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Letters from Abroad The Food Capital

Christina Braxton ’18 / The Dickinsonian

Christina Braxton ’18 / The Dickinsonian

Christina Braxton ’18, Abroad Columnist

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Food is a staple of Italian culture. This is one of the first things I learned as soon as I arrived in Bologna for the spring semester. During the first days of Italian class, I was introduced to the staple pasta dishes of the city that included tagliatelle with ragú sauce and tortellini in broth. Another thing I learned within the first week of my semester long adventure was that Italian culture is centered around joy, family, and tradition. This is because every meal has roots to traditions that continue to define Italian culture. 

During our first night in Bologna, Dickinson hosted a group dinner at a restaurant to introduce us to the typical cuisine. We had three courses which included pork escalope, stuffed tomatoes, beef tenderloin, and tagliatelle ragú. After this initial meal, I was on my own to find food in the city. Knowing little Italian, it became extremely difficult to decipher menus and even asking for a table was a puzzle. In Bologna, the food markets are the preferred place for locals to buy their fresh meat, fish, and produce. This was a true language barrier as I didn’t speak Italian, I couldn’t yet experience one of the best parts of Italian culture, the food. This barrier initially prevented me from venturing out and finding the delicious meals that I had heard so much about.

The Italian 101 class offered through the Dickinson Center helped tremendously with this problem. Each day I began asking the professor for the translation of phrases such as “can I please have” and “I would like to order.” I picked these up pretty easily and the translation of menus and food items came soon after. Now, I’ve learned to venture outside of my comfort zone with food. For example, at the last restaurant I went to in Bologna, I ordered a grilled calamari dish that turned out to be much better than expected. During my time here, I’ve realized that there is no such thing as a bad meal.

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Letters from Abroad The Food Capital