Learning to Make Pasta and a Summer Tiramisu

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After the wine tasting and the tiramisu extravaganza was the event I was most excited for—cooking lessons! A small group of us traveled by bus to an apartment north of Campus to learn how to make traditional Italian recipes. We were served wine and delicious appetizers of sun dried tomatoes, olives, bread, and salami to keep our hunger at bay while we cooked our meal.

The first dish we made was a summer tiramisu. Instead of coffee, chocolate, and rum, the main ingredients of the summer version of the classic Italian dessert used fruits and yogurt. We started by mixing mascarpone cheese, sugar, and yogurt together. This cream replaces the egg and mascarpone mixture of the traditional tiramisu. Next, we dipped lady fingers in blueberry juice, instead of a rum and coffee mixture, and laid them down as the base for our summer tiramisu. We then stacked up layers of freshly picked apricots marinated in brown sugar and the cream mixture. We also crushed up some almond cookies and layered them in to give the tiramisu some texture. To top off our fresh summer dessert, we decorated the top with strawberries. And then, like any tiramisu, we set them in the refrigerator to be chilled before serving. The summer version of the tiramisu was a lot easier to make than the classic version, but we wouldn’t know until after dinner if it tasted better!

Now it was time for us to make the main course—pasta. We started by mixing two eggs and two cups of flour until we had dough. We then moved the dough from the bowl onto a cooking board and kneaded it until it reached the right texture, which is much easier said than done. We cut the ball of dough into four sections and rolled out each section with a rolling pin to make it long and flat. After what felt like an hour of wrestling with the dough, I finally had some pieces that looked like they could fit through the pasta press. We fed the pieces through the press several times in order to achieve a consistent thickness throughout all of our pasta dough since we would be cooking them all together. After all the pieces were about the same thickness, we sent them through a different section of the press that cut them into strips.

The air outside that night was incredibly hot and dry, so the pasta was actually drying out as we were cutting it. Our cooking instructors told us that in all their years of cooking, they’ve never had that happen before. We didn’t get to cook the pasta ourselves since they didn’t want to risk it drying out too fast, but I think we were all just excited to taste it so we didn’t mind at all. Our instructors had a tomato and basil sauce premade for the sake of time, but they taught us how to make it ourselves in case we wanted to cook this dish while we were in Italy or at home for our friends and family.

Finally, it was time for the most exciting part of the night—eating the food we had cooked! The pasta was served fresh and hot, and it was very good. We all felt pretty proud of the fact that we had made the pasta we were eating from scratch just earlier that evening. The summer tiramisus tasted excellent, too. I think I like the summer version better than the classic tiramisus we made at the Tiramisu Extravaganza. I’m glad I learned how to cook some traditional Italian dishes so that I can teach my friends and family when I get home to Philadelphia.

The History of Art in Rome: Hadrian’s Villa and Tivoli

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One of my favorite things about my summer abroad so far is my History of Art in Rome class. What makes the class special is that once a week we take a field trip to historic sites in the city of Rome so that we can see the art we’re learning about in person (and even better, for free). So far, we’ve visited the Capitoline Museums, the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Pantheon, and lots of historical churches. While those trips are fun, what I like even better is our excursions—day long trips to fantastic locations that you can’t miss if you’re studying Italian art!

Our first excursion was this past Friday to Hadrian’s Villa, an archeological site of an ancient village-like palace built under the emperor Hadrian. While a villa just means a house with gardens, Hadrian’s Villa was more like a small town! It’s so large that archeologists haven’t even unearthed every part of it yet. Even after centuries of exposure to the natural elements and pillaging, the villa is still incredibly impressive and beautiful. Personally, I think Hadrian was one of the most interesting Roman emperors because he showed an appreciation and admiration for the foreign places the empire conquered. He was also an avid architect and philosopher, as well as a successful emperor. He loved to travel to the far reaches of the empire, and he built tributes to them in his villa.

One of the coolest things about Hadrian’s Villa was the Canopus, an area with a dining area for entertaining guest that overlooked a large fish pond. The pond and surrounding buildings and statues were modeled after a place in Egypt that Hadrian visited on his travels throughout the empire. What made the Canopus especially interesting was that it also had Greek influences, as can be seen in the Corinthian columns and statues. The villa also had well preserved bath houses, many other ponds, and a building called the Maritime Theatre where Hadrian was thought to retreat when he needed isolation. It even had drawbridges that could be raised to prevent anyone from entering.

