Monthly Archives: February 2016

Home Away From Home

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There are a lot of different factors that play into a person’s decision to study abroad. It ranges from where you desire to be, if you can speak the language and if you are willing to put your everyday life on hold to be somewhere completely different. When I shared my decision to participate in study abroad, a lot of people asked me if I would miss home. Obviously I would, but it’s not like I won’t be back in a few months. I can still talk to my friends and family, even if I won’t be seeing them daily. The time here has been flying by, and frankly it’s hard to be homesick when I’m constantly on the go touring Rome.

Another factor of study abroad is not just the studying, but where you will live. Most Temple Rome students, including myself, are currently living at the residence right by Vatican City. This apartment style of living is nice in the sense that you live with a lot of your friends and classmates. A number of my friends chose the homestay option and although I initially didn’t consider it, it is a great option. Who wouldn’t want to live with an Italian family and have homemade authentic Italian food every night? There is always someone there willing to help you with your Italian homework and improve on the language. It does seem that the knowledge of English between host families varies, so if you really want to develop your Italian this is a great option.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to have a group dinner at my friend Brigitte’s home with her host family. Brigitte’s host “mom”, Rosaria, was so kind and welcoming. She taught us how to make carbonara followed by crepes for dessert. I was especially excited for learning how to make carbonara, because I was intimidated with the sauce that went along with this classic pasta dish. With Rosaria’s helpful instructions, I learned when to add specific ingredients and how to let the hot pasta and pancetta cook up the raw egg and cheese mixture to create the perfect sauce. Here is the recipe for both the carbonara and crepes.

Carbonara

_DSC0531Ingredients (serves four people): pasta (about 100 grams of rigatoni or spaghetti per person) -200 grams of pancetta (or bacon) -one onion -4 eggs -200 grams of grated parmesan cheese -salt , pepper, extra virgin olive oil , fresh parsley

Preparation: lead to boil a pot of water with a hefty pinch of salt for pasta. In a large skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil with onion and pancetta. Scramble 4 eggs in a bowl while adding parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper as you whisk. Transfer the pasta cooked al dente into the pan with pancetta and mix well, turn off the heat and pour the contents of the bowl directly into the pan. Stir it well allowing the egg mixture to envelop the pasta. Serve food piping hot with a bottle of full bodied red wine or sparkling white wine.

Crepes with Nutella

_DSC0552Ingredients: 3 tablespoons of flour -3 eggs -a big glass of milk -a pinch of salt

Preparation: Beat the eggs in a bowl with the milk, then add the flour with a sieve and finally a pinch of salt. Put the mixture in the fridge for half an hour. Prepare a pan on the stove and pour a ladle of the mixture, when the edges turn and it begins to brown, remove from heat and add Nutella (or jam or honey or fruit or anything your heart desires). Serve with powdered sugar.

Eating Like An Italian

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Food in Italy is worth a visit just on its own. The pizza tastes so much better, the produce is fresher and the pasta and sauces are all unique. This isn’t Papa John’s, Olive Garden or your mother’s spaghetti and meatballs. The food is an experience. The Italian ritual and food habits are very different from America’s poor interpretation of it. Get adventurous and try as many different things as you can while you are in Italy. Here is an overview of what to expect while dining out in Rome from the beginning to end of the day.

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The classic Italian breakfast

Americans love their big cups of Starbucks coffee and walking around snacking. Shocker: there is no Starbucks in Rome, not even in the train station. If you see an Italian walking around and eating, it’ll most likely be pizza, a pastry or some delicious gelato. Italians don’t seem to eat a big breakfast of eggs and bacon with multiple cups of coffee. The routine instead consists of a cappuccino or espresso and pastry such as la cornetta (croissant). As for lunch, it usually doesn’t start until one in the afternoon or after. Italians eat later, so be prepared to change your eating schedule. Many businesses shut down for a few hours in the afternoon just to accommodate this late and elongated meal. Italians love to take their time while dining, so don’t be surprised to see them drinking a glass of wine and enjoying a plate of pasta instead of a quick sandwich like in the United States.

