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EPIPHANY!

Carnival for La Befana in Piazza Navona

So, after I got back to Rome, I had to work my ass off to get things ready for the students who arrived the next day. Luckily, I was able to get everything done and check-in went off without a hitch. On Tuesday,  when I was getting ready to head to Piazza Navona, I ran into Damon, the teaching assistant who lives on my floor. So, together we headed out to the carnival in Piazza Navona. According to Italian legend, on the night of the fifth of January (the night before the Epiphany), children hang their stockings above their beds and la befana (literally a witch on a broomstick) puts candy in the stockings of children who have been good and coal for those who have been bad. So, at the carnival people were selling witches hats, riding the carousel, eating candied apples and over-sized doughnuts. It was so cool! After wandering through the piazza, Damon and I decided to have an evening passagiata (walk) and we happened upon an ice skating rink near Castel Sant’Angelo. As we were renting skates, Damon told me about how he won first place in an ice skating race when he was six years old. Unfortunately, he lacks the blue-ribbon skills he once had. So, we fumbled around the rink for a while before continuing our walk and having a beer. Yay for spontaneity! And yet, I paid for it. Apparently, you get a cold from ice skating in the rain at 11:00pm. My bad. So, I spent the next few days recovering.

On Saturday, I had intended to see a massive pillow fight in Piazza del Popolo, but it was raining and only a few sad souls showed up with pillows in tow. Instead I went on a walk through the Villa Borghese and saw grass again. Living in the PNW you tend to forget how much the presence of plant life really increases your quality of life. Villa Borghese is one of the few places in Rome that I can get my “fix” when it comes to that sort of thing.

Tempietto Diana at Villa Borghese

Today I got my fix for something else I can’t live without: Art. Yes, I know I’m a dork, but I think I’ve kept the sausaging about art to a minimum so far. Bear with me or dare to enjoy it! After work I headed over to Museo di Roma in Trastevere because I saw a sign for a Marianne Werefkin exhibition the other day. I was especially excited for Werefkin because I wrote a paper a few years ago about the self-portraiture of female expressionists. She, like many of the other artists I researched, has very few books written in English about her. If she is in an English book, she’s often just a footnote to Kandinsky or Jawlensky. Most of the books are in German or French; it’s great to know that Italy is catching on to her talent. Next step: America! Here are a few photos from the exhibition: Full album can be found here.

Anyway, I have plans to go to Ostia Antica this weekend. So, stay tuned, I suppose. There’s bound to be a post about my adventures in Rome’s little Pompeii.

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Buone Feste & Arrivaderci!

My last week in Rome was filled with last dinners, final exhibitions, packing and Christmas shopping.

On Sunday I headed out to the Porta Portese flee market again to pick up some things for friends. Unfortunately, it was too early for the Christmas markets to open. Although, Rome does seem to be getting into the holiday spirit! There are Christmas lights stretched across alley ways and garlands in the store fronts. They also began selling Christmas ornaments in the Campo and down Via del Pellegrino. But to be honest, I am really excited to spend the holidays in Seattle and California. I can’t wait!

On Tuesday night Leish and I had our farewell to each other dinner in Trastevere at Otello. Yum, yum, yum. It was a great way to send her off (to Amsterdam and the Wok to Walk). On Wednesday morning she left for the airport. Don’t worry though! We have plans to see each other in Seattle next week.

As far as the final exhibitions go, the architecture students converted the conference room into a gallery space for their show on Wednesday night. While the rest of the Rome Center was a complete mess with their scraps of paper and cardboard, the conference room looked lovely. I wish I had the ability to understand their advanced architectural renderings, but I did enjoy the sketchbooks they had on display.


Architecture Student Sketchbook

On Friday it was the art program’s turn. They used both the conference room, all the classrooms on the first floor, the two small classrooms on the third floor and the medieval tower for their exhibition. There was artwork all over the building. I think I took a photo of every single piece. Some of my favorites were the angel mobile by RaShelle, the horse by Gini, the erased Colosseum by Sam, the chandelier by Kate and everything by Stefanie. (You can see all of these in my facebook album.)

Art girls in front of Stefanie's grafiti piece.

