Playing with Prosciutto: Italian Pizza-Making

Earlier this week I participated in my first “Date with a Professor,” one of CIMBA’s many activities. Fifteen students, two professors and their wives and I had the opportunity to make our very own Italian-style pizzas at a pizzeria in Asolo.

Before we could touch any ingredients, the pizzeria owner and pizza-making master walked us through the important steps of pizza-making. The catch was, he spoke little English and therefore explained the whole process to us in Italian. The professor’s wife translated, but it was a fun challenge to try to figure out what he was saying. I felt like I finally got to use things I’ve learned in Italian for Travelers thus far.

Me and the Italian pizza master! He got a kick out of my joke that you stick your hand in the oven to tell when it is the right temperature.

The fun part was guessing things about the pizza-making process. Throughout his instruction, the owner quizzed us on pizza-making essentials. Did you know, for instance, that it takes only 5 minutes to make a pizza from rolling the dough to it coming out of the oven? I was amazed at how quickly the Italians actually make their pizzas. They can make 60 an hour, depending on the size of the oven. They use wood fire ovens which do not have a temperature gauge. They can tell when the pizza is ready based on how it looks—when the crust is just beginning to turn crispy and brown. Talk about years of experience!

Putting pizzas in the oven
The key ingredients: dough, yeast, and flour

After his detailed explanation, it was finally time to make our own pizzas! We first flattened out our dough, which was much harder than it looks. The pizza master had to help pretty much all of us, expressing “no, no, no!” every time he saw how we were doing it. Once that was out of the way we filled our pizza with sauce, cheese and whatever toppings we wanted. I chose prosciutto, salami and basil.

Classmates sprinkling toppings on their pizzas

After only a couple minutes in the oven, it was time to eat! My fellow classmates and I agreed these were the most delicious Italian pizzas we’ve had thus far, probably due to them being products of our own labor. It was a delicious and rewarding experience. After all, how often do you get to make your own Italian pizza in Italy, coached by an Italian man himself?

My pizza from start to finish. I ate every bite! :)
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Class Trip to Asolo

Today I had the pleasure of taking a field trip to nearby Asolo with my Italian for Travelers class. Asolo is a town about 10 minutes away from Paderno and is home to the CIMBA MBA campus. Our class of 22 took a bus there this morning and our Italian Professor gave us a tour of the town.

CIMBA MBA student and Undergrad Campus Life Coordinator Heather driving past us!

The bus driver had to drop us off at the bottom of the hill leading up to Asolo because busses are too big to go up there. I was surprised by how steep the walk uphill was―I got my morning workout in! As we entered the town, my classmates and I immediately wished the undergrad campus was in Asolo too. Much bigger than Paderno (but still a small town), Asolo has many ristorantes, cafés, boutiques and even an old castle. There are many more people living there and it actually felt like a happening place, compared to teeny tiny Paderno. I fell in love with the boutiques we passed and had to stop to window-shop at every one.

A colorful array of ties in a shop window
Gold Salvatore Ferragamo sneakers in a shop window

The CIMBA MBA campus sits at the very top of the hill in Asolo, right beside the hiking trail to Rocca, a fortress from the 12th century. The MBA campus itself is located in a historic building with original walls from the 1600s. Intended to be used for a “cultural” place, the interior of the building was renovated in the late 1900s to be used as an art gallery. Instead, Dr. Al and Cristina Turchet, directors of the CIMBA program, swept it up and it has been home to the CIMBA MBA students for the past 20 years.

Entrance to the CIMBA MBA building
The Rocca fortress in the background

After our tour of Asolo was done, our professoressa di italiana took us to a café where she required us to order something in Italian. Quite a fun task, I must say. I ordered a cappuccino and a muffin―molto buono! The best part was that Dr. Al, CIMBA director, paid for us all. How kind! Grazie Dottor Al!

