Tuesdays at Randy’s

Every Tuesday night Randy, our program director, hosts dinner and a movie at his apartment a few streets over from St. John’s. It’s one of my favorite parts about the trip because it makes me feel like I’m at home again.

This past week was especially fun. Walking to the flat, Randy, the gang, and I leisurely strolled the streets talking jovially about nothing in particular when all of the sudden I felt a drop of rain. Just steps outside of St. John’s we shrugged and continued walking. Halfway between our origin and destination, a downpour ensues.

We all start running as fast as we can, and duck into a very expensive supermarket.

Realizing this isn’t going to stop, we take off again. My friend Ashley’s shoe breaks, and I slip, catching myself on a railing covered in bird poop. Great.

As we step into the apartment building we are all completely soaked, and most are lamenting about their now ruined hair.

We made it up to the apartment, and began utilizing our domestic skills assisting Randy in preparation of the food. It was so home-y to get dinner started together, even if my job was only to unwrap the cheese.

We gathered around the TV with our pasta and bruschetta as Randy put in Cinema Paradiso. It’s such a beautiful movie, I highly recommend it to anyone who can appreciate that kind of thing.

By the end, Randy and I were the only ones awkwardly sobbing, and we were berated for it. We sat around for a little while telling stories about our families, friends, mishaps at school… We shared a lot of laughs that night.

Finally, we headed out for Randy’s weekly treating of gelato. Around the corner from St. John’s is a very famous gelateria called “Gelateria de Gracchi” and they serve treats that are lighter than air! It is so famous that we have to take number stubs outside, and wait about 20 numbers to be called before us. Even so, the gelato is delicious and I have the best time standing around with our group as we eat gelato and joke around.

I didn’t expect to enjoy myself with this group as much as I have. The sense of home I feel when we get together every Tuesday is so comforting. Randy really went above and beyond with this trip — we owe him big time.

A Weekend in Firenze

As I waited at the board in Termini Station for my platform number to be posted, I scanned for “Florence” over and over.

“I don’t see it.”
“There it is! Platform 2 ES.”
Jen and Kell took off while I stood there realizing Florence in Italian is “Firenze.” I don’t know why Americans changed it to Florence…Firenze is WAY cooler! Sounds like a city of fire-breathing dragons!

On the go muffin in hand, the three of us look around for our train. It was supposed to leave in 5 minutes, and yet no where in sight. Too tired to function, I sit on my carry-on suitcase and stare at the blueberry goodness in my hand, having no idea something was wrong.

Suddenly a lovely Italian man graciously alerts us, “YOU ARE AT THE WRONG PLATFORM. FIRENZE? 9:13? YOU WANT 2 ES. YOU ARE ON PLATFORM 2. YOU HAVE TO HURRY! YOU’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT!!”

Before I knew what was happening, Kell took off running. I grabbed my things and began to dart across the station, and down a platform that was the full length of a train. I’m mediocre at best when it comes to running, and in this instance I had a terrible cold.

It looked like I had wings as I ran with my snack bag on one arm, and my falling-off-cardigan on the other. I was miserable. But, we made it!

The best part of Florence was the night. It is so magical! The three of us left our hotel after some shopping and napping to venture around, what seemed, a completely different city.

The lights ignited the streets with warm golden colors. Music was playing around every corner, and street performers drew crowds in from every corner. We saw a mime act, acapella groups, and jazz bands throughout the streets. It was so fun just to walk around.

This is the Ponte Vecchio. During a period of wartime, all of the bridges in Florence were burned, but those attacking the city were moved by how beautiful this bridge was, so they left it alone. How sweet!

After a lovely dinner next to the Ponte Vecchio, we turned a corner and stumble upon this sight…

It hit me like a ton of bricks! The Duomo in Florence is MASSIVE. It is the biggest building I’ve ever seen. When you look on the sides, this church stretches far past where my eyes can see.

The most incredible thing is how detailed the building is. There are sculptures all along the wall, even on the doors! From far away it’s magnificent, and with each step you take towards it, more details appear and it is just an incredible sight. We didn’t get to go in, but to sit on the steps at night at gaze at it was satisfying regardless.

This is a door of the Duomo. The design of it tells the story of Jesus’s birth.

