Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Fall Breakdown

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A Market in Tetouan, Morocco

After a whirlwind fall break trip, I’m back in Rome.  I visited some wonderful places and had a great time.  Some cities were more quaint than Rome, and other cities had better metro systems than Rome, but being away from this city made me love it more.  I found myself anxious to come back “home.”

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I traveled to Spain and Morocco for fall break.  I went to Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Tangiers, Tetouan and Chefchaouen.  Spain was beautiful, and it was nice to travel through different parts of the country and get a more complete sense of the culture.  I loved the Gaudi architecture in Barcelona.  Madrid was bustling and gritty with a huge metro system to tackle.  And Seville was beautiful and charming, with a relaxed and small-town feel.  Morocco was a bit of a culture shock, and I’ve never been anywhere like it before.  The pace of the country was fast, and yet, many of the people stopped midday to pray.  It was enlightening to experience Morocco for a weekend.  I don’t have to tell you that I saw some incredible places, and I’m sure I could have spent a lifetime in some of them, but none felt as familiar or as rewarding as Rome.

One reason for this, I’m sure, is the fact that I’m much more comfortable with Italian than I am with Spanish or Arabic.  After studying Italian for two years, I feel comfortable getting around and expressing myself in elementary terms.  While traveling, I realized the importance of this.  It is hard to really assimilate and learn about the culture without a grasp of the native language.  Even Temple students who are taking Italian for the first time here have already learned a lot and are able to communicate in Rome.  I felt a bit helpless in Spain and Morocco and longed for an Italian interaction.  When someone in my hostel in Madrid revealed that he was from Venice, I jumped at the chance to speak some Italian and made him have a conversation with me.

Another frustrating thing about traveling is trying to figure out foreign cities.  On one hand, this task is an adventure, but it can also be a hassle.  In Rome, I know the metro lines and the buses, the best place to get a pizza, and the spots to avoid running into tourists.  When I’m traveling, I am a tourist.  I have to ask directions often and I want to see the big sites, which means tolerating large crowds and accepting a large margin of error.

These are the inevitabilities of traveling, and they did not substantially detract from my good time.  However, while I want to travel often while here, I also realized the importance of staying in Rome.  I am studying here, and if I want to truly feel abroad, I have to set aside the time to explore Rome and really make it my home.

Ciao! Bon jour! Hola!

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Just like everything else so far this semester, fall break flew by and is now a thing of this past! Everyone is now back in school mode and ready to see more of Rome. I loved hearing everyone’s different adventures, anywhere from London to Morocco and Turkey to Amsterdam was covered by Temple Rome students. As for me, I got to explore the beautiful cities of Paris and Barcelona for a week! Since this is my first time in Europe, I really enjoyed getting to visit two very different cities, and loved being able to come home to Rome at the end of the week. I spent the first weekend of fall break in Rome, then jetted off to Paris last Monday morning. We packed our days full with museums, churches, parks, and crepes. I got to visit Musee d’Orsay, which had am amazing collection of Impressionist paintings and of course The Louvre. Somehow we managed to see all but one section in one morning and needless to say I was the biggest art history nerd possible, literally swooning over sculptures and paintings I’ve been waiting forever to see.

Eiffel Tower!

We visited a few of the city’s prettiest gardens, hunted down Starbucks, and had a night out at a Parisian club near the Arc di Triumph. Our last day in Paris was my favorite- we visited both Saint Chappelle and Notre Dame. Saint Chappelle is a gorgeous 700 year old church with huge stained glass windows throughout the entire chapel.

Sainte Chapelle

Friday morning we left for Barcelona and arrived mid-day. We were pleasantly surprised with the hostel we booked, it was 20 feet from the beach and we had our own room! Since we were exhausted from Paris and all of the traveling from the previous few days, we slowed our pace significantly for the weekend. We explored Las Ramblas, the main street in Barcelona that runs north and south, filled with markets, vendors, and delicious food. We got the chance to go the Picasso Museum and saw the progression of his works form beginning to end. It was unreal to see how much his style changed based on where in Europe he was living. It was a tiny, but impressive museum, with works only by him. I am known to be an extremely  picky eater, and have been doing pretty good in Rome. But Barcelona was my ultimate test. I don’t really like any kinds of spicy foods, so I was definitely nervous walking into a Spanish restaurant  but I was so pleasantly surprised! They are famous for their ‘paella’, a rice dish usually served with seafood, and I think I literally ate it 4 times throughout our weekend. We also enjoyed the sangria! On our last night  in Barcelona, we took a 3 hour bike tour around the city and got to see a number of architectural works by Gaudi, who really left his mark in Barcelona, designing a majority of the city’s most famous spots. Gaudi’s most famous project is La Segrada Familia, a large unfinished church in the center of city. It was started in 1883 by Gaudi and was never completed by him due to his early death. The church is supposed to be completed by 2026 and will have over 18 towers, representing the holy family.

