Monday, March 2, 2009

Art History Paper

The History of Jews in Rome & The Jewish Ghetto
Stacie Johnson

Historically, the plight of the Jew has been one of political turmoil, religious persecution, and social discrimination. In Ancient Rome, their journey was not much different. The Roman Jews suffered from grave religious maltreatment from the Popes, and complete social and political exclusion. After the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Papal rule, Jews began to give a new meaning to the term strife. Being Jewish began to give a new definition to the word strife; the Jew’s social status, culture and religion were extremely marginalized. What little dignity they once had was almost completely taken away. With the ascension of Pope Paul IV, the Jews were exiled from the city center for nearly 300 years into a confined quarter of Rome—the Jewish Ghetto. During this time period, Jews were forced to suffer public humility, live in callous and sadistic conditions, receive immoral and inhumane treatment from the government ruled by the Catholic Church, realize usurpative taxation, and endure severe religious harassment. However, staying strong in their faith, the Jews were able to unite and rise above centuries of persecution. Their success today can only be seen as a result of their incredible human ability to survive and persevere against the most extreme living conditions.

The Jews in Rome can be dated as early as 159B.C., which makes them the oldest Jewish descendents of Jerusalem in the Western world (Augias 349). Since their initial arrival in Rome, the Jews have always found themselves in conflict and dispute with the different rulers of Rome. However, during the Roman Empire, the severity of this friction was minimal. The Jews were second-class citizens, but they were granted many basic rights and were the object of little public harassment. It was only with the arrival of Constantine in the 4th century that their reputation became a negative and tarnished one of bestial imagery.

The first recorded conflict occurred in 79A.D. with the Sack of Jerusalem. Emperor Titus invaded Jerusalem, ruined the city, and captured numerous Jews to bring back to Rome as prisoners of war (Hibbert 51). However, as can be seen in the ebbs and flows of their mistreatments, Julius Caesar greatly admired the Jews. He was awestruck by the Jew’s great devotion to their God. He also venerated them for their success in career fields such as business, medicine, and banking. However, during this time, with the rise of Constantine, the Edict of Milan in 313 and Papal Law, living conditions for the Jews took a terrible change for the worst.

Originally, the Jews inhabited most of Trestevere, where they commuted into the city to perform different trades. Some Jews had even migrated across the Tiber and lived on the outskirts of the city center. In 1215, under the Rule of Pope Innocent III, Jews could no longer cohabitate in the same areas Christians and were forced to wear a degrading badge of Jewish distinction for all to see (Gregorovius 48). Conditions only continued to worsen for the Jews, as Pope John XXII banned the Talmud and ordered all Jewish religious writings and books to be burned every year at the start of the Jewish New Year in the Campo de Fiori (Gregorovius 48). The next altercation was a removal of Jews from everyday Christian lifestyle. Pope Eugene IV Condolmieri forbade Jews and Christians from interacting, prohibited Jews from moving about or working in the city, banned Christians from seeing Jewish physicians, and prohibited the construction of any new Jewish synagogues or monuments.

Unfortunately, the worst treatment was yet to come. 1492 marked the year of the Spanish Inquisition. All of the Jews in Spain were either executed or fled from tyrant Spanish rule. Many Spanish Jews escaped to Italy where the temperament for Jews was more tolerant.

The 1500’s also saw the foundation of the Catholic-Counter Reformation. The Counter Reformation was originally aimed to suppress and eliminate the spread of Protestantism. However, when Pope Paul IV was initiated into the Papacy in May of 1555 his ideals shown were vastly different from his predecessors. Paul IV fervently believed the End of Days was about to come; he therefore, included the demonic and heretic Jews in his Counter-Reformation Movement. Paul IV greatly broadened the scope of persons targeted by the Counter-Reformation, and at the same time significantly increased the terror and punishment against these persons who adhered to non-Catholic ideals and religions.

The Formation of the Ghetto:
Just two months after his ascension to the Papal throne, Paul IV issued the Cum Nimis Absurdum bull on July 17, 1555. This decree confined all Jews in Rome into what is now known as the Jewish Ghetto. The bull also revoked all Roman civilian privileges from the Jews and forbade the Jews from owning any property. It also vastly narrowed the ‘acceptable’ professions for Jews to leather tanners, cobblers, second-hand fabric merchants, or moneylenders (Augias 352). Included in the new Jewish Rules were edicts that Jews “must not be seen outside the Ghetto without wearing a yellow hat and yellow veil” (Gregorovius 68).

