Category Archives: Blogger – Spring 2017

Leaving Rome

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If you were to tell me four months ago that I would be dreading leaving Italy, I would have laughed in your face.

Actually, I probably would have cried in your face, because that’s pretty much all I did my first week in Rome.

I’m not very good at change. I get too comfortable, and then the idea of having to leave or make things different is just horrifying to me. But I already wrote about being afraid to leave home.

Now I’m afraid to leave Rome. It hasn’t become “like” home to me the past four months, it was home. And, once again, I have to go.

(If being a real adult is just more of this- finding a place to call home and then leaving- count me out.)

In a way, I’m thankful to be afraid. It means I actually had a successful trip. One of the things I wrote about in every application essay I had to write before going to Rome; as the answer to every single “Why do you want to study abroad?” was independence. I wanted to prove to myself (and others) than I can manage on my own- truly on my own, not just a few hours away from home. That I don’t let my shy, quiet, anxious disposition control my life and keep me away from the things I truly want to do.

That’s something I’ve always been afraid of. I don’t think anyone reading this who knows me in person would be surprised to hear that I get nervous around other people. I don’t talk a lot in groups, or in class. I’m not particularly outgoing, outspoken, or social. I find things, people, that I like, and I stick to them like glue. And, like I said earlier, I’m not too fond of change. The thing is, I’m completely aware that I’m like this, which I think is the worst part. I know that I’m missing out on stuff, and I know that, usually, it’s my fault. I can normally assure myself that I wouldn’t enjoy myself if I did go out (I mean really, reading the above, do I seem like a party girl? Not exactly). But with Rome? There was no “I probably won’t like it there.” I knew I’d love it, I just had to, well, I had to make sure I didn’t let myself get in the way.

I do that a lot, get so anxious about stuff I’ll eventually convince myself not to do the thing I want to do. I very nearly did it with Rome- the first week I was about to get myself back to the airport, on a plane, and back home.

I’m glad I didn’t.

I’m really, truly happy I had this experience. I don’t think there’s enough words in the dictionary or time in the world for me to possibly explain how grateful I am for the past semester. I’ve gone places I never would have imagined, met people I know I’ll be friends with for years (or forever, if they’ll put up with me).

I’ve proven that I can fend for myself, and that when it comes to the big stuff- the real, life-altering decisions and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities- I’m more than capable of putting myself out there.

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The very first photo on my camera roll from Rome.

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And the very last.

So one last time:

Ciao, Roma. Ci vediamo presto.

 

Rome Reflections

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Yesterday was officially my last day in the city that I called home for the past four months. I flew back from Sicily to Rome on my way to Germany and had about an eight hour stop over in Rome. Originally, I was just going to stay in the airport and wait for my next flight, but I couldn’t resist one last day in the eternal city. I owed Rome a proper goodbye and I wanted to visit my favorite spots one last time.  I went by the Trevi Fountain, grabbed my final panino at my favorite little shop right by the Pantheon, and finally topped the day off with my last Italian gelato in Piazza del Popolo. As my bus to the airport passed by the Colosseum, I couldn’t help but get a bit teary eyed. It was hard to believe that the day to leave Rome was finally here and I started to feel overwhelmed with emotion as I thought about all of the unforgettable memories I made abroad. As I reflected, I thought about some of the highlights of my semester in Italy.

The Food (Duh)

I quickly learned that real Italian food is not like the Italian food we have in the states. Spaghetti and meatballs or fettuccine alfredo doesn’t exist in Italy, but I didn’t mind. Everything is incredibly fresh and every new meal seemed to be the best meal of my life. I’m going to miss eating endless pasta and fresh tomatoes with mozzarella.

My Intensive Italian Class

This was definitely my most challenging class in Rome, but also my favorite and the most beneficial. I still can’t believe how much Italian I was able to learn in such a short time, and even knowing a bit of Italian helped open some new doors while in Rome and allowed me to have conversations and meetings with new people that may not have happened without that class. It made adjusting to life and the culture in Rome much more smooth. My Italian professor was truly like my Italian mom and I will miss her dearly.

Tutoring at Mamiani

As nervous as I was going into my tutoring position at the local high school in Rome, it was one of the most amazing experiences. It was so special to get the chance to meet and speak with these Italian teens each week and they taught me more about life in Rome than any of my academic classes. I was so proud to see my students grow and get excited about speaking English.