For dinner, restaurants are usually empty of diners until after eight at night. If you can’t wait that long, be like an Italian and stop in for an aperitivo. This includes a cocktail (try the classic spritz) or soda of your choosing accompanied by snacks such as nuts, olives, potato chips and even savory pastries. Enjoying an aperitivo with a friend is a great way to hold off until dinner, since you may not end up eating until ten if you’re feeling more Roman.

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Can’t go wrong with pizza at Dar Poeta

The order of the different plates for dinner can be confusing initially; it’s somewhat opposite of the States. Salads aren’t the first thing to be eaten, but often last if ordered. There are many different courses to an Italian menu; usually people just stick to two different servings. The first is the antipasti (appetizers), followed by primo. This consists of pasta, soup or risotto and be aware that the pasta does not include any type of meat. Yes, spaghetti and meatballs is not actually a thing in Italy (they’re separate). The secondo is next, where you will be able to get your meat, fish or chicken. Usually vegetables aren’t served with this portion, but are another order called the contorni. After all this, it’s time for dessert, dolce. Expect a fantastic sweet or cheese to tie your meal together.

As for the check, that won’t be coming until you ask for it. Very different from America, where waiters will rush you out and expect a large tip. When you are ready to pay at a sit down restaurant, catch your server’s attention by making eye contact or holding up a finger and say il conto, meaning the check. Most times the service is included, so tips aren’t necessary or leave a few euros for their effort if it’s not included. Servers aren’t as attentive in Italy, so speak up if you have questions about the menu or the specials listed on a nearby chalkboard. When in doubt ask for their recommendation; after all, they know what is best at the restaurant.

The “H-Word”

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Okay, so I know that last week you all heard about my one month reflection, and I will admit, I am having a great time here in Rome. But, as it is now Week 6, there is an important topic to discuss: homesickness. The dreaded “h-word.” As we start midterms week, the stress is real. So many things are coming at you at once: humanities students are preparing for their written exams, art students are finishing up their sculptures, paintings, and frescoes, and everyone is trying to finalize their spring break itineraries. Of course, our exams take top priority, but spring break stress is real, too! You would think that staying so busy would help keep your mind off of homesickness, but I think that the stress only brings homesickness to the forefront.

Of course, this is a topic that nobody wants to talk about, much less write about, because study abroad is supposed to be a happy time, right? And it is a happy time, but I think we would be kidding ourselves if we said that there was never a moment abroad where things get difficult. Before I came abroad, all I ever heard about was the positive, and not a lot about the tough moments. I think the reason we don’t hear about the difficult times is because as humans, we hate to talk about when we are struggling. Often, it can feel easier to push through and ignore homesickness rather than acknowledge it. I am learning, though, that ignoring only hinders your adjustment.

I am a strong believer in the power of honesty and vulnerability, and as I write this now, I will be exactly that. Right now, at the halfway-point in our program, I am missing my friends and family, and I am missing the comfort of my typical day-to-day routine at home. There are moments when I cannot help but think about what’s happening at home— basically, things I am “missing out on.” But, I have to remember that:

  1. By being in Rome, I am not missing out on anything, and
  2. I didn’t come to Rome to be comfortable, but rather to be thrown into a completely new environment.

I am grateful that I have so many wonderful things at home to miss, but I want to remember to stay focused on what’s happening right here in Rome. A couple days ago, I was talking to one of my roommates about homesickness, and we both agreed that we need to give ourselves time to process everything. After all, we’ve lived in America our whole lives, and Rome for only 6 weeks. It’s normal and perfectly okay to miss the familiarity, but we cannot dwell on it. Our experiences in Rome are not supposed to mirror our experiences at home, and the patterns and relationships I have at home are not supposed to be the patterns and relationships I have in Rome. Most importantly, it is not my job to try to model my time in Rome off of what would be happening at home, if that makes sense.

