Archive for the ‘Lauren in Rome’ Category


Lauren: Milan, Verona, Venice

August 8, 2011

Friday, July 22 – Rome to Milan
It was another early morning of travel for the crew.  Everything was going smoothly enough as it can in hectic Rome, until a girl we were with, Alyssa, realized she didn’t have her passport with her, which caused her to miss our flight to Milan. However, she made plans to meet with us in Verona the next day, so her weekend wasn’t completely ruined.

We made it to Milan bright and early.  It looked much like Rome—except more industrial.  We checked our bags at the hostel and set out for a day of Shopping.  We made our way to Milan’s famous duomo, which is the third largest cathedral in the world.  It was awe-inspiring, and probably one of my favorites for the entire trip.

It was interesting (and refreshing) to find that a lot of the shopping in Milan was cheaper than that in Rome.  However, this prompted me to do a lot of damage with the credit card (oops).  That night we found a Tex-Mex Restaurant near our hotel and decided to take our chances with tacos and enchiladas, italian-style.  It was excellent.

July 23 – Milan to Verona
The next morning, we took an hour long train east from Milan to Verona.  When we entered the station, it was down pouring, which wasn’t fun.  We struggled for a bit finding the right bus to our hostel, which was somewhat outside the city and located on a vineyard, but eventually figured it out around the same time the rain stopped.

After finding our hostel, which turned out to be a huge hotel, we ventured into the city center for some Shakespeare exploring.  First stop, was the Capulet’s house, where we saw Juliet’s balcony, which was completely overcrowded. Afterwards, we went upstairs to write our love letters to Juliet, asking for advice and whatnot.  I felt weird writing to a fictional character.

We then walked along the river, did some souvenier shopping, and tried to see Juliet’s tomb, only to get there and find that it was already closed.  That night, we had a private wine tasting at our hotel with a middle aged German woman who was absolutely hilarious. 

July 24 – Verona to Venice, Venice to Rome
The next morning, we packed up and it was off to Venice, which was the city I had been most excited for. And it did not disappoint!  I’ve never been anywhere quite like it.  The city is truly unique.  We simply let ourselves get lost in the city and somehow ended up everywhere we had wanted to go.  Much of the day was dedicated to glass shopping, and we all spoiled ourselves with jewelry.

We went on a gondola ride, which may have been overpriced, but it was still totally worth it.  We drank Bellini’s and took in our surroundings.  It was magnificent.  We then climbed to the top of the bell tower and got a view of Venice from above, which was just as surreal.

In the early evening, we made our way to the airport, and it was back to Rome.  The entire weekend was wonderful, with my favorite city being Venice.  However, I hope that one day I have the chance to visit all three once again.


Lauren: Week 5

July 25, 2011

Tuesday, July 19th –
We returned from a trip to Paris the night before around midnight.  I had two papers to finish writing, one for my Media Class, and the other for my Art History final.  I finalized both Tuesday morning, and it was a relief to be done with the both of them (especially Art History).  For my media class, we had a guest speaker.  He was a very intelligent man, but not entirely good at public speaking.  It further confirmed how important it is to be able to communicate with others.

In Art History, we received our final exam grades (I got a B+).  Soooo happy to almost be done with this class.  My teacher, Pia, is absolutely terrible.  That night, we went out to celebrate finishing our research papers.  It was Scholar’s again for Karaoke, which was great, as always.

Wednesday, July 20th –
I spent the day out and about in Rome with friends.  We went shopping on Del Corso and I picked up a few gifts for my loved ones back home!

That night, we tried out a new place called “DJ Bar”, which was great!  We had a ton of fun dancing the night away…and it really hit me how much I’m going to miss all my new friends!!  Especially the ones from Michigan State, who I won’t have the ability to see for quite some time!

Thursday, July 21st –
We went to Vatican Radio Station to have a personal interview with our professor, Sean Patrick.  It was weird being in a recording studio and being asked questions based on my resume, but it was also a very eye-opening experience!  This has been one of the best classes I have ever taken.