The Women’s March in Rome

This March was one of the most incredible and inspiring experiences of my life. Being gathered with a group of people from all over the world and all different walks of life for the goal of spreading love and ending hate was very powerful. What better place to do that than in an ancient city in front of the Pantheon? It felt like the whole planet came together that day.

The People

By far the best part of this semester has been all of the incredible people I have met. I have made new friends from Temple who have become like family to me and I know will be life long friends. I have also met so many amazing people from all over the world and we had the opportunity to tell each other our stories. I’ve even made some friends who live in Europe who I know will always be happy to offer me a couch to sleep on if I’m ever back in their neighborhood. I would definitely recommend staying in at least a few hostels if you travel abroad because that is the easiest and best way to meet new people and make new friends in a different country, and it’s those people that make the trips special.

Although I had to leave Rome yesterday, I know this is not goodbye forever. We will see each other again some day. Ci vediamo Roma!

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I Don’t Think We’re in Rome Anymore

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After living in Rome for almost four months, I was able to adjust to the culture and recognize the cultural differences between Italy and the United States. Tutoring at the local Italian high school and discussing these differences as well as holding open discussions about stereotypes with our Italian tutors were probably the most helpful in making these discoveries. What I did not realize was how much the culture can vary just within Italy. Of course, I had heard about the stereotypes that southern Italians are louder, tanner, have less stress and more parties. As it turns out, these stereotypes (while still only stereotypes and not true of all southern Italians) seem to be based in truth.

I’ve been staying in Palermo, Sicily for the week and it has become clear that I’m not in Rome anymore. I am already missing Rome and all it has to offer but I am enjoying discovering a new part of Italy. Sicily is much more laid back than Rome. Palermo is a smaller city and you never see anyone rushing to get anywhere or stressing about anything. The people walk slower and enjoy taking their time. Sicilians seem to understand that life is short and we should not waste it with worry or stress. They also know how to have a good time, no matter where it might be.

As I explored Palermo and went to go see the Il Gesu church, I was shocked to find a party going on in the piazza right in front of the church. There was a live band playing reggae music and people dancing and drinking in the piazza. There were also people playing soccer and cooking meat outside. It was like a huge Sicilian cookout and dance party. I was surprised because you would never find anything like this in Rome in front of an ancient basilica. Obviously, my friends and I had to join in to see what this was all about and had a blast with the live band. As soon as that band ended their set and it began to settle down, everyone moved to another piazza where yet another live band was performing and even more people were gathered to drink and dance. It seems like there’s a party around every corner in Sicily.

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Interior view of the ceiling of the Il Gesu church

Probably one of the most challenging aspects of living in Sicily is that the Italian dialect is very different. It almost seems like another language at times. It is much more difficult for me to understand their dialect because it is nothing like what I am accustomed to in Rome. It also is sometimes more difficult for the Sicilians to understand me when I try to communicate with them in Italian. I had much more success in Rome. On top of that, it seems that a lot less people here speak English, which can make communication difficult at times, but we are still able to get by. It makes me curious how different my Italian would sound if I had studied somewhere in Sicily for the semester rather than Rome.

I realize that this difference in Roman and Sicilian culture is not so different from the United States. Sure, they are both part of the same country, and you can still tell it is Italy, but it also is an entirely new experience. It’s like how New York City and Macon, Missouri are both part of the United States, but also entirely different worlds. Even after completing my official courses for the semester, Italy is still teaching me new lessons and is full of surprises.

 

Finally Done with Finals

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     Finals week is always stressful for everyone, but it can be even harder in a foreign city. It feels almost impossible to muster up any motivation to study when all I want to do is spend my last week freely in Rome before I have to leave. However, the finals could not be stopped: a ten minute oral presentation in Italian, three lengthy exams, and an eight page paper were all impending doom. My biggest suggestions would be:

  1. Find people to study with, meaning people who will really help you study, not distract you. I don’t think I would have made it through finals without the help and motivation from my friends. We are all in it together.
  2. Study in fun places so you can get work done while also enjoying the city. I like to find a cute new caffe somewhere in the city, bring my computer, and get a cappuccino and maybe a snack. If it’s nice outside, go to a park. Villa Borghese or the Giardino degli Aranci are great spots to enjoy the outdoors in Rome while simultaneously cracking open a book.
  3. Take breaks! You deserve to give yourself some rest every once in awhile when you study. Go grab some gelato or an arancina to reward yourself for your hard work.

