Sunday, October 4, 2009

vinegar, vinyards, and 499 steps

Ciao tutti!

I apologize that it's been a whole week since my past update. The "study" part of study abroad has picked up quite a bit and I've been swamped in work (this is probably going to continue for the next two weeks until midterms). But here we are, full swing in October, and despite my alarming workload I'm obviously still having some great adventures.

Yesterday, Saturday, we spent the day with API in Bologna. We left in the morning on the bus and first took a tour of the city. We saw churches and old buildings, as well as the 2 leaning towers Bologna has. Our tour guide bragged a few times about how Bologna has 2 leaning towers and Pisa only has one, even though Pisa's is more well know. I, however, didn't really think it was good advertisement to brag about twice the amount of architectural failure, but who am I to judge. Regardless, after the tour we stopped for lunch, obviously a traditional pasta with bolognese sauce. It was delicious AND inexpensive, so that was a win-win.

After eating (and in hindsight maybe this wasn't great planning) we headed back to the two towers and climbed to the VERY TOP of the higher one. We climbed and climbed and thought we'd never make it up, but we did and the view from the top was breathtaking. On the way down we decided to count the steps (Liz fell at step 26) and we counted 499 all the way to the bottom. Our first thoughts? Why not 500, honestly? Our second thoughts: that's fewer steps than the Duomo, AWESOME!

After exploring a little more, stopping in at a children's bookstore and buying The Little Prince in Italian, il Piccolo Principe (literally the best day of my life) we returned to the group and headed off to our next adventure: A Balsamic Vinegar tour and tasting. What we learned was that most of the cheaper Balsamic Vinegars that we buy in the store, here and in the US, are produced in large scale factories where the process involves fermentation and results in vinegar being able to eat after just one day. However, the family owned places, like where we went, involves at least 7 to 12 years of prep before the vinegar can be consumed. It's done the real, old fashioned way that it's been done for centuries before. We got the process explained to us and a tour of the house where they make it, as well as to look at all the barrels of vinegar. Then, of course, we got to taste. We tasted 7, 17, 25, 30, and 50 year old balsamic! And let me say, each one was more delicious than the one before. We even saw barrels full of 100 year old balsamic. It was crazy. Aftef tasting just the vinegar we were given a full spread of foods to taste with it, as well as desserts made with the homemade jam the family had. It was a delicious day and I made it out with some balsamic for myself too.

Saturday was a long day but we didn't let that keep us down today. We woke up early and set off on our horseback riding adventure in the Chianti Countryside. I know, no big deal. First we met our horses and got comfortable riding them, then we took them out for a 2 hour ride through vineyards and olive groves. Everything was so beautiful, especially since the leaves are finally starting to turn here. After riding, we got to feed the horses and play with them (it was so nice to play with animals, I miss my dog). We then headed off to a restaurant on a lake where we ate at least 3 courses of food and of course some delicious wine (in fact, everything I've described so far was accompanied by's great to get to try so many kinds!) And if that wine wasn't enough, we got to go to a nearby vineyard for a huge wine tasting! We tried 5 whites, 3 dessert wines, and at least 10 reds before I left with 3 different delicious types to bring home and share with my family.

Upon getting dropped off back in Florence, our guide (the nicest and most helpful guy on earth) apologized for having such a large group today and us having to wait around a while between activities (we hadn't minded at all). He offered to take us back to the farm tomorrow so we can run with the horses and stuff (no fancy lunches this time, of course) for free! So we're going back tomorrow. My life is crazy amazing.

Anyway I'm still pretty swamped with work and should really get back to it before bed. Hope you enjoyed this week's account of my life here in Firenze. Check back soon for pictures and video!

Buona Notte,

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