Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dinner with Chef Tammaso!

Tuesday May 31, 2011

Can you believe it’s already the last day of May?? It’s amazing how time flies.  I missed a whole entire month in Cleveland!!

I would like to begin this entry talking about how incredibly fun dinner was last night!! When we approached Trattaoria Cammillo, Chef Tammaso was waiting for us right outside, eager for our arrival.  He had decided to join us for our entire dinner instead of just a cup of coffee!!  When we sat down at our table for ten we all waited quietly for chef Tammaso to tell us his favorite dishes, beginning with the appetizers, then to pastas, to main dishes, and finally dessert!

For appetizers we ordered white beans with tuna, fried zucchini, pecorino cheese is a crème brulèe style with balsamic, and as a surprise, chef Tammaso ordered some lard for us to try.  No one knew what the lard was, at first.  He had everyone try on a slice of Tuscan bread before telling us.  It was extremely salty and I had no clue what it was.  I didn’t know if I liked it or not. It tasted fine, but knowing that I was eating lard grossed me out a bit.

For the main course Laura and I split fresh fettuccini pasta with procini mushrooms as well as fried lamb with zucchini.  The pasta was amazing!!! The sauce was very light.  The lamb was very tender and wonderful, as well. 

The ten of us also split 3 desserts: tiramisu, pear cake, and a chocolate ganache cake.  All three were wonderful.  I loved the pear cake the best! I had never had anything like it!  After we left Cammillo chef Tammaso insisted that he treat us to Perché-no! gelato.  We were all extremely full, but took him up on his offer. 

This was by far one of my favorite nights here in Italy.  No one expected Chef Tammaso to actually show up to dinner, and even if he did, we did not expect him to stay the entire time, and then treat nine girls to gelato!  I could not have asked for a better class and teacher here in Florence!

entire group with Chef Tammaso

Student and teacher pic

The topic of today’s class was cured meats.  We discussed the difference between prosciutto in Parma and Tuscany.  Parma prosciutto is sweet because it is only kept and cured  for one week, making the prosciutto soft and tender.  Tuscano prosciutto is salty and is kept and cured from one-month to a full year.

We prepared 3 different appetizers using cured meats.  The first was melon and prosciutto, which is a popular summer dish.  The second was gamberoni al lardo (shrimp and lard).  This is a new combination.  Lard used to be used for everything when cooking, such as in soups, stuffing meats, etc… Now it is a delicacy.  It is much more expensive and used in appetizers such as this one.  We cleaned the shrimp, wrapped them in the lard, which was sliced thinly, and placed them on a slice of Tuscan bread to cook in the oven for about 10 minutes.  The third appetizer was Crostini con salsiccia e stracchino (toasted bread with pork sausage and stracchino cheese).

I was the only one to try the shrimp and lard from my group.  It almost reminded me of bacon wrapped shrimp, but a little more salty and greasy.  The melon was wonderful!! So juicy and sweet.  The saltiness of the prosciutto caused the melon to be extra juicy.  The sausage and stracchino was also good, reminding me of a sausage and cheese breakfast sandwich.

This afternoon I am going to lunch with my roommate Becca to what is called The Ganzo.  It is FUA’s “dining hall.”  This evening, our group of nine has a wine tasting scheduled and then we are going to Galleria dell Accademia to see the famous David!


Molly Jean 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunset (Finally!!) and Tiramisù

Monday, May 30, 2011

Last night Becca, Erica, Liz and I went up to Piazzale Michaelangelo to FINALLY watch a sunset.  We had been up once before during the day time and all of us were in awe of the view of the entire city of Florence. The sunset made it incredibly more beautiful with the sky painted in orange, pink, and blue.  We took many pictures as we watched the sun go behind the mountains in the distance.

