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.

From Tourist to Tour Guide

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This past week, I was lucky enough to have family visit me in Rome again! This time I was spending the week with my mom and step dad. When my brother visited me earlier in the semester, I will still very new to Rome so I was not as familiar with the city. However, by the time my mom and step dad came here, I had already been living in Rome for almost three months (how did that happen so quickly?). While I might not be able to consider myself a local, I certainly don’t consider myself the average tourist anymore. It was my turn to be the tour guide.

On the first night they arrived, we walked to almost all of the major attractions Rome has to offer. I showed them Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. Obviously, we had to get some gelato on the first night after all that walking, but that didn’t stop us from getting gelato every other night too.

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Fortunately, the excitement of being in Rome seemed to outweigh the jet lag, and they were both ready to explore all week. We spent our first weekend exploring Florence, which was absolutely stunning! When we got back to Rome and I had to return to class, it didn’t stop them from exploring on their own during the day. On our first evening back in Rome, we tried out some new bars that I hadn’t been to before and wandered around the neighborhood of Trastevere. We found some great spots that I will definitely go back to! Then we went out for a classic Roman aperitivo. We went to my favorite spot for aperitivo, Freni e Frizioni, where they have a huge spread of unlimited great food and a drink included, all for just 8 euro! Italians know how to do happy hour right.

Another night, we went to the nearby supermarket to buy some food and I cooked a dinner for the three of us, which would basically never happen in the States. I made salad with an olive oil and senape dressing, fettuccine pasta with tomato and basil sauce, and garlic sausage. If I do say so myself, it was a pretty great dinner. Rome might just make a cook out of me after all.

The next day, my mom and step dad took a day trip to Venice. Venice has been a place on my step dad’s bucket list and I assured them that it was worth the train ride. They fell in love with the city of canals and raved about it when they got back to Rome.

Our last day together in Rome, we took a trip to Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. Under this erie church you can find a crypt filled with the bones from thousands of friars. However, these aren’t just any old piles of bones. Each room has a special design on the walls and ceilings made entirely of bones. Even the chandeliers are made of bones. They say the designer had a special eye, but I think he was probably just insane. Although, you can’t deny his work is interesting to look at. Then we did a bit of shopping and my mom was able to find an awesome leather bag. Finally, we got dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Rome before heading home.

It was great to have my family here in Rome and I am so glad that I got to share at least a small piece of my experience with them.

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Finding Friends and Family in Firenze

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This past weekend, I finally made it to the gorgeous city of Firenze (a.k.a. Florence)! Traveling to Florence was almost too easy. Take just a short hour and a half train ride from Rome and you will find yourself in this beautiful center of the Renaissance. I was especially excited to explore Florence because I would get to do it with my mom and step dad who are visiting me in Italy for the week. While I love showing them my favorite spots in my temporary home city, taking a weekend trip to Florence gave us the opportunity to discover a new city together and Firenze did not disappoint!

After we arrived on the train, we grabbed the typical Italian breakfast of a caffe and cornetto and then headed straight to see the famous Duomo. It was even bigger than I imagined! Everyone was gathering in the main piazza to take a look at the incredible structure. Once we were able to stop staring at the Duomo, we went to check out Florence’s famous leather market and buy some genuine Italian leather products. With some time to spare before lunch, we went to the Galleria Dell’Accademia, where we saw Michelangelo’s David statue. I was anticipating a life-sized David and was surprised to discover that he was much larger!

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As if my time in Florence could not get any better, I got to meet up with a group of my best friends from Temple main campus. A group of my fellow musical theatre majors are studying abroad in London for the semester and we knew we had to see each other while we are in Europe. As it turns out, we all planned a trip to Florence for the same weekend without even trying! It was the perfect happy accident. As my family and I went to meet my friends for a delicious pizza lunch, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Walking through the door of that restaurant was like walking into Philly style to meet up with friends back at home (and yet, it wasn’t like that at all). I felt like my worlds were colliding. I was still in Italy, the country I have grown to love over the past two and a half months, but I was completely surrounded by my closest family and friends from the States. I only had one day to spend with my friends before they had to head back to London, which wasn’t nearly enough time to catch up on all of our experiences abroad, but we made the most out of every second of our time.

