3-Portami all Spiaggia!

This week was filled with plenty of adventure, including a second exam!

Monday, I walked around my neighborhood. San Lorenzo is pretty particular. Just outside the Aurelian walls and east of Termini, it is known for being a bit duro, or hard: the streets and buildings look rough with graffiti everywhere and beer bottles in the piazze. This neighborhood, however, is one of the more lively quarters, especially since it hosts many of Rome’s #1 university buildings. Because La Sapienza is so nearby, there are plenty of bars and restaurants in the area catered to suit poor college student bank accounts. It is also located near the Esquilino neighborhood, the hub of stranieri, or foreigners, in Rome. For this, there are many options in terms of Asian markets to shop for groceries.

Smokestack of San Lorenzo
A mural in San Lorenzo

Then on Tuesday following class, I walked with some of my classmates down Via dei Fori Imperiali to the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine. Following that, we walked into Monti, one of the more hip neighborhoods in Rome, to grab lunch at a fast food pasta place called Pasta Imperiale (yes, they exist and they’re fabulous) and then a gelato afterwards at a well known gelateria in Monti called Fatamorgana. That evening, I had prepared a non-Italian dinner for myself. The day before, I had marinated a piece of salmon. Then I sliced it to eat with rice, cucumber, seaweed, and egg. Later that evening, I had planned to meet again with Flora, my Italian friend.  As I waited for her, I sat on Via dei Fori Imperiali. There was a group playing live music and many people enjoying the unnaturally cool evening. It was so pleasant to sit within the ancient city in a contemporary context. We finally met up and then went together to a bar just near Colle Oppio. Hidden behind what seemed like ruined walls was an Indian themed bar with accents of Middle Eastern and Saharan African accents. There we watched a fire dancer perform and a live band playing themed music.

Via dei Fori Imperiali
The Arch of Constantine
Fatamorgana gelato
Quasi-sushi dinner/break from Italian food!
Tuesday night waiting for Flora
Voodoo Bar
Corso Vittorio Emanuele

Wednesday after class, I had lunch with Huda and then we went on a mission to find a good panna cotta, which literally translates to cooked cream. We walked from Esquilino, where we’d eaten, to San Giovanni in a bar/pasticceria called Pompi. There, we found the custard dessert with the options of different toppings. I ordered frutti di bosco, or forest fruit topping.

La panna cotta

After deciding that Saturday I had wanted to go to Nemi, a small borgo famous for its fragoline, I didn’t end up making it. I took the intercity bus from the station intending to make a change in Genzano. The only problem was the bus only stops if you request, and it’s almost impossible to know where the stops are. After missing my point of change, I ended up arriving an hour outside of my destination. It was around 2:00 in the afternoon, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and I wasn’t going to make it in time to catch lunch in Nemi. I found the train station, but a bus ticket back to Rome, and got back within an hour and a half. Luckily, the tickets had only cost about 2,00 euro each so it was a cheap mistake to make.

Sunday, however, was by far the highlight of my week. Huda and I had made plans to go to one of the beaches near Rome. Since I had been to Sperlonga the year before, and many Italians rate it amongst the best near Rome, we headed there for our seaside adventure. We arrived at the train station and took a bus from the station to the city. Once we arrived, we each had a crema caffe’, essentially a coffee frosty, to cool us down from the heat. As we walked the main via, we started to go down to each beach to see if we could rent an ombrellone and two lettini. The way Italian beaches work is this: restaurants and bars will own a plot of land which usually includes a strip of waterfront. This way, they can make money from renting umbrellas and beds to beachgoers. The first beach we asked was al completo, or full. We walked on to the next, also full. We checked each bar and restaurant: tutti al completo. We decided to backtrack to ask the restaurants we had passed earlier, and thankfully, someone had cancelled their reservation, leaving exactly one ombrellone and two lettini for Huda and I.

Crema caffe’
Pizza Bufalina alla Napoletana

2 – Esame? Come?

TeverEstate, a summer festival on the banks of the Tiber River and the language exchange location

Week 2 was full of fun.

One of my classmates, Tegan, was traveling around Europe with her friend, and it happened that they passed by Rome for a few days. Tuesday afternoon following class, a few of my classmates and I met her and her friend, Audrey, for lunch at a mom and pop restaurant near Piazza Navona. We ate a typical Roman pasta, carbonara, and then went to Tazza D’Oro, a famous caffe’, after lunch. There we each ordered granita caffe’. Granite are very famous all over Italy (specifically in Sicily), and are essentially fresh slushies. They can be ordered in flavors like limone, mandorle, and caffe’. Ours were made with a layer of fresh whipped cream, or panna, the coffee flavored ice chips, and then another topping of whipped cream.

