Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Over two weeks...

...without an update! I've been such a slacker, I'm sorry! I'm sorry! So here comes a an update...

After Gen and Cooper left Rome (sigh), Dad arrived on Thursday (yay!). 

First order of business was breakfast (of course) so we went to Panella, an amazing bakery around the corner from the school and had a delicious grape tarte with two caffe-lattes and an orange juice, of course. This place is overwhelming with all the smells and colorful candies, tartes, and breads. These little marzipan treats were teasing us from just across the table:

Then I took him to my class as a show-and-tell on Thursday morning and was all but bombarded with questions about the state of the American economy. I guess that'll teach me to bring an American financial guy into a room of study-abroad students burdened by college loans! After taking him to the ethnic market near my apartment (as a rude and somewhat shocking welcome to Rome!) and he got checked into the hotel, we were off! That afternoon and evening, we crossed the Tiber and I took him to Castroni, the international food store in Rome, where the "American Food" section consists of Heinz ketchup, Jiffy peanut butter, Aunt Jemima syrup, and Betty Crocker cake mix (with directions in Spanish). We strolled along until we reached St. Peter's in the Vatican City - it was closed, but considering it wasn't one of our top priorities, we think we saw enough!

We loved the guards and their funny jester outfits. I'm not sure they returned the sentiment.

For dinner, we ate at La Vecchia Roma, where I had previously broken a wine glass. Thank goodness they didn't recognize me, and we had no trouble devouring steamed mussels, fried rice balls with marinara and mozzarella, and flambéd buccatini all'amatriciana (tomato sauce and bacon)...mmmm!

The next morning it poured for hours (just our luck), so we did some church tours and stayed inside as much as possible. I also took Dad to la Cartoleria Pantheon, favorite stationary store extraordinaire, and he was equally impressed.

Saturday we had the best adventure of all - a trip to Calcata, a small village on a cliffside about one and a half hours north of Rome. In the '60s (I think) it was condemned by the government because it was considered too dangerous due to the decay of the cliff on which it was perched. But after all the residents moved to Calcata Nuova (New Calcata), a bunch of artists rallied together and made enough noise to have it fortified, then made their home there. So the tiny village is just full of galleries and artisan stores, some of which are in the homes of the people who run them. The whole village was quaint and charming, and full of cats, which is never a bad thing in my book!

The town as seen from the bus stop:

A cat! Curled up in a pot:

One of the several beautiful, charming doorways:

On Sunday, we went to the Villa Borghese (the huge park) and went to the Galleria Borghese, which is the private art collection of the Borghese family. It's a beautiful collection where most of Carevaggio's paintings are housed. We weren't allowed to take pictures. Sunday night we found a German beer place (of all things!) because Dad wanted to try German beer in Europe where it would be freshest. He certainly liked his hefeweissbier...

...at least more so than he liked trying to drink out of the fontanelle on the street:

Besides all these awesome things that we did, we ate amazing food (for the most part!) and listened to some great jazz at two newly discovered (for me, anyway) jazz clubs here in Rome. But then again, would Dad and I have it any other way? I think not...

My next adventure (which I just returned from) was a trip to Capri (CAP-ree)! After a nightmare of a trip there (missing a train, trying to catch a boat from the wrong port, barely making the last ferry...) Carolyn and I arrived in scenic Capri on Sunday afternoon. The ferry ride there reminded me of the ride to Martha's Vineyard, which has always been a very fond memory, so I was immediately at ease. Our hotel was in Anacapri (the smaller, less touristy village on the other side of the island). Booking the hotel on that side was actually a mistake, but it ended up being a fortuitous one! The island in general, and Anacapri even more so, was clean, calm, and safe - the complete opposite of everything I can't stand about Rome!

