Friday, March 29, 2013

White Smoke at the Vatican

About two weeks ago I was lucky to experience history in the making.

On Wednesday March 13 th at around 6:30 pm I was skyping one of my best friends from home. I remembered that earlier that day one of my teachers mentioned that today was probably going to be the day that they chose the new Pope. I decided to check the ABC news updates because they had been keeping an eye on the smoke and everything happening at the Vatican City. At 6:58 they updated that there was white smoke coming out of the Sistine Chapel.

I jumped up from my bed and told Raelynn that we HAD to go down and see it. I called Steph and Kristen and they wanted to go to the Vatican as well. Raelynn and I jumped on to the tram and met Kristen and Steph at the bus. It was packed! Everyone had the same idea. We got off the bus and started running to St. Peter's square. All four of us were so excited!!

Once we turned the corner and were able to see the square we were stunned by the sea of people. We linked arms so no one would get lost in the crowd. We made it to the obelisk in the center of the square.   Once we were satisfied with a spot we stopped and were taking pictures non-stop.

Then once the new Pope, Pope Francis, came out and started speaking everyone went silent. You could hear a pin drop it was so quiet. For me the best, most amazing moment of the whole thing was when he started saying the "Our Father" in italian. The whole crowd joined in on the prayer. It was beautiful.

After Pope Francis finished talking and left the balcony people began to spread out, news stations started interviewing people, and everyone was just happy. It was incredible that a moment like this could bring so many people together in a loving, happy, and trusting way.

I don't think I'll ever experience a moment like this again in my life and I will forever remember and appreciate it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Rain or Shine

Because I've been in Rome for about a month now I've began to get comfortable. My roommates and I noticed that we tend to get in our usual routine of lounging around, sleeping, watching movies, and occasionally going outside to get some food. This past weekend we wanted to break our new habits and actually go out and experience more of Rome.

Thursday after my morning class, Steph, Kristen, and I decided to go into Campo de Fiori to the market. It was really neat with all of the different fruits, vegetables, pastas, and flowers being sold. There were also some more touristy things there too. I ended up buying a few bags of pasta and some sun dried tomatoes. We then walked over to a little pizzeria/bakery someone in my class had mentioned. Kristen and I both got a cinnamon apple/golden raisin strudel with powdered sugar on top. Being the typical adventurous eater that I am I had already bitten into the delicious pastry before we walked out the front door, and it was gone before we got to the tram stop! I know, I love food way too much. But I can't help myself when something that delicious is in my possession.

It was such a beautiful day out the three of us decided to go for a walk before we headed home. There's this little island looking thing in the river that we always pass on our way going into town so we decided that today was a great day to go check it out. It was really cool. People were just hanging out and relaxing by the water eating their lunches. We, of course, took this as the perfect opportunity to have a mini photo shoot. I think the two best things my roommates and I know how to do is 1. eat and 2. take pictures of ourselves. We're pros.

Friday morning we woke up and I attempted to do a workout on YouTube. I figured it was the least I could do with out feeling too guilty about all of the eating I've been doing. Then the four of us (Me, Kristen, Steph, and Rae) went to the open market a few tram stops down from where we live. It's always fun going there. The food is all laid out beautifully with all the different colors. I find it a little humorous though how most of the food vendors are smoking right next to the food they're selling. By the end of our mini trip there I was leaving with 4 pears, a bundle of asparagus, 1 lemon, basil, oh and 1 kilo of shrimp. Yeah I'm still not sure why I bought that much shrimp.

Of course once we got back to our place and had lunch we decided to watch a movie and cuddle up. By the time it was over we didn't want to leave. Typical. So I decided I'd put the shrimp to good use and make homemade seafood alfredo for the girls.

Steph and I headed to the kitchen and began working on the shrimp. Yeah, it's a pretty disgusting process if you ask me. But once that was done the rest was pretty easy and it was a big hit with the girls.

The next morning we woke up and immediately got ready for the day. We weren't going to be slackers today. Of course the day we actually do decide to go and do something it is pouring out, but we still went.

