Category Archives: Rome

A Black & White Weekend

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Early morning cafe for a early morning on-site class. (A class my roommate and I were an hour early for.)

Early morning cafe for an early morning on-site class. (A class my roommate and I were an hour early for.)

On-site class for Rome sketchbook.

On-site class for Rome sketchbook.

They are just happy to be done with class, start the weekend, and actually see the sun!

They are just happy to be done with class, start the weekend, and actually see the sun!

We headed to the beach in Ostia, a friend and I, on this wonderful day only to find a very very windy place.

We headed to the beach in Ostia, a friend and I, on this wonderful day only to find a very very windy place.

These little shacks on the beach made a great spot to eat our lunch and to hid from the wind

These little shacks on the beach made a great spot to eat our lunch and to hide from the wind.

After lunch on the windy windy beach to made our way to Ostia Antica.

After lunch on the windy, windy beach, we made our way to Ostia Antica.

We made friends with this cute dog walking through Ostia

We made friends with this cute dog walking through Ostia.

My morning walk, getting stuck on the highway overpass, while trying to meet my friend.

My morning walk, getting stuck on the highway overpass, while trying to meet my friend.

I met up with my friend Kelsey to take some photos for class

I met up with my friend Kelsey to take some photos for class.

After a long day at the Park we took at cappuccino break.

After a long day at the park, we took at cappuccino break.

Good to be Home

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After the stress of midterms, the only thing I wanted to do was to get away and relax. I had four tests to study for and due dates for research papers looming. My only solace was the knowledge that I would be on Fall Break soon. I was so excited to go backpacking through Croatia with my friend Paige. We planned on taking a ferry from Ancona to Split and then make our way through Plitvice, Zagreb, and then loop back to Trieste and Venice in order to take a train back to Rome. I wanted nothing more than to get away from the crowded and overpopulated city life.

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Croatia was gorgeous…

Croatia was absolutely beautiful. I seriously had the time of my life there. But as the week wore on, I started to grow homesick. Not of Chicago, but of Rome. I think this week was very important for me in that aspect. Beforehand, I had a hard time thinking of Rome as my home. I thought of Rome as a vacation, a time to enjoy myself and just go crazy. It was just a place for me to stay for 4 months before I got back to “real life”.

I guess I’ll call it Study Abroad Inception. I went to Rome for a semester instead of staying at school in America, and then traveled to Croatia during my time off in Rome. It seemed kind of like a vacation within a vacation. My traveling made me realize that I missed Rome. A lot. I missed my bed and my cozy apartment. I missed a shower that I could call my own. I missed the 24 hour bakery (more than I’m willing to admit). I missed the relaxed nature of living in Rome.

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…but I still missed lovely Roma

There is a comfort to returning to a place you’ve settled down in, wherever that may be. Studying at Temple Rome is not just a sightseeing vacation. I have homework, a routine, and the opportunity to go at my own pace. It is so much different than just being a traveler, trying to cram so much adventure in such a short amount of time. Being away for just a week made me realize that Rome has truly become my home, and traveling out of my comfort zone has let me appreciate my time in Rome even more. Just like living in Rome makes me miss Chicago, traveling to Croatia made me miss the comfort of Rome.

Don’t get me wrong, I fell in love with every place I traveled. My whole Fall Break exceeded my expectations, and I can’t wait until my next adventure. I had such a great time, but I missed the little things about Rome that I might have taken advantage of before. I am so amazed that I can call Rome my second home. For anyone who plans to travel or study abroad at any point in their life: Appreciate every second of your time there. Don’t waste any time. My time in Rome is fleeting, but hopefully the memories I make will last forever.