I ultimately only spent 25 hours on the island, but we did so much on Monday that I don't feel like I missed out on much. Since we were all three asleep by 9:30PM on Sunday, we were up and out of the hotel by 8:30AM on Monday. First we took a bus to the edge of the island near la Grotta Azzura (the blue cave) where there is the bluest water in all of the island. The opening to the cave is less than one meter high, so everyone has to lay flat on the boat while going in, but those few seconds of not knowing exactly how close you are to smashing into the rock is definitely worth the view once you get inside:

Then we went on a chairlift that takes you up a mountain over Anacapri and lets you off at the top to see the amazing views. It was a little foggy, so at first we were disappointed, but everything was amazing nonetheless! 

Here are my little feet hanging over my chair...

After that, we headed over to Capri (the main town on the island). It's definitely rich, rich, rich, with nothing but stores like Prada, Gucci, Furla... nothing more than window shopping for us! I took a 4:30PM ferry back to Naples and caught an amazing sunset on the boat. Then a train back to Rome in time to do some laundry and pack before I leave for Paris tomorrow! Tough life, huh?

There are a ton more pictures of my visit to Capri on my Picasaweb site, as well as more pictures of my visit with Dad! Check them out here:


Happy reading! I'm off to Paris, only to return with more tales of adventure...

Monday, October 13, 2008


Hello photo fans,

I just set up a site on Picasa Web Albums (Google's photo website). So now you can see more things than the sparse pictures on the blog. Here's the link:


So far, I'm just playing catch up with some of the more important photos (Colloseum, Carpentras, Paris, etc...) but once I get up and running I'll update it more regularly.

Click away!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How did you survive...

...for a whole week without an update?! For all you devoted MCMAR fans out there, I'm sorry! It was a slow week. But then a fun weekend! 

Genevieve and Cooper ventured from Paris to help me celebrate my birthday a few days early. They arrived late Thursday night after hours of me pacing awaiting their arrival! 

Friday, after a trip to the market down the street that we visited with the intention of cooking our haul that evening, we spent a few hours at the Villa Borghese riding bikes and almost killing unsuspecting tourists. Roman god Cooper whipped up and down the hills and Gen pushed on after him, but I ended up walking my bike up most of the hills we hit...who is surprised?! I much preferred the downhill parts, at which points I tended to furiously ring the bell on the handle because as it turns out, after years of not riding a bike that you were never great at riding to begin with, it's not so easy to get back on and not hurt someone. We made it through without a law suit or breaking any limbs, though.

Then we walked around the fancy part of Rome and went by the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the Via del Corso where we went into shops in which we couldn't afford to buy half a button. We covered quite a lot of ground then headed back to the apartment. We had been planning on cooking but then we were invited to an aperetif! And who could say no to that? We ended up going out for drinks with Nadia and some of her friends, then to a great wine bar where I had gnocchi alla romana (bigger gnocchi with less flour), Genevieve had delicious eggplant parm, and we all shared good wine and a huge plate of meat! Then we tasted Lambrusco, a chilled red sparkling wine. It was delicious, so thanks to Cooper for introducing us to that! After the wine bar we went to a chocolate factory and drank the richest, thickest chocolate of our lives! More like fondue in a tea cup with a spoon in it. I got the spiced hot chocolate that was actually much spicier than I expected. I know I'm a whimp about that kind of thing, but my mouth was on fire! From there we headed to a University of Rome sit-in that turned out to be a bit too mellow to keep our wine-filled selves awake, so we went home. Even though I'd been pushing to open presents all day, I passed out before Cooper could even say goodnight. So on Saturday morning...

...after coffee, of course, I opened my gifts! Finally! As if buying tickets to come to Rome and not letting me pay for a single thing all weekend except one gelato on the last day weren't enough, they came bearing gifts, and what gifts they were. First up is Cooper's - a cutting edge transportation system for candy that is at once chic and useful: a duck backpack filled with candy! Oh, excuse me...a pilot duck backpack filled with candy:

Then, just in the nick of time, as one side of my wallet completed seceded from the rest of it, Genevieve gave me the perfect replacement. If I could put touchable or smellable things on this blog, I would, but I can't. So you'll just have to trust me when I say that this is the softest, most buttery-feeling leather object I've ever had, and certainly the best leather-smelling too. And the color is perfect, and would blend in perfectly with the dining room at home, as Genevieve so keenly pointed out!

