happy & healthy abroad: toscana

Another week has flown by and I am writing to you all again (a little late this time, I apologize) for my third post of my happy & healthy abroad series. This past week was all about getting into a routine.

  1. 7:30 Wake up
  2. 7:30-8:15 Exercise
  3. 8:15ish-9:00 Breakfast
  4. 9:45 Bike to class
  5. 10-12pm Morning Italian class
  6. 12-1:30pm Lunch Break, maybe speak some Italian
  7. 1:30-3:30 Afternoon Italian class
  8. 3:30-7 pm coffee break, snack, homework, more Italian, etc.
  9. 7 or 7:30 Bike home
  10. 8:30-9:30 Cena (dinner), even more Italian
  11. 9:30-11:00pm chill, journal, maybe more Italian, plan for upcoming side trips (includes Rome, Napoli, Capri…coming soon!)
  12. 11 or 11:30pm Bedtime

    So much Italian. 

This weekend we had a group excursion to Tuscana. After a 6 am wake up call, we left early Friday morning for Firenze (Florence). After arriving in Florence, we had a walking tour, a group and lunch and then free time afterwards before leaving for Siena. Firenze immediately made an impression on me as being an incredibly beautiful city even though it was rainy and cloudy all day. The Cathedral of Santa Maria was probably the most beautiful man-made structure I have ever seen and Ponte Vecchio was quite the sight. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to get off the beaten track and really explore everything that Firenze had to offer. I left Firenze wanting to see more, but that just gives me all the more reason to go back and visit!

From Firenze, we arrived in Siena around 7 pm and had dinner reservations around 8. From the hotel we walked the already charming and rather hilly streets of Siena to the restaurant. Just outside the restaurant was an amazing view of the surrounding landscape, perfectly equipped with a castle in the foreground, once again reminding me just exactly where I was.  After such a long day, the dinner proceeded to last FOUR HOURS. A true Italian feast. The food just kept coming- antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti, dolci. Although this was definitely not a low caloric meal, everything definitely was extremely fresh and wholesome- and that's what counts.   

Being a bit of an outcast in the Italian food culture being a vegetarian AND gluten intolerant, I was lucky enough to score my own caprese salad  with some of the best mozzarella I've ever had, and bowl of gluten free pasta with a delicious Tuscan tomato basil sauce. They even served us some of the famous (and expensive) Chianti wine with the dinner, which was absolutely fabulous- just one glass was the perfect amount.

The next morning, I received an unexpected phone call from my brother (who is also in Italy) saying he was on his way to Firenze but stopping in Siena for lunch. He thought I was still in Firenze, but much to his surprise, I was was in Siena! To make a long story short, after a group tour of the city, I met up with him and his girlfriend Madison for lunch. Craziness right there. For lunch we went to a cozy osteria (that I had of course looked up the day before) that was tucked away in the oldest part of Siena called Osteria di Castelvecchio. The menu had the typical Italian cuisine but it also include unique and creative dishes that ranged from seafood, meat, pastas, and vegetarian options. I had a carrot flan (new for me!) with an arugula pesto and roasted chives for a garnish. We all split a bottle of Chianti wine and had a fabulous time catching up in this small little restaurant in Siena, Italy of all places. 

We returned to Ferrara from Tuscana Saturday night and let's just say I was completely exhausted. The next morning, I started my day with my favorite online yoga instructor- Leslie Fightmaster, ate breakfast, and wrote a few postcards. Marisa and I deiceded that we would spend the day exploring Ferrara. We met up with our friend Mel (Melissa) for lunch at a cute little restaurant called Trattoria il Sorpasso. The wait staff was very nice and the food was delicious (vegetarian, vegan, AND gluten free options!). I had gluten free pasta with a fresh ricotta red pepper sauce, onion, and fish, yet another satisfying and wholesome meal.

Afterwards, we met another friend, Carina, in the main piazza where we were delighted to find an small artisan market taking place! We shopped for a while and I bought a ring hand made by a local Ferrarese artist. We decided it was the perfect day for gelato (honestly, when it is not a perfect day for gelato in Italy?) and walked to a gelateria none of us had been to yet called Sorgente. After chatting and taking a nice stroll in a park near by, Marisa and I biked around the entire wall of Ferrara which is 9 kilometers, and then made a special excursion to a supermarket where we heard from Carina we could find peanut butter. Peanut butter is a rare gem here in Europe. By the time we returned back to the house, we had spent the entire afternoon outside, walking and biking around a total of 13 miles. 

While riding my bike, I observed the large amount of people walking, biking, running, relaxing along the wall. There were people of all ages, sizes, types, styles, characters, etc. It seemed that everyone was out and being active this wonderful Sunday God created, enjoying the weather, enjoying their friends, family, etc. I have begun to notice that the people really know how to live life here. Shops are not open every day or even every hour, and everyone, no matter what job or occupation they have, has time to enjoy themselves and their surroundings. They take time to appreciate the life that they have been give- they're active, they eat good food, and they just simply enjoy themselves. All of this, I believe, contributes to not only being happy but truly healthy as well.