Happy spring break everyone!
My family flew into Rome on Friday morning and immediately wanted their personal tour guide (me) to take them around Rome.
Their first full day here we took the high speed italo treno to Florence for a day trip. About an hour on the train and we were already there. We were told prior to our trip by some family friends that it was important to go to the Duomo of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, early to avoid long lines. They were right, not only is there only one very narrow flight of 463 steps to accommodate tourists going both up and down, but the line to get into the church had reached at least an hour and a half by noon.
We went to the Duomo around 9 o’clock and there was no line, which meant very few tourists at the top, which made for some awesome pictures!
Being in Florence, it can only be assumed that we went to the leather market. I was determined to find a beautiful leather jacket and bargain the price way down. We first went to the open air leather market where I found exactly what I was looking for, the only problem, the collar was unmistakably damaged. Disappointed, I knew I wasn’t about to spend a large sum of money for something damaged. As we walked around Florence we stopped in leather stores to see what they had. In one store we walked in a classic salesman showed us coat after coat but nothing was right. I explained the coat I had seen at the market and it was as if a light bulb had gone off in this man’s head. He told us to wait and that he would be back in 5 minutes. He ran out of the store down the street to his other store to grab a jacket, which to my surprise was exactly what I had seen from the other vendor, even nicer. This jacket was lined and the man even offered to do alterations on the sleeves to ensure a perfect fit. It’s clear my dad’s bargaining skills are on a completely different level. Not only was he able to bargain the jacket down even more, but he was able to do so with US dollars! I was able to walk away with a beautiful custom fit jacket that I can’t wait to show my friends at home. Thanks Dad : )
After a long day in Florence we jumped on the train and headed back to Rome to get some dinner. We found a hole in the wall place with a zero English menu and a zero English speaking staff. Even though dinners like this are a little tougher, the less English the better! No English means that the restaurant isn’t looking to pull in tourists, which means more authentic Italian food! The staff was friendly, and I think we even made them laugh a few times with our attempts at ordering in Italian which in some cases just ended up being us pointing to food on other tables.
All carbed up from our pasta dinner the night before, Rebecca and I were ready to run. While we waited in the corals to start the race we talked to two women from California who had gone to high school in Rome and came back for a reunion. At first we didn’t know how they could pick us out so easily, our lack of Italian? No. Our overall American appearance? NO! It was our race bibs that gave us away… I hadn’t really taken notice to the “F” before our numbers, but apparently it didn’t stand for fabulous or fantastic… nope, it stood for “foreigner.” Thanks RomaOstia, when the only thing I want to do is blend. If anything, I have way more respect for the international runners in the Philadelphia Marathon now.
After the race Rebecca and I celebrated with our tè caldo (hot tea). Side note for all of my running friends, instead of giving us foil at the end to keep us warm they gave us these cool plastic jackets. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t be seeing me sporting this on the street, but it’s perfect because unlike the foil that catches all of the wind and falls off, this jacket had buttons and drawstrings to keep you warm!
One thing that concerned the two of us was my dad and brother’s ability to navigate the train (different than the metro) to Ostia where the finish line was located. We shouldn’t have been worried at all. Somehow they were both able to manage their way into the VIP for just long enough to fill up on prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches and croissants before promptly being escorted out when security found out they weren’t actually VIP.
It’s only three days into spring break, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it than with my family! On Monday we’re taking another high speed train, this time to Venice. And on Tuesday we’re making our way down to Pompeii to see the city and climb Mount Vesuvius.
Here concludes the most stressful week of my semester so far!
