Friday, June 27, 2008


So Thursday afternoon, I got home back to my house, which was a relieving feeling. My mom had a nice dinner planned with my family and grandparents. After dinner, we had some dessert and coffee. It was weird to go back to American coffee after this time of drinking cafes and cappuccinos. As i was drinking it, I didn't even notice how fast I was finishing my cup. I had gotten into such a habit of drinking my coffee so fast because that is how it is done in Rome, that I was three quarters through my cup in about five minutes. Even though it is such a minor difference, its interesting how your habits can change so quickly just by being in a different culture for a short period of time.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


This blog has been about my experience while studying abroad in Rome. It was a life-changing trip, and something I am very glad that is well documented, because I will want to remember and share my times with others. More specifically, this blog focused on 3 aspects of Rome. I wrote on the themes of cafes and churches, and about Piazza Navona. I have become somewhat of a mini expert on all of these, so enjoy reading about my trip. Ciao!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Knowing Piazza Navona

So after being at Piazza Navona everyday for almost seven weeks now, I have noticed one general thing: It doesn't change. It is the same waiters at the restaurants everyday, the same vendors selling art, and the same tour guides bringing through tourists. Tourists are the reason for the existence of the piazza. The same man plays the same music on his guitar every night. The groupd of Arts and Architecture that live in Piazza Navona close their windows every night around the same time because they hear his repetitive songs everyday. I find it ironic that this place has such a great reputation but to someone living in Rome, it may get a little boring.

Doria Pamphili

Last week, one day after class, we had the option of going to into the Galleria Doria Pamphilj. This gallery is in the same building as our school here in Rome. And considering it is one of the best art galleries in the city, I definitely took the advantage of going for free courtesy of Penn State. So a few of us went with Mike and Jenny, and it may be my favorite gallery I’ve been to yet. The audio guide here is free, and that helped a lot. This gallery has more paintings than any other one in Rome, and I don’t know much about art, but it was awesome. The most famous painting we saw was a portrait of Pope Innocent X. It was an amazing painting, but what I liked better was the sculpture of Innocent X. There was actually two of them there by Bernini. There is two because one of them broke before, and then Bernini boasted about how he could make another one in just ten days, and he did it and it was just as beautiful. There were so many paintings there with awesome stories behind them. Another one that sticks out in my mind was the painting of St. John the Baptists head on a silver plate. It actually made me sad and angry looking at considering the story behind it and how genuine it looked.

Market Walk

Today we took our walk with our small group and Hilary. It was Courtney’s topic of markets, so I walked to the girls place at 8:30 in the morning and then we walked to meet Hilary in Testachio. We walked to an indoor market there. They sell everything there from shoes to fresh fruit. I saw some things there I haven’t seen much of in other places, for example Skippy’s peanut butter. I have found that peanut butter in general is hard to come by here. This market was different than the ones I have been to so far. First of all it was inside, which makes it less likely for people to just wander through. Also it is in a much less touristy part of Rome. The combination of these two facts creates a much less crowded environment and better prices for good food.

After we walked through here a bit, we traveled along the river up to the Synagogue and through the Jewish ghetto to Campo di Fiori. I was happy we were going here because I have heard that it is great during the day and I haven’t made it there yet. This market couldn’t be more opposite than the first one. It is completely open and a bit touristy. It does have decent prices, but all fruits and vegetables in Rome are. One thing that stuck out in mind about the vegetables here was the eggplant. It was almost the size of a football. All of the fruits and veggies at these markets are of better quality than in most supermarkets. Here they have cheap souvenirs too. They might not be the best quality, but it is a good place to shop.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Grantia di Cafe

Today my roommate Sam took me to Casa del Cafe, a very well known cafe in Rome. Since it was very hot today, we ordered a granita di cafe. This is an iced espresso served in a small plastic cup, highly resembling water ice. If desired, they add whip cream to either the top or the top and bottom. I asked for it just on top, and it added the perfect sweetness to the strongly flavored espresso. This was probably my most favorite thing I've bought at a cafe yet. The espresso mixed with the ice and whip cream just melts in your mouth. I highly suggest anyone in Rome to go try one of these. I know I will be back there before I leave which sadly is in 6 days.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Italy Advances in Eurocup

