Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Arrivederci, Roma

My trip to Italy was more than I could have asked for. As everyone I know predicted, I had the time of my life and I am sure I will never forget my experiences abroad. I recommend a similar European experience to anyone and everyone and I think I might make it a point to prompt as many people as I can to go.

I am now home in my house, immersed in air conditioning and writing my final blog as a CAS in Rome student. I am no longer in access to my beloved place, the Piazza della Rotonda, but I can just imagine what is going on there. I am in Northeastern Pennsylvania imaging tourists in Rome, taking in all the action at the piazza, just like I did. I am quite sure that nowhere in the United States is remotely like the piazza and the Pantheon. I will miss them dearly as I speed down the well paved streets of my town where there is not a cobblestone piazza or 400 year old building to be found.

When I am in the grocery store again, I will not be able to avoid comparing it to the Italian supermercato and open air markets. While there is amazing food to be found in the United States, it is still not Italian food in Italy. When I am at the State College Farmer’s Market in August, I will be thinking about the Campo di’ Fiori market and wishing I had the same variety and choices. In the end, Italian food will always be my favorite and I am thrilled that I got a taste of Italy twice in my life.

The summer of 2009 in Italia has forever made and impression on me and I will never forget my experiences eating, spending time near the Pantheon, and everything in between. Arrivederci Roma.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Parting ways with the Pantheon

In the first week of our seven-week trip, every time I saw a monument, either new or familiar, I would be excited to know that it was my neighbor or was in the city I would call home for half of my summer. In the last week of this trip, I have noticed that when I see a monument all I can think is, "this is the last time I will walk by here, at least for several years." I hate to think that I will be driving by local dumps in my hometown in just one day instead of randomly walking by the Pantheon, as I have so often done on this trip.

The whole scene has a different feel to me, especially on my last day. When I walked through Piazza della Rotonda on my way back from saying goodbye to the Trevi Fountain, I found myself just staring at the structure. I was thinking about how much I will miss it. I will miss observing people in the square as they take pictures, eat, drink, etc. I will especially miss listening to people's conversations such as the day two men thought they had found the Parthenon.

The Pantheon and Piazza della Rotonda will always be close to my heart when I reminisce on the days of my Roman adventure in the city.


mMy last week in Rome has been jam-packed with finishing up shopping and site-seeing. To my surprise, I saw one of my favorite sites in Rome this week, the Bvlgari jewelry exhibit. Bvlgari is one of, if not the most, famous Italian jewelers. The exhibit of the exquisite jewels celebrates the legend's 125th anniversary. The setting at Palazzo delle Esposizioni makes the exhibit even better with its grand space and regal interior. The exhibition, entitled "Between History and Eternity: 1884-2009," showcases the finest pieces of jewelry from this company since its start so long ago. I saw all the jewels of famous celebrities from Elizabeth Taylor to Jessica Alba. Even though I was not allowed to take pictures in the exhibit, the jewels are forever in my mind. I do not think I will ever forget seeing over 177 carats of diamonds on one necklace for the rest of my life. Whenever I hear or see Bvlgari, I will think of myself walking though the exhibit when I was just a student in Rome.

European Eating

From Rome to Barcelona, the foods I have enjoyed in Europe were amazing. From the day I got here to the day I am leaving, I will have enjoyed everything I chose to nourish myself with. This past weekend I went on a small jaunt to Barcelona, Spain, to get a quick taste of another city in Europe. Tapas are the most popular way of eating in Spain. Tapas are small dishes at reasonable prices that allow you to order a variety and try an array of foods. When I was at a tapas restaurant in Spain, we ordered everything from mussels to potatoes to sausage then topped it off with a sweet sangria to make the best Spanish dining experience.When I got back to Rome this week, my class joined at our professors apartment for a wine and cheese tasting put on by an Italian native, named Lorenzo. It was the perfect end to a perfect trip. We got to try all different types of cheeses and jams with Italian breads. We also had Italian meats with different wines. As the main event, Lorenzo prepared us a fantastic pasta dish, an authentic Italian red sauce on rigatoni. I will miss everything about eating in Italy - the freshness, quality, and taste.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gotta love the Gold-digging Gladiators