I was surprised to see so many couples engaging in slightly sexual activities on the steps of the Duomo. Kell abruptly sat down next to one couple, giving them the stink eye, and they finally quit it and left. After sitting for a few minutes, a couple relatively my age started going at it. I’m thinking, “This is God’s house! He must be hanging out the window saying, ‘Hey you kids, get off my steps!’ I must do His work.” I then proceeded to recount a fictional, yet graphic, tale to my friends about a horrific bathroom incident involving some beans I bought off the street and irritable bowel syndrome. The two eventually turned around toward me, presenting their disturbed grimaces, and proceeded to get a room.

Hanging around Piazza de Ponte Vecchio was so magical. The people were a-buzz! The live jazz music set the mood as tourists browsed some art, jewelry and leather goods to buy. Everyone was mingling, dancing, and having a great time. What an atmosphere!

The entire first day we spent in Florence I had no sense of taste. I was so sick that I was walking around with a box of tissues and hand sanitizer. At dinner I couldn’t taste the bruschetta, tea, or soup I ordered. It was awful. Italy is the worst place to lose your sense of taste because not only is everything flavorful, but you can’t “cash in your healthy chips” by ordering something very healthy that tastes gross. It’s all carbs either way!

We ventured over to a gelateria after being called over by the man working inside. “Ciao, Bellas! I give you good price, yes? Special price for you beautiful.” Gelato and compliments? Yes, please!

With a puppy-dog frown I ordered my Dulce de Leche gelato, my favorite flavor. I took a few licks and to my surprise, a faint taste! A few more licks…GOOD GOD, THIS GELATO IS MIRACULOUS. It brought my sense of taste back to its full capacity! I screamed, “It’s a Florence MIRACLE!” I will forever justify my dessert habits with this gelato’s redeeming moment.

The next morning we walked back toward the Duomo in search of eggs for breakfast. We sat down at a restaurant with an “American Breakfast Menu” right outside the Duomo. Seeing an omlette in Italy is like finding a lake in the Sahara Desert, or a straight man at a Spice Girl’s concert. They’re just not around. Our breakfast view was of the gorgeous Duomo. All I could think to myself was, “I can’t believe this is where I get to have breakfast. I can’t believe I’m in Italy!”

The rest of the day was filled with leather browsing. Having my senses restored, I was able to smell the leather as we passed through the markets. The vendors in Florence are MUCH pushier than the ones in Rome. In Florence, you cannot make eye contact with a vendor or their product without being interrogated and hustled.

I looked at a wallet for all of 3 seconds before I heard a man calling after me, “For you bella, 20 euro, special price!” Either I’m THAT good looking, or these people want my money desperately. It’s likely my good looks. Here’s a picture of Kell and the vendor that took off his ring and proposed to her. Twice.

We met up with the rest of our group and headed over to an outdoor restaurant we noticed the night before in the Piazza de Ponte Vecchio. We wanted to go because they had a great live jazz band that played during dinner.

My ravioli in a butter and sage sauce was so delightful, especially when accompanied with some vanilla tea. Tea and jazz? SIGN ME UP. The greatest thing about the Italian dining experience is the fact that the check doesn’t come until you ask for it. You can sit there forever! And boy, did I intend to. The music put a smile on my face, especially when they played a song that is in Back to the Future during the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. It was a lovely time.

I felt so grown up being on my own, with my friends, in Florence. I definitely would love to go back there.

My day in Ruins

I went a long time without posting because after our return from The Amalfi Coast, I got blasted with a cold. Who gets a cold while studying abroad in the middle of summer?! This girl. I felt miserable last week, and it didn’t help that we spent one day touring “The Ruins” in the ungodly heat.

We met up with our tour guide, Nicole, just outside of the coliseum. She handed out “Audio Tour” aids, which are little radios attached to a lanyard you hang around your neck. The radios are channeled so that we can hear Nicole’s commentary no matter if we get separated or if it gets too loud inside. We were also given headphones, except it was only one ear bud (not two) to plug into the radio. After we all made several newscaster impressions (“This just in…”) and secret service jokes, we proceeded into the masses of tourists.

I felt bad for yet another tour guide, because we were all so tired. We each looked like someone had just slapped us across the face with a pizza paddle. Nicole probably thought we were a bunch of angsty college kids who were hungover from a night at the disco and could careless about history. Truth is we just spent 4 days with another tour guide, Alli, touring the Amalfi Coast at a rate only Lance Armstrong could NOT feel tired after. No wonder people hate Americans.

Seeing the Coliseum had its ups and downs.

