Italy: Love at first sight

As soon as I set foot in Rome on April 11th my heart was immediately captivated, and as I continued to explore new cities and towns throughout Italy and Europe I only fell deeper in love. My program traveled around to Rome, Florence, Siena and Bologna the first 2 weeks and then we settled into Vicenza, our home away from home for the next couple of months. And it truly did become just that. We became regulars at the café down the street from our apartments and our favorite self-serve restaurant. We spent our evenings on the terrace that overlooked the neighborhood piazza. We would frequent the grocery stores for group dinners on the weekends and kick around a soccer ball at the local park. Class was typically outside, drawing and taking notes and when we were inside we worked on our studio project redesigning a new building and Piazza for downtown Vicenza.  Although we were finally settled in somewhere that did not mean that we were done traveling. Vicenza was a short train ride away from Venice and many other small Italian towns that we would go on day trips. Lastly, nearing the end of our time together in Europe our group went on a bus tour through Switzerland for week.

The entire 3 months that I was studying abroad I never ceasedIMG_1300 to be amazed by the architecture, art, religion, traditions and culture that seems to fill every nook and cranny of Europe. I like to think that Italy is an architect’s heaven on earth. Studying architecture there was incredible. I was able to see things in person that I had only seen in movies or text books. To be in the colosseum or the Vatican for example, places that I have spent so much of my life dreaming about was surreal. What’s more, those were only two of the countless buildings my classmates and I visited and each one, famous or not, was a masterpiece in its own wright.

Moreover, what lingers in my mind more vividly is the smaller details that make up the fabric of Italy: like the narrow cobble stone streets, the shutters, the laundry hanging outside of windows, the small alters for Mary and Jesus that are mounted on to the sides of buildings, soccer playing on the television, ordering a cappuccino, the smell of cigarette smoke, the smell of pizza being made and the lengthy greetings shared in Italian with the coming and going of every friend. These are the attributes of Italy that truly won my heart. I don’t miss the museums and the buildings, I miss getting lost in the streets of Italy and the people, sounds and smells that you run into along the way. Being immersed in a different culture is life changing. It opened my eyes to new possibilities. Traveling not only made me appreciate things about my life back in the U.S but also made me realize where IMG_2012I see room for improvement.

The people are also what last in our memories forever, more than the sites and tourist attractions. I didn’t know a single person in my program and by the end of my 3 months I can call every one of them a dear friend, including my professors. People with different backgrounds and lifestyles coming together over common interests in learning and exploring to create timeless friendships. I learned so much from each of my peers, my professors and the random acquaintances I made along the way. I feel a new sense of independence that I didn’t have before this trip. Now I have confidence in myself that I am capable of navigating the world, but this is thanks to the support and companionship of my new friends.


  • Eden Haskins-Dahl, Architecture in Vicenza

Lost in Translation

It was still the first week in Italy and I did not speak nearly as well as I do now. I wanted to do the “When In Rome” thing and try all of the local customs, as one should when studying abroad. Right outside of the CIEE building where we had just finished our first day of orientation was an Italian bar.

It was early, I was tired, and we were in Italy. Obviously the bar was summoning me to its fine Italian brew. My new friends and I wandered over to the bar. I was the first to order. I am not a big coffee drinker: I know very little about American coffee, much less the seemingly endless varieties Italian bars have to offer. All I knew at the time was that if I was going to get into this coffee thing I was going to have to take baby steps. The first coffees needed to have copious amounts of milk. Earlier in the week I had tried a Latte Macchiato. It was a good mix of coffee and milk but I figured that I could use a bit more milk. So I found a friendly name on the menu and asked the barman, “Cos’è un Latte Bianco?” (What is a “latte bianco”?)

I knew I had nailed the question when he answered rapid-fire style,“Un latte bianco è una tazza di latte caldo. Ne vuoi uno?”

As I alluded to before, I spoke a little bit of Italian when I arrived in September but just was not able to completely comprehend his response. In fact, I did not really hear much of anything. I just smiled and nodded, then looked at the girl next to me. She was not really paying attention. Again, this was the first week and my new friend next to me was really cute, so I decided that I preferred to not embarrass myself by asking for clarification. Instead, I just nodded, “Si, lo prendo.”

