Monday, March 30, 2009


We spent a glorious two and a half days in Palermo, the capital of Sicily. There aren't a lot of tourists in Sicily right now (high season starts around Easter and continues the entire summer) so we got the chance to relax and slow down a bit.

We checked out some of the shops, wandered through street vendors, and since our room at our hostel had a TV, watched some Italian shows. That was one of the best parts, which sounds awful, I know, but we experienced a lot of culture by watching our Italian MTV, La Fattoria (like Survivor), and Amici (like American Idol.

We also had the chance to make our own picnic lunches. We went to a local grocery store and got bread, cheese, and sausage to make sandwiches plus other fun Italian foods. (Think chocolate). We ate our lunches in a park one day and near the water the other day. It was the best feeling, just eating our sandwiches and enjoying the weather. By this time it had warmed up compared to the chilly/rainy weather we had in Naples.

At night we found some small mom 'n' pop diners--at one we had an amazing minestrone and traditional Sicilian sausage. We aren't sure if that restaurant was even open that night. The owner saw us peeking in the window (we were checking the place out) and opened the door for us, invited us in. They served us, but we were the only people there the entire time! At the other place we found, right below our hostel, I ate the best gnocchi of my life. Gnocchi is similar to pasta, but more like a dumpling. What I had was gnocchi all'amalfitana--seasoned with tomato, basil, and mozzarella.

So far on our spring break we had eaten quite well--the best pizza in Naples, the best pasta in Sicily, plus the best picnic lunches we could create from the small grocery stores we found. We were still in Italy, so of course we should be eating well! On Wednesday it was time to leave Italy, though...we packed up and headed to our final destination: Greece.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

back to business: Napoli Day Two

Alright, so day two. We woke up early and went downtown for a cappucino and cornetto. We found the main square, Piazza del Plebiscito, to see the Royal Palace and San Francesco di Paulo. There was an event going on in memory of all the people who have died as a result of the mafia in Naples so the square was full and a parade added to the crowd.

We walked along the water to see Mt. Vesuvius and trekked back into the center of Naples. We pretty much saw all of it and it was getting colder so we found our way back to our hostel and to get some more pizza.

Our hostel had a ping pong table so we played a bit and then met some guys from Canada and Scotland and played with them as well. After ping pong we all went to the club inside the hostel for some dancing. The Italians there were so funny--not like Americans at all. They would come up to us girls and ask us where we were from then tell us we were beautiful and ask for our numbers. No American boy is that forward!

We danced until the DJ stopped playing music and then decided it was time to get ready for Sunday. We had to pack up and leave early to get on our plane to Palermo, Sicily. Sunday was pretty uneventful--we just flew into Palermo, found our hostel, took a nap until 10 when we thought maybe we should find something to eat.

All in all, Naples was nice and I'm glad I got to see it. It's definitely dirtier than Rome and in two days we saw everything we wanted to see, but it was neat to experience a slightly different Italian culture. For example, when they drink espresso in Naples (southern Italy in general) they first drink a glass of water to clean their mouths and get it ready to fully taste the espresso. And for sure pizza will never taste the same after having it in Naples!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I went to Greece and all I got was Food Poisoning.

We made it back to Rome safely--and I've never been so excited to take a shower and sleep in a twin size bed. I know I promised more posts about the rest of spring break, but I somehow managed to get food poisoning our last day in Athens and my only thoughts right now are to sleep this bug off and hope I feel better tomorrow!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring Break--Napoli Day One

Well, it's our last night of our spring break trip and I finally found some time (and an internet connection) to begin updating this! We are flying back to Rome tomorrow, where I will be uploading all of my pictures and adding to these posts but for now I can start with Napoli.

We left Friday morning for the train station, all packed and ready with summer dresses and warm weather clothing. It was a little chilly in Rome, but we reminded ourselves that we would be going south where the weather was supposed to be in the 60s and sunny. Our train to Naples took just under two hours--enough time for me to fall asleep in our little cabin.

Our first impressions of Naples were that it was dirtier than Rome (though Rome is pretty dirty itself). Our train was nice enough, though decorated with graffiti, but the streets of Naples were filled with garbage. Not to worry, there were nicer parts away from the train station. We found our hostel, the Fabric Hostel and Club (it is a renovated fabric factory) and decided to nap since most eating places don't open until later anyways.

Eventually we made it to downtown Naples. We walked around (compared to Rome, walking around Naples was a piece of cake) and saw the cathedral and the National Archeological Museum. It was getting pretty chilly after that and all we wanted to do was find a cafe for some espresso--which Naples is known for. When we finally found one and ordered, though, what came was a spritzer. Apparently our waiter misunderstood us so instead we had a pre-dinner drink. That was disappointing, but our next stop, Pizzeria Brandi, made up for it.

