Alright, so those of you who know me well know that I like Aperol and Campari. They are aperitivi that are red in color and bitter, meant to be served before dinner during Happy Hour. Since I heard about them before coming to Italy, I’ve been trying to get people to try them . . . with no luck. They definitely are acquired tastes in America.
But here in Padova, EVERYONE drinks them in a drink called Spritz. Spritz is an aperitif consisting of Prosecco, club soda, and either Aperol or Campari–but usually Aperol– and sometimes an orange slice. It is, quite possibly, the best drink in the world, and it was invented right here in Padova. You can’t walk two feet in the afternoon without bumping into someone with a Spritz.
If you want to feel more Italian, I highly recommend giving it a try. By themselves, Aperol and Campari might not be your cups of tea, but in this recipe, they really shine. It’s the perfect refreshment, and given its low alcohol content, it’s a perfect before dinner drink.
I’ll follow up with a post on digestivi (after dinner drinks) soon.
After settling in, I can say that this week went really well. I can already tell that my Italian is progressing, and it is becoming easier to speak without thinking too much, although I still have a long way to go. Hopefully by the end of the first month of classes with Boston University, I will be ready to take the other two courses at Università degli Studi di Padova.
We spent two days in orientation with the program coordinators and professors. There are only three professors at the Boston center, teaching Italian Migrant Literature, Italian Immigration and Emigration, Jews & Christians in Italy, Topics in Italian Music History, and two levels of Italian Language. Some of the other students in the program are taking more than two courses there, but I’m only taking Italian Music History and Advanced Italian. The professors seem really nice, and similar to my host family, they speak very clearly, so we are all very happy about that.
The Boston center has two or so classrooms, a small Library, two or so office spaces, and two small study spaces with computers. It’s centrally located, which is nice. My current course schedule is
Advanced Italian Practicum from 9.15am-11.00am and Italian Music History from 15.15pm-17.00pm (sorry for the military time, but that’s how they do it here) on Mondays and Wednesdays.
On Thursday, we were treated to a really fancy lunch, and so I took the opportunity to order stuffed zucchini flowers, which were amazing! We spent the rest of Orientation talking about our home stays, emergency procedures, and what to do in Padova. We also got a brief tour of the city from one of the Professors, which was helpful. We hit the main spots, but the best part was seeing the Basilica di Sant’Antonio. The opulence and grandiosity were certainly awe-inspiring, but it clearly weighs heavily on the congregation, as it is meant to do.
I also had to take an entrance Italian language test on Friday morning. I knew it wasn’t going to be terribly difficult, especially since Professors Kuhn, Perrone, and Paparcone at Bucknell (not to mention the fabulous TAs) taught me so well. Nevertheless, I still found the need to cram the night before on the really difficult grammatical components, like trapassato remote, i pronomi dopi, ecc.
Finally, I spent the weekend exploring the city further. Even after the tour, I felt like I needed to get lost, on purpose, and find my way around Padova. It was actually very helpful. I also took that opportunity to walk around the Saturday clothes markets in the
Prato della Valle, and the food markets around the Palazzo della Ragione. More importantly, I wanted to know where all the bookstores, print-shops, libraries, and cafeterias were, in addition to the Padova Political Science Department.
Speaking of the cafeterias, we did get to try the cafeteria, or la mensa, during Orientation. Honestly, it was a pretty standard cafeteria, but I loved how the standard table ingredients at every table were olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The prices are reasonable, and the food was very good. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about that later.
After I got off the bus, I met my host mother, named Maria Carlotta Maso, but she prefers Carlotta. She is a single mother (separated but not divorced) with two children, Rocco (20 years old) and Emma (23 years old). They live on the second floor of a family-owned apartment complex on the south end of town, just off of a tram stop, which is perfect for me to get to school. Carlotta is an elementary school math teacher, and will be starting school soon. Rocco will be an incoming student at the University of Padova studying Political Science — which is probably one of the reasons why I was placed here. Emma graduated university after studying architecture and photography. She doesn’t live far away and often comes home for dinner.