La Segrada Familia

Another view of La Segrada Familia

We caught our flight back to Rome early Monday morning and headed back to class and back to our old routines. Out of all the things I learned and realized over break, I was so amazed by Europeans’ skill with language. We met so many people from different countries that could literally speak 6 or 7 languages. We met people our age from Sweden while we were in Paris and had them tell us each of the languages they knew how to speak. They all started to learn English by age 5 and by high school could speak Swedish, English, French, German, and Italian. Never have I felt worse about my lack of language skills! This occurred in Barcelona as well- one of our waiters came up to our table and said, “Italiano? English? Espanol?” and so on and so forth. He spoke great English to us, French to the people next to us, and Spanish to his co-workers. It’s so great to see people able to communicate with with so many different types of people. I wish I would’ve started learning other languages while I was younger, it would’ve helped me so much here and in the future!

A lesson in safe bus-riding

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I have been traveling over fall break, as many future students might as well.  Some friends and I flew from Ciampino Airport, which is the smaller airport in Rome.  The real adventure was returning…

When we arrived back at Ciampino after a delayed flight, the airport was closing.  Ciampino closes at midnight and doesn’t open again until 4:30 am.  A huge crowd of people was forced out of the airport.  There were people who either just flew in, were delayed, or even just arrived at the airport.

We had paid 4 euro for a bus that would take us to Termini station in the inner city of Rome.  From there we planned to find out way back to our apartments by city bus.  unfortunately, our bus was the last bus departing from the airport.  The driver wanted to milk as many euros from the situation as possible, so he ended up just parking the bus near the large group of people waiting for a taxi to show up.  Gradually, people from this group ended up moving to the bus and paying the 4 euros to get on, rather than wait any longer for a taxi.

We didn’t leave the airport until 1 am.  Close to 1, an Italian woman asked the bus driver in Italian “Why are we just sitting here?  Do we really need to pick up any more foreigners?”  The driver got the picture and we started to move.  Some Romans have a definite bias against foreign travelers and tourists.  Their city is basically inundated with them, so some local citizens are pretty fed up with them.  A huge percentage of people flying into Rome are not Italian Citizens.

Termini Station after midnight is everything they tell you at orientation.  This is considered the worst area of Rome to be at night.  For some reason, many homeless people go there to walk, sit, and sleep around the outside of this building at night.  Many people with ill intentions congregate there and in the surrounding bars as well.  It’s different from North Philadelphia, where everything is closed at night and deserted looking.  Termini has much more activity and people, but it’s not a particularly safe place to be.  Luckily I was with a group of 5 other people who had a head on their shoulders and our goal was to get out of there as soon as possible.

The trickiest thing to figure out was the bus system to get home from Termini.  After midnight, the buses run on a night schedule with different route and fewer busses.  The waits are longer.  The hardest part was that we weren’t sure which bus to take or what stop to wait at.  The front and sides of Termini Train Station are littered with bus-stops.  Buses approach from every direction.  We didn’t want to get on the wrong bus, or a bus going in the wrong direction.

Luckily, an Italian man who knew some English saw us struggling to find the right stop and helped us.  He told us which stop to wait at, which was extremely helpful of him.

Then we waited for the bus for over half and hour.  Finally it came, and we were able to get home.  Our apartment never looked so inviting!

For any future or current students at Temple Rome, I highly suggest avoiding Termini at night.  If you are going there though, you should figure out ahead of time where the stop is for your bus.  It will save you lots of time and anxiety later.  Also, avoid going to Termini by yourself or with a very small group.  It really is not a good idea.  If you keep your head about you, and keep your safety in mind, you’ll be fine!


A view (thanks to GoogleMaps) of the area near Termini Station where the buses pick people up.

