Posts Tagged ‘rome’

Window Watching

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014


Sitting in Emporio alla Pace, just a few steps away from Piazza Navona, enjoying a cup of coffee and a pastry, it is easy to take for granted the things around me, to not take note of the truly extraordinary nature of the things going on around me. It is only when I realize I am over half way done with my study abroad experience, half way done with my time in Rome am I able to realize, not without horror, that these average everyday things will no longer be a part of my life in a very short while. Every moment I spend here is an exceptional gift unlike any other I have ever received.

My ordinary world is extraordinary in every sense of the word. Sitting in a flower framed window in a softly lit golden alleyway bustling with Roman life and her ever busy residents coming and going, I feel in the pit of my stomach how much I will miss this.

Two men with accordions strapped to their backs walking arm in arm followed by a man carrying a huge base, casually strolling. Two women happily embracing with a graceful kiss on each cheek and loud exclamations in an excited flow of Italian words rolling effortlessly off a native tongue. A woman in a window above and across the way airing out a comforter along with the rest of her laundry, after throwing open the dark green shutters of her apartments window with the double handed opening of arms of a bird taking flight. Construction workers gruffly laughing as they share a cigar on their lunch break, a slowly shifting cloud of smoke encompassing the space of their laughter and the street they sit on. A man emphatically hitting a newspaper with a questioning flat hand as he regards some article in angry disbelief. Three priests walking with arms held behind their backs smiling slightly but silently progressing down the street. A young man and woman walking together, talking under their breath with faces close and confiding, each holding a portfolio of work that is either art or architecture designs that wave back in forth with their fast walking movements, square compared to their bent over, whispering frames skinny from long nights in the studio.  These are the things I will miss. Italian people leading Italian lives, the ordinary and everyday that goes on without note that in its simplicity lies true beauty.

If I sit here long enough I can witness a thousand worlds rubbing elbows without ever meeting one another. I wonder often how many of these worlds I will be able to hold onto when I leave to return to the United States. How many scraps of memory can I cling to when the reality has escaped me and the ordinary becomes the impossible again? I suppose that is why I have this blog. A collection of scraps of memories frantically and sometimes brokenly woven together to make something of the memories and thoughts bumping around in my mind that I fear I will lose some day unless the memories become something tangible, something real. Something to cling to when I am no longer here, something to look back and to prove to myself that it all really happened, that I did live in Rome for a semester, that I did see all these things because honestly I wouldn’t believe it if I wasn’t living it at this very moment.


Grit and Graffiti

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Rome is a city of layers, you never know what it is you will find as you find yourself negotiating between one level and another. There is the historic city center, the amazing monuments and the tourism layered with the periferia of the countryside and rural suburban outer layers of the city. But within those two there are thousands of different layers of being, each one given a home on some street, some intersecting grid of life within the confines of a city that is so full of surprises, both good and bad.

I have been trying to learn the many facets of a city with limitless faces. The only way I know to go about doing this is by talking with Roman natives and exploring the different neighborhoods or rione of Rome to see the many faces myself, eye to eye.

Today after my typical weekly market visit to Trionfale, a friend and I headed to a new rione I had never been to before, the San Lorenzo area that is the home of La Sapienza, the main university of Rome near the main train station in Rome, Termini.


The rain had gone, and the sun was warm on our backs as we ducked into the dark underground metro station that would take us to Termini where we would then adventure out into the San Lorenzo area. When we emerged into the light again in an entirely different section of Rome, it was truly disorienting. It has often felt that way for me when I take the metro places because you emerge from darkness into a totally new, unknown area with a sense of overwhelming mystery washing over you. Even though it is the same city, it doesn’t feel like it. Everything is so different and varies so greatly from one metro stop to another. The air, the people, the buildings, and everything there is to a rione, it is strange to suddenly emerge into a world unknown when you had just started to understand the world you were currently inhabiting. It is like having the earth pulled from beneath your feet and replaced with shifting sand that fills your shoes with the weight of mystery, that simultaneously weighs you down but spurs you forward to discover and unveil what the mystery attempts to hide.