After out time at Hadrian’s Villa, we traveled to Tivoli to see the villa there. The Tivoli Villa is a terraced garden that was built in the image of Hadrian’s Villa. They even pillaged some of the sculptures from Hadiran’s Villa and brought them to the Tivoli Villa. It is famous for its many magnificent fountains. One of my favorites was The Hundred Fountains, which, despite the name, has over 300 spouts! It extends the length of an entire wall and has many different animals and mask carvings spewing water. The fountains are tiered into three layers, and each feeds into the one below it. The Hundred Fountains was a symbol for aqueducts, which were incredibly vital for the construction and success of the Roman Empire.

I’m glad on got to visit these places with my History of Art class because my professor was able to tell us so much about the beautiful things we saw. Taking the class has also introduced me to a new way of looking at ancient art and architecture. Seeing these incredible locations definitely means more to me when I know the history behind their construction and purpose.

Tiramisu Extravaganza

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Temple Rome offers many fun activities for students to register for that further introduce them to the culture of Italy. There are weekly Calcetto Nights where teams of students play football with local Italians, the Tiramisu Extravaganza where teams of students compete for the title of best tiramisu makers, Wine Tasting Night where students learn about the process of wine making (and of course get to sample some different wines), and weekly cooking classes where small groups of students learn how to make traditional Italian dishes in a local home. I plan on participating in all of the events, but the first I went to was the Tiramisu Extravaganza. We met in the student lounge on campus after class and picked numbers to divide us into three teams in preparation for some friendly competition. Each team had a teacher that was familiar with making tiramisu. I liked that the teams were randomly picked because I got to meet some new people that I didn’t have class with. After introducing ourselves to our teammates, we started preparing the tiramisu!

31We started by separating the eggs, mixing sugar into the egg yolks, and mixing them on high for several minutes. Then we added mascarpone cheese into our yolk and sugar mixture, whipped the egg whites so they were smooth and fluffy, and gently folded the egg whites into the mascarpone and yolk mixture to make the cream. Folding the components of the cream together gently is a vital part of making a good tiramisu. Meanwhile, we combined espresso and rum into a baking dish. Even though the recipe that all three teams were following was the same, there was a lot of room for variation, so all of our tiramisus turned out a little differently. Our team decided to go a little light on the espresso and a little heavy on the rum. We dipped lady fingers in the espresso and rum and laid them out on the thin layer of cream. The trick is to dip them in quickly so that they don’t get soggy. Then, we layered the cream on top, added another layer of ladyfingers, and topped the tiramisu off with another layer of cream. To decorate, we decided to be a little resourceful and cut a stencil out of one of our recipe sheets and sprinkle cocoa powder over it to spell ROMA on top of our tiramisu. Then, it was off to the refrigerator to chill! Traditionally, the tiramisu should stay in the refrigerator for several hours, but we didn’t have that kind of time, so ours only chilled for about 10 minutes. After all the teams were finished, it was time for the judging! Two Temple Rome professors served as judges and sampled a taste of all of our tiramisus. After some intense deliberating, they picked ours as the winner! 32They liked that ours was light on the espresso, but it all depends of the taste of the person eating the tiramisu. After the judging came the best part—trying all of the different tiramisus at the end! I’m not usually a coffee lover, but I liked all of the tiramisus I tried that night!

If you want to see more of the Tiramisu Extravaganza, you can also check out the live video that Gianni, the Temple Rome Student Affairs Assistant, posted on the Temple Rome Facebook Page.

