Category Archives: Niamh Murphy

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.

 

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.

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.

I’m Here to Do What? (Putting the Study in Study Abroad)

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It’s pretty easy to think you’re on vacation in Rome. 

Actually, most of the time, I am on vacation. Every weekend is a new city, new culture, new experience. Since the my third week in Italy, I have travelled on every weekend, jetting off Friday morning and landing back Sunday night, only to repeat the process again the next Friday to a new place. Italy’s proximity to so much of Europe has made realizing all my world traveling dreams so, so simple. 

But as easy as it is to fall into that jet-set lifestyle, it’s also easy to forget the real reason why I’m in Rome. And this week, I came plummeting down to Earth with one hell of a wake-up call:

Midterm week.

I know, I know. You’re reading this and going- “you think you’ve got it bad? I have ten exams all at the same time and a twenty page paper! And I’m not in Italy!” Or maybe you’re thinking “you think you’ve got it bad? I have a job-” to which I say, okay, you win. You’ve got the worst gig ever, and I’m sorry.

But still- there’s something about the sheer panic of exams that can take the fun out of just about everything, even Rome. I didn’t even have exams and I was freaking out. It was just…in the air.

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When you’re on vacation and suddenly remember you’re meant to be studying

Now that the frenzy of midterms is well and over, and I’ve had some time to recover, I’ve been able to do a bit of reflecting (big surprise) on why I’m here in the first place. And I’ve begun to realize that school was never really the priority.

Er, sorry mom.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m only in four classes- none of which have anything to do with my major back in Philly. Maybe it’s because I’m only in class a few hours out of the week. Or maybe (ahem, probably), its because I wasn’t coming here to go to school in the first place.

Thinking back to every single essay I wrote on all those applications back in the fall, the idea of attending classes was never brought up unless the prompt demanded it. I wanted to go to Rome to expand my horizons, strengthen my Italian skills, break out of my comfort zone… and oh yeah, go take some classes and stuff. Not that I wasn’t excited for the immersive learning experience that is studying art and language in a foreign country, I just didn’t even think of it.

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Was honestly more excited for all the photo-ops than I was for school

Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s a study abroad. It’s in the name. Don’t really have an excuse for that one.

So, needless to say, the first mention of a midterm was like someone pouring ice down the back of my shirt- far too startling. And I was one of the lucky ones. My midterms were at-home essays and sketchbook critiques.

Still, it’s shocking to remember you’re actually at school. That’s not necessarily a very good thing to forget. It’s like how sometimes you’re going somewhere completely on autopilot, and then come to and realize you’re standing in your kitchen without any memory of actually walking there. You’re aware of where you are and how you must have gotten there, but it’s alarming to realize you did it without noticing.

So my advice, if you’re reading this and considering a study abroad: it is, above all other things, going to school. The first few weeks may seem like super fun awesome vacation time, but you don’t want to come to at midterm week and realize you’ve been going through school without noticing. Also, you are still paying to go to college. Might as well actually get your money’s worth at the absolute very least.

And, really, being able to go to school in a foreign country is an incredible experience. You get incredible cultural experiences, insights, and trips that you wouldn’t get through even the best of tour guides. You learn from people who live and breathe the city you’re in and the subject you’re studying. I’ve been able to see live Italian theatre, have a wine tasting with a sommelier, see a documentary screening with the actual director of the film, visit small Etruscan villages and see ancient temples buried beneath churches.

And if I have to sit in a lecture for a few hours four days a week for these experiences, then I’m going to. And I’ll even take some midterms if I must.

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I can never escape Temple, even in London.

 

A Cactus in Rome

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There are cactuses in Rome. They pop up every so often; giant flat paddle-shaped branches coated in spikes marring the lush green landscape surrounding the city. You’ll see them in passing as you rush by, growing out of place in some garden, in someone’s yard, giving it little more than the passing thought of “huh- that’s strange.”

I am the cactus.

Not literally, as I hope would be obvious, but metaphorically. Us American students are the cactuses of Rome- these funny little out-of-place things that are just…there. There’s no issue, but there’s also no getting rid of us. And try as we might, we’re never going to quite fit in with Rome. But that’s okay- we’re going to stick around anyway.

