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The Coffee Culture: Un Caffè August 7, 2011

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Next to the hotel that so kindly housed us was a tiny caffè (that’s café for us Americanos) where I ended up getting my daily caffeine more often than not. It was a cute little place and I am now sad that I didn’t end up taking a picture of it. Imagine a 50s diner, then replace the kitchen with a coffee bar and pastry cabinet. Sort of Starbucks meets Grease. This is the world I got to enter in order to receive the nectar of the gods.

A morning espresso to leave me fantastically jittery all through Italian Film.

While neither surprised nor dismayed, I was amused at the fact that what we refer to as a “caffè” in America is in fact not a coffee–it is a shot of espresso. I ran into a multitude of these odd inversions between languages, including an interesting finding about pizza, which I will share later. I found it particularly ironic that for many years I have been counseled at café after café here in America that they do a “traditional” macchiato, which is apparently a shot of espresso topped with foam; however, all the caffès I saw in Italy were pretty convinced that a “traditional” Italian macchiato is in fact what we consider an artsy new-age macchiato–a shot of espresso “marked” with a small amount of milk, possibly with foam to note the difference.

Next door to the Grand Hotel Entourage.

The woman who I assume owns the caffè is a lovely lady. By the time the final week had rolled around, she knew me and my drink before I had time to say, “Ciao”. She was always very sweet and understanding of my bumbling American ways. If I go back, I will learn Italian and go to Gorizia just to thank her for being a wonderful person.

If only adhesion did not exist, then i would never miss out on the last lovely bits...

If you want to hear about the coffee itself, check out Sideways Sweets. There should be a GTTrips-only post coming soon to show you a little more of Gorizia, so check back!


The First Supper: Dinners in Gorizia July 27, 2011

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Dinners in Gorizia are provided by the lovely Grand Hotel Entourage, which is our place of residence for the duration of our stay. They take dinner very seriously in Italy, and even our study abroad group was pampered with a traditional four-course meal every night (except Fridays and Saturdays).

The first course, typically called the antipasti, is essentially an appetizer. We were usually given bread and veggies, though sometimes the kitchen went out on a limb and made french fries, possibly to cater to us American folk. Tonight was carrots, peas, and something along the lines of cabbage or onion… we weren’t sure which.

Carrots, peas, and ...?

Most of us passed on the… whatever it was. But the peas and carrots were good! Next was the primo pasti, which is typically a pasta dish that comes before the main protein. Tonight, as with most nights, we had a stuffed pasta. In fact, I don’t think I had any pasta dish that was not stuffed, except a select few gnocchi prospects. Common stuffings were cheeses, prosciutto, and mushrooms; tonight was of the second variety.

Stuffed and creamy tortellini.

As you can probably gather, the lighting in the dining room was less than stellar for photography, and the flash is a new technology for me.

The prosciutto center.

The tortellini was a solid pasta dish that became a pretty common staple during our dinners. I liked the cream sauce, and the filling was not so salty that it took over. It’s too bad that the only stuffed tortellinis you can get in America are the crazy-expensive designer kind on the special refrigerated shelves or the homemade kind that take 3 hours to make, or I would eat buckets of it.

If you want to check out the main course (hint: it’s pork) and dessert, head over to Sideways Sweets to catch the rest! Soon, you will be able to see pictures of my adventures beyond the culinary, so stay tuned.

Marzipan Cherries and Sfogliatina Nutella: More Gorizian Culture July 20, 2011

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Hey all! This is a short entry with plenty of pictures. For more from this adventure, check out Sideways Sweets.

My first look at Gorizian culture continued that day, leading us to a square near where I would discover to be the University. The festival opened up into an open-air market with summer clothes, bakeware, knick-knacks, and our favorite–Italian sweets.

A brief introduction into the array of sweets offered in Italy.

I am not sure where this guy came out of the woodwork because I haven’t seen a shop around town like this since, but he was here that day with a fantastic array of classic Italian pastries and sweets. Here is a look:

Marzipan fruits. Not real ones, but a fantastic doppleganger.

Fragola. I have yet to try this pastry.

