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Last updated on May 3, 2019

Spring Break Program 2019


On Sunday March 17, we welcomed to Rome the University of Illinois Gies Business School students for their Spring Break program “The Business and Culture of Food”. The students arrived in Rome on Sunday afternoon and got right to it with a food tour in the historical center of Rome. They got to learn about Italian coffee brewing practices and Italy’s signature espresso at Tazza D’oro, a historic bar close to the Pantheon, one of Rome’s most visited sites. They then tried one of the locals’ favorite snack, pizza bianca, a square of delicious, thick pizza topped only with olive oil and salt, at the famous family run bakery Roscioli. Afterwards, the group had the chance to taste spicy pepper oils at Peperita and explore the Jewish Ghetto, noting landmarks and historical testimonies one can only find in Rome. The tour ended on a sweet note at I Dolci di Nonna Vincenza with a tasting of traditional Sicilian nutty cookies. Dinner was an authentic Roman meal: the students started familiarizing with Roman traditional dishes while getting to know one other and our staff, as we led them through a discovery of the many Italian food traditions.

On Monday, the students began the day with a typical Italian breakfast consisting of ‘caffè e cornetti’, coffee and pastries, at Bar Amore, a local, typical bar that has been run by the same family for generations. In order for the students to be able to individually explore the city, they then headed to our headquarters at ‘Gustolab International’ for a Cultural and Safety Orientation, followed by a crash course survival Italian class at ‘Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci’. In the afternoon, the group got to take part in an Italian cooking class with Chef Gracian Daniele, learning the history and techniques behind a number of traditional Roman dishes from ‘antipasto’, the appetizer, to ‘dolce’, the dessert. Students got to experience creating famous Italian dishes, while also learning about Italian cooking culture and traditions.


The next day, students started the day by visiting Rome’s best-known monument: the ancient Colosseum. They took part in a guided tour about the history, architecture, myths and more behind this magnificent landmark and were surprised by the many stories this work of art has been involved in. We then guided the group through the exploration of two significantly different markets in the area: Mercato Esquilino and Mercato Centrale. Mercato Esquilino is a colorful market full of all kinds of fresh and exotic foods and it is situated in a multicultural area. Mercato Centrale is a new market where food is prepared modern style. At Mercato Centrale the students got to taste samplings from a variety of food stalls and experience this new age concept. Our activities for the day wrapped up with a meeting with a variety of food experts in food business start-ups. Firstly, we connected with EnLuiss Labs for a presentation of two startups called Ruleat and MyLab, then we visited WorkEat, a new technological restaurant. The students were inspired by the focus, insight and collaboration behind these novel startups and felt that these meetings gave them a precious insight into the business of food.

On Wednesday, students continued our exploration of Rome in the historical neighborhood of Testaccio. We spent time at the Mercato Testaccio, analyzing old versus new traditions, Roman food history and tasting a variety of specialites. Afterwards, students had the opportunity to go to Eataly, a megastore of Italian food and beverages, that has opened stores all over the world. The students explored the various levels, noting regional specialites and different certifications such as Slow Food or Italian quality controls and trying different dishes. To wrap up the day the group got to learn about the structure behind urban farming, including methods and techniques of growing, harvesting and sales at the urban farm Cobragur. 

Students spent day five outside of the city of Rome in order to acquire lots of local, behind the scenes knowledge. We started at the Slow Food Cheese Farm: Casale di Martignano where students had a cheese making workshop, and learned about the techniques, types and certifications of a variety of local Italian cheeses, as well as about the business of agritourisms and social farms. We also had a tour of the surrounding farm, including visits to the pigs and a detailed description of how they are raised and used on the farm. We then moved on to a nearby winery called Cantine Capitane, in which the students learned about the many grapes and wine making process and had a wine tasting session.  

On Friday, the students started the day off in another iconic spot situated in the center of Rome: the Vatican Museum where they got to see first hand the Sistine Chapel and many other artistic wonders. Afterwards, we got to visit Pallini, a family run liquor producer, that has been creating a variety of liquors for generations now. To wrap up our activities for the day, we went for a pizza dinner at Da Giulietta, and got to meet the Michelin starred chef behind the enterprise, Chef Christina Bowerman. The students learned about the history of pizza, techniques and styles of pizza, as well as a variety of different classic types, while getting to enjoy a pie themselves.

On their last day, students enjoyed an interactive tour at the Trajan’s Column, physically going through the diverse layers of time, and hearing the stories of what happened in this historical place. We then walked through the Roman Forum area on our way to Monti for our Food Business Tour. We stopped at Aromaticus, a health conscious restaurant and also garden center, as well as Zia Rosetta, which specializes in the classic rosette panini, but with well sourced, creative toppings, and catering options. The students got see these two different business models and also try a rosetta. We then enjoyed a delicious Roman farewell lunch at Suburra before saying goodbye to this amazing group.

Gustolab wants to thank everyone for being a part of this experience!

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