Call Me Cicerone

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Amazing does not describe this lasagna

This past weekend, two close friends from school, decided to visit Rome.  I’ve met really nice people here, but I correctly anticipated how nice it was to spend time with old friends.  After little more than a month here, I was forced to assume the persona of a cicerone, or tour guide.  It wasn’t an easy feat, but with the indispensable help of my map, I surprised myself with how much I already know about Rome (and its best gelaterias).

Saturday was Yom Kippur, or the most religious Jewish holiday of the year.  My friends and I went to Great Synagogue of Rome for services.  The Orthodox temple looked like a church, all the girls sat on the second floor, I had no idea what was going on below, and the crowd was oddly sparse, but I accepted the aberrations in the name of a new experience.  It was very interesting to engage in this type of cultural activity and the little familiarity I had with the service was comforting.

On Sunday, we went to a huge flea market held every week at Porta Portese.  I have been wanting to go for a while, so I’m glad I finally went.  The early wake up call was worth it to see the huge mass of vendors and people and I found some prime man sweaters to add to my collection for only 3 euros.  My closet is beginning to look more like that of Bill Cosby’s everyday, and yet I still feel more fashionable than half the Italian women.  Luckily, fall is finally here and it seems as if Americans and Italians agree more on autumn style (I found many points of contention concerning warm weather selections).  I’m loving the weather and eyeing more fashionable choices on the metro just as I was losing any remaining hope.

Of course, no tour of Rome is complete without a thorough investigation of the best restaurants.   We had amazing pizza at Da Baffeto near Piazza Navona and inimitable pasta.  I have been waiting for life-changing pasta.  I’ve indulged in “good” and “tasty” and even “great” pasta here, but I didn’t let these placate my desire and I maintained this high expectation.  While my friends were visiting, it finally happened. Nestled amongst the winding streets in Trastevere, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, at a small trattoria called Cacio e Pepe, I had the best lasagna of my life.  I don’t even especially like lasagna and I’m crediting my decision to order it as some sort of divine intervention.  The edges were crispy, the pasta was homemade, and there was not even a need for more cheese (words I never thought I’d utter).  Now there is only life before and after this meal.  Post-lasagna life has seemed brighter and has been filled with dreams of returning.

Even after only a few weeks, I felt like I had a good grasp of Rome and I hope I gave my friends an acceptable tour.  If nothing else, they certainly got a thorough taste of Italy!

You Know You’ve been in Rome for a Month when…

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So far in Rome, the only thing I can complain about is how quick the time is going! It’s already 6 weeks into the program, mid-terms are done, and I’m leaving for Fall break in two days. Absolutely unreal how time passes. During the first week of October we all realized that we’ve been here for a month and I started to compile a list of things that signify that. You know you’ve been in Rome for a month when…

You accept the fact that gelato twice in one day is perfectly acceptable.

Now I don’t mean that this is okay every day, but is has happened a few times. I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to normal ice cream, the gelato here is just too good! I don’t like chocolate, so that definitely limits my flavors, but I’d have to say my favorite is crema (french vanilla) and caramel mixed together from Old Bridge.

Your heart still skips a beat when walking by Saint Peter’s.

My first night in Rome I walked through Saint Peter’s Square and saw the basilica and wanted to cry it was so gorgeous. Since the residence is so close (only a ten minute walk) to St. Peter’s I usually end up walking by at least two or three times a week, and am breathless each time. This is definitely my favorite place in Rome.

Saint Peter's square, my first night in Rome.

You’re used to Italians staring at you- because no matter how hard you try to blend in..they ALWAYS know you’re American.

My Italian still isn’t where I’d like it to be by now, but I’ve definitely mastered the basics, especially ordering at a restaurant. Before any interaction at all, some waiters come right up to us and start speaking English! Instead of taking the easy way out, we usually continue to attempt Italian, and they love when we try! I was told before I got here that Italians like to stare, not in  rude way, but just because they are curious as to who we are, where we’re from, and what on earth we’re doing in Rome. The first few weeks I found myself being a little self-conscious always wondering why they stared, but now it’s perfectly understandable..I would be curious too!

You don’t remember what police sirens in America sound like.

The crime rate in Rome is significantly lower than in American cities and I always feel safe walking around the city, but the sound of a police siren is always somewhere in the background. I know it seems like such an odd thing to put on this list, but I cannot think of what an police siren sounds like at home! The sound is completely different and I feel like I hear the noise at least 5 or more times a day here.

You know to stay as far away from Campo di Fiori as possible at night.

