Saturday, January 31, 2015

when in...a rainy/cold/wind city (and its not chicago)

This is my first morning post and I apologize to the scores of people (cue stifled laugh) that read the blog every day but unfortunately things went out of my control so that I couldn't post. Well... that's not entirely true, but we'll get to that later.

As I mentioned yesterday (or was it two days ago?), Friday was my designated "Gravy Day!" I woke up at 9:30 and got started. It was fairly easy excluding opening my can of tomatoes. The apartment unfortunately lacks a crank can opener and there's one of those old fashioned claw ones which I had to use instead. I ended up watching some Downton so using the like 1890s device seemed very appropos. But, after googling how it worked, the gravy was cooking and the apartment was smelling great thanks to me.

The morning started off a little rough weather wise which was actually fine with me. I stayed in my pajamas and started catching up on Downton Abbey while guzzling tea. But every time I peeked out the window whilst I was stirring my craving (literally, not the signature dance move named after it), I saw the sun coming out and I decided that after my lunch, I would take a walk.

I should mention, also, that classic Maloney style, I am the first one up in the morning by a super long shot. Like, right now, it's 9:45ish and I'll probably be lounging around in the kitchen until maybe 11:30 before anyone wakes up. Which is fine with me. There's no competition for the toaster. Not that anyone else makes toast.... But I digress...

So, lunch, shower, dress, and I'm ready to go. Umbrella in my hand, crosswords in my pocket, I was determined to head to a different part of Rome kind of outside the city center. Actually, I had my sights set on making a pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. John Lateran. In case you don't know, and I didn't, this is one of the Papal Basilicas, inside you're technically in an embassy of Vatican City. It's also the official basilica of the Pope and his seat is chilling in the back. Also, it's drop dead gorgeous inside, so I was determined to go there. (Besides, it was closer than St. Paul Outside the Walls, which not surprisingly is outside the ancient walls of Rome and kind of out of the way).

So, off I went. And I have to be honest, I thought I was pretty brilliant. It was a little blustery, but I felt that I had shown the weather people wrong and was enjoying this supposedly rainy day. Ha. I bopped along the Tiber for a little before heading in a general area of where I thought I had to be. I ended up on the other side of the old Forum which was not populated by any tourists which was pretty interesting. Then, by some grace of God, I hit the Circus Maximus (the Circo Massimo, in Italian). Just to refresh you on your Roman history, the Circus is where the chariot races where held in Rome, Ben Hur style. From a presentation that Pat and I did single-handedly in Latin, the races were the largest and by far most popular games in Rome, even more popular than the gladiators. The more you know, right?

The Circus Maximus building is completely gone. What's left is basically a giant valley but it's so easy to imagine the chariots racing around. They have gravel down where the track would be and the the center divider is now (instead of a block of marble), a grassy hill. And standing down in the track and looking up the hill, it was so easy to imagine crowds and crowds of people cheering down at you. I'm not going to lie, I had a little moment with history and I think it was kind of beautiful. Also, I was like the only person there. I'm guessing most people don't understand the significance of this apparently empty valley in Rome and just waltz right by the factory. Inspired by the kinship between past and present and my solitude, did I break into "The Sound of Music?" I'll leave you to determine that one.

Perhaps I was too much in a moment because after leaving the Circus Maximus I was completely off track. I actually went in a circle in the wrong direction. The only positive of this loop was that I passed the (heavily guarded and kind of architecturally ugly) home of the American Ambassador. I flashed a smile at the guard and said "Good to know," in English and then hurried off before I could be questioned.

Finally I was back on the right track after my little half mile circle. But, at this point, I was facing a literal uphill battle. Rome isn't called the City of Seven Hills for no reason. However, I was so determined to make it at this point that come hell or high water I was getting to this church. So I trudged on as the weather began rapidly deteriorating. I think I may have been on the Appian Way but I'm really not sure, when I saw the street sign, I was too focused (and cold) to duck down.

Can I also say that the neighborhood of the Lateran Basilica is kind of a dump. So, I'm walking through this dump when I come across these walls. And I'm thinking, what the heck kinda huge villa are these walls protecting. And then it hit me, I was staring at the ancient walls of Rome. Which was a good thing. I needed another moment of history, and it replenished me enough to climb the crest of this God-forsaken (OK, it probably wasn't God-forsaken cause there were tons of churches) and reach a Piazza and there it was.