Ups: Having watched Gladiator the night before, the tour was a little more glamourous. (“Was this where Russell Crowe died?!” “…No. That was a mov-you know what, nevermind.”)

Downs: TOURISTS. OH SO MANY TOURISTS. The sheer volume of people inside was madness. As I stopped to take a picture of ancient graffiti from the walls of the first ever “dressing rooms,” another tour guide and his two group members literally pushed me aside with their bodies as I was behind my camera. Oh, I’m sorry, that wasn’t INSANELY RUDE.  After loudly coughing for attention, noticeably shuffling around them, and allowing myself to be long separated from my own group, they finally moved on to the next artifact which I happened to be standing in front of. They shoved me again (are they BLIND?!) and I got my picture:

I hate tourists.

It was very hot, and my throat was bothering me, so I just slumped around the whole time. Though I did enjoy learning the little fun facts about the Coliseum. Ex: There are so many holes in the Coliseum walls because the marble it is made of was chiseled off and stolen for use elsewhere.

We then walked over to the Forum, stepping over rock paths that were laid in ancient times. Neat-o!

We saw many more ruins at the Forum, including where they burned Julius Ceasar’s body! That was cool. Here it is:

Truthfully, after a few tours of ruins…they all just look the same. I can appreciate what was there and the stories, but on a hot day, I was being very negative in my head.

Nicole sensed we were wiped, and we moved on to the Pantheon. This was the most impressive sight of the day! The Christian art inside was absolutely beautiful. There were some paintings, sculptures…

You’d think after seeing tons of Catholic/Christian art all over Rome, they’d start to look the same after a while. I mean, how many versions of Jesus in metal or bronze can there be? It’s astounding that each piece of art is so different from the next, yet its equally magnificent. Art is amazing in how subjective it can be in it’s creation and interpretations. Talking side by side with my classmates sometimes about what we believe a painting is trying to say or express about God is one of my favorite happenings while looking at art. I’ve learned so much about these people and myself by comparing notes that way.

This is the inside of the Pantheon. One of many views of this circular spectacle of a building.

Even though my throat was sore, and my arm carried remnants of random tourist sweat droplets, I was really glad we saw the Coliseum, Forum, and Pantheon. Some of the things we’ve done in Rome I’d say one could skip if he were only coming for a few days, but seeing the Pantheon at the very least is a must for any trip.

Touring Pompeii

*There is a questionably inappropriate picture of scandalous artwork in this post, just warning ya!*

After a very long trip up and down Mt. Vesuvius, we headed over to Pompeii.

I still doubt this choice was a wise one, because all of us had just completed a major task. Now we were expected to tour a ruined city? Pfft. Buy me some gelato, then we’ll talk.

Our poor tour guide. His enthusiasm for Pompeii far exceeded ours, and he constantly paused for some sort of group wide gasp…and was instead greeted with our charming yawns. He also had an extremely thick Italian accent that I couldn’t decipher. Sorry, Antonio.

The sights were really cool, though! We toured a men’s health club/spa. They had steam rooms, indoor pools, snack bars, and even indoor plumbing!

We also toured a brothel. On the walls were pictures of certain “services” that could be offered, and corresponding numbers to the service. It was essentially the first dollar menu.

We saw some artwork that somehow escaped the ash and pumice that might have otherwise destroyed them. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see the people of Pompeii knew how to show depth perspective in art. See how the threshold painted is on an angle? And those Renaissance people thought they were so cool when they discovered this…Amateurs…

It was so interesting to learn that Pompeii was using indoor plumbing and art techniques that weren’t utilized for hundreds of years after Pompeii was ruined!

My favorite part was seeing actual human remains. When the civilians ran from the eruption, they collapsed from the intense heat. They were naturally preserved under pumice and ash that were hardened over centuries.

What is left of them are contained in glass cases. As I came upon one, I stared down at a man whose fists were clenched and whose face bore a mask of clay that showed his furrowed brow and final expression of deep fear and distress as he passed. His teeth, still intact, are visible between his crusted lips, and the curved bones from his fingers have been dusted off. This man, still wearing his belt, was just like every person who came to see him, only he thrived in this world long before his visitors did.

