Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I hope that this will be an excellent way for me to keep all of my friends and family up to date on my semester abroad in Rome. Please feel free to post any comments you would like, or shoot me an e-mail and I will try to respond as soon as possible. Also, if you click on each of the photographs below, it will display them at their full size.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The McPantheon

I slept in this morning for the first time this week and it was glorious. I rolled out of bed around 11:00 and got ready to head out. I met up with Monica and we headed towards JCU to use the internet because neither of us have access at our apartments (It has been a very difficult adjustment to make). We tried to find a place to eat on the way to school and walked around forever trying to decide where to go. Rome is crazy, every street you walk down there is at least 15 different places to get lunch or dinner, pastries, coffee, gelato, beer, wine, or any other kind of snack that you would ever want, so as you can imagine it is hard to decide where to go. Also, you can’t really tell which restaurants are going to be good and which ones aren’t so you kind of have to just pick one and try it.

We finally decided to stop off at this little restaurant near the river and it turned out to be a great choice. By the time we got there we were starving, so we got a couple of different kinds of pizza and a little bit of penne pasta with mozzarella cheese on it. It was delicious and the two of us stuffed ourselves and the entire meal was only 8 euros and 50 cents.

When we were done eating we went the rest of the way to JCU for a free tour that they had advertised. We showed up and saw that about 80 other people had the same idea that we did. It was a little crazy at first but the group eventually dwindled down a little bit and it was somewhat manageable. The tour guide’s name was Mossimo and he had a very interesting accent. Every time he would pause when he was speaking to us he added a little "ah" to the end of the last word he would say. For example, "This is the Pantheon-ah, but it is not the original structure-ah. It was rebuilt by a different artist-ah…" you get the idea.

This was near the beginning of the tour. Our group blocked pretty much the entire street.

Our tour guide Mossimo is in mid-sentence on the left. He was a great-ah, tour guide-ah.

We saw some very cool piazzas before we headed to the Pantheon, which was breathtaking, but at the same time not quite what I expected. I guess I didn’t realize that it was in a Piazza surrounded by different buildings and shops. You turn the corner and expect a huge opening with the Pantheon in the center of it, but when you turn the corner it looks like someone underestimated the size of the Pantheon, overestimated the size of the Piazza, and just barely squeezed it in to the small Piazza. This was only the first surprise. When you walk out of the Pantheon and look across the Piazza, there is a McDonald’s right in the center of the Piazza. It really kind of took away from the whole experience, but don’t get me wrong, the Pantheon is still completely amazing and probably one of the coolest things I have seen in Rome thus far.

This is the Pantheon. The McDonald's was about 30 meters to the right of me when I took this picture.

This is a view of the entrance to the Pantheon from the inside.

This is part of the ceiling in the Pantheon. It has a large opening at the center and the entire thing is made with and wet lime and volcanic ash to make it lighter.

This is a view walking out of the Pantheon. You can see the huge obelisk in the center of the Piazza in front of the Pantheon.

This is the base of the obelisk outside the Pantheon.

After that we kept up with the tour for a couple more stops and then started to get a little frustrated trying to keep up with the tour group so we decided to break off and check out this “mall” that had a bunch of shops in this cool old building. I bought a couple of dress shirts and some nice pants because I didn’t really bring a whole lot of clothes to dress up in and pretty much everyone does here do I got a few things so I didn’t stand out so much.

This is the inside of the "mall" that we stopped at after the tour.

Then we headed back home and decided to stop by this pizza place called Pizza Buona, one of the places that Monica’s brother recommended to us. It was just a small pizza shop but it was delicious. We waited for some fresh Margharita pizza and it was probably the best we’d had thus far.

Afterwards we headed back home to rest for a while, watched a couple episodes of The Office, and then decided we were going to go out for a little bit in Campo. We didn’t stay long but we did stay long enough to watch Monica use one of the “drinking fountains” that are all over Rome for the first time. They kind of look like a fire hydrant but have a little tube coming out of them that has water constantly running out. At first we thought that you were just supposed to use your hand to make a cup and drink from your hands but this is only one way to do it. We found out that if you plug the bottom, there is a hole in the top that will shoot the water out and that is what you drink from. We were very proud of ourselves for figuring this out (check out Monica’s Blog for the photos).

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Vatican...and More Gelato

Today I woke up a little early and Monica came down to my part of town and we did a little shopping. We wanted to take advantage of the nationwide sale before it was too late (we think that the sale is only going until Saturday or Sunday). Monica bought a really nice coat from one of the stores near my house to go along with her Euro-boots as she calls them. I didn’t find anything.