As soon as I opened the doors of this church, I knew it was completely worth it. By far, it is the most beautiful and largest I have seen. Remember, I haven't been to St. Peter's (inside) yet, but I liked how this wasn't crawling with tourists and I could really take my time appreciating everything there. Everything from the Pope's chair, to the gorgeous mosaics in the apse, to the giant statues of the apostles just stunned you.

As I stared at the high altar, which was complimented perfectly by the seemingly Medieval mosaics of Christ and the Apostles, I thought how moving it must have been to contemporary worshipers. Especially as I sat and stared up at these giant statues of the apostles who were spiritual and physical giants, I can only imagine the mentality of the poor Renaissance Italian Catholic. So, I took a selfie with St. Philip to commemorate the thought.

Going the extra mile was (as it usually is) one hundred percent worth it. There was only one snag-fu. I went to lit a candle by this ancient looking statue but they were electric and I didn't know how to turn my candle on and by accident I turned like half of the other candles off. I don't know how it happened. But I rushed through that prayer and got out of dodge before someone caught me.

Actually, there were two snagfus. The second was that I really didn't know how to get back and I was nearing the time when I told my roommate, Matt, who was tasked with stirring the gravy, that I'd be back. So I sent an excruciating text (this little phone is so tough to use after the iPhone days) and headed on my way. Here's where I made a mistake. I saw a bus and read the sign and thought, yeah, that's where I'm going. Maybe. Maybe not. So I hopped on a bus and got out near the forum. Then I started walking.

Now, I've been the Forum and the Piazza Venezia a few times now and I know that my tram stops near there. Except, I must have missed where it goes. Because, fairly rapido, I was lost. So, I headed towards the River Tiber in an attempt to locate myself. Which was shocking. Because instead of being close to the Lateran Basilica or even the Trastevere tram, I was about a mile above St. Peter's. I couldn't tell you how I got there if I tried but I then booked it down past the river barely even paying attention to the Castel Sant'Angelo by sunset and hopped on my tram and got home.

Exhausted, I checked out my gravy. It smelled delicious and tasted great except for one little drawback. Half of my meatballs fell apart in the pan which was really sad for me and really thickened up the gravy. I mean, it still tasted great but... No worries. No one knew any better. Pure Mommom style, I brought my gravy and my cheese and my tupperware to another AUR apartment and we had a little pasta dinner (thinking of ya Mom as you host yours). And everyone thinks that my gravy was pretty amazing.

Today (it is Saturday morning), we're planning on going to the Jewish Ghetto and seeing what there's to see there. A friend of a friend is Jewish and says its a much different experience so I think it should be great. Plus, I'm a little churched out after yesterday, so a little religious diversity might be good for me.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

when in...another apertivo

I'm blogging fairly late (its a little after midnight now) so today's post will be fairly brief. In all the day started fairly unextraordinarily. As I told you yesterday, I was planning on doing my laundry today and did, in fact, decipher how the machine worked after reading the guidebook very carefully. The bummer is that the Italians apparently don't believe in dryers. This is something that I do not understand at all. They got the washer. The dryer is the other half. YOU'RE HALFWAY THERE! And unfortunately, since it was a rainy, cold day, I couldn't hang the clothes outside on the balcony. The moral of this story is that currently there's a ratchet clothes rack sitting in the living room with a week's worth of laundry still fairly damp on the line. I'm hoping that by tomorrow (GRAVY DAY!!!), the clothes will be dry.

Before class, I wondered through my neighborhood, Trastevere, which I really love. In the process, I walked into this super amazing church that's apparently one of the highlights of the neighborhood, Santa Maria in Trastevere. It must have an incredible history because inside there's an incredible array of style and design. So, it's interesting that the church has Byzantine mosaics, a Renaissance ceiling, and Baroque sculpture (I'm hoping my art history lovers out there, ahem Meg, will appreciate that description). It sounds like a mish-mash but it's actually incredibly beautiful. The gold mosaics in particular were stunning. I can only imagine what early worshipers thought as the gold mosaic tiles gleamed by candlelight. These are the thoughts that go through my head as I stifle my gasps at the beauty that surround me.

I mentioned that it rained today which ruined my plans to do a quick solo lunch in one of the piazzas. Instead, I ducked into a small cafe and it proved to be one of my best decisions all day. The Babylon Cafe has free wifi (!!), great pastries, and they made an incredible cappuccino. And, they didn't kick me out when I'm pretty sure one of the staff saw me sneaking my sandwich in the little corner table I was "reading" at. Thanks to their kindness, I'll be back. I've deemed it my new working spot and hopefully, the center of some day-scapades through the neighborhood.

