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, February 3, 2007

Sean and Shad: Day 1

I woke up today and went a picked Monica up to go meet my cousins Sean and Shad at Termini Station. They came down from Bologna (actually Bossana, where my cousin Sean has been working) to spend a couple days in Rome. We got a little lost trying to find their hotel, which was only about 2 blocks away from Termini Station as sad as that sounds. First we hit up Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon and they are still completely amazing. Out of everything I have seen here in Rome I am still most awe-struck by the Pantheon. After that we stopped by Pizza Buono to pick up a slice for lunch. We went through Area Sacra (the cat sanctuary), it is still really weird seeing all the cats in the old ruins by the way, and then found our way to the Monument of Vittorio Emmanuelle.

Here is Monica and Shad at the beginning of our tour.

Here is Sean and Shad in front of the Trevi Fountain.

The Pantheon. My Favorite.

Here is Sean and Shad inside the Pantheon.

Me and my cousins outside of the Pantheon.

Another shot of the Monument of Vittorio Emmanuelle. I still couldn't get the whole thing in one shot.

When we started climbing the stairs up towards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (on the Monument of Vittorio Emmanuelle) we saw that the entire left side of the Monument had been opened up (as it was all blocked off during our first visit to the monument). We eventually headed up in that direction and spent a few minutes just enjoying the view from that side of the monument. We had a great view of the Coliseum in the distance as well as a lot of the ruins from the Roman Forum in the area.

This is one of the shots from the left side of the Monument. You can see the Coliseum in the distance.

Sean and Shad found the Coliseum.

After we were done taking in the amazing view from the Monument, we walked up the street to see the Coliseum. It was a beautiful day out and I think the Coliseum gets even more amazing every time that you see it. We hung around for a while and took quite a few pictures before we headed into the Roman Forum area and spent the next 20 minutes walking through the ruins.

The Coliseum.

Sean and Shad in front of the Coliseum.

The Coliseum.

Some ruins in the Roman Forum.

More ruins in the Roman Forum.

After this we thought it would be a brilliant idea to go check out the Vatican…which is pretty much about half-way across the entire city of Rome. By the time we got there Monica’s feet were killing her and my legs were pretty worn out. We stopped off at a little bar right outside St. Peters Square where Sean and Shad had their first taste of gelato (little did we know this would be the first 3 gelato stops we would make in the next 24 hours).

Here is Monica and I next to the Tiber river about four blocks from the Vatican. We were all pretty exhausted at this point but we had to keep on going.

Re-energized we headed to the Vatican. This was the first time I had actually seen the inside of the Basilica and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Not only was the size daunting, the detail and perfection of everything inside made it seem unreal. I know the photos I took can’t really do it justice so if you are reading this just know that you will have to come to Rome and experience it for yourself someday. We ended up getting into the Vatican museum for free for some reason and spent about 45 minutes walking through it and checking out all of the different treasures. We really wanted to see the Sistine Chapel and the catacombs but unfortunately both had closed for the day shortly after we had arrived. So after wandering around the Basilica for a little while longer we decided to take a little break before grabbing some food.

This is what St. Peter's Square looks like from the steps of the Basilica.

The inside of the Basilica was amazing. The size alone is enough to make you weak in the knees from looking at it. Not to mention the detail and how well everything inside has been preserved.

This was right in front of the altar in the Basilica.

This might give you some idea of just how big it actually is inside.

A couple of hours later we met near Area Sacra and found a restaurant to eat at right outside of Campo dei Fiori called Grappolo d'oro Zampanò. Dinner was great and after we had already gotten our check, the waiter brought us our first taste of Limoncello…and it was incredibly strong. None of us could finish it.

After dinner we met up with my roommates Case and Kurt and went to Blue Ice for our second helping of gelato for the day. Blue Ice is still one of my favorite gelato places in Rome. Afterwards we went to Abbey Theatre and had a couple rounds of Guinness and just sat around and talked for a while before calling it a night.

Ahhh, Guinness.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Delicious Pastry Package

Today was hands down the most uneventful day on my entire trip thus far. As some of you may have noticed, I am not the best at keeping my Blog up to date. So I pretty much devoted this entire day to my Blog (and a little bit of homework). I have made a lot of progress and will hopefully be caught back up very soon. Thanks to everyone who has been checking and reading this Blog, I hope it is not too boring to read and that the pictures are fun to look at. Ciao!

Oh, wait, I just remembered that I did do something fun today. After staying on campus all day, Monica and I came back to my house to hang out for a while and stopped at this bar on the way called the Chocolate American Bar. This bar has the best looking pastries I have ever seen before, so we picked out a few and brought them home for a snack. I decided to take a few pictures to document the opening of the delicious pastry package.

Here it is, the untouched pastry package.