Naples is the birthplace of pizza and after eating it there, no other pizza will compare. The pizzeria we went to was suggested to us by one of my roommate's boyfriends. His great uncle is the owner so we mentioned that after ordering our pizza margheritas (the classic Neapolitan pizza). We got a visit from him at our table and at the end of our meal he bought us a round of limoncello, a traditional Neapolitan drink.

After our meal we headed back to our hostel. Naples is not the safest place in Italy, and since it was nearly 11 the man at the bus station suggested we take a taxi instead of the night bus. He called one for us and told the driver to take us straight to our door to make sure we got back safely. We were so grateful for him!

That was our first day of spring break...and I would write about day 2 but unfortunately my time is up on this hostel computer. Tomorrow I'll be able to write more from Rome!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Arrivederci Roma!

Tonight's my last night in Roma for a bit--until next Saturday actually. Tomorrow we are taking the train to Naples, staying there until Sunday when we fly into Palermo in Sicily. We'll stay in Palermo until Wednesday and then we'll be in Athens, Greece until Saturday.

It'll be a busy nine days, but should be gorgeous! If there is any internet availability at our hostels I'll be sure to update you, otherwise you'll get a slew of posts when I get back!

A presto, ciao!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Itanglish? Englitalian?

I had a strange experience tonight in my social research methods class. We were discussing our thesis paper topics/hypotheses and one girl was having trouble articulating what she wanted to argue. Our professor then sat down in front of her and said "parli italiano"--and they proceeded to hash out her topic in a blend of English and Italian.

True, it was easier for her that way. She is Italian so she could find the words better. But I have never been in a class (besides a language class--Spanish, Italian) where multiple languages are spoken like that. It's actually happened twice this week--tonight and last night in stats. A student asked the professor a question in Italian and he answered in Italian.

Tonight was neat though because as my classmate and professor switched back and forth between English and Italian I caught most of what they were discussing. Out of the four areas of language (writing, speaking, reading, listening) I have found that reading comes easiest for me, followed by listening then writing. Speaking is the hardest.

Anyways, this made me wonder, what language do bilingual (and tri-, quadra-, etc...) people think in? Their native tongue or the one being used? Or both/all of them at the same time?

Another thing I've noticed about language--though maybe this is just something my stats professor does. After explaining something, he will ask if we appreciate it or will say something like, "That should be easy enough to appreciate." He substitutes appreciate for understand. So maybe there is only one word for these in Italian and they essentially mean the same thing? Except they are quite different in America. We can appreciate something without understanding it (case in point, Italian culture). But if my stats professor is typical of Italians, they apparently have to understand something to appreciate it (hence their annoyance with American tourists?).

I'm pondering all these questions as I write this blog and listen to Laura Pausini, my new favorite singer. Ro and Marina went to her concert in Rome last weekend and now she's all we listen to here in the apartment. Our favorite song is her duet with James Blunt: Primavera in Anticipo. It's a love song and it's great to just sing loud and Marina and I did the other night, to the amusement of Ro, who actually understands Italian and knew we were doing a horrible rendition of it.

Either way, listening to Laura has helped us learn new words and makes it easier for us to pick up more Italian on the street. Maybe someday our favorite phrase won't have to be "non lo so" (I don't know) by default.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Procrastinating Saturday with a Surprise

I'm guilty: I'm using this blog as a procrastination tool.

Midterms are still going on here for me and I am swamped (mentally and physically) with ancient monuments, notes, and study guides. Our art history professor was vague in describing what would really be on the test, meaning I feel the need to over prepare.

We've seen so many monuments in this course, it's hard to keep them all straight in my head. This is made even harder by the fact that most of these monuments are not in their original conditions--they've been destroyed by fire, robbed, reconstructed, excavated, ruined...basically ravaged by time. They never look like they were built and other monuments/buildings/roads were always built over and around them. In times like these I need Ms. Frizzle's Magic School Bus to take me back to ancient Rome.

A strange buzzing noise did break up my day and give me some excitement, though. We finally figured out it was the odd phone in our hallway buzzing, not our regular phone or our doorbell. I picked it up, said hello, and heard a long string of Italian plus my name. I passed the phone to Ro, who told me I needed to go downstairs.

When I got down there I was greeted by a delivery man with a package. I signed for it and took it back up to the apartment--a package from Mom and Dad! Inside I found some magazines and newspapers from home plus some real Colby cheese. It's the first time I've had yellow cheese in two months! I didn't realize how much I missed it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Good News!