The Jewish Ghetto—The Dimensions:
The Ghetto was a narrowly confined quarter of Rome stretching from the edge of the Tiber River to Via del Portico d’Ottavia, Lungotevere, and Piazza delle Cinque Scole—a total of less than three acres (Pavoncello). The Ghetto was characterized by a foul stench, which was a result of the over-crowded population of the area. In the prime of the Ghetto there were over 6,000 inhabitants. It was not unusual for two or three families to live in one room. As the population of the Ghetto continued to grow, the inhabitants were forced to live in ever-closer quarters. The Jews were not permitted to expand the boundaries of Ghetto, and therefore, were forced to build up rather than out. As a result of the increasing height of the buildings, there was little sunlight within the walls of the Ghetto. Lack of sunlight proved to be quite a problem: the Tiber River was prone to flooding, and the position of the Ghetto was a prime target for waste-infested floodwater. Without sunlight to absorb any of the moisture, the Ghetto was constantly a dark, damp and dreary area; this provided a perfect breeding ground for disease (Augias 352).

The movement of the Jews in and out of the Ghetto was controlled by eight gated entrance and exits. Ironically, security guards, paid for by taxes paid by the Jews, monitored these gates. The gates were closed and locked one hour after sunset and re-opened the next morning at dawn. The whereabouts of the Jews were closely monitored, and their ‘freedom’ to leave the Ghetto was very restricted by regulations on where they could and couldn’t go (Augias 353).

Regulations & Propaganda:
If expulsion into a confined Ghetto quarter and having all rights revoked wasn’t brutal enough for the Jews, public humiliation and disgrace were soon to follow. The Catholic Church did everything it could to encourage disdain toward the Jews. In front of many of the gated entrances, Christian churches were built in order to encourage Jewish conversions to Christianity. The San Gregorio della Pieta, which was positioned in front of the main entrance to the Ghetto, was inscribed in Hebrew with a verse from Isaiah 65:2-3. This verse reads: All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—a people who continually provoke me to my face. This quote sent an anti-Semitic message to Catholic Church attendees, and at the same time defamed every Jew who used the main entrance of the Ghetto. It was a misquoted bible passage, twisted by the Church to encourage the anti-Semitic sentiment.

Another attempt by the Church to convert Jews to Catholicism was through mandatory attendance at Catholic sermons. The Jews were forced to attend sermons at Sant’Angelo in Pescheria, which used to be home to the Roman fish market, located inside the Portico d’Ottavia, just outside the Jewish Ghetto. The Jews were required by Papal Law to attend four to five times every year. If they were thought delinquent or uninterested, the guards in the mass would severely whip them in an attempt to force conversions (Augias 345).

Papal Law took a step further to suppress Judaism by prohibiting Jews from building new synagogues. As a result of this, the Jews created the Piazza de Cinque Scole—the Plaza of Five Schools. It was here that the Jews could attempt to find sanity and salvation from the cruel world outside of the Ghetto walls. However, unfortunately, the building was constantly being ransacked and attacked by monks and other radical Christians. The Cinque Scole housed, as the name implies, five synagogues. Each synagogue occupied its own floor. Different level of observance, sect of Judaism, and place of family origin separated each floor.

An additional form of shaming the Jews took place during the yearly Carnivale celebration held throughout Italy. The Jews became a spectacle of public humiliation. The Jews were forced to race one another, dressed in all manner of demeaning costumes, down streets lined with mocking spectators shouting slanderous phrases at them. These races completely dehumanized the Jews; sometimes, the Jews were forced to race against animals, causing even further disgrace. Originally the races took place along the street leading up to St. Peter’s Basilica, however, they were moved by Paul IV to Via del Corso, so as not to disgrace the apostles with filthy Jewish presence.

Another mechanism of exploitation that was used by the Catholic Church was usurpative taxation against the Jews. Papal Law required taxes on anything and everything. An example of this was even though the Jews were prohibited from owning property; they were still required to pay a building maintenance tax on top of the rent they paid to the Christian building owners. Fortunately for the Jews, Clement IX excused them from mandatory events such as Church Sermons and carnival racing if they handed over a hefty Jew Tax to the Church (Hibbert 205).