After the sunset we walked back down into the city towards our apartment to search for something to eat.  We stumbled across a Ristorante Pizzeria and Wine Bar 100 Posti.  We pass it every morning on our way to class and I had always admired how cute it looked with the white wood and decorations.  I ordered the chefs spaghetti special which ended up being a seafood pasta!!! It was a pleasant surprise!  At the end of our meal our waiter gave us a complimentary shot glass of limoncello. It was a little too strong for my liking and I was barely able to get it down.  I did my best to drink half, but the burning of the vodka was not satisfying.

Today’s class we made Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant parmesan) and Tiramisù.  The preparation of the Eggplant used in today’s lab was that similar to what is used in Sicily and southern Italy.  The layers go as following
1.     1. Tomato sauce (which we made with olive oil, 1 clove of garlic, and tomatoes)
2.     2. Eggplant (we sliced and fried in oil)
3.     3. Tomato sauce
4.     4. Parmigiana
5.     5. Mozzarella
6.     6. Basil
7.     Repeat 3 times (last layer with no basil so it won’t burn)

In Naples Eggplant Parmesan is made differently.  The eggplant is dredged in flour and egg and then fried and a piece of mortadella di bologna is place inside.  The Sicily one seems a lot more appealing than Naples, and it was fantastic!! Another simple dish to prepare at home, but instead I would either grill or roast the eggplant, instead of frying.

The Tiramisù was a bit of a struggle for me.  The first step was to do a procedure known as pâte a bomb, which is a procedure used in culinary schools and professional kitchens to sterilize the egg yolks to prevent salmonella.   In today’s lab we used only 2 eggs for the recipe.  The steps for pâte a bomb are as follows
1.     1. In a small sauce pan place 200 grams of sugar with some water to make a simple syrup and heat to 121°C.
2.     2. Meanwhile, separate the egg yolks from the whites and place in separate bowls
3.     3. Once the simple syrup is heated to 121°C, place 50 grams into the bowl with the egg yolks and whisk until creamy.

After the pâte a bomb was complete I add the marscapone cheese and then egg whites (whisked to soft peaks).  Next the Lady Fingers were dipped in heated coffee and layered between the marscapone mixture.  The Tiramisù was then chilled for 30 minutes and then ready to enjoy, with a sprinkle of cocoa powder on top!! It was quite delicious, although I wish we had chosen to put the rum in the coffee to add that extra kick like the restaurants use of coffee liqueur.

Chef Tommaso was please with both of our completed dishes, although the eggplant parmesean needed more salt, as always!

Tonight our group of nine (Erica, Liz, Becca, Shep, Audrey, Missy, Lacey, Laura, and I) are going to Chef Tammaso’s favorite restaurant Trattatoria Cammillo.  He was so excited that we wanted to go he called and made a reservation for us and promised that he would join us, not for dinner, but for some coffee.  He says it is the best!!

I will let you all know the details tomorrow!!


Molly Jean

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cinque Terre

Sunday May 29, 2011

After class on Friday Shep and I hurried back to our apartment to pack up and leave for the train station.  Erica, Liz, and Becca were leaving at a later time because Becca had class (plus and exam) until 5:30!

The train left around 1:30 PM (or should I say 13:30… I still haven’t gotten the whole military time thing down yet.).  Shep, Audrey, Missy, Lacey, Laura and I were off to our first destination in Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore.  As the train approached our final stop the sea appeared off to the window on my right hand side.  We all gasped with excitement!  The water was so blue and incredible as waves crashed against the rocks.

As we got off the train we were welcomed by a cool breeze—something we were not used to in Florence and the 90-degree humid weather the city has had over the past week.  It was overcast, but it did not phase us one bit!! We were too excited to be in a place so beautiful as this.

First look of Cinque Terre

Our hostel, Cinque Terre Holiday, was only a five-minute walk from the train station.  After paying and getting our keys we were taken up A LOT of stairs.  Huffing and puffing the entire 5 to 10 minute walk up, we finally made it to a building that looked like an apartment complex.  We did not know what to expect from the hostel.  The hostel employee walked us into an awkwardly and extremely decorated orange apartment!  We got extremely lucky, especially for only 30 euro each for the night!! The apartment had 2 bedrooms, one with room for 5, the other for 4.  Both of the bedrooms looked out to the sea.  It also had a kitchen, fully equipped, a dining room, one bathroom, and a balcony!!