We finally got our statistics midterms back tonight and I somehow managed to get 103/100 (there was a bonus question). I have no idea how it works that the class I like the least I do the best in. Not to mention I spend most of class time calculating how long before class is over with instead of whatever it is we are supposed to be learning. (I'm sorry math people, it's just not and never will be my thing).

In other news, yesterday was the official two-month mark of me living in Rome. WOW. We haven't made plans yet for this weekend, but my guess is it will include some exploring of the city. Next week is the start of spring break so we have to finalize our plans for that. Right now it looks like we'll be spending a few days in Naples, then Palermo in Sicily then Athens, Greece, before coming back to Rome. We are very excited for 10 days of no school and nice weather!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Just Living in Rome

What did I learn on Monday?

The Italian word for "envelope" is the same as their words for paper or plastic bag. I needed to buy envelopes and went to a store that sold them, according to their website, but I was told by the lady that they sold bags. I looked around the store and sure enough, it was filled paper bags of all different sizes. I'm not sure what the market is like for paper bags...

Luckily, she knew of another store that sold the kind of "envelope" I was looking for just around the corner. And when I asked for directions in Italian, I understood the answer!

On my way home from mailing my letters, Marina called me to join her in the botanical garden near John Cabot. I'm glad she called, too, because it was such a beautiful day and we saw not only the gorgeous plants but an uninterrupted view of Rome from a lookout as well.

It's always breathtaking when we find these lookouts, no matter how many times we see them. The first few times it was breathtaking because it was new and foreign--a great big city that we were supposed to somehow figure out how to live in. And now, since we have (sort of) figured out how to live here, when we see it, it's like seeing our home away from home. Now we can pick out certain spots (the church at the top of the Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese, the Victor Emmanuel II Monument) all from our lookout in Trastevere. It's breathtaking to know just where you are and where you have been: Rome is huge and yet we've walked all around it.

I guess it's about time we started feeling at home here. We're halfway through the semester and these next nine weeks are going to fly by!

Today in my art history class we visited the Capitoline Museum. It was nice since we've been running all around the city of Rome to finally stay in one place and see so many amazing things. We got to see the original bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius (the copy is in the center of the square) and a few other bronze statues. Only a few because the rest were melted down during a time when bronze was more important than the art.

We also saw the remains of the Colossus of Constantine--the head, right hand, feet, a leg, a kneecap and an elbow. Even with only those parts you can imagine just how huge the statue must have been. And of course we had to see the bronze she-wolf nursing the (added later) twin babies (Romulus and Remus).

My favorite one was the Dying Gaul though. I think because it's not just a statue of an emperor or someone posing for a portrait, it's telling a story and there is a lot of emotion in the statue.

The common theme, though, was that historians are for the most part unsure where most of these statues were originally located in Rome. They have been moved around, reconstructed, lost, found and who knows what else. It gets kind of confusing in class when my professor says "Well, it's here now, but it was in the Campus Martius we think" or "And those statues were originally in the temple dedicated to Castor and Pollux but not the one we learned about in the Forum, another one near the Tiber..." There are so many things to remember!

In other news, I got an A on my Italian midterm. Apparently I understand it better than I thought! I haven't gotten my stats midterm back yet, though; that I'll get tonight...and that's the one I'm nervous about. That and this social research methods one due tomorrow. That deserves its own blog, really. It only has four questions but they can get pretty intense. Especially since it's meant for political science majors in their senior year, preparing for their theses and I am just about the furthest thing from that.

I'll get it done, though. He said we could do outside research for it, since it is a take-home, something I've had to do since I don't know enough about the crisis in Darfur or the economic situation in China to talk endlessly about them (like my professor makes my head swim sometimes).

But enough about that, I've got to catch the tram for stats class. If I passed my midterm I'll let you know!

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Today on my morning walk around Rome I noticed an abundance of yellow flowers. Usually there are flower men walking around all the tourist areas, pretending to give away roses and then charging you when you accept them, but today I noticed just these small yellow flowers wrapped in pretty paper--and people were actually buying them, tourists and locals alike.

And then I remembered, today is International Women's Day. In Italia, it is an official holiday and celebrated like St. Valentine's Day plus Mother's Day, with the men showing love to the women around them. It also serves as a women's awareness day, so there are posters up about women's rights and things. The UN also sponsors International Women's Day, but it's not celebrated in the US.

What the US does have today is Daylight Savings Time...something Italy won't have until the last Sunday in March. So for a little while I am only six hours ahead of you. Dad e-mailed me last night and told me about DST and for a bit I was worried that I had missed it here, that I was an hour behind. A quick check on the world clock told me otherwise, though, and I looked up on the internet just when DST would start here. It's weird to me that some countries don't even observe it and the actual days differ among the ones that do.