With one side undone, she goes for the middle.

After the piece of tape holding the middle together is torn off we get our first glimpse of the delicious pastries.

With only a few more seconds until the pastries were free to be eaten, Monica works cardboard braces that kept the pastries from being smashed on the way home. Also, with the pastries almost in full view, Monica starts to show her true excitement.

With one brace down she starts to undo the second...

...And tears it off completely revealing the delicious pastries.


Monica is so excited that she starts to cry (not really, she just wanted me to stop taking pictures of her).

My roommates Mark and Sean watched in amazement as the delicious pastries were revealed. Then helped us finish them.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Awesome Pizza and the Nutella Calzone

I slept in a little bit today and just took it easy for most of the day because it was kind of a rough night last night. Not only did we walk quite a bit more than we expected trying to find the bus stop before the game, everyone at the game was smoking, so it kind of felt like we’d spent the whole night smoking.

I also got an e-mail from my cousin Sean (not my roommate Sean) letting me know that he and my other cousin Shad were going to come down to Rome on Saturday.

For dinner most of my roommates, Monica, and I all went to this pizzeria that we heard about from my roommate Mark’s Rome guidebook. The name is Dar Poeta and it is located only about a block away from the JCU campus. We actually decided to go there because the guidebook said that one of the desserts served at this pizzeria is a Nutella calzone (and seeing as how we are all obsessed with Nutella, we were very excited). When we got there, there was a short wait and they eventually ended up seating us right across from the wood oven. Because of this, the whole time we were there the cooks were right next to us…and they were cracking us up the whole time. From singing along to the American songs that were playing on the radio (to such classics as Aerosmith’s Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing, from Armageddon, and Beyonce’s “To the Left” song) to pretending to throw our food at us. I ordered the pizza with the name of the restaurant and, though I was skeptical, it put the pizza I had eaten on Sunday to shame. It was unbelievably delicious. It has a special kind of sausage, zucchini, a couple different kinds of cheese, a white sauce, and garlic on it and it was the new best pizza I have had in Italy so far (maybe the best pizza ever, in the history of everness).

Then came dessert. All of us but two ordered the Nutella calzone. We saw the cooks pull them out of the oven and you could see the steam shooting out of them. Needless to say, they too were amazing. I will definitely be returning to Dar Poeta whenever I have a pizza and Nutella craving.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

AS Roma Game = Pure Insanity

Today was one of the most memorable days on the trip thus far…and it was all because of the AS Roma game. This afternoon I went to class and then went in search of the AS Roma store with Monica’s roommate Krista because they decided they would like to come to the game as well. We first tried to go to an AS Roma store near the school but found out that the only store that actually sells tickets to the game is located in Piazza Colonna. So we hopped on the bus and tried to navigate our way to the other store. We exited the bus a couple of blocks away from the store and got a little turned around so we asked a lady for directions. She very confidently pointed us in the wrong direction and we walked that way for about a block before we both decided she had no idea what she was talking about. So we went back the other direction and got to Piazza Colonna and we didn’t see the AS Roma store, so we went and asked a guy in a suit who was leaning on a very nice Alfa Romeo about getting tickets for tonight’s game at the AS Roma store. He said we had to go to the stadium to get them and had no idea where the store was. So we walk past Piazza Colonna about a block and then I call my roommate case to see if he can better direct us. He told use to take an immediate left when we get to the piazza and it is right down the road. So we went back and looked a little harder this time. We eventually saw it and guess where it was? That’s right, right behind the guy in the suit leaning on his Alfa Romeo. We went in and got the tickets.

My roommates and I met Monica and her roommates at JCU at around 20:15 and a few of us decided we were going to try and take busses to the stadium instead of paying for a cab. So we end up walking about three miles before we get to the right bus stop and by the time we hop on it is 21:05, ten minutes before the game was scheduled to start. So we eventually get to the stadium and start running as soon as we get off the bus. We have no idea where to go, so we just start running after everyone else that is running and begin to hear loud chanting and cheering coming from inside the stadium. We lose a couple in our group in the process of running towards the stadium and as we get close we see smoke rising up from inside the stadium…this only made us run faster. So we eventually see a gate that a ton of people are running to and we just follow them. We get up there and the gate is absolutely packed and people just start shoving their way through. We get shoved through and there is just one guy tearing tickets and there are four policia behind him. We later found out that the gate we were supposed to go in, along with our seats were on the other side of the stadium.

This is us running up to the gates of the stadium. We could hear loud chanting and see smoke coming from inside the stadium.

This is us running up to the stairs heading into the stadium after we pushed our way through the gate with the rest of the mob.

