Monthly Archives: March 2015

Take Me to Church


Even though it’s now obvious that it was always my destiny to come to Rome and be Lizzie McGuire, it wasn’t always such an clear choice. With two majors, I had a lot of options—did it make more sense to be somewhere that would complement my studies in English lit, or was it better to go the Religion major route?

Clearly I went with choice number two, and it actually ended up being an easier decision than I had initially anticipated; the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became that Rome had something special to offer. There are a ton of cities with rich literary traditions and impressive collections of relics from local literary power players, but Rome has way more than relics (saintly and otherwise). Rome has a living history, in which ancient traditions are still being performed while new conventions are simultaneously inaugurated. Plus, it’s probably one of the only places where you can find a Pope Francis bobble head (and calendar and t shirt and coffee mug and poster and key chain…not that I would know). 

Having said that, one of my favorite parts of being in Rome has been visiting the gorgeous churches scattered around the city. Here are some can’t-miss spots for when you visit!

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

1. St. Peter’s Basilica

It’s a big deal. You already knew that. Moving on.

2. Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

A magnificent construction designed by Michelangelo, this one holds a special place in my heart because it was my first church in Rome. It’s also right next to the Palazzo Massimo National Museum and the Baths of Diocletian (you can get into both with the same ­­ticket, meaning you can impress your friends with how thoroughly cultured you are in one fell swoop).

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore

3. Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore

This is a big one! As a Papal major Basilica it’s one of the four highest-ranking Roman Catholic Churches, plus it’s the largest and oldest Catholic Marian church in Rome, and a UNESCO World Heritage site to boot. The mosaics are 5th century and gorgeous, and it has an incredible monumental alter.

4. Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere

It’s not terribly impressive from the outside, but don’t be fooled—this church is my favorite. The mosaics here are the most spectacular of everything I’ve seen so far in Rome, particularly the apse mosaic depicting the Coronation of the Virgin. This church is also home to a 6th century Madonna della Clemenza icon, which is one of the oldest images of the Madonna in Rome.

5. Chiesa di Santa Maria Antiqua

Santa Maria Antiqua

Santa Maria Antiqua

Located in the Roman Forum, Santa Maria Antiqua is the oldest Christian monument on the site, and it contains the earliest depiction of Santa Maria Regina, or the Virgin Mary as Queen. This church is really interesting because it demonstrates the evolution of Christian art, which can be seen in the various layers of fresco on the walls (it was redecorated by at least four different popes). Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to gain access to—I was lucky enough to get permission to visit with my Christian art seminar.

Weekend Trips of the Class Variety

wall art

Beautiful Wall Art in Pompeii

Many people studying abroad in Rome travel on the weekends. It isn’t an uncommon occurrence to hear people talking about their upcoming weekend trips to Paris, Milan or Spain. Two of my weekends throughout the month of March I also had weekend trips planned, except these were trips that I would be taking with classes. I was not entirely sure what to expect of these class trips because nobody that I normally traveled with was going on them with me, and I did not recognize all of the places that my professors were taking me. Despite my apprehension, I knew that they would, at the least, be good educational experiences.

The first trip that I went on was with my Roman History class. The professor of this class, the hardest professor of all of my classes at Temple Rome, thoroughly warned us before going on the trip that this was not supposed to be a ‘vacation’: no shopping, no going out at night, and no fun… well, he was joking about the last part – we hoped. We would be taking notes until our fingers bled and walking until we could not take another step: seemed like a good time.


An Ancient Greek Temple at Paestum

After scaring the living daylights out of us, we started our trek down the western coast of Italy. Along the way we visited Terracina, Minturnae, Cuma, Boscoreale, Pompeii, Paestum, and Santa Maria Capua Vetere. That may have sounded like a lot of places to visit in just three days, and it was, but we accomplished this feat by always being on the move. From 7:30 in the morning until 8 o’clock at night, we were either on a bus to our destination or running through the site and learning as much as we could about it in the allotted amount of time that we had scheduled to be there. I was able to see a multitude of ancient ruins, artifacts and even an old farmhouse with a reconstructed vineyard. If I were to tell you the number of pages of notes that I took throughout this weekend, it might scare you off, but it was worth every last page. Being lectured to for an entire weekend on ancient society was intellectually and physically exhausting (I swear my professor was in better physical condition than every single 20-something year old there), but I learned more in that weekend than I ever thought possible. Needless to say, once we arrived back in Rome, I took a very nice nap.


