Category Archives: Rome

Daphne in As the World Turns

Poem by Rebecca Hoogs

Before all that hot pursuit,

I lived a pastoral existence:

meadows and mead and suitors swimsuited…

But Apollo?  Blacklisted.

In the end, I died a pastoral existence,

or wish I had, anyway.

Apollo–black tempered, incensed–

turned pirate, barged up my waterways.

What wishes I had were waked away;

he had a fast boat.

I turned on the waterworks,

turned on my heel, and wrote my footnotes,

but he had a faster boast.

I got to shore, got treed.

He’s such a heel.  Footnote:

I’m turned, gone bad.

I’m got, for sure.  I’m tree

in meadow, see? We’re completely unsuited,

But I’d do it again–the turning, the going–

not for what ensued, but for the ensuing.

Bernini's Apollo and Daphne

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Skeers Family Fun

After returning from Barcelona, I had to scramble to clean my studio in time. My friend John would be there in just a few hours to photograph me in the intern apartment. He photographs people in their bedrooms (not creepy) for a series he’s working on. You can check out his work here and my photo below. Isn’t it awesome?! I will cherish it forever. The UWRC will use it to promote the internship! Thanks, John!

At Home in the Intern Apartment

Only a few days later, my apartment became a home for two. Maggie, my former roommate Chad’s sister, visited Italy for 18 days, mostly spent in Rome with a few weekends away in Pisa, Florence and Cinque Terre. More on that later. On her first evening in Rome, I took Maggie on my impress-people walk and we ended up at Castel Sant’Angelo, a frequent motif in my blog posts. The next day Maggie took a solo-trip to the Colosseum and had a run-in with a guido. She escaped by latching on to a tour guide who fed her false information about ancient Rome. Don’t worry, I cleared things up.

Maggie and Me at Castel Sant' Angelo

By the next day it was already time for our trip to Tuscany, but this is just a teaser. Look for the next post about shenanigans in Pisa and Florence. We came back from the trip loaded down with goods and ready to be home in our Roman beds. On Monday we decided to explore a different neighborhood of Rome, Trastevere. This neighborhood across the river ranks as one of the best Roman rione in my opinion. We wandered down the tiny streets stopping in boutiques and bookstores and ending up in Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Below the Pincio in Piazza del Popolo

Later that week we were yearning for some green and made plans to visit Villa Borghese. We began at the Pincio and wandered through the gardens to the gallery. I played tour guide in the museum and Maggie and I started to wonder why many of those mythological stories are so similar. There’s a whole lotta love, lust, rape, murder and suicide. Since we’re in the mood for mythology, my next post will contain a poem by Rebecca Hoogs, Creative Writing professor. It’s a modern spin on an old classic she presented during summer quarter.

Maggie in the Borghese Gardens

The next day brought us to the Spanish Steps. Finally some sun! Why was June so wintery anyway? We basked in the sun on the steps, got a little sweaty and then it was time to head home.

That night we invited our neighbors out to my favorite bar, Birreria Trilussa. You remember the giraffa, no? Me either. After we had finished TWO of those, we descended to the river where booths selling trinkets and grub are set up on the banks all summer for Estate Romana.

Giraffa!

I woke up a little fuzzy, but ready for our trip to Cinque Terre, one of the most beautiful spots in the world. So beautiful it warrants its own post. Check back later!

The day we came back from the Cinque, I spent running around arranging things for the faculty welcome dinner in the penthouse that night. Maggie cut bread and I scrounged up enough plates and glasses for all 16 attendees. Lucky us, the faculty dinner was the same day as Saints Peter and Paul holiday. That night we ran from dinner to Ponte Principe Amedeo di Savoia, which is pretty far, to catch the fireworks set off from Castel Sant’Angelo. We ran directly after eating so many courses that I thought I might puke; I managed to hold it in.

The next day Maggie and I tried to escape the heat with a trip to the beach. Not sure if it really worked. We spent the majority of our time on hot, sweaty public transportation, but we did make it to Lido di Ostia. We laid out on the black sand of the free beach and waded up to our knees in filthy water. It was then that I thought to myself, “Gee, I really need to see a nice Italian beach before I leave.” More on that later.

After we cooled off seaside, we heated back up in Ostia Antica, an ancient Roman port city. We climbed over ruins and through the grass rediscovering the empire of past days. It was a nice excursion, but it was over too soon. The site closed before we made it to the Casa di Diana. We did have fun in the amphitheater and temples though.

Fun in Ostia

The next day brought a walking tour of Rome. We made a checklist of all the things Maggie had left to see so that she wouldn’t miss anything. Our walking tour took us through the Ghetto, up to the Campidoglio, down beside the Forum and heading back towards home along Trajan’s forum. Check, check, check and check. The end of Skeers Family Fun came soon after. Maggie spent her last day buying goodies for the fam.