Roberto, the door man, came up to see the exhibition and his favorite was a distorted image of Christ by Ashton. If you stand in a particular spot, the image compresses into its correct perspective. Roberto went on and on about it while I translated. I really like Ashton’s work as well. In fact, I bought a small watercolor that she painted while in Murano, a small island near Venice. It was hard for Ashton to part with, but I’m glad she did!

Ashton's watercolor of Murano

On Saturday, I ran around taking care of last minute things. For example, I went to the biscottificio (cookie store) in Trastevere to pick up some fresh cookies to bring to Chad when I land in Seattle. In the evening, I went out to dinner near the Colosseum with the girls from the food program. We had a wonderful dinner with shared appetizers. We also shared our pasta dishes by passing around plates and trading bites. Afterward, we took a long walk around the city through the Campidoglio and then to enjoy the Christmas lights. Rome is so beautiful this time of year.

Christmas lights down an alley in Rome.

We got home kind of late and it was originally my plan to stay awake until I had to catch a cab at 4:00am to the airport, but I am feeling pretty sleepy and I think I may get an hour or two of shut eye before I start the long journey home. See you all tomorrow!!!!!!!

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Stress, Food, Stress, Food…

This month has really been a crazy one, full of excitement, full of stress, full of food.

After Dan and Oana left I began cramming for the GRE, which I took on Monday. It went alright. I did surprisingly well on the math part (I’m good at guessing), but not as well as I would have liked to on the verbal portion. I find out my essay score via mail sometime next week. I need to get my act together so that I can apply to grad schools in December.

Other than that, I have had three more visitors in the eternal city. Kessler Dixon (no relation) and his girlfriend Laurel were in town. Unfortunately, I was so busy with the GRE that we were only able to meet up once for beers at Bar Trilussa. We had a great time complaining about/loving art history and all things Star Trek. Really, I don’t know how any conversation at Trilussa would be complete without it. Actually, earlier that week I met up with one of Danny and Hallie’s friends, Adam, at Trilussa and we argued over which Star Trek was superior, TNG or Voyager. Is there really any contest? PATRICK STEWART.

Anyway, I’m getting off-topic. So, my third, or rather fourth visitor was Steve Bunn. He’s a doctoral student at UW and he was in Europe pretending to do research. I took him to one of the best gelato hot spots in Rome, Gelato del Teatro, and we walked along the river before having dinner in Trastevere. Yay for visitors!

However, one of my favorite things from the last month was when the ex-director of the Rome Center, Trina, took the office staff out for lunch at a place called Bleve. It is a beautiful restaurant located at the old Medici family stables with a wine cellar larger than my family home. The Medici stables were built on top of ancient Roman ruins (as is everything in the city). When the restaurant decided to expand/remodel their cellar, the construction team discovered a completely intact tufa wall beneath the restaurant. Trina asked our waiter if we could see it and he took us down into the wine cellar for a private viewing of the beautiful stones. I wish I knew something about wine because there were floor-to-ceiling racks of vintage bottles. So cool!

Moving on to the food part, Sunday night the Art program had a potluck complete with burgers and oreos. Can you tell that they’re getting a little homesick? After dinner they held a contest for the best photo from their recent field trip to Sicily. Here’s the winner submitted by Ashton:

Photo by Ashton

On Monday the Food and Culture program had their final projects due. They had to prepare an artisanal dish completely from scratch. For example, Desiree made chesnut loaves and she went to a chesnut orchard and picked, shelled and ground the chesnuts herself. Coral made olive oil and picked the olives herself as well. Some of my other favorites were lamb, polenta and a huge assortment of desserts. Puff pastries, mmmmm.

It was not the end of my over-eating, however. This whole week I have been going crazy trying to plan a Thanksgiving feast for over 70 people: all the students and faculty from three programs and their guests. It all came together last night. Dinner was both beautiful and delicious with very few mishaps. I brought Roberto, the doorman a plate complete with all your Thanksgiving classics. He then asked what stuffing was and we had an interesting five-minute conversation about that… After stuffing ourselves, the Food program and I watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to get us in the holiday spirit. It was a success! Here are a few photos from the night:

Beautiful Dining Room Pre-Dinner

Desiree filling her plate buffet-style

Chaos in the "Dessert Room"

So, I only have one week left in Rome and I have tons of Christmas shopping to do. Happy holidays and see you soon!