Not only was Monday the first day of midterms, but also the day I somehow managed to contract strep throat. Thankfully I didn’t miss any exams, but it was definitely a struggle to get through everything….taking a test was the LAST thing I wanted to be doing (talk about bad timing!) I had a high fever and my throat was swollen to the point where it was too painful to swallow even small sips of water. I owe a huge thanks to my roommate Allison for helping me figure out what to do in this type of situation. Part of the application for Temple’s study abroad requires that all students enroll in HTH Worldwide Insurance Services prior to departure. We all received a benefits and medical insurance ID card, which has our name, certificate number, and emergency assistance numbers for both inside and outside the United States. On Tuesday, my symptoms had reached their peak, and I knew I needed to see a doctor. My roommate first called HTH and simply asked how I could make an appointment with a clinic. HTH explained that they would send me an email, which they already had on record from the study abroad application, and with it would include a guarantee of payment for any appointment made with Aventino Medical Group between the 26th and March 3rd. They gave Allison a number and address for the clinic as well. However, when I called Aventino, the only appointment with the specialist available for that day was at 4:00, and I had a midterm at 4:45. The specialist would only be there that day, and was there the day before, so that didn’t look too promising. Not to mention the clinic was located near the Circo Massimo subway stop, and using public transportation was the least appealing. Frustrated and ill, Allsion decided to call Temple Rome’s school number for me and inquire about more clinics. She spoke to Manuela Proietti, the assistant to the Dean, who gave the phone number of another reliable doctor, but when no one picked up, Allison called Manuela back and explained that this verged on a medical emergency. Manuela then suggested that she could have a doctor make a house call in 30 minutes. THIS WAS THE BEST NEWS I COULD’VE EVER EXPECTED TO HEAR. A house call? How old school! I didn’t even think that was a possibility. And believe it or not, within 30 minutes, this tiny Italian man showed up at Room 81 carrying a leather bag and stethoscope around his neck. He checked my vitals and then wrote me a prescription for amoxicillin, paracetamol, and a throat spray. In Italy, there are pharmacies on almost every street corner. They’re called “farmacia” and they’re marked by flashing green medical cross marquees above their door. Farmacias are different than drug stores in the U.S. because they only sell medicine and fill prescriptions. Toiletries and other body products are found in supermarkets or dollar stores. You simply take your doctor’s note to the counter and a pharmacist takes your order and rings you up. It’s easy! Unlike in the U.S., you don’t have to drop off a prescription and come back later when it’s filled. And even if you haven’t been seen by a medical professional, you can still buy over the counter drugs and the pharmacists are there to help you find what you need to get healthy again!
No one wants to be sick in another country, but when it happens, it’s important to know and understand the country’s health care policy so you can get the help you need right away! I never anticipated coming down with something that required medical attention, but it happened and I’m glad I had this experience in case any future emergencies ensue! But let’s hope this is the only and last time I have to miss out on enjoying my time in Italy.
Stressful week before midterms? Don’t fret, just take a trip to do some olive oil and wine tasting!
Ok, so maybe my friends back home can’t do that… but that’s exactly what some of us Temple students did before we hit the books!
We spent our class-free Friday exploring the Umbria region of Italy where we visited the “Monini” olive oil company, the “Novelli” wine company, and “Grazia,” the oldest ceramics company in Deruta.
I’m starting to see a trend… it seems like I still haven’t been able to break my habit of keeping my camera in my bag… I’m not sure where this blog (or my collection of pictures for when I return home) would be if I didn’t travel almost everywhere with my friend, Kate. She deserves credit for all the pictures I used for this post, and even though I promise to make a better effort to pull my camera out every once in a while, you’ll probably still be seeing a vast majority of her pictures in posts to come.
At Monini we learned what differentiated an olive oil from being good and great. Our tour started with a brief background the growing of olives and the prime time to harvest them. We even learned about the different picking methods, and which ones were better than others.
*Tip for anyone looking to produce their own olive oil, pick your olives off of the tree, DON’T pick them up off the ground. They’ve already started fermenting at that point and won’t be as delicious.
Once we finally got our hands on some olive oil we learned how to tell if an olive oil was good using our senses. First, we warmed the cups in our hands to heat it up and “release the scents.” Within a matter of seconds the whole room filled with the smell of olive oil, and trust me, nobody was complaining.
Then our host told us we were going to be tasting the olive oil… great! What’s better than some Italian bread and world renowned olive oil? Only thing is… we didn’t get any bread. That’s right; we were going to “drink” the olive oil. I have to make something clear though, by drink the olive oil I don’t mean toss it back by the cup, we’re talking about the size of a teaspoon.
