Thursday, February 26, 2015

when in...a gallery opening

I want to shoot off a quick post before I go to bed. This weekend is my Tuscan weekend, so expect silence from the blog. On Sunday, hopefully I'll be able to post a recap... but no promises.

So how did I spend my Thursday? Well, I was working for the weekend. I was planning on going to the Lenten Station Mass but 6am came too early. So, then I planned to run. But 7am came too early too. So, I slept in until 8:30 and did some work in the morning. But then I decided I wanted to explore. I really have been dying to see the Ecstasy of St. Theresa by Bernini which is here in a church in Rome. But of course, by the time the bus came and I actually got there, the church was closed for lunch... like EVERYTHING in Rome. So, instead I did some wandering. I packed my lunch and ate it on the Spanish Steps which was fun for people watching and through some major wandering, I made it to the Mausoleum of Augustus. Don't ask me where it is, because I sure do not know.

By that point, I realized I was pretty lost so I had to wait FOREVER for another bus, but eventually I made it back to AUR. I should also mention that I have dressed inappropriately for every day this week. It's either cold I dress for the warm or it's like today when it warms up and I'm in my warmest sweater. Whatever.

I really do love my English class. Dr. Colletta is amazing. I love her. She is just so nice and fun and I wish every class was like her's. I'm so engaged, It's all so relevant too-- even if she's making me read Henry James, which I do not love-- but she loves it enough for everyone. So I can't even be bitter about the 500 page book I have to read in a week and a half. Guess what I'll be doing on the bus to Pisa...

After class, some of us attended a gallery opening at the Villa Medici. It was very postmodern and a little crazy at some points but it was still pretty incredible. Besides, the juxtaposition between the Renaissance space and the ultra-modern art is fascinating. On the rooftop, there was a garden and entertaining space where they were giving out champagne. So, of course I had a glass. Or two.. with the most fabulous view of Rome. The Medici is near the Spanish steps which means that the view is absolutely beautiful especially on a mostly clear night like tonight.

Afterwards we went to Grazia Graziella, where I was told there was a pretty good aperitivo. I was told wrong because there was NO aperitivo but we had dinner instead which was delish. I split a carbanara with a gnocchi and clams. Delish on all ends.

But, it's an early night because I have to be at AUR by 7 am which means I'm leaving at 6am!!!! But, it'll all be worth it. Stay tuned for more exciting adventures from me!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

when in... pamphilj digs

So today, I thought my night was going to be much more exciting because I was planning on going to poetry night again but I ended up having an absolutely marvy facetime chat with Nic which meant that I didn't get to do my homework until... about now... which means that I had to prioritize. There'll be more Wednesday nights! So, instead, I thought I'd quickly jot down my day before I forget.

Yesterday, I didn't post anything because there was nothing uber-exciting to post. I very highly doubt you want to hear about how I slept in past my alarm, didn't go running, drank my coffee and put the finishing touches on my paper before classes. Booooring, (It was Paige's 21st, which is pointless here in Rome, so we celebrated in style). I should also mention that currently the James Bond cast is in Rome and I am DYING to see them film. Their filming information is not anywhere online that I can find so I'm just hoping that fate will help me out in the next couple weeks. I'm also just hoping that I'll run into Daniel Craig or Ralph Fiennes on the bus or something. It's funny though-- you may have heard that the Bond cast threatened to pull out of Rome because it was so dirty. In fear, the mayor apparently ordered a major cleaning campaign, so I've never seen the city so clean in the weeks I've been here. It's kinda funny though.

But, today is MUSEUM DAY. So what did Bridget and I check off this week? This week, we finally paid to get into the Palazzo Pamphilj on the Via del Corso, right in the center of Rome. My first week, I wandered into the courtyard by mistake once and was just amazed by how pleasant the serene courtyard with oranges and fountains was. But, this week we PAID. We go pretty early because of afternoon class so actually the gates were locked on us when we got there. That's how fo real we are. And the lady was so nice, she gave us the student discount which we're usually denied because of our non-EU status. Whatever. Our ticket also came with an audio guide which I LOVE. It's always much better actually KNOWING what you're looking at instead of going, "Oh, that's pretty" or "That's cool" a million times until it means nothing. But, since we were literally the first people there, it was great because we could wander around and talk as much as we wanted as long as we didn't disrupt the cleaning staff who was taking their good old time.