Not Your Typical Fall Break: Paris, Florence, Siena

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In the United States, at any typical university, a fall break is given to students right after midterms. This fall break is usually spent by taking a few days off of classes and heading home to relax with family. Here for students at Temple Rome, fall break is spent by taking week long trips across Europe to all of the places you’ve only dreamed of seeing in your lifetime. I was lucky enough to have family come visit me for 2 weeks, arriving a week before fall break and staying for the duration of my break.  First off, seeing my mom after a month and a half was much needed, it gave me that little piece of home that i had been searching for here in Italy. Also, my mom and three cousins had planned a trip to Paris, Florence, and Siena during my break and I was more than ready to be done with midterms and off to see more of the world! While I still had school, I got to spend time with my family in between classes showing them parts of Rome and enjoying delicious and relaxing meals with them. Then finally, the Friday night after my tests were finished, I headed to their hotel and after enjoying a meal at a German restaurant across the street, I headed to bed to prepare for our early flight to Paris. Paris is a place I had dreamed of going since I was a little girl, always fantasizing about what it would be like and hoping it would be like what I saw in the movies. I must say I truly fell in love with Paris. My top 4 highlights of my days spent there were:

1. The Eiffel Tower

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Not only was the Eiffel tower the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, but it sparkled every hour! It was truly breathtaking and exceeded my expectations of what Paris would look like at night. It was almost as if the city had its own sun, the way it illuminated everything. It took me a long time to truly believe that I was standing in front of it (and eventually right underneath it!)

2. Notre Dame

This cathedral was MASSIVE and taking in the little details of the building was eye-opening and incredible. I had always heard stories of the gargoyles that topped it, but seeing them for myself was something I’ll never forget. When we went inside Notre Dame, there was a mass that was beginning and that only added to the beauty of the place.

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3. Putting a lock on the Pont Des-Artes Bridge

When my parents came to Paris in 2011, they put a lock on the famous Pont Des-Artes bridge and said whoever in our family came to Paris after them had to also put a lock on the bridge. My mother and I never thought our chance would come so soon! We had a fun time writing on our lock and picking our special spot on the bridge. Hopefully I’ll get to return to see my lock soon!

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4. Shakespeare and Company

The place where some of my favorite writers frequented during what I consider the golden age of Paris, during the lost generation. Knowing that I was walking inside walls that Ernest Hemingway also walked through, and wrote about, gave me an even greater picture of what Paris was like for writers and artists during that time. It also had me wishing I could take a time machine back to the early 20th century to experience Paris. Kinda sounds like a recent movie doesn’t it? (cough cough MIDNIGHT IN PARIS). Of course, I had to buy a Hemingway book A Moveable Feast at the quaint little shop, which featured the writer on the cover standing in front of the store itself. (too cool!)

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After our amazing trip to Paris, i reluctantly boarded to plane to Florence, where we would be renting an apartment for the rest of our trip. We spent our days in Florence strolling the streets by the water and looking at the gems on the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. We also ate delicious meals at adorable Italian restaurants and even enjoy some fun drinks at the new Hard Rock in the main area of Florence. We watched an Italian band perform on our last night and enjoyed bonding time as a family. Florence was full of artists and musicians roaming the streets and performing and selling their work to everyone. We really enjoyed our time in Florence and were very sad to have to say goodbye.

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During our stay in Florence we took a day trip to the town of Siena. Siena was only a short train ride away and it was well worth it! It was a gorgeous medieval looking place that offered delicious Tuscan wines and authentic Italian meals. There were also many local shops that we had fun exploring. The Piazza Del Campo was beautiful and it was a nice little quiet escape from the busy places we had been visiting throughout the break.

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Now that my family is back in the United States and I’m back in school, it’s time to finish my last half of the semester. I can’t believe so much time has gone by and we have less than 50 days left!

The Day We ALMOST Outsmarted Google Maps

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Ciao!

It’s Friday morning here in Roma, and I just finished packing for my trip to the Island of Ventotene this weekend!!! But that’s another blog post entirely so I’ll fill you in on what’s been going on here this week. Everyone has been grinding away at their work now that the semester has progressed so far. I’m pretty sure most of us had an Italian test yesterday. Can you believe we’ve been here a month!?!?! It doesn’t feel like it at all. I’m starting to feel myself merging into Italian culture more and more everyday. This Tuesday, I had my first craving for their weird fizzy water that I talked about in my first post. It’s essentially soda water but it’s just really light and effervescent and really unique. If you ever get the chance give it a try because it’s slowly becoming a staple in my diet.

