Monthly Archives: November 2010

A Day in the Life.

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A few weeks ago I overheard my friend talking about her digital photography assignment called “a day in the life” where she had to document her life for a day through her camera.  It got me thinking about this student blog and I decided to do something similar.  So, I chose a random Tuesday to document my day and will be sharing it with you on this blog.  I chose Tuesday because it’s the day I have all four of my classes so you’ll get to journey with me to each of them!  So, here we go.

First, I woke up and had breakfast which is usually Special K.  Hey, don’t judge, I love my cereal and it’s a quick and easy breakfast for those early mornings.  Then at 8:00am I was off to the metro to get the next train to Piazza Barberini so that I could get to the Trevi Fountain.  Yes, I was going to CLASS at the Trevi Fountain.  What a sight to kick start my day, huh?  We had our three hour lecture class around the area near the Trevi fountain and went to SS. Vinvenzo ed Anastasio, Sant’ Andrea al Quirnale, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Santa Susanna, and Santa Maria della Vittoria to see the Cornaro Chapel.  So many places to see in my first class…but it’s fun to see what you’re learning about.

After that onsite class it was time to head back to school and have some lunch.  After my quick bite to eat I stopped in the computer lab to get some email’s sent out and check facebook.  Before long it was time to go to Italian class.  We learned how to form the past tense of verbs.  It’s crazy that we are nearing the end of our syllabus so quickly.

Once Italian was finished I headed down to the basement for printmaking class.  We had a critique on our most recent project, the monotype print.  That is the kind of print where you literally draw the image you want into the ink.

For dinner I usually go to the local food market called the Alimentari.  They make fresh sandwiches for you and my favorite is the turkey sandwich… it seems so American but it tastes so good with truly fresh ingredients and vegetables.

At 7:30pm it is time for my last class of the day, Early Renaissance Art History.  We have lecture in class for an hour and a half and then at 9:00pm it’s time to head home.  It may seem crazy that I go all day from 7:00am – 9:00pm but honestly, it goes by really fast.  Then I headed home and went to bed to get ready for another fun filled day in Rome.

And just so you know I’m not kidding, I’ll let you know what I did the next morning.  I got up and went to my Early Art Renaissance on-site lecture at the Villa Borghese Art Gallery.  We saw works by Leonardo Da Vinci and even saw some of Bernini’s masterpieces.  After lecture I had time to run to the art store to get some supplies for a new printmaking assignment.  All in a day in Rome!

Catacombs

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I should have posted this last week, but school work (and being in Rome) has me constantly busy!!

Last week I visited the catacombs in Rome with my friend Anna and her two friends who were visiting her from home. We took the metro on the A line to San Giovani, got out, and took the 218 bus about 10 stops to Via Appia Antica. Once we got off we didn’t feel like we were in Rome anymore. Luckily we had a perfectly amazing crisp blue sky kind of a day with big puffy clouds, so of course we didn’t mind walking after a full week of rain! We looked around and saw signs to the catacombs through a old brick arch leading up a long road, so we made our way towards it. Passing through the arch, led to this road that went on for about a mile with vast fields of green grass on either side of us. What?! Where was I?! Still in Rome?  Yes! After about a mile of walking we came up to the entrance of the catacombs where people were buying tickets and waiting in line. We bought our tickets for 8 euros, and waited in line for the english given tour. After about 5 minutes we were assigned a group leader who brought us into a small chapel and told us the history of the catacombs before taking us down under. Over half a million people were buried in the catacombs, and it used to run underground for 12 miles. We made our way into the catacombs down sets of steep stairs leading into the cold underground burial site. Yes, I was definitely creeped out the entire time. It got colder and colder as we made our way down and empty burial boxes were lining the walls by the hundreds. Small burial boxes made up for most of the graves because of the high death rate of small children during those times. Even more creeped out now!! We entered certain rooms where there were old remains of frescoes lining the ceilings. A replica of Saint Cecilia was also in the catacombs along with other statues that were tucked away in small carved out holes. It seemed like it went on for a hundred miles, and many sections were roped off so that visitors would not wander off alone and get lost in the never ending graves. Imaging the workers that they had underground daily, carving out the graves, walking around with torches and burying people. It is known as a holy place, so although I was creeped out, I was ensured that I was safe because of the “holyness” all around. Sorry, but I was still scared! Hahaha!