Sfogliatina nutella and some fig-newton lookin' things.

The spread of the sweets under the tent.

I ended up having a marzipan cherry and the sfogliatina nutella.

Cherries: Fresh Produce and Culture Festivals July 19, 2011

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If there are two things Gorizians do incredibly well, they are produce and festivals. And I got a taste of both.

I dare you to eat just one.

The same day I got my tasty pizza, we visited the local culture festival. Gorizia has an interesting culture. Because it is a border town, it is not strictly italian; rather, it is a conglomeration of Italian, Slovenian, and even Austrian and German to some extent. In fact, it’s only a 15-minute walk to the Slovenian border (which, by the way, was recently opened).

All these different roots give the Gorizians a unique culture to celebrate. And in this sleepy little town, “celebrate” means pull out all of your old stuff and sell it. I got a hardback copy of the Divine Comedy–original language with footnotes. I’ve been looking for one for ages. Go figure I find it for 20 euro in its birth country. You could also find old World War II maps and objects, traditional glassware, and lots of different homemade fineries.

While we wandered, we managed to get embroiled in a conversation with one of the locals. It was an interesting mix of Italian, Spanish, and English, putting together sentences with the shared vocabulary we could muster. At the end of it, he was so thrilled that we would talk to him that he gave each of us a booklet of Gorizia photos and a bowl full of cherries. Gorizian local cherries, mind you. I have posted a fine little gallery at Sideways Sweets for you to check out these beautiful fruits! Keep in mind that this is just my first day of travels–there is much more to see!

Quattro Formaggi: My First Italian Pizza and Communication Fail July 18, 2011

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Man, I am so behind on this stuff! I can’t believe I have been here for two weeks and managed to post once. It probably has something to do with my choppy internet. Moving on though, I had my first pizza in Italy on my first full day.

Ordering was interesting.

We got pizza while we were wandering the city and getting ourselves repeatedly lost and unlost. The streets here don’t actually run parallel/perpendicular but branch at odd angles, so you think you are walking in one direction but you really end up further or the same distance from where you want to go. Finding our way back was particularly interesting. We happened upon this pizza place at a moment when the hunger was overtaking our tummies, and we caved to the pressure.

This was our first experience with total lack of communication. The servers didn’t speak any English except for one younger server with broken understanding. It’s truly mindblowing the first time you realize that other languages aren’t just things you learn in school because it’s cool; these people think and communicate in this language. They don’t just associate an Italian word with an English correlate, the Italian word IS the correlate.

It’s equally impressive how much of a grasp a lot of people have on English despite the fact that they don’t speak it at all. If an Italian person came to America, for the most part no one they encountered would attempt to communicate in Italian, let alone truly know how to do so. I actually feel bad that I have come to a foreign country without at least a firm grasp on the basis of the native tongue, because I know that I am getting huge concessions that a lot of people wouldn’t have in other places.

Check out Sideways Sweets for more of my thoughts on this delicious pie. Look forward to the next tasty something soon!

Cannelloni With Marinara and Mozzarella: A Lesson in Airport Food July 17, 2011

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Ciao! I am in Italy! And boy, has it been an adventure so far. But now it is time to share the adventure with you! Starting with the bumpy ride here.

My parentals dropped me off at the airport at about 12pm on their way to Florida. My new Nintendo 3DS kept me company for the wait and the start of the flight. About 5 minutes in, I discovered that I was across the aisle from what would soon be revealed as the quintessential screaming plane child. Little sleep was had, but I have successfully navigated about 30% of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and managed to get fired from, ironically, a culinary career track in The Sims 3D.

I arrived at Roma Fiumicino at something like 10am Italy time. My outgoing was at 5. So, understandably, I did some wandering. While Catherine (Hi Q!) was with me, we grabbed some food at a little caffè and met some adorable people from Lebanon. When Q caught her flight, I alternated shopping, sleeping, and eating until boarding. And that’s when I found this gem.

I really had no idea what cannelloni was when I ordered.

You can read more about my first foodie experience in Italy at my food blog, Sideways Sweets! Arrivederci!