Locals We Love: Pino

Brining in students from around the world and local Florentines since 1991, Pino’s shop can’t be missed in Florence. This local welcomes everyone as family and ensures quality service every time you return. Serving local meats, vegetables, various pasta dishes, and his infamous mouth-watering panini’s, Pino’s is never a disappointment. We recently sat down with Pino himself so that we could try and get to know him a little bit better.

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Where in Italy are you from?

I’m from Naples but I moved to Florence in 1986 and I’ve been living here ever since.

When did you start Salumeria Verdi (Pino’s)?

I opened my shop in 1991.

What’s your favorite sandwich?

My three favorite sandwiches are The Best, Sarchiapone, and Pinos of course.

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What is the best part of your job?

The relationship I get to build with my customers as well as having the opportunity to show study abroad students my local Italian shop. I love being a part of students study abroad experience and having them come back to visit me in the future.

What is your favorite Florentine restaurant?

My favorite Florentine restaurant is Osteria Boccanegra. This is a great place for a delicious Florentine dish.

Where can someone find the best Florentine Gelato?

Il Gelato Gourmet di Marco Ottaviano.

Will you ever open up a shop in the States?

I will always have my shop in Florence, but it’s actually my daughter’s dream to open a shop in the States. She’s traveling to the U.S. this summer to scope out various locations for a future shop in Ohio.

Dogs of Europe

By Marlee Newman

There is something you notice walking around the streets of Europe. Something other than the insufficiently small coffee cups and uncomfortably tight pants on men. Dogs. Dogs of Europe are different. They keep their chin up and walk a little more dantily with that “I know I’m a European dog confidence”. You can take them to restaurants without them climbing on the table or raising their leg on a bystander. They often wear sweaters and many are purse sized. From lots of street wandering and awkward “can I photograph your dog” encounters… we present you “Dogs of Europe.”

IMG_8852 Meet Gonzales. Rocking his european puff jacket.. probably costing more than our entire wardrobe.. He is the envy of all his European dog friends and in his mind he is in the midst of a doggy action film.

IMG_8880 Meet Tony. Don’t let his dumb looks fool you. He’s a Vin Diesel and Sylvester Stallone hybrid in European dog world.

IMG_9209 Meet Sheila. When asked to take her photo she objected due to a bad hair day but we preceded anyways.

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IMG_9461 Meet Ted. He enjoys chasing his tail and barking at squirrels. An rare breed in European dog world.

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Perhaps our favorite European dog of all. Pino.

IMG_9234 If these aren’t “puppy eyes” I don’t know what qualify.

Stay tuned for more Dogs of Europe…

 

 

 

A Night by Night Guide to Going Out in Prague

By Adam King

Whether you are studying abroad in Prague or just visiting, you all know how insane the nightlife is in the heart of the Czech Republic.  With so many options of bars, clubs, absintheries; it can be a bit overwhelming.  So I’ve come to the rescue to help you hit the must see places to grab some of that cheap, cheap beer.

Monday:

Had a long day of classes?  Procrastinating for that test on Tuesday?  Just really want to go out with friends?  Whatever the reason, go get your drink on and don’t worry, you can have just as crazy of a night on a Monday as you can on a Saturday.  The spot to be on Monday night is none other than Roxy (Dlouhá 33, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic).  With a big dance floor, big bar, 2 floors, and some great DJ’s playing on Mondays, Roxy is the place to be; take a look at the venue below.

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Tuesday:

After recovering from your crazy night at Roxy, battling through your classes, and enjoying some Netflix and a nap; you’re ready for round 2.  The place to head to on Tuesday nights are none other than Chapeau Rouge (Jakubská 2, 110 00, Czech Republic).  With 3 floors at this hybrid bar and club, there is a bit of something for everybody.  On the top floor is a standard bar with tables and 2 bars to wet your whistle which is great for a couple casual drinks with friends.  For those looking to get their dancing on, fear not as you can go down another floor for the live underground floor (both DJ’s and musicians play), and you can head down another floor for some great electronic and hip hop music depending on the DJ.  Check out the layout of the chill bar up top:

chapeau

Wednesday:

I hope that you’re still surviving the week thus far because we’re just getting started and Wednesday is one of the rowdiest nights of the week.  Head over to Praha 2 to Retro Music Hall (Francouzská 75/4, 120 00 Praha 2-Vinohrady, Czech Republic) for their infamous Retro Wednesday’s.  Check out how it looks:

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Thursday:

Ok, you might have had to skip you class this morning, but after grabbing a coffee and a bagel from Bohemia Bagel, you’re ready for round 4.  Thursday night has a lot places that will be packed and ready for you to grab your drinks, and Radost FX (Bělehradská 234/120, 120 00 Praha, Czech Republic) is one of the most popular.  Radost FX is one, if not the best hip hop spot in all of Prague.  Check it out:

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Friday

TGIF, right?  I know you might be getting a little tired by this point of the week, but it’s the weekend and no one remembers the nights that they stay in.  I recommend heading to Vinarna U Sudu (or U Sudu for short) (Vodičkova 677/10, 110 00 Praha 1-Nové Město, Czech Republic) for some of the cheapest drinks in town in an awesome cave style bar.  After getting some drinks here, just walk a couple of minutes down the road to one of my favorite clubs in all of Europe: Lucerna Music Bar (Štěpánská 61, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic).  Lucerna on Friday’s is an 80’s and 90’s night with a huge dance floor, a stage, and a huge screen that will be playing your favorite songs that you loved when growing up.  Check it out:

lucerna

Saturday:

Saturday as you can imagine is going to be packed everywhere, especially in one of the craziest cities in the world.  For all you students studying there, you’ll know your favorite Saturday spot and for those who are visiting, I’ll give you a recommendation of one of the more touristy bars, but it’s still cool to check out for a bit; Karlovy Lazne (Smetanovo nábřeží 198/1, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic).  Karlovy Lazne is the largest club in all of central Europe with 5 different floors and getting your fix of chill bar, hip hop club, electronic club, 80’s & 90’s music, or trance music; you can get a bit of everything.  Check it out:

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Sunday:

Ok c’mon now.  You’ve been on a 6 day bender at this point.  Let your liver relax and get your school work done.

No one is asking you to go out this many days a week, but at least now you have some options.  Na zdraví! (That’s cheers for you non-Czech speakers).

The Truffle Craze: Part One

Truffle Salt, truffle butter, truffle oil, truffle cheeses, truffle vegetables, truffle fries, truffle pasta, truffle risotto, truffle this, truffle that…the list never ends…..especially in my apartment.

In this case, I’m not talking about the chocolate dipped, ganache filled, confectionary treat. I’m talking about a culinary addiction, which I dare say, is even better than a chocolate truffle. This underground growing “mushroom” is literally worth it’s weight in gold, are a delicacy unlike anyother in the culinary world. Even though you may love truffles, you aren’t a true foodie until you know everything, and anything, about them. If you’re a fact nerd like myself, or perhaps you love spending time wowing your friends with semi-weird knowledge, here are 10 facts to impress.

1) A truffle is a cross between a fungus and a tuber. It is essentially the underground version of a mushroom.

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2) There are hundreds of different kinds of truffles, and while none are known to be poisonous, only a few of them are considered to be delicacies by humans.

3) Truffles are harvested in Europe with the aid of female pigs or truffle dogs, which are able to detect the strong smell of mature truffles underneath the surface of the ground. Once discovered, truffles can be collected in subsequent years at the same site.

pig truffle hunter

4) In Italy, the use of pig truffle hunters is prohibited. It was banned in 1985 due to damage caused by the pigs to the truffle’s mycelia during the digging. It dropped truffle production rates for many years after.

5) While truffles have been grown commercially for over 100 years the science of truffle growing is still not fully understood. The truffle is the result of a complex symbiotic relationship between the soil, the fungus, the tree, and the climate and is difficult to observe underground.

6) Most truffle products are not made with real truffle. Instead they are flavored with a synthetic flavor that replicates the truffle aroma and flavor.

7) Truffle Vodka exists..I can’t promise it’s as good as any truffled food though.

truffle vodk

8) A truffle’s aroma and flavors diminish by half within four to five days. The fresher the better!

9) The largest truffle ever found was a white Alba truffle weighing in at 4.16 pounds. It sold for $61, 250 in 2014. The largest truffle prior to that sold for $417,200.

10) Truffles are the most profitable agricultural crop. You can get up to $30,000 to $40,000 in profit per acre, once the farm starts producing truffles.

The Best Truffle-y Restaurants in Florence

  • La Giostra: The white truffle pasta will start an incurable craving.
  •  Trattoria Anita: Tortellini with Truffle Cream Sauce and Sausage, so heavenly.
  •  Osteria delle Tre Panche: a separate menu for everything truffle.
  • Za Za’s: the truffle risotto and truffle fries are quite simply, to die for.
  • Torcicoda: 4 cheese pizza with real sliced truffles on top, count me in!