His remains were a graceful reminder of the great equalizer— reminders of how similar all people are. We may be from different countries and speak different languages, but at the end of the day, we all suffer somehow. We may not all face a volcanic eruption, but we all feel. We all have bore the same distressed expression as this man, clenched our fists in anguish and experienced the hardships of life. It’s beautiful to think that this man, though silent for centuries, is still serving a purpose: to remind others of our shared mortality and shared purpose.

It was so incredible to think, “This man was once alive!” I couldn’t believe I was standing before a real person. My heart ached for this man.

Though tired and very hot, I was touched by this experience. It was humbling to be in a ruined city, as it made me think of everything I have, and how instantaneously I could lose it. I am so grateful for all that I’ve been given.

I climbed Mt. Vesuvius!

After two very long days in Capri and Positano, I was physically spent. So when Randy and our tour leader Alli constantly warned us that this climb would be the most strenuous and taxing event of our entire trip I started to worry about this day. To top it off, that day was supposed to be the hottest day of the summer, and the last eruption of Vesuvius wiped out any form of vegetation that might provide shade.

That’s right. I had a date with an active volcano, no shade, and no inhaler.

I heard from one of the girls, who had previously accomplished this daunting feat, that if I didn’t want to go through with the hike I could stay at the cafe/gift shop at the foot of the climb. As I crawled into bed the eve before, I wrote off this adventure in my head, “You’ll just sit in the cafe, Kayla. No sense making yourself sick worrying about it. You’re not losing anything if you don’t go…”

I alerted my friend Jen about my decision and she said, “I thought that too, but I also didn’t come all the way to Italy to NOT do this.” …Dang, do I hate it sometimes when people are rational.

During the hour and a half bus ride to the active volcano I experienced heart palpitations. Doctors say this was a medical anomaly, to have experienced multiple heart attacks in one sitting –

Just kidding. My heart was simply pounding.

Side Affects of Being A Nervous Nellie Who Signed Up To Climb Up A Volcano: Shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, nervous laughter, inappropriate jokes, thoughts of suicide, mild cardiac arrest, and alerting an entire bus of one’s concerns.

We were driven up 3/4 of the way up the volcano, and exited the bus onto very dusty gravel. Everyone started trucking it up the dirt path, and I allowed myself to be last in line. I figured, “If I’m last, I can catch anyone who might trip and roll down the mountain. That’d make me a hero!” But truly, I knew I would fall behind anyway, so why try to be cooler than I actually am and rush ahead to cough my way to the end of the line? Besides, most of the Vesuvius-participants did not believe in the concept of “breaks,” (Are they joking? It’s a hike up a VOLCANO not a walk to Baskin Robbins!)

A few men were standing at the entrance of the path handing out walking sticks of bamboo to anyone who wanted assistance in their climb. I did not realize 2 things: 1. You needed to tip them on the way back. 2. The sticks were probably for people with bad knees, arthritis, and senior citizen cards. Not 20 year old girls who are little sissies. My friend Becca blew out every ligament from her ankle to her knee two years ago, and not only did she not take a stick, but she didn’t even wear her brace. Yet, I took a stick. Come on, Kayla. Get it together.

Becca and I walked at a good pace and stopped at the point of the first hairpin turn, where we met up with our group. I said, “I thought you didn’t believe in breaks?” One girl responded, “You have to take breaks. Your lungs cannot adjust to how rapidly the air pressure is changing and you could get dizzy, pass out and vomit.”

“…Great, thanks for that.”

I still don’t believe this girl’s spiel, but she gave me more reason to take breaks. A small group of us climbed up slowly but surely, looking over Naples with more and more zeal to continue to the top!

 

(This is Becca, Audrie, Randy and I taking a break. Photo credit to Becca Meyer.)

When I saw the rest of the group at the top, I started running (stick in hand) screaming, “I DID IT! I CAN’T BELIEVE I DID IT!”

It was the best feeling in the world to prove myself wrong. I didn’t have an asthma attack, throw up, seize, die, nothing! I always stop myself from doing things that seem daunting, and this time I didn’t allow that. I beat myself, my toughest obstacle. I was so proud of myself. (Below is me with my friend Erin showing our superiority over this volcano.)

Side Affects of Proving The Negative Voice Inside Your Head Wrong: EUPHORIA.

It will forever be one of the greatest days of my life.

I learned something really important that day: How can you ever be content being at the bottom, when you’ve never seen the view from the top?