Post-Ghetto Conditions:
On April 17, 1848, the first night of Passover, Pope Pius IX ordered the Jewish Ghetto walls be demolished after almost three centuries of enclosure. However, this was a short-lived decree as one year later Pius IX revoked his order and reinstated Jewish suppression. It wasn’t until October 13, 1870 and the creation of the Kingdom of Italy that the Jews finally received full citizenship, as Roman Citizens without any Jewish distinction. In 1885, as part of an urban renewal project and beautification of the city of Rome, the Jewish Ghetto buildings and houses began to be demolished (Augias 362). In 1904, not 30 years after the unification of Italy, the Jewish community pulled together and built the New Jewish Temple Synagogue along the Tiber River, on what were the outskirts of the Ghetto. The dome on top of the temple is the only square dome in Rome. The magnitude of the church was a symbol to the Jews and to all of Rome of the success, greatness and pride they found in their religion and community. The completion of the Synagogue in such a short time period after the demolition of the Ghetto, was an amazing feat for the Jews, as their economic funds had been devastated over the past three centuries; this only further emphasized their strong character, will and triumph to overcome all hardships. Their focused determination would be useful in the 20th century, as the harshest brutality the Jews would face was yet to come.

The freedom the Jews found in Italy’s new unified kingdom changed drastically in the early 1900’s when Mussolini came into power bringing fascist ideals to the forefront of Italian politics. In 1938, Mussolini created Italian Racial Laws, which incarcerated Jewish rights once more. These Laws were the new Italian standard of citizenship and identity. In his doctrine Mussolini writes Jews are not one of us; Jews do not belong to the Italian race. Once again, Jews saw their rights and freedoms vanish from beneath them. Brutal conditions for Jews in Italy saw their demise during World War II. On September 8, 1943, Italy was announced an Open State, and was invaded by German Nazis. One month later on October 16, SS Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler raided the Jewish neighborhoods demanding they deliver him 50 kilos of gold in less than 36 hours, or he would have them all killed. In one of the first times in recent history, Christians teamed up with the Jews. Together they made good on the threat and delivered more than the 50 kilos of gold to Kappler and the German Nazis. However, this made no difference, and the Jewish neighborhood, surrounded by 400 Nazi soldiers, lost 1067 members to concentration camps. Of the original 1067 Jews captured that night, only 16 returned—, with only one who was female (Augias 365). There is now a Plaza in front of Portico d’Ottavia commemorating the Jew’s capture.

For many years after World War II, Jews finally found peace and tranquility in the streets of Rome, and it seemed as though the conflict might finally be over. However, on October 9, 1982, the New Jewish Temple Synagogue was attacked by a terrorist who threw a hand grenade at the temple and opened a round of machine-gun fire inside of the temple. The terrorist injured 35 people inside the temple, killing one, a 3-year-old boy named Stefano Taché. Stefano was the first victim of anti-Semitic violence and terrorism in Italy since the defeat of the Nazis after WWII and the end of Fascist Italy in 1945. We can only hope he will be the last victim as well (Augias 367).

Today there are over 15,000 Jews living in Rome, and more than 30,000 in all of Italy. These incredible numbers only demonstrate the Jews successes in Rome and their ability to persevere and prevail in the most brutal of situations. Julius Caesar had it right when he praised the Jews for their devotion, determination and persistence. The area that once was the Jewish Ghetto is still a densely populated area with Jewish influences at every corner. Ironically, all of the Jews whose economic funds were devastated after the demolition of the Ghetto and were unable to move outside of its boarders saw incredible increases in their real estate. Now, Via della Portico d’Ottavia is home to the best kosher restaurants in all of Rome, where you can find the most incredible fried artichokes in all of Italy. The Jewish Ghetto is one of the most beautiful areas in all of Rome, with an incredible history behind it; one can only be so fortunate to live there.

Works Cited:

Augias, Corrado. The Secrets of Rome: Love and Death in the Eternal City. Rome:
Rizzoli Ex Libris, 2007.

Gregorovius, Ferdinand. THE GHETTO AND THE JEWS OF ROME. New York:
Schocken Books, 1948.

Hibbert, Christopher. Rome: The Biography of a City. Boston: Penguin (Non-Classics),

Leon, Harry J., and Carolyn Osiek. The Jews of Ancient Rome: Updated Edition.
Peabody Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.

Openshaw, Gene, and Rick Steves. Rick Steves' Rome 2009 (Rick Steves). Santa Fe:
Avalon Travel Publishing, 2008.

Pavoncello, Micaela. "Jewish Rome Tour (Jewish Tours of Rome)." Jewish Rome Tour
(Jewish Tours of Rome). 10 Feb. 2009 .

Pavoncello, Michaela. Personal Interview. 4 Feb. 2009.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Look out America, I'm 21

WoW: News flash "Stacie N. Johnson is legal EVERYWHERE in the world!" (with the exception of countries which discriminate against women and give them no rights). 

