Stories From The Classroom

Buontalenti's Florence: From Architecture to Gelato

written by Alex Daggett for Special Project: Experiential Learning in Journalism

FUA-AUF’s class that covers Bernardo Buontalenti, a Florence-born architect, artist, inventor of gelato, and ‘genius’ highlights the life and legacy of his creation in a unique hands-on, interactive manner. Students have a mixed learning method, combining lectures and activities in order to properly cover the history and implications of Buontalenti. The course features different components, mixing traditional lectures with interactive lessons in cooking, that helps strengthen the understanding of the subject.

The class combines a mixture of not only diving into Buontalenti and his works, but also the history of Italy and Florence as a whole, while covering several key terms and events. There are two different types of learning models adopted for this course. On Mondays, the students are in the kitchen doing hands on cooking. On Wednesdays, the class participates in walks around the city to look at famous landmarks such as Buontalenti’s home. Students even get the chance to try out different gelato shops, which is of course a big hit.

For the lab component, the students are presented with recipes for different types of gelato and get right to work as soon as they enter the kitchen. All the preparation for the delicacy is done by the students themselves, with the oversight of Chef Grammatico. Students measure out the ingredients themselves and work in groups in order to ensure all of the components necessary are incorporated.

Chef Grammatico walks around the kitchen, offering tips and pointers to the students as they mix and prepare the ingredients, but never taking away from the student-led aspect.

 “Simple, yet fun,” Chef Grammatico said. “ I like to let them get the hands-on learning.”

The students all work in tandem, following the recipes to create their dishes, asking questions along the way, as well as tasting what they are making.

“The cooking is the best part of the class,” Grammatico said. “And after, they get to eat what they made.”

Having the opportunity to put what is being taught into real-world use is what appeals to many students who are taking this course.

After all of the gelato ingredients are mixed and prepared, they are loaded into the freezing machine, and the students clean up their workstations and sit down, as Chef Grammatico begins a short lesson. Buontalenti is the focus of the class, but the course dives into much more than just the life and legacy of the legendary figure. The course covers all that his creations led to, and how they were spread around not only Italy, but Europe as a whole. The course covers not only the life and identity of Buontalenti, but also the historical timeline of gelato, and his architecture that extends far past his death.

Overall, this course is a wonderful introduction to not only the life of an underrated and important Florence figure in Buontalenti, but also the history of some of the most important Italian delicacies and the context behind them. This is a great course for students looking to learn in more than just a classroom setting, and get some hands-on experience.

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