After the tour was over we climbed back up the stairs and made our way out of the catacombs. Feeling back in place above ground I reassured myself that everything was fine. We made our way back down the mile road with the sky still blue as ever. Now it was time to find some good ol Kebabs and then gelato, of course!!

Thanksgiving… in Rome!!!

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to Pizza!!!

From Turkey…..

For most of us here at Temple Rome, this is our first Thanksgiving away from home, with no turkey!! But hey, let’s not get all emotional about it, we’re in Rome people! Let’s also remember that it’s not all about the turkey, but who we surround ourselves with on Thanksgiving; so we can look around and love where we are, what we are doing, and who we are with. I like to think of this Thanksgiving as more of 5 day thing than a one day thing.

Temple started the Thanksgiving festivities out perfectly with their jam session night, which was held last night in the lounge area at the school. The people that we’ve become close with got up on the stage and shared their talents from beat boxing, singing, playing guitar, dancing, and just straight jamming to their own music that they make. It was a great start to Thanksgiving because all of Temple Rome came together, and we cheered each other on, laughed and practically cried thinking of all the great memories that we’ve had here so far. Italian guest singers also came up about 5 times, which was awesome because it felt like we were really welcomed into Rome with open arms. So thank you Temple Rome for a great jam session night!!

I’m also planning to do some things with my friends for the festivities of Thanksgiving. We’ve all been working out butts off on final projects and final exams so the holiday brings a perfect time to relax and just be happy about where we are. I will be climbing to the top of Saint Peters basilica on Friday, seeing aqua ducts on Saturday, and probably sleeping in on Sunday! Haha! Thanksgiving day we have off from school so I still plan on eating a lot…. of Italian food! Some people are trying to get a turkey and throw together some sort of Thanksgiving meal, which is awesome! But I think I’m going to stick with being in Rome and being a Roman while I’m here.

I’ve met some Italian friends and they’ve invited me and some friends to their house for dinner on Friday. So even if it’s not on Thursday, it can still be Thanksgiving dinner for me! I will be surrounded with people that I love, in a place that I also love, eating food that will be more than satisfying. After the dinner we plan on going to a club in Testaccio called Big Bang. Every Friday they have a reggae night and some of us have made it a tradition to do this weekly! What I really love about the reggae night is that everyone goes purely to dance and enjoy the music that they are listening to. It’s more laid back then a club but still has the great up beat vibe with everyone jamming out all night long.

So as we make the transition from turkey to pizza, let’s all make this Thanksgiving a great one with Italian friends, new friends, reggae music, views from monuments, and lots of gelato!!!

Buon Compleanno!

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Although my sister Jaclyn and I have been in Europe for almost three months, and Jaclyn (at 20-years-old) has had the luxury of being able to walk into any bar she wishes and actually be served a drink, we still made a huge celebration out of her turning 21 in Rome on Friday.

Together for a fabulous chicken parmesean birthday dinner

There are four children in the Bergstein Clan: Josh, 25, is an English teacher in Harrisburg, Pa.  Right smack in the middle is yours truly and last are the twins.  Yes, Jaclyn has a twin.  His name is Mitchell.  Jaclyn is older by one minute.  Yes, they get along and have that weird “twin thing” where they think and feel the same things.  No, he doesn’t also go to Temple, he’s in the Marine Corps.  No, he and Jaclyn aren’t identical.  How would that even work?  Wait, what is this… 20 questions?  I thought I was the one doing the talking here!