In school I had taken an art history course and had really enjoyed it. One of my favorite pieces of art I remember learning about was St. Teresa in Ecstasy. Steph had also learned about it in school and loved it so the four of us decided to go in and see it.

On our way in we decided to stop in a restaurant to get some lunch. Walking into it you wouldn't really think it was anything special. I actually thought it looked like another trendy place targeted for tourists. We'll I was definitely wrong. The pizza was AMAZING. It was an extremely close second to the pizza I had when I went to Naples. Half way through my pizza (which had mozzarella, parmesan, basil and yellow cherry tomatoes) I was already full but I kept going because it was just so incredibly delicious. I wan't to get on the tram right now and go into town and have another one. The waiters were also really nice. They were joking around with us and making us laugh. I especially got a few laughs thrown my way when I whipped out my phrase book so I could understand the menu.

After the great lunch we headed to the church. The statue was breath taking. Actually the whole church was breath taking. I couldn't believe it. Despite the rain I was having a great time. We walked around the church then around Rome for a little while longer and then we headed home. We were all soaked. Once we got home we made some dinner and guess what? ... popped in a movie.

Sunday was another good day though as well! Steph Kristen and I went back into Rome because the sun was shining and we didn't have much homework to do. We first went to one church with probably 400 stairs that you need to climb before you can enter it. Inside it looked like a typical Roman Catholic church... which is absolutely beautiful. It's connected to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider or also known as the "Wedding Cake" Monument. After taking a glance inside we just walked around the corner and casually over to the Coliseum. When we were there a couple was taking their wedding photos. Being the hopeless romantic that I am couldn't resist from taking a couple of photos of them. It just seemed so perfect and beautiful and happy. Those are the kind of moments I just can't resist. And then once they were done the three of us proceeded to take photos of ourselves. This should of course be expected by now. We then had to head home to do the homework that we did have. 

Can't say it was a bad weekend! 

The Church and its many steps:

View from the top:

(Me & Kristen)


Inside the Church:

On top of the Tomb of the Unknown Solider:

(Kristne & Steph aka FashionKillas)

In front of ruins:

Couple taking wedding photos:

 Alpha Gamma Delata Representing:
"When in Rome, throw what ya know"

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No Intentions Can Lead to Some of the Best Discoveries

One of my favorite things to do since I've been here is just head into Rome with no intentions.

AUR doesn't offer classes on Fridays which it great! Also on Tuesdays and Thursdays I finish class at 10:30 am so I have the whole rest of the day to do whatever I want.

I usually head in to the main part of Rome on the tram and get off at the last stop that is right near the building that Caesar was murdered at. From there I usually just wander around and head over towards the Pantheon.

By the Pantheon there are all these little restaurants with outdoor patios, horse and carriages and other little shops. Today there were so many people out because the weather was so beautiful. 

I then keep on walking towards where the oldest gelateria is and towards the Trevi Fountain. It's so cool to see all of these beautiful and historical landmarks. Everyone is always taking pictures and smiling in these areas. I know this is typically where all the tourists go but I still can't get over the fact that I live less than an hour away from it all. 

Today I didn't do any shopping I just walked around. I'm trying to find my way around and get used to the area, which is part of the reason why I enjoy going in on my own sometimes.

Also I get to see all of the dogs! That is definitely one of my top favorite things about Italy!! There are so many dogs everywhere. They're allowed on the Tram, in restaurants, in stores, everywhere I have been so far there have been dogs. And for the most part they're all really friendly which is great too so i can get a little kiss on my hand. 

I'm still finding my way around Italy and figuring out different fun things to do, besides indulge in the gelato. I can't wait to go on more adventures! I have three months left here and I can't wait to be pleasantly surprised with what they have in store!

Doggie in the supermarket: 

Dog sitting in a man's lap at dinner:

Trevi Fountain 02-19-13:

Pantheon 02-19-13:

Horse and carriage rides at the Pantheon: 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Naples! Home of the World's best pizza!

This past Friday Kristen and I went on a day trip to Naples. Our main goal of the day was to get some of the amazing pizza we had constantly been hearing about!

We left Rome around 8:00 AM and started on the three hour bus ride. The two of us slept the whole way there and arrived at 11:00 AM. 

