Category Archives: Study abroad

Siena’s sweet tooth

By Christine Jackson

SIENA, Italy–I have seen the Italian Willy Wonka and his factory is in Siena.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 3.22.38 PM

We visited Siena on Sunday and made a few stops outside the city on the way. One of these stops was La Fabbrica del Panforte Siena, where panforte “masters” produce several types of sweets in addition to the traditional panforte. It’s said that the Sienese have the sweetest teeth in Tuscany. I believe it. I was only around the city for the day and I think I ingested more sugar than I have over my entire life.

The longest lasting tradition among the sugar­buzzed Sienese is panforte. Panforte has been produced in and around Tuscany since the 13th century. The fruit cake-­like confection was born of necessity, meant to give people energy with its mix of sugar, honey, flour, nuts and dried fruits. A later variation, panpepato, added spices to the mix.

The mixture is baked in a shallow, circular pan with an edible wafer on the bottom to keep it from sticking. Once finished, each panforte at the factory is hand­wrapped by a master and sealed for sale. The ingredients are listed on the package, except for the spice mix, which is a closely ­guarded secret. Each panforte bakery has its own mix that makes its product unique.

Both variations of the sweet, labeled as Margherita (panforte) and Nero (panpepato), are available for sale at La Fabbrica del Panforte Siena, along with other cakes and cookies. After touring the factory to learn the baking process, we got a chance to try some of the products.

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The Margherita tasted like a sweet, dense fruit cake. The consistency is soft and packed with dried fruits and almonds for texture. The Nero is similar, but with a flavor closer to the spicy German lebkuchen found around Christmas and Oktoberfest. The fruit and nuts cut the spice-­heavy gingerbread flavor to create something a little less aggressive than its German cousin, but just as delicious.

Also available were flat, yellow­ish cookies that tasted of almonds and aniseed. It’s been over 24 hours and I still don’t know how I felt about them other than that I know they were strange. The other cookies were soft, crumbly mounds with something the color of dust sprinkled on top. They were delicious. They’re nearly scone sized and taste like walnuts, sugar and just the right amount of anise. Not too strong like the first cookies, but just right.

I walked away with a bag of the second cookies “to share” (they’re mostly for me) and a Panforte Nero to give to my grandmother along with a thank you note when I get home. Hopefully the German roots reach all the way to the taste buds.

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Filed under MU Journalism Abroad, Science ad Agricultual Journalism, Siena, Study abroad

Flying overnight and arriving in Italy: expectations vs. realities

By Molly Curry

FLORENCE, Italy — As with most first experiences, I had some expectations about Florence, and of course, as with most first experiences, my expectations differed immensely from the actual events of the day. Thus, this blog post was born. I give you:

Expectation 1: I’ll try not to sleep the night before so that I can sleep most of the time during our 8-hour flight to Paris.

Reality: I didn’t sleep the night before OR on the plane. I think I am actually sleep-typing this blog post right now. Unclear.

Expectation 2: Whenever they serve food on planes in movies, it’s always really fancy like a full roasted chicken with gold shavings for the spices.

Reality: THIS. Photo 1 (1)

Expectation 3: I should wear cute shoes on the first day of walking around to make a good impression.

Reality: The only impression that anyone got of me was that I might have broken a limb recently, due to the excessive moaning and limping.

Expepctation 4: Getting around won’t be that hard, I’ll have a map and I am directionally gifted. I’ll be fine!

Reality: As it happens, I am actually directionally challenged. I haven’t even looked at a map since the invention GPS and now I have a lot of regrets.

Expectation 5: Our apartment will be perfect and I will have a gorgeous view out of my window.

Reality: OK, this one actually did come true. Photo 2

So, after a grueling day of three different airports, two TSA pat downs and at least one time being hopelessly lost, international travel was not quite what I expected. But even though a lot of what happened today surprised me, I found that I was not perturbed by these surprises. They presented themselves as new challenges and I felt as though I rose, or at least, attempted to rise to them as best as I could. And in the end, that’s all that really matters. Now, at the embarrassingly early time of 9 pm, I must say goodnight to you, Florence. But don’t you worry, I’ll be back tomorrow.

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Filed under Florence, international travel, MU School of Journalism, Study abroad, Uncategorized