Sheesh, ok so moving along.  Jaclyn’s twin (my younger brother) Mitchell decided to enlist in the Marine Corps straight out of high school.  It was a decision that surprised all of us, but we are insanely proud of him nonetheless.  It has been such a blessing watching him grow and become this incredible (gentle)man.

A beautiful birthday cake for a beautiful birthday girl

Exactly 18 days ago, Mitchell left for his first deployment in Afghanistan.  He might be my little brother, but I definitely look up to him (literally, the kid just keeps growing!).  But in all seriousness, Mitchell is my hero, and my motivation in always trying to be a better person.  I try telling him all the time, but I don’t know that there’s a way to truly express how much I love, admire and appreciate all that he is and all that he does for this country.  Unfortunately, Mitchell can’t be here in Rome with Jaclyn and I, enjoying this semester the way we are by learning and exploring and traveling to exciting new places.  He is certainly making a great sacrifice, and for that I am truly grateful.

So Jaclyn and Mitchell’s 21st birthday had an interesting little twist to it: Jaclyn is living in a country where there is no drinking age and so turning 21 in Rome certainly isn’t a big deal like it is in the States; and Mitchell is serving his country in a place where alcohol is illegal for everyone.  As much as we’ve been trying to blend with the Italian culture, at the end of the day we’re still Americans, so we celebrated Jaclyn and Mitchell’s (yes, Mitchell’s too) birthday by taking them out for a good time in Rome like it was their very first time in a bar.

The boys with Mitchell for his big day

Wait, I thought you said Mitchell was in Afghanistan?  How did you take him out for his birthday if he’s not even there? Ahh, good question, you were reading carefully.  I brought a photo of Mitchell with me to Rome that I keep by my bedside, and I decided that since he couldn’t be here to celebrate his day of birth with Jaclyn, that we’d take him (well, a photo of him) out for a fabulous 21st birthday celebration in Rome.  We even got the whole thing on film so that we can send it to him and he can see that he had a great 21st bithday celebration, afterall.

We took this photo of Mitchell with us everywhere we went the entire day before and the day of his and Jaclyn’s bithday.  On Thursday we had him go to the library to study, attend Italian class to take a quiz, enjoy a capuccino in Rome, get ready for a night out on the town, eat the birthday dinner of chicken parmesean that we (a group seven of us) got together at my apartment to make, and then go out to a bar and a nightclub to ring in the big 21st.  We even got up early the next morning to make Mitchell and Jaclyn a big American breakfast of omelets and home fries.  Now I know that Jaclyn did, but if I didn’t know any better, I’d say Mitchell had the most phenomenal 21st birthday in Rome as well.

Like a responsible older sister grabbing drinks with Mitchell at the bar

It was weird for me two years ago when I turned 21 (only because I am only really 13 at heart), but I have to say it was even weirder celebrating my baby sister and brother’s 21st birthday.  I am just glad that I was able to be here in Rome with Jaclyn (and even just a photo of Mitchell) for their big day.  It’s a pretty cool thing to be able to say that you (even if it’s just a photo of you) celebrated your 21st birthday in Rome.

Buon compleanno, Jaclyn and Mitchell!

Mitchell… whenever you get a chance to read this from over there in Afghan-land, know that I can’t say enough how much I love you and miss you and wish that you could be right here with us.  Happy 21st Birthday baby brother.  We’ll have our time to travel when you come home to us.  Be safe and be strong until then.  Big bear hugs and icky sister kisses, little man.  I love you to the moon and back.

And to all of our men and women in uniform who have served or are currently serving: from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all that you do for the greatest country in the world.  God bless you, and God bless America.

Collectors’ Items

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I’m sorry everyone but I have to say it… it’s so sad seeing this semester in Rome come to an end already. I don’t want to talk about it, but it’s on my mind and I’m already getting emotional just thinking about it! Everyone is busy traveling on the weekends and pumping out papers and projects during the week that we hardly realize how fast the last 2 and half months have already gone by. We’ve all made our group of new friends and I feel as though Temple U Rome has become a group and a community all together.