We grabbed some lunch a little later and then decided that we wanted to get a little more sight seeing in realizing that we actually had to start going to class next week. It was a beautiful day out so we agreed that it would be a great time to go and see the Vatican. We headed over that way. The Vatican is only a 15 minute walk from our campus and half of it goes right along the river. When we walked up some stairs towards the river and looked back we could see Via De Lungara almost all the way back to our campus, here is one of the photos.

The JCU campus is up this street on the left hand side.

We continued on our way along the Tiber and before we turned down Via De Conciliazione towards the Vatican, we saw this huge thing that looked like a castle. It was called Castel Angelo and we made a note to go and check it out later and continued on our way. We kept walking and turned down the road to head to the Vatican. When we turned the corner we saw it far off in the distance. I started walking and as I did Monica stopped and said, “Are you sure that’s it?” I said yes and continued walking. About 15 meters later (That’s right, I’m using the metric system now) she stops again and says, “I don’t know, I don’t think that’s it.” I just tell her to come on and as we get closer we are able to take the entire scene. It was incredible. We walked around the square a little bit just checking out all the little details on top of the columns lining the square. We didn’t actually go in the basilica this time but we know we are going to make it back again to check it out. After a while the sun started to go down and I tried to take a couple of pictures of the fountains in the square before we left.
One of the fountains in St. Peter's Square.
Me in front of the Vatican.
The same fountain as earlier, a little closer to sunset.

After leaving the Vatican we went and did a little exploring around Piazza Navona. We were a little disappointed when we first arrived in the square because the main fountain in the middle of the square, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers was in the middle of being restored as well as the face of the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone. We are hoping that they will finish their restoration efforts before we leave so we can see them without the scaffolding in front of them.

We headed back home and then decided to come back later that evening for dinner. We ended up eating at one of the restaurants in the middle of the Piazza, outside on the patio. It was a really nice evening out and there was a guy playing the guitar and singing American songs half the time we were out there. After that, and after having tasted gelato for the first time ever last night, we went back to the same gelateria to indulge in the Nutella gelato for a second night in a row. It was still delicious.

We ran into a few of my roommates when we were finishing up and finished the night with a beet at Abbey Theatre, a bar near Piazza Navona.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gladiator Scam Artists

Today was a very exciting day, we woke up and headed back to Campo Dei Fiori. It was kind of weird seeing it this morning because the entire square was full of vendors selling different kinds of fresh meat, fruits, vegetables and more, and two nights ago when we came out it was completely empty.

One vendor was selling fresh fish and had a whole swordfish propped up on one of his tables. When someone would buy some he would lay it down and slice off a portion and give it to them. Before it was cut up the whole fish was probably around 7 feet long.

We looked around at a few shops and met up with Monica's roommates. One of her roommates told us that she almost got her wallet stolen by an old woman with a blanket. The woman came up to her holding a large blanket and pushed the blanket up against her and started sticking her hand in her purse. Luckily her friend realized what was going on quickly enough to pull her purse away.

For lunch we went to a little walk-up pizza place back in Trastevere. I ended up getting a sausage and tomato pizza and Monica and half of her roommates picked out a pizza that they thought had pineapple on it. We stepped right outside of the pizza place and ate our pizza before heading out for the afternoon. Monica’s roommate Krista had eaten about ¾ of her slice of pizza and then said, “I don’t think this is pineapple on the pizza.” And Monica and one of her other roommates agreed and then figured out it was diced potatoes…kind of the same thing. My pizza was delicious Then we headed off to find the Coliseum.
We passed through Area Sacra again, this time during the day, and made an interesting discovery. A couple of posts ago I told you about some ruins that we found in the middle of the Area Sacra and posted a picture. Today we found out that these ruins were actually a cat sanctuary. We are not quite sure how it came to be this or why there were tons of cats just hanging around but it was one of the strangest things I had ever seen. At first glance it is really easy to miss most of the cats as they are just dispersed throughout the whole area. Then you look a little closer and see them everywhere. A very strange sight.

This is me outside the pizza place near our school.
This was just one of the many cats that inhabited these ruins.

This is the same shot of Area Sacra from the other night, we didn't see a single cat the other night.

After leaving the cat sanctuary we continued on our quest for the Coliseum. We were on a very busy road with huge buildings on either side of us as we headed down Via Plebiscito and then we were met with another unexpected surprise. As we emerged from between the buildings the Altare della Patria or "The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" appeared, towering in the distance. It was amazing, I don't even think that any of the photos I took can do it justice. After spending about 45 minutes taking the whole thing in and taking a ridiculous amount of pictures, we decided to continue on our quest to find the Coliseum. (Later we were kind of disappointed to find out that this monument was not centuries old like pretty much everything else in Rome. It was built in 1920.)