The rest of the day was dedicated to packing for the weekend, which consisted trips to Milan, Verona, and Venice!  Stay tuned for more on that trip


Lauren: Quick updates

July 23, 2011

Tuesday, July 12 – For my communications class, we discussed the role of newspaper, and how it must be looked at analogically in order to find greater meaning.  It was very interesting, as always!  Our professor is absolutely amazing, and probably one of the best I have ever had!Sorry for the wait!  It’s been a very busy week and a half!  Here’s a quick summary before I get to the good stuff!

Monday, July 11 – We needed a day of rest from our busy weekend in Florence.  My roommate, Janel, made a fabulous chicken dinner and we stayed in for some roomie bonding!  We also watched the movie, “Letters to Juliet” which made me very excited to go to Verona!

That night, we went to an amazing spaghetteria.  I had pasta with smoked cheese, bacon, olive oil, and onions.  It was DELICIOUS.  After dinner, we (once again) went to karaoke, got ridiculous, and rocked the place!!  As always, it was awesome!  Several song highlights include Independent Woman (Destiny’s Child), Jitterbug (Wham), and My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion). 

Thursday, July 14 – Our communications professor took us to see an ancient “Domus” (aka Roman house) that was found beneath a palace in the center of Rome.  They believe it once belonged to a senator.  The house itself was discovered merely six years ago, while renovating the palace cellars.  Since then, the area has continuously been in a process of excavation.  The floor there was completely glass, so we were able to see under into the ruins at all times.  At first, it was a little scary, but ultimately I got used to it.  They did a really great job on the tour of incorporating sound and projections, which made the space come to life.  I think that my dad would appreciate the design elements they used, and I would love to take him here if we ever get the chance.

After this class, we had our Art History final.  Don’t worry, I rocked it. 


Lauren: Celebrating America, not in America

July 10, 2011

It was another beautiful week in Italy!

Monday we celebrated the 4th of July.  It was a very bizarre to celebrate a holiday like that in a foreign country, where it was just another day for the Italians.  It was also weird not being in America to partake in Independence Day Traditions—no fireworks, no parades, no family get-togethers, no barbeques!  We did what we could though to make the evening memorable—and memorable it was! 

For lunch, a group of people went to McDonald’s (one of the very few American “restaurants” in Rome).  The food was typical quality for the place – however I was surprised to learn that it’s not cheap here, at all!  What would cost me roughly $6 in the US cost me 10 euro here (which is $15)!  I felt absolutely ridiculous spending that much for a simple meal…but I consoled myself by keeping to the motto, “I did it for America”.

Getting by with what we have!

After that, there was some downtime until dinner, where we all got together at the boys’ house and had an Independence Day pot luck!  Each apartment was in charge of bringing something different—and they knew to trust me with the simple stuff (like ketchup, mustard, and frozen fries).  All together we had a very nice spread of boiled hotdogs, fruit salad, and about 2.5 pounds of pasta salad!  We drank Budweisers the boys had picked up for the occasion and eventually went to a piazza in Rome, referred to as Campo de’ Fiori.  Campo de’ Fiori serves as a marketplace during the daytime, but at night it is typically an American draw, having bars on all sides that serve US beer and play American pop music.  We usually do not go here, as pickpockets tend to target the area, but in honor of the 4th we decided to take our chancing and party with our fellow Americans!  In all, the evening was quite the success!

…so much of Tuesday was dedicated to rest and relaxation, with Wednesday providing more of the same since it’s my day off from class.  During these two days, I read both the first and second novels in the Hunger Games Trilogy.  It’s a complex storyline, but actually a very easy read!  I strongly recommend reading them!  But if that’s not your cup of tea, the first movie of the franchise (starring Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence) will be out in March 2012.  Going slightly off topic, but still speaking of movie franchises, I’m going crazy trying to find an english speaking movie theater here!  I originally thought that Harry Potter would be kept in its original language, but with Italian subtitles—but it turns out it’s completely dubbed over everywhere we’ve looked!  Seeing as the movie comes out in a couple days (which is the last Harry Potter and will be my first in six that I haven’t attended the midnight premiere) it’s been very VERY stressful!