     I just finished my last final today; I survived and so will you! It seems unreal that my time in Rome is coming to a close so soon. On one hand, I feel like I’ve been here forever and Rome feels like my home, but on the other hand, I feel like I just stepped off the plane onto Italian soil yesterday. I am definitely not ready to leave and I wish I had more time. Studying in Rome has, without a doubt, been the most incredible experience of my life. Living abroad has taken me out of my comfort zone many times and I am eternally grateful for that because that is where all of the magic happens! I will never forget the amazing places I have seen, the incredible people I have met, and I’m hoping I can hold on to as much Italian language as possible! Although I am sad to leave Rome, I am excited for the adventure that lies ahead.

     After Rome, I will be going to Sicily for a week with some friends to relax and soak up some sun after finals. Then, I will be headed to Hamburg, Germany to visit my friend, Wiebke, for a week. Finally, Wiebke and I will spend the weekend in Berlin before flying back to the states together. As much as I look forward to visiting these new places, I know I am going to miss Rome most of all. Roma has truly been the ride of a lifetime and this city will always have a special place in my heart.

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Exploring San Lorenzo

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     Probably one of my most stressful, but also my most fun assignments in my Italian class this semester was to explore a neighborhood of Rome. We all split into small groups and chose a neighborhood and were tasked with filming a video to speak in Italian about the special qualities and history of the neighborhood we chose to adventure to. My group chose San Lorenzo. I especially like this neighborhood because it is right beside La Sapienza, which is the largest university in Italy, so a lot of university students and young people live in this neighborhood. Most young people, myself included have one key thing in common: we love food. San Lorenzo is full of all different types of restaurants and bars. You can get almost any kind of food and there is no lack of pizza. We decided to go to Pizzeria Formula 1, which is one of the oldest pizzeria’s in Rome and has some of the best pizza I have ever tasted. We discovered this pizza gem thanks to Diletta, one of our Italian tutors who is a student at La Sapienza. Since Diletta lives in San Lorenzo and is an expert on the neighborhood, she acted as our tour guide for the day. It was great to spend time with Diletta and learn about what life in San Lorenzo and studying at an Italian university is like. It was also great to practice some Italian with Diletta. I was also completely floored when I found out that Diletta’s mother is actually the professor that I tutored for at Mamiani High School in Rome!

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Part of La Sapienza’s Campus

     After enjoying our delicious pizza dinner is when the stress hit us. One of our tasks was to interview a shop owner in the neighborhood and ask them some simple questions about their shop and the area. We went to multiple different restaurants and caffes, but not a single person was willing to talk to us. I was honestly surprised that people were so reluctant considering the neighborhood of San Lorenzo is known as a much more free spirited, open minded and “bohemian” area of Rome because of the substantial amount of young people. However, it seemed to be more of a cultural difference because restaurants are sometimes afraid they will give away their “secrets”, so they tend to be skeptical of interviewers, especially us random American students.

     However, this did not take away from love for the neighborhood. Not only does the neighborhood have a lot of young people and great food, it also has a lot of history. San Lorenzo was bombed during World War II and you can still see the remnants of some of the buildings that were destroyed. There is also a park with a memorial dedicated to all of the people who lost their lives during the bombing.

     One of my favorite parts of San Lorenzo was the street art. You could find street art around almost every corner, but one street in particular had walls that were completely covered in paint. My favorite piece reads “Mai piu violenza sulla donne”, which translates to “never more violence on women.”

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     While exploring San Lorenzo may have been a bit stressful at times, I am glad that I had the opportunity to explore it and learn more about a neighborhood of Rome that I am not in every day. I can definitely say San Lorenzo is one of my favorite areas of Rome.

Buona Pasqua!

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     Spending La Pasqua (a.k.a. Easter) in Rome when I live literally right outside of the Vatican City walls is a unique experience. Thousands of people travel to Rome for La Pasqua from all over world, especially to see the Pope give Sunday mass. In fact, so many people come to see the Pope that you actually have to get tickets in order to go. I decided not to get tickets in order to avoid the crazy crowds, plus I can practically see the Pope out of my back window anyways. However, you are able to watch the Pope live on television during Easter mass.

