me that wanted to burst out into “Hey Now” by Hilary Duff and get swept off my feet by an international pop star.
Enough about movies and sightseeing for now, I bet you’re just dying to know how my classes are going. But before I talk about classes here in Rome, I cannot help but to talk about classes back in Philadelphia.
I consider myself lucky! Choosing to study abroad during the semester that Temple seems to have more cancellations and delays due to snow than actual school days is definitely a blessing. Sure there are days that I would much rather sleep in than go to class, but when all you need is your umbrella and a sweater in the middle of February how can you complain??
I should note that if you looked at an Italian on the streets in Rome you would think we were in Philadelphia. Italians dress for the calendar, not necessarily for the temperature. What Americans would think is perfect sweater weather is freezing to the locals. You’ll see women in fur coats, men with hats and scarves on, and it’s even safe to say that the majority of (small) dogs I’ve seen are dressed up in their finest designer jackets to protect themselves from the “cold.”
Anyway, back to classes….
It seems like just yesterday I was talking about how classes were just starting and then they were picking up, well guess what? My professors have officially started talking about midterms. I refuse to believe that we are almost half way through our semester abroad. I feel like there are still so many trips to go on and events to attend, how could we almost be half way done? THERE’S STILL SO MUCH I WANT TO BLOG ABOUT! It’s alright though, I’d rather have to narrow down what I want to blog about than have nothing to say… but let’s be honest… it’s kind of hard to have nothing to say when you’re spending your semester in Italy!
My first art history class trip for the High Renaissance, was to the Colloseum. Only before had I ever driven passed it by cab or bus, and even then I knew it was breathtaking. At night, lights shine from within, casting a faint glow on the marble arches.
On the day of, we took the Metro Line A from Cipro (near the Residence) to Termini, from which we transferred to Metro Line B. Almost every major attraction in Rome is located either on a metro stop, or very close to it. The moment I walked up the steps into the sun (one of the first gloriously sunny days of the month!!), I was faced with the architectural wonder.
I can’t even begin to describe to you how amazing it was to learn about el Colosseo as I sat before it. No textbook and picture could compare to the lecture Professor Carloni gave while we gazed at the ancient amphitheater. Half of the time I could barely keep up with my notes, mesmerized by life as an abroad student in Rome.
I’m going to recap a few of the facts Professor Carloni gave, but I can only begin to express how frustrating it is that learning about the marvel from me cannot begin to touch being lectured before it – you’ll just have to go there and see for yourselfJ.
Briefly, the Colosseum is one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. It was completed in 80 AD under the Roman emperor Titus, and contains all of the key Roman elements renewed in the High Renaissance:
1) The amphitheater was formed out of marble, more specifically travertine, a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs. Travertine caves are located near to Rome, though much marble was also imported.
2) The arches of the Colosseum are strictly Roman. The Greeks did not know how to use the arch. When they built, they were forced to plan around slopes of hills and other natural features. The autonomous nature of el Colosseo is very characteristic of Roman architecture. Though arches are technically the invention of the Etruscans in Italy, the squat and primitive archetypes did not compare to the current Roman arch.
3) The arches are upheld by quadrangular pilasters. Rather than use circular columns, the Romans built with pilasters that could hold more weight and support immense forces from the side. These enabled the sheer size of the Colosseum and other Roman architecture to be possible.
4) The decorative carvings on the Colosseum serve a very specific artistic purpose. Back then the structure was designed to react to light in an entirely new way, with the ability to create chiaroscuro (use of strong contrasts between light and dark) and new visual shapes. According to the floor of the Colosseum, the décor alters. For instance, the ground floor is strictly Doric in nature (to create the illusion of strength), the middle ionic, and the upper levels Cornicing. There is a specific succession of orders. Semi-pilasters on the top levels bring light down quickly – something suggestive of a beam of white light in Roman paintings.