It’s always a little strange when Italian and American culture collide. I can’t tell you how many T-shirts I’ve seen that are written in English and are just slightly incorrect, but the Italian wearing it has no clue. On the subway I saw this woman wearing a shirt with shopping bags on it and it said “I am a fashion.” … Whatever floats your boat I guess.

We went to the Church of St. Peter in Chains on Tuesday which is right around the coliseum. There just so happens to be a famous Michelangelo sculpture of Moses in there so the place was crawling with tourists. In order to escape the mob I walked to the local Cafe and got a cappuccino. While basking in my new-found Italian glory of not needing any English to order my coffee I looked up on the TV screen above the bar, and what else was playing but… “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepson. WHAT! IT FOLLOWED ME HERE! I can’t say I totally mind, that song is catchy as all get out, but it’s always funny to get little glimmers of home thousands of miles away.

As far as adventures for this week go, James and I decided to venture out to see an exhibit of the work of Matvey Levenstein (http://www.lorcanoneill.com/site/index.php) at a gallery in Trastevere called Lorcan O’neill. Our painting professor, Dan has been telling me to go see it for weeks.  The artist is the husband of a former graduate of Temple’s Tyler School of Art, and his work is very similar to mine… or at least what I’m trying to do.  Dan gave me very specific directions which, of course, went right over my head. So James and I went to the most reliable source we knew, Google maps, to get us there. When looking at the written directions they involved a million and a half right turns, left turns, blah blah blah. I knew I would screw that up. But looking at the map it seemed easy enough. “Oh just follow the Tiber,” I thought, “It will take us right there!” In some ways I was completely correct (I’m sure James would say otherwise). I literally got us within a hundred yards of the gallery. But, of course, I second guessed myself and took a wrong turn at the last minute which then lead us the ENTIRE way around Trastevere. In total this journey was supposed to take us 34 minutes. Well, 94 minutes in, after asking 3 police men and giving in to call my painting professor, WE FOUND IT!!!

Talk about a site for sore eyes.

The paintings were completely amazing!!! And totally worth all the trouble.

Mission accomplished, James and I set off for home. He made it very clear to me:

James: “If we walk all the way there and then have to walk all the way back I’m going to get mad crank.”

(Translation: cranky little baby.)

So we figured out the bus route and waited. Got on the bus, totally normal rode that for a little while. And then… The bus stopped and the driver gout out to go smoke a cigarette… WHAT. This was the most sketchy part of Rome I have seen so far and it was just me, James, and some lady left on this bus. This is pretty much what my and James silent argument consisted of:

James: “Well, we’re staying on this bus. No way in hell am I walking. Besides that lady is still on too.”

Me: “… yea but what if she LIVES on this bus?”

James: “She does not live on this bus!”

Me: “How do you know?”

Anyway, we got off the bus and luckily managed to find a subway stop. By the time we got home we were beat-down-tired but my room mates were waiting to go to dinner.

I totally burned all the carbs in this with all the walking I did. WIN.

And here’s a lovely view from the window of my studio just to brighten your day!

Buon Weekend everyone!

Arrivederci!

Jen

Under the Umbrian Sun

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I have just returned from the most incredible weekend of my life.  And it was with my two friends from Duke, Katie and Marie, and five fifty-year-old women.  We spent three days in a villa in Paciano (a small town in Umbria) immersing ourselves in the Italian values of food, wine, relaxation, and family.

Now, how did three twenty-year old girls come about spending their weekend with five fifty-year-old women? Well, coincidentally, Marie’s mother was renting a villa in Umbira the same time that Professor Aldo Patania had planned Temple’s trip to Umbria.  So after Katie, Marie, and I participated in the olive oil and wine tours, we met up with Marie’s mother who then drove us to the villa.

View of the Umbrian valley from the villa.

The first night, we all enjoyed an apertivo of wine, cheese, crackers, prosciutto, and figs while watching the sunset from our fresco dining area.  Then, we walked to a local restaurant in which we ordered about ten different dishes and enjoyed them tapas style—all while sipping on Umbrian red wine, of course.  My stomach was so full I doubted if I could walk back up the hill to the villa!

