Last week was my University’s spring break, or Easter Vacation as it is called here. It could mean only one thing: time to hop on a train and travel somewhere outside of Switzerland for the first time! Where did I pick you may be wondering? Italy! One of Switzerland’s border countries as well as language regions, Italy is also from where my family originates. I am quite proud to say that I am one hundred percent Italian when at home in the states. However, as an American abroad in Europe, I have realized there is a very different conception of nationality here than in the US; whereas it is not that common to be completely of one heritage in the US, here in Europe, to say to someone I am a hundred percent Italian usually means absolutely nothing. It was an interesting realization when I first explained that to someone!
To go to Italy, I hopped on a train the afternoon my classes had ended, and after traveling four hours through mountains, tunnels, and past various lakes, I found myself at my final destination, in Bologna. I am lucky to have a friend who is studying in Bologna whom I stayed with during my visit. No, Bolonga is not typically the first city that comes to mind when envisioning Italy, but I think it was quite an ideal destination. It is in the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region, and is home to some of the most famous Italian foods, such as the Bolognese sauce, the typical meat sauce that goes over some of the most stereotypically Italian pastas such as tortellini and lasagna, also specialties of the region. Tasting true Italian food was one of my main goals of the trip, and I definitely got my fill of it!
My first meal there was at a very traditional family-style restaurant that served the meal in different courses. Starting with anti pasti, the servers brought out massive plates that you take a bit of food from before passing it on to the rest of those at your table, until you have a full plate. This course can include things like prosciutto, salads, and other types of vegetables. Next up is the pasta course, called primi, followed by secondi, or the main dish of the meal, usually some kind of meat, and then finishing off with desert and then coffee. Due to the fact that we were already stuffed by the time we finished our primis, we decided not to get secondis, choosing desert instead. I won’t lie, even in Switzerland, the land of chocolate, I have never had more on my plate at one time than during this course, between the chocolate mousse, chocolate salami, chocolate sauce to go over one of the pastry, in addition to the other deserts. Don’t worry, Gelato came another time, I made sure I didn’t miss it when in Italy. After the experience I truly understood why my friend had warned me not to eat that day, knowing we would be having such a large meal at the restaurant.
The next day, I found myself in Florence! My friend and I walked around the city and saw some of the major sights, such as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, but unfortunately due to the long line and my lack of foresight, we did not have a reservation to go to the Museum where the famous statue of David is located, in addition to the Palazzo Vecchio, or the old town hall of Florence. There, I found among many other things, a map room which happened to be one of my favorite parts. Despite my excitement of being in Italy, I couldn’t help but locate Switzerland and Lausanne on the map of the francophone world.
Upon returning to Bologna, I got a full on view of what I envisioned to be Italy one morning when it was sunny. Walking through the city’s colored porticos with the sun burning off any morning dew and fog and shining through the arches, there was nothing else like it. Until that is I climbed up on top of one of Bolonga’s famous two towers and got a full view of the city’s red roof tops and green rolling hills in the distance. The combination of the true Italian food and these images definitely met my expectations of what Italy should be, and I will say I am ready for round two to come at some point down the line. That visit will be to Rome, almost certainly, and then later on I hope to get to Venice. But alas, I am back in the wonderful land of the Swiss, and life could not possibly be better.