The Importance of Learning A Foreign Language Abroad

By Jarrett Nixon

As travelers in a foreign country, being fluent in English is both a gift and a curse.  In Europe, for example, while there are so many different languages you will find that English is almost always the universal second language.  English is taught in nearly every secondary school and kids growing up in Europe are often multilingual by the age of 14.  This makes our lives a heck of a lot easier and with technology still skyrocketing we are finding it increasingly simpler to get our point across.

Applications such as Google Translate make it easy for us to get translations in a matter of milliseconds.  With all of this technology at our fingertips and the abundance of English speakers in Europe, we find ourselves in a comfortable spot, and this poses a problem. We are missing out on an enriching learning experience, and the chance to genuinely communicate with another culture.

We become complacent. We do not have an inherent NEED to learn a language anymore. If everyone is able to communicate with us in English, why should we learn French, or German, or Italian? Sure, we would LIKE to learn these languages, but it will always be a past regret unless we put forth a conscious effort.

Take me for example.

I have lived and worked in Florence, Italy for a little over a year and I am just now starting to put my foot down and make a dedicated effort to become fluent in Italian. I can navigate my fair share of basic conversations (Come va oggi? Tutto bene?) but struggle after the first minute or so of small talk. I work 70+ hours a week so finding the time to learn Italian was surely out of the question. That is, until I had a significant realization that my biggest barrier to learning Italian was not the time constraint, but how I went about trying to learn.

I would dedicate time in small bits to trying to learn (using Duolingo, reading through old Italian workbooks, etc.) but I wasn’t speaking Italian enough. I was afraid to make mistakes and look like I had no idea what I was doing so I would resort back to English after I was out of my “small talk” comfort zone in Italian. As of late, I have made a pact with myself that I will only speak in Italian to the baristas whenever I go into a local coffee shop. Whenever I don’t know how to say anything, I will always ask the barista how I can say it in Italian and then repeat the sentence over and over in my head. Whenever I have a free chance I will make note of the new phrase on my phone and review it later.

I have seen my Italian improve tenfold after dedicating myself to this for several weeks.  I found that the original reason I was learning Italian was to simply say that I could do it.  After spending so much time in Italy, however, I have realized that I truly want to communicate with the locals in their native tongue. It is a different sensation when you are able to speak in a different language, and one that is almost inexpressibly gratifying. I have found the experience to be both extremely refreshing and empowering, albeit frustrating at times.

Here are some Italian language hacks that I find the most helpful:

  •  Fluentin3months Program – The best technique of all. Take part in the Fluent in 3 Months program. This program is truly incredible. It was founded by a man named Benny, a self proclaimed Irish Polyglot. He speaks seven language and has shaped this course around a unique approach to learning a language. The program is rapidly growing as one of the most powerful and effective language learning programs in the world. Definitely worth checking out!
  • Reading the local newspaper – Have your Google Rranslate app out with you and try and learn 5 new words a day.
  • Change the default language on your phone – This may annoy you at first but you have operated your phone so many times to know which buttons to press, no matter the language.
  • Watch your favorite movie in another language – You know all of the lines, you have seen the movie a million times, why not spice it up and change the language?  Also, you can simply change the subtitles to the desired language and still listen in English.
  • Personal mentor – If you are lucky, you can find a friend who is fluent in the language you want to learn. Tell them you are dedicated to learning a new language and have them talk to you only in that language any time you call them on the phone. You may only get a sentence or two before you have to switch back to English, but you will improve with each phone call.
  • Podcasts – There are too many amazing language learning podcasts to list here.  If you have an iPhone or Android you need to take advantage of this.
  • Youtube – An entire world of “How To” videos are out there for free and at your disposal. It’s as easy as clicking and watching.
  • Books – Yes. They are still a thing. Having a small reference book in your backpack at all times will come in handy, and flipping through it is a great way to spend those spare minutes through the day when you are bored.
  • Duolingo – An iPhone and Android app that is free to download.  The app is structured to make learning a foreign language feel like a game. Spend 15 minutes on Duolingo a day and your progress will skyrocket. Tip: In the Duolingo settings you can set a daily alarm to remind you to practice.
  • Sitting in a local cafe while doing work – You would be surprised by how much you soak in by just listening to the daily interactions of the locals with the baristas.

 

Spotify Playlists – There are many spotify audio playlists dedicated to teaching Italian. If you are on a long bus or plane ride, this definitely comes in handy.