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I tried to get a good photo of some cacti from a train (didn’t work) so I found one on Cactiguide.com (source: https://cactiguide.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=15493) I also found from that article that these cacti are an invasive species, and a massive nuisance. I think there’s a metaphor in that, too…

If you read one of my first posts about being an American abroad, you’ll know that one thing I’ve had difficulty with is the feeling of “otherness” that hangs over my head, subtle as a neon sign. That I am not Italian, not Roman, and as hard as I try I’m not going to be. Not in the few months I have here. 

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Real Italians definitely are so pale they reflect sunlight, and they all take dorky photos in front of classic art

But now, I’ve reached the halfway point of my stay here. And I’m starting to get a little more comfortable with that “otherness.” I’m not Roman. But I do go to school in Rome. I eat in Rome, I drink in Rome, I sleep in Rome. Like the cactus, I may not look like I belong here, but it’s where I am. It’s where I live. 

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I still can’t believe I get to see this (almost) every day

I’m embracing my cactus-ness. (My cactus-ivity?) I’m American! So what? If I’m going to have that stigma over my head, I may as well take advantage of it. I’m going to take as many photos, do as many typical tourist things as I can. I’m already seen as an outsider, may as well get away with it while I can.

This spring break has also afforded me a bit of time to reflect on some of the incredible experiences I’ve been able to have while abroad. I know it’s a very cliche thing to talk about when travelling- how its “totally changed my life.” But it has, in ways. I’ve done things I wouldn’t have done otherwise (like gotten a tour of the Vatican Museums by a brother in the seminary), and met people outside of my little advertising bubble I wouldn’t have met on Temple’s main campus. 

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Our Vatican tour group, taken by our incredible tour guide

One thing I always mentioned before coming to Italy, in just about every application that asked “what do you want to gain from studying abroad?”, was that I wanted to step out of my comfort zone in Rome. I’ve made a lot of progress in the last year with my anxiety- I don’t get as nervous in crowds anymore, I find talking to strangers (and even not strangers!) a little easier, and little slip-ups don’t embarrass me half as much as they used to. So I was pretty nervous about the dramatic change in surroundings- what if I completely regressed and became a shy, nervous mess again? My biggest goal was to keep pushing, to not get complacent and to keep pushing myself. Get out there! This is a once in a lifetime experience!

So while this trip hasn’t been entirely anxiety-free (as I’m sure is also completely obvious), it’s not been a wreck. I’ve found myself talking to new people, actually trying new things. I ran around like a loon with a camera for several hours and only felt weird about it for half that time! I’ve reached out to people I only barely knew, and ended up making some great friends from it.

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The G(r)eek Squad! I ended up on this trip to Athens by responding to a post on the Temple Rome Facebook group- something I don’t think I would have done last year. And I’m really glad I did, I loved Athens and had an awesome time.

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Also went to Barcelona on a whim, thanks to a friend-of-a-friend situation (we were pretty bad at group pictures), another thing I don’t think I would have done this time last year.

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And through the people from Barcelona, I got invited to go to Paris! There’s something to this whole “making friends” thing, isn’t there.

For the rest of my time in Rome, I’d like to keep doing that. My continuing goals are to get better at Italian, as I still find myself reverting to English almost immediately after “Ciao!”, and to continue to build friendships with people. While I know these things are meant to be organic, they can take a lot of effort for me. But I’m not about to let a little work stop me. Like the Roman cactuses, I may be a bit strange, but I’m here to stay.

Working from Rome

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Easy as it may seem, taking photos is my…job, of sorts, while in Rome. I take photographs for many things. I need them for this blog, I need them to fulfill my role as an Overseas Ambassador with Diversity Abroad, and sometimes, I get tasked with photographing events for Temple Rome.

Last week was my first time being the photographer for a Temple event. My job was to capture the Wine Tasting Night- get students participating in the event to later share on social media.

I’ll be honest, it was a little intimidating. I’m a quiet person, the idea of running around and shoving my camera in people’s faces didn’t seem ideal. I hate getting in the way, and sometimes it seems like the photographer’s job is to get in the way. It’s how you get that perfect shot, right?

So nerves aside, I grabbed my camera and set to work– by standing awkwardly in the back.

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Picture me, hiding in the last row of seats and totally out of view. That’s where this photo came from.

