Wednesday, February 24, 2010


The weekend started on Friday as it usually does, but this Friday we went to the Vatican Museums to see the Sistine Chapel and all the other...things. Just kidding, everything was beautiful there and we really enjoyed ourselves. But, as you can see from the photos we loved seeing open windows and taking pictures of the outside. The Sistine Chapel was grandiose and dark. No pictures allowed yet everyone took them. We sat in there for a good 30 mintutes staring at the ceiling revered by so many. What a masterpiece of skill and art. But more importantly, after the museums we went to eat the best Tiramisu in all of Rome. I was so excited and saved room at dinner so I could indulge in the sweet cacao dream that was tiramisu. We arrived at Pompi and I ordered it with a coffee. Let me first of all say that I love tiramisu and I would consider myself pretty knowledgable in all its attributes... Now this tiramisu was so far beyond any I have ever eaten I had now words. I LOVED it. Absolutely phenomenal, so good that I thought they were joking. (Mom, we are going when you get here and you will know what I mean). I took a napkin with the name of the place so I will always remember the King of Tiramisu.

What a beautiful weekend in Rome! My friend Antonio came from Sicily and stayed with us at our apartment in Trastevere. I picked him up from the Train Station and we begun our weekend fun. He met all the guys and then we decided to go explore some of Rome! Tony loves Rome, but hates walking...a bit of a problem. Anyway, we walked to Piazza Venezia which holds a very large government building as well as a monument of sorts. Then we walked the famous Via del Corso. It was so busy that everybody was just walking in the streets! We took this all the way up to the northern gate of Rome, Piazza del Popolo. This is one of my favorite spots in Rome. From it you can see three major roads built to connect the renaissance city. They all converge at Piazza del Popolo with a magnificent Obelisk at its center. Here, we stopped for some lunch at a restuarant and I ate bolognese with fresh bread and red wine. Also, per usual, an espresso at the end of the meal and a glass of water after that.

Once our bellies were filled and our thirst quenched we walked to the enormous park in Rome called Villa Borghese. Once we entered its lush green depths, Rome was drowned out and replaced by this serene atmosphere filled with birds and running water. Fountains were every 100m and the paths were small stones that crunched under our steps. What a change to walk into the heart of nature after being in ancient Rome!! This walk brought us laughter and fun as we joked around and took pictures of all the new sights. Tony's pace is very slow, and so it took us a bit to walk anywhere, but I found it enjoyable, it gave us time to appreciate what we were seeing in every aspect. Stopping at an outdoor cafe tucked in the woods gave us a small respite as we drank our macchiatos, cappuccinos, and coffees. The sun threw shadows in every direction as it hit the leaves making a constant flicker all around the park. Archways and statues solidly stood watching everything. Tony and I spoke of school, life, and Italy. He always speaks in english, so stubborn in that way, so I return and only speak in italian. I think each of us really wants the other to switch languages, but this will never happen. It is great practice for each of us and we both help eachother out whenever mistakes are made.

We ended our adventure of the green woods of Rome at the Spanish steps where they touch. From here we walked on Via Condotti which is where the stores are like: Gucci, Prada, Fendi...etc... We walked all the way home from their much to the disapproval of Tony, he got over it though. It was too funny.

Dinner was Sushi. Japanese sushi that is. I loved it! I ate it all! Except once I said thank you in japanese to the bus girl she says she is then I speak some chinese, she is overjoyed but my lack of vocabulary halts our conversation. Therefore I return to Italian but she says she doesn't speak it yet. Now I'm really confused and I try english but to no avail. O well, we tried 4 languages and we couldn't work, not for lack of effort!

After dinner we went to Campo di Fiori and all the bars there. Then we went to our normal bar in Trastevere. It was a really fun night for all of us. Tony enjoyed himself and slept till 1 the next day! Wow!

Everyday Tony and I went to Sant'Eustachio Caffe' which is rated one of the best coffees in the world. So I had a cappuccino and macchiato there whenever we went. It was very good. He loved it because he knows the difference betweem coffee anyway and told me how good it was.

Unfortunately, as Sunday and Monday rolled around he had to return home. All the roomates really liked him and he fit in well with us. We had a phenomenal weekend and I look forward to visiting him within the coming weeks!

Now, I must pack for Greece and do some homework. I will write again once I return! Ciao!


Sunday, February 21, 2010


So now to catch up on some blogging!

Last weekend I took a solo trip to Pescara Italy, it is on the east coast straight shot to the right of Rome. I left on the day that it snowed in Rome for the first time in 25 years! It was a blizzard on the train leaving Rome and it reminded me of home! Anyway, the train ride took about 3.5 hours in which I stared out the window at the wonder of Italy. The landscape changed so often that I couldn't look away! But 3.5 hours later I arrived in a small town near Pescara called Chieti and that is where my adventure starts.

