Boy, has it been an eventful first week in Italy. Sometimes I still can't believe I'm here! This week has been a first for many things- the first time setting foot in a new country, the first time feeling completely out of my comfort zone, the first time tasting gelato in Italy, the first time completely not understanding what a person was trying to say to me plus not being able to communicate clearly in return, the first time visiting Bologna, and the first time seeing the Adriatic Sea. Let's just say it has been a wave of mixed emotions- good and bad. It's been an adjustment living in a household completely different from my own, in a town where most people don't know a lot of English, in a country with an entirely different culture.
The first night in Ferrara, I had a delicious salad with pears, toasted nuts, spring greens with just simply balsamic vinegar and olive oil at a restaurant called Sofisti. After dinner, I had gelato for the first time in Italy- the raving reviews held true. The next day, I was happy to discover that there is a cozy little bar (what Italians call coffee shops) behind the building where my classes are held. Prendo un caffè per favore!
The rest of the week was spent settling into my new home and a new routine. I actually got housed with my friend Marisa, which has been a huge blessing for my emotional and mental health as well as relieving a lot of stress. I live in the historical center of the city, about a ten minute bike ride from class and as well as the central piazza of Ferrara. The front door of the house literally opens right to a tiny cobblestone street, it couldn't be more quaint. Sharing pictures soon! I love that I start my morning with a bike ride to class. Ferrara is known as the City of Bicycles- there are so many people biking everywhere you go, anytime of the day! Watch out though, Italians are horrible bike riders...as well as drivers.
For lunch on Thursday, Marisa and I went to probably the only gluten free friendly restaurant in Ferrara that I happened looked up online called Di Cibo. I had a veggie/vegan burger- it was delicious and I couldn't believe how reasonable the prices were! After class the same day, we went to explore the "mura" which is the Italian word for the ancient walls around the historical center of a city. We rode our bikes along the wall for a while and went find "La Vegana" (I also looked it up online. What can I say, when you love food this is what you do) which turned out to be a teeny-tiny market on the opposite side of town from our house. The girl who was in the store happened to be from Iceland and could speak English- she gave us free vegan truffles and cannolis, buonissimo! I definitely want to go back.
On Friday, everyone in the program went on a tour of the Castello (Castle) of Ferrara. There is so much history and rich culture here in Italy, it's completely fascinating. The historical center of Ferrara itself feels like taking a step back in time.
On top of biking and walking everywhere, I've been able to wake up most mornings to get a quick 30-40 minute workout in. I have my own room so it's easy just to close the door and play one of my videos on my youtube Fitness for Travel playlist. Fitting in some exercises before breakfast in the morning eliminates any time conflicts that I may have later in the day. Just from the first week- I can definitely say that I am glad I bought those resistance bands!
Now on to the best part of the week- Bologna! For starters I just want to say that by the end of the day I had biked to and from the train station in Ferrara, walked 10 miles in Bologna, and climbed a 300 foot tower with 398 steps. Let's just say I was exhausted!
In Bologna, Marisa, Melissa (another friend from the program), and I visited three churches, the Cathedral of San Pietro, the Basilica of San Petronio, and the Basilica of Santo Stefano. We also visited the Anatomical Theater in the Archigennasio- a historical educational center. People used to go to the Anatomical Theater to see live dissections and learn about the human body. I thought it only appropriate to see this since I have just taken anatomy this past semester. Afterwards, we went to the Due Torri (The Two Towers- one is leaning, it's like the Leaning Tower of Pisa only it's the Leaning Tower of Bologna) We climbed the one that wasn't leaning. We also went to the University of Bologna, the oldest university in world, however, there wasn't much to see. We walked past a few academic buildings but there weren't any signs or places for visitors that we could find.
As you might of guessed, for lunch we went to a restaurant that I researched ahead of time. It's called E' Cucina Leopardi and it is owned by a young, up and coming, famous Italian chef. The menu is entirely seasonal and changes everyday. For 10 euro, I kid you not, you can get an appetizer, a main dish (there were choices between vegetarian, fish, or meat), a glass of quality wine, dessert, and a coffee. And it was amazing! Definitely the best meal I have had in Italy so far. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the local markets which resulted in a purchase of 10-year aged Bolognese balsamic vinegar for my mom and finishing off the day with some pretty fantastic gelato.
Sunday, Anna, our host mom, took Marisa and I to Porto Garbaldi, a small beach town located on the Northern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It was an afternoon well spent of relaxation after a hectic week of class, traveling, speaking in Italian.The sky was blue and it was perfect weather for the beach. Anna packed a simple picnic lunch of sautéd collard greens with fresh parmesan cheese and kiwi. Definitely how I would want to finish my week. Just as a side note I found the greatest magnet on Anna's fridge- Cibo OGM? No Grazie (GMO Food? No thank you). I know it sounds strange, but after a crazy week of excitement, anxiety, etc. I felt like that this was God's way of reminding me that he always puts me where he wants me to be. And that's my first week in Italy. Until next time, arrivederci!