The wine night began with a presentation from a sommelier. She came prepared with a PowerPoint, video clips, and speech. This was a legit event, and it was packed. I felt so strange, running up and down the aisle while someone was clearly speaking. I have manners, I know it’s impolite to disrupt someone when people need to be paying attention to them. 

Eventually, after many assurances I would not be in the way and being publicly named as the photographer, I got over myself and actually got to work.

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A toast, before we begin

And it was actually…pretty fun. Turns out, people just like having their photo taken. People would see the camera, and immediately pose and smile. Everyone was having a good time, and clearly didn’t mind me capturing that.

And the event itself was pretty fun, too. I was lucky, as I got a free ticket in (and a pretty nice wine glass) as the photographer. The sommelier taught us what wine should look, smell, and taste like, and how to test those things.

We all learned about the process of making wine, what really makes white and red wine different (aside from color), and how to pair food with wine. Did you know pizza goes best with white wine? (I didn’t). 

And of course, everyone got to drink some (the best part of the night for everyone involved, I think). 

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Drinking on the job

So despite my initial fears, photographing the wine night actually went pretty well. (I think, somewhere in there, is a metaphor for my entire semester here) I felt like part of a weird little wine-drinking community, where I was the overzealous soccer mom trying to capture every last moment. Strange, but hey, at least I was a part of it.

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Group photo!

Museum Madness

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about art in Rome. But there was a definite focus on modern and street art. It was the very first thing I noticed as our shuttle was driving us to our new home for the semester, and it continues to be something I pay attention to every day.

However, I did feel like my last blog leaned a little too heavy on the street art. I mentioned museums, but I’m also pretty sure that mention was to say that they could, occasionally, be pretty boring.

I don’t think that was very fair to museums.

Truly, I love them. One of my favorite ways to spend a day, whether in Philly or in New York, is at a museum. The PMA, the Penn, the Met, the MoMA. Name it, I’ve been to it, and loved it.

And I’ve been doing the same here. Either in class or on my own, I try to go to at least one a week. This past week, I’ve seen the Villa Farnesina in Trastevere, an entire sixteenth century villa decked out in murals and frescoes of ancient myths;

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The ceiling in one of the rooms at Villa Farnesina, depicting all of the gods at Cupid and Psyche’s wedding.

the Accademia di San Luca, a Roman academy dedicated to “elevating” the work of its artists;

and the Acropolis Museum in Athens (after, of course, the Acropolis itself).

The week before, it was the Palazzo Breschi, to see some incredible works by Artemesia Gentilleschi. Before that- the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. And the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Vittoriano. Even before that, the Palazzo Massimo museum to examine statues of ancient Greek gods and learn what attributes define which gods. 

I’ve definitely been in museum heaven.

Though, sometimes it feels like its too much. Art can get really overwhelming, at least to someone like me who has been invested in it for so long. Each museum has hundreds, if not thousands of pieces. Thousands of hours of work; millions of brushstrokes, sketch marks, carefully sculpted shapes. To be surrounded by that much work is so incredible, it’s almost impossible to accurately feel it. And when you can’t feel it, you start to get…tired. One minute you’re in awe of the incredible Renaissance art in front of you, the next you’re wondering how much a panino from that place you passed earlier would be, and if you have enough time to grab one before your next class.

It’s been a bit frustrating to deal with, to say the least. I am (or, was) an artist! This is my forte! Why am I bored looking at these incredible paintings?

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Very bored to finally be seeing a Botticelli in person

Well I think I’ve figured it out- Museum Madness (Note: this is not real and I completely made it up about twenty minutes ago. But hear me out). It’s kind of the same way a kid goes nuts on Halloween and eats all their candy only to puke it all up later. You visit somewhere that, like Rome, is rich in art and history and are completely overcome with the need to see all of it. So you do- you see the Vatican and the ruins and the museums and the paintings and next thing you know you’re confusing Michelangelo and Raphael (sacrilegious, I know). It’s an over-saturation of art. Because let’s be real, there’s only so many paintings you can stare at before your feet start wondering if you could at least sit if you insist on doing this every other day.

Some people in Rome, myself included, have definitely gone overboard on the museums. (Some have had similar phenomena happen with Italian wine….or pasta). I’m getting excited for warmer weather, when botanical gardens and lush parks will become a more reasonable way to spend an afternoon.

