Monday, April 9, 2012

Buona Pasqua!

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter! I can’t believe it is April! (I think almost every blog post starts with “I can’t believe it’s_______” ha ha!) I have about 1 month left to explore this beautiful city! So I’ve been taking advantage of every opportunity! There is so much left to see, I know I will never be able to see it all, but I hope to see as much of it as possible, and continue to explore Rome, and the rest of Europe for the rest of my life! Last week my roommate Alicia and I were on our way to the library to do some research for a big paper due at the end of the semester. But Roma didn’t want us to study so she graced us with some good luck… The library was closed! So we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Rome. And I think one of the best things about Rome is that there are THOUSANDS of churches! And most of the them have free entry, and they have the most amazing works of art inside! Some of the greatest artists of the Renaissance left their fingerprints all over this amazing city in small corners of little churches scattered all throughout the city! In a couple hours Alicia and I saw about 6 churches, all with something unique and interesting to offer. I have a map of Rome that marks most of the churches in the city, and so my goal is to see as many as I can before I leave!

Speaking of fingerprints, I had mine taken yesterday! Since my trip to Rome is longer than 3 moths, I had to apply for a “Permit to Stay” when we arrived. Once I applied, they gave me an appointment to have my fingerprints taken. And let me tell you, it was even worse than waiting at the MVD (which, if you’ve experience the MVD in New Mexico, you know what I mean!) First, it took us an hour to get out there, then I waited for 2 hours to have my fingers pressed up again this machine (Italy doesn’t do old-school ink fingerprints!) and then another hour to get back to my apartment. Four hours of sitting and waiting. It was exhausting, but I didn’t do anything!!! So no killing my roommates for me… now they have my fingerprints!!

Friday was Good Friday, so after my fingerprints were taken, we went to see the Pope! Every Good Friday he does a service/mass/event at the Colosseum. Of course it was PACKED with people, but it was a really neat experience! I actually saw the Pope in person! Good ole’ Bene the XVI. Apparently he is an ex-Nazi... I can’t even imagine all the work he’s done to be Pope. He is the most important living person in all of (Catholic) Christendom. What all does it take to be Pope? I don’t even want to know! Later that night, on his way back home to the Vatican, he drove by us surrounded by about 20 cops, and inside a black car. But the light was on in the car so we got to see him again! Then on Easter, Alicia and I went to the Easter service at Santa Maria of Trastevere, our neighborhood church. It was built in the 4th century, and has mosaics from the 12th century: pretty incredible if you ask me! I could understand very little of the service but it was nice to be back in a church! Afterwards my roommates and I had a nice little Easter brunch, and then we relaxed for the rest of the day. The Monday after Easter is a holiday in Italy. Easter is called Pasqua, so Monday is called Pasquetta, “Little Easter”. On Monday, EVERYTHING is closed and the people of Rome go outside and spend the day in the sun. They go to the park or the beach or somewhere nice and have a picnic! So Monday we went over to our favorite park, Villa Pamphili, and ate food, played Frisbee, and just relaxed. It was a really nice weekend and I’m not ready to start school again! At least we have a 4 day week! I hope everyone had a beautiful, relaxing Easter weekend!! Until next time… xoxo

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Break!

Oh man, a lot has happened since the last time I wrote!! After Victoria left I had about one normal week before the craziness began again. The first weekend in March my program went to Florence and Venice for an extended field trip! I hadn't been to Florence yet, so I was really excited to go there! We saw lots of churches and several museums. I went with my fashion class to see the Salvatore Ferragamo museum, and that was pretty amazing! He invented so many shoe styles that we use today... like the cork-wedge heel! And he did some other really interesting stuff so it was cool to learn about him. However my favorite thing I saw in Florence was a statue, a really famous statue... Michelangelo's David! It was SO amazing! And SO huge! I just don't understand how you can take a block of marble and carve this incredible person out of it! I absolutely loved it! Another interesting place we went was this apothecary that used to be attached to a church, Santa Maria Novella. The apothecary was built in 1200, and belonged to the church. They had their own herbs, garden, etc and made all of their own products. Eventually they opened to the public, and people came from all over to buy items there! It is still open and they continue to make ancient recipes! It was pretty cool!