You can’t. :)

 

 

Capri & Positano Recap

The Amalfi Coast is the most beautiful place I have yet seen in this world. As I gazed down upon the Isle de Capri (Island of Goats), I was amazed that this place could have been for so long, so grand in all of it’s beauty, and I never even knew it existed.

The water is a fantastic, true blue, and the flowers that decorate Italy are twice as magnificent on the Amalfi Coast. I wish my family was with me to see it.

We took a chair lift up from the top of Capri, to an even higher part of the island, called Anacapri. I sat in a wicker seat for one as we were pulled up the mountain. The tour leaders of the tour group call it “Reflection Chairs” because the solitude of the ride, and the beauty you witness in silence brings most riders to tears by the time they exit at the top of the mountain. It was so beautiful. I could see the whole island on my way up!

It was a nice, peaceful moment after having spent a night in a hostel room with 12 girls, and sharing a bathroom with 30. This is a picture of one of the 6 bunk beds. My friend Ashley is peering out from the fort she made of sheets.

Oh, the hostel…what an experience. As if living with 11 other girls in a single room wasn’t daunting enough, I didn’t even realize we’d be sharing the hostel with tons of other teenagers and young people. Showering was even an endeavor. When 30 girls have to be on a bus to Positano beach by 10am, you could imagine the rush to the shower. Some girls even took up mirror space by putting on make up (for the beach!) and all I wanted to do was brush my teeth!

Anyway. When we arrived at the highest point of Capri, I stared down at the grottos we had passed earlier that day. What used to seem so big was now so small. It was a very profound moment, keeping with the feel of the rest of the trip. (You can see the stones from the first picture as little rocks next to my head in the second picture. Cool, huh?)

So far into the trip, I’ve had a camera-problem. I cannot seem to accept the fleeting nature of memorable moments. I’m very anxious to take a picture of every single sight, and document every single thought and feeling I’ve had thus far. This was especially hard for me in Capri, because it was so majestic, and all I wanted was for my family to see how amazing it was!

Afterwards, we came back down from Anacapri, and ventured to the shops in Capri. The amount of Limoncello and other lemon products around was astounding. There were whole stores dedicated to lemons – lemon candles, lemon drinks, lemon potpourri, and just about every cooking utensil with a painted lemon on it – lemons were ubiquitous there! The only experience I had had with Limoncello was a few days prior when a waiter gave us girls free shots at the end of our dinner. I took one sip and it was so strong that I couldn’t manage to drink any more than that one sip. It was startling.

The second day we went to Positano, which is a black sanded beach. The sand was SO HOT. I had to wear flip flops from my towel to the water because I was afraid of getting blisters on my feet!

 

This is our walk to the beach!

 

This is a view from the street, looking down on Positano beach.

 

Here are some flowers in Positano. This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip!

Later that day we ventured to a nearby panini shop in Positano that was very famous for their sandwiches. I got prosciutto, mozzarella, and pesto on focaccia bread and it was the best sandwich I’ve ever had! I never really liked sandwiches, but my discovery of prosciutto has saved me! It’s God’s creation: ham and bacon combined into one delicious taste. DOES IT GET ANY BETTER?

As I left the shop I heard a voice say, “Excuse me, are you Kayla?” I raised an eyebrow and said, “Yes?” This girl said, “I don’t know if you remember me…but we went to LeadAmerica together?” LeadAmerica is a scholarly camp for high schoolers that I went to in 2008. This girl Cara I haven’t seen since then! I was shocked — seeing her in all places!

Next I went on a boat to go cliff jumping (don’t freak out, I’m okay). I jumped off at 12 feet- it was exhilarating! I love the feeling I get when I’m about to do something nuts like jump off a cliff (again, don’t freak out, I promise I’m sane). When I jumped I screamed, “VIVA ITALIA!” Though my voice was sort of hoarse and it sounded like I was just screaming in a very husky, low, murder-y tone. I was quite embarrassed afterward. I always have random impulses to shout like that, and I always regret it. Oh, well!

After we went cave swimming – it was so awesome! The water was clear when you looked down, but a sea green all around. It was so beautiful. I felt like Ariel from the Little Mermaid! I may or may not have hummed “Part of Your World” to myself while swimming through the cave…

All in all, these two places were the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. It still astounds me that such a magnificent place could have existed for so long and not only did I just discover it, but I’m lucky enough to have seen it.

Day 5

Video Post About Day 4 & 5 in Rome!

