I am wrapping up my first week in Florence and so far it has been amazing! My classes have kicked off and I really enjoy my Historical Perspectives of Chemistry class. On the second day of class, we took a trip to Fattoria di Maiano, a local Organic Olive Oil farm located in the beautiful hills of Tuscany. Coming from a Mediterranean culture keen on its use of olive oil, it was incredible to learn about the rigorous process involved in extracting the liquid gold! The Agricultural Director who was a part owner explained that the farm had been in his family for three generations and I have never seen anyone more passionate about olives! He took us through the process of plucking them (as if they were strawberries so very gently), to transporting them inside and separating them from leaves, to crushing them a certain way and placing them through a rigorous centrifugation process, separating into three layers: the residual waste, water, and finally olive oil on top. A thorough filtration process is then used and only the best olive oil is utilized for export. After the tour, I had the opportunity to taste the olive oil and it tasted so fresh that I had to make sure to buy a couple bottles to bring home for my family to try!
Outside of regular class, I also signed up for an Italian baking course where I learned how to make Tiramisu and Brutti Ma Buoni (Ugly but Good) cookies! This was an exciting time as I am someone who shamefully never learned how to cook well so anytime spent learning is time not wasted! I just hope I can subsist on cookies and Tiramisu, otherwise it looks like I may have to add a few more dishes to my personal menu.
Finally, on Friday, I attended my first Jummah prayer at the local mosque in Florence. Islam is not officially recognized by the Italian Government but Italians still have the freedom to congregate for the traditional Friday prayer. I hadn’t realized how big the Italian Muslim population was and it was nice to hear the khutbah (sermon) was delivered in the familiar Arabic language! One of the stipulations from the Italian Government prior to recognizing Islam in the country is to begin giving the khutbah in Italian and as many of the Muslims here are fluent in Italian, they seem more than willing to cooperate. The current place of prayer is an old garage far from the city center but for a temporary accommodation, it is very nice! The council of Florence are also in talks of constructing a long term solution of a 7000 m2 facility in the city. While this solution seems far away according to the current political environment, it would be incredible to have a house of worship that could accommodate the 30,000 Muslims in the area! More can be read here: https://www.thelocal.it/20160407/florence-plans-mega-mosque-to-house-1000-strong-faithful .
At the end of the day, and after this week, I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to stay in the beautiful city of Florence. From the coffee shops to the Gelato, I surely am spending a lot but I am enjoying every minute of it! Before I leave, I made a promise to myself to splurge on an Italian Leather Jacket and I will definitely update you guys when this plan comes to fruition!
Oh and the sunsets are magnificent!
That is all I have for now!