Walking through what I could only describe as a Roman Chinatown, my friend Natalie showed me to the Acquario Romano, a strange building full of different works of art. But we didn’t come for the exhibits; we actually came for the bathroom. Yes, you heard me right, the bathroom. Underneath the building where the bathrooms for the building are, there is a tunnel that is used to get to the bathrooms, is itself a fantastic work of art. Today was actually the last day to look at it before the slate was painted over and wiped clean for the next artists to come and work their magic. The walls of the tunnel had been fully painted in the combined efforts of two fantastic artists with a contrasting style of almost childlike monsters and the grotesque realism of the other that made for a disturbing, but also deeply fascinating artistic experience.

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To try and get a feel of what San Lorenzo was like we just wandered around the streets of the city looking at street art, graffiti and trying to absorb the feel of a part of the city that was not the overly touristy yet fantastic historic city center of Rome. The art was fun, and great and it seemed like every single wall was covered in a variety of different graffiti tags and other works of street art. It gave San Lorenzo a gritty feeling that while beautiful was a strong reminder of the real nature of Rome as a city of turmoil, struggle, and real life not like the idealized and romanticized pictures of Rome that all the tour books and postcards paint.


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But it isn’t all political protest and turmoil, we also had a fantastic time at the old chocolate factory S.A.I.D and got some really amazing hot chocolate that was more like pudding than a drink. It truly is a place of contrasts; to turn a street corner away from graffiti to an adorable little chocolate factory with a cafe inside full of beautiful chocolates and drinks.It was an intriguing transitional experience to see these two things co-existing in one space. That is the epitome of Rome I think, the co-existing of extremes. It was this that we glimpsed in San Lorenzo.

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We stepped out of Termini into the real Rome. A Rome of gritty contrast, both beautiful and terrifying, eternally magnificent yet stricken with problems that run directly to the core of a city that was once the throne of almost the entire known world. Political slogans and words of grave protest splashed across every building, pictures of turmoil, hurt, and injustice screaming out of the cracks in the walls like the voice of the Roman people crying to be heard. The real Rome.


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It is a strange thing to study abroad because you are neither a tourist nor a local and everyone can somehow see this. You try to fit in as a local, but you are treated as a tourist, which in many respects you still are even though you try very hard not to be. We are temporary residents, which often means we as study abroad students only have time, or only want to make time, to recognize the monumental beauty of a place by seeing the “Top 101 Things To Do in _________” instead of taking the time to get to know the city as it really is, turmoil, gritty truth and all. It is probably the most frustrating part of studying abroad, being neither native nor naïve tourist, while not being able to access the comforts of either. There is no security of a native, that is the comfort of the known and familiarity, while also being denied the peaceful naivety of a tourist who can come and go in a few days with only seeing the highlights, the best and greatest and nothing more or less. As a study abroad student, we have access to neither, but still we strive and try as hard as we can to fit in as a local even though I think it may very well be stamped across my forehead that I am an Americana and I don’t belong or don’t understand. It is a complicated and multifaceted experience to study abroad that serves to open the eyes of students like myself to that very fact, that life everywhere is complicated and more than just a few amazing monuments, or more than just history, it is a living, breathing work of art, intricately woven together. The complex intertwining of the multifaceted aspects of a city are never easy to comprehend, all we can do is try to understand instead of putting on blinders to the pain, misfortune, and struggle of those around us. Four months is not enough time to understand the political rifts or impoverished struggle of the everyday person. Nor is it enough time to comprehend the vast beauty that a place like Rome has to offer. Four months is not enough time for anything to be honest, but all I can do is try to see what it is the Roman’s see. What I saw in San Lorenzo was just one of the many layers of Rome that is the beginning of Rome revealed, the Rome that the locals know and the tourists try to ignore. I am beginning to understand the complexity of the living breathing Rome as the creature that it really is, one layer of its being at a time.