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The Borghese Gardens- too cold now, but will be perfect come spring

Because while I love a good museum day, I need some alternatives. Otherwise….madness.

Falling for Florence

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I’ll admit it- my first impression of Rome was not the greatest.

I  was fresh off of a flight, tired, and cranky. The first thing I saw was not the beautiful cobblestone streets and architecture of my dreams, it was a man almost getting hit by a bus. Our taxi to the residence pulled up next to a dumpster, and our driver opened the door into oncoming traffic. I felt tricked. This is the city I’ve been dying to come to? It’s….gross! I felt a bit ashamed for being so quick to judge, but in my defense, long-haul flights are not fun. I probably would have said a private beach in Hawaii was ugly if it meant getting to my room and to sleep any faster.

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Yeah, I was too tired to appreciate this. Crazy.

Me and Rome have been getting along much better lately. The graffiti is interesting, the traffic is manageable, even the trash just begins to remind me of home. (To clarify- I don’t live in a dumpster. I live near New York, another city lots of people think is gross and dirty. It is, but I still love it.) I figured, if I could like it at home, I could like it here. But it’s taken me a while to get to this point.

Me and Florence, however, is a different story. From the first second-I loved Florence. There was something so vibrant about it, even at 10am on a weekday. There weren’t mobs of people, just light crowds, the faint smell of pastries (and leather. so much leather), and gorgeous open squares.

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Being a dork in front of the Cathedral di Santa Maria. Hey, when in….Florence?

The first thing we did was take a quick walk around the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore- yes, the one with Brunelleschi’s Duomo. Just from the outside, it is stunning. The patterns of alternating green and white marble are striking, and it makes for quite the sight when you catch a glimpse down the street. Our tickets to climb the dome were not until the next morning, however, so we had to find something else to do.

We headed over to the Uffizi Gallery, where we happened to meet up with some other Temple students we knew- we’re literally everywhere. We decided to head in together, and we spent the day looking at all the incredible art the Uffizi has to offer. Botticelli, DaVinci, Caravaggio, Gentileschi, Bosch, Titian, Raphael.

It was so crazy to see some of this work that I remember learning about in high school right in front of me. It makes me want to send a postcard to my high school art history teacher- Hey! Remember me? I’m seeing all that stuff you told us about! It was also fun to put some of my new knowledge of Greek statues from my Mythology class to good use, pointing out how to tell which gods statues are of. Like, if there’s a snake, its probably Apollo. And upper arm bracelets symbolized beauty, so if the statue is wearing one, it’s probably of Aphrodite.

We spent the rest of the evening around the Ponte Vecchio, and then took a walk through the Boboli Gardens, which offer a beautiful view of the city.

The next day, both me and my friend woke up super early to go climb Il Duomo. It’s four hundred steps to the top, and every single one is torture. I’m sure if you exercise regularly, each stair is like a marshmallow cloud pillow, but I do not, and it sucked. I did fine until about halfway up, then it started feeling like I would be climbing stairs for the rest of my life, because they did not end. Only after two breaks and countless complaints of “these stairs are actually going to kill me.”, did we reach this sight:

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Giotto’s Bell Tower! We were going to climb this too, but decided not too after nearly dying halfway up the Duomo.

There’s not really words for it, but it was incredible. I could have stayed up there all day, and that’s not just because the spiral staircase was terrifying and my legs hurt.

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This is the face of someone whose legs are ready to abandon their body and just leave forever. Also of someone realizing how high up off the ground she is.

We took one last pit stop before leaving to go see Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria Accademia. It’s huge. Seriously, the thing is massive. I’ve been told it’s big, but I’m 4’11”. Everything is huge to me. But I couldn’t get over the size of it, and how something so large can still seem so life like. It seemed like the perfect way to wrap up our trip.

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So weird to see this in real life- it never actually seemed like something I would be able to do.