Happy with our hostel we were hungry and ready to make our way back down the millions of stairs to find a place to eat.  Audrey had Rick Steve’s Cinque Terre book which we have been using many of his suggestions throughout the trip.  The book led us to La Lampara.  To start off, we ordered a bottle of the White House wine since Cinque Terre is known for their white wine instead of red.  We were very impressed with the choice of wine we ordered another bottle!!

In Audrey’s guidebook, Rick recommends the Seafood Pasta in Tin Foil.  I decided to go with the recommendation and was very pleased with it!  It had mussels, clams, shrimp, and crab.  We also ordered some dessert. I decided to go with the Tirmasu!

Calamari Appetizer

Seafood Spaghetti

After dinner we went over to Bar Centrale for a drink as we waited for the other girls.  We saw a few other girls from the ISA program walk by and told them to join us at our apartment after they were finished with dinner.  The remainder of the night we played “Dings” which we all defined as Kings with a dice, since no one had brought cards and we had found an orange fuzzy dice in our apartment.  Erica, Liz, and Becca finally showed up and it was soon time for a good nights sleep before our long hike!!!

My last “This is one of the best days/moments of my life” occurred near my departure date for Italy.  It was my defense presentation for my Master’s Project.  This meant I was so much closer to being done with Grad School! And I also didn’t have to worry about it my last Fall semester.  I only bring this “one of the best day/moment” up because Saturday was just that.  And it was way better than any relief of completing a project presentation!!

We all awoke Saturday morning (which was also Liz’s 25th birthday!!!) around 8:00 to being our day.   I immediately looked out the bedroom window to see the sun shining and clear blue skies over the sea.  We checked out and began our day with a hearty breakfast to give us the energy we would need for our hike.  We finally began around 10:00 to bein our hike from Riomagiorre to Manarola.  We hike way up high on hillside where we were able to have view of the water.

Once we got to Manarola, we had to catch a train to the next town, due to a landslide.  With an hour to kill before the next train we walked through what seemed to be an agricultural tour path.  The path went upwards which allowed the view to get better and better with each steps.  The colorful buildings were bright and stuck out with the crystal blue water surrounding.  The site was breath taking.

The train took us into Corniglia, the third town, where we immediately had to climb steps to the top to the center of town.  Rick Steve recommended we stop to have wine at Il Pirun in cà dà Nita where it claimed that we were ablt to get a glass of wine for only 3 euro!  The owner Leo was there and he gave us his house white wine (the bottle had a picture of him!!) He gave us olives and garlic chips to snack on.

He also allowed us to taste two other whites as well as drink red wine from a decanter in which he gave us bibs to use in case we were to spill. 

Around 12:30 we made our way to the fourth town, a 90-minute hike away.  The path started to become more difficult.  There were long stretched of going upward as well as rocky and uneven pathways going down.  The sun was beaming down and we all began to sweat.  The cool breeze from the sea allowed us to keep cool.  Also, the site and view of the sea and the next town made us eager to continue.  We finally arrived in the fourth city, Vernazza!  Taking Rick’s suggestion, once again, we stopped for lunch.  We found a group of restaurants by the bay area that was filled with colorful umbrellas.  We all sat down and immediately asked for 4 bottles og “aqua natuerelle.”  Cinque terre is known for their delicious pesto sauce, so I went with Alfolie (a pasta they are known for—not quite sure how to spell it) and pesto.  Once again I was very pleased and satisfied with my decision!!

After lunch we continue to the final town, Monterosso. It was another 90-minute hike, and the most difficult one.  With our bellies filled with food, we began going up and up and up, which went on for a good hour.  This part of the hike was definitely good for the glutes!! Still, no complaints came from anyone’s mouth.  We were all in awe of the view, still taking pictures every chance that we got! 

