Happy Heart and Happy Stomach

Written by carolinemeyer May 29, 2024

“If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” This is one of my favorite ice-breaker questions because it not only opens the door for endless conversations, as it did a few nights ago around the dinner table in Florence, but also gives me an excuse to talk about three of my passions in life: food, travel, and writing. If I could have any job in the world, I would want to be a food and travel blogger, so it’s exciting that I’m living out that dream during my time at CIMBA.
I’ve been in Italy for a little over a week, and while the views are breathtaking, the shopping is endless, and the learning is extensive, nothing compares to the unforgettable food. I love that Italian meals are more than just about quickly fueling your body out of necessity; rather, they are meant to be enjoyed as an experience. In the United States, going out to eat on a daily basis might take around an hour; however, here, dinner at even a casual pizza place might last 2 to 3 hours. Meals are drawn out with various courses, drinks, long conversations, and lots and lots of laughter. It’s more than just the enjoyment aspect of Italian food culture that interests me, so I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve learned about Italian food and meals, some of the things I’ve eaten, and some of the things I am looking forward to trying during my remaining weeks!
1. Food in Italy is seasonal and fresh.
Before arriving on campus in Paderno, I spent a weekend in Venice with friends. While there, we booked a relaxed private walking tour around the city, stopping at shops and churches and learning about Venetian history. In one of the piazzas (squares) that we wandered into, there was a big stand of fresh fruits and vegetables galore. Our tour guide shared with us that grocery shopping in Italy is a multiple-times-a-week lifestyle. This is due to a few reasons: refrigerators are generally smaller in Europe and hold less, and food is extremely fresh and only lasts a few days. She also shared with us that meals are based on what food is in season. So, if you’re looking for figs in January, you have a very rare shot at finding them.
2. Food is also very regional.
Italy is made up of 20 regions, each known for specific dishes or foods in Italian cuisine. For instance, Liguria is known for pesto, Sicily for cannolis, and Tuscany for wine and olive oil. The list could go on. Similarly, there are specific things that you should try in each Italian city that you visit. I’m looking forward to trying Florentine steak when I return to the city with my mom at the end of CIMBA. So, next time you’re planning a trip to Italy, make sure to try the foods that each region and city is known for to experience the best of the best.
3. Always go for gelato.
I have had more gelato in the past week than ice cream in the past twenty years of my life, and I don’t regret a single cone. After dinner on campus, it has been fun to go on walks to a nearby gelato shop and try their different flavors. My personal favorite is amarena, a type of cherry grown outside of Venice. I’m also looking forward to trying affogato, a big scoop of gelato with espresso poured over it.
4. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new things, even if you don’t know exactly what you’re ordering.
Who knows, sardines on pizza might actually taste good. A few nights ago, we walked to a local pizzeria in Paderno and ordered lots of pizzas to share. When reading the menu in Italian, we thought that we had chosen a sausage pizza, but when it came out, something was fishy. We quickly laughed, realizing that we had ordered sardine pizza instead, and were delightfully surprised when it wasn’t half bad.
5. Let’s talk about some of my favorite foods so far.
My favorite meal so far was surprisingly during my first night in Venice. We went to a homemade pasta place, and I ordered a tortellini dish with zucchini and a magical sauce. In Florence, we popped into a hole-in-the-wall trattoria, or small family-owned restaurant, and had some of the best gnocchi and ravioli of my life. Another food highlight has been burrata being listed on every menu! I’ve always loved burrata, and it’s such a treat getting to eat so much. Pink coffee, lots of pizza, cannolis, Aperol, and pear pasta are just a few of my other memorable eats so far.
6. Over the next few weeks, I’m headed to Vienna, Austria, Cinque Terre, Rome, and Tuscany, and I cannot wait for what foodie adventures await me there.
For now, I’ll be dreaming of schnitzel, fresh lemons, wine, and pasta carbonara.
Arrivederci! (Goodbye for now, I hope to see you again!)