There was really no where to stand to take a picture that show the entire monument but I thought that this one did a great job of showing how massive it was.
This is me standing in front of the front gate.
Me at the top of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

This view gives you some idea of how big Rome actually is. Every direction you turn the city expands out into the distance. It was incredible.

We continued around the corner of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and could see the Coliseum in the distance. On the way there, there were these areas with preserved ruins that just expanded out in the distance. It looked like there were little walkways where you could go down there and walk through them, but I got a few pictures and wondered how long they had been there.

This is just one of the many shots that I took of the ruins. The colors may look a little weird, sorry.

More ruins on the road to the Coliseum. We didn't have time to figure out how to get to the paths that run through them but we are planning on going back and walking through.

We continued on our way and could see the Coliseum getting bigger and bigger as we came closer and closer. Finally we were there and it was amazing. It was getting late so we didn't spend a whole lot of time there but we did have a chance to get a few pictures. It is pretty amazing when you are actually there, thinking about the history of it and you can't help but think about all the movies that have scenes in the Coliseum. (Gladiator, Ben-Hur).

This is the first full view of the Coliseum that we got. It is pretty amazing seeing it in person. (also, an interesting note: I guess there was a massive cleaning effort for the Coliseum that occurred a few years back and the cleaning was never finished. From this shot you can clearly tell that the right side was polished clean while the left side was left untouched)

Another view a little closer to the Coliseum. You can still see the cleaning line in this shot too.

I decided to take this photo because when we were there looking at it, it seemed as though the top portion of the Coliseum was going to topple over to the outside.
We also checked out the Arch of Constantine from a distance. We didn't spend a whole lot of time at either because we know we will be back when our friends and family come to visit.

As we were walking around the Coliseum, there were these two guys dressed up like Roman Gladiators. They were walking around asking people if they wanted to get their pictures taken with them. Then I, being the bull-headed male that I am thought, "Hey, wouldn't that be cool to get a picture with a gladiator in front of the Coliseum." (Who wouldn't have thought that, right?) Anyway I give my camera to one of the people in our group and let them take the pictures (and I'm glad that I did because it was this move that foiled their plan). We proceed to take a few pictures in traditional gladiator poses and then afterwards the tall one approached me and told me that I owed him 10 euro. I was a little shocked and knew I only had a couple of coins in my pocket, so I told him I would give him a couple euro or what the coins amounted to. He was not to happy to hear this and told me to give him "paper money." After I insisted that I didn't have any three or four times (I keep my "paper money" in my backpack) he grabbed the coins out of my hand and left.

This is the first photo I took with the Gladiator scam artists.

They even pulled Monica in for a couple. Afterwards they tried to tell me that it the photos cost 5 euros apiece.

After he walked off we all realized what the scam was. There is two of them and they go around asking tourists if they would like to take their picture with them in front of the Coliseum. Dumb tourists like ourselves say, "Hey, why not?" So one of them takes the tourists' camera and the other one poses with the tourist for a couple of shots. After the photo taking is done, the gladiators demand that the tourist pay them some amount of money to give them their camera back, basically to buy your own camera back from them. So you either shell out however much they ask for the photos or you say goodbye to your nice new digital camera. (Luckily we did not give him our camera so they really had no leverage in demanding money from us). It made me wonder how much they normally ask for, as I can imagine many tourists would be willing to pay quite a bit more to make sure they actually get their camera back. Live and learn I guess.

After spending a little bit more time around the Coliseum, we headed back to Campo Dei Fiori for a little bit of shopping. The whole area was packed. We also found out that Italy has two nationwide sales a year, during which pretty much every retailer marks down all of their products from 20 to 80 %. The first sale is this week and the second I believe is sometime in July.

After a little bit of shopping we headed back to my apartment and had dinner with all of my roommates. We cooked pasta and chicken with marinara sauce and had a little bit of red wine with dinner.

This is us in my kitchen hanging out before dinner.

After dinner Monica and I headed back to Campo Dei Fiori in search of gelato. We passed many Gelaterias on the tram and they were all closed so we were hoping that the one in Campo was still open. It was and it was glorious. It was our first gelato experience and I must say that I was very impressed. We each got a couple of different kinds in our cup, one was very similar to chocolate chip and the other was some kind of chocolate and vanilla mix that was made with Nutella and we loved them both. It is going to be difficult not to eat gelato every day of the week because there are Gelaterias everywhere.