One thing I love about Temple Rome so far is how they encourage us to explore on our weekends, and how easy it is to do so. Our trip was very last minute, we only decided a day before leaving to actually go. But it was still an easy trip, and we were in Florence in a few hours. If you travel a few hours outside of Philadelphia, all you’ll end up in is a cornfield in the middle of Amish Country. Here, we were able to get to the center of the Renaissance in a morning. And it felt so incredible to be able to apply the stuff from my courses to my museum trips, it makes it feel so much more real. I’ve been really excited to get around, and my professors have only been encouraging about it. They ask us about our plans and give us advice and recommendations. It’s nice to have a system at school that understands our desires to travel, and supports it rather than ignoring it. I feel like I’m in an environment that really fosters curiosity, and it makes my studies easier. It’s something that compliments my travelling, rather than impeding it. Temple has been fantastic so far for stressing the fact that we are global students, rather than just temporary Italian ones.

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We are incredible together“- me and Florence, me and Temple Rome

 

Rome: La Citta d’Arte

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I was two things in high school: an artist, and a procrastinator. 

Those two did not mix. You can pull an analysis paper out of nowhere at 11pm the night before it’s due, but you can’t really do the same to a painting. Not a good painting, at least.

Needless to say, my art grade could have been a little better mid-way through the semester. My art teacher was getting a little annoyed at my constant late or unfinished homework, and I was looking to get back in her good graces. Then- an opportunity. She was being bothered by a representative from a local university to get students to enter a logo design contest for the town’s Italian Cultural Society. I figured hey- I like logos, I’m learning Italian. I can enter this contest, and get some sort of credit for it.

So I entered, but didn’t win. I did, however, get the chance to go see a lecture at the university by a pretty famous type designer: Louise Fili. I’ve you haven’t heard of her, I guarantee she’s designed the packaging of something you’ve bought. Give it a look.

But her lecture inspired me. The passionate way she spoke about Italy, about how it influenced all her work and how Italian type was her favorite was incredible. It got me thinking about me coming to Italy, and the art and type I would see. 

So far, I’ve seen a lot. What I love the most about Rome is that there’s art everywhere. It’s not just in the museums. It’s in metro stations, on the side of trains, on buildings and facades.

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Lots of trains here are covered in spray paint- I love it.

There’s art in graffiti, in the logos, in the old buildings that are now cinemas or apartments. I think a lot of people, when they think of art, think of stuffy museums where it’s overwhelmingly quiet yet still somehow to full of other people to enjoy. (Not a total dig at museums- I love them and could spend days in a museum. But dear god, do they get boring sometimes). But nobody really goes straight to the accessible art, the street art. Maybe because it’s not locked away it doesn’t feel as if it has value. But I don’t think it makes it any less art. Some of the stuff I’ve seen has been incredible, from the message to the detail. And it’s not something you’d ever see, or even want to see, in a museum.

What I like about this street art in Rome is that Rome is a city that could easily let all of it’s art be from antiquity. Rome has enough statues and Renaissance paintings to keep every museum stocked for decades. Rome has the Vatican Museums, the Galleria Borghese, the Ara Pacis, every single church in the city….it goes on.

Yet they don’t. Modern art is flourishing, in so many museums. There’s the MAXXI, the Chiostro del Bramante, MACRO. You can see work by world-famous modern artists (me and a friend were able to see this stunning Yayoi Kusama installation All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins at the Chiostro del Bramante), or work by lesser known, local artists. Even Temple itself has a gallery, showcasing local art.

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The pumpkin room- you only get 20 seconds inside, but it was still beautiful

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The reason we visited the Chiostro del Bramante- a little bit of Philly in Rome!

And I can’t forget the type. Following in the steps of Louise Fili herself, I’ve been photographing every cool sign and logo I see, and it’s been awesome. The colors, the font, is all so beautiful and Italian looking. I don’t know how else to describe it other than that. I can’t wait to take this pictures home and apply them to my schoolwork in advertising and branding. 

I think this is my favorite thing so far about Rome- how it’s a city that is both ancient and very, very modern, and you can tell that just from the art. From the way that there’s buildings here that are evidently old just covered in graffiti. I’m sure some would call it vandalism, but I just see it as a younger generation of Romans making this city theirs.

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The Only Reason I Get Out of Bed in the Morning (I Have To)

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Ah, my arch nemesis. Mornings.

It’s 8:30am, and I’m half asleep on a bus rolling through the Italian countryside. Despite not having slept much the night before (thanks, jet-lag), my brain is screaming at me: “Open your eyes! There are beautiful mountains and sunrises and views to see! You’re going to miss it and regret it forever!”

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Okay, maybe my brain was onto something. Those mountains were stunning.