Through the Looking Glass and Back

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Today was the last day of the first part of my academic semester. I have completed the Intensive Advanced Italian Practicum, and today I took my written and oral final exam. It is a bizarre feeling to be taking a final after only three weeks of class, but here I am. This means that soon I begin my core classes and with that, begin the rest of my time here.

But so much has happened in the three weeks that I have been here living my life as a student. Since so much has happened, I am going to focus on the best day that I have had while staying here in Rome so far. It feels like it would be impossible to get a better day than this, but I will just have to see what the future has in store for me.

This last Wednesday was perfect. Recap of what happened: Saw the Pope, ate the best pizza ever, figured out how to use Roman public transportation without dying, went to an amazing gallery for next to no money, and got to read under the cover of ancient columns in a garden of statues, while listening to a man play the accordion. Yah, it was a magical day where every single little thing just happened to go my way.

I will begin with a letter. A letter sent from the Prefettura Della Casa Pontificia granting my roommate Elena and I entry to a Wednesday sermon from the Pope himself that would be held in Saint Peter’s Square.



All of which meant a 7am wake up call for Wednesday to head over to the Vatican, and see Pope Francis with our own eyes and hear him give a sermon with our own ears. We woke up to the pouring rain battering against our window panes, not even sure whether we would get to see the Pope because of the bad weather. Regardless, we made the small trek to the Vatican just in time for the rain to clear up for one grand moment. Between intermittent sunshine and cloud coverage, we pushed our way to the front and got seats in the fourth from the front row. Then came the waiting game, which very quickly became a miserable, but memorable wait. After an hour of waiting it began to rain again, but not just rain, it was a torrential downpour. Every single person there, and let me tell you the whole square was packed, had their umbrella open. It was a massive sea of disjointed colors attempting to cover themselves from the downpour. Every umbrella interlocked with another, it felt like a fortress that we were all in together. I must say though, it was not an impermeable fortress. Rain snuck in every nook and cranny, just enough to soak everyone there. My umbrella was dripping water the entire time, but we all hung in together, persistent and hopeful that the Pope would indeed still come, and hopeful for just a moment of sunshine or the halt of the rain.


We waited in the rain for an hour and a half when for just a moment, the rain stopped. Everyone warily stuck hands out of the fortress of umbrellas to feel for rain, and finding none, one after another all the umbrellas closed. It was in this moment of relief from the rain that the crowd began to roar. At the far corner from where we were sitting (the middle front) the crowd had sprung to life, waving flags chanting, and screaming one thing: Papa Francesco!IMG_7230

And there he was. He drove around the square several times, making sure to visit every corner so that everyone had a fair chance to see him, no mater how far back they were in the crowd. I was surprised to see that the Pope mobile had no side glass on it, it was all open. He drove around, stopping to talk to people, even kissing babies that were held up above the crowd. He truly connected with the people there that had waited for hours in the cold and the rain. I even saw him throw up a peace sign to a couple of people, which was hilarious to see. He just seemed so happy and engaged with the people, genuinely happy. IMG_7231

After making his laps, the Pope went to the center where he would remain for the duration of the ceremony.  The rain started again to the sound of a begrudging communal groan and the umbrellas all went up again. So for that portion of time we couldn’t really see much through the barricade of umbrellas.  But what we could do was hear, and it was truly an experience. We listened to the Pope speak to the entire crowd about the importance of Mass, and the importance of taking communion based out of the book of Matthew, one of the gospels in the Bible. The entire sermon was in Italian, but just like the other times I had attended Mass in the Vatican, I was able to understand most of it. IMG_7251

Then, after the sermon was over the Pope bestowed his blessing on the crowd, which consisted of different priests standing up and translating what the Pope said in his blessing into a ton of different languages. This took up a majority of the time,  but it was very interesting to see the effort that went into blessing each group of people, each one in their own language so they could understand what it was he was saying to them, and how he was blessing them.


After he blessed the audience, the sermon was over and we were free to do whatever we pleased. For us, that meant adventuring because to go to this event we actually had to skip class. So normally, we would have had a couple more hours of Italian, but today we were free.

