Sunday, January 31, 2010


On this lazy weekend in Rome, we decided to leave town and explore what lay beyond the 7 hills. We took a bus to Tivoli, a town nestled onto a hilltop facing east just so the morning sun can warm its pastel colored walls. The bus took us through the outskirts of the city, which were drastically different than the inner Rome. It was dirty and poor, but still there was a feeling of balance and pace. Some might think this would ruin the city in my eyes, yet it only gave it that much more character. There was beauty even here, in the terrace gardens hidden on the roofs, and in the solitude of tiny vineyards in the backyards. Even the swaying of the laundry held a sense of routine and that oh so Italian feel.

Our arrival was quiet and unnoticed. This little town of Tivoli was ripe with new places to see, and new accents to hear. Our goal of the trip was to see Hadrian's Villa and other such sights around...Yet that changed as the pangs of hunger hit. Our search for the right restaurant took a while, but it was for sure the right choice. Generally we decide by the price of the house wine...5Euro per liter...yes, this would do. We sat down and ate our bread and drank our wine while chatting and laughing at the experiences we have had so far in Rome, and what voyages await in the coming months. Our food was exquisite, and we stayed for 2 hours or so, just like the italians! Then it was decided to start our "Tivolian" journey. (We made that name up for the people of Tivoli because it sounds cool). To our dismay though, everything was closed due to the foul weather. On that note we meandered the streets to the bus stop and boarded back to Rome.

That night I wanted to take it easy and relax in my eternal city. Therefore, I took one of my passegiatas(strolls) throughout the upper hill of the western city. I had no destination, no time, nothing. On my way through Trastevere, I passed the local bars and hang outs of the students, even seeing the Americans already loud and tipsy. I passed a street that glided upwards and took it in hopes of rising above the skyline. Up and up I went. Gradually the street rose to greater heights, I passed quiet streets lit up with that golden glow from the street lamps. I passed courtyards and tiny paths that lead who knows where? Finally, I reached a break in the hill, a plateau of sorts, and I gazed at what was strewn out before my American eyes. I was alone, and darkness surrounded me, leaving only the pale liquid light of the full moon to reflect the milky color of the Travertine of Rome. St. Peter's Basilica to my left, the Colosseum in front, and other monuments poked out of the skyline. In the distance outer Rome rose onto the hills like a wave upon the coast. I couldn't help but think of the layers this city has been through, and what still lay undiscovered and unknown. Facades upon facades, and columns within columns. The story of Rome seems so eternal, yet impossible. There is so much just within this city, and it seems a feat to see even the tiniest portion of it. The wind brushed my cheeks reminding me of time. I knew it was time to leave, but I made a mental note to return...soon. I glanced at the moon once more as it was engulfed by a thick gray cloud, and I returned to Trastevere.

Today, a couple of us left for the Vatican Museums at 7AM. It was rainy and cold, so we decided when we got there that we did not want to wait. But, since we were already up we walked to the Pantheon and went to the best coffee place in Rome. I at this nutella baklava thing with a steaming cappuccino. Then we had a leisurly walk back to our apartment. It is never boring to walk here, there is so much to see and watch it is almost wrong if we don't walk! The bridge over the Tevere River is magnificent. We always stop there and stare at the river that has fed Rome for countless years. Now though, It is time to go to the market and bargain for some shoes, pants, and a backpack for traveling. That means I must say ciao and be off. Until next time! Arrivederci!


Monday, January 25, 2010

We left Rome by train. Missed it. Got on another, and made it to Firenze by 10. We walked out of the deserted train station and the colder temperature of the north brushed across our cheeks as we tried to orient ourselves in this new city. The first sight we behold is the rolling dome of Il Duomo. Its height and mass dwarf everything around it. This place, this spot where we were standing was the rebirth of the of the time after the Middle Ages. This is what they call the Renaissiance, and we were staring at one of its peak monuments of achievment and art. Taking our eyes away was tough, yet we had to find our hostel among the curving streets of Firenze. Entering our hostel, we found the key to our bedroom with four beds...O ya, before I forget, two more people came with us than were originally planned, but we just snuck them in the hostel and they had to sleep four to two beds by sliding them together. Funny stuff.

Dinner was not hard to find and we sat down outside. I am so excited to be in a new place I can't make a straight sentence. I am blown away by the differences of Firenze to Rome. Immediately the whole feel was changed. Quieter. More serene, and most of all, artistically genius. Every corner, every turn looked as if constructed with ever so thoughtful plans and strategy. We oriented ourselves always by the Duomo. Its enormity could be seen from anywhere. To continue though, dinner was phenomenal. We then went to a local bar for the rest of the night and after, returned home for some sleep.

I woke up first as usual and roused the small army in our four bed hostel. We got ready and left to find a cappucino. As soon as we leave the hostel we hear noise and shouting. To our left we turn the corner to reveal a huge bustling market of leather, scarves, and belts. The picture above shows just a whisper of it. We walked down the road with the sun sending its warming rays to the dark pavement, warming the air and chasing away the chill of the night. Florence was show us all of its splendor.