After running from the ballet to the metro, I needed a good night’s sleep. I went out like a lamp — but I awoke starving! For some reason I was super hungry at New York’s dinner hour…so I shoved a granola bar (thanks Mom for making me pack those) down my throat and went back to sleep.

So when I got up, I knew I had to make my stomach happy again. Nutella time it was! Nutella is the most common word I’ve seen or heard here in Italy. It’s on everything! But I’m not complaining… This is the picture I took of my breakfast (so healthy, right?)

We traveled today to the ruins of the Trajan Market. It’s considered the first supermarket! Very cool.

The ruins had a museum that we ventured inside. It held lots of pieces of the old market that were found through digging. I touched a lot of things in that museum (haha) I couldn’t help myself it was so cool!

In the museum there were these random bottle constructions. It was a photographer’s dream, but it made no sense in it’s context. Then again…I didn’t really read the sign in front of these creations. Oh well, it was great eye candy!

ALSO RANDOM, these pictures around the museum! These Vogue photos were hung directly next to the artifacts. A lovely British man told me these were the photos of Bianca Jagger, Mick Jagger’s wife. Though I don’t know if she’s the one in the photos, or taking them. Lesson learned today: READ THE DESCRIPTIONS OF EACH PIECE OF ART. As you can see I had fun today regardless of my ignorance.

This was one of the coolest things I saw today. You can see the others looking into it in the first picture. I DID read the description of this piece and I fell in love with it’s purpose.

The description said, “Mirror of time is the conclusion. It’s not a piece of art. It is where you start thinking. It is a place where you look at yourself, and visualize yourself in the present. You look at the surroundings, ancient Rome, and you dwell on the past, you take your time. Then you reflect and look around. You start projecting yourself into the future.”

That quote says it all! The mirror shows you whats behind you, literally, to make you think of where you came from, and where you are going, knowing it is NOW that answers each of those questions.

Here I am at the “Wedding Cake” building, it’s nickname provided by visiting American soldiers. It’s such a grandiose building. I didn’t get a chance to go inside, but the outside was gorgeous!

Here are the “Goblets of Fire” that I refer to in my video. There is one soldier standing beneath each one (there are two) on the sides of the tomb of the unknown soldier, which has been guarded for years. On the right is a lovely photo of Jen and I next to the steps on the right hand side of the building.

This is the tomb of the unknown soldier. It’s at the top of the steps of the Victor Emmanuel National Monument, and directly in front of the rest of this humongous video.

This pasta dish has been present at every single dinner I’ve been at since I arrived in Italy. Carbonara, if you didn’t already know, is a pasta covered in egg-sauce with diced tomatoes and pepper. Tonight we had a group meal arranged by Randy, our program director, so our dinner courses were pre-selected. I didn’t know we would have multiple courses after this one, so I ate this entire dish. Then this bad boy showed up…

Everyone was freaking out — I was overwhelmed with excitement, this meal looked delicious! Everyone else though…most were upset that the prawns shrimp had eyes. As usual, I volunteered to be the brave one, and chopped off the heads of all the shrimp for  my table mates. As much as I wanted to finish this whole plate, I sadly could not.

The best part of the evening was my first taste of Rose wine. So far on this trip I’ve had a glass or two of white (vino blanco), and a few sips of red (vino rosso). I like white the most, but Rose was nice!

I was lucky enough today to have gelato twice. We all had it for lunch (not uncommon here), and then I got some to settle my stomach. It has a very soothing effect…maybe because it’s so delicious and smooth. I had banana and vanilla flavors today. The banana  gelato tasted like REAL BANANAS! It was awesome! Vanilla tasted like cream, which was also quite tasty (as my mom would say).

I was urged by the girls to go out tonight, and we ended up walking all around the city for an hour or two. We stumbled upon a street fair that had live rock music, vendors that sold purses, shoes, and clothes, and there was also a carousel.

I decided to be impulsive and took off for the carousel. I jumped on and started going around…and then i saw the sign “1.50 euro.” Uh oh. I knew I wasn’t allowed on but I couldn’t get off! I tried to hop off two or three times but ultimately, I had to make a choice: Sacrifice my face on the concrete, or keep riding. When the ride stopped I jumped off to discover, of course, my friends who had stupidly joined me on the ride. The man running the ride started talking loudly to us in Italian, and we all stared blankly and walked off. My friend Jen who speaks Italian played dumb and later told us he said, “You have to pay. Do you understand?”