In ancient Roman times, the day was divided into 12 equal parts, except those parts were longer or shorter depending on the time of the year--there was no standardized time. They didn't need standardized time then, though. The day started at sunrise, there was a meal at midday (the sixth "part"), then a resting time until the last three hours, when they went back to work.

I know. That sounds a lot like what they do today: disregard the standardization of time and instead let their biological clocks/the sun decide what "time" it actually is. Like I've been saying all along, these people are living in the past, in the good old days of the Roman Empire. (I'm getting used to it clock is telling me it's about time for a nap.)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Summer Plans...

Today I was supposed to go on another high school visit, but the teacher canceled due to health reasons. Instead I went to hang out with a group of college students from Ohio, here on spring break.

It's kind of a strange story, but someone from Campus Crusade for Christ's Italian branch, called Agape Italia (Love Italy) has a connection to friends of mine back home. Cru is on most campuses in the States and is open to anyone interested in learning more about Christianity and spiritual relationships. It's a little different at SNC, more of a fellowship group/Bible study. Jim, the husband of the couple on staff at St. Norbert College, used to be on staff at Purdue, where he met a freshman named Brian. Brian is now on staff here in Rome and Jim introduced us via that wonderful thing called the Internet.

Anyways, other students from the States are here for spring break with Cru/Agape Italia and Brian thought it would be neat for me to join them. Agape Italia will be hosting students for the next few weeks, since it's spring break season in the States. Today I was there for their city orientation and got to hear a lot of stuff I learned in my first weeks here (some of it the hard way). I also got to meet some of the other staff living in Rome. I've learned Cru is great for networking because people do so much traveling and there is always a mutual friend!

Speaking of travel/networking...I mentioned in an earlier post my summer in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I have been officially accepted to this summer long mission project, sponsored by Cru. I'll join about 60 other students for ministry and leadership development training. We'll have spirituality discussions with the surge of people at the beach and with each other. A few of my friends have gone on other Summer Projects in the past and have always come back with nothing but great things to say. I hope I can continue this blog to keep people posted throughout the summer.

I'm halfway through my adventure here, but really the adventure is just beginning...I've learned so much already and I know I have a lot still to learn. Once again, thanks so much for reading and commenting, it means a lot to know people at home are thinking about me! And now I do believe it is time for a bowl of pasta. (of course, when is it not time for pasta here?)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Happy Birthday Michelangelo!

Today is Michelangelo's birthday; he was born in 1475 in the Tuscany region. His works are found all over the world, but at the age of 21 he came to Rome and that is where some of his most famous pieces/architecture resides. So what did I do to celebrate this occasion? After a breakfast of banana pancakes, I headed into the city to check out some of the pieces Michelangelo is known for in Rome.

I've seen St. Peter's Basilica already, (and La Pieta inside) but that is perhaps the most famous of Michelangelo's architecture, especially the cupola. I've also been to Palazzo Farnese, home of the French embassy, and the Capitoline Hill (though that one I visited again--it was on my way during my wanderings this morning).

My first stop was Santa Maria sopra Minerva, located just behind the Pantheon. From the outside it doesn't look like much, but don't let that fool you. Santa Maria is gorgeous inside, with high ceilings painted a deep blue and marble everywhere. Numerous side altars lead up to the high altar and to the left there is a statue of Christ Carrying the Cross. It's also known as Christ the Redeemer or Christo della Minerva and was carved by Michelangelo in 1521. The figure was originally nude, but during the Baroque period a covering was added. The first thing I noticed was how calm and ready Christ looked, even though he is holding the things that will kill him. The statue is supposed to show his willingness to die for us.

After a few extra minutes walking around the church in awe of its greatness, I started for my next stop: Basilica dei Santi Apostoli. None of Michelangelo's works are found here, but this is the church that housed his tomb for a while before it was moved to Santa Croce. Anyways, it was worth going to if only to see the fresco above the sanctuary, the Fall of Lucifer and Rebel Angels. It's an illusionist painting so it looks like the angels are falling out of the painting, out of the ceiling, and into the church.

Next I made my way through the Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo between 1536-1546. Instead of having the square face the Roman Forum, Michelangelo turned it around to face Papal Rome and the stairs leading up to it are meant to show the link between the new and old Rome. Because of the odd shape of the square, Michelangelo had to be creative in order to make it feel as though the buildings were symmetrical and that a person standing in the square felt like they were on top of the world. It's actually egg-shaped and the slope is off, but of course Michelangelo pulled it off.