Here are some videos I took of a small riot after Italy won their soccer match against France Tuesday night June 17th.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Three Churches Description

The first church on the walk was my favorite one, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. This church is the only gothic church in Rome, both in architecture and style. There are noticeably more skulls and crossbones and art of that sort throughout the church. They also use a lot of dark marble which is very appealing. The next church is the Pantheon, one of the more famous ones throughout the city. It used to be a pagan temple and was converted by the Catholic church. It has an open dome in the middle, so when it rains, it actually rains inside the church which I think is pretty cool. Nobody knows how the formed their concrete to build the church because it has been standing much longer than normal concrete would allow. The next church is St. Eustachio. In medieval times, many charitable brotherhoods elected St. Eustachio as their patron and had chapel there. The Romanesque bell tower is one of the few surviving remains of the medieval church. St Eustachio's life story is very interesting, and is in a previous blog I posted.

Guided Walk, Three Churches

This guided walk will take you to three significant churches very close together in the heart of Rome. It would be a great way to dedicate a small chunk of time to see three beautiful churches, and get a cup of the best coffee and a slice of the best pizza during a stay in Rome.

We will start our walk where we attend school at Piazza de Collegio Romano. Walk east down Via Pie della Marmo . Along this street there is my favorite pizza place, it's the best I've been to and i can't stop going back. Then bear right on Villa de Santa Caterina where my favorite church is on your right, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. After exiting the church, take a right and walk alongside The Pantheon, our second church on the journey. When exiting the Pantheon, take a direct left on to Salita de Crescenzi where on your right where be the church of St. Eustachio. In this piazza, one of the most cafes I've previously blogged about is here, Cafe St. Eustachio, so i recommend stopping there at some point.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Angels and Demons: Piazza Navona

All throughout Rome the past week or so the motion picture Angels and Demons has been being filmed in different parts of Rome including the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and as I just saw the other night, Piazza Navona. I yet again stumbled upon another blog entry. The movie is being filmed based upon the book Angels and Demons that was written by Dan Brown. In the book, a series of murders occur following a theme of earth, water, fire, and air. One of the four preferiti (cardinal who is thought to possibly become next pope) is brutally drowned at the Fountain of Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. I am going to have to read this book when I go home and see the movie, considering I’ve seen it being filmed in multiple places throughout the city.

Church of Boy's Town

While in Boy’s Town last week, we were taken through the church they have there. Now many of the boys are not Catholic, because the countries they draw from are very west of Rome, around the Middle East area. The church was obviously not comparable at all to the churches around Rome, but it had a very homely feeling toward it. It was a bit gloomy, with cement walls and a small alter with a crucifix above. I could be wrong, but I think it was the first church I’ve seen in Europe that had the Stations of the Cross on the sides of the church interior. They had beautiful stained glass windows and a very cool engraving in the wall of different happy people as you enter the church on your left. They have a statue of Jesus in the back of the church with no arms, and we were told that the people who live in Boy’s Town are to be the arms of Jesus. I’m sure mass on Sundays here is a very inspiring place to be.

Church of Boy's Town

Botanical Gardens

Just north of Trastevere, right at Palazzo Corsini lays the beautiful Botanical Gardens. This park was established in 1883 when this part of the grounds was given to the University of Rome. There are more than 7000 different plant species from all over the world including sequoias, palm trees, and collections of bromeliads and orchids. Indigenous and exotic species are grouped to illustrate their botanical families and their adaptation to different climates and ecosystems. The gardens are open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm.

Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo is a 58 room museum that used to be Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum among other things such as a prison and a residence of popes during political unrest. The Vatican Corridor leads right from the Vatican Palace to the castle, and was built to provide an escape route for the pope if he were to ever be in danger. The castle entails many important features including: the staircase of Alexander VI that cuts through the heart of the building, the illusionistic frescoes by Perin del Vaga and Pellegrino Tibaldi, the gigantic bronze statue atop the castle of the Archangel Michael, and much, much more. The castle is open to the public 9:00 am – 8:00 pm Tuesday to Sunday.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Boy's Town of Italy

Boy’s Town was not exactly what I expected, but it was a very cool place and I was glad to be able to experience it. We were guided through the town by a few faculty there and two boys living there. The place wasn’t very active. Many of the kids were away because school had recently let out. The boys there range from 8-18 years of age. One thing I loved about the place is that they are free to come and go as they please, but so many of them consider the place their home that they don’t want to leave. The few boys we saw seemed extremely friendly and close to each other; they weren’t afraid to goof around or give each other hugs. Many of them attend school within the city of Rome and not actually on the grounds of Boy’s Town. Once the boys are 18, they are aided in the process of finding work, but the faculty touring us said it is very difficult sometimes to be successful in finding a job.