I thought, what’s the worst that can happen? He gives me too strong of a coffee while I look awesome speaking Italian with the barman in front of this girl? Well worth the risk of getting even the worst coffee in my book.

As the barman reaches under the counter to grab an empty glass, the girl asks me what I had ordered. I come clean: “I’m not really sure, I asked him what a Latte Bianco was and he said something about milk. I think it’s got a lot of milk and a little bit of coffee.”A lot of milk indeed.

Before Krista can respond we both watch the barman take the empty glass, fill it completely with warm milk, and put it on the counter in front of us. “€1.20,” he says with a smile. Krista starts laughing and I grin sheepishly while I pull my wallet out. So that’s how I paid $1.50 for a warm glass of milk at 9am on my third day abroad.

To me, this story sums up my time abroad. Not in the sense that the majority was lost in translation but rather that I was prepared for struggles and failure yet would be willing to shake it off in an effort to improve my Italian and experience everything this country offers. I knew it would not be easy living in a foreign country where my mother tongue is not universal; in fact, that was one of the main reasons I was attracted to this opportunity in the first place.

Studying abroad is about losing things in translation, not understanding cultural differences, and flat out looking foolish at times. That is just the way it is. The best way to handle that is to just relax, laugh off the awkwardness, and get back on the horse for another ride. I knew that before I committed to studying abroad and my thoughts on the matter have not wavered in the year since. This experience at the bar early in my year abroad just worked to reinforce that idea in my head and set the tone for an incredibly rewarding time in Italy. After all, studying abroad is about appreciating one moment outside of your comfort zone after another. That, and enjoying a warm glass of milk once in a while.

– Beau Battista, Italy

Reimagining Rome

Early spring I was not going to be able to have the chance to study abroad because of financial reasons. I ended up being encouraged by my intern supervisor to enjoy the chances of studying abroad before graduating and starting a family. I ended up talking to my parents; they unquestionably loved the idea because they know how much I love architecture and exploring. They allowed me to start applying for the opportunity and I eventually was accepted into the program. I immediately began to apply for international study abroad scholarships and with hard work and perseverance I was able to receive two University of Oregon scholarships from the UO Mills Center and UO International Study Abroad Committee, and I am so thankful for their consideration and for the support to pursue this life-changing experience.

After the blessing of receiving these scholarships I began to think about how my life, attitude, and perspective on culture and architecture was going to transform with being in Rome, Italy for two months. We as a group of 16 students came together, learned a bit about the Italian culture, packed our things, and off we went. I’ve never been outside the United States so I knew flying into international airports was going to be interesting and somewhat a little bit confusing when trying to find the right gates. Nonetheless, I made it out alive and 21 hours later, I made it to the Fiumicino Airport in Rome.

Finally on the ground again, I met up with another student within the program to take a taxi into the city. We first had to exchange some dollars into euros then find an official taxi. I say this because there are many Italians who try to hoax you into paying more because they think you don’t know any better. Our taxi driver spoke little English, but I was able to communicate with him through some Spanish. Once we arrived at the street of our temporary place, the moist and sweaty feel of the air was not too bad. My classmate and I were lost for about three hours because we did not have our ‘student phones’ yet to call other classmates that were already at the apartment we were staying at for the first week. We eventually found the place and gathered up with all the other guys staying at the place.

Settled in and relaxing, we didn’t have class the first week so we were able to walk around and experience the Italian day and night. We were able to obtain Wi-Fi at the apartment and chat with our families back in the states. Classes started up and the studying was something kind of new to me because I’ve never taken summer classes before. I expected that the program was going to be a slow two months, but it went by too fast and I would have loved more time to learn and explore. I took two architectural history classes, one media watercolor course, and a design studio. It was a pretty packed schedule, but we had the weekends to travel and relax. We were able to travel to Northern Italy (Florence & Venice) and Southern Italy (Pompeii and Paestum). All I could think of was beauty and paradise! The Italian cities have changed my views on all aspects of life. Their food is so fresh, the way of transportation, how friendly they are, and how they obtain natural fresh water is amazing. I had to buy groceries every three to four days, walk or take a taxi to class, and being able to just have a water bottle and fill it up at every street corner or piazza was awesome.

