Friday, December 10, 2010

The past two months: Sweden, Tuscany, London!

So I have been very negligent with my blog and I only have one week left in Italy, so I have a lot to catch up on. Here goes.......

Sweden (October 22 - 24)
I really wanted to go to Sweden because Daddy's side of the family is from Sweden and I wanted to connect with my Swedish roots. My friend, Maggie, came with me. Instead of the main Malpensa airport in Milan, we decided to go through Bergamo, a smaller airport about 45 minutes away, because there were significantly cheaper tickets. The flight was about two and a half hours, but then we had to take an hour and a half bus to the actual city of Stockholm. And once we got there, we wandered around until we found the metro station. It was really funny because all the signs to the metro were on the ground. Once we found the metro, we took the MOST EXPENSIVE 1 stop metro trip ever (equivalent to about 4 euro!!!). So after that, we decided not to take the metro. Once we found our hostel, we decided to walk around for a little bit. Fortunately, out hostel was in an excellent location because we were within spitting distance of one of the major shopping areas in Stockholm. So we walked around a little bit. For dinner we found some excellent Indian food and then decided to go see a movie. We saw "The American" with George Clooney. It was a very strange, but mostly entertaining movie. After the movie we met one of our roommates in the hostel, who was from Finland, I believe. He suggested that we visit Old Town the next day. So we did just that. All Saturday, we walked around this really adorable part of Stockholm with a lot of touristy shopping. For us, it ended up being a lot of cafe hopping because it was SO cold that we couldn't be outside for too long without freezing. Unfortunately, it got dark really early and we didn't really feel like going to any clubs or anything (not that we knew where any were) so we decided to go to another movie. Unfortunately. I say this because this was probably the WORST movie I have ever seen. We saw "Buried" with Ryan Reynolds. He was pretty good, but the movie was so depressing that Maggie and I both left the theatre miserable. Fail. On Sunday, we walked around a little more and returned to our favorite coffee shop that we had found on Friday, which we discovered was basically the equivalent to Starbucks because we quite literally found it on every corner. Then we caught the bus back the the airport and attempted to spend the rest of our Swedish currency on airport food and souvenirs. Overall, a successful trip!

The kitchen, before we dirtied it up!
Cooking Lesson #2 (October 28)
On Thursday, as part of my Italian Culture and Cuisine class, we had our second cooking class. The recipe this time was to make gnocchi alla Romana and stuffed artichokes. I learned how to cut artichokes and grate a lot of cheese so that was exciting! If you have ever eaten regular gnocchi before (which happens to be one of my favorite foods), gnocchi alla Romana is MUCH more heavy and rich. It is made with milk, butter, flour, and a whole bunch of fun things like that.  Everything came out very well, and I got a lot of great action shots! Haha. The chef also made us lasagna with artichokes in it, so it was a very rich meal all together. Lots of fun! I really enjoy the cooking classes because it helps us to solidify the stuff that we learn in class. And its a lot of fun too, of course! At home, I usually do a lot of baking and not a lot of this kind of cooking, so it is fun doing something different that hopefully I can bring home and share with my family!

Italian celebrate Halloween a little differently than Americans. First of all, there is this big debate about if Halloween should even be celebrated or not. And then those who do celebrate all dress in very morbid costumes. I am pretty sure at least half of the people I saw had blood dripping from some part of their body. Collegio hosted a party that was pretty fun. A lot of visitors from outside of Collegio came as well. After much contemplation, I decided to dress as Audrey Hepburn. I watched an instructional video online about the hair, which I thought turned out pretty well. It was a fun night! And it was great because we also had Monday off for All Saints Day!

Tuscany (November 4 - 6)
View from Montalcino Castle
As one of the trips with my program, they took us to some places in Tuscany, which I have decided is probably the most beautiful place in the world. Unfortunately we did not get to go to Florence, but we did get to go to a lot of other amazing places in the region. On Thursday, we had a great tour of Siena and we checked into our hotel. Siena is on the smaller side, but it has a lot of great history attached to it. One of the great traditions, is that they have a horse race each year, or maybe twice a year, to decide which part of Siena is most favored by the Madonna. On Friday we visited Montalcino, which is famous for its wine. We got to explore Montalcino castle, which had some great panoramic views of farms full of grapes. For lunch, I tried this really delicious soup that was like tomato soup, but it had basil and bread in of the most delicious meals from a restaurant I have eaten here. That afternoon, we visited Sant'Antimo Monastery, where we were able to hear them do Gregorian chant as part of their daily prayers. It was a really amazing experience and a beautiful place to visit. On Saturday, we visited Arezzo where there was a really adorable vintage market that we were able to explore. We also visited Sant Francesco Church where we saw some amazing frescos done by Piero della Francesca. That evening we came back to Milan. The trip was a really wonderful experience and I hope someday I will be able to come back to see more of Tuscany.

