Sunday, June 30, 2013

Why I Went to Piacenza

I feel like Italians think I'm stupid. Every time I do something, they look at me like I have five heads. More explanation will come.

In the meantime, I decided to go to Piacenza the other day because, well, I have literally nothing left to do. All of my finals are done and now I'm just kind of hanging around Italy until July 15th. So, I'd heard about Piacenza (and it was recommended by a little Modena tourist book!) and decided to take a day trip, since I have nothing else to do.

There main piazza is "Piazza Cavalli"--Horses Piazza. That pretty much made it impossible for the city to be a complete failure.

I went around and saw some sights.

There was a very cute little garden right near the train station.

Then the Duomo! I couldn't go inside because it was closed. I will say that this town is definitely sleepy. I knew when I saw that stores are closed from 12:30 to 4:30 that there was a problem (Modena's stores are closed from 12:30 to 3:30).

Next I visited the main palazzo--Palazzo Farnese.


And empty. I take back anything I ever said about Modena being a quiet town. Modena is hoppin' in comparison to Piacenza.

Inside the palazzo were these creepy statues.

Turns out they are actually seats!

Then I took a walk to a pasticceria I had read about online. I will make a trip anywhere as long as a pasticceria is involved.

This one was particularly exciting because it was Napolitano. I love desserts from Napoli and Sicilia.

As I was paying for my sweets, the lady asked if I was Italian. When I responded and said I was American, the five-headed look came out.

"What are you doing in Piacenza?"
"Well, I'm studying in Modena..."
"You're studying in Modena? Well, what on earth are you doing in Piacenza?"
And so the conversation went.

I got some delicious goodies though. A tiny babà (that she squirted with fresh alcohol before handing it to me) and a little airy pastry filled with an incredible chocolate cream. It was worth the trip to Piacenza.


Friday, June 28, 2013


I was very excited to introduce Asia and Magda to s'mores yesterday. It was a major hit (how could it not be?).

Usually, my friend from home has a fire pit where we roast our jet-puffed marshmallows and squish them between Honey Maid graham crackers and Hershey's Chocolate.

Well, we used the gas stove as our fire pit and I got a little creative while choosing ingredients.

I did a pretty good job finding a replacement for graham crackers:

They were a little small and lacked the hint of cinnamon, but they sufficed.

Hershey's doesn't exist here, so I took the liberty of getting a bunch of different kinds of chocolate. I was super excited to try out gianduia s'mores--and they didn't disappoint.

Mmmmmmm so yummy. Just the smell of roasting marshmallows made me feel at home.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Proud To Be American...?

"Delicacies of Stars and Stripes" (rough translation).

Hmmmm so it's "American" Food week/month over here at Lidl, the supermarket down the street. I'm a little horrified.

In picture one, going left to right and starting from the top shelf we have: pop corn, hamburger "sauce," mustard, mayonnaise, cranberry juice (in Italian known as "American blueberries"), cheesecake, apple pie, cherry pie, apple crumble, muffins, cookies, and two different kinds of chips.

More cranberry juice, peanut butter (smooth and crunchy!), hot dogs in a jar (that made me wanna puke), craisins, jelly beans, those weird gummy hamburgers, pickles, chocolate and lemon cakes, pancake mix in a plastic container, marshmallows (BBQ marshmallows--I think the BBQ refers to the fact that you are supposed to roast them...), and finally, ketchup.

I don't know which part of this is most offensive...

Well, I'm making the most of it. We'll be making s'mores and puppy chow very soon.

In other news...

I got new sandals! Having come in winter, I had only brought shoes with no air pockets to relieve my feetsies. To spare people of the putrid smell that comes after I take off my shoes (due to the excessive heat--it's not a normal occurrence), I'll be wearing these from now on.


We found these cuties when we went to Parco Amendola.

Scariest store front ever.

ET and a giant hand. There's more that my camera didn't catch. Asia is mesmerized, or scared.

And Modena is pretty during the day...

and at night.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Penultimate Visitors!

My aunt and uncle, Cary and Margie, have been traveling all over Italy since June 11th. They started in Rome and are currently in Venice. They stopped in Bologna for a few days and I convinced them to head over to Modena a couple of times.

First, we met up in Bologna, and Cary began his insistent photo-taking.

We had some cappuccino far too late in the day, just like Americans should.

I showed them around town. That's the face I make when someone asks what something is and I have absolutely no idea.

It happens pretty frequently.

In Modena, we visited some of my favorite places, like Bar Tiffany.

And Mercato Albinelli.

We ate cherries, apricots, and strawberries.

Then we went to an amazing lunch at this place, Il Fantino. It's tucked away on a tiny side street and has incredible food.

Oh, and apparently there was an earthquake that we didn't feel...


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Vignola: The Search for a Torta Barozzi

The last time we went to Vignola, our main goal was to eat a Torta Barozzi from this Pasticceria Gollini. And it was closed.

So we set off again in the hopes that it would be open. It helped that there was a cherry festival going on at the same time so we would have something to distract our (mostly my) disappointment.

This time we took the easy route; we skipped out on the nature trail for the sake of our bikes (and maybe our own sanity).

We headed straight for our target pasticceria.

As you can tell from my double thumbs up, it was open! Yay!

I went in and immediately asked for a piece of Torta Barozzi. And some coffee. I had to get up at 9:30 (in the morning!) for this trip. A whole hour and a half before my new wake-up time.

There was a little pamphlet on the table, giving the history of the Torta Barozzi in four different languages.

It was a tiny piece, but satisfying because this cake is so incredibly dense. And so incredibly delicious.

Next, our tummies told us that eating only chocolate cake and coffee after riding our bikes for an two and a half hours was not a good plan.

So I got some tigelle--one with prosciutto crudo and the other with salami and cheese.

For the rest of our time we walked around the cherry festival (and we downed one kilo of duroni in about 20 minutes).

And then we found this window display.

"Frightening" is the only word that comes to mind.

Vignola is a very cute little town. And it has castles, of course.

As you can see, the sky was foreboding on the way back, but we forged ahead.

And saw some cows.

And tried to get this cat to come play with me.

And became confused by this sign.

And this one. They seem to have named this street after Jack Kerouac for no apparent reason...

Then it started raining. And it didn't stop. We rode in the rain for about 45 minutes to an hour. Unfortunately, this was the first time I chose to wear shorts and a tank top in Italy because I expected it to be un-Godly hot. Instead, it was cold and rainy. We got many strange looks from the heavily covered and umbrella-ed Italians that hate to be touched by a drop of rain. First we rode our bikes 50 kilometers to eat a cake. Then we rode our bikes IN THE RAIN! Blasphemy.

Anyways, mission accomplished! Well, almost. You see, I bought a mini, packaged Torta Barozzi and the ingredients are listed on the back. Well, those ingredients do not match up with the recipes I've found online. At all.

New mission: figure out how to make the famous Torta Barozzi from Pasticceria Gollini.