Interestingly, the audio guide was partially narrated by apparently a member of the family Doria-Pamphilj which was kinda cool. But the numbers were so completely random. It'd be like a 2, then a 7, then like a 505-- but it was still really beautiful and overwhelming. There were just galleries after galleries of paintings and portraits and statues. Some rooms were almost Versailles like-- just stunning and you could really imagine the aristocratic family entertaining in their beautiful public rooms. Unfortunately, you had to pay for a "photo pass" to take pictures. I mean, we still snuck a couple, but all those years of Catholic school made me, at least superficially, a follower of rules. Or at least some rules. But afterwards, we kinda took the long way home stopping briefly at Campo to enjoy the amazing outdoor market there. Literally everything is there and it's just an overload of sensory experiences and things you want to buy. If only money was no object... but alas...

I had a little time before class, so I walked up the hill (or I should say, I kept walking up the hill) after getting to AUR and just experienced this incredible view of the city at the Piazza di Garibaldi. Just absolutely overwhelming. The pictures don't do it justice, but I could of stared there forever. After enjoying the view, I thought I would commune with the Pamphilj family a little more by having lunch in the Villa Doria-Pamphilj, a gorgeous and beautiful public park only about ten minutes from the campus. I should go there more...

Of course, it's further away than the park that's only ONE minute away from AUR and as a result, I don't head up to the Villa Pamphilj often. And today reminded me why. Because it was overcast all day. But I trudge all the way to the park, finally sit down, open my book (Portrait of a Lady by Henry James-- ugh, soooo dense) and wouldn't you know that THEN it decides to rain. The only time all day long. SOO, I went back to AUR and finished reading inside.

I have this annoying hour and half break between my classes. Which is usually a huge pain because I'm usually hungry too. But, today, I decided to listen to my stomach (always a great idea) and just walked right down the block and had an amazing piece of piazza which some fresh tomatoes and Bufala mozz. It really hit the spot. Second lunch is always a good idea.

The assignments are coming in now which is not as fun. Real reading (i.e. Henry James sentences which are like paragraphs about nothing) and some real writing, too. But I guess it was a matter of time. I'm just bummed about having an excuse not to go to poetry night. So, instead it's this and my history podcast-- but I guess there are worse things. I'm going to Florence this weekend and I'm SO excited that I'll have something to really write about besides all my Rome wanderings!

Monday, February 23, 2015

when in... the mind of michelangelo

So, I have these papers that I have to write but I'm suffering from some massive writer's block and I'm super critical of everything I've been writing, so I thought I'd escape my writing by... writing my blog post today. You can figure out the logic on your own.

So, today was Monday (obviously) which means an on-site lecture with Daria Borghese. This week we were scheduled to meet near the Colosseum today for our full day of Michelangelo art. After my infamous bus incident during the first week of class, I'm up and moving pretty early on Mondays, which is great and all. But as a result, it's kind of hard to gauge the temperature of the day. If you've been keeping track, usually the weather takes a dip on Mondays which is always tons of fun when the wind is whistling around you during Prof.ssa Borghese's brief parenthesis on this building or that pope. But today, the high was a supposed 63 degrees and despite my hatred and mistrust of Siri, I fought off my urge to wear my thickest sweater and actually dressed appropriately for the day. Which made our visit to the Capitoline Hill and St. Peter's in Chains so much more enjoyable.

St. Pietro in Vincoli is the church that houses the chains of St. Peter that miraculously fused together into one mega-chain and sit under the main altar. More importantly, for the art class, the incredibly beautiful tomb of Pope Julius II by Michelangelo sits on the side of the church. You probably recognize this one from the books as Michelangelo's Moses, though its part of a larger funerary complex which was initially planned to be one of the largest sculptural pieces in history (clearly the original plans did pan out). We also took a stroll back up to the Capitoline Hill, which, if you've been reading at home, I was actually just on a field trip to on Saturday. And I'll be back on more field trips there like two more times. But there's an actual reason why I have to climb the steepest steps in the world- not only is it the original citadel of ancient Rome (which I'm picking up is kind of a big deal) but in the Renaissance, Michelangelo redid the hill to create this beautiful Renaissance piazza and town hall looking out towards St. Peter's and sitting directly about the Forum. It's one of the most incredible views in Rome. And according to Dr. Borghese, apparently the museum bar isn't that bad either.

Since the day was glorious, there was no need to rush back to AUR, so I was able to enjoy my tuna fish sandwich (as much as possible) outside (I've been eating tuna fish for days-- I bought too much tuna for my tuna salad, no regrets). Class was aight and between classes I kinda had to do work because according to my agenda, I'm a little swamped with work. Which I guess is all relative. I have a fairly manageable schedule, it's just until now, my work load has been fairly minimal except for a decent amount of reading. But, I guess it's that time of year. I'll light a candle for all the poor La Salle students stuck in midterms...and the cold...