The boys there pretty much run the town themselves. They have meetings a few times a week to discuss things that happen in the town and decisions that need to be made. They elect a new mayor every two months so that almost everyone gets a turn. Adults are allowed to be present at these meetings, but are not allowed to speak at them. We were taken through where the boys make their own wine, and in the cellars they have pictures from when the boys used to actually squish their grapes with their feet. They took us through their ceramics studio which was very impressive. Many of the boys there are extremely skills in the trades they are taught in. We also saw their basketball courts and soccer field. The boys there love their soccer, and compete against other schools and have numerous championships. Their trophy room is filled with trophies from soccer and other numerous events.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Santa Maria della Vittoria

Santa Maria della Vittoria

Santa Maria della Vittoria is a beautiful church I visited the other day. It is the home of one of Bernini's most famous works, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa. It is a beautiful sculpture of her lying on a cloud with her mouth half open and a drapery covering her body. Looking over her is angel with an arrow that is about to pierce her body. Behind the sculpture are rays bronze light. This is the first sculpture I have seen so far that has an audience sculpted on the sides of the area where the sculpture is, resembling a theater or stage. The rest of the church was also beautiful; I caught a great picture of stained glass. In the sacristy, they sell multiple items that the priests there make to raise money. They make some alcohol, candy, and medicine in little viles for different purposes. I bought a bag of berry hard candy and they are delicious. This one another great church, probably one of my top 5.

MY bar

So after a few weeks of going to the same bar right near my appartment I would say about 3 times a week, I can tell I'm getting noticed and remembered. When I would first go in there, they would serve people before me who came in after me that it seemed they knew. Now, if I go in there, I am looked at quite promptly and asked what I would like. Now I continuously order and talk in Italian while there, which I can tell they appreciate. On their menu, the price for a cappuccino is listed at 1.30, and I have definitely been charged that before. But today, when I put 1.50 on the table, she gave me .50 back. I let her keep this as a tip, and she thankfully said, "Grazie." So it seems, and I noticed after this, that they will charge a little less for customers they know/appreciate. It seems I have fully submerged myself into the somewhat complex Italian coffee culture, and I am happy about that.

Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica is a ruins site right outside of Rome. It used to be a sea port and military base with its chief import being grain from Africa. The city was completely under sand fro centuries, and eventually excavated.

While walking through today, the ruins were awesome to look at. It was hard to believe that the places we were walking through were completely underground for such a long time. At one point during our wander through, we came across a small area that used to be used for to shopping and a place to eat an drink. This is very much like modern day Roman piazzas. It was a small little area, and on of the few areas we saw still with a roof. The coolest thing was a small structure that was amazingly similar to what a modern day bar looks like (in the picture above). It had a skinny entrance with a L shaped table shaped for standing, not sitting, and a shelf behind it and under the table for food and drink. The construction of this and all the ruins were extremely well done to be still standing today. It was a beautiful day with plenty of sun and a light breeze, adding to the calm and surreal atmosphere throughout the ruins.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pre - Boy's Town Trip

Boy's town of Rome is an orphanage right outside the city of Rome. The city is run and taken care of by the orphan boys who live there. They live there until they are about 18 or so and learn all sorts of trades and school such as professional specialization, health education, sport practice, respect of the environment, and many others. It was founded by Msgr. John Patrick Carroll-Abbing of Ireland. The first children he rescued were from WWII war zones, and now children from slums and disaster areas around the world find their way here. After to boys reach 18, they will be assisted even afterwards, if requested by them, to complete their study cycle or to become part of the working world.