This is me outside the first Gelateria I visited in Rome. Did I mention that gelato is AMAZING! I love it.

This is me diving into the gelato. I got a chocolate chip flavor and a Nutella swirl flavor.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Egg Pizza

Today was pretty uneventful. We woke up and headed to campus to work on some more paperwork for our Permisso to Stay. Afterwards we headed a place called Osteria. It was Monica, me, and three of my roommates: Mauro, Mark, and Sean. Most of us ended up getting pizza and we were a little surprised at couple of the choices that we had made. I ordered a pizza that said it had artichoke hearts, olives, ham, mushrooms, and egg on it thinking that it would just have all of those ingredients diced on the top of it. I was wrong. It came out and the pizza was split into 5 uneven sections. Each section only had one of the 5 ingredients on it. I wish I would have taken a picture of it because the section that had the egg on it was just a thin slice with a hard-boiled egg cut in half plopped right on top of it. It looked like my pizza had some weird, white growth on it.

This is me outside of Osteria where I got the egg pizza.

Later that day we walked around Trestevere a little bit and then headed home to take a short nap and give our feet a rest. At 7PM we headed to a restaurant called Popi-Popi for a big dinner sponsored by our program. It was 2 and a half hours long and I had the best Tiramisu I have ever had.

Afterwards I headed back to Monica's apartment with her and her roommates and we played cards for a couple of hours. Then I headed home on the number 8.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Our German Friend Bion

We woke up today around 8 and headed up to the JCU campus for a breakfast at 10 (based off the events of the prior night we tried to allot ourselves an ample amount of time to get there). We ended up getting on a bus that took us most of the way there and then got off and walked about 15 minutes to the campus. I was a little nervous on the bus because we hadn't bought tickets yet and I was just waiting the whole time for the Policia to pull the bus over and fine all of us...luckily that didn't happen. Most of the day we sat through some orientation sessions and they were a little boring, the best part was this clip that they showed us of how Italy was different than the rest of Europe. Check out this link if you want to watch it, it is pretty funny and scary how accurate it is:

After all of our meetings, Monica headed to an area across the river called the Area Sacra. It was a really busy square with shops all around it and right in the center was this sunken area with preserved ruins right in the middle of the square. We were amazed when we saw it because when you just walk into the square you can't really see it. It wasn't until we crossed the street and could see down into it a little better that we actually saw what it was. We took a couple of pictures but they really didn't do it justice. We went into a bookstore and bought a couple of maps to help me find my way home and then headed back.

This is a view of the of the Tiber river at night near Trastevere. It was amazing.

Here are the ruins that we stumbled upon when we arrived in Area Sacra. You can kind of see how we missed this section when we first entered the square.

This was one of the streets that we took coming out of Campo Dei Fiori. There were a ton of shops lining the street all the way into the Piazza.

When I got home, my roommates had already started cooking dinner. For our first dinner we had chicken and linguine with pesto sauce and some wine, it was pretty good. We bought a couple of bottles of wine and just kind of hung out in our kitchen for a while.

This is Mike preparing our first meal.

Afterwards we hopped on the train and headed down to Campo Dei Fiori to go to a couple of bars. We started out at a little pub called Sloppy Sam's and then I went over to a little more trendy bar called Magnolia and ran into Monica and her roommates. We finished out the night at The Drunken Ship and ran into a guy from Munich named Bion who was in town celebrating his friends 30th birthday. He followed us around for a while and tried to ditch the people he came with and we eventually had to make him go back with his friends. It was a pretty interesting night.

This is outside the Drunken Ship in Campo Dei Fiori.

This is four of my roommates and Bion. From left to right: Mark, Bion, Marko, Colin, and Sean. Right after this photo we made him go back and find his friends.

We tried to catch the night bus home and waited for about 20 min and it never showed up so we ended up just getting a taxi (so far no Taxi and no one we have talked to in our neighborhood has ever heard of the street we live on). He dropped us off like 4 blocks from our apartment. It was a pretty interesting night.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The First Night...

It was a long first night... and there was a lot of walking involved. Four of my roommates had arrived by about 4pm so 3 of them and I set off to walk to the John Cabot campus and see what else we could find. We ended up walking for about 5 hours and got completely lost for a while and only found our bearings when we hit the Tiber River. The main problem is that none of the maps of Rome that you can buy in the US nor the maps that were given to us at our orientation had our street on them. Actually they don't even have our neighborhood on them. We found out that night that we live pretty darn far from campus.