Whoops! Mi dispiace! (I’m sorry in Italian.)

Tomorrow we’re heading off to the Amalfi Coast for the weekend. Can’t wait!

Day 4

*Video link for Day 4 in Next Post!*

I know this disobeys my chronological order of posts, but I wanted to post some pictures from Day 3′s dinner. Just the group went out to dinner and we had a great time getting to know each other. It wasn’t until this meal that I started remembering to take pictures of what I eat!

I had tried Proscuitto my first evening in Rome, and it is now my favorite meat. It’s delicious! I was very excited to try mozzarella from Italy, but I’m sad to say fresh American mozzarella has too special a place in my heart. My friend Jen says they pasteurize the milk differently here, so that’s why it tastes different. Tastes more milky than cheesy, which surprised me since all of the cheese I’ve tried thus far tastes like American parmesan cheese! Regardless of all this Proscuitto & Mozz criticism, this appetizer was delicious.

This is Amatriciana. I’ve had this multiple times, since it’s one of the very few things on the menu that I recognize. It’s got bacon and onions chopped up in the hearty marinara sauce…it’s so delicious. It has some pepper and parmesan cheese on it, which I typically don’t like, but the Italians really know what they’re doing over here. My favorite part about being here is that I can go out to eat anywhere, and eat anything, and not have to worry about my stomach. The food is so fresh here, and I feel great.

My friends Jen, Molly and I went with our teacher’s daughter, Emily, to a ballet tonight. We got there an hour early so we could grab some food, and stumbled upon a “Unity of Rome Festival.” There were many tents with tons of options for food! Unfortunately, there was almost no one who spoke English here. We found a barbeque place who’s cashier spoke English well, so we took advantage of this by ordering Italian cheeseburgers. Mine was delicious! When I got it I first noticed the bread they used. I think I like potato buns better, but nice try Italy – still tasty!

After dinner we followed the smell of sugary-goodness towards this lovely young fellow staring into my iPhone as I snapped a shot of the pistachio-filling cannolis, lobster tails, and other pastries. I was very overwhelmed by the amazing smell. This guy spoke English and gave us his recommendations. Ultimately I went with the ever-so-flaky sfogliatellu (svoy-a-tell-ay is how you would pronounce it, according to Jen). It was a clam shaped, crusty-flaky bread covering a center of rich ricotta cheese. It was UNBELIEVABLE. This gentlemen heated them up for us, so when I took my last bite of a corner of just the crust, I was in heaven. I was surprised that even without the ricotta taste it was still delicious.

The ballet we saw was called “Giselle.” I was interested to see if I could figure out the story through the dancing, costumes, and scenery, having never been to a ballet (other than the Nutcracker) before. From what I understood, the story is about a peasant girl who is in love with a boy. The boy is tricked by another man, who also loves Giselle, into accidentally killing her. The second half of the ballet shows Giselle in the afterlife, and her longing to be with the boy. We had to leave early because it was 11:15, the metro was closing in 15 minutes, and the end of the ballet was no where in sight. What show takes a 30 minute intermission?! Giselle.

The theater was set up in the Baths of Caracalla for this engagement only. A red carpet was laid from the entrance of the ruins to the seats, and gelato and chips were just off to the side of this photo being taken. Emily, Molly, Jen and I had purchased the only 4 seats available, for 20 euro each. The seats were spread out amongst the last 4 rows in a section far off to stage right. When the show began, the overture was played (by a live orchestra, so cool!) and EVERYONE got up and moved into the unoccupied seats just rows ahead of where they started. For the first 20 minutes of the ballet every single person in the outdoor theater got up and obtained better seats. It was very frustrating, but at the end of the day I got to sit with my 3 buddies in 80 euro seats. Not bad!

It was certainly distracting to watch a ballet in front of such a gorgeous backdrop of these ruins! This is where Romans would come and bathe, socialize, and hangout. We’re going to tour here sometime next week. The show was spectacular, and the outdoor experience was something really special.

I was excited to go see the ballet most especially because I’m in a country of whose language I do not speak, and dance breaks all language barriers. Even though the audience was filled with Italian, English, French and Spanish speaking theater-goers, we all could experience the transcendent and universal language of music and dance. I was amazed at how much of the story I understood just from the movements on stage. I’ll always remember this experience.

:)

Day 3

Video Post About Day 3 in Rome!