I am a creature of habit, and such, I am slowly accepting the fact that the way I live my life at Princeton is not supposed to be the way I live my life here. Instead of focusing on what would be happening at home, I am learning to enjoy the new patterns that are developing here. For example, I am becoming quite fond of the classic Sunday-night dance parties that happen in our kitchen. All it takes is a couple throwback tunes, some pepper bottle “microphones,” five girls in a kitchen, and we’re golden. Just now we sang, danced, and laughed on our balcony, performing for the streets of Rome, and I know that these are the types of memories I won’t forget. So, to sum things up: homesickness is okay, and we should be open about it, but I’m going to make sure it doesn’t keep me from the dance party for too long!

One Month Reflection

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This past Sunday marked a full month here in Rome. A full month!! The time here has flown by, but at the same time, it seems like everything has settled into itself slowly, if that makes sense. My patterns and routines are set: I wake up for class every day (hitting the snooze button 3 to 5 times, given the day…), grab a croissant and banana on my way to school, stare in awe at the Tiber River as I cross the bridge that leads to campus, attend my classes, and then once I’m finished for the day, either walk or take the metro home. This may seem like repetitive schedule, but it couldn’t be further from that. Yes, there is a basic structure to each of my days, but no two days are the same. There are detours to make, people to meet, and encounters to have. There is a structure, but the exact content is not set.

A lot has happened in a month. I have made some goofy mistakes, like walking for an hour and a half to find a store that was only 5 minutes from my original starting point. I have met some amazing people and have heard their stories, like the immigrant-turned-club-promoter named Tony, who danced with us on the bus as we tried to find our way home and reminded me and my friends that “together, we are all the same.” I have become friends with locals, like Andrea, who works at Oldbridge, a gelato shop near the Vatican. I have started a conversation exchange with high school students at Mamiani School, through a program Temple Rome runs. Slowly but surely, my Italian is picking up, and I am becoming better at communicating my thoughts, words, and basic needs to people around me (thank goodness). Like I said, things are settling into themselves slowly.

I think the biggest thing I am learning is how to embrace this adventure that is right in front of me. At home, I am certainly extroverted, but it is also very easy for me to revert into a shell if I want to. When I am abroad, clinging to this shell can feel all the more tempting, as I come up with a thousand excuses for why I should just keep to myself. But this week, at a panel hosted by the Temple Rome Student Affairs Coordinators, we heard from some Temple Rome graduates who are still living in Rome. They reminded us that our time here is special, because for the most part, we will never see most of these people again. What they meant by this was that there is freedom in knowing that we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. There is freedom in knowing that we can mess up, embarrass ourselves, and even fail, because our adventures will stay here in Rome, like tiny secrets only we have to know. We are free to take risks without fear of judgement, and as a perfectionist and over-analyzer, that is concept very foreign to me. But I am learning to embrace this concept and live it. Fully and authentically.

My journey home is my favorite part of the day because it feels like my stillest moment. There is something about sunset here in Rome. It happens around 5:30 PM, when most people are going home from work, but it doesn’t feel anything like a typical American rush hour. Everything slows down, and the sun sets just right. Maybe it’s the way the buildings frame the sun, as if they are positioned so that the sun isn’t beating down on you, but rather guiding you. There is a peace yet rush of energy that you can feel, and no matter what has happened that day, things feel right. We are winding down in the way we should, grateful for another day here. Yesterday on my walk home I couldn’t help but pause to think about this opportunity I’ve been given. It’s only been a month, and we still have two and a half more ahead of us, but I know it will fly by. Therefore, I want to treasure things now before time starts moving too fast. Grazie, Roma, for being home this past month. Can’t wait for more.

When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do

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Pizza Ebraica, as good as it looks

Every day I feel incredibly lucky to be able to have this study abroad experience. Living in Rome has been amazing, the culture and sights are fantastic and the food is beyond delicious. Each day feels like an adventure, I am always trying to explore new places and of course eat as many different things as my stomach and wallet can allow. The other afternoon a friend and I wandered into the Jewish Ghetto of Rome, which is known for their pastries and fried artichokes. I tried and loved both. No matter how odd or unfamiliar a food is to you, you’ll never know how great it is until you try it. You’re in the eternal city, they have been doing things right in Rome for a very long time.