     There are a few Italian traditions during Easter that differ from those in the states. While we usually have marshmallow peeps, big chocolate Easter bunnies, and (my personal favorite) peanut butter eggs, these are not typical in Italy. One of the main Italian traditions is giving a huge, hollow chocolate egg that holds some sort of small gift inside. It reminds me of our easter egg hunts with little candies inside but on a bigger scale. Another Italian classic for La Pasqua is a traditional cake called a Colomba. This cake is shaped like a dove and very simple, but absolutely delicious! My italian class shared a colomba to celebrate the holiday.

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Colomba

     Spending a major holiday away from your family can be hard and I definitely missed seeing all of my family and having our usual big Easter meal this year, but I am very lucky that I have found a new family of friends here in Rome to celebrate with. My roommate and I hosted a huge Pasqua Brunch Extravaganza at our apartment with all of our closest friends. Just like the Italians, we used food to bring us together, but just like Americans, we wanted a huge, real brunch, not just a cornetto and caffè. Together we cooked sausages, potatoes with some vegetables, french toast, and homemade simple syrup. We even made mimosas with some freshly squeezed orange juice and Italian prosecco. The Pasqua Brunch Extravaganza was a success and I would not have spent it any other way.

     The day after Easter, a lot of the city is still shut down. Many businesses and all of the schools are still closed and it is typical to see people outside and enjoying the day off to relax. We decided to take a trip to see the Giardino Degli Aranci, or the Garden of Oranges, in Rome. It is a small garden, but a beautiful one. It is surrounded by a tall, brick wall and filled with orange trees. You can actually smell the orange in the air when you are in the garden. The garden is also on top of a hill and has a beautiful view over the city. The weather was perfect so we packed a lunch and had a picnic in the garden. All in all, it was a flawless holiday weekend and I was happy to spend it in Rome so I could soak up every ounce of this city before I leave in just two weeks.

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Giardino Degli Aranci

 

Going Back to High School

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     One of the biggest highlights for me this semester in Rome was getting the opportunity to volunteer as an English tutor at a local Italian high school. I spent one hour each week with a classroom of 25 fourteen to fifteen-year-old students on Monday mornings. You can imagine that trying to keep control of a large group of loud teenagers can be a bit overwhelming. I still remember my first day, three months ago, and how nervous I was. I had absolutely no experience as an English tutor. What if I look like a fool and don’t know what I’m doing? What if the Italian students don’t like me? What if they don’t speak English well and we can’t communicate? What if the professor I’m working with is intimidating? All of these fears went away almost immediately once I went to my first class.

     The professor I was working with was incredibly kind, welcoming, and helpful. She gave me plenty of freedom to structure my time with the students however I wanted and would give me suggestions for lessons if I ever needed any. The students were also incredibly friendly and as excited to meet me as I was to meet them. On the first day, I did a short “getting to know you” activity with the students in order to find out their interests, what they want to learn from me, and assess their level. I was surprised to discover that even though I had the youngest age group of the high school, they still spoke English very well. Some students were more vocal than others, but all of them were able to hold a conversation with me. My main goal was just to get the students excited about speaking English and to practice with a native speaker.

     Tutoring in a foreign country with a group of young teenagers did present some challenges. Italian high schools are set up differently than in the States, so it is actually the teachers who have to move from room to room in between every class and the students all stick together in the same room for the whole day. This results in two consequences: the students form their own strong packs and become incredibly antsy being cooped up in one room all day. I can’t say I blame them. I know I may have been chatty in class as a fourteen-year-old, but I swear these Italian teens could out-chat any American classroom. However, I was up for the challenge and ready to demand the class’ attention with the only way I knew how: make it fun!

     The students, like myself, were most interested in talking about cultural differences between Italy and America so I came up with some new activities and games each week to discuss these. One week I brought in a speaker and we listened to some American music and even danced a bit. We discussed the lyrics and any words they didn’t understand. Of course, I had to throw in some musical theatre, so I played them a song from Hamilton. This ended up being my favorite song with them because not only did the language used in the music and rap style challenge them, I also was able to share with them some American history and my passion for musical theatre. Some other activities we did included a spelling competition, grammar auction, American slang, and a discussion all about food. The students got very competitive when we played games, especially when they knew there was a prize on the line so I liked to bring in some chocolate or treats to bribe them into really engaging in the lesson that day. I have to say, it was effective.