One of the only things I ever knew about Rome before I came here was of the legendary magnificence of the Fontana de Trevi (Trevi Fountain).  It comes out of nowhere! You round a corner and BAM it’s there! So majestic. It’s truly an incredible sight. Everything I saw today (the pantheon, Trevi Fountain, multiple basilicas, and the Piazza Navona) was incredibly grand.

But first — can’t forget to talk about class!

That’s Randy, trying to figure out how to turn on the monitor.

Now, onto the beauty of Rome! I’ll show one picture per place as to not overload this blog.

Here’s me and Jen, making our first wish. You’re supposed to throw the coin with your left hand over your left shoulder. You’re allowed 3 wishes – 1 to come back to Rome, 1 for love, and 1 for good fortune/or good health (there was debate about the last wish). I don’t really like controversy, so I only made 2 wishes.

The almighty Pantheon! If you walk closer to the structure, you’ll see how old, detailed, and deep the front entrance is. Anything beyond that I couldn’t see. I believe we’re touring there soon, too.

I really enjoyed photographing this fountain. It was hard to get a picture without a tourist grabbing water from it — this was the best I could do! I have many more. I can’t wait to show everyone all of my pictures!

This was another magnificent fountain. It’s birth was in the the 1600′s!

I took a picture of this statue of The Virgin Mary in a basilica right across the street from the Trevi Fountain. You’re not supposed to take pictures inside, but I was astounded with the beauty of this statue. The picture does not do her justice.

This was another beautiful fountain in the Piazza Navona (along with the other one from the 1600′s.)

One of the other girls wanted to take some pictures of me because I had taken so many of the others in the group. Here I was enjoying some Dulce de Leche gelato (one of my favorite flavors in general.)

My camera really took stellar pictures today (Thanks Mom & Dad!….I mean, Santa!) Hopefully this one ends up on a brochure or website like Randy said.

I am absolutely exhausted.

Buona Notte!

Day 2

Video Post About Day 2 in Rome!

Bonjourno!

Since we got Wi-Fi installed today (Day 3), I’m only now just starting to post the happenings of the past few days. I’m a little groggy on the events of Day 2, but maybe these pictures will help illustrate what I talk about in the video.

We toured Rome, very generally, on a double decker bus and we plugged headphones into a jack that played stations of 8 or so different languages. It was hard to hear exactly what the recording was saying about these places, so I’ll try my best to explain. If I have no clue what I snapped a shot of…enjoy! Haha.

Here’s Nassau Coliseum. Just kidding! Sorry for the giant post in the center of the frame. I’ll take better pictures when we tour the Ruins in a week or so!

Apparently, this was built before Christianity was created, and it allowed the gods to watch over all 4 corners of the Earth (hence, the four sides of the tower).

I apologize for two things: 1 – for forgetting to crop my finger out of the corner of the image, and 2 – for forgetting the name and significance of this beautiful building. In all honesty, it’s impossible to remember it all. What’s valuable is appreciating how long this piece of art has been on this Earth, and appreciating too how much work it took for man to make something this beautiful.

This is the Victor Emmanuel Monument. It was nicknamed “The Wedding Cake Building” by American soliders because it’s gigantic, and white! It’s quite glorious as you encounter it’s sheer magnitude. The white marble around Italy reflects so much light that in contrast to the dark cobblestone ground, the structures built on top of the streets simply glow.

I love the aqueduct system. Getting water from these mini fountains was an important aspect of social and political life back when Rome was a Republic. The water is free, and citizens had access to 300 gallons a day – keeping the citizens happy, and therefore maintaining the stability of the Republic of Rome. People would gather around their neighborhood spout to hangout so to speak, while gathering water for the household. These spouts all over Rome, and the water is delicious. The water, bottled or from a wall, is so pure that it slips right down your throat. It makes drinking Poland Spring seem like a chore! It was awesome to grab nice, cool, FREE water and dump out old warm water every so often. Plus, I never feel like I’m “wasting” water when I grab it from the wall because it’s not a faucet, it’s going to drip into the ground if I don’t snatch it with my bottle!

This was by far the most majestic site of the day — St. Peter’s Basilica. I cannot wait to go inside of it. See what I mean by how Rome just glows? The white is so magical!

I took many photos of buildings and sights we passed while on the bus, but most of them did not come out so well. Thankfully, I remembered my camera today (Day 3) and have over 300 photos!

Thanks for reading! Grazi!

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