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Drum Sticks and Chicken Wings

This last week or two has been devoted to transitioning from the Early Fall programs to the Fall Quarter ones. It was hard to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made, but new programs mean free welcome dinners and that definitely softens the blow. Here’s hoping I make some new friends among the Fall Quarter students!

These weeks have also turned me into a culture sponge. On Sunday, St. Francis day, I was awoken by the sounds of trumpets and trombones in the Campo. Lying in bed, I opened one eye until I figured out that it must be a band playing near by. Then I mustered up enough strength to get out of bed and throw some clothes on to check it out. When I got outside, I found a military marching band playing in Campo de’ Fiori. I stood and listened to a few songs, including the National Anthem, of course. My favorite part was the band’s exit. It was so dramatic. They got into formation and placed their horns at their lips and the second they played the first note, they all starting running out of the piazza. It was so bizarre. They’re not a marching band, but a sprinting band. Oh, Italian quirks.

Later that same day Leisha and I met up with Sam, one of the art students, and a few of his friends for a cultural expedition. We took a train out to a small suburb of Rome called Marino for their annual grape festival. Marino is a beautiful, pedestrian-friendly, hill-top town a half an hour’s train ride outside of Rome.

A beautiful balcony in Marino, Italy

A beautiful balcony in Marino, Italy

I love small-town Italy. The beautiful colors, their vibrant festivals; a festival in a small town is the day that its residents wait for all year long. They go all-out. In this instance, Marino’s grape festival centers around wine, obviously. There was a fountain that poured sparkling white wine instead of water. Unfortunately, the town was so packed full of visitors and locals enjoying the festivities that we never found it! We did, however, watch the parade of B-list models and small-town Italian royalty dressed up in Renaissance garb. It was so fun to see the locals scream when a famous model would walk by. Coincidentally, we happened to be standing next to the guys that are coming to fix the hinges on my door next week! They were so nice and gave us their spots so we could see the parade better. After the parade, we had to rush back to the train station, but we managed to grab a glass of wine on our way out. It simply wouldn’t be a grape festival without it!

Sara, a B-list model in the parade

Sara, a B-list model in the parade

As of late, I have also (finally) been working on my research here in Rome. I commandeered a classroom to pin up photos of the sculptures I am investigating. Leisha and I visited the Column of Trajan to take some photos for study (and fun). Yesterday, I faxed the Louvre a letter requesting permission to study and photograph some sculptures and have access to documents regarding the artworks! Yes, I FAXED the LOUVRE. It makes me feel somewhat legit. I will be in Paris for a week later this month to do research. I am starting to get pretty excited because Elyse, a friend from high school, just arrived in Paris yesterday for a year abroad. It has been far too long since I’ve seen her and I will get to see her just two short weeks from now in Paris. In the mean time, I have another visitor to look forward to. Meghan Rowley and her friend Becca arrive in Rome tonight!

Researching at the Column of Trajan

Researching at the Column of Trajan

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Winding down from Summer

I have been very busy over the past two weeks as Rome has finally begun to cool off. The weather is starting to feel like fall and we’ve had our fair share of thunderstorms.

The last two weeks have also been the final two weeks of the early fall start programs. Last Saturday I watched the final videos from the Cinema Studies program. The five films covered a wide range of skill, genre, theme and mood. One of my favorites was a film constructed like a parody of a “behind the scenes”/making of a hit blockbuster. They even used the vans from when Julia Roberts was filming as props. One of my favorite scenes from a different film takes place in front of the Colosseum with two girls reenacting a gladiatorial combat and a random Asian lady spontaneously joins in with kung fu moves. Hilarious! I wish I had the links to share with you.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time with the friends I’ve made from the Design and LSJ programs, particularly Ben, Anthony and Rain. Last week Leisha and I went over to the design students’ apartment for a pot luck where I met Ben’s girlfriend, Kristen. Kristen and Ben remind us so much of Lily and Marshall from How I Met Your Mother. They’re too cute! They even have their own joint blog that Ben designed, of course. Anthony has been my LSJ gossip informant sharing the scoop over glasses of wine. He’s going to come back to visit me this Sunday! Over the past couple weeks Rain and I went back to the Porta Portese market in the rain making some excellent discount purchases, found ingredients to make some Asian noodle creation from scratch, treated ourselves to McDonalds way too often, and nerded it up with some Star Trek TNG while downing cracker after cracker with cheese on top.