Class was fairly ordinary. I'm feeling really great about my English class. The professor is just super interesting and bright and very nice. (Plus, as I said earlier, she thinks La Salle is great, for fairly obvious reasons). Italian class went well. It's a beginner class which means a lot of introductions and greetings, but I've met a couple nice people through these introductions which is fun.

So, tonight, AUR hosted its own apertivo at a little restaurant and a group of AUR students braved the rain to go (Freni e Frizioni). It was definitely worth it. I have now discovered that most bars and restaurants host these and it's really a great deal. You can hang as long as you want and they keep just bringing the food out. It's a lot of rice, but still after enough times, it's pretty filling. And they had these amazing sugar apples that went great with well...everything.

The group that lingered the longest decided to go to this AUR-hosted party at this restaurant. But- classic americanos- we showed up way before Italian time, so we left in short time and got some gelato which really hit the spot even if it was pretty cold/rainy out. Let's be real, gelato is always a good idea.

Tomorrow is my gravy day. I've made my meatballs, the sausage is ready to go, the onions are sliced, and I've already gathered a group for a pasta dinner/wine night, so it's going to be great. I'm looking forward to the rainy day actually. It'll give me a chance to really relax, do some reading, maybe actually watch some of my shows (Suits is back, Elise and Mer!). Who knows, if my laundry actually dries tonight, I might do another load (Yeah me).

After a recent message from Wheels, I want everyone to know that even if I'm eating a sparse breakfast, I am eating plenty now that I'm on my budget and that I'm not starving in Rome surronded by great food. How tragic would that be? In fact, I've got this fresh bread that I just bought from my fav little corner store that is incredible. Along with these shortbread cookies I bought on sale at the grocery store, just eating bread is pretty great.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

when in...desperate need of wifi

So today was full of surprises, some more pleasant than others. As you might remember, today was "Book Buying Day" I capitalized it as if it were some sort of holiday. It was only the day I ordained to buy my books at the Anglo American book store located somewhere in the city center (I'll get to that). Similarly, tomorrow is "Laundry Day," so, I'm sure that will be a riveting tale.

Today, started as many ordinary days have been. I made myself some toast, I drank my milk (Mommom would be proud) and I had one of my hardboiled eggs. I felt pretty proud of myself for the whole American breakfast. By the time I was showered and dressed (I hit a roadblock and lost a contact halfway through the process, but I triumphed on), I left the apartment at probably around 10:15ish. I have class at 2 on Tuesdays and Thursdays which I thought was plenty of time to run downtown, pick up books, maybe lunch, and get to AUR with plenty of time. Well...

As a brief disclaimer, and this is really only for my chemistry-loving readers, I thought I'd explain how I make tea. I've kind of broken my coffee habit here just because we don't have a coffee machine, so I've been substituting tea. The problem is, that we don't have a kettle either. That's not a huge problem because you can boil water wherever. So, I've been using this little pot. But every time I transfer the water from the pot into the teacup its always a little adventure for me with an interior monologue that consists of Ben and Nicole shouting "COMMIT TO THE POUR" to me as I drown my poor teabag in boiling H2O. But I digress....

So, I hop on the tram and start heading to the end of the line, the Piazza Venezia. No problem there. However, as soon as I got off the tram, I realized that 1. I had forgotten to write down the address 2. I had forgotten, ergo, the directions and 3. I had not looked it up in google maps, so my phone had absolutely no history of it. And since my phone is basically a useless brick without wifi, I had no ways of getting directions. But fool that I am, I traversed on with the vaguest notion of where the bookstore was. In my mind it was somewhere between the Via Del Corso and the Spanish Steps, so I thought I should be good. As often happens when I try to "feel my way" places while driving, I was sorely mistaken.

I should also mention that today it was cold, at least for Rome. So I was doing all of this pretty bundled up and there wasn't much lingering time. When I started my little jaunt, I did my usual Rome thing (for the last week at least, ha). I window-shopped, I stopped into a couple gorgeous churches, I ogled some pastries in some bakery windows. All good stuff. But when I reached the Spanish Steps and ducked down the street (or two or three) where I thought the bookstore was. No luck. Huh.

So, I started just canvasing hoping that I would run into it somehow. No luck. Time, by the way, was doing its thing, and ticking down and gradually I realized that I might be in some trouble. So, I ducked into another church, lit a candle and say a desperate prayer for either wifi or a great sense of directions (I only gave twenty cents instead of the recommended fifty- but I think conversion works out). I think all this time in bella Roma is making me a very traditional Catholic, ritually at least- I've lit many a candle in the last week. A few minutes after I walk out of a church, like a vision appearing before my devout eyes, what appears before me... but a McDonalds.