Thursday was my last on site class day for my contemporary art history class, Galleries and Studios. I have thoroughly enjoyed that class, and every week I learned so much about the contemporary art world that I did not know before. On Thursday we went to see a Dr’s private collection in his home. He kindly invited us in and showed us the works of art he has been collecting over the last 25 years. As we got off the bus, we walked through the gates of a housing community, and it was almost like walking on a yellow brick road, except the bricks were dark red. Palm trees and plants were hovering over the path as if they were leading us in the right direction. We climbed the stairs to the 5th floor and the Dr. invited us into his home. This was my first time being in an Italian’s personal home, and it was really nice to have the first home I visit be filled with tons of art. He introduced us to his first work of art he bought, and we slowly moved along from the main room to the living room, kitchen, and hallways. Everywhere I looked there was art! Transavanguardia and Arte Povera Italian artists covered the walls. What I liked most about this visit is that it wasn’t visiting a studio or a room where he kept his art. He was generally interested in art, as his father was a collector, and wanted to be living with the art that he collected and loved. It’s easy to sometimes think that only artists collect art and only people working in the art world can be interested in art. I love meeting people that are art collectors or visit galleries weekly just because they love it and don’t get to work with it. I love seeing it as a hobby and not just a profession. A collection can be one piece to a hundred pieces. A collection of art, or anything for that matter, can really show a lot about that person. It’s like opening up and going into their own personal world of likes and dislikes.

Thursday was another great experience and I’m going to miss my on sight contemporary class. In about 20 days we will all be leaving and going back to our “normal” lives back in America, or where ever else we came from. To me, I like to think of this as my “normal” life and I hope that everyone else can feel the same way. Our normal lives could be living in Rome or somewhere else that we’ve never been. I think this whole experience has been life changing, and I’m glad to see how I’ve grown in the past 2 and a half months.

Sarah Fell in Love in Florence

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Give me a minute… just trying to finish up this letter…

David and I... don't we look so good together?

Dear Michelangelo,

Hi.  It’s me, Sarah.  Just wanted to let you know I got a chance to visit Florence this past weekend and thought it was such a beautiful city.  I now understand why you loved it so much!  But I have a bit of a bone to pick with you.  So, you take this piece of abandoned marble from the courtyard of the Cathedral of Florence and in two years you just work it into the most beautiful creature to ever grace this earth?  Shame on you, for making me and most every other woman out there fawn over a silly piece of marble!  If you’re such a creative and artistic genius, couldn’t you have just like, made a real man?  Guess I’ll have to settle for someone else… and I’ll just hope and pray that he’s a lot like David.  Oh!  And you know those mean “No photo!” museum people?  Yeah, well they told me I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of David, but I just pretended like I didn’t understand them.  See, the picture?  Don’t David and I look so good together?  Well, Michelangelo… keep it real until next time.  Baci (hugs), Sar.

The markets in Florence are especially great for buying leather!

Ok, sorry about that.  I’m back.  So in my last post I told you about how my friend and I did the whole Couch Surfing thing, but I think I left out all the other stuff we did in Florence.  You’re dying to know, aren’t you?

The first hall of the Uffizi museum

The four hour slow train wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and it got us to Florence at about 1 p.m.  We were starving, so we stopped at this great little café and had frittatas, and I apologize that I can’t remember what the place was called, because it was the best sandwich I’ve had since I’ve been in Europe.  After lunch we were meandering through this really great market and ended up running into three Temple Rome students who were with a class in Florence for the weekend.  They were headed to the Uffizi museum with their professor, so we tagged along with them and ended up getting a guided tour by Paolo (their prof.).  I have to say, I wasn’t blown away by the Uffizi, but I am still glad I got the chance to go and to experience it.

