Sunday, July 10, 2011

Culture Shock

It's real; and this Sunday afternoon, I had my first dose of it.  After a week, I finally feel like I'm beginning to settle in and am steadily learning my away around the city (buses are still scary- more on this later).  I don't necessarily feel like a tourist as much as I did upon arriving after being stopped more than once while walking on campus and asked where the Vatican and other popular sites are.

The flea market was more than I could handle.  I know this is a pretty "normal" way for people to shop in Europe, but I can only describe it as thousands of people and complete chaos.  It's scorching hot, dirty, smelly, a breeding ground for thieves and pick-pockets, and down right uncomfortable.  We hopped the same bus assuming it would circle back to Trastevere but ended up taking us back to the terminal in the heart of the city.  This was also the first time I felt truly lost here.  (Side note- The websites and maps for the metro and train systems are god awful) Before getting on we had asked the driver if the bus stopped at Via del Corso, but he was annoyed when we decided to go home after he had helped us.  Essentially, I was finding it very difficult to communicate with the drivers at the terminal and it took us over an hour to find the correct bus home.

Sunday is also considered a holiday in Italy, and literally everything, I mean everything, is closed.  Shops, grocery stores, cafes- you name it.  It's been a frustrating day, but with that said... you should:

1.  Wander with your map and learn the city, alone
2.  Get out of your comfort zone
3.  Learn the language, try it, speak it- you will get so much more respect
4.  Don't be afraid of public trans, you'll always find your way home
5.  Go where the locals go, they're generally friendly but don't be offended by those who aren't

I still have to:

1.  The Vatican- Sistine Chapel, museum, St. Peter's
2.  Borghese Gallery, villa
3.  Go inside the Colosseum
4.  Capitoline Museum
5.  Piazza Navona
6.  Florence
7.  Amalfi coast, Pompeii
8.  Venice- maybe

Beautiful Tivoli

Tivoli:  A small, hilly town about thirty minutes outside of Rome, home to Villa d'Este and Hadrian's Villa.  I'm really just going to let the photos speak for themselves since both of these UNESCO sites were unreal.

But first, we enjoyed a real five course Italian meal!

Villa d'Este (Renaissance)

Le Cento Fontane from The Lizzie McGuire Movie!

Hadrian's Villa (Emperor Hadrian's villa, Roman)

This is summer school?

Truth be told, I forget I have to attend class four days out of the week (no Fridays woop!) and stroll in just before they begin.  "History of Ancient Rome" is your standard history class and meets Monday through Thursday from 4 to 5:45 PM; however, the time never interferes with dinner plans because it is taken so late, after 7 PM.  I adore my professor and definitely appreciate anyone who can teach history in an interesting and story-like manner- he's great!  It's an entirely different experience when you can walk to any place studied in class and see it in person; for example, we have two field trips to Ostia Antica and even Pompeii, is this real life?

"Art History:  Ancient Rome and Its Monuments" compliments my other course so well.  Get this, it's onsite, basically Rome is our classroom!  I can't even take notes half of the time because I'm so intrigued by the history that I can see, walk on, and touch.  Incredible.  We meet only twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursday from 9 to 12:45, it's intense.

Our first class met at the Foro Romano, the Roman Forum which has the best ruins, hands down, of Rome and gives you an amazingly clear view of how the city originally looked.

On top of the Palatine hill
Garden of the Vestal Virgins

One last interesting thing, Rome has been built and rebuilt and much of the marble that once covered what remains of the temples was stripped away during the Renaissance for other building, art purposes.

Gnocchi for dinner- simple & perfect

I haven't eaten one meal inside here!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Catherdral of St. Paul, the Catacombs, St. Peter's & the beach

Apologies, all of these events took place last weekend.