I know this doesn't seem like a big deal, but for me- in desperate need of wifi (and to get out of the cold), it was looking great. And can I say, this McDonalds was gorgeous. It had a gelato bar, fresh pastries, an cappuccino maker. It had real silverware and china. Like, I'm not kidding, I only ordered a caffe americano, but I almost got a pastry cause it looked so good. Kudos to you Italian McDonalds. Well, kinda. Because, their wifi sign lied. Their wifi wasn't free. So, as I'm about to cry into my coffee, the girl next to me answers her phone in English and I realized that my prayer had been answered at the discount price I purchased it at. As soon as she hung up her phone, I explained my situation (probably pretty desperately and pathetic-like, but no worries), googled the address and wouldn't you know, it was a block down from where I was. Probably the only block I hadn't walked. So, I got my books no problem and treated myself to the most delicious slice of pizza before hopping on the tram and heading back to class.

Class was... okay. My religious class is starting at the roots of Christianity. However, thanks to my years of Catholic education (as well as my attendance of many passion play) I was more than familiar with Pontius Pilate and all the ish he did. But no worries. After class, it was too cold to sit outside (plus there were a LOT of smokers out there), so I went to club lib and talked to Nikhita on the phone for a little which was v. nice.

After my night class, a group of AUR people, including the girls I've been hanging with, went to an appertivo which is one of my favorite Italian customs so far (much better than the siesta, sorry nap lovers). For six euro, we got a drink as well as all you can eat appetizers. The restaurant was very cool and seemed very hip and all the staff was very friendly. Granted, the AUR people must have all come at the same time which wasn't a problem because 7:30 is a little early for Italians to do anything in the evening, so there was no problems space-wise. The food selection was varied (and I ate a lot of rice and couscous, which was always out) but it was fun just eating, chatting, sipping on my drink. It was such a nice way to end the day before, of course, I returned home to the apartment and started blogging.

It's supposed to rain for the next couple days which is a shame, but I guess, it's out of my control. So, who knows. A little reading, a lot of tea, maybe I finally make my gravy. I'll find something, I have no doubt. And I'll be sure to write about it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

when in...class for the second day... there's actually work to do!

So, today marked the second day of class for me. It also marked the first day that I actually had to do school work... which was weird. It seemed like I was wasting my time/doing my reading for tomorrow sitting in the beautiful library while the sun was shining outside. But, I guess that's why I'm here. Like I've said before, I'm on the prowl for what I'm terming in my head as my "work cafe"- a place where I can feel like I'm really enjoying Rome but also actually getting my work done.

It seems like there's going to be a lot of reading for the semester which, in my mind, is ideal for my location. You can read whenever. I can travel throughout this city with my brand new month-long ATAC metro pass and read my deathly long Henry James novel or the history of Rome, or whatever. Besides, the fact that classes only run Monday-Thurs, definitely help me "justify" doing my work. Which I guess doesn't really need to be justified. Haha.

Anyone who knows me knows that I adore telling people about the minutia of my day. So, what the heck. I'll start with my morning which encompassed a J.B. Fletcher breakfast (tea and toast). Ever since "discovering" my potential gas problem (which has been handled), I'm now paranoid that something else in this apartment is going to go. I kept checking the toast to make sure it didn't spontaneously combust. Also, while my toilet is still out of commission (maybe... we're too scared to try it again), I was sooo paranoid while showering (even though there wasn't ever a problem there). Every five seconds, I'd duck my head outside the shower to make sure that the shower didn't decide to go on me too. Fortunately, it did not.

Before the Activities Fair and class, I headed to the lib to do some reading. One nice thing I've noticed about the professors here is that, realizing that some students are on a budget (some are not at all- must be nice), they have the texts on reserve in the lib. You just have to wait around for the book if someone's reading it. Which was fine. In the half hour I had to wait, I started WRITING POSTCARDS. (Everyone here tells me that its an expensive hobby, but I don't care).

During the activities fair, I signed up for some stuff. So, we'll see what happens with any of these clubs. I'm ready for some meetings again so I have something to complain about. What's life without complaints about bureaucratic meetings?? I was able to eat my lunch outside under the orange trees in the sun (even though it was a little nippy today) and clear some space on my phone for more PICTURES!