Finally around 4:30 PM (16:30) we made it to Monterosso.  We scurried around for a facility to change into our suits and made our way to the beach!  After setting my towel and bag down I walked towards the water, which was quite painful since the beach is not made up of sand.  The water was ice cold, but refreshing.  I went into the sea up past my stomach and quickly went closer to the shore.  I could not handle the ice cold water!!

me and Laura

I went back to my towel where we all rest for about an hour before we had to go to the train station to buy our ticket to head back to Florence.  As I laid there I played back the entire hike in my head, thinking about the most breathtaking and gorgeous scenery I had every scene in my entire life.   I wish that I had words to describe it, but I lack in my writing capabilities.  You will just have to see it for yourself! (or just look at the pictures).

We left Cinque Terre around 7:00 and arrived in Florence around 9:30 PM.  We grabbed a “Kebab” for dinner (similar to a Gyro, but with turkey/chicken meat).  I ended the night grabbing some gelato with Liz for her birthday over at Perché-No!  By midnight everyone was exhausted and passed out. 

It was our first morning to sleep in since we all had arrived in Italy, and it was much needed after a long day of hiking.  Becca and I woke around 10:00 AM and dressed to go to Mass at Santa Croatia Cathedral.  The entire mass was in Italian, but some how was able to understand what was going on. 

I just returned from The Diner, which is exactly what you can find in America!! It was perfect.  My eggs benedict and fruit definitely hit the spot! Now I'm off to the Leather Market-- hopefully my last time-- for some last minute gifts!


Molly Jean

Genvieve in Florence!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thursday night I met up with Gen and her fiancé for dinner.  They have been traveling around Italy and made a stop in Florence.  And it just so happened that I am here at the same time!!  It has been about five years since I last saw her, so there was a lot to catch up on!

We met at the Golden doors by the Duomo around 7:00 and then heading off to dinner.  I took them to Yellow Bar.  Yes it my third time there, but you just cannot go wrong with anything that you order!! They have been complaining of not finding any good food, so it was the perfect place to go!! We caught up over a bottle of Chianti Classico and a delicious prosciutto and mozzarella appetizer and wonderful pasta and pizza.  It is amazing how much there is to talk about after not seeing Gen for so long!  It was like we picked right back up where we left off!!

We ended the night with Gelato! (because no matter how full you are, there is always room for Gelato).  They had not had any good gelato yet in Florence, so I took them to the best--Perché-no!  They were both very pleased with my selection!  After we went over the Piazza de Republicca to see the Gelato Festival and chat some more. 

I am so grateful to have seen Gen over here in Florence, Italy.  I had such a wonderful time catching up with her and meeting her wonderful fiancé. Hopefully I will see her again in the near future!

Friday was an exciting morning to wake up to! It was the day we were leaving for Cinque Terre!! But first thing first, we had class!! Friday’s class focused on olive oil.   Frantiano and Leccino trees are two types of olive trees that olive oil is produced from.  The first press of the olives produced Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the second press-virgin olive oil, and the third is olive oil. Olive oil should be stored in a cold and dark place.  Lighter olive oils are used on vegetables, while heavy and flavorful olive oils are used on meats.  The Mediterranean diet was also discussed again since olive oil plays a major role.

Before the cooking lab began Chef Tammaso had us taste four different types of olive oil from four different regions of Italy and explain our thoughts. Below are the four types and my thoughts I wrote down.
1.     Northern Italy/Lake Garda- light fruity flavor with a slight peppery taste.   An olive oil I would use for salad
2.     Liguria- A fresh, sweet, smooth and well-rounded taste (MY FAVORITE!!)
3.     Tuscany- Light flower taste with a light bitter after taste.
4.     Southern Italy- Spicy and peppery taste.  No fruit or sweetness.

