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 Stacie.Johnson5@gmail.com, 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)