Wait Staff in Piazza Navona

Since my last Piazza Navona blog was about some dining habits there, I figured I would continue and probably end the sub theme of restaurants in the piazza. So I took a very slow walk around past pretty much every single restaurant there. I wanted to see if I could find something different, something similar, or anything that struck my attention. What I noticed in particular was the wait staff of all these places. First of all, the staff is predominantly male. And if you are greeted outside the restaurant, I feel like it absolutely always male. They are all somewhat attractive men dressed in a three piece suite with friendly but stern posture. If you make eye contact with them, they immediately give a little head gesture or very small bow, sometimes extending a hand and ask if you would like to dine there, almost like a fisherman anxiously but calmly watching a fish creep up on his bait. And if you take the bait and pick a place to eat there, the wait staff is so friendly and real to you and literally happy to serve you. It gives you a very nice sense of Italian culture and dining. The waiters seem interested in all their customers, even willing to have a small conversation with you if you seem equally friendly and they aren’t too busy. A little different than in America, a dining experience in Piazza Navona depends a little less on food quality, but the overall setting and interaction between you and the piazza.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

St. Peter in Chains

St. peter in Chains is a church we visited together during class. Somehow I forgot to blog about this earlier, and I haven't been in any new this week so now is a good to get it in. It is an important church for two reasons. The first reason, where there church gets its name from, is because it holds the chains that bound St. Peter when was in Jerusalem. According to legend, when Eudoxia, wife of Emperor Valentinian III, gave the chains to Pope Leo I as a gift, he compared them to the chains of St. Peter's final imprisonment in Rome and they miraculously fused together. Now they are kept in this church under the main alter in a reliquary (container for relics). The second reason the church is well known is because Michaelangelo's sculpture of Moses is held here. It is amazing larger than life size piece of work. it was completed 1515, and originally intended to be part of massive 47 statue funeral monument for Pope Julius II. But instead it became the centerpiece of his funeral monument and tomb in this church. The church has a beautiful painting on the ceiling above the Nave, and numerous other pieces of artwork.

St. Peter in Chains

Busy Cafes

I went into a the cafe connected to the Tabacchi right near my appartment this morning to try to notice something different the coffee culture. Instead of trying to fit in and worrying about how I looked and if I was acting like a true Roman while going through the cafe experience, I decided to just oder and then take my time, sit back, and view the scene. I noticed a few different things. First of all, as with all the bars around, it seems like there are people who go to the same place every morning at about the same time. These people appear to have a friendly almost join relationship with those who work behind the counter. You can tell that they serve in the order they want, not always necessarily first come first serve, especially with Americans.

I also noticed that grabbing a cup of coffee here is almost just as fast paced in the morning as it is in America. The Romans come in, not necessarily in a rush, but you can tell they have their mind set on a further destination. They still stand at the bar for little, but they finish their coffee quick and get on their way. This differs form American culture where many drive or walk with their coffee, and keep it at their desk at work or counter at home for some time slowly drinking it throughout part of the morning.

There is one last thing that these observations triggered me to notice. IF you go into a cafe in the afternoon or late morning, I have seen ore than a few people or a simple cafe (shot of espresso), literally finish it within 45 seconds, and be on there way. It seems a quick midday jolt is what many Romans need to keep the day going after their lunch or on a short break.

An Afternoon Drink

Today at Piazza Navona, I sat and observed one particular restaurant at around 4:30, an odd time to eat especially in Rome. Now I cold only observe the outside portion of the restaurant, but this is where most people tend to sit when the temperature is pleasing. There was about 20 – 25 tables with light yellow tablecloths and big base square umbrellas blocking the not so shining sun on this particular day. I would say about half of these tables were filled, and of these tables with customers, half of them were couples. That leads to me a conclusion I have made about Roman society: many more Romans travel around in couples rather than groups, which is significantly and recognizably different than social patterns in the United States. Some of those sitting were tourists, some were not, and it seemed that the Romans seemed much more relaxed and knew how to enjoy themselves peacefully more than the others. This also is a common theme among Roman society.