Freedom usually means one of two (or both) things while in Italy: time to get coffee, or time to eat food. On this day we decided to do both because we were just so excited about not having class. So our first stop was a little caffè called Sciasia Caffe, which is rumored to have excellent coffee. It was a nice open caffè with a few seats and a nice bar to stand at. I ordered un caffè eccelente (espresso with a touch of chocolate) and it was really extremely good. One thing that I have found about the coffee in Italy is yes, it is much stronger, but doesn’t need the same amount of sugar or cream I usually like because it is not as acidic or bitter as American coffee is. It is very nice and smooth and easy to drink whereas American coffee is often watery and bitter. All except for my all time coffee love of my life at Philz in Berkeley which I miss dearly! IMG_7284

After our short coffee break, since all coffee breaks in Italy are short, we decided to try to figure out how to use the metro. I am slightly terrified of public transportation that I am not used to (I still have yet to take Muni in San Francisco because of this) and the transportation system in Italy has always overwhelmed and terrified me. But on this day we conquered that fear and took the metro, which was kind of just like BART back in the Bay. It was easy, fast, and there was a man playing the accordion inside the car we were standing in which is always an added bonus.


We took the metro to the famous Pizzarium, a to go gourmet pizza place with real Roman pizza and very fresh amazing Roman ingredients. I had been once before and like it, but wasn’t extremely impressed, but this time entirely changed my mind. The pizza was hands down the most amazing thing I had eaten in Rome to date. IMG_7289 IMG_7291

One slice was a simple Mozzarella di Buffala (Mozzarella made from buffalo milk) and basil on a fresh cooked pizza and a splash of olive oil. But the other, my gosh, the other was amazing. Every time I come here there are a few flavors that just look scary to me because I either have no idea what it is, or it is something I normally would avoid. But I had decided to try one flavor that scared me every time I went, and I was not disappointed. The other slice I got was a slice with Sicilian broccoli, some sort of meat like prosciutto, potatoes, and some sort of orange marmalade. It was to die for! The mixture of vegetables, salty cured meat, and the sweet orange zest was truly an incredible experience and I felt like for the first time I was going on a culinary adventure in Italy. It blew my mind. IMG_7293

With caffeine and delicious pizza in our stomachs we decided we would continue our adventures across the city in Villa Borghese. A huge garden complex filled with museums, fountains, statues, and just plan old nature in the heart of Rome. We wandered around the park looking at the statues and enjoying the long curve of the umbrella pines as we made our way to the main gallery, Villa Borghese.


The museum is housed in an old mansion in the back of the park and we weren’t sure if we would be able to get in because you usually need reservations for a specific time slot, but we thought what the heck, why not try? The day had been so great so far, it wouldn’t be ruined if one thing didn’t go our way. So we went there and not only were we able to get in right at that very moment with no wait, but we also got in for only 2 euros verses the normal 16 euros due to the kindness of a very nice woman.

The Gallery was incredible. I have never appreciated galleries or art as much as I did when looking upon the Bernini sculptures housed in that place. The art there was incredible, not even just the art but the entire building, every inch covered in paintings or frescos. It was a never ending amusement park that just got better and better as you passed from one room to the next. We also happened to go to the gallery on the day that a Giacometti exhibit was starting, so not only did we get to see the normal art (and classifying it as normal is near blasphemy) we also got to see Giacometti’s amazing sculptures. The juxtaposition of Giacometti’s ghostly, thin wraith like metal sculptures and Bernini’s grand white marble statues full of movement, strength, and life was interesting and enhanced the experience a lot.

I love art, always have and always will. But I was never really a huge museum person, at least not a serious one, but in this gallery I felt like for the first time I was able to see the attributes and value of the art itself and the artistry and impossible work that went into making the pieces that stood before me. Bernini blew my mind. His David statute I could stare at for hours. The intense stare locked on the unseen Goliath, his body twisted and tense as he gets ready to unleash the sling, and even his mouth was a thin taught line of tension. A masterful capture of life, movement, athletic activity, and passion caught in a statue of cold unfeeling marble. I could have stayed the entire time just looking upon that statue.