Us in Piazza Navona

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Mama in Roma

(and also Assisi)

Shortly after I regained my composure following Rome’s birthday week, it was time to pick Momma up from the airport! She arrived early in the morning and although I was exhausted, it was time to celebrate. My mom planned the timing of her visit carefully so that we could spend Mother’s Day together for the first time in five years. Yes, I know. I’m a horrible daughter. But what am I supposed to do when I live in another state and it’s not the kind of holiday you get days off for?

Anyway, Momma and I spent some quality time together in the city, but also in bed watching the Mentalist, a TV show to which she introduced me. Our first venture into the city took us to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain, you know, my usual impress-people walk around the neighborhood. The next day we stopped for a little gelato (of course) on our way to Castel Sant’Angelo, a favorite monument of mine. It’s a place that I keep returning to, so look for it to pop up in future (and past) posts.

Momma double-fisting gelato at Castel Sant'Angelo

Momma and I decided to spend that weekend in Assisi, a hill-top town in Umbria. However, we nearly missed the train because May 1st is Labor Day in Italy and the busses weren’t running. So, after our short jog to the short tracks to catch our train, my mom and I were panting and quickly realizing just how out of shape we were. Maybe something should be done about this… Jane Fonda? Jazzercise? More on that later. So, we arrived in Assisi a few hours later only and hopped the bus to Piazza Matteotti. Word to the wise: Do NOT take the bus to San Francesco, you’ll have to walk uphill to see the rest of the town. We started at the top, Piazza Matteotti, and walked downhill while sight-seeing since we are so out of shape.

At the top we met a cute, little old man walking his dog who gave us some tips on touring the city. The first stop was the Roman amphitheater where I found out that my camera battery was dead. So, here is one of the only three photos from the day. At least it’s a cute one.

Momma and me at the Roman Amphitheater in Assisi

After the sting of a dead camera battery wore off, my mom and I trotted about the city admiring hues of pink and yellow limestone and spectacular views of the valley. Actually, we did pick up some disposable cameras, which were kind of fun to use. Not immediately knowing how your photo turned out is kind of a novelty. Dad took them in to be developed, so we’ll see how they look soon. We might be pleasantly surprised!

After visiting San Francesco, the church built in St. Francis’ honor, we tried to go to the restaurant recommended by my old friend, Rick Steves, but apparently some other tourists had heard about it, too. So, we ended up at a trattoria down the street dining on a terrace overlooking the entire Umbrian valley. The region of Umbria is known as the “green heart” of Italy and I can certainly understand why.

After lunch we bought tickets to see the chapel painted by Giotto in San Francesco and we were two of only four people on this tour. All the tourists were still eating at Rick Steves’ restaurant. The chapel is in the process of being restored, so there are three flights of scaffolding set up that you can visit with an entrance ticket, a hard hat and a god-awful audio guide. It was so amazing nearly having the chapel all to ourselves and being able to walk right up next to 700-year-old frescos adorning the 1st, 2nd and 3rd “floors”. But again, no camera. I think this calls for another trip to Assisi real soon…

Back in Rome, my mom and I used Sunday to rest before hitting the cobblestone streets again. Later in the week we took a huge trek around the city that took us through the Jewish ghetto. (Ghetto is Italian is a little different than the English version of the word. See here for info.) We checked out the Portico d’Ottavia, the theater of Marcellus where Sophia Loren used to live and ended up at La Bocca della Verità. In case you don’t know what this is, look at the very end of this clip from the movie Roman Holiday.

Legend has it that this sculpture will bite off the hand of anyone who does not tell the truth. Scary! My mom and I made it out unscathed.

Our recreation of Roman Holiday

Can you believe that I have lived in Rome for a year and have never seen this? Situation remedied.

After our encounter with the mouth of truth, Momma and I wandered over to the Forum and the Capitoline Museums. We just did a quick run though because it was getting late and we were exhausted (Remember, out of shape!) from our walk already.

Momma and I at the Forum

The next night we took a walk in the opposite direction out to the Spanish Steps. If you have ever seen a photo of Piazza di Spagna, the stairs probably had pots of beautiful pink flowers on them. I have a feeling that many tourists are disappointed when they find out that those flowers aren’t always there. BUT the azaleas are there for a couple weeks every spring and it happened to coincide with my mom’s visit. So, we took a few glamour shots and then laughed at ourselves. Check the facebook album for those.

Before long, it was time for our weekend trip to Vienna (featured in the next post) and then time to say goodbye. See you in a few months, Momma!

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You don’t look a day over 2,600.