To which my eyes reply “No.” and stay shut until 10am, when we finally arrive in the beautiful medieval village of Todi and my friend shakes me awake.

The trip to Todi was the grand finale to Temple Rome’s orientation week- a day trip up to Umbria to explore Todi, followed by Titignano. It was not to be missed. Yet at 6:30am, when my alarm went off, I considered doing just that for a concerning length of time.

Look, I like to travel, but I also like to sleep. A lot. And I know- deep, deep down- that if I didn’t have something explicitly planned every day, I would do exactly that. All day. I know, I know, I’m in Rome! There’s so much to do!

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The view from the top of the “Wedding Cake” in Piazza Venezia, featuring the Colosseum and the Foro di Cesare. So much to see!

Well, that’s where the absolute genius invention of the “class excursion” comes into play. It’s exactly what it says on the tin: an excursion to somewhere that is not the room class is usually held in, that is part of the class. They can be large weekend trips, like the trip my roommate will be taking to Berlin for her art history course, or small, hour-long trips to nearby museums and monuments. And the best part of all: they’re pre-planned. So all I have to do is get myself to the designated meeting point (with my cell phone this time), and everything is good to go. It’s all the fun, sightseeing-and-picture-taking parts of travelling, without the tedious scheduling, booking, and paying parts.

So far, my favorite class for excursions has been my Rome Sketchbook class. We’ve visited local churches, the Colosseum, and the gorgeous town of Tuscania. And we get to just sit, absorb the beauty of it all, and draw.

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The view from the park in Tuscania

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My (attempted) drawing of said landscape from class

It’s one thing I do like about my classes (aside from the fact that only one is very early). They’re really integrating our surroundings to the lessons. For Sketchbook, we get to apply the techniques we’re learning to drawings of Rome- perspective in churches, contour on statues and paintings. It’s a really immersive way to learn about Roman art, as you have to pay attention to every detail if you’re drawing it.

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Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli- home of Michaelangelo’s Moses, pictured here. Also note, the reclined figure at the top- that’s a pope, in a very Etruscan pose. The Etruscans believed in eating in that position, and their meals could take hours.

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Another drawing from class, this time a close up of two of the statues from this wall- specifically our reclining pope friend up top there

In my theatre class, we aren’t just learning about Italian theatre, we’re going to plays- I’ve already seen one, and I haven’t been here three weeks! It was an amazing performance of Filumena Marturano at Teatro Quirino (right next to the Trevi Fountain, which was still packed even at 11:30 at night. Oh, Rome…)

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A quick little selfie of yours truly in the Teatro Quirino sign, after seeing Filumena Marturano. The play uses dialect from Naples, making it even harder to follow

I think it’s a really fantastic way to learn, by getting out and into my new home for the next four months. It also gives me really interesting perspectives I wouldn’t have gotten from audio tours or brochures. Being able to have class on location (I’m getting flashbacks to warm days in high school, where at least one student always asked “Can we have class outside today?”) also makes up for that fact that, well, I actually have to go to class while I’m here. This isn’t a vacation, it’s school as well.

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This is what an excursion looks like- we’re not just hanging out and taking pictures, it’s work too!

But most importantly, I like that it forces me to get out there. One of the things I wanted to accomplish while in Rome is to become more adventurous. I am a textbook introvert, and nothing sounds better to me than a quiet night in. I want to explore, but sometimes I need a little push. Or a big push. Or someone to say “We’re going out!” and to drag me out of my room and into the world. So these excursions are both making sure I’m doing something here, but also showing me really unique parts of Italy I wouldn’t have even thought to see if I had been left to my own devices- like Todi.

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The village of Todi in Umbria- all of the streets look like this. I couldn’t believe some people actually live here, it seems so picturesque

Our day in Umbria ended with the largest meal I have ever had in my life. It was several courses, and hours, long, filled with food I had never tried (I’m looking at you, wild boar ragu) and people I hadn’t met yet. It was a great evening, and I was glad I hadn’t let my cranky, tired self stay in bed that morning.

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So super cranky to be out of bed, being forced to see nice things and eat good food. So terrible.

Now, it’s a matter of continuing to go out. This coming week consists of two museum trips, and a weekend away from Rome, so I’d say I’m doing pretty well so far. But we’ll see…. Until next week! Ciao!