Okay, you can’t make a blog about Florence without at least one post dedicated to food. From pasta to gelato, Italians have perfected a variety of dishes. However, I also discovered some not-too-Italian dishes which were delicious while I was abroad. While some splurge on Italian shoes, I splurged on eating out. Eating is truly one of the greatest pleasures in life for me, but a lot of foods can be oversimplified to the point of boredom. Take a spaghetti for example. In theory, it is simple to make. You just boil some water, add the dried noodles, and pour store bought paste sauce over the noodles when they look ready. While there is nothing wrong with this, and at times it is all I can make at home, this pasta is in the words of one of my pickiest friends, “sad.” Funny as it may sound–and without judging anyone that prefers pasta this way–I had to agree with what she was saying. Fortunately for me, the foods I ate in Florence were anything but sad or boring.

In Italy, the pastas I ate were always divine. The tomato sauces had little chunks of tomato and seasoning mixed in. The noodles were never too soggy, but always perfectly al dente (this is when noodles are neither over nor under cooked). I am a “lots of cheese” kind of gal, so when I pile on parmesan in most pastas, it usually never melts completely. But the pastas I ate in Florence were always so hot when they were brought to me that the cheese melted as it touched the noodles.

Similarly, I noticed that food establishments in Italy took great care to make sure they were serving the food they envisioned. Even something as simple as an ice cream cone was carefully prepared. Whether it was ensuring the scoops were perfectly round or that they were centered right onto the cone, each gelato scooper prepared Instagram ready treats. One small detail that is more common in Europe, but does sometimes happen in the United States, is that there was a small, circular cookie or chocolate placed into the scoops. Aesthetic was it was, the little detail was also delicious.

Surprisingly, I event found airport food to be shockingly amazing in Italy. As I have written before, while I was in Italy, I became a mild coffee addict. So, before boarding my departing flight, I went to one of the coffee shops to ask for a “café cream.” Not expecting to experience a life changing moment, I immediately ordered another after sampling my first spoonful. For those of you who have yet to experience the magic that is the Italian “cafe cream,” think of a Starbucks Frappuccino but better. Creamier and consisting of a shot of espresso, this little desert is like the cookie butter of all butters… and it has since raised my standards so high for coffee.

I guess you could say that Italy changed my mind about a lot of foods. As someone who doesn’t like to eat meat more than once a week, I was worried that I wouldn’t have many options in Florence. Even worse, I wasn’t sure the meatless options would be any good. However, I soon found that salads were anything but disappointing. Instead, they were full of tasty flavors and vibrant colors. Have you had yams on salad? How about mozzarella cheese? Before Florence, I had never had either of those mixed into a salad, but since then, the topping that I usually put on salads has pleasantly increased.

I could keep sharing more about everything I ate abroad, but I think I’ll leave some things for you to discover yourself…

Andrea Arredondo studied abroad in Florence in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/English-Florence/