Saturday morning I participated in the Christian bus tour sponsored by my school.  Yes, I did get to wear a headset to hear my tour guide and looked like a fool.  I'm over it.  The Cathedral of St. Paul was our first stop and was completely breath-taking.  I was gaping at the beauty of the main entrance that I didn't even take a picture of it.  I can't tell you much about it because my little headset gadget kept shorting out, but there is a portrait of all 200 something of the popes surrounding the walls of the cathedral.


We hopped back on our tour bus and headed to the Via Appia, which reaches all the way to Southern Italy, to see the ancient catacombs.  On the way we saw the original Roman walls and barely fit through the tiny arch to enter the road.  I think this is how I always pictured Rome outside of the city, as sprawling countryside with cyprus and olive trees lining the roads, and it is exactly like this.  Beautiful.  It was incredible to be walking on road that is over two-thousand years old and is such a distinct part of Roman history.

I would describe the catacombs (no pictures allowed) as an underground maze of tombs that you would not want to be stuck alone in.  They're some obscene amount of kilometers below the ground and were built by the early Christians to house the tombs of the dead- average citizens, wealthy families, and popes.  We could only go down to the second layer with most of the tombs having been raided by barbarians.  Super cool.

The tour ended at St. Peters; however, I didn't go inside because I plan to stay an entire day at the Vatican museum and see the Sistine Chapel (I also wasn't digging the walk home if I had gone inside).

Vatican City is the smallest independent country, crazy right?
My Fourth of July was spent dipping my toes in the Tyrrhenian Sea and screaming Katy Perry's "Firework" at Sloppy's with my comrades from the USA.  Two buses, a long metro ride with entertaining homeless gypsies, and a short walk took us to the coast.  It was cloudy and full of annoying walking vendors but a great holiday nonetheless.

I have some catching up to do!

Ciao!  I'm writing multiple entries tonight because I finally have time to sit down, and I'm sure this is against blogging conduct, oh well.  I'm going to start with story time before we reach the educational portion.

Rewind to last Saturday:  Before I say anything else, Europeans know how to party... every night of the week... until 4 AM.  This is pretty standard.  Campo di Fiori is a piazza just over the bridge that is surrounded by bars and restaurants that generally attracts a pretty young crowd.  The original crew (that is the group of us that met upon arriving in the zoo- Fiumicino airport) are quickly becoming regulars at Sloppy's and The Drunken Ship which are both American owned and provide BP tables, classic.  You can also get any drink you desire in pitcher form for a grand total of 16 euros complete with large neon straws.

Me, Tara + half the crew last night.  These straws were larger than usual...

After meeting the owner of Sloppy's and accepting free shots, we wandered into a club with a crowd of men being denied entrance; whereas, we immediately jumped the line with no cover.  This clearly should have been a red flag:  dude fest.  The club may or may not represent all clubs in Rome; but for lack of a better word, it was creepy.  I did enjoy their choice of American music:  Black & Yellow... no.

We finally made our way into the VIP room when Tara was approached by an Italian fellow named Adriano.  Naturally, he was suave and charming and attempted to follow us out of the fire exit (don't do this).  Fast forward, Adriano insists on taking Tara out to lunch Thursday as well as giving her a tour of Rome from a different "perspective" on his vespa.  What this "perspective" is, we do not know.  We took to Facebook to provide an obligatory background check and have concluded that Adriano is significantly older, only wears suits, owns a collection of baller vehicles, and has several homes in Italy.  I'm also sure he is dapper and well mannered.  In other words, we have a Lizzie McGuire story of our own.  Tara, I hope you return alive.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

8 things you didn't know about Rome

1.  Time is not money-  I never noticed how in a rush I lived my life until now.  Time never seems to be of the essence here and it is perfectly acceptable to do almost anything at a leisurely pace and enjoy it along the way.  Dining is a prime example in that meals are such a process.  You can linger at your table long after you've finished your dish without the wait staff handing your check to initiate your departure.

