Live. Travel. Adventure.

Today has been bittersweet as my last day in Ascoli Piceno comes to an end. Of course I yearn for the comforts of home, the friends and family that I miss, but Ascoli Piceno will always hold a special place in my heart. The place that housed me for 5 weeks. The place where I made great friends. The place where I learned so much, not only in classes, but by experiencing and becoming a part of the culture.

I refuse to say that I will never be back because I crave a future of new beginnings, of new people, and of frequent travel. Still, there is no guarantee and if I cannot come back, hopefully I can bestow some wisdom on future travelers to Ascoli Piceno and Italy:

1) Yoghi has the best gelato in Ascoli (maybe even in Italy!). You’ll find it right in Piazza Aringo and you’ll never turn back.

2) Trattoria del’ Aringo is the perfect place for your typical and delicious Italian meal. This is where I had the best pasta, the best fried vegetables, and, of course, the best wine.

3) No matter if you like olives or not, olive ascolana is a must-try. It is a specialty of Ascoli Piceno. An olive stuffed with meat, breaded, and fried. Unbelievably good.

4) Travel around within Italy. Each region is different and I had completely different and amazing experiences in each city that I encountered.

5) Most importantly, let go of expectations, let loose, and enjoy your time. Plans never work out quite right when you are traveling. There is nothing more important than just going with the flow.

Check out this link to find the best hotels and restaurants wherever you plan to travel.

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Ciao tutti! Grazie mille.

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More Vino, Please!

Who knew that a month after turning 21, I would be tasting wines at a vineyard in Italy? Not me, that’s for sure. But happily enough, that’s where I was this Tuesday night.

Although I felt like I had become an olive oil connoisseur after the olive oil tasting, I can’t exactly say that about my wine tasting experience. I suppose wine is wine to me. I can taste the  difference between the white and the red, the sweet from the dry, the fragrant from the bland, but beyond that I don’t taste much of a difference.

At our wine tasting I learned a lot about what I should be tasting in each wine, but I’m not sure that I have the palate necessary to distinguish the tastes. After first looking at the wine and swirling it, you then smell it (for 2 seconds as the vineyard owner said). Do you smell the fruity, the flowering, the herby? I’m not sure that I did, but maybe someone with a better nose would.

We then took a small sip of wine. Again fruit, flower, herbs, and spices should indicate to you what is in the wine. The more complex the flavors and aromas, the better the wine.

While I may not have been great at distinguishing the aromas and flavors from each other, I do know that each wine I tasted was a burst of happiness in my mouth and the experience of tasting wine at a vineyard in Italy is one that I’ll never forget.

To learn more about the specifics of wine tasting visit this link.

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Animal Friends

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The Weekend of Wonders

Never have I ever taken so many selfies in my life before this weekend’s trip to the Amalfi Coast. Every place we traveled, the background was so beautiful that you couldn’t not take one.

This weekend, me and 20 others from my program hopped on a bus to Rome to check in for our Bus2Alps trip. Bus2Alps is a company that takes groups of usually college-aged kids around to different sites from the French Riviera to the region of Tuscany in Italy. Our trip was to the Amalfi Coast where we would be visiting Sorrento, Capri, Positano, and Pompeii.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for our trip. We swam in the Blue Grotto in Capri, took a chairlift to the summit of Anacapri, relaxed on the black-sand beach of Positano, cliff-jumped into the Mediterranean Sea, and explored Pompeii, to name a few.

By Sunday night, we were a tired out bunch, but we felt so lucky to have come on the trip. Beautiful is an understatement when it came to the Amalfi Coast. Bluer waters than I’ve ever seen before, sunnier skies, and amazing experiences.

To learn more for yourself about the amazing trips that Bus2Alps offers, check out this link.

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The Taste of A Garden

Think about it. Have you ever taken a sip of cooking oil? Most people use cooking oil as a way to make a stir-fry more tasty, noodles less sticky, or salad dressing more pleasing, among other things. I have never before seen anyone take a sip of pure cooking oil. Now that is just gross, right??

Well, today I took a sip of olive oil. In fact, I took two.

