Posts Tagged ‘rome’


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!


Anna: Visits to Italian family before returning home

May 6, 2011

So I am finally back home in America, no culture shock yet. I haven’t said grazie yet to anyone either. The last week I spent with my parents visiting family in Torino for Easter, family in Genova near the Ligurian Coast, and finally wrapping up our visits in Rome. It was really fun to meet family that I had never met before. Some had only seen me when I was a couple months old. This was my dad’s first time back in Italy in 30 years, so it was really great for him to see his family.

All of the cities were really different, but really beautiful. Torino seemed like a great place to live, and really big! I liked it because it had both modern and old parts of the town. I met most of the relatives that I had never met before there. Zia Rita is my Nana Ida’s sister, they are so much alike! It was really fun to finally meet the cousins I have heard so much about over the years.

In Genova, their main attraction is the ocean. We went to Portofino one day which is a beautiful area on the Italian Riviera. We saw the mansions of Dolce & Gabbana, Silvio Burlesconi, as well as other designers and famous people! I had the opportunity to go out with Alessandra (my cousin who is 19 years old) and her friends one night. Most know English so I was able to communicate with them. It was really fun and I made the observation that boys are the same everywhere! Her friends reminded me of my own. 

We had already been to Rome before. In fact we were visiting the same family members that I visited in January. We were there during the Beatification of JP 2 so it was really crazy! Also, Obama and the other presidents of countries were meeting to discuss business. Rome was really crazy but we had a really great time seeing family and some of the sites! All in all it was a really fun and exciting week seeing family. It was hard to say hello and goodbye to people I had just met in two days. I know I will be back to Italy, there is no doubt about that. Some of the cousins even told me they want to visit the USA so that would be exciting for me to show them American culture.

I am so happy I decided to study abroad. I have learned so much about other cultures as well as myself! I am happy to be back home, also. But I already miss Italy and I will do all I can to go back soon. Thanks to everyone who read my blog. It was my way of journaling and staying connected to what is happening at home. 


Anna: When in Rome

February 2, 2011

I went to Rome last weekend and basically saw everything I could! (Except the inside of the St. Peter’s Basilica because of lines…I feel like a horrible person but oh well.) It was such an awesome weekend. We left Friday at 6:40 am and came home Sunday at 9:30 pm so we spent quite a bit of time there. I saw the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel (wasn’t allowed to talk pictures and had to remain silent), Borghese Museum and gardens, Colosseum, Roman Forum & Paletine. We saw numerous churches, monuments and buildings. I could go on and on and describe everything but I will just mention some of my favorites so I don’t bore everyone.

I really loved the Borghese Museum and gardens. I described it as very whimsical and happy, not heavy like a lot of the artwork we have seen thus far. The Vatican museum was also awesome because of the history of the rooms we were in and the paintings. The Sistine Chapel was incredible. I wish I snuck a picture but I was too scared to be kicked out! The Colosseum was also really great. Everything I ate in Rome was delicious as well. I was surprised being tourists we found great places to eat. Also, all of the piazzas in Rome have more going on than in Florence and were more of a social place to hang out. I really liked sitting there and taking a break for walking.

On Friday night I met up with my dad’s cousin Fernando Lupia who lives in Rome. His wife Raffella was there as well as his son and daughter in law who actually speaks English because she is Canadian. My friend Ellen came with me who is in Italian 4, so she was very helpful before their daughter in law arrived to help translate. Raffella made a 5 course meal—so delicious. They were so friendly I really loved visiting them. Even Ellen said it was an unforgettable experience for her as well. I might coordinate a weekend when I am staying in Florence for them to come visit me again and bring me to Prato (a city nearby) to visit another relative. Fernando and Raffella took us on a small tour of the city in their car. It was really nice to see the city without walking. Raffella is also teaching herself English so she enjoyed speaking to us in English I think. I was proud I was able to tell them my age in Italian (since I learned that on my first Italian quiz). I hope I will be able to visit them again sometime.

