“Your Stage trips will be completely hedonistic”
“Take only a taste of things offered to you because you will not stop eating for 8 days”
“You will never eat so much or drink so much as you will during Stage so pace yourself”
“Bring Tums and drink plenty of water”
Along with heady eye-rolls, big smiles and overwhelmed sighs, these are a few of the warnings I received from experienced Master students about my study trips, also known as stages. During my year in Italy, I will experience 6 stages. At this moment I am both thrilled and terrified.
I just returned from my first stage. During the weeks before we left, my group was blissfully unaware of the treacherous reality that is a UNISG Stage. We even opted to exchange a free afternoon for an additional wine tasting. Such sweet innocence. I suppose I should have known better when I received the nine page programma outlining our activities. Day one began with Technical Grappa Tasting. Lucky for us it was preceded with a massive 2 hour, 4 course lunch, complete with local wines..lucky..right?
Our first stage was in the Trentino region of Italy. It is a butterfly-shaped autonomous province in the central north and nestled in the Dolomite Mountains; which directly influence the flavors, products and people who live there. Out of this beautiful area come some of Italy’s finest wines, apples, cheeses and olive oil. Because of its size and inaccessible landscape, several of these items are small production processes that have a long tradition of being extraordinary.
The local chamber of commerce and our tutor, Renato, presented us with a thoughtfully planned schedule that offered a look into huge production cooperatives like Melinda Apples and Cavit Wines as well as a small bio-dynamic winery, Trentingrana Cheese, a local butcher and wine maker, among others.
Each lunch and evening meal brought us in contact with chefs who take great pride in their regional cuisine. Many of the restaurants were directly connected to local farms where our meats, cheeses and produce were grown and produced. We tasted donkey, horse, carne salada, grana cheese, numerous dumplings stuffed with cheeses, meats or wild herbs, buckwheat polenta and lots of apples. The wines ranged from spicy reds to mild fruity whites and the beautifully sweet Vino Santo.
It generally takes me a few days to process an experience and unravel all of the jumbled information contained in my brain. As I lie in my bed this morning (nearing noon-hours) recovering from a week of undoubted gluttony, I realize how unique and wonderful this life really is. During my week in Trentino, there was not one cooperative, restaurant or producer that did not contributed to this invaluable educational process I am entrenched.
My only offering for future Master students preparing for their first stage is this: Dive in head first, dance when inspired, don’t panic and sleep on the bus…often. It has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and I have 5 more to go! I need to go buy some bigger stage pants…and maybe a new pair of running shoes.