One of the things on my bucket list for Rome was to go to mass at the Vatican. I decided to participate in the Vatican’s Palm Sunday mass on April 13th.
First, I had to find a ticket. You need a ticket for just about every event at the Vatican, and they go fast! With the Easter mass being out of tickets weeks ago, I did have much hope for a ticket. Instead of wasting my time with the Vatican office, I decided to do a little research online and found the Bishops’ Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican. I sent them an email asking for tickets to a mass that was only 5 days away and surprisingly they responded within a few hours saying they reserved me a ticket!
So that Friday before the mass I took the Metro to their office to pick-up my ticket, it was almost too easy! A quick 10 minute metro ride, a walk past the Trevi Fountain, a turn right and I was there!
After knowing how crowded Rome was becoming with the Easter holiday approaching I decided it would probably be best to get their early. Mass started at 9:30 and the doors opened at 7:30… so get there at 7am?
Yep, that’s what I did.
I left the residence at 6:45 and approached the Vatican surprised to see so many people already there! The line stretched down the street and around the corner… a line that I was not about to wait in.
Being alone I was able to casually stand next to a family who I’m guessing must have camped out there the night before because they were so close to the front of the line. It only got crazier after getting through security and getting into St. Peter’s Square. People were in full out sprints in hopes of getting a good seat to see the Pope.
Again, being a party of one really helped. I was able to take that awkward seat that two groups leave between each other IN THE SECOND ROW! Not only was I grateful I wouldn’t have to stand for the entire mass, but I actually had an awesome view!
I know the mass was outside, and I know you can’t expect much from a group of thousands… but I was still shocked to see the amount of people in jean and sweatshirts, smoking, and even talking on the phone during mass!
Although I didn’t understand much of it, the mass was beautiful and getting their two and a half hours early was definitely worth it.
I’m not quite sure I’m going to be able to take the palms I received back to the U.S. with me in one piece… maybe a few leaves if I’m lucky.
For future study abroad students, I would absolutely recommend getting to at least one event at the Vatican, whether it be a full mass on Sunday or the papal audience on Wednesday.
Even if it’s not for religious purposes, the entirety of an event at the Vatican is not something you want to miss.
Sometimes while studying abroad its hard to really interact with the locals. Thanks to Daniela Curioso, an Italian professor at TU Rome, students have to opportunity to take part in something called the Mamiani Project.
Mamiani is an Italian high school 10 minutes away from Temple where students can volunteer their time to help Italian students with their English.
Surprisingly, you don’t need to be fluent in Italian to tutor! (Which is perfect for a girl like me in Italian 101.)
In the beginning of the semester you’re assigned a class of around 25-30 students who you will visit once a week. It’s your job to engage the kids with activities that get them to practice their English; whether it is reading, writing, or speaking.
One of the activities I did with my class was introducing them to an American Valentine’s Day. First we talked about Valentine’s Day and what it meant in the United States vs. Italy. While most of the kids thought the holiday was stupid and pointless there was a hand full of girls who proudly stated “We want to go to America!”
Each student got their own handmade paper heart and were told to write what they would do on their perfect Valentine’s Day. The students were broken up into groups of girls and groups of boys, and once everyone in the group had contributed an idea each group stood up and shared their perfect date.
The girls voted on which boy group had the most romantic date and the boys did the same for the girls. At the end the winners were crowned “Mr. and Mrs. Valentine.”
This activity was one of my favorite because it got the students talking and they were amazed that Americans go to such great extent once a year to show someone they love them.
Being able to be a part of this project has really added to my study abroad experience. I think other tutors can agree, it’s a good way to feel like you’re giving back to a city that has given you so much.
It’s was pretty common for us tutors to get a picture with their students before we left, a sort of remembrance of time at Mamiani.
Here I am with my roommate Nicole and our high school class. Our students were 17-18 and studied classics.
Taylor Byerly and her high school class. Trying to recreate the Ellen Degeneres Oscar’s selfie?
And Anna Bockrath with her students on her last day.