After tasting the four, we were to choose our favorite to put over vanilla gelato.  I chose the olive oil from Liguria.  Chef Tammaso had told us before trying that the olive oil helps to bring out the flavor of the cream and egg in the ice cream. At first everyone thought this was a strange concept, but the taste of the gelato with the olive oil was AMAZING!! 

Vanilla Gelato with Liguria olive oil

Next we began our recipes for the day, which was 4 different types of bruschetta toppings to place on toasted garlic Tuscan bread. The four topping included
1.      1.  Tomatoes, basil, and garlic tossed in olive oil with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top
2.     2. Artichokes in a lemon and olive oil dressing
3.     3. Cabbage cooked in olive oil and garlic with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top
4.     4. White beans cooked in olive oil, garlic, and sage

All were delicious and easy to make!! We were done in no time!!  With 45 minutes left Chef Tammaso used the time to discuss the difference between American ice cream and the Italian’s Gelato.  It pretty much just turned into a discussion on why Italian food is much better than America’s.  Italy’s products are made with the best products available.  Very seldom does Italy use preservatives.  They are proud of their local produce and strive to preserve regional and local cuisine.  When you pay for your food in Italy you are paying for quality.  Therefore, the cheapest food you find will most likely have preservatives, whereas more expensive foods are made with fresh and local ingredients.  Each region has it’s own flare and certain types of food they are known for.  This allows each region to form their own type of cuisine (allowing tourists, like myself, to enjoy something different and new when traveling the country!).


Molly Jean

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cannoli Siciliani!

Thursday May 26, 2011

Last night we went to Trattoria Anita for dinner.  Shep and I split a delicious appetizer made up of mozzarella, truffle, and prosciutto and slices of bread.  Truffle is usually too strong for my liking, but the amount in this appetizer was very light!  For dinner I ordered a fresh pasta bake with mushrooms and zucchini.  The waiters were so generous and gave us a small discount for being friendly and fun!

A Cappuccino is a perfect way to start the day!  Shep and I headed out a little early to our usual spot to grab one before class!  Today’s class was one we were all looking forward too.  It was cannoli day!!  Before cooking Chef Tammaso discussed the region of Sicily, the largest island of the Mediterranean.  Sicily is known for street food, sorbet, cannoli’s, pastries, and candied fruits.  A majority of Sicily’s food was from the Arab influence.  Sicily is also known as “the garden of Europe” because of its abundance of fruits such as grapes, mandarin, tangerine, orange, and many dried fruits.  Sicily food is also very “heavy” and fattening.  I guess we won’t be using the Mediterranean diet guidelines today!

Today’s recipes were Pasta Alla Norma and Connoli Siciliani.  The pasta Alla Norma uses dried rigatoni pasta.  Chef Tammaso taught us how to cook Al dente.  I always cook pasta to al dente at home and I usually taste the pasta to see if it is ready.  But Chef Tammaso taught us what to look for when cooking the pasta.  If there is a very very thing line of white in the middle of the rigatona, penne, or even spaghetti, that means it has been cooked to al dente!! (Erika did a fabulous job of cooking the pasta perfectly today!)

The sauce of the Pasta Alla Norma included eggplant, garlic, olive oil,  and tomato sauce.  After the sauce and pasta were finished cooking the pasta and sauce are mixed together and topped with salted ricotta cheese and sliced basil.

I worked on the cannoli shell today.  It was the same concept of making fresh pasta, but with a few different ingredients.  Lard and Marsala wine acted as the liquid instead of using egg and oil.  After making fresh pasta a few times this week the dough of the cannoli came together very quickly!  Metal tubes were used to wrap the dough around and put in the oil to fry!! 

The filling was made up of ricotta, cinnamon, confection sugar, candied orange peel, chocolate, and pistachio. After we filled the connoli shell we dipped each side into shaved chocolate and topped with confection sugar!  This was yet another wonderful and delicious recipe!! 