Needless to say, I am spoiled. I love it :-)

After, we went back out touring, starting with the cat sanctuary at the Largo Argentina! We didn't end up going on the actual guided tour, but Coopy and Genvie got to see the animals I've had such a connection with in Rome! Then the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, Trastevere, and the Campo dei Fiori! And all the shops and streets in between. Genevieve was in cahoots with Marta and surprised me with one dozen long stem red roses on her behalf while we were at the flower market. They are now housed in a Jameson tin! Because we couldn't find any vases at the apartment.

Genevieve and Cooper were both wearing striped shirts and flashy sunglasses that day. I was proud to be walking around Rome with such fashionable attractive people!

Saturday night we went out to dinner at a restaurant that flambés pasta in a parmeggiano reggiano cheese rind! But we didn't get to watch the spectacle because it was too crowded. The end result was fantastic, though, I can attest! The wine was only 3.50 euros per half liter, which might have had something to do with the fact that before the night was up, I broke a wine glass and spilled its contents all over myself. Good thing I was wearing navy blue...

After dinner we went out to an Irish pub called Scholars, where the clientel was completely American. I mean COMPLETELY! It was really funny - an Irish pub in Rome filled with Americans. 

Sunday we tried to cook the chicken that we had bought and intended to cook Friday night, but it smelled funky and as Cooper says, when in doubt, throw it out! So throw it out we did. And we ate risotto milanese, roasted potatoes, and caprese salad with Nadia and her friend Francesca. Genevieve mostly just ate the garlic and onions that we roasted with the potatoes. 

There are more pictures of the weekend, but they were mostly taken by Cooper, Genevieve, Carolyn, and crew. I will post as I acquire them and find them appropriate for all viewing audiences.

In one and a half hours I will be 21!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Back to the churches...

Today I happened upon a veritable oasis in the center of dirty, polluted Rome! Well, not so much happened upon as systematically sought out a route to... but anyway, the weather was steadily promising enough to allow me a long stroll through the Villa Borghese, what I described earlier as the "Central Park of Rome". I'm not sure I'd make the same comparison now that I've been there, other than it's relative size and status as a large park in the middle of a bustling metropolis. The Villa Borghese seems more natural; a lot of it made me feel like I was in a natural oasis of a forest, not a manmade greenery. It had its extremely well-landscaped bits too though, which were equally impressive.

Everyone was laying out in the beautiful weather on blankets, having picnics, reading, sleeping... so in that way, parts of it really were like the Green in Central Park! They also rent bicycles by the hour so you can bike through the park. And go-carts! And tandem bikes! And 6-person motor-powered bikes! And I've heard they also rent segues! I didn't see any today though. What I was most surprised about were the persimmon trees that were growing on one side of the park. They grew right next to a high stone wall, so people standing on the hill above the wall were picking the persimmons and eating them! I didn't try it.

After walking around and getting what seemed to be hopelessly lost in the park, I came out of it near the Spanish Steps! Which isn't close. So the park is really big, needless to say. I hadn't been in that touristy of an area on a Sunday afternoon up until now. I'm not really sure how I avoided it this long, but I wish I hadn't stopped when I saw this mob of people on the streets below!

I pushed through the ground, however, and found a new church, and thus a church ceiling to add to my collection. This one is called San Lorenzo in Lucina. I should probably start doing more research on each church I take pictures of, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the Catholic churches in Rome have similar histories. Besides, I'm only using them for their ceilings! Wham, flash, thank you ma'am! 

My roommate Carolyn got home this evening around six. I wasn't expecting her until later, so she scared the crap out of me! But after a weekend without a whole lot of human interaction, I greeted her in an eager manner (possibly over-eager): "CAROLYN, HI!"