Todi and Titignano

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Todi ViewOn the last day of our orientation weekend, we boarded a bus destined for Todi, a hilltop town about two and a half hours to the north of the city of Rome. The medieval town overlooks the Tevere Valley, offering a spectacular view of the Italian countryside. As the town sits on a hill, there were options to either hike up or take a cable car. My group decided to hike, and the view was most definitely worth it. You could see the stone buildings from the town wrap along the hillside and sit over a sea of forests and plains. After staring in awe at the view before us, we headed into Todi to explore the town. It was quite the change of pace from the bustling city of Rome. Since the town sits quite a distance from major roads and cities, there were far less tourists than anywhere in Rome. There were many beautiful churches and colorful potted flowers scattered throughout the narrow stone alleyways and hanging from ornate iron railings. Instead of the noises of cars honking and scooters zipping past, Todi was filled with the sounds of birds chirping and the ringing of church bells.

TodiOur first stop in the magical little town was Tempio di San Fortunato, a Roman Catholic church constructed in the seventh century. The outside of the church looked a bit plain because the façade was only halfway completed, but the front steps leading up to Tempio di San Fortunato was covered with beautiful flowers, much like the rest of the town. The inside of the church contained many frescoes on the walls and the tomb of Saint Fortunatus, the patron saint of Todi. After visiting Tempio di San Fortunato, we made our way through the winding alleyways to the Todi Cathedral, a Romanesque style church with a large rose window on the façade. The church sits at the heart of the town, and the view from the top of the steps offers a great view of the beautiful city of Todi.

TitignanoAfter spending a few hours exploring the histotic hilltop town, we traveled by bus for around another 45 minutes and arrived at Tenuta Di Titignano, a castle overlooking Lake Corbara. At Titignano, we celebrated the end of our orientation and the beginning of our semester with a traditional Italian meal. Outside on the patio area, we enjoyed appetizers of breads, cheeses, and meats while admiring the view of the lake and the surrounding mountains and forests. Once we entered the castle, we sat in the beautiful dining area where we were served cheese quiche, risotto with asparagus, pasta with wild boar sauce, lamb with mushroom sauce, chicken and venison with potatoes, salad, tiramisu, biscotti dipped in sweet dessert wine, and finally, espresso. Every part of the meal was delicious, and all of the ingredients were from the surrounding area and prepared fresh at the Titignano estate.

I’m very thankful that part of our orientation included a visit to these two breathtaking Italian sites. I don’t think Todi and Titignano are places that students would have known to visit on their own during their time abroad, but they showed me just how much beauty and culture the Italian countryside has to offer.

From Here to There

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venice-flowers-copy-e1496740059134.jpgI remember being ten years old and sitting on the carpeted floor of my local library, shuffling through shelves and shelves of travel books (the ones I could reach, at least), flipping to the pages with the brightest colors and biggest pictures: full page spreads of intricately decorated palaces, mountain ranges that reached all the way up to the clouds, beaches painted with sunsets and colorful buildings, and countless other marvelous sites. These amazing places depicted in these books seemed so far out of reach, as if they were on an entirely different world than I was. Never did I think that I would be able to travel to the pictures on the glossy pages and see the world for myself.

Flash forward a few years and I’ve ridden elephants through the forests of Thailand, held tiger cubs on my lap, walked alongside deer in Nara, and witnessed the craziness that is Saint Patrick’s Day in New Orleans. I’m sure ten-year-old Tabby would be amazed at all the wonderful things she’ll get to see, do, and experience in her lifetime, and I’m glad Temple has given me the opportunity to add studying abroad in Rome to that list.

I considered a lot of different options when I started to plan my trip abroad, but Rome was the clear front-runner from the beginning. I’ve always had a passion and appreciation for visual arts and architecture. Throughout elementary school, middle school, and most of high school, I thought I would end up in an artistic field (museum curator was at the top of the list for a while). But things rarely work out the way you think they’re going to when you’re young—currently, I’m studying Statistical Science + Data Analytics and Management Information Systems at the Fox School of Business. While I love everything about data and statistics, I haven’t left my passion for art behind. I’m very excited for all the wonderful paintings, sculptures, and architecture that I’ll be able to see in person during my summer in Rome.

There’s a lot of pictures from those travel books that I’ve yet to see, but I’m working on changing that. Over 4,000 miles away is a city filled with people I’ve never met, food I’ve never tasted, sights I’ve never seen, the remnants of a history I’ve never known, and a culture I’ve yet to experience. I know the six weeks I’m about to spend in Rome will feel like the shortest of my life, and it is with great anticipation that I mark off the days on the calendar until I’m able to gaze out of my airplane window and witness the Philadelphia skyline disappearing behind me, making way for a new adventure.