Café Centrale in Asolo
Un cappuccino
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30 Hours, 5 Villages, 1 Amazing Weekend

I never would have thought a 30-hour weekend trip could be one of the best vacations of a lifetime. But our adventure to Cinque Terre this past weekend certainly was.

Cinque Terre, literally translated as “five lands,” is located on the West Coast of Italy near the city of La Spezia and consists of five villages that are reachable only by train or walking. Discovered years ago by Rick Steves, he made the small place the tourist attraction it is today. I, however, had heard about this beautiful place from my professor who taught at CIMBA several years ago. I jumped on the opportunity to visit as soon as it arose.

About 50 of us CIMBA students left on a bus at 3am last Friday, in order to reach Cinque Terre by 8am and give us a full two days. Our plans were immediately interrupted when the bus driver sideswiped a jeep parked on the side of the highway. To his credit, it was 5 or 6 in the morning and pitch black, but the damage was done―there was a humongous hole in the rear tire. We sat at the rest stop for a good three hours before someone showed up to fix it (the actual repair took only 20 minutes). As frustrating as the delay was, I’m just glad we were all okay! (Even crazier, my professor notified us there was a landslide on part of the Cinque Terre hiking trail on Monday, the day after we left. Talk about bare misses and some good luck!)

It was 5pm by the time we arrived in La Spezia, stopped by our bed & breakfast, and figured out the train system to get to the first Cinque Terre village. After all that trouble, as soon as we stepped off the train in Riomaggiore, all worries and stress were immediately gone as we saw what stood before us. The sight literally took our breath away―the sun was beginning to set on the Mediterranean, and the beginning of the hiking trail was only meters from the edge of the train tracks. We immediately knew the trip was going to be worth it.

We spent Saturday evening hiking through the first three towns, my favorite part being the “La Via dell’Amore” (or The Way of Love). About a kilometer long, this beginning part of the trail featured romantic elements, including an arch with two interlocking wire hearts and couples’ graffiti all over the place. It was really cool and we actually saw a lot of couples that looked like they were on their honeymoon.

That evening I had the most delicious dinner, seafood spaghetti with white wine. Of course we topped it off with gelato afterward. We decided to finish the hike the next morning, but little did we know how challenging it was. The stretch between the last two towns lasted a good two hours and was continuously uphill with narrow dirt paths. The views we saw, however, were INCREDIBLE and so worth it. Cinque Terre is by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life. To top it all off, after our treacherous hike we ran into the Mediterranean to cool off, then grabbed more gelato before it was time to head home. All in all, a great weekend and I am making it a goal to return to Cinque Terre someday. Molto bella!

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A Trip to Bassano

The ladies posing for a photo before leaving the Paderno campus

Last Thursday night we finally ventured out of our small abode that is Paderno. Up until that point, I had not been to any other part of Italy besides Venice, but that was only the airport. We were incredibly excited—half the students had already made the trip to Bassano del Grappa the first week while we were stuck in leadership training. But now they were in LIFE training and it was our turn to explore!

As soon as I stepped off the 20-minute bus ride, I knew I was in for a treat. Compared to Paderno with one main street, Bassano was bustling with city nightlife, restaurants, bars and more buzzing on both sides of the road. We ventured into the downtown square part of Bassano, which consisted of a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and a restaurant, shop or gelateria on every corner. I stopped to buy gelato at the first gelateria I saw. It was my first time eating gelato (sadly Paderno is too small to have a gelateria) and it was amazing! I picked ciccolato and caffè (chocolate and coffee) and even ordered in (poorly spoken) Italian. Molto buono!


One of my other favorite parts of Bassano was the architecture. Paderno doesn’t have any buildings big enough to “look” Italian, but they were everywhere in Bassano. The downtown square featured old buildings that used to be apartments on top, with newly renovated shop spaces on the first floor.  I was in LOVE with all the storefronts we walked past. Being a fashionista and wanting to work in the fashion industry, I oohed and aahed at every store we walked by. Unfortunately all the shops were closed at that time of night, so I have to go back.

