5 tips for taking a train in Italy


By Claire Lardizabal

FLORENCE, Italy – Getting to the food stories I would write in Florence meant I had to make it there on the Rome-Firenza train after my international flight. Mostly, the only time trains are used in Missouri are to get to Chicago so venturing from Florence to Rome by train was a new concept for me. Now, equipped with the right information, it seems much easier.

Here are five tips for your first Italian train:

Travel Do’s and Don’ts
TrenItalia is Italy’s train system. The website (www.trenitalia.com) displays in Italian but can be translated to English by clicking on the upper right-hand button that says Italiano, then clicking English. The website offers a plethora of services, such as booking train tickets in advance, how to access the train through the airport, and customer assistance for more information.

Tip 1. Follow signs. When arriving at Rome Fiucimino airport…

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For the love of cheese


By Claire Lardizabal

FLORENCE, Italy – Marco Cavani began the San Michele Parmigiano Reggiano factory eight years ago with his wife, Samuela. Samuela grew up making cheese and brought her knowledge to the table when they began their business.

The Cavani’s Parmigiano Reggiano products are labeled DOP (protected designation of origin). The label represents authenticity and distinguishes it from imitators. In Parma, an inspector comes to businesses like the Cavani’s, and inspects every wheel to ensure quality product true to the region.

When we entered the facility, we were asked to cover our feet with electric blue shower caps to prevent dragging in contaminants. Steam was already rising from 1,000 liters of milk in each of three deep, copper vats. After reaching 17°C, rennet, an enzyme that causes milk to become cheese, was added and contined to heat the milk until it reached 27°C. Even though the Cavani’s used modern…

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All Aboard to Florence, Italy

I boarded my plane on the way to my “Will Write for Food” study abroad program in Florence, Italy, equally nervous yet excited for the next five weeks to come. My plane ticket — my first huge purchase as a 22-year-old — took me from St. Louis to a brief stop in Montreal, then onward to Rome.

When I arrived in Rome, the plan was to take the train to Florence. However, almost every piece of advice that I religiously followed from Google was wrong. Not every Italian spoke English. You didn’t get your train ticket to Florence from where it said I should. Jet lagged in a foreign country, I did the only thing I could: I followed the signs.

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Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Spring break. The midway point between spring semester. The timeout before the last quarter of the school year. For the past three years, it has been my saving grace from stress. I’ve gone everywhere with my longtime travel buddy/boyfriend, learning how to travel on a college (read: low) budget.

I chose Cancun because I have always wanted to come to Mexico. I’ve had some non-traditional spring breaks in the past – Vegas, Estes Park, New Orleans. I really wanted to go to the beach this time. Plus, there’s a lot of ruins and caves down here, too. If you don’t know me, I am kind of obsessed with the Mayan/alien conspiracy theory (or any alien conspiracies in general). Also, being semi-fluent in Spanish, I wanted to go to a place to test my skills out. Spanish countries are at the top of my bucket list (Spain and Peru, in particular) because I eventually want to be fluent. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “You speak Spanish?” and I always respond, “Si, yo puedo.”

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