At TG5 with the rest of my class

On Thursday I went to one of the media centers under Berlusconi’s control, MEDIASET.  A couple posts back I referred to the fact that Berlusconi controls all of the media here, including print and online, which results in a lot of bias for the controversial prime minister.  His programming often included dubbed over American soap operas, VH1 type shows with barely dressed girls, and bias political programs in which he reigns supreme.  It’s ridiculous how much control he has here!  Security to get into the center was more strict than even the Vatican, as we had to go through several metal detectors, have our passports verified, and had to be patted down.


However, once we were in the center it was very interesting!  We saw where their most popular talk shows take place (in which the audience consists of paid actors), and even got to be news anchors for a couple minutes!  It was an eye opening experience into how communications vary across the globe.  In fact, the station was still in the process of fully switching over to digital!

Afterwards was my Art History midterm, which was much harder than I thought it was going to be.  Keep your fingers crossed for me and my knowledge of doric, ionic, and corinthian style architectural orders!


Lauren: Naples, Pompeii, Capri, Sorrento

July 4, 2011

Flying Penis

This past weekend was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  On Friday morning, our group, led by my Art History professor, Pia, met to take a (very nice) bus for to Naples and Pompeii for the day.  In Naples we visited the Naples Archeology Museum.  Here I saw the original statue of Atlas holding up the world, and several other very beautiful and famous pieces.  We have been in a lot of museums lately, but what really set this one apart was the artwork they had from Pompeii.  Before the eruption, Pompeii was a prospering city that had a great love of…uhm…sex.  They regarded the male genitalia as lucky and powerful, and a lot of their artwork depicted this.  Much of the Museum felt like a collection of ancient porn, and judging by all the giggles from us girls, I think my professor may have overestimated our maturity. 

However, in all the Museum itself was great, but Naples isn’t somewhere I have a desire to go again.  There is a strike going on right now involving the government, the mafia, and the garbage workers.  I’m not sure of the details, but the result of whatever conflict this is was disgusting.  I did have some of the best pizza I have ever had while there though, so they at least get kudos for that.

After the Museum, we took the bus another 30 minutes to the ancient city of Pompeii.  This experience was very exciting.  Our tour focused more on the architecture of the buildings rather than the greatly preserved bodies, but we were also able to see some of those as well – which were very eerie.  One interesting thing I learned while there is that the ruins now serve as a home to about 30 stray dogs.  There are signs up saying not to touch the animals, and one might wonder why they are there, but what I have noticed in Italy is that they are much more relaxed about allowing animals indoors, which would explain why they do not care if the dogs have decided the ancient city is their new home.  Two of the dogs took quite a fancy to our group, and walked with us for a majority of it – made me miss my puppy dogs (who I hear are doing great and are being well cared for!)

The group inside an ancient Theatre in Pompeii
Paige and I


Once we were done with Pompeii, we got on a half hour train to Sorrento.  Sorrento and Naples are both the same distance to Capri, however a lot of us felt much safer staying somewhere other than Naples for the night.  After some confusion finding the way to our hostel, we were happy to see just how nice it was!  The owners were great and very friendly, and our rooms overlooked the beautiful bay.  That night we went out for dinner at a seafood restaurant by our hostel.  I was very excited to try the fish here, as we were so close to the Mediterranean!  But much to my surprise, and I don’t know why I didn’t expect it in the first place, but my meal came out with a face!  It was a whole fish!  Not a filet!  It had a head!  And a tail!  And bones!  Not knowing how to react, I began laughing hysterically, along with everyone else I was traveling with!  I remember my Grandma bringing over fish like this to our house when we were younger, and I remember always refusing to eat them.  I hope she’d be proud to know that I finally overcame my fear and grossed-out-ness and I ate this fish!  It was delicious!  I don’t regret getting it in the slightest.

