It’s hard to believe that I’ve only just finished my first week of studies at LdM. Every day has held a new wonder, from walking into Italian on Monday and being fully immersed into the language, to my two separate tours (and tastings) of the Central Market of Florence. I’ve had more food than I could write about in a reasonable amount of words (I’m still trying not to make this ENTIRELY a food blog).
I guess I’ll begin with Thursday evening. I’d finished all of my classes for the week and my roommates, a few other friends, and I decided to go out. We found an underground Jazz Club that had a 6 euro membership fee. Such a cool place! We got a free drink upon entering, and were greeted by a small, albeit extremely talented, live band. They seemed just like a group of friends having a jam session. The vibe was causal and cozy. And now that we have memberships, I know we’ll be back as soon as we can.
The morning after, my roommates and I boarded a train to Venice. Our first weekend exploration. I was ready to get lost in this city that I’ve read so much about. Adam found an almost-too-cheap-to-be-true apartment for two nights that was on the small Venetian island of Murano, the one know for the unmatched skill of its glass blowers. After getting settled (and calling the company we were renting from to come and clean it please and thank you…) we took a water taxi to the main island.
Now, every travel blogpost I’d read about Venice said that the best way to see the city was to avoid the crowds as much as possible and to get lost in the maze of narrow walkways and mesmerizing canals. We wandered for the majority of that first day. I asked one of my culinary professors for some good eats. She let me know that Venice is not an Italian city necessary known for its food. The major tourists destinations are surrounded by tourist trap restaurants, catering to those who probably won’t be back, and therefor won’t pay as much attention to quality and pricings. She said that the best places were the easiest to miss and the most Venician way to eat was Cicchetti-style. This is a local custom of eating finger food and sipping the local wine (prosecco is the go-to as this is the region it’s from).
This led us to Cantinone gia Schiavi, an extremely unassuming place found under a duo green awning that could be easily passed by without a second look. Here I had one of the best plates of food I’d eaten since landing in Italy. From right to left: pumpkin, ricotta, and parmigiano – octopus – smoked swordfish – and tuna and leak – all on top of a slightly toasted baguette slice. I asked the chef behind the counter for his favorite and he picked out the tuna and leak one. This is my kind of eating, so many different combinations of flavors in tiny little bites. I could have spent my entire visit in Venice solely eating cicchetti. Plus this entire plate only cost me around 6 euro (including the prosecco).
For dinner that night our main goal was to find a seafood place where I could get some risotto (two things that Venice are known for). This was no problem after a little aimless wandering. Since the place we found didn’t open until 6:30, we killed some time by drinking a bottle of prosecco next to a canal at the end of an alleyway. One of my roommates and I split a mound of tuna tartar, a bowl of steamed clams and mussels, and we each got our own bowl of seafood risotto. Now here is where Venice surprised me. Everyone, and everywhere I read, was telling me not to get my hopes too high for the food in Venice. Yet, these two meals, I have to say, matched any food expectation I had of Italy in general and then some. The tartar, small raw cubes of raw tuna, was lightly seasoned with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and on top a nest of peppery arugula. I was immediately transported to the sea, which probably wasn’t much of a stretch considering we were less than a kilometer away from the Aegean. The bowl of mollusks was served with a thin tomato and seafood broth and a slice of lemon. Exactly how I believe mussels and clams should be served. They tasted like they were cooked right in the sea with minimal additives. Then came the risotto. Risotto is a rice dish, that’s slowly cooked with wine and some sort of broth, and this one had shrimp and calamari. It was creamy and an absolute comfort with every forkful.
The next day was a pleasant blur of exploring the glass shops on Murano, a quick trip to Saint Mark’s square, more crowd-less wandering, and of course, the first night of Carnival. Now, I’m no expert, but my understanding is that Carnival is the near month long celebration leading up to Lent. It’s the Italian Mardi Gras, or Mardi Gras is the Americanize Carnival – eh not totally sure, and too lazy to google it. The big kick-off event was a canal parade of extravagant lights. There were fire dancers and eaters, a woman suspended by a huge glowing balloon, dancers with (what looked like) wacky-inflatable-tube-dancer-esque appendages, and women with glowing capes seemingly dancing on the water. The entire day we were surrounded by masqueraded crowds and little kids in Star Wars or Spider-Man costumes (yeah I’m not sure why either).
And this was just night one of an entire month of events. I’m currently riding the train back to my new home, Firenze. I thought I’d finally take some time to record a bit more of my adventures. I refuse to edit these posts (too much) partly because I’m just lazy, but also because I want to remember this as raw as I possibly can. As always, thanks for reading – you da best! I’ve only been here for, what? not even two weeks? And my eyes, and taste buds, have been exposed to more than I thought possible. Well, here’s to the more that’s yet to come.