It’s My Birthday And I’ll Get Sappy If I Want To

I just wanted to check in really quick and confirm that today is, in fact, my 21st birthday, and I am still alive. As Carol said, I MADE IT! In fact I am very alive. So alive that I was able to take a midterm at 9:00 AM this morning. So super alive that I nailed it. Check it out. We had to design a poster and invitation for an extremely important JCU event. Who knows if it’s technically any good, but I’m pretty proud of it.

Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 10.08.37 PM

In other much more important news, I am deeply and irrevocably in love with the Notre Dame Rome program, in its entirety. Every single person here helped make this one of the best birthdays I have ever had, and I could not be more grateful to have become so close so quickly with such a stone cold pack of weirdos. Everyone brings something unique and absolutely vital to the table, and today didn’t have to be anything more than just being with all of them to make it great. (It was, I mean I ate steak that was cooked in balsamic that was older than me, so there’s that.) I especially want to thank the group of freaks that accompanied me to Scholars last night, Mia and Carmel for singscreaming Grease songs with me, Katie for dressing me, Carol for winning my birthday, Coco for my morning cornetto and making me feel good by girl crushing on me, Teresa for those things I can’t talk about because there is no way in hell I am sharing, Hannah Banana for my lovely key charm, Lily for a cake made of magic balls, catering to my every whim, allowing me to be a massive birthday princess, and being my main squeeze. And of course, thank you Jackie for my flowers, negative thank you for the worst drink of my life, and a million thank yous for the best birthday meal ever. Seriously, I feel very lucky. I love all you guys.


Venezia: Una Città Di Magia

“You look like a Philosophy Princess. Not because you aren’t as powerful as a Queen, but because a Princess would always be more beautiful than a Queen.” –The love of my life Sarah Lovejoy


This is how I feel about Venice. Light shining over my head in a moment of pure enlightenment and joy, as I decide this PLS-infused mask was meant for me, and Venice is a magical place. This is how I felt wandering the tiny side streets of Dorsoduro and Castello, how I felt gliding down the canals of San Marco at night in almost the only gondola on the water, how I felt dancing to a live band in the middle of an anonymous piazza Friday night: jubilant, awestruck, content in the fullest sense.

Twenty percent of the time, this is also how I felt about Venice.

SONY DSCSONY DSCLike I told one Timothy Dore after my return to Rome, eighty percent of the time was like I was living inside of The Thief Lord, and the other twenty percent I was living in a tourist-infested nightmare. Least favorite part of Venice? Its most famous piazza. During the day at least, because late night San Marco was a significant improvement.

But even three days later that twenty percent has almost faded into darkness leaving only the beautiful parts of Venice which are really making me want to re-read The Thief Lord. Honestly going through the actual chain of events of Venice doesn’t capture what this weekend was about even a little bit. In fact it’s all blended together for me so much that isolating my favorite moment is extraordinarily difficult. Essentially, the entire three days can be boiled down to one complete moment. And in it, we were infinite.


Angels On Angels On Angels…

Oh Bernini. It’s a basic fact of Rome that wherever you are, Bernini designed something within eyesight. Such was our drawing class on Tuesday. On the Ponte Sant’Angelo, Bernini designed ten angel sculptures and commissioned them out to artists throughout the city to complete. As Chris so astutely pointed out, it seems like back then this city was just teeming with master artisans. Like you could just turn a corner and see someone chipping away at Italy’s next great masterpiece. Then again, maybe tomorrow’s masterpieces are being created by artists drawing on street corners with chalk and painting in Piazza Navona…you never know. So for drawing class we had to draw each of these statues, in twelve minutes each. Hint: twelve minutes is not a very long time. But they came out slightly less horrible than I anticipated.

P.S. G, this post is mostly for you. Love you.