I met up with a friend who is studying at the Loyola Chicago Rome Campus, Katie Hynan. It was great to see her and catch up in such a beautiful place! We met at the Trevi Fountain and later went to a cute hole in the wall (those are the best!) restaurant. I ordered spaghetti with lobster in a creamy red sauce and the house white wine. It was so delicious. Afterwards, we went to a piazza where there were a lot of bars, and I randomly met people who were in my program.

Overall, Rome was amazing but also exhausting. If I were to live there, my feet would not only disintegrate but it would be so difficult to learn my way around. When I am here in Florence struggling for directions…so I am overall very happy with my choice of where to study. I describe it as Florence is more scenic and artistic, Rome is more historic and has more going on. The night life in Florence is pretty low key compared to Rome, but I like that about it. Rome had less dog poop on the streets that is for sure. They also had less little dogs running around in hot pink jackets. Everywhere I looked I saw people holding a map looking confused, and it is not even tourist season yet! Can’t imagine what it is like in April or May.

Overall, I had a great weekend. It was really exhausting but fun! We had to take a fast train home because there was a scare of a train strike but it ended up being fun to experience something a little classier. More expensive though. Probably won’t do it again.

Next post will maybe talk about the rest of my week and Florence but then I am off to Interlaken, Switzerland! Let’s hope I come out of night sledding alive.

At the Trevi with Katie

Meghan: Living away from home/classes start

October 9, 2010

Although I’ve been in Italy for more than three months now, I’m definitely at the point where you begin to question your motives, which in and of itself, is extremely disheartening. Living away from home isn’t a new concept for me. It was something that I was always excited about, something that my friend Amanda and I would stay up late into the night imagining and dreaming about. You could say that this is my fourth year living away from home, one year in France, two in Minnesota, and now a full 12 months in Italy. Does it feel like I’ve been away four years of my life? No. Plain and simple. France was definitely a hard change, but I had an amazing host family and friends to help me through it. My years in Minnesota were more like discovering a new home, and to be frank, when I think of home, I think of the beautiful Minnesota campus during the fall, and my friends, movies at Coffman and the beautiful Mississippi. Home, of course, will always be my family, and my house in Milwaukee, but Milwaukee itself? It took me 4,722 miles to realize how much of my life is back in Minneapolis and how much I truly miss it. I told myself that I would be as frank as possible when writing this blog, and I am.

Studying abroad is truly a beautiful thing and I will never regret the choice of coming here, but it is also one of the hardest choices a person can make. Not everything is fun and games—sure I’ve traveled a lot, and I’ve loved it, but with new experiences come hard choices and difficult situations that are impossible to foresee.

Everything I’ve done so far has been based on spontaneity, and I love it. A few days before classes started, a friend, Kylie, and I took the slow train to Rome for a few days. (There was a strike going on at the University so classes were postponed.) Naturally, many of us took advantage of the free time and went on a trip. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and literally dropped our bags off at the hotel and hopped on the subway towards the colosseum and after, pretty much wandered to all of the major sites that Rome has to offer. The best day, however, was the second day, where we spent 6 hours at the Vatican exploring the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica and Square. As we liked to put it, we conquered the Vatican. The next trip there will be even better, seeing as we are planning on making a reservation to tour the Necropolis under St. Peter’s Basilica!

On another note, classes began last week, and although I like having so much free time, I’m ready to settle down and start to have a routine. For the moment, although things may possibly change, I’ll be taking a grammar and Communication course through BCSP and at the University of Bologna I’ll be studying Italian literature (Machiavelli, Petrarca, Dante, Boccaccio, etc.) as well as French Linguistics. Hopefully, I’ll be teaching English as a side job to two little boys and possible another woman which could pay for rent! (Not a bad deal, really.)

Sunset over St. Peter's Basilica

Ancient Ruins on our way to the Catacombs of St. Callisto.