All through my history class (where we languished over the aftermath of Caesar's assassination) I thought about meat and how I didn't defrost my meat which meant I was going vegetarian for dinner. But as the class dragged on (and Cleopatra STILL hadn't died... it was like the Liz Taylor movie all over again) I kept fantasizing about meat and then about steak and by the time I got out of class, I had to stop at the Dem grocery store to pick up some steak. So, for dinner, I was able to have steak and caramelized onions and mushrooms and it was the best craving ever. I was so happy that I succumbed to what I wanted. The only downside was that I had a contact emergency literally IN LINE in the grocery store. My eyes couldn't wait like five minutes to get back. So, instead I probably winked at the cashier and scared all the people passing me on the two blocks back to the apartment. Sometimes, I hate contacts.

But, as much as I'd love to rant about contacts and my special eyes, I actually have to finish this paper. Ugh.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

when in...field trip weekend

Sorry about my silence for the last few days. I was in the midst of my field trip weekend (four field trips in three days) which was pretty exhausting. Still, they were all pretty interesting. So, here goes nothing.

On Friday, I faced a huge tragedy when I realized that I had lost my ticket to the last two museums I didn't see yet. However, no harm no foul. (Apparently they WERE amazing, so I'll probably end up buying a new ticket for the two museums and just take my time). Still, I didn't have too long to mourn because I had to get to the Casa di Goethe for a guided tour with my Grand Tour literature class. It's very interesting because the German government actually runs this museum and they did a really fantastic job. Our guide, Dorothy, was great- very thorough and knowledgeable and also hysterical, though unintentionally. She had an incredibly low opinion of the Italian government, the Italian people, the Italian bureaucracy and actually most things Italian. Which is ironic because Goethe loved the Italians, but no worry. It didn't distract from her tour or her information.

Probably the highlights of the museum were these 18th century prints of Rome which were just fantastically detailed and this great original Warhol print of Goethe in Italy. I was NOT expecting the Warhol at all, but Rome will surprise you wherever you are-- even in Goethe's former apartment.

Because I had no museum tickets, my day plan was kinda squashed. So I did a lot of pointless wandering. It was not my most productive wandering day though I did have lunch in this amazing square where these two guys were playing a trumpet and an electric guitar. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but the street musicians do not really mess around here. They usually have sound systems and accompaniment and if they're good, they are GREAT. (Otherwise it's just usually an old guy making some terrible music with his violin, but whatever). I also wandered up to the Baths of Diocletian which Michelangelo actually turned into a beautiful church. It's huge inside and really incredible because they're these old baths outside and look like ruins and you walk in and it's just WOW.

For the sake of time, I'll leave out the rest of the day's wanderings and go straight to yesterday. Yesterday was a field trip double-header with my religion class. We started at the Capitoline Hill, formerly the highest part of Rome where Prof Caridi gave us her own guided tour. We also went back into the Aracoeli which is one of my favorite churches. I have to be honest, I'm such a nerd-- I LOVE a guided tour. When you actually KNOW what you're looking at, it makes it so worthwhile.

Anyhow, we then hopped on a bus and went to the Vatican. On a Saturday. At 11:30. This turned out to be a huge strategic error because the line was wrapped around St. Peter's Square. And then, the sun went behind the clouds, the wind picked up and we were in line for TWO hours. Thank God I packed both my crossword puzzle and my lunch. It was a HUGE shame that I forgot my coat because I was FREEZING. But, the huge upside was that in that two hours, the class really bonded with Prof. Caridi who turns out to be super sassy and funny and has all these super interesting stories. She also doesn't have a huge opinion of the Italians, which is in itself hysterical.

Our tour of St. Peter's was great because we had these little headsets (that they made us buy) so you could always hear her. And like I said, knowing what I was actually looking at-- hugely helpful. You end up missing some pretty big stuff if you're not looking. I went down into the Crypt (though not the Scavi tour) where you are a floor above where St. Peter is buried and where lots of the Popes are buried. Really very fascinating.

Again, for the sake of time, we'll go to the NEXT trip which was this morning at the Great Synagogue of Rome. But before, I'll go over my morning. I was back at the Porta Portese flea market where I managed to barter down the price of a bag. SUCCESS. I also went back to Caravita where there was another mass in a freezing church. But, there were still mimosas and chips after mass and I met some super nice British tourists and I signed up to read every now and then. I'm becoming quite the holy roller. It helps that the mass is at 11 with food. American Catholic should take note-- there's really no need for there only to be wine DURING the mass. These Italians do social Sunday right-- EVERY Sunday with great food.