First class of the day was in the afternoon. I prefer classes earlier in the day, but apparently that's not how it's done here. No matter. My English class is taught by a super cool woman who, for some reason thinks incredibly highly of La Salle students! She was so impressed when I said where I go to school, which was different. Most of the time, "La Salle" gets a blank stare. So, thank you former study abroad students (KB...ahem). We apparently have quite the reputation at AUR. The class is called "The Grand Tour and Italy" and it's a mix of travel literature about Italy and novels about people traveling through Italy. It seems very interesting, even though there's this huge Henry James novel that I have to read... but I guess that can't be avoided. Nor can Turnitin, which is sadly also used here.

I also had Italian today. It's an introductory class despite the fact that, as some of you know, last year I took 102. I knew I wanted to take Italian but I didn't want to punish myself too much. And the professoressa seems very nice and friendly, so I think I made a pretty good choice.

I forgot to take the sausage out of the freezer today. Which meant, because I was starving, that it was not a sausage night. Instead, pasta, oil, garlic, tomato, red peppers, and green beans. Not gonna lie. It wasn't too bad and it was fairly relaxing cooking after class. Though, it was very early for Italian time (nearly 6:45) by the time I started dinner. I tried to hold out, but the single hard boiled egg wasn't doing it for me. I'll probably just have to have a snack later. I have some delicious cheese that I bought from the store the other day (including some sharp provolone to die for), so I'll probably turn to that if the event calls for it.

A little thing I've noticed about Italian stores. They aren't really organized. Like at all. It takes me about four times around the tiny grocery store to find anything. I'm like Moses wandering in the desert for forty years (yeah right) when I'm trying to find some breadcrumbs for my cutlets. Maybe its just my Anglo-American mentality or my German heritage, but I would love some order in these stores. It would really help my sanity.

Tomorrow is another early morning because I've got to run to the "Anglo-American Bookstore" near the Spanish Steps before class. I'm planning on doing lunch there too, so I'll treat myself for the first time all week long. And I'll... ugh... buy my books. I can't avoid that bullet entirely. Wish me luck.
Also- I ducked into this park across the street today. It was really pretty but I mean, what's up with this fountain? What are these kids doing to that poor sheep? 

Monday, January 26, 2015

when in...class...

So, today marked day one of classes at the AUR. Pretty exciting day. I know everyone at La Salle has been enjoying/(suffering through) their classes for two weeks, but this was a big day for me. I'll admit it, I'm one of the weirdos who like school, or at least the schedule that school provides. So, it was a welcome relief.

Before I delve into my "exciting" day, I should also note that today marks day two of what I have termed "Rome on a Budget." Which  means, I was cooking again today. I spent fifty cents for another cornetto and another fifty for a cappuccino (and more for my groceries, but they don't count, cause they're for all week). So, I took my cutlet leftovers, made sandwiches with some sharp provolone and peppers and I have lunch checked off for two days. I also am hardboiling eggs right now as we speak, so who knows how many meals those eggs will cover. I should admit, a little while ago, I did have a small kitchen fire on my hands, but it was very quickly handled. However, the pervading smell of burnt garlic isn't going anywhere... No matter.

As I mentioned yesterday, I got to school early to sign up for three trips. The first is a day trip to Assisi where I can have my moment with St. Francis. The other two are weekend trips to Tuscany and the South. So, I now have some pretty exciting things to look forward to in the spring, excluding of course my next bank statement. The line was pretty horrendous and I had just enough time to make my payment before I climbed STAIRS (it felt like five stories but the room number said it was only 3... whatever) for my first class of the day... Renaissance and Baroque Art History.

As many of you know, I took very Rome specific classes for this semester because I thought I could enjoy class more that way. Also, since my advisers were less than ultra-committed to accepted them, I took a "what the hay" approach and took what looked interesting. Thank God I went with my gut because my art history professor, Daria Borghese is probably going to be my best professor here. She's a descendant of the legendary Borghese family, a powerful Renaissance Roman clan that sponsored many artists of the period. The Borghese estate is one of the grandest galleries in Rome and sits on the largest (and arguably) most beautiful private park in Rome. So, the name alone impressed me.

But, she was also so impressive. Charming, sophisticated and elegant she spoke in an incredible accent that was (to my naive ears) a mix of British and Italian. She was also just super nice and seemed to really love what she was doing. She plans on teaching most of the class "on location" which  means its basically a field trip every week to one of Rome's many beautiful churches or galleries. Needless to say, I'm geeking out that my Mondays are going to be pretty chocked full. Not to toot my own horn, but I was probably also the smartest person in my art history class, which was definitely a huge confidence booster for me.