That night some of us indulged in the local wine, but overall it was an early night – as we had to be up early the next morning for our day trip to Capri!  At 7 am, we all met in the lobby and ate a so-so breakfast provided by our hostel.  Then it was on to the ferry to Capri!  It took about 30 minutes, and provided us with some great views of Sorrento by sea!

More exciting parts of the tour included….It’s hard to find the words to describe the beauty in Capri.  So I’ll let a lot of my pictures do the work.  We rented a boat around the island, which lasted about 2 hours.  Unfortunately, the Blue Grotto was closed due to a dangerously high tide, but we were still able to see both the White Grotto, and the Green Grotto – which we were also able to swim in!  Swimming in the Green Grotto was an experience I will never forget.  It was hard to swim, so you had to let the waves carry you.  In the arch that blocked out the sunlight, the water was illuminated to the most beautiful bluish/green color.  You could see everything in the water it was so lit up!  It was one of the coolest things I have ever done.
The Island!


Capri’s Famous Arch

After our tour, we ate a pretty expensive lunch on the coast.  This time, I decided to skip the fish and went with the safe option of Chicken and a side salad.  Next, a small group of girls decided to take a ski-lift type contraption up to the topmost point of Capri.  This was TERRIFYING.  After buying our tickets, we discovered that you had to travel up the 15 minute ski lift BY YOURSELF in a wooden seat that looked about 20 years old.  I was convinced to do it, and instantly regretted the decision – but once I was on, I had to stay on, until the very tippy top.  There were even points during the trip that we were traveling at an almost vertical incline.  As we got higher and higher, I became less anxious, and was able to relax slightly. 
While it was very scary, it was also 100% worth it once arriving from the top.

The scenes from up above were breathtaking.  Here are a few:

The million dollar yachts turned into little white ants…


The Arch from Above!


Found an awesome statue at the top!


Capri is spectacular.

In all, it was one of the best days of my life.  I wish that my family and friends could have been there to share the experience with me.  That night we took the train back from Naples to Rome (where I met one of the doctors for the US Women’s Soccer team!  Having taken care of the team for the North Korea match, he was allowed to go on holiday for the week – and wouldn’t ya know it he chose Rome!)  He was very nice and helped us find our way from train station to train station.  He and I discussed the World Cup and what chances the US had at winning – it was very exciting!  I couldn’t help but think how jealous my sister and dad would have been!

It’s another week of school for me now, but today has been a chance for my roomies and I to catch up on SLEEP!  Hope you all enjoy the pictures!


Lauren: Week two

July 1, 2011

It has officially been two weeks since I arrived in the Eternal City!  I know I said I was feeling homesick—that feeling has passed (although I do wish I could be home to help out my mother, who broke her ankle two days ago.

I have had many more adventures since visiting the Colosseum.  We were supposed to have a field trip to Tivoli on Friday, but while we were at the Roman Forum the day before my art history professor, Pia, became sick, so the trip was postponed.  My roommates and I instead used Friday and a large part of Saturday to catch up on rest!  We also visited Villa Borghese (a park shaped in a heart—comparable in atmosphere to New York’s Central Park).

Sunday was a very exhausting, yet funfilled day.  In the morning, we traveled with my art class to the ancient city of Ostia Antica.  In its prime, the city served as Rome’s harbour for imports, and was then located on the banks of the Tiber River.  It is said to have been founded in the 7th century, and grew to be home to almost 50,000 citizens!  The experience was very interesting, although the tour we were on did get a little long…the 90 degree weather and lack of shade was very tiring!

Because Ostia is close to the coast, we then traveled 10 minutes to the Mediterranean Sea, where we swam in the refreshing water and tried to relax at the very crowded beach for several hours.  I didn’t much enjoy the salt water, but it was very nice to cool down from all the heat.