Monday-- I gave my presentation on the Jewish Ghetto and History of Jews in Rome. The weather was awesome, perfect for my walking tour. I think I am a natural tour guide and may need to pursue a career in tour guiding. Not only would I get to talk all the time, but I would also be able to utilize my language, as well as pursue new languages. AND on top of that, it would give me good reason to move back to Europe (as this is my new goal in life... move to Europe, meet a European man, make him fall in love w/me, and ultimately--I'm talking 10 years from now-- get married so I don't have to go through the hassle of getting a visa) ha! 

This week was not that exciting, as I had another paper due in my History class. School, School, School... that's all I do over here (okay, that's totally an exaggeration). But, I have been doing a lot of schoolwork lately and definitely not enough city exploring. However, now that I only have 3 weeks left :( I've made it my vow to EXPLORE EXPLORE EXPLORE. 

Tuesday we visited my arguably favorite place in Rome-- Villa Borghese. Wednesday and Thursday spent a lot of my time writing my paper on the roles of women and widows in Renaissance Rome. We read some fantastic books on men's perceptions of women in the 1600s, namely-- women should sit and be still, as they serve not much other purpose in life.... HmmmMmmMMmmm interesting right? 

Thursday night I turned 21 at 12am, yay! It was a pretty tame night... a little different than a 21-run in the United States. All of the kids in my program left for their weekend trips Thursday after class, so I just went to my favorite bar with my two girlfriends Carly & Maya. Friday morning we packed, turned out papers in, and headed to Lyon, France. Maya's friends picked us up from the airport and drove us into the city. 

Lyon (which by the way I'd never heard of before coming to Rome) is one of the most incredible cities Ive ever been to. The city itself is larger than San Fran, but is scenic and quiet... like a European version of Portland. The city is bordered by two rivers and two hills on either end. Our three days there we walked the entire city; hiked to the top of both hills, walked along the rivers, explored the old town (much like the Pearl district), visited the new town, and saw all of the piazzas and side streets to be seen. Our first night out (my bday) the boys took us to the wine shop (voted best wine shop in Italy), through which they sell their wine. The owner took us on a tour of his wine cellar and opened up a bottled of 1988 Champagne to make a toast to my birthday. He then took us to his wine bar and had us sample a rosé champagne (I didn't even know existed) a white wine and a sample platter of the antipasti they sell at their wine bar-- so delicious-- maybe a little classier than 21 runs held in the States? ha! That night we went out to the river, which is lined by huge boats, and at night the boats come to life and turn into discos, bars and clubs. Overall, fabulous weekend trip to Lyon. 

Mardi Gras this week on Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent this week-- maybe I will give something up for Lent? Probably, for my health's sake I should give up Nutella, but I'm not sure if I have the self control to do so! ha. 

Excited to be 21. Can not wait to get carded in the States, every time I order anything. 

Baci (kisses),


Saturday, February 14, 2009

A more "Intelligent & Sophisticated" post-- As requested by my mother

My mom was "quite impressed" with my last blog update as I expanded upon my learnings here in Rome-- seeing as my first and foremost priority here is "To Grow, Study and Learn". 

Well, this week I did just that... Mom and I had a little 'bet' going to see who could go the longest without drinking wine. I'm still in the running and I believe she probably had a glass of wine last night (Friday)-- just thought I'd boast of my successes.  Especially considering wine is cheaper than all other liquids here INCLUDING water. 

Lot's of school this week. I have a huge paper and 45 minute presentation due Monday for my Art History class-- which I'm going to rock! It's about the Jewish Ghetto and History of Jews in Roma. Everything I have researched has been SUPER interesting-- For example, in ancient Rome, the Roman Emperors believed that Jews used to Castrate their children-- I guess they thought the Jews were using magic to reproduce? Ha! Okay, that's not what my paper is about, but I thought it was funny-interesting. 

I had Italian twice this week, and a day trip to Palestrina (an ANCIENT B.C. mountain town in the middle of no where). I thought everyone was going to get sick on the bus as our drive was a WILD man. The city was BEA-utiful. We only spent a little time in the museum and then were able to spend the rest of our day there overlooking the town below  and eating picnic lunch-- Pretty cool!

The weather here the past few days has been GORGEOUS-- think Portland in September: cool and crisp, but extremely SUNNY. 

As for more mature things in my life-- I applied to what seems like one million internships this summer and am starting to get emails about setting up phone interviews. I have been interviewing for the Management Internship at Nordstrom and had my final interview this week-- pretty cool. I also had my first round of interviews for a Nike internship and yesterday found out I get to interview for a Global Running Merchandising position in two weeks (My PERFECT-IDEAL job EVER)! Keep your fingers crossed for me. All seem like really cool jobs and at this point in the economy I'd just like 'A' job. Worst case scenario-- I will move to Europe permanently and get a job here doing whatever I can (oh.. wait, maybe that's best  case!). 