I had a little break before my next class, so I wandered over to AUR's library which impressed me beyond words. Not to diss Club Lib... well, I will... it's a dump compared to this place. There are beautiful terraces outside with tables and outlets to do your work. The whole garden is also wifi which I have found is a rarity in Rome. Inside, it's comfortable, clean, if not a little small. But there's no beardie, no turning off lights, and no mean librarians. So, I'm impressed.

My next class was "religion in a pluralist world," a class I was about to drop until I saw that the schedule also included field trips to (among other places) Rome's largest synagogue and St. Peter's. So, yes.

I had a little break in between that class and my evening class, "Rome: from Republic to Empire." I actually had to get off a waiting list for the class, but it's taught by my religion professor (a woman who also happens to be a canon lawyer at the Vatican) and I think it's going to be worth it. Can you guess why? YES! MORE FIELD TRIPS. I'm in love with this field trip heavy schedule. I still have two more classes tomorrow (and the activities fair), so God knows where I'll be going.

Today, was not a super picture heavy day. I mean, I couldn't really snap pictures at Daria, could I? But I took a picture of the coffee machine because it kinda just cracks me up. What is that lady even doing? (Making a mean cappuccino, that's what.)

I also read the cover letter for one of La Salle's presidential candidates. Don't worry, explorers. Even caught among this field trip-high school, I'm still missing you all and I feel for all of you in the snow (especially Nicole as she's trapped in the airport). Shout out to PC: I'm really going to miss getting on the air tomorrow for Talking Points (as I'm sure all my family will miss as well). Also, if I remember correctly, snow days usually included a fiesta, Murder She Wrote, and chess-- things I sorely miss in this apartment. So, there's that out of the way.

I wish Rome had jeopardy because that would really be clutch right now. I also wish I could be back at my front desk. I miss answering the phones. But I definitely do not miss the weather. Ciao for now, who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

when in...a super catholic mood

Buona sera readers! It's a little after 4 in the eternal city and I just got back after an incredible day at the Vatican Museums. Full disclaimer, it's been an extremely long day, so I'm looking forward to this time to reflect on my day and rest my feet for a while before I start frying up my chicken cutlets. I've fully accepted that any day sightseeing in Rome is going to include literally miles of walking and a ridiculous amount of stairs. Like stories of stairs. But I'm doing as the Romans do and wearing comfortable footwear, carrying my transit ticket at all times, and ignoring the pain in my feet at all times. So, now its communique time and, for the first time, I'm thanking God for the time difference because I can listen to Sunday with Sinatra at a normal time.

So, today started very early. So early, in fact, that I was up before the sun. Why? Well, if you recall from my last post, I was determined to make 7:30 mass at San Francesco a Ripa, a local church in Trastavere. It was absolutely beautiful inside, it actually took my breath away. You want to know what also took my breath away? The fact that there were like maybe 20 people at mass and I was the youngest by at least 40 years. Also, half of them were elderly nuns. So my mumbling options were very limited and unfortunately the missile they handed out lacked all the responses. Big time mumbling. New on my list of things to do: learn the Our Father in Italian. But, I made it and didn't even leave early (partially because I was blocked in by an elderly Italian couple who seemed really confused why I was there. I was probably in their pew). 

After leaving mass in a slightly confused state, I headed towards the Ministry of Education building in Trastavere, a gorgeous neoclassical building where AUR trips meet. From there, it was a walk past the Tiber to Vatican City. It was a gorgeous, if not chilly morning, and it was a nice walk. The Vatican Museums are actually free on the last Sunday of the month which leads to legendary crowds and very long lines. But those lines were completely worth it. 

I have to confess, I lost my group about ten minutes after entering the museum. I'm not a good group person in museums. I linger, I enjoy the work. I love museums and my love is not shared by everyone there. In fact, the masses of people there barely seemed to notice most of the art. So, after I embraced the fact that I was doing the Vatican Museums solo, I really embraced it. I wandered through almost empty galleries full of antiquities. I actually kind of got on my high-and-mighty art historian stool and wondered why people weren't appreciating the literally priceless wonders around them. There was a lot of mumbling in disgust at the tour groups just rushing through to get to the Sistine Chapel. 

