Sunday, November 29, 2015

Week of November 23rd

This past week we went to visit a parmesan cheese factory as well as a balsamic vinegar factory. This was a very interesting experience because we got to take a first hand look at the backgrounds of both of these traditional Tuscan foods. It was also a great experience to see these two factories since both parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar are prevalent in Florence. Not only did we get to see what goes on in both of these locations but we got to try multiple types of cheeses as well as many different balsamics. We also had our research papers due last week so this week in Peter Fischer's class we have been doing our presentations. It has been interesting to witness all of these presentations and to learn about everybody else's research topics. Last week was also Thanksgiving so it was a strange feeling to not be in America for this day. I definitely missed American food particularly last week. However, the Italian food has been amazing.  It is crazy to think that we only have two weeks left here in Florence. The semester flew by. This has truly been an amazing experience. I have learned so much in these classes and it has been a good experience to take classes in a subject outside of my major. I am a Human Development and Family Studies major back at UConn so I have loved having the opportunity to learn about the subject of Sustainable Food and Environmental systems. I have learned so much from working at both the Italian soup kitchen as well as the San Ambrogio market here in Florence. These experiences have been irreplaceable and they have taught me so much about the local food system of Florence. Traveling around Europe has also been a wonderful experience as it has taught me so much about other cultures and foods of other countries. My favorite part of this program has been the field trips and study tours that we have had. This hands-on learning style has been the most beneficial by far. This has been a great opportunity overall! 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Last week we went on a couple of very interesting excursions that helped deepen our understanding of the food systems here in Florence. The first site that we went to was the Mercafir market, which is just on the outskirts of the city. We arrived at the train station very early in the morning to grab taxis to the Market. After a quick taxi ride which I was still half asleep for we arrived at the market. The outside of the market looked like a large industrial park with a gate in the front of it. Once inside we met the Manager of the market who showed us around and explained the details he market. He was very indulging in any questions we had and did a great job getting into detail about the produce system in Florence through the help of Professor Clive Woollard who handled the translating. We were explained to us that the fresh produce coming through this market serves surrounding Tuscany and is the wholesaler of most restaurants and smaller markets in the city.

After we arrived back in the city we met Professor Peter Fischer for our walking tour. It didn't seem that most people in our group were too excited to go on an extensive walking tour after waking up earlier than usual but I think by the end of it we were all very interested and happy to see the parts of the city we probably wouldn't have found on our own. Peter took us to many restaurants and cafe's throughout town, which all seemed like hidden gems that I would not have stumbled upon on my own. It was also nice to go to these places after the wholesale market so that we could see the ending of this food system from the Mercafir to the end seller.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

First Post by Tom Morris

Hello from Florence, Italy.

This blog will provide information from students enrolled in the Sustainable Food and Environmental Systems Program (SFESP). The SFESP is a 14-credit study abroad semester offered by the International Studies Institute (ISI) in Florence in cooperation with the University of Connecticut, Rutgers University, Penn State University and the University of Virginia.

This semester the students will learn about sustainable food production in Tuscany, Italy, the US and the world through experiential learning by working at the food market and soup kitchen in Florence, and by visiting farms and food processors in northern Italy. But the highlight of the semester will be a visit to the World Expo in Milan whose theme is sustainable food production across the world.

Classes started on August 31 and the 12 students enrolled in the program are learning their way around Florence, and ISI. The weather is a bit hot - 92-95 degrees F - and most apartments in Florence do not have air conditioning, so sleeping has been less than ideal. Fans are also scarce due to a heat wave in the high 90s a few weeks ago that seems to have caused a run on fan purchases with nary a fan currently available in the market.

But the food is excellent, the wine inexpensive and delicious, and the people friendly and interested to engage in discussion.  And then there is the city of Florence, which is like a enormous museum with statues and frescoes scattered throughout the city.  

Students will be posting their thoughts about Florence, studying abroad, sustainable agriculture, the food culture of Florence, or any topic they chose.