By Maddie Rosa*
Making the most of my last week's in the most beautiful place on Earth
Well, scratch whatever I have said before about being in panic mode, because now I am actually panicking. About everything possible. Money, trips, sights to see, things to do and see around Florence, so many restaurants I still want to try, literally everything; you name it, I’m panicking about it. I can’t believe that I only have fifteen days to do ALL of these things. The thought, “I only have how much money left?” has definitely crossed my mind quite a few times the past couple of days, especially since it’s sale season in Florence. I’m not talking your average ‘BOGO’ sale at Francesca’s for jewelry. I’m talking every store, designer or not, 50% off. Anybody that knows me knows I can’t resist a good sale, or shopping for that matter, so my self-control is really being tested.
Now that my roommates and friends and I all realize that our time here really is ending, we have been trying to savor every minute together. Just as I thought I was getting ready to head home and see all of my family and friends, I have been reminded of how much I love this one-of-a-kind, beautiful, and timeless city and region.
Last Saturday, a few of my friends and I went on a day-trip with one of the student travel companies called “Taste of Tuscany.” The trip includes tours and tastings at two vineyards, one of which has been in the same family since 1720 (how crazy is that!).
The first vineyard was in Montalcino and is world-famous for its production of Brunello. We had the chance to tour the winery, see where the fermentation and aging took place, try their wines, and had the option to buy some products. The views, once again, were unbelievable. I learned that I will never be able to get enough of the Tuscan hills. The beauty is so unique and breathe taking every single time, and I cannot believe that people are lucky enough to live there every single day.
After some amazing sampling, we made our way to the next vineyard, family run since 1720, in the famous town of San Gimignano. The family was so excited to have us there for lunch and the hospitality and warmth was so refreshing. Everyone in Italy has been so warm and genuine, but the family-run places are always the best. The young man who was running our tasting (of about 8 different wines, plus olive oils, plus balsamic, and of course dessert wine), did a wonderful job of charming all of the girls on our trip and making the guys feel like studs while his grandma prepared one of the best meals I have ever had.
Our starter and delicious meal
A typical starter of arugula salad, cold cut Tuscan salami, cheese, bread, olive oil and balsamic was delicious, as always, and we were encouraged to try the red and the white with everything on the plate to see what we thought paired the best. Then came the soup. All I know about the soup is that it had olive oil, beans, and anything delicious that nonna could get her hands on. Then came the lasagna, drenched in their very own truffle oil. This was no ordinary lasagna, it was the best I have ever had in my life, and I know that none will ever compare. I can’t even describe the taste, it was too mind blowing and delicious, and the texture was creamy perfection.
City center of San Gimignano
After many pictures and glasses of wine later, we made our trip to the small center of San Gimignano. Like all little Italian towns, the streets were lined with charming shops and plenty of things to look at. And again, plenty of things I was dying to bring home in my suitcase. Perfumes made from local islands, hand-crafted leather and ceramics, the beauty and abundance of the Italian culture continues to amaze me every single day.
These next two weeks I am lucky enough to get to travel to Interlaken, Switzerland and to the Amalfi Coast in the south of Italy. I can’t wait to see what these amazing adventures bring, but I know that everything good must come to an end. Until then, I am going to savor every smell, sound, sight, and tiny detail of this beautiful country that has become my home away from home.
*Madeline Rosa is a UI junior majoring in communications and human relations. She is currently studying abroad on the Lorenzo de Medici program in Florence, Italy.