Once we got off the bus we were so happy to see that we had nice weather. The sun was shining and it was actually kind of warm out!! This was a great change from the weather we had experienced in Venice. 

As a group we all walked over to one of the castles in Naples that was free. It was beautiful. It was right on the water and everyone was taking pictures left and right. I'm not quite sure what the castle's original use was for but it was still neat to see. Along the way to the castle we saw so many stray dogs. Kristen and I were trying to come up with a plan to take one home, but we didn't know how we'd get it on the bus. That was the only thing stopping us. 

After we had our little photo shoot at the castle we headed to go grab some pizza! A small group of us went to a place named Brandi's. It is the birthplace of the margherita pizza! The pizza; made with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil, was created to represent the Italian flag and was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy during a visit to the city in 1889. 

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you this was the best pizza that I have ever had in my whole life! It was amazing. Kristen and I joked that either God had made our pizzas or they sprinkled a little bit of crack on it. Neither of us had tasted anything so amazing. Not only was the crust thicker than Rome pizza and also perfectly seasoned but the mixture of the sauce cheese and basil was to die for. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it. I will forever try to find a pizza or make one that comes close to what that tasted like. 

Also as we were eating an Italian man came upstair with his guitar and started to sing in Italian. 

Once we finished there we decided to walk around the city a little because we had three hours to kill before we had to get on the bus and go home. 

Kristen and I did a little window shopping but that was really it. Naples, although it is beautiful, didn't have much else to do once you eat their pizza. 

Before we met the group we stopped at a little bakery. There I got a cannoli and some little chocolate cake thing. The name was to long to pronounce and remember. We wanted to make sure we had a little treat for the ride back. 

We met the group and headed home. Overall it was a quite but beautiful day. I recommend that anyone who goes to Italy to go to Naples just to try the pizza. It is a life changer. I will never be able to go back
to eating dominos again. Once you've had the best you can never go back!

Just walking around:

(Me & Kristen)

 The stray dogs we saw:

 The castle and its views:

(Me & Kristen)

The AMAZING pizza:

Being serenaded by an Italian man:

The delicious bakery:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

One Day at the Venice Carnevale

Yesterday my roommates and I went to Venice! It was the first day of Carnevale and we were all excited to go.

Saturday morning we had to wake up around 5 AM to get ready to meet the bus that was going to take us there. We checked the weather and noticed that it said that there was a chance it was supposed to rain. I guess we saw that as the glass being half full rather than half empty because we were not prepared for what Venice had in store for us.

So we all got ready, packed our lunches for the 7 hour bus ride and were on our way. (Mind you because I didn't bring any rain boots with me to Italy and I didn't want to wear my nice leather ones I decided to wear flats.)

The six of us boarded the bus and we were on our way. Even though we were up bright and early we began the day being the jokesters that we are. Steph and I started taking pictures of our sleeping roommates and we proceed to goof off and make faces the whole way there. I wouldn't be surprised if everyone on the bus wanted the six of us off because of all the laughing we were doing.

Once we got to Venice we were unpleasantly surprised with the weather. I guess for once the meteorologist was right and it did decide to rain. Actually it wasn't really rain but more like a wind storm with torrential down pour. That did not stop us though.

We hopped on the water taxi that took us along the canal and were taking pictures left and right. Even with the bad weather it was still unbelievably gorgeous. I loved every minute of it.

We got off the water taxi at San Marco. Then we headed straight to the outdoor vendors. I think we may have tried on every single mask they had there. Rae and I were the first two to buy them.

We then started walking towards the Piazza. We tried using our umbrellas but they weren't helpful one bit. I think anyone who attempted to use their umbrella that day left with a completely mangled one.

Once we were in the piazza there was a huge parade of people drunkenly dancing and dressed up in costumes. One man dressed like a drunk Jesus took Natalie by the hand and started dancing with her and parted with a kiss on the forehead. A pack of men dressed like monkeys then came over to the six of us. Because Natalie is the only one who is really good at Italian she was able to talk to them. Two of the monkeys ended up having a crush. One on Natalie and the other on Kristen.

