Rest and Relaxation in Rome

2/12/18- Rome, Italy

So, this weekend was just another weekend in Rome. It seems very weird to call it that, but it really was one of the calmer weekends since maybe Thanksgiving. It was really nice to just get up late, finish some school work on Friday, and just enjoy relaxing. It was nice to change up the pace of things, not have to work, travel or really do anything.

The biggest thing we did this weekend was make a trip over to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican museums. It was a really cool collection of different statues, art and frescoes. Obviously, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was breathtaking, so its stands to reason, that I had to secretly take some pictures! I will definitely have to return, probably to see the Vatican gardens if possible.

I hope all is well, and will keep everyone posted on my adventures.

-DJ

Our Weekend in Dublin

2/4/18- Dublin, Ireland

This weekend we decided to visit Dublin. Out of everywhere in Europe, it may have been a place that doesn’t make sense coming from Rome, yet it was something on our list of places to see.  So, Friday morning we made our way to Ireland, not really knowing what to expect. We spent a good part of Friday just milling around the city, being utterly confused by which way traffic was coming, and of course eating some fantastic meals. For the majority of Friday, we hung around in Temple Bar, which is the area with a lot of pubs and restaurants in the heart of the city. It reminded me of an Irish version Beale Street in Memphis. Not as wild as Bourbon Street, but still a very happy atmosphere with a blend of tourists and locals alike eating good food and listening to some fantastic music.

One of the biggest highlights for me was the amount of live music we were able to enjoy.  There was something very refreshing about seeing musicians perform. It just seems to lift the spirits of everyone in the room.  Though the popular music was very nice, I definitely enjoyed the more traditional Irish music we heard as it complimented such picturesque settings in the various Dublin pubs.

On Saturday we did most of the touristy attractions throughout Dublin. We started the morning off by visiting the Book of Kells and the Long room at Trinity College.  I think it was safe to say that everyone including myself was amazed at the fantastic condition these Celtic gospels were in, considering that they were written in the 9th Century.

After viewing the books, we made our way up to the long room. For the Harry Potter fan in me, this was a cool spot to see, but the general grandeur of the room and the archways of this library made the space incredibly impressive.

We did a considerable amount of walking again, popping into Christ Church Cathedral and a restaurant to grab some lunch as well as a nice American cup of coffee.  Don’t get me wrong, the cappuccino and cornetto for 2 Euro is hard to match, but a nice mug of coffee on a cold day really hit the spot.

It wouldn’t have been a trip to Ireland if we didn’t make our way to the Guinness Storehouse. Besides the obvious, the tour was actually well worth the price of admission.  Going through the processes of production, the rich history of Arthur Guinness’ company and the amazing vintage advertisements (especially the toucans) made for a really cool experience, that ended with us being 7 floors up on top of the Storehouse with panoramic views of Dublin and the surrounding countryside.

Besides it being kind of chilly and overcast, our time in Dublin was fantastic. As our first “foreign- foreign” trip outside of Italy has set the bar high for the remainder of the semester. Until next time.

-DJ

Florence and Pisa

1/29/18- Tuscany, Italy

This past weekend was our first weekend of planned travel outside of Rome and outside the Temple Rome program. We didn’t want to travel too far for our first trip, so we figured exploring other Italian cities was the best option.

Saturday morning we hopped on the train to Florence and made our way there by 1 PM. We did not plan, nor  did we put much thought into booking certain things in advance, so we did miss out on some of the big attractions of seeing David and getting on top of the Duomo.

Aside from this slight disappointment, our afternoon of marveling at the behemoth  Cathedral dome, exploring the other various religious buildings, and walking the Ponte Vecchio made for very fun afternoon. We still documented our time with many photos of us taking in the scenery on a very mild day. Needless to say, I will have to go back to Florence at some point.

After our dinner at All’Antico Vinaio, a famous panino shop, we made our way back to the area where our hotel was, stopping at various luxury stores to admire the Louis bags and the loud outfits at the Gucci store, needless to say, we left without any purchases.

On Sunday, we hopped on a train to Pisa to see the famed tower.  Though I expected to see a tilt, the angle that the bell tower rests at is extremely drastic.  We had our fun taking pictures and eating some gelato before walking around Pisa, exploring some stores and doing a little bit of shopping again.

All things considered, we fit a lot into two days. We did have to do our best Chevy Chase impression, by just glancing at some sites, but we did enjoy a lot of what Florence and Pisa had to offer in a much more thoughtful manner. I know I have said it before, but the weekend was just another couple of very successful, and very enjoyable days in Europe. I’ll keep you posted on this week.