Our host showed us several times the steps that go into tasting an olive oil, and then it was our turn. Not only is this process kind of funny, but also shows you a taste of olive oil that you’ve never experienced before.
Once the tasting was over we were treated to some bruschetta outside. While there are several varieties to bruschetta, the original version is only three ingredients: bread, salt, and olive oil.
After our olive oil tasting we were off to our next destination, Novelli. Here we sampled several wine including sparkling, white, and red. We learned about the color, density, tiers, and speeds of different wines, and the long process that goes behind making them.
Grazia ceramics is the oldest producer of ceramics in Deruta. Their family tradition dates back as early as the 12th century, and there products are seen all over the world. While not cheap, each piece is not only hand sculpted, but also hand painted. We were greeted by the current owner, Ubaldo Grazia, who took us through Grazia’s entire process of producing ceramics.
With Deruta being known for their ceramics, our final destination was a few doors down to another local ceramic shop (that was much cheaper!) where we were able to all get our ceramic fixes without breaking our banks.
We returned to Rome in the early evening, and as much as we didn’t want to, it was time to study for finals. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Spring break is less than a week away!
Class trips are the best way to learn about Italy hands down!
Last weekend my International Trade class took a trip to Sicily and it’s safe to say that so far Sicily has been the place with 1) the best food 2) the best weather and 3) the best views.
We were greeted to the city of Catania by an active volcano, Mount Etna. One of the coolest things I saw in Sicily was the view of Mt. Etna at night. The tip of the volcano would glow red at night from the lava!
On Friday we visited several companies, including: SASOL, Oranfresh, and ETIS2000.
Orangefresh is responsible for the production of orange squeezing machines, aka the best orange juice you will ever have in your life. Our hotel had one of Oranfresh’s machines in their breakfast hall, and I’m considering making a plee bargain with Temple University to bring one to main campus!
For lunch we went to Tenuta del Gelso where we were treated to a wine tasting along with a typical Sicilian meal. The Sicilians know how to cook! I don’t think I could describe this meal in a way that does it justice. Homemade pasta, the best red wine I’ve ever tasted, and a Sicilian salad that consisted of oranges along with raw onion and a variety of other things like olives. It may sound incredibly weird, but it’s one of the few recipes I feel confident bringing home with me and recreating.
Our next stop was to ETIS2000, a large printing company in Sicily, also the printer of the daily newspaper, La Sicilia (the one we were actually in, see photo below.)
On Saturday we visited the Colleroni company and one of their orange orchards. The fact that we were able to walk through an orchard grove and at any time pick an orange and eat it was a highlight of the trip. Seriously, how do you get any fresher than that?
We had more Sicilian food for lunch, this time in the town of Buccheri. Nestled on the top of a hill overlooking a valley we were treated to more pasta and wine, along with a series of sausage and veil.
Quick side note, I feel like every other post that I make includes pasta and wine, and you would think I’d get sick of the same foods over and over again, right? WRONG. There are so many different styles, sauces, and flavours its impossible to every try them all.
We were given free time on Saturday afternoon, and with the gorgeous weather (it was consistently around 70 degrees our entire trip) just about everybody in the group hit the beach. Some people made it to the sandy beaches, but me and some friends opted for the rocky beach. There I am with the Mediterranean Sea in the background!
Before catching our flight back to Rome on Sunday afternoon, our professor took us to Taormina.
While visiting the amphitheater we decided to show our school spirit and spell out Temple with the coast, the city, and even Mount Etna behind us!
This is also where I bought my Italian espresso set! Some hand painted ceramic cups and a matching trey will accent my Philadelphia apartment quite nicely (:
The fun didn’t stop there though…
While waiting to board our flight back to Rome we found out that we were on the same plane with S.S. Lazio, the professional Italian football (soccer) team! Students (myself included) asked players for photos and autographs to take back to our friends in Rome. Overall this class trip gave me a tour of Sicily that I would have never been able to get on my own, I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in studying in Rome to look at the list of classes and take into consideration class trips. They are a truly unique experience and something you do not want to miss out on!