Miss everyone at home-- but not too much! :) Having the TIME OF MY LIFE

This week I'm going to Lyon, France for the weekend. It's a reward for all of the INTENSE school work I have this week. 

Ciao a Tutti from Roma!! 

Monday, February 9, 2009


As if we weren't already tired enough from our wild sleepless adventures in Barcelona-- our teacher added extra class on Monday. So we had one day back to recover in Rome and then we were off to Florence for the week... I swear we saw everything there was to see in Florence. 

Florence is a beautiful city; it is much different than Rome. Florence is very Americanized and everywhere you turn someone is speaking English. The streets are flooded with American students and American tourists. Even when we tried to use our Italian in the shops and restaurants the responses were in English-- which, I might add, I was rather offended by as I have been trying very hard to use my Italian whenever possible. Realistically, it was probably easier for them to understand my English-- as my Italian vocabulary is very limited-- but at least humor me and appreciate my attempt at your language, right?

My favorite part of Florence was the Baptistry constructed for John the Baptist. Not only was the mosaic interior incredible-- the external doors and panels were beautiful! There is also a really great market called "Nuovo Marcato"-- new market; it's very small but full of great souvenirs. 

We were there Tuesday through Friday and each day was jam-packed with museums and monuments to see. I managed to sneak a run in on Wednesday and saw an incredible part of the city that we weren't able to see with the group. Maya and I ran all along the river and crossed the Ponte Veccio-- very cool. 

Florence was not my favorite city-- party because of the bad weather I think... but The David was incredible. Being a little older now (almost 21...) I really appreciate the art a lot more. I think it also helps that I'm currently enrolled in an Art History of Rome course-- so I actually know a lot about the paintings, sculptures and buildings we're visiting. The David was by far my favorite art piece in Florence-- maybe even in Italy-- I could have stared at his butt all day. My friend Nicolette and I laid down in the middle of the floor to try to get a more accurate view of The David as he was supposed to be seen 100s of years ago. 

We had incredible food in Florence. Our group dinner was at Trattoria ZaZa; the next night I went to a little hole in the wall restaurant with a "menu del gournio" which is a menu of the day-- it was hand written and changed every day! Finally, we went to a fantastic restaurant called Acqua al 2 which was incredible, it was a little pricey but we ordered the "Taster" of antipasti & secondi which meant we were able to taste 5 different pastas and 3 different meat dishes. May it be noted that I ate-- and enjoyed-- the extremely red-rare-still mooing meat. We also found the BEST Gelato I've had thus far in Italy at a Gelateria called Grom. 

I didn't leave Florence empty handed-- I definitely browsed the leather selections and walked away with a new leather jacket!

This week I am very busy as I have two papers and a project due next week-- unfortunately the weather is GORGEOUS outside and I have no motivation to stay inside and work on my paper. It's also Valentines this weekend, therefore, I have to go on a search this week to find my 'True Italian Love' ha! So I'm not sure when I'm going to have time to work on my papers.. :)

Yesterday, Sunday, was the 64F and sunny; Maya and I went to a park called Ville Borghese which is 30km of trails, fountains, monuments, a small zoo, and a couple of galleries. It was absolutely gorgeous and we ended up walking around for almost four hours. I think I will go back next weekend with my new Italian love and rent bikes for the day-- it's 12Euro to rent for the entire day. Oh! AND if I end up finding three Italian Loves, its okay, because they also rent four person bike carts. 

Today we went to the Sistine Cappella-- it was gorgeous. I think we spent around three hours inside the Museum and I don't think we saw more than 12% of the art pieces there. If I were an art major I think I would spend every second of the day in this building-- it really was incredible. 

Beautiful weather once again today. Wish I was outside. 

Caio a Tutti

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Weekend was Better than Your Weekend

Let's see... the newest updates in my life are as follows:

After my trip to Assisi (Very long and Very cold) all of the kids in my program got together and decided to go out to the bars in our Campo. It was a pretty fun night. The boys in our program were awesome and a couple of times had to act as our "boyfriends" so that the 'oh so forward' Italian Stallions would leave us alone-- I tell you these Italian boys are very persistent and don't hold much back! 

Sunday we went to the flea market by our house-- I bought a pair of, my friends call them "mary-kate", sunglasses. It was a necessary purchase as the weather was GORGEOUS here and has been holding up pretty well- Cold but sunny. I also went on a very necessary jog with my girlfriend Maya. On Sundays they close off a lot of the roads in downtown Rome so we were able to run along the streets around the Colosseum, Pantheon, River, etc. all the way down to the Vatican-- talk about a scenic run! 