But, I then switched sides for the field trip at the Great Synagogue at Rome right on the river. It's absolutely beautiful inside. Just stunning and our tour guide really provided a lot of information about the Roman Jewish tradition. She threw a lot of Hebrew words at us which I promptly forgot, but briefly knew. I also had to wear a yarmulke inside the synagogue because, according to Tevye, this shows our constant devotion to God (thank you Fiddler on the Roof).

After our tour, some of the class wandered around the Jewish ghetto which is amazing. Tons of kosher restaurants and delis and bakeries. We ended up going to this one that the guide recommended and it was incredible. I don't know what I ordered but it was GREAT. Also, the ghetto has free wifi which is like the only place I've found in Rome with it. I don't know if the Roman government is trying to make up to the Jews for the whole ghetto thing in the first place, but I appreciated it.

And now I'm back. I got some major reading and writing to do which promises to be an exciting evening. At least its going to rain all night. I won't feel like I have be a wanderer and wander around around around.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

when in...a palazzo

Today was a very pleasant day even if it started a little chillier than I prefer (it was in the 30s this morning during my run... ugh). As a result of the temperature, I cut my run shorter than a planned because once you can't feel your hands, it's no fun anymore. But, it got me up early and after a delish cup from my Moka cup (shout-out to @ct) I was ready to go for the day.

I was back at my favorite grocery store Conad today. I went probably around 10 am which is the ideal time. The tram wasn't crowded getting there and there were only old ladies shopping. Actually, there was an old guy there too who asked me for a wine recommendation from Rome. I was proud of myself for understanding but I literally had no answer to his question. Which kind of defeats the person of understanding it. (He got an answer from one of the workers later). I went hog wild in the grocery store and spent a whole 30 euro which buys a lot more food than you would think. I realized this when I had to walk the blocks from the tram to the apartment. Perhaps making grocery shopping a destination trip is not the wisest... Still, when I reassessed my food I realized I have food for like a week and a half. Which is kind of great.

After the grocery store, I met Bridget at the Palazza Altemps to use one of our three day pass at the museum. I had absolutely no idea what to expect which was such a great surprise because it was INCREDIBLE inside. The palazzo was huge (I mean, it is a palazzo) and just filled with all these classical and egyptian sculptures- just incredibly beautiful. Each room was just stunningly gorgeous. And this collection was laid out so much better than the Balbi. It was such a great visit and the fact that it was unexpected made it better. I don't know why I wasn't expecting a palace in Rome to be less than amazing, but hey, I can be stupid every now and then.

Afterwards, we got gelato in the Piazza Navona before I had to go to class. I had a little time before class to study for my Italian quiz. I mean, I was able to get my haircut. I feel like that deserves an A++++ in Italian. But that's just me. By the way, I figured out why Nadia the Hairdresser was so confused about my ashes. Apparently in Italy, they get their ashes in their hair, not on their forehead. They hate the idea of dirt on their forehead. I can't say I blame them.

When I got back, I made my tuna salad for tomorrow (no meat) and then made this caper lemon and white wine sauce. I still don't know how I felt about it. It tasted okay on my chicken but I was expecting it to blow me out of the water, which it did not. I guess I can check that one off the list. But, I was able to have a little message chat with Nic which was great. I hope she can see an elephant.
Speaking of checking off lists, after my field trip to the Casa di Goethe, I plan on checking off the other two museums on my ticket. Which should be great. I'm becoming a museum addict here. I guess there are worse things in life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

when in... a hair salon

Today has been an exceptionally long day but a pretty fine day at that. Today, I woke up at SIX AM people. I am becoming quite the early morning riser, I guess. I wanted to attend the "Lenten Station" mass at San Sabina across the river. Apparently, during Lent, each day of the week is given a different church and masses are celebrated there. Actually Pope Francis was celebrating mass at an actual decent hour but you needed tickets for that. So, instead, English mass at a God-foresaken hour it was. Actually, it was pretty interesting-- there were all these seminarians (who made a beautiful choir) and about forty or fifty priests which is pretty impressive. San Sabina was kinda a dump on the inside (sorry) but it was on the hill and had stunning vistas of the whole city. I was so inspired and coulda looked at Rome forever but of course it was cold and windy so I turned back.

Today was my museum day, as well. Not even Ash Wednesday can replace my love of museums. Today, Bridget and I went to the Crypta Balbi. I thought it was an old crypt but actually a crypta is something Roman. I don't exactly know what, because the museum was full of tons and tons of reading. But, what I did take from my skimming was that it was originally a theater and then some other ancient Roman building and then it was a monastery and then a home for prostitute's daughters, and then it was like five churches at once-- so there was a lot of history there,

I'm still deciding how I felt about the museum. The best part about it was that they let you down into the excavation of the Roman ruins which was incredibly interesting. But they just kind of brought you down there and let you roam which was great (especially for us because we were expecting an Italian tour of what turned out to be a cistern) but also kind of bizarre. Which was kind of the running theme for the whole Balbi. The building was very modern and beautifully laid out among and on top of these ruins but the layout was also strange. And there would be sections with tons of amazing artifacts and then sections with a ton of words but never a happy medium. My favorite parts of the museum besides the excavation walk was this room filled with old Byzantine era frescoes from one of the churches on the site. So beautiful. With my love of mosaics and frescoes, I'm really becoming a huge Byzantine art fan, which is strange, I know, but I do love it.