While I was cooking dinner, I pulled a rookie move and put the pan and the oil on the heat too early, so by the time I was finally ready to add my onions to caramelize for the sauce, the oil was past its smoking point and spat angrily at my wrist. Blisters galore. Ouch. I guess I got what was coming to me...you would think that years of cooking would teach you timing skills, if nothing else.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I guess I didn't need that shower after all...

When I woke up this morning, it was raining gatti e cani. So after taking in the sopping wet laundry that I had left outside on the clothes line all night (oops) and making my coffee, I got right back into bed. Soon enough, however, the clouds had passed and it was a sunny, warm, beautiful day. So I hopped in the shower and headed out to the market down the street from my apartment, which I'm lucky to be living near! Since I live in a really ethnic area (hardly any Italians), you can only imagine the kinds of things they sell at the market. It was absolutely crazy! It's an indoor market and I could barely push my way through the doors. Once I made it in, though, I saw pigs' feet, pig heads, chili peppers, onions, cow tongue...all hanging from the ceiling, and some really amazing produce. And all I could smell were the spices! There were Indian stands, Spanish and Mexican stands, fresh herbs...and everything was so cheap. Anyway, I bought all sorts of great things and then all of a sudden, BOOM! Thunder shook the building and the skies, which were clear and blue ten minutes earlier, opened up and rain came down in sheets. I felt water drops and when I looked up to the glass roof I saw streams of water coming down from some of the slightly ajar windows. Pretty soon there were little waterfalls in the middle of the market, which all the little kids seemed to love, but not so much the vendors. I peeked out the door, but there didn't seem to be any blue sky in sight, so I made a run for home and got completely soaked. Thus the uselessness of my previous shower.

I had a blast looking around, but I was afraid to take my camera out and snap pictures because the clientele seemed anything but tourist-friendly. But I played food-stylist when I got home and arranged my haul on the kitchen counter. All of this for about 15 euro!

For my less visually-inclined audience, here's what I got (approx. from left to right):
half a dozen eggs, fresh Sicilian tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, 200g of prosciutto crudo, fingerling potatoes, 1/2 kg. of dried black beans, 3kg (over 6 lb!) of peaches, fresh strawberries, and a huge loaf of bread that was still hot!
I think I'll make a sort of fried egg and prosciutto sandwich with some fresh mozzarella. And I'll be trying Matt's favorite tomato recipe, pomodori al forno - cooked at 250 degrees for over 3 hours!

Another great perk about this apartment, besides its proximity to this market and its steady source of internet is the American-style coffee pot. It makes it so much easier to wake up in the morning knowing I can have a whole cup of coffee, not just an espresso! My Italian professor had told me about a coffee bar here in Rome that adds a bit of sugar to the ground coffee before brewing it, so I thought I'd give it a try. It was delicious! You can't really taste the sugar, but somehow it makes the coffee taste more like coffee, the way coffee makes chocolate taste more like chocolate.

I was going to try to go to the Villa Borghese today (kind of like the Central Park of Rome), but the weather seems too iffy. As I've seen, it goes from sunshine to pouring rain in a matter of five minutes, and I wouldn't want to be stuck sitting in a huge park when the sky opens up...

Friday, October 3, 2008


Today, I haven't much to share. 

Last night, I went out to dinner with some friends of a friend of a friend (of a friend of a friend's third cousin's dog...). We ate at a teeny restaurant near the Colloseum called Isidoro, and it was delicious! Albeit a bit expensive. We all got pasta, and the way it works at this restaurant is that for whoever orders pasta, they bring out just one huge family-style plate of pasta of a certain kind (ravioli in ragu, for example). Everyone takes a small portion, and before you're even done with that plate, they bring out another one! And then another! And another! And...well, you get the point. They keep bringing you pasta until you say "BASTA PASTA!" (enough pasta!). So between the six of us, we tasted six different kinds of pasta, all of which I can't remember, but my favorite of which was penne with an olive cream sauce and big black olives. Mmmmm.

