The Journey from Learning Italian to Cooking Italian
By Victoria Manzo
Travel is often touted as one of the greatest experiences in life. It’s uttered so often that some may think no more of it than any other standard cliché. Frank Costagliola, a junior at CSI, journeyed to Italy this past winter and vouches that the wonders of travel are anything but.
Costagliola brought back an array of newfound cooking skills, languages, and far from typical drunken memories. In high school he realized he wanted to learn Italian and declared it as his major, but changed it a year later.
“I always wanted to learn to speak another language” said Costagliola. “But I was concerned I wouldn’t get a job.”
Although his fear of finding work after college led him to switch majors, his desire to learn Italian and never faltered. He immediately began saving to study abroad in Italy, and with the help of his family and a $500 scholarship, went for three weeks in January.
Costagliola visited all the standard tourist spots: Venice, Rome, Naples, and Pompeii; but somehow he found his favorite to be in Cinque Terre, meaning “the five lands.” There he hiked over the mountains and had a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Ocean.
Another perk of the smaller towns was the opportunity for Costagliola to practice his Italian.
“Initially the language was intimidating,” said Costagliola. “Florence and Rome were very touristy and a lot of people spoke English there, but in small towns and mom and pop shops, if you didn’t speak Italian, you couldn’t communicate. After getting over my fear, it was pretty fun talking to the people.”
Costagliola also took cooking classes during the week from nine in the morning to noon with Annamaria Cacioli, a well-known Italian chef. There he learned how to fillet fish, prepare risotto, tiramisu, croissants, and pizza. Cacioli also emphasized the use of herbs, whole foods, and healthy fats.
During the trip, he spent time with his roommates, who he soon become close friends with. One roommate, Karl, had journeyed to Italy once before with his family for New Year’s. Karl told a story of how he relieved himself in the sink of a café he visited.
Naturally, Karl and Costagliola decided to visit this cafe.
After befriending and sharing a few drinks with the owner, Freddy, Karl talked about a misdemeanor from his past. To Costagliola’s surprise, the night continued on without a hitch. In fact, Freddy even invited them to Space, one of Florence’s most popular nightclub in Florence; upon entering they were guided into the VIP area.
“I have no idea what happened during or after the club. I woke up hungover and went to class hung over the next morning,” said Costagliola.
He found the behavior of Italian men in clubs interesting. He described them as being on the prowl for American girls as they approached them one after another opening with Ciao bella. Many of the girls from Costagliola’s building residence hooked up with the Italian men.
Costagliola’s girlfriend also accompanied him on the trip to Italy. Happy and comforted to have a traveling partner, he shared many experiences with her including the cooking class and a romantic gondola ride in Venice.
The gypsies were the strangest and scariest part of his trip. They were scattered throughout Florence and the larger cities and he constantly watched out for them because they are notorious for pick pocketing. They often approached him, pulling at his arm begging for money.
His plane ride home became stressful when his departure location changed from Florence to Pisa. Costagliola took a shuttle bus to Pisa where he boarded the plane and later transferred to Switzerland where he had to run in order to catch his flight home.
His friends often teased him saying that he always had a new favorite thing after trying or doing something new. He admits that reflecting on it all, the greatest experience was the cooking class.
“I definitely want to go back to Italy. It was the best and quickest three weeks of my life,” said Costagliola. “It went by like a gust of wind.”