Actually, probably my favorite part of the Crypta Balbi was that it was a 3 day ticket to four museums, so I now have something to do for the next three days. I'm actually super excited because it really gives me an excuse to explore some more museums and art collections.

But probably the big event for today was my haircut. As most of you know until this year, my mother was the only person who ever cut my hair (and did a very nice job of it) until Mags gave me a trim for honors formal (and also did a very nice job) so going to get my hair cut would be an adventure regardless. But the language barrier was making me downright nervous. So, on the way back from the museum I was committed to just getting it done. But I passed like three places and they all were kind of full and I lost my nerve. Now, there's a place right downstairs from the apartment. So, I pass it and lose my nerve. I go up to the apartment and recommit to go to one of the places I passed. As you can hopefully tell, I was getting myself kind of worked up.

So, I walk outside again and the salon is empty save for one lady and the hairdresser, so (using the Italian I had been practicing just for the occasion, I inquired whether I needed an appointment. I thought she said yes, but before I knew it I was sitting down.

The hairdresser's name was Nadia and she was very nice. Her English was about as good as my Italian, so we were able to communicate with some difficulty but we still communicated. And by communication, I basically okay'd whatever she said. So, before I knew it I was getting my hair shampooed (it felt so clean) and then she was snipping away. The lady next to me also knew a little English and we were able to have a very small broken conversation.

It was funny, I obviously had my ashes but Nadia had no idea why there was a smudge on my forehead. She was so confused and "Ash Wednesday" is not in my handy Italian repertoire. Long story short, I just let her wipe them off rather than have her be confused. So much for waking up early. Actually I was like the only person on the street wearing ashes. It must go against the Italian aesthetic to have basically dirt on your face. She did a really beautiful job and I was so impressed by how nice she was to me, the stupid American who just waltzed right up to the factory. I'm still deciding whether I like the hair or not, but hair grows, so I'll figure it out eventually.

After getting my haircut I was so giddy, I decided to go on a little field trip for myself. I didn't have any classes today, so why not? I hopped on the 170 and took it almost to Termini train station. Instead, I got off early and made my way to Santa Maria Maggiore, the only Papal basilica in Rome I haven't been too. Well, I have now.

It was truly incredibly beautiful inside. It is a 5th century basilica but it has this just incredible art and this amazing gilded ceiling which you could just look at for hours. It also has this icon that apparently St. Luke painted of the Virgin Mary. Really just fascinating. Under the high altar, they actually have a relic of the Holy Crib from the Nativity which actually blew my mind.

Speaking of the Nativity, I actually shelled out two euro to see their museum underneath. Note to the future traveler of Rome. Don't do it. At first, it was kind of interesting. They have the first ever Nativity scene (someone had to invent them for Christmas, it turned out to be in the 12th century) and a piece of the True Cross and a lot of Papal stuff. But, then- I went into this side room and it was just filled with all these dazzling relics. So many pieces of bone and cloth in these amazing reliquaries. Just beautiful. And they had all these incredible vestments and chalices that were just incredible works of art. Because here's the thing, even if you're not religious, the fact that these things are so just aesthetically pleasing moves you inside. Rome moves me.There were enough chalices in that place to confound even Indiana Jones.

And in turn, I move around Rome. Because the sun was kinda out today, I ended up going to a park near the Domus Aurea (Nero's golden house) and read for a while enjoying the sun. But then, it started getting chilly so I headed back (peeking into St. Mark's for a brief second because it's closed every time I pass) before getting on the tram. And that's been my day. Poetry night is tonight- slam poetry here I come-- and I have a quiz tomorrow. So, that's kind of a bummer. But it's also the last day of classes so everybody's working for the weekend.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

when in... booking mode

So, today I started the day off right and woke up early (7:15) to go running. I found an amazing path along the Tiber and using my new running app to track my progress (because I AM that basic), I ended up running 2.5 miles. Which isn't THAT much, I know, you actual athletes. But for someone who hasn't run since July and gave it up basically because it was easier to go to McDonalds after work instead of running, I was more than a little proud of myself. Be proud of me. I am committing to self-improvement. In case you were wondering, modesty is NOT on the list.