I flat out refused to go with the norm and instead decided to embrace my inner bohemian and take my time. The Sistine Chapel wasn't going anywhere. And it turns out that there are halls and halls with frescoes on their ceiling to enjoy. My neck is still demanding to know what I did all day. 

What were my favorites at the Vatican Museum? Probably the Raphael Rooms which were actually stunningly beautiful. I actually gasped multiple times in wonder. Sure, there's famous paintings there like the School of Athens (which pictures can't even do justice to), but there were so many beautiful biblical scenes. And I really tried to understand the art, which meant I shoved my way through the Chinese tour groups to read the explanations found in multiple languages usually in the middle. Then I would just find an opening and gaze around. 

Sometimes, I would exclaim things like "Magnifico" or "E Bella" (It's magnificent or beautiful). This lead to a pretty amazing encounter in which an elderly Italian woman next to me agreed and we had a fake conversation. In that, I mean- I said "E Bello" to which she nodded happily and agreed "Magnifico" and then I think she said something about the incredible perspective in "School of Athens," to which I enthusiastically gave a "Si, Si" and decided I had spent enough time looking and should quit before I lost my ground with this nice art lover. 

Other favorites. I had another great moment with a guard when I pretended to be knowledgeable. I saw this painting of none other than my favorite saint and yours, St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle. So, I got the guards attention in Italian and asked very coyly "E San Jean Baptiste de la Salle?" To which he readily agreed to look, gave me a "Si," and we did a nice little Grazie/Prego exchange. I know this conversations sound pathetic. But after every one of these, I feel like I achieved a small victory. I even took a victory selfie next to the painting just to commemorate the event. 

The Borgia Apartments were also pretty amazing simply because they were kind of off to the side of the Sistine Chapel line so there were again, almost empty. But they were absolutely stunning. Besides, the history of the Borgias is so interesting and entertaining, just imagining being in their former public rooms was amazing. I took a couple pictures of the frescoes there, just because they really stunned me. The detail in these rooms were so interesting and I couldn't believe people were in such a rush they couldn't see them. 

I guess I should also mention that I didn't take many pictures of the art because it doesn't really do it justice. Also, I noticed it in others and stopped it in myself. Some people were just snapping pictures at everything that looked vaguely nice without even stopping to look what they were taking pictures. I almost had to shove an Asian couple out of the way because they were just facing away from statues to take terrible pictures with them. AND THEY DIDN'T EVEN LOOK AT THEM. I'm allowed a little bougie snobbery every now and then. 

By the way, I should also say that I have some pretty great pictures of statues with funny faces that I'll put up eventually with some nice captions. Because what I do, is that I'll see a statue and put a thought to the face which is really easy with some of these Roman statues just because I think they make intentionally funny faces. So, I see one and be like, "He looks pissed off at the world," or "She looks like she's waking up on a Monday," In my mind (especially alone), this is hysterical. We'll see what you think. 

After leaving the museum, I briefly joined the AUR mega-group before I decided that I was going to keep on my solo trip. Partially because I had consumed no food at all and thought maybe a little caffe and cornetto. Also, I wanted some wifi to translate my grocery list. This proved to be a doubly fruitless effort. I walked probably the longest possible way, first out of fancy and then out of just thinking I would eventually find something. I walked to Castel San'Angelo, crossed the River Tiber (gorgeous) and started walking along the river (It smelled pretty terrible), I understood why it was deserted despite the gorgeous views. 

Finally, I find my cafe. I ordered my pastry. But wouldn't you know that they lied about their free wifi. It didn't even work. Thanks a lot. I was really bumming until I decided I'd just wing it at the store. But wait! Stores are generally closed on Sundays, so no small grocery shopping. So I stopped in a corner store and bought some pepper and a real grocery bag (so I'll stop being charged for plastic bags at the grocery store and look more Roman), and started breading my cutlets. 

Which brings us here. Back to the apartment. First day of class is tomorrow as well as the day trip sign ups. So, I have plenty to look forward to and after such a long day, I deserve a little rest. I'll probably try to turn in early before classes and a schedule actually starts. 

I'm thinking of everyone on the East Coast awaiting the winter nor'easter or whatever Sid Mark is calling it. I'm especially thinking of Nicole, who leaves for her South African adventure tomorrow (you can read about it here). Buon viaggio, Nic! 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

when in... a cat sanctuary

So, my morning started the exact opposite of magical. It turns out the plumbing in the building has gone crazy but when I was taking my shower the the toilet decided to overflow all over the place, I definitely didn't know that. Instead, it set me in a panicked, slightly nauseous state that wasn't alleviated until after I returned from the AUR welcome BBQ to talk to the maintenance guy. He kinda fixed it. By fixed it, I mean that he hung a sign on the door and said that someone would be here sometime on Monday. Great.