While I always knew I wanted to do a home-stay program, I was a bit nervous to meet the family, since they don’t speak very much English, not to mention the fact that I’ve never met them before. After only a day, though, I’ve realized that this family is a perfect fit for me. Even though they don’t speak any English, they speak extremely clearly and slowly enough for me to catch all of the words. It’s especially helpful that Rocco frequently helps me on with my grammar and vocabulary mistakes. It would be imbarazzante to make too many linguistic mistakes in public, so I’m very grateful for that. They are extremely nice and it’s pleasant to be living with them.
My room (and the house in general) is the perfect size and serves me very well. As the pictures indicate, the room has a desk with a
beautiful view, a closet as big as what I have at home, and a comfortable bed. Everything in the home is relatively neat, tidy, and well-decorated, and it is important to Italians to keep a clean room. The only problem is that the summertime in Padova tends to be a bit buggy (e.g. mosquitos), so we have to use vape-plugins. It will be
a great place in which to study and do homework, but there are also many study spaces (aule) throughout the city with wifi that will work just as well. It’s not always a good idea to stay in one’s room all day.
The first evening, I actually took a nap for several hours, but didn’t mean to sleep until dinner time, which is usually at 8pm. This is probably because I had pasta in pomodoro sauce after we got home. For la cena, we had chicken breasts cooked with dijon mustard and a side of cooked vegetables (peppers, eggplant, onion, etc.). It was quite delicious. To my surprise, they drank beer rather than wine, but it was good nonetheless. As the picture indicates, they have a beautiful terrace on which they eat many meals. After dinner, I gave
them the gifts I brought from home. For Carlotta, I brought a Vineyard Vines tote from Bucknell, a book about scenic Maryland, a Yankee Candle, and a giant container of Old Bay. For Rocco, I brought an under-armour zip up shirt with a Bucknell Bison, and a shot glass with Maryland themes. For Emma, I brought a Vera Bradley phone/ID wristlet. I think they very much liked everything. But I do know that they LOVED the Old Bay, the Otterbein chocolate chip cookies (which got smashed), and the amazing Double K Pretzels homemade in Lewisburg, PA. It was actually kind of funny to watch their faces light up with enjoyment. They so enjoyed it that I cooked chicken and pork with Old Bay for Rocco the next night.
It’s been nearly two full days, and I’ve already experienced so much . . . But what do you expect from a semester of a lifetime? I suppose I’ll start from the beginning:
First, I have to say I was a bit nervous when I got to the airport. It hadn’t hit me that I would be living approximately 5361.63 miles away from home for half a year, even after I said goodbye to all of my friends and family, until I got past the security checkpoint at JFK. At this point, I don’t know anyone else in my program. Utterly alone and detached, I found the gate of departure for my 6pm flight.
Then, I boarded the Alitalia airplane, only to find my seat at the front of the plane behind first-class. Consistent my previous trip to Italy 4 years ago, the seats were equipped with an interactive touch-screen with movies, TV shows, and music. Before lifting off, una donna romana sat next to me, explaining that she was born in Rome, but she studies at City University of London. She couldn’t wait to get back home from her trip to Denver before returning to London. We talked for a bit, but I discovered that she was . . . well . . . a hippie, to say the least. Dinner was okay, consisting of pasta, cuscus, and a dessert of sorts (#airlinefood). Did I mention the wine was free? Hoping to sleep after two glasses of vino rosso, I decided to watch the film Benvenuti al Sud, which is a funny movie about a northern Italian postal worker who transfers to Campania. I didn’t get to watch it with the Italian Club last semester, so I was excited to see it.
Much to my chagrin, I didn’t sleep at all during the 7.5 hour flight. We landed in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport soon after a sub-par breakfast of croissant and yogurt (again, #airlinefood). Once I got off the plane, got through immigration, and found my gate, I saw that my flight to Venice would delayed for half an hour — not a problem, since I purchased a copy of one of the national newspapers, Corriere della Sera, to occupy myself. Upon boarding the plane, I soon realized that reading the newspaper would be futile, since my lack of sleep got the better of me.
Finalmente, the 45 minute Alitalia flight landed in Venezia, and to my surprise, I found my bags right away. Then I met up with the Boston University group running the program. They got us a coach bus to take us to Padova, which didn’t take long. Once we got to the Prato delle Valle, one of the city centers, we met our host families.