Since I was up so early, I decided to reward myself by going to the other Oviesse and shop their much larger sales section. And this time I actually did shop. I probably bought enough stuff that if I bought one thing each time it would be the same amount of clothes. So, I'm pretty proud of myself. I now have European clothes. (And tomorrow, I may have a European haircut, we'll see). I actually got such great deals that I might have got a little carried away. But, no regrets.

I'll tell you how you know I wasn't regretting it-- because the first bakery I passed, I went and bought a castagnole, these Italian pastries (kind of like donut holes) that they make for carnivale. I meant to share them with people BUT I just ate them all. I'm not really sorry. It's fat Tuesday. I have the calendar-right to splurge.

Also, it was a BEAUTIFUL day here today. Sunny and in the low 60s. Absolutely gorgeous. I actually wore shortsleeves for the first time since I've been here. I wished I could have just sat in the sun all day long. But alas.

In more exciting news, I've booked my spring break trips to Barcelona and Nice, which should be incredible. I've also almost settled my date for the opera to see Puccini's Tosca at the National Opera House and  I'm starting planning a little day trip for myself to go see Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli. AND I emailed the American College of Bishops in a desperate attempt to get tickets to any of the Easter liturgies at the Vatican. It's apparently fairly difficult ("apparently"- obviously) to get tickets to a Papal Mass but I owe myself the chance.

Also, for anyone who actually suffered through my 18th century letter, I did get an A for it. I was pretty proud of my 18th century prose voice. This is kind of some meta-criticism for you, but one of my favorite parts of blogging is the ability to really formulate and write in your own voice, but it's still fun to copy other's. I know that you really don't care what I enjoy about blogging. In fact, you'd probably enjoy it more if I stopped rambling and shortened some of my gargantuan posts. But, hey, it's about me and my needs.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and I think I might go to a very early mass at San Sabina, a very historical church on the other side of the river. The Pope is actually saying mass there later at a more reasonable mass-- so I am NOT hearing the Pope say Mass-- but it'll at least be in the same building. That counts for something, right? Also, tomorrow is still Museum Day which means a visit to the historic Balbi Crypt. I'm hoping for the best. This weekend, I have fieldtrips planned for my religion class, so my religion teacher canceled class. So, I'm footloose all day!

Monday, February 16, 2015

when in... sweater weather without a sweater

So, today was another manic Monday. I almost wore my new/very used sweater I bought at Porta Portese yesterday. But, I checked the weather and it said it was going up into the high 50s (which I know sounds like heaven to you poor freezing folks at home) and then I put it on and it was like wearing a brillow pad and and I didn't wash my used, super-itchy sweater, I opted against it. Which goes to show you, you should never go against your first instinct because it turned out to be a kind of cold day and once again, Daria Borghese had a fairly long parenthesis outside which meant the only thing I could think (besides how beautiful Santa Maria Sopra Minerva was) was that I should have just sucked it up and worn the sweater. But non j'e ne regrette rien.

Art history was fairly interesting. I finally got to get inside Santa Maria Sopra Minerva which is the only Gothic church in Rome. I knew it was beautiful but every time I passed or tried to visit the doors would be locked. Thank God I didn't need sanctuary. But, of course, Daria Borghese got us in without a problem, though the church's main priest (dressed in plainclothes to yell at loud tourists, I kid you not) gave her a hard time during her lecture. Whatever. I still really enjoyed the Michelangelo statue and the Lippi chapel.

Dr. Borghese does this thing where we have a coffee break half way through class which is actually fairly nice because we're usually in very nice parts of Rome. So, this time we had a coffee break right near the Pantheon and me and a few others in the class went to Tazza d'Oro (literally "the Gold Cup") which is supposedly the best coffee in Rome. And I'll be honest, it was certainly the best best cappuccino I've ordered since I've been here. And it wasn't too expensive either, even with my cornetto on the side.

After the coffee break, we visited Sant'Agostino, a beautiful Renaissance basilica with a really impressive Raphael fresco. It's small, but it's still worth the trip. Our last trip to Santa Maria della Pace was canceled because... the doors were locked. Which was a shame. But it actually really worked out because three of us decided to kind of wander around and ended up visiting about a half dozen beautiful churches. My favorite had to be San Luigi dei Francesi. Absolutely stunning. I've probably been to close to thirty churches-- maybe more-- since I've been here and an amazing church like that still gets you. San Luigi had an amazing Caravaggio chapel. The funny thing with the chapel is-- and it's very common in many of these churches-- you have to pay for the lights. Leave it to the Catholic church to find new ways to nickle and dime you. Because most people aren't lighting candles everywhere like me; they're there to see the art, which granted is incredibly beautiful. Well, you really can't enjoy the art unless you can see it. So, I was sitting just marveling in a crowd at this Caravaggio when the light switched off and I was THIS close to pulling out my wallet and taking one for the team. But thank God some other (certainly wealthier) art-lover beat me to it.

