Tag Archives: Italy

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!

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.

Masquerading Through Venice

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The month of February marks the annual Carnevale di Venezia, or Carnival of Venice. Thousands of people gather in Venice each year for the traditional carnival to see performances, visit the beautiful city and, of course, wear masks! The carnival is full of ornate costumes and beautiful masks. I made sure to take my time when buying my mask. When you have tens of thousands of masks to choose from, you want to get the perfect one.

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Venice is probably the most picturesque place I have yet to visit in Italy. There is a canal and bridge around almost every corner. My favorite place in Venice was the famous St. Mark’s Square. This is the only true square (well, rectangle technically) in Venice. It is in this square that I found the most breathtaking view of Venice. We went to the top of the Doge’s Palace tower in the square, from which there is an incredible view of St. Mark’s basilica, the water, and all of the city.

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Of course a trip to Venice would not be complete without a gondola ride. Be warned that the price for the gondola ride runs pretty steep, usually about 80 euros, but you can bargain with the gondoliers to lower the price and you can have up to 6 people in one gondola, so if you split the price with a group of friends, it is totally worth it! They usually take you on the Grand Canal and through some other beautiful, smaller canals. You can even get a gondola ride with a man who will SING to you in Italian. It honestly felt like a scene from a movie. If you still want to take a boat on the water but are looking for a cheaper option, try a boat taxi! Since the roads are so tiny in Venice, there are no cars. You can only get around by boat or foot!

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Being a water town, Venice is also famous for its seafood. I will admit, parts of the city definitely smelled fishy, but from what I am told that occasional fish stench in February is nothing to the overpowering fish smell in the summer. Regardless, I knew that I need to try a traditional Venetian seafood dish. I ended up trying nero di seppie, which is a pasta dish made with cuttlefish. The spaghetti and sauce is actually totally black because of the ink from the cuttlefish. It may not immediately look appetizing, but, trust me, it is delicious! There are also tons of different kinds of fish pizzas. I have a slight obsession with tuna so I got a pizza covered in onion and tuna. Yes, I ate the entire pizza by myself.

To celebrate the opening of the Carnival, there was a boat parade on one of the canals. There was a beautiful display of costumes, lights, and performances on the boats as tons of spectators squeezing in along the canal to get a glimpse. Probably the most interesting but less traditional “performances” of the weekend was the zombie walk. Tons of people prepared all morning putting on special effects makeup and gory costumes and then walked the streets of Venice. You would have thought you were on The Walking Dead: Venice Edition.

I have to say Venice is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to and I definitely hope to be back to visit its charming canals one day.

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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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Chit Chat with Italians

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This week Temple University Rome hosted a chit chat with Italians that brought together American and Italian students from multiple schools. American schools represented in the chat included Temple and St. John’s University. Italian students that participated in the chat were from Sapienza University, LUMSA University and the Sport University, “Foro Italico”. The chat was a great opportunity to meet new people, practice Italian language, make some Italian friends, and discuss the cultural differences between the United States and Italy. American students were free to ask Italian students any question they had and vice versa. The chat was mostly in English, but also in Italian.16640888_1365496216848612_1695648932150387952_n.jpg

We first had an open discussion as a large group and talked about what was different than we expected in Rome and a common theme seemed to be the language barrier. Most of the students from the United States, myself included, anticipated that there would be virtually no language barrier in Rome. I expected practically everyone in Rome to be totally fluent in English, but I quickly realized that this is not the reality. While there are many people in Rome who do speak English and it is totally possible to get by without knowing Italian, there are also many people in Rome who speak little to no English. More people speak English in Rome since it is a more touristic area, but as you get further outside of the city into the countryside and non-touristic areas of Italy, less and less people speak English. Fortunately, while in Rome, I am taking an intensive Italian language course so I have Italian class four days a week for two hours each day. The class is tough but I am loving learning the language and it is extremely helpful! I’ve learned the basics and can at least communicate in Italian enough to meet new people, tell them about myself, ask questions, order food, and other essentials.

This chit chat was the perfect chance for me to practice some of the Italian skills I have been developing! I talked to a few Italian students and met some great people. I was able to get some recommendations of where to eat, go out, and see theatre in Rome. I even made an Italian friend named Barbara who helped me study for my Italian test. She also only lets me communicate with her in Italian when we use WhatsApp and pushes me to speak the language as much as I can. It’s great to have a native speaker to talk to and give me corrections. Plus, I am able to help her with her English. However, her English is exponentially better than my Italian, but I do my best!16473426_1365493653515535_3670342498145154223_n.jpg

One of the interesting Italian perceptions of Americans that I learned was that most Italians seem to be under the impression that United States citizens have been to all 50 states. When I was asked this, I laughed and said most Americans probably couldn’t even name all 50 states for you. I am very grateful that Temple hosted this chit chat because I was able to learn more about our cultural differences, misconceptions, practice some Italian, and even make some new friends! I looked forward to continuing to develop my Italian skills as I chit chat with the locals!16508789_1365492450182322_358863321747595905_n.jpg

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!