Famous tourist spots always have the best gimmicks to assist you in spending your Euros. In the Piazza della Rotonda, just outside the Pantheon, are two Romans decked out in gladiator attire. Everyday, they will be there ready to badger you to take a picture with them. If you choose to take a photo though, it will cost you 5 five euro per person. I think that is a terrible value since they are far from authentic looking in their synthetic capes. You are better off just getting a picture of yourself with the Pantheon and saving your money to spend on some delicious gelato right there in the piazza. Of course there will always be tourist ready to take their picture with the faux gladiators, so as long as people keep spending their money, the gladiators will be available for a photo shoot.

Another money trap right outside the Pantheon next to the gladiators is the table of souvenirs. These stands are popular all over town, but you will mostly find them in prime tourist locations such as this area. They have a range of trinkets, from statues to books, but they are all outrageously overpriced. One of the statues of the Colosseo available outside the Pantheon was going for 45 euro. These items are the quality of what would be available in a common dollar store in the United States. If you are inclined to purchase, however, the salesmen would be more than happy to accept your money.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summertime on the Tiber: Food & Drink

Every summer in Rome, when the city gets too hot for nighttime eating, drinking, and dancing in the center of the city, the fun is moved down to the banks of the Tiber River. I was walking along the river last night and enjoying all the sights, sounds, and surprisingly the smells. From the Trastevere side of the river, just simply walk down the steep stairs and you will find yourself face-to-face with some unique Roman nightlife that almost any tourist would appreciate. Each bar and restaurant has a really cool set up along the river. They designed mini restaurants and bars specifically for their location on the river. Most of them have relaxing lounge style seating that is very inviting. When you are out at night after a scorching day in the Roman sun a cocktail, some light foods and a comfortable seat in the breeze of the river is all you need.

When I was walking along with some of the girls from the PSU nutrition program, we saw people eating french fries and immediately had a craving. When we found the stand we had a great surprise, they were also selling fried calamari in the same fashion. All they did was fill a cone shaped paper holder with your choice and throw in a skewer to eat it with as you walked the bank. I have yet to come across somewhere in the United States that sells calamari along side of french fries on a river bank at 11p.m. We also came across a lovely fruit stand with a watermelon carved to resemble the Colosseo (which is pictured above). Everyday I am in Italy, I find something better and better about the foods available in this wonderful country.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mapping out Michelangelo

As a mini-project in class here in Rome, we discussed the rhetoric of maps and then designed our own walks through Rome and drew out our route. I decided to use Michelangelo as my theme. My walk begins at Piazza San Bernardo at the "Moses Fountain." It is officially known as the Fontana dell'Acqua Felice, but commonly called the Moses Fountain by tourists. According to my guidebook, the fountain was sculpted by either Prospero Bresciano or Leonardo Sormani. This fountain is a "clumsy" attempt at recreating Michelangelo's Moses that is our last stop this walk. I thought it would be interesting to compare the difference in the skill of the replica and the real sculpture.

From the fontana, the walking route goes south down the Via Torino. On the way to our next destination, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, we pass the sprawling Piazza della Repubblica and the large black fountain in the center. Once we arrive at the basilica at the end of Via Torino, we will see the chapel inside that Michelangelo designed, called the Sforza Chapel. Even though it was built by Giacomo della Porta, it still has the style and inspiration of Michelangelo.

Next, we will pass through the Piazza Della Esquilino and head southwest down Via Cavour. About halfway between Piazza Della Esquilino and Via Dei Fori Imperiali, we will make a left onto Via Annibaldi. We will arrive at Piazza San Pietro in Vincoli and the church that houses Michelangelo's statue of Moses will be on the left. Besides this skillfully crafted marble statue, there is a relinquary of the chains that supposedly shackled Saint Peter in the Mammertine Prison. The prison is also a location we visited in our first days of class in Rome.

Remember, you can click any photo to enlarge it!
Sources: DK Eyewitness Travel: Rome; Rome.info; Frommer's: Rome Map.