Tegan and I with our granite!

Wednesday I had my first midterm exam. It was over parts of grammar that I hadn’t studied before, so I was quite nervous when I was going in. However, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. Following the exam, I had lunch with one of the other ItaliaIdea students at restaurant near Sant’Andrea della Valle, very close to the hotel we used to stay in when I studied with the School of Architecture.

Post-exam lunch with Carolina

Thursday I got to eat at a pizzeria I had heard many good things about but had never gotten around to trying out. Pizzeria Baffetto, near Piazza Navona, had always had a line outside of it whenever I passed by. When we were seated, we ordered a half litre of white wine and our pizze. It didn’t live up to all the hype I’d heard about it, but it was certainly a nice lunch treat. Following lunch, we hit Via del Corso to check out i saldi, or sales. In Italy, there are approximately two times a year when major sales happen. There’s one that occurs through July/August, and one that occurs in February/March. Ironically, we all just bought underwear.

Pizzeria Baffetto, salame

Friday, one of my classmates took us to her shawarma place. Huda, born in Syria but living in Qatar, had not eaten meat since she arrived to respect her faith. However, she found a little shop that served halal meat, and so she took us to the restaurant to get shawarma for lunch. I’d never had it before, but it was a flavorful treat for us all. Since the restaurant owner noticed that she kept coming back and bringing more friends with her, he gave us complimentary dessert: Syrian baklava! After lunch, I decided to treat myself with a pedicure. At this spa, Wellness Aquarium, there a tanks filled with garra rufa fish, who feast on the dead skin cells of feet. When I put my feet in, they flocked to my legs and began munching. It tickled, and I struggled not to laugh out loud. However, when I pulled my feet out at the end of the half hour, they were baby smooth!

Lamb shawarma, compliments of Huda
Syrian baklava with Huda and Mary Claire
Garra rufa
Very ticklish!


1 – Sono Tornataaa!

The First Gelato Upon Return

So I’m finally back in Rome, and I’m ecstatic. Not only does it feel like a homecoming, but I’m more confident than I’ve ever been in my conversational Italian abilities. Before I arrived here, I had taken part in a program with VoluntarItaly where I served as an English TA for a summer camp called GREST. There I was working with elementary school kids from 8:00a to 5:00p, so it’s been great to have time to myself these days.

On the first day of class, I had to run to catch the bus. While I was running, all I could think is, “First class back in Rome and I’m already running for transport. Typical.” Once I arrived at ItaliaIdea, I was told to go into classroom 6. Unknowingly, they had placed me in the beginner classroom. I thought to myself, “Okay, I can just stick it out the first week and maybe I’ll learn something new.” We started out by learning how to introduce ourselves, and I knew that if I was going to learn anything in the class, it would probably be at the end of the six weeks. I needed to switch out. Shortly after the mid class break, I asked the teacher to be switched to the proper level. I later found out that the man who had my correct placement had been out sick the day I arrived. I later met my proper classmates, most of which come from the U.S. and one from Barcelona.

Later Monday night, we went to Rec 23, a local bar that hosts a ‘language exchange’ every Monday night. At this exchange, Italians come to the bar to meet foreigners and practice another language that they are studying, whether it be English, Spanish, etc. I had gone before when I was abroad last year, and ended up making friends with some of the students of Universita’ Roma Tre. During the summer, the language exchange moves out by the Tiber River in a sort of festival called TeverEstate. It was nice to go with classmates and see new Italian faces. During the rest of the week, I got to know my classmates better and we all had lunch together in a park near Largo Argentina after my second class. My first in-class exam will be next Tuesday over conjunctions and direct and indirect pronouns. Wish me luck!

Park View from Tuesday’s Lunch

In addition to the SLA, I’ve been working on an application for the Fulbright Fellowship Program. It has been a bit weird doing the application abroad with remote advisor meetings. It feels strange to me that I’m working on this application to go abroad while I am abroad, but I’ve been sure to balance my time so I can work on the application and have meetings but still complete my assignments and engage the city.

Another pleasant highlight of the week was meeting an old friend, Flora, to go out on Friday night. I had met her and three other Italian students at the Rec 23 Language exchange last year. The others were back home in Calabria for the summer, however. We went to a bar called Black Market in Monti, a very chic neighborhood just east of the Colosseum. Tonight (Saturday), I am meeting one of my classmates and his visiting college friend for karaoke!