Just after Paige left, Rome celebrated its 2763rd birthday. What better excuse to have a festa?

April 21, 2010 is regarded as the anniversary of Rome’s legendary founding by Romulus, remembered as the pudgy baby suckling a she-wolf’s teat, victorious over his poor brother Remus. Here’s a teaser photo of the famous she-wolf sculpture projected in Piazza del Popolo.

Can you see baby Romulus and Remus suckling?

So, what does Rome do to celebrate its birthday, you ask? I think a better question would be what doesn’t Rome do. There were over thirty events for the birthday week including (but not limited to) tours at archeological sites, marching bands and choir performances, seminars, conferences, exhibition openings at museums all over Rome, free entrance to said museums and archeological sites and a grand finale that recalled the history of the city with lights, sound and fireworks. But more on that later.

The event that kicked it all off was a parade that Ryan and I barely made it to in time. We stood outside the Vittorio Emanuele II monument and watched groups of people dressed up in ancient costumes. There were groups recreating famous legions, groups representing different areas of Ancient Rome, different religious sects (think Vestal Virgins) and even captive barbarians! I think I saw a Dacian or two being mistreated. Yay! (For those of you who don’t already know, I am researching a sculpture that supposedly features a Dacian.)

Over the next few days I took advantage of free admission to museums during what is called Settimana della Cultura or Culture Week. One of my favorites was Palazzo Altemps. I could not believe that I had never been here before. I was able to get quite a bit of research done looking at ancient sculptures restored by Ippolito Buzzi (also written as Buzio), but the highlight was definitely seeing the sculpture known as the Suicidal Gaul. By now everyone knows I love barbarians. The sculpture is absolutely gorgeous and I’ve written about it on a few different occasions. This time I scrutinized the work in terms of its restoration. Hmm, that barbarian seems to wield a Roman sword… How odd.

Suicidal Gaul at Palazzo Altemps

Ryan and I also took advantage of free admission at the Palatine hill, a place I shamefully haven’t visited since 2007. We took a picnic lunch that we ate near the Palatine museum, from which Ryan fed a few pigeons before we headed on our merry way about the hill top. We traveled down through the forum before decided that although our ticket included admission to the Colosseum, we were just too exhausted to carry on. We did have fun walking amongst the ruins though. It’s a shame that it costs money to go to the forum. It used to be open to the public back in 2007. Drat.

Me in the forum next to the Temple of Deified Antoninus Pius and Faustina

Anyway, the next big birthday week event was ROMAGNIFICAT, which is a play on the Italian words for Rome and magnificent. Shayna and I trekked it out to Piazza del Popolo with the rest of the Romans to see the light and sound show that was to chronicle Rome’s history. It was cheesy, but also very cool. They projected images of the Sistine ceiling and last judgement on random buildings in the piazza, little snip-its of famous Italian films were shown, there was an interpretive dance and reenactment of Rome’s founding (think she-wolf and Remus getting clobbered). The finale consisted of fireworks in Italian colors and the lighting of the olympic torch; Rome has been nominated to host the 2020 olympics. So, all together something magnificent indeed. Here’s a look:

Michelangelo's Last Judgement projected in Piazza del Popolo

Other things I got up to in late April were meeting the director Francesca Archibugi, teaching the Italian studies students how to make Spaghetti alla Carbonara (see recipe below) and having drinks with Mia and friends. It was certainly a great month. 🙂

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Recipe

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta (You americani can also use cut up strips of bacon if you can’t find the cubed pancetta version.)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Half a small onion, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • pepper
  • Optional table spoon of dry white wine
  • Optional bits of parsley for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add spaghetti noodles.

While the noodles are cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the pancetta (or bacon) and saute for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Remove the pancetta, leaving that lovely oil/fat mix in the pan.  Toss the garlic and onion into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften. Turn the heat down to low and add the pancetta back in as soon as the noodles are done and strained.

Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the yummy oil/fat/garlic/onion mix. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Some Italians also add a tablespoon of dry white wine to the egg mix. I recommend it! Make sure you the heat is low, low, low before you move to the next step.

Pour the egg/cheese mix on top of the pasta, whisking quickly so that the mix covers all of the noodles. You want the eggs to thicken, but not scramble. Tricky, tricky. You can take the pan off the heat entirely if you want as long as your noodles are hot enough to partially cook the eggs. You can also thin out the sauce with a bit of reserved pasta water, but it won’t fix the scramble issue. So, don’t let it scramble!

Season the carbonara with salt and pepper and parsley, if you like. Then EAT!

What your pasta will hopefully look like.

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Rae + Paige = RAGE!

