*I got to work at events like the following: the Italian Prime Minister came to speak with both his wife and his mistress. There was lots and lots of Prosecco for all. I also got paid for this.
*Long lunch breaks, wine in the afternoons (this is an Italian custom . . . enjoying a glass of wine at your job!?), getting sent down to Little Italy on the company Metrocard to pick up the Italian films from Evergreen Cinema. I really learned the city by doing all the little errands for the fellows and the staff.
*Learning what it means to work in a professional environment. I had to wear business casual, I had to offer guests Pellegrino or espresso and take their coats. I am embarrassed to say that I regularly showed up in sweatpants for my first semester there. After a stern talking-to by my unbearably chic supervisor Olivia D'Aponte (a half-Italian Brooklynite who ended up leaving to travel around the world with her fiance), I straightened up my act and got some suits and heels.
*When I finally did graduate and leave, they gifted me with the most generous surprise: dinner for two, whatever we wanted, at a spendy Italian restaurant down the street - charged to the Italian Academy's account. I took my very good friend Zack, and we had a meal to remember. We finished up with an affogato, which is basically like an Italian espresso float. A scoop of vanilla gelato drowned in rich, strong espresso. Yum.
When I graduated and set up house for myself, I knew I needed an espresso maker. I had no funds to buy a nice big electric one, so I got a Bialetti. This is a trusty Italian-made stovetop espresso maker. It works somewhat like a percolator: you put water in the chamber below the pot, fit in a filter basket filled with ground coffee, screw the whole thing together and put it on the heat. The water is forced up through the coffee and into the pot, and you pour it out into your cup once it's all done. It's brilliant and elegant in its simplicity.