But the day went very quickly uphill. Today, they had a BBQ on "campus." It was a very interesting experience eating American hamburgers in Rome. But no matter. At the event, I met a priest/seminarian (he looked young and didn't correct me when I called him father) who invited me to join the Newman Society which is apparently like the Catholic college group. I basically said what the heck and so now I guess I'm a part. But after my little convo with padre, a group of us climbed the steps to the top floor of the classroom building and were greeted by a stunning view of the city (not the first of the day, spoiler).

Before I forget, I guess I should mention that we all are loving downtown Trastevere where we live. It's right on the other side of the river from the city center but it is really very scenic. We got something to eat (gnocchi with clams) and then hung out for a while We got caught in a few touristy trap spots but if you wander far enough you can forget about the million loud college kids a block down and think you're in 17th century Rome. But...back to the day.

After our American experience at the BBQ, we decided to embrace it and do big touristy thing all day long... kinda. We took the tram back to the city center and started our day at the "cat sanctuary," which is actually an ancient Roman excavation that was formerly home to some temple where the city decided to deal with their cat problem by just dumping the cats among the ruins. Only in Rome...

Then, we started walking. We got back to the Pantheon which was more stunning during the day. It was so awe-inspiring, I actually had to stop taking pictures because they couldn't do justice to the building which is just such a wonder.

From the Pantheon (after I changed my dollars to euros at some overpriced exchange), we got our first gelato. Pistachio and cappuccino. It was so incredibly delicious. Down side was that immediately after it, I felt like the sun went behind the clouds and we were kinda in the cold.

No matter, because we ducked into a church off the Via Corso and enjoyed its baroque splendor very briefly (spoiler, more churches to come).After trudging through tourist traffic and briefly heading into an amazing palazzo before realizing it required an admission fee, we reached the Vittoriano. This building also defies words. It is a tomb of unknown soldier/two museums/and offers the best view in Rome. After taking some photos from the steps we kept climbing more steps until we reached a terrace. From there, we paid 7 euro to take an elevator ride to the top.

I got to be honest, when the group suggested it, I wasn't sure. But, true to the never stop exploring Lasallian spirit which I continuously emulate, I paid the money and wow, it was worth it. It was a whole panoramic view of the Rome. On one side, you had the Colosseum and Forum. On the other, St. Peters stood out among a sea of Baroque and Renaissance domes. It actually would take your breath away. After snapping some pics, a few of us just leaned against the balcony and just took it all in...

After taking the elevator down, we stopped into a Church which was next door. It looked like an ancient Roman basilica and I was expecting some gorgeous but very faded frescoes. Instead The Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli proved to be the most beautiful church I've seen so far. I actually lost myself just gazing at its incredibly intricate ceiling or catching some tromp l'oile detail or finding some 5th century fresco hiding among the Baroque glory. Beautiful chandeliers kept changing their light just perhaps to give visitors an idea of the Church in different lights. I transcended myself for a little and even paid 50 cents to light a candle in honor of all of you at home.

From there, we walked to Forum. It was too late to pay to actually go in but we walked all around the perimeter and just gazed at the thousands of years of history we were witnessing in ruin form. It's pretty incredible to think of it. From there, we walked to the Colosseum. By this point, night had pretty much fallen and we walked around the Colosseum in the dark again. Hopefully, we'll get the tickets to the Colosseum and Forum next week so we can go inside actually get guided tours which would be amazing.

Tomorrow morning- v. early- we're getting free admission into the Vatican Museums. Bummer is that its super early in the morning 8:30. Which means, if I want to make mass (in Italian...huh) before I go, I'm going to need to get up at 6:30. But, the Catholic guilt inside me is currently having this monologue that says, "If you miss mass after going into all these Churches.... you're done." So, pray for me as I fake-pray for myself. Fortunately, Catholicism, as a faith, has mastered the art of the mumbled response. So, I think I'll be good.

After budgeting my  money, I realized that this first week of extravagance has to come to a close. Some expenses are unavoidable but this out to eat life has to come to an end or all your wishes will be answered and I'll have to catch an early flight home.

So, tomorrow- mass, Vatican museum, prep for class (AHHH... WE'RE NOT READY), grocery/supply shopping to deal with the next inevitable meal and plumbing crisis preceded by a translated list, and who knows???