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Northern Italy and Switzerland - Food Science - Jennifer Updegrove

Posted: November 3, 2011

If you are given to choice to travel abroad, I would highly recommend it because there are experiences you cannot learn in the classroom that will prepare you for the working world and the rest of your life.

My experience in Italy began by leaving Philadelphia International Airport on a 6:15pm flight to Brussels. After an eight hour flight and a two hour contention we finally made it to Milan, Italy. The first stop on our journey was the beautiful city of Bologna, known for the university there. One of my favorite moments in the city was climbing to the top of one of the many towers located in the city center. We climbed hundreds of steps, but the view at the top made the long climb worth it. While in the Bologna area, we learned about balsamic vinegar, gelato, gelato machines, and pasta making. The balsamic vinegar factory was set in the beautiful country side where the small, family owned business conducts the ancient tradition of producing one of Italy’s highest quality balsamic vinegars. The production tour was followed by a tasting of the various vinegars. Towards the end of our stay in Bologna, we attended a small pasta making school, possibly my favorite tour during the trip. We learned traditional Italian techniques to make pasta from scratch by hand. Afterwards, we were invited to a delicious dinner at the school made with the pasta we had created earlier in the evening.

UpdegroveItaly1.pngFrom Bologna, we traveled to the smaller city of Parma. My favorite city during the trip, it was friendly and very clean with lots of high-end fashion as an added bonus. Parma’s beautiful cobble stone streets filled with people, cafes, and restaurants created an exciting atmosphere. However, our time in Parma was not just spent observing the local population and trying the traditional foods. We also learned about the Parmiggiano Reggiano di Parma cheese production process, prosciutto crudo di Parma production, and visited the Parmalat and Barilla factories. Touring the Parmalat facility was amazing; it was a great opportunity to see how a food production plant can work at such a large scale. The plant is so large there are forklifts that drive themselves, no humans needed at all!

After Parma, we traveled to Torino where we would spend the majority of our time in Italy. With amazing night life and abundant local deliciousness, the city kept us busy and entertained for the full week of our stay. Torino has a rich history, with imprints from the Romans still visible in the walls still standing and the impressions left in the paving stones from carts and chariots. My most memorable event in Torino was seeing the beautiful San Lorenzo church. With a towering dome directly above, the design of the architecture is simply breathtaking. I could have easily sat there the entire day looking at the intricate beauty of every detail inside.

Our final city in Italy was Milano, after which half the group left for home and the remaining half continued to Switzerland. My favorite part of Milano was when I saw the original painting of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. To see such a beautiful and important painting in its native country was a moment I will never forget and take with me for the rest of my life. It was a perfect way to end my time in Italy.

UpdegroveItaly2.pngThe next day we woke early to take the train through the gorgeous Alps to Lausanne, Switzerland. Our time there was spent comparing the local cuisine to that of Italian cuisine and exploring the city and lake that separate Switzerland from France. The main objective of traveling to Switzerland was to visit the world headquarters of Nestle. This made the extra four days of our trip well worth it. Nestle gave us a wonderful tour of their facility and some of the projects they are currently working on as well as explaining how some of their past projects overcame scientific malfunctions with new innervations. The tour set a great standard for how other food companies world head quarters should be owned and operated as well as giving us the opportunity to see firsthand possible jobs we could do in the future with a Penn State Food Science degree.

Overall, the FD SC 497F trip it Northern Italy and Switzerland was one of the best trips I have ever experienced. I loved every moment of it and I am so glad I decided to take the great opportunity to participate in the trip. If you are given to choice to travel abroad, I would highly recommend it because there are experiences you cannot learn in the classroom that will prepare you for the working world and the rest of your life.