Written by Isaac V, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for CET Florence: Italian Food, Art, and Society
I roll over in my bed, waking up to white sheets and a fresh hotel room smell. In one jolt I raise my legs up and catapult my body off the bed so I am standing. Slowly I walk to the bathroom grabbing whatever clothes are available in my closet on the way. Wam! The bathroom door closes and I momentarily grit my teeth, hoping that I haven’t woken up my roommates Jorge and Wylan. Next, I take my daily morning shower which is surprisingly nice. The water pressure is strong like a waterfall, and the heat is warm like a morning cappuccino.
Then at approximately 7:30 I excitedly hop down a flight of stairs, down to the basement where a beautiful breakfast is laid out on a long table. There are garlic croissants, chocolate-filled croissants, and glazed sugary croissants along with a plethora of meats and other small breakfast foods. I grab a couple of everything, sit down and eat my breakfast while sipping a cappuccino. Now I’m ready for the day, and I did it in style, like a true Italian.
Off to school. I grab my brown satchel of money and my small black backpack and I signal to my roommates that it’s time to go. I encourage them with a little Italian slang, saying, “ribalziamo” which in our terms means “let’s bounce” or “let’s get out of here”. We speed walk to class, given that we only have 15 minutes to get there before 9. Luckily, we get there with five minutes remaining, plenty of time to get extra water if need be. The class lasts from 9 until 11, but the time flies by.
After class, we all got out of our chairs, used the restroom, and walked to the Duomo in Siena. Similar to the Duomo in Florence, there are many things which you can explore inside. Actually, the Duomo in Siena has more to explore! We went down 3 levels in an elaborate museum and we even climbed up a giant staircase to a panorama. From there, we could see the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio where I was a week beforehand (Image#1 and Image#2). After having climbed the giant staircase up and down, my peers and I were ready to eat. But like with all great things, we had to wait. We arrived at the cooking class location at 5 pm. It was still dimly bright outside; however, we were between two towering apartment buildings which covered us in a blanket of shade.
The owner greeted us directly, saying “Ciao” as he proceeded to introduce us to the class. However, the owner didn’t know English well so it made it difficult for people other than Rachel and I to communicate with him. Luckily, there was another nice man there named Toseph who knew English. He was a tall, Pakistani man with a black-haired beard. With his help, we were walked through the steps of how to make three types of pasta.
First, we made pici, then gnocchi, and finally we made tortellini. Our hands had to mush the dough, forming solids out of an otherwise gooey slop of water and flour. For the following step, my years of playing with playdoh paid off. We rolled the dough into little snake-shaped strings, trying to keep the circular shape of the noodles. Eventually, all of the noodles were ready to go into the oven so we moved on to the next pasta: gnocchi. Gnocchi is more ball-like and they are often more pillowy and made of potatoes. For our gnocchi, we used red potatoes and repeated the same process as we did for the pici. The difference was that this time, one we had the snake-like noodles of dough, we chopped them up into little square bits. Lastly, we made tortellini.
This process started the same but was overall the most unique. To start we formed the dough by mixing a combination of flour and eggs. We then kneaded the dough until it was nice and flat and then we put it in a machine which elongated the dough even further. Now, with a long sheet of freshly made dough, we took circle cutters and cut as many full circles out of the dough as possible. The circles were lined up, and then we all added pre-made cream cheese and spinach filling to each circle with a spoon.