This past weekend a few friends and I took the train down to Firenze for the weekend. The weekend before, we had taken a break from day trips to explore Bologna some more. We climbed Bologna’s tallest standing tower and visited the Bologna archaeology museum. Because we were thrown into our housing search immediately upon arrival, I relished the opportunity to explore Bologna more.
However, because our full course load began this week and we wanted to relish our final days of freedom with four days and three nights in Firenze (Florence).
My two favorite parts of our trip were seeing the David, and going to All’antico Vinaio, a tiny sandwich shop. The David was infinitely more imposing and majestic in person than could ever be portrayed in a photo. Walking into the long hall where he is housed and seeing the sun shine down through a dome onto his marble form actually brought tears to my eyes (embarrassing, I know). All’antico Vinaio is a sandwich shop in Firenze that was so delicious I went twice. I had been told to get what the sandwich guys recommended, so I told them I ate anything and the artists worked their magic. The first time, my sandwich-maker promised a “rich foccacia” which included freshly baked turkey, roasted eggplant and zucchine, four types of sauces (including a mozzarella sauce), fresh greens, and fresh tomatoes, all on foccacia straight out of the oven. It was amazing. I was hesitant to go again—what if it wasn’t as good? What if it ruined the entire experience? Fortunately, my fears were baseless. The second sandwich was another foccacia but this time with greens, two types of sauces, and I watched as the muscl-y sandwich maker sliced a homemade sausage from a rope above his head, peeled it open, and pressed the sausage into the top of the bread. The sandwich did not disappoint.
Food often seems to be the highlight of my day in Italia, and this was no different on our day trip to Siena.
The weather was horrible, alternating between rain and snow. So, as soon as it was an acceptable time for lunch (one o’clock) we followed directions to my friend Sofie’s favorite restaurant in the world: L’Osteria. We spent three hours there, working our way through appetizers, lunch, wine, and espresso. As appetizers we ordered two types of bruschetta, one with pears, honey, and goat milk cheese, and another with truffles and Gorgonzola cheese.
For lunch, I had fresh homemade pasta with a parmiggiano and pepper sauce. It was amazing, although it lacked the meat of my friend’s pasta with wild boar sauce.
During our weekend in Firenze, it was impossible not to compare Bologna and Firenze. Although I chose the Bologna Consortial Studies Program because Bologna is less touristy than Roma or Firenze, I was reminded of how significant the difference is over the weekend. Most people tried to speak to us in English instead of Italian. In fact, we held entire conversations with waiters and vendors where they spoke to us in English and we spoke to them in Italian. I found myself scoffing at Americans who couldn’t speak a word of Italian (Incidentally, “Grazie” is pronounced “Grah-zi-ay” not “Grah-zi”. The first night in my apartment, my roommates spent close to ten minutes making fun of foreigners who make this mistake). Overall, Firenze seemed far less genuine than Bologna. In Bologna, I am an anomaly as an American, but not an immediate target for street vendors or creepy men like I was in Firenze. When I walk into a store here, I am expected to speak enough Italian to convey my purpose, and when I go to the bars, I may go with a group of Americans, but we are the only group of Americans in the bar. Because Bologna revolves around the University, the nightlife here is much better than that in Florence, everything is cheaper, and most people walking the streets are going somewhere—work, home, a caffe’—instead of taking pictures of the old buildings and striking porticos. This all contributes to the feeling that Bologna is a place to live your real life instead of a place to splurge on a “party abroad” experience, which makes me all the more happy I’m here.