It was an awe inspiring two hours, after a long but amazing day. It is hard to form words after a day like that, hard to say how amazing the art was, or how appreciative I was at getting to see the Pope. So many unspeakable things that just made for a wonderful day. With no words left in me to speak, we all split up and went our separate ways. For me that meant sitting underneath the cover of ancient columns in the park while listening to a man play the accordion masterfully nearby. I sat there surrounded by old statues with missing limbs and read my book, trying to make sense of how wonderful the day had been. Wondering at how much I really needed that day because it had been really rough. School is hard, life abroad is hard, so much is difficult, so much is not inherent or easy here. Days like last Wednesday keep my alive and remind me what all this hard work is for. Every hardship is a reminder that I have to work for this life, so much is given to me in so many different forms, the least I can do is put in grateful and humble effort into the work that I must do as a thank you to everyone who has helped me get here, even myself.



Beautiful Catastrophe

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Rome is a city of juxtaposition. A place where two unlike things are constantly colliding with one another; sometimes resulting in a beautiful abstract work of art, and others producing nothing but a colossal disaster of a mess. The result is not always pretty, but it makes for an interesting spectacle. Eternally stuck between two extremes, Rome is a world where complete opposites sit civilly across the table from one another sipping coffee. Of the thousands of juxtaposed attributes of this city, it is the coexistence of exaggerated slowness and frantic haste that intrigues me the most.

I spent my Saturday morning at the Prati market called Trionfale, nestled in the back streets behind the Vatican. This market was once a huge open air extravaganza and is now technically still an open market, just housed inside a large facility with stalls for vendors to use. Five rows of vendors stretch across this huge facility, each stand filled to the brim with the food of their trade, be it milk and cheese products, the meats of butchers, the breads of bakers, or fruits and vegetables, they are here at a very low price.


This market is the epitome of this strange juxtaposition of urgency, impatience, and haste co-inhabiting the same space as leisure, painstaking slowness, and practiced appreciation of minute details. When I stepped under the cover of the market and out of the downpour of rain outside, folding my umbrella neatly and carefully, I was able to make my very first observations of the market: I was completely overwhelmed. Hundreds of people jammed down skinny aisles all moving in a thousand different directions, or worst of all, not moving at all. It’s like getting caught amongst salmon during spawning season who are all trying to head up stream. Except all the salmon forgot which way  was up stream. And the stream was coming from five different directions. And the stream is flooding. And bears are trying to eat you, did I forget that part? Yah, it is kind of like that.

Vendors yelling at you, Ciao bella! Trying to draw you in all at the same time. Native Italians who have been doing this their whole lives wedging in front of you yelling out their orders before you have time to say Buon Giorno because you look like a tourist who just got slapped in the face with a fish. Little old ladies who you are trying not to step on because they look so fragile and small, but they just bustle past you without a worry, running your foot over with their market cart. People trying to speak to you quickly in Italian as you try to explain you can’t speak nor understand anything very well.

But. Vendors also kindly handing you free samples of the best prosciutto you have ever had, or a taste of pecorino romano, a delicious Roman cheese. Or vendors giving you extra tomatoes and salad mix just because you smiled and said thank you. Native Italians helping you order something you don’t know how to say, or helping me reach something that was too far away for my short arms. Little old ladies stopping to talk, and talk with you slowly about how crazy the amount of people there are in the market on that given day, or nice little old ladies telling you where to buy the best bread and eggs.

This is the mixture of experiences, jostled moments in the market. The interactions that are written down in the book of what Italian life is, caught in the current of two different streams of life. One rushing downhill like a hurricane coming ashore, the other a wide berthed river lesiurely ebbing with the tide. People crushing you like a lost ant who lost the line back home, or stopping to take the time to help a wounded creature who knows no better than walking into the trap laid by a hunter in wait. The difference between haste and slowness. People who won’t give the time of day, and people who will give you every second of their lives and then some for no reason at all but to be kind.

