Buon Appetito!Siena, Spring 2013

A shot of strong espresso in a mug smaller than your fist. A spoonful of cioccolata gelato that is so creamy and rich that three bites could satisfy a craving. A fresh, flaky cornetto (croissant) washed down with a frothy cappuccino. A perfectly aged cheese paired with a swallow of perfectly aged Chianti wine. A huge bowl of unpronounceable pasta passed around the table. The first bite of a molto juicy blood orange. Italy is like taking your mouth to a different amusement park every single day–built off of variations of the same staple items, full of surprises, and a guaranteed fabulous experience.

Italians know how to eat. They don’t eat just to nourish themselves, they eat to enjoy the many flavors of food. The kitchen is the center of Italian homes, and dinners are an important part of family life. And simply put, everything tastes better in Italy. I don’t just mean cheese and olive oil, I mean everything. Most of my experience with Italian food so far as been from my host Nonna, who is an amazing cook. Living here is pretty much like eating out at a delicious restaurant every night…where the menu is so large that you don’t have the same main course twice in a month.

Prima Calazione: There is nothing like a sugar overload to start your day. Breakfasts in Italy have two main components: coffee and dolci (sweets). These pastries range from chocolate-filled croissants to bread with nutella. Morning coffee is usually a  latte.

Pranzo: Italy shuts down for lunch. Most stores and businesses are closed from 1 to 3 in the afternoon so that the employees can relax and enjoy a big meal. We are on our own for lunch, so I usually make myself a ham and cheese sandwich or get a gigantic 1.50 euro slice of margherita (cheese only) pizza from my favorite pizzeria.

Cena: I think my favorite part of the day is when my host brother sticks his head into my room, around 8:30 pm, and says, “Pasta pronto!” to let me know that dinner is ready. After a round of “Ciao”s and asking everyone how they are doing, Kristen and I sit with our family to enjoy a huge meal, which usually takes about an hour. First is my favorite, the pasta dish. I don’t know if I will ever get sick of having pasta every single day. We have pasta in all shapes and sizes, from tortellini with pesto, to the best lasagne I have ever had, to linguini with tuna, and everything in between. Occasionally it is rice dish or my personal favorite, homemade minestrone. After everyone has finished their first course and is sipping on wine or aranciata, we get the main meat dish. Seafood is a staple in my host family, particulary because my host Nonna is from Sicily. We have had all kinds of fish, shrimp, baby shrimp, clams, and even octopus!  Bakery bread is usually sliced at every meal. After dinner comes the fruit, all of which is the best fruit you will ever taste.

Gelato, wine, espresso, pasta. These are the staples that I adore.

One quote that resonates with me now: “The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.” -George Miller

What I will be quoting when I come back in a few months: “Everything you see I owe to pasta.” -Sophia Loren

Ciao ciao e buon appetito!

Mary

cornetto cioccolata e caffe…Italian staples!

Pastries teasing me through a cafe window in Venice.

A hearty meat selection at the food market in Florence.

Kristen and I enjoyed the best gelato yet in San Gimignano’s piazza.

Our host Nonna taught us how to make a Sicilian specialty…arancini! They are balls of meat, sauce, and cheese rolled in cheesy rice and coated with breadcrumbs…delicious!

A few weeks ago il campo with busy with Siena’s chocolate festival! In addition to tasting many treats we watched this man make incredible chocolate creations.

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