That night we went to one of our favorite restaurants in Rome, Tony’s, where we have become regular customers.  They spoil us at Tony’s, with free bread, free italian ice, and even free limoncello!  Plus they have amazing food!  We have gone there 3 times in two weeks, and I have a feeling we will be there many more times before the trip is over!  After dinner, we went to Scholar’s Pub, an irish bar that attracts many American students due to the fact that they have Karaoke on Tuesday and Sunday nights. Needless to say, it was a good time.

Fireworks for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Monday was a day of rest in which I finally got around to watching Gladiator.  The battle sequences that occurred in the Colosseum gave me chills.  It’s crazy to imagine that people used to watch these warriors kill for entertainment!

Tuesday involved a guest speaker, James Walston, in my Italian Communications class.  An expert in Italian Politics, James told us many interesting facts about current situations in the country and also about their current (controversial) prime minister, Bersculoni.  Turns out he owns/controls most of the media here, so newspapers, magazines, and even television programs are all very bias (in favor of him).  It astonishes me that this is the case – just imagine if Obama had the same control!

Wednesday was a very religious holiday in Rome celebrating the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, so much of the city was closed.  I was supposed to go to a mass led by the Pope at the Vatican that morning, but due to a severely annoying miscommunication that was unable to happen. That night, however, a group of us went out to dinner at a Spaghetteria, where we had some of our best food since arriving!  We made sure to inform our waiters that we will be returning in the near future!  That night in honor of the holiday there were amazing fireworks!

Today I visited an ancient Palace in the middle of the city, in which the original owners still live, having had it passed down through their families for generations upon generations.  Today, the palace serves as both living quarters for the remaining family members and a private gallery. It was absolutely beautiful!

Tomorrow I am going to Naples/Pompeii with my Art History class, which I am really excited for.  We then are planning on staying in Sorrento for the night and going to Capri for a day trip!  I can’t wait to see the Blue Grotto.  Seriously, google “Capri Blue Grotto” – you will be amazed!


Lauren: Ultra-exclusive trip to Vatican

June 24, 2011

Today turned out to be another quite exhausting, yet extraordinary day in Rome! 

Starting at 9 AM, I went to the Vatican for my Italian Media class.  Turns out my professor, Sean-Patrick Lovett, is the Communications and Media director for the Catholic City.  His high rank really helped speed things along, as we were able to walk to the front of the line past hundreds of waiting people, and with a show of his Vatican passport and ID, all 12 of us students were in! 

On top of the Radio T

On the tour, we were permitted to go a lot of places in Vatican City that normal tourists aren’t allowed to, specifically into the Vatican’s government building, the headquarters for the Vatican Radio (which is the most popular station in the world, and is broadcast in over 40 languages), and also to the top of the Radio Tower, which provided us with beautiful pictures with St. Peter’s as the backdrop. 

Simply put, the Vatican was beautiful!  The gardens in them reminded me of something one would see in an Alice in Wonderland moive.  Turns out the Pope has his own medieval waterfall!  Also turns out that the Vatican can’t decide which climate it wants to be – the city boosted a wide array of evergreens, cactus, palm trees, and maccaws.  The entire experience was quite surreal.

Pope’s private waterfall


Lauren: First few days in Rome

June 22, 2011

Buorngiorno!  Pardon the lack of updates since I have landed in beautiful Italy, but much of the last few days has been devoted to making new friends, catching up on sleep, and seeing some of the sights!

Much of my first day simply consisted of pushing through exhaustion and then ultimately catching up on sleep.  Once we landed we were transported as a group by coach bus to the Piazza Mazzini.  From there, we were divided up according to where we were living and sent to our apartment for the day to get some sleep!  I was able to really converse with my roommates, Molly, Janel, and Heather for the first time.  They are all incredibly nice and I think we are going to have an extraordinary time together!