After a quick walk past the Roman gladiator who always asks for a photo outside the Forum and up Via Cavour, I found myself at my last stop of the day, San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains). This church houses the relic of the chains said to have bound St. Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. They keep these chains in a shrine under the altar. When I was at this church, so were a few Italian school tours, so I had to weave through them to get pictures of the reason most of us were there: Michelangelo's statue of Moses. The statue is flanked by slightly smaller statues of Leah and Rachel. The entire work was supposed to be much larger and was for the tomb of Pope Julius II but the pope interrupted Michelangelo's work for unknown reasons and it was gradually scaled down to what we see today. It is still quite impressive, with Moses looking fierce holding the tablets with the commandments, his beard down to his chest and horns on his head. (The horns have something to do with the biblical story--Moses having rays of light coming from his face. I guess the horns were meant to show that, and were easier to carve than a ray of light would be.)

The trees on our street are starting to bud and the weather has been gorgeous (besides the lingering rain)...hopefully spring comes to Wisconsin soon as well!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Alright, I should be studying for the Italian midterm I have in 2.5 hours (or the Stats midterm I have later tonight) but here's a quick note updating you on my art history course this Tuesday.

We started out by the Colosseum's metro stop and from there went up the Palatine to see the Flavian Palace (it's not so much a palace as the ruins of a palace these days). Then we came back down and got to go inside the Flavian Amphitheater...better known as the Colosseum.

I knew we would be going inside sometime during the class, so that's why I haven't gone in on my own. We had to be kind of sneaky since they don't really let unofficial tour groups inside (tour groups including classes like ours) so our teacher hung out at the back of the line as we walked through nonchalantly until we got all the way in. I guess they do it to guard against phony tour guides.

Of course I knew from the outside that it was huge, but you can't really appreciate it until you are inside. I posted my photos already (they are at the end of the album) and those give you some sort of idea of what it's like. I sometimes feel silly because I am usually the only person taking photos during class, but I paid for the class, I might as well take the photos. I don't know if the other students just don't care or if they have already been to these places and taken pictures. It's kind of funny because I'll usually stay behind at a site to get another photo and then I'll have to rush to catch up to the class. I'm sure they make fun of me. (I'll let's their loss, right?)

That was my excitement for the week, seeing as after that I had 4 midterms to prepare for. One is done, two I have today, and another is a take home due next Wednesday. And speaking of midterms I'm going to get back to the studying!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

failure to communicate?

Shannon and I were in the kitchen last night when Marina opened the balcony door and whispered, "You guys have to come out here now."

We gave each other strange looks but joined her on the balcony facing the courtyard.


She didn't say anything, just took a big breath and smiled. We breathed in as well. Oh, that's why we had to come out: one of our neighbors was cooking again.

This happens, well, pretty much every night I guess. If we go out on our balcony we can smell whatever is cooking in the apartments around us. And the smell is always heavenly. Last night it was steak, but other nights it's been fish or pasta or...whatever it is, we want some. If it weren't for the language barrier we could ask them what they are making and how to make it...or if we could have a taste.

Then again, if it wasn't for the language barrier we could do a lot of things. We've made the transition and gone through the culture shock period but language is the one hurdle we will never clear, at least not in one semester. I would say that's the toughest part about being here. When we make a cultural faux pas we can't just explain it away--because they don't understand our explanations. The language barrier also makes it harder to meet people here--especially since Rome is such an old city and they tend to reject anything foreign or new (even Francesca, the 16-yr. old Roman I tutor thinks so).

Eating out, getting groceries, riding the tram--we've figured out how to do all of these things, but it's still obvious that we're outsiders because of the language differences. When we ask if we should just sit down in a restaurant or wait to be seated we get blank looks or eye rolls. When the grocery cashiers realize we are American they simply point to the total on their screen instead of telling us what we owe.

It's gotten better since we've been here, don't get me wrong. People actually ask "scendi?" on the tram to ask if I'm getting off at the next stop and sometimes the cashiers tell me in Italian how much I owe--especially when they see my handful of change. (Italians love change and smaller bills. Have I mentioned that? Once I had a ten and two fives when my total came to nine something...I started to give her the ten but she shook her head and asked for the two fives instead...I don't know.)

So there are ups and downs. And if I sit and think about it, I know I wouldn't want to study abroad in a country where they spoke English. It really is fun listening to the Italians and learning a new language, especially when that language happens to be la bella lingua.

On another note: We are midway through the semester! Wow. And midway through midterms week, which is part of the reason I'm on a break from studying ancient Roman history. Wish me luck on my test tomorrow!!