After Florence we went to Venice. Although I had already been to Venice, it was really cool to go back and see it in the day light. We spent a couple days in Venice, and we went to several churches and museums, things I didn't have a chance to do during my one night I was there for Carnevale. I absolutely LOVE Venice! I love the water, the canals. I love getting lost there (which is INCREDIBLY easy to do!). And I love the feeling there.. you feel secluded in this old world, still surrounded by the beauty of a different time. I don't know how to explain it, but I just really like it!!

After we got back from our school trip, we had only one week until Spring Break! So we started making plans. I decided to go to Spain with 3 other people in my program. We went to Barcelona for a couple days, and then Ibiza for a couple days! I think I preferred Barcelona. It was so beautiful there, the weather was amazing, and I loved seeing all the Gaudi buildings! The Sagrada Familia was SO gorgeous! It's mind-blowing. I just don't understand how people design and make these things! The Sagrada Familia is a church designed by Gaudi, and was started in the 1880's, and it's estimated completion date isn't until 2026!!! Along with the Sagrada Familia, we saw 2 other houses designed by Gaudi, and a Palace and a Park. The park was really cool because it was on top of a hill that over looked Barcelona! The park itself was beautiful, surrounded by a beautiful view! Barcelona also has a castle, on other hill, that we hiked up to one day. And then from each hilltop you can see the ocean! Beautiful views and beach all in one place! I loved it!! A very minor side note is that Barcelona also had a Starbucks.... my first Starbucks since I left in January!

After a couple days in Barcelona we flew to Ibiza, one of the small islands off the coast of Spain. Ibiza is known as a summer vaca spot, with beautiful beaches and insane European super clubs. Sadly, since we were there during the off-season, most businesses were closed, it was even hard to find a place to eat dinner!! So we spent those days lounging on the beach. The water was turquoise blue, so gorgeous, but super cold!! So after the party days in Barcelona, and the lounging days in Ibiza, we were all ready to come home! We made it back to Rome for St. Patty's day, and then school started up again!

This week we have Midterms, so we're all spending our evenings preparing for those! I can't believe it's been 8 weeks! It's half over already! So I'm off to continue studying... wish me luck!!


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ciao Ragazzi!

Today, Spring Break starts!!! I'm headed to Spain for the week, but will write about all my adventures when I get back! I hope everyone has a nice and relaxing break!!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Where is the time going! I’ve been here almost 6 weeks, and can’t believe how fast the time is flying!! It’s been quite a while since my last update, and a lot has happened!

Every weekend there seems to be some sort of celebration (or we make our own celebrations…) but the biggest party I’ve been to has been in Venice. A small group of us went to Venice for the Carnevale celebration! And it was amazing! It was like one big Halloween party for the whole city. It was a fast and furious trip; we left for Venice on Saturday morning, and arrived around 5pm. First of all let me say that Venice is incredibly beautiful! There isn’t a single car in the town… people just have BOATS! I would love to live like that. We got there towards the end of the day, and the city was beautiful with the sun going down around us. The canals were a tad creepy after the sun had gone down, especially since I was in a city I knew nothing about… but all is well… I survived. After finding something to eat and grabbing coffee, we went in search of masks. The streets were full of people, some in elaborate costumes that probably cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and others were in nothing but their street clothes and face paint. And I think everyone was drunk. At 7 o’clock. Even the children. Just kidding… But seriously.... But I guess it made it all the more exciting! The main streets were also packed with vendors selling costumes, wigs, masks, and souvenirs. We picked out masks, and the party began! We made our way to San Marco Piazza, and that was breathtaking. It was an interesting tourist experience because I had never been to Venice before, and my first impression was after dark, with the streets crowded with crazy, costume-wearing people, and huge bands and projector screens in San Marco Square. It was the most fun, but it was different! I’m excited to go back and see it in the daylight, with normal people walking about. But on with the party…  Cities in Italy are structured around several “piazzas” which are like squares. Usually they’re by churches or big monuments, and they’re central to city life (at least they were in the olden days). So for the Carnevale celebration there was a different party in each piazza. Some had big stages with DJ’s or dancers and other entertainment. Other squares just had people hanging out. And in some places, there were people who had brought their own sound system and played whatever music they wanted while we danced around like crazies. And that’s how most of the night went. There was this group of people that were dressed like sailors, and they had a big cart that housed a big speaker and their iPod DJ. The cart had wheels, so we basically followed them around the city all night long! And danced! And it was awesome. We went to Venice with no hotel, hostel, B&B, etc. so our only option was to stay up all. night. long. And that’s exactly what we did! Sunday morning (after being up for over 24 hours) we grabbed pastries and coffee at the train station, and our train left Venice at 9:20am. It was a 6 hour train ride and we slept the entire way. I think we were all asleep before the train even left the station. Good thing no one wanted our stuff, because they probably could have stolen it and we wouldn’t have noticed until we got back to Rome. We got into Rome about 3pm and the rest of the day was lazy. We did our best to recover from the party before classes started again on Monday.

