Last year I threw a coin at the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Within a year I find myself back in Italy. I am now in Costigliole d’Asti in Piedmont Northern Italy. Together with eight other students from CSB we are taking the short course program. The formal lessons are for three weeks. Then our students will be deployed to complete their two month internship. For their practicum they even might have an opportunity to be assigned to an Italian Michelin star restaurant. I on the other hand have to go back home after a month for work.
The campus of ICIF Costigliole d’Asti is an old medieval castle on top of a hill surrounded by vineyards. Our lessons, recipes and materials are all in Italian. We have an interpreter for the classes. However it would have helped a lot if we studied the language before coming here. Our students will also need to learn how to speak Italian quickly in order to survive their remaining two months of Internship. I am trying my best to teach them the transport system because when they are deployed they will be on their own. They need to be tough, street smart and must learn to be independent. The train system is very confusing. So we print our itinerary and just show it to the ticket counter when buying otherwise it is impossible to get anywhere without speaking the language.
Our dormitory is called Casa Salerio. Everyday it is a fifteen minutes uphill walk to school. The view of the country side and vineyards surrounding us is painstakingly beautiful. It was 12 degrees today and tends to get very cold even before winter as we are up in the mountains. Costigliole is a small sleepy town. Shops are closed on Sundays and are open the rest of the week only until seven in the evening. We get off from school at 6:30. That leaves us with just 30 minutes to catch the stores. During our lunch break the shops are also closed for siesta.
We can take a bus to Asti but the last schedule back to Costigliole is at 9:00 pm. If we miss the bus we need to pay 30 euros for a taxi back to the Casa! So we are stuck here! Anyway after school we are too tired. And with the transport schedule we hardly have any time to go any where. We have full tiring days and no night life. The evenings are spent resting and catching Manila family friends on the Internet. The weekend destination travels are our rewards.
Here I am a student again and I find it quite amusing. I live in a dorm with hardly any amenities. No television in the rooms so…Again thank God for the Internet! Our classmates are from all over the world. For this group we have people from Brazil, Canada, Spain, Georgia, Mexico, Peru, England, Ukraine, Turkey and so on. I would best describe ICIF to be an international culinary school. Proudly our Filipino group can speak better English. The other nationalities are always amazed at our mastery of the language. However it does not give us much of a competitive edge because all the recipes and market lists are in Italian.
We do our own mise en place and market list at the end of the day for the following day’s lesson. There are no custodians so we do chores like cleaning up, preparing the ingredients, and even bringing the trash outside. Later we will take turns doing F&B service, and in preparing the student’s meals. We also have tests and exams. Our days are quite long but very fruitful. I feel very blessed to be given this chance.
Today we learned about the uses of the different aromatic herbs and made several regional anti pasti dishes. In the afternoon we also had a session on olive oil tasting. We compared the olive oils of the different provinces. Here they even use extra virgin olive oil for frying because it is not expensive!!! Tomorrow we have oenology or the study of Italian wines at the castle’s cellar. Aside from all the cooking we have Italian language lessons once a week.
The school is closed Saturdays and Sundays. Meals are provided for those who would like to stay on Saturdays. The shops are closed on Sundays and there is no bus service. So we look forward to getting out during the weekends. We will try to make the most by travelling to popular tourist destinations. Last weekend we were in Florence and in Genoa. Genoa has a very beautiful coastal town called Cinque Terra. This was the location of the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Now I can say I have eaten pesto in Genoa. Next week we will try Venice, Verona, or an Italian and Swiss border town since we are close to the Alps already. For traveling and experience is truly the best way to learn the food of the Italian regions.