After wandering around, I stopped in at OVS-- but after seeing the amazing sales section of the other store-- I couldn't buy anything with that knowledge. So, another day without buying anything. It's probably for the best. Religion and history class were... ordinary. They're both canceled on Wednesday... yay, me. But, it is Jackie's birthday so a large group went to F&F for another aperitivo. The food and drink were amazing. And, I remembered at the last minute that I had my tupperware with me-- so guess who has dinner for another night???

But, my night was probably made when I opened up my email and I had an email from SID MARK in my inbox!! Yesterday, while I was listening to Sid Mark, I shot him an email saying that I really enjoy listening and he sent this to me:

Hi Dan...
Thank you for your message.  It's great to hear from Mr. Sinatra's fans
and especially from those who have followed our program for so long and at
such great lengths too.  Frank's music and our program are often referred
to as a family tradition.  That seems to hold true for you and your family
as well.  Have a great time in Rome and stay tuned.
Best regards,

So, my night is made. I WILL NEVER STOP LISTENING!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

when in...heaven (again)

(This weekend was pretty heavenly. First, there was the chocolate festival in Terni... I mean, come on... does it get better than that? Yes. At least in Rome in does. It's time for a classic Sunday post- sipping my tea, listening to my Sinatra (I just emailed Sid Mark-- if he can still open emails, I'm hoping for a shout-out), and procrastinating my homework. All is well with the world.

Yesterday, after I posted my 18th century prose letter (which I hope you at least skimmed), I decided to go for a little walk. Actually, I went on a slightly larger walk outside the walls of Rome. Literally- I wanted to go to St. Paul Outside the Walls, another one of the papal basilica. Fun personal fact, St. Paul is actually my confirmation saint, so I thought it was high time to visit his grave. So, I searched the ATAC website, found the bus I had to take and then promptly decided I was going to walk.

It was an interesting walk because it's in an area of Rome that I never actually had walked before, going south along the river instead of north. I actually kind of like it a lot. It's much more urban. A little dirtier but there are wider streets and tons of stores. I actually found two more Oviesses (Oviessi?) which I like even better than the one is historic Trastevere. The river in this part of town was much more polluted, much more urban... it looked like the good ole Schuylkill. However, I never was really lost because the beautiful basilica stands right on the river and I could see it all the way from the other side which was pretty neat. I felt like a pilgrim visiting my shrine of choice. I guess that's what I was actually.

I googled St. Paul's afterwards and apparently in the 19th century, there was an enormous fire that devoured a lot of this ancient basilica but it was rebuilt bigger and better than ever. And really it was incredibly impressive. The size alone actually kind of gets you. You are dwarfed by it. It impresses you. So, after wandering around awestruck for a while I finally got to the high altar, under which you can go down and look at St. Paul's sarcophagus. It's actually pretty incredible to think that something that old is just still there.

What was really kind of interesting was there must have been some sort of service in the basilica and there was this procession and guys with guitars singing and people singing in like call and respond style and their voices just filled the whole basilica-- again-- hugely impressive. I have absolutely zero idea what it was, but in a way it was sort of beautiful.

I was following the signs to the cloisters and to the archaeological site when I stopped dead in my tracks. Because I saw there was a 4 euro charge. And I thought, classic Catholic church, finding a way to nickle and dime the faithful. So, I walked off. BUT, then I thought. I walked THIS far. So, I go up to the cloisters and I ask the nice Italian man in my broken Italian how much it was and he actually accepted my AUR student id (no one's been doing that), so I got in for 2 euro. Which is basically nothing. Tourists traps charge that much for an espresso. And it was so worth it. The cloisters, with these beautifully curved columns was almost more beautiful than the actual basilica. It was so serene and all along the sides were these ruins of ancient pagan and Christian graves and sarcophagi. The history and the quite just overwhelmed you.

For the two euro, I also was able to view the relics which included a lot of bones, a piece of St. Paul's staff, and a piece of the True Cross. Though, as Dr. Harty always says, if you put together all the pieces of the True Cross, you could go around the world three times. But, from the excavations, there were some really fascinating things such as all these vestments and documents and a 9th century bible and this one wall just filled with coins from pilgrims over the years dating back to the late Roman Empire. In my mind, I thought that the priests must have just emptied like their centuries old piggy bank and came up with all these priceless coins. It made me happy. There was also an underground archaeological site that you could visit and there were descriptions of what used to be there. It smelled like an old basement and since, unlike Pat, I'm not a huge fan of the musty smell, I didn't spend too much time looking at the rocks.