And then I had another great adventure on Monday when my friend Victoria came to visit me from England. She is from England, but she studied abroad at UNM for a year, and that’s where we met! When I told her I was going to be in Rome, we made plans to meet up, and so Monday evening she arrived in Rome! It was so good to see a friendly face!! Someone I knew back home. She had never been to Rome before so I did my best to show her around the city. It definitely made me feel more at home with this place, knowing where I was going and how to get places… it was a nice surprise. I’m a local now!!! We ate LOTS of pizza and drank LOTS of Cappuccinos (Cappuccini is the proper way to say it in Italian because it’s plural…) but that’s what you’re supposed to do in Italy :) Vitoria stayed until Thursday afternoon, and I was really sad to see her go! (*Thanks for coming Vikki! Love ya xxx)

This coming weekend we have a program trip to Tuscany and Venice. We will have classes, and I have a presentation to give, so it won’t be all play, but I’m excited to be traveling more and going back to Venice! Since I was a kid, when learned that Venice was slowly sinking, it’s been my goal to see it at some point in my life. And I can’t believe I’ll be going twice!! I’m so blessed to be here, and am SO incredibly thankful for everyone who helped me get here! I won’t ever forget this time in my life, and hopefully I’ll continue to have some great adventures! 

*Pictures coming soon!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I still can’t believe I’m in Rome. It hits me at the weirdest moments, and at other times I feel like nothing has changed.  Although my Italian hasn’t improved much, living in Rome is definitely starting to feel a little more comfortable. Most people speak a little English, so I can manage. Sometimes I even forget I’m in Italy because 99% of the time I still speak English. But there have been some obstacles, and most people that you run into on the street don’t speak English, or they won’t put the effort into speaking English to talk to you. So there have been multiple occasions I’ve felt like an idiot because someone has spoken to me in Italian, and when I inform them that I don’t speak Italian, they grumpily walk off. But I’m picking it up a little at a time and hopefully by the end of the semester I will know a lot more than I do now!

My usual week consists of school during the day, and exploration at night. Some of these explorations take us to the local bars, where we stay up way past my usual bedtime… and sometimes it’s just a nice stroll around the city as we look for a good, but sill inexpensive place to eat. Our school building is in an area called the Jewish Ghetto. It’s not the ghetto like we think of in the US, it’s called the Ghetto because it’s a term that was used back during WWII and it stuck. It’s actually a really nice area of town right next to the river. All throughout Rome there will randomly be gold squares in the ground that have names and dates on them. At first I didn’t pay much attention to them, probably because I didn’t know what they meant… But they are markers of people who were taken during the Holocaust. In fact, there are two right outside the front door to our apartment complex. I (obviously) wasn’t alive during WWII, and it wasn’t fought on US soil so I’ve always thought of it as this war that happened long ago, far away... I’ve never really connected. But here, these constant reminders of the past have really caught my attention. I’ve always loved history, but here it’s not just history, it’s a part of everyday life.

