Monday, May 14, 2012

Reflections on Rome

I really cannot believe how quickly the time has gone by since my journey in Rome began in January. I am so fortunate to have experienced, seen, and lived in this amazing city! I feel as though I have just settled into my Italian life and now it is time to leave.
I have found myself looking around at my surroundings more, trying to take in all the city has to offer.  I wish I didn't look down so much when I walk, Rome truly is such a beautiful city.
I've probably said it before, but Rome is the most beautiful at night. All of the ancient monuments and piazzas are lit up with soft pale yellow street lights, there is still a nightlife atmosphere, but it is really nice to see the city without the noise of people. You become very spoiled living in Rome, because you constantly see historical artifacts, (some dating 2,500 years and older) everywhere you go. There really is SO much history here. I think it can be a little bit overwhelming, but over a long period of time you can really appreciate everything the city has to offer.
I am really going to miss the people in Italy more than anything else. Yes, I've had some bad( sometimes scary) encounters with strange people and my neighbors, but I feel like that could have been experienced in any city. The little old men are my favorite Italians. They are quintessentially dressed in their sweaters, and caps and you often see them walking around in the park, playing scopa with their friends outside of cafe's, or just sitting. They always smile and even though my conversational Italian is still very bad, they always try to make conversation. The phrase "allora" is also something I'm going to miss. It actually means "well" or "so", but people always say it before they begin their sentences. It seems like a strange thing to miss, but hearing it always makes me smile.
The food is a given, I've never eaten so well in my life, although my weight will definitely decrease with my upcoming departure from Italy. I understood that food was something that the Italians prided themselves in before I left the US, but I didn't realize how large a role it plays in their culture. Most conversations are about what and where the next meal will be, how did this dish compare to another, and where the best food is. I loved the food culture here, and I wish Americans could enjoy their food and mealtimes like the Italians do.
I have also learned so much about myself while I have been away. I have definitely become more independent, confident, and cultured. I never thought that I would be happy going to places on my own, but being abroad has really challenged and motivated me to do things by myself and experience things just "for me".I had the opportunity to travel to amazing places, and I've become a very efficient packer. It has also been a good lesson on budgeting money. The euro is worth more than the dollar, so everything has been a bit more expensive here, but I was able to see and do a lot on a budget, I just had to research more than usual.
I cannot wait to come back to the US, but I am so sad to leave Italy! It was difficult at first, and there were many inconveniences along the way, but I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. I don't know when I will ever have the opportunity to live in another country for an extended period of time and  Rome really gave me a wonderful experience!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

the "study" part of studying abroad

I cannot believe how quickly this semester has gone by. Time has just flown. Unfortunately my time in Rome is coming to an end, which of course means wrapping up my school work as well. I usually have trouble concentrating when studying for exams, but it is on a whole other level being in a different country. All I want to do it go out and experience the city for my remaining days in Italy, but I need to do well on my final exams as well.

I have been doing the majority of my studying in a place that I found far too late during the semester. Near my apartment, there is a beautiful park called Villa Pamphili. Rome is not a very city filled with trees and nature, but there are some beautifully designed parks which are vast and full of twists and turns to explore. It is a very popular jogging, bird-watching, and picnicking park. On the weekends, it is full of families enjoying the weather and the gorgeous atmosphere. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012


There is a phenomenon in Italy, especially Rome about Aperitivo. The word is similar to the French Aperitif and although they both involve drinking in the early evening the Italians have a very different take on the experience. Prices range from about 7-10 Euro which includes a drink of your choice plus unlimited access to a buffet spread of Italian specialties. Although crowded, they are well worth the wait and an excellent choice to experience dining with Italians, and (to be expected) amazing food.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Airports, Early Evening Drinks, and Custard Tarts