Excepting my rant about hating Naples, my last post was about the end of winter quarter! Looky here, it’s already the end of spring quarter. What have I been doing with myself, you might ask. Well, hopefully this post (and the following ones) will help to answer that!

RAGE at the Trevi

Shortly after working my butt off for the CPAC convention during Spring break, my ex-classmate/ex-coworker/ex-neighbor/fellow art history-lover Paige came to Rome with her good friend/buddy/pal/fellow art history-lover Ryan. It was Ryan’s first time in Rome and he would be starting the Art History Rome program in just a few days. It was Paige’s second visit to Rome because she was on the program last year. One of the first things we did was run around the city exploring. You know, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Trajan’s Forum and the like. Just your average romp in the eternal city.

In the evening we headed to my favorite spot to watch live jazz in the Monti district of Rome, Charity Cafe. It was actually a blast because it was such a small group of people that the musicians had us all sit together, taught us the songs and had us sing along. We even made friends with some of the other people there… or so I thought. They wanted to invite us to another concert, so I gave them my email address. Turns out they are not interested in friendship and now I’m on a lame list-serve to receive spam emails in Italian. Yay. Italy, you’ve done it again.

Jazz at Charity Cafe

Paige spent the days doing research for her honors paper on the Saint Helen sculpture in the crossing at St. Peter’s. Most of the time I was working while she was researching, but I did join her to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s (where we waited in line forever).

RAGE at St. Peter's

In the evenings we got up to no good, going dancing, finishing a whole giraffa with just the two of us… Just the two of us, we can make it if we try! Just the two of us, you and I. Sorry, I’ve run away with myself. Back to the story!

Giraffa for two!

We had some grandiose plans for Easter, which were foiled in two ways. 1. We made the mistake of buying chocolate eggs a little too early knowing full well how little will power I possess. A few days before Easter while Paige was out gallivanting about the city, I decided to tear a small hole in the packaging of my chocolate egg just so I could have a little taste to satisfy my chocolate craving. The plan was to put the egg back inside the packaging before Paige returned and she would be none the wiser. Unfortunately she returned home to find me sitting in bed with half a chocolate egg on my lap and shiny Easter packaging strewn about the bed. Whoops! So, we didn’t open our eggs on Easter, we feasted a few days early. 2. We also had plans to rent a Vespa and tour around the city while the whole town was in Piazza San Pietro. It was going to be our “Roman Holiday” re-enactment and it was going to be glorious! However, we couldn’t find a Vespa that would fit two people and it poured down rain all day, but the real reason why it didn’t work out was because Paige and I went dancing in Testaccio the night before and needed a full day to recover in bed with the aid of a few good films and the rest of our chocolate eggs.

View of St. Peter's from the Quirinal Hill

Later that week Paige and I (after one failed attempt) made it to the Caravaggio exhibition at the Quirinal hill. It is the most complete exhibition of his  paintings ever. Wow! It really was spectacular… and crowded, but we were the last people there waiting for everyone else to clear out so that we could actually see the paintings. It was a really beautiful exhibition, but the organization of the paintings could use improvement. Every floor ended on a weak point with a painting of questionable attribution. Words of wisdom: Always end with a bang when possible! Despite that, it was still a beautiful collection of works and I took home a copy of the catalog.

One of the many Caravaggio works on display!

Oh, and we had Frigidarium on the regular.

Paige's fave gelato place, Frigidarium!

After Paige left *sad face*, I had to prepare for more even more guests! Check back soon for posts about my other spring-time visitors!

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Winter Wrap

So, winter quarter has ended and it’s now starting to feel a bit like spring in Rome, which both exciting and terrifying. I love Rome when it’s sunny, but I hate Rome when it’s hot. Sadly, these things often come hand in hand. Anyway, this is how winter quarter ended!

Damon picked me up from the train station and then we took his friend Bjorn to Bar Trilussa, an establishment that has been featured in my blog many a time. (I should be getting some sort of kick-back.) I have to say, however, that Bjorn appreciated the giraffa far more than any other guest I’ve taken to Trilussa.

Damon and Bjorn at Bar Trilussa with the infamous giraffe

The next day the three of us went to Abbey Theatre (kick-back?) to see a live rockabilly band, the Da Silva Trio. To be honest, my expectations were quite low. I mean think about it: Italians playing rockabilly. Uh, yeah… To my surprise, I was completely blown away! They were amazing. i knew almost every song and the three of us were very enthusiastic throughout their entire performance. Here’s a video I recorded of a Johnny Cash cover in which you can witness some of Bjorn’s excitement:

On Friday I took Bjorn to the Capuchin crypt. That’s the one where it looks like they used the grim reaper as an interior decorator. I’ll never forget Bjorn’s face when he first walked in. I didn’t know anyone’s eyes could get that huge. I’ve sort of forgotten how creepy that place is when you first visit. I’ve taken so many people there that I seem to be desensitized to its, um, subject matter.