     I can honestly say I loved spending an hour a week with these kids and usually it didn’t feel like enough time. My class continually impressed me and I loved getting to know them more each week. It was so interesting learning about our similarities and differences and they still like to make fun of me for eating “everything pizza”. Unfortunately, I had my last class with my students this past week and I was more sad than I expected. I am definitely going to miss seeing them each week and I am hopeful that they will retain at least some of what I thought them even though I think they may have taught me more than I taught them.

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Tipografia Tipica

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I’m not one of the lucky ones.

I’m not an art major, or history, or architecture. I’m not even psychology or international business. I’m advertising, graphic design.

Which means there’s no classes for my major offered here. For the most part, that’s totally fine. I’m taking classes to complete my minor and finishing up some stray elective credits. I’m not stressing over needing certain grades in required courses, worrying about my major and graduating while travelling. It’s less stress for me, and that’s great.

But, as silly as it sounds, I picked my major for a reason- I like it. I miss doing design work. I’m getting technical practice in, with my drawing classes, but it’s not the same. I never thought I’d actually miss sitting in front of a computer, staring at a screen for hours while moving the same piece of text back and forth, trying to figure out which position looks best. Yet here I am. The other day, I even redesigned my resume, just to have some excuse to open up InDesign again. (And, okay, maybe I was looking for an excuse to procrastinate actually applying to internships. But that’s beside the point). And even the non-design stuff- there’s no one here to talk about whether Tinder Online is more effective than the app (it’s not) or how co-working spaces are becoming popular in other countries, too. It may sound dorky, but advertising, media, graphic design… it’s genuinely my passion. It’s been a bit weird to have an entire semester where I’m not doing it anymore.

So I’ve been trying to find little graphic design things in my every day life in Rome, so I can have something to geek out over. I mentioned my love for art and street art in Italy a few blog posts ago, and I know I mentioned typography in that post.

Typography, for me, is not just pretty letters. It’s an ad, a brand, in itself. It tells people the mood, the theme, of whatever the business is. For example- a Michelin-star rated restaurant won’t use, say, Comic Sans, on their menu. But an invite for a child’s birthday party could. (Well, nobody should ever use Comic Sans.) It’s all about conveying a message, and I’ve been having a lot of fun reading the messages of type- not only in Rome, but in all of my travels. It’s been one of my favorite things so far, seeing how location and culture affect the signage and letterforms of each city. They all have such a distinct feeling, and that’s what good type should do.

In Rome, most of the best type is in front of bars and trattorias (small, family style restaurants that are usually cheaper and not as fancy as the Italian ristorante) Italians love their food, so it would only make sense that the type reflects that. Italian type also has a very distinct look to it- it’s bold, blocky, and usually has an outline. There’s also very few neon signs- Rome once instated a neon tax. Any storefront with a neon sign would have to pay a tax on it. So, in the true Roman way, everyone just installed new, not-neon signs. Another thing I like is how everything looks Italian, even the post boxes and man-hole covers.

Greek type was one of my favorites. Perhaps because it was entirely different letterforms, giving new design possibilities, or maybe because it was all so quintessentially Greek.  It’s linear, geometric, and very straight-forward. There’s not a lot of frills to Greek signage, and I really like it. There was nothing to distract from the words.

Paris was interesting, in general, but also for it’s signs. Some were very modern, sans-serif and blocky, and others were very classic: serif and script fonts, very decorative. It fits with the image of Paris as a city that is the height of class and fashion. Its type is trendy for every decade. The modern signs followed modern, trendy design aesthetics and others followed much older trends. Either way, it supported the idea of what Paris is- trendy, yet still a city with a lot of history.

London was the same as Paris in that sense- some of it’s signs were very modern, and others took clear inspiration from London’s extensive history. Those were the signs I was drawn to. Most looked like regular typefaces you could see in any city, which I was a little disappointed by. But some buildings still kept the old, 1900s style serif typography and I loved it.

 

One thing I’ve loved in each place I’ve been is how each sign has been for something different- a restaurant, a hotel, a letter box. Yet, the letters from each location fit with each other. The type from Paris, whether modern or not, looks like the rest of the type from Paris. They all create the mood of the city, and that’s been my absolute favorite part so far.