The next morning, I slept until 11:30 AM.  Had my morning cappuccino at 1 PM—the Paciano bartender gave me a weird look, but hey, I had just woken up!  Coming back to the villa, the “older girls” prepared a picnic lunch while Marie, Katie, and I tried to help.  I ate to my heart’s content under the warm Umbrian sun.

Picnic at the villa on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Finishing the lunch around 4 PM, the three of us Duke girls lounged around the pool chatting as we waited for our driver to pick us up at 7:15 PM for dinner.  Yes, we were eating again.  And yes, I had a snack with wine in those three hours by the pool.

Escorted to Chiusi by our friendly taxi driver Leonardo, who gave us a bottle of wine because a couple of the women with us had tipped him too much on the drive from the train station to the villa, he gave us a quick tour of the ancient Etruscan walled town.  Leonardo leading eight American women around a small Italian town was certainly an entertaining sight.

The best part of the informal tour was when he took us to Ristorante Zaira.  We did not eat at this establishment, but Leonardo instead revealed to us Zaira’s underground wine cellar.  The restaurant rests on an Etruscan cave filled with over 20,000 bottles of wine aged 50+ years.  It was incredible.  The rest of the stay was just as relaxing and delicious as the first half, but the Etruscan cave turned underground wine cellar was an unforgettable experience.  It definitely pays to make local friends!

Wine on wine on wine.

This weekend, I felt like I became a true Italian.  I embraced small-town life, ate the freshest ingredients, bought groceries in Italian from boutique stores, ordered food in Italian, and asked for directions in Italian.  Seems my three weeks of Italian 1 class has gotten me very far!  The greatest compliment I have received is being answered in Italian when I ask a question.  However, Italians speak so fast so I have a hard time understanding what they are saying.  In the end, we try to find a common ground with broken Italian and English, but it is still fun to pretend for a little while that I am fluent.  Language acquisition is coming rather quickly for me since I practice it so much; thus, I definitely plan on hunting down the Italians at Duke so that I can keep up this beautiful language when I return to the States!

I love experiencing Italy the slow, relaxed way.  Katie, Marie, and I are already planning our return.  In fact, being with these five women, who are so vivacious and strong, has forced me to think a lot about the future.  I can only hope that, thirty years later, I will be as fabulous as they are!

Olives and Grapes

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On Friday, Temple Rome’s Professor Aldo Patania led a mix of Temple and American University students around Umbria for a glance at the workmanship behind olive oil, wine, and ceramics.  Even though we had to meet at 7:20 AM, the early wake-up was definitely worth the visit.

At the first stop, we visited the Monini olive oil factory.  In Umbria 1920, Zefferino Monini used his instinct and business abilities to start a company specializing in foodstuffs.  Eventually, Monini began producing only extra virgin olive oil.  So successful, his oil expanded to the nearby regions of Lazio, Marche and Romagna.  Ninety years later and Monini, still 100% family-owned, is considered Italy’s number one large-scale distributer of olive oil.  One aspect of the visit I found fascinating is that none of the olive oil that Monini distributes is made in Umbria.  In fact, the Umbrian factory is solely a bottling facility.  The company imports olive oil from mills in southern Italy, Greece, Spain, and other countries by the Mediterranean Sea.  Now, don’t get me wrong, seeing how the bottles are cleaned, filled, and packaged was cool, but I was disheartened to learn that Monini, labeled and known as an Italian olive oil, is not actually from Italy.  When the company receives the oils, they blend the different types together according to their secret Monini recipes.  Thus, instead of growing olives, crushing them, and manufacturing the oil, Monini is simply a vehicle for quality control.  They even distribute olive oil for the Italian supermarket, Carrefour!  In the end, while the visit was eye opening, I left a little dissatisfied in the olive oil industry.  Recently though, I learned that many people are interested in enforcing rules on the olive oil industry so that olive oil from a certain area can only be labeled as from that area—similar to the way a wine can only be labeled by the region of origin.  For example, similar to the fact that Burgundy wine is from the region of Burgundy (Bourgogne) in France and Chianti is from the region of Chianti in Tuscany, Italy, Italian olive oil might soon be made from olives grown in Italy.  Personally, I think this is a great idea and will clear any misconceptions and also add value to small, family-run olive groves that actually do grow, crush, and mix their own oil.