Leaving Rome

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If you were to tell me four months ago that I would be dreading leaving Italy, I would have laughed in your face.

Actually, I probably would have cried in your face, because that’s pretty much all I did my first week in Rome.

I’m not very good at change. I get too comfortable, and then the idea of having to leave or make things different is just horrifying to me. But I already wrote about being afraid to leave home.

Now I’m afraid to leave Rome. It hasn’t become “like” home to me the past four months, it was home. And, once again, I have to go.

(If being a real adult is just more of this- finding a place to call home and then leaving- count me out.)

In a way, I’m thankful to be afraid. It means I actually had a successful trip. One of the things I wrote about in every application essay I had to write before going to Rome; as the answer to every single “Why do you want to study abroad?” was independence. I wanted to prove to myself (and others) than I can manage on my own- truly on my own, not just a few hours away from home. That I don’t let my shy, quiet, anxious disposition control my life and keep me away from the things I truly want to do.

That’s something I’ve always been afraid of. I don’t think anyone reading this who knows me in person would be surprised to hear that I get nervous around other people. I don’t talk a lot in groups, or in class. I’m not particularly outgoing, outspoken, or social. I find things, people, that I like, and I stick to them like glue. And, like I said earlier, I’m not too fond of change. The thing is, I’m completely aware that I’m like this, which I think is the worst part. I know that I’m missing out on stuff, and I know that, usually, it’s my fault. I can normally assure myself that I wouldn’t enjoy myself if I did go out (I mean really, reading the above, do I seem like a party girl? Not exactly). But with Rome? There was no “I probably won’t like it there.” I knew I’d love it, I just had to, well, I had to make sure I didn’t let myself get in the way.

I do that a lot, get so anxious about stuff I’ll eventually convince myself not to do the thing I want to do. I very nearly did it with Rome- the first week I was about to get myself back to the airport, on a plane, and back home.

I’m glad I didn’t.

I’m really, truly happy I had this experience. I don’t think there’s enough words in the dictionary or time in the world for me to possibly explain how grateful I am for the past semester. I’ve gone places I never would have imagined, met people I know I’ll be friends with for years (or forever, if they’ll put up with me).

I’ve proven that I can fend for myself, and that when it comes to the big stuff- the real, life-altering decisions and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities- I’m more than capable of putting myself out there.

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The very first photo on my camera roll from Rome.

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And the very last.

So one last time:

Ciao, Roma. Ci vediamo presto.

 

Rome Reflections

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Yesterday was officially my last day in the city that I called home for the past four months. I flew back from Sicily to Rome on my way to Germany and had about an eight hour stop over in Rome. Originally, I was just going to stay in the airport and wait for my next flight, but I couldn’t resist one last day in the eternal city. I owed Rome a proper goodbye and I wanted to visit my favorite spots one last time.  I went by the Trevi Fountain, grabbed my final panino at my favorite little shop right by the Pantheon, and finally topped the day off with my last Italian gelato in Piazza del Popolo. As my bus to the airport passed by the Colosseum, I couldn’t help but get a bit teary eyed. It was hard to believe that the day to leave Rome was finally here and I started to feel overwhelmed with emotion as I thought about all of the unforgettable memories I made abroad. As I reflected, I thought about some of the highlights of my semester in Italy.

The Food (Duh)

I quickly learned that real Italian food is not like the Italian food we have in the states. Spaghetti and meatballs or fettuccine alfredo doesn’t exist in Italy, but I didn’t mind. Everything is incredibly fresh and every new meal seemed to be the best meal of my life. I’m going to miss eating endless pasta and fresh tomatoes with mozzarella.

My Intensive Italian Class

This was definitely my most challenging class in Rome, but also my favorite and the most beneficial. I still can’t believe how much Italian I was able to learn in such a short time, and even knowing a bit of Italian helped open some new doors while in Rome and allowed me to have conversations and meetings with new people that may not have happened without that class. It made adjusting to life and the culture in Rome much more smooth. My Italian professor was truly like my Italian mom and I will miss her dearly.