These last couple weeks have been pretty low key. No trips or big plans. A couple days ago I walked around Rome on my own (Mom and Dad, forget you read that :)), and was pleasantly surprised at how well I’m starting to know the city. It was nice to spend some time strolling around, trying to permanently burn the images into my brain. I realized that 4-5 times a week I walk by a big landmark. Usually it’s the Pantheon, and as I was wandering I realized that people actually live their whole lives like this. I wonder if they have pictures of themselves making a wish at the Trevi Fountain. Probably not… it’s one of those things where you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. It made me so very thankful for this opportunity and all the people who supported me and helped make it happen! I still have several months, but I know it will go by too quickly. One of my professors lives here in Rome 6months out of the year, and lives in New York the other 6 months. I think that’s the perfect life! A villa in Italy to use as a summer home, or winter home… Sounds amazing!

I’m taking advantage of every opportunity to enjoy all things Italian, like pasta and gelato, but there are definitely some things that I’m starting to really miss! First of all, green chili. It’s crazy how much I miss it!! There’s not really anything spicy here. I did have some nachos the other day that had those pickled jalapenos, and that was nice, but there’s nothing in the world like a green chili cheeseburger. Which brings me to another point: cheeseburgers! I haven’t had one yet, but I’ve been told of several places that have really good burgers. So I’m going to have to try them out here pretty soon! I’m also really missing Starbucks. Here I’ve had the best Cappuccino I’ve ever had in my entire life, but there’s nothing like an iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks. There is no Starbucks in Rome, but I’ve heard that there’s one in Florence, so I’ll have to make a stop when I’m there! I had some oreos the other day, so that was a nice little treat!   

Last night was the Super Bowl, and being proper Americans, we had to watch it! So we found this Irish Pub that was playing the game on all the TVs in the Pub. The only problem is that due to the time change, they game started at 12:30am here… Which means that when I came home after Madonna’s amazing half-time show, it was at 3:00 in the morning. So I think my brain is a little bit fried from that late night! That’s all for now, I’ll post more again soon!

*One last note… It snowed here the other day! Which was really exciting! The last time in snowed in Rome was in 1984!! The schools were shut down and this whole weekend kids have been out in the streets throwing snowballs and attempting to go sledding. So it’s a little bit colder here than it usually is this time of the year, but it’s so beautiful!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


*I'm trying to upload pictures, but I'm having some issues... Hopefully they'll be up soon!*

Have you seen Under the Tuscan Sun? There’s a scene where Marcello and Frances are driving through Italy. As he’s speeding around she asks “Do traffic lights mean anything around here?” he replies “Sure, green light: avanti avanti. Yellow light: decoration.” “What about red light?” and he says “Just a suggestion”…. This doesn’t even come close to describing drivers in Italy. They’re crazy!! They actually do pay attention to traffic lights, but they take everything else as a suggestion. Cars swerve between lanes, or even drive down the middle of two; people cut each other off without blinkers and barely enough room; mopeds speed by cars, shouting and honking if a car gets in their way. I don’t know why people even have cars in Rome. The streets are so small and packed with people that cars squeeze by, almost running people and mopeds over.

Rome is much busier than I expected! There is a constant stream of noise. Outside our apartment there is a market every morning that has fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as meat, cheese, and bread. It’s amazing! However, in the mornings, we can hear the vendors getting ready, setting up, and the people on the streets. In the afternoon there are horns honking, people shouting (Italian’s talk REALLY loudly) and dogs barking. At night there’s bar noise, more car honking, more Italian’s yelling and even occasional construction (our first night they were doing construction outside our apartment at 1am)! It’s crazy because Rome is this bustling city, yet everywhere you look there is a reminder of the past. Walking down a street, where cars are speeding by and street vendors are trying to get you to buy a rose or scarf, you’ll suddenly come across some ruins, or the Colosseum… and it never ends. There are ancient temples that were enclosed and became churches, then renovated later and turned into theatres, and now they are museums or just ruins. There are decades and decades of years that this city has seen and survived, I can’t even wrap my head around it!