Anyway, Bjorn left on Saturday and it was free Sunday at the Vatican Museums the next day. So, Damon and I drug ourselves out of bed way too early and waited in line. Despite attempts at being cut in line by nuns (that’s right, NUNS!), we made it in early and Damon saw all the things he missed when he went with his class. I also did a bit of research in the Sala dei rotundi (see below). I hope to make it to another four free Sundays before I say arrivaderci to Roma!

Vatican Museums

It was a short work week after that because I was invited on the Communications program field trip to Pompeii on Friday. After the field trip, Damon and I stayed in Naples for the weekend, but you can read about that in my next blog post.

It was only a few short days after we said goodbye to Bjorn that it was time to say hello to Josh, another one of Damon’s friends. He joined us on the field trip to Pompeii on Friday. We also managed to do the obligatory trip to the Capuchin crypt and Bar Trilussa con giraffa. On Monday Josh and I accompanied Damon to Abbey Theatre to support him at open mic night. After our rockabilly experience, I only had positive feelings toward the pub. Unfortunately, this night Abbey Theatre was filled with annoying girls who would not shut up. I could barely hear Damon and he had a microphone. Argh. As frustrating as it was, Damon still put on a great show. 🙂

The weekend after our trip south, Jocelyn came to Rome to visit me. She has been living and working in southern Spain, so it wasn’t too long of a trip for her. She arrived late Thursday night and we only had time for a few drinks before bedtime. On Friday Jocelyn visited the Vatican while I was at work. We met up later for a bit of shopping mixed with sightseeing. We managed to see the Spanish Steps before meeting up with Josh and Damon at a restaurant we found while Bjorn was in town. It was very chill the first time around, but this time it was filled with a huge group of tourists celebrating someone’s birthday. They may have had a lot to drink and they were certainly enjoying the atmosphere. I think this put us in a goofy mood as we mowed down with tambourine baby watching over us.

Dinner Party with Tambourine Baby: Jocelyn, Josh, Damon and me

Saturday morning Damon and Josh left for England. (Don’t worry! Damon’s coming back to Rome tomorrow before he heads back to Seattle for good.) In the afternoon I took Jocelyn on a tour of the Campidoglio, the forum, the colosseum, Trajan’s Forum and other goodies. It was sunny, so we were in a good mood. It was a wonderful day for sightseeing.

Jocelyn and the Arch of Constantine

On Sunday night I took Jocelyn to aperitivo jazz at Charity Cafe (another kick-back, please). However, it didn’t really turn out to be jazz. The band had a singer, drummer, bassist (with both standard and upright bass) and pianist, but they played a cover of Norah Jones and Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. Weird. Anyway, it was good food and drinks and there was music. I can’t really complain.

The next morning it was time to say goodbye to Jocelyn and she hopped on a plane headed back to Spain. Hopefully my mom and I will be able to visit her in Cadiz in May. Here’s hopin!

The last few days I’ve just been relaxing and getting things ready for the conference, which starts next week. After that it’s time for spring quarter to start. A fresh batch of kids (including the art history group), a fresh batch of visitors (including, but not limited to Paige and Momma) and fresh, spring weather! I have good feelings about next quarter.

In conclusion, I am fond of parenthetical statements. Thank you.

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Dada, Jazz and Snowstorms

On Friday I woke up early (gasp!) and Damon, Bailey and I walked over to the Vittore Emanuele II monument. Bailey headed onto the Colosseum, but Damon and I went to an exhibition on Dada and Surrealism at the Museo di Risogimento inside the monument. Initially I was outraged at some of the things they included. There was a list of artists underneath the heading “Dada e Surrealismo” and many of them had nothing to do with either movement. In any case, the exhibition was huge. One of my favorite pieces was a work by Francis Picabia entitled L’Ombre. It’s much more impressive in person because of the opposing textures. The entire painting was matte save for the glossy blue figure. I like the idea of a shadow preceding its figure.

Francis Picabia, L'Ombre, 1927.

I also really enjoyed this woodcut by Alberto Martini. This is the only photo I could find of it online. It’s a shame that the top is cut off.

Alberto Martini, La Venere Dissepolta (Venus Disinterred), 1902.

After the special exhibition, I climbed up to the terrace on top of the monument to look out over the city. I’ve never seen the forum of Trajan from this perspective. There’s another thing I can mark off my list of things to do! Progress, that’s what I’m making.

Vittore Emanuele II Monument

A few days later Damon and I were off to Tuscany for the weekend. We spent one day in Florence and one day in Viareggio for the Carnevale festivities, but you can read about that in my next post.