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Of course, we had to get some gelato together. Then we went to the Piazzale Michelangelo, where there are breathtaking views of all of Florence. We bought some wine at a nearby stand, cracked it open, and sat on the steps to fill each other in on our lives while soaking up Firenze. Finally, we went to grab some classic Italian cuisine together for dinner, explored some of the local bars, and even had drinks made by an Albert Einstein look alike. I can’t even express how happy I was to be reunited with my friends and show them a piece of Italy. I was glad I could show them some Italian culture and give them a bit of an inside scoop, even though I may not be the expert on Florence. I was sad to say goodbye to them, but I knew that we would see each other again in a few weeks and we both had so much more left to experience in our own study abroad programs.

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As I spent the rest of my time with my mom and step dad, we climbed 414 steps to the top of the bell tower where we could get 360 degree panoramic views of the city. Then we went to wander through the enormous and scenic Boboli Gardens. Finally, we topped it off with a mouth watering pasta meal before heading back to Rome.

I could not have asked for a more perfect weekend: a stunning city, family, and the friend reunion of a lifetime. My heart is full.

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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 Surprise Around Every Corner

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One of the things you quickly discover when you come to Rome is that there is history everywhere you turn. I am always unexpectedly running into new works of art, monuments, and churches. It seems that there is an exciting ancient story around every corner of this city. Although I am more familiar with the city now and know my way around, I still do not mind wandering and getting a bit lost in Rome because it doesn’t take long to discover something new. Even after living here for two months, there is still so much of the city I have left to see.

Even my first time seeing the Vatican was a surprise. I actually live in an apartment right next to the Vatican. I can look around the corner of my building and see the huge wall of the small city. Yet, somehow I did not actually see inside these walls until I had lived in Rome for a few weeks. To tell the truth, I was coming home from a night out with friends and it was probably around 3am when, seemingly out of nowhere, the entrance to the Vatican was right in front of me. It all felt so surreal. How did I just accidentally stumble upon the Vatican? Do I actually get to live here for four months? I hope Pope Francis is sleeping well while I walk home in the middle of the night.

On another night, I had a similar feeling as I sat outside sipping my drink and enjoying a view of the Colosseum. The bar I was at, Coming Out, is right beside the Colosseum and offers an incredible view of the ancient stadium. Coming Out is also one of the few LGBT+ bars in Rome and it felt very good to be surrounded by my community abroad and to meet Italians and others who identify as LGBT+. While Rome does not exactly have a “Gayborhood” like Philadelphia, and it not the most progressive city when it comes to LGBT+ matters, it is comforting to know that the LGBT+ community does exist in Rome (and has some of the coolest bars in Rome with views like this one).

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Since then, I have had the opportunity to meet more people in Rome’s LGBT+ community and explore many of the LGBT+ hang out spots in Rome. If you are looking to dance in Rome, we also have the best spots to dance. Just sayin’.

Rome surprised me once again when I discovered that just around the corner from this bar and the Colosseum is the Basilica of San Clemente. This is one of my favorite basilicas in Rome because not only is it stunning inside, but you can also explore unground beneath the church. The Basilica of San Clemente is actually built on top of the ruins of two previous churches. Beneath the basilica you can find the remains of columns, artworks, and even a water system that still runs today. The city of Rome was literally built from the ground up. Throughout history they continued building on top of older structures and the city continued to be raised. You can see just how much the city has been raised up from its original ground level if you visit the Basilica of San Clemente.

These are just a few of my favorite surprise spots that I have come across while in Rome. The list goes on and on and I’m sure it will continue to grow, which is why I plan to continue getting lost in this gorgeous city until I find every hidden gem.

Coming “Home” from Spring Break

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I have never been so thrilled to finish midterms before in my life as I was this semester. On Temple’s main campus, I do not typically have an actual “midterm week”. Usually, my midterms are more spread out or consist of performances or projects rather than just large exams. However, at Temple Rome I had to spend countless hours studying for exams the week before midterms and I will admit it was very stressful. However, it was all worth it the second I walked out of my last midterm. Freedom at last! It was time to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. I went straight from my midterm to the airport. My roommate came with me and actually almost didn’t make it, but the spring break gods were on our side. This spring break was one of the most unforgettable weeks of my life. I was so lucky to be able to travel with an incredible group of people and experience three different cities in 12 days. We traveled to Barcelona and Seville in Spain and then to Lisbon, Portugal, and finally back to Rome. We made so many memories that I will always cherish and met beautiful souls from across the globe. It truly felt like a dream. Whether we were climbing a mountain in Barcelona, riding bikes through the small city of Seville, or swimming in the ocean on the coast of Portugal, it was completely enchanting.

