A Wonderful Week in Rome

Last week was both the best and worst week in Rome… (Misleading title, I know.)  ‘Best’ because I did lots of awesome things; ‘worst’ because I had a ton of work due for class, lost a lot of sleep, and was utterly exhausted by the end of it all.  The important thing is that it ended on a high note, and the lack of sleep was worth it (2 classes down, 1 to go!).  So what made it awesome?

Let’s start with Sunday.  My friends and I woke up in Siena, ate lunch and stopped by our favorite gelateria in Florence, and returned to Rome early enough to get a good night of sleep.  If that’s not a great start, I don’t know what is.

Monday and Tuesday were slightly miserable – full of paper-writing, journal-writing, and general stress.  But Tuesday night I got to participate in a wine class (in my own apartment too)!  I now know how to professionally open a bottle of wine… You know, just in case I ever find myself in a situation where I need to pretend to be a sommelier.  Who knows what new adventures Paris will bring!  Anyways, we tasted two different red wines, the first of which was quite strong and tasted like black pepper (I’m serious!).  It’s amazing what flavors you can discover when tasting wine more consciously.  I noticed strong vanilla undertones in the second, milder wine, but others (including our sommelier-in-training instructor) tasted green bell peppers.  It was a ton of fun, and I’d definitely take another class.  I guess I’d better keep practicing my flavor-discerning skills in the meantime… ;)

Wednesday was the first day of our third and last course, which I was excited for (despite its copious amounts of reading) because it focuses on the history of Renaissance and Baroque Rome through art.  It’s my first art history class, and I’ve always wanted to take one.  It’s going be more work than our previous two classes, but I’m enjoying our class discussions and site visits so far.  We’re heading to the Vatican this week and Villa Borghese next week!

Thursday marked the official end of the paper-writing frenzy, so that afternoon, after visiting a church for class, a few friends and I went to the movies.  We bought tickets for an Italian movie called Io e Te, Bertolucci’s newest film.

I had no idea who Bertolucci was when my friends and I decided to go see this movie (we saw an ad on the back of a bus), but he’s a famous Italian director (as you probably already knew).  The movie was intense, but amazing.  I highly recommend it (with subtitles).  We saw it without subtitles for the true cultural experience, which was fun and only slightly confusing.  Luckily for me, my roommate read a synopsis beforehand and summarized the basic plot for me during the previews.  The best and most rewarding moment was when I recognized a phrase I learned in class – “Ha un mal di testa” (Her head hurts).  I’m putting my limited knowledge of Italian to good use!  After the movie, my friends and I went out to dinner in Trastevere, ending the night on a good note.

The fun continued on Friday.  After class, a few friends and I went out to lunch at my favorite pizza place in Rome, Dar Poeta (get the pizza by the same name and the nutella and ricotta calzone for dessert).

Zucchini cream, speck, and mozzarella pizza – a winter special (not as good as the Dar Poeta, but not bad)

After an incredibly filling lunch, we headed to the Campo de’ Fiori market.  It was actually my first time at that particular open air market, which is kind of surprising given that it’s open every day and is close to where I have class.  We went to just check it out, but ended up finding a couple of elusive but imperative Thanksgiving dinner ingredients (did I mention we’ll be cooking a giant Thanksgiving feast on Tuesday?): sweet potatoes and a pumpkin for pumpkin pie!

The magical Thanksgiving stall at Campo de’ Fiori

We were pretty ecstatic, and for good reason – since Italians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday), typical Thanksgiving ingredients are hard to come by, namely, turkeys, sweet potatoes, pumpkin (canned or fresh), cranberries, and pecans.  Now to try to make a pumpkin pie from scratch…

After a nice, long, well-deserved nap, I made dinner and then went to see Balthazar, a Belgian band, perform at Circolo degli Artisti, an intimate music venue/pseudo-club not far from the Termini train station.  I went by myself, partly because my friend couldn’t go at the last minute, and partly because I needed some me time.  It was such a fun experience – the venue is amazing (tons of outdoor seating, a couple of bars, and a cozy concert space) and Balthazar was incredible live.  I had listened to a few of their songs before going, since I hadn’t heard of them before discovering them on the Circolo degli Artisti website, but their live performance was much better than anything I had listened to online.  Like icing on a cake, if you will.

Balthazar live at Circolo degli Artisti

My exciting week finally came to a close on Saturday, at ‘Cinema’, the Rome (International) Film Festival.  A friend and I woke up really early to try to catch a 9:30 am showing of “Tar”, an artsy American film starring James Franco and Mila Kunis, but we didn’t make it in time.  Turns out it wouldn’t have made a difference because they had cancelled that showing anyway.  Instead, we went to see “Jianshi Liu Baiyuan” (“Judge Archer”), a Chinese kung-fu film.  Fortunately, it had subtitles in English and Italian.  Despite having no idea what to expect, I really enjoyed the movie.  It had a creative storyline and held my interest throughout.

It’s experiences like these that make me feel really grateful to have the opportunity to study abroad.  I feel almost like a local – I know my way around, can function in Italian, and do more than just the touristy things in my free time.  Cultural immersion – once just a phrase thrown around in my study abroad application – has become reality.

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