I was surprised by the weather a few days after our return to Rome. I awoke one morning to a snowstorm! The last substantial snowfall in Rome was in 1986, before I was even born! I don’t think this counts as a substantial amount, but it was fun for a few hours before the sun came out and melted the wonderland away.

Snow in my backyard/Campo de' Fiori

Damon and I spent the following weekend in Monti, a rione of Rome. On Saturday we walked to Santa Maria Maggiore, checked out the under-whelming Arch of Gallienus, and purchased some goodies at an Asian grocery store. We were back in Monti on Sunday for a jazz concert with aperitivo and buffet. Yum to both the music and the food. We saw Marta Capponi sing and, since it was San Valentino and all, she only sang songs about love. What a perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day. It’s possible that I will spend every Sunday at Charity Cafe soaking up aperitivo jazz for only 10 euro.

Now I just have to get myself ready to go to Paris! Piece of cake… not.

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A Movie-Concert-Concert-Movie Sandwich

Well, it has been a pretty busy week and a half now that I have begun checking things off my to do (in Rome) list. Perhaps one of the most important things on that list should be research. So, last Saturday I woke up bright and early and headed out to Villa Borghese to visit Galleria Borghese and its sculpture from the Great Trajanic Frieze. Unfortunately, there was a horrible exhibition on Caravaggio and Bacon. (I know it seems hard to believe, but, yes, it was horrible!) The paintings were hung on faux walls that stood in front of many of the sculptures I wanted to see. *Sigh* Perhaps I will do some research another time.

Birdwatchers at Villa Borghese

After a disappointing visit to the gallery, I took a walk through the villa. It was the first time in a long time that I have been awake before the rest of Rome. It was a crisp, sunny winter morning and I followed a cute couple who spent their Saturday morning bird watching. Later that day I met Jennifer and Lisa in Piazza Barberini and we walked to the church above the Spanish Steps. It’s not a very impressive church, but it has some beautiful frescoes in its cloisters that are only open once a week. So, look for a post about them if I happen to get up off my lazy ass and make it over there at exactly 11:00 on a Tuesday. After some questionably necessary shopping, we went to the movie theater to see Avatar in 3D. Why did I ever pay to see it in two dimensions?!

That evening Damon and I got dressed up to go to the opening of the doorman’s art show at a book store not too far from home. The book store had this wonderful series of cookbooks. Each one held ten recipes focusing on one main ingredient. Damon surprised me with the one on basil a few days later.

On Wednesday Damon dragged me out to a concert in a cute, young neighborhood of Rome called Pigneto. I did a little research before we left and got a list of the best restaurants there. We tried Primo, which apparently has local moms take over the kitchen to make their specialties on certain nights. This wasn’t one of those nights. We finally arrived at the venue to catch the tail end of opening band. It was this cute, pop-punk Italian girl band. I wish I had caught their name. The headliner was the Buzzcocks, or the “Buzzcoks” as our tickets indicated. They were really wonderful in concert. If you don’t know who they are, you might recognize this cover by Nouvelle Vague performed at Bumbershoot:

The following Tuesday I was back in Pigneto and back at Circolo degli Artisti for yet another concert. This time Julie (the Honors Professor) and I had dinner at Necci dal 1924, a restaurant made famous by its frequent patron Pier Paolo Pasolini, an Italian director. This time the food was exceptional and the atmosphere was more my style. I’ll probably head back there soon. The band I saw this time was Joan as Policewoman and she was amazing in concert, much better, in fact, than any of the recorded tracks I’ve heard. Unfortunately, everyone in Rome is sick right now. I had kleenex in my pocket at the show, Julie had to leave for a minute due to a coughing fit and Joan blew her nose between songs. Ahhh, illness. It was fun nonetheless and I hope to spend more time in the Pigneto neighborhood. Perhaps during the day sometime.

Joan as Policewoman at Circolo degli Artisti

Last night was actually quite exciting as well. We screened the movie Nuovomondo (Golden Door) in the conference room and the director, Emanuele Crialese came for an informal discussion session afterwards. Last week we watched his film Respiro, which, to be honest, I did not particularly like. At all. However, Nuovomondo was wonderful! It’s a story Crialese wrote highlighting the journey of a Sicilian family from the old world to the new world. It also falls within the category of magical realism, which really attracts me. As icing on the cake, he was a wonderful guest speaker. He was very honest and humorous and answered all questions thoroughly. Now I get to listen to the entire talk again so that I can prepare the transcript!

A scene from Nuovomondo

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Food Retrospective

I’ve decided it’s time for a virtual exhibition of culinary delights that have passed through my digestive system in the last year. We’ll start with the most recent and work our way back in time.