Our obvious first destinatoin was the Duomo, and to get to the top. We paid 8 Euro and started the climb. Higher and higher. Steps upon steps, but it seemed so little for what was to come. Our heads popped out of the top and what we saw left all of us without words. We just stared. 360 degrees around us stood a city, so brilliant, so different, and so-awesome. The red roofs contrasted ith the white plaster walls. The sun reflected off the river and revealed its sprawling bridges. Vineyards in the distance and siluoetted hills stood silent yet heavy with age. We couldn't leave the Duomo overlooking this beatifully artistic city which held some of the most most famous works of art of all time. Yet after an hour, we started the descent to the ground.

We then made our way to the river and sat on a bridge briefly deciding on lunch. After all this, we went to Piazzale di Michelangelo, the best view of the city. Another ascent, but this time, awaintng us was a full view of Firenze with the Duomo in all its glory. We arrived at the perfect time of the sun as it started to send shadows across the city, creating a beautiful contrast of the pastel colors and feeling of Firenze. Again, the beauty was like nothing we have seen. This place is absolutely incredible. Italy, I mean holds so many secrets and absolutely breathtaking views. Again, we could not leave. We had to stay. Steps nearby seemed perfect to behold the city, and so we sat there, sun warming our faces and the city prodding our thoughts. After a while, the sun started its wane, and we started our walk back. We passed the Uffizi, the fake David, and other monuments as well. Tourists were here and there, and we were somewhere in between, not quite locals, yet not tourists by any means.

We returned home and got ready for the discoteca!! It is called Space, and so we kept making jokes like, "hey guys, are you ready to go to space? " We made every joke possible throughout the weekend. Anyway, we went to dinner and then a bar. At the bar, the table of girls next to us was speaking some language, I couldn't quite hear, so I just went over in french...I mean, hey, how could it go wrong? Well it did. They were German! I felt like an idiot, but at least they spoke French too, and fluent Italian. They were all very nice and we invited them to space! Haha, they came with us and it was CRAZY! There were Europeans everywhere dancing and being...I don't know, Euro. We went to third story of the second floor and danced our faces off there. All American music. It was really funny. After that, we got home at like 330-4, but I got lost on my way out. I took a complete wrong turn and ended up east of the city. Thank God I speak Italian because I ran into two Italian guys my age and they were looking for the train’s station too! They were form Livorno and visiting Florence like me. Anyway, we went together to the train station and had a great conversation too! Once at the train station I knew my way home, so we said our goodbyes and grazie's and parted ways.

So now it’s Sunday in Florence and I am awake at 9. I leave the Hostel knowing the guys won't awaken until 12 or something. I stopped and got an espresso, and sat in a beautiful park with a fountain. I then try to find someplace to rent bikes so we can bike to the countryside. Instead I find a bus that goes to the Chianti know ...WINE! In the afternoon, we boarded the bus to go north! I was so excited to see the countryside because so far, all we have seen is city. It was well worth it too, because as we exited the walls of the city, the country opened its arms to us. Rolling hills and vineyards stretched across acres and acres of land. As far as the eye could see, the classic Tuscan countryside awaited. I was frozen with the expanse and wonder of it all! The bus ride was an hour long, and dropped us off in this tiny town. Our destination was Il Castello di Montefioralle. Evidently, a grand castle of some such thing. Anyway, we started climbing the road, and it was HUGE! Our thighs were on fire by the end! But they view of everything was massively beautiful. I felt like I was looking at the calendars we sell at Barnes and Noble...but no, instead, I am actually here! Our trip was nearing its end and so we boarded the bus, saying goodbye to Chianti, not before buying a bottle, and we ventured back to Florence. Then a train to Rome, which oddly enough now feels like my home. I am so comfortable here in every way. When we exited the station in Rome, I felt more at ease with the familiarity. The bumps of the streets, and the light from the fountains.

So now starts another week of school...if you could call it that. My biggest goal now is to stop spending money. It is ridiculous how fast it goes when you lose so much with the exchange! Thanks for reading everyone! Ciao!!


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Friday, January 22, 2010

"Honeymoon Stage"

Buongiorno! I am sorry for the late post, but the others I have tried would not work and so they deleted and I lost them all. Anyway, it is Friday here, and we don't have school! Instead I am going to Florence and going to the biggest discoteca there called Space. We are all SO busy here with trip planning, homework, eating, cooking, and making friends that it is impossible to sit down! To prove this, right now I have to go get new pants because I have none that fit anymore! It doesn't matter how much wine or gelato I eat! The same thing is happening with the others. We are trying to keep our calories up, but its so hard! I know, I nevere thought I would here myself complaing that I can't eat enough...well in Rome anything can happen.

