When telling friends and family about my upcoming semester abroad their reactions were somewhat typical. They would usually express their excitement and envy all the while adding a bit of curiosity about how I would spend my time in one of the most famous cities in the world. People would usually exclaim their envy about two things in particular, the food and wine. Now that I have settled into my abroad experience and been fortunate enough to have an internship, I can say with confidence, that the food and wine are perfect avenues for understanding an Italian lifestyle.
I would like to think that my time spent in New Orleans before studying abroad has prepared me well for my time in Italy. There are a few distinct similarities between the cities and the primary one being the appreciation and respect for the culture and food that have grounded the city for centuries. Living in New Orleans for the past two and a half years has given me a certain pride in the food and music, convincing me that there is no place better to be than New Orleans. Well I have to admit that after only a month in Rome, the city is certainly giving New Orleans a fair fight. The food and culture are equally impressive and creative but in very different ways. The wine culture is particularly important to the roman people and getting the first hand experience to taste wine is an irreplaceable way to understand the roman lifestyle.
The experience has begun in the most perfect way. I have met interesting people from all around the United States and world. Each tasting that I have attended has been different from the other but also given me a new perspective on the wine and tourism industry. The guests are just as different from the wine itself. The first tasting was designed for the interns of VinoRoma, the wine association. The “My Italians” wine tasting offers 6 different wines, three reds and three whites from all different regions of Italy. Even in two hours our palette and sense of smell had adjusted to the true Italian style. By the end of the first tasting I was able to suggest the correct foods to be paired with the wines. These are skills that I never would have thought that I could know before I even turn 21. It is a pretty cool transformation in two hours to understand how to comment on the tastes and smells of the wine. The taste and sense of smell are the two of the most important elements of the wine. Of course the bottling, age, shaping, label and color are also important but developing the sense of smell and taste are the hardest but most rewarding aspects.
The second tasting was equally informative but in a different manner. Four women booked the tasting as part of their Italian travel experience. Like many guests of VinoRoma they group had heard about the tasting through a friend of a friend. The women enjoyed the tasting to the fullest; asking about the grapes, the process and pairings. This tasting was particularly enjoyable because the wines were each paired with different meats and cheeses. The tastings included four very wines: a white, a red, a sparkling and a dessert wine. As an intern, this was my favorite part because it allowed me to explore the combinations that I found most enjoyable. Tasting wine is a fairly subjective activity but adding food into the mix allows for an even more personal opinion of taste and association. This tasting felt the most unreal because even though we were sitting around the table in Rome the wine and the conversation could have taken place anywhere. It was the most transformative moment in which life was too good. The setting, the people, the wine and the food were incredible. It sounds cliché but it really was the perfect moment.