In the chaos of it all I probably took several laps around the entire market feeling hopelessly lost and out of place. Overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people, all the different vendors selling mostly the same things at different prices, and the strangeness of it all. This market is so far from anything I had ever experience, both in the people and in the actual goods being sold here. The butcher stands are the most shocking and hard to get used to. There are entire animal carcasses hanging or lying in the display case. Heads of boars perched above like the guardian overseers of the market place, endless chains of sausages, and whole smoked or cured animal legs just waiting to be carved up for the next customer.



But this strangeness is part of the beauty of the entire spectacle. The very fact that these strange things, strange experiences that seem so out of this world to me are now the quotidian everyday aspects of my life is just so hard to come to terms, but it is what makes the expat life so wonderful.


I finally stopped in the center of the market, took a deep breath and actually slowed my frantic pace enough to truly see what was around me. A vendor selling every type of nut I had ever seen before was right in front of me. I didn’t buy anything, but I stood there marveling at the beauty of the scene. There was so much beauty here in the chaos, I just needed to step back and actually look at it to truly see.


But it isn’t just the physical speed of the market that marks it as the epicenter of a massive juxtaposition, it is how people act and feel. It is the actions done in patient slowness and careful tenderness like the woman working as a butcher who takes artful time to slowly carve paper thin slices of prosciutto. The deliberate strokes, the steady hand, and the total focus she has on just that moment, that one action as all else falls away. I waited in total silence, enrapt in this small moment of slowness. As soon as she was finished with her task and done serving me, she became a vendor again crying out to the crowds, trying to bring in the people to her stand. It was such a dramatic shift from slow deliberate and tender caring motions to the rapid gesticulating of a vendor quickly speaking in italian to strangers to get them to buy their food. But knowing, underneath the hasty, and rapid gesticulations was a careful and caring artisan who cared deeply about her product and caring for the customer.



Everyone you see seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere fast, yet the very same people who will push you in the narrow aisles can be seen just a few vendors away, taking exorbitant amounts of time to smell a clementine to see if it is just ripe enough to be sweet to the taste.

It is a beautiful catastrophe. To observe and partake in this amazing spectacle of human activity is truly an experience. To be both in the thick of bustling life, but be outside of it at the same time to be able to witness both sides of the clashing extremes in the tiniest of moments that would be so easy to miss when swept away by the undertow ebb and flow of Italian life.

This is the struggle, but also the gift of this life I find myself living here in Rome. The pull between being swept away by the habitual ritual of living life in Rome, and the constant awe that overwhelms me at random moments because this beautiful catastrophe belongs to me, every ounce of its beauty, and every ounce of its pain. It is so easy to be caught up in the urgency and haste that is so prevalent in Italy, exhibited in things like the market, or the traffic, dear lord the driving in Italy is horrifying, but everything around me is a constant reminder of how extraordinary this life truly is. The fact that when I hurry to school every morning I pass by the Vatican, cross the Tiber River, and walk under the watchful and protective gaze of the Archangel Michael who wields his sword from atop Castel Sant’Angelo, and that this is entirely normal. This is normal yet so very extraordinary. I hope to never forget that. Even when the weeks turn into months, I hope to be apart of the flow of this city, but not a part of the haste that sweeps away the ability to truly see the things around me.

Though my life and time here is already passing by quickly as the marker for my third week here fast approaches, I will never cry out as Job did saying

My days are swifter than a runner, they speed by without seeing happiness. Job 9:25

I will take hold of this juxtaposition of Rome and embrace the collision of swiftness and slowness to live a life here that is without regret, and instead is full of appreciation for every little thing that I encounter while I am here. Though my days are swift, I will never forget to stop and see with happiness the blessings placed before me.