Campo di Fiori is a beautiful square that is great to visit for it’s monuments and tasty lunch places, but is a touristy trap for American students at night! It’s crammed with students flocking to the English-speaking bars located there and a hot spot for pick pockets. There are much better places in the city to enjoy the night-life, practice your Italian with locals, and take a nighttime stroll.

You’ve mastered Rome’s public transportation system.

Since arriving in Rome, I have been so impressed by their public transportation, from the simple and clean metro lines to the convenient buses. The A and B metro lines get you to all of the important parts of the city, and luckily the residence is just a 5 minute walk from a stop on the  A line, connecting us to the entire city! Monthly transit passes are only 30 Euro and are good for unlimited metro  and bus uses. There are buses that get us directly from school to the residence and only take about 20 minutes- great for rainy days!

You find yourself laughing at the tourists.

Now I know I’m not in any place to be poking fun at tourists since I’ve only been here for a month, but the big groups of people with matching outfits, listening to a headset, being led around by someone waving a flag is pretty hard to miss. Even our teachers poke fun at them when we are on site visits! It’s even better when they come up to us and ask for directions, it’s the best confidence boost to be able to tell a stranger directions or suggestions on where to go in the city.

As for now, I’m headed to Paris and Barcelona for Fall break! Ciao tutti!

Napoli

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For my Baroque Art History Class, we went to Napoli (Naples) for two days.


Only since 1861 has Italy existed as a unified country.  Before that, what we know as Italy was a collection of small city-states ruled by different people.  They were like different countries.  During the Baroque, Naples was ruled by a Spanish viceroy.  The art scene was cut-throat.


One such commission was the chapel of San Gennaro in the Cathedral of Naples.  San Gennaro is the patron Saint of Naples (though the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize him as a saint there isn’t enough proof that he existed).  The Neapolitans firmly believe in their patron saint. San Gennaro was born in 250 AD.  He was martyred just outside of Naples.  First, he was thrown into an arena with lions and bears, but the animals did not attack him.  Then he was thrown into a wood burning oven, but he walked out of the oven unharmed.  Finnally, San Gennaro was decapitated.  His head and two viles of blood were taken to the Cathedral in Naples, where they are kept in the treasury as the prized relics of Naples.


The viles of blood had dried solid shortly after San Gennaro’s death.  When they reached the Cathedral though, the blood liquefied again.  This miracle happens three times a year.  On the day the relics arrived (the first Saturday in May), Sept 19th (the anniversary of the execution), and Dec 6th (the day San Gennaro flew across the sky with an outstretched arm to stop the threatened eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1631),  the relics are taken out of the treasury behind the alter and shaken for the crowds to see.  The superstition is that if the solid material in the viles does not liquefy, the city will have a year of bad luck.  Neapolitans will shout and spit on the viles until the material inside turns to liquid.  Of course, the priests shake the viles until the material liquefies.


Recently, scientists from the rival city of Milan created an experiment where they demonstrated how certain minerals from the soil of Naples could settle with water in the viles in such a way that would turn from a solid to a liquid with agitation.  The material in the viles has the color of chocolate milk.  The Neapolitans are very against having the relics tested by scientists in any way.  The belief in San Gennaro is such a part of their local culture.  San Gennaro helps people win the lottery, protects from the constant threat of Mount Vesuvius, and the miracle of the liquefaction of the blood is a symbol of the doomed city that always rises again.  Many Neapolitans name their sons Gennaro.


In the Baroque, the Cathedral was decorating the chapel of San Gennaro with the best art they could get.  Many foreign artists went to Napoli for the competition.  Dominicino was one such artist.  He was rivals with the local Neapolitan artist Ribera, who was part of a gang of local artists.  When Dominicino first arrived in Naples in the Baroque, his assistant was murdered, and Dominicino fled for his life.  He returned some years after to work on the altarpieces for the chapel of San Gennaro.  He didn’t finish two of the oil paintings because he was poisoned in 1641; he was probably poisoned by the local Neapolitan artist gang.  Ribera then got the opportunity to paint that last altarpiece, which in this video is the final painting I filmed, showing San Gennaro walking out of the furnace.  It’s strange to think that this religious painting was completed by the artist due to a murder that artist had a hand in.  The treasury depicted in this video is one of the richest church treasuries in the world.  All the busts of saints you see are made of pure silver and each hold a relic of the saint they depict.