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Riding bike through Seville

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Enjoying the beach in Portugal

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On top of a mountain in Barcelona

As amazing as spring break was and although I was sad for it to end, it did feel good coming “home” to Rome. Even after just two short months living in Rome, it has already become like a second home. I especially appreciate it after traveling to other cities that are totally unfamiliar to me. It felt right to come back to a city that I feel like I know well. In Rome, I know how to get around and I walk the same familiar streets for my daily commute. I know where to get the best gelato and I have my favorite spot for aperitivo. I know the history of Rome now and have more of a grasp on the Italian language. I know where to go if I want to dance or if I want to have a quiet relaxing evening. It has taken some time, but I have adjusted to life in Rome and I would not trade it for any other city in the world. I am definitely falling in love with Rome and it is hard to believe that my time here is half way over. I am just going to keep pretending like I never have to leave, but since I do eventually have to leave, I am going to make the most out of my last two months here in Rome. I look forward to new discoveries and experiences as I continue to get to know the eternal city.

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!

Learning to Cook Like an Italian

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Of course, Italians are famous for their delicious food and I have sampled as much of it and as wide of a variety as I possibly can, but it isn’t just about eating the food. It Italy, food is a way for people to come together, socialize and bond. The dinners are longer and more courses, which gives ample time for loved ones to enjoy each other’s company. Cooking is a part of this process too. The Italian way to cook means buying all fresh ingredients and cooking together. I am by no means a chef. Fortunately, pasta is a staple part of the diet here in Italy and something simple that even I can handle. However, I wanted to broaden my horizons and learn how to cook some other, more complicated Italian dishes. I have had the pleasure of taking two cooking classes so far over this semester.

The first cooking class I took was part of my Intensive Italian course. Part of our assignment for the course was to go out to the market and order all of the ingredients we needed in only Italian. It can be a little intimidating going into a huge, unfamiliar food market and trying to order in a foreign language, but I’m so glad we did it! Our group was able to find and order everything we needed without using any English and now I actually love going to the market. It is great practice for Italian, all of the food is very fresh, and if you go to the same stand each time, you start to form a relationship with them.

For our first course in the cooking class, we made Zuppa di Lenticchie (Lentil Soup). Next, we had Peperoni al Forno (Baked Peppers). One interesting difference in food names in Italy is that what we typically think of as pepperoni in the US, is not at all the same here. Peperoni here just means peppers, so essentially bell peppers. The following course was a tasty Insalata Ricca (a type of salad). Next up was my group! We made Mozzarella in Carrozza, which is comparable to mozzarella sticks, but they are not entirely breaded and are even more delicious. Finally, we had a dessert of Salame di Cioccolato. When I first heard this, I was prepared to be disgusted. How can salami and chocolate possibly taste good together? I soon found out that Salame di Cioccolato doesn’t actually contain salami. It is just called that because it is made in a sort of log shape and looks almost like salami.

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Me looking a little terrifying with a huge knife while I cut bread for our mozzarella in carrozza

In the second cooking class I took, we learned how to make pasta from scratch! It actually was a lot easier than I expected and I can now say from experience that handmade pasta from scratch is, in fact, the best pasta. All it takes is a little flour and egg, mix it together until you get the proper consistency, and then just keep rolling it out until you get it flat enough to cut into pasta noodles.

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Carefully handling our fresh hand-made pasta

For dessert, we made small pastries that look like pies, but are similar to the consistency of cheesecake, as they are made with ricotta. We made a mixture of orange and chocolate pastries and tried them all together. I might be biased, but I swear my pastry was the best.

I still may not be ready to go on Master Chef, but I can say I know how to cook at least a few traditional Italian dishes and had a lot of fun while doing it. I definitely plan on cooking some more home made meals here in Italy and maybe I’ll even continue cooking them in the States!

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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.