I drew a conclusion from this scene and my experience so far with dining throughout Rome: Romans don’t use restaurants or piazzas the way we use restaurants or malls and outdoor shopping (the closest thing I could come to compare to Roman piazzas, because there really isn’t a good comparison). They use them to almost as we use a bar or coffee shop. But they do it better. To them, these restaurants are a nice place to stop by and grab a quick cup of coffee or a drink with a cigarette, and possibly a small bite to eat. But it seems their underlying reason for all of this is to be able to sit back and balance/enjoy life, even if it be on a shady overcastted Monday afternoon. Maybe people in the Unite States would have a happier start to their week with something like this, instead of just a dreaded day’s work only looking forward to dinner and bed that night.

Borghese Museum

Here, I am going to give you directions to the beautiful Borghese Gallery in Villa Borghese in northern Rome.

While in Piazza Venezia, look for a big main road called Via Del Corso. You can see down the road extremely long, which has awesome shopping and a great environment. It will give you a real feel of the city. It is much easier to walk rather than take public transportation because there is not a close bus station, making buses less convenient. Plus, you save a euro. Take Del Corso all the way to Piazza del Popolo. About half way there you will pass a church called San Carlo al Corso on your left. Continue up the Corso through Piazza del Popolo to Piazza Flaminio. You may have to walk up a winding hill to get to this specific piazza which is at the foot of Villa Borghese. In order to get through the museum, take a stroll through Villa Borghese following Viale del Murotorto. This winds through the park, as you will pass Galoppatoio and come to Piazzele Brasile. Continue in the same direction down Via Pinciana until you get to Viale dell’ Uccelliera, and make a left. This will take you right to the Borghese Gallery.

In order to be able to view the gallery, reservations are mandatory. To find out more information about reservations and cost, visit In the gallery, the amazing art you will find is divided into two sections: a sculpture collection and picture gallery (collection of paintings). A few of the more important works included here are Bernini’s David, his Apollo and Daphne (his most famous sculpture), and Titian’s painting called Sacred and Profane Love. Within the two hours you are allowed here, Rick Steves suggest to spend at least an hour and a half in the ground floor sculpture gallery.

Within a four mile circumference in addition to the gallery and many other attractions, there is a zoo and schools of archeology. It may be quite enjoyable to cover this distance with a nice bike ride (bikes available to rent in the villa).

Cappuchin Crypt

One place of interest we visited as a class was the Cappuchin Crypt. I will give you directions to here from Termini, and then a brief description of what it is.

Go out of the station and head straight until you hit Via del Uiminale and make a left here. Piazza del Repubblica will be on your right. After you pass Teatro dell' Opera on your right, make a right onto Via Agostino. Continue on and pass San Carlo Quatro Fontane on your right, and the street name here will change to this. Continue until you hit Piazza Barbarinni. Then go up Via Vittoria Veneto and the crypt will be along the corner of the curve on your right.

The crypt is one of the most intriguing places I've been so far. The monks here arranged all different kinds of human bones into amazing patterns and designs completely filling the crypt. No pictures can be taken here, but it doesn't even matter because yuo could not capture this feeling or sight with a camera. The humble music they lay in the crypt completely adds to the affect they are trying to give you.

From Termini to Piazza Navona

In this blog, I will give you step by step instructions on how to a first timer in Rome from the main train station, Termini, to Piazza Navona, and also why you should go here.

When you walk out of the train station, onto Vialle L. Einaudi. Follow that through road through Piazza del Repubblica where the name of the road will change to Vitte del Orlando, leading you to Piazza Piazza San Bernardo where there are three different churches to see. Here, hang a left onto Via Barberini, which is main road with many things to see alon the way. The name here changes to Via del Tritone where you will see Piazza Colonna on your left and the Chamber of Deputies on your right. Follow in the same direction onto Uffici del Vicario Follow this road to Via del Scrofa where you will make a left, and stay on this until you hit Via del Giustiniani and make a right. When this road ends, turn left, and then make the first right, and you heading right into Piazza Navona.

Piazza Navona may be one of the most famous Piazzas in in the world. While there, be sure to check out the two fountains at either side and the obelisque and sculptures in the middle. You won't be able to miss any of these things. I would suggest getting a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants here in order to take in the atmosphere a bit. Try to discern the difference between tourists and Romans. If you are visiting at night, make sure you see it during the day, and vice versa. They are both very different, very important experiences in Rome.