Exiting the train I entered the new part of Italy alone. I was tired and hungry and I just wanted to be at my hostel. Little did I know how far it was from me! I went to a coffee shop and got a map of the area and asked the bartender where I was going. Soon all 10 people in the bar were talking to me about different things. Directions, wisconsin, school, rome, italian etc... I was loving it because the new accent threw me for a loop and I succeeded in distinguishing it finally. All I can say is, if I didn't speak italian, I would have NEVER reached my hostel. But I did it and it was beautiful! It was a vineyard and olive tree farm. I was in heaven. I spent the first hour chatting with the owner about stuff and then headed out to explore! The area was absolutely brilliant. Rolling hills, vineyards, and sun. I loved exploring and being a part of this new city! I ate lunch at a real local place that had excellent food and wine. Then I got gelato...obviously. All of this was in preparation for the next day where I would help teacher at the middle school where she teaches. Her name is Vincenzina and her family took me out to dinner that night! Wow, I do not have any clue how Italians can eat so much! Course after course! The apetizers were fruits and cheeses with nuts and olives. We ate bread and oil, wine and frizzy water. Then little chips came out before my pasta al ragu' and I was having a blast. I found it hard to concentrate on my italian when all this succulent food was before me! I ate lamb, fish, liver, and chicken in one meal. The conversation was great and the environment to match. Needless to say, I was not hungry until lunch the next day!!!

Saturday was an early day because I had to take the bus to middle school. Haha, that sounds funny. When I got to the school the kids flipped out. I had no idea what to expect, but this was crazy. I sat and observed one class, and the next the kids could ask me questions. The funniest question was, "Is it true that you eat...eggs... for breakfast???!!" I just laughed and responded, "Not only eggs, but meat and potatoes and oragne juice and coffee!" The whole class went into an uproar saying, "WHAT! You can't do that! That's CRAZYYY!!". I had to admit, the questions were all hilarious and it was such and interesting experience to see how foreigners view Americans. It is hard for them to comprehend the size of our Country because theirs is so small. They all ask if I go to LA or Hollywood all the time, or NYC. Every sterotypical american attribute they asked me about, and I tried to set everything straight.

School finished at 1 and so Vincenzina and her family took me to Pescara and the beach!! It was a gorgeous day and we had such a great time talking and walking on the ocean. But it couldn't last forever and I had to go back to the hostel and get some dinner! When I got there, the owner was in the kitchen and so we chatted for a while and after that I got a free bottle of freshly squezzed olive oil from her trees as well as fresh pepperoncini sun dried and cut up into a jar of olive oil! Wow! The things that can happen by being friendly just amaze me!

So, the next morning I had to leave. I walked onto the porch and was greeted by the sun rising over the fields of grapes and olives. The wet smell of spring was in the air and it reminded me of Wisconsin. But alas, I had to pack up and go after a HUGE breakfast of an espresso and vanilla cookie.

The train ride home was a really breakthtaking journey. It was warm in the carriage thanks to the heating rays of the sun. The mountains were clear and I could see their clear streams trickling down thier enormous flanks. The rays reflected of the snow that covered the tips and shimmered in every direction. Little towns sprung out from nowhere and were so rustic and calm. I can't explain the journey home just because it was so brilliant and sensorally numbing. I loved traveling alone, yet at times, I wished for someone to talk to. That is why I so anticipated being back in Rome with all my friends and feeling the familiarity of the eternal city once more.

Now I must wake up the others for perhaps a papal audience or a walk to the pantheon for a cup of coffee nominated for the best in the world...I love my life. Peace to all!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hair Cut!

O yea, I forgot...I got a mohawk. It seemed like a good idea at the time in Milan...Haha, anyway, its awesome because now people ask me for directions all the time because I look like italian! Ciao!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Milano and the Alps

Leaving Rome at 3AM for a 630 flight has its downside, but in reward, I arrived in Milan an hour later. My friend Marta was ready and waiting to pick me up and bring me to her house north of Milan about an hour. I was not ready for the weather in Milan though. It was snowing and foggy...much different than my temperate Rome I left behind. I was excited though for a new city and the new experiences that were to come. To my utter joy, the whole car ride was in italian. I was thrilled at the thought of spending three days at her house where only italian is spoken! What exercise for my vocabulary and grammar!! I quickly found out that they don't get many Americans up north of Milan who speak italian because everytime I met someone and said literally "ciao" they shout enthusiastically, "O my God, great Italian!" This was odd to me coming from Rome where every once in a while someone comments on it...but here, it was incredible, talk about an ego booste--geese. I was some kind of king up there! It made me sad though at the same time because it really shows that Americans feed into the stereotype and just speak english...I will change this, and I am.