Wine tasting at Cantina Novelli in the heart of Umbria

The next stop on the trip was the Cantina Novelli winery.  Immediately after exiting the bus, I walked to the entrance of the Novelli building, which faces a breath-taking view of the vineyard in the foreground and the Umbrian valley in the background.  The wine specialist on the grounds led the group through the crushing, mixing, and fermentation facilities.  Did you know that the color of the wine (red, white, or blush) is determined not by the type of grape, but actually by the amount of time the skin and flesh stay in contact during the winemaking process?  Thus, if a grape is quickly pressed and the juices not permitted to contact the skin for very long, a white wine is produced.  I had no idea!

At the actual wine tasting, we had the opportunity to sample Novelli’s Rosè de Noir (a sparkling rosè), Trebbiano Spoletino (a white), and Montefalco Sagrantino (a red).  My favorite was the white.  I am not going to try to describe the wine since every person’s experience is different, but just know I have never tasted a white wine so perfect…and I have had a lot of wine.  Here are a few tips I cultivated from the wine tasting:

  1. When first poured the wine, inspect the color of the wine by tilting the glass at a 45-degree angle and examining the liquid against a white background.
  2. Smell the wine.  Swirl.  Then smell again.  I was amazed at how differently the wine smells after the swirl.
  3. Take a sip, making sure the liquid coats every centimeter of one’s tongue to receive the full experience of the wine.  Voila!  You are now a wine-tasting expert!

Corks of the Cantina Novelli Winery

Officially, the tour had one last stop at a ceramics factory in Deruta, but my friend from Duke, Marie, had joined Katie and I on the trip and invited us to stay at her mom’s villa in Umbria.  I was not about to say no to a relaxing weekend in the beautiful Italian countryside, so the three of us skipped the ceramics tour to leave for the villa.  On the way, we stopped at Casa del Cioccolato Perugina (the chocolate factory in Perugina).  Not a bad trade-off.

My friend Katie, also a student at Temple Rome, in front of the replica of the Baci that broke the Guiness World Record for largest piece of chocolate. Baci’s are only made at the Casa del Cioccolato.

Miss Manners … Italian Style

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When in Rome,

DON’T use the phrase “scusa” or expect to hear anyone else use utter the Italian equivalent of “excuse me.”  Before leaving for Rome at the end of August, I taught myself how to say my most frequently used phrases in Italian (hello, goodbye, please, thank you, I’m sorry, I don’t understand, excuse me…).  I’ve said “scusa” a couple of times since arriving last week until I realized not only that nobody cared, but that I hadn’t heard a single person use it themselves.

DO greet strangers (but only in stores, restaurants, elevators, and cafés).  Smiling and saying “ciao” to a nice person walking down the street on a beautiful morning is an invitation to be looked at like a crazy person.  In Rome, you keep your good mood to yourself until you come in contact with someone in an enclosed space.  People in service positions appreciate a big smile and a friendly “buongiorno” and won’t spend the next five minutes wondering where they know that smiling stranger from.  It’s wise to save greetings for these people.

DON’T drink out of plastic bottles.  I bought a bottle of water the first time I visited a café in Rome and was surprised when the man behind the counter gave me a glass.  The Italian attitude towards food and eating is entirely different from that of Americans.  These people do the majority of their socializing over food and when they eat, that’s all they do.  They don’t walk or text or check their e-mail while sipping water or munching on a sandwich.  Italians take time to enjoy their food and life in general.  This is very different from the American “eat to survive” sentiment that is so familiar to me.

DON’T tip.  Waiters, cab drivers, and maids are all paid larger salaries than their American counterparts.  This is one of the Italian quirks that I have the hardest time wrapping my head around.  After twenty years of calculating twenty percent tips every time I eat out, it is always tempting for me to leave something for someone who provides a service.  In Italy, just a couple of cents is an appreciated tip for a service well-rendered, but by no means is expected.