The Infamous Po River

The next trip that I went on was with my sociology class to cities in northern Italy called Torgiano, Modena, Maranello, Parma, Riccione and Fabriano. The main point of this trip was to see how Italians made their money. While equally as educational, this trip was the polar opposite of the weekend with my Roman history class. I expected the same strict time schedules, pages of notes and constant lecturing, just like my first class trip, but I could not have been more wrong. From the very beginning of this excursion, we were on Italian time. I do not understand how we did it, but we left late for everything and still ended up being on time in the end. I also only had one worksheet that I needed to fill out – for the whole weekend. While I was still learning, this trip felt like more of a vacation. My professor wanted the class to get the true experience of the cities we were in. He gave us time to explore practically every place we went to, and showed us the restaurants, museums (of the cheese, wine, and paper variety), or clubs that they were best known for.

While both trips were completely different, they each were able to teach me so much about Italian culture, both past and present. Out of the places both of my trips took me, the only place that I ever heard of before was Pompeii, so these experiences gave me the opportunity to see places in Italy that I would have never otherwise visited! Also, instead of being with the same people that I normally hang out with, I got to bond with new people over the constant note taking for Roman History and that one crazy Saturday night in Riccone. These class trips gave me weekends that I will definitely never forget.

Money on my Mind


One of the most intimidating topics when thinking about studying abroad is money. Money can be something that makes or breaks whether someone has the opportunity to study abroad, but it does not have to be! For me, it was definitely a concern when I was applying to come to Rome, but I soon realized that there are a bunch of ways to stretch each dollar while abroad, so I am able have the best experience possible:

1) Apply for Scholarships

Before leaving for Rome, I made sure to apply for as many scholarships as I had time to fill out. While you may think that the chances are slim of receiving one, you never know! Why not try to get the free money that people are so graciously giving away in return for a nicely written essay and possibly a small project after your return.

2) Create a Budget

Now the budget that I am talking about does not have to be crazy. I am not saying to keep an excel sheet with fancy equations and computer things that I can barely understand. For my budget, I keep a notebook of weekly expenditures. While I am out and about shopping, going to restaurants or visiting museums, I mark down how much I have spent in my phone that day and then I transfer it to my notebook when I get back to the residence. Every week I add up how much I have spent, and I try to keep it under a certain number to stay within my overall budget for the trip. Sometimes I am a little over what I want to spend, but I do not fret because there are also weeks where I am substantially under my desired number, so it all evens out in the end.

3) Make Your Own Meals


I Made This Beauty Myself

I know, mom or dad isn’t here to pack our lunches for us anymore, but it is a great way to save money while abroad. In Rome, the average lunch of a sandwich, pizza or fries costs anywhere from 2.50 Euro to 3.50 Euro, so if I was eating out every weekday between my classes, I would be spending between 10 and 14 Euros per week! Also, eating dinner out every night can get really expensive. Because we have great kitchen facilities in the residence, it does not hurt to put your chef hat on with a couple of friends and try to make a delicious meal.

4) Stay in Hostels

While abroad, I knew I was going to be doing a little traveling throughout not only Italy, but Europe as a whole. One way to save money in these ventures is to stay in hostels instead of hotels. Hostels are an experience all in their own. They are not as fancy as hotels, but they offer showers, beds, Wi-Fi and many other amenities. Sometimes you will share rooms with strangers, but that is entirely your own choice. You will meet an abundance of new people from all over the world who can tell you some of the most interesting stories. For instance, last weekend when I was in Barcelona, I met a woman who I called Miss A, and she told me all about her life and her travels. She even pointed my friend and me to a couple great spots to eat or people watch.