The first restaurant we ate at!  Our cameriere still recognizes us!
2.  Don't take space for granted-  Everything is miniature.  The cars, streets, living arrangements.  This is possibly the most difficult cultural aspect to adjust to in that we always feel the need to have an unnecessary amount of space that only belongs to us.  Yet, personal space in general here is non-existent.  Riding the metro to the Spanish steps added to my second culture shock experience (Fiumicino airport still takes the cake) when I learned that although they work similar to the subways in NYC, people will literally cram into the metro cars until they physically cannot move.  I'm talking about being pinned up against smelly, sweaty crowds of people.

Madness at the Spanish steps
3.  You will walk your ass off- 'nuff said.  A mile or two to the nearest supermercato?  Did it.  And don't expect to find what you would at home.

4.  Food culture at its finest-   Life revolves around food in Italy.  People are always, always eating or drinking.  The mornings are spent sipping on a cafe with a croissant while most mid-day meals are taken between 11 and 2.  After 2, almost all restaurants and shops close to allow the staff naps or prepare for the dinner rush.  They all reopen around 5 or 6 and Italians will eat their meals until 10 pm!  You can also walk around with open drinks, fab right?

5.  The social scene-  Italians do not respect public drunkeness!  They don't drink to get drunk like the college students in the US.  It's kind of refreshing for a change.  Nightlife begins around midnight and the entire city comes alive in the streets.  Evenings are so social and vibrant.  Cannot get enough of this!

Drinks on the Tiber!

At a club on the river- celebrity status?

6.  The people-  As with any European country, Americans receive different reactions from different people.  I think language and social etiquette are the big ones in Italy in that there are customary ways to greet each other and act in public.  Most Italians know English very well but genuinely appreciate when visitors attempt to speak in Italian and are more willing to speak with you.  Personally, I knew I would be shy about speaking but realized I know so much more Italian than I thought I did.  I get nervous and struggle for vocab at times, but I'm the only one who speaks Italian and am therefore the designated translator.

7.  La bella figura-  I think I'm in love (and obsessed) with the way of life here.  Everything is beautiful.  You live among ancient ruins, art, and breathtaking architecture.  The food really is more amazing than I could have ever imagined and just plain fresh.  You can even drink out of the fountains on the street (everyone does this).  I'm beginning to wonder if I can ever come back...

8.  Because I like even numbers-  Italian men are comical and over-the-top.  It's true, ladies.  They're both flattering and annoying.

View from the Aventine
Ci vediamo!  A pizza post is in the works...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

So much to say...

It's been two days and I don't even know where to begin.  I'll start with the airport.

I look like a lost child in any airport.  I've never traveled or flown alone, for that matter, and this journey was absolutely terrifying (at first).  Chicago and Detroit weren't too difficult to navigate, but Fiumicino in Rome was complete chaos and a sea of people speaking anything but English.  Needless to say, the airport is not a good representation of Italy.  Luckily, I was able to find others my age who looked equally as lost and discovered they too were JCU students!  Smooth sailing all the way to the school.

I'm living in the Gianicolo apartments in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome which is on the opposite side of the Tiber river from all of the famous monuments, etc.  Trastevere is exactly how you would imagine Rome- winding cobblestone streets, quaint shops, gelaterie, insane traffic, and more restaurants than I could ever visit in my time here.

The courtyard
Video coming later...

John Cabot has two campuses (Gaurini and Tiber) and both are within a short walking distance.  The walk is breathtaking, and I think only this video can truly capture it.

Another video comin' atcha...

Me, Allison, Tara, and Allie
Penne all'arrabbiata con vino della casa

After arriving on Thursday, we immediately had orientation at the Tiber campus on Friday.  The group of friends I made shortly after arriving are some of the most amazing and hysterical people I have ever met.  In short, our walking tour when a little something like this...

Circus Maximus
La Fontana di Trevi
The Pantheon

Time is flyin' already so I will leave you with this little taste of Rome, and I already have my next post in the works!  Ciaoooo!