Tarin: The final days

July 1, 2010

I wanted to write another post wrapping up my trip.  I plan on keeping the blog up so I can look back on my trip, almost as a journal as well…

I miss Rome a lot. It was a truly amazing experience that I will never forget. I met some great people, and even though I didn’t speak Italian often or step too far outside of my comfort zone, I learned a lot.

The course itself was great. Having a combination of lecture and site visits made learning interesting, and Professor Stoughton was really terrific—hugs and tears definitely made an appearance at our farewell dinner.

During the latter half of the trip, I spent a lot of free time organizing my notes and planning my paper. We had 15 pages due the last day of class. The group of people I tended to spend time with (about half the class) included my roommates, the only apartment of boys, and another apartment of girls. We all got along really well and had similar interests, especially in terms of what we wanted on the trip. We spent several evenings at the Piazza Navona and Campo di Fiori. Nightlife in Italy is something that I miss a lot. People are outside, enjoying the weather and being social—and you can walk from one hot spot to the next. On one of our last nights, we went to all the places we enjoyed going to over the previous 3 weeks, and visited the Trevi Fountain in the evening (we had seen it that morning in class). I think the most frustrating part about seeing all these amazing places is that everyone is doing it! Tourists everywhere, especially at the Trevi. We didn’t stay long after taking a few pictures and enjoying the scene.

The highlight of my trip was spending a weekend in Sorrento and Capri. I was really impressed with how smoothly everything went, considering all the planning had to be done while we were in Italy, with none of us really knowing what we were doing. Professor Stoughton proved very helpful for us, even giving us restaurant suggestions. In general, his suggestions were always wonderful, and I never doubted him for a minute. The ACCENT staff were ok. They pointed us to some books and handouts we could look through. Sarah and I figured out most of the logistics.

Saturday morning (6:27 AM to be exact), we took a train from Rome to Naples (I think it was around 2 hours) and then from there, took the circumvesuviana (basically a subway-like train) to Sorrento (another hour or two). We stayed at Hotel Il Faro in Sorrento, after hearing that Capri was very expensive and crowded. Staying in Sorrento was what really made the trip so great. It was such a different scene from Rome. Everyone was so helpful and friendly. We even ran into the brother of the hotel owner who gave us directions! As soon as we saw our hotel, overlooking the bay/Mediterranean Sea, we decided that Capri would wait and we were going to spend our first day in Sorrento. We rented chairs and layed out and swam in the clear salty water. It was so refreshing and relaxing. That evening we walked around the city and found the restaurant Professor suggested to us. It was amazing and affordable. We sat on a pier overlooking the water and had fresh seafood. For my second course, I ordered fried fish—and that’s what I got. Literally, fish that were fried. Scales, fins, head still intact. Tasted great, but I could only eat a few. Luckily, I was full—I think having to rip the head off my dinner may have ruined my appetite otherwise. Read the rest of this entry ?


Eric: Roma & the Country In It

June 13, 2010

Yesterday, I arrived in Rome for a 3-day stopover. I thought it would be a good idea to get a Roma Pass, which allows the holder to visit two museums/tourist attraction site for free, visit other museums for reduced price, and take public transportation (not all, but most) for free. It’s valid for 3 days after activation, and it costs 25 euros. Is it worth it? I don’t know, but I figured I would probably spend 25 euros or more just going around seeing things, I might as well get one and save the trouble of keep taking out money. The pass also allows the holder to skip lines, which though I felt a little guilty doing when there were like a hundred people waiting to get tickets, at the same time it felt great.

So I got into the Colosseum with just a scan of my Roma Pass. It’s a little hard to imagine that it has been there for almost 2000 years. It can seat as many people as the TCF Bank Stadium back on campus, and frankly the purposes of the two aren’t that different. One is just a little less fatal. After hiding in the structure to avoid the rain for a while, I headed for Palatine Hill archeological site and the Roman Forum. As fascinating as they may be, ruins all looked alike after too many of them. Halfway through the palatine hill I decided to skip to the Roman Forum, which was a little more interesting.

