Local Life in Italy & the Magic of the Adriatic
Written by Katie March 26, 2015
Another weekend, another country. I feel as though I have lived more out of a suitcase this month than out of my closet, and I’m perfectly okay with that! Traveling has transformed the way I look at the world, but some of my most memorable experiences abroad have come from the local living environment in Italy.
This past Tuesday, I took part in a CIMBA event called Evening with a Professor. A group of students and I learned how to make Italian pizza at Ristorante Pizzeria Cornaro in Asolo with Professor Kline and Bowler. The experience was very authentic as the pizzaiolo spoke solely in Italian. Fortunately, one of the MBA students translated to help us fully understand what was going on.
For over an hour, the owner walked us through the process of pizza making—from the precise temperature of the oven, to the distinct ratio of yeast to water depending on the temperature outdoors. It became clear this is more than merely cooking a pizza; in a sense, it’s an art form. One of the most inspiring qualities of Italians is their expertise at whatever it is they do and the passion they exude. The work they do is not just an income; it is a lifestyle. I’m not one to show off in the kitchen, but I have to admit that the fresh ingredients and the help of the owner made for one delicious pizza!
A few days later I had the opportunity to join a local Italian family for dinner through the Add a Seat event. Another CIMBA student and I were paired up with a 14-year-old named Marta who attends the Istituti Filippin, the private school with which we share our campus. After arriving at her home in a neighboring town, we were greeted by two of Marta’s friends, her dad, her initially bashful younger brother, and their three dogs.
Within a matter of minutes, they began serving the first course of spinach gnocchi, a dish that is particularly prominent in the Dolomites. The pasta was followed by spiedini misti di carne (mixed meat skewers) with the choice of Italian sausage, ribs, and bacon-wrapped chicken. Even more, the meal was accompanied with roasted potatoes, bread, and grilled polenta.
Just when I thought I was stuffed, our host insisted we try a bite of burrata cheese. The outer shell was solid mozzarella, while the interior had a soft texture and contained cream and mozzarella. He went on to describe the delicacy of this Italian cheese and its short shelf life, which requires it to be eaten within 48 hours. Talk about fresh!
From television shows and types of music, to favorite foods and travel destinations, I was amazed by how much we shared in common despite our cultural differences. Her 10-year-old brother, Ricardo, quickly broke out of his shell and began busting his moves while dancing around to popular American songs. Needless to say, he put on quite the show that made for some enjoyable entertainment following dinner. It was reassuring to know that they felt comfortable being themselves around us. I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming experience. Without a doubt, my evening with the Campagnolo family is a memory that I will never forget.
As the week progressed, I was fortunate enough to spend one of my mornings with an attentive class of Italian 3rd graders. The inquisitive nature of the elementary students and their eagerness to learn about the traditions and customs of the United States was incredible. “You’ve shown us paradise!” exclaimed a student as I finished describing the typical food of Thanksgiving. Sure, going abroad is about doing the fun things you can’t do back home, but it’s also about expanding your knowledge of other cultures. It was rewarding to volunteer my time to share pieces of my culture with a place that isn’t as familiar with it.
Before I knew it, Friday had arrived and it was time to visit the charming Croatian town of Rovinj (pronounced Roh-VEEN). Situated on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula, Rovinj is an ancient fishing port in the Mediterranean and is best described as postcard-esque. Its Venetian pastel-colored houses are topped with terracotta roofs and are built on the edge of the sea, surrounded by boats bobbing in the harbor.
On Saturday morning, we set out on a kayaking adventure to experience the verdant islands of the Rovinj archipelago. Our tour began from Punta Corrente. Hands down, my favorite part of the excursion was gliding along the coast and gazing at the crystal clear water. I have never visited a place that even comes close to the bright blue hue of the Adriatic. While paddling, I took my time to savor the dazzling views of Rovinj from the sea.
As we paddled through the old town, I was faced with the challenge of dodging the miniature boats being steered by young boys learning how to sail. After a few hours, we stopped on an island for a picnic lunch. We were shocked when our guide informed us that we were the first group to brave the ‘cold’ and get out on the water this year. He gave us a great recommendation of a local dinner venue, which we visited later that evening.
With our energy restored, we returned to the sea. The strength of the wind and size of the waves had begun to rise rapidly. Sadly, our trip was cut short after my friend hit a high wave that caused his kayak to flip. We headed for shore so he could dry off and return to the apartment for a warm shower. While we didn’t have the chance to paddle back to our starting point, we relaxed on the beach and enjoyed a few patches of sunshine in the afternoon.
Rovinj had a sleepy seaside vibe to it, which can likely be attributed to visiting during the off-season. Over half of the attractions and restaurants were closed since the tourist season doesn’t pick up until mid-April.
Narrow medieval streets, small alleys, and vaulted passageways populate the old town. Towering above its tight quarters is St. Euphemia, a hilltop Baroque church that dominates the town and its landscape. The steep pedestrian streets are filled with art galleries and inviting cafes that all lead up to the church. The laid-back and effortlessly charming setting make it easy to spend hours strolling the cobbled streets and discovering hidden corners of the old town. The Rovinj harbor always seemed to be busy with fishing boats moving in and out of the port.
The coastal town of Rovinj not only offers amazing views of the Adriatic coastline, but is surrounded by a forest landscape. To the south of the harbor lies a national park with exceptional scenery. We devoted our Sunday afternoon to exploring the woodlands of Punta Corrente Forest Park. The park extends along the coast with a string of rocky beaches sandwiched between the forest and the sea. We leisurely walked through the interior of the park and stopped at a beach to skip rocks along the shore. Later on, we came upon the cape’s rocks, which are popular among climbers.
After a hectic school week, a relaxing weekend was exactly what I needed. I was enchanted by the creaky charm of this beach town and plan to one day return during the summer months to swim in the clear blue water. Check back for next week’s post as a group of students and I are traveling to Cinque Terre this weekend. Arrivederci!