Coffee Culture

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

The clicking of coffee cups against porcelain plates, and the sound of raining falling on the cobblestone streets outside accompanies the soft chatter of conversations in languages ranging from Italian to German in a small coffee shop full of murals and books just a few winding alley ways away from Piazza Navona. The windows are foggy from the warmth of whispered words inside and the persistent downpour of rain outside on the window pane. Books splayed out before me on a table, a cappuccino in hand and a chocolate croissant waiting to be eaten. Oh how I have missed this.


Back in Berkeley I essentially lived in coffee shops, spending hours on end either studying, reading or writing in a corner of a caffe with coffee in hand and billion thoughts swirling around in my mind. Never, before I came to Rome, did I think I would not have access to the main aspect of all that is quotidian in my life back in California. All I hear about Italy is how good the coffee is, so never did I think that what I would come to miss the most was the culture of coffee in America.

Yes, there are a ridiculous amount of coffee shops in Rome with endless cups of hard shots of espresso and copious cappuccinos, but what they do not have is a coffee culture where coffee is the objective, not the means for something else. People here do not find a caffe and settle in for hours of studying or just reading a good book, there is hardly ever any sitting for even the smallest of moments.


The culture of coffee in Rome, what little I have come to understand about it, can be described as such. You enter a crowded caffe with people lined up standing at a bar. You nudge your way to the bar and ask for un caffe (a tiny shot of really strong espresso), un cappuccino, or maybe a caffe latte (a small version of what people in America deem a latte). But even in that simple event it is a very confusing process because from one caffe to another the order of events differs. In some places you must pay first and then go to the bar and show your receipt and then they make it for you. Or the other way, which is you order your coffee and drink it at the bar and when you are done you pay for it. So in every new coffee shop there is a moment of panic and confusion trying to deduce what type of caffe it is and taking the risk of looking stupid and foreign if you get it wrong.


Regardless of what you order or what order the events progress in, there is one general consensus: you drink your coffee quickly. There is nothing leisurely about this. The coffee is in small portions, and just warm enough to stay that way for maybe five minutes. You are meant to stand at the bar and down your little shot of coffee quickly, and then continue on your way to the rest of your day. Getting coffee is a pit stop, not a destination in Rome. It is done in a hurry between events and not an event in and of itself like it often is in America. Even though it is a hurried event, you never get coffee to go. You never see someone walking around drinking coffee, it is bizarre if you do and almost always an instant indicator of a tourist.

So you stand elbow to elbow at the bar and drink your coffee quickly. Some places do have seating, but you have to pay extra money to sit down and it is a whole different method of ordering. You just sit and they serve you at your seat instead of ordering at the bar and it costs quite a bit more.

So needless to say, for a girl who lives off of being able to go into a caffe and sit for hours on end slowly sipping coffee, this was a nightmarish realization and a long process in understanding how to navigate the coffee culture of Rome. It still is and will continue to be. I have been able to try some amazing cups of different coffee though ranging from chocolately to straight black coffee all over Rome. So far, I think Sant’Eustachio Cafe has been my favorite!



I have been desperately searching for a caffe where people don’t yell at you if you try to sit down and today I finally succeeded for the first time. I found a place near my university that actually seems to be okay with you sitting down for an extended period of time. Oh how I have missed this.


Red plush armchairs, books lining the walls covered in murals, and bottles of Italian wine being used as book ends; I like this place a lot, it almost feels like home, almost. I finally may have  found myself a home caffe.

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Blurred Details

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

For this semester I am studying abroad in Rome Italy. I am posting on another blog, Luminosity, for my time abroad. I will try to transfer some of the posts back to this blog as well. Here is the beginning

The beginning of my journey is entirely devoid of details due to illness. I have been at a loss of words, profound or simple, to begin my story because the truth is that the beginning was a blur. Moments blending into each other like a careless hand swept across a precious pastel painting. Time lost, spaces jumped, a chaotic tumble of goodbye, luggage, security, waiting, boarding, plane rides, airports, waiting, waiting, airplanes, taxis and the list of jumbled images could continue. I have combed this mess of memory for the details, anything to lend light to how I somehow ended up in Rome, Italy when just a few short days ago I was home being pampered by my wonderful mother while horrible ill back in Santa Cruz, California.