Hanging out in the grass at the Duomo

We met up with our Couch Surfing hosts in the early evening, and we had a great first night with them in Florence.  If you haven’t already read my last post and you’re thinking, What is Couch Surfing? go ahead and take a look (Florence Could Not Have Been Stranger…).  So Saturday morning we managed to wake up early, and got a head start on our day of exploring.  Our first stop of the day was to the Galleria dell’Accademia.  Though I was impressed by the paintings (especially the exhibit of collection on Greek mythology) I am more of a sculpture-type person, and as I was starting at some random sculpture, I turned my head and instantly was smiling ear to ear; it was seriously love at first sight.  I have seen the David in so many pictures and always hoped that one day I would get to see him in person.  He is a lot bigger than I imagined, and my, is he gorgeous!  My poor friend Matt had to wait around for me while I gawked at David for quite some time.

Enjoying the view of Ponte Vecchio

Our next stop was to the basilica of San Lorenzo to see the Old Sacristy by Brunelleschi and the New Sacristy by my man Michelangelo.  We ventured next to the Duomo where the wait to go to the top of the dome was really long, so we got some amazing pizza for lunch and sat in the grass (yes, grass) that was placed all around the Duomo for Florens, an event aimed at enhancing Italian culture and environmental heritage.  The grass really was a nice touch, and people were fascinated by it!  Since we couldn’t get our view from the dome, we headed toward the Forte di Belvedere on our way to Piazzale Michelangelo for a splendid panorama view of all of Florence!

Admiring Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

After a very long and eventful Saturday night out in Florence, we hopped the train Sunday afternoon back to Rome.  Though we never made it up to the top of the dome in the Duomo, I’d say our Couch Surfing experience, museum visits and the view from Piazzale Michelangelo made for an incredible weekend.

And Michelangelo?  Well, he really is just that good… even if he is only a statue; I still totally fell in love with David.  I know, I know, silly me.  I should have known that David would be such a heart breaker!

Bracciano and Viterbo for the Day.

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As I mentioned in my last blog, being in Rome opens up so many possibilities for trips to other cities and towns.  The public transportation system here is great.  It’s easy to use, affordable, and accessible from the student residence.  Inspired from our trip a week ago, my friends and I decided we should take advantage of another weekend with great weather.

We remembered our Italian professor telling us about her hometown, Viterbo, and how easy it was to get to.  After talking to her after class one day, she helped us realize that there was another town called Bracciano that would be a nice halfway point on our train ride.  She told us about the scenery there and explained that the castle that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes got married in was located there.  We were sold.

We got a bunch of people gathered at 8am on a Saturday morning and headed to the metro to go only one stop away to catch a local train.  The process was easy and painless.  The scenic train ride gave us all a chance to relax (and sleep for some).  We all perked up, however, when we pulled into the Bracciano station because we could see the castle and lake in the distance.  When we got off we went directly to the castle and got tickets for a tour.  It was awesome to get the chance to see the inside of the majestic structure, and it was also neat to experience something “touristy” without all of the tourists around.  I got some amazing pictures in and around the castle, but my favorite one by far is our group shot on the top of the castle with the lake in the background.

After exploring the town a bit more and grabbing lunch, we hopped back on the train towards Viterbo.  Once we were there we did lots of exploration by foot.  We weren’t really sure what we wanted to see and didn’t have much of a plan, but that’s what made it an adventure!  We just walked around the historical part of town and came across some neat scenery equipped with statues, fountains, and hillsides.  I really enjoyed how we all got into a picture taking mood and played around with the self-timer settings on my friend’s camera…we got some silly pictures that we dubbed our “12-member band” pictures.

In order to get back to Rome at a decent hour, we headed back to the train station for the 5:00pm train.  By the time we got back to Rome we were all hungry and exhausted so we ended the day with dinner in the residence.  Another great day in Italy with amazing people – I’d say.

Florence Could Not Have Been Stranger…

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This past weekend I crashed at a complete stranger’s flat in Florence.