Piazza Navona

Friday was a much busier day.  At 10 am we met for the first time at our ACCENT student center in the Piazza dell’Orologio.  Our first experience with the public transportation, much to my surprise, did not end in disaster and we were not only able to find the center alright, but we were on time as well!

After our orientation we were free to walk around.  A couple of us walked around the beautiful Piazza Navona (which is right next to our school), and at six we met once again for evening drinks with our (super cute Italian) guide, Francesco!

My boyfriend, Brody, and his friend, Mike, were in Rome as well, having spent the last part of the month traveling around Europe and visiting Brody’s mom (who lives in Luxembourg).  They met up with us too, and it was incredibly nice to spend time with him!

Rome is so beautiful.  Even walking down side streets you can see ancient columns sticking out of buildings.  I love that the aquaducts here can be used for bubblers, and the tap water is simply AMAZING!

Sunday morning included a walking tour of the area around our student center.  On this tour, we made a stop at the Pantheon.  The inside of the building is gorgeous.  So far I have been very snap happy with my camera!  I will have to post pictures soon!

Sunday night was Brody’s last in town, and we went to both the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain with a couple others students.  I was underwhelmed by the Spanish Steps, although I have to admit that I didn’t quite know what I was supposed to expect—so I think that confusion added to that.

The Trevi Fountain, however, was SPECTACULAR!  We all made sure to throw our coins over our shoulders and into the fountain to ensure that we would one day return!

Monday was a day of rest for myself, up until getting lost on public transit for two hours while trying to meet up with friends for dinner.  Today, I have started my classes, which consist of Italian Media and Communications, and Art History.  Both seem as though they will be really enjoyable and interesting.  Thursday I will be heading to the Vatican for my Italian Media class.  Stay tuned!


Lauren: Exhaustion

June 16, 2011

Greetings!  I am writing to you from somewhere over the continental United States!  So far the journey (from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, back down to Chicago, and onto the plane to Rome) as been going smoothly enough, with the exception of some confusion as the massive O’Hare airport and a bit of turbulence we experienced leaving rainy Chicago.

It has been quite a process getting me prepared for my trip to Rome – with several shopping trips and extensive fashion research to ensure that I don’t look like a hunky-dory tourist my entire stay (which I probably still will anyways).  Monday night I finally had to stop the procrastinating, and my mom and I worked hard to check off every item on my VERY extensive packing list.  Since I’ll be away for six weeks in a foreign country, it’s hard to know for sure which material items I will miss the most and which will be most helpful.  Being a chronic over-packer, I can say with positivity that a good amount of stuff in my suitcase will probably never be used or worn in Italy.  Oh well.

One thing I am glad to have packed is my handheld mini fan, since Italians apparently don’t believe in air conditioning.  As childish as these neon battery-powered fans may be, I have a feeling that they are going to become quite a luxury item for me.  Funny isn’t it?  The things that you take for granted everyday?

My mom and I drove up to Minneapolis yesterday along with my (adorable) puppy, Oliver.  Although we had a connecting flight in Chicago, and it would have been easier to drive down there and fly directly, I am glad that I chose to travel with the group.  This morning I met about ten people in my program, most of whom are from the University of Minnesota or a college nearby.  Everyone seems very pleasant and excited to start our adventure!  So far I’ve met two of my Roman roomies, Heather and Janel.  We all share a love of Harry Potter, along with quite a few others on the trip, so we have so far been able to bond over our love for all things HP.

I had a lunch of parmesan cheez itz and a casear salad wrap before leaving Chicago, and was just served a chicken dinner on the flight (which actually was not bad, especially considering that it’s airplane food).

Before dinner I was able to see the hook of Massachusetts and a lot of the US shoreline as we began to travel over the Atlantic Ocean. I lucked out with a window seat!  It is beginning to get dark outside, which means I should probably start considering going to sleep so the jet-lag isn’t so bad.

So goodnight and goodbye America!  See you in six weeks!


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