5) Walk!

Walking is a great way to not only burn off all the pasta you will be eating, but is it also completely free! It may take a little extra time to walk somewhere rather than taking public transportation; however, by walking you are getting to see parts of the city that you would have missed otherwise! You might not have found out about that cute café on the corner, or you might never have seen the colors of the sky slowly change as the sun sets. So go ahead, bring out those walking shoes, grab an umbrella if necessary and get moving!


Walking From Town to Town in Cinque Terre

Thinking about money can be difficult, but luckily, with a little effort and some creativity, there are ways to help curve the costs for studying abroad so more students are able to gain this amazing experience without breaking their wallets.

Semester at the Museum


In my mind, I’m a cosmopolitan young lady who’s always out exploring the city of Rome. In reality, I take a lot of naps and watch more Netflix than I’d care to admit. Luckily, I signed up for “Museum History and Theory in Rome” this semester with Professor Laurie Kalb, which has pretty much been the perfect class for about a dozen different reasons: a) I don’t have anything like it at my home university, b) it gets me out and into the city, and c) I get walked around every week by someone way more knowledgeable than any tour guide I’ve ever encountered. Plus, when you’re getting a tour through a museum, you don’t have to feel guilty about skipping over most of the explanatory plaques (let’s be real, who actually has the attention span to read them all?), and I can say impressive things like “Sorry mom, I’m going to have to call you back, I’m about to walk into the Museum of the Imperial Fora and Market of Trajan.” Basically it’s been a total win/win.

The theory behind the class is fascinating; museums have undergone a huge transformation since their earliest incarnation as cabinets of curiosities, curated by early aristocrats, naturalists, and scholars. Museums are also implicated in larger discourses of nationalism, citizenship, patrimony, politics, and culture—museums have agendas, and they help craft narratives of state identity. The really exciting part, though, is seeing all of these abstract concepts actually being enacted in the places we visit.

On our site visits thus far we’ve dutifully covered our bases and been to some of the big-name spots, the most important probably being the Capitoline (arguably the first museum in Europe!), followed by the Palazzo Massimo (with an impressive collection of Roman statues) and the nearby Baths of Diocletian (originally built to accommodate literally thousands of people). What’s been a really lovely surprise, however, is all of the hidden gems that we’ve visited along the way. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Galleria Borghese, Wikimedia Commons, Antoine Taveneaux

Galleria Borghese, Wikimedia Commons, Antoine Taveneaux

Galleria Borghese

This museum is actually pretty well-known, but it’s one of my favorites. Located in the Borghese Gardens (a fantastic place to spend some time wandering through, I might add), the museum is housed in the former villa of the Borghese family. It features an impressive collection of Caravaggio paintings and Bernini sculptures, but even if you’re not impressed by the art, the building itself is a masterpiece. The rooms are decorated wall-to-ceiling and are absolutely gorgeous.

Galleria Doria-Pamphilj

This one is pretty exciting because it’s half art gallery and half house museum. One of the most interesting parts of the experience is the audio guide, which is narrated by Prince Jonathan Doria-Pamphilj himself, who grew up in the palace. The gallery features a few Caravaggio and Raphael paintings, but the most famous piece in the collection is the Velazquez portrait of Pope Innocent X (as a point of reference, I assume that any piece of art that I’ve actually heard of is famous).

Casina delle Civette, Villa Torlonia

Casina delle Civette, Villa Torlonia

Villa Torlonia

This one really has something for everyone. The grounds of the villa are open to the public, and they’re a great place to go running or have a picnic. The main house of the villa has an eclectically designed interior, ranging from Gothic to neoclassical to Egpyt-themed, and it’s attached to airtight bunkers built by Mussolini during his residence there. The best part, though, is definitely the Casina delle Civette, or the House of the Owls. Largely designed by Giovanni Torlonia (the “odd duck” of the family), the house is absolutely whimsical and fabulous, featuring incredible stained glass windows and nocturnal animals embedded into the architecture of the building.