FYI: You can click on the photos to make them larger and more appetizing.

Rome: Delights prepared at home.

(AKA I’m a badass who can cook.)

Damon and I prepared this last night. It’s asparagus with roasted pine nuts, red pepper and fennel risotto and mussels cooked in dry white wine and heavy cream. We also made bruschetta (not pictured here).

I made this a few days ago for Damon because he’s never had brussel sprouts before. It’s polenta with sauteed mushrooms and steamed brussel sprouts. A word to the wise: If you think you hate brussel sprouts, you’ve either never tried them or you overcooked them. No biggie, just give them a second chance!

Leisha and I used to make shoyu chicken all the time last quarter when we were sick of pasta, but I’ll be honest. It was really Leisha who did the making of this dish. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I was successful without her guidance. Just add rice!

The Roman Culinary Experience Outside My Kitchen:

One food that I have absolutely fallen in love with here in Rome is the chestnut. Roasted, turned into a savory sauce, baked into bread, or candied–all delicious.

Castagnole are currently on my mind because they only come out during Carnevale. They’re kind of like doughnut holes, but oh-so-much better!

A typical Roman dish is Carciofi alla Romana, Roman-style artichokes. This was the appetizer to a lovely meal I shared with Dan and Oana their first night visiting Rome.

How could I neglect the open-air market right outside my front door? I can’t. So, here it is: fresh fruits and vegetables daily, people.

Paris: Dishes I cannot pronounce.

Well, I finally had authentic French creme brulee, but I have to say that Mama Skeers’ takes the cake… or the cream… or something. It’s good.

In reality, I ate a lot of finger food to save money while in Paris. Here’s a spread that Elyse prepared for us one night.

Greece: Food as divine as the gods.

This is just some pasta thing I had in a tavern in Athens.

Breakfast is delish in Greece. Fresh fruit and honey on top of a waffle in Santorini.

Dessert is also yummy. Here is some baklava. Man, honey on everything!

However, lunch was the best. Chicken souvlaki is definitely the most delicious thing I ate in Greece and a contestant for the best meal I have ever had in my life. You’ve never tasted chicken so tender or tsaziki so flavorful. *mouth watering*

Tübingen, Germany:

So, I ate the traditional pretzel and beer, but I couldn’t help but crave some Asian. It had been a while…

So, we made Pho from an instant packet and it was absolutely disgusting. Sure, it looks alright in the picture, but I’ll never do it again.

Salzburg, Austria:

Knödel smothered in sauce and mushrooms. Love it!

Prague, Czech Republic: Feeling a bit adventurous…

So, I ordered rabbit. It was interesting. Yes, it did taste a bit like chicken, but with every tender and delicious bite, my mind wandered to Chester… to Cottontail… to all those fluffy friends I loved growing up on the farm. Sorry guys!Lamb is still pretty adventurous for me, but not as crazy as the white rabbit.

After letting myself go out on a limb with a few orders, I decided to go with an old safety for lunch– the best bagels east of New York… Wait, I’ve never been to New York. Hmm. Best bagels west of Seattle that I’ve tasted. Haha

Copenhagen, Denmark:

This is Hallie eating a Danish in Denmark, which they actually call Viennese Bread there. It wasn’t that impressive. I didn’t get a picture of the hot dogs, which were much better, but ridiculously expensive.

We ate open-face sandwiches or Smørrebrød outside of the Hamlet castle and they were delish. I ordered a second! They had this odd, yet scrumptious tartar sauce type thing on them.

Budapest, Hungary:

Mmmmmm. Hungarian sweets!

Whoa, you could smell these from miles away. As soon as we stepped off the train, our noses were filled with the smell of their dough. And then we got to see Hungarian funnel cakes being grilled right before our eyes! You could choose to have yours plain or rolled in toasted almonds, powered sugar or normal sugar. They were so huge, I could hardly finish mine.

Munich, Germany:

Munich was the first place that I had the traditional German Bier Garten experience. Here is some curry wurst, a pretzel and a glass of Radler, which is beer mixed with lemonade. It’s quite a treat on a warm summer day.

And then there’s Käsespätzle, which is kind of like mac ‘n’ cheese only a million, billion times better.

Vienna, Austria: All things hearty

In Vienna, nearly every meal is a total gut bomb, but grease is delicious, right?

So, this is the most famous Viennese dish: Wienerschnitzel (breaded and fried filet of pork) with Erdapfelsalat (potato salad) and Sommersalat (veggie salad with tomatoes, cucumber and onion). This is the meal that we prepared ourselves at IKI, our school in Vienna.

Here’s your classic sausage + sauerkraut combo. I absolutely love sausage and Vienna has the best! I even liked sausage in Vienna better than sausage in Germany.

