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6 months of Italy

When I started writing this book-blog, I wanted to create some kind of connection between people and food, because that's exactly what I experienced during my six months in Italy. People, young and old, gathered to eat, to celebrate, to enjoy. No matter what time of year, the kitchen was the place where people sat together, laughed and cooked or were cooked for.

Texts, drawings & photos: Laura Koller | Food illustrations: Silvia Fossati

(visit Silvia's art-studio in Florence: Via del Porcellana 34 r Firenze)

Sunset in Florence, Italy 2020

People lived, laughed and loved deeply here. People often spent minutes discussing the right way to prepare it and where to get the best lampredotto in town. You might think I was in Italy for the food - no, that wasn't the case - I was in Florence to further my artistic training in painting and drawing. I was taking courses at the Academia di Arte in Florence and I was living in a huge city for the first time in my life and in another country for a whole six months. Back in June 2020, a huge wish came true for me, although many were convinced that I couldn't even realise it at the time. But if you really want something from the bottom of your heart, then that is also possible, even if I had to reschedule the trip three times. Everything in life has its time and its reasons. I could only understand the circumstances a few months later.

On 28 June 2020, the time had finally come. I packed my things for a whole six months, said goodbye to my work colleagues and my boss, and my father took me to Innsbruck to the train station. While I was full of anticipation for my time there and for my Italian boyfriend at this time, whom I would finally see again for a long time, my father was rather tense and sceptical about how it would all be in Italy. Together with my grandmother from Tyrol, he waited on the platform until my train had left for the south.

It went over the Brenner Pass to Brixen and Trentino, and the longer I looked out of the window, the more southern landscapes I noticed. My carriage was almost empty at this point, with only an Italian woman sitting opposite me, with whom I had a stimulating conversation for hours right from the start, using my then muddled knowledge of Italian. Admittedly, it was probably more facial expressions and gestures than a direct conversation.

(photo above) me, sitting in the garden of Lupaia in Tuscany while I'm drawing some parts of the old town called Montepulciano, 2018 photo of Florence through the artistic suitcase in the 'Giardino delle Rose', 2020

The fewer kilometres there were to Bologna, the faster my heart beat - it was a mixture of happiness and nervousness. A feeling between dream and reality. After a whole six months, I could now be in my beloved country of Italy and finally take my former boyfriend in my arms again. This feeling was unbelievably beautiful.

One of the first things we did together was a culinary experience: we ate a lampredotto at a stall. It was simply delicious, although it took me a while to get used to it: it resembles tripe!

At the beginning of my stay, I lived a bit outside the centre and one week after my arrival, I started my art classes at the Academia. Since I personally love exploring places and new cities on foot, I walked an hour every day to the Academia, which was right in the centre. I loved walking through the different alleys, strolling over the many bridges of the Arno river and taking photos of countless wonderful and romantic mornings and evenings in the city - and hearing the beautiful language everywhere. For me, it is the language of music.

All Italians talk more with their hands, and very quickly I got into the habit of doing the same. This gave me a special feeling for what I had said and made me feel more Italian.

After a month, I moved to my favourite neighbourhood, St. Ambrogio. In my opinion, it's a neighbourhood where a lot of Italians still live and where you can eat out wonderfully. There is a very good Jewish restaurant there and the market was also just around the corner, where there were fresh vegetables and many other delicacies every day. There was partying and laughing at night and the lampredotto stand there is one of the best I've tried. In all these six months I was able to have wonderful encounters with special people, whether in the art academy, on the street or through friends. I was allowed to learn and love so much. I had the opportunity to discover beautiful places in and around Florence, got to know the island of Elba, started to open my heart again, discovered new sides of myself, took a big developmental step in art, developed my passion for cooking - because I already had that for food. I was part of a real Florentine family, learned a new language and many doors opened as a result. Of course, there were also times that were very challenging and cooking helped me to ground myself again, among other things. It's like an art for me that is edible.

With this book-blog, I would like to remind and encourage people how important it is to believe in your dreams and visions and not to give up when things get difficult. You can achieve anything. People will always come into your life to accompany and encourage you on this path and others will leave, and that is a good thing.

Walking with Silvia Fossati and her dog through the 'Giardino delle Rose' in Florence.

The book-blog tells of journeys, of encounters with people like you and me, of stories from life, of favourite recipes that people gave me or that I cooked myself with my mother, of recipes that were available at Christmas in Italy. I want to connect people with this book-blog, because cooking together is something special. It brings people together, creates closeness, and as we all know, the way to love is through the stomach and inspires. But above all, the book-blog is about people and how friendships can be made in a miraculous way.

I sincerely wish all readers much pleasure with my collection of artistic delicacies, a cosy get-together and a tangible touch of Italy. Buon appetito!

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