This is us when we finally hit the Tiber river and kind of got our bearings. Litlle did we know that we had a lot more walking ahead of us. From left to right my roommates Sean, Mike, and Case.

We eventually found our way to the John Cabot campus and it is in a really cool area called the Trastevere. It is on the west side of the Tiber river right int the heart of Rome. It is a pretty small school but I think it is going to be a lot of fun once classes start. There are a couple of different courtyards in the middle of the school and it is all very nice.

This is the entrance of John Cabot University. There is one door and it is always guarded by an armed Policia.

This is me on the lower terrace that overlooks the two courtyards on the main level of the school.
This is a different view from the same terrace as above.
This is a view of an old Roman gate from an upper terrace on top of the school. I walk through this gate every day to get to school.

This is Via de Lungara from the same terrace as above. This is the street that runs right in front of our school. If you follow this road, the Vatican is about a 15 minute walk away.

This is on the roof of John Cabot.

After checking out the school, we headed back home...and we were scared how long it was going to take us. We stopped off at this little place called Zio Ciro and got some pasta even though we all wanted pizza. We were starving and we went by a couple of other places that were closed and stumbled upon this one. There were three people talking inside so the one of us that knew a little Italian asked if they were open. They told us to come in but I don't think they were planning on serving dinner at this point seeing as how it was only 7:30. We sat there for about 10 minutes looking at the menu trying to figure out what everything was and the two guys that were working were just playing on the Internet with Google Video. Eventually we flagged them down and ordered. We all ordered pasta and then about 5 minutes later realized that the entire back page of the menu was pizza. The pasta was still good though. When we finished we waited about 10 minutes and all tried to remember the word for check but none of us had any idea. The waiter eventually came back over and we paid and left.

This is us right after we ordered. Notice the menu in the middle of the table on the far side is flipped over with an entire page of pizzas. Too bad we didn't see that until after we ordered.

The rest of the walk home was long and treacherous...and we were following the directions they gave us with our apartment keys. Not only did each of the streets basically change names every block, half of the roads they had us going down has beg cement walls on both sides of really busy streets and no shoulder or sidewalk. I bought a bus pass the next day.

When we got home our feet and legs hurt and we were all exhausted, so we met our other roommates that weren't there when we left and fell asleep about 10:30.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


This is me getting ready to leave the Kansas City Airport at 8AM on Sunday morning.

Hello everyone, I arrived in Rome yesterday and it has been a pretty crazy experience since leaving Kansas City. The flight from Chicago to Munich was around 8 hours and it pretty uncomfortable the whole time, I couldn't sleep at all. I flew with Lufthansa and all of the stewardesses were German and incredibly nice but the meals were a little strange. For dinner we had past and cold potatoes, which wasn't too bad, but for breakfast we got a ham and cheese sandwich, a Kit-Kat Bar, and blueberry yogurt.

Munich was beautiful flying in. The sun was just beginning to rise and there was an incredibly dense fog blanketing the whole city. Only the mountains and the tops of huge Cathedrals and buildings we visible through the fog. Landing was pretty scary as you can guess, we just descended into the fog and eventually hit the runway as there was no break in the fog whatsoever.

I tried to take a picture of the GPS as we were halfway over the ocean, it was completely dark on the plane and everyone was sleeping...and I forgot I had my flash on, it light up the whole plane. Woops.

We hung out in the Munich airport for about an hour and then got on the plane to head to Rome. We sat on the plane for an hour waiting for the fog to clear a bit and then took off. When we landed in Rome we were expecting some difficulty with customs but we got off the plane, picked up our bags and just walked past a couple of security guards and were out of the airport. I even went up to one of the guards and asked him where to go if we wanted to declare something and he just shook his head and told us we could just walk out.

The ride from the airport was quite the experience too. We saw 3 wrecks and almost got into 10 more. Using blinkers and stopping at stop signs, stop lights, and for pedestrians really just aren't things that Italians like to do.

Our apartment is pretty nice, it is basically 4 bedrooms, a kitchen and a couple of bathrooms and we have a couple of large patios because we are on the ground floor. When my driver dropped me off I had a lot of trouble opening the gate to get into my apartment and ended up having to flag down the driver and have him open it for me.

This is our kitchen and ony living area outside of the bedrooms, it is a decent size and the bar is nice for me and my 8 roommates.

This is the larger of the two patios that we have. There are two bedrooms, including my own, that open out onto this patio.

This is an an ironing room that is right outside of the smaller bathroom. We have 4 sinks total, so it shouldn't be a problem when all 9 of us have to get ready in the morning.

This is my bedroom. I have the far bed and the door on the far side of the room opens up to the large patio.