 

As for the Romans, they love when you try their local specialties. When I was in the Jewish ghetto, I spotted a beautiful fruit filled loaf of bread in a bakery window. Walking in, I spotted a man taking a bite of this baked good and my eyes lit up. He knew I was after the same thing as him. Kindly, he smiled and explained what the bread was. This color loaf is called pizza ebraica and is a sweet dough holding together dried fruits and nuts. So good.

 

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An Italian telling my professor his stories during class

It is moments like these that I am glad I can somewhat easily communicate with local residents without knowing much Italian. Everyone living in Rome has a common bond, a love for the city and all the perks it offers. Italians love to share their joys, they want you to authentically revel in Rome’s offerings. Whether it’s food, art, museums, piazzas, etc. they want you to experience their versions of the city. Strike up conversations, ask them questions and recommendations, listen to their insights. They’ll always have a lot to say once they get started. If the thought of speaking to Italians in the beginning of your trip is intimidating (yes, they do typically speak very fast and loud), ask Temple Rome’s student coordinators and professors for recommendations. They have a plethora of knowledge about Rome.

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Piazza del Popolo is a great study spot near campus

As much as I am loving this experience, I (and other students) need to remember that study abroad does include the word study in it… With so many experiences waiting to be had, it can be challenging to focus on school work. Midterms are looming around the corner, and school is back to being a higher priority. My best recommendation for interested students doing study abroad: pick classes that are about Italian culture and get you out of the classroom. Many of my courses attend museums and spend a lot of time touring, so school work doesn’t feel like work. Just be sure to check your syllabi; I have missed a few assignment deadlines due to my lax attitude on homework. Remember that this is still a balancing act, just like every other semester. There is time to focus on studies and then a time to get out and try the recommendations the Romans bestow upon us.

 

 

Cooking Adventures

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So far, one of my favorite things about studying abroad has been learning to become more independent. At school I am pretty spoiled, as I’m still under a dining plan, so I don’t cook for myself on a day-to-day basis. Normally, all my meals are prepared for me, and I don’t even have to think twice about it. Since coming abroad I have become more aware that this is a very sheltered way of living, and as a college student in her spring semester of junior year, I need to start getting ready for the real world. Because I know that in the real world, things aren’t always going to be so easy. Lucky for me, being in Rome has actually served as the perfect environment to start preparing for my “real world adventures.” I am learning to cook, and I am learning how to sustain a lifestyle I enjoy. Here’s my take on things:

Sunday night: I like to procrastinate, plus I’m a night-owl, so I normally do my weekly grocery shopping around 11:30 or midnight on Sunday (or Monday morning, I guess!). Carrefour, one of Rome’s chain supermarkets, is luckily a 5 minute walk from the Residence, so I can get over there in no time. Plus, the store is open 24/7, so I can walk in whenever. It rocks. Before leaving I like to look up recipes I want to try for the week. I don’t eat a lot of meat, so I’ve been learning how to get creative with my meals. Not only am I a procrastinator, but I am also easily distracted, so often, I go to Carrefour with 10 items on my list yet will come out with 20 (I’m also working on budgeting, by the way…)

Monday during the day: Mercato Trionfale. I think this is my favorite place. Mercato Trionfale is an open-air market which sells pretty much anything you could need: fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, pasta—even underwear and socks. The market is where I get my fruits and vegetables for the week, and it’s amazing. The produce is fresh, and the prices are cheap, a complete win-win situation. Everything is laid out in a beautiful display, and all you need to do is tell the vendor how much of each item you want. I love the open-air market because each of your senses are engaged, and it’s a place where I get to practice my Italian with other vendors. The market is always buzzing, and I look forward to going every week.

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During the week: experiment! As I said earlier, I am learning to cook, so that means I am learning to be patient with myself as I make some mistakes here and there. I try to make meals that will last for a couple days, and I am just inventive with my leftovers. It’s great living in an apartment with four other girls because everyone contributes ideas for my recipes; one roommate will suggest certain vegetables, another will toast some bread, and another will make sure we have cookies for dessert 🙂 So far, there have been a few mistakes (like that one time I tried to crack an egg, yet somehow ended up completely missing the pan…), but there have been triumphs as well!