Once we get inside we just run up the first set of steps leading into the stadium. As we are running up we have to swerve to avoid a fire that is burning (probably some trash that was caught on fire by a dropped flair) right in the middle of the stairs. We keep on running. We get to the top of the stairs and all we can see is people and the night sky. There are no walkways, no stairs to get to the seats, no nothing…just people. Right then, AS Roma scores a goal and the entire stadium went completely nuts. People are jumping and pushing each other around, chanting, and lighting flares, that’s right flares.

This was the first view of the field I could get. We had just ran up the steps past a fire and I held the camera up over my head to get this.

I tried to get a shot of the crowd behind me as well, but this is the best I could do.

This is kind of gives you some idea of just how packed the section was that we were in.

Shortly after we got inside AS Roma scored a goal and the entire stadium went absolutely NUTS! And we found out that Italians like to celebrate with fire and moshing.

We head back down the stairs after the crowd calmed down after the goal to look for another entry that was less crowded, but they were all just as crowded as the first. So we eventually work our way back to the steps where we thought our seats might be and go up to the top again. This was the same gate we started out in and we just stood there a while having no idea how we are supposed to fight the crowd to get to our seats that we had no idea where they were located. I look back and there are a few guys above us, hanging over the stairs, yelling at us and pointing to the back of the seats. We waited a few more minutes and decided we had to get up there eventually so we dove right in. I was in the lead and started saying “scusi…scusi…scusi” over and over again as we worked our way through the dense crowd. We got a lot of crazy looks but people did move out of the way and gave us just enough room to slide by.

This is what we walked through.

After we had walked up past row 60 (our tickets were for seats on row 20) my roommate Sean and I decided to cut left to look for an open spot because looking up towards the back of the seats there was no openings. I don’t know if it was God who wanted to spare our lives or if we just lucked out but we eventually hit a rather large opening right next to the scoreboard (I think no one was here because some of the view of the field was blocked by the scoreboard).

We remained here for the rest of the game. We didn’t even think about trying to go for snacks or even dream of going to the bathroom because I don’t think we could have made it through the crowd again. One of Monica’s roommates who we lost earlier eventually made her way up to where we were at half time and we were relieved to find out that she taken away by the mob. It was completely amazing how the energy level never dissipated during the game. The chanting at the end of the game was as loud, if not louder than at the beginning of the game. We found out later that there was no alcohol served at the game (probably because people might actually be killed if the crowd were under the influence) but that it is replaced by espresso. So basically all of the already insane AS Roma fans come into the stadium and just pound like four or five espresso shots before finding their standing position for the game.

Here are some other shots from the game:

This is a view from our seats during the game. Yes, those flags were waving the entire time, so it was a little difficult to see at times. We were just happy to be alive.

Me messing around with that color thing again.

This is during one of the many chants that continued throughout the whole game.

This is after the second goal of the game. Flares just started lighting up everywhere in the middle of the crowd. It was insane.

Here is us during a break in the game.

Also, here are a couple videos. Again, I am sorry if they don't work, I am still working out the bugs:

This is a clip of one of the many chants by the AS Roma fans.

This is a clip of just how crazy it got right after AS Roma Would score a goal.

After the game we eventually found our way back home, waiting for a bus that we thought was never going to come…and we picked up some gelato on the way. Soooo delicious!

This is us waiting for the bus we thought would never come, after the game.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Italian Way of Life

Today was very similar to yesterday. I woke up, went to school, came home, cooked dinner, and worked on homework. Today I kind of started to realize just how long it actually takes to sit down and have a good meal here. You have to buy a lot of the ingredients the day that you are going to cook because most of the food here is not prepackaged and ready to whip up in five or ten minutes. We usually have pasta and it takes time to boil the water, cook the pasta, and prepare the other ingredients that are going to be added in. It is actually kind of cool because you get time to talk to whoever you are cooking with and aren’t really concerned with everything else that you have to do.

It is amazing knowing how quick and convenient everything has to be in America and experiencing life where the exact opposite is the case. I must say that if I had to choose, I think the Italian way is the way to go (even though it can be frustrating at times). It seems like their mentality is that there are certain times where nothing else matters but spending some quality time with your friends and family. I think it’s great. It will definitely be a difficult adjustment to make when I have to come back home.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Swordfish and Bruschetta

I had class at 10:30 this morning and I will say that it was a little difficult making the realization that I am actually here to take classes, not just to travel all of the time. So I made it through my classes and went walked home with my roommate Mike. We dropped our books off and then went to the Supermercati. Later that night Mike, using his master chef skills made bruschetta, swordfish, and pasta. It was all delicious and I didn’t have to do a lick of cooking. After dinner I worked on some homework and went to bed. Also, Case, one of my roommates picked up tickets for the AS Roma – AC Milan soccer game this Wednesday. I hear that soccer fans in are the craziest in the world so it should be interesting and a lot of fun to experience a game live.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Florence: Day 3