DO try to speak in Italian.  The effort is sincerely appreciated by locals and people are more than willing to help you out or switch to English if you’re really struggling.  In some cases, I have started a conversation using the very little Italian that I currently know just to have an Italian start speaking in English, presumably to practice their own foreign language skills.  Those people with unenthusiastic views of tourists and foreigners tend to warm up a bit when a pathetic American at least attempts to speak in the native tongue.

DON’T get upset when you’re waiting to order gelato and someone cuts in front of you and orders before you.  Waiting in line is a foreign concept in Italy.  If there are even a few inches of floor in front of you,
don’t be insulted if someone utilizes that space to order their food first.  Many Americans might view this behavior as rude and while that was my initial reaction, I’ve come to appreciate the national aggression and even enjoy partaking in it.  You know what they say… When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

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4 Weddings and the Coliseum

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Buonagiornata!

This weekend the gang was all together in Roma, rather than this coming weekend during which we’re all separating and going all over the country! So we took the opportunity to take in some of the Roman staples. Our first stop of the weekend, however, was not something I had expected to see in Rome; a giant performance piece on the Tiber river! The event was titled “Waterfire” and was directed by Barnaby Evans. Essentially, this piece is a continuation of an event by the same name that occurs in Providence, Rhode Island annually. During the two day event, 30 floating fires buoy in the Tiber river between Ponte Sisto and Ponte Mazzini in the neighborhood of Trestevere. The Artist/Designer was Robert Hammond. Also, accompanying the flames there were a couple of dance pieces choreographed by Linda Foster. So, as an art major and a dancer, I WAS ALL OVER THIS!

Photos Courtesy of our lovely resident photo major (and my future roomie) Tessa Smucker!

Check out her site she is very talented :)

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tessa-Marie-Photography/103198486437938?ref=ts

It was an AMAZING way to kick off the weekend. It seemed like almost every Temple Rome student was out that night. Afterwards we stopped for a drink, and I had the BEST mojito of my life! Gma would have loved it! But we couldn’t stay out too late because we all had a big day of sight seeing ahead. Saturday morning a few of us made a trip to the Trionfale open air market right down the street from the residence on the Via Milizie, I’ve been meaning to get there for weeks!

YUM.

When we first came to Temple Rome, our student affairs coordinator told us that Italians thrive on chaos… That was no joke. Trionfale bustles for a few hours a day with colors, smells, and tons of Italians. A few of us went on a Saturday morning, which was probably a mistake. Before you go to Trionfale, make sure you’ve had your coffee and hugged a few kittens because this place will really test your patience for mankind. Italians really aren’t big on the idea of personal space so they will cram themselves in anywhere they fit, so elbowing your way through the crowd can be relatively stifling. But once you make it through the mob the massive expanse of fresh Italian produce, meat, fish, and spices is unreal.

Maybe someday I’ll actually go in there with enough confidence in my Italian to buy something!

After taking an hour to go home and regain our composure from our head on collision with the Italian mob, James, Kenny, Cecily, Andriana, Shannon, and myself headed to see the one place (other than the Vatican) that I NEEDED to see in Rome.

IL COLOSEO!!!

Here is my advice to you for WHEN you come see the Coliseum, Get the ticket and go through the Roman Forum then walk over to the Coliseum. My lovely room-mate Alex’s sister (who studied in Rome in 2007) informed us that going through the Roman Forum in not only totally worth it, but you also skip the line of ignorant tourists who ran straight to the ticket booth at the Coliseum, not knowing there was another ticket booth a block away. But don’t tell anyone I told you because then everyone will know about it and this trick won’t work anymore!

I wasn’t totally paying attention so don’t take my word for this, But Kencyclopedia said that the Roman Forum is essentially where the rich citizens and the politicians lived.

Then we made it to the main event of the day, the Coliseum! But there was something really strange going on other than an inordinate amount of fannypacks; everywhere we turned there were brides. No joke, we must have seen seven weddings. All over the place there were brides and grooms riding in convertibles and getting pictures taken.