Monday and Tuesday we really had to buckle down as our first major paper was due in my history class. It was quite the experience as I've never written a history paper; somehow I managed to come up with something... But don't worry, we all went out celebrating our success Tuesday night. My girlfriends and I found this bar online called 'Ice Club Roma' it was SO cool (pun intended). It's one of 5 ice bars in Europe, except this is the only ice bar without a time limit. The bar was freezing cold-- I mean what was I expecting? it's called Ice Club-- but they gave us all cool ponchos and gloves. Everything in the bar was made out of ice, including the cups, the chairs, the walls and the toilets (not really!). After we headed back to the Pantheon-area and ended up at a crazy Irish pub called Scholars.. it's the one our teachers always suggest we 'avoid'.. but it was fun and they played a lot of great American sing-a-longs. 

This post makes it sound like I'm crazy party girl gone Roman, but really we do a lot of sight seeing during the day and sit in the class room and do infinity hours of reading upon reading. We had to bring 7 paperback books over, 2 bible sized reading packets-- and yet, somehow my teachers manage to print off more reading packs for us to conquer in our "spare time". The girls and I try to spend the 2 hour break between our classes at coffee shops reading. One of the only times I miss America is when we're sitting at the coffee shops and they don't bring you refills on the coffee. I really do miss studying with a large cup of black coffee, not just tiny espresso shots-- okay that's my only complaint for the rest of the trip! 

Last week we saw more than 10 churches... probably closer to the 20s realm. It's a bit much for me, and they all start to look the same and blend together. But at least I know the big man is giving me Kudos according to ancient Roman Christian beliefs! The more pious you were (1300s definition of pious: going to church, giving all your money to the church, restoring a religious monument etc.) the higher levels of heaven you would reach. 

Oh and now for the best part-- Why my weekend was better than you weekend-- as my post is titled. 

Early Friday morning, Maya, Carly and I took a taxi to the Rome airport and took-off for sunny Spain. Carla Homedes, our Spanish friend, picked us up from the airport and dropped us off in our hostel located directly off La Ramblas-- and in the center of the middle eastern immigrant-area! There were prostitutes all around at every hour of the day, and on every street corner some creepy-sketchy little middle eastern men offered us beer, weed or drugs.. haha very safe! But really it wasn't as bad as I make it sound.. I never feel unsafe in any of the European cities I've been to-- night or day. 

Our first day in Barcelona we walked around the city for 3 hours-- and did our own sight-seeing. Then we had a very tourist lunch in the middle of La Ramblas with a set menu for 9Euro which included 1 drink, Tapas, and Paella. Then we walked around for another 4 hours-- down to the marina, into the 1992 olympic village, and all the way to the end of the pier. It was so gorgeous. We walked all along the boardwalk which sits above the beach, so in order to go down to the beach you have to walk down a flight of stairs. 

That night we (usually when I say we it's referring to my girlfriends Maya and Carly) went to dinner at 9:45pm with Marta Homedes (Carla's sister-in-law) she took us to an awesome authentic Spanish restaurant called Mamacafe. We finished dinner  around 12:30, the girls and I headed to the hostel to get ready to go out for the night. I love Barcelona-- no one goes out until 1am in the morning! We met up with the boys who were there from our program and headed down to a really Modern, Exclusive & Swanky club on the pier (Guest List only or 50Euro cover charge)-- Opium del Mar. Somehow, in my Spanish (which all came rushing back to me) I snuck past the bouncer and found a manger inside the club whom I convinced to let my friends into the club through a secret backdoor entrance. We ended up dancing until 6am in the morning... needless to say my legs were sore the next day from all of our walking and dancing. 

Saturday we woke up at 11 and headed out onto La Ramblas for shopping and breakfast at the La Bocaria. The Homedes invited us to lunch with them at Carla's sister's restaurant right down on the water by the club we'd been to the night before. It was fantastic! The entire family showed up including aunts and uncles and all of their kids. We had such a fantastic time and were there from 2:30-5:30. Carla and Carlos were so sweet and hospitable towards us, and drove us all over town and let us even shower at their house. That night Carlo's brother, Dani, invited us to come out with him and his buddies. We went to the "more ritzy" Opium club called Del Cinema and then on to another just as beautiful club called Sutton. The girls and I were in way over our heads at the most fun, ritzy, awesome club I'd ever seen. Dani took us into all of the VIP ares, got us special wrist bands, and took us to the front of every line-- we didn't have to pay a cover or be on any guest lists. I can't even explain how much fun it was, I think our time in Barcelona will be tough to beat. 

