The Perfect Pick-Me-Up

When I was in Italy I ate my fair share of tiramisu. During lunchtime at the Villa, the students eagerly waited to see if tiramisu would be served for dessert. The moments when the “pick-me-up” made its way to the buffet table, everyone would rush into line and proceed to take large spoonfuls. Sprinkled with coffee powder on top, the caffeine is not hidden. Yet despite the espresso laden ladyfingers and coffee dusting, the rich custard and overwhelming portions meant for very sleepy afternoons.  Continue reading


A Villa Favorite: Chocolate Salami

The first time all of us at the Villa heard about chocolate salami, none of us knew what to expect. It was the second week in Florence and already we had grown accustomed to overeating at lunchtime because of the incredible three course spread. To this day, it is still a great wonder to me how any of us managed to finish off multiple bowls of pasta, followed by plates of meats and cheese, while drinking glasses of wine and then still have room for dessert; but if you could have seen the desserts at the Villa, you would have found the room, too.

During this infamous dessert introduction, our Resident Advisor announced that the day’s dessert was a popular Italy treat often enjoyed alongside a cup of hot espresso. When pressed whether or not it would be something with Nutella, a torte, or perhaps even cannoli, she said we would just have to wait and see. So when the time came to line up at the buffet and pick up our plates for dessert, all of us were confused by the site of a treat that resembled processed meat. Fittingly enough, our RA said that was precisely why the dessert was called chocolate salami.  Continue reading

The Piano, Piano Lifestyle

My Italian professor in Florence had a favorite saying: any time I or another student rushed through reading Italian sentences or sprinted out of the classroom at the conclusion of the day’s lesson, she would always say, “piano, piano.” Translated to mean “slowly, slowly,” the words served to remind us to slow down our pace to take the time to relax and appreciate the simple moments.

Of course, being all American students at a villa in Fiesole, the philosophy of piano piano was not easily adaptable. Used to running around with a caffeinated fix in one hand and a ringing cell phone in the other, we Americans are constantly on the move. In the United States, coffee shops and fast food chains can be found on every corner, and many stores proudly light up their 24-hour service displays. Americans live for the green light, the moment when they can step on the gas pedal and speed to the next stop and cross off another item on the to-do list. Continue reading

Charlie and His Diet

My host dog is, or is supposed to be, on a diet. In light of the fact that all he seems to do all day is lie around, it doesn’t surprise me that he has a weight issue. But, as always, there is more attributed to his poor numbers on the scale than just his lack of exercise. The other culprit: Flavia’s delicious dinners.

Perhaps if Flavia was not such a good cook Charlie would be in better shape. But alas, Charlie is only two years old and already he has been advised by his veterinarian to start eating healthier. The problem for Charlie is that he really has no control over what he eats. Though I am sure he has no qualms about enjoying whatever it is in put in his bowl, he has no way of recognizing that the food he is consuming is contributing to his poor health state. How is a dog expected to lose weight when he is constantly being fed food too good for him to refuse? Continue reading

Life is Beautiful

In Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning film La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful), the main protagonist Guido always seems to know how to add excitement and comedy to life. Even when faced with tragedy, specifically in the context of the film’s setting during Holocaust, Guido never fails to put a smile on others’ faces and to remind those of life’s simplest pleasures.

A comedic-tragedy, as many critics like to call it, La Vita è Bella tells the story of a Jewish Italian named Guido Orefice and his hilarious attempts to win the heart of the upper-class Dora. This chase for love dominates the first half of the film before switching to a more serious, somber tone. After marrying Dora and starting a family, Guido is transported to a Nazi concentration camp along with his young, naïve son Giosuè. Amidst the horrors and the harsh realities of the camp, Guido remains as bubbly and optimistic as ever to keep his son’s spirits and hopes alive. Continue reading

Morphing into Spaghetti

I can remember when I was little and my mother warning me that if I ate too much of one thing, then I would turn into that food item. Oftentimes the warning followed when I gobbled down too many chicken nuggets or too many Oreos. Upon hearing this idea, I would imagine myself morphing into a strange mass of breaded chicken or stumbling up the stairs as a giant chocolate cookie.

If this really were the case, it is likely that after more than three months living abroad  today I would resemble either spaghetti, penne, farfalle, or maybe even orecchiette. In light of my newfound beverage of choice, I might imagine that instead of blood, my veins would also be readily pumping wine.  Continue reading

A Morning as Alice

It was as if I never should have gotten out of bed this morning. No, it was not the case of the typical Monday blues; nope, today was more like a page out of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

It was 9:40 a.m. The number 7 bus to Fiesole was scheduled to stop outside of my homestay at 9:44. Looking at my watch, I felt like the frantic rabbit in Carroll’s piece: “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!” Worried that the one day I was running behind the bus would decide to come early, I rushed out of my room, turned to see my housemate Emily near the door, and together the two of us scurried off quickly to the bus stop.  Continue reading