My first full day in Rome we had orientation. We walked around our neighborhood and I went to the Piazza Venezia and Colosseum. The Piazza Venezia is a HUUUUGEEE white building that the locals call God’s Typewriter because it’s so big. Apparently it was built just to say “look what Rome can do” but was later turned into a monument and museum to satisfy the Romans (who still hate it). There are two eternal flames that burn “until the last soldier comes home” and are guarded by military guys with big capes and guns! They’re like the soldiers at Buckingham Palace who don’t speak or move or barely even blink! I was there at the perfect time because I got to see the changing of the guards ceremony, which was very elaborate and interesting to watch.

From there I went to the Colosseum. It’s much bigger than it seems in pictures, and even more stunning than you can imagine! I haven’t gone inside yet, and I was running out of time, so I just took some pictures from far away, but I really want to go back. At the Colosseum, and all over Rome, there are guys dressed in gladiator costumes, and they try to get you to take a picture with them, and then the charge you a bunch of money! I wanted to take a picture with one, but wasn’t willing to pay so I’ll just have to settle for pictures of the Colosseum without the gladiators… I guess it’s a price I’m willing to pay J

Over the weekend our class took a trip up to Tivoli (tee-voh-lee) and saw some pretty amazing villas and ruins. We went to Hadrian’s Villa, or Villa Adriana (Italian version). This was a HUGE living complex that was the farthest a person could be and still be allowed to be a Roman Senator. Hadrian was emperor of Rome in the 2nd century AD, but he didn’t want to live in Rome, so this was as far as he was allowed to be. But this place wasn’t just for him. Everyone who was anyone had a villa there and could enjoy living there permanently, or just for vacation/get-away purposes. Hundreds of underground tunnels and passageways were built so that servants were never seen, but food magically appeared and rooms were magically cleaned. It’s amazing to think about the amount of money that went into this place. Now we only see ruin of brick and stone, but in Hadrian’s time every surface was covered in all colors of marble, mosaics and other decoration. Occasionally you get a glimpse of a small piece of marble or mosaic that still remains, but it’s hard to imagine what it would actually look like.

After Hadrian’s Villa we went to Villa d’Este that is up in the hills of Tivoli. This was a palace was built by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, a guy who was trying to be pope, but was denied 5 times! He was later named governor of Tivoli by Pope Julius III. Even though he never made it all the way to the top of the church ladder, he had TONS of money and built a huge palace with gardens and amazing fountains in the 1550’s. As a visitor you would be dropped off at the bottom of the hill, and as you made your way up you would encounter several different fountains and the sound of the water would grow louder and louder as you reached the top. This villa is preserved really well and was absolutely gorgeous. It’s interesting because when these gardens were being built, they would take pieces from Hadrian’s Villa to decorate Villa d’Este. So there are some pieces incorporated into Villa d’Este that actually would belong in Villa Adriana. Since Villa d’Este was on a hill, there is an incredible view of Roma!

On Sunday night a couple of us took a quick trip out to the shore. It was a short bus and train ride out to the beach. Unfortunately we couldn’t get down to the sand because they have it all walled off so you can’t go in at night, but we walked out on a dock/pier and took some pictures. It was dark but we all loved going out where we could hear and smell the ocean! It was beautiful and we hope to go back and make a day trip out of it.

I can’t believe all that I’ve done and seen so far, and I’m just getting started!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's Time!

In about 17 hours I will be leaving for Rome!! I'm flying from Albuquerque to Dallas, then to London,  and then to Rome! After 28 hours of travel I will finally be in Italia!

I'm meeting up with some other girls in London, and then in Rome a driver will pick us up and take us to our apartment, where we will meet the rental agency and sign the papers for our apartment! In two days I will be moving into my new residence, the place I will live for the next 5 months!

I'm excited, nervous, and I need to finish doing laundry so I can pack!

Wish me luck! I'll write again from Roma.

PS- This is where I will be living. Via Natale Del Grande, Roma, Italia