FSU looking to explore the city of romance

Verona skyline and river Adige taken from hotel room. Photo courtesy of Janet Schwartz

Romanticized ancient ruins lead to bustling cafés and quaint restaurants.

A charming skyline of red-tiled rooftops and 12th century architecture will trick the brain into believing Montagues and Capulets still roam the sidewalks.

Italy’s fourth most visited city, Verona, will be home to Framingham State University’s May 2017 slow food tour.

Originally scheduled for the summer of 2016, the trip was postponed to allow more students the opportunity to sign up.

Professor Janet Schwartz will lead the trip through the Shakespearean streets of Verona with the goal of helping students understand how food is processed and consumed in Italian culture.

So, what exactly is slow food?

Slow food is the opposite of fast food, such as McDonalds, Burger King and other well-known restaurants.

Instead of questionable, frozen foods filled with GMO’s and preservatives that Americans have become accustomed to, Italian food is chock-full of fresh ingredients, which then are hand crafted to perfection.

Rather than rushing through their meals, students learn how to slow down and appreciate meals prepared similarly to the way they were in the middle ages.

Schwartz, a professor of food science and the faculty member leading the tour, said, “Italy began the movement [slow food] because the traditional ways of getting food and preparing food were getting away from them.

“It is something they [Italians] wanted to hold onto,” she said. “The Italians love their food!”

A typical day would start with a continental breakfast at the hotel. Next, the group is led by program director Antonia Bampas to a local restaurant or factory where students are able to witness the handmade manufacturing of different pastas and meats.

After watching these artists prepare their meal, students get to relax, eat and admire the hard work and quality of the food that has been prepared.

“The students are amazed when you take them out to lunch. One student came up to me and said, ‘Professor, I think we just ate for two hours.’

“Yes, exactly, it is slow food,” said Schwartz.

Although the wait is long, it is well worth it.

“We are offered three types of ‘hour-old’ tortellini which resemble soft pillows pinched together at the corners. The pasta includes squid ink, spinach and white varieties. The pasta is light and literally melts in your mouth,” said Schwartz.

“The fillings include pumpkin, spinach, cheese and meat. When you take a bite into your first pasta pillow, you declare that this type is the best thing you have ever eaten.”

To end the meal, “When you are sated and think you can’t eat another morsel, lovely Italian pastries are brought in with espresso. Heaven,” said Schwartz.

However, there is more to the city of romance than food. Students experience other adventures, such as historical sites, museums and hiking trips.

Schwartz recalled a rafting trip that she and her students took.

“In the middle ages and before, towns were built on the bend of the river for transportation. So our guide took us on a rafting trip, which gave us this historic view of Verona,” she said.

“When you see the town from the water rather than from above…students just love it,” said Schwartz.

Once the students touch ground back in Verona, they have the option to rest, shop, go to the café or spend their leisure time doing anything they please.

Ending the typical day in Verona, students get dinner. Professor Schwartz highly recommends pizza from L’Arena Pizza.

At one time, L’Arena was an entertainment spot used by Italians to put on acts much like Rome’s famous coliseum. It now produces some of the best pizza Verona has to offer.

Located almost three hours from Verona is Florence, Italy. FSU students are familiar with Florence because of a number of students study at the Lorenzo D’ Medici school located there.

Nicole Buccheri, a junior at FSU, enjoyed her time studying in Florence, especially her leisure time where she could go out and experience the famous food.

“The food was fresh, no preservatives, no genetically modified organisms, you could eat as much as you want and never get sick,” said Buccheri.

However, Buccheri found only one negative about the food in Italy- the spice!

“Italians don’t really use spices, and not nearly enough garlic as Americans do. I was disappointed in the lack of spices and garlic and flavor, but I still miss it.”

This once in a lifetime opportunity to get behind the scene of Verona, Italy will take place in May 2017.

The overall price of the trip is roughly $4,200 and includes airfare, most meals, travel and hotel accommodations.

Schwartz said that between 12 and 15 students are expected to travel.

“We allow students to access places they would not access if they were just a tourist.”