Standing at the top of Piazzale Michaelangelo with an incredible view of Florence

Couchsurfing.com is like Facebook for travelers.  On this particular social networking site, you create a profile in which you can choose from over thousands of couches to crash on all over the world.  The idea behind “Couch Surfing,” is that you offer up your place for people (travelers) to come stay with you for free.  It’s kind of like a pay it forward sort of thing, so that if ever you are traveling, you may reach out to someone and stay for free as well.  But Couch Surfing isn’t just random people crashing at perfect strangers places; you can choose to offer up your place or not, or you can choose just to meet people for coffee or a drink and maybe an evening on the town.

The flat of our Couch Surfing hosts

Whenever you’re traveling to a new place, you end up having a better time if A, you know people there, or B, you already have lots of information about the place (like where to eat, what to see, where to go out at night, etc.).  What’s great about Couch Surfing is that you can arrange to meet new people in new places and possibly have a free place to stay.

Ok, so I know you’re probably thinking, Sarah, this is just absolutely crazy!  How do you know these people are who they say they are?  What if you end up with some total whack job?

I haven’t heard of any Couch Surfing horror stories, and you are obligated to validate your profile with a credit card to show that your profile really is you, though you’re obviously taking a chance by meeting, staying with or hosting a perfect stranger(s).

The balcony outside our hosts flat looking towards the city center.

I made a Couch Surfing profile before coming to Rome and on Tuesday of last week I decided to log in and check it out for the first time.  I was planning to go to Florence within the next two weekends so I sent messages to about six different people who looked halfway decent and had good reviews from other couch surfers.  I received a reply from three of the six people and one gave me a phone number and said we could stay either weekend and just to call when we had our plans sorted out.

On Thursday at around midnight I was finishing up some work and talking to my friend Matt on Facebook chat:

Matt: So you wana go to Florence tomorrow?
Sarah: I’m on trenitalia.it now.  How’s an 8:45 a.m. train there and a 1:10 p.m. train back on Sunday?  33 euro total, and we could call that guy from Couch Surfing on the way there.
Matt: Let’s do it.  Meet me at the metro at 8 a.m.  Gotta pack.
Sarah: Roger.
Matt: My name is Matt.
Sarah: See you at 8, smartass.

There’s nothing like the excitement that comes from the spontaneity of a weekend adventure in Europe.  As the train left the Tiburtina station in Rome, I was ecstatic to see Florence and told myself that if the people we were staying with were total weirdos, we’d just find a hostel and make the best of it.  The four-hour slow train (a.k.a. the cheap train) put us in Florence a little after 1 p.m., so we grabbed a map, found a great little café for lunch and then took off exploring.  I sent the Couch Surfing guy a text to let him know we were on our way while we were on the train, and we made plans to get picked up in front of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (National Library) around 6.  After finishing up at the Galleria degli Uffizi with a Temple Rome art history class that was in Florence for the weekend (we ran into three of the students from the class while walking through a market!) we headed to the library.

Grass was put down around the Duomo for a special event that Vincenzo was on assignment to shoot

Vincenzo told us he’d be picking us up in a white car, so Matt and I joked that we should be looking for a big white van with no windows, and as we turned the corner to the library (we really did see a big white van with no windows) but we also spotted a white Mercedes with a guy inside.  Vincenzo stepped out and welcomed us to Florence, put our things in the car for us, and we were off.

Sarah: So how has your day been?  How was work?
Vincenzo (in almost perfect English): It was very busy I worked all day.
Sarah: What kind of work do you do?
Vincenzo: I am a photojournalist.  Do you know AP?
Sarah (journalism major): You have to be kidding me.  You are an Associated Press news photographer?

At that moment I knew we were going to have an incredible weekend.  The flat is within walking distance to the city center, and when we stepped inside our mouths both dropped; the place was so nice.  Vincenzo shares the flat with three other guys who would be home later that evening, and he had to go back to the office for a bit so he showed me to the queen-sized bed(!!!) that I’d be sleeping in and told us to make ourselves comfortable.