-DJ

Weekday Update

 

1/25/18- Rome, Italy

Just a quick story today. This week all students had to go to the Italian post office to begin the process of obtaining a permit to stay, another layer of paperwork on top of the visas we all have to study here.  On Wednesday, one of my roommates, Wynn and I had to get to the post office to do all of this paperwork at 8:30 AM.  We ended up taking the Metro down to around the Spanish Steps. Though it can be a pain, I feel I am a SEPTA apologist when it comes to Philly’s public transit, but the speed, ease, price, and cleanliness of Rome’s Metro is nonpareil.

After about an hour at the post office, we walked back to our residence. While crossing the Tiber, St. Peter’s came into view, picturesque in itself, but as we got closer to the square, we realized that something was going on, based on the large crowd and the choir echoing down the streets. We have to pass across the Vatican border to get back to our residence anyway so we ventured inside, stumbling upon the Papal audience.

It was such a nice surprise and somewhat funny that we happened to stumble upon a blessing by the Pope.

That’s all for now, we plan to head up to Florence and Pisa this weekend. Keep everyone updated. Until next time.

-DJ

Weekend Outings

1/21/18- Rome, Italy

It seems misleading to call any weekend uneventful, especially here in Rome. Though it may feel that the three-day weekend was uneventful, the amount of history seen and culture absorbed is something I will still be wrapping my head around upon my return to the States.

Friday was a relatively relaxing day as we woke up late.  With the remainder of the day, we did go to the school to try to crank out the majority of our schoolwork with a decent WiFi signal.  After our study session, we went to a place right by are school for dinner.  We ended up going to a restaurant  specializing in all sorts of custom pizzas and it did not disappoint any of us.  My four friends and I agreed that we had finally found our current favorite pizza here in Italy.

Saturday entailed a small group of us heading down to the center of Rome to finally see the Colosseum. Though I had been told that the building was much smaller than one would expect, it still was an impressive size, especially when you think of how old something like the Colosseum is.  After walking around the Colosseum and the areas around the Forum, we settled on a dinner spot overlooking the Roman landmark while eating penne with salmon. The growing trend seems to be that whether its McDonalds or restaurants at the Colosseum, food is just too good here.

Sunday I ventured over to the Vatican out of curiosity as to what Sunday was like there.  I wound up attending 10:30 mass in St. Peter’s. That was quite a treat to see the procession of the many priests and handful of bishops and the cardinal in attendance.  It was also an interesting experience to hear mass in Latin, though they were nice enough to provide multi lingual cheat sheets. As Pope Francis was in South America, there was no public address and blessing, so I still have that on a long list of things to do at the Vatican.

Overall, week 2 has been successful and the amazement from everything on this trip has not ceased, or even slowed. Next week should be fun, as we are planning some travelling. I’ll keep everyone posted.

-DJ

1st Week of Classes

1/18/18- Rome, Italy

So, today marks the end of our school week in Rome. Though it was a busy week of new classes and going through syllabi and sources, the week flew by. As we are now into the swing of things, we did not do any touristy things during the week, but hope to this weekend.

As for my classes, I loaded up on a lot of history courses in Rome. With the exception of Italian, my other three classes here are pertaining to history.  My two sections of Italian history seem daunting, but at the same time, the class seems structured around conversation and debate. This seems like a format that I will enjoy, rather than two back to back lectures.

My favorite class has to be Roman history. Though we only covered the syllabus and “da sources” as my Belgian born professor calls it, my professor’s desire to make witty remarks and tease his students makes our evening class much more enjoyable.

My Italian is still very elementary, but as of this being posted, have spent four hours of class time and this has at least alleviated any anxiety that used to set in when ordering food. It does seem that living in Italy is helping my language skills develop at a faster rate than in Pennsylvania

I hope to update everyone on some weekend events, and if the Wi-Fi is fast enough, hopefully photos as well.

-DJ

Time in Todi

1/13/18- Todi, Italy

To conclude our final day of orientation activities, Temple took the entire group studying in Rome to Todi, a hill town North of Rome by about 2 hours. We ended up arriving around 10:30 in the morning where we had some free time around the town exploring the sites.

According to our guides/professors, Todi is a town with predominantly Gothic roots.  The town still had two of their old churches in operation. These were especially interesting as they were still very ornate, but much starker in design than, newer churches designed centuries later.  The main draw was the pre renaissance art still visible on some places inside of the Basilica di San Fortunato.

After our walking around Todi and a small breakfast, we then drove another 30 minutes through the Umbria region of Italy to have lunch at Castello di Titignano. This old castle compound turned hotel was the location of the meal of a lifetime. For a couple of hours, we were served a traditional Italian meal with 12 courses. Though certain staples such as risotto, spaghetti, biscotti and Tiramisu were all fantastic, the various courses of local lamb, wild boar and deer, or Bambi as the waiters said multiple times, the meal, combined with the locations will be one that is hard to ever top.

The trip to the Umbria region was one that was both very exciting for me and my fellow Temple students, but it also provided everyone a nice way to relax as classes will start on Monday. I think it’s safe to say week one of my time in Italy has been something special.

-DJ