Written by Isaac V, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for CET Florence: Italian Food, Art, and Society, Summer 2019
Going to Italy has been a first, but I’ll definitely be coming back. As a country of many stereotypes which oversimplify the culture of Italy, it has been enlightening to learn about all the intricacies and unexpected elements of Italian culture.
The first stereotype which is prominently misjudged is the food. Pizza and pasta are different here. The first night we were here in Florence we walked in the smoldering heat to a local pizzeria and got multiple pizzas. The crust was poofy and the cheese was thin, allowing the margarita sauce to dominate the flavor profile of the dish in the best way possible. Also, for the first time ever I tried pizza Picante which is spicy pizza and it was awesome! I’ve never seen it in America before, and so I wish that Americans would integrate it into their culture moving forward. This perfect combo can’t be passed up!
The next night we had pasta, and for the first time, my pasta didn’t taste mostly like tomatoes or some sauce that it was drenched in. Instead of the tomato juices marinating my tongue, the garlic spice ingrained into the noodles shocked my mouth with an unexpected and yet fascinating wave of savory goodness. Later, after another nights rest, we tried Italian sandwiches for lunch. With the bread mostly unsalted, the saltiness of the thinly sliced prosciutto was allowed to shine unlike in any other dish I’ve had. The next day we got even more exotic. After heading into a market in a building that looked like a castle, my eye was drawn to food which anyone would consider gross in America: a Lampredotto sandwich. Fat oozed out of the sandwich as my teeth impaled the salty bread and breached into the chewy cow stomach inside. And while these foods I tried for the first time were truly amazing and unique, the event we went to for the first time was even more epic.
Red and white smoke filled the arena with palpable anticipation and both teams held up their flags high, taking pride in their neighborhood identity. This year’s Calcio Storico was between the two finalist neighborhoods which were Santa Maria Novella, and Santo Spirito. The Santa Maria Novella players were the red team and the Santo Spirito players were the white team. Santo Spirito had a legacy of winning, and consequentially the crowd looked like a sea of white with a small wall of red; the Santa Maria Novella players were obviously the underdogs.
This game is unlike any sport in the US. It’s soccer, rugby, boxing, and more violent than football, all without the protections which football player wear. On the dirt the guys pinned one another to the ground, trying to find an opening to throw the ball successfully to the other side and into the goal. After 20 minutes of chanting the phrase, “vince bianco!” the crowd quieted down as the red team had scored 5 points and the white team still had zero. After 25 more minutes of brawling the ceremony was over, it was clear the underdogs had won, and clear that we had just witnessed the breaking of a legacy which Florentines will remember for years to come.
Despite any challenges that this first week may have had for me, the pros undoubtedly outweigh the cons and I would recommend this program to anyone who likes learning languages and Italian culture. Having been part of great events and a new culture with food that I never thought possible, it has been amazing to be in Florence!