Okay, so I can’t remember what this is called, but just look at it. Whoa. What the hell is that? Well, it’s egg and potato and craziness. That’s what.

Here’s another one of those mystery meals. This is called Shaufel, which means shovel. As you can see, it’s served in a shovel. It’s basically whatever is left over in the kitchen, cooked up in some grease and put in a shovel. Genius!

On to the desserts:

This is another one of those really famous Viennese things: Sacher torte, the most expensive chocolate cake you will ever eat. Yum, yum.

Another very Viennese thing is Kaisershmarrn, ripped up bits of pancake with plum sauce and powdered sugar on top. Sounds irresistable, but Andrea and I decided that it’s just okay.

The things that really top my list as the best Viennese desserts have everything to do with ice cream. This is a Schneeball or snowball. It’s a ball of ice cream covered with hard marshmellows and served with a raspberry sauce. There are two other versions: Eismarillenknödl, apricot mouse surrounded by vanilla ice cream rolled in chocolate cookie crumbs and essentially the same thing, but it’s raspberry mouse and regular cookie crumbs instead. Great, now I’m craving ice cream dumpling.

Last but not least is this tricky little dish. Is it spaghetti? Is it ice cream? You’ll never know until you take a bite… or until I tell you! It’s both! They put vanilla ice cream through a strainer and top it with raspberry “marinara” and coconut “parmesan”. How creative!

Anyway, that is a sneak peak into the things I have been eating. The things I have been missing are great and many, but at least I have this to hold me over until sushi town.

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Filed under Asnieres, Athens, Austria, Budapest, Copenhagen, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Munich, Paris, Prague, Rome, Salzburg, Santorini, Tübingen, Vienna

Six months left to live…

As of yesterday, I have exactly six months left to live in Rome. This has really hit me pretty hard. I have so much that I still want to do here. So, how could I not draw on my OCD qualities and make a list?! Here it is (the most boring post you’ll ever read):

Actually, I should start with some of the things I did this week, so that you can see how dedicated I am.

This week I waited in line for two hours to see the unimpressive Saints exhibition. It did have Leonardo da Vinci’s St. John the Baptist on loan from the Louvre though. The accompanying video showed the painting under infrared lights, ultraviolet, et cetera, which was cool. And also on display was this disturbing medieval painting of a child literally coughing up demons. Eww.

Leonardo da Vinci, St. John the Baptist, 1513-1516.

On Monday I joined the honors program on their art history field trip to Trajan’s Forum and the Pantheon. On Tuesday I ventured over to the Ara Pacis (free for Art History students! Woo!) and saw their Italian design exhibition. I just loved the schematic drawings of pasta noodles. It’s a shame I can’t find an example online. After the museum, Jennifer, Lisa, Carisa and I went to see Tom Ford’s first movie, A Single Man. It was such a beautiful film. On Wednesday I had the intention of visiting Sant’Ivo, but it was closed for the millionth time. So, I walked over to Santa Maria sopra Minerva and looked at the Filippo Lippi frescoes there. Reminded me of Hallie’s wonderful presentation three years ago!

I also took a walk over to St. Peter’s and the life-sized nativity scene is still up! It’s so ridiculous. It looks like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. There’s even a rowboat included because everyone knows that the wise men came by sea to pay their respects to baby Jesus.

Nativity/Christmas Tree in Piazza San Pietro in MID-JANUARY

Close-up on the boat

Okay, enough of that. Here’s my list:

In Rome:
Galleria Doria Pamphili
Galleria Borghese
San Paolo Fuori le Mure
St. Peter’s Catacombs
SS. Giovanni and Paolo w/ Roman Houses
Sant’Ivo
Castel Sant’Angelo
Monti- Boutiques and Arch of Gallienus
Santa Francesca Romana (Mar. 9)
Santa Maria in Trastevere
Gesu’
SS. Cosmas and Damian
Villa Torlonia
San Pietro in Vincoli
Pigneto
Garbatella
San Lorenzo
Go to the top of Vittorio Emanuele
Testaccio
Opera
Casa del Jazz
Palazzo Altemps
La Bocca della Verita’
Santa Costanza

Exhibitions:
Caravaggio/Bacon-Villa Borghese
Caravaggio-Quirnale
Hopper-Museo del Corso
Dada-Palazzo Vittorio

In Italy:
Sicily
Assisi
Cinque Terre
Orte
Sperlonga
Siena
Fiesole
Napoli
Bologna/Rimini
Venice/Murano
Viareggio
Frascati
Tivoli-Villa d’Este
Positano

In Europe:
Visit Jocelyn in Cadiz, Spain
Brussels
Visit Diana in Vienna
Croatia

I’m open to suggestions!

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