Downtown Bassano

Gorgeous Prada loafers in a shopfront!

The best part of Bassano was the wooden bridge overlooking the river. Apartments, restaurants and bars were on either side of the river and at nighttime with their lights sparkling and reflecting on the river surface, it was beautiful. Couples both young and old walked along holding hands, some stopping on the bridge to snap a photo or take in the sights. It must have been because it was nighttime, but the bridge was romantic in the simplest way possible. All of us were yearning to go back to Bassano as soon as we left.

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Arrivederci Seattle, Ciao Paderno!

Ciao! It’s my seventh full day here in Paderno del Grappa and I am already loving it.

Me standing by the entrance to campus

After a full 24 hours worth of travel from Seattle to Venice on Sunday-Monday, I couldn’t have been happier to finally arrive on campus. Little did I know how quickly things were going to start—the second we got off the bus, we checked in with the CIMBA staff, took a campus tour, and then had a quick orientation. Classes started the very next morning! (Much to everyone’s surprise.)

Our first two weeks on campus are jam-packed with orientation activities, classes, and the LIFE leadership program (which was incredibly eye-opening!). The philosophy of the CIMBA program, so eloquently put by one of my professors: “Work hard. Play hard.” With a full course load consisting of International Marketing, Business, Culture and Society, Journalism Ethics, Entrepreneurial Strategy, and Italian for Travelers, I definitely agree with this philosophy.

Something I’ve found myself really enjoying here is the fact that the majority of the students are from the Midwest or East Coast. In fact, the only two west coast schools represented are University of Oregon and University of Colorado Boulder. It’s so funny to see the differences between us westerners and easterners, like the fact that multiple people have pronounced Oregon “or-gone.” I find it so funny. It’s also very cool to hear about life on the other side of the Rockies. Not only am I getting an international education, but a broadened American one as well!

Other random things I’ve discovered/experienced thus far:

(1) Italians drive SO fast. The streets here are very narrow with no side lanes for bikers or people. Just crossing the street to go to the Tabacchi (Italian version of a convenience store), you have to watch carefully for cars whizzing by at 40+ miles per hour. And I thought Americans drove fast!

(2) Mosquitos are 100 times worse here and I should have packed Cortisone. I can’t seem to find anti-itch creme here in Paderno, let alone decipher the labels.

(3) When it rains, it POURS. The first two days here were gorgeous, sunny, 80+ degrees. But Wednesday it suddenly DOWNPOURED and all of us were caught in shorts and flip flops walking to class. It was quite the scene. Never again can I complain about the rain in Eugene!

(4) There’s no such thing as free water, much to my disappointment. Luckily in the dorms we get water (and only water) with every meal, except the glasses they provide are kid size. Everyone has to refill their glass at least 5 times during every meal. We get a kick out of it.

(5) Cheese is acceptable as a side dish during meals. The other night at dinner they served cooked mozzarella cheese, just by itself! It looked like someone had pulled the topping off an American-style cheese pizza and put it on a plate. It totally grossed me out.

Told you Italians love their cheese.

(7) The bathrooms at all the restaurants I’ve been to so far are set up very differently than in America. Both genders walk into the same toilette to find a common sink area and two more doors to a male and female stall. When I first experienced this I thought I walked into the men’s bathroom!

(8) Italians, at least the ones in the North, are very in shape. I have not seen an overweight person yet and when we hiked Mount Grappa yesterday, all the Italians we passed on the trail were cruising along with their walking sticks and hiking boots. Little did we know that we were embarking on a 6 hour trip up and down a 6000ft mountain. We looked like total wussies compared to the experienced and equipped Italians. What a trek!

Beautiful Mount Grappa (it’s a 10 minute drive from campus and I can see it out my dorm window!)

If I’ve learned this much in only three days time, I can’t imagine how much is in store for 3 months worth. I can’t wait! :)

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