I couldn’t help but to think of my brother Kevin all the way over in Azerbaijan, wondering if the cannolis I made today were better than Carbo’s cannolis in Cleveland’s Little Italy!  I think it may be a close call!!

After class I washed a load of laundry.  Without a dryer the picture below shows my best ability to try and dry my clothes.  Hopefully they will dry by tomorrow before I leave for Cinque Terre!!

Clothes everywhere!

I am meeting my friend Genvieve tonight for dinner.  I can’t wait to catch up!


Molly Jean

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Best Lasagne EVER!

Wednesday May 25, 2011

In Florence there are certain times that you are suppose to put the trash out, between 7:30 AM and 8:00 AM.  You are to take it out daily and separate everything into the severeal categories that you place out on certain days.  All of this was discussed in orientation, but none of us really comprehended it.  To avoid any difficulty, we just take our out on Wednesdays because that is the day “un-separated” trash is to go out.  The trash is supposed to be picked up by 8, so waking up before then is mandatory.  But trash is never picked up before we leave for class, which is 8:45.  I just don’t get this confusing way of doing trash…

Anyway—Today’s lab was fantastic!! We had about 15 minutes of lecture about the basics of lasagne, ragu sauce, and béchamel.  We immediately began cooking after all of our ingredients were prepared (mise en palce).  Liz was in charge of making the lasagne noodles, I made the ragu sauce, and Erica made the béchamel and our Apple with Balsamic dessert.


Pasta Making

Final Touch!

Everything came out incredible.  Chef Tommaso was once again extremely impressed with our cooking skills.  He gobbled up a slice of our lasagne with a smile on his face.


Apples with Balsamic and Vanilla Gelato :)

Chef Tommaso being goofy!

I have a list of recipes at home listing different recipes I would like to try, and one of them is homemade Lasagne!  After today’s lab I am able to cross it off the list!  Today’s lasagne made in lab is the best lasagne I have ever tasted! I was impressed of how much flavor the wine adds to the meat.  I also enjoyed the fact that it was not covered in cheese.  The béchamel and Parmesan cheese added the perfect amount of creaminess to the lasagne.  This is definitely a recipe my family will love!

On the way home from class I ran into my friend Gen who is traveling Europe with her Fiance!  She informed me before I left for Italy that she would be in Florence and emailed me last night telling me she had arrived.  It was so ironic that I ran into her on a random side street in Florence.  I guess Florence is a small town, after all!  We had made plans for dinner tomorrow night.  I haven’t seen her in about 5 years and I cannot wait to catch up with her!!

After class we all decided to work on our research paper on Caterina de Medici.  It is due next week, but with only little time left we wanted it out of the way so that we are able to enjoy our travels this weekend and our last week in Florence.  Three and a half hours later I had a completed paper!!

After being cooped up in the apartment all day I’m going to go for a walk and then get ready for dinner and watching of the sunset over near Piazza de Michaelangelo!


Molly Jean

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fishy Monday, Boboli, Lucca, & Pisa

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Waking up Monday morning was a little difficult after our long and busy weekend away from Florence.  Class began with a review of what type of questions to look forward to for our midterm that was to take place Tuesday (today).   Next we focused on Central Italy and Tuscany cuisine.  Tuscany is said to be the land “touched by God” because it carries the best quality of food you can find all around the world.   There is seafood from the coast, grains and wine from the rivers, meat from the mountains, truffles from the center (near Florence!) and rice from southern Tuscany.  Next came the lab…

I had read on the syllabus that we were having a fish soup called Cacciucco. It is a famous soup of central Italy that was made for the workers.  Chef Tommaso had us all gather around the front.  And that is when he took out alllll of the fish we were to use in our recipe today.  Octopus, squid, mussels, clams, dogfish, and a few types of small fish.  The small fish and octopus still had their eyes.  There is nothing like raw fish to wake you up on a Monday morning!  I cleaned out my own fish for the first time, and probably the last time. 

