Carnival = Carnevale (farewell to meat, the beginning of Lent)
Today we took a day-trip to Venice. My initial impression when I stepped off the train in the middle of downtown was: Disneyland. Music was playing, aqua blue water was floating through the canal, gondolas afloat, and people were everywhere. After walking a few blocks and turning through a few very narrow allies (as are typical in Venice), you'd suddenly be completely alone and away from the crowd. When we first arrived, Juli was using Google Maps to take us to a leather store. The GPS took us straight to a dead-end with water... so we bought day tickets for the water taxi. This peculiar "water bus" functioned exactly like a city metro, with lines, "train" or boat numbers, and set schedules. After accidentally walking across the entire island of Venice, from West (where the train station is) to East, we put our taxi tickets to use and rode the boat all the way back. This took about an hour... in Venice we had walked eight miles, completely unaware that we were getting such a workout!
At lunch, I had a bellini, which is a Venezian specialty. It was the best one I've had while in Italy, so I am not surprised.
Carnival began Saturday night, so the streets were filled with people in masks and costumes. I couldn't be left out, so I purchased a mask for 6 Euro. It looked more "authentic" to me than the ones covered in sparkles, until Juli told me they were all made in China. Certainly, the masks are a perfect "souvenir" that must be produced en masse, but you would think a city with a rich history and practice in mask-making would take pride in these items coming from local craftsmen.
al dente = (of food, typically pasta) cooked so as to be still firm when bitten
Today our class experienced agriturismo or agricultural tourism at a family farm in Verona. The farm has expanded into a little restaurant, where we had our cooking class, a winery, and a hotel. The location boasts one of the most beautiful views of Verona off the patio, and in the winery, the rolling hills of Northern Italy are scenic.
After our gnocchi class, I expected pasta making to involve a bit more intricate skill, or at least more ingredients. No - pasta is as simple as it gets! We mixed flour and an egg to make the dough. From there, all that is needed is a rolling pin and a pasta machine for flattening and cutting the strands. I created the pasta nests by simply wrapping the strands around my fingers.
This little family farm, a minor producer of wine and food, receives funding from the European Union. I thought that was interesting, and I would hope the United States government would have policies that promote small, family farms as well. While I don't wish GMOs were banned, since they have done a lot to reduce world hunger, I wish the price of organically grown produce and ethically farmed meat (by small, local farms) would be lowered somehow. This is difficult to do in the United States economy where mass-produced Monsanto products are available. I have certainly enjoyed the fresh, crisp taste of tomatoes and the fantastic, small-batch wine while I have been in Italy.
St. Valentine = San Valentino
Our group boarded a bus at 7:30 this morning to head to Bolzano, Italy, which is located in the South Tyrol region. Our purpose was to observe a multi-ethnic society, where three languages are spoken: German, Italian, and Ladin. Ladin is a lesser-known Romance language that is spoken in the valleys by a particular group of people. Most people know South Tyrol as a place where only German and Italian are spoken, but learning about the Ladin people was quite interesting. In South Tyrol, everyone has a right to be educated in their mother tongue. For this reason, public schools offer both major languages, and local universities such as the Free University of Bolzano are tri-lingual (Italian, German, English.)
At lunch, we had little tea sandwiches featuring Tyrolean cuisine. I was surprised to bite into a tuna sandwich, which reminded me of my childhood. My mom always used to make me tuna sandwiches. The rolling hills of Bolzano that peaked between the buildings downtown also reminded me of home. In San Diego, the winter landscape looks very similar.
When we returned, I was delighted to find flowers from Samuel at the front desk for Valentine's Day. I was equally happy when I heard that the card I sent him via the "Ink" app had arrived. Sam had called a local Italian florist. This all made me feel fortunate to live in a time that it is so easy to remain connected across thousands of miles.