Naples is a rough city.  Under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, the city lives in constant threat of doom.  The streets are more narrow and crowded than Rome.  The city has an unemployment rate of 40%.  The majority of these unemployed live with their parents, but many live on the streets.  There are stray dogs everywhere, and many homeless walk around the city with a personal pack of dogs that follow them and sleep with them.  Theft is a large problem in Naples because of this high unemployment rate.  The local mafia doesn’t help matters with their shoot-outs in back alleys.  Many Neapolitan churches gave their famous paintings by such artists as Caravaggio to museums, to protect the paintings from theft.


While Naples has poor living conditions, it does have amazing food.  Legend has it that pizza was invented in Naples, and they take their pizza seriously.  The highest quality mozzarella cheese is made from the milk of water buffaloes, and must be eaten on the day it’s made for the best flavor and texture.  The local seafood is also fresh and rich.  There is no way I could possibly explain how good the food tasted here in this blog.  Playing cards / Tarot cards originated in Naples during the Renaissance.  Naples is known for it’s folk music and songs.  Local symbols include the red horn of fertility which also protects from the evil eye of envy, and Pulcinella.


Pulcinella represents the spirit of Naples.  He is a clown dressed in white with a black mask.  Pulcinella is a rascal and a trickster.  He is clever and manipulative, but also melancholic and philosophical.  Pulcinella lives a tough life, but he gets by with his wit.  He also has a sense of humor.  “He will eat lunch with a friend, but get his friend excited and talking so that Pulcinella can sneakily eat his friend’s pasta”.  Pulcinella symbolizes the city, and warns that you always have to be careful and aware of what’s happening around you.

I did not take this image.  I found it through Google.



This is a video of what it was like to walk around the streets of Naples with my class.

I found this Race for the Cure event.  Instead of biking through the city, the participants are “spinning” and being coached onward by some very fit Italians.  

Naples has a very different feel from Rome.  It is not a tourist city like Rome is.  Naples was exciting for sure.  I only touched on a small part of the trip.  There was so much more and so many experiences, I wouldn’t be able to write about them all.

The Endless Task of Trip Planning

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A picture from my trip to Positano a couple of weeks ago. No planes=no problems!

One of the greatest things about going abroad is the opportunity to travel all around Europe.  Before coming here, I heard tales of the $6 round trip flights on Ryanair and the impetuous decision to fly on a whim to some far-off destination for next to nothing.  I have yet to have any of these experiences.  It’s still been exciting planning for trips and spending much less than I would if I were coming from America, but the illustrious mega-deals have remained a mystery to me.

There is no better way to prepare for a weekend trip than by trying to plan for one.  Fall break is one week away, so in addition to studying for exams, everyone is trying to get together all of their plans for the week.  Not only are flights and trains not as amazingly cheap as I’d imagined, it’s near impossible to actually book anything!  This is how it works:  I carefully pick my flight, train, etc.  I double and triple check everything.  I precisely enter my credit card information, hold my breath and press BOOK NOW.

“Error in operation.  The process cannot continue right now.  We apologize for any inconvenience,” Renfe.com tells me.

“An error condition exists which is preventing you from continuing.  You may wish to start over and try again.  If you continue to get this error message, please contact the airline,” Ryanair sputters helplessly.

You can probably imagine how frustrating this is, especially when you’re in a group of people trying to book something together.  I realize it’s all part of the abroad experience, but I didn’t expect that it would be so hard just to pay for something.

After what seemed like countless tries, I think all my affairs are in order for fall break.  People are going everywhere you can imagine for break: United Kingdom, France, Greece, Belgium, Switzerland, etc.  My plans are to travel through Spain and visit Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville, and then take a weekend trip to Morocco.  I’m so excited to visit these places, as I’ve only been exploring Italy up to this point (it could be worse).  The baggage requirements on these airlines is a completely different hassle and trying to pack for 10 days in 1 backpack is going to be an experience in itself!

A Day of Art History – Vatican

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For both my Baroque and High Renaissance class, we were assigned to go to the Vatican Museums on our own.
I decided to kill two birds with one stone and go see everything.