Tutoring at Mamiani

As nervous as I was going into my tutoring position at the local high school in Rome, it was one of the most amazing experiences. It was so special to get the chance to meet and speak with these Italian teens each week and they taught me more about life in Rome than any of my academic classes. I was so proud to see my students grow and get excited about speaking English.

The Women’s March in Rome

This March was one of the most incredible and inspiring experiences of my life. Being gathered with a group of people from all over the world and all different walks of life for the goal of spreading love and ending hate was very powerful. What better place to do that than in an ancient city in front of the Pantheon? It felt like the whole planet came together that day.

The People

By far the best part of this semester has been all of the incredible people I have met. I have made new friends from Temple who have become like family to me and I know will be life long friends. I have also met so many amazing people from all over the world and we had the opportunity to tell each other our stories. I’ve even made some friends who live in Europe who I know will always be happy to offer me a couch to sleep on if I’m ever back in their neighborhood. I would definitely recommend staying in at least a few hostels if you travel abroad because that is the easiest and best way to meet new people and make new friends in a different country, and it’s those people that make the trips special.

Although I had to leave Rome yesterday, I know this is not goodbye forever. We will see each other again some day. Ci vediamo Roma!

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I Don’t Think We’re in Rome Anymore

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After living in Rome for almost four months, I was able to adjust to the culture and recognize the cultural differences between Italy and the United States. Tutoring at the local Italian high school and discussing these differences as well as holding open discussions about stereotypes with our Italian tutors were probably the most helpful in making these discoveries. What I did not realize was how much the culture can vary just within Italy. Of course, I had heard about the stereotypes that southern Italians are louder, tanner, have less stress and more parties. As it turns out, these stereotypes (while still only stereotypes and not true of all southern Italians) seem to be based in truth.

I’ve been staying in Palermo, Sicily for the week and it has become clear that I’m not in Rome anymore. I am already missing Rome and all it has to offer but I am enjoying discovering a new part of Italy. Sicily is much more laid back than Rome. Palermo is a smaller city and you never see anyone rushing to get anywhere or stressing about anything. The people walk slower and enjoy taking their time. Sicilians seem to understand that life is short and we should not waste it with worry or stress. They also know how to have a good time, no matter where it might be.

As I explored Palermo and went to go see the Il Gesu church, I was shocked to find a party going on in the piazza right in front of the church. There was a live band playing reggae music and people dancing and drinking in the piazza. There were also people playing soccer and cooking meat outside. It was like a huge Sicilian cookout and dance party. I was surprised because you would never find anything like this in Rome in front of an ancient basilica. Obviously, my friends and I had to join in to see what this was all about and had a blast with the live band. As soon as that band ended their set and it began to settle down, everyone moved to another piazza where yet another live band was performing and even more people were gathered to drink and dance. It seems like there’s a party around every corner in Sicily.

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Interior view of the ceiling of the Il Gesu church

Probably one of the most challenging aspects of living in Sicily is that the Italian dialect is very different. It almost seems like another language at times. It is much more difficult for me to understand their dialect because it is nothing like what I am accustomed to in Rome. It also is sometimes more difficult for the Sicilians to understand me when I try to communicate with them in Italian. I had much more success in Rome. On top of that, it seems that a lot less people here speak English, which can make communication difficult at times, but we are still able to get by. It makes me curious how different my Italian would sound if I had studied somewhere in Sicily for the semester rather than Rome.

I realize that this difference in Roman and Sicilian culture is not so different from the United States. Sure, they are both part of the same country, and you can still tell it is Italy, but it also is an entirely new experience. It’s like how New York City and Macon, Missouri are both part of the United States, but also entirely different worlds. Even after completing my official courses for the semester, Italy is still teaching me new lessons and is full of surprises.