Maybe it’s a symptom of my inner New Yorker resisting any form of sentimentality, but for whatever reason, I haven’t been very homesick this semester (sorry mom, it’s nothing personal). If you’d had the good fortune of seeing me on the day I left for Rome, you’d know how ironic this is—I started crying the moment I said goodbye to my family and didn’t stop until I was halfway across the Atlantic. Apparently I looked so pathetic in the airport that one of the guys from security came and found me as I was walking toward my gate to tell me that he promised, I really was going to be okay. Suffice it to say, those weren’t my finest hours.

I dare you to dream up something more perfect than a one euro face-sized doughnut

I dare you to dream up something more perfect than a face-sized doughnut

Fast forward two months and I’m on another flight to Rome, now on my way back from Spring Break. This time I’m not eliciting the sympathy of random strangers, but am actually pretty excited—I missed Rome while I was gone way more than departure-day Jess would have ever believed possible. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time in London/Edinburgh/Dublin, but they’re no Rome. Here’s why:

-The Romans are truly a wonderful people. Take, for example, the ladies who work at the residence and help us with our Italian homework. Or the cab driver that joined us in belting out “My Heart Will Go On,” when it came on the radio. Or the local alimentari (convenience shop) owner who asked about our Spring Break trip, and then politely suffered through my Italian as I attempted to tell him about it. You pretty much can’t go wrong when you’re hanging out with Italians.

-There’s always something cheap, delicious, and vegetarian-friendly to eat in Rome, which was something I’d completely taken for granted. And have I mentioned the doughnuts?

-I really missed the Italian language, although I’ll admit, it was nice to speak English at first (especially in the very beginning when I just thought I had magically become fluent in Italian every time I understood something). The feeling wore off pretty quickly for me, but I will say that my friends who were only just starting intro Italian this semester found the English to be a really welcome relief.

This is what real history looks

This is what real history looks like

-We’ve got real history here in Rome. I’m not saying that London’s1000 year old tower isn’t impressive, but as far as I’m concerned, if it’s not from before the common era, I’m not impressed.

-Remember that time I talked about how Rome was one giant traffic hazard? I didn’t know the meaning of near-death experience until I got to the UK. First of all, the opposite side of the street thing is really disconcerting. Secondly, Roman drivers will at least stop instead of hitting you, as long as you’re glaring ferociously enough at them. This is just not true in the British Isles.

Finally, it seems worth mentioning that my life is basically a fairytale and I had a great time travelling. All I’m saying is, it’s good to be home.

International Women’s Day in Italy


On March 8th, it was practically impossible to walk through Rome without realizing that something special was happening around me. What it turned out to be was the celebrations of International Women’s Day. As a young woman, I am embarrassed to say that I have not learned about International Women’s Day before my time studying abroad in Rome. It seems to me that it is not as widely celebrated in the United States as it is in other parts of the world.


The lovely mimosa flower!

For anybody out there who is like me and does not know much about International Women’s Day, I will give a little bit of an overview. This celebration has multiple facets. For instance, this day is the rejoicing in how far women have come in regards to gaining equality in political, economic and social spheres. The holiday was actually created within the same year that Italian women were granted the right to vote (1946)! While this day represents how far women have come, it also serves as a reminder for how far we have yet to go to reach true equality.

Another aspect of International Women’s Day is to celebrate not only feminism as a movement, but being strong women. Both men and women alike show their appreciation to the women who have made a positive impact on their lives by being extra sweet and taking them out to dinner or buying them a bouquet of mimosa flowers, the flower chosen as the symbol of International Women’s day by Italian Feminists in 1946. In a way, it can be compared to Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day.

While having a special day solely for celebrating women, it is important to celebrate our femininity each and every day. So men, don’t forget to remind the important women in your life how much you appreciate them, and ladies, celebrate yourselves and all of the past women who have formed the path that you are able to walk on.