The day really started when I bought a kilo of prickly pear cactus fruit from Sicily at the market this morning.  It is the season for cactus fruit on the island, and they are everywhere in the market.  They are called “Fichi di India” which means “figs from India”.  I really didn’t know what they would be like, so I bought a bunch.  Well, they have tiny microscopic spikes on the outside skin that embedded themselves in my fingers.  The inside is filled with hundreds of hard seeds that are not chew-able.  The flesh of the fruit is on the outside of the seeds and right under the skin.  I had reserved a ticket to the Vatican Museums online to avoid lines. After I printed the ticket out at school I started walking there while unsuccessfully eating my cactus fruit, pocketknife in hand to remove the spiky skin.  It turns out, these cactus are native to Mexico but grow perfectly in the climate of southern Italy:  http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opuntia_ficus-indica .

The Vatican is a very different place than how I imagined it.  Vatican City is not really a city.  Only the Pope and a few other Vatican officials live inside the city walls.  Mostly, it is a church and museum complex.  The gift shop system was extensive, with stands all through the museum selling rosaries, medals, postcards, books, and Pope John Paul II related objects.  He was a very popular pope, his image dominates the merchandise.

The Vatican Museums are huge, and only cover a portion of all the opulence the Vatican has.  I couldn’t see everything despite the fact that I was there for hours.  Halls and rooms are filled with frescoes, tapestries, gold ornamentation, busts, papal clothing, marble statues, oil paintings, icons, manuscripts and more.

I think my favorite part was the Vatican’s collection of ancient Roman and Greek statues.  The art collections of the Vatican were a status symbol, and during the renaissance, it became very popular to collect ancient marble sculptures.    The Vatican has the largest collection of sculptures from Greek and Roman antiquity in the world.

I liked the time of day I was at the Vatican, and would love to go back there sometime soon.  I couldn’t photograph in the Sistine Chapel, but it was a disorienting experience.  The ceiling and walls are covered with paintings of people and bodies.  Michelangelo’s Last Judgment is a sea of writhing chaotic humans.  Then on top of that, the ground floor where you walk is likewise, a sea of chaotic humans.  I couldn’t really look at the ceiling easily because my attention was drawn immediately back down to eye level where I was bumping up against tourists from all over the world.  I want to go back and get a chance to really spend time with some of the pieces of artwork that I didn’t get a chance to see for long, such as Raphael’s School of Athens painting.  It was a great experience.

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‘Marching’ through Naples and Pompeii for the Weekend

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One of the most beneficial aspects to my time in Rome so far has definitely been the excursions and class trips that I’ve gotten the chance to be a part of. Being in three art history classes has allowed me to be on site in Rome every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning from 9-12, visiting different museums, churches, and monuments. These classes all include a weekend excursion outside of Rome, and the first of my trips occurred this past weekend.

The trip for my ‘Art and Culture of Ancient Rome’ class was introduced by our professor in the beginning of the semester as ‘The Death March through Naples and Pompeii’, so you could definitely say this trip had quite the reputation. Professor Gadeyne, a top Ancient Roman scholar and archaeologist (and probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever met) warned us this trip would be exhausting and I believe he used the word ‘brutal’, but also that it would be crucial to our understanding of ancient Roman architecture and city planning and that we would get the chance to see things that most people never see in their lives- boy was he right!

The trip began Friday morning, when we departed Rome at 7 a.m. and headed for the town of Terracina, where we visited the Temple of Jupiter Anxur. This temple, built in the 1st century B.C. overlooks the sea and was a great example of how artificial terraces were used to elevate ancient temples, making them seem more threatening and powerful. We hopped back on the bus and took a short ride to the beautiful coastal town of Sperlonga. Here we visited the Villa of Tiberius and it’s museum. This villa was located directly off the sea and included a number of caves in which huge sculptures once stood. These sculptures were based off of characters from The Iliad and The Odyssey, and are housed now in the museum present at the site.

Inside the cave of the Villa of Tiberius

After the villa, we ate lunch in Sperlonga and enjoyed the gorgeous view, then headed back on the bus and made our way to the town of Stabiae, just outside of Naples. Here we saw two villas, The Villa of Ariadne and The Villa of San Marco, both preserved by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. This area of Italy was the most important resort area of ancient times and was made up of a large number of luxurious living spaces. These villas marked the end of our first day, and we headed towards the town of Paestum, where we would be sleeping for the weekend. The Poseidonia Mare Hotel has been taking care of Temple students on this trip for the past 15 years or so, so it was definitely a great place to retreat to after a long day of walking, note-taking, and chasing after the brisk pace of Professor Gadeyne.