At this point it was noon, and with the sun and no clouds, and with only 4 hours of sleep, I was feeling dizzy. So I sat down on the curb on one of the bigger roads to rest and have a snack. After quite a while of rest and almost falling asleep on the sidewalk, I started walking toward the Pantheon, on the way to which passing by a gigantic monument for anonymous Italian soldiers buried there.

The Pantheon is one of those things that you see pictures in books for so many times, but when you actually visit it you would still say “wow”. Even though the outside of it was age-worn and under restoration, walking in and seeing that hole at the top of the dome was sill pretty cool. You can even see a large pillar of light shining into the basilica. Fun fact: rain does come into the Pantheon, but would then be drained in 22 holes in the center of the floor.

Afterwards, I visited the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Plaza/Steps, and Borghese Gallery, all on foot. Walking and walking, I was really really tired. I didn’t pay much attention in the Borghese Gallery, despite its apparently famous collections, and almost dozed off on one of the large chairs provided for people to sit down and take in a large painting. It was time to head back to my hostel and go to bed…

Today, I started out trying to go to Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, which is actually the official mother church of the bishop of Rome, also known as the Pope, instead of St. Peter’s Basilica. I said trying because after getting out of the subway station, I got lost. I couldn’t even find where I was on the tourist map, so I decided to take a bus that would take me back to the subway station. That didn’t work out so well as I read the bus stops wrong and instead of going toward it, I was moving further away from it. But I finally found it. It took like an hour while walking would simply take 5 minutes.

The cathedral, being the seat of the Pope, has the papal throne and ranks above all Roman Catholic churches in the world, including those in the Vatican. The cathedral is actually considered to be a property of the Holy See (official country name of the Vatican), even though it’s located in the city of Rome. As a result of the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy, many properties located within Italy were granted extraterritorial status. The inside of it was impressive, with the ceiling decorated with gold curving and walls lined with statues. It also had a Vatican mailbox inside the church.

Moving on, I went to Circo Massimo, the ancient chariot racing stadium in Rome. When I got there, I thought I must have missed it somewhere on the road, because it looked nothing like a chariot stadium, but more like a large area of nothingness with grass and dirt. Apparently today it is used more like a public park.

The Tiber River flows through the city of Rome. In the middle of the river is an island called Isola Tiberina, which doesn’t really have that much on it. Crossing the river I found a neighborhood mainly made out of residential houses and some restaurants. I got pizza (with cherry tomato, mozzarella cheese, and arugula on top), which cost a little more than I expected. All I have to say is that living in Rome does cost more than living in Florence. Although I did manage to find gelato (stracciatella, kind of like chocolate chip ice cream, and pine nuts) that “only” cost 1.50 euro. I found out a strategy when ordering two or more flavors of ice cream that are going into the same cup: similar color usually matches with each other pretty well.

After lunch, I began my own version of a partial Angels and Demons tour, which consisted of the Fountain of Four Rivers in Piazza Navona, Castel Sant’Angelo, and St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. The castle was really heavy-fortified, with canons, walls, and everything. It has a passageway that connects to St. Peter’s Basilica, exclusively for the Pope’s escape when the Vatican is under attack. At the top of it I got a nice view of the city of Rome—man there are a lot of domes and churches in this place.

St. Peter’s Square was just like the Pantheon, you have seen it in books for countless times, but you still say “wow” when you are actually there. Approaching the basilica, I was delighted to find no lines at all at 3 pm. All I did was go through the security screening, and then there was nothing between me and the basilica with the largest dome in the world.

Like the hole in the Pantheon, pillars of light were projected into the cathedral through holes, or windows in this case. It was a pity that visitors can’t go under the dome, as the area was reserved for people attending the Holy Mass. There were also a lot of giant statues, past Popes’ memorial, past Popes’ remains, and paintings in the cathedral. It was also free, which was nice considering the museums next to it cost a lot more.

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