There are many holidays in Italy, that the rest of the world doesn't celebrate including April 25th, which is Liberation day. There are all sorts of parades around the city, but what was great for me was that I got the day off! I skipped class on Thursday(sorry mom) for an extended weekend, and headed off to Faro, Portugal to meet my grandparents for 3 days and then spend the weekend with my Aunt in London. 
Faro is located in the south of Portugal in what is known as the Algarve region. I found out at the airport that Faro is the southernmost city in all of Portugal! Anyway, Faro was absolutely gorgeous! We visited the marina, the old town in Faro, walked along some wonderful beach boardwalks, and visited various golf clubs and hotels in the area (sampling the local cocktails, coffees, and luxurious sweet treats). A favorite of my grandparents, and to my diets dismay of mine as well, became a Portuguese specialty of custard tarts or in Portuguese "Pasteis de Nata". If you get a chance to go to Portugal, definitely give them a try, they are well worth it!  I tended to bring bad weather with me where ever I went all weekend, however the weekend was absolutely lovely. I really needed a relaxing break from school, and the Portuguese getaway was the perfect solution! 
custard tarts :)

Marina in Faro

View from Vilamoura

early evening drinks :)

I spent the weekend in London with my Aunt, which was filled with chatting, shopping,eating and exploring London's West End( One of hers and my favorite places). Again, the weather was a bit dreadful, but we did have some small spots of sunshine in between rain. It was too short of a visit, and it really made me anxious to go back to London for the summer. This trip to Rome, and being so far away from my comfort zone has really made me appreciate all that I have in the US and the undeniable comfort that family can offer. I know I will miss Rome a lot, but the efficiency, cleanliness, and ease of well just-about everything in London is definitely a plus! 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Settimana Della Cultura ( Culture Week)

This past week has been culture week in Rome, so all of the public museums, sites, and monuments have free admission! The week's celebrations conclude with Rome's Birthday on Saturday the 21st making rome the young age of 2765. There are festivals, live music, parades, and even gladiator fights to celebrate   natale di Roma ( Rome's Birthday).

To my dismay most of the collections and exhibitions on display around Rome were private, so unfortunately they were not free :( But the search for free museums did warrant some extremely long walks and the museum that was found in the end was amazing! My roommate and I ended up at one of the many "Museo Roma" however this one contained 15th and 16th century paintings of city. This was very interesting to see because most of the places like The Pantheon, The Vatican, Piazza Navona, and Campo Di Fiori are places that I see on a regular basis. To see them in the 14-1500's and compare what has change, and most amazingly what hasn't changed, was very cool! They also had a new exhibition which had simulations and video projections of roman sites throughout the day time either sped up or slowed down. Very artistic and neat to see! This museum is located on Corso Vittorio Emanuelle, very close to Campo Di Fiori and Piazza Navona. I definitely recommend going if you can!

At night there are light shows illuminating the artifacts and ruins of ancient Rome! The city projected movie and tv show clips that were set in Rome along with many "laser designs" showing the forum as it was and how it has changed in Rome's 2,765 years.

Here are some pictures:

Light Show

Municipal Police Music Corp.

View of Rome from Villa Borghese

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sorrento, Pompeii, and Capri

My travels this past weekend took me south to the Amalfi coast where I visited Sorrento, the ancient city of Pompeii, and the Island of Capri. The weather was atrocious for the entire weekend, but despite the weather these cities were absolutely gorgeous. In pristine weather conditions, these cities would be amazingly beautiful!

We departed Rome, on Friday morning and took a bus to Sorrento ( about 4 hours) through the countryside of Italy, until we reached the coastline. It was particularly scary driving along the coastline in such a large vehicle as you could see the ocean below the high slopes of the cliffs on which we were driving. We then explored the small windy streets of Sorrento, admiring the hand painted goods and porcelain items. We also noticed the HUGE lemons, which are one of agricultural products of the area. Some of the lemons were larger than peoples heads, an amazing sight! We of course sampled the gelato as one does in Italy and then went out for a very nice dinner. This region of Italy specializes in the Neapolitan type of pizza, (which has a thicker crust than the pizza in Rome), it was a nice change in gastronomy.

Pizza napoletana

I was not as happy as I look in this terrible weather!

giant lemons!