The reason I call this the "Honeymoon Stage" is because it is now over. This stage is the first 8-10 days of a trip and it is sort of like a dream because of the shock and awe. Now, for instance, we were walking to get books and we passed the Trevi Fountain with a glance because it was normal. Only after though, we realized, wait, did we just pass one of the most famous fountains in the world on our way to buy books and it was normal. This is the sort of thing I mean by that. And now, that stage is over. I still fight htough, every time I go outside to soak everything in and not take it for granted. Still I wonder at the majesty of the Vatican, and the enormity of the Colloseo. I am improving my italian in great strides and I feel it everyday. I have Italian friends at school and we talk outside all the time in a circle. I am learning so much slang and how to improve my accent, because I still sound american.

I have also made a new traditon at our apartment. Here is the schedule: dinner at 8, homework till 10, then walk around Rome until 2. We try to discover new parts of Rome every night because I always feel bad sitting inside our apartment at night doing homework. We usually sit at the pantheon and have a beer or a tea. We chat and discuss philosophical things...(I lied on that last bit). My classes are all a joke except one where I actually have to work. I love them all though and am learning tons about Rome and its history.

Ok, so I will blog again after Florence and all of its adventures! I can't wait! I am so pumped to here the accent and compare it and try to use it myself and blend with the florentines! So ciao for now!

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Il Vaticano

The sun rose another day in this mysterious city. Peaceful, yet filled with foreign noises, smells, and language. As I open my eyes, I must tell myself that I am really awake. The surreality of it all is so thick that I have to constantly remind myself where and why I am. Farther and farther into this trip I am changing my ways to form with the culture and neighborhood. In fashion as well my American polos and baggy cords are leaving only to be replaced by the tighter cut pants and the pea coats and scarves. We pass flea markets always searching for that one "thing" to make us more...legit. I embrace the challenge of this and encourage others to do so as well.

Today I woke up early to walk the neighborhood by myself. I love these walks as I have said before, because they reveal so much about the culture and italians. A school is down the street and the parents are dropping their kids off with rapid hand gestures and loud vocal variety that the italian language loves so much. I then accidently stumble upon a market on my way to my daily espresso. Little did I know that I had just walked on the largest market I have ever seen in my life! Ecco(behold)! Porta Portese! White tents lined the street behind our apartment for at least a mile or two. three isles of tents with goods from hamsters and bunnies to tape and china bowls. I was astounded at the variety. It felt like I walked into the heart of Trastevere itself as I paced along the isles observing and listening. I made mental notes of items for future need as I passed and as always determined the names for the things I didn't know in Italian. I laughed to myself as I walked in my pea coat and new scarf, watching the italians gather around the tables bargaing for their books and bags, shoes and jewelry. It was like nothing ever before! The noise of the people was alive with that feeling that every Sunday holds. Only with an undercurrent of Andrea Bocelli in the background. A dream? A movie? No...Rome.

After my market it was only noon. We made a plan to go to orientation then ditch out during the tour and go to the Vatican...we figured someplace holy after the ditching...right? Anyway, we did this and explored the depths of the Tevere river testing its current with a log, and taking pictures of the graffiti that littered its walls. Above is one of the most funny. Pictured from left to right is Peter, Alex, Tara, Zak, and me. The guys are my roomates and my other one is taking the picture. Yes, that is the scarf I bought at the store Oviesse and I tied it the way all italians do. Zak also got a scarf and we were lovin' the euroness of out style.

Now, for the title of the blog. The vatican. I have been there before, yet it never ceases to amaze me. We walk into its open arms in absolute shock and awe. I detach from the group at a standstill, unable to move, thinking of the enormity of this point in the world. This focal eye of religious faith and absolute beauty. I gaze across the saints that stare down on the people of St. Peter's. Goosebumps move their way up my spine to my arms and neck. The power is palpable and I can't believe it. I look around and see the variety of people in the square, chinese, arab, white, black, latin...everyone. Nothing worried me, nothing to do, and nothing to plan. I felt more than content, I felt overjoyed with delight.

St. Peter's Basilica was in the distance and we approached its immense form. As it grew, the statue of Jesus greeted us at its summit. The beauty of the architechture stunned me into numbing emotion. I had to continue into the church. The Pieta was at the left in its tender emotion and warm exterior. Its depiction is extraordinary. We spent at least an hour and a half in the Basilica, not able to turn away. It felt rude to turn our backs on something so massively beautiful and full of history. Stepping out of the silence of St. Peter's into the Roman noise hit us like a roman moped. We limmediatley vowed to return in the sun light and go to the top of the Basilica. At this point I was so emotionaly drained I needed an espresso...haha oh look, they are EVERYWHERE!

As always, more italian words fill my vocabulary and it seems like each one brings me a new level of achievment. I now know the map of Rome like the back of my hand from the whole first semster of studying it. I am glad I did because at 3 in the morning after campo di fiori, guess who everyone wants to follow? I love it though and now know Rome better than Milwaukee...sorry Mom and Dad, I guess I can understand the curvy streets of Rome rather than blocky ones of MKE.

Now it is time for some dinner, wine, wine, and some italian, and maybe somewhere in there some wine. Ciao Tutti!

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