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

An Excursion to Rome

Anderw Burgess - Santi Luca i MartinaAs a student of architecture, the opportunity to study in Rome was invaluable. To be able to see firsthand the art and architecture created long before our country even existed was an incredible experience. Though it is difficult to narrow down what the most compelling thing I experienced was, the Pantheon is one building I will not forget.

On my first full day in Rome, a small contingent of our larger group decided to do some independent sightseeing. The five of us, mostly acquaintances at the time, walked from our apartment north to the heart of the city. After a brief visit to our program center, we headed in search of the Pantheon.

I still remember turning my head to look down an alley and seeing it. We were to the west, so we decided to circle around to meet it from the front. When we got to the piazza, it was crawling with people, but the Pantheon was foremost in my mind. We walked up the steps and were all overwhelmed by the monumentality of the structure.

I still remember the noise at the threshold and the change once we entered. There was a sudden hush—the act of crossing into the space seemed to demand silence. It was afternoon; the sun coming through the oculus was on the floor to our left. I went and stood right in the midst of the light.

The people around me faded. I stood in awe of the hemisphere above me and the floor below. I tried to absorb everything and failed. There were too many details; too much to see.Anderw Burgess - Villa D'este

I remember standing by a column and simply staring at it, trying to understand everything I could. How it was constructed. How it was implemented. What it looked like almost 2,000 years ago. The possibilities that were left to my imagination were overwhelming. And for seven weeks, I felt this exact same way each time I would stand and gaze at yet another of mankind’s great masterpieces.

– Andrew Burgess, Lecce, Italy

My Most Memorable Class

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.42.11 PM  My study abroad experience in Siena was, for lack of a less cliché description, life-changing. The Tuscan landscape was indescribably beautiful. The friends, both American and Italian, were some of the most genuine people I’ve ever encountered. The food was exquisite, and the cultural experiences were eye-opening. My academic experiences collided seamlessly with my cultural experiences abroad. My favorite class, Food and Culture of Italy taught by Suzanne W, is the perfect example of this collision.

First, Suzanne was the ideal teacher for this course because she too had been an American abroad years earlier. Suzanne has lived in Tuscany with her Italian husband for years. Though she has become fully integrated into Italian culture, she had originally studied abroad in Milan as an undergrad and was able to provide us with a unique perspective on learning about Italian culture.Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.43.16 PM

Food and Culture was my favorite class because the planned excursions for the class provided some of the most unique opportunities to learn about Italian culinary traditions. Some of these excursions included a trip to Brolio Castle where Chianti wine is produced, a trip to Spannocchia where the Cinta Senese pigs are raised to produce salumi, and a trip to a local olive grove to see olive oil being produced. Visiting Brolio Castle was fascinating because we were able to learn about both the history of the castle itself and the wine-production process. When we visited Spannocchia, we watched a video about industrial farming in the United States before we learned about the sustainable production processes Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.41.27 PMat the farm. (…) At the olive grove, we participated in an olive harvest before going to the olive press to see new olive oil being made. We were able to taste the final products at all of these locations, and after seeing how they were produced, we were able to better appreciate the gastronomic experiences.

The immersion opportunities in my Food and Culture class were essential to my academic experience in this course. Had I taken this class at the University of Oregon, I would have missed out on all of these excursions and would be lacking the cultural context necessary to truly understand the material presented in class. The hands on experiences and visual stimuli offered in this course made all of the knowledge that I acquired stay fresh much longer. I think back on these experiences and remember what I learned from each them with a fondness that cannot be replicated with the use of a textbook.

– Madison Shepard, Food and Culture in Siena

Learning and Living in Lecce

Nearly every day presented something new for me to do and I loved the sense of adventure and opportunity to learn about a completely different Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 2.05.46 PMculture. There is no one memory that sticks out further than all of the others; my entire experience in Lecce, Italy was amazing. I could narrow it down to a top three experiences which would be: the week off of class when my mother (who has never been out of the US) came to travel Italy with me, the weekend when 2 of my newest and closest friends and I traveled to northern Italy to stay with a friend we met in the first month of school, and the last days I spent in Italy with another of my friend’s authentic Italian family (that was a real test of our language lessons, let me tell you!) being fully and completely immersed in the Italian lifestyle. But, because I could write about all of those experiences for days, I’ll just stick with telling about the most treasured thing I came back to the States with: newfound friendships.

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 2.05.34 PMWhen you are thrown into a strange apartment in a foreign country that speaks a different language, I’ll be completely honest, it is quite terrifying. However, then you start meeting people and you realize that this is the best thing you have ever done. Sharing an experience like this is indescribable. It creates a bond between people that words cannot explain and pretty soon you have your own little community and get to know everyone in your study abroad group like you’ve been friends for years. I met some amazing people from our own U of O as well as from other countries and other places in the US.

I share memories with these people that I met over the summer that I will never forget and no one other than those who were there will ever be able to fully understand. Even when I explained stories upon my return to friends and family members, I felt they could not fully grasp my experience. Studying abroad and being submerged in a new culture can only be truly appreciated if you yourself go and do it. You cannot rely on stories from other people about their experience, you have to see for yourself and make your own memories. This sounds extremely cliché, but studying abroad truly was the best experience of my life so far.

– Sydne Sloy, Lecce Italy