Sunday Carla took us to see Segrada Familia before we went to the airport and she treated us all to Starbucks. It was the best weekend of my life! I am definitely going to move to Barcelona the instant I graduate. I love Europe! Sunday night was Superbowl and all the kids in my program went to Hard Rock Cafe Roma to watch-- pretty fun, but we were all so tired we left at half. 

Tomorrow we leave for Florence, and we're going to Cinque Terre for the weekend.

Ciao for now from Roma!


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Summary of the first 3 weeks and life in Rome-- I'll update more often from now on

Life in Rome
Living in Rome is the coolest thing in the whole world. I don't know how anyone ever leaves here, (no offense to anyone at home) but I never want to come back. I'm living in a city with 1000s of years of culture and history in ever building, cobblestone and plaza-- not to mention the INCREDIBLE monuments on ever street corner. I live in Campo de Fioro -- One of the loudest Party Piazzas in Rome. I live in the UW Rome Center building which is where I have all of my classes. The building used to be a palace many years ago which they have renovated in order for us as the other tenants to live semi-comfortably. I live with four other girls Jenna, Heather, Julia and my friend from my sorority, Carly. We are set up in a hostel like living situation. We have a nice sized kitchen, one bathroom w/shower (however, since we're in the Rome Center there are 3 bathrooms outside of our apartment) and we all live in a common area "separated" into sleeping and lounge areas by large IKEA bureaus. The weather has been okay we get about 4 days a week of sun or partly sunny and the other 3 days are cloudy or rainy. 

Food- The Best Part About Being Here!
Italian food, as you know, is fantastic. I am on a strict diet-- only carbs and gelato. I eat pizza (which is super thin folded in half like a sandwich "to go"-- it's like Italian version of pizza hut I guess, only healthy), panino (cold sandwich) and pasta every single day. I try to limit my gelato intake to 3-5 times a week, but there are so many flavors and I only have so much time, that I really can't go under 3 times per week if I'm going to successfully try every flavor Rome has to offer (my goal). 

Campo de Fiori is essentially a larger version of Pike Place Market-- only Italian and WAY better. The market is open everyday from Xam (I'm never up before 7am, so I'm not sure what crack-of-dawn time it actually opens) until 2pm when the market, as well as every other food source in the city shuts down for "siesta"-- we Americans really need to adopt this tradition, it's awesome. I buy all of my produce super cheap at the Campo market, but they also sell pasta, sauces, dried fruits, spices, clothes, hats-- basically anything you can imagine that would be at a market. 

Around the Campo there are tons of food options. Lots of Italian restaurants (I've decided Italians don't branch out much from their own food, which, heck I wouldn't either if my cultural food was so good), Pizza shops on every corner, Panino shops - both panino and pizza shops open til about 3am when the bars start to close-. Gelaterias everywhere you look, Crepe stands, and then the specialty stores. There are grocery stores and 'supermarketos' all over, which sell everything I need; they are about the size of the top floor of my house. But, there are also specialty stores which are a little more pricey but way cooler and much more delicious. There are Meat shops, Fish shops, Fournos (bakeries w/everything.. SO delicious), Cheese and Deli shops, as well as Wine-Alcohol shops. My favorite deli is Ruggeri's which is directly across from my apartment in the Campo. The men who work there are fantastic and make me panino (at LEAST 6 times a week) with fresh meat and cheese and bread. My favorite man, Giovanni, studied in NYC for 10 years and knows perfect english, so he's helping me with my Italian. I am fairly proficient in ordering now, and I can say which cheese, bread and meat I would like-- he always let's us taste if we try something new, and he will pick out the best "meat-cheese" marriage for our paninos so we really learn Italian culture.

The coffee here puts Starbucks and really any American coffee shop to shame. I only drink espresso (because that's what the Italians, whom I idolize, drink) and it's almost always ordered "to go"-- which means standing at the bar. It is only 80 Euro Cents and always delicious. The shot goes straight to your head. If you do want to sit and drink coffee (which only takes 10 seconds because it's an espresso shot) you pay about a 25% premium for the "service" aka the table and chair. Joe's, which isn't even in Campo, it's literally straight out the front door of my apartment is my clutch coffee shop. They are always open and the men who work it (yes, at all of the stores I've noticed, the men seem to work them-- maybe women do the real work, accounting and stuff? ha!) are so sweet. Enzo, the owner, always says "good morning my sun shiny" with a thick italian accent and sings us songs. He helps all of us improve our Italian and says weird things when it rains such as "ahhh... great day to shoot the ducks" we aren't really sure what he means. 