I’m proud of myself. I’m 20 years old and I’m learning to cook; some might say I should’ve learned earlier, but as for me, I’m glad Rome gets to be the backdrop for my cooking adventures. Look below for some of my recent creations: fried eggs with chickpea salad on toast, and broccoli-quinoa quesadillas. I know these dishes are not very “Italian,” but I promise I’ve been eating plenty of pizza and pasta!!

 

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Lost My Wallet, Not My Mind

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Exploring Rome’s Neighborhoods

I am officially a study abroad student. I know this because I have truly been initiated. My initiation you wonder? I lost my wallet. It seems as though you aren’t completely an international student until you go to check your phone and it’s not there, or like me, you can’t unlock your door because your keys are connected to your missing wallet. It is an incredibly unsettling feeling. You retrace your steps, call the places you were at that day and wonder which smooth pick-pocketer may have gotten away with your goods. You could have even expressed your frustrations by swearing in more than one language, which I recommend for pure entertainment alone. But what you don’t do is freak out.

Losing a wallet, a phone or a passport is a huge pain. But it is not the end of the world. Don’t cry, nobody got hurt. Things can be replaced, it may be expensive, but nobody is bleeding. All good. I say this because I was prepared for something like this to happen. Before I left, I photocopied my passport, IDs and monetary cards. I always check my financial transactions online (yes, it reminds me how much I really did spend on those shoes…). If you plan for this, when it happens you won’t feel distressed.

The amazing thing about this situation is that I actually did get my wallet back, WITH EVERYTHING IN IT. I had lost faith in humanity when Bush got reelected in 2004, but getting the call saying the police are holding my wallet has reassured me. Bless the Italian who helped me out–thank you for not taking advantage of my carelessness.

The most frustrating part of this experience was that I lost my wallet right before my class excursion to Milan the next day. Somehow I was smart enough to not have all my euros in my wallet. Seriously, don’t carry all your eggs in one basket. With my passport and under 200 euros in my pocket, my class excursion went by flawlessly, especially when I get a call from Temple Rome about the finding of my wallet.

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The Duomo in Milan

I recommend to all students to sign up for at least one weekend long class excursion. The transportation, lodging and most activities are covered in the cost of the class, so the few extra hundreds you pay for the course go to good use. It’s like you have your own personal tour guide taking you around a new city. It’s a fun way to travel to different areas and get to know your classmates and professors. After spending three days in Milan for my Italian Design course, I have some advice for those preparing for their class excursions: expect to not have a lot of down time. Every morning was an early start with a filled agenda, so pack a light backpack for your belongings to stay organized throughout the trip. Always have a snack and cash on hand and don’t stay out too terribly late in the evenings, or you will most likely regret it. The only time you can do homework is during the beginning and ending of travel, so get your work done ahead of time to fully enjoy the experience.

Engaged and Connected

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I have this bad habit where I always walk around with headphones in my ears. Since I was in middle school, my mom has warned me not to walk or ride my bike with my headphones in, for fear of me being unable to hear a car approaching. For years I have been listening to her chide me to take out my earphones, but for years, her reasons for asking me to do so have been very specific. Take your headphones out, so the car doesn’t hit you. Simple, right? However, last summer I worked at a school that had a mandatory headphone rule, and this time the rule wasn’t for the purpose of road safety. From 7 AM to 7 PM no one on campus—student, staff, or faculty—was allowed to have headphones in their ears. When I first starting working here, I didn’t understand why we couldn’t wear headphones. But, another staff member explained to me that the 7 AM- 7 PM rule existed with the intention of making sure each community member was fully engaged with their surroundings.