After our good night of rest, we woke up and started the trek down to the Uffizi again to see if we could beat the crowds. We made it down there and got in without much of a wait but it was already pretty packed even though it had only been open for less than an hour. We spent the next two and a half hours walking around the museum checking out different works by da Vinci, Machiavelli, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Rafael, Rembrandt, and more. It took us more than two hours to get through it and we were walking at a pretty brisk pace. I have only taken one art history class in my lifetime but as I was walking through I kept recognizing different works of art in almost every room of the museum that we had talked about in that class. Perhaps the most famous painting in the entire museum is the Birth of Venus by Botticelli and it was amazing seeing it in person…for those of us that actually saw it. The seven of us kind of got split up as we were roaming through the museum and just met up at the end. When we met up, a couple of us started talking about The Birth of Venus and as it turns out, three of Monica’s roommates (who were all walking alone through the museum) completely missed the room with the painting in it. They even tried to go back in the room to see it and the museum staff wouldn’t let them back in.

This is a shot from inbetween the two sides of the Uffizi. Beyond the arch in the center is the river and to the right is Ponte Vecchio.

After the Uffizi we walked over to Piazza Santa Croce. The church of Santa Croche is somewhat small compared to the Duomo but it is by far the most interesting church I have seen on the trip thus far. The common theme within the church was tombs. There were different tombstones scattered all throughout the floor of the church, some roped off so you couldn’t walk over the tombstone and some just out in the open and worn from all the traffic that had carelessly walked over them. But that was not all. Santa Croce also houses the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante Alighieri, and Machiavelli. Along the walls on the two long sides of the church are huge shrines housing the remains of all these famous historical figures. In another room in the church there was a glass case displaying an actual robe that was worn by St. Francis.

This is Piazza Santa Croce.

This is the front of Santa Croce. It looks kind of like a smaller version of the Duomo with a lot less detail.

This is the inside of Santa Croce. You can see all of the different paintings and tombs that line the walls.

These are the tombs lining the floor of the inside of Santa Croce. Some were roped off so they would not be walked on and other were not and were very worn down from years and years of people walking right over them.

This is the tomb of Michelangelo.

This is the tomb of Galileo.

This is the tomb of Dante Alighieri.

This is the tomb of Machiavelli.

This is St. Francis' robe.

In the hallway leading out to the courtyard, there were a collection of photos documenting a massive flood that destroyed many of the works of art within Santa Croce. There was another portion of the museum that displayed the restored art and it is amazing how closely the works were able to be restored to their original states (even though it kind of makes you wonder how they really know what it is used to look like exactly). Underneath the church there is another corridor full of tombstones. They had taken all of the tombstones from the Cloister of the Dead in Santa Croce and lined the walls and floors with them. Again, this was a very weird experience walking across them through the corridor.

This is one of the photos from the flood that destroyed a lot of the artwork inside Santa Croce. It was amazing to see how good the restorations looked.

After we were through with Santa Croce we headed back to our hostels to pick up our luggage and then made our way back to the train station. We made it a point to get there with the ample amount of time to get tickets and get on the train. We picked up some food and hung out there for about a half an hour before the train left. The train was scheduled to leave a little after 17:00 and the train station didn’t show what terminal the train was leaving from until about 3 minutes before the train was scheduled to leave. We had to jog a little to get there and get good seats but it was nothing compared to the sprinting that we were used to. The train ride back seemed a little longer than the one to get there but it was not bad.

This is us having a little snack while we were waiting for the train back to Rome.

This is Malia and Monica on the train back to Rome.

When we got back to Rome, Monica and I were both starving. It was after 21:00 and we didn’t feel like cooking so we headed into Trastevere to look for a place to eat. We stumbled upon this place called Ivo a Trastevere and decided to try it out even though the entire restaurant was packed. We walked in and stood there for while before talking to one of the waiters who seated us at the only space left in the whole restaurant (we were at the same table as an older couple, but with a set of chairs between us). Only one of the waitresses spoke a little English so it was a little difficult ordering, but we decided to get some pasta and pizza and split the two. The pasta we ordered was like a thick spaghetti with tomatoes and shrimp and we ordered a cuattro formaggio (four cheese) pizza. They brought out the pasta first and it looked great…except for the whole cooked shrimp that were thrown on top of it. I was determined to try and do like the Romans do so I grabbed one of the shrimp and started trying to pry it open with my fork and knife. Five minutes later I was successful and was able to pull out a tiny bit of meat that didn’t really seem like it was worth the effort to get out. I repeated this process four more times and decided that I am just not going to order shrimp from now on unless I know it has been de-shelled. The pizza, however, was amazing. They piled on the cheese and the crust was delicious. We are definitely going to go back and try a few other things on the menu.