Surprisingly, not my least favorite part of Rome, in fact probably one of my favorite things about being here is that I am learning about everything I see. I'm enrolled in 3 classes-- History of Rome, Art History of Rome, and Intro to Italian. I have history everyday (2hrs), Italian twice a week (2.5hrs), and Art history 3-4 times a week for prolonged periods of time, sometimes all day on Fridays and Saturdays. However, Art History is all on-site learning so I really can't complain. Thus far I have seen almost every imaginable monument in the City and even outside of Rome. My favorite so far was the Pantheon- it is the most incredible building visually and architecturally I have even seen. We learned the the precision of the building, the size as well as the shape is so precise that A. architects and scientist can not figure out how Italians built it with out modern technology and B. no modern architect or scientist is able to figure out how to replicate it even with modern technology. I've also seen- Trajan's Column and Market, The Vatican, St.Peter's Basicilica, The Jewish Ghetto, Constantine's Arch, Augustus's Arch of Pax, The Colosseum, The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Four Rivers Fountain, and there is a lot more that I've seen or learned about but is not known to the non-history buff! I absolutely LOVE my classes. However, there is a ton of reading, writing and prep-- but definitely worth it. 

I wont be doing a lot of travel on my own here, however, we have a lot of weekend group travel for school. So far, we have been to: 
1.Ostia Antica-- an old port town with incredible ruins, and monuments 

2. Orvieto- (overnight) a fortified hill town about an hour north of Rome with incredible views and really quaint shops and restaurants-- so cold. I tried Goose breast, pork-something mysterious sausage, Chingali-- wild bore, and as most of you know I'm not a meat eater so this is a big deal. I also ordered pasta with Truffle for lunch which is a very big deal-- esp. Susan should be proud-- as I despise mushrooms, but I really enjoyed my pasta. 

3. Assisi-- This was an extremely long day trip (8am to 7:30pm) but pretty cool as we just read the life of St.Francis which is centered around the city of Assisi. We saw all of the monumental churches that St.Francis worked with and explored the hilltop town. It was absolutely freezing, but incredible to see. We actually were able to see the body-tomb of St.Francis in his church. My friend Marco, from the program, and I hiked-- HIKED-- to the top of the mountain to see the fortress which protected the city-- it was a strenuous journey and we climbed multiple towers, AND my legs were super sore today, but the photos I have are absolutely spectacular. 

4. Next weekend Jan.30-Feb.1 I'm going with 2 of my girlfriends to Barcelona-- I can't wait. Unbeknownst to  us, the boys in our program will be there as well, which is nice because it's always comforting to have boys at night with you. 

Last, But Not Least, FFFUUUUNNN!!
I live in the noisiest party Campo in Rome, but there is ALWAYS so much going on. I am working on expanding my wine palate-- which I am doing quite successfully as my new best friend here lives on a vineyard and here family produces Dalla Valle wine -- you can google it. We try to go to different bars, clubs, discos and winebars, so that we can experience everything. My friends, Jenna, Carly, Maya and I all went to a Jamie Lidell (search on iTunes-- incredible artist) concert the other night out in the middle of no where, which turned out to be the coolest venue ever, with an outdoor botanical garden and indoor stage decorated with techno-looking flashing lights and decorations. Don't worry, we have been very safe in all of our adventures and never go anywhere alone, or let anyone walk home alone. We don't usually go anywhere too far because we are located right in the hub of the city. Most weekends we venture over to Trastevere which is slightly less party and a little more 'neighborhood'. They have a lot of pubs and bars, which we're getting to know quite well. At our favorite bar "Friends" the bartender only speaks Italian to us (even though he knows perfect english) and if we order in Italian and talk to him in Italian about all of the new Italian we've learned he gives us free drinks. There is really never a dull moment in Rome-- I don't believe I've said "bored" once, however, "tired" is a constant-- but it's only 10 weeks (7 now!) and every adventure is a great experience. My girlfriends and I made vows to "Adventure" every day, whether it's to a flee market on Sundays or running down the river, or walking to the Jewish Ghetto and getting friend artichokes-- each day we have something we force ourselves to do because what is the point of being in ROME if I don't capitalize on every opportunity (clearly the business mind coming through!).

My e-mail address is, Please e-mail whenever, I'm pretty good at responding quickly. I will update this much more frequently. Also, my Skype name is Stacie.n.Johnson-- I am on-line everyday from about 8am-11am US time. I would love to skype and I have a video so you can see me and how "Italian I've become!"

Ciao Tutti (Good-Bye All) -- Baci (Kisses)