I asked a couple students at Temple Rome to describe to me what International Women’s Day means to them and they said:

What does women’s day mean to me? Well my passion and my heart is for women’s ministry. International Women’s day to me means women on all races, ages, and professions coming together to celebrate the thing that ties us together-our femininity-even though we express that in a multitude of different ways.  This year for International Women’s day, I attended and volunteered at a Women’s conference. I cut and tied bows on mimosa flowers to hand out to the women that attend my local church. At the conference, I was able to hear a handful of women speak about their passions- whether that be education, hair dressing, or being a mom. Every women is different. But every woman is strong and beautiful. Everyday, but especially on International women’s day, we should encourage and celebrate all the diversity that entails what it means to be a woman with each other.  – Ella Ward

“International Women’s Day is a day that I get to feel more connected to the women around me and I’m reminded to take a moment and reflect on the ways I can relate to women all over the world. I celebrated International women’s day by applying to be an officer for the Women’s/feminism club at my home campus.” -Grace Best

“International Women’s day made an impact all over the world. There were women who were mentioning people they were inspired by, people like their mothers, their sisters, their best friend, famous women in history. My International Women’s day inspiration was my mother. She is a strong women who has encouraged me to be the best that I can be.” – Erin Patterson

“This is the first time I have ever heard of International Women’s Day. Although I was unaware of this holiday, I am greatly appreciative of the things the women of my life have done for me. Grazie Donne!” – Paul Sandhu

So to all the strong women in the world, this blog post is dedicated to you!

Food for Thought


Food. We all need it. We all love it. We all eat it. Growing up, I always said that I loved Italian food. Italian food meaning spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, chicken parmesan, and anything and everything at the Olive Garden. When deciding to study abroad in Italy, I just knew that I would be in food heaven, eating more pasta than I ever dreamed of eating.

It was not until I came to Italy that I realized almost everything I thought I knew about Italian food was a lie! For starters, my all-time favorite food, chicken parmesan, is not Italian… at all. In Italy, they do not mix meats, especially chicken, with their pasta dishes. There are sauces made with meats, such as bolognese, but they do not place large pieces of meat on top. To be honest, my heart broke a little bit knowing that there was no authentic chicken parmesan for me to try in Italy. No meat on their pasta also means another favorite dish does not exist in the world of Italians, spaghetti and meatballs. Yes, you read that correctly. Italians do not put random spheres of meat in their pastas dishes.

Do not even get me started on Olive Garden. Authentic Italian Cuisine? Not quite. If you ever have been to Olive Garden, I am sure your favorite part is when they bring out those delicious breadsticks, but little did you know that those are one of the last things you will see in Italy. Garlic bread does not exist in Italy; however, at the beginning of their meals, they do serve freshly made bread – that, of course, is delicious. Another great thing at Olive Garden is the shrimp alfredo (and all of the cheese that the waitress puts on top of it for you). There are two mistakes with this dish. The first mistake is that alfredo, though invented in Rome, is not a popular dish in Italy, and the second is that Italians would NEVER put cheese on their seafood. It is just not done.tara

I know that all of this information might be overwhelming, and finding out that America has lied to you about your thought-to-be-favorite cuisine is saddening, but there is a silver lining to this seemingly dark cloud: while in Italy, I had the best lasagna of my life. This adorable little restaurant called Gourmet Café served me the tastiest food that I have had thus far in Rome.


While the lack of the American Italian food may be disappointing, there are so many other great food options to eat in Italy. For instance, there are a variety of pastries to try in the coffee shops. Every place has different sweets that will surely satisfy your sweet tooth, and there is always a nutella option for the chocolate lovers of the world. If you happen to enjoy a good sandwich, Italy is the place. All of the ingredients in their sandwiches are fresh and they have a lot less chemicals than the stuff that we eat in the United States. You can taste the freshness in each and every sandwich. Another great option is the pizza. Again, using fresh ingredients, they manage to create a delectable lunch option. Unlike American pizza, good Italian pizzerias do not serve their pizza in triangular form, but in a rectangle that is folded over to create a pizza sandwich!

I could go on and on about all of the amazing food options that can be found in Italy, but you will just have to give up your idea of what Italian food is, and come and give real Italian food a try.