Along with finishing our tutoring at the high school, students at TU Rome have finished classes! It’s crazy to think that the semester is nearly over (minus those pesky finals.)
In order to “celebrate” our Italian class being finished, our Italian professor, Paolo, invited us out to dinner! We went to a restaurant in Monti and had some traditional Roman food.
It was nice to be able to talk to our professor on a more personal level outside the classroom.
Regardless of how much Italian grammar I’ve actually picked up… I have to give a huge shout out to Paolo for putting up with me the entire semester and making the Italian language a little bit easier to learn!
My last trip of the semester concluded on Sunday with a weekend to London!
And what a difference it was to be in an English-speaking country and eating actual eggs, sausage, and pancakes for breakfast (as opposed to the typical Italian croissant and Nutella). I almost felt like I was home!
The U.K. is an hour behind Italy, and Thursday morning’s flight had us up at an early start. Once we arrived at the Stansted Airport at around 9 a.m., we then had to take a 40 minute shuttle ride to Hyde Park. As opposed to the wonderful hostel experience I had in Barcelona, the hostel we booked for London was a little different…to say the least. There were 12 people to a very narrow and small room, with two stacks of three bunk beds! There was no room for my suitcase anywhere on the floor, so I had to sleep with it at the foot of my bed. But I guess that just further motivated us to stay outdoors and enjoy the city as much as possible, even if the weather was slightly chillier and cloudier than Rome. (At least it didn’t rain though, right?)
On our first full day in London, we set out on a bus tour that looped around the main sites of the city. You could jump on and off at any of the sites as you pleased and our ticket included a free boat tour up the Thames River. One of the first places we saw was Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the U.K. parliament, the Palace of Westminster. Apparently, however, “Big Ben” is just the nickname for the bell that resides inside the Elizabeth Tower clock, so you can’t really see Big Ben…you can only hear it. The tower holds the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world!
The boat tour’s destination was Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, or more commonly known as the Tower of London, and we passed below a number of bridges on the Thames to reach it. Two of the most notable were the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge, which most people confuse for the other. The Tower Bridge is the iconic bridge of London, and displayed the olympic rings during the 2012 Olympics. We also passed under the Millennium Bridge, which I recognized from the Harry Potter movies, so I was excited about that. Other attractions visible from the river tour included the London Eye, which is like a ferris wheel that yields spectacular views of the city, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater (a replica with the original construction of the thatched roof), and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
After our day of tourist attractions, we spent the rest of the trip walking through Paddington and Oxford Street. We ate at a couple of pubs and my roommate even ordered an authentic English dinner of bangers and mash. Of course we each had to stop and take pictures inside the iconic telephone booths. And even though I failed to see any of my favorite British celebrities, aka Harry Styles of One Direction, I still had a great time in London! The city was very eclectic and modern, but never lost its quaint, old English royal feel. Most of the buildings were white marble and white cherry blossoms lined the streets. Every empty space was filled with flowers and greenery, not to mention the dozens of parks that broke up the city. I can definitely see myself traveling back.
Limiting myself when it comes to traveling has really given me the opportunity to relax and explore Rome. Make sure you leave at least two weekends (ideally more) to explore the city you’ve been living in!
Too many times I’ve talked to fellow students who have been to countries you can’t even imagine, but have yet to visit the Coliseum, which is only a Metro ride away. It’s impossible to appreciate Rome and everything it has to offer if you’re only here Monday through Thursday while class is in session.
Even though traveling is really cool and exciting, you don’t want to waste you’re time abroad sitting in airports. Sometimes I think students are more interested in being able to go home and tell their friends and family all of the different countries they’ve been to and forget what’s in their backyard.
It’s pretty obvious that tourist season is starting to pick up in Rome. I remember walking into the Vatican like we had VIP status, now I can’t imagine getting in without waiting in line for at least an hour and a half.
Last weekend I took on Rome solo. I decided to go back to one of my favorite places, the Trevi Fountain. I don’t know what it is that draws me to the Trevi Fountain. Maybe its size? The history? The water? Lizzie McGuire? Whatever it is, the Trevi Fountain never gets old. I sat at the fountain for about two hours doing a combination of people watching (a very Italian thing), taking photos, and just watching the water.
The Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. The fountain contains a statue of Neptune, god of the sea, and two Tritons to represent the contrasting moods of the sea. The Roman Catholic charity, Caritas, sorts and collects the coins nightly, and bring in around $1.3 million annually.
On Sunday a few friends and I decided to go to the Porta Portese flea market to do some souvenir shopping. It’s all about the bargaining here; NEVER pay what they say the price is!
After spending the morning at Porta Portese we were starving, so what better time for brunch? Earlier in the semester Gianni gave us a packet of places he had recommended… and so far this packet is spot on!
Deb and me decided to try “Akbar.” We were immediately drawn in by the decor of this place, a mash up of vintage chairs, desks, tables, and lamps. We paid 25 Euros a person for the brunch buffet. While expensive, it was totally worth it! We were offered a variety of fruits, grilled vegetables, pastas, meats, and cheeses. On top of that we had unlimited access to a diverse selection of juices and tea.
As we finished our brunch they were still bringing out different dishes for their customers! We didn’t want to leave! The staff was friendly, the American 80’s rock soundtrack (all coffee house covers) was perfect, and the food was incredible! What else could you ask for?!
I finally feel comfortable in this city. I can do things now that I could never imagine doing the first week. It’s the little things like going from not being able to check out in the grocery story smoothly to being able to do it all in Italian and being able to navigate the bus system that validate just how much I’ve learned from living abroad.
After a few months in the bustling city of Rome, a weekend getaway to the Amalfi Coast sounded like a perfect break before final exams…especially when it was organized through a tour group with convenient (and relatively cheap!) accommodations. Even though I spent a weekend with my family touring Amalfi, I found no reason not to go back to the beach. The trip to the Amalfi Coast attracts students from all over! Half of the Temple program was present this past weekend, and the other half is going the following week. And after my mini vacation there, I can understand why! After receiving emails with departure and group leader information, we all met up at Termini station Thursday evening to receive colored wristbands and board our appropriate buses. Because of the massive amount of students on the trip, we were broken up into smaller groups depending on which hotel we were assigned: Hotel Londra, Hotel Florida, or Seven Hostel, all of which were within walking distance of each other in Sorrento. The drive down to the coast took about four hours, but the time passed very quickly because our buses had TVs and our leaders brought movies! (It’s been so long since I’ve actually sat down and watched an entire movie…) Naturally by the time we arrived at midnight, all of us were exhausted and went straight to sleep to prepare for the early start the next morning. On Friday we left our hotels at 8:00am to head for the port in Sorrento, where we boarded a private boat and set sail for the island of Capri. The first stop (if you can call this a “stop”) was at the Blue Grotto. The Blue Grotto is a sea cave off the coast of Capri that glows blue because of the sunlight passing through an underwater cavity. Our boat rested in the water while groups of four or five at a time climbed into small rowboats to take us through a small opening into the cave…so small in fact that all of us, including the guide, had to duck and practically lay down to fit through! Unfortunately the day wasn’t very sunny so the cave wasn’t as illuminating as I anticipated, but it was fun nonetheless. Two people from my boat even paid a few extra euros to jump in! They only lasted a few seconds though because the water was freezing.
Once everyone from our tour had a chance to see inside the cave, we departed on choppy, rough waters for the Marina Grande in Capri. On our way there, we passed the three Faraglioni sea rocks used in the Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue perfume ad, and the Marina Piccola, which is home to many American celebrities. One of our guides even commented that the marina is so sophisticated that every dog’s DNA is registered, for the pure fact that if you fail to pick up your dog’s poop when out on a walk, the dog can be identified and you will be fined. Once docked, we ascended up to Capri Town where we met a private transport that would drive us further up to Anacapri. Before leaving, however, a bunch of us stood in a long line for a freshly squeezed blood orange and lemon slushi. It was one man in a tiny little stand extracting pure fruit juice and it was absolutely delicious. At our highest point in Anacapri, we had the opportunity to take a chair lift further up Mt. Solaro for breathtaking 360 degree views of Capri below. The day was so foggy though, that the chair ride had better views than from up top. We were surrounded by a mist of clouds and couldn’t see a thing! We were given a few hours to explore Anacapri on our own; there were shops specializing in coral, limoncello, and hand-made sandals. We didn’t leave from the port again until later in the evening so the rest of the day was spent enjoying the sunset over the beach. When we got back to Sorrento, an optional dinner was organized at Il Leone Rosso, followed by a night out at the English Inn, an outdoor beer garden with drink discounts for tour members.