For the lack of details, I will tell you what I can of how I ended up Rome in an amazing apartment, starting an amazing and insanely different life in a foreign country as a student. Bear with me on this minimalist and slightly incoherent account of my journey, I promise my writing won’t always be like what follows.

It began with food poisoning. The night before I was set to depart on the greatest adventure of my life. I have never had food poisoning myself, but I have helped many others who have had it because that is what happens when you have food poisoning, you are helpless. With my bags only half packed, and the journey set to start the next afternoon, this was the worst case scenario. Literally, it was my worst case scenario, well maybe one step down from my actual worst case, that being getting the worst of the food poisoning while sitting on the 11 hour flight to Frankfurt.

Utterly helpless. My saint of a mother, who I already miss dearly, saved the day a thousand times over, and when I said goodbye the next morning I wasn’t even able to properly thank her for everything because I was so out of it still. I couldn’t keep any food or water down and even managed to pass out at one point trying not to throw up. So yah, it was a great last day in America.

The time at the airport is still a strange blur of talking to all of my friends in Berkeley on the phone before I boarded, and how great it was to hear them all laughing, but how much I was going to miss them while I was gone. The plane ride was 11 hours of desperately trying to sleep since I had no energy, and no sleep the entire last day and managing to not really get any rest. I even managed to pass out on the airplane once since I hadn’t eaten any food in over 30 hours. Then Frankfurt, Germany, hello goodbye, danke bitte, board the plane in the freezing cold, almost there, almost there.

Then suddenly, we were there, waiting for luggage as I was dying in a chair, going on almost 40hrs without having eaten any food besides a few saltine crackers. In a blur of smoke we left the airport into the taxi area where I was slightly and deliriously convinced we were going to be kidnapped by an unmarked taxi cab. I then forgot how to speak English when trying to get a cab. But from then on there the taxi took us into Rome and it began to dawn on me that this was real and my first thought was, what have I gotten myself into? But then we reached the Centro Storico, or Historical Center of Rome and suddenly it was like all the post cards and travel book pictures of Rome. Then our taxi driver kicked us out on the curb, told me my bag was too heavy, and pointed us down a slightly sketchy looking alley way. My travel companion and future Rome roommate Elena and I were confused, exhausted but also excited. Dragging our exorbitantly large bags across cobblestones, which is extremely difficult to do, we found our study center where we will be taking our classes for the rest of the semester. They kindly gave us our keys and directions to our apartment. Let me just say, I had horrible images of worst case scenarios of dark, cramped, dank apartment buildings full of angry Italians and my gosh was I pleasantly proven wrong. Our apartment (aside from a few maintenance issues in the works) is amazing. We are in Prati, maybe five blocks away from the Vatican on the main street of Cola di Rienzo where there is a ton of upscale shopping.

I cannot begin to explain with what relief I crawled into my stiff ikea bed. That is, after Elena and I nearly slept walked down the street to a random supermarket to buy food in hopes of eating, which ultimately failed, only to return home with still empty bellies. I had never been so exhausted in my life. Empty of calories, no sleep, travel on travel on travel, and so much overwhelming chaos as well as amazingness was almost too much. I was blissfully happy, but deeply and thoroughly exhausted.

That is as detailed as I can manage on my travel to Rome. My arrival and adventure to get here in all of its delirious blurred glory. Only now am I starting to really regain clarity in the things I do. I can eat normally now, but am still easily exhausted and overwhelmed but so excited for what is to come. Ready to embrace this experience in all of its splendor and discover Rome as it truly is, not just as a postcard or a checklist of places to go and see. As I settle in more and experience life in Rome, I will be posting more and more of my first couple of days and everything that is to come.


Dreaming in the Past

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

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I love old decrepit buildings, especially significant ruins like this old mission near Cal Poly, Mission San Miguel. Someday I hope to explore other ruins like in Pompeii or Rome. Some day. Hey a girl’s got to have dreams.

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