I met the family of Marta and they were so generous and nice to me. They loved that I could speak with them in Italian too, although in the beginning I struggled with the speed and the form of speaking. Marta and I then went to tour the town and we ran into one of her friends and we got a coffee. Italian english...I just about died of exuberant joy. And little did I know this was just the beginning! That night for dinner, we went to a chinese restaurant with about 10 of her friends! Wow...Lots of Italian, really really fast, and lots of confusion. But I loved it. It is what I live for. I loved trying to figure everyones accent and method of speaking. It was a game to me, to understand and respond in turn changing my roman to Milanese. After listening for hours, I could understand more and more while mimicking their accents. It didn't matter what they were talking about or what was happening, only that my brain was whirring and computing speeds, pitches and accents, unkown words and comfortable phrases, putting them together and forming complete sentences and logical conversations. I was in heaven. This was what I longed for in Rome, a group of Italians like this. Within two hours, I spoke and heard more than three weeks in Rome. My crutch of 5 american roomates was starting to irk me. Honestly the transformation of my italian in such a short amount of time shocked me. I never stopped asking Marta questions, and I never hesitated to talk, even when it was wrong. Just speaking italian made me so content I was not ready for the beautiful grandiose alps.

The alps rose up in the distance, gigantic, enormous, and blanketed with powdery white snow. As we passed Lake Como on the left, the mountains began closing in around us, shutting out the sun, and drawing long shadows on the ground. Making our way up to a skiing mountain we twisted and veered with the road ascending the monster that was one of the mighty alps. Little rustic mountain houses snuck into cracks and crevices where they could, taking advantage of the protection of rock on either side. I could not stop staring, fixated by the power of these mountains. The village we pulled into was small but warm. Snow covered rooves and terraced yards. It is amazing how they can bend nature to their will, but yet at the same time, it looks weak and fragile next to the enormity of the surroundings. The brief glimpses of the sun beyond the peaks was the only reminder we were not swallowed by the range. Those breif glimpses though reflected off the snow sending a brilliant light in all directions, illuminating the colors and rocks to reveal a beauty pictures could never capture. Then, we arrived at the top of the mountain after a brief ride on the lift. I could see for miles and miles in every direction. Snow capped mountains and valleys with streams of clean crisp water layed before me. It was so surreal that I just stood there in shock. The whole day for me was spent in awe of the immensity and power of the Alps. I loved my time there and learing of the "mountain food" which is very heavy and full of carbs. The elevation made me tired, and so on the return trip I slept in the car.

That night, went out with all of Marta's friends. Yet another night of Italian, but this night I was noticably better at comprhension and speaking, already massive imporvements filled me with pride and accomplishment! One of her friends bought me an Absinth shot...that is what is in the shot glasses in the picture. Then they lit them on fire, followed by the three of us drinking them and feeling the green acid burn our throats and simmer in our stomachs...check that one off the bucket list...

The next day we went to Milan by train. Exiting the train I was ready to feel the differences that every city holds, and Milan was no exception. The first thing that hit me other than the sun rising in the east, was the cleanliness of the streets. Milan was aboslutely spotless in comparison to Rome. It was actually an oddly discomforting feeling. I love the character the graffiti holds, and how it is perceived. Milan though seemed very businesslike and to the point. This did not detract form the architecture though, which I find in all of Italy amazing and almost impossible. The streets were full of shops of fashion and art. Tourists flocked around the Duomo which I approached in silence, marveling at its gothic design and noting the differences of the Florence Duomo. Such diversity in every aspect! Just amazing! I reached the top and snapped photos which don't capture the heavy age and gothic chill. I loved Milan, but Rome still captures me and will not let go.

I arrived back here in Rome at 730AM after leaving Marta's house at 3AM. I navigated the transportation to a T, and was more fluent in Italian by miles than before. I feel like I have accomplished so much, yet there is still so much more! Rome now is so comforting because of its familiarity. I am able to use every form of transportation with ease, and I at times, I almost feel the city was made just for me.

Now it is back to the grind of planning the next trip and as usual discovering Rome. I can't believe I am here still. I am so comfortable its scary. I feel bad for the others because they have no idea that the language barrier blocks so much more than language. There is a complete disconnect they don't feel like I do. The language is a living thing that reveals everything about a culture and can carry with it thoughts and emotions not able to be expressed in the rigid english words we have grown up speaking. I am trying to teach the guys the importance of it all in order to fully be immersed in this life. We have much time still, and I await the future advances of our knowledge and experience. Ciao for now everyone! (Shoutout to Elyise and Cara!!! HEY!)