The second day of the trip was the ultimate test of our knowledge, stamina, and skills- we woke up bright and early and headed to the extremely well-preserved ancient city of Pompeii and remained there until almost 6 p.m. Our professor is famous for making fun of and avoiding tourists, so he was able to take us off the beaten path of cheesy Pompeii tours to locations we never would have seen on our own, some not even open to the public. We spent the day learning about different styles of wall paintings, layouts and plans of homes, and ancient urban planning methods.

The Forum in Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

Our final stop in Pompeii, everyone survived the day!

That night we headed back to our hotel, had a fabulous dinner, and were all pleasantly surprised by a cake and champagne toast for completing the trip. We explored the beach near our hotel and sleepily called it a night pretty early. Sunday morning was another early wake-up call, but the day was significantly less busy than the others. We first explored the ruins of an ancient Greek city in the town of Paestum, where our hotel was located. We had time to explore on our own and for once this weekend weren’t required to take notes! We boarded the bus and headed to our last site for the weekend,The National Archaeology Museum of Naples. We spent about two hours looking at large collections of ancient Roman and Greek sculpture, and got to see a lot of artifacts from houses we saw in Pompeii. We had an hour to grab lunch before we departed for Rome, and we all had pizza on the brain. Naples is infamous for their pizza, and we all thoroughly enjoyed ours!

Part of the class standing in front of a temple in the Ancient Greek city of Paestum.

Overall this trip was an amazing experience. Parts of it did feel like a death march, but I think the entire class came away from this weekend with so much more knowledge than we ever expected and had fun in the process. Now our Thursday morning site visits in Rome will be a breeze!

Cultural Differences

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Last Friday, some of my friends invited me to join them on a day trip to Viterbo.  We got there by train, which was easy to catch at the metro station nearby.  Viterbo is an excellent city to explore, and we couldn’t even scratch the surface with the limited time we had there.  There are hot springs, vineyards, and medieval architecture all around.  It was refreshing to spend some time in a different part of Italy with its own unique history and lifestyle.

The part of the adventure that most sticks out in my mind was when we went to an “Aperativo” for food before getting on the train to head back.  An Aperativo roughly translates as a buffet.  Bars set them up in the evening.  For a set price, you can get one drink and choose what you want to eat from the buffet of freshly cooked food.

Word about these Aperativos spread through Temple students some weeks ago.  They are a popular looking meal option because of the buffet style.  At first glance, it seems like an excellent way to eat as much as you could want with a minimum price.  However, things are not as simple as they seem…

Some Aperativos have the customer pay the set price before picking out the food.  This Aperativo gave us the check after we ate.  When we looked at the check, we were shocked and confused.  What should have been a total of 35 euros for everyone total, was 60 euros.  We weren’t sure why this was.  Our waitress had said something to one of the people in our group, suggesting that we order more drinks because we had “eaten too much”.  We didn’t know what she meant at the time, but later it all fit together…

When we asked the waitress why we were charged so much, she explained that is was because we had eaten so much from the buffet.  Yes, the Aperativo only charges a low flat rate for access to the buffet, but Italian buffet culture is different from American buffet culture.  In Italy, the buffet is not ‘all you can eat’.  Instead, there is an unspoken rule that you can go back for seconds, but not thirds or fourths.  This cultural rule is enforced by the honor system.  There is no set amount of food allotted, but there is a cultural understanding about what is too much to take.  The Aperativo is seen as a snacking place, not a ‘stuff yourself of all the food you can eat’ place.  Italian culture is not used to American stomachs and appetite.

My friend Andrew realized, immediately after the waitress explained it, what was happening.  He said basically “We are in the wrong with eating all that food and expecting to pay the flat 5 euro rate.  This is the way their culture works, and we have to abide by their culture because we live here”.

We payed the extra euros.  I realized then how much small cultural differences can really make a foreign country a very alien place to live if people aren’t familiar with the culture.  I was also amazed that the many cultural differences between Italian and American culture.  There are more differences than I expected there to be, and many I haven’t learned about yet.

The experience with the Aperativo taught me something about Italian culture that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.  I feel that it is very important to be as aware as possible about the culture of the place you are living in.  We are guest here in Italy, and it is not our place to impose our culture.  It is not our place to eat like ravenous college students at an Aperativo.  Having knowledge about these little cultural differences makes living here much easier, and I hope to learn more about the Italian culture everyday I’m here.

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