Teatro 7 Cooking Lesson #3 (November 11)
Peeling potatoes for the ravioli
For this cooking lesson, we made ravioli and panna cotta. Traditionally, Ravioli is made with meat, but I am a vegetarian so I made a vegetarian alternative. Instead of a meat filling, mine were filled with cabbage, potato, onion, and cheese. They turned out really delicious, and now I know how to cut ravioli! I kind of like when I have to make a separate dish for myself, because I get a lot more experience. Everyone else is working on the other dish so I get to make the entire dish myself. I didn't eat the panna cotta, because it has gelatin in it, but I did try the fruit sauce put on top and it was very delicious, and everyone else was raving about the panna cotta so I am sure it was very good!

Piacenza (November 12 - 14)
My friend from Collegio, Alessandro, lives in a small town near Milan called Piacenza. So I went home with him this weekend, to explore his town. He took me around to a lot of amazing castles. At one of the places we went to, we randomly found this little museum. So apparently this really famous librettest for some famous operas like Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot lived in this little town. So right next to his house where he grew up, there was a tiny little museum that had some of the original costumes and opera scores. It was quite a find in this little town. And I am pretty sure I may have been the museum visitor from the farthest away place because when I signed the guest book, I think I was the only person from outside of Italy. Even though the weather in Piacenza wasn't very nice that weekend, I enjoyed seeing the castles and visiting his family. On Saturday, while Alessandro was teaching, his mother took me out shopping and showed me around the main part of Piacenza. That night, Alessandro took me for Mexican food, which I had been craving for months! It was a little strange ordering Mexican food in Italian though...

London (November 18 - 21)
So some of my friends studying and Vienna and Avignon decided to meet up in London to see Harry Potter 7 because we all wanted to see each other and see the movie in English. On Friday, we explored around London a little bit and I got some nice "American" food at a restaurant. It was really unfortunate because everything was so expensive because the pound is doing really well. It was alright though because we did get a free tour of London and I was very happy to see some of my friends. And Harry Potter  was amazing...just in case you were wondering.

Corriere della Sera and Die Walküre Interview (November 22)
On Monday, our Italian class went on a field study to the famous newspaper in Milan, Corriere della Sera. This was a nice experience because we got to see how a newspaper is published and distributed and how this specific newspaper was different than the others. Also, the presentation was given in Italian and I understood most everything! So that was exciting too!

That evening, our opera history teacher conducted a well attended interview with the conductor and director of Die Walküre that would be opening at La Scala. This interview was done in Italian, and unfortunately it was very difficult for me to understand so I did not enjoy it as much as I would have hoped.

Die Walküre (November 28)
Our opera history teacher was able to acquire tickets for our class to see the dress rehearsal of Die Walküre  for free! For the first act, I could only see half the stage and there were no subtitles (the opera is in German), so I was very confused as to what was going on. Fortunately, for the second and third acts, I moved my chair closer and the subtitles started working, so I understood and enjoyed the opera much more. It was really a fantastic opera and I had never seen a Wagner opera before so it was a good experience. The set was minimalistic, but I thought it worked well with the concept. The opera was 5 hours long and there were two 25 minute intermissions so I was able to get dinner at least. All together, a very interesting experience and I wouldn't mind seeing a Wagner opera again!

Teatro 7 Cooking Lesson #4 (December 2)
For this cooking lesson, we made risotto alla Milanese and tiramisù (literally translated: lift me up). This may have been my favorite dish so far because the risotto and the tiramisù were both ridiculously delicious. Rissotto alla Milanese is characteristic for its golden yellow color coming from saffron. I will definitely make this when I get home. Again, I made a vegetarian alternative for the risotto with a vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.  Delicious!

Holiday! (December 3 - 8)
We had an extra long weekend because our study abroad program gave us Friday off, Tuesday and Wednesday were religious holidays, and all of the teachers canceled class on Monday. Most people traveled, but I decided to stay in Milan because I am just so sick of traveling! It is so stressful sometimes. So on Tuesday, I went to this HUGE artisan festival in Milan that had people selling things, not only from every region in Italy, but from all over the world! I enjoyed the USA booths the most because they were all "cowboys and Indians." Apparently, that's what Italians think we all are. Haha. I was able to buy a lot of nice gifts. I also bought this adorable espresso maker for myself! There were also a lot of free samples of everything...we were hardly hungry for lunch (Mexican food again! Woooo!). To see the entire fair took the entire day and I was exhausted by the time we got back to Collegio.

Teatro 7 Cooking Lesson #5 (December 9)
Me with Chef Marco!
Yesterday was our final lesson at Teatro 7. How sad! Chef Marco fulfilled my request and we made gnocchi alla sorrentina and these delicious cookies with cream. Gnocchi is my favorite Italian dish and was really what I wanted to make the entire time. So I was happy that we got to do this! It was a good end to a wonderful series of cooking classes. These lessons were some of my favorite memories from my entire time here! I will miss it. And of course the gnocchi were probably the most delicious I have ever tasted. And I am sure I will be cooking a lot for my family and friends back home!

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