A Weekend in Florence

food writing, moves, travels

Five years ago…

I raised my hand to block the May sun’s glaring rays. Across the street from the train station, I saw a church, decorated in contrasting black stripes and rectangles, a remnant of the past that survived the Italian Renaissance.

Was I dreaming? Did I really make it?

There was a million mistakes I made on that trip that I swore not to repeat. This time, I would have lighter luggage. Working Internet. Close-toed shoes. Enough Italian words to get me by. Enough euros to get me by.

After I left Italy, despite how frustrating it had been at some times (or like, the entire time), I began to think about it daily. I was obsessed with the old country. I daydreamed about strolling down cobblestones through narrow alleyways. The church bell ringing at the strike of noon. The chocolate, metallic aroma of espresso, and the clink of a spoon as I stirred in my sugar. I missed it. I wanted it. And I promised myself I’d be back again.

Coming out of Switzerland, the snow began to dissipate as we entered northern Italy. Wintery Swiss wonderland transitioned into a fairytale mountain paradise. There were waterfalls, there were palm trees, there were mountains that reached high above the clouds. We switched trains in Milan, and then to Florence, my home away from home, we went.

Italy is a country that’s stuck in time.

The Roman Empire and its gods forever captured in stone.

Roman Catholic power still towering over everything and everyone.

Hundreds-of-years-old castles and estates in the Tuscan distance.

Farmers making the same movements (but with improvements) that their ancestors did, producing meat and cheese and wine from the land and undergoing whatever means necessary that ensure that it’s perfect every. single. time.

Who needs a time machine when you can have Italy?

There’s a million reasons why this country’s special to me, but I think the two main reasons are it’s 1. where I found my appetite and 2. realized there was power in my words. I used to think I wasn’t a good writer even though I had written stories since I was seven. I remember the first time I read my words out loud to my teacher and my classmates, feeling the weight lift off my shoulders as I spoke my truth. I remember biting into a piece of prosciutto and melon, the sweet and saltiness mingling in my mouth, and thinking, “Damn. This is actually really good” and not feel the self-loathing as I ate another then another. I ate and drank and wrote freely during my time there despite my demons. It was only right to return to the place I found my yellow brick road. Italy was the first place that I was finally in control.

The Boboli Gardens

The Uffizi Gallery

And last, but not least:

Il Cibo

Food remedies soothe aches

Columbia Daily Tribune, food, food writing, news, Will Write for Food

FLORENCE, Italy — The room smelled like spoiled milk. Vats bubbled with liquid whey as cheese curdled. Marco Cavani demonstrated the art of making Parmigiano-Reggiano, casually dipping his fingers in the boiling mixture to make sure everything was perfect.

Source: Food remedies soothe aches

Capri, Italy

travels, where I've been
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After a nauseating ferry ride from Naples to Capri (what a way to learn that you’re prone to sea sickness), we finally arrived at the base of the famed Mediterranean island. We noticed that everyone was jumping into white vans that shuttled them off, but we opted to walk instead.

Four flights of stairs in, the city was still nowhere in sight. We trampled through makeshift rock steps that trailed up Capri, surrounded by white artsy beach houses (owned by the rich and famous, no doubt) with views of baby blue skies and cerulean waters. We emerged from another flight of stairs and came out into a road, where I spotted a local man. Centro? I asked, out of breath. He pointed up.

Hundreds of steps later, hungry and ready to give up, we were almost to the top when we smelled it. Warm sugary scents wafted down the stairs toward us and instantly, we picked up the pace. What was that smell? we wondered. Was it fresh baked chocolate croissants? Was there some new Italian delicacy waiting for us at the top of the stairs? We finally broke out into the centro of Capri and sped walked past the high-end boutique shops and restaurants when we saw it.

The source of those delicious aromas came from piping hot waffle irons, conveniently placed by an open window, churning out just-baked waffle cones for Buonocore Gelateria. In awe, I watched as they took those thin crepe-like waffles and rolled them into a perfect shape of an ice cream cone. It was the most memorable welcome to Capri.

5 tips for taking a train in Italy

MU Journalism Abroad, travels, where I've been, Will Write for Food

Plated

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

food, food writing, MU Journalism Abroad, news, Will Write for Food

Plated

By Claire Lardizabal
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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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