As James so eloquently put it:

“How Romantic, you’re getting married where they used to slaughter people for sport.”

… He had a point. It was a little odd. But I wish my BFF from home, Tori,  could have been there to see this because she’s studying to be a wedding planner (plus we just love weddings like every other girl on Earth) and she would have died!

Anyway, inside the Coliseum (after skipping the enormous line because we’re smart)

I’ve seen this in so many art history books so it was UNREAL to see it in real life!

Just a couple of gladiators hanging out in the Coliseum.

It’s strange that all that’s left of this massive structure are the bare bones because all the marble was stolen the make churches. But seeing the Coliseum is now something I can check off of my bucket list!

On to another week full of painting and cappuccinos!

Ciao!

Jen

How Do You Say “Pie Crust” In Italian?

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This week in Rome, things are beginning to look more Autumnal. It’s cool enough to wear jeans and sometimes even a sweater, so with this changing of the season I think all of us are beginning to feel just a little homesick. I’ll admit, this is my favorite time of year in Pennsylvania; changing leaves, scarves, pumpkin carving, everything. So at my apartment we’re all banding together to keep the blues away and enjoy our new Autumn experience in Rome! On Thursday night Winnie made a big family dinner of chicken and potatoes, and Kenny and James brought over wine.

Earlier that day I made some big changes in my little studio. I’m trying to bring some life into it with pictures of home and some new members of the family, everyone meet Petunia and Vernon!

For those of you Harry Potter fans out there, you should get the reference. I originally just had the pink one and named her Petunia (I don’t know if she actually is a Petunia, but that doesn’t matter) then James came up with Vernon for the sunflower.

This is the view from my Studio (yes! That’s the Tiber!!!) Currently I’m working on a large landscape painting of this scene.

I’m not quite sure why I decided to treat my plants like pets, but I think they’re going to like it in their new home! My Gma would be so proud of my green thumb, I’ve had them for 4 whole days and they’re still alive. I bought them from this woman by the subway stop who sells her plants out of some kind of golf cart looking contraption. After paying for my flowers (totally in Italian) I began talking to myself quietly as I organized myself to head home (typical). But the woman remarked kindly “Wow, you speak very good English.”… I’m not sure whether to call this a fail or a win. But I got flowers out of it so WIN!

On the way home from the studio that night I made a spur of the moment decision to stop in the specialty food store by the Piazza del Popolo on the Via Flaminia. There were shelves piled high with loose leaf teas, Mexican spices, and Tobasco. It never occurred to me that in Italy this is considered foreign food. Suddenly it felt as if time had stopped. I spotted the one thing that I missed most about Pennsylvanian Autumn… Pumpkin. Canned pumpkin specifically. It also happened to be 4.90 Euro a can. Irrelevant, I bought two.

So Today is Friday, and all of my room mates are off on class excursions all over Italy. So Kenny and I decided to go an adventure and try to make pumpkin pie. Something I’ve never done before and would have been hard enough in the States, where everything is written in English and I’d have my Gma there to help me.

Here are some of the things we could absolutely NOT find in the grocery store that may have been helpful for making pumpkin pie:

  • measuring cups
  • pie crust
  • brown sugar

… just to name a few. Also the things we could find were all written in Italian…. sigh. This would clearly be interesting.

Well we couldn’t find pie crust or graham crackers. So I decided to get a tin of butter cookies, crush them up and try and make a crust with those, butter, and cinnamon.

Resourceful. That’s me.

Not bad! Gma would be proud.

I’m pretty much the Irish Paula Deen living the life of Giada De Laurentis (for all you fellow food network nerds.)

So we also could not for the life of us find sweetened condensed milk (although Kenny did find baby formula) so we substituted it with what we think is probably heavy cream… or some kind of dairy product. Also there are NO measuring cups to be found… Italians aren’t that big on accuracy. So I winged it.

I AM SO PROUD OF MYSELF.