I promise I haven’t spent so long rambling about headphones for no point. Engaged. Connected. This was the purpose of the 7 AM- 7 PM rule. Of course, I don’t want to disregard my mom; road safety is important, but there is something to be said for being fully engaged. Here in Rome so much is happening all around, all at once. People are laughing in the mini-market, the bus is picking up passengers, someone is buying a croissant at the bar. And to be honest, so far, for the majority of the time I’ve been in Rome, I’ve had my headphones in. Yesterday, though, I went for a run in Villa Borghese (which, by the way, is becoming one of my favorite spots in Rome), and I listened to music the entire time. When I finished, I sat down to cool off, and it wasn’t until then that I took my headphones out. Immediately after doing so, everything was amazing. That may sound like an over-exaggeration, but it’s the truth. For anyone’s who ever been to Villa Borghese, you know that this park feels like a fantasy. It’s like a little oasis, isolated from the hustle and bustle of the city. Once I took my headphones out, I felt so at peace. I realized that I didn’t need to fill my surroundings with anything extra; the latest Top 40 hit could wait. Sitting there in Villa Borghese, listening to the sound of life all around me, and watching the sun slowly start to set— this was enough. It was more than enough. (Look below for proof of Villa Borghese’s wonderful running trails!)

Rome, and this entire experience, has so much to offer, and sometimes I worry that we forget to remember that. My roommate and I were visiting the Colosseum the other night, and then we saw some beautiful ruins. Everything was lit in a way that reflected the sheer majesty of the entire structure. We both looked at each other and paused. We stopped taking pictures, put down our phones, and just stood taking it all in. I am finding that wherever I am in this city, whether it be in Villa Borghese, outside the Colosseum, or along the Tiber, I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed thinking about the history of this place, and overwhelmed knowing that I get to be a part of it. There are so many outside distractions we let ourselves fall prey to, most of them technology-related, but I want to remain engaged and connected with the city, and not lost in my own world. The 7 AM- 7 PM rule existed for a reason, and I want to remember that while I’m here. Living in Rome feels like a fairy-tale, but I am constantly reminding myself that being here is in fact very much real.

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Amazing lookout point from Villa Borghese

Engaged. Connected. That’s how I want to spend my time here. So from here on out, the headphones are coming off.

Rome as the Classroom

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Classes are officially underway at Temple Rome. The professors here are not only well versed in the subjects they teach, they also have plenty of valuable knowledge on Rome and adapting to the city. My professors happily go off topic to recommend places to visit and where to eat during our semester abroad. In a business and ethics course I am taking, there are PowerPoints with Italian expressions we should know to get by easily. The sayings ranged from ordering food by saying vorrei… meaning I would like… and how mi scusi is a polite way to say excuse me versus scusa while getting through a crowd. The class was warned that at least once they’ll probably walk into the wrong gendered bathroom or il bagno. Altogether, Rome is always included in part of the lesson plans.

 

So far my favorite thing about the courses here is that a lot of class time isn’t spent in the classroom, but throughout the eternal city. Classes are often going on field trips and meeting at different destinations. It’s great to see museums and monuments while having professors discuss the history behind them. In one week, I have been to three different places with my classes. My digital photography class met at the Colosseum to capture the ancient ruins while learning about exposure. The next day in the watercolor painting class, we spent the morning walking through the Borghese Gardens and painting the lake and other landscapes. Far better than sitting in a classroom, especially when it’s warm and sunny weather in January. A lot of classes go to museums, which is great when you have a professor who describes pieces in depth and allows time to freely roam around.

When it comes to getting to these outings, public transportation is often utilized. It’s not hard to get around Rome, although it’s not laid out on a grid system like Philadelphia or New York City. For all the Temple kids reading this, the metro here is just like Septa. Just think of line A as the Broad Street line, line B as Market-Frankford line and Termini as the City Hall transfer. Too easy. As for the buses, still trying to figure that out… go with a friend who knows what they’re doing until you get the hang of it. That’s advice I’m currently living by.

 

Even with easy access to public transportation, sometimes taking a walk to your destination is more rewarding. Go the long way home, take different streets and walk down the charming alleyways. I’ve noticed that’s how you find the less touristy spots. Try to find where the Italians go–it’s certainly not where people are calling out for your attention or have large pictures of mediocre looking pasta posted out front. The open air markets are great for food shopping. The produce and products are far fresher (and usually cheaper) than the supermarkets. Go bright and early to get the best selection, just like my friend and I did after going to the market at 7 a.m. after a long night of dancing and postponing our sleep. Maybe Rome is the city that never sleeps, but it’s definitely the city with great produce.