Once two of Vincenzo’s three roommates arrived, the weekend was nonstop from there.  I got to go with Vincenzo to see what his office was like and to check out some of his work and Matt went with Carlo and Sandro to pick up their other roommate, Jacomo, who was coming back on  a train from work in Rome.  We all met back up at a local bar called Rex, and we had a great night getting to know each other and meeting their friends and experiencing the nightlife in Florence.

We got up early the following morning and during breakfast with our Couch Surfing hosts they told us of their plans to have a bunch of their friends over for dinner and then go out that evening, and that we were invited.  We agreed to be back at the flat at 9, and we took off to start checking off sites from the list we made the day before.

Having fun making an authentic Italian dinner with my Italian hosts

We got back to the flat just before 9 p.m. and soon after all of their friends arrived.  Everyone was talking and hugging and laughing and introducing themselves to us and Matt and I could do nothing but smile.  We drank wine and talked with everyone as they prepared dinner; a great pasta dish for the first course, and “meat and potatoes” as they called it for the second.  Carlo even made a special vegetarian omelet just for me!

During dinner we talked about all kinds of things from sports to politics, and every now and again Matt and I would just give each other a look, both of us likely thinking that most travelers, or even most people in general, don’t get to have experiences quite like this.  We were staying in an amazing flat in a beautiful city with four of the nicest strangers I have ever met, drinking wine and having dinner with 10 Italian friends who had all known each other for quite some time (they were all in their late 20s, early 30s).  Following dinner we all headed over to a really great café where I had Borghetti for the first time (it’s a coffee liqueur, and it was really good!) and then we stopped at another café for coffee.  Our next stop was a club, Doris, where we met a ton of people and had fun singing and dancing our butts off.  We walked outside as the place was closing at 4 a.m. and Carlo says, “Ok the next place…” Wait, there’s a next place!

So we get to this other bar where we spent a few hours just laughing and carrying on like a bunch of old friends.  The sun was coming up around 6:30 when we were leaving the bar, and Carlo then took us in through this sketchy looking door that went into a kitchen where the owners of the restaurant were preparing food for the day, and we got the most delicious pizza before finally heading home.

Sitting down for an Italian-style family dinner

We caught a few hours of sleep and spent some time hanging out, laughing about our night and making plans for our three hosts to possibly come visit us in Rome so we could host them.

We said our goodbyes and thanked them for the most unbelievable weekend, and Carlo dropped us off at the station for our train back to Rome.

Matt and I were fortunate to meet and stay with such amazing people this past weekend.  I don’t think my first Couch Surfing experience could have been more perfect.  As hosts, they took care of us, they entertained us and they treated us to a phenomenal weekend in Florence (literally, they wouldn’t let us pay for anything)!  Throughout our time with them we honestly felt like we had known these guys and had been friends with them forever.

Growing up, my parents always had all these sayings, or rules, and I’m pretty sure “Don’t talk to strangers,” was probably one of them.  So I guess even at 23 there’s still a little bit of teenage rebellion left in me to have crashed at a complete stranger’s flat in Florence.  Don’t tell my parents this, but I am totally Couch Surfing my way through the rest of my European travels, too!  Oh wait, crap.  I always forget that my mom and dad read this thing.

Sorry Mom and Dad, I was only trying to save some euro.  I was just, er, just trying to be responsible?  Um, love you guys!

Artist’s Studio

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Studio Building

Visiting an artists studio for a private visit provides a straight look into the life of an artist and the way he or she works day to day. On Thursday, my Galleries and Studios class visited 6 different artists in their studios. We got on the 490 bus to San Lorenzo and watched how the city changed from ancient structures to mostly residential and industrial buildings. Artists come to places like this to get out of the bustle of the city and the higher prices of being in the center of Rome. San Lorenzo provides for a great area full of youth where the artists can come to their studios to work whenever they want. After we arrived in San Lorenzo we walked a coupe blocks to a large yellow building where we climbed the stairs and found ourselves in a huge space with enormous ceilings.