Food, Travel

Last Time I Was In A Cave…

Screen shot 2013-02-05 at 2.01.24 PMQuite delayed indeed, as time seems to simultaneously amble along and fly by here. But our girls’ trip to Orvieto last Saturday cannot be disregarded. Here she is for point of reference, just an easy one-hour train ride from Roma Termini. On this particular map, the only places I have yet to visit are Perugia, Assisi (definitely going to take a day trip), Capri, and Naples. Just tearing through this country, man.

When you arrive in Orvieto, you are immediately ushered into a lift that takes you up the mountain to the city center, followed by a bus that drops you off right at the Duomo (Duomo No. 84710 in this dang country). Its real name is just as original: The Cathedral of Orvieto. Its appearance however…


And that’s nothing compared to the inside. The history of this Duomo began in 1290 when Pope Nicholas IV blessed the first stone, and its creation was in conjunction with the 1293 miracle of Bolsena when the eucharist (allegedly) starting spontaneously bleeding during a blessing. I’m thinking that priest needed some emergency medical attention and just sucked it up when everyone started gasping and fainting and shouting, “It’s a miracle!” So props to that guy.

But seriously, the inside of this cathedral is unbelievable, definitely my favorite chapel interior I’ve seen so far. It’s a massive rectangular area with two flanking aisles of side chapels, but with a square tribune instead of a semi-circular apse thanks to the “generational crisis” and changing tastes around 1310. The best part are the two large chapel at the end of the transept arms. On the left, the Chapel of the Corporal, over the entrance of which hangs a gargantuan 16th-century organ designed by Ippolita Scalza. More importantly, the right “Capella Nova” chapel has some of the most ridiculous frescos I have ever seen in a fresco. And I do mean ridiculous. With paintings like the End of the World, Preaching of the Antichrist, Resurrection of the Flesh, and Antinferno, the thing looks like a sci-fi movie. There’s dead people rising out of the ground, the devil shooting out lasers at people…it’s nuts. Also, there are portraits of ma boys Dante, Virgil and Lucretius, so that always goes in the “pro” column.

Apologies for the lengthy recap, I just want to be able to remember these things. Moving on to where all the most important parts of our day took place: underground. Orvieto is an ancient city people. In Latin, “urbs vetus,” which is where the name comes from. That said, there are a tremendous amount of Etruscan caves that are still being discovered. Caves like this:


Last time I was in a cave, I learned the true meaning of being pigeon holed. Basically the Etruscans inhabited Orvieto from like the 9th – 3rd centuries BC, and each family would have one of these caves under their houses. They didn’t all keep pigeons (we saw some that were used to make olive oil), but there were a lot of pigeons. They would just leave the window of the cave open, the pigeons would go out and feed themselves, come back to the cave, have babies, and then get eaten. I knew pigeons were stupid animals. This is the view from out the cave window. Not bad.


And here’s an Etruscan well. Those holes on the side? Yeah, those are for their hands and feet as they climbed down to dig it out. Not scary at all.


We loved being underground so much that we had to eat in one. And my God was that a good decision. Evidence: wild boar ragu. And the general caveness of this restaurant.


Riding a wave of wild boar and black truffle-induced enthusiasm, we made the trek up the however-many stairs of Orvieto’s bell tower. And we were glad we did. Hello zebra church!


Despite GALE FORCE WINDS. Seriously, we had to hold only the meatballs so they wouldn’t blow away.


And finally, St. Patrick’s Well, which my Achilles wouldn’t let me go all the way down (maybe I should get that checked out).


Orvieto man. 24 hours without being on ground level.


Maybe, Just Maybe, Learning How To Work My Camera


My Camera, by Moi

After a couple of weeks of frustration with myself and lack of skills, I think I may just be getting the hang of it. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance… things that seem much easier than they actually are. But my pictures are requiring less and less editing every day, which leaves me feeling much more optimistic.


Food, Photos, Travel

Andiamo A Firenze!

SONY DSCFive days later… Let’s talk about Florence kids. The problem is, every time I actually have time to lie down on the couch and put fingers to keyboard, I have this problem where I pass out immediately. Honestly, I think I underestimated how exhausting the mere fact of living in a city is. I constantly feel grimy (sexy right?) and tired, so once I hit this couch it’s lights out. But currently I’m pushing through the pain of my straining eyelids to get this out before I forget everything that happened this past weekend.

