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Exploring Florentine Food and Culture

Jul 15, 2021 10:00:00 AM / by Maddie Anderson

In this post, Maddie talks about how study abroad brings classes and concepts to life. In her Food, Culture & Lifestyle Under the Tuscan Sky course, she learns about Italian cuisine and the country's relationship with food at a pasta-making class, gelato tour, and more.

As a student majoring in interdisciplinary studies, my options were pretty open when picking what classes to take for my summer abroad semester. Luckily, I found two classes that satisfied CAPA’s six credit minimum requirement that would both count for my major and interest me. I am taking Food, Culture & Lifestyle Under the Tuscan Sky and Inter-culture & Migration in Italy. 

Cooking class in Florence.

Studying abroad comes with its challenges, one of them being finding a balance between studying for school and exploring and experiencing a new culture. That is why I am so grateful for my food and culture class. It only took a few days living in Florence to realize the culture around food is drastically different from what I am used to as a student from the US. 

Food prep at a cooking school in Florence, Italy.

Since the summer semester is shorter than a regular semester abroad, we have a lot of learning material to cover in a shorter amount of time. One way we are learning is through hands-on excursions and educational experiences.

Learning about a culture's relationship with food can be dry if based solely on reading texts. Through CAPA's out-of-class excursions, which are specific to each class, we reinforce the material we are studying with real life applications. For example, after reading and discussing how Italians have different habits surrounding food buying, preparing, and eating, we as a class got to experience it by going to a farmer's market with our professor. Learning about things that I can simultaneously experience in real life is a key part of my study abroad experience.

Enjoying pasta at a cooking school in Florence.

My favorite class excursion was a visit to a local pasta maker. He talked to us about the wine, olive oil, and pasta he has in his shop. This experience followed a class discussion about olive oil and how to do a proper olive oil tasting. I can't wait to go home and show off what to look for when doing a tasting.

Friend having a steak in Florence.

The learning doesn't stop with what we learn in class. CAPA offers a variety of extracurricular events as well to enhance our time abroad. On Wednesday, CAPA hosted a cooking class, which was the perfect opportunity to apply what I have learned in class and to learn new material. During the cooking class, we made eggplant parmesan, fresh hand-made pasta, a ragu sauce, and panna cotta for dessert. At home, I tend to avoid the kitchen and stick to meals I can microwave. But working with my schoolmates to make a meal while learning new techniques (and applying food culture concepts from class) made it a fun and enlightening experience.

Panzanella

Another fun food-focused excursion I attended was a gelato tour hosted by CAPA staff. Studying and living in Florence for the summer means two things are guaranteed. First, it's amazingly hot outside, and second, you're never more than a few steps away from a gelato shop. Having a CAPA staff member walk us around the city and point out what to look for in "good" gelato was both delicious and delightful. The eye-catching brightly colored gelato in some shops can be tempting, but this is a trick. Often, the best gelato is the one with the muted tones under saran wrap keeping it fresh.

Gelato tour

Stay tuned for another blog next week!

Thanks, Maddie!

Andy McKenzie

Maddie Anderson is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2021, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. An Interdisciplinary Studies major from the University of North Florida, she is studying abroad in Florence this summer.

See more of Maddie's journey in Florence.

Learn More about the CAPA Florence Program

Topics: Florence, Italy, Food Abroad