Kenny told me he thinks it is very very good, :) and when my roomies get home I’ll see what they think. I think I pretty much nailed it, it’s not as sweet as I’m used to but I do have another can of pumpkin I might try it again with a little more sugar. But I think I actually have the potential for a much more lucrative career as a pie making trophy wife than an artist… I’ll keep that in mind.

As far as traveling around Rome, this week my Figure Modeling class took a trip to the Italian Olympic Stadium.

My sister (track star) would be so jealous!

This is the Roma soccer stadium!

You can probably understand why we came here for figure modeling.

So these statues were all carved out of white marble to represent all of the summer Olympic sports. I’m not sure what sport this man plays but while staring at him I could only imagine a dialogue something like this:

OLYMPIAN: “Oh, you walked 13 miles around the Aurelian wall? That’s cute. I ran that everyday on the way to the gym to train for the OLYMPICS.”

… hard core.

Tonight we’re all going out on the town and hopefully we’ll actually make it to the Coliseum since I have almost been here a month and still haven’t seen it, I hear it’s pretty ciao.

Ciao!

Jen

Dutch Wonderland

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Three weeks into the program and instead of going to Venice, my friend Katie (also doing Temple Rome) and I set off for the “Venice of the North,” also known as Amsterdam.  There, we met with one of our best friends from Duke and had an unbelievable weekend.

Me, Rachel, and Katie (from the top left corner going clockwise) sitting on the “I amsterdam” sign in front of the Rijksmuseum.

When I arrived in Amsterdam, I was pleasantly surprised by how efficiently everything works!  Unlike Italy, the Netherlands is definitely not ten years behind the States.  The subway, trams, and buses are easy to use; the metro cards have chips in them; there is a prominent international presence; the canals are picturesque; and the architecture is reminiscent of the Dutch Renaissance.  Unfortunately, all of this wonder is buried underneath the tourist temptation of legal marijuana and De Wallen (the red-light district of Amsterdam).  While I have no problem with either one of those things, it is regrettable that drugs and sex overshadow, instead of complement, the aforementioned charming qualities of this city on water.

We went to the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Albert Cuypmarkt, Jordaan, and the historic center.  However, since I was in Amsterdam for the first time, there was no way I was going to miss an experience of a lifetime:  walking around De Wallen at night.

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Taken from Wikipedia (taking photos in De Wallen is strictly prohibited)

I was more shocked than anything else.

A red glow hangs over the streets.  Glass doors showcase women dressed in barely-there bikinis.  The flow of men in the streets ebbs as they walk in and out of the glass doors.  If I walked by a glass door whose curtains were drawn or one in which only a stool stood, I knew the prostitute had acquired commission.  Despite this eerie atmosphere, De Wallen, filled with tourists just there for the show, still feels relatively safe.

Five years ago, the city council of Amsterdam, concerned about trafficking and pimping in the area, force closed 51 prostitution windows with the aim of developing the area with fashion designers and other upscale businesses.  This reduction cut the total number of windows in De Wallen by one third.  Mariska Majoor of the Prostitution Information Center and many representatives of De Rode Draad (a sex worker rights group) have criticized the decision, claiming it would not reduce crime, but instead lead to higher rent and more competition for the remaining windows.  I am no supporter of gang violence, sex trafficking, or pimps, but I feel the city council should have built a stronger relationship with sex worker representatives in order to facilitate the best transition from an area marked by crime to one of legitimate, consenting sexual activities.  I have no problem with the legalization of prostitution.  In my opinion, what happens between consenting adults should not be the government’s business.  In many cases, prostitution is the only form of viable income for a woman to support herself and her family.  Furthermore, women should have the freedom to be in control of their own bodies.  In the United States, 49 out of 50 states have classified prostitution as a misdemeanor.  Legal in many counties in Nevada, the women are not forced to be prostitutes, but do it of their own free will.  Condom use is mandatory.  Consequently, statistics shows that there has not been a single case of HIV contracted because of a legal prostitute.  As far as sexually transmitted diseases are concerned, research in Nevada indicates that one has a higher probability of contracting STD’s from a girlfriend or wife than from a legal prostitute.  Amsterdam could use such an example to control their red light district, keeping the prostitution trade alive, but making it a safer place for their women.