I’ve been photographing and collecting images of type through all of my travels. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with it, but I want to do something with it, whether use it as inspiration in further work or do an independent project with it. But one thing’s for sure- it has definitely been a way to express my love for design while I’m not actively working in it.

A Weekend in Paradise

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This past weekend was possibly the most magical weekend of my life. I took a trip to the Amalfi Coast (about a 3 hour bus ride south of Rome) with 21 other Temple Rome students. You could definitely say that it was a Temple takeover on the Italian coast. This is the only trip I have taken this semester with such a large group, but this was definitely the place to do it. On Thursday night we left Rome for the charming town of Sorrento. We stayed in bugalows surrounded by beautiful lemon and orange trees. It felt like we were camping together in a tropical paradise and we nicknamed our little neighborhood of cabins “Bungalow City”. The next morning, we left bright and early for Positano. We took a bus that drove for about 30 minutes on a winding road on the side of a cliff. Even though I occasionally feared that our bus would topple off of the edge of the cliff into the Mediterranean, it was well worth the views. Once we arrived, we had a long trek down the side of the mountain to reach the beach. My legs were literally shaking from the long walk, but I forgot about it as soon as we stepped onto the beach. It was a black rocky beach with incredible views. You could see the stunning blue sea on the one side and the many houses built into the side of the cliff on the other. We spent the day relaxing on the beach and I bought possibly the best panino I have ever eaten for lunch. Then we took the bus back to Sorrento to shower and freshen up before dinner. For dinner, we all went out to a restaurant for a multi-course meal. The meal included bread, wine, two courses of pasta and two different types of pizza. Then we went out to experience the night life in Sorrento.

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Beautiful Positano

The next day was my favorite part of the weekend. We took a ferry from Sorrento to the picturesque island of Capri, where we took a short hike to see some views of the island and the sea. Then we took a three hour cruise on a smaller boat around the entire island. It was just us on the boat and we were even able to bring along our own food and drinks. It was the boat ride of a life time. At one point, the boat driver stopped the boat for us to jump off and swim in the water for a little while. I gladly cannonballed into the sea and was quickly shocked by the cold water. It may have been very hot outside but the water itself was still pretty cold since it’s only the beginning of April. I didn’t mind the cold at all. The view of the crystal clear water and the beautiful island kept me distracted.

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We got back on the larger boat and rode a bit further until we came to the Blue Grotto. The Blue Grotto is one of the natural wonders of Italy. It is a small cave in the side of the island of Capri. The entrance to the cave is very small and you can only enter it by tiny rowboats, which only allows for four people on each boat. Once we got on the rowboat, we had to lay flat to avoid hitting our heads on the cave wall as we entered. Once inside the cave, we could sit up and it became clear why the Blue Grotto got its name. The sunlight shines in through the small entrance and makes the water in the cave glow a bright blue. It looked like something from a fantasy movie or like we entered the blue world of James Cameron’s Avatar. I dipped my hands in the water and watched in awe as they glowed blue. The man rowing the boat even sang and his voice echoed through the cave. We could only stay in the cave for a short time and then had to return to our boat and head back onto the island.

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Inside the Blue Grotto

The last day we went to Pompeii and toured the famous city. We toured the theatre district of the ancient city and saw some bodies preserved by the ashes from Mt. Vesuvius. We had a great view of the infamous volcano and explored the ruins. Finally we had to return to Sorrento to catch our bus back to Rome.

I never wanted our magical weekend on the Amalfi Coast to end, but then again, it wasn’t too hard to leave knowing I got to return to my favorite Italian city: Roma.

 

Una Cucina Italiana

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a terrible cook.  I knew from age four, when I burned my hand on an oven rack because I thought one oven mitt would protect both my hands, that I was not cut out for the world of cooking.

I get nervous in the kitchen, I break things, I spill things. When it comes to cooking, I have the opposite of a Midas touch. Everything I touch turns to trash. Also it probably catches on fire. I’ve tried to become better, but no Pinterest hack, FoodNetwork recipe, or YouTube tutorial has ever really helped.

Lucky for me, and my smoke detector, there are ways to fix this.

Cooking classes!