The next day we headed to Pompeii. It was particularly interesting walking the streets of the city as we had learned so much about Pompeii in my high school Latin class. Pompeii receives  2.5 million visitors per year, which makes it one of the most visited sites of Italy. It was also only discovered 250 years ago, so it was a lost city for 1700 years. Pompeii dates back  to 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted and froze the city in time under volcanic ash. An interesting note about Pompeii is that they actually spoke Oscan, Latin was not as common. However, Pompeii was the hub in southern Italy for money exchange when traveling to other cities in Italy.

inside the baths

Mosaic lining the floor of a wealthy home

Pompeii's version of McDonalds, but instead of french fries they would serve up different wines( some nearing 43% alcohol) and garum, a not so appetizing mixture of fermented cured intestines of small fish. 

the amphitheater of Pompeii

For the last day in the Campania region, our group traveled to Capri. Capri is an island off the coast, so it was necessary to take a short boat trip to get there. The seas were a bit rough, but we made it to Capri safely and most importantly dry. I really must visit Capri again when the weather is not as terrible as it was one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been. My pictures do not do the island justice. Because the weather was so terrible, we didn't have the opportunity to rent out a small boat and explore the famous blue grotto, or travel by boat to many of the lagoons around the island. We did go on a nature walk which gave us an amazing view of the coast line and the famous two rocks or in Italian,the Faraglioni. There were many shops to look at and a wonderful perfume factory with portraits of famous old movie stars who had visited the island lining the walls. The smell of lemons was also everywhere in Capri. The souvenirs all carried classic blue and yellow designs with depictions of the giant lemons of the island .

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Buona Pasqua!

Happy Easter from Rome!
With the amount of Catholic influence on Italy, it is no surprise that Easter is a heavily celebrated holiday here. Having never celebrated Easter before, Rome has been an exciting place to experience during this time. The shops, grocery stores, and bakeries began preparing weeks ago and the beautiful pastries, giant eggs, and religious symbols have been popping up everywhere!

In my Italian culture class, we learned about a few of the traditions that Italian families observe during the holiday. As with most holidays, many have to do with food.

The Easter egg is a staple in most places around the world and is usually synonymous with the holiday, but in Rome the Easter egg is GIANT! I was very excited because I won one of these eggs in a raffle that my study abroad program put on. many different chocolate companies make these giant eggs, and inside of the hollow egg, it usually contains some sort of small present or trinket. As tradition has it, you give these eggs as presents to family members and on Easter Sunday, the egg is eaten for breakfast! Chocolate for breakfast doesn't sound like a terrible idea to me. I was very curious to see the egg and what mine had inside of it. As I unwrapped the blue paper of my egg, it revealed a VERY large hollow dark chocolate shell. I could hear that there was something inside of it so I opened it up to reveal a small plastic container. In the container there were 4 Baci balls( a very yummy Italian chocolate) and a small key chain which had a quote from John Keats in Italian "Le note dell'amore fanno la gioia piu grande." which means "The note's of love make the greatest joy".  There is more chocolate than I should be eating  in a month here, so I carefully put the pieces of the egg's chocolate shell and the Baci balls in the refrigerator for another day.

The Italians also have other food traditions on Easter. It is very common for lamb to be served for lunch. The pasqual lamb, or the lamb of god, is supposed to represent the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Along with the lamb, Italians have various cold cuts of meat with traditional breads. Finally they conclude the meal with a special cake called colomba. Colomba is a bit like panettone. It is shaped like a dove and represents peace and a new beginning. If you get the chance to try it, it is absolutely delicious.

The family is very important in Italy and Easter celebrations are meant to be celebrated with them. Friday and Monday are holidays here, and everything is closed for the entire weekend. Which means, one must prepare early for the entire weekend ( because NOTHING is open) and that people are given time off to celebrate, eat, and enjoy time with their families. It really is nice to see large extended families walking together on the streets and in the parks, just enjoying each other.

Of course, going to church is another tradition here and in Italy there is never a shortage of churches to go to. The Vatican has their own celebrations, and Catholics flock to the eternal city to hear a church service led by the pope. Tickets need to be booked way in advance, but St. Peter's square is packed with people.

Many students went away for the long weekend that we had off from school, but I am so glad that I stayed in Rome to experience Easter here. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the celebrations and although I do not celebrate Easter for the religious reasons, the traditional and cultural aspect of the holiday have been a lot of fun to see, and taste :).

here are some pictures of the giant eggs in the stores and what the colomba cake looks like!