By Ashlee Abel
Leaving Arezzo to visit Florence for a short period of time was an exciting journey. While Arezzo is small and quaint, Florence is significantly louder, busier and constantly bustling with people. It was good to change things up and experience new culture, even though it’s only an hour bus ride from where we’ve been staying. The first day our group arrived in Florence, we went on a lovely tour of the duomo that left me speechless, followed by a break to grab lunch nearby. Overwhelmed with all of the new options, we decided to stay close by and eat lunch at a restaurant with cute outdoor seating. It was in the middle of Piazza Della Signoria with a once-in-a-lifetime view of the duomo and baptistery located a few hundred feet away in plain sight. While we ate on the terrace beneath the covered patio with cold mist hitting our faces every now and then, the scenery felt surreal sitting so close to one of the most historical structures in the world.
I was so famished when our server took my order that I just asked for the special off the chalk board at the entryway because it sounded the most filling. An appetizer, entrée and drink were included in the 16 euro offer. To satiate my appetite and thirst, I ordered bruschetta, lasagna and a Coke Zero, with several of my friends ordering the same. Our server promptly brought us the bruschetta which had the reddest tomatoes I'd ever seen, heaped high on the toasted Tuscan bread.  My mouth started to water just thinking about the sensations that were about to strike my taste buds.
I struggled to pick up the intricate piece of bread, since I didn't want any of the bruschetta to fall off. WhenI took my first bite, it took my breath away. The flavors of fresh tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, seasoning and homemade Tuscan bread blended together brilliantly. When I took my second and third bite, I thought about how much I dislike the taste of tomatoes in the United States but how much nicer and more flavorful the produce is here.
While I was finishing my appetizer, the lasagna arrived, piled high with layers of cheese and pasta. I was overwhelmed by how much food was in front of me and I immediately knew I wouldn't be able to finish half of it. The presentation was exquisite with basil flakes around the plate's rim and the lasagna arranged directly in the center. I finally picked up my fork and cut into my meal, showing the many layers of meat, cheese and sauce oozing from within. As I savored the flavors, it became clear that their notion of lasagna differed significantly from ours.
It still tasted excellent, but it was considerably heavier due to the cream in sauce, the cheese's thick texture and the carb-dense noodles, which were most likely prepared from scratch in the kitchen that morning. My friends were eager to try the dish, and they all had the same reaction as me. They too thought it was a much heavier dish than we're accustomed to, but it still contained a wonderful combination of ingredients.
It's fascinating to watch how the evolution of cuisine from various cultures drastically alters our perspective of a dish. I used to believe that lasagna was just lasagna and that there was no way to change its consistency or flavor, but after dining in Florence, I was proven wrong. The lunch was delicious, and it's at times like this that I feel like I'm truly getting a feel for Italian culture and cuisine that the people here are so proud of. 

Editors: Grace Tipps, Aly O'Shea, Taylor Glissman
Photographer: Emily Turner