The things I was concerned and shocked about the Italian culture and lifestyle was their ability to keep streets clean. It is quite wonderful that many citizens walk but the city of Rome itself has a poor means of transportation. The immense amount of parking lots and cars everywhere has made the air feel unclean and muggy; Rome currently deals with a major urban infrastructure problem and as architects we try to repair these problems through design, communication, and user inputs.

My main highlights during these weekend trips were being able to see, touch, and feel the colossal scale of awe-inspiring architectural structures, such as churches and cathedrals. It is still amazing to me today as to how much labor based work a whole city or region had to commit to finishing these huge buildings. The techniques they had to do to collect materials from other parts of the world and bring them back to Italy is astounding.

More importantly I discovered who I was as an individual and who I could become. I’ve never been abroad so I felt like I broke out of a shell of being a follower and transformed into a self-leader. Italy gave me the opportunity to eliminate the anxiety of being lost alone and knowing that I could do things separate from the group. The first couple of weeks were difficult because I felt like I wasn’t comfortable with my surroundings and was not able to see or reach new places. After the trip got deeper into the program I went to scenic places by myself, met some new people, and learned that sometimes our future back in the states could be like this after graduation from school.


Dylan Garza, Architecture in Rome

Vicenza: Che Bella Citta

Vicenza isn’t among the top tourist destinations in Italy, and I enjoy that. Sketch of Duomo - Firenze_KellyBuchananVicenza feels authentic and real. In Vicenza, I am greeted by “Buongiorno” or “Salve”, not “Hello.” Paying and waiting in lines is not required to experience Vicenza, yet there is still plenty to marvel at.

I am amazed at the constant presence of residents out and about in Vicenza. It is obvious that they take pride in their city and enjoy being a part of its everyday activities. From my daily commutes, I have noticed that there is never a dull moment in the piazza Signori. Even when there is not a scheduled event in the piazza, the piazza still provides prime people watching. I have enjoyed watching the passing of bachelorette parties, local musicians playing for change, children riding their bikes and the dog who brings a tennis ball to anyone willing to throw it for him.

Roman Forum_KellyBuchananThe Basilica and its brilliant copper roof serves as a beautiful landmark and is the anchor of the city. It is a daily destination for me as well as­ others in town. In addition to the Basilica, Vicenza has an amazing collection of Palladio works. The Villa Rotunda was among my favorite buildings to sketch and the Opera at the historic Teatro Olimpico was spectacular.

I am going to miss the beautiful cityscape of Vicenza, but also the cuisine and the outdoor exploring. Righetti’s is one of my favorite places in town. Even after eating there night after night, I still looked forward to it every day.

Vicenza has so much to offer and there is always something new to discover. The simple delights of Vicenza make it a wonderful place to live in. Vicenza provides a great example of what people everywhere try to achieve in their own daily lives and cities.

– Kelly Buchanan, Architecture in Vicenza

Food, Family, and Eating Ethically in Italy

My time in Macerata, Italy is most strongly characterized by the food I ate—fitting, since I was studying food, culture, and the environmental and ethical dilemmas associated with them. My fondest memories are not only because of the culture and history behind the meals, or even their quality and contents; most importantly, I know I will always remember who I ate them with, and all of the different people I met because of food. My experience in Italy truly showed me how powerful food is in cementing social bonds; whether the meal was in my apartment with my roommates, starving after our day of environmental studies and Italian art and architecture classes, at the coast eating a seafood meal caught by local fishermen, or olive oil and wine tasting after class. All of my memories I cherish, however, one especially valuable experience was at a family owned restaurant that was full of character, called Trattoria da Ezio, where I learned to make pasta from scratch from an eccentric Italian grandmother.