Looking a little skeptical of the slimy little squid

The base of the soup smelled delicious and was made up of olive oil, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, rosemary, sage, parsley, and 1 small chili pepper. One base was made with white wine, octopus, squid, mussels, and clams, and the other with red wine, dog fish, and the small fish.  The base of cacciucco is always the same and the fish can vary, depending on what is available.

Fish soup in White Wine
Fish Soup in red wine

When the soup was done cooking we served it over a thick slice of garlic toasted Tuscan bread.  I was brave and tried all of the fish I had never tasted, such as the octopus, dogfish, and small fish.  I am a huge fan of fish, so this was not a problem for me! Except for the fact that the small fish still had eyes.  Ignoring that disturbing site, the fish was actually very tasty.  The texture of the dog fish and small fish reminded me of trout.  It was very flaky and easily absorbed the flavor of the base and red wine.  As for the other soup, the octopus was not bad… just a little rubbery… And the other fish I had no problem eating!!

The final product

After class I stopped at San Lorenzo market to send some wine, olive oil, and balsamic home to the states!  And then went over to Boboli Garden.  I have wanted to visit Boboli Garden since I arrived here in Florence, believing that it was filled with big, beautiful, and colorful flowers.  Boy was I wrong!! It was more of a huge park.  Although, there was a small section of pink flowers that we found, the garden was mostly made up of the color green.  We sat and relaxed for about an hour looking out over Florence, walked around for 20 minutes, and then returned home, wishing I had saved 6 euro for something else.

After a night of studying for the mid term scheduled today, we entered Apicius (our classroom building) and were confronted with the news of no midterm.  We all had mixed emotions.  We were excited that there was no test, but disappointed we had spent the night studying when we could have been out and enjoying Florence and hanging out with other people in the program.

Class went on as usual.  Today’s discussion was about Liguaria region of Italy, which is known for it’s beautiful flowers, rich of olive trees, and eggs.  The famous recipe of the region is Torta Pasqualina, which was one of the recipes made which is a recipe made for Easter (Pasqua = Easter).   The torta is made up of pasta dough, artichoke and swiss chard (or spinach) mixed with ricotta, and an egg.  This is made in layers to create a beautiful and delicious pie!

The other recipe made today was focaccia bread.  I have had focaccia bread in the states, but the one my group made today (mostly Erica’s creation) was AMAZING!  I guess it is true that bread always taste so much better right out of the oven!

After class we (Erica, Liz, Shep, Audrey, Missy, Lacey, Laura, and I) were off the Lucca and Pisa!! The train ride to Lucca was about 1 hour and 40 minutes.  We arrived around 3:30 PM and entered the town with empty stomachs in hope to find delicious food.  We wanted something light and cheap to give us some energy for our bike ride.  We thought we had found a great little joint, but it was nothing but a disappointment. I ordered a porcini mushroom risotto.  It was the worst risotto I have ever tasted.  I guess that’s what you get for cheap and fast food!

But the day was not over.  We still had a bike ride to complete around the walls of Lucca.  Audrey had a great Rick Steve’s guidebook that led us to a bike rental place where you are able to rent a bike for 1 hour for only 3 Euros!!  What a deal!!

The ride was so relaxing.  The wind felt so refreshing and the air was so clean.  The eight of us rode around the bike path twice before our hour was up.  After returning our bike we had some time to kill before catching the train to Pisa.  There was only one thing missing from our wonderful afternoon… you guessed it… Gelato!!

We stepped on the train at 6:15 PM for Pisa and arrive around 6:45 PM.  Luckily the leaning Tower was only a five-minute walk from the station!! We only had an hour until the train left to go back to Florence!  We quickly walked over towards the Leaning Tower of Pisa to take the pictures that every tourist of Pisa must take!

We finally returned to Florence around 9:00 PM.  The days here seem to be getting shorter and shorter.  Today flew by!! I went to class, went to Lucca for a bike ride, and saw an important landmark.  I’d say it was a successful day!!

Buono notte!

Molly Jean