 

Finally Done with Finals

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     Finals week is always stressful for everyone, but it can be even harder in a foreign city. It feels almost impossible to muster up any motivation to study when all I want to do is spend my last week freely in Rome before I have to leave. However, the finals could not be stopped: a ten minute oral presentation in Italian, three lengthy exams, and an eight page paper were all impending doom. My biggest suggestions would be:

  1. Find people to study with, meaning people who will really help you study, not distract you. I don’t think I would have made it through finals without the help and motivation from my friends. We are all in it together.
  2. Study in fun places so you can get work done while also enjoying the city. I like to find a cute new caffe somewhere in the city, bring my computer, and get a cappuccino and maybe a snack. If it’s nice outside, go to a park. Villa Borghese or the Giardino degli Aranci are great spots to enjoy the outdoors in Rome while simultaneously cracking open a book.
  3. Take breaks! You deserve to give yourself some rest every once in awhile when you study. Go grab some gelato or an arancina to reward yourself for your hard work.

     I just finished my last final today; I survived and so will you! It seems unreal that my time in Rome is coming to a close so soon. On one hand, I feel like I’ve been here forever and Rome feels like my home, but on the other hand, I feel like I just stepped off the plane onto Italian soil yesterday. I am definitely not ready to leave and I wish I had more time. Studying in Rome has, without a doubt, been the most incredible experience of my life. Living abroad has taken me out of my comfort zone many times and I am eternally grateful for that because that is where all of the magic happens! I will never forget the amazing places I have seen, the incredible people I have met, and I’m hoping I can hold on to as much Italian language as possible! Although I am sad to leave Rome, I am excited for the adventure that lies ahead.

     After Rome, I will be going to Sicily for a week with some friends to relax and soak up some sun after finals. Then, I will be headed to Hamburg, Germany to visit my friend, Wiebke, for a week. Finally, Wiebke and I will spend the weekend in Berlin before flying back to the states together. As much as I look forward to visiting these new places, I know I am going to miss Rome most of all. Roma has truly been the ride of a lifetime and this city will always have a special place in my heart.

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Exploring San Lorenzo

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     Probably one of my most stressful, but also my most fun assignments in my Italian class this semester was to explore a neighborhood of Rome. We all split into small groups and chose a neighborhood and were tasked with filming a video to speak in Italian about the special qualities and history of the neighborhood we chose to adventure to. My group chose San Lorenzo. I especially like this neighborhood because it is right beside La Sapienza, which is the largest university in Italy, so a lot of university students and young people live in this neighborhood. Most young people, myself included have one key thing in common: we love food. San Lorenzo is full of all different types of restaurants and bars. You can get almost any kind of food and there is no lack of pizza. We decided to go to Pizzeria Formula 1, which is one of the oldest pizzeria’s in Rome and has some of the best pizza I have ever tasted. We discovered this pizza gem thanks to Diletta, one of our Italian tutors who is a student at La Sapienza. Since Diletta lives in San Lorenzo and is an expert on the neighborhood, she acted as our tour guide for the day. It was great to spend time with Diletta and learn about what life in San Lorenzo and studying at an Italian university is like. It was also great to practice some Italian with Diletta. I was also completely floored when I found out that Diletta’s mother is actually the professor that I tutored for at Mamiani High School in Rome!

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Part of La Sapienza’s Campus

     After enjoying our delicious pizza dinner is when the stress hit us. One of our tasks was to interview a shop owner in the neighborhood and ask them some simple questions about their shop and the area. We went to multiple different restaurants and caffes, but not a single person was willing to talk to us. I was honestly surprised that people were so reluctant considering the neighborhood of San Lorenzo is known as a much more free spirited, open minded and “bohemian” area of Rome because of the substantial amount of young people. However, it seemed to be more of a cultural difference because restaurants are sometimes afraid they will give away their “secrets”, so they tend to be skeptical of interviewers, especially us random American students.

     However, this did not take away from love for the neighborhood. Not only does the neighborhood have a lot of young people and great food, it also has a lot of history. San Lorenzo was bombed during World War II and you can still see the remnants of some of the buildings that were destroyed. There is also a park with a memorial dedicated to all of the people who lost their lives during the bombing.

     One of my favorite parts of San Lorenzo was the street art. You could find street art around almost every corner, but one street in particular had walls that were completely covered in paint. My favorite piece reads “Mai piu violenza sulla donne”, which translates to “never more violence on women.”

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     While exploring San Lorenzo may have been a bit stressful at times, I am glad that I had the opportunity to explore it and learn more about a neighborhood of Rome that I am not in every day. I can definitely say San Lorenzo is one of my favorite areas of Rome.