Olive oil tasting is a lot more than taking a gulp and deciding if you like the taste. It includes three simple steps.

First: Take a whiff. Smell that olive oil like you have never smelled anything before. Does it smell fruity? Grassy? Herby? If so, get ready for a great tasting olive oil. I like to think of it as the smell of someone working in their garden. If it smells duller, more acidic, or vinegar-like, chances are the taste won’t be quite up to snuff.

Second: Take a small sip of olive oil and let it coat the inside of your mouth.

Third: Suck in some air through that olive oil coated mouth and wait for the flavors to hit the back of your throat. Swallow a little bit of the oil and notice that it feels like a hot pepper is sitting in the top of your esophagus. This is called pungency. Even though it causes an unpleasant sensation, pungency is the sign of a great olive oil. Lastly, is it bitter? Bitterness, although an acquired taste, is also a sign that your olive oil is at its purest and best form.

Today, I found out that with very little instruction, I could become an olive oil connoisseur. If you’re up for the challenge, visit this link for more information on olive oil tasting.

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Cooking the Mediterranean Way

The Mediterranean Diet is easy to work in to a typical American diet with a few simple steps. Even if you are not completely adhering to the Med Diet, some simple changes can help you get the benefits.

1) Gradually replace butter and margarine with olive oil. This helps you switch from saturated fats (bad fats) to monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs; good fats).

Baking Conversion Rule of Thumb: Butter to Olive Oil ratio is 1 : 0.75 (for example 1 tsp of butter for a recipe would be 3/4 tsp of olive oil)

2) Slowly decrease portion sizes of meat until you are only eating meat once a day or less. Use meat for flavoring or in small amounts. This also helps decrease the saturated fat in your diet.

3) Replace your usual dessert with sweet fruit. The habit of finishing meals with something sweet can be made healthier with fruit rather than sugary cakes or cookies.

4) Drink wine rather than other types of alcohol and only in small amounts or with meals. Remember that one serving size of wine is only 4 ounces.

5) Eat seafood twice weekly. Seafood is full of omega-3 fatty acids (PUFAs; good fats) rather than saturated fats.

6) Choose lean protein sources like seafood, poultry, and beans over red meat.

Ahead are a few recipes that use the Mediterranean Diet as their inspiration. There are many more recipes with a simple Google search online.

Mediterranean Style Grilled Salmon:

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http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/recipes/mediterraneanstyle-grilled-salmon/rcp-20049781

Zucchini, Fennel, and White Bean Pasta

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http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/zucchini_fennel_bean_pasta.html

Pasta alle Erbe

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http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/pasta_alle_erbe.html

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The Diet to Beat All Diets

Med Diet. Sounds like a typical fad diet seen in advertisements everywhere you look. What’s this one supposed to do? Rev my metabolism? Allow me to eat more and lose weight? Keep me full for longer?

Actually, the Mediterranean Diet is an eating style that has long been used by the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. This diet was the normal style of eating for many people in the Mediterranean region and eventually became known as the Mediterranean Diet by outsiders trying to replicate it.

Why would you want to replicate the Mediterranean Diet? Well, the Med Diet has been shown to decrease the risk for heart disease, cancers, obesity, and much more in countless studies. This diet is high in “good fats” like monounsaturated fatty acids and low in “bad fats” like saturated and trans fats.

The fact is: the Mediterranean Diet has been proven to lower the risk for many common chronic diseases which are the leading causes of death in the United States. If more people make small steps to adopt the Mediterranean Diet, the US nation would be much healthier.

The Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid looks like this:

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There are nine parts of the Mediterranean Diet:

1) Eat an abundance of plant based foods

2) Emphasis on minimally processed, fresh-foods

3) Olive oil used as the principal fat

4) Daily, but small amounts of dairy

5) Fish, poultry, and eggs in low to moderate amounts

6) Low intake of red meat

7) Regular physical activity

8) Wine in moderation

9) Enjoyment of foods and sharing of meals

Now these are just the basics. I could go on and on about the concepts of the Mediterranean Diet and how to fit them in with your life. To learn more about the Mediterranean Diet, take some time to explore this site. It includes tips for getting into the Med Diet along with more information about it.

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