Through Temple, I was able to sign up for a three-hour cooking class. I figured, why not take advantage of the incredible food, and culture surrounding food, in Italy to actually learn what to do in the kitchen. So while most of Rome was headed to Olympic stadium for a big Rome-Lazio game, I tied back my hair, washed my hands, and got cooking. 

We arrived to this incredible apartment in Flaminio, and met our hosts, who told us what we would be making: a light spring meal of home-made pasta with tomato and basil, and crostata (mini Italian pies filled with ricotta cheese)But before we could start cooking, we had to have an aperitivo. This is Italy, after all.

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No better way to start cooking than with some rosé wine. And snacks

After the wine, we started on our desserts, as they needed time to bake in the oven. I’m not much of a baker, either, but I do have to say that my strengths in the kitchen lie more with cookie sheets than they do with frying pans.  We started by mixing the ricotta and sugar for the filling, and added one egg yolk, not the whole egg (this was apparently very important. I left that bit up to my baking partner, because I wasn’t too fond of the idea of picking eggshells out of our ricotta mix).

Once that was all added, we could choose our flavors- chocolate, orange, or both. I went chocolate, because you can never go wrong with a classic. Then came decorations, where I adorned mine with my initial, just in case anyone got any ideas and tried to sneak an extra pie. Also because this is real life, not Instagram and there’s not time to make things pretty when theres pie on the line, okay? With that, our dessert went off to the oven to bake, and we got started on actual dinner.

Confession time: when I was a kid, I begged my mom for a pasta maker. Not because I had a weird childhood obsession with pasta or anything, but because my best friend had one that she used to press clay down with (I was a typical art student from the beginning). I thought it was so cool- we could mix together a bunch of colors and squish them down and make tie-dye clay!

Never did get that pasta maker.

Which means I’ve never used one to make actual pasta. I’ve never even made homemade  pasta. I just assumed that since it wasn’t minute rice, it was out of my wheelhouse. Turns out, it’s pretty simple! We mixed two flours- a heavy one, and a light one- with one egg and one egg yolk (again, left up to my friend). Then we mixed it. When it gets too thick to mix with a fork, we went in with our hands. Turns out, Italians don’t just talk with their hands, they cook with them too. After that, we had to knead the dough on the table, cut it into four sections and roll out those sections until they were long and flat.

Then came the fun part: the pasta machine.

We took the rolled dough and rolled it through the machine until one of our hosts, Laura, deemed them thin enough and they were set off to the side. When they were all thin enough, we ran them through another section of the machine- the part that turns it into actual noodles. And voila! Pasta. Totally not as hard as it seems.

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The pasta noodles were then placed into little nest shapes on a sheet to rest before cooking them.

We took the break to drink a little more wine (of course), and chat. Even with Temple Rome being such a small group, it’s impossible to know everyone. So it was nice to get the time to talk to people I hadn’t gotten to meet yet. Even with a little under a month left, there’s still time to make new friends!

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But we couldn’t chat forever- there was pasta that needed cooking. Our hosts had been simmering a tomato sauce for us, so that was one thing we didn’t need to worry about. (thank God, because putting me near a sauce pot is just a recipe for disaster.) All we had to do was wait for the pasta to boil and we were ready to go. Since it was fresh pasta, and not pre-packaged stuff, it only took about three or four minutes. It was added to the sauce immediately, and we threw in some basil and a healthy portion of parmesan cheese and mixed it all up. Then, finally, we could eat.

And it was fantastic.

I always assumed that pasta with tomato sauce was pretty…simple. I was wrong (this shouldn’t be a surprise). This pasta was delicious. Maybe it was the freshness, the homemade-ness, or the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day and probably would have thought the table was tasty. But I don’t care why it was good, just that it was. And I had made (some of) it!

And of course, I can’t forget about dessert. I’m not the biggest ricotta cheese fan, but these little pies were so good I could forget that. They were sweet, but not overly so, and were just the perfect size for after dinner.

I had a really great time at this class. I don’t think it’s made me a master chef, and if I ever met Gordon Ramsey he would still probably tell me my food is so burnt it’s like I used a flamethrower instead of an oven. But I think it helped me realize that a lot of things I think are just impossible actually aren’t that hard at all- like making pasta from scratch. So who knows, maybe by the time I get home I’ll be making my own pasta and sauce all the time.

Or maybe I’ll stick to the minute rice.