To the left here we have “that important Florentine building,” known to most as the Palazzo Vecchio, or the town hall building of Florence. But let’s get to the important stuff, like appertivo and leather. ALL THE LEATHER.

Tips for buying leather in the Florence leather markets:

1. If you’re someone who would rather pay a little bit more money and put some faith in the good of humanity than be mistrusting, don’t go it alone. Everyone is so nice and friendly – except that one guy who yelled at us to never come back – that you will want to first of all, trust they are selling you real leather, and second, trust that when they say it’s the lowest possible price, it actually is. If this is you, find a heartless friend that’s willing to be a hardass to the poor friendly leather men who are just trying to make a decent living. I’m kidding; you really do need a less emotional ally.

2. When you find a random vendor named Moyne and hit it off and he shows you all of the differences between a real leather bag and a fake one, have your friend go back to the other guy who was trying to sell you the fake one and make sure he’s telling the truth, and then trust him and consult him on all future leather purchases. Also smile and ask for another discount for “being nice and trusting you all along,” because it be effective.

3. How to distinguish between fake and real leather bags:

  • Smell it.
  • Have them do the lighter test. But according to the almighty Moyne, a lot of the guys will just run the lighter over quickly, which doesn’t do anything even if it is fake. They have to hold it there for awhile
  • Check the inside zippers: metal good, plastic bad.
  • The thing inside that says genuine leather? Yeah, it should be leather.
  • Check the stitching. For what? I don’t really know.

4. Always, always, always, leave and come back. Either you’ll know it’s the final price, or they’ll drop it down more as you walk away. Still walk away, compare prices at other places, and come back.

Follow these tips (and maybe make one last-minute probably too expensive but beautiful handmade boot purchase), and you’ll end up with these:


Plus something for your mom that I can’t well post here lest I ruin the surprise. (Hi Emmy) Also be sure to check out the Mercato Centrale, because there are things like this there:


Other highlights of Florence: the Galleria degli Uffizi and the Galleria dell’Accademia. Here’s what my notes on those two endeavors reveal to me: I learned that a polyptych is a painting divided into panels. Fillippo Brunelleschi discovered perspective. Yes, this is what my audioguide told me. He discovered it. Speaking of which, we studied perspective in drawing this week at the Basilica della Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Thank you Mr. Brunelleschi I guess:


Santa Sabina, by Me

Other interesting notes from the Uffizi: One of my favorites was the Seven Virtues, first on the left by Botticelli and the rest by Piero del Pollaiolo. Fun fact: Botticelli’s La Primavera (Spring), apparently contains over 200 different species of flowers and plants. Don’t ask me how, but that’s what some botanist said in my headphones. Also, Francesco Melzi never saw boobs. We know this because he painted them so horrifyingly lopsided it is highly improbable that he ever had sex with a woman. Okay that one was mine. Real fact: the hyper elongation of the figures in Parmigianino‘s work represents intellectual idealization – go Renaissance right? But our (mine and Lily’s) favorite painting in the entire gallery was the one and only, Ritratto di Donna, by Jacopo Negretti Vecchio. Though we cannot find an image online, even if we did we are certain no one could ever achieve the same depth of analysis as we did.

But you don’t need my trip to tell you about famous art. So let’s talk about cheese. A cheese so magical, so undeniably perfect, that I cannot remember how I managed through days without knowledge of its existence. My life was an aimless wandering through a forest of darkness, and this cheese brought me light. Pecorino con tartufi. It’s all I want, all I need. I wish I was exaggerating, I really do. Behold.


Somehow I pried myself away from the cheese long enough to climb the incredibly creepy dark narrow steep spiraling staircases of the Duomo, aka Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Long enough to enjoy this view:


And long enough, praise the Lord, that I could come down and witness this.