Friday, December 31, 2010


Throughout the fall I've been playing with the Collegium Musicum Almae Matris, which is the orchestra of the University of Bologna. I tried out back in October when I had about a month of Italian under my belt. I was able to find a trombone out here for a suspiciously cheap price, so I went ahead, bought it and began rehearsing a solo piece for my audition. The audition went well, and before I knew it, I was a card-holding member of the Collegium! My old Italian director Giancarlo Aquilanti would be so proud.

The piece we worked on most this fall was Requiem by Luigi Cherubini. This movement (Dies Irae) was my favorite:

Last Saturday, we performed Requiem and two other pieces, a Christmas tune and some choir song that didn't need the trombones to play. A ton of my fellow students came out to hear the concert which was really cool for me and the other SAIS student in the orchestra, Aurelien.

The concert's venue was in a spacious hall in the city that was kind of echo-y but had an magnificent and grand atmosphere. The opportunity to play music with Italians has really change up my normal routine of classes and studying and I've really appreciated it. Hopefully it'll continue to be awesome in 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Joyeux Noël de France

Because of this year's prolific adventuring (especially the weddings), I couldn't afford to fly home for Christmas. So, for the first time in my life, I spent the holidays away from my family.

Don't despair, however! My friend Camille invited some of my housemates and myself to her family's summer home in the south of France. Now that doesn't sound like reason for despair, does it?

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As I had never before been to France, Camille wanted to make sure that our trip was very French in all ways. Part of that included plenty of French music, including Henri Salvador, who is awesome:

Henri Salvador - Mademoiselle

Camille's house turned out to be a three-story country mansion situated amid low, rolling grapevine-covered hills. We really made the most of our time there, relaxing by the fire, drinking wine and eating really smelly cheeses.

For Christmas Eve, we prepared an epic French dinner. Our menu:

I was in charge of apéritif, which included dijon deviled eggs and sauteéd mushrooms. We also had fresh oysters from the local village market.

For our first course we had foie gras, followed by kebabs with scallops, shrimp and grilled peppers.

Third course was broiled salmon. Delicious. Our fourth course was a roast that the French butcher had wrapped in lard. Double-delicious.

We paired each course with a different type of wine. This all-sounds over-the-top (it kind of was) and expensive, but by preparing it ourselves, the dinner was surprisingly and unexpectedly affordable.

The next morning, we exchanged gifts. I got a large French sausage and a bar of chocolate from my housemate David!

We spent the rest of our time at Camille's sitting by the fire reading or playing cards (except for one ill-fated run in which Michael and I got lost trying to navigate the cold windy French countryside).

It was a beautiful and relaxing trip, I'm very glad for the memories and most of all it was very French. However, it was missing the thing that makes Christmas feel Chistmas-y for me, my family, and I would have loved to spend it with them. My palate may have been in France for Christmas with these ruffians, but my heart was in San Diego.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Freddo Ferrara

Last night I went on an adventure with some of my Italian friends from the orchestra. We drove to Ferrara, a city 45 minutes north of Bologna to go to a party we (they) had been invited to. I got to meet some awesome Ferraresi and everyone seemed to be much more excited that I was from California than that I was from the United States.

As an aside, Ferrara was really cold. I haven't been that cold in a long time.

After the party, we ended up going to this building with giant wooden doors. Once the doors opened, a pure wall of sound hit me. Inside there was courtyard with tons of people with giant tambourines and guitars singing and yelling at the top of their lungs. People were dancing these crazy dances. It was amazing. One of the guys with us picked up an accordion and started playing along. Apparently people knew all the words because they were singing traditional folk songs.

On the way home, the two Italians driving us stuck in a Fabrizio De Andre CD... as far as I can tell, he was the Bob Dylan of Italy. They new all the words and the ride home was super fun as they sang every world of every song all the way back to Bologna.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Broffano Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but don't be sad for me... despite being away from my family I still had a chance to celebrate with overwhelming amounts of turkey, gravy, stuffing, pasta (of course) and plenty of delicious wine!

Italian Thanksgiving by the numbers:

14 - Number of kilograms our turkey weighed

32 - Our turkey's weight in pounds

2 - Number of Italian butchers' mouths that dropped when they confirmed that this was what we wanted

14 - Euro cost of the turkey thermometer

20 - Number of family and friends invited over to Thanksgiving dinner at Toffano house

4 - Proud parents present at dinner

5 - Days after Thanksgiving that I ate leftovers

1 - Family I missed this year

Stuffing Our Faces

One of the best parts of Bologna is the ridiculous food here. Last week two of my buddies' girlfriends came into town (for Thanksgiving-type stuff) and we all decided to celebrate by showing off some of Bologna's food. We went to Osteria Broccandoiso, which is just a hop skip and a jump from our house. There weren't really menus - we just ordered Anti-Pasti (appetizers), Primi (pasta-type dishes) and Dulce (dessert). We passed on Secondi (which was a good choice), but not on Vino (which was also a good choice).

They came by with delicious anti-pasti: salads, quesadilla-y things, corn-y things, etc.

Then they came by with what I thought was primi.

Turns out it was just more anti-pasti. Then they came by with actual primi, which continued for about an hour of ridiculousness. More and more plates just piled up on the table.

Full of food and wine, we felt ready to pay the check, when they came by with dulce! How can you say no to 15 different delicious dessert platters?

Afterwards, we had some digestivos - grappa and limocello, which do a great job of settling a stomach full of Italian food. Over dessert we listened as the Germans I was sitting across from described how incredibly obsessed Germans are with David Hasselhoff, and why it's weird that Americans aren't.

This is a great place.