Crazy Roma Fans

Crazy Roma Fans

On Sunday a group of the LSJ students, Leisha, Mia and I went to the Rome vs. Florence soccer game at the Olimpico Stadium in Rome. It was a cultural studies lesson for sure. When we arrived, there were people in our seats and I politely asked them to move and they laughed at us. When we talked to one of the guards, he just told us to sit somewhere else. Later when I watched a man break his leg right before my eyes, I realized that the guards are there to call ambulances, not to help the poor little American girl get her rightful seat back. Soccer fans are CRAZY. At one point fireworks started going off in the stands and then people started rushing in, hopping walls and yelling. When the fireworks went off, Corddaryl yelled, “Run!” We were kind of caught off guard, so he explained: “If the Romans run that way, we need to go the other way!” It really wasn’t that serious at all, but funny in retrospect. One of the best parts about the game was getting a beer and a hot dog. Now that’s what I call some sort of sports event. Rome won 3 to 1 and everyone celebrated on the bus ride home by singing victory songs and pounding on the bus windows. I was a bit worried, but the LSJ kids and I made it home safely.

Cory Rain and I rocking Roma Gear

Cory Rain and I rocking Roma Gear

It has been a pleasure getting to know all the students and I am so sad to see them go. Separation anxiety, here I come. Maybe we can all meet up again over Christmas break!

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Joey sarà Giovanni, un romano.

On Sunday I woke up bright and early because the Vatican Museums are free on the last Sunday of every month. A few boys living across the hall, Brian, Chris and Tye from the U of O Architecture Program, joined me for their first trip ever to the museums. I kept trying to explain to them how large the museums actually were and if we expected to finish any time today, we would need to speed up, but it didn’t really hit them until we reached what I like to call the “halls of no return”. There’s a point in the Vatican were you can no longer roam around at leisure, but you have to follow a one-way-only track with a group of delusional, exhausted tourists packed in like sardines. My dad equated it to being driven like cattle when we visited two years ago. It also doesn’t help that there’s no AC. By the time we got to the Sistine Chapel, the boys were ready to leave. We snapped a few photos, Chris yelled, “NEXT!” and we were on our way.

The Sistine Ceiling

The Sistine Ceiling

On Monday morning, I finally had to address my sprained ankle from Greece. The swelling had simply not stopped, so Jennifer, my boss, made a doctor’s appointment for me. After running all over town and spending too much money getting meds and xrays, I now have to wear a brace for a month, a MONTH!

That afternoon, Joey flew into Rome and I met him at the airport. He said he wanted a “decadent night”, so I took him to get gelato (of course), which we ate by the Pantheon. Then I took him to Piazza Navona where an Estate Romana (festival called Roman Summer)  event was taking place. We saw a group of opera singers performing on a stage in front of one of the smaller fountains. After the opera singers, a group of dancers came on stage.

On Wednesday Joey and I took a short walk to the Trevi Fountain and ate the best gelato of our lives–San Crispino. In the evening Leisha and Jenn, the new library intern at the UW Rome Center, met up with Joey and I to go to Letture d’Estate at Castel Sant’Angelo. It was a book fair that surrounded the castle with vendors selling new and old books alike. I didn’t bring money on purpose.

On Thursday, I had the morning off, so Joey became the tourist and I became the guide. First I took him to the Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo. Then we walked out the back to see the beautiful view of the Forum from the Capitoline hill. We walked along the Forum (you have to pay to get in now) all the way to the Colosseum. We sat up on a hill there, looking at the Arch of Constantine. On our walk back to the apartment, we saw Augustus’ Forum and Trajan’s Forum. What a full morning! After work, Leisha, Jenn, Joey and I went to Scholar’s Lounge, an Irish Pub to see a Beatles cover band play. Italians faking Liverpool accents. Wonderful.

Arch of Constantine (note the ankle brace)

Arch of Constantine (note the ankle brace)

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