The first artist, Seboo, came out to greet us and invited us into his studio. A smaller space then the others, there were 4 paintings propped up against each wall with tons of oil paints all over the floor. The large window provided for great lighting and made the paintings really pop with their vibrant yellow ochre color. His paintings were abstract and he described to us that they make up various “creatures” and landscapes that he sees and then puts them on the canvas. He said being in this space finds him looking out the window for much of the time, soaking in the area around him, which inspires a lot of his paintings. Since coming to Rome he’s very interested in the ruins, and they influence him when he paints.

As we said goodbye and thanked him for the visit, we stepped back out in to the open hallway and the next artist, Mauro di Silvestre, came out to greet us. A friend of my teachers for a very long time, Mauro was very happy to see all of us and seemed a bit more comfortable than the first artist. His studio was much larger than the first one, and it seemed as if he had been there for years, working and making this his second home. He introduced us to his paintings as memories and ideas from the past. Obsessed with the past and the physical passing of time, he explained how many of his paintings have ghostly figures on ornate and very colorful backgrounds because he becomes caught up in adding more things to the paintings and using his collection of things from the past (movie stubs, plane tickets, pictures, etc.). At the end of his studio visit he handed us all a catalogue of his work which was very generous, and I can now add it to my own collection of memories!

The next artist, also a friend of my teacher, was Marco Colatzo. Also very interested in the subject of identity and memories from the past, Colatzo paints in an early 80’s style of paintings and uses ornate and very abstract backgrounds, then adding some sort of figure to the foreground. He likes the idea that the background is very separate from the figure and that their relationship is minimal.

We made our way through 3 other studios of very young women artists in their mid 20’s who also conveyed that their paintings stem from the idea of memories and identity or the capturing of a space at a certain time. They seemed a bit nervous but definitely excited to talk about their work and tell us why they did things in their paintings to make sure that we didn’t think something else. Being an artist isn’t easy, and especially in Rome where the contemporary art world somewhat struggles with young new artists who are trying to make a name for themselves, they need to keep producing work and love what they are doing.

The visit was great and it really allowed for a personal look into the lives of a couple artists. Seeing an artist’s work in their studio and hearing from them is a much different experience then hearing about and seeing it in a gallery or a museum. The artist is there conveying their true feelings and true reasons for the work.

Assisi Day Trip.

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Last weekend a few friends of mine and I took a day trip to Assisi, Italy.  It turned out to be a beautiful day with clear skies and cool temperatures.  Going to Assisi was recommended by one of my friend’s mother who had visited there before and said it was her favorite place in all of Italy.  To get there, we went to Termini (the main train station in Rome) and used the easy self-service ticket machine to buy our trip to Assisi.  It only cost nine euro each way for a two and a half hour train ride.  I think it’s pretty neat how you can go to so many random places with rich culture and sites for affordable prices.  There aren’t many places back home that I’d want to take a day trip too, let alone places that are accessible by public transportation.  That’s one thing that I love about Rome…the list of things to do and see never gets completed because there always something new being added to the list.

After our relaxing train ride, we finally arrived in Assisi.  The first view of it from down below was really neat because it was this whole town on top of a hill.  The surrounding views gave us a taste of the countryside in Umbria.  There was not a marble statue or giant building (other than churches) in sight, so it was definitely a change from Rome.

Here is a little excerpt about Assisi taken from www.sacred-destinations.com:

“Assisi is a small Umbrian town in central Italy and is best known as the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi – patron saint of Italy, founder of the Franciscan order, and one of the most popular Catholic saints in history.  Assisi’s main attraction is the 13th-century Basilica di San Francesco, which contains the sacred relics of Francis and beautiful frescoes of his life.  The town of Assisi, with its Roman ruins, winding medieval streets, and sacred shrines, have been a major Catholic pilgrimage destination for centuries and is today one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy.”

If you’re thinking about doing the Temple Rome program, I highly suggest looking into travel to the smaller towns right in the backyard of Rome.  There are many hidden gems in Italy and I am glad I was able to see one and experience it for a whole day with friends from the program.