Saturday’s excursion started at 10:00am with another private bus to the black sand beaches of Positano. We had the entire day to ourselves and thankfully we lucked out with the weather! Rain was in the forecast all day, but it was mid sixties and partly cloudy. A few people ventured into the water, but most bought wine and panini and just relaxed in the cute beach town, with its shops and houses built right into the cliffside. There was originally an opportunity to take a boat out and go cliff jumping and cave swimming, but the water was too choppy. Once checked out of our hotels, we headed to Pompeii, for either a guided tour, or the option to walk through it on your own. For some people, including myself, we were touring Pompeii the second time around. But again, I did not mind. The day was even nicer than the fist time I went and since I chose to walk through without a guide, I ventured into some areas I hadn’t seen before. The ruins are so big, there’s no way anyone can see everything in one viewing. Now that I’m back in Rome, the amount of work I have to finish in the last two weeks of school is hitting me hard. Amalfi was definitely a last hoorah of the semester, and I recommend every student do this tour in April’s nice weather before the workload piles up!
It was 68 and sunny in Rome today! And with my night class cancelled it was the perfect opportunity to go for a run!
I decided to ditch my usually crowded street route for a more scenic path through Villa Borghese. This worked, kinda. With probably a 100+ possible courses, it’s easy to get lost, which is exactly what I did. Now for my dad’s sake I have to let everyone know that by “lost” I really mean I just didn’t have a pre-planned path… There were a lot of people, other runners, and it was bright; TOTALLY SAFE!
I started my run from Temple Rome and proceeded to the entrance of Villa Borghese near Piazza del Popolo. It wasn’t long until I stumbled upon the overlook of Piazza del Popolo, somewhere I’ve been meaning to go for a while, but just never actually got around to, until now!
Before I knew it I was running along a sidewalk, which wasn’t what gave away the fact that somehow I exited the gardens. What gave it away was the fact that I practically ran into the Trinità dei Monti, aka the church at the top of the Spanish Steps!
Instead of continuing my run down the steps onto the streets of Rome, I decided to turn around and figure out how to get back into Villa Borghese.
After getting back onto a gravel path I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people enjoying the beautiful day. If this doesn’t prove just how much more laid back Italians are than Americans I don’t know what does! Could you imagine just taking a few hours off of work to everyday to relax in a park?!
I ran into two men on horses too, not something I can say happens on all of my runs!
Need directions to the National Gallery of Modern Art? I couldn’t give you driving directions, but I could get you there through Villa Borghese in a heartbeat!
I finished my run through the Villa Borghese dog park, the perfect place for me to come back and get some pictures for my photography project! Something else I’ve noticed about the dogs in Rome, they are so much better behaved than American dogs! Seriously, I only saw a hand full of dogs on leashes in Villa Borghese, the rest were free to run around. Not a single dog chased me, or even barked at me for that matter, they were completely uninterested!
I don’t know if I can say this was the most strenuous workout of my life as I stopped to take pictures every half mile, but if you stick to running, this is the place for you to get an awesome workout. There are a lot of people, so safety isn’t an issue, but the paths are large enough where you won’t find yourself dodging slow walking tourists.
If you’re not the kind of person into running, I would still recommend you get yourself into Villa Borghese at least once… or twice… maybe three or four times just to enjoy the scenery. You can rent a bike and even Segway (if you’re into that). But just like Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, make sure you’re out by sunset; you don’t want to find yourself lost in the largest public park in Rome (148 acres) at night!