Mirella, the owner of Trattoria, is an older woman full of character; she is exactly how one would imagine a spirited Italian grandmother to be, full of life, jokes, and an intense passion for quality, delicious foods. I loved the family aspect of the restaurant; Mirella’s father, her son Marco, and Marco’s brother all work there. It was pretty cool to see them in action, and to see how they interact with each other in the kitchen. This family run type of business is becoming rarer in present day society, but I think it is so valuable and truly adds character to a business. Mirella and Marco were the instructors of our lesson in making pasta from scratch; they made the process look simple, but, like any skill, practice is necessary to perfect it. Mirella emphasized that we should only use fresh eggs; supermarket eggs will not suffice. The eggs we were given were local, and the yolks were brighter than any I have seen. They were bright orange, and resembled the color of a sunset.

The ingredients for fresh pasta are very simple; flour, eggs, and a dash of olive oil. It’s a cheap meal to make and fairly easy, making it a perfect dish for college students or people looking to eat economically. She is so accustomed to the recipe that when she cooks, exact measurements are not necessary. Although she did not measure anything out, 100 grams of flour is necessary for one egg and this amount makes one serving of pasta. She placed a handful of flour in front of each of us, and made a well with her fist to crack an egg in. We were then instructed to beat the egg into the flour using a fork, until both were incorporated enough to work the dough with our hands. Kneading the dough is the next step, and I worked to get a smooth, ball shape. Olive oil is then splashed on the dough to prevent sticking and to give the noodles flavor. Mirella scolded us often (in a loving way, of course) and yelled, “Farina! Farina!” when the dough was too moist. After kneading again to incorporate the oil, we used a rolling pin to flatten the dough. The goal is to create a thin, square or round shape. The thickness should be minimal; I would estimate around a quarter centimeter, so definitely as thin as possible without breaking the dough. However, I found that if there are a few holes or cracks, the pasta is not ruined, because when cutting the noodles out it is easy to avoid these imperfections. They don’t affect the end product. Flattening the dough out was the hardest part for me; it requires a surprising amount of strength and patience. After thinning the dough, it is supposed to rest for about an hour. After resting, the circle or square is rolled from opposite sides, making a scroll type shape. A knife is used to slice the roll into desired thickness. We made a pasta shape called “tagliatelle,” although a variety of noodle shapes can be made from the same dough such as angel hair and spaghetti. This dough is also a base for ravioli, tortellini, and lasagna noodles. After slicing the noodles, they are ready to boil. Fresh noodles only require a few minutes of boiling. Mirella said that directly after making the noodles, only 1 or 2 minutes is necessary, but since we brought our noodles home to cook, and I found I needed around 3 or 4 minutes since the dough had sat out longer than an hour.

I loved being able to apply this experience to my educational studies; how making pasta the “old fashioned” method is one way to return to the land and improve the quality of food in our lives in America. It also inspired me to try new combinations after returning to Eugene. I would love to try and make pumpkin ravioli in the fall, gorgonzola and mushroom ravioli in the winter, and ravioli filled with pesto in the spring. Sauces and fillings can be seasonal; artichokes, mushrooms, tomatoes, basil and the addition of meats, too. You can make noodles into a comfort food such as lasagna, or prepare a thick, creamy gorgonzola sauce for homemade angel hair. It can be light and refreshing—a simple drizzle of olive oil, fresh slices of local heritage tomatoes, mozzarella, and spinach with tagliatelle. The ideas are endless, and that is what I love about cooking at home. It is such an outlet for creativity, and not only do I love eating things I make from scratch, but I love the joy it brings others, too.

I feel so blessed to have this cooking experience in Italy. In my time there, my beliefs and values regarding food, food production, and its relationship with culture and the environment were cemented. I have realized that when deciding what one eats, consumers have to consider more than the nutritional content,. Eating ethically requires one to take into consideration where their food came from, the cultural context surrounding it, and who made or grew the product. Making fresh homemade pasta culminates these ideas perfectly, and it is exceptionally tastier than dried boxed pasta. It is unprocessed and healthier; it does not have any additives, it was made in an environmentally and ethically sound way, and as Mirella told us, it is made with love.

– Marina Brassfield, Food and Culture in Macerata