This morning was the last day of my Italian class. Which is a bit unfortunate, since my opportunities to speak Italian outside of class seem far fewer. On the bright side, next week my daily cultural studies class won't start until 10:30AM, so I'll be able to sleep in :-)

Other than that, as I said,  not much to tell today. I'm at the apartment on my own this weekend, as everyone else is away! Because I have nothing else interesting to say, I have composed this short poem which I hope will entertain you until I can think of something worthwhile to post tomorrow:

This weekend in Rome
I am on my own.

I shall clean my house
'Til it squeaks like a mouse.

Then I shall shop for flowers
and take long showers

So that I may relax
like Angelina's son Pax.

(The posting of this poem has been pre-approved by my dear friend B.J. Nixdorf. Should there be any objections to its quality as compared to the usual standards of this blog, please contact Bridget at bjn224@nyu.edu. Thank you.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Oh my...

Well, today was certainly the creepiest of all my days in Rome. We visited a crypt under a Catholic Church (what other kind is there?) where the walls are all decorated with human bones. Since the church was built on top of a cemetery, the monks decided to use the bones they found as well as the bones of the monks that died to create artwork through the church. I think the creepiest thing is that monks of the order continued to live there for 100 years after they started their innovative interior design...

We weren't allowed to take pictures because it would deteriorate the bones, but I manged to find this one online. Hope you find this as creepy (and intriguing!) as I did...

And here's a picture from the inside court of my apartment building, which I just got around to taking a picture of today. It makes me really happy to walk through the gate and see this!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


What an eventful day! It started with a minor fire (oops) and is ending with cleaning my NEW room (after a second move in 3 days). Let me elaborate:

Yesterday morning, in an act of semi-desperation, I decided that if I couldn't have my usual big cup o' American-style coffee at home before school, I'd settle for some espresso with hot water added (the Italians' idea of American coffee). I waited, waited, waited, but after half an hour, still no espresso. I was running late, so I shut off the stove and ran to school. No, I didn't leave the gas on, if that's what you're thinking. So this morning, being a smart cookie and learning from my mistakes, I woke up and put the espresso pot on before getting in the shower. I took my time, knowing it would take a while.  So when I got out of the shower and smelt a slightly-toasted odor, I was optimistic that it was my coffee! I was extremely disappointed to find that not only had my coffee not brewed, but that the handle had melted off and was burning in a small poo-resembling pile next to the burner. Luckily, I was able to douse the fire with about a juice-glass's worth of water, but I couldn't save the espresso pot. Notice the "poo-resembling pile" and the surrounding water...

About the move! If this is a surprise to you, it was to me, too! After moving into a new apartment on Sunday, I was glad to just get out from the grips of Fiorella. But a few days there quickly revealed that there would often be a third person at the apartment, or no one else at all, but more often the former. Which left Carolyn at her and Joe's apartment all by herself most of the time. So Carolyn and I formed a united front, declaring that we wouldn't be left alone any longer every night! Or put up with canoodling! With God as our witness, we would never go hungry again! Oh, sorry...wrong storyline... Anyway! I moved into Joe's room, and he moved into mine. I am happy about this; I've been coveting this apartment since day 1! Here are some pictures of my third (and final!) apartment in Roma. I have included two of my bedroom, and one of the kitchen, the two most important rooms in the apartment, of course:


I think it's wonderful! And very charming, in that rustic Italian way. Everything is really ecelctic, which I love! AND, take a look at the ceiling in my bedroom (how fitting, given my recent infatuation with ceilings...):

Besides this apartment triumph, I had a grand coup-d'achat (I don't know if that's really a word in French, but I'm making it one...a grand coup of a purchase...). One and a half kilograms of parmigiano reggiano cheese! For just over 10 euros. I took this picture of it next to some scissors to try and give you some perspective on how large this wedge of cheese is:

All in all, despite my minor incendiary event in the morning, today was a triumphant day! And one of the best things about this apartment (for me and my blog) is a steady, free source of internet! What a luxury...

I just got around to posting the pictures from Par-ee! So take a look.