We left the drunk Jesus and the pack of monkeys in the parade and headed over to do some shopping. Meanwhile, my poor little feet were so cold and wet to the point where it hurt to walk. My mission from then on was to buy rain boots and socks!

We started to walk around taking pictures when our little cold wet fingers would let us and doing some window shopping. The stores were beautiful. Every other one sold masks and cloaks and all other things to help people celebrate carnevale.

I finally found a store with rain boots and I think I may have been the happiest person on the whole island. I walked into the store and I was forced to use the little Italian I knew because that is all the man spoke. He gave me a pair of boots to try on. Everyone in the store was staring at me as I did so. I left with the shoes and with socks on my mind.

We walked around some more looking at all of the little shops. We crossed over one little bridge that caught my eye. It had locks all over it with couple's names on it. It reminded me of the photos I had seen on the Internet where couples go, put a lock on the bridge, lock it and then throw the key into the water showing their eternal love for one another.

Just as we crossed that bridge we went into a little store that sold beautiful Murano glass necklaces, rings and bracelets. They also sold little souvenirs too. Apparently when I was looking around the store I didn't realize that my roommates had left. I turned to look for them to leave and saw no one. I walked out of the store, and still no one. A little part of me inside had a little panic attack. All I could think of was being lost in Venice, during Carnevale, in the rain. Thank goodness for my Italian cell phone.. or so I thought. I tried calling my roommates a million and one times and no answer. I started to get a little more nervous. But I stayed calm and stayed in front of the store that they had accidentally left me at. Then all of the sudden I hear someone calling my name. My roommates had come back for me!! I began to joke about how they did that on purpose to try and loose me.

We were all pretty hungry after that so we tried to find some place to eat that was pretty reasonable.

A miracle happened! Just as we were passing by one of the shops, out of the corner of my eye I found socks! Out of excitement I ran into the store purchased the socks and put on my shoes! I couldn't have been any happier at that moment.

We then got food at a little restaurant. I got spaghetti alla carbonara. It was delicious and I was happy to be sitting in a warm place.

After dinner we decided to go to Murano because we had three and an half more hours until we had to be back for the bus. We bought a few more souvenirs and were on the next water taxi.

By that time it had gotten really dark and the water was really choppy. The boat ride was taking forever and we started getting nervous.

We got off on Murano to what looked like a ghost town. We walked around looking for a little cafe or something to get warm and relax at for a little. The only place that was open was hosting a private party. We decided to head back and grab a water taxi and just go back early.

Natalie and Steph were a God-sent on this trip. They were our little navigators. The were able to find our way back. It wasn't as easy as it looked on the map however.

We missed the main stop that we were supposed to get off. This just added to the discomfort we were all in. We were all soaking wet, cold, hungry, and definitely starting to get delusional. We had to get off to get on another water taxi that would take us to where we needed to go.

When we got on this last taxi it felt like Heaven! It was the first taxi we had been on with heat! Kristen started to get a little nuts. She was laughing like crazy because she was so happy to have heat but also because the trip had been such an emotional roller coaster between happy, wet and cold, hungry, grump, nervous, scared, and back to happy again.We all had slight variations of that roller coaster.

Once we made it to the main land we met up with the rest of the students. All of the girls in the women's bathroom were drying themselves off with the hand dryers. People were drying their socks, shoes, bags, everything. It was quite entertaining.

We got back on the bus and settled into our seats. Making sure that we were comfy and somewhat cozy before we made the 7 hour trip back. Goofing off of course by having a little photo shoot with Steph's mask on.

We finally made it back to Rome at 5:30 AM. Once we got back to our apartment we all passed out until the afternoon.

Venice definitely got the best of us but we made it a trip that we will forever remember. Even with everything that happened we were still able to have a great time and create some amazing memories.

About to get on the bus to Venice:

Taking some beautiful pictures of the roommates: 

On the water taxi:

 (Me & Kristen)

Dinner in Venice:

Going a little crazy:
 (Rae, Steph, Natalie, & Me)

 (Rae, Steph, Kristen, Me & Natalie)

Steph drying her wet socks:

All of the broken umbrellas: 

 Our photo shoot on the bus: