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.