No sooner do I return to my apartment (I took the bus home), but I get a text asking if I want to go to Eataly. I didn't really know what it was but, it just sounded amazing. And I have to say, it was probably the most beautiful thing I saw all day. (Sorry St. Paul's). It was a multistoried giant grocery store with literally everything you could ever imagine and produce and a bakery and all these little restaurants. It kind of reminds me of the Reading Terminal except bigger and probably more expensive and a little cleaner. (Were you at the NY version Mommom and Poppop?) I had to buy some pasta and cookies just because. I wasn't fully emotionally prepared for the experience, so I'll have to make another pilgrimage.

And then, to get better, for dinner, a group went to Dar Poeta, supposedly the best pizza in Trastevere (and some people even say Rome). And I said "supposedly," but it probably is. It was soooo good. People literally line up every night. So, we got there early and we got a table no problem. I split a bruschetta mixed platter-- which was amazing. I ate it so fast I didn't get a chance to take a picture. I experimented with the pizza a little bit. I ended up ordering one with olives, artichokes, pecorino, and bufala mozzarella. I DID take a picture of that. It was so incredibly delish. WE WILL BE BACK!

Today, I was determined to see Pope Francis. So, I found this church a block from the Vatican that has mass in English at 10. So I thought, PERFECT-- I'll go there and then head over to St. Peter's for the noon angelus. But first, I woke up early to go back to the Porta Portese flea market. It is so huge and so impressive. There is literally everything there. It's like Portabello Road (Bedknobs and Broomsticks lovers, that one's for you) except a little dirtier and also more Italian. It's a tiny bit shady, so I am embarrassed to say for the first time I actually wore the money belt. But, I don't regret it. I'll be back and I kinda love it, but it IS a little shady. I ended up buying an amazing sweater that might be super scratchy but, hey, it was for four euro!

The thing about Porta Portese is that the Italians really believe in the hard sell, which is intimidating in any situation. Whenever there are people yelling, it's kinda upsetting, especially when it's probably directed at you. Add in the language barrier, it's positively unsettling. But, those deals justify any potential and probably mocking by Italian vendors. My new goal is to get my Italian to a position where I can start haggling. That seems reasonable.

So, I head to mass at San Spirito in Sassia, which actually houses the Divine Mercy picture and I enjoyed a nice English mass with a Jersey priest. Since I've been going to Italian mass, the Italians don't kneel for the whole Eucharist and they definitely do that right. Especially when the kneelers are so hard. While it was REALLY nice understanding the mass, I do miss that not kneeling for the whole time.

So, mass lets out and I head first to a store to ship off some postcards. People, I have to apologize. I sent some to some of the fam, but I don't think I will be sending out the tons of letters I initially planned. It is rather expensive. It's actually really expensive. But, if money was no option...

I get to St. Peter's and I actually stake out the wrong location. The Pope doesn't come out in the St. Peter's balcony. He comes out of a window on the side of the Piazza. So, thankfully, crowd mentality didn't fail me and I was able to position myself in a good place before he came out. And it really was electric. Everyone was just so excited and he walks out and is like "BUONGIORNO" and everyone shouted it right back out at him. It was actually fun. I \was also pretty proud of myself because Pope Francis spoke in fairly slow Italian, so I was really able to pick up some of his sermon. Even from sooo far away, he's just so magnetic. I don't think I stopped smiling. And then he was like "BUON PRANZO (have a nice lunch) and that was it!

In honor of the day, I purchased a Pope Francis bobblehead. I probably spent too much but I thought buying it today was right and just. I'm pretty happy. I then went to a park for lunch near the Castel Sant'Angelo. The whole time I'm looking for a fountain to fill up my water bottle and wouldn't you know that I can't find one. This city is literally swimming in water fountains (not sorry for the pun) and I can't find one when I need it. I go like three extra blocks looking for one and finally I just decided to be thirsty as I ate my packed lunch. And don't you know when I return to the park and sit down, there RIGHT in front of me is a water fountain. So I thanked God and apologized for my poor language a little earlier and enjoyed my lunch.

I walked home along the river because it was such a nice day even if its a little overcast. On the way back, I also found a really amazing little English bookshop which I'll definitely be returning to because it's in a super nice part of Trastevere and I just love bookstores. But, I'm back to the apartment now which means